The Fine Art of Doting…

Have you ever heard of Doting? Here’s what I think most folks believe it means….

  • She’s always doted on that child.’
  • ‘Well, you know his momma was always delicate, he’s doted on her especially now that she’s in her dotage.’
  • ‘ I tell you now, she doted on  that man, always making him his favorite foods, keeping him neat as a pin and making sure everything was just so.’ ‘
  • He loved that car, doted on it like it was a crying child- why he kept that engine so clean you could eat off of it.’
  • ‘Well, she was the baby of the family, so everybody doted on her.

Now, we’ve all heard of doting or I guess most folks have. When anybody talks about doting, we basically think it means –

  • ‘She waits on him hand and foot.’
  • ‘Works himself to death trying to keep her happy.’
  • ‘That child is spoiled rotten, I tell you- when she grows up- she’s gonna expect the world to be handed to her on a silver platter.’

Yet, that’s not really what doting means at all. The fine art of doting actually means … To care for tenderly, to habitually bestow fondness and love;  to regularly treat or speak to a loved one with kind devotion and gentle affection.9471982A-D073-455D-A8D8-E27596B7E00E

It’s a harsh world we live in- extreme sporting events, conversations or workouts. Flashing lights, loud music and never ending communication. We’re bombarded with products, information and technology. Calendars are packed, schedules overlap,  being overwhelmed is the rule not the exception. It’s time to bring back the Fine Art of Doting. Oh yes, it will take a bit of being unplugged and slowing down- however, these suggestions take very little time or effort.

Perhaps, due to our religious upbringing- phrases like ‘self-love’ are overridden by teachings about being selfless and thinking about others first. Still. How can you ‘love your neighbor as you love yourself’ if there’s not a certain amount of taking care of yourself? Here’s a few ways that aren’t selfish at all, and are also great for sharing with others!

  • Did you know that spending 15-30 minutes outdoors everyday is recommended for all round good health? I find just walking around my garden to see what I can see is my favorite way to get in some time outdoors. To my delight I recently found Ice Folly Daffodils and the precious- Snowbells! 
  • I love to garden, I think it’s a wonderful pastime- yet- to give a living plant, shrub or even a small tree to a bereaved family may be one of the most comforting things you can do. Here at the cottage, a memory garden was started after my mother in law died over a decade ago. We also have several living things planted to honor loved ones. Just as my grandmother’s spiderwort and hosta remind me of her every year- so do these bereavement plants.
  • My favorite apps on my iPhone are the calendar and timer! It’s one way I dote on myself- since I work at home… I set alerts for small tasks to get up from the laptop- or set the timer for 15-30 minutes to sit and read a book. And by all means set a bedtime alert- to get those hours of sleep everyone so desperately needs! Limit exposure to LED lighting, either by removing them from where you sleep or my favorite- wearing a sleep mask! I’ve also tried the app called Calm…it’s a short meditative pause. And since, we’re all told to limit screen time- and I’m loving the notification of how much time I’ve spent online!
  • Make a habit of putting the phone down when eating family meals or meeting friends- it’s so much better to create the habit of talking person to person! While you are online, learn something new, while spending the time wisely, I’ve been taking a free Winter Photography Workshop on Instagram offered by @thelittleplantation. I’m low end when compared to the amazing photographers in the class- but my oh my! What gorgeous photographs! Beauty in any form feeds the soul! Here’s one of my entries:
  • It’s no secret I love to cook- but what I appreciate even more than the cooking is gathering around a table of good food. Somehow, folks who might disagree on almost everything become agreeable and companionable around a table. Dote on yourself and your family by making simple meals, but don’t forget to set aside a time to load up the table with good food to be shared with others. Grazing boards are a wonderful simple way to eat at home or entertain- FBE7ECF6-4633-4B8C-875A-D9CE61D66E85
  • I’ll be sharing more skin care tips soon- yet I think we all can agree, winter takes it’s toll on everyone’s skin! Here’s a few things that help tremendously- Stay hydrated and get more water (I’ve a challenged another food blogger to make ‘pretty water’) It’s been a fun wsy to entice myself to drink more water… I find when it’s pretty I certainly drink more of it! Here’s a few of my entries. Adding citrus or fruits and vegetables flavors the water slightly and takes very little time. The best thing is-  I’m enjoying it.
  • Switching over to a ‘milk soap’ is a good move… When I worked for Oscar de la Renta fragrance and cosmetics, we had a product that always had a waiting list! It was Oscar’s Bubble Bath, which was non-skid and also had powdered milk granules in it- the lactic acid in milk products is one of the best skin softeners! You can certainly benefit from dissolving about 1/2 cup of dry milk while you run very warm bath water. Test adding granular milk for yourself and see whether your skin feels softer!  Goats Milk Soap is another way to soften skin, this one I found at www.sparrowssoap.com A7E96E71-09FC-4A40-9800-65A4AB01F5F0
  • And,  a new skin treatment that I’m loving… Its called- Dry Brushing it’s a whole body treatment that rids the body of flaky skin while also stimulating the lymph glands! Can’t wait to tell you more about it!8611396A-D832-427A-A45C-DC05C93C7F0A
  •  Now, I know we all love shopping, however, it’s a good practice to shop your closet first! Most people buy the same new things that they already have in their closet! This is good advice- especially since we’re in a transition season,  instead of clothes shopping- accessorize! If you’ve got the itch to buy? Shop for accessories. Here’s a few I’m loving lately! The ribbon badges were found on Amazon and the pearls…oh always pearls! Those pearls were a gift- and came from JCrew! EB3C8154-C3C6-4626-B2F9-BDE25A20A25D
  • Make a habit of dreaming a little… plan a household project or a vacation! Right now, I’m in the middle of making reservations and have an itinerary of all the things we hope to do in beautiful Colorado Springs! We’ll be staying at the beautiful Broadmoor Hotel. For sure, we’ll enjoy eating those mile high donuts atop Pike’s Peak! Who knows? Maybe we’ll even break out in a rendition of ‘America the Beautiful’ while we’re there! And I hope to take a short road trip to Garden of the Gods- with its amazing huge red rock formations.FD35DA87-FE43-4F5A-9515-55125F191638
  •  And..the dreams and plans don’t stop there… of course, I’m looking at a few dates and places to stay at the beach! Looking forward and making a plan for family beach time this summer, kicking off our shoes and feeling the sand between our toes!
  • Make a plan to update a corner, a tabletop or even a room. It’s always helpful to our mental health to look forward! My plan starts this spring with installing striped outdoor curtains, which were on sale last fall, in black, gray and white cabana stripe….to finish up a household project- our tiny screen porch!2316253C-581A-4ECD-AF65-EAE72D92C347
  • And finally, one of my very favorite ways to dote on others… Sometime, somewhere- when they least expect it- Send a surprise note or gift for no reason at all! This is truly the fine art of doting. A small plant plopped in a waterproof plastic bag then covered with a small burlap bag or even a lunch sack- tied with a pretty ribbon, is doting in many different forms- a small gift for a co-workers desk, a tiny reminder to a friend that she’s appreciated or even dote on yourself a little bit! The main thing is to surprise! Now, wait for it- you know, I have to give you something homemade!988986C5-5E7A-4524-B7C5-A0DA2310EB6E
  • I recently made a batch of homemade marshmallows for a much loved family in upstate New York- hopefully they will enjoy many cups of hot chocolate to chase away the chill! And – be surprised to get them! Don’t they look wonderful?
  • Now don’t forget to read below the recipe. A bit more on the Fine Art of Doting! Here’s how you make our very own Cottage Marshmallows! Though, it’s not much different from most marshmallow recipes, there is one tip you won’t want to miss! And these are easy enough to surprise your family too!

Cottage Marshmallows...

Homemade Marshmallows, a confection that’s fun to make and will delight - especially in winter to top a cup of hot chocolate! 
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American

Ingredients

  • 3 Packages Unflavored Gelatin
  • 1 1/2 Cups Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Cup Light Corn Syrup
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt Preferably Kosher
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  • Confectioners Sugar Mix with..
  • Corn Starch Ratio 1:4 with confectioners sugar being the 4

Instructions

  • In the bowl of stand mixer, combine gelatin with 1/2 cup of cold water. Allow to sit undisturbed while making the sugar syrup. In a small heavy saucepan combine granulated sugar, corn syrup and 1/2 cup of water. Blend corn starch and confectioners sugar in a bowl and set aside. On low heat, stir until sugar is dissolved, then do not stir anymore. Clip on a candy thermometer. Raise heat to medium high increasing heat gradually, until candy thermometer reaches 240 degrees. Remove from heat. The stand mixture should be fitted with a whisk attachment. Very carefully pour the hot sugar syrup, with whisk on low speed,  into the gelatin mixture. Raise speed to medium high, then higher as the mixture is incorporated. Mixture will become light and airy, generally tripled in volume after 12-15 minutes of continuous whisking. While mixture is whisking- prepare an 8x12 inch glass baking dish with a sieve dust confectioners sugar/ corn starch blend generously Slow mixer speed and add vanilla extract, blend well. Pour marshmallow mixture into pan, smooth top and dust generously with more of the confectioners sugar/ corn starch blend. * Corn Starch added to confectioners sugar helps marshmallows dry out better. Let mixture stand overnight uncovered to dry out. Turn out onto a marble surface or a board and with a serrated knife cut marshmallows into squares- whatever size you prefer ! But at least 1 1/2 inch squares. Toss in more confectioners sugar to coat all sides. * marshmallows can be tinted during the whisking process, however, I tend to think the classic white is the prettiest ! 

Marshmallows are best stored flat, covered with foil until ready to package. I prefer cellphane bags instead of plastic.

     

     

    852428A2-126A-4B61-BB99-199CACDDC185Now, you know I have a story… when I first began making homemade marshmallows… I was just tickled with myself and decided to take them to a holiday gathering… when I explained what this confection was… someone said- ‘Why bother?’ Actually the answer is in the handcrafted marshmallow- it’s soft and sweet, it melts in a cup of hot chocolate like a cloud and let’s face it- If anyone ever makes you a batch of homemade marshmallows? Well! that’s the Fine Art of Doting!

    Love y’all, Camellia

    *All photographs are obviously mine, with the exception of the opening photograph which was found on Pinterest with no attribution- if it’s yours? please let me know so I can give you credit! Amazon and JCrew are registered trademarks and this is not a compensated post for anything you see here!

    *Advertisements on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of Camellia’s Cottage.

    *Check out what we’re doing on Instagram, we’re posting everyday!

     

    ‘Can’t tell a lie’ Cherry Crumble

    63D8CAAD-C974-410C-B96E-2B2852568EE4When I was in grammar school, George Washington’s birthday was apparently an opportunity to teach students about our very first president, to have us do a coloring sheet of Washington’s profile or standing beside a cherry tree with an axe in his hand and to teach a basic value- truth telling.

    The way the story went… as a young man, George chopped down a cherry tree on his home property. Some teachers embellished it by saying how valuable the cherry tree was or that Washington had been told not to cut down this particular tree and in show of strength and prowess with an axe or as an act of rebellion, young George chopped down the cherry tree. I’m not sure exactly how the story goes, but I imagine the whole country became fond of cherry pies because of this famous legend.

    Allow me to digress here… I went to grammar school after oil lanterns and quill pens went out of style- the electric light bulb had been in use for decades by then… and we had heroes like Superman- who leaped tall buildings in a single bound and lo and behold-here he comes to save the day … Superman even hopped through windows in a swirling cape, tights and a rigged up superhero outfit as the announcer proclaimed that Superman was for ‘Truth, Justice and the American Way’. A holdover no doubt from patriotic reels during World War II.  I miss those old black and white yet colorful TV shows!

    Anyway, Truth was taught as a value though the retelling of George Washington’s youth– for when the harsh question was asked- ‘Who chopped down the cherry tree?’ George didn’t shift blame…he boldly said, ‘I cannot tell a lie, it was I who chopped down the cherry tree.’ Now, lest you think we as a nation were the only ones profoundly affected by the tale of George and the cherry tree- the nation of Japan, donated cherry trees that surround the Tidal Basin right in the midst of our capitol city- also named Washington! A celebration which is well attended every year- the Cherry Blossom Festival.

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    So! Recently I concocted a humble cherry crumble and had to name it-  ‘Can’t tell a lie’ simply because… the cherry crumble was a failure on my part. I was trying to recreate my grandmother’s beloved recipe for Apricot Casserole by substituting sweet cherries! The failure was due to the fact that I didn’t calculate how many cherries would be needed and it just didn’t come out as I hoped it would. Still. I liked the flavor and the texture. And! Here it came to save the day! An heroic crunchy dessert topper for Sunday Dinner. I thought I would save this recipe for President’s Day weekend after we’ve all had lots of Valentine’s chocolate and need to get back to simple honest food. So here’s how you make Camellia’s Can’t tell a lie’ Cherry Crumble:

    ‘Can’t Tell a Lie’ Cherry Crumble

    To honor Our first President, George Washington- According to legend, as a young man, Washington cut down a valuable Cherry Tree. Rather than allow someone else to shoulder the blame- The young George uttered the famous line ‘I cannot tell a lie.’ This cherry crumble is a particularly good topping for ice cream. 

    Ingredients

    • 1 Stick Butter Melted
    • 2 Sleeves Ritz Party Crackers Crushed roughly
    • 2 14 ounce cans Sweet Cherries Reserve liquid from 1 can
    • 1/2 Teaspoon Pure Almond Extract
    • 1 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
    • 1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg Freshly grated
    • 3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar Plus 1/2 cup sugar for reserved cherry liquid
    • 3/4 Cup Brown Sugar Packed
    • 3/4 Cup Sliced Almonds

    Instructions

    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt one stick of butter. In a small saucepan, add 3/4 cup reserved liquid from cherries and add 1/2 cup sugar and boil gently to make a simple syrup. Add almond extract to this mixture. While syrup is cooling- add drained cherries.  Crush party crackers roughly, add spices and sugars, then pour melted stick of butter over the  crumbs. In a buttered deep dish pie pan or 9x9 baking dish, press one half of buttered cracker crumb mixture. Layer cherries and syrup over the crumbs. Top this with the rest of the crumb mixture and top with sliced almonds. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes until golden. Allow to cool.  Cherry Crumble is delicious over ice cream. 

    Notes

    If desired, more butter may be dotted over top of crumb and almond mixture before baking. Cherry crumble is a quick and delicious dessert any time of year! 

    Full disclosure, with the leftover crumble, I decided to try making an ice cream dessert with some of the crumble on the bottom of a loaf pan, vanilla ice cream layered on top, then added more sweet cherries and to finish, topped it with more of the cherry crumble. The sweet cherries may freeze, so if you decide to do this variation, here’s my suggestion: Slice the ice cream dessert ahead of time- to allow the cherries to thaw out a bit! Or.. omit the sweet cherries and save them as a topper! I can’t tell a lie about this- if I make it again, I’ll probably make the ice cream cake and add the sweet cherries as a garnish but- oh my! it did make a pretty dessert!

    I hope y’all are having a restful enjoyable President’s Day weekend. I also hope they’re still handing out coloring sheets and teaching about ‘Honest’Abraham Lincoln and ‘Cant tell a lie’ George Washington in schools- I personally colored his hair light brown with reddish streaks instead of the all white styled wig we see in his portraits. Oh me! I hope we won’t forget to tell the stories and be thankful for this nation and our historic heroes!

    Love y’all, Camellia

    • *All photographs are obviously mine.
    • *We’re still working on and updating this site, thank you for your long suffering patience! Just blame it on the tech challenged blogger!
    • *Soon, I’ll be posting that famous Apricot Casserole so you can try it or save it, with our new features- the WPRecipe Makerand the shopping app from Chicory.
    • *While this site is being updated, I hope you will follow us on Instagram- @brendawyatt7769 or click the icon link on this page…we’re posting something almost everyday over there!  And… any advertising you see on this page does not necessarily represent the views of Camellia’s Cottage!

    Camellias,Chocolate and Love…

    If there’s one thing about February that always delights me- it’s that camellias are in bloom, chocolate is on the menu or in a heart shaped box and love seems to be in the crisp cool air. This year, the red camellias are showing out, a bumper crop of ruffled blooms, and this tickles me because they’ve taken their own sweet time about getting to a point of consistent blooms- the shrub was chosen for it’s double ruffled petite blossoms- in honor of my mother in law- who I loved with all of my heart- who was petite, beautiful and …well, it just seemed fitting to plant a camellia to honor her life with our state flower, the Camellia.

    Valentine’s seems to be an oddly conflicting  holiday. Oh yes, it’s supposed to be all about flowers and chocolate and romance, yet it’s often a disappointing holiday, even with all of the gift ideas, hearts and beautiful sentimental cards- disappointment often stands in the shadows. Still. Love itself comes in many forms- romantic love, yet also love of family, love of friends and yes, love of place. Other than my own home- there is possibly no place on this earth that I love more than a beautiful historic hotel in Point Clear, Alabama which combines all kinds of love… camellias bloom profusely and a certain form of chocolate stole my heart many years ago.

    The Grand Hotel is her name. Close by is Mobile Bay and  a quaint town called Fairhope; just down the road is a beautiful small town named Magnolia Springs…now if fair hope, beautiful sunsets, camellias, magnolias and a grand old lady doesn’t give you a clear point of view… I don’t know what possibly could. The pace is slower, Afternoon Tea is served every afternoon, the grounds are filled with huge live oaks that have long gray beards of Spanish moss- under their spreading branches- camellias, azaleas and all manner of distinctly southern plants bloom in profusion around a mossy lagoon. I have visited there during every season of the year, yet February is the time of year I’ve probably enjoyed most- in the lower coastal south- it might get chilly but never so cold as to discourage the camellias or the guests. I’ve been there in formal dress several times in February- it seemed to me, the most glamorous place anyone could be!

    Yet, my best memories of the Grand, are of the ones when my children were young and truly learned the exquisite art of dining and dressing for the occasion at a champagne brunch with live music playing softly- tunes like ‘Stars fell on Alabama’ or the more lively- ‘The Alabama Jubilee’. And if there is ever a place on earth for ‘jubilee’ it’s on the shores of Mobile Bay where that amazing phenomenon happens when it’s least expected!

    The first time I ever tasted- Flourless Chocolate Cake was at the Grand Hotel, and I recall thinking- ‘What an elegant dessert! Surely, someone could have come up with a more decadent name!’ Somehow, over the years- I was given their recipe for this decadent chocolate dessert. For years, I’ve thought I couldn’t recreate it- and the truth is? Without the backdrop of the Grand Hotel it would no doubt ever taste the same. So! I took the recipe and tweaked it to make the recipe my own – and while our camellia’s are blooming their fool heads off? I decide to try my hand at making it and decorating it with those festive red blooms! So, it was only  appropriate to name it- Camellia’s Flourless Dark Chocolate Cake. It’s way easier to make it than I’d ever have thought- and decorated with red camellias grown right here at the cottage- it was downright gorgeous and…well, it took me back… Here’s how you make it-

    Camellia’s Flourless Dark Chocolate Cake...

    A dense rich dark chocolate cake, made with baking chocolate and cocoa, a mere 1 cup of sugar, no flour at all, and- to deepen the flavor- espresso powder is added. A small slice garnished with whipped cream is an elegant dessert. 

    Ingredients

    • 2 Sticks Butter Cut in pieces- plus more for pan
    • 1/4 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder More for dusting pan
    • 2 Teaspoons Instant espresso or coffee granules
    • 1/4 Cup Heavy Cream
    • 8 Ounces Unsweetened Baking Chocolate Chopped
    • 5 Large Eggs
    • 1 Cup Granular Sugar
    • 1/4 Cup Powdered Sugar As needed for dusting
    • Whipped Cream
    • Fresh Mint Leaf, Berries or flowers For garnish

    Instructions

    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 9 inch springform pan (or a 9 inch cake pan lined completely with parchment paper) Butter pan and dust with cocoa powder. Set aside. In a heavy medium saucepan, melt butter on medium low heat, add baking chocolate pieces and carefully stir until melted. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together large eggs, add granulated sugar, espresso powder and cocoa powder until fully combined. Carefully incorporate melted chocolate and butter until th batter is blended well. Pour batter into prepared pan lightly smooth batter. Bake at 350 degrees on center rack until puffed and set, approximately 35 minutes. Allow cake to cool for a full hour in the pan. If needed run a knife around sides of pan (if a baking pan is used, lift out of pan and fold down parchment ) unmold cake on serving platter. (Cake may be wrapped well after cooling and stored for up to 2 days before serving.) When ready to serve, dust with powdered sugar, add whipped cream and  garnish as desired. This is a very rich dense cake, small slices are preferable. 12-16 slices. 

    And while we’re talking Camellias, Chocolate and Love… here’s a few ideas to make Valentine’s special:

    • Give or plant a camellia shrub, a special rose even a gardenia to honor a loved one or to beautify your landscape.
    • Bake a special dessert, cookies or a cake to give to friends and loved ones.
    • And, since the Grand Hotel has a spa that has been named one of the best in the country- why not make Spa Water for yourself and loved ones- decorated with rose petals?
    • Or give a spa certificate to a loved one, a friend or even treat yourself to a manicure or pedicure? Maybe find some seasonal flowers (like Camellias) and give a bouquet?

    I know. I know. We tend to think of Valentine’s Day as just for couples in love…. I’ve come to believe- love, the sweetest kind is love that’s spread around a bit… so my best idea this year- Determine in the next few days to find folks who could use a hug or a bit of extra love and care- make a card, send a goofy text, write a note, give a call or just visit for a while? Sometimes the best thing of all is to say-

    . Love y’all, Camellia

    *All photographs are obviously mine. *The photograph of that gorgeous sunset was taken by me at the Marriott Grand Hotel several years ago- I’ve been reassured the sunsets are still glorious! *Choose flowers to decorate food or water that are organically grown or that you know the source. *The dark chocolate flourless cake can be made ahead two days before it’s served- so you’ll have plenty of time to make it this week!

    Health and Beauty tip: Tea Tree Oil is an amazing oil for skin treatments and comes from the same family as the Camellia. And did you know? Dark Chocolate has been known to soothe a cough more readily than hot tea or chicken soup? Of course, that a bite of dark chocolate that slowly melts in your mouth! And, if the weather permits at all- the best health advice I can give you this week- is to try to spend 15-20 minutes outside everyday- it lifts the spirits and fresh air is a total body treatment!

    Lemon Squares…

    From the cradle to the grave, in the South- at every occasion of any importance – you can mark this down, a dessert, or two or more will feature lemon. Lemon desserts are legendary and iconic… Lemon Meringue Pue, Lemon glazed Pound Cake, Lemon Ice Box Pie, wedding cakes filled with lemon curd…even our sweet tea is laced with lemon juice! However, these Lemon Squares make a regular appearance on tea tables, at baby showers, holiday dessert tables, bridal teas, anniversary and retirement parties and yes, grieved though we may be for the dearly departed- we tend to consume Lemon Squares in quantities to comfort ourselves. How do I know this? Almost every dark suit and black dress that’s been anywhere near the bereavement buffet bears a sprinkle of a telltale streak of powdered sugar! On one occasion I helped with –  Lemon Squares were assigned to more than one trusted baker- but all agreed that Bennie Sue’s recipe should be used for uniform quality. Okay, I made up Bennie Sue’s name to protect the innocent. You know, there’s always at least one Bennie Sue in any southern community whose recipe is considered the gold standard. Rustic and humble in looks- not Bennie Sue, for heavens sake! No, the rustic and humble Lemon Squares- tend to take on a heavenly appearance with their light cloud-like dusting of powdered  sugar. I think even the formidable  Bennie Sue would approve of this recipe for Camellia’s Lemon Squares! 

    Lemon Squares...

    Cut in bar cookies or tiny squares, Lemon Bars are welcome any time. A shortbread type crust topped with baked lemon  curd and dustEd with a snowy powdered sugar topping - it’s a near perfect addition on dessert tables or as a stand alone confection. 

    Ingredients

    • 1/2 Cup Butter Softened
    • 1 Cup Flour Sifted
    • 1/4 Cup Sugar
    • 2 Large Eggs
    • Zest Lemon from 1 large or 2 small lemons
    • 3/4 Cup Sugar
    • 2 Tbs Flour
    • 1/4 teas Baking Powder
    • 3-4 Tbs Lemon Juice * Freshly Squeezed - use zested lemons
    • Powdered Sugar for Dusting

    Instructions

    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine softened butter, 1 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of sugar for crust. Do not overmix. Press into an 8x8 glass baking dish for crust. Bake 12 minutes or until pale but dry. Do not overtake, crust will complete baking later. While crust is baking, make lemon filling with remainder of ingredients, except powdered sugar. Mix well. Pour mixture over partially baked crust. Complete baking at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes or until Lemon Mixture is done. ( press lightly with your finger, if no fingerprint remains, the Lemon Squares are done. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and continue to cool. Dust again with powdered sugar.
      When ready to serve, for parties, cut into small squares. As a dessert, larger squares may be preferred. * Serving suggestion: When ready to serve, top with additional lemon zest for a pretty presentation and a tart fresh taste. 

    While they can be made year round, winter is a perfect time for Lemon Squares. Citrus fruit is fresh and abundant. And while we do make these lemon squares for special occasions, they’re the perfect ending for a Sunday Dinner, when they can be cut generously with no complaints!

    I do recommend using three small kitchen hand tools when making lemon squares- a wooden lemon reamer – less cleanup for just one or two lemons, a small hand held specialty lemon zester for those pretty little strands and curls that add a zip of flavor, done as a flourish right before serving and- a small fine mesh strainer in stainless steel to seed and pulp the lemon juice for the filling and again for the pretty finale- the sifting flourish of powdered sugar! And we do love to add a flourish, accessorize if you will. And if there’s one thing Southern women know how to do- it’s to accessorize! Oh me, hope you’ll try them some dreary winter day soon!

    Love y’all, Camellia

    Health and Beauty Tips: Citrus fruits including – maybe especially lemons,  are full of antioxidants, Vitamin C and those all important B for Beauty Vitamins. Some think that lemon juice even in a spa juice does help ease symptoms of the common cold. Here’s a Spa Water I made this week, with sliced ruby red grapefruit, oranges and lemon slices. if nothing else it sure was pretty- so pretty, I was enticed to drink more water! And that has to be good for your skin and keep you healthy and hydrated!

    • * You can find the small kitchen tools, such as the citrus reamer, the specialty lemon zester and the small stainless steel/fine mesh sieves-  at fine kitchen shops, including Williams Sonoma. (This is not a sponsored post) And! that pretty green plate? It’s made by Earthborn Pottery right here in Alabama!
    • We do have some ads now, to keep the lights on… Camellia’s Cottage does not guarantee the quality of any products or services in these ads!
    • *And… I just made up Bennie Sue’s name- to protect the innocent you know…
    • *All photographs are obviously mine!

    Camellia’s Celery Blossoms…

    Celery is so common in Southern cooking that I would say it’s an unsung hero. What surprises me is that there are so few recipes where celery is the star! Oh yes, we must have in almost everything from soups, stews, casseroles and even our beloved salads from chicken , shrimp, mixed greens and even congealed- we tend to add the refreshing crunch of crisp celery. One of my favorite family stories is when my grandmother… who was meticulous in keeping her spice drawer up to date- tossed a handful of celery seed into her small kitchen garden and was rewarded by surprise! Her own home grown celery! She was delighted and never lived it down! I think she would have loved these fun appetizers!

     

    Camellia’s Celery Blossoms

    An excellent crisp appetizer of celery filled with a cream cheese mixture- great with Hot Wings or  a welcome appetizer anytime! 
    Course: Appetizer
    Cuisine: American

    Ingredients

    • 1 Large Bunch Celery Organic if possible
    • 1 8 oz. Cream Cheese Softened
    • 1/2 Cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese Grated- not pre-shredded
    • 1 Tablespoon Finely Grated sweet Onion With juice included
    • 1 Teaspoon Garlic Salt
    • 1 Teaspoon Fresh Ground Black Pepper Or to tastes
    • 1 Tablespoon Milk
    • 1 Tablespoon Finely Chopped Green onion Tops Optional

    Instructions

    • Separate Celery Stalks. Trim tops and bottoms of stalks and wash well, removing any heavy strings or bruises. While celery dries, combine cheeses and blend until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and blend well. Spread cheese mixture into center of each celery rib. Press 3 cheese filled ribs together with filling facing the center. Tie each celery bundle with kitchen twine or string. Chill filled ribs for at least one hour. * covered tightly this is a great make ahead recipe. Slice celery blossoms into 1/2 to 3/4 inch slices. Arrange on large edible leaves, such as cabbage or collard leaves. Serves 12-16. 

    Notes

    These celery blossoms are wonderful with Hot Wings. Any leftovers should be chilled. They are also a wonderful snack alone or served on a party cracker! 

    Camellia’s Celery Blossoms are easy to make and a nice alternative to celery sticks on a vegetable platter or even alongside your favorite hot wings . A pretty and delicious appetizer, too! If you’re watching the Super Bowl or managing the food table during the game…I think you’re gonna love them!

    Love y’all, Camellia

    * All photographs are obviously mine.

    * Health and Beauty Tip : Celery is loaded with fiber, high in Vitamin K, helpful in lowering cholesterol and of all things may reduce inflammation and inhibit the growth of certain bacteria in the intestines! That’s a lot of benefits, y’all ! And we all know healthy insides help us be good looking on the outside!

    Camellia’s Bleu Pig…

    Camellia’s Bleu Pig

    Imagine showing up at your next gathering with a Bleu Pig! It does tend to create a sensation,   Okay, actually If you tell the hostess you’re bringing one, it creates mystery, curiosity and anticipation. Still. A Bleu Pig is versatile, a team player and welcome almost anywhere… including a silver tray or the fanciest charcuterie board.A Bleu Pig is a unique blend of sharp cheddar, bleu cheese and bacon – lots of it- a whole half pound of crumbled bacon rolled into a Cheese Ball or appetizer Cheese Logs. Of course, like most cheese appetizers, it’s wonderful with crackers and I especially like it served along with tart apples… a pig is known for loving apples, y’all- bleu or not. The Bleu Pig is also wonderful dolloped on  a grilled steak, a hot baked potato, melted on top of burgers, crumbled over a salad and yes, with party crackers on a cheese board! Okay, let’s be honest, some folks just don’t like bleu cheese… feel free to make yours anyway you like by changing out that bit of bleu cheese for another type, or go whole hog and make it with just sharp cheddar cheese! Here’s how you make a Bleu Pig…

    Camellia's Bleu Pig...

    An easy versatile cheese ball with cheddar and bleu cheeses and bacon, lots of it!
    Course: Appetizer
    Cuisine: American

    Ingredients

    • 1/2 pound extra sharp cheddar cheese grated
    • 1/2 pound cream cheese
    • 1/2 pound sliced bacon fried crisp, crumbled
    • 2 Tablespoons grated yellow (or mild) onion finely grated
    • 1/4 pound bleu cheese
    • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
    • 3-4 drops worchestershire sauce to taste

    Instructions

    • Have all ingredients at room temperature, mix together cheddar and cream cheese together- add bleu cheese, grated onion, garlic salt and Worcestershire sauce together- mixing all loosely. Add crumbled bacon last evenly distributing over the cheese mixture and incorporate carefully. Shape into one medium size ball or 2 logs. Freezes well.

    *I enjoy serving this cheese ball for a crowd, however, I tend to make it up into logs. Allow to soften before serving. Slices from these logs are a perfect topping for grilled steaks or baked potatoes. *Note if you aren't a fan of bleu cheese- feel free to increase the amount of with cheddar or another type of cheese you prefer.

    • And a special treat, smear on a dark leafy green such as baby collards, roll and cut in cigar fashion, pile onto a platter or along with other offerings on a cheese board.

    A good many years ago- the famous Lee Brothers of Charleston inspired me by rolling up their Fresh Cheese in Collard leaves! I’ve never forgotten their unique appetizer – so, when a friend recently sent a big bag of baby collard greens to the cottage…I just had to…Wait for it…Make Bleu Piggies in Green Blankets! Turns out that might be my favorite way to serve a Bleu Pig!

    Love y’all, Camellia

    *All photographs are obviously mine!

    Find Lee Brothers here-

    ‘Where the Sugarcane Grows’ Gingerbread…

    The Gulf Coast states from Florida on over to Louisiana is where the sugarcane grows; you’re in cane syrup and molasses country. Sugarcane is responsible for the famous Southern Sweet Tooth, and most folks think the old fashioned molasses pie was responsible for what we know today as Pecan Pie- and where would be without that? Sugarcane is the number one cash crop in Louisiana, molasses is made by milling sugarcane and sugar beets together, it takes an astounding one ton of sugarcane to make just five gallons of molasses! So… what does that have to do with this gingerbread – well… this adaptation of an old gingerbread recipe calls for one full cup of molasses! And it’s full of spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, black pepper along with coffee and cocoa- we southerners have always loved our spices! Then, for good measure- this one also uses the zest of several oranges and at least half a jar of orange marmalade and who would argue that southern states like Florida produce bumper crops of citrus! When I was tweaking this recipe- I recalled how my grandmother wouldn’t let a grain of sugar near her cornbread but occasionally she would butter me a slice straight from the oven and say- ‘Put some of that marmalade on it!’ And oh..  it was so good! I don’t recall eating gingerbread very often- mainly it would be a wintertime cake topped with a lemon curd… any citrus does seem to brighten up a winter day! And… while I was at it? Why not make a cream cheese frosting- the classic for Carrot Cake- another wintertime favorite!

    So! that’s how ‘Where the Sugarcane Grows’ Gingerbread came about! Now, you don’t even have to put frosting on it- it’s good with orange marmalade or on it’s own. And since molasses is nutrient rich- and the spices tend to settle a queasy stomach- you might even get away with calling it health food…It’s a dense rich cake filled with enough spices to make the whole house smell wonderful, maybe seem a bit warmer and have a little something sweet on hand! Here’s how you make it: 

     

    'Where the Sugarcane Grows' Gingerbread

    A moist spicy gingerbread, glazed with orange marmalade while warm then topped with cream cheese icing.
    Course: Dessert
    Cuisine: American

    Ingredients

    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/2 cup butter
    • 1 cup molasses thick and dark
    • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
    • 2 Tablespoons dark cocoa powder
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon nutmeg freshly grated preferred
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 2 eggs large lightly beaten
    • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • 1 cup hot strong coffee
    • 1 teaspoon orange zest or the zest of one small orange
    • 6 oz. orange marmalade

    Cream Cheese Icing

    • 1 stick butter softened
    • 1 8 ounce package cream cheese softened
    • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • 1 one pound package of confectioner's sugar sifted

    Instructions

    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add molasses mix well. Add eggs, mixing well, then add vanilla extract. Sift flour, salt, cocoa, baking soda and spices together. Add dry ingredients- in 3-4 portions mixing well. Add hot coffee and orange zest to mix. Mix thoroughly but do not overmix ingredients. 
       Put mixture into a 9x9 well greased baking dish, bake 30- 40 minutes, or until center is still slightly moist. (If you prefer to make a gingerbread loaf, add an extra large egg; butter and line a loaf pan with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for up to one hour.)  Remove gingerbread from oven, allow to cool slightly then glaze with 3/4 cup of orange marmalade being generous. When the gingerbread has cooled- frost with Cream Cheese Icing.  

    For Cream Cheese Icing

    • In a mixer cream softened butter and cream cheese, add vanilla extract. Then mix in confectioner's sugar one cup at a time until thoroughly mixed and fluffy. Ice glazed Gingerbread. * May decorate with thin strips of orange zest. Chill iced gingerbread for 15 minutes before slicing.

    Notes

    Gingerbread often dries out quickly, the glaze and icing help keep it moist. After the initial chilling, any leftover gingerbread should be wrapped with plastic wrap and covered. Makes 9-12 servings. This is a very spicy gingerbread that I think you will enjoy.

    Next time you feel like you need a bit of spice in your life – I hope you’ll try… ‘Where the Sugarcane Grows’ Gingerbread.  And as always…

    Love y’all, Camellia

    * If you want to make a loaf cake- add an extra egg and an extra 20 minutes more bake time, just don’t peek while it’s baking or it will fall! Or, if you prefer more of a bar cookie- pour the batter in a 10x 15 inch sheet pan- seriously reducing the bake time… just until the center is almost set. Cut in cute shapes or squares… oh just do whatever you want to!

    *All photographs are mine.

    Camellia’s Classic Cheese Straws…

    If there was a manual for Camellia’s Academy of Fine Arts for Polite Society, there would be an entire section devoted to the proper menus for afternoon teas, bridal showers, various receptions and occasional celebratory parties. And, you may count on Classic Cheese Straws making an honorary appearance on each and every menu. Southern Cheese Straws have been the subject of hot debate for decades…every town has at least one sweet soul who takes great pride in producing the very best cheese straws. Okay, it’s not a hot debate, it’s more like a warm undercurrent. Someone remarked recently, ‘Why, I haven’t made a cheese straw since Captain and Tennielle sang Muskrat Love, I never could get them to crisp up like Gaynelle always could.’  I can’t say I blame her!

    Here’s why:

    • Some say it’s too humid right now for making a decent cheese straw.
    • Others think it’s because a certain baker never shared her grandmother’s recipe on her momma’s side, I think it was a deathbed promise.
    • Then, some recipes survive, however the oven temperature tends to vary or a critical ingredient is missing.
    • Even the fact you must be in possession of a proper cookie press has mysteriously been left out.
    • In fact, it must be said-  Blessed is the bride who receives a fine metal cookie press at her kitchen shower and-
    • Far more than blessed is the southern hostess who has inherited her great aunt Bessie’s cookie press which had her famous cheese straw recipe hidden inside the tube.

    I’m not exaggerating here. Classic Cheese Straws are highly prized and the one who literally pressed on through the ages- surviving even ‘Muskrat Love’ persists until this day! Still. I’m not going to tell you my cheese straw recipe is the best, I could get into a lot of hot water! I am going to tell you that this recipe is one of my favorites. And! I personally love southern cheese straws so much that I generally make a double recipe at least twice a year and they’re squirreled away in my freezer. I pull out what I need, put them on an ungreased sheet pan and allow them to thaw slightly and bake as directed. Winter is a great time to make cheese straws, but as my friend who probably does make the best cheese (because she does have a genuine handed down recipe) told me recently…’They won’t get crisp if you bake them on a rainy or humid day’. I agree. Try this recipe- I haven’t left anything out.

    Join me in keeping this wonderful tradition alive- it’s an heirloom recipe. It’d be a shame for polite society if the tradition didn’t survive, especially if you live, like I do,  where cheese straws are always welcome and the sugar cane still grows.

    Love y’all, Camellia

     

    Camellia's Classic Cheese Straws

    An old classic cheese straw for teas, showers, receptions or parties!
    Course: Appetizer
    Cuisine: American

    Ingredients

    • 1 pound extra sharp cheddar cheese grated= *do not use pre-grated cheese!
    • 1 stick salted butter if you use unsalted add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to sifted flour
    • 2 cups all purpose flour
    • 1/2-1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

    Instructions

    • In a food processor, grate sharp cheddar and chilled stick of butter- doing this in batches if necessary. Put cheddar mixture in a large bowl, covered with plastic wrap and leave overnight to soften- do not refrigerate at this stage. Sift together flour, cayenne, paprika and salt (if using unsalted butter). With clean hands, mix dry ingredients into softened cheese and butter- mixing very well until mixture is smooth.  On ungreased sheet pan, in batches, put dough through a cookie press with a star tip in approximately 4 inch strips. (If you don't have a cookie press- the dough can be rolled with a bit of extra flour and cut into narrow strips.) Placement is approximately 1/2 inches apart. When sheet pan is filled, chill the pressed dough briefly to retain better shape as they bake.
      Preheat oven to 350. Bake 15 minutes, checking after 12 minutes. Cheese Straws should be dried out but not browned. Remove to a wire rack to cook. Keep in an airtight container. Makes 4-6 dozen.   

    Notes

    The best cheese straws are put through a cookie press, using the star plate. If you choose another design, adjust cooking time.

    * all photographs are obviously mine. Williams Sonoma sells a wonderful sturdy cookie press. I also found several good all metal cookies presses sold on Amazon. *Camellia’s Academy of Fine Arts for Polite Society does not exist- though it’s crossed my mind…

    Camellia’s Cottage Cookies

    Not a lot of cookies are made here at the cottage. Okay, I make shortbread cookies, they’re my favorite plain and also I’ve have experimented with add ins like pecans or orange zest, have even made a variation with brown sugar and pecans as a unique shortbread, but that’s about it for cookies. I do admit to enjoying bar cookies and the ease of making them,. yet I’ve wanted another cookie to add to my repertoire, if it’s a go to recipe that’s a bit different, with a crisp crumb and a bit of texture added, and of course loaded with southern flavors.

    I ran across a cookie recipe- from a community cookbook that I’d kept for over 20 years- it called for walnuts and a few other things I knew would have to change before it would be a cookie I thought would taste good and be worth the time and effort. Now… the baker had called the recipe- ‘World’s Best Cookie’. Southerners do tend to exaggerate when it comes to making up a title for their recipes…everything is – Best, Delight, Divine or named, King or Queen– after Royalty or a famous ranch for all I know… Still. I wondered about this world’s best cookie…it did sound good, and except for the walnuts, had solid southern flavors. I’ve been clearing out my pantry for a fresh start to the new year and I had all of the ingredients on hand. You might have them too!

     I tweaked the old recipe and what do you know? It’s a really good cookie. World’s Best, who knows? Still. For me to put our name on it- well, it’s has to be good!

    I’ve named these cookies simply Camellia’s Cottage Cookies… easy to make, even easier to enjoy and the easiest to share! Otherwise… well, let’s just say I was standing there eating them one after another thinking- ‘I’ve got to get these cookies out of here!’  Hope you’ll try them. As always…

    Love y’all, Camellia

    Camellia's Cottage Cookies

    A truly good cookie that has everything but the kitchen sink- pecans, oats, coconut and even corn flakes! The butter makes the texture light and crisp.  It's a great after school snack or with all that fiber even a quick breakfast treat with a piece of fruit of course...
    Course: Dessert
    Cuisine: American
    Servings: 4 dozen

    Ingredients

    • 1 cup regular or frosted corn flakes lightly crushed
    • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats not quick or instant
    • 1 cup shredded coconut unsweetened is best
    • 3/4 cup coarse chopped pecans
    • 1 cup butter I use salted, if you don't add 1 teaspoon of salt
    • 1 cup dark brown sugar may use light brown
    • 1 cup granulated sugar
    • 1 large egg- lightly beaten
    • 1 cup vegetable oil
    • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
    • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda sifted with flour
    • 4 cups all purpose flour

    Instructions

    • In a large bowl, toss to combine- lightly crushed corn flakes, rolled oats, coconut and pecans. Set aside.  With a stand mixer, cream butter and sugars until light, about 4 minutes. Add beaten egg, mix well- then add vanilla and almond extracts, beating well. Slowly add vegetable oil until well incorporated. Remove bowl from mixer.
      By hand, carefully add mixture of corn flakes, oats, coconut and pecans. Then, add one cup at a time of the sifted flour mixture. Be gentle but mix well. 
      Drop by rounded tablespoons on ungreased sheet pans. Flatten each ball of dough with a fork dipped in water - making a cross hatch pattern.
      Bake at 350 degrees for 14-15 minutes. Check cookies after 12 minutes. Bake until lightly browned. Cool on wire racks. Makes 3-4 dozen.

    Notes

    I had frosted corn flakes in my pantry and they worked just fine! It's important to cream the butter, sugars, egg, extracts and oil in the correct order- and to do this with a mixer. Folding in the mixture of oats, flakes, coconut and pecans must be done by hand to have that wonderful texture. Depending on the size cookies you make- adjust the baking time accordingly. These are truly good cookies!

    *all photographs are mine!

    A Fresh Start for 2019!

    I think we’re all ready for a fresh start after the holidays each year. By fresh start, I don’t mean getting rid of everything….more that I prefer to refresh, renew and repurpose what I already have, even what’s worked previously but for some reason has fallen by the wayside in the middle of … well, life. I try not to set goals that honestly set me up for failure, especially when it comes to exercise. Why? Ok, I’m not proud of the fact that I’m not athletic… one of the top posts here was written in the first year- it’s called Instinct or Fitness which regales a few of my various mishaps. Not included was a more recent splat on a sidewalk in upscale Georgetown DC. I literally tripped on an uneven sidewalk about an hour after I arrived with my family. I had made reservations for our first tour- a moonlight ride through our nation’s capitol of the iconic monuments that evening. We had to re-schedule the wonderful tour due to my less-than-graceful splat  on the sidewalk! In fact, our first tour of D.C. was in a large rescue vehicle, the EMT’s graciously let all five of us ride to the hospital! I ended up with a few stitches on my forehead, a seriously sprained arm and a torn meniscus! Once again my fall-back exercise after I finished rehab was the only exercise I’ve ever been able to actually do and that I truly enjoy- Yoga! I have literally worn out 2 yoga DVDs and protect my third one like it is gold! The DVD is from Gaiam and is called Yoga AM by Rodney Yee.

    With my first knee surgery, also from an injury, I recovered full rotation of my knee and I believe due to this yoga practice. My yoga practice has been sporadic but always effective and enjoyable for almost 20 years now!

    A few years ago, I also became intrigued with the health benefits of meditation, using guided courses but inserting special Scriptures when appropriate to enhance my own meditation. One of my favorite verses is Psalm 19: 14 ‘Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, oh Lord, my rock and my redeemer.’ This practice of meditation became critical to my well being when I underwent a series of radiation treatments in 2017 to shrink a non-cancerous tumor on my carotid artery. Controlled breathing combined with meditation on special scriptures enabled my anxious and claustrophobic self to not only endure but sail through the treatments with very few side effects! As it turns out, my balance had been affected by my condition which could explain the falls I had! (Finding underlying health issues is important too!) Still.  I’ll never be a great athlete. Finding exercises I will actually do is a priority– yoga is one of those! So! Imagine my delight when Gaiam, a leader in these healthy practices of yoga and meditation along with fine products shared an offer with me, that I could pass along to you! I  think yoga and meditation are great for any age- but especially for folks of…ahem… a certain age like me! It improves breathing, circulation, flexibility, posture and is uplifting and energizing. Best of all, many types of yoga are low impact and can be done in your own home, at your own pace and level of capability, no matter what age you may be.  I am thrilled to extend an offer to you for 19% off all yoga and meditation products along with free shipping on all orders over $49 from Gaiam to jumpstart your 2019 goals! I think you will find yoga and meditation require very little equipment to get started. The main thing is to find exercises you enjoy and will do, yoga, gardening or… kickboxing? I for one am grateful that a yoga DVD from Gaiam is where I began. And it’s where I’m beginning the New Year; for my health and well being will once again start with my Gaiam yoga DVD. All the best with your own fresh start in 2019!

    Love y’all, Camellia

    * Click through this link to get your 19% discount with Gaiam