Many of my readers have commented about how much they enjoy stories about my grandchildren. When I first started writing Cooks’ Corner, I only had one granddaughter; now I have three, plus four grandsons. Maggie stories permeated my earliest columns. Then Vivian, Lincoln (Maggie’s brother), and Liam arrived within six months of each other. Melody (Maggie’s sister) was the last girl; she was followed by Elijah (Vivian’s brother) and Colton (Liam’s brother).
Maggie is a teenager now, and Vivian, Lincoln, and Liam are all in first grade. Melody attends pre-kindergarten. It seems like once the children hit school age, the stories about them slow down. When they were preschool age, their innocent learning experiences were often hilarious. But what was funny about the actions of two, three, or four-year-olds is not so entertaining when they grow older and learn more about life and how to behave. Granted, they still do things that make me laugh, but they are much wiser now and those times are fewer and further between.
The good news is that 2-1/2-year old Elijah has come into his own. His latest actions are keeping our family in stitches. One day his mother asked him, “Elijah, do you need to wash your hands?” “You say yes, I say no,” he replied. “We are having a difference of opinion,” Heather informed him, stating, “when there is a difference of opinion, Mommy always wins.” Elijah went to his dad, declaring that he and his mother were having “a difference of a penguin.”
On a warm afternoon last week my son, Jonathan, took Vivian and Elijah to play in the park while they were waiting for Heather to get home from work. A boy from Vivian’s school was there; Jonathan believed him to be in second or third grade. He came up to Elijah, asking if he wanted to play Tag. Elijah didn’t understand, so the boy explained that he would run and Elijah had to chase him and try to catch him. They ran around for about ten minutes or so; of course, Elijah never managed to capture his much larger playmate.
Jonathan received a telephone call from Heather – she was almost home. Jonathan told his children they needed to leave because their mom was coming. Elijah is an affectionate child; he held his arms out to his play buddy for a hug. The boy hugged him, at which point Elijah hugged back, announcing, “Caught ya!”
Just like his father and grandfather, Elijah is fascinated with tools. He has the toy variety; however, he is very intrigued by his dad’s implements. Jonathan had to travel to Nashville, Tennessee on business and was gone overnight. He came home very late the next night after Elijah went to bed. This was quite a lengthy time for a two-year-old. Before he went to sleep that evening, he questioned his mother, “If Daddy never comes back can I have his tools?”
My late husband used to claim that “a job is always easier if you have the right tools.” I never complained about this idea since Bob saw the value of me having a well-rounded assortment of kitchen gadgets, crafting tools, and sewing paraphernalia. Some of the kitchen gadgets I would not like to be without: flour sifter, whisk, pastry blender, rolling pin, microplane zester, immersion blender, and kitchen shears. I could name plenty of others, but space is limited.
I placed flour sifter first because I have learned that well-sifted flour yields better results. There are a few exceptions – I don’t usually sift bread flour, although I do “fluff it up” a bit before spooning it into a measuring cup. Cocoa and powdered sugar also benefit from a good sifting. It is much easier to make a smooth batter or frosting if there are no lumps to start out with. Sifting all dry ingredients together makes for a better blend, as well as removing any clumps from baking soda and spices. It also adds air, which makes for lighter baked goods.
Sift your way into March, which is National Flour Month, with these recipes:
Sugar ‘N Spice Cake
3/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup buttermilk
Spiced Buttercream Icing (recipe follows)
Cream shortening; beat in brown sugar. Gradually add 1 cup sugar, beating well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition; stir in vanilla.
Combine dry ingredients; add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix well after each addition.
Grease two 9-inch round cake pans (see note) and line with waxed paper; grease waxed paper. Pour batter into prepared pans; bake at 325 for 40 to 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes; remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks. Spread Spiced Buttercream between layers and on top and sides of cake, spreading it smoothly. Yield: one 9-inch cake.
Note: May also use a 13”x 9” pan as well. Decrease icing amount by 1/3.
1-1/2 cups butter or margarine, softened
4-1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Combine butter and powdered sugar, creaming until light and fluffy. Add orange juice; beat until spreading consistency. Beat in spices. Yield: 3-1/4 cups.
White Lily Biscuits
2 cups White Lily self-rising flour, sifted
1/4 cup shortening
2/3 to 3/4 cup milk
Preheat: oven to 500 degrees. (Yes, it does mean 500! If your oven runs hot, use 475 degrees.)
Measure: flour into bowl (by spooning into measuring cup and leveling off)
Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Blend in just enough milk with fork until dough leaves sides of bowl. (Too much milk
makes dough too sticky to handle; not enough milk makes biscuits dry.)
Knead gently on lightly floured surface about 10 times.
Roll dough about 1/2-inch thick. Cut without twisting cutter.
Bake on ungreased baking sheet (1 inch apart for crusty biscuits; almost touching for soft sides) for 8 to 10 minutes. Serve at once.
Makes: twelve 2-inch biscuits.
Note: for tender biscuits always handle dough gently and use as little extra flour for
kneading and rolling as possible.