Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Mrs. Freeman's Pumpkin Fruitcake

Mrs. Freeman was a sweet lady who lived just across the fence from us when I was a child. In her upper 80's, she knew the names of all her neighbors. I loved to visit her and we would have long conversations as she poured jams and jellies into baby food jars. These would be gifts for neighbors along with the most delicious pumpkin fruitcake you ever put in your mouth. Each baked in a tomato soup can and wrapped in foil, then Christmas paper and ribbon- they were special gifts. I wish I had her recipe, but I was only 8 and didn't know the importance of such things! This one's from Taste of Home and I've made it many times. It's moist and delicious, filled with pecans and dates, raisins and cherries and none of that yucky citron that makes people hate fruitcake to begin with.

Pumpkin Fruitcake 
3/4 cup butter, softened
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup raisins
10 red candied cherries, chopped
1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon Spice Islands® pure vanilla extract
2 to 3 tablespoons milk
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs; mix well. Stir in pumpkin. Combine the flour, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, salt and baking soda; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk. Fold in the pecans, dates, raisins and cherries.
Spoon into a greased and floured 10-in. fluted tube pan. Bake at 350° for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
For glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar, vanilla and enough milk to achieve desired consistency. Drizzle over cake. Yield: 12 servings.
If you'd like to try baking in the cans, just like Mrs. Freeman... here's another recipe that would be great for gift giving, complete with directions for baking times in soup cans!

Walnut-Date Bread 
3/4 cup walnuts,finely chopped
1 cup sliced dates
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup boiling water
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups sifted flour
Combine nuts, dates,soda and salt in mixing bowl. Add shortening and boiling water. Let stand 15 minutes, stir to blend.
Beat eggs slightly, add vanilla. Sift in sugar and flour and stir until dry ingredients are moistened. (This is a very stiff mixture.) Add to date mixture, mixing until well blended.
Grease 4 soup cans (10 1/2 or 11 oz. size). Pour batter into cans,filling two thirds full. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake 350° for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake 10 minutes longer or until center test done. Cool 15 minutes and remove from cans. Cool completely.

"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold,
everything is softer and more beautiful."
Norman Vincent Peale

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Sunshine Road

There's an old saying, "If you've forgotten the language of gratitude, you'll never be on speaking terms with happiness." I think that the holidays opens our eyes every year to the many blessings in our lives. We have a roof over our heads, food in the pantry and good health. Those are the Big Ones... or are they? Could you be happy if you didn't have a home, or you had to worry about where you next meal was coming from? What if you faced serious health issues, could you find gratitude anywhere in that?

On my way to town, I pass by Sunshine Road. Sounds like the perfect "Christmas Card Address," the kind that invokes memories of cozy homes with smoke curling out of the chimneys. In reality, it's one of the poorest parts of Benton County with small, ramshackle trailers. Many are without heat and running water. How could that be? Well, it just is. One of the residents of Sunshine Road rides with me to and from town occasionally. She walks, in the rain, in the cold, in the heat of summer to work at Wendy's. I'd say Mary is my age, she has a grandson the same age as mine that lives with her. She's always cheerful, carrying her backpack and sometimes loaded down with sacks of groceries. A smile on her face, she told me once with pride that she owns her trailer.

It's in our hearts where gratitude lives and grows. We either feed it daily or we let it die a slow, horrible death. Look around you this holiday season and you will see many opportunities to feed the gratitude in your heart and in the heart of others. 

I'm counting my blessings this morning, I bet you are too! Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Back Roads

September is here and it's a great time to get out and enjoy the cooler weather, autumn color and the quirky places that are down country roads no matter where you live. "The Pig Trail'... that's what the locals call the road that many use to go to and from Razorback games, is a breathtaking drive. Curvy roads twist and turn, around every bend the historic road passes waterfalls, rock formations and scenic mountain views! The Oark General Store sets off highway 215 in Johnson County waiting for customers to take a step back in time. Listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings, the oldest store in Arkansas has been there since 1890. It serves the community with everything they might need as well as being a great place to get a bite to eat.

Sometimes you just have to turn off the main road and see where life takes you. You might just be missing out on a great place to fish or maybe a farmer who sells fresh eggs or extra veges from his garden. In Arkansas they still do that, you'll see a handmade sign nailed to a fence out front!

Daddy, his brother Walton and cousins Luster and Herman
(deer hunting season, 1949)

I inherited the love of backroads from my Dad. He knew every dirt road in Boone County and people all along those roads that he hunted with. It's almost deer season in Arkansas and hunters are getting out in the woods, placing their deer stand and feeders in anticipation of November opening day. It was my Dad's favorite time of the year and he looked forward to being in the "deer woods." There's a sereneness to the woods, just the sound of your footsteps. You are alone with your thoughts, it's a time to reflect on what's really important in your life. 

I love to take short cuts, the backroads that cut off miles or time to my trips. No matter where we have lived, I have found an easier path to the places I go most often. My trip to town now is mostly country. It takes 5-10 minutes tops to get into Rogers and then maybe another 5 minutes to the grocery store. If I go 2nd Street to Walnut there are six stoplights. If I go the back way...there is only one. I save time and gas. I like that way best!

When we lived in Springdale, it was twice that many lights if I went the path that all the other "rabbits" followed. But I didn't go that way. If I went down Silent Grove Road, by the old pump station I got to see a pretty little creek and the trees hung over the road like a lane in Merry Old England. I've never been to England, but I have seen pictures and they look just like the back way!

It won't be long and the leaves will begin their big show. The Sumacs first, turning a brilliant red. The Dogwoods follow suit shortly after, they already are covered with the red berries that will provide food for the birds and deer this winter. It's been so hot and dry, we don't really know how much color we'll see out of the oaks, maples and poplars. Normally, you can look across our mountain and see all shades of red, gold and orange. I have my fingers crossed that the recent rains will make a difference!

 No matter where you live, get the map out and plan some little day trips to the pretty parts of your state. Go down some country roads that you haven't traveled. The things you see and the people you meet add that something special that makes life interesting!

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