Thursday, February 24, 2011

Strawberry-Pretzel Salad

Strawberry-Pretzel Salad
Dorcas Annette Walker

Growing up we always had pretzels in our house. Every time we ate ice cream at my grandmother’s house you had a soft fat pretzel with it. While I don’t make homemade pretzels as a special treat like my sister does, I still enjoy eating pretzels with my ice cream- often getting funny looks from others until I talk them into trying it. Some folk to my amazement have never eaten pretzels.

There are two main kinds of pretzels: soft and hard. It is said that hard pretzels began from a baker, who accidently baked his batch of pretzels without first letting them rise and then forgot about them until they became hard and dark. Soft pretzels with their unique knot-like shape (called the pretzel loop) are often served with mustard or dips. The pretzel originated in Europe thought by monks as a way to teach children the Trinity or as a reward for saying prayers. Pretzel baking took firm root in Southern Germany and developed into an emblem of bakers by the 12th century. During the 1500’s the city of Vienna was under siege and was saved by pretzel bakers working through the night, who heard tunneling underground and notified the guard. The grateful emperor awarded the pretzel bakers with an honorary coat of arms. Pretzels were a convenient way to give food to the poor and considered to be a blessing becoming such a scared sign that they were often packed in coffins of the dead. By the 17th century the “marriage knot” was signified by a pretzel wished upon, broken, and eaten together during a wedding ceremony. By the 19th century soft pretzels were introduced to North America by German and Swiss immigrants. In 1850 the Sturgis Bakery in Lititz, Pennsylvania started the first commercial hard pretzel bakery. A popular treat of crumbling pretzels as a topping and eating them with ice cream became popular and led to the pretzel ice cream cone. Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York became renowned for their soft pretzels during the 20th century. During the Depression era hot pretzel vendors sold inexpensive pretzels on the streets for lunch. A Pretzel Museum was opened in Philadelphia in 1993 and in 2003 the Governor of Pennsylvania declared April 26 as National Pretzel Day.

My Strawberry-Pretzel Salad can also be used as a dessert. This salad has a crunchy nutty-like crust with a creamy filling and jello topping. You can substitute raspberry jello with raspberries or orange jello with mandarin oranges. Preparation time for my Strawberry-Pretzel Salad is around thirty minutes (not counting cooling time) and this recipe serves twelve.

Strawberry-Pretzel Salad

2 c mashed pretzels
2 sticks margarine melted
1 c sugar
8 oz cream cheese
16 oz cool whip
3 (3 oz) boxes of strawberry jello
3 c boiling water
2 c cold water
strawberries optional

Mix pretzels, ½ c sugar, and margarine together and press into the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Bake for 10 minutes at 350ยบ and let cool. Beat cream cheese, other half of sugar, and cool whip together until fluffy. Spread on pretzel crust sealing around the edges and chill. Make jello and let cool for 30 minutes adding strawberries if you desire. Pour on top of cream cheese mixture and refrigerate until firm. Cut into squares, garnish with cool whip, and a strawberry!

Weekly tip: To mash pretzels quickly, place in a baggie and crush with the side of a hammer!

Dorcas Annette Walker is a published author, columnist, speaker, freelance magazine writer, and photographer from Jamestown, Tennessee. Contact her at: For more recipes check out her Creative Tennessee Mountain Cookin blog at:

Homemade Tomato Soup

Homemade Tomato Soup
Dorcas Annette Walker

February is a tantalizing month that teases you with thoughts of spring. Daffodils poke their heads out of the ground showing the first sign of green as trees and bushes start forming buds despite frigid temperatures. The sun shines and the thermometer rises hinting at warmth, yet there is a cold brisk breeze along with lingering snow in shady spots that lets you know winter is still not over. Usually about this time I get “cabin fever”. This year I am too busy keeping up with the green plants overflowing my dining room table. I decided in January to start some plants for my garden from heirloom seeds and talked my husband into setting up a light on my dining room table. While the snow was flying outside and the wind was howling around my house, I played in the dirt.., uh, potting soil. After planting some tomato seeds I couldn’t resist planting peas, beans, lettuce, Hubbard squash, and a couple of flowers. They hardly took up any room. I didn’t think all the seeds would sprout, but lo and behold if they all didn’t come popping up out of the soil. I transplanted the tiny plants into small Styrofoam cups. In a couple of weeks the plants had tripled in size so I again transplanted the healthy plants into large cups amazed at the size of their roots while crowding my dining room table. I’m not worried about my foot high peas as I will be able to plant them in the ground in a couple of weeks, and my tomatoes and lettuce are coming along nicely, but it is my nearly two foot tall lima beans that are starting to concern me as I can’t set them out until about the middle of April. Dana keeps telling me that we will be picking our first crop of limas inside the house. I’m beginning to feel a close empathy with Jack in the Beanstalk in the midst of my dining room jungle. Instead of reclining in my chair by the fire looking at flower magazines at leisure, this year I am kept on the go transplanting and watering all my growing plants. I’ve come to understand the true meaning of winter gardening. Hopefully if I cut back on the miracle grow I can stunt the growth of my lima beans for a little bit.

For a taste of summer in the middle of winter my chunky Homemade Tomato Soup makes a healthy and yummy lunch with its high vitamin C content. I love eating a grilled/fried cheese sandwich along with my Homemade Tomato Soup. Any leftovers can be heated up in the microwave. Preparation time for my Homemade Tomato Soup is fifteen minutes and this recipe serves around five.

Homemade Tomato Soup

1 qt tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
Salt & pepper to taste

Chop tomatoes in a blender or pour into a kettle and mash. Boil tomatoes and sugar for ten minutes stirring with a Wisk. Add milk, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then immediately remove from the heat, and serve!

Weekly tip: To prevent the milk from curdling in tomato soup you can also add a teaspoon of baking soda to the tomatoes and then 1 tb of flour with the milk. Warning: doing this makes your tomato soup taste like canned soup!

Dorcas Annette Walker is a published author, columnist, speaker, freelance magazine writer, and photographer from Jamestown, Tennessee. Contact her at: For more recipes check out her Creative Tennessee Mountain Cookin blog at:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Valentine Petit Fours

Valentine Petit Fours
Dorcas Annette Walker

Probably next to Christmas, Valentine’s Day is the most celebrated holiday; a day for sweetheart’s young and old. New love is exciting to behold in a new couple, but there is something even more romantic about an older couple, whose love instead of diminishing has deepened throughout the passing years. Unfortunately today, love seems too often be just a passing fancy for a short spell of time where commitment is thrown out of the window over trivial or selfish reasons only to discover later that they have shortchanged themselves in the long run. Instead love is a tender sprout that must be nourished and given careful attention if it will continue to grow, bloom, and bear fruit. When my husband and I got engaged on Valentine’s Day thirty-five years ago (and was married four months later), we set a goal of reaching fifty years together although people around us shook their heads and said that we would never last. Here are some things I’ve discovered throughout the years that love is:

- Not only romantic moments, but faithfulness during the daily grind of life
- Seeing a person at their worse and still loving them
- Communicating even when you don’t agree
- Giving each other space to be their own individual person
- Disagreements and arguments, but not quitting until it is worked out
- Being willing to forgive
- Sharing the enchantment of a newborn, frustrations of toddlerhood, and the whirlwind of teen years
- Spending hours at the bedside of young children during sickness and hospital stays
- Being flat broke and hanging in there together
- Hidden love notes, daily phone calls to stay in touch, and saying, “I love you”
- Facing an empty nest and discovering that you are still are friends
- Continuing to love each other as our bodies age

My Valentine Petit Fours are unique ways of showing your special valentine that you love them. You can write words, individual messages, or decorate your Valentine Petit Fours any way your heart desires. You can also use this idea for other holidays as well.

Valentine Petit Fours

1 pound cake
1 (16 oz) can vanilla frosting
wax paper
decorative candies/sprinkles/gel icing

Freeze the pound cake and then cut into 2 inch cubes. Microwave frosting 15 seconds at a time stirring in-between until the frosting is the consistency of heavy cream. With a fork holding the cube dip or run frosting until completely covered then use a knife to slide it onto wax paper. Decorate with candies, sprinkles, and gel icing. Let harden and serve on ruffled baking cups!

Weekly tip: You can use a hair dryer to slightly melt the frosting for a smooth glossy look before decorating!

Dorcas Annette Walker is a published author, columnist, speaker, freelance magazine writer, and photographer from Jamestown, Tennessee. Contact her at: For more recipes check out her Creative Tennessee Mountain Cookin blog at:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sloppy Joe's

Sloppy Joe’s
Dorcas Annette Walker

My husband is quite the storyteller, who not only puts himself into the story changing voices to match characters and creating sound effects as he goes along, but with his imagination Dana is also good at adding or changing parts of a story on a whim. Our children always begged their dad to read them a story knowing that before the story ended they would be nearly scared out of their wits. Even simple nursery rhymes became hair-raising experiences. I have to credit my husband with getting my children to read at an early age in order to catch Dad when he suddenly veered from the written words. I can still hear my kids yelling, “No, daddy, that isn’t the way it goes,” and Dana answering, “How do you know? You can’t read.” Their little faces would concentrate on each word until they could identify them. The only place I didn’t let my husband tell stories was at bedtime to avoid nightmares.

I’ll never forget the first time our daughter asked why the barbeques we had for supper one night were called Sloppy Joe’s. My husband instantly got a gleam in his eye and before I could answer he said, “Sloppy Joe’s are called that because Mommy chops up this person called Joe, adds some stuff to him, and cooks him up.” Dawn immediately questioned, “That’s not true is it, Mommy?” Before I could reply, Dana grabbed his knife and waved it around saying, “And you know what? When we run out of Joe we’ll start on your guys. We’ll have sloppy Dawn first and then sloppy Dwight.” By now both of our kid’s eyes were huge and they were hanging onto the edge of the table. Then Dana put down the knife, grabbed his sandwich, took a big bite, and said, “Mmm, I love Sloppy Joe’s. I can’t wait until we have sloppy Dawn and sloppy Dwight.” I was quick to reassure my children that it was only another one of their dad’s tall tales. Now-a-days it is the grandkids that beg their Grandpa to tell read them a story.

The history of Sloppy Joe’s is a paradox. Owners of a restaurant in Iowa that is known for their sloppy sandwiches claim that it was named after a cook they had by the name of Joe, another hypothesis is that the name derived from the appearance of a man called Joe after eating a messy sandwich, while in Florida a bar called Sloppy Joe’s claims they invented the name. There are many varieties of Sloppy Joe’s with alternate names such as: Wimpies, Yip yips, Slush burgers, Barbecues, and Hot tamales. In parts of Northern New Jersey a Sloppy Joe refers to a cold deli-type sandwich. My Sloppy Joe recipe comes from an old Mennonite cookbook that I have used for years.

Sloppy Joe’s

2 lbs hamburger
1 small onion chopped
1 c catsup
2 tb br sugar
2 tb vinegar
1 tb prepared mustard
garlic salt, regular salt & pepper

In a large iron skillet fry hamburger and onion until brown sprinkling on the salts and pepper. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes. Serve with hamburger buns. This recipe serves eight!

Weekly tip: When doubling the recipe you can substitute tomato sauce or soup for part of the catsup!

Dorcas Annette Walker is a published author, columnist, speaker, freelance magazine writer, and photographer from Jamestown, Tennessee. Contact her at: For more recipes check out her Creative Tennessee Mountain Cookin blog at: