Frozen grape salad…

sunflowersI’m originally from a small rural community in northeast Nebraska and this time of year always makes me homesick for my little hometown. It’s nearing county fair time and the fair always reminds of beanwalking. ( In case you have never heard of “beanwalking”,  it’s where a person walks through a field of soybeans and takes a hoe or corn knife and cuts out the weeds )

It’s a hard, buggy and very dirty job and it’s strange when I think of my experience with it when I was growing up. I would expect to feel a sense of relief that I never have to do it again. But you know, around this time of year,  I actually  get the yearning to go back to the beanfields!

Now , don’t get me wrong, I don’t wish for the experience with the all the bugs. I swear there was every shape, size and color of bug out there that just seemed to wait and then jump! out at me when I least expected it.  I don’t miss those bugs, but what I do miss is the feeling of being out in the fields…

Watching the sun come up…

early sunrise

sunrise

Even the weeds out there can look beautiful in the morning light…

wild flower

weed

Back when I was in high school, the whole beanwalking experience would start off this way…

The phone would ring and  our hearts would sink as we’d hear Mom say, “Beanwalking? Well sure!  The kids would love to help out. What? Sure…they’ll be there at 4:30 a.m. and ready to go!”

So before dawn, we’d get ready and ride out to the beanfields. When we would get out of the car, the air would be thick with that heavenly  moist smell of damp earth, weeds and alfafa. We would stand outside the car, look out across the beanfield we were going to conquer that day and then… the part I hated most began, climbing over the barbed wire fence to get into the field!

soybeans

 

For some reason, I could never get over the fence without ripping my pants on the barbed wire. It was such a common occurence I could feel the hesitation of the leader as he would pause to hold the wire down so that I could swing my leg over the fence. It was almost like he was thinking “okay…wait for it…”   Rip. Okay, now her leg is over the fence, the whole group can get into the field.

 All a person could hear out there were the birds singing… or maybe the faint sound of a tractor in the distance…or one of  my favorite sounds, even to this day – the rustling sound corn leaves make when there is a breeze..

cows

 

wildflowers

grass

 

When bean plants are small and about knee high, it’s easy to spot the weeds and the beans are easy to walk through but when they get tall…

soybeans

…they become very difficult to walk through. When they are as high as your waist, the beans will start to lay down and sort of grow together so you will literally have to begin pulling yourself through the rows of beans as you walk. You can’t see your feet or what you are stepping on or tripping over underneath the beans…

windmill

storm clouds

One year, it rained and rained. When the fields were relativey “dry” , we ventured out. Every step we took, we could feel the suction of the mud pulling on our legs and feet. By the time we reached the end of the rows, our shoes and pants were so caked with mud we couldn’t even see our shoes, they were literally just big round balls of mud!

 In fact, one time we all sat down on break and laughed when we noticed how incredibly dirty we were. ” I can’t even see my shoes!” someone commented and then someone replied ” Yah, I can’t see my shoes either, wait – ” and he wiggled his feet, ” I think my shoes are gone…” He scraped the thick cake of mud from his feet and said “Yep, they’re  gone!”  

Sometimes we would be invited to a farmplace for lunch and that would be such a treat after being out in the stiffling hot beanfield. I always enjoyed the drives up the long lanes to the farmhouses. It always seemed so peaceful…

lane

Once we reached the house, there may have been a cat or two to greet us by showing off his excellent claw sharpening skills…

cat

cat

…or a beautiful garden filled with flowers and vegetables…

pink flowers

red flowers

 But one thing was for certain, if we were going to be served a lunch, there was no doubt it was going to be an awesome meal!  My favorite thing was a frozen salad. Nothing could top that after being out in the hot sun all morning…

 So today, I thought I’d share a recipe for a frozen grape salad! This salad doesn’t have to be served frozen, but in the summer, it can be a real treat served that way!

Frozen Grape salad

Wash and dry:

      4 cups red (or green) seedless grapes

Place a clean dish towel on a cookie sheet and then pour the dry grapes  on the towel, spread them out  and freeze until firm. ( Freezing them on the towel prevents them from freezing to each other or onto the cookie sheet)

Into a  large mixing bowl place:

      1 c sour  cream

      1/4 c brown sugar

      2 teas maple flavoring

Whisk until smooth and the sugar has melted. Add the frozen grapes and gently stir until the grapes have been coated. Serve in about 10 minutes, this will give the grapes a little time to thaw so that it will be easier eating them…

You can also spoon the coated frozen grapes into little plastic cups and return them to the freezer. About 15 minutes before you are going to serve them, take them out of the freezer. Then add a sprig of fresh mint and/or sprinkle toasted chopped pecans over the top as a garnish…

Whether you spoon the frozen grapes into beautiful martini glasses or pre-make them in plastic cups, these grapes make a lovely salad, appetizer or even a cool refreshing dessert for a hot summer’s day…

Walnut Sundae Cake with Maple Creme Sauce

 walnut sundae cake with maple creme sauce

I can’t wait to share my first recipe with you!……

One of my favorite places to eat is Applebee’s.  They serve a phenomenal walnut brownie dessert, that I must admit, I plan my whole meal around! I love this dessert so much, I wanted to come up with my own version that I could indulge in anytime.

The walnut cake is wonderful when it is served warm……but I don’t serve it fresh out of the oven.  I like to bake the cake at least one day in advance of serving it because I believe the flavors come together better if it is allowed to sit for a day or two.

After removing the cake from the oven, immediately place a clean towel over the cake. When it has cooled, place a piece of foil over the cake and then place it in an airtight container at room temperature until you are ready to serve it.side view of walnut sundae 

When it comes time to indulge, warm the cake and the maple sauce.  Place a slice of the warm cake on a plate along with a scoop of your favorite frosty vanilla ice cream. Drizzle the warm maple creme sauce over the top. Then to add the perfect garnish, scatter chopped walnuts over it all.  

One of the ingredients in the maple sauce is white chocolate so it is very decadent.  You will have leftovers of the sauce, as it makes about 4 cups, but it keeps very well in the refrigerator, if placed in a sealed container.  When you are serving it, be sure to stir it well and warm it slightly.  The leftover sauce can be used for drizzling  over fresh fruit, warm pie (especially apple!), pancakes, or anywhere you would like some added creamy maple flavor!

Walnut Sundae Cake with Maple Creme Sauce

 Into a medium-sized mixing bowl, place:

      1-1/2  c  heavy whipping cream

Beat until thick and it forms stiff peaks.  Into a large mixing bowl, put:

      1/4  c  very soft butter

      1  c  sugar

Beat this well, then add:

      3  eggs  (add one at a time, beating well after each egg)

Add:

      1  t  pure vanilla extract

      1 t  black walnut flavoring

Beat this mixture until it is very creamy. Set aside. Into a medium-sized bowl, sift together:

      1-3/4  c  flour

      2  t  baking powder

      3/4  t  salt

Then add to the flour mixture:

      2  c  finely chopped walnuts

Alternately fold the whipped cream and the flour mixture into the creamed butter mixture. Pour batter into a greased 13×9 inch pan.  Bake at 350 degrees in a preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes or just until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. ( Be careful not to overbake this cake, as it will become dry)  After removing the cake from the oven, immediately place a clean towel over the cake. After it has cooled, place a piece of foil over the cake and place it in an airtight container or plastic bag. For best taste, let it sit for at least one day before serving.  After one or two days, you will have a wonderful, moist flavor-filled cake.

Maple Creme Sauce

In a medium-sized saucepan, put:

      1  c  butter

     2  c  sugar

      1 - 12 oz. can evaporated milk

Bring this to a boil, then reduce the heat so that it softly boils for 5 minutes.  Take it off the heat and add:

      1 – 12 oz. bag white baking chips

     1  t  maple flavoring

Stir slightly and then let it sit for about 5 minutes…the warmth of the mixture will melt the chips.  After the 5 minutes, whisk the mixture together until there are no lumps of chocolate left.  Serve warm and refrigerate any leftovers in an sealed container.  Please be sure to reheat and stir it well before serving it again.