May Cookie of the Month: Cherry Winks

Cherry Wink Cookie
Cherry Wink Cookie

For the May “Cookie of the Month”, I am sharing our family recipe for the vintage cookie, Cherry Winks.  My Mother often made these cookies when I was a small child so they have been a family favorite for many years.  They are not difficult to make and don’t take any hard-to-find or unusual ingredients.  These tasty cookies are very versatile – they can be served on a sweet tray at an afternoon tea or they can be lunchbox cookies.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup shortening or butter

1 cup white sugar

2 eggs, unbeaten

4 tbsp milk

1 tsp vanilla

2 1/4 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup chopped dates

3/4 cup chopped pecans

apx. 2 1/2 – 3 cups cornflakes

apx. 15 maraschino cherries, blotted dry in paper towel, and cut into quarters

Method:

Preheat oven to 375F.

In bowl of stand mixer, cream shortening or butter.  Add sugar and cream until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition.  Beat in milk and vanilla.

page 1 -butter mixture

In separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, soda, and salt.  Whisk together to blend.  Mix in the dates and pecans. Add to creamed mixture and stir until well combined.

Crush cornflakes crumbs by placing in a sealed ziplock bag and crushing with a rolling pin.

Transfer crumbs to shallow bowl.  Shape dough into small balls. Roll each cookie ball in the crumbs to coat.  Place on parchment-lined baking sheets.  Top each cookie with piece of cherry.

Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Do not overbake.  Let cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes then transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.

Makes approximately 4 dozen cookies.

These cookies go especially well with a glass of cold milk!

…and one is never enough!

A box of these cookies makes a wonderful, tasty gift!

What are your memories of cherry winks?

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Prince Edward Island’s New Festival of Wines 2013

The New Festival of Wines Prince Edward Island is a signature springtime event on the Island.  Now in its 19th year, this is the first time the PEI Liquor Control Commission has hired a private event management company, Versatile Management Group, to manage the Festival. Versatile has pulled out all the stops to make this a high-end event.

This year, there are 39 booths providing samples of 225 wines from twelve different countries.  Many of these wines are new to PEI and are not currently sold in local liquor stores.  These wines will, however, be available for sale at the onsite Wine Boutique during the Festival.  The New Festival of Wines also includes a juried wine competition where six judges, blind testing, chose the top wines and runners-up in five categories.  These wines are also available for sampling during the event.

If you are a wine connoisseur, or simply a lover of fine wines, you will not want to miss this premier event.  The Grand Tasting event allows patrons to explore and sample new wines and learn more about them.  For wineries or their agents, it’s a chance to introduce and present their wines.  Says Jennifer Caseley of Versatile Management Group, “depending on sales at the event’s Wine Boutique, those wines may eventually be listed products at local liquor stores“.

Yes, even Sangria made an appearance at this year’s Grand Tasting event!  In addition to samples, Verano Wines also shared their recipe for this tasty Spanish drink.

Sangria
Sangria

Look for attractively displayed booths at the event.

Each year, a wine-producing country is selected to have its wines featured for the event.  This year, it is France, one of the oldest and most renown wine-producers in the world.  That doesn’t mean that there won’t be wines from other wine-producing countries – they are there too.

And, of course, our three Island wineries are participating as well – be sure to seek out the Matos, Newman, and Rossignol booths as you make your rounds at the Festival.

Island Wineries

On PEI, it’s almost inconceivable to have an event of any kind without food!  There is a whole new food element to this year’s Festival.  As you walk into the event, you are greeted with a Raspberry Point oyster from the PEI International Shellfish Festival and along with a glass of champagne.

Be sure to hang on to the wineglass and carry it with you throughout the evening as you will need it to sample wines as you tour the booths.

 

Each evening, there are food stations set up inside the venue.  These stations serve four different appetizers.  Last evening, Chef Andrew Smith of “Top of the Park” Restaurant at the Red Shores Racetrack and Casino created BBQ Pulled Chicken Bruschetta, House Spiced Turkey Meatballs, Seafood Fritters, and Lemon Curd Filled Phyllo Cups for patrons. This evening, Chef Jane Crawford from the Red Water Rustic Grille will tempt palettes with four tasty appetizers as well.

What would wine be without cheese!  The Dairy Farmers of Canada along with PEI’s award-winning Cows Creamery, are serving samples of their fine cheeses that pair so well with wine. This afternoon, there is an ancillary event (separate tickets required) sponsored by the Dairy Farmers of Canada and PEI’s Rossignol Winery that will focus on the art of wine and cheese pairings.

Be sure to also check out Blossoms’ booth.  Blossoms is a new local business on the Island that specializes in making fresh fruit bouquets.  Their colourful and tasty offerings of chocolate dipped strawberries and other fruits were making a hit at the Festival last evening.

Organizers have thought of all the details!  They even offer a wine check so patrons do not have to carry around heavy bottles of wine they have purchased at the Wine Boutique.  Their purchases may be shipped for pick-up at any one of the PEI Liquor Control Commission’s 18 corporate retail outlets across the Island.

This two-day extravaganza is held at the Charlottetown Civic Centre on Kensington Road on May 24-25, 2013.  Tickets to the Grand Tasting event are $44. per person (taxes incl) – note you must be 19 and over to attend the Festival.  The event can accommodate over 1000 guests per evening and tickets are also available day-of at the Civic Centre box office.  The Festival’s hours of operation today are from 7:00pm – 11:00pm.  The Wine Boutique, run by the PEI Liquor Control Commission and from which wines may be purchased, operates from 3:00pm – 10:30pm today.  Tickets are not required to enter the Wine Boutique.

A complimentary shuttle service is available to transport patrons between the Civic Centre and the downtown area.  This service runs from 6:00pm – 11:00pm this evening.  Please enjoy the Festival but do drink responsibly and use the provided shuttle service or a designated driver or taxi.

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Asparagus Bundles and a Visit to an Island Asparagus Farm

Asparagus Bundles

Yesterday, I paid a visit to Tim Dixon in North Tryon, PEI.  Amongst other crops grown on the family farm, Tim grows a small acreage of asparagus which he markets to Island restaurants and also sells at the farm gate.

Tim Dixon with freshly picked asparagus from his North Tryon, PEI Farm
Tim Dixon with freshly picked asparagus from his North Tryon, PEI, Farm

Below is a photo of an asparagus spear just about ready to be harvested.

Asparagus Spear

Tim has been growing asparagus since 2000 and presently has acreage that yields between 500-700 pounds of this spring vegetable annually. I asked Tim why he decided to grow asparagus and he tells me he was looking to diversify his crop planting and was also looking for a market niche.

There are several varieties of asparagus but the bulk of Tim’s crop is the Jersey Giant variety.  The asparagus is planted in springtime and is grown from crowns planted 1 foot deep in the rich red soil not far from the Tryon River.  It usually takes a couple of years for the asparagus from a crown to be fully ready to be harvested.

Despite its Mediterranean origins and liking heat, Tim says asparagus is a hardy plant that only requires a light discing in the spring, a coating of manure, and some weed control.  Tim says winter kill is not an issue for asparagus and a crown will generally produce spears for about 15 years.

Asparagus is one of the first vegetables of spring on PEI.  Harvesting usually begins around Victoria Day in mid-May and continues until the end of June/first of July.  When the spears are 6”-8” tall, Tim hand-picks them by snapping the spears off the stock, not cutting them.  He tells me that the rule of thumb for harvesting asparagus is to pick for one week in the first year after planting, then 2 weeks the next, 3 weeks in year 3, up to 6 weeks of harvesting for mature asparagus.

Tim says the local community is very supportive and neighbours are amongst his best customers.  On the farm, he sells both 1-pound and 2-pound bags of fresh asparagus.  I asked him if he knew how his neighbours were preparing the asparagus and he says, typically, many steam or sauté the spears.

Fresh Asparagus
Fresh Asparagus

A standard-sized portion serving is 5 spears.  Asparagus plates well because of its long, slender, vivid green spears and pointed flower heads that can range in color from dark green to tints of deep purple.  It adds presentation, texture, and flavour to a meal.  Asparagus has an earthy, unique taste and pairs well with poultry, seafood, and pasta.  There are endless ways to prepare asparagus.  One of my favourite ways to prepare asparagus is to mist it with a good quality olive oil, sprinkle it with freshly ground pepper, sea salt, and finely grated parmesan cheese and then barbeque it in a veggie basket over the open flame.

For maximum freshness, this vegetable is best used within 2-3 days of picking; however, asparagus will last up to near a week if stored in an open-ended plastic bag in the refrigerator.  Wrap the woody ends of the spears in a damp paper towel to prolong their freshness.  Be sure to trim off the woody ends before cooking.

Freshly picked Asparagus Spears Stored in Refrigerator to Maintain Freshness

My feature recipe today for asparagus is very simple.  I tossed the spears with a light drizzle of Liquid Gold’s Arbequina extra virgin olive oil.  Make sure you use a high quality olive oil for this dish.

For each serving I used a super-thin slice of prosciutto onto which I carefully spread a thin layer of spiced garlic and herb soft goat cheese.  Be very gentle and careful with this step as prosciutto is very delicate and breaks apart easily.

Bundle together five spears and place them on the prosciutto slice.  Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and sea salt.

Gently wrap the prosciutto around the asparagus spears.

Transfer each bundle to a lightly greased baking sheet.

Bake at 375F for about 15 minutes.

I served the asparagus bundles with an almond-crusted stuffed chicken breast and duchess potatoes.

The Dixon Farm is located at 140 North Tryon Cross Road in North Tryon, PEI.  To make arrangements to buy fresh Island asparagus, visit the farm or contact Tim Dixon by phone at 902-432-4771 or by email at dixonfarms1@live.com.  Be sure to visit Tim’s website to learn more about the Dixon Farm.

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Mother’s Day Breakfast in Bed

Happy Mother’s Day to all Moms!

What mom doesn’t like to be pampered on Mother’s Day and what says pampering more than breakfast in bed!  Dress up an ordinary bed tray with a lovely napkin or pretty placemat and prepare a scrumptious breakfast for Mom.

The Menu:  Start with a fresh fruit cup presented in the prettiest, daintiest pedestal dessert dish.  Choose a variety of fruits of different colors, shapes, and textures.

Fresh squeezed orange juice adds an element of sophistication to the breakfast tray.

For the main course, I chose to serve scrambled eggs on crostini with a roasted Parmesan tomato half.  The roasted tomato is so simple to make.  Simply cut a tomato in half.   A sprinkle of Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and a shake of Parmesan cheese is all it takes to season the tomatoes. Drizzle each half tomato with a good quality olive oil – I used Liquid Gold’s Organic Tuscan Herb Infused Olive Oil.  Roast the tomato on a lightly greased baking sheet in a 450F oven for about 10 minutes, just until tomato is heated and the Parmesan starts to turn golden in color.

How yummy does this tomato look!

A few herbs and a topping of grated cheddar cheese take scrambled eggs to a whole new level, particularly when served on a tasty crostini.

Look for lots of color to add to the breakfast tray.  Color makes the tray look so much more vibrant, interesting, and appealing.

Select the prettiest cup and saucer to dress up the tray.

I like these petite individual-sized teapots.  They are very versatile and don’t take up much room on a bed tray.

Fresh flowers are a must for any special breakfast in bed tray.  Miniature carnations are very suitable for bed trays.  Everything should be to scale in order for it to fit on the tray.

Lastly, you’ll want to add the finishing touch of a lovely and carefully chosen Mother’s Day Card.

A beautiful card for a beautiful Mom!

It’s all about Mom on Mother’s Day.  It’s not always the big, fancy gifts that touch the heart.  Most often, it is something like the care and attention that goes into planning something special, like breakfast in bed and, most importantly spending time together, that means the most.

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Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea 2013

I love afternoon tea.  It’s such a peaceful, tranquil, and genteel experience.  It’s the perfect way to celebrate Mother’s Day.  Today, I share photos from my Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea.  Enjoy!

On the tea menu:  Cucumber and tomato sandwiches, strawberry custard, shortbread, and rainbow marshmallow square.  Tea Pairing:  New English Teas’ English Afternoon Tea (Coventry, England).

Cucumber and Tomato Sandwiches
Cucumber and Tomato Sandwiches

Cool and refreshing cucumber sandwiches.

Tomato sandwiches on thinly sliced artisan bread.

Smooth and creamy strawberry custard and fresh fruit skewers.

Strawberry Custard
Strawberry Custard

I love these colorful and tasty treats, particularly when served in these petite dishes!

Dainty spritz shortbread and rainbow marshmallow squares satisfy the sweet tooth!

Love the pastel shades which are suitable for springtime tea events.

I love how these colors blend attractively on the plate.

Teatime treats are typically petite and dainty.

Teacups and teapot are Japanese porcelain.

Tableware does not need to all match perfectly for a tea table.  It just needs to blend well and the pieces compliment each other.  Having different patterns creates interest and doesn’t look so matchy-matchy.

These are marvelously-designed delicate cups on pedestals.  They look very grand, stately, and elegant, don’t you think!

Love the filigree trim on the saucers.

This slim-line teapot looks very stately and in command on the tea table.

A mixed bouquet of roses is a great compromise when I can’t decide on one particular color theme!

Although by no means the only floral option, roses tend to be perennial favorites for tea table accents.

This four-tier stand is a great space saver, particularly for small tea tables.

While my favorite plates are white because the food shows up so splendidly on them, I like the floral on these plates for a tea table.

Beautiful roses!

I hope you have enjoyed a glimpse into my Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea.  It was grand fun.

Happy Mother’s Day To All Moms!

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