Into The Forest We Go
When the word “forest” comes to mind, I often think about the first forest I ever visited – the San Isabel National Forest in Colorado.
Time warp 1980. It was the year of my parent’s 25th wedding anniversary and in the San Antonio Express News Mom read about a small, charming getaway in south central Colorado called Cuchara (Spanish for “spoon”). The article tugged at her heart and a family trip to Cuchara was going to happen! Since the only vacations I had been on were to the Texas Coast and one trip to Nuevo Laredo where I spent more time in the hotel sick than out and about, I knew we were in for a big treat – even bigger than when the Brady Bunch went camping.
Our Kiker family of five piled into two cars and with our CB radios at the ready we made the 12+ hour drive from San Antonio to Cuchara. Just inside the Colorado state line I remember my first few moments outside of the car – the air smelled so foreign … and fresh! It was like Mother Nature had sprayed air freshener and beauty in all directions!
Resting at an altitude of 8,468 feet, Cuchara had no stop lights and a year-round population about 100 strong. So this was a place you came to unwind. Fishing, horseback riding, hiking, sitting and staring this way and that (literally) – all the things we didn’t do in our usual city life. Mom and Dad rented a cabin at Yellow Pine Ranch – a working dude ranch with everything you’d expect and more. Here along the Cuchara River there was a pond, horses and even a donkey named “Cucklebur.”
The National Forest was expansive and we had fun enjoying the views from our 1970s Toyota Land Cruiser. Mountains, pine trees and quaking aspens were abound and my Dad later referred to this land as “God’s Country.” It came as no surprise that in November of the same year Mom and Dad were back in Cuchara scouting for land to purchase so they could build a cabin in the woods – a joint venture with their friends Margie and Herb from Waco.
That is the kind of effect the beauty of a forest can create! Now let’s make black forest squares!
foodie tips ~
❤ As my kitchen smarts continue to deepen, I’m reminded that all pans are not alike! Glass and metal pans cook differently and you might find that if you’re cake is a little burned around the edges, you might switch to metal bakeware. Here’s why.
❤ In the 1970s while whip cream often came from the can, these days I use my gourmet whipper which creates a super fresh whip. When you make your own whipped topping you can flavor the creams but for this recipe we chose to go with the standard recipe.
1 package | chocolate cake mix
8 ounces | sour cream
1 package (4-serving size) | instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup | milk
¼ cup | crème de cassis … or brandy (I had brandy on hand)
16 ounce can | pitted dark sweet cherries
2 tablespoons | sugar
1 tablespoon | cornstarch
to serve | fresh whipping cream
¼ cup | sliced almonds, toasted
ii. what to do
0. Preheat oven to 350°F.
1. Prepare the cake mix according to the package directions. Turn batter into a greased and floured 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan. Bake 10-12 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out of the middle clean. Cool completely in pan.
2. In a large mixer bowl beat together the sour cream, dry pudding mix, ⅓ cup of the milk and the crème de cassis or brandy until the mixture is fluffy. Gradually add the remaining milk, beating until smooth. Pour mixture over the cooled cake and chill.
3. Meanwhile, drain the cherries, reserving ¾ cups of the syrup. In a sauce pan combine the sugar and cornstarch. Gradually stir in the reserved syrup. Cook and stir over medium heat until thick and bubbly. Cook and stir 1 minute longer. Add the drained cherries, remove from heat and cool.
4. Spread the cool cherry mixture on top of the chilled pudding layer. Cover and chill several hours or overnight.
5. To serve – whip fresh cream to soft peaks. Pipe over cherry mixture in a lattice design. Sprinkle with the toasted almonds. Cut into squares and enjoy!
Yields about 12 squares, depending on size
Founder and “Nostalgic Food Blogger” of Betty’s Cook Nook
This holiday recipe is a continuation of the ultimate holiday meal which begins with this tomato bisque recipe, which you’ve gotta check out if you want your holiday meal to be complete. ;)
You’ll also be able to read a little more about how this recipe was selected for Betty’s Cook Nook plus learn about the photographer who took the picture of the 1970s Christmas family below.
foodie tips ~
♥ Butter instead of margarine? Call me hard-headed, but yes. Plus, I don’t like to anger Mother Nature.
♥ Green maraschino cherries? I had trouble finding them at my local HEB so I went red all the way. Below, when it calls for well-drained cherries, after draining them in a colander transfer them to a paper towel then blot them with a paper towel.
♥ I had lots more glaze leftover. You could easily cut the powdered sugar and milk quantities below in half unless you want more glaze than what’s pictured above.
1 cup | falfurrias butter, softened (falfurrias is from Texas, y’all)
1 package (8 ounce) | philadelphia cream cheese, softened ahead of time
1 ½ cups | sugar
1 ½ teaspoons | vanilla extract
4 | cage free eggs
2 ¼ cups | cake flour, sifted and divided into 2 cups in one bowl and ¼ cup in another
1 ½ teaspoons | baking powder
¾ cup | red and or green maraschino cherries, well drained
1 cup | pecans, chopped and divided into halves (½ cup each)
1 ½ cups | powdered sugar, sifted
¼ cup | milk
to top | more maraschino cherries
ii. what to do
1. Make sure your butter is softened then preheat your oven to 325°F. Things are about to heat up!
2. Combine butter, cream cheese and sugar then cream together until light and fluffy. We used our tried and true KitchenAid mixer for the ultimate fluffy.
3. Stir in the vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating well with every addition.
4. In a medium bowl gently hand mix 2 cups flour and baking powder then gradually add to the creamed mixture.
5. Combine the remaining flour, cherries and ½ cup of the pecans and fold into the cake batter.
6. Sprinkle the remaining pecans into a greased 10-inch Bundt or tube pan; pour in the cake batter.
7. Bake for 1 hour or until cake tests done. Cool 5 minutes then remove from pan.
8. Combine powdered sugar and milk. Pour this glaze over the cake and garnish with cherries.
Here’s a scan of the original recipe! Note the missing Apple Cider recipe (how could they?!). No worries – I have a substitute recipe coming soon.
Most people I know have never heard of a dewberry; it’s a kissing cousin to the more popular blackberry. While folks are quick to lunge for the all familiar blackberry, I find dewberries just as great-tasting.
After a childhood trip to Dimebox, Texas to visit my Great Great Aunt Rose‘s house, we somehow managed to return with live dewberry plants which were soon producing fruit right in our very own backyard. The dewberries soon found their way into cobbler that Mom made … and into our stomachs. The circle of life.
Of the 100+ of Mom’s recipes that I’ve made here on Betty’s Cook Nook none have transformed more after the pre-bake state than this dish. During baking the fruit and juice fall to the bottom of the pan and a cake-like batter forms on top. It’s magic! See the pics below if you think I’m kidding.
What’s also magic is how fast this dish disappeared; it lasted about as long as it takes to sneeze.
Achoo … Woo-Hoo!
Foodie Tips ~
♥ A “No. 2 can?” I had to research it but a Number 2 can is 20 ounces or holds 2½ cups.
♥ Serving with cream or whipped cream is a good idea. Serving with some vanilla ice cream is also highly suggested. :)
♥ While soft fruits are noted in the recipe below, dewberries or blackberries will work well in this dish.
¼ cup | falfurrias brand butter, softened
½ cup | sugar
1 cup | gold medal brand flour, sifted
2 teaspoons | baking powder
¼ teaspoon | salt
½ cup | milk
no. 2 can | drained fruit (cherries, blueberries or peaches)
¼ – ½ cup | sugar (judge how much you use by how sweet your fruit syrup is)
1 cup | fruit juice
ii. what to do
0. Heat oven to 375°F.
1. Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Stir-in the next 3 dry ingredients alternately with the milk. Beat with a hand mixer until the batter is smooth.
2. Pour the batter in a loaf pan (10″ x 5″ x 3″ or 2 quart casserole).
3. Spoon your chosen fruit over the batter then sprinkle the fruit with the sugar. Pour the fruit juice on the top of everything.
4. Bake 45-50 minutes.
Serve warm with cream or whipped cream … and a sprinkle of cinnamon if you’d like.
Yields about 8-10 servings.
Here’s a scan of Mom’s original recipe!
One of my favorite childhood memories was spent with Mom as we’d “will” snow to come for a delightful visit.
During special winter nights, when the temperature dropped and the dark sky was fluffy white, we’d patiently sit together by the dining room window with the back porch floodlights aglow. We were watching the sky for flurries.
South Texas snow flurries!
While snow flurries didn’t arrive until I was 18 years old, this seemingly fruitless ritual instilled in me the basic belief of hope. Hope for a snowier tomorrow. And more importantly… the belief that something great was just around the corner… no matter how long it took to arrive.
While the South Texas snowflake is a treasured rarity, the greatest of all snowfalls arrived in January of 1985. Still living at home with Mom, (she was a widow just 3 years young), we woke to discover a 13 inch snowfall in our Alamo City! It was like a Texans’ Colorado-loving dream come true.
Oh, and it was.
It was then I found my most favorite frozen delight. And now I share with you Mom’s culinary frozen *and fruity* treat, compliments of this recipe. Now you don’t have to wait for winter to muster-up your own frozen delight.
1-8 oz. can | crushed pineapple (Dole doesn’t make 8.25 oz. cans any more)
2 large | bananas
¾ cup | sugar
2 tablespoons | lemon juice
2 tablespoons | chopped cherries
2 cups | sour cream
1/2 cup | chopped texas pecans
ii. what to do
0. First find yourself a 1.5 quart mold. Since “quarts” aren’t referenced much these days, a 1.5 quart mold holds 6 cups.
1. Chop the cherries and pecans if need be and set ’em aside.
2. Drain the pineapple and dump the mixture into a medium-sized prep bowl.
3. Mash the banana and add it to the pineapples.
4. Mix in all of the remaining ingredients.
5. Pour the mixture into the mold and freeze until firm (about 4-6 hours).
To serve, dip the mold into warm water a few seconds to loosen the frozen delight. Place an upside down serving plate on top of the mold… flip… and lift the mold up. If you’re lucky the delight will release from the mold and you’re ready to dig-in!
This is an easy dessert to make with kids ~ a fine alternative to the hand crank ice cream machines used back in the 70s, when I was a tot.
Foodie Tip ~
♥ I’m sure Mom used jarred red maraschino cherries for this tasty dish. You can also use Amarena Fabbri wild cherries from Italy to spice this up a bit. And you can add a few more than just 2 tablespoons. For posterity.