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
Before P.F. Chang’s, there was “King Wah”.
King Wah was the nicest Chinese food restaurant I had ever been to… until years later when my cousin Melissa married in San Francisco; after the ceremony we ate at a fancy Chinese food restaurant called the Empress of China, which was a beaut.
Flash back 1980s. King Wah was located in a white office building at the SE corner of Loop 410 and Wurbach road (1800 NE Loop 410) in my childhood home town of San Antonio.
Inside King Wah you’d find
white table cloths, fancily dressed wait staff and large round tables that the expanded family would gather around. Why, there must have been 10-12 of us feeding at a single table! While I only ate at King Wah with my Aunt Sister, Uncle Bill and the wolf pack (my cousins), it was one of the few times I can remember that felt more Thanksgiving than mere Chinese dining. King WOW!
Today I live precisely 270.42 miles from where King Wah was located. But thanks to this savory lip-smacking recipe featuring the egg roll, I can relive the mouth-watering memories growing up… and the taste of the exotic orient. I will be eating this again!
享受 (that’s chinese for “enjoy!”)
2 tablespoons | soy sauce
2 tablespoons | dry sherry
1 teaspoon | sugar
½ teaspoon | salt
1 pound | beef round, cut into thin 4 x 3/4-inch strips
¼ cup | vegetable oil
1 package | frozen chinese pea pods, partly thawed
2 cups | celery, thinly sliced
1 cup | scallions, finely chopped
16-ounce can | bean sprouts, drained and rinsed
16-ounce can | condensed beef consomme
2 tablespoons | cold water
2 tablespoons | cornstarch
2 5-ounce packages | frozen egg rolls
ii. what to do
0. Preheat oven to 250°F.
1. Combine soy sauce, sherry, sugar and salt. Add to beef strips and ross to coat with mixture. Let stand 15 minutes, turning occasionally.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over moderate heat. Add Chinese pea pods and cook until pods have separated from one another and they’re tender crisp, about 2 minutes. Remove pea pods from skillet and reserve.
3. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of the oil to the skillet. Add beef strips and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beef loses its pink color.
4. Add celery, scallions, bean sprouts and consomme. Reduce heat to low (about 225°F). Cook, covered, a few minutes until vegetables are almost tender.
5. Stir cold water slowly into the cornstarch and add to skillet mixture.
6. Blend well and heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and thickened. Pour into a greased 1½-quart shallow casserole.
8. Place in a preheated 350°F oven for about 25 minutes, or until rolls are crisp on top. Serve with rice, if desired?
Foodie Tips ~
♥ While the egg roll flavor was not specified, because this recipe calls for beef round, I suggest a simple veggie egg roll to accompany the beef.
♥ What’s a “Chinese Pea Pod?” It’s also known as a Snow Pea or a Sugar Pea. Technically they’re different than edamamme (a sweet bean). You’re likely to find them frozen vs. fresh at your local grocery.
♥ “Serve with rice, if desired?” Of course it’s desired! Get outta my way ~ I’m hongry!