Saturday, December 20, 2014

Nut Roll with a Side of Fairy Tale- revisited

 Hello, Yankee Belle Cafe! The Fresh Pioneer is back and I'm reposting a recipe I first shared in winter 2012. It's not only delicious, but it's traditional for Christmas time AND it comes with a love story. (You know how much I enjoy a good love story.) This one definitely falls into the genre of fairy tale, and if you've read many fairy tales you'll see why.

(book carving art by Su Blackwell)
 Once upon a time there was a happy young family. A mother and a father, two little boys, and a village where nothing very exciting happened, except all the small events in life that make living worthwhile. Seasons passed peacefully.
Then a brutal civil war began and the young father was drafted into the army.
The unthinkable happened. The young mother was left to care for her little boys alone.
The war raged on.
Across the sea there lived a man who lived a quiet life in a peaceful part of the world. His children were grown and off on their own adventures.The man heard about the war. He knew what it was like to grow up without the things a boy might need, so he decided to become a benefactor.
 An organization paired him with the little family. He sent money to help with school supplies and clothes... and he wrote letters.
The young woman spoke no English, but she had a small dictionary. She worked hard to decipher the letters and craft a response. This went on for many years. The boys grew older. The war eventually ended. The pair  continued to write. The man asked the woman if she would come visit America and at first, she declined. It was too far, too scary, and she had never really traveled before.
But the young boys were eager to see the new land and finally their mother agreed to a short visit.
(This is where I live... picture taken by my friend Dean Perrault, who let me steal his awesome name for a book character.)

 There were many strange and mysterious things in this land. Like lime jello. And self-locking doors. And cheese that went in the fridge. But the strangers had one thing in common.

Two continents and an ocean apart, their faith was the same. They all enjoyed the lazy summer days. A few short weeks and it was time for the woman and her sons to return home to their own land.

And the man's heart was empty and sad.
So he asked the woman to marry him, to come live forever in the land far, far away. Like any good mother, she first wanted to ask her sons. They all agreed it was a fine idea.


Oh, wait. The nut roll! We've forgotten the nut roll. I got so excited about the fairy tale, I forgot the food.
So, Nada Belavic is the brave young woman who took a leap of faith and ended up over here married to the old, cranky-pants man (hi, Dad!). That was many years ago, when I was just graduating from college. She introduced us to all her delicious Croatian recipes and in turn, we introduced her to lime Jello. (I know she's very grateful about the Jello. She hasn't said so, but I believe it.)
 Isn't that the cutest apron? Her sister gave it to her before she came to this country. Adorable.

 Now, my husband is a huge fan of Nada's nut roll. I'm afraid if it came down to me or the nut roll, I might have to fend for myself. So, in the interests of preserving my marriage, I asked Nada to teach me how to make this delicious dessert.
 She took one of her few days off from her job as a nurse to come over and tutor me in the mysteries of nut rolls. (Right, she not only moved to a faraway land, but learned English, homeschooled her sons and went to college, too. Overachiever alert!)
We have an abundance of walnuts (unleashing my inner squirrel this fall gave us close to twenty pounds) so I have the kids shell and then I grind them up. You'll need a lot, close to four cups.
Nada says it's probably a traditional recipe for the Christmas season because the nuts are readily available, and it also gets dark so early. What can you do but sit around the fire and shell walnuts? This dish is usually reserved for feast days and New Year's.
 4 c. flour sifted (I don't usually sift the flour, but it makes this a lot easier if you don't have to work out the lumps)
2 tsp salt
2 tsp yeast
2 1/2 tbs sugar
1c. lukewarm milk
1/4 cup water
So, make a well with the flour, and add in the center the first four ingredients. Then gradually add in the milk and water, stirring with a fork as you go.

In the center, add one beaten egg and 1 tsp of grated lemon peel. (A small person has come to watch the proceedings. He's thinking this might turn into something delicious... soon.)
 Add 2 tbs oil to the mix.
Keep mixing until the dough has formed. There might be some flour left over. Not too sticky, not too stiff. (Hey, that's a different small person. They're invading.)
Now, leave the dough for about five minutes in a warm place.

Knead it until it looks glossy. Put in a clean, greased bowl, let rise in a warm place for about an hour or until doubled in size..

                                                           Oooooh, fluffy!
Now, we take our walnuts and add 3/4 c sugar, 1 tsp vanilla and a 1/2 c of boiled milk.  Mix it together, make sure it's not too wet or too dry. It should be like a paste.

Divide the dough into two generally even balls. Roll one out, like so. Add the nut mixture on top, smoothing evenly to the sides in one layer.
Roll the dough and the nut mixture up together, just like a cinnamon roll. Put it in a greased pan. repeat with the other small ball of dough and the remaining nut mixture. let it rise in a warm place for about 20 minutes, checking every five. Depending on the weather, it can rise nicely in ten minutes or take the whole 20.

Preheat the oven to 350F while the rolls are rising.

Ready for the oven!
While it was rising, Nada decided my sink needed to be uncluttered. Too many dirty dishes. How's that for a good guest? She makes nut roll AND does dishes! This is probably the cleanest my sink has been for weeks. Score!

So, it took about thirty minutes, but you 'll want to check on them often after about twenty. They need to puff, but not burn the tops. Sometimes the top can be hard and crusty, and a bit of butter melted on it will solve that problem. But it seemed to be just soft enough so I skipped the butter part.
I sliced them, sprinkled on a little powdered sugar, and laid them out on the table. Aren't they glorious?? They're called orehnjača and they're delicious!
The children are ready to sample this midwinter feast! (No, the baby doesn't get the coffee. That's mine.) Our Advent wreath is lit, with a special candle in honor of Medjugorje, the pilgrimage site in Nada's country of Croatia. Did you wonder about her name? It means HOPE. How's that for perfect?

This tale has a happy ending, but it started with tragedy, something we've all felt deeply the past week, with everything that has happened in the news (the school attack in Pakistan, the hostage situation in Australia, the anniversary of Sandy Hook here in the US).  We're saying many prayers for those families dealing with unimaginable loss this Christmas. May they know God's healing, comfort and peace.
   Dođi, Gospodine Isuse!  Come Lord Jesus!

 See you all again next week!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Easy S'More Dip!

Missy, here. My daughter saw this recipe on Pinterest and excitedly texted me a photo. The original recipe came from the Five Heart Home website. My daughter made it and took photos so I could share with you! She made a small version in my small iron skillet (the one I use for cornbread).


Chocolate chips--a mix of semi-sweet and milk (or whatever you prefer)
Large marshmallows cut in half
Graham Crackers

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Cover the bottom of your skillet with the chocolate chips. (She sprayed the pan with Pam first.)

Cover with the halved marshmallows.

Bake at 450 degrees for 5-7 minutes or until marshmallows are toasty brown.


Dip your graham crackers and enjoy! (Careful. It's VERY hot as my nearly-burned bottom lip will tell you.) :)

A quick, easy dish to share. No need for the campfire (like from my book, The Guy Next Door!). :)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

How to Make Cream Puffs... And Delight Everyone!

Welcome To My World!

We've done cream puffs before, but honestly, this is a Win/Win/Win and if you're not making cream puffs for a party, you should be because people will love you and these days, I'm okay with soaking up all the brownie points I can get!

First, we've got some fun stuff happening here.... The Herne Family Christmas Party....

And then there's this little sweet cheeks!

And a very special visitor with a bunch of Herne cousins!!!  So stinkin' cute!

And then there's this:

(Right now I'm going to choir practice where they overlook my narrow range of notes because they're very good people... and the pic that's supposed to be here isn't coming through to my e-mail from my phone, so it might or might not be here in the morning!!!!)  :)

My school age daycare buds have put together a "Help for the Homeless' opportunity day this Saturday. They'll be spending the day (or parts of it!) outside in tents, no electronics, no screens, dressed in layers and fighting the cold. Weather: 30 ° and calm and cloudy. Honestly, here in upstate in December, this is mild!!!!

So far my buds have raised over $500 to donate to the Open Door Mission (for men) and Bethany House (for women). I'm so proud of them!

We'll have a soup and bread lunch to reflect what they'd have in a soup kitchen. And at the end (I hope...) they'll have a heightened awareness of how special life... and life in America!... truly is.

Okay, so back to cream puffs....


1 stick butter
1 cup water
1 cup flour
4 large eggs (I had two HUGE eggs and one normal one, but that's normal around here!)

In 3 quart saucepan, bring water and butter to a boil. Turn off heat when butter is melted, stir in 1 cup flour until well blended.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating with spoon (think EXERCISE OPP!!!) until smooth after each addition. Using a regular teaspoon, drop small mounds of dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet, about two inches apart (puffs rise).

Bake at 400° for about twenty minutes until deep golden brown. If you take them out too early they're too tender to hold the pudding, and we want these bad boys to hold the pudding!

Cool.  Then slice of top leaving the hollowed shell ready for pudding or whipped cream filling.


4 tablespoons butter, melted in 3 quart saucepan
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup corn starch
4 cups milk
4 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla

Melt butter in pan. Turn off heat. Mix sugar and cornstarch together. Blend into melted butter. Whisk in milk and egg yolks, then return to medium/medium/high heat and stir while cooking. Bring to a boil, boil and stir one minute. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Stir well, chill. (If you don't like "skin" on top of real pudding, lay a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the hot pudding. This prevents the skin from forming...

Although I love the skin!!!!

Frosting: (I often have this made ahead of time and tucked in freezer or fridge or cupboard... )

1 Stick butter (melted in 3 quart saucepan... I'm sensing a trend!!!!)
1/2 cup Hershey's cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups Confectioners/powdered/10X sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix cocoa and salt into melted butter. Add powdered sugar and milk. Whisk. When smooth, add vanilla. Frosting thickens as it cools, but if it's too thick, a dash of milk (slightly more than a dab and less than a splash) can be stirred in until frosting is desired consistency.


It is Hershey's Perfect Chocolate Frosting recipe, it is amazing and should always be respected. Spoons and fingers should be licked clean at all appropriate points.

Children will rise up and call you blessed for making this.

I'm not kidding.

There was a huge tray of of these. I mean 14" across, huge tray of deliciousness and I forgot to take a picture.

So these guys escaped detection and I got a picture of these six BEFORE THEY WERE DISCOVERED!!!!

And then there's this;

Nothing like candlelight, cookies and candy! Sounds like a party to me!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Foodie Gifts for the Food Challenged

Before I had my own food allergy issues and other diet related concerns,  I didn't think about food gifts beyond sending Southern Season baskets to my friends and family, especially those who moved up north and couldn't find the great regional specialities the South has to offer.

Most folks have to order online but I am close enough to make a road trip to Chapel Hill, NC and walk around in awe of this store that has everything for the gourmet, the chef, the child in everyone. Their selection is so large and diverse that I've been able to find things there I can't find anywhere else. Walking through the aisles gives me cooking inspiration and options for getting out of the GF and corn-free rut.

Southern Season is also the perfect inspiration for coming up with gifts for those who love food but sometimes food doesn't love them back.

Here's a sample in the aisles of this huge store:

Hard to find gluten-free snacks like Brussels sprout bites!

Every kind of hot sauce, barbecue sauce and any other sauce known and unknown to man!

Everything from gorgeous Christmas dishes to...

Yep, duck fat caramels!

We all don't have a Southern Season near by to help us shop for foodie gifts for the food challenged. But never fear, there are plenty of options thanks to on-line shopping, expanding speciality aisles at local grocery stores, and general awareness about food allergies and health issues.

Here are my tips for gift shopping for food challenged foodies:

Give food related gifts that have meaning.  ManO knew my favorite eggnog glass was fading away to nothing but glass so he searched online for the decades old Dairy Queen give away. Jackpot. My kids found NC State Howling Moo eggnog for me, only to discover it had corn syrup after they gave it to me.   They went on campus during finals, with all that traffic, to seek it out and were so excited, they didn't check  the ingredients. No worries, I can make do with organic cane sweetened nog. But I was really touched they went to all the effort. Such a great family!      

The original Dairy Queen glass is on the left!

Give kitchen gifts that make cooking fun again.   It can be stressful to have to relearn recipes or make sure a meal is "clean." My daughter gave me a cutting board that I could use for my blog. It made me laugh. What a daughter! Colorful mixing cups, an apron, sharp knives....the list is endless.

I had a dachshund growing up. Now I have a wooden one.
Give blank cook books: As much as I love and the Food Network, if I adapt a recipe and don't write it down, it'll disappear. So I bought a lovely recipe book filled with blank pages. It has become my go-to holiday cookbook because my favorite new recipes are in one spot.

Give ingredients:  Let's face it. Living with allergies or food issues is not cheap. Most folks with food allergies often just do without rather than spend the money.  A bag of GF baking mix, spices that turn ground pork into pure breakfast sausage, organic ingredients for soup, all put in a gift box with a recipe or two make a thoughtful gift.    

 So, do you have a favorite foodie store you like to visit in person or on-line? Have you received a food related gift you loved and what made it great?  Have you given a food related gift that was a hit?