Bless Your Spoon: Good picnic fare and being a good steward leads to ‘good life’

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 2, 2022

By Stephanie Williams Dean

During summer, an outdoor family picnic is how I define living “the good life.” Your picnic can be whatever you want it to be — upscale and gourmet or downright basic. One thing’s for sure — either way, your family will spend quality time together. There are lots of ideal places to enjoy your meal. You can’t get much better than a scenic winery on a sunny day, perched on a hill from which you gaze on vines. From my viewpoint, that’s pretty close to heaven.

Picnics can be diverse, giving you lots of choices in both food and style. A wildflower-filled meadow and cloth-covered farm table set with elegant china and champagne glasses bespeak elegance. But I’d never turn my nose up to paper plates and cups or boxed lunches with fried chicken and fresh lemonade, either. There’s nothing better.

Such was the Mocksville Woman’s Club’s meeting in May, which was a delightful picnic hosted by our local winery, RayLen Vineyard and Winery. Chilled glasses of wine were offered — oh, those blessed grapes!

Mountain Fried Chicken provided the boxed meal, and you can’t go wrong there. That’s the easiest way I know of to have an impromptu picnic. Our lunch included roasted potato wedges, creamy coleslaw and banana pudding in dessert cups. Of course, you can always prepare your own delicious sides and buy chicken to go with them, the best of both fares.

As a picnic spot, RayLen was perfect — in light of the club’s environmental service project — collecting corks for recycling. Wine corks are 100% natural products that are biodegradable, renewable and recyclable. Wine corks can’t be reused for wine closure, so new production is always needed. Other products are being made from the recycled cork.

There are over 6 million acres of Mediterranean cork forest. In the United States, there’s a cork recycling movement to help collect and recycle natural cork. You can get more information at Cork Forest Conservation Alliance. Founded in 2008, Cork ReHarvest leads the way in cork recycling, dedicated to the protection/preservation of cork forests. They educate and partner with community businesses to collect corks while decreasing carbon footprints.

We can help by dropping corks in the Cork ReHarvest box at any Whole Foods Market. As good stewards of the earth, we have a responsibility to help care for it. Scripture is clear that all of God’s creation brings glory to him.

Psalm 24:1 reads, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.” (NIV)

Therefore, we all are caretakers. We can do this through responsible use and protection of natural resources through conservation and sustainable practices.

Let’s do our part.

Wine Nut Roll Appetizer

• 2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

• ½ lb. crumbled blue cheese

• 6 oz. softened cream cheese

• 4 tbsp. red port wine

• ½ cup finely chopped walnuts

• 1 tsp. grated onion

• 4 tbsp. finely chopped parsley

• Dash of cayenne pepper

In a bowl, blend thoroughly cheddar, blue cheese, cream cheese, wine, walnuts, onion, parsley and cayenne. Chill until firm enough to shape into rolls about 1¼ inch in diameter. Freeze. When ready to use, thaw in refrigerator. Slice and serve with crackers.

Best Buttermilk Fried Chicken

• 1 cup whole milk

• ¾ cup Kosher salt

• ½ cup sugar

• 3 cups whole milk

• 16 pieces of chicken

• 2 beaten eggs

• 2 cups fresh buttermilk

• 1 tsp. hot sauce

• 1 tsp. sweet paprika

• 2 Tbsp. salt

• ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• 1½ tsp. baking soda

• 2 tsp. baking powder

• 5 cups all-purpose flour, divided

• Wesson vegetable oil

In a saucepan, combine 1 cup whole milk with salt and sugar, and stir until dissolved. Transfer to a wide container. Add 3 cups milk. Add chicken and refrigerate 4 hours. Drain chicken and pat dry. In a bowl, beat eggs. Add buttermilk, hot sauce, paprika, salt and pepper. Whisk in baking soda and powder. In a bowl, add half the flour. Dredge chicken pieces in flour, dip in buttermilk allowing excess to drip off. Dip chicken in flour again and turn to coat. Repeat with remaining chicken. Add more flour as necessary. Cook a few pieces of chicken at a time in single layer in hot vegetable oil without crowding. Cook over moderate heat for 20 minutes, occasionally turning until cooked through and golden. Drain on paper towels.

Golden Potatoes with Mustard Dressing

• 4 cups cold, cooked, diced gold potatoes

• 1 small chopped onion

• 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

• 1 cup chopped celery

• 1 tsp. salt

Mustard Dressing

• 4 Tbsp. yellow prepared mustard

• 2 tbsp. light cream or evaporated milk

• 2 Tbsp. sugar

• 2 Tbsp. vinegar

• ¼ tsp. salt

• Dash of freshly ground black pepper

In a bowl, combine potatoes, onion, parsley, celery and salt. For the dressing, in a processor, combine mustard, cream, sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper. Process until light and fluffy. Pour mustard dressing over all and gently stir until well mixed. Allow to stand 1 hour. To serve, place fancy lettuce in bowl. Mound potato mixture on lettuce. Garnish with sliced tomatoes.

Crumbled Cornbread & Onion Salad

• 1 box Jiffy cornbread mix

• 15 oz. pinto beans

• ½ cup chopped green pepper

• ½ cup chopped Vidalia onion

• ½ cup chopped sweet pickles

• ¼ cup pickle juice

• ½ cup ketchup

• ½ cup premium mayonnaise

Bake cornbread according to directions on box. Drain pinto beans well. In a bowl, combine drained beans, green pepper, onion, pickles, pickle juice, ketchup and mayonnaise. Mix well. When ready to serve, crumble cornbread and add to salad. Mix well. Serve cold.

Crazy Coleslaw

• 4 cups shredded cabbage

• 1 cup diced red apples

• 1 cup pineapple tidbits

• 1 cup miniature marshmallows

• ½ cup raisins

• Store-bought sweet/sour dressing

In a bowl, combine cabbage, apples, pineapple, marshmallows and raisins. Add just enough sweet-sour salad dressing to combine.

Pinky Pear & Apple Sauce

• 6 peeled, cored, sliced cooking apples

• 3 peeled, cored, sliced ripe pears

• 3 oz. cinnamon red-hot candies

In a heavy saucepan, place fruit. Cover, and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes or until fruit is tender. Stir occasionally to keep from sticking. Remove from heat and stir in red hot candies. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate.

Sour Cream Orange Biscuits

• 2 cups all-purpose flour

• 3 Tbsp. brown sugar

• 1 Tbsp. baking powder

• ½ tsp. salt

• 6 Tbsp. chilled, cubed butter

• ½ cup sour cream

• ¼ cup orange juice

• 1 Tbsp. grated orange rind

In a bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix well. Cut butter into flour mix until like a coarse meal. In a bowl, combine sour cream, orange juice and rind. Stir into the flour mixture. Knead for ½ minute and roll out ½-inch thick. Cut in 2-inch circles or smaller. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet in a 450-degree oven for 10-12 minutes.

Buttered Buttermilk Biscuits

• 2 cups self-rising flour

• 2 tsp. baking powder

• 2 tsp. sugar

• 5 Tbsp. (1/3 cup) Crisco shortening

• 1 cup fresh buttermilk

In a mixer bowl, combine Crisco with flour, baking powder and sugar while alternating with buttermilk just until mixed. Roll out on a flour surface ½-inch thick and cut with large biscuit cutter. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 10-12 minutes but not over 15 minutes. Remove from oven and set temperature to broil. Spread biscuit tops with butter. Place under broiler and brown tops.

Rhubarb and Pineapple Jam

• 4 cups ½-inch cut rhubarb

• 5 cups sugar

• 2 small pkg. strawberry Jello powder

• 20 oz. non-drained pineapple

Cut rhubarb into ½-inch pieces. In a saucepan, add rhubarb and sugar. Add pineapple with juice. Bring to a boil on high heat. Reduce heat and continue to boil for 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in Jello powder until dissolved. Cool completely. Pour into sterilized jars and seal.

Creamy Banana Pudding

• 14 oz. sweetened condensed milk

• 1½ cup cold water

• Sm. pkg. instant vanilla pudding

• 2 cups whipped whipping cream

• 35 vanilla wafers

• 3 sliced bananas

In a mixer bowl, combine condensed milk and cold water. Do not use evaporated milk. Beat in instant vanilla flavor pudding mix. Beat well and then chill 15 minutes. Whip real cream and fold into the pudding mixture. Spoon 1 cup pudding mixture into a 2 ½ quart glass serving bowl. Top with 1/3 wafers, 1 sliced banana, and 1/3 remaining pudding. Repeat layers two times, ending with pudding. Chill.

Peachy Puddin’ Coconut Crisp

• 2 beaten eggs

• 1 cup sugar

• 2 tsp. vanilla extract

• 2/3 cup all-purpose flour

• 2½ tsp. baking powder

• ¼ tsp. salt

• 6 chopped fresh peaches

• 1 cup chopped pecans

• ½ cup flaked coconut

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. Add sugar and vanilla extract. Mix well. Beat in flour, baking powder and salt. Mix well. Stir in chopped peaches and pecans. Mix well with a spoon. Cover top coconut, and press it a little into batter with spoon. Bake in a greased 11 x 7-inch butter greased baking dish in a preheated 350-degree oven for 25-30 minutes. The less you bake it, the more pudding-like it will be, and the more you bake it, the more cake-like it will be.

Blueberry Wine

• 1 quart fresh blueberries

• 1-quart cold water

• 3½ lbs. sugar

This recipe depends on how much you want to make. For each quart of berries, add one quart of cold water. You will need to put in a wide mouth jar to allow for mashing. To make, fill jar with blueberries and add water. Every day, mash and stir them well for seven days. Then, strain through a cloth. Add sugar. Mix well and cover lightly. Keep in a warm place for fermenting. Each day, skim off the top any thick scum that has formed. Then place in a jug, and tie muslin cloth over mouth of jar. Allow to stand in warm place for three weeks. When wine is “done singing,” cork it and allow to stand 3-4 weeks to settle. Then bottle.