The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Lifestyles

February 19, 2014

Cheryle Finley: Cookbook perfect for novices and experts

CARTHAGE, Mo. — Thursday is National Toothpick Day. Who hasn't had to pick up a pile of these sharp little sticks after having them fall out of the box?

In years past I remember seeing men chew on the same toothpick all day as they went about their work. But now, not so much. Toothpicks seem to have become more important as a utensil for eating appetizers or for holding food together while it cooks. Add a colorful frill or flag, and it's a dandy decoration for finger foods. Patented in 1872, the toothpick is worthy of a little nod on Thursday.

Thursday is also National Cherry Pie Day. It makes perfect sense that this celebration is in February. The pie is often associated with George Washington, so celebrating Presidents Day and National Cherry Pie Day in the same month is a no-brainer. According to wikipedia.com, tart cherries are preferred to sweet cherries; it's easier to control the sweetness of a pie when baking with tart cherries. I'm a fan of canned cherry-pie filling, probably because of its sweetness. But my daughter, Sarah, makes the filling from scratch, using fresh cherries, sugar, cornstarch and a little almond extract. Her cherry pie is as close to perfection as they come. Maybe Thursday would be a good time to make a pie request.

My husband, Chris, found a new cookbook for me, and it really is perfect for new cooks as well as not-so-new cooks. "The Pioneer Woman Cooks a Year of Holidays," by Ree Drummond, contains 140 recipes and step-by-step pictures so you know what the food looks like as you go along. While I appreciate a picture of the finished product, getting there is sometimes confusing. But it's nice to know I'm heading in the right direction.

Drummond shares many helpful hints in the book. My favorite is an ingenious idea for removing corn from the cob: Rest one end of the corn in the center hole of a bundt pan and slice downwards. The kernels go right into the pan.

Here are a couple more tips from the Pioneer Woman:

For an easier way to make s'mores, use a chocolate spread such as Nutella to fully cover the graham cracker instead of melting a chocolate bar. And if you like decorating cakes and cookies, put frosting in a squirt bottle and draw on flowers and letters -- you're limited only by your imagination.

Today's recipes are from my new cookbook. They are easy to make, even without seeing the pictures. The scones can be flavored with nuts, dried fruit or chocolate chips, or dipped in a powdered-sugar glaze. I had to include the scalloped potatoes and ham recipe because this combination has always been high on my list of favorites. And if you aren't in the mood to fix crust for National Cherry Pie Day on Thursday, I think cherry cake will suffice. Serve it warm with ice cream or whipped topping, and you'll want seconds, for sure. Have a wonderful week and happy eating!

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