Recipe Column: Welcome to spring
The old adage “hope springs eternal” was certainly how I was feeling last Sunday. That’s when I found myself sitting on my deck in a lawn chair, my face toward the sun, experiencing a truly “ahhh” moment. I think that’s pretty much how everyone feels when the first warm day of the year arrives in the Northwoods. Sitting there, basking in the warmth, it was as though I had been newly released from prison. In addition, I felt it would be truly un-American not to grill out on such a fine day. Besides, I like to commemorate the changing of the clocks. To me that’s one of the first signs of spring.
However, all was not balmy breezes and gentle temperatures. True, if I closed my eyes I could almost imagine myself on some tropical island. Even the birds were chirping happily. But once I opened my eyes that fantasy vanished, because I was literally sitting in a circle of six foot high snow banks still left over from the mammoth Leap Day storm. The plow had banked them up high around my deck and I felt as though I was caught in between two worlds-the world of snow and cold and then of warmth, sun and the coming of a new season. I guess that’s what March is all about.
But despite these mammoth mounds of snow I now felt hope, hope that soon the white and gray of winter, would melt into another welcome spring. Sitting there on my deck, basking in the warmth, I got to thinking about what I considered the first sign of spring. In fact just recently I did an informal poll of family and friends posing this question-What do you consider the first sign of spring? The answers were enlightening.
Of course there were many replies involving the returning of animals to the landscape. “When I hear and see the first robin,” was a popular response, along with seeing and hearing geese. Other creatures were also included. “When the sand hill cranes return and the red wing blackbirds” were spring indicators for my friend Breann. For my friend Karla, spring presents a wardrobe challenge and she also considers the road limits going on a spring harbinger. My niece Erin told me she considers it spring when she can hang her sheets outside on the line and they don’t freeze and my cousin Theresa stated that “When the rain feels warm, and I don’t mind being in it,” was her favorite spring moment. My sister Teresa celebrates her birthday on the first day of spring and to her, that’s when all the magic begins and for my sister Patty, being able to sit outside and enjoy a cold beverage is a spring time ritual. One friend told me when her mother made Orange Blossom Cookies that signified spring to her. “My mother always made them to celebrate the first warm day of the year,” she told me. “Now I do that too.” I asked her for the recipe and she gladly complied.
But as I sat on my deck last Sunday, enjoying the fragrant aroma of my dinner cooking on the grill, I decided the biggest indication for me that winter was on its way out was the sound of dripping water. I listened to it in a cacophony of tempos and paces as it dripped a steady thump-thump bass from my roof into the rain gutters. The water falling rapidly from the barn roof into little puddles below made a tinkling cadence and several rivulets channeling down the driveway gurgled softly in synchronized harmony. It was not lost on me that this snow that had arrived in a commanding and determined slurry was now being beaten by a gentle and benevolent sun. That made me smile.
I’m happy to report that things are looking a lot different from my deck since last Sunday. The banks of snow are greatly diminished and I have seen my first robin; heard geese flying overhead with joyful honking and even dried my sheets out on the line.
And while my lawn chair is out of permanent storage and I have cooked a couple of meals on my grill, there is one tool I know I cannot put away. A snow shovel still stands sentinel against the deck railing and will remain propped there for awhile yet. But this past week proved to me that the old adage “hope springs eternal” really is true. And I can’t tell you how thankful I am for that.
Orange Blossom Cookies
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 Tbs. orange juice
2 tsps. freshly grated orange peel
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbs. butter, softened
3 to 4 tsps. orange juice
Combine sugar and butter in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add egg, the orange juice, orange peel and vanilla; continue beating until well mixed. Reduce speed to low; add flour and salt. Beat until just combined. Divide dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic food wrap; flatten slightly. Refrigerate until firm (about 2 hours). Heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface, one-half at a time (keeping remaining dough refrigerated), to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut with 2 1/2-inch flower-shaped cookie cutter. Place 1 inch apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 6 to 10 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool completely. Meanwhile, combine powdered sugar and butter in small bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often and gradually adding enough orange juice for desired spreading consistency (2 to 3 minutes). Frost cooled cookies. Decorate with colored sugars, if desired.
Associate Editor Mary Ann Doyle is available at [email protected].