Homemade Soup Warms Family Ties by Marilyn Ostermiller

Winter is soup season Especially if the family’s been out sledding or skiing, a tureen of hot soup for supper brings everyone together.

Soup is readily available as takeout, canned, dehydrated or frozen. But to enjoy its full benefit, consider making it at home. As it simmers on the stove, the flavors meld and the tempting aroma carries throughout the home.

Soup making lends itself to getting everyone involved. If the kids in the family are interested, a new cookbook that includes lots of basic skill-building — and recipes for two popular soups — is Cooking with Kids: Fun, Easy, Approachable Recipes to Help Teach Kids How to Cook. Brianne Grajkowski wrote it. Fox Chapel Publishing introduced it in October.

cooking with kids

Not only does soup taste good, the nutrients in soup can help ward off cold and flu. Studies show that chicken soup in particular can help prevent the common cold, especially if it’s loaded with fresh garlic, onions, celery and carrots.

Tomato, chicken noodle, potato, clam chowder are especially popular soups across the United States. Gumbo is the official Louisiana state cuisine. It’s a strongly-flavored stock that includes meat or shellfish, celery, bell peppers and onions. It’s thickened with either okra or crushed sassafras leaves.

Gumbo can be tricky to prepare, but celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse makes it seem achievable through several of his step-by-step videos available online.

gumbo

Photo credit: Courtesy of Amadoscientist

Soup is enjoyed around the world. Trying recipes from different cultures is another way to expand a child’s horizon.

Minestrone is Italy’s most famous soup. It’s made with vegetables and pasta or rice usually in tomato broth. It is an easy soup to make with kids and you can find a recipe at the end of this post.

heart smart minestrone

Pho is a popular soup from Vietnam. Rice noodles, herbs, and meat float in a broth.

Tom yum from Thailand pairs hot and sour flavors and shrimp.

Ramen is a noodle soup made with wheat noodles served in a broth seasoned with soy sauce and miso. Typical toppings include sliced pork and scallions. Although ramen originated in Japan, it has also gained popularity throughout Asia and beyond.    ramen

Unlike most soups, gazpacho, which originated in Spain, is served cold. Ingredients include tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and green peppers.

Another perspective on making soup is the timeless tale, “Stone Soup.” A recent revision, written by Marcia Brown, retells the  tale of clever soldiers, who outwit greedy townspeople with the creation of a special soup. This cherished classic is for children from 3- to 10-years old.  stone soup

Heart-Healthy MINESTRONE SOUP

Sauté in 2 tsp. olive oil;
3/4 cup onion, chopped
1 clove garlic

Add:
3 cups water
2 cups zucchini, sliced
3/4 cup celery, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
I 19-ounce can cannellini beans
1 14-ounce can petite tomatoes
1/4 tsp, oregano
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. basil
1/4 tsp. salt
2 beef bouillon cubes

Bring to a boil.
Cover for 25 minutes.

Add:
1/4 cup elbow pasta
Cook for 10 minutes.
Serve and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

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Marilyn Ostermiller is a longtime journalist who also writes stories for children.

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Culinary Traditions Flavor Three Upcoming Festivities: by Marilyn Ostermiller

The week before New Year’s Day features three celebrations, punctuated by feasting, that embrace religious and cultural heritages.

Hanukkah, one of the most widely observed Jewish holidays, begins Dec.18 and ends December 25.

—  Christians celebrate Christmas Dec. 24 and 25.

Kwanza, a cultural unity celebration for African-Americans, follows on Dec. 26 through January 1 2023.

Hanukkah, an eight-day celebration, commemorates the victory of a small group of Jewish rebels, known as the Maccabees, over the armies of Syria in 165 B.C.E. and the subsequent liberation and rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. Modern celebrations of Hanukkah focus on family and friends, and include the lighting of the Hanukkah menorah, one candle for each night, according to reformjudaism.org

According to the legend of the Miracle of the Light, when the Maccabees entered the Temple, they found a single jar of oil, which was sufficient for only one day. The messenger who was sent to secure additional oil took eight days to complete his mission, and miraculously, the single jar of oil continued to burn until his return. The rabbis of the Talmud attributed the eight days of Hanukkah to the miracle of this single jar of oil.

Foods prepared in oil, such as potato pancakes. are traditionally served during Hanukkah.  Latkes, crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, are often served with applesauce and sour cream. Recipes and a helpful video is available from popular cooking and lifestyle blogger ToriAvey.com at https://toriavey.com/toris-kitchen/potato-latkes/

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Christians celebrate Christmas to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. The Feast of the Seven Fishes is an Italian-American Christmas Eve tradition that grew out of the practice of not eating meat on Christmas Eve. A typical menu includes clams casino, fried calamari, seafood salad, oysters shooters and pasta with clam sauce. according to www.thespruceeats.com/la-vigilia-napoletana-feast-of-seven-fishes-2019493

A newly published book,  Feast of the Seven Fishes: A Brooklyn-Italian’s Recipes Celebrating Food and Family, by Daniel Paterna, features recipes and memories handed down through three generations.        

African-Americans celebrate Kwanzaa from December 26 to January 1. Dr. Maulana Karenga, a black nationalist who became a college professor, introduced the festival in 1966 to the United States as a ritual to welcome the first harvests to the home and counter the deadly Watts riots in Los Angeles the previous year. The seven principles of the custom include unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. On New Year’s Eve, participants celebrate with a banquet. Main dishes include African creole, Cajun catfish, jerk chicken, or Groundnut stew from West Africa, which features warm spices, sweet potatoes and peanuts. For a recipe, visit https://www.strongertogether.coop/recipes/african-groundnut-stew

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist who delights in cooking, baking and sharing recipes.     Marilyn Ostermiller

Good Fortune Lurks Inside Tasty Treats by Marilyn Ostermiller

         

Fortune cookies are the anticipated treat at the end of a dinner in an Asian restaurant. It’s fun to slip out the slim strip of paper and read what the future holds.

fortune-cookie-pile

          Traditionally, the fortunes were based on sayings by Chinese philosopher Confucius, These days, the fortunes are crafted by writers who have a flair for brevity with a twist. The fortunes range in tone from profound to bits of common sense and even riddles. For example:

          — A feather in the hand is better than a bird in the air.

          — A friend is a present you give yourself.

          — A golden egg of opportunity falls into your lap this afternoon.

          National Fortune Day is celebrated on July 20 to recognize these crisp, folded cookies with a hint of sweetness.

          Sources say the distinctively folded cookie originated in Japan, where elaborate desserts and folding techniques are enjoyed. The cookie migrated to the United States in the late 1800s. It became increasingly popular during World War II.

          What better way to celebrate the cookie’s big day than to bake a batch at home? A recipe with photos and an instructional video can be found at the food blog, http://www.fifteenspatulas.com. The ingredients are staples in most well-stocked kitchens — eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla and almond extract, water and flour.

          Before embarking on this baking venture, it’s best to have the fortunes printed on slender paper strips. Need some ideas to get started? Visit fortunecookiemessage.com where the messages range from cryptic to optimistic

          —Your shoes will make you happy today

          — The greatest risk is not taking one.

          — Wealth awaits you.

          An alternative to baked cookies are paper fortune cookies that incorporate origami, the ancient Japanese art of folding paper into decorative shapes and figures. The specifics can be found at unsophisticook.com.

Children are fascinated with fortune cookies as well. The book, “Fortune Cookie Fortunes,” written by Grace Lin, is an engaging story about two sisters who want to know if their cookie fortune will come true. It’s suitable for kids from five to eight years old.

 

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Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist who also writes stories for children.

 

 

What Rhymes With Rhubarb?

I haven’t been able to find a word that rhymes with RHUBARB. But, I have found some interesting facts about this unique vegetable (no, it isn’t a fruit). And I have also found something that goes really well with rhubarb…strawberries.

rhubarb

Today, June 9, 2022 is NATIONAL RHUBARB PIE DAY. To celebrate this tasty and often overlooked wonder of the vegetable world, I am sharing a favorite recipe for STRAWBERRY RHUBARB CRISP.

 

First, here are a few tidbits about this amazing vegetable. Facts are taken from the website: https://laidbackgardener.blog/2021/05/19/17-fun-facts-about-rhubarb/

Did you know:

  • Unlike most vegetables, rhubarb does not need to be planted every year from seeds. It is an perennial that sprouts from the garden as soon as the soil begins to thaw in early spring. (Like asparagus). Plants live as long as 60 years!
  • Rhubarb originated in China over 2,000 years ago where it was used as a medicinal plant. It wasn’t until the 19th century – when sugar became more readily available –  that its medicinal properties were abandoned and it became an edible food.
  • Rhubarb leaves are not as poisonous as often thought. The oxalic acid in the leaves would be harmful if ingested in huge quantities. For instance, a 145 pound human would need to ingest 9-10 pounds of the leaves to reach toxic levels. They’re not worth eating anyway. It’s the stalks that have the amazing tart and tangy flavor.
  • A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of cooked rhubarb provides 26% of the DV for vitamin K1. It’s also a good source of fiber. Otherwise, it’s not a significant source of essential nutrients, but when you cook it with STRAWBERRIES, you add sweetness, Vitamin C and another layer of deliciousness.

strawberries

If you’ve never tasted rhubarb, a good way to try it is mixed with another fruit such as the strawberries in this recipe. I prefer my rhubarb on the tart side, so I only add a tablespoon or two of sugar to the fruit mix.

 

STRAWBERRY RHUBARB CRISP

 

recipe

SERVED WITH A SCOOP OF VANILLA ICE CREAM OR GREEK YOGURT, THIS IS A TREAT FOR THE TASTE BUDS.

What’s your favorite rhubarb recipe? I’d love to hear it…always on the lookout for more ways to enjoy this garden delight.

Happy Eating!rhubarb crisp

Got Burgers? Celebrate National Hamburger Day with Marilyn Ostermiller.

Firing up the grill for the first burgers of the season is a time-honored Memorial Day Weekend tradition. This year, National Hamburger Day, May 28, falls on the first day of the holiday weekend.

Americans devour nearly 50 billion burgers each year, according to food industry sources. The origin of modern hamburgers can be traced to 19th century Germany where beef from Hamburg cows was minced. combined with garlic, salt and pepper and formed into patties. Buns were introduced later, when hamburgers became a popular food cart offering in the streets of New York and Chicago.

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A major factor in their popularity is that burgers are inexpensive. It helps that they also are easy to prepare. Grab about a quarter pound of ground beef, shape it into a ball, flatten it and fry it quickly in a skillet on the stove, broil or grill it.

For the most flavorful burgers, Food Network Chef Bobby Flay recommends 80/20 ground chuck, seasoned with salt and pepper and cooked in a cast iron skillet with a splash of canola oil.

Looking for a leaner burger?  A four-ounce cooked sirloin burger has  about 225 calories, 12 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat and 27 grams of protein. Nutritionally speaking, it’s an excellent source of niacin, vitamin B 12, zinc and selenium. It’s also a good source of vitamin B 6. Iron and phosphorus.

burgers

Turkey burgers are an option for people who want to avoid beef, or want a flavor change. A four-ounce cooked turkey burger, made from a combination of dark and light meat, has about 200 calories, but is leaner than beef. Suggested seasonings include a tablespoon of dried bread crumbs, grated onion, salt and pepper, a tablespoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of white wine vinegar. Cook to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Whether burgers are made at home or eaten on the go, they also appeal because the meat is easy to chew, according to http://www.epicurious.com.

For some folks, the toppings make the burger. Nearly three out of four people surveyed said they typically use cheese as a burger topping. Other popular enhancements include ketchup, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles, and mustard. At least, one in five surveyed say they also like bacon, mayo or aioli, mushrooms and fries on their burgers.

The best burger buns are soft and slightly sweet, but strong enough to soak up the juices.

How do you like your burgers?

Cookbooks for kids can help children discover their role in the kitchen.

Kid Chef: The Foodie Kids Cookbook written by Melina Hammer, is designed to introduce 5- to 11-year olds to the mysteries of cooking. It includes 75 recipes with simple directions.  kid chef book

The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs: 100+ Recipes that You’ll Love to Cook and Eat, produced by America’s Test Kitchen Kids, is geared for 8-11 year olds. Alongside the recipes are lots of basic cooking information. kid cook book

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Marilyn Ostermiller is long-time journalist who also writes stories for children.

In Celebration Of the Pretzel by Marilyn Ostermiller

There’s no need to get tied up in knots deciding how to celebrate National Pretzel Day which happens to be tomorrow, April 26. While hard pretzels are a popular snack, the pretzel celebrated this month is the soft, chewy cousin to baked bread that is enjoyed hot, often with mustard.

soft pretzels

Soft pretzels are served at restaurants, bars, sports arenas and Auntie Annie’s retail outlets. Their humble beginnings have been traced to a monastery in northern Italy about 610 A.D., according to “The History of Science and Technology,” by Bryan Bunch and Alexander Hellmans.

Tradition credits the first pretzels to a young Italian monk, who was preparing unleavened bread for Lent, the 40-day period of fasting before Easter. Using a glob of leftover dough, legend has it he formed the first pretzel shape. To the priest’s eye, the shape resembled how Christians prayed, with their arms folded across their chests, each hand on the opposite shoulder. The priest treated the children he taught to a pretzel as reward for saying their prayers. Pretzels grew in popularity as they were introduced in monasteries over the Alps into Austria and Germany.

The circular pretzel may also be related to a communion bread used in Greece a thousand years ago. In the Catholic Church, pretzels had a religious significance for both ingredients and shape. The loops in pretzels may have served a practical purpose; bakers could hang them on sticks.

Soft pretzels were introduced in America by Dutch immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania in the 1800s. The Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery in Lititz, Pennsylvania, traces its roots back to 1861, when Sturgis purchased a house on Main Street and opened the first commercial pretzel bakery in America. sturgis house

Factory tours are available by appointment. Visitors get a hands-on pretzel twisting lesson and can observe bakers twisting pretzels by hand. 

making pretzels

pretzel

For information visit:  juliussturgis.com. Popular flavor combos include hot cheese sauce, honey mustard, chocolate sauce, caramel and icing.

Among the children’s books that tell of the origins of the pretzel is “Pretzels by the Dozen: Truth and Inspiration with a Heart-Shaped Twist,” by Angela Hunt and William Dodge.

If you’d like to try your hand at making your own soft pretzels, here is an easy, fool-proof recipe from Darlene. She used it in her classroom every year and the results were delicious. Don’t worry about trying to shape the pretzels in the traditional way. Have the kids shape them into their initials so they are guaranteed to eat the ones they make. I doubt there will be any leftovers.

SOFT PRETZELS:

INGREDIENTS:

1 PK YEAST,  4 C FLOUR,  1 1/2 C WARM WATER,  1 EGG BEATEN FOR GLAZE,  1 T SUGAR,   1 T SALT, PARCHMENT PAPER FOR LINING COOKIE SHEETS

MIX TOGETHER YEAST, WATER, SUGAR AND SALT. STIR IN FLOUR. KNEAD DOUGH UNTIL SMOOTH. SPRINKLE FLOUR ON YOUR HANDS AND SHAPE PIECES OF DOUGH INTO DESIRED LETTER, CIRCLES, EVEN BREAD STICK SHAPES. BRUSH WITH BEATEN EGG AND SPRINKLE WITH YOUR FAVORITE TOPPING. SESAME SEEDS, POPPY SEEDS, COARSE SALT, CINNAMON/SUGAR MIX, ALL WORK WELL.

BAKE ON PARCHMENT LINED COOKIE SHEETS AT 425F FOR 15 MINUTES OR UNTIL BROWN. THEY HAVE THE CONSISTENCY OF BAGELS AND ARE ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS.

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Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist, who also writes stories for children.

Irish Soda Bread…AGAIN…Because it’s Delicious!

I first ran this recipe in 2014 but everywhere I go, people comment on the moistness and light sweetness of this bread, so here it is…in time for ST. PATRICK’S DAY.

This recipe for Soda Bread is more moist than many thanks to the buttermilk.  If you can’t find buttermilk, use regular plain yogurt (NOT Greek).

Irish Soda Bread

4 C flour (I use 1C whole wheat)       ½ C sugar       1 T baking powder

1 t salt               1 t baking soda         1 C. raisins plumped (see note)

 4 T melted butter        1 ½ C buttermilk      1 lg. egg

  1. Preheat oven to 375.  Grease and flour a round pan or cookie sheet.
  2. In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, powder and salt.
  3. Pour melted butter into dry ingredients and mix until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in raisins.
  4. In a separate bowl beat buttermilk, egg and baking soda.  Add to flour mix until blended.
  5. Turn dough onto floured surface, and knead until smooth – about 1 minute.  If dough is sticky, flour your hands as you knead.  Shape dough into two round loaves.  soda bread 1
  6. Place dough in prepared pan. With a sharp knife, make 2 crisscross slits in dough.
  7. Bake for 45-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry.  Let rest for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.
  8. Serve sliced with butter or jam.  Bet you can’t eat just one piece!

soda bread 2

NOTE: Pour boiling water over the raisins and let them stand for 5 minutes to soften.  Drain and pat dry.

 

Almost Spring Easy and Tasty Banana Muffins.

After the dog days of winter, I am anxious to get outside and participate in the rebirth that is SPRING. Despite the calendar saying it is officially spring on 3-21, we all know it usually comes of its own accord.

And, we know March is a month where anything can happen. So, while you and your kids await the days when we can go outside with just a jacket on, why not gather them together for an easy baking session? Instead of throwing out those over-ripe bananas, make up a batch of BANANA MUFFINS or BANANA BREAD.Just mash three bananas with a fork as shown below:

muff 1

Then follow my well-worn and foolproof recipe. I used chopped walnuts, but you can try almonds also. You can even throw in some mini chocolate morsels.

muff2

The recipe makes 2 loaves or 18 muffins. Serve them up with your favorite beverage and the wait for spring will be a delicious one.

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Celebrate National Peanut Butter Day + Free Pancakes… by Marilyn Ostermiller

Today, March 1 marks the National Day for peanut butter lovers.

pbutter

Picture a regular size jar of peanut butter. Either creamy or crunchy. Now, guess how many peanuts were crushed to fill that jar. (More about that later.)

Legend has it that a doctor whipped up the first batch of peanut butter in the early 1890s for his patients who had difficulty chewing. His name has been lost to history, but that tasty spread has stuck around ever since. 

National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day was designated as March 1 in 1990 on the 100th anniversary of the day peanut butter made its commercial debut in the United States.

Subsequently, peanut butter was introduced to a broader audience at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. It caught on quickly. Entrepreneur C.H. Sumner had sales of $705 for the new treat at his concession stand. Its popularity has grown to an estimated $800 million a year in sales in the U.S. alone.

Peanut butter is best know for the company it keeps.

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Chocolate, for example. Reese’s Peanut Cup candy, chocolate covered portions of peanut butter, was introduced in 1928.

And, jelly. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are classic, but other nutty sandwich combos are limited only by imagination. Elvis Presley was known to enjoy peanut butter and banana sandwiches.  similar-image

According to the National Peanut Board, it takes 540 peanuts to make a 12 ounce jar of peanut butter. It’s also possible to make it at home in a food processor with two cups of dry roasted peanuts, a couple of tablespoons of honey or sugar and salt to taste. Visit the Pinch of Yum blog for specifics.

https://pinchofyum.com/5-minute-homemade-peanut-butter#tasty-recipes-41113-jump-target

 Here is an easy and nutritious recipe for PEANUT BUTTER DIP  that is perfect for snacks and potlucks. Kids can make it since there is no cooking required.

SAVORY PEANUT BUTTER DIP

1/4 C creamy peanut butter, 3 oz. cream cheese, 1 to 2 T of apple or orange juice, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 to 1/4 C unsweetened applesauce.

  • Combine first 4 ingredients in a food processor. Blend until smooth.
  • Add applesauce, little by little, to bring to the desired consistency for the dip.
  • Chill before serving with fresh fruits, veggies, graham cracker sticks, crackers.

Makes 8 servings. From: http://www.peanutbutterlovers.com

Kids love to eat peanut butter, but they also may like to read about it. Among the related children’s books, is “Peanut Butter & Cupcake!” written by Terry Border. The hero is a peanut butter-covered slice of white bread, that wanders around his new neighborhood trying to make a friend.

pb and cupcake

National Pancake Day, sponsored by IHOP, also will be celebrated on March 1 this year. Since 2006, IHOP restaurants have offered a free short stack of their Original Buttermilk Pancakes between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. on that day. Guests are asked to consider leaving a donation — and they have. Since the first annual event, nearly $30 million has been raised for charities on National Pancake Day. http://www.ihoppancakeday.com

For the ULTIMATE CELEBRATION, how about peanut butter pancakes? Makes me hungry just writing about it…

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Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist, who also writes stories for children.

Truth, Honesty and Cherries in the Snow: by Marilyn Ostermiller

Presidents’ Day will be celebrated Monday, February 21. Originally created as a national holiday in the 1880s to commemorate the birthday of America’s first president, George Washington, the celebration was expanded later to include Abraham Lincoln, because he was also born in February.

However, in 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill, which moved a few federal holidays to Mondays, to create more of the popular three-day weekends. Now Presidents Day is the third Monday in February. Other holidays covered by the bill were Memorial Day, Labor Day and Columbus Day.

Below: George Washington at the Delaware River 1776

George Washington at the Delaware River, 1776 George Washington on horseback looking back at troops crossing the Delaware River on the evening previous to the Battle of Trenton, December 25th, 1776. George Washington stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

The general who led the Continental Army to victory against the British was born in Virginia Feb. 22, 1732. Unanimously elected president twice, Washington declined to run for a third term, and moved back to his country estate in Virginia.

One of Washington’s first biographers was an itinerant minister and bookseller, Mason Locke Weems. In his book, “The Life of Washington,” published in 1800, Weems set out to show that Washington’s great rise to leadership and the presidency were due to his great virtues. The life of George Washington: Mason Locke Weems ...

The fifth edition of that instant best seller, was expanded to tell the tale of how six-year-old George took his brand new hatchet and chopped down his father’s favorite cherry tree. According to the myth, when George’s father confronted him, he said, “I cannot tell a lie. I did cut it with my hatchet.” Upon hearing his confession, George’s father embraced him and rejoiced in his son’s honesty.

Another myth spread that Washington’s false teeth were made of wood. He wore dentures, but they were made of teeth from other humans, animals and wood, according to the Mount Vernon Ladies Association.

Among the children’s books about Washington:

DK Biography: George Washington: A Photographic Story of a Life, written by Lenny Hort, is geared toward teens with photos and graphics that enhance the biographical details of Washington’s life.

The Story of George Washington: A Biography Book for New Readers, by Lisa Trusiani is for six to eight-year-olds. The book describes who Washington was as a child and how he came to be a soldier and statesman.

The Story of George Washington: A Biography Book for New Readers (The Story Of: A Biography Series for New Readers)

More About Cherries:
If you want a sweet way to commemorate Washington’s Birthday, ‘Cherries in the Snow’ is a quick and easy dessert.IMG_0471

Recipe:
–  Cut an angel food cake into bite-sized pieces and put them in a large, glass bowl.
– Fold in a big tub of Cool Whip.
– Pour on a regular size can of cherry pie filling.                          

  • Stir to distribute the pie filling throughout.
  • Refrigerate until ready to serve.

thumbnail_img_1886Marilyn Ostermiller is a longtime journalist who also writes stories for children and loves to try new recipes.