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Memorial Day Memories and Specials

By Jane Butel  May 21, 2019

Memorial Day was always a very special and reverent holiday when I was a kid growing up on a Kansas farm.  We always decorated my Father's little sister's grave among many other family ones.  And my Mother would help my brother and I to gather bouquets of peonies, iris, spirea and whatever else was blooming.  As we got older, she would have us pick white peonies a day before and place  them in red or blue food coloring so the peonies would turn red and blue.  It is amazing how fast it would work.

Then we  would have an introduction to summer yummy dinner of fried chicken featuring a very young chicken we had raised  along with peas, new potatoes and strawberry shortcake oozing with freshly  whipped cream.  Mother always tried to have freshly picked peas and dug potatoes--but  they weren't always  ready, so we frequently purchased them.  She fried chicken to a golden crispy turn in a large cast iron skillet and used a combination of lard and freshly churned butter.  She always said you "can't fry chicken without a mess" and her's was always the best!

Later years, I have liked to barbecue or grill a  bountiful chicken dinner.  I am sharing a favorite Lemon Pecan Grilled Chicken (recipe follows).  But I always remember how delicious  that fried chicken was and her strawberry shortcake--which I am sharing the recipe.  The cake she used was a Welsh recipe from my Father's Mother.  The original recipe was amazing--with butter the size of an egg and a gill of milk, etc.  I have translated and tested the recipe to standard American measurements.  And you gotta have freshly whipped cream with Mexican Vanilla and a treat I like is using lavender sugar.  I  make it  with fresh lavender blossoms  teasing the sugar.  I store them sugar and in a glass jar and use it for many treats. 

With the long weekend, perhaps you will be planning your summer travels.  To tempt you, I am placing our July 15-19 award winning week long class on a 20% discount and placing a special on our Barbecue  Rub and Mexican  Vanilla (the price of Mexican Vanilla sky rocketed a few years ago and is still very expensive,  due to the Vanilla orchid orchards being devastated by a hurricane and they are slow to grow back.)

We already have several who have placed their down payments for Oaxaca which will be June 9 - 15 next year.   This is a fabulous, fun and delicious trip!

Our day classes are being scheduled and we do have a few openings left for our June 20 Barbecue class.  If you want to join us, don't wait too long.  You can register now. 



Pecans grow all over the Southwest. The richness of pecans tinged with tart lemon and tarragon is delicious. This can be served with grilled vegetables.

Yield: 6 servings

Lemon-Pecan Butter (see below)

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, trimmed

3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Salt and freshly ground white or black pepper

6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley or tarragon

Lemon-Pecan Butter

¼ cup pecans

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened

Zest of 1 lemon, minced

2 teaspoons fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried tarragon

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice.

  1. Prepare the Lemon-Pecan Butter
  2. While the butter is chilling, brush chicken with lemon juice and melt butter, and season lightly with salt and pepper.
  3. Preheat grill to medium or 350°. Place rack 4 inches above heat
  4. Arrange chicken on rack: grill 6 minutes. Turn and grill 5 to 6 minutes or until juices run clear when chicken is pierced with a knife and the interior is 185°.
  5. To serve, place 1 breast half on a plate and top with 2 thin slices Lemon-Pecan Butter. Garnish with parsley.

Finely grind pecans in a blender or food processor. Add butter, lemon zest, tarragon and lemon juice and process until combined. Place on a plastic wrap or waxed paper, forming into a log about 1 inch in diameter. Refrigerate until firm. (Freeze if time is short)


I have tried every conceivable cake for a shortcake and none ever come even close to this, especially when baked shortly before serving and really good vanilla is used, such as good quality Mexican vanilla. Use a mixer to combine the ingredients for a fluffy textured cake. This recipe is originally from Wales and has been passed down through the generations on my Father’s Mother’s side, some of whom came from Wales. The original recipe was very crude—calling for butter the size of an egg, a teacup full of this and that.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Temperature: 376 F

Baking Time: 25 minutes or until done

½ cup butter

1 cup sugar

1 egg

2 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon Mexican vanilla

1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Butter and lightly flour an 8 x 8 cake pan. Place the butter, cut into pieces in the mixer bowl. Mix on medium speed until light and fluffy.

2. Scrape down the sides and add the sugar and combine well, then turn to medium high speed to add air. Add the egg and combine, then beat at the highest speed until light and fluffy.

3. Combine the flour with the baking powder and salt, then add about 1/3 of the flour mixture to the mixer bowl and 1/3 the milk. Combine the ingredients, then beat briefly using medium speed. Repeat until the ingredients are added. Add vanilla and briefly mix.

4. Pour batter into pan, spooning it into the corners of the pan. Bake until golden and pulling from the edges, about 25 minutes. Cool on a rack until ready to serve.

Strawberries and Cream for the Shortcake

1 quart fresh strawberries

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 cup whipping cream

1/4 cup vanilla sugar or sugar with ½ teaspoon Mexican vanilla

1. Stem and slice the strawberries before serving. Sprinkle the 1/3 cup  sugar and stir and set aside.

2. Either before the meal or just before serving, place the cream in a chilled bowl and using a chilled beater blade or whisk, beat the cream until fluffy, then sprinkle on the sugar. Beat until stiff. Fold in the vanilla and serve with the cake and berries.

3. For each serving, place a square of cake on the plate, cutting the cake into two layers. On the bottom layer, place berries, then top with the whipped cream and some strawberries. Top with the top slice of the cake, more whipped cream and berries. Serve.




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