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At Home in Ohio

Kitchen Magnitude

Connie MooreAfter dealing with Cucurbita maxima back in 2010, I thought my days of "punkin-chunkin" were over. Alas, not so. St. Paris, Ohio’s, Prince Farm owner, Ron Prince, has an eye for the intriguing shapes and colors of heirloom pumpkins or as we in the chunkin business call them, “pretty impressive flying objects.” Each October Thursday, his trailer full of the magnificent orbs parked at the Enon Market was just too good to resist.

We chose a 15-pound ‘One Too Many’ pumpkin and a 13-pound ‘Peanut’ pumpkin. Both are actually squashes, as are all pumpkins. Our two are of heirloom heritage so that means a standard fruit that produces the same each year with a deeper, richer flavor than hybrid varieties.

The ‘One Too Many’ is called that because it looks like a giant blood-shot eye. Well, very ripe ones do. They can be a base skin color of white to cream to creamy orange with squiggly red veins or reddish to orange pink veins covering the entire globe. Between 20 and 25 pounds, they are grown as a novelty pumpkin for fall decorations. They are said to be good keepers, often lasting three to six months in a cool, dry place.

Our favorite was the ‘Peanut’ or "peanut-shell" pumpkin. Salmon-pink skin is covered with "sugar" bumps, which are actually excess sugar from the fruit that bleeds out onto the skin and dries to form brown peanut shell shapes. The flesh is a deep orange, solid, sweet meat that cooks up into a wonderful, pumpkiny-butternut squash flavor. It is said to be a 220-year-old heirloom squash with the French name Galeux d’Eysine. They can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to three months.

pumpkins

It does take some ingenuity to crack open larger pumpkins and squash. Passing up suggestions of hatchet, chainsaw, sledge hammer. and chisel and electric knife, we opted for the easy, safe way recommended by The Big Apple Farm in Wrentham, Massachusetts.

Place the pumpkin (squash) in a clean, large trash bag. Tie the end shut and drop it on the floor. It may take two or three drops, especially if you’re short. You could stand on a chair, but a 15-pound ‘One Too Many’ tends to be unwieldy the higher it goes.

Your goal is two-fold. Open the squash with minimum mess, and have pieces small enough to handle easily when baked. After cooking, the meat or flesh is spooned from the shell and can be used for all sorts of dishes, desserts, and frozen for later use.

pumpkin

pumpkin

There are numerous stories surrounding heirloom squashes and pumpkins and their odd names. I imagine by the time we get done chunkin the bloodshot eyeball of ‘One Too Many’ and the peanut shell encrusted ‘Peanut,’ there will be numerous versions of what happened in the kitchen when we decided to throw caution to the wind and toss them to the floor.

One friend enthusiastically declared her daughters would love to help in the kitchen if they could chunk a pumpkin. We all pictured her husband coming home from work, only to find the girls on chairs, tossing bagged blobs to the floor and giggling something about Mom teaching them to cook.

Pecan Squash Custard

Ingredients:

• 2 cups cooked squash or pumpkin, mashed
• one 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
• 2 large eggs, beaten
• 2 teaspoons cinnamon
• 1/2 cup brown sugar
• 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Instructions:

 Mix together squash, milk, eggs and cinnamon. Pour into deep Pyrex pie plate or round casserole dish. Sprinkle top with brown sugar and nuts. Place dish in a larger pan with an inch of water in pan. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in center of custard comes out clean (like testing for a pumpkin pie). Cool to lukewarm or chill. Great with a scoop of cinnamon ice cream!

Delicious Day!

Connie MooreAutumn. Outside a chickadee family is playing tag through the rose of Sharon and poplar trees. Their chattering is of a happy tone. They don’t seem to care about winter concerns on this most gorgeous, delicious of autumn days. They are happy, plain and simple.

Even the raucous blue jay wants to get in on the game. When ignored, he decides to show his prowess by imitating the Cooper’s hawk’s call. For a moment it scatters the small feathered playmates into denser foliage. The jay flies off satisfied with himself; and the little ones come back out to play.

Indoors, the closed laundry door muffles the glug glug of the washer. It’s another load destined for the outdoor clothesline. Fresh autumn air is fine for drying blankets and airing pillows. Sweet scents will permeate our dreams.

Open windows let in copious quantities of extra cool morning air. That’s how we come to hear the wren calling his spring song. He’s not confused, just happy like the chickadees. A mixture of summer and autumn prevails throughout the day. By suppertime, it’s warm enough to grill out.

We find Schmidt’s Bahama Mamas — spiced and smoked sausages — a fine way to celebrate the day. Loaded on a bun with hotdog sauce, chopped onions, relish and cheese, they are tasty fare. Sides are Copey’s coleslaw and potato salad.

Dessert is another matter. A baking aroma needs to melt into the autumn air wafting through the open windows. A discussion ensues as to what is the best dish. Three people of course will give three answers. So here are all three recipes plus an extra. (You can always freeze them.) You choose. And enjoy this day.

Apple Gingerbread

Ingredients:

• 1/3 cup butter
• 1/2 cup light brown sugar
• 1/2 cup molasses
• 1 egg
• 1 3/4 cups flour
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• 3/4 cup buttermilk
• 1 medium apple

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan.

2. Cream butter, sugar, molasses and egg. Sift together dry ingredients. Add dry to creamed ingredients alternately with buttermilk. Blend well.

3. Peel and core the apple and slice thinly. Lay slices in bottom of prepared pan in circular pattern. Pour batter over top and smooth out. Tap pan on counter to force batter down in between apple slices. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in cake comes out clean. Immediately invert over serving plate and turn out. You can also bake with apple slices on top of batter, leaving the baked cake in the pan or baking dish. Baking time may need to be adjusted.

Butterscotch-Apple Pudding

Ingredients:

Sauce:

• 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
• 2 cups water
• 1/4 cup butter

Combine ingredients in sauce pan, bring to boil, boil 2 minutes, remove from heat.

Batter:

• 1 cup brown sugar, packed
• 1/4 cup butter
• 1/2 cup milk
• 1 1/3 cups flour
• 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 1/4 cups peeled, diced sweet-tart apple

Instructions:

1. Sprinkle the apples with 1/3 of the brown sugar. Set aside. Sift rest of sugar, flour, baking powder and salt together. Blend in the butter as for pie crust. Add milk, blending just till ingredients are dampened. Stir in apples and any juice accumulated.

2. Pour hot sauce into 9-inch square baking pan. Spoon batter over sauce. Bake for 30 minutes in 350 degree oven. Test for doneness with toothpick. Serve warm.

Chocolate Apple Bars

Ingredients:

• 2 squares semisweet chocolate
• 1/2 cup butter or margarine
• 1/2 cup applesauce
• 2 eggs
• 1 cup brown sugar, packed
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1 cup flour
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Instructions:

1. Melt chocolate and butter together, set aside. Mix applesauce, eggs, brown sugar and vanilla. Sift dry ingredients together. Stir dry into applesauce mixture. Add chocolate/ butter. Mix well. Spread in greased 9-inch square pan. Sprinkle nuts on top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until done. Cool. Cut in squares or bars.

Apple Butter or Jam Bars

Ingredients:

• 3/4 cup butter or margarine
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 egg
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 2 cups flour
• 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1 cup chopped almonds or walnuts
• 1/2 cup thick apple butter or strawberry jam
• Powdered sugar

Instructions:

1. Cream butter and sugar well. Add egg and vanilla. Sift flour and cinnamon together. Stir into creamed mixture along with nuts. Put half the dough into a greased 9-inch square pan. Press lightly to fill the pan. Spoon apple butter or jam over top and spread to edges. Dollop rest of dough on top with small spoon. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30-40 minutes or until golden brown and tests done with toothpick. Dust with powdered sugar. Cut in bars.

fall scene

Random Recipes

Connie Moore

 

Random here is a little bit misleading. Reading recipe books is a favorite pastime and, to say the least, seven auction boxes is enough to last a long time. So, random could have meant letting dozens of books fall open to a page, closing my eyes and pointing to a recipe. Maybe I’ll do that sometime.

But for today, there is method to my random madness. Sweets. I’m looking for sweet recipes that are simple, use ingredients already in my cupboards, and take 30 minutes or less in oven, or even better, no oven. Here are some random recipes from the depths of two boxes. Only five boxes left, enough for a whole winter of random perusal. A tip for fall baking: Each time you bake, wrap a few individual portions of whatever you bake, place in a stackable freezer-safe container and build a tower of ready-to-thaw and eat treats. You’ll be ready to offer friends and family a variety of sweets any time.

food in freezer

cookies

Peanut Butter/Chocolate Chip Bars

Ingredients:

• ½ cup butter
• ½ cup crunchy peanut butter
• 1 cup sugar
• 2 large eggs, beaten
• 2 teaspoons vanilla
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 cup milk chocolate chips

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Since these are mixed up in a saucepan, you’ll need a large saucepan.

2. Melt the butter and peanut butter together over low heat in large saucepan. Remove from heat and add sugar. Stir to melt sugar. Cool slightly. Beat in eggs, vanilla and finally the flour. Stir to blend well. Spread in a greased 13-by-9-inch pan. (For thicker bars, use a smaller pan size and adjust baking time.) Sprinkle chips over top of batter. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Cool and cut into bars.

Hot-Glazed Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:

• 1 cup butter
• 3 tablespoons baking cocoa
• 1 cup water
• 2 cups sugar
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• ½ cup buttermilk
• 2 eggs, beaten
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 2 teaspoons vanilla

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In large saucepan, melt butter and cocoa, stirring to blend well. Add water and bring to boil. Remove from heat. Stir in sugar until melted. Stir in flour and buttermilk. Add eggs, baking soda and vanilla. Blend well. Pour into greased 13-by-9-inch pan. Smooth batter into corners for even top. Bake for 20-25 minutes until tests done. Remove from oven and while cake is still warm pour the following glaze over top:

2. In saucepan place ½ cup (1 stick) butter, 2 tablespoons baking cocoa, 1/3 cup milk. Heat and stir until well-blended. Add 1 ½ cups powdered sugar and, if desired, ½ cup chopped pecans. Stir and bring to boil. Immediately remove from heat. Pour over warm cake. Let stand until cooled completely.

Hot Blueberries

Ingredients:

• 4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
• 2 cups water
• ¾ cup sugar
• Few grains of salt
• Unsalted butter, room temperature
• 8 slices white sandwich bread
• Ice cream or Cool Whip, optional

Instructions:

1. In large saucepan, cook berries in the water, sugar and salt. Stir often for 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter bread slices. In a deep, buttered baking dish alternate bread slices and berries, beginning with bread. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool. Can be served as is or better with ice cream or whipped topping. Also can be made with tart cherries instead of blueberries. You may need to adjust sugar and add a drop of almond flavoring to cooking cherries.

Hot Sweet Bananas (Microwave)

Ingredients:

• One banana
• ½ cup orange juice
• 1 teaspoon butter
• 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
• Cinnamon

Instructions:

1. In microwave-safe bowl, slice banana, add rest of ingredients. Cook on HIGH for one minute. Turn bowl and cook for 30 seconds. Stir. Can be eaten as is or used for ice cream topper or topping for a bowl of oatmeal. Can also be used as the fruit element in overnight refrigerated oatmeal.

Sweet Cinnamon Morning Cake

Ingredients:

• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 3 teaspoons baking powder
• ½ cup sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• ½ cup butter
• 1 egg, beaten
• ½ cup milk or buttermilk
• Cinnamon/sugar mix
• 3 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9-inch round baking pan.

2. In bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Cut in the half cup butter to form crumbs (like making a pie crust). Beat egg and milk and add to dry mix. Mix until all ingredients are moistened but do not beat. Spoon into prepared pan. Top with cinnamon/sugar mix and dot with butter pieces (may use more butter if desired). Bake 20-25 minutes. Can be glazed with four times the sugar mixed with milk with a touch of vanilla, if desired. This recipe is similar to an old-fashioned Pennsylvania Dutch Cinnamon Flop. It was sometimes called a pan scone.

All recipes come from newspaper clippings from 1960-70s.

Comments? Contact Connie at mooredcr@Juno.com.

Green Stamps & Pieces of Eight

Connie MooreIt was a shallow box. There didn’t seem to be much in it besides the old post cards. They in themselves might be counted as a treasure. But underneath, a deep memory, hidden for many years, was about to surface on strips of filigree-edged green stamps.

Our annual auction fix was a couple of weeks ago. Diligently we scan the Mumma Auction listings each Sunday for the words "lots of cookbooks." So it was with joyful heart that we ended up on Route 40, west of Donnelsville at what proved to be a good morning for anyone wanting a good deal on old toys, old books, old ... well, lots of old things.

Along with the green stamps, there were bright yellow stamps, loose and spilling out of an envelope, and books filled with both kinds. Enough S&H stamps and Top Value stamps to get a coffee pot or toaster or toys or laundry hamper.

At their peak of popularity, people and organizations would cash in bundles of filled books for such things as camping equipment, games, pen/pencil sets, Pyrex dishes, china, lamps, radios, appliances, everything one would need for a new baby, record players, fishing equipment, bicycles and sets of encyclopedias, musical instruments, furniture, and just about anything normally purchased at a store. Enough stamps could even get you a new car!    

These paper coupons or stamps were given at the end of sales as loyalty rewards for shopping with a particular merchant. Keep shopping there, collect enough stamps, and one could choose from a whole catalog of "gifts." The idea began back as early as 1891, when Schuster’s Department Store in Milwaukee decided to reward customers for paying in cash rather than carrying a credit (which was usually hard to collect).

H. Parke Company of Pennsylvania established their own stamp program in 1895 whereby they rewarded customers for buying Parke products such as coffee, tea, spices and canned goods. Showrooms were set up in corporate headquarters where customers could see and inspect goods to be obtained for the stamps.

By 1957 there were almost 200 trading stamp companies. S&H Green Stamps was the most popular in this area of Ohio. Another large company was the Top Value Stamps. Both had numerous businesses issuing them and local redemption centers in Springfield and Dayton.

During the early 1970s, the energy crisis brought a decline in gas stations giving out the stamps. Station managers decided that to keep their business afloat, it would be more enticing to lower the gas prices, even by just a penny or two, rather than issue the stamps. Grocery stores followed suit.

Preferred customer cards, cents-off coupons, and frequent flyer miles have replaced the green and yellow cash nuggets known long ago as trading stamps. In the shallow box, the memory that came up with the loose stamps was of a small, white, Victorian-style clock. It was the last item I remember cashing in the stamps for. That was back in 1968. Today the stamps show up on EBay where they appear to sit in limbo, much like the depths of this shallow box on the table. They are truly a thing of the past.

Something else of the past was the last item lifted from the box. Another form of payment dating back much further than my lifetime was the silver Spanish Milled Dollar, also known as a Piece of Eight. Because England forbade early American colonies from minting their own coins, settlers had to make do with barter items and foreign coins.

The Spanish coin was the most often circulated of these coins. Edges were milled or had patterns set on the edges to keep less-than-honest traders from cheating customers. The milled dollar was highly respected internationally. Even though it was officially called a dollar, its value was by the weight of its metal content. One could divide or break one of the coins into pieces or bits, thus having smaller amounts to spend on goods or debts. Most often it was divided into eight pieces called bits or reals, hence the expression we’re familiar with, “2 bits, 4 bits, 6 bits, a dollar.”

This coin in our box is not the real thing. It is of lead-free pewter and was issued by the Cooperman Fife & Drum Co. of Centerbrook, Connecticut, back in 1996. But it is of interest because it also has two matching coins, already cut into bits and identifying information. When I reached out to the company for information, Patrick Cooperman replied, “We manufacture material cultural items for the museum store trade. Our HistoryLives products are sold with informational cards that help place them in their historical context. Up until 2005 we had a workshop in Centerbrook, now we wholly operate out of Bellows Falls, Vermont, making percussion musical instruments and parts. We still make the Pieces of Eight.”  

You might be wondering if I got any old cookbooks. Yes, there will be stories surface from the depths of those boxes, too.

For now though, here’s a recipe for 8 large or 12 regular size 1940-era gems or muffins.

Buttermilk/Oat Gems

Ingredients:

• 1 cup full-fat buttermilk
• 1 cup quick cooking oats
• 1 large egg
• ¼ cup vegetable oil
• ½ cup packed light brown sugar
• 1 cup all-purpose flour or cake flour
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• ½ teaspoon baking soda
• ½ teaspoon salt
• Dash of cinnamon, optional
• ½ cup chopped pecans, optional

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Grease or line with muffin papers a tin for at least 8 muffins. In large mixing bowl, soak the oats in the buttermilk until soft (about 15 minutes). Add egg, oil and sugar. Stir until well blended.

3. Sift together flour, baking powder, soda and salt. Stir into wet ingredients. Add cinnamon and pecans if using. Blend well but do not overbeat. Portion batter between muffin cups. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until done when tested with a toothpick. Remove from tin and enjoy.

auction box

coins

Three Sisters and a Stranger

Connie MooreSometimes I wonder about me. It seems the older I get, the less I see clearly. I’m talking about in my mind’s eye. There in draws a blank sometimes that’s a bit scary.

Take for instance the Three Sisters garden plot I planted this spring. In many cultures, three crops were and are planted together: corn, beans and squash. Corn provides the structure for the beans to climb; squash spreads over the ground, preventing weed growth, and large squash leaves act as a canopy to hold moisture in the soil; and the beans provide nitrogen, which is good for all three plants. Together the three crops provide complex carbohydrates, all essential amino acids, and other nutrients. It’s a win-win way to garden.

In our Three Sisters garden, pole beans went in first, climbing on strings, which were anchored around them and up through the 6-foot high bird feeder. Planted at the north and south points of our circular bed they neatly divided the space in half for buttercup squash and sweet corn. 

Then, in mid-July, green shoots starting coming up in the corn half. At first we thought it was just corn that dawdled around, waiting for more water or more sun. It grew much like the rest of the corn, perhaps not quite as fast but certainly the same thick, round stalk, the same long, thin leaves, and later, the same tight ear of…wait…that ear was coming out of the top of the plant.

safron

What could it be? We watched and contemplated for days. By then my brain had registered a stranger in the garden. We took photos to examine it in closer range. We called relatives, only to be told it was probably sorghum. What? Sorghum was the means to molasses. We planted no seeds marked sorghum or molasses or sweet, tasty anything. Where did this stranger come from?

The answer was staring us in the face. The bird feeder had become obscured by masses of green. It wasn’t until the beans came down and the birds found the feeder, hoping for a crop of their own seeds, that birdseed came blasting into my brain cells.

safron

We made a list of seeds that made up the winter bird feed. No sorghum, but as we looked each one up on the life-saving entity called Google, we stopped abruptly at a photo of our stranger. Milo (which was on our birdseed list) is by other businesses called sorghum or grain sorghum or sorghum bi-color. It is a grass grain.

The size of a BB and red, it is an inexpensive way to bulk up bags of birdseed for a bigger profit. No wonder we had such large crowds of doves, grackles, starlings, brown-headed cowbirds, juncos, cardinals and the occasional raccoon. 

safron

To be sure, this particular type of sorghum is not the type that sorghum molasses is made from. It is growing much shorter than the photos of sorghum stalks being squished to extract the liquid from which sorghum molasses is boiled down.

We won’t be eating these plants in any shape or form. They are definitely for the birds. And that’s OK. As they enjoy their own crop, we’ll be enjoying a purchased bottle of sorghum. And squash, corn and beans!

Sorghum Butter

Ingredients:

• ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
• 2 tablespoons sorghum

Instructions:

In small bowl, using electric mixer, beat butter and sorghum together until light and fluffy. Serve on hot biscuits, pancakes, toast, waffles. Refrigerate leftovers.

Glazed Apples

Ingredients:

• 3 cups thick-sliced tart, crisp apples
• 3 tablespoons butter
• ½ cup sorghum
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• Dash of nutmeg

Instructions:

In large skillet, cook apples in butter until just tender. Stir often and cook over low-medium heat. Stir in sorghum, spices, and if a thin sauce is desired, a tablespoon of water. Simmer until sauce is slightly thickened. These are good with pork dishes or over ice cream or hot oatmeal.

 

Peach Salsa

Connie Moore

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Last week vendors at our local farmers market still had locally grown yellow and a limited supply of white peaches. I hadn’t seen white peaches since I was a teenager. Said to have a milder flavor, they are still tasty. We canned peaches, ate fresh peaches, and baked a double peach-oat crisp.

For a sweet and spicy salsa, we combined fresh diced peaches with favorite red and yellow tomatoes, onion, garlic, a bit of jalapeno pepper, some green pepper, some fresh cilantro, and a spoonful of vinegar.

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We didn’t measure but simply tasted as we put it together. Served with tortilla chips or mixed into a can of drained tuna, it was refreshing to say the least.

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Sweet corn was still abundant. Picked fresh Thursday mornings, vendors indicated it will be around for a few more weeks. We froze corn, ate fresh corn on the cob, and cut it off the cob to fry in butter.

Lettuces, cabbage, onions, zucchini, and yellow squash are all still coming on strong in the gardens. If you’re tired of sandwiches, try wrapping the filling in large lettuce leaves. Cabbage is great steamed, fried, or shredded for coleslaw. Wrap a meat and rice filling in cabbage leaves for cabbage rolls — a great meal for the cooler weather creeping in on us. And of course, zucchini can be shredded and froze for later use in the all-popular zucchini bread.

Between the market produce and end of the year veggies from our gardens, we are eating fresh, wonderfully tasty dishes this week.

County Fair Fun

Connie Moore

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While working at a county fair can be exhausting, an air of energy seemed to surround us each of the eight days we attended the Clark County Fair in Springfield, Ohio, in July. Covering numerous events for our local newspapers gave Doug and me a closer look at many beautiful projects. We also decided to try our hand at a few.

A Taste of the Unexpected cooking contest was right up my alley. I made deep chocolate brownies with barbecue sauce and red bean paste frosting. It won fourth place and cash.

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The county pie contest is a big event each year. Pie crust must be made with lard. I’ve entered the contest for over 20 years and in the past have won or placed numerous times. This year I won the contest with a pecan pie. The best part about the whole thing is that the pies are auctioned off and proceeds go back into the building. My pie sold for $200. The highest bid ever given for a pie? $2,015. We here in Ohio take our pies seriously.

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Our family recipe for Oatmeal/Pecan Picnic Cake won third place in the Any Dessert contest. Creamy frosting is always an eye-catcher.

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Never having entered the Master Gardener area, Doug and I decided it was our year to try new things, specifically the Pick of the Garden Bouquet Contest. We gathered our bouquet the evening before, arranged it that morning, and won third place. We learned a lot from Master Gardener Becky Menozzi. We’ll try again next year for sure.

Most popular of all cooking contests was Anything Chocolate. We placed fifth with a chocolate red raspberry cake.

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Of course, after every cooking contest, everyone gets to sample everything. What a way to enjoy the fair. I hope you can enjoy a day or two at your local county fair.