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Life is just a bowl of cherries

By Angie Sutton

Occasionally I spill things, break things and get speeding tickets. It happens to all of us, right? A friend recently told me no matter our age these random misfortunes expand our capacity to extend grace toward others. Apparently I get a lot practice, so my capacity should be amazingly large!

For instance, there was the speech on “how to drive in the snow” I so expertly delivered to our teenage driver on her first big vehicle-piloting adventure on the snow-packed streets of our hometown. She, of course, arrived at her destination safely. I, on the other hand, arrived at my destination with a little help from Jimmy and the wench on his wrecker truck. Needless to say, these folks know me pretty well because they’ve rescued me from various mishaps over the course of the last 25-ish years. He smiles, waves goodbye and says, “Just drop by the office tomorrow.” I love small-town living!

So goes the speeding tickets, garage-door-backing-into episodes and small engine fire on the mower. A well-known saying by Bob Fosse is, “Life is just a bowl of cherries, don’t take it too serious, it’s mysterious. Life is just a bowl of cherries, so live and laugh and laugh at love, love a laugh, and laugh and love.” February happens to be National Cherry Month—aptly chosen because of a certain cherry tree getting chopped down by our first president, not necessarily because February is the best month to procure this fruit in its freshest form.

June and early July are sour cherry picking months in Kansas. The average sour cherry tree produces enough cherries, about 7,000, to make 28 pies. That would require roughly 45 cups of sugar. The cherry tree in my yard must produce 14,000 cherries, or so it seems when it’s time to harvest. We have a symbiotic relationship with the birds that pick off the sour cherries at the top of the tree where I can’t reach. Any cherries that fall to the ground belong to the squirrels. Everything in the middle the humans have dibs on. I admit that pitting the cherries is not my favorite chore. Somehow dark red cherry juice makes its way onto pretty much everything, myself included. I did get a kick out of answering the front door mid-pitting one Tuesday to find the UPS driver with mouth agape. I just smiled and signed for my package with a gruesome looking right hand.

For recipes that call for Bing or sour cherries, which are the two most popular, you can add 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract to bring out their flavor. A chemical reaction between cherries and an alkali such as baking powder causes discoloration to occur in batter and thus in your finished product. You can prevent this blue hue by using sour cream instead of milk or by adding an acidic liquid to the recipe. I’ve also had good luck adding fresh cherries to bread by giving them a light coating of flour before folding them into the batter. This time of year, most recipes simply call for a can of cherry pie filling, which makes baking much easier.

In the Sutton Central test kitchen, we find that our capacity to extend grace to others is best practiced by cooking or baking together. The dog is the beneficiary of most of our calamities in the kitchen. He’s the quickest miniature Schnauzer I know. To celebrate National Cherry Month, we selected these recipes to test and share with you. They use cherry pie filling, so they are quick and easy. In June, providing we get a good sour cherry crop, we’ll test out cobbler, soup, pudding and chutney and share those recipes. We hope you enjoy making and eating these. We felt it was our duty to taste test each one a couple of times, and we are thankful that it is no longer prohibited to put ice cream on cherry pie in Kansas!


Mini Cherry Cupcakes

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoons salt
2/3 cups milk
1/4 cups butter, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup cherry preserves
30 maraschino cherries, drained, but reserve the juice

Powdered sugar cherry icing: Mix together until smooth 2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar, 2 tablespoons reserved cherry juice, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, 1/4 teaspoon almond extract.

Line 30 mini muffin cups with miniature paper baking cups. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add milk, butter, egg and vanilla. Beat on low until combined and on medium for one additional minute. Spoon just enough batter into the paper cup to cover the bottom. Add 1/2 teaspoon cherry preserves and then top with enough batter to cover the preserves. Cups should be 3/4 full. Bake at 350 F for 10 to 12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool pan on wire rack for about 5 minutes before removing cakes. Cool completely on wire rack. Drizzle tops with icing and top with maraschino cherry while icing is still soft.


Individual Cherry Pies

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 (16.3 oz.) buttermilk biscuits (large ones)
1 (21 oz.) can cherry pie filling

In a medium bowl, combine flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. With a fork, cut in butter until mixture resembles course crumbs. Stir in nuts. Separate dough into 8 biscuits and cut each biscuit in half to make 16. With floured fingers, flatten each to form a 4-inch circle. Press each biscuit round into an ungreased muffin cup and up the side of the cup. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the pie filling into each biscuit lined cup. Sprinkle each with 2 tablespoons of the flour mixture. Cups will be full. Bake for 18 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 5 minutes and remove pies to cool completely on a wire rack. Serve warm with a dollop of whipped topping or small scoop of vanilla ice cream.


Cherry Almond Pan Cake

1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon. almond extract
1/2 cup milk
3 cups flour
1 (21 oz.) can cherry pie filling

Powdered sugar icing: Mix together until smooth 1 cup confectioner’s sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, 2 tablespoons milk. In a large bowl, cream butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in vanilla, almond extract and milk. Gradually add flour. Spread 3/4 of the batter in a greased 10- by 15-inch pan. Spread one can of cherry pie filling across top of batter. Drop remaining batter by teaspoonfuls over filling. Swirl top layer only with a knife. Bake at 375 F for 35 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack. Drizzle top with powdered sugar icing.


Weeknight Cherry Salad

1 (20 oz.) can crushed pineapple, drained
1 (21 oz.) can cherry pie filling
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 (16 oz.) tub whipped topping

Mix all together with a mixer on low speed. Chill overnight. Salad will firm as it chills.


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