This year, we were thrilled to be able to make it to the 5th annual Kenney family reunion. Forty + cousins were making their way through the hills of Missouri from all across the Midwest to gather in the tucked away coves of Table Rock Lakes in SW Missouri.
I knew there would be lots of laughter, shared memories, lake water splashing, and summertime foods to all share together.
Of course…lots of summertime food to share.
I wanted to choose a recipe to share that represents the rustic country atmosphere that permeates this corner of Missouri. This is biscuits and gravy country…hearty meatloaf and homemade pie country.
I also wanted the challenge of cutting out the white flour and lowering the white sugar content of a dessert.
I didn’t have any trouble finding a recipe that tickled my senses and lured by taste buds into wanting to re-create it in my kitchen.
Sue, from “The View from the Island” blog had made a Toasted Cardamom Pound Cake that looked moist, rich, and deliciously aromatic.
What if I replaced the white flour with a combination of Buckwheat flour and Almond Flour? What that work? Or, would it be too coarse and dry?
Also, what if I replaced the white sugar with a combination of coconut sugar and stevia? Would the cake have an odd side flavor that everyone would detect with wrinkled noses?
I tried it. The result was fantastic. I was very pleased with the hints of toasted cardamom spice and espresso powder. The buckwheat flour gave the spice cake a wonderful earthy rustic color but the almond flour kept the moistness intact.
Also, crème fraiche, butter and eggs added to the richness and depth of this recipe. The glaze has sugar in it but overall the amount of white sugar is greatly reduced.
We set off for the long drive up through Texas, across Oklahoma, and into Southern Missouri. I always arrange for us to leave before the sun is up because when the light begins to peak over the horizon – magic happens.
Tiny little sparkles of dew appear on the long field grasses gently waving in the morning winds. Hay bales dot the horizon and their fat round circles canvas the honey gold fields.
I had my Toasted Cardamom Spice Cake all tucked away for the reunion along with my (no sugar) chocolate cranberry granola bars to enjoy along the journey north.
When the morning sun softly reaches its hazy rays over the farm fields, the entire world seems to pause and drink in the beauty. The cows and the horses munch on the field grasses. They seem haloed in the early morning mist that envelops them softly.
I would love to pull into one of those long dusty farm roads and roll into one of the farmhouses at the end and spend a day seeing what farm life is like for the family.
I settle for gazing into the distance catching glimpses of one field after another of rambling farmhouses with their beautiful craggy old barns anchoring the land.
If Vermont is celebrated for their quaint red covered bridges, I think Missouri should be equally cherished for their beautiful diversity of country barns.
White, red, teal blue, silver, grey…they all hold such a characteristic beauty that define the heartland of the U.S. country side.
Rolling up and down the softly flowing hills, pulling into the tiny little country road that leads to my in-laws, and seeing the towering trees swishing in the summer breeze…always brings a smile to our faces.
It’s like stepping back in time. It’s also like turning back the clock for us. Memories of the early days of dating my husband make me smile. I met him at Christmastime and the Kenney’s home is a magical place to be during the holidays.
My first memory of his family is watching in horror as my husband flung handmade crocheted snowflakes onto the Christmas tree. They spun through the air and landed haphazardly on the tree. I knew this was a fun family.
We’ve arrived at their home from every direction as we’ve moved from one state to the other. Their home at times was the one constant that remained invariable for many years.
Bringing our children there as babies for the first time, taking country walks with them as they grew up visiting their grandparents, and discovering the uniqueness of their antique filled home are memories that flood our minds as we pull up each season.
It’s always delightful to notice a spinning wheel tucked away in the corner and hear its history from years ago. Old butter churns, beloved antique dolls, and handmade glass jars all whisper stories of loving memories from years ago.
I can never sleep in very late when staying at my in-laws home. The early morning hours beckon me outdoors to discover all of the delights of a country landscape.
I sat in the corner and watched the birds take their morning bath. What a spectacle to enjoy as they made quite a splash in their bird bath.
My in-laws always have small tokens from nature that dot their home and tell stories of life in the woods. A small bird’s nest was found and now snuggles in the corner of a bench that used to be the seat of an old horse-drawn carriage.
My feet take me down the same route each visit. The old rickety red playhouse still stands in the woods around the corner. I know just which path my feet will take without thinking. They will take me along the meandering country road that winds itself back into the woods.
The light plays and tickles the branches creating the most wonderful play of shadows and rays that seep through the canopy of towering trees.
Often, not a sound of modern life can be heard. A crack of a stick on the ground crunches, birds chirp at one another from somewhere way above the ground, and the wind creates the most wonderful lullaby of hushed quiet.
This particular road changes dramatically with each season of the year. Winter skies sparkle with bright blue or deep ash grey as the ice and snow lay heavy on the branches and the winter light twinkles on the cold frozen ice with shimmers and sparkles.
This summer it is poke berries that catch my eye. Their brilliant royal purple is dazzling and eye-catching against the canopy of forested green.
Down the road and around the corner, a beautiful cat sits lazily watching me while enjoying the morning air. Branches of an apple tree hang heavily with their soft green fruit beckoning to be picked and enjoyed or perhaps cooked into an apple pie.
But, it’s the light in the woods that I most enjoy. I love how the rays pierce through the leaves and my eyes follow them along their path to see what little forest treasures will be lit up on the ground.
Breaking this morning reverie comes thoughts about the upcoming day. Lake time, relatives to meet, and food to prepare and pack all spell out several upcoming days of summer August fun.
One little green guy decided that my in-laws house was a nifty place to hang out. The little frog was inside the house looking longingly out the window. We gave him a helping hand and made sure he found his way outside again.
Hampers packed, coolers filled with ice, and the aroma of sun screen filling the car…we were off to the lakes of Table Rock.
Many farm stands dot the country roads leading down to the lakes. I was eagerly hoping to spot a watermelon stand along the road and sure enough…there was one brimming with watermelons, cantelopes, and fresh red tomatoes.
But of course, what truly delights me is the discovery of new barns that I had not noticed before. Turning down a country road, I could see the tip of a barn beckoning to be revealed. This one was delightful with its ivy covered walls.
I peered inside and saw piles of furniture. I would have loved knowing what sort of a past this barn had if it could tell us its stories.
A second barn around the corner caught my eye because of its beautiful red hue contrasting with the white washed fence that outlined the farm.
Several days of lake fun were ahead of us. The kids look forward to going for boat rides, being pulled on big fat tubes through the crazy waves, and lazily hanging on the shaded dock visiting with the many cousins that traveled there.
I think at one count, there were close to 40 of us bobbing up and down in the water!
My brother-in-law, Tim, successfully mans the grill. With the combination of soaked hickory chips and his delicious onion marmalade, Tim’s tri-tip steaks are the highlight of the feasting! How we look forward to this hearty treat each year.
But, speaking of highlights, a trip up to So. Missouri just might not be complete without a day spent at one of our most favorite places in the world…
A day at…Silver Dollar City!
We reserved our final day to spend at this fabulous amusement park. Silver Dollar City is an incredible family destination that combines educational demonstrations of how the pioneers and hillbilly people lived in this area of the country during the 1800’s.
…and combines these living history demonstrations with some of the most amazing roller coaster rides, live country music bands, and delicious country food found in the midwest!
Our family, my sister-in-law and my nephew arrived there with agendas firmly planted in mind.
First off…the aroma of the powdered sugar covered funnel cakes grab us by the noses and lure us straight to their sugary goodness. This always seems to happen!
Second…the hot cinnamon covered almonds compete for the attention of our senses so we figured that a good protein should be paired with that carbohydrate selection.
Copper Kettle Candies store is always giving hilarious demonstrations of their Pecan Brittle making. The women who work there rattle off snarky stories of their days growing up “on the farm with ma” as they are showing the candy making process. They are funny, cheeky wise-crackers, but luckily at the end… these ladies are ready to give handouts of their delicious sugary nut concoctions.
After the demonstrations, there is the rest of candy store to be discovered. Bins of wrapped tart and chewy taffy bites, creamy rich squares of fudge, and all sorts of “penny candy” are displayed to appear right out of an old-fashioned candy shop from the 1800’s.
The good mood and smiling faces at Silver Dollar City is infectious. Pair that with homemade sweets and plenty of BBQ country fare and it’s pretty easy to see why everyone here is happy, happy, happy.
The kids head off straight to the roller coasters while my sister-in-law and I head straight to the shops. Shopping at Silver Dollar City is nothing short of one charming handcrafted item after another.
The glass blowers are always busy at work giving demonstrations of their trade. After watching them handle the searing hot fires while forming the delicate glass creations, the glass store offers hand blown ornaments, vases, and beautiful creations.
Of course, while watching this magic happen, the aroma of “succotash” is wafting through the barn tickling the senses with the smell of roasting onions, corn, okra, and potatoes.
Kettle Corn is a perennial favorite but something new this year was spotted. A potato was spiral cut, wrapped around a hot dog on a stick and then both were fried in hot oil.
Goodness gracious what a fun amusement park food! Too oily for me but lots of people were carrying around these fun quirky hot dog variations.
I had never seen the soap-making demonstrations before and thought that process was fascinating to watch. Lye, water, and scented oils were the only ingredients necessary and the results were wonderful. Missed picking up a bottle of that Citrus Basil lotion though…next time…
Silver Dollar City has a wonderful tongue-in-cheek way of showcasing the lifestyle of the hillbilly clans of the hills of So. Missouri while gently poking fun of themselves at the same time.
Shoot-em-up comedy routines are played out on the “streets“, laundry can be seen strung up among the trees, and escaped “bad guys” can be heard cracking guns at the local sheriff of the town in hilarious renditions of playful story-telling of lawless country life.
The broom maker was giving her demonstrations that day. Did you ever wonder how brooms were made in the 1800’s? It is quite a process and this woman, with her soft spoken ways, gave us a wonderful explanation.
Sweet carvings were often made in the wooden handles to personalize or mark the craftsmanship.
No matter the season, Silver Dollar City flips over seasonally to offer visitors a delightful showcase of crafts, country food, and incredible rides. The fall festival is a celebration completely different from summer.
The park is then shut down and completely decorated from top to bottom to showcase a delightful country holiday decorated for an 1800’s Christmas.
If you’re ever traveling through this part of the country…don’t forget to fill a bucket with taffy and enjoy this wonderful southern spot in the hills. It’s a little piece of re-created history that holds special memories for our family.
Roasted Cardamom and Coffee Pound Cake
(adapted from “The View from Great Island” blog)oven to 325
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp toasted and finely ground cardamom seeds (measured after grinding) Or, cardamom spice in the jar will work fine.
- Whisk the above dry ingredients together and set aside.
1/2 cup sour cream or creme fraiche
1 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder (I found it in the coffee aisle)
1 tsp vanilla extract
- Mix the sour cream, vanilla seeds, and espresso powder together, until the espresso powder completely dissolves. Set aside.
4 ounces (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 cup organic coconut sugar
3 large eggs
- Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
- Add the flour to the butter and sugar, alternately with the sour cream. Blend until combined, and then spread in a greased loaf pan.
- Bake for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Vanilla Bean Glaze
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
seeds from 1 vanilla bean
heavy cream (a few Tablespoons or enough to get desired consistency)
- Mix the sugar and vanilla seeds together, then add the cream, slowly, until you get a thick but spreadable glaze. Glaze the cake when it’s completely cool.