What would you say is the most common denominator among people and their culture and background? My answer is food. Food is defined as "nourishment of the body." I would add mind and soul as well as social contact.

Being part of the Activities Department at The Colonnade in Schwenksville has enabled me to take a different view of the dynamics of food and how it impacts residents In an environment a little different than our day-to-day one. Many often talk frequently about foods they like and dislike.

The dining room at The Colonnade seems to be the soul of the facility. Three times a day, and sometimes more, residents meet here - breakfast, dinner and supper. The facility is large, so many residents moving a little slower than they once did, spent a lot of time going from their apartments to the dining room area. Along the way they chat with others, check on the outside world; even stop for a game of checkers. The dining room is set-up in restaurant style with four to six residents at each table. Some eat and run, some stay and chat and some stay because they do not have anything on their schedule.

That sounds great, no more cooking, no more dishes. There Is a core of residents who still keep their hand in cooking, so to speak, with what we call Country Kitchen Cooking Class. Each week this group meets to whip up special treats and luncheons for 8 to 14 guests. Last Christmas we made candy "to die for". The luncheons are big hits with everyone.

The ladies of the class range in age up to 80 something young. The men are always coming around for samples, but they don't seem to want to do the cooking.

Recently, we made a vinaigrette dressing using our own strawberry vinegar. I shared the making of this vinegar in last week's column.

Country Kitchen Strawberry Vinaigrette

1 cup safflower oil

1/2 cup strawberry vinegar

2 tablespoons parsley flakes

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons fresh chopped chives or onion

Place all of the ingredients in large container with secure fitting top. Shake well. Refrigerate. Will keep in refrigerator after made for several days. Shake vigorously before using.

The class is heading the project to compile recipes for their own cookbook, included will be recipes from residents, families, friends and the staff of The Colonnade.

Here are some dessert recipes that will be appearing in Country Kitchen Cookin' Cookbook

Rhubarb Pie

9-inch unbaked pie shell

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

2 tablespoons flour

3 tablespoons water

2 cups rhubarb cubes

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Fill unbaked pie shell with rhubarb cubes Mix remaining ingredients in a bowl until blended and pour over rhubarb cubes. Bake for one hour at 350 degrees.

Mergott's Banana Foster

3 ripe bananas

3 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons liqueur of choice

2 ounces white rum

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Melt brown sugar in the butter, add cinnamon. Slice bananas and saute in the butter and brown sugar mixture. Pour 2 tablespoons of banana or orange liqueur and 2 ounces white rum over the bananas and butter mixture. Light with care, flame can be controlled with a pot lid. Serve with vanilla ice cream or over a slice of cake like the one below.

Brown Sugar Pound Cake

1 cup butter

1/2 cup margarine

1 cup granulated sugar

1 pound brown sugar

5 eggs

3 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup pecans, chopped

Cream butter, margarine, granulated sugar and brown sugar together until fluffy Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add vanilla to batter Combine flour and baking powder together. Alternating flour and milk, add to butter/sugar batter. Add chopped pecans.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Pour batter into prepared tube pan. Bake for 90 minutes. Cool completely. Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar or serve with Bananas Foster.

No-Sugar Sugar Cookies

3/4 cup unsalted butter

1/4 cup light butter

1 cup Splenda granular

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup egg substitute

1/4 cup water

3/4 tablespoon white or cider vinegar

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups cake flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease or parchment line cookie sheet and set aside. Blend together butters, Splenda and vanilla in a medium size bowl. Work until butter is softened. Add egg substitute, water and vinegar. Mix briefly.

Add flour, salt and baking powder. By hand or using low speed mixture work until dough is formed. Do not over mix. Remove the dough from bowl and place on a floured work surface. Divide dough in half. Pat each half into a circle Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate approximately 1 hour. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out on a lightly floured work surface to desired thickness, approximately 1/4-inch. Cut with a round cookie cutter or use rim of drinking glass. Place cookies on prepared cookie sheet(s). Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned on the back. Cool on a wire rack. Makes approximately 48 cookies.

I will have more recipes for you from The Colonnade and the Country Kitchen Cooking Class in the near future. These recipes can be considered "National Treasure Recipes" as many of the recipes have been handed down for generations.

Life is like a celebration, enjoy it!

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