Strawberry Fields Forever Salad (with Candied Pecans, Mandarin Oranges and Garlic Chicken)

Recipe Author:
Ojai, California

I made this on May 11 -- in memory of Mom's birthday (MARY RUTH SMITH HAMILTON). She LOVED strawberries and her birthday month is when they were always the tastiest! Our neighbors in Oxnard, the Hiji's, owned most of the strawberry fields in Oxnard and would always bring us over flats of strawberries. Mom would make the most scrumptious strawberry shortcake (with biscuits) or topping untop of homemade ice cream that she and dad would hand crank on the back porch. This one's for you mom.

Serves 6 people

1 1-lb bag of pecans (halves)
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons Butter
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 - large bag or box of Mixed Spring Mix
1 large can Mandarin oranges
2 boxes of strawberries (approx 10-12 individual strawberries) - the fresher the better
1 can of Hearts of Palms - this is the secret ingredient
1 bunch fresh green onions
2- Tablespoons Olive oil
3- Chicken breasts (1 breast for every 2 people), cubed
6- cloves garlic, chopped
Brianna's Salad Dressing
Parchment Paper


- Use Spinach vs. lettuce and add blueberries, blackberries & goat cheese
- Try poppyseed, balsamic or sweet vidalia onion dressing
- Add feta cheese, fresh basil and miniature heirloom green tomatoes and peaches

Start with making the candied pecans. Preheat oven to 350. Place pecans on baking sheet, bake for 10 minutes. (Do not over bake as pecans toast up quickly). In saucepan, melt butter, then add sugar, honey and cinnamon. Bring to boil, then turn to medium. Let simmer for 5 minutes - do not stir. When pecans are toasted, add them to candied mixture on stove. Stir to coat. Pour unto parchment paper and separate pecans as much as possible. Set aside to cool.

In heavy skillet, heat olive oil and add garlic. Add chicken cubes and fry. While chicken is cooking, prepare salad, add chicken on top and drizzle with vinaigrette. Serve immediately.

Huevos Rancheros

Recipe Author:
Ojai, California

Another Around the World Recipe. This one from Mexico and inspired by a new friend I met this weekend down in San Diego, Lori Brown. She told me she makes these beans frequently for her family as they can be used for burritos, bean dip, side dish, etc. Great to have on hand during the week. Tonight we used the beans in Huevos Rancheros for a dinner meal. It might seem like a heavy meal but actually it had a light taste. The secret is in the "stew all day" crock pot pinto beans. I've included the slow-cooking method and also a quick method. Don't be tempted to use refried beans or black beans straight out of the can - take this easy, extra step to slow cook them. It makes all the difference.

Homemade Refried Beans
• 1 package (2 lb) dry pinto beans (Quick version: use 6 cans of Pinto Beans)
• 8 cups Chicken Stock (or Vegetable stock if vegetarian)
• 4 cloves garlic, minced
• 1/2 tsp cumin
• 1 tsp salt
• 1 tsp black pepper
• 1 package (12 oz) chorizo (use soy chorizo if making vegetarian version)
• 3 strips of bacon (delete if making vegetarian recipe)

In a pan, thoroughly cook the chorizo until done. Now, combine all ingredients in a crock pot. Cover and cook on medium-high for 8 hours, stir occasionally and adding water if needed. (Cook for 1 hour in pot on stove for Quick Version using canned beans.)

Preparation (and more ingredients)
• 2 T Olive oil
• 1/2 small Onion
• 1/4 cup sour cream
• 1/4 cup shredded Jack Cheese
• 1-2 eggs per person
• White Vinegar
• 1-2 Corn Tortillas per person

In 2 tsp of oil, saute onions until translucent. Add 4 cups of pinto beans to pan. Mash the beans as much as possible. Add sour cream and jack cheese. Stir until smooth. Mixture is now ready to use. There will plenty of be leftovers for burritos, more huevos rancheros, a layered bean dip, or as a side dish accompanied by Mexican Rice.

Salsa Ingredients
• 1 Ear of Corn
• 1/4 cup Cilantro
• 2 Limes
• Roma Tomatoes or Cherry Tomatoes, cut up
• Avocado slices, for garnish
• Mexican Cheese or Feta Cheese, optional

Make Salsa, set aside. Poach Eggs in sauce pan with boiling water and a splash of vinegar. Warm up tortillas in the oven or on the stove. On bottom place warm tortilla, top with bean mixture, using a slotted spoon add 1-2 eggs on top, followed by the salsa.

Nice combination of sweet and spicy, crunchy and smooth. Great flavors!

Pasta with Fresh Herbs

Recipe Author:
Ojai, California

This is one of my favs from my Around the World recipe collection. Each week I attempt to make a new, never-before dish from somewhere exotic in the world - usually on Sundays when I can really relax (read: not work!). I enjoy shopping at the local Ojai farmers' market, putting on music (reggae or jazz), and pouring myself a glass of wine. This is a time to slow down, way down and let my foodie freak out. Usually Ben or Sky suggest the country or exotic place the week before and then I go searching on the internet for something yummy. When I make it, if Ben and Sky give it a thumbs up, it'll be posted here.

Italy is one of my favorite places on earth! So I like to travel here (in my mind and through my palate) as often as possible! This is a super fresh-tasting recipe that is also super easy to make.

1 pound thin spaghetti (or angel hair)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup of fresh herbs: equal amounts of parsley, flat-leaf parsley and basil.
1 tablespoon mint, optional
3-4 garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup finely grated cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano or Parmesan)

1. Cook the spaghetti in salted boiling water until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain and return to the pot.
2. Heat the oil in another pan over medium heat and add garlic and pepper flakes. Cook for 2 minutes. Add all the herbs and cook gently for 30 seconds minute. Pour mixture over the hot spaghetti, toss, and cover with a lid for a few minutes to allow the pasta to soak in the flavors
Serve with the grated cheese.

Variations (add to the 2-minute cooking stage)
~8 ounces cooked sliced chanterelles (mushrooms)
~Cherry tomatoes, halved

Mom’s Banana Pudding

Recipe Author:
(May 11, 1932 - September 2, 1986)
Diamond, Missouri

This is a recipe my mom made, Ben's mom makes and I now make. It is Ben's ULTIMATE FAVORITE DESSERT! I like to make it in a Trifle Bowl (as seen above) or in Parfait Glasses.

- 1 - 14 oz Sweetened Condensed Milk
- 1-1/2 cups cold water
- 1 package Instant Vanilla Pudding mix (4 serving size)
- 1 lg. container Whipping Cream (2 cups)
- Vanilla Wafers
- 3-6 Bananas (ripe, sliced)

- Buy Bananas a few days before, let sit out or put in brown paper bag to ripen
- Day of mixing – put metal mixing bowl and beaters in freezer for 20-30 minutes
- For presentation use a clear glass bowl, like a Trifle bowl or parfait glasses
- Gets better the longer it sits.

In large bowl combine condensed milk and water. Add pudding mix and beat well. Chill 5 minutes. Whip whipping cream until soft peaks form. Fold into pudding, gently. Spoon 1 cup in bottom. Top with a layer of wafers, banana and pudding. Repeat 2-3 times. Chill for minimum of 3 hours or overnight.

Pumpkin Pie Shakes

Recipe Author:
Ojai, California

Tastes like pumpkin pie in a glass! This cold and creamy blended drink is super easy to make! If you like the flavor of pumpkin, this one is for you!

• 2 cups vanilla ice cream, softened
• 1 cup fat-free milk (or soy, almond or rice milk)
• 2/3 cup canned pumpkin
• 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
• 3/4 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice (or a dash of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg)
• 3 tablespoons Cool Whip, thawed
• Pumpkin-pie spice or Cinnamon (optional)

Combine first 5 ingredients in a blender; process until smooth. Pour 3/4 cup ice cream mixture into each of 4 glasses. Top each with about 2 teaspoons whipped topping; sprinkle with the additional spice, if desired.

Coca Cola Cake

Recipe Author:
(May 11, 1932 - September 2, 1986)
Diamond, Missouri

A nostalgic recipe: a family favorite and a midwestern/southern speciality for generations - now served at Cracker Barrel as Coca Cola Fudge Cake. Growing up mom called it "25 Minute Butter Cake." Older folks in the community called it "Depression Cake" or "Chocolate Sheet Cake." From what I've heard the Coca Cola ingredient was added to the basic cake recipe by someone in the South. Or so claims my husband, raised in South Carolina! This is my husband's, my son's and my favorite cake!

2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups small marshmallows
1 cup butter (or _ cup butter and _ cup vegetable oil)
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup Coca-Cola®
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup butter
3 tablespoons cocoa
6 tablespoons Coca-Cola
1 box (16 ounces) confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and flour a 9 x 13-inch pan and set aside
In a large bowl combine flour and sugar. Add marshmallows. In saucepan, mix butter/oil, cocoa, and Coca-Cola. Bring to a boil and pour over dry ingredients; blend well. Dissolve baking soda in buttermilk just before adding to batter along with eggs and vanilla extract, mixing well. Pour into a well-greased 9x13-inch pan and bake 35 to 45 minutes.
Remove from oven and frost

To make frosting, combine butter, cocoa and Coca-Cola in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and pour over confectioners' sugar, blending well. Add vanilla extract and pecans. Spread over hot cake. When cool, cut into squares and serve. Very moist and rich!

Oreo Freakout Ice Cream Dessert

Recipe Author:
Ojai, California

Bring Oreo Freakout to a picnic then sit back and watch people fight over who licks the pan! Try this "Black and White Delight" at your next gathering – it will be a hit with kids and adults alike! You can throw this together in less than 10 minutes and it requires no baking.

1 package Oreos
1 stick butter, melted
1 carton of vanilla ice cream (mint ice cream is also good!)
1 carton cool whip
chocolate sauce

• Crush Oreos and mix with melted butter
• Press on bottom of a 9 x 13 pan
• Put ice cream over crust
• Top with Cool Whip
• Sprinkle with Oreo crumbs
• Drizzle with chocolate sauce
• Freeze
• Cut in squares to serve

Cousins Sky and Heather dressed up for "Black and White Delight":

Surf Chick Chicken Tacos

Recipe Author:
Ojai, California

This is a recipe created specifically for HEATHER HAMILTON, inspired by our day of surfing (as a family and with friends!) when she came to live with us in California for 6 weeks in the summer/fall of 2008. (Photo: On knees in front are our surfing instructors Chipper "Bro" Bell and Johnny Johnson from Surf Class. Left to right: Ben Powell, Kyle Crooke, Amy Dozier, Heather Hamilton (center) Michael Crooke, Mary Hamilton, Sky Hamilton Texier)

For the marinade
1 cup dark Mexican beer, such as Negra Modelo
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil (I buy it at Trader Joe's)
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (White meat can also be used but I prefer dark meat)

Other Ingredients
Guacamole (or avocado slices with salt)
Salsa (I like a fruity Salsa like a Peach Salsa. Make your own: Cut up Peaches (Papaya or Mangos), Roma Tomatoes, White or Red Onion, squeeze of lime, cilantro, salt and pepper)
1/4 head of Cabbage (not red) - shredded
Limes, cut in quarters
Cilantro, garnish
Caesar Salad Dressing, drizzle (I ONLY use Cardini Original Caesar Dressing)
8-12 corn tortillas

- Mix all of the ingredients for the marinade together in a small bowl. Place the chicken thighs in a large Ziploc bag and pour in the marinade. Seal the bag, removing as much air as possible, and place in the refridgerator to marinate for 2 hours to overnight.
- Grill chicken on a BBQ and cut into thin strips. (Or stir fry in cast iron skillet)
- Warm tortillas on the grill (or in a cast iron skillet - don't use anything but heat, no oils, etc.), about 30 seconds to 1 minute per side.
- To assemble, spread a heaping spoonful of guacamole down the middle of each tortilla. Pile with chicken slices and a squeeze of lime. Add shredded cabbage and cilantro. Drizzle with Caesar Salad Dressing. Top with Salsa.


We had so much fun with you Heather! Come back! We love you and miss you!

Great Aunt Mary Greninger's Blue Ribbon Rolls

Recipe Author
Diamond, Missouri

Great Aunt Mary is 97 this year! She lives in a house on "the other side of the creek" from the Greninger/Smith Farm (the "rock house" and 80 acres). The Rock House is where MARY RUTH SMITH HAMILTON was born and raised ... and later returned to in 1976 with her husband and Diamond High School classmate CLARANCE "SAM" ALFRED HAMILTON and her youngest daughter MARY ELIZABETH HAMILTON who would also attend Diamond High School. (Her other children were grown but did circle back to "the farm" over the years, calling it home.) Aunt Mary's house was built in the 1800's by my great-grandfather, John Paul Greninger and was the main house on more than 300 acres of land (which was later parceled off to various family members, thus creating the Greninger/Smith farm on the other side of Jones Creek.)

Here is a photo of Great Uncle Lincoln and Great Aunt Mary in their earlier days:

Aunt Mary was like a second mother to Mary Ruth and recommended that she walk "to the creek and back" to induce labor of SAMMIE LISA. It worked! Great Aunt Mary is a precious soul who enjoys hummingbirds and gardening (when she can.) She is an expert quilter and cook. She is highly respected in the Diamond community and deeply loved by her family

From Karly Young (her granddaughter who sent along the recipe): My grandmother, Mary, taught me how to make yeast bread of all types-- loaves, rolls, cinnamon buns. I loved mixing the dough, peeking under the flour bag towel to watch it rise and to squish the dough between my hands. The smell of fresh baked bread always makes me think of grandma’s house. She would make these yummy yeast rolls for birthdays, holidays or just about any family get together. Always delicious. Great with butter and jam.

Photo of Great Aunt Mary making rolls:

1 envelope yeast (dissolve yeast in½ cup of warm water-- be gentle)
2 Tablespoon sugar

Stir in...
5 cups flour (wheat or unbleached)
3 Tablespoons shortening or butter (softened)
2 cup water or warm milk
1 Tablespoon salt

Mix well, but don’t over mix, and let rise at least 1 hour (till it doubles) at room temp in a large lightly covered bowl (towel works). NOTE: The warmer the area, the quicker the rise.

Preheat oven to 350°.
Butter or grease a long rectangular baking dish (9x13" is good).
This is the fun part! Once the dough rises, punch it down.
Pinch off a half dollar size dough and place in the baking dish.
Continue this until the pan is filled.
Cover and let the dough rise again until nearly doubled.
Bake 25-30 minutes or until tops are golden brown. Serve warm

Photo of MARY ELIZABETH HAMILTON, GREAT AUNT MARY GRENINGER, her grand daughter KARLY YOUNG and her daughter MARILYN YOUNG, 2005 during Karly & Mike's wedding in Diamond, Missouri:

No Bake Cookies

Recipe Author:
Elgin, South Carolina

These cookies are great when u need a fast dessert, or need a quick bake sale item. I like them on family movie night.

- 1 stick margarine ( I prefer butter like Paula Dean-Give me plenty of butter and lard-LOL)
- 2 C. Sugar
- 1/2 C. milk
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1/2 C. peanut butter
- 2 Tbls. cocoa
- 3 C. one minute oatmeal (that's quick oatmeal for all who don't know what minute oatmeal is)

Melt butter and sugar in a pot.
Bring to a full boil for 2 minutes.
Remove from heat and add other ingredients.
Dropfrom spoon onto waxed paper.
Let cool and enjoy.

Mom's Easy Peach Cobbler

Recipe Author:
(May 11, 1932 - September 2, 1986)
Diamond, Missouri

This is Mary Ruth's easy recipe for Peach Cobbler. It is so super simple and great for potlucks or a quick family dessert. Fresh or frozen peaches taste the best, but canned peaches will do in a pinch. Serve warm right out of the oven, topped with vanilla ice cream. Also good the next day, served chilled. * When we lived in Oxnard (627 N. "G" Street) we had the most luscious peach trees at the back of our property. Mom would make peach jam, peach preserves to spoon over ice cream and this peach cobbler recipe. Mom was such a good cook and her memory lives on through her recipes.

- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
- 1-3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup self-rising flour
- 1 cup milk
- 2 Cups Fresh Peaches or 1 (28-ounce) large can sliced peaches in heavy syrup, un-drained
- Cinnamon, for sprinkling, optional
- Vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream, for serving

- In a saucepan, mix peach slices with one cup sugar and one cup water (or use heavy syrup in the can if not using fresh peaches). Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir often, making sure the sugar is completely dissolved.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Put butter in a 13x9 by 2-inch baking dish and place in the oven to melt.
- In a bowl, stir 3/4 cup sugar and flour together and mix well. Slowly add milk and continue stirring to prevent the batter from lumping.
- Remove hot baking dish with the melted butter from oven; pour batter directly over butter in baking dish. Do not stir.
*Cook's Note: The most important part of this dish is not stirring the mixture.
- Spoon fruit on top of batter, then gently pour syrup on top of the entire dish. Do not stir.

It will look like this:

- Sprinkle cinnamon on top of batter (optional)
- Bake for 30 to 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Your batter will rise above your fruit, producing the most wonderful of crusts. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream.

The Inspiration for this Cookbook: Mary Ruth and her grand daughter Heather Hamilton

In January of 2010 I rediscovered a box of family jewels that had been stored away for years: scrumptious recipes handwritten on scrap pieces of paper and yellowed notecards like GRANDMA EDITH SMITH's LEMON PIE, MARY RUTH SMITH HAMILTON's BETTER THAN SEX CAKE (can you hear my mom laughing?) and LEANN WEBBER MORGAN's 7-UP JELLO. These were culinary treasures from family and dear friends that had not seen the light of day in years. I dusted off each weathered recipe, put them in a new acrylic box on my shelf of cookbooks, and began to re-create them, one by one, starting with my mom's EASY PEACH COBBLER. Delicious and a big hit with my own family!

About the same time as my grand culinary find, I was designing a quilt block which was to be added to a series of blocks that would become an heirloom quilt for my niece HEATHER HAMILTON (seen below on her wedding day with her dad and my brother - GARY DOUGLAS HAMILTON). Since the quilt was to be an heirloom, perhaps the collection of the recipes I just found could be an heirloom too! With so many of Heather's dad side of the family gone, how could these Hamilton/Smith/Greninger family members still be acknowledged and part of this wedding celebration? This inquiry was the genesis of this blog.

Out of deep affection for my niece and in memory of my mother (who passed when Heather was only 2 years old), I compiled these Heirloom Recipes (and a few "modern" ones too) -- passing them along from one woman to another -- with the intent of gifting Heather with a weighty cookbook at her wedding.

However, as I sifted through the recipes and invited others to join in by sending me their "fav" recipes via email, it became apparent that a traditional cookbook would not do:
- A tactile cookbook, like my box of recipes, might get worn out or lost over the years. So how could the recipes be accessible 24x7 and kept in pristine condition?
- Heather -- who helped me join Facebook a few years back, who texts me vs. calling, and who no longer uses email -- is of the "Internet Generation." How could a cookbook be more aligned with her generation?
- I wanted to add lots of photos, back story, memories, etc. and do it rather quickly without a lot of cost
- And others, not just women, wanted to contribute recipes such my husband BEN POWELL who had so much fun making cocktails with Heather, my son SKY HAMILTON TEXIER who has perfected a few recipes of his own, and even our animals contributed some FUNNY recipes (BTW, our cat, Rocky, is fascinated by laptops and has more than once sent off unsuspecting and garbled emails on my behalf.)

Then the perfect solution came to mind: an online cookbook ... an internet blog! So after much ado, here it is, a culinary heirloom for you Heather that represents the Hamilton side of your family - the heirloom recipes and the funny and new additions too.

As a self-proclaimed Foodie, I'll start by posting recipes and photos I've collected - and please send me your favorites as well. And yes, Heather, there will be recipes with chicken! (Note to Readers: In the late summer of 2008, Heather came to California to live with us for about 6 weeks. Well, after "one too many" times of eating tofu, she asked in the sweetest, most polite way "Aunt Mary when will we be eating chicken again?" We tease her about it to this day!) So lots of chicken recipes Heather! (We love you!)

My hope is that many relatives and friends of the Hamiltons will enjoy making these featured recipes as well as contribute to this online cookbook. Mom's dream was that her collection of recipes be shared -- "passed down and passed around" -- with family and friends. That's my wish too! Bon Appetit!

Mary Elizabeth Hamilton
Daughter of Clarance "Sam" and Mary Ruth Smith Hamilton; 2nd to last of 58 grandchildren of Frank and Eunice Ethel Hamilton and last of 13 grandchildren of Grady and Edith Greninger Smith of Diamond, Missouri
September 2010