October 20, 2010

Hop Along for a Western Tall Tale that Starts in Missouri

Shootin' fire! We've got a pure-D, right fine day back in Missouri today and tomorrow that's perfect to engage the children in some history, we hope. We return to Missouri naturally 'cause it's the gateway to the West. Wahoo, as I'm sure they still don't say somewhere in America.

Here's a view from right under the arch taken this spring .

We just previewed a new children's picture book from one of our favorite illustrators, who just happens to live in town. Laura Huliska-Beith (who grew up in Nebraska and now lives in Missouri) illustrated a beautiful and fun TALL tale adventure of family travel back when stagecoaches, gold and the Pony Express were the rage.
A small pouch on the right included peanut brittle with the book.
 "The Adventures of Granny Clearwater and Little Critter" is written by Kimberly Willis Holt,  who won a National Book Award for "When Zachary Beaver Came to Town."

The book charmed my 9 and 5 year old. It's a great playful tale with even better characters and captivating illustrations. It's a tale of a happy-go-maybe-not-so-lucky family traveling out West. A hole on the trail sends Granny and the littlest family member shooting out of the wagon and roughing it on a memorable journey into the great unknown where they meet a stagecoach robber and ride on the Pony Express and pan for Gold. And you thought you had a rough time on your last family road trip?

Granny is as eager  — but much more pleasant than the Clampetts Granny — who relies on her family's ingenuity. Speaking of gold, you must munch peanut brittle while reading the book.

Here's a Peanut Brittle recipe from one of my favorite Kansas City cookbooks.* I like the directions with the lump of butter, rounded teaspoon of baking soda (that secret and magical ingredient) and a fun way to test it in water to see if it's ready. Why it's purdy near like Granny pans for gold! If this sounds like a test of wits you'll need to holler for Granny Clearwater or your own Granny! (Laura says she burned several batches of peanut brittle before she got a batch worthy of making it's way into the picture book.)

Peanut Brittle
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup white Karo syrup
1/2 cup water
2 cups raw peanuts (or other nuts)
1 'lump' of butter (the size of an egg)
1 teaspoon of baking soda, rounded
1 Tablespoon of vanilla

Boil sugar, water and syrup for 7 minutes or until it spins a long thread. Add peanuts, stirring constantly until amber colored and it makes a cracking noise when dropped in cold water. Remove from heat. Quickly add butter and soda. Stir quickly until foam goes down. Add vanilla. Stir. Spread quickly on 2 heavily buttered cookie sheets. Spread out with spatulas and fingers, pulling batter thin. When completely cooled, break into pieces and store in a covered wagon container.

* from Dining In In Kansas City, A Collection of recipes from the Greater Kansas City Alumnae Chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta, recipe credited from the Cookbook Committee

"The Adventures of Granny Clearwater and Little Critter" is a great book to introduce children to other classic American tales like Paul Bunyan. 
Did you know 20 states have Bunyan statues? I just learned that from the link above.

Or Johnny Appleseed 
Johnny Chapman, the real man, was born in Massachusetts but moved out West, planting trees in Indiana. So it's now Fort Wayne, Indiana, who puts on the Johnny Appleseed Festival every September.

Don't forget to leave your comments and give us a NOODLE RECIPE for a chance to get that new "Swimming in Noodles" CD from Jim Cosgrove!

1 comment:

  1. It's going to appear for another "Western" state but my daughters loved eating their grub in round 8-inch tin pie plates. I told them they we were camping out like miners. Red handkerchiefs for napkins would also work. (I consulted my old Kraft State Jr. Miss themed parties cookbooks for Hoedown/Western meal ideas)