Quick Recipes and Easy

A Moveable Feast

“I’m playing carthorse for an annual conference. I’m leaving for Orlando tomorrow morning in the wee, wee hours of the dark,” she typed into the instant-message system.

“Fantastic! Come to Tallahassee!” I responded with bubbling excitement.

Popping from my memory garden were visions of my young cousin pirouetting and curtseying across the sanctuary of the Clarendon Hills Presbyterian Church. The last time I had seen Dora Byrd was at my dad and stepmother’s wedding. She was the flower girl.

We were long overdue to reconnect. The thought of her visit made an undeniable effervescence in my heart to welcome my long-lost cousin with open arms and warm, inviting Florida hospitality.

But as Dora Byrd and I instant-messaged back-and-forth, I realized something. The whirlwind of busyness could easily snatch this opportunity away from us. If I wanted to see Dora Byrd, I would need to do some driving, too. Tallahassee was just too far away. We needed to meet somewhere closer to Orlando.

Sometimes hospitality means packing a picnic basket and a cooler, and taking a moveable feast to a more central location. So that is exactly what I did. On the last Friday of September, we synchronized our watches and plotted to meet for a delightful afternoon at the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens in Gainesville.

“I’ll wait for you at the visitor’s center,” Dora said. “I’ll be the person in the faded green hat with a flower on it.”

Sure enough, Dora Byrd was there waiting for me when I pulled into the parking lot. Hat or no hat, I would have recognized her anywhere. Her face, personality and warmth were a gorgeous and nearly haunting reminder of other favorite relatives.

Whether you are trying to coordinate a visit with a traveling relative or are simply up for an adventurous day trip and a gorgeous picnic in the park, the bamboo, butterfly, water and herb gardens at Kanapaha present a splendid backdrop for making new memories to cherish for a lifetime.

“Next time, I’ll play host to you in Williamsburg, Virginia!” my librarian cousin sang out, as she cradled the tin of Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Bars and waved goodbye.

Hazelnut Chocolate Chips Squares are a tasty and sweet way to send a traveler off in style.

Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Squares

2 sticks butter, softened

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

(1) 12-oz. package semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided

(1) 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk

1 tsp. hazelnut extract

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Soften butter to room temperature and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 13- x 9-inch baking pan.

Whip butter in a large mixing bowl until creamy. Add the flour, sugar and salt and mix until nice and crumbly. Using floured fingers, press 2 cups of the crumbly mixture into the prepared pan.

Bake for 10 minutes or until edges turn a light-golden brown.

Meanwhile, combine 1 cup of the chocolate-chip morsels with the sweetened condensed milk in a small, heavy-duty saucepan. Stir over low heat until the chocolate has melted and the two ingredients are smooth. Stir in hazelnut extract and vanilla extract.

Pour and spread the hot chocolate mixture over the hot, baked crust.

In a small mixing bowl, combine hazelnuts with the remaining chocolate morsels and the reserved crumbly mixture of flour, sugar and salt. Sprinkle this mixture over the chocolate filling.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until the center is set and the top is golden brown.

© 2006 Kathi Dameron, Kathi Dameron and Associates

This article originally appeared on October 12, 2006 in the “Entertaining with Kathi” column of the Northeast Chronicle, a Florida newspaper.

Note To Publishers: You are free to publish this article in your e-zines, but, please keep copyright and resource box intact. Thank You!

Kathi Dameron is a free-lance writer, blogger and consultant who is available for writing assignments, speaking engagements, and food and entertaining workshops. The Entertaining With Kathi column is available to newspapers, magazines and digital media for syndication. Entertaining With Kathi Cooking Class inserts, show scripts and customized content-rich advertising opportunities are available for buy. For information contact Kathi directly at 850-422-3599.



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