Palmyra cook finds inspiration from her travels

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jan. 11, 2017 9:05 am Updated: Jan. 11, 2017 9:39 am
Floyce Wharton

PALMYRA, Mo. -- Traveling gives Floyce Wharton a chance to build memories -- and her recipe collection.

"When we travel, I like to try to collect recipes from the region where we travel," said the Palmyra woman who takes to the road with Gene, her husband of nearly 53 years. "I have been known to take notes on napkins, scrap paper or anything I can find if I like a certain food at a restaurant."

Some of the best ones come from places on two-lane roads, not interstate highways, including a stop last summer at a South Carolina farmers market selling pie made with fresh, ripe tomatoes.

The owner wouldn't share the recipe, but back home, Wharton found several recipes online, experimented and came up with her own tomato pie South Carolina style. "It's halfway between a pie and a pizza," said Gene Wharton, who admits the dish is his current favorite of his wife's many recipes. "It's a surprise to everybody."

Another tomato-based recipe, orange-green tomato relish, is good on hot dogs, meats and hamburgers. "Green tomatoes make some of the best relishes and chutneys," Wharton said.

Floyce's bucket pickles -- a recipe used by her grandmother, Dollye Lewellen, and her mother, Lavola Dooley -- add flavor to any meal. "My niece likes them. My son likes them. My daughter likes them," she said.

Wharton enjoys making casseroles and soups, with Italian sausage and tortellini soup and Mexican beef taco casserole among the favorites of her family which has grown to include five grandchildren and one great-grandchild. An herb lover, Wharton serves her toasted herb roll-ups with soups.

While she prefers savory foods, her husband likes sweets including Floyce's chocolate trifle, flavored with amaretto, and cappucino cream. "If you like coffee, you'll like this," Wharton said.

Judy's favorite candied fruit muffins "are really good, kind of like a fruitcake, but they're not," Wharton said. "I've tried them with icing, but they're better without."

Wharton got her start in the kitchen working in a restaurant as a teenager in her hometown of Monroe City. She washed dishes, waitressed and did short-order cooking when needed, but she started "serious cooking" after her marriage, fitting time in the kitchen during a 45-year career in health care, including more than 30 years working at Blessing Hospital in radiology and nuclear medicine.

"When I'm feeling good, I love to get in the kitchen and play," Wharton said.

Inspiration comes from cooking classes, including many at Quincy Steamboat, a collection of cookbooks that numbers at least 1,000 and favorite recipes stored on her computer.

A fan of "Pioneer Woman" Ree Drummond of Food Network fame, the Whartons traveled to Oklahoma and were the first customers at Drummond's new mercantile in Pawhuska, Okla., where she got personally signed cookbooks – and more food-related travel memories.

Orange-Green Tomato Relish

1 1/2 gallons cut-up green tomatoes

2 yellow onions

2 12-ounce jars orange marmalade

4 cups brown sugar (use part brown Sugar Twin)

2 cups cider vinegar

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Core bottom of green tomato, and cut into quarters. Peel onion, and cut into quarters.

In a food processor, chop green tomato and onion. Do not puree, but chop into "pickle-relish-size" pieces.

Add all ingredients to a four-quart heavy saucepan. Cook on low heat for 15 minutes, stirring until blended and sugar begins to dissolve.

Turn heat to medium, and cook for 40 minutes. The relish should be thick. If it does not seem "syrupy," then cook 10 minutes more.

NOTE: Wharton freezes the relish in small plastic containers, so she can take out smaller portions to have available in the refrigerator.

Floyce's Bucket Pickles

4 pounds cucumbers, sliced very thin

1 tablespoon powdered alum

1 tablespoons celery seed

1/3 cup salt

2 tablespoons pickle spice

1 tablespoon mustard seed

7 cups sugar

32 ounces vinegar

Put cucumbers and salt in a plastic bucket. Cover with boiling water. Let set overnight. Next day, drain and rinse well. Then mix vinegar, alum, celery seed, pickle spices, mustard seed and one cup sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, and pour over cucumber slices. Let set overnight. Then add one cup sugar to the cold mix for the next six days. Put lid on bucket, and set up on a shelf in a cool place, like a basement. Pickles will be ready to eat in about three weeks.

Italian Sausage and Tortellini Soup

1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casing removed

1 large onion, minced

2 large garlic cloves, minced

5 cups chicken or beef stock

2 cups chopped tomatoes (canned tomatoes may be substituted)

1 zucchini, sliced

2 carrots, sliced

1 cup frozen cut green beans

1 cup chopped spinach

1/2 cup dry red wine (optional) or 2 tablespoons white wine with 1 tablespoon vinegar

1 tablespoon dried basil (3 tablespoons fresh)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

2 cups cheese-filled tortellini or 1 cup pasta

Saute Italian sausage in heavy skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through, about 10 minutes. With slotted spoon, remove sausage and set aside. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of drippings from the pan. Lower the heat, and add onion and garlic. Saute until translucent, about five minutes. Return sausage to pan. Add stock, tomatoes, vegetables, wine and basil. Simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Add oregano, parsley and tortellini; cook for about five minutes. Salt and pepper to taste, and sprinkle with freshly-grated Parmesan. 

Toasted Herb Roll-Ups

1 loaf thin-sliced white bread

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

minced garlic, to taste, if desired

Remove crust from bread. Use a rolling pin to flatten bread slices, if desired. Add herbs to butter, and spread butter on bread slices. Roll slices starting at a corner, and secure with a toothpick. Place seam-side down on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 F for about 30 minutes. (It may not take that long to toast roll-ups to light brown; watch closely). Serve with soups, pasta or salads.

Mexican Beef Taco Casserole

1 pound extra lean ground beef

1 medium onion, chopped

1 can whole kernel corn, drained

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 package taco seasoning mix

8 to 12 corn tortillas

3/4 cup nonfat sour cream

2 cans Ro-tel tomatoes with green chilies, drained

1/3 cup shredded Mexican blend or taco cheese

sliced jalapeno peppers

Brown ground beef and onions together for about 10 to 12 minutes; drain. Add corn, beans, tomatoes and taco seasoning. Mix well, and simmer for five minutes.

Coat a two-quart, 8-by-12-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Place half of tortillas in bottom of pan. Spoon half of beef mixture on top. Add sour cream over beef. Top with remaining tortillas, then beef mixture.

Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes. Remove from oven, and sprinkle with cheese and sliced jalapeno peppers. Bake for another five minutes or until cheese is melted. Let stand for five minutes before serving.

Tomato Pie South Carolina Style

1 9-inch deep-dish pie crust, homemade or store-bought

3 homegrown tomatoes, thinly sliced, salted and drained between paper towels for at least a few minutes or up to overnight

1 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced

10 fresh basil leaves, chopped

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1/4 cup grated Parmesan

1 cup grated Mozzarella cheese (Wharton prefers to slice her cheese to layer on top of the pie)

1/2 cup Duke's Mayonnaise

olive oil, just enough to coat pan

salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 350 F. Bake pie crust until it begins to turn golden, about 10 minutes. Let cool.

Lightly saute onions in a bit of olive oil, just enough to lightly coat the pan. Layer drained tomato slices in pie crust. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with basil, and top with lightly sauteed onions. Mix cheeses into mayonnaise. Spread evenly on top of pie. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until pie is brown and bubbly. Cool a few minutes before cutting into slices and serving warm.

Judy's Favorite Candied Fruit Muffins

1 cup butter

2 cups sugar

1 egg, well beaten

3 cups hot applesauce

3 1/2 cups flour

4 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon nutmeg

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1 1/2 cups nuts, chopped

1 cup raisins

1 16-ounce package candied mixed fruit

Cream butter and sugar; add egg. Alternately add applesauce, which has been heated in the microwave, and dry ingredients. Dust nuts, raisins and fruit with flour. Fold into batter. Place in a tube pan. Bake at 350 F for one hour and 15 minutes. Or fill muffin cups 3/4 full, and bake for 35 minutes.

Cappuccino Cream

1 cup freshly-brewed strong coffee, at room temperature

1/2 cup milk

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

1 four-serving box instant vanilla pudding and pie filling

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 8-ounce tub Cool Whip, thawed

Beat coffee and milk gradually into cream cheese in a large bowl with en electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add pudding mix and cinnamon. Beat on low speed for one minute. Gently stir in 2 cups whipped topping. Spoon mixture into six dessert glasses, a serving bowl or coffee cups with saucer and spoon.

Refrigerate until ready to serve. Just before serving, top with remaining whipped topping. Garnish with chocolate-covered coffee beans and fresh mint; sprinkle with additional ground cinnamon.

Floyce's Chocolate Trifle

1 chocolate cake mix

2 large boxes instant chocolate pudding

3 1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup amaretto

8 Heath bars

1 large container Cool Whip, thawed

Prepare cake mix according to package directions for a 9-by-13-inch pan. Let cool. Slice in half through the middle, as if making two 9-by-13-inch layers, then cut entire cake into small pieces.

Prepare pudding using 3 1/2 cups milk and 1/2 cup amaretto. Crush Heath bars into small pieces.

Place one-third of the cake pieces in bowl. Cover with one-third of pudding. Sprinkle with one-third of Heath bar pieces. Top with one-third of the Cool Whip. Repeat layering process two more times. After the final layer of Cool Whip, sprinkle remaining Heath chips on top. Place in refrigerator to chill.

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