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  1. Cooking

Laura Jolly, Belleair Bluffs-based politician David Jolly's wife, shares recipes from her kitchen

MONICA HERNDON | TimesA variety of snack foods, including whoopie pies prepared by Laura Jolly, on March 11, 2019, at her home in Largo, Florida. Jolly runs a website, politicsandprovisions.com, where she writes about politics, travel and recipes.
Published Mar. 20

After years on the campaign trail with her husband, former U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Belleair Bluffs, Laura Jolly cherishes meals at home. Between eating way too many rubber chicken dinners and fast-food fare and commuting from Florida to Washington, D.C., Jolly was ready to make some lifestyle changes when her husband lost his re-election bid in 2016.

That year, when the couple returned full time to their home in Belleair Bluffs, Jolly planted a backyard garden and began teaching herself to cook.

Jolly, 32, has focused her political interests on a website devoted to her love of family, politics, food and pets. At politicsandprovisions.com she shares her recipes, promotes her husband's political pursuits and posts photos of dogs in need of adoption.

Soon, she likely will be adding parenting content to the site as the couple is expecting their first child, a daughter, any day now.

Jolly, a former lobbyist, also worked for an executive search firm and a private equity firm before becoming a full-time homemaker. She grew up in rural Pennsylvania and graduated from Susquehanna University with a communications degree.

She designed the website herself, writes the content and takes her own photos. Most of the recipes on the site are adaptations of her favorite finds from cookbooks and other websites.

"I've always just enjoyed eating and cooking and just trying new recipes," she said, adding that her husband is a good sport "who will eat anything."

Whenever possible, she adds her homegrown vegetables and fruits to the recipes and she cooks whatever is ripe.

On a recent tour of her garden, Jolly treated each plant like a family member.

"These are baby lemons and they will be ready in a month or so," she said, cradling the leaves of the tree. The adjacent finger lime tree produces little beads of fruit which Jolly described as "citrus caviar."

The garden has Meyer lemons, Eureka lemons and variegated pink lemons. There are prolific tomato trees as well as pomegranate trees, bell pepper plants, asparagus and three thriving olive trees.

"We find that our climate works really well for olives and we have kind of a Mediterranean garden," Jolly said.

One of her most treasured trees is a family heirloom brown turkey fig tree.

"Three years ago David's mother gifted us this special tree at Christmas. The tree itself was grafted from the fig tree in her beautiful garden which was grafted many years ago directly from her daddy's fig tree in the Panhandle of Florida, making it a multigenerational tree," she wrote on the website.

She's also excited about the bunches of bananas dangling in a side yard. "They are speciality bananas that taste like vanilla ice cream."

Managing the abundant harvests from her yard have prompted Jolly to begin canning and learning to make preserves. Her favorites are fig preserves and habanero pepper jelly. Her neighbors and friends also benefit from the bounty.

"I always make enough for the neighbors," said Jolly, serving a blackberry almond tart alongside lemonade made with fresh juice and infused with Florida strawberries. She bought the blackberries for the tart because they aren't in season, but she grows her own blackberries as well.

The couple does a lot of entertaining, and Jolly can whip up a cheese plate in minutes.

"When creating a cheese board/plate, I tend to use seasonal fresh fruits, handfuls of crunchy nuts, olives and of course diverse flavors and textures of cheese," she writes on the website. "The more diverse the flavors and textures the better. There is just no wrong way to put together a cheese plate."

Jolly said she uses food as a way to bring people together.

"Being able to grow food and make it has been such a blessing," she said.

Cooking is her way of promoting togetherness around the table.

Contact Kathy Saunders at ksaunders@tampabay.com.

Blackberry Farm Blackberry Almond Tart

1 ½ cups (12 ounces) unsalted butter, plus more for pan

8 large egg whites

3 ¼ cups unsifted powdered sugar, plus more for dusting

1 ½ cups almond flour

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for pan

1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste

1 ½ cups fresh blackberries

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 12-inch round tart pan with removable bottom; place tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-high and cook, stirring often, until butter releases a nutty aroma and milk solids are golden brown, about 8 minutes. Immediately transfer butter to a bowl; cool slightly, about 10 minutes.

Beat egg whites with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer on medium speed until frothy, about 30 seconds. Gradually add powdered sugar; beat until light and fluffy. Gradually add almond flour and 1 cup of the all-purpose flour; beat on medium-low speed until incorporated. Add vanilla bean paste and browned butter; beat on medium-low speed until incorporated. Spread batter in prepared pan. Toss blackberries with remaining 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour and sprinkle over batter.

Bake until golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 42 to 45 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove sides of pan and cool 30 more minutes. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Source: adapted from Southern Living

Cucumber Strawberry Finger Sandwiches

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese

⅓ cup mayonnaise

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely chopped

1 teaspoon garlic salt

1 teaspoon fresh chopped dill weed

1 cup fresh strawberries, washed and thinly sliced

White bread/rye bread slices without crusts

In a food processor, blend cream cheese and mayonnaise until smooth.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix cream cheese mixture, chopped cucumber, garlic salt and dill weed until fully combined.

Spread mixture onto bread slices. Top with a slice of strawberry or a bread slice and sprinkle with dill.

I like to use a small circular cookie cutter to remove bread crusts and create small bread slices. Sandwiches can be prepared up to an hour before consumption if chilled in the refrigerator.

Source: Laura Jolly

Classic Whoopie Pies

For the cake:

2 cups all-purpose flour

⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup packed brown sugar

½ cup vegetable shortening

1 egg

For the filling:

4 cups marshmallow creme

3 cups powdered sugar

2 cup vegetable shortening

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 3 baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate small bowl, combine the milk and vanilla extract. Set both aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the sugar, shortening and egg. Slowly add in the dry ingredients and the milk mixture, alternating back and forth between the two, beating until the batter is well combined and smooth.

Scoop the mixture onto prepared baking sheets, making sure to leave a couple of inches in-between, as the mix will expand when baking. Using the back of a spoon, spread the batter out into 4-inch circles.

Place baking sheets in oven and bake for 15 minutes. The cakes should be slightly firm to the touch when done. Remove cakes from the oven and allow them to cool on their baking sheets for 5 minutes. Then transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cakes are cooling on the racks, make the filling. In the bowl of your stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat together the marshmallow creme, powdered sugar and shortening until well combined. Beat in the vanilla extract.

Assemble the whoopie pies by spreading some of the filling onto the flat side of one of the cakes. Top with a second cake, pressing down gently to distribute the filling evenly. Continue until all the whoopie pies are assembled.

Whoopie pies can be enjoyed immediately or wrapped individually in plastic wrap and stored in your refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.

Source: adapted from floatingkitchen.net

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