Hazel Tesmer's Easy Cheesecake Dessert Bars and Date and Nut Pinwheel Cookies

Dainty and elegant desserts like Easy Cheesecake Bars and Date and Nut Pinwheels, recipes from Valparaiso Woman's Club member Hazel Tesmer, are ideal for serving with tea, either hot or iced.

Philip Potempa | The Times

Cooler temperatures are a welcomed arrival after the hot weather of the holiday weekend. But the promise of much needed rain has yet to become a drop-by-drop reality.

All of the vegetable gardens are planted and the final flower beds are filled at the farm.

Now, we're just hoping that Friday's rain forecast comes true.

There are some age-old signs of impending rain, besides aching bones and joints, that we've counted on for decades, courtesy of my grandparents.

If birds are perched on the overhead wires of electric poles, the clothesline or other in the air "here to there" suspensions, rain is on the way.

Noisy Robins are said "to be calling for rain." (While turning up all of the spaded ground in the garden to prepare to plant, there were many hungry and happy Robins scattered about feasting on the exposed earthworms in the dirt mounds.)

Cows lying in the grass pasture, rather than standing and grazing, point to rain on the way.

It's always amusing to think of how many animal signs are associated with time-honored beliefs and traditions.

When hanging wash on the line or working in the yard around her flower beds, my mom (despite my dad's objections) likes to let their large housecat, a purebred 25-pound Maine Coon named Tracker III, outside with her for company.

He loves to roll in the grass in the sunshine. This always prompts my mom to recite an old expression her mother, my Grandma Green, would say: "Each time a cat or dog rolls, from one side to the other, the pet is worth a dollar, with the amount growing higher with each roll."

With this week's cooler temperatures, quick baking recipes are a more practical option.

As promised last week, I have a second recipe to share from a recent tea event I attended at the Valparaiso Woman's Club.

Member Hazel Tesmer, 85, the longtime postmaster at Wanatah Post Office (the small town neighboring our farm), shared a few of her favorite pastry recipes, including last week's cheesecake square dessert.

This week, Hazel's delicate and delicious date and assorted nut pinwheels are in the spotlight.

"This recipe dates back to the 1950s and it's always a popular seller at bake sales," Hazel said.

Hazel's Date and Nut Pinwheels

1 pound pitted dates, chopped

1/2 cup water

1 cup white granulated sugar (divided use)

1/2 cup butter or margarine

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 egg, well beaten

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups sifted flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped walnuts

DIRECTIONS: In a saucepan, combine dates, water and 1/2 cup sugar and cook over medium heat until thick, stirring constantly. Cool and set aside. In a mixing bowl, thoroughly cream the butter or margarine with both 1/2 cup white sugar and 1/2 cup light brown sugar. Add the well-beaten egg and beat well. Add vanilla. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together and add to the creamed mixture, stirring until mixture is smooth. Chill. Divide the dough in half. Roll one part on a lightly floured surface until 1/4 inch thick. Combine the date mixture with the 1 cup chopped walnuts. Spread half of filling evenly over the rolled dough and roll up like a jellyroll. Wrap in wax paper, leaving an open edge on the botttom. Repeat steps with remaining dough and filling. Chill rolls until firm. Cut into 1/4 inch slices to create pinwheels. Bake on lightly greased baking sheet at 400 degrees, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool.

Makes 3 dozen cookies.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.