Posts Tagged ‘cake’

Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

Even if the 49er’s will not be represented in the lineup, I’m ready for the Super Bowl. My summer sausage molded in the shape of a football is in the deli drawer waiting for cheese and crackers to accompany it to the table and my 7 layer dip recipe is dusted off and ready to go. Life is good. I am here to tell you I never thought hear myself saying these words, but of late I look forward to watching the teams perform each week.  Who knew?  Maybe it’s the body molding uniforms, or testosterone fueled grunting going on before hiking the ball, but when game time rolls around I’m in my seat and remain there until the last play goes down. Up until recently, half time, stats and bowl games I left to die-hard sports enthusiasts. Game days used to be good days to catch up on my reading, finish the laundry or do a little shopping. Seeing myself in the role of one of those dedicated fans with blue and green painted faces sitting undaunted in the rain or freezing snow in the stands, guzzling beer, and waving big foam hands with pointy fingers was never in the master plan for me. Up until now, that is. Perhaps it’s a virus? Maybe I’ve suffered a yet undiagnosed brain anomaly or all those times my grandmother thwacked me on the head with her wooden spoon for misbehaving finally caught up with me? Whatever the reason, I am hooked on football. I was seriously looking forward to the 49er’s soundly laying those loud Seattle fans and their annoying twelfth man to rest. They did not. Insert boo-boo lip here. They did muzzle them nicely for the first half of the game, which was the best part for me.

Fascinating the emotions elicited by football. Fights break out among players and players, players and coaches, coaches and coaches, coaches and officials, officials and officials, and fans and fans. Observers all over the country don their team’s colors and when provoked are ready to put up their fists and defend their teams honor. The originators should have saved some letters and simply called it war. It is soooo easy to sit in a recliner remote in one hand, bag of fiery Cheeto’s in the other, switching from one game to the next imparting pearls of wisdom to those actually involved. However, being dressed in uniform down on the field with the noise, pressure to perform, and possibility of injury dominating your thoughts,must put the stress in stressful. Guaranteed if I saw a three hundred pound man snarling insults and running in my direction, I’d hand that ball off to someone else highly paid enough to be willing to carry it. No pain, no gain, has never been my mantra. I simply stop chanting after no pain.

Let me begin by saying, I am by no means athletic, so would never presume to cast aspersions on anyone showing even a pinch of athletic talent. Somewhat gifted at tennis in my twenties, and an excellent swimmer for most of my years, when they were handing out athletic prowess mine was doled out in a thimble. As a child in Nova Scotia one was expected to be good at winter sports. Canadians historically consider the birth canal a slalom run, shooting out of the womb on snow skis. From infancy many are passionate skaters and ice hockey players, and children born under their flag generally are born snow ready. I was not. Ice skating was a favorite pass time for many youngsters in Halifax. I got my first beautifully crafted white leather skates as requested from Santa when I was six. They came packed in a pink skating case decorated with a diminutive skater twirling on one foot. Lessons were arranged at the local rink and a skating outfit was purchased for the occasion. Chubby at that age, stuffed into the pink fuzzy leotard with matching silk skirt, and white tights I must have arrived at the rink looking like a cherry sno-cone.

Even at that tender age, the list of things I possessed absolutely no talent for was growing rapidly. Young ladies from good Halifax families were expected to excel at the arts. Ballet, tap, modern dance, and highland fling, had already been tried and eliminated from the dance category by the time I was five. Appearing as lead candy cane in the school play after bending over and putting a huge tear in my costume, followed by a brief guest shot on a local children’s show wearing melted chocolate ice cream down the front of my new dress pretty much hammered the last nail in any hopes for a bright acting career somewhere in my future. After a short but memorable autumn being taught basic equestrian skills under the tutelage of the fine instructors at the Bengal Lancers they too scratched me off their list of hopefuls without so much as a parting glance over one epaulet decorated shoulder. Skating needed to be something I excelled at lest I be known mainly for having virtually no athletic talent whatsoever.

Stepping onto the ice was my first mistake. Chubby little sno-cones are not meant to glide effortlessly across slippery surfaces. With a loud thwack I hit the ice, splaying myself like an ungainly deer on a frosty pond. As the day progressed this became a familiar sight to those skating around me to avoid tripping over me. Soon the rink guards placed a cone by me to avoid unnecessary collisions. Lessons began on time. Our instructor was a large woman, with an under developed funny bone, who found no humor in my less than graceful approach to her beloved sport. Rolling her eyes every time she glanced in my direction certainly wasn’t helping to build my self-esteem. Looking back as I write, perhaps a little less glaring and a little more caring might have served me well here, but after many weeks of training I did learn to remain erect more often than prone, which for my mother was a win-win considering my previous track record.

As the years passed I discovered roller skates and to this day can spin and twirl on the eight wheels with some expertise and to the amazement of my grandchildren who assume if you’ve passed fifty your twirling days are far behind you. So, I remain in awe of those who can. Admiring an arm capable of throwing a ball past the end of their toes. Gifts come in many different packages, mine will never have a ball inside the box I’m afraid, but we all can’t be quarterbacks.

There’s always next year, and Super Bowl to look forward to. Yea.

Rain is actually predicted today. You can’t see me but I’m dancing over here, not very well naturally, but I’m dancing. Dry, dry, dry winter. My sinuses, if they could clap, would be doing so. A great day to be lazy and do a little baking. This recipe was handed down to me from my mom who got it, I believe, from Taste of Home. Quick and easy to put together, it is always a crowd pleaser.

finalLazy Day Coconut Cake

1/4 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup 2% milk


1 1/2 cups flaked coconut
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
5 Tbsp. heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

Cream butter and sugar in large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to butter/sugar mixture alternately with milk, beating well after each addition.

Pour into 8″ square pan sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for 30 mins. or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.

Combine topping ingredients. Spread over warm cake. Place under broiler for 5 mins. until bubbly and golden brown.


Read Full Post »

Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

Well, it’s official, the government has pulled down the blinds, closed up shop, and gone home for the day. How does that work exactly? Sort of like putting the plane on auto pilot, handing the pilot a parachute, and hoping the plane will land itself. Personally, I think paychecks for both houses of congress should be withheld. My guess is this tomato slinging standoff would be over about five seconds once that announcement was made. In the words of Jay Leno, “I’m not so worried about the government shutting down. I’m more worried about it starting up again.”, or something to that effect.

Watching these men circle each other reminds me of a group of parochial boys playing dodge ball on a playground. “If you won’t play the game my way, I’m taking my ball and going home.” Then there’s Senator Cruz who gives the world a glimpse of the level of sophistication our government operates on here in the U.S. by reading Green Eggs and Ham during a filibuster against Obamacare. Really? I’m a huge supporter of Dr. Seuss, and after viewing that particular performance, I think he has distinctly more to say than either the reader or, in this particular case, his viewing audience.

If you put your bifocals on and take a closer look at what our lawmakers are spending money on, you could do an entire stand-up comedy routine and still have material left over. Over $300,000 spent in Florida studying the mating habits of cactus bugs. I don’t know about you, but what cactus bugs do in the privacy of their own bedrooms once the lights are out is really no business of mine. I hate to admit my ignorance, but I have no idea what a cactus bug is. How about the $4.2 million spent in Oregon to raise railroad tracks 18″ so local residents didn’t have to detour around them? Is there nothing else more pressing in the world to spend money on like say, hunger, to invest these dollars in? Another grant for $1.5 million sent three researchers to Alaska to study how grandparents impart their knowledge to younger generations. I have some knowledge to impart on this particular subject I also deem noteworthy. To sum up, “take good care of your grandmother, you may be in her will someday”. Where do I submit my grant application?

On further researching this subject, I found $175,000 was spent to determine the link between cocaine and the mating habits of the quail. I hope the researchers dug deep enough to discover who’s responsible for selling the quails the stuff, because I have my eye on a sneaky woodpecker who frequents the same tree in our yard every day and seems to attract a lot of squirrels.

California is currently in a mess in another area of government, EDD. A computer glitch has caused a large group of unemployment check recipients to not receive their checks. If, as the word unemployment may in itself imply, you have no job this could be perceived by the parties involved on some level as a financial crisis. One burglar, or possibly several, broke into a Northern California EDD office and made their displeasure known by apparently using the office as a sort of toilet. Citizens, if you will, are pissed off.

Lots of things cooking in Washington D.C. these days. Big doin’s on the hill. In all my travels, one place I missed along the trail was our capitol. Several times I’ve had it pinpointed on my map, and something always happened to prevent me from going. I would be fascinated to see the White House up close and personal, explore the Washington Monument, which I believe is closed for repairs at the moment, or have my picture taken next to Mr. Lincoln seated in his chair. Now, definitely wouldn’t be the time for me to choose to immerse myself in the Washington scene, as from what I understand a lot of the famous attractions are closed during the government hiatus. Even Lady Liberty’s light has dimmed for the time being. Yosemite has gone dark, Social Security offices aren’t issuing any new cards, and people with disabilities are out of luck until the two sides come to agreement.

While exploring DC on-line, I discovered it is not a cheap place to hang your hat. It’s high on the list of the most expensive cities in the U.S. Perhaps this is because they can afford it. Certainly Congress rarely denies themselves a salary increase or refuses a paycheck even if they vote against someone else getting one. Sorry. I read a home recently went on the market there for $26 million, not bad for government work. If that’s a bit of a squeeze on your pocketbook you can move into a nice two bedroom apartment downtown for about $3,500/month. Like the old saying, “It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there”, applies for me in this instance.

As the impact of this enforced shutdown continues to make itself known, I would imagine anger will build in the effected groups and the cost to taxpayers continue to climb. It will be interesting to see how long both sides will hold out and how much damage will be incurred before they throw the ball back in the game.

My political rant for the day. This is my first slow cooker cake, and I admit I was skeptical.  I had quite a few pears, so I took a recipe given to me and added my own twist and it was delicious.

Pear and Apple Slow Cooker Upside Down Cake

3 Tbsp. butter, cut in small pieces
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 pears, halved lengthwise and cored
3 1″ slices of apple, cut across and cored
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1 Tbsp. brandy
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. whole milk, room temperature
Whipping cream if desired

Spray the inside of 6 quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Place a large sheet of tin foil in bottom and form along the sides. Spray well with cooking spray.


Sprinkle the cut pieces of butter along the bottom of the pan on top of the foil. Distribute brown sugar over top.


Place two pears on either end of pot cut side down and line apple pieces across the center. Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp. of brandy and toss almond slivers around on top.


In large mixing bowl combine flour, corn meal, baking powder, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.


In the large bowl of your mixer blend 4 Tbsp. of softened butter and granulated sugar at low speed to combine. Turn to high speed and continue mixing about 4-5 mins. until fluffy.

Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and continue mixing 1 min.


Reduce to low speed. Add 1/2 of the dry ingredients and 1 Tbsp. milk and mix until well blended. Add other 1/2 of dry ingredients and 1 Tbsp. of milk. Increase speed to medium and continue beating until smooth.

Spread evenly over top of apples and pears.


Place a paper towel over the top of the slow cooker before placing lid on.


Cook for 3 hours on low until sides are browned and cake is set. Allow to sit turned off for 20 mins.

Using tin foil lift from slow cooker and set on rack to cool. Invert onto platter and peel off foil. Serve with whipped cream if desired.

Read Full Post »

As further evidence that my brain cells are dwindling at a startling pace, I joined a gym after Christmas. After signing up, I was assigned a trainer and told to call and make an appointment prior to my first visit. I spent the next several weeks avoiding that visit. I amazed myself with the creativity of my avoidance.  Since the contract is signed, whether I choose to use the facilities to actually work out or sit in a booth at Denny’s and consume three helpings of waffles and fried chicken, is up to me.  I’m sure one more out of shape body more or less wouldn’t phase the gym’s staff in the least.

After cancelling so many times I’d run the gambit of every possible excuse with the exception of leprosy, I put on my workout clothes and drove to the gym.  Finding a parking spot I continued to avoid the inevitable by tying and retying my shoe laces so many times one actually broke.  Fortunately there was a shoe store in the same mall so I killed another half an hour looking for the perfect replacement for those hard to find white laces.  Finally, other than starting my Christmas list, I couldn’t think of one other reason not enter the door to the gym.

In spite of the healthy (no pun intended) load in the parking lot, the gym was not packed. This should reduce the amount of snickering lest I really go out of my way to humiliate myself, which was probably guaranteed. My trainer, Greg, a tall, military looking type in his late twenties was with another client, but paused to come out to speak to me.  A poster boy for healthy living, his tee-shirt emblazoned with the gym’s logo was literally bulging at the seams where his well-developed muscles were struggling to be free.  I guess in truth there wouldn’t be much profit in hiring a middle-aged man with a paunch wearing a “Beer builds better bodies” tee shirt to promote better living through exercise, unless, of course, he wore the “Before” and Greg wore the “After” shirt.

I last worked out in a gym probably twenty years ago.  Some things remained the same such as the familiar aroma of sweat and oil mingling together, but the machines weren’t familiar in the least to me.  These new machines, at least new to me, are huge apparatuses looking like Star Wars extras with massive arms and foot pads, equipped with blinking computer screens.  Excuses to leave were now flowing through my brain.  Towards the back was a free weight area populated only by men straining and grunting at each other with popping veins and red faces.  Testosterone territory.

Apologizing for keeping me waiting, and indicating it would be about another ten minutes, my trainer pointed at a bank of treadmills in the corner and suggested I wait for him there.  There were five machines, two unoccupied.  There was a TV screen attached to each machine, but I had no headphones so it was like watching a mime convention. On both sides of me there were women already actively shedding those pesky extra pounds.  I stood on the treadmill and patiently awaited further instructions.  At one point the woman to my left, probably ten years older than I am, removed her headphones and asked if I needed help.  I thanked her but explained I was waiting for my trainer.

After about ten minutes Trainer Greg arrived and asked me how that felt.  What felt?  Waiting ten minutes?  It felt a little annoying to be honest, but I enjoyed watching the people’s lips move on the screen and seeing if I could guess what they were saying.  What felt?  It seemed I was supposed to be warming up while waiting for him.  Oh.  Let the snickering begin.

Realizing that I had no clue how to proceed with that, he programmed the device and my feet got a life of their own.  I was instructed to increase the level of difficulty as I walked.  Really?  I would prefer to decrease it and call it good.  I won’t tell if he doesn’t.

After warming up suitably, we moved on to the ellipticals.  OMG, what sadist created this device?  I placed my feet on huge foot pedals, grabbed the handles and as explained worked the top and the bottom of my body concurrently.  As I warmed up, Greg stood by my side and slowly increased the grade. It was at that point I noticed he had nose hairs. A sensor in the handles of the machine registers pulse and heart rate.  I’m surprised “call 911” didn’t flash across the screen.

Eight minutes on that machine seemed like two hours.  Greg explained that he did 60 minutes daily on the machine, this after eighty push ups to get his blood moving.  I found myself wondering if I rented a walker and an oxygen tank they’d let me out of my contract? We moved on.  I worked my lower arms, my upper arms, my abdomen, my glutes, my patutes, my legs, and my neck.  It was like The Inquisition.  I would have given up my mother to make him stop.

At this juncture, I started to feel a bit light-headed.  Trainer Greg inquired as to if I’d eaten before I came.   In my mind you ate after you exercised and when I answered I had not, he looked a bit unpinned.  Oh-oh, law suit on the horizon.  It seems if one is to exercise, food should be consumed prior to a workout. Something about depleted electrolytes, etc.  Who knew?  Maybe there should be a pre-training before the training.  Next thing I knew I found myself eating chocolate covered blueberries and trail mix in his office washed down by a refreshing glass of Gator Ade.  Ah, much better.

I suppose I will convince myself that this is quite good for me and go back in a day or two.  Right now I’m looking for a place to score some more of those blueberries because they were outstanding.  Smile.

Blueberry Streusel Muffins

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp. salt
4 tsp. baking soda
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
2/3 cups whole milk
2 cups fresh blueberries

Spray large or regular size muffin pan with cooking spray.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

combine 3 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups sugar, salt and baking powder in large mixing bowl. In separate bowl whisk together oil, eggs and milk. Pour into flour mixture and blend well. Carefully fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups to the brim. Sprinkle with streusel topping mix. Bake 25-30 mins. until done.  Makes 8 large muffins.

Streusel Topping

1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cups all-purpose flour
8 oz. chopped walnuts
1/2 cup butter
3 tsp. ground cinnamon

In medium mixing bowl mix together sugar, nuts, flour, butter, and cinnamon.  Sprinkle on top of batter.

Read Full Post »

Let me preface this writing by saying that I adore my mother.  I wouldn’t trade her for a  loaded bleu cheese burger and fries, but, when we spend a good deal of time under one roof bad Juju happens.  For her, I would suppose, I am still viewed as that chubby little toddler who required nose wiping and nappy changing as needed.  A totally dependent little parasite reliant on my parents to help keep me from being of harm to myself or others.  Consequently, she micro manages my every move as though I had never entertained an original thought since my arrival on this planet and there wasn’t much danger of me spawning one in the near future.  Help.  I say that quietly and with reverence.

Everyone, and I do mean everyone, has their little nits and annoying traits that over a prolonged period of time can drive mates, roommates, friends and relatives to the liquor cabinet or outside for breath of unoccupied air, specifically unoccupied by the person they left clearing their throat for the sixtieth time, or their date frantically trying to suck the raspberry seed out of his right molar. I have several pet peeves, well okay I’m working on my second volume of notes. I have one friend that insists on adjusting my clothing, jewelry, and hair during an evening together as though I’d left the house with the cavalier attitude, “today I will embrace messiness with total abandon”, and she’s doing an intervention. No matter if I’d been put together by Dior before walking into the room I could go to the bank that her first comment would be and will always continue to be, “oh, are you wearing that?” Well, let’s see, I have it on, my shoes match, and I’m headed in the direction of the door, um the answer would be, yes?.  That’s right Susie, that is the correct answer.   I’ll take “Are You Wearing That” for $200.00, Alex.

I too, ah yes sadly, have my own irritating habits.  In the a.m. I am like the Energizer Bunny.  By 8:00 I have plowed the north forty, catered a local charity event, taken an eight mile walk and volunteered at the S.P.C.A. Truly the most annoying morning person.  My other half looking at me with one eye half-shut would like to ship me off to parts unknown before taking his first sip of coffee.  On the opposite side of the coin my other half snores like an adenoidal water buffalo.  All of us have habits, traits, and personalities that gel with some people and make others climb the wall upside down by their toenails.  Part of loving someone, I would suppose, is loving them unconditionally with all their little quirks and anomalies.

Another pet peeve for would be people who hang over my shoulder while I’m cooking and suggest what I should be adding to the pot.  If you want to add something, please take over and finish up because when a guest is complaining about the extra thyme and oregano in the spaghetti sauce, I want to be able to give you full credit as a contributor.

Okay, okay, I’m sounding a bit hostile.  I must apologize.  Just a rough day. Tomorrow is the wedding shower that I’m attending and as I wrote earlier I was tasked with making the wild mushroom pate.  Being in the Bay Area this seemed to be a perfect recipe choice as there are so many resources available here that we don’t have in the high country.  A bit unusual, in that there were three or four unusual mushrooms called out in the recipe I went on a quest, locating two of the four I needed and improvised on the rest.

Mushroom pate has a lovely end result, but it’s one of those recipes where it would be desirable to have a prep chef in the kitchen because the chopping is endless.  However, the aroma of the mushrooms blending with the shallots and the garlic is positively intoxicating and well worth a blister or too. 

It’s a challenge working in someone else’s kitchen.  I measure my ingredients before cooking and set up my equipment so I don’t have to stop in the middle and forget where I am (old, you know).  Once everything was prepped I went in search of the necessary food processor to finish the final mixing stages.  I knew my mother had one because I gave it to her several years ago.  After searching in every cupboard, and they’re extensive, she determined that she may have given it away.  She did find the blender.  Okay, at this point I’m seriously invested in both time and money in this recipe and the truffle oil isn’t getting any younger, nor am I.  We made do.  It was a little different consistency but the flavor is amazing.

I poured it in a decorative bowl and refrigerated it.  Yea.  When putting away the dishes I found the food processor sitting under a plastic cover.  Sigh.

This recipe was shared by a friend in Atlanta, GA.  It’s very easy and delicious.

Coconut Sheet Cake

1 Box Duncan Hines French Vanilla cake mix
1 can Eagles Brand Condensed milk
1 can cream of coconut
1 8 oz. container of whipped topping
1 large package frozen grated coconut

Prepare cake mix according to package directions in a greased and floured sheet pan.  Mix condensed milk and cream of coconut in mixing bowl.  Poke many holes in warm cake and pour cream mixture over cake.

After cake cools spread with whipped topping.  Sprinkle thawed coconut on top.  Cover and keep refrigerated. 

Best if cake is made ahead of time.

Read Full Post »

Generally I am not a “sweet” person. To clarify, I mean that I’d give you a place to sleep if you needed one, or a hot meal, but cookies and cakes would be low on my list of favorite foods. I attribute this to the fact that as a child my grandmother provided such a steady supply that I think I achieved my lifetime sugar allotment early on. Also, my first real job as a teenager was in a bakery. After smelling that sickeningly sweet aroma all day simply walking in the door could put you off donuts for life.

This is not to imply that I don’t eat sweets, only that they’re not my first choice. To add to my lackluster interest in sugary foods, I developed an allergy to chocolate when I was twenty-one. Following the difficult delivery of my son not only did my hair turn gray in patches, giving me a sort of youthful Cruella Deville look, I found myself suddenly unable to eat chocolate. What’s up with that? I must have been Jack the Ripper’s knife sharpener in a former life to garner this much attention from the universe. If I even envisioned myself eating a malted milk ball or a Milky Way, little red bumps would erupt all over my body. Until five years ago the symptoms persisted, then, in a moment of weakness fueled by a truffle that simply could not be ignored, one bite led to another and I ate the whole thing. Afterwards, I sat on the bar stool in our restaurant and waited for the expected rash and subsequent doctor’s visit to ensue. Nada, no rash, no doctor, just another truffle sitting on the tray, whispering “pick me”. Yea! Say what you will about Prozac or Valium, a good piece of chocolate can make it all go away for me.

Cake also holds my attention. Not so much the cake itself, but the fabulous creations you can sculp and mold cake into. Every cake show on TV is programmed in my DVR and I will watch them in marathon fashion while I’m folding clothes or prepping food in the kitchen.

Art and food have always held hands. If you have ever been to Harrod’s food court in London you would have seen an excellent display of just this union. Asparagus spears perfectly disguised as haystacks, chocolate birds with candy beaks circling sculpted chocolate fountains, pineapple swans, truly a feast for the eyes.

As youngsters my children’s birthday’s were always an opportunity for a party and a day dedicated to celebrating the individual child. Cakes were the focal point of these special days so several weeks before the actual date they would choose a theme and what type and design of cake they wanted.

When my daughter was five and three-quarters, as she referred to her age at the time, she indicated that she wanted a “Barbie” birthday and a Barbie cake. Ach. Understand, my kitchen was not equipped with what cake designers have at their fingertips in their studios. Other than a cake decorating set I’d purchased at a yard sale, basic cake pans and some food coloring, I was ill-equipped to give Barbie a great sendoff.

Determined to give my little girl her wish, I went to the local party store for ideas. To my surprise I found a cake pan in the shape of a full ball gown skirt. Directly in the center of the pan was a tube, in which, according to the directions, you inserted the lower half of an actual Barbie size doll. Doll in place, you then iced and decorated the skirt and torso. Allrighty then.

Twenty little cherubs received invitations to the upcoming party. Her birthday falling towards the end of July, weather thankfully allowed for a backyard cookout. One day prior to her big day I put her father on decorations and yard clean up and I started on the cake. After one failed run at the skirt, the second try produced a perfect bodiless chocolate skirt inverted on a silver tray. Inserting the doll in the center, I filled my pastry bags and went to work. Being an annoyingly detailed person, it took me several hours to finish the project having to refrigerate Barbie several times to keep the icing cool. In the end she was worth the effort resplendent in a gorgeous beaded pink gown with white accents. Good enough to eat. Smile inserted here.

Relieved to put that task behind me, I called my husband in to show him the finished project. Not born with one single creative gene in his entire frame, he was free with his gushing, which I appreciated. So impressed was he, that he called his parents to go on about it. My mother-in-law suggested that he bring it over to their house where his father could take pictures with his new camera. Sometimes a bad idea sounds good in the beginning but turns bad, but this idea never had a moment of doubt as to which way it was going to go. Sigh.

Despite my protests, my husband swore on the life of his mother (which I got in writing in triplicate) that he would be soooooo careful, never exceed 25 MPH, and be back as soon as the pictures were taken. Right.

After an hour I called and was told once again that the cake was a masterpiece, thank you, and that it was safely on its way back home. Worry, really is a wasted emotion, I reminded myself.

I saw the car pull up in the driveway. I saw my husband sitting behind the wheel. I did not, however, see the door open on the driver’s side. Hmmm. Drying my hands I went out to help him carry in the cake. He slumped down in the seat and tried to look invisible on my approach. Really? I still see you. Keep your hands where I can see them, and hand over the cake. Well, it was technically still cake and icing, except no longer one on top and the other underneath. It seemed the last turn and the heat had taken their toll on Barbie and as he went right she and her skirt went left and what remained was puddled on the carpet. Pulling out the signed agreement regarding his mother I offered several helpful suggestions for carrying out his end of it.

Once again Barbie was created. This time in silence. The cake and the party were a success. Pride does goeth before the fall.

Decadent Tiramisu

1 cup cold water
1 14 oz. can condensed milk
1 1.4 oz. vanilla instant pudding mix
1 8 oz. pkg. softened cream cheese
1 8 oz. tub whipped topping
1 cup hot water
1/2 cup Kahlua
1 Tbsp. instant coffee (darker blends preferable)
24 ladyfingers
3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa, divided

Combine first 3 ingredients in large mixing bowl. Whisk well. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for 30 mins. until firm.

Remove wrap and add cream cheese. Beat on medium speed until well blended. Fold in whipped topping.

Combine hot water, Kahlua and instant coffee. Split ladyfingers in half lengthwise. Arrange in a large glass bowl flat sides down. Drizzle with 1/2 cup Kahlua mixture. Spread 1/3 of pudding mixture over ladyfingers and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp. cocoa. Repeat layers ending with cocoa. Cover and chill for at least 8 hrs.

Serves 12

Read Full Post »

I love music. When I was small, my grandmother kept a turquoise plastic radio in the kitchen and we would listen to country music while she cooked. Unfortunately, I have a tin ear. Can’t sing a note, and although I’ve had piano and clarinet (groan) lessons, can’t play a note on either. The only thing I could bring to a theater would be a mass exodus of the audience once I opened my mouth.

Going to concerts, however, thankfully doesn’t require talent, so I go often. Being a young adult in the late 60’s and 70’s was the best. We had Hendrix, Heart was just rising up the charts, Joplin, The Doors, so many unforgettable voices filled the airways. I went dancing at the Whiskey A Go Go, hung out at Pandora’s Box and generally lived the generation, without actually participating in it. I had two young children, so, standing on a street corner passing out flowers while floating along on a batch of mushrooms simply wasn’t an option for me.

My other half went to Woodstock. He was a college student at the time, fresh from Egypt and with no idea what Woodstock was all about. As he tells it, a group of fellow students invited him to an outdoor concert, which, for him, turned out to be an experience of a lifetime. For Rick, this was all new.  The first three days he was at Hillsdale College he showed up for dinner at 7:00 p.m. and couldn’t figure out why there was no food being served, nor anyone available to serve it.  Frustrated, he went to the dean’s office to inquire, as they eat quite late in Cairo, and he felt he’d arrived early.  She informed him that at Hillsdale, dinner service was completed by 6:00, and only the football team ate at a later time.

Headed to Woodstock, he wore his fine Italian boots, and best bell bottom pants, thinking he was going for a one day concert.  As history tells it, even the promoters of Woodstock were ill prepared for the massive response that came their way. 

Apparently there was no way out, so he ended up staying for three days.  The Italian boots and the fancy bell bottoms were trashed after the first day, and he got a good dose of American fun.  People were rolling in the mud or just slogging through it, there were no functioning bathroom facilities, as one day segwayed into another.  Couples danced in the nude, and basically, just sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Such were the times.  The music, was phenomenal according to his stories, and the memories unforgettable.  The boots, well, they were irretreivable.  Wish I’d been with him. 

I’ve seen Heart, Chicago, the Eagles, Bette Midler, Eric Clapton and countless other artists perform. Stevie Nicks was an interesting one, well, they all were. We got seats under the stars in the grass section. I mistakenly thought that referred to what you sat on, not the drug of choice. There was so much smoke in the air that even if you didn’t partake, just inhaling created the desired effect. I’m not a drug person, I’m odd enough on my own, but by the end of the concert I’d consumed three tubs of nachos, a burger, and a two huge paper cups full of fries, and was wondering if we were going to stop for breakfast on the way home.

As a little girl my grandfather wanted to instill a love for the arts in his small granddaughter. I was enrolled in ballet, tap, piano, equestrian lessons, and voice. Please. The first week in ballet I got my chubby little leg stuck in the barre and had to be pried out of it by the teacher, who informed my grandfather that perhaps tap would be more my speed. Wrong again. Just not my thing. Guess I’ll have to stick to the written word, and hope for the best.

My lack of musical prowess actually led to my mother meeting my second stepfather. We lived in an apartment building and he moved in next door. Insisting that I take music, I settled on the clarinet. My teacher told me once that I hit notes that he didn’t even know existed in the scope of the instrument. Forced to practice, I would send the ear-piercing notes out into an unsuspecting audience, to the point that my stepfather finally came over and told my mother that if I didn’t cease and desist he would be forced to move. After getting to know him better, I should have continued relentlessly, but that’s another blog or possibly a therapy session.

We’re having company this weekend, so I’ll turn on the Heart concert on my DVD and get to getting this house in order. I’ve been out mowing the grass, so find I now have an overwhelming craving for cheesecake, must be a residual effort from the Stevie Nicks concert. A friend of mine gave me this one. Extra good. Be sure to use a springform pan.

Cheesecake with Fresh Fruit

2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, melted


3  8 oz. pkgs. cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 eggs, separated


1/2 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped


1 box strawberries, cleaned and sliced
2 kiwis, peeled and sliced thin
1/2 small can mandarin oranges, drained

In a small bowl combine cracker crumbs, sugar and cinnamon. Stir in melted butter. Press onto the bottom and 2″ up the sides of a greased 9″ springform pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes. Cool.

Reduce heat to 325 degrees. In a mixing bowl beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until a smooth consistency. Add egg yolks. Beat on low until just combined. In a small mixing bowl beat egg whites until they form a soft peak. Fold in the cream cheese mixture. Pour over crust.

Bake for 1 hour or until center is set. Cool on wire rack for 15 mins. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen. Cool 1 hour longer. Refrigerate until completely cooled. Combine sour cream, sugar, and vanilla. Fold in whipped cream. Spread over cheesecake. Refrigerate overnight. Remove sides of plan.

Place fruit in decorative manner on top of cake. Really good.

Read Full Post »

My mother remarried when I was nine and as it goes with starting a new life, a move is often involved.  These were a lot of changes to absorb for me.  I was getting a new father, never having had the opportunity to know my birth father who died when I was a year old, and moving from the safe small world I’d become accustomed to in Halifax to a world I’d only read about in movie magazines in California.  My grandfather had passed away several years before, but my grandmother was still much at the center of my life, and it would be a wrench for me, as well as her to have to say goodbye, but life brings change sometimes whether we embrace them or not.

I started my educational training as a kindergartener at Tower Road School.  It was a large brick school, with long halls leading to the classrooms located on each floor.  I loved that school.  School at that age was a place to socialize, and to learn, both things I enjoyed immensely.  As I got older, I believe the socializing overshadowed the learning by a wide margin. 

Each year before the Christmas holiday there was a Christmas pageant that the children participated in.  For me being about 60% ham, this was cause for great excitement.  When I started school I was still wearing several layers of baby fat that would remain in place until the summer between sixth and seventh grade.  I don’t think I actually lost it, I just got taller and it was redistributed.  My kindergarten year, however it was still well reflected in my chubby cheeks, all four of them.  That year I was selected to be a candy cane in the pageant, perhaps not the wisest choice for my body style what with the horizontal stripes. 

My mother was not a seamstress by any stretch of the imagination, to this day I still replace buttons for her, so the task of sewing my costume fell to my grandmother.   The costume was tried on, fitted, and pressed weeks before the day of the pageant and stored in my cedar chest.  Meanwhile our household was immersed in decorating for the holidays, and my grandmother and I spent many days in the kitchen mixing, frosting, and baking for visitors and ourselves.  My favorite of the holiday treats was her rich and spicy homemade gingerbread which was served with warm applesauce on top. 

During those weeks I helped myself liberally to the results of all the baking going on.  My grandmother believed that children should be fed, and I certainly stepped up to the plate with great relish.  By the night of the pageant some the results of the consumed cookies, bars, pies, and cakes had become noticeable on my body, and when the costume went on it was straining at the seams.  On the stage I went.  I would have been the well-stuffed, rosy-cheeked candy cane in the left front.  After we sang our portion of the program we had been instructed to bow when the applause was offered.  Need I say more?  The costume, however well made, gave way to the flesh trapped inside needing to escape and my entire backside was left airing in the wind.  As the others marched off the stage, I side-stepped off to a little boy behind me saying “I see London I see France, I see Susie’s underpants”.  Ah well, so much for my future in the theater.

Spicy Gingerbread with Hot Applesauce

3/4 cup stout (Guiness or the like)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2/3 cup molasses
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Flour and grease 8″ square pan.

In saucepan, bring stout to boil over med. heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add baking soda. When mixture stops foaming add molasses, brown and white sugars and stir until dissolved. Set aside.

Whisk together flour, ginger, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in large bowl. Set aside.

Place stout mixture in large bowl. Whisk in eggs, oil and grated ginger until well combined. Whisk wet mixture into dry mixture 1/3 at a time stirring until completely smooth after each addition.

Transfer batter to prepared pan. Lightly tap against bread board several time to push air bubbles to the surface. Bake until cake bounces back when touched or a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (40-45 mins.). Cool cake in pan until completely cook. Cut in squares.

There are a number of recipes I have for delicious homemade applesauce, but with the holidays coming up around the corner and making time for everything nearly impossible, I would suggest taking a jar of chunky applesauce from the store and heat until just below boiling, adding cinnamon to taste. Drizzle over gingerbread and serve with an ice-cold glass of milk or egg nog.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: