Friday, May 29, 2009

Chocolate Dessert # 126 and 127

This is another offering from my little guy's 365 Chocolate Desserts cookbook. Actually, they ripped us off a bit, because some of their recipes are one fo a cake, and another for a frosting, which is a separate number, but, hey, who's to get picky here?

This is officially called a Chocolate Texas Style Sheet Cake. Now, I gu
ess my Grandpa would have said "Of course, it's Texas style. It's bigger than your normal sheet cake! And everything is bigger in Texas !" But I don't know if something else contributes to its Texas styling. I am sure our friend The Blond Duck will tell us, however. Go ahead and try it; chocolate lovers out there, including Sue, get ready to swoon over this one!


2 cups flour
2 cups sugar

1 tsp baking soda
2 sticks margarine (this was specified)
1 cup water
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup sour cream
2 eggs

Melt the margarine, and mix the water and vanilla in with it. whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. Combine the flour, sugar and soda in a mixing bowl, pour the cocoa mixture over it and beat until combined. Beat in the sour cream and eggs, and beat 2 minutes, until smooth. Pour into a greased 15"x10" pan, and bake at 350F for 40 to 45 minutes, or until done. Remove from the oven, and, while hot, frost with....


1 stick margarine (again, this was specified), softened
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup milk
1 pound confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup chopped pecans

Beat the margarine with the cocoa powder, and gradually add the milk, sugar and extract. Beat until smooth. Stir in the pecans. Frost the cake while it's hot, then let it sit until cooled. Obviously, from the picture above, I simply topped half of my cake with nuts, rather than stir them into the frosting, because half of my kids don't like nuts. But, hey, we have to cater to our audiences to a minor degree, right?

Really, I do believe from the reactions of my 9 critics that this would
more properly be titled, "Chocolate Coma on a Plate." Enjoy!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Don't Tell Her She's Not a Dog!

Last summer, I stopped by a friend's house. I hadn't been there in a few years, because they live about 250 miles away, but I was only 40 or 50 miles away, so, why not?

When I went to my car at one point to get something out of the trunk, I looked between their house and the summerhouse (their property is about 200 years old - makes mine look brand new), and look who was coming to see me! Of course, I took her picture.

This is Spring, the pony. She has four now grown children and two parents living in her house, right next to her barn. She comes to see everyone, much like Thor does. Sh
e stood beside me peering into my car trunk, which was sadly devoid of carrots or sugar cubes, but when I backed away to take her picture, she followed me. I believe she thinks she's just a taller Scottie dog, or maybe an outside tabby cat, like the other creatures that live with her people.

Of course, I can't disappoint you. What would Dogs on Thursday be without Thor?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"We will not eat Fabric!"

So declared my children when I announced that dessert was Chocolate Tweed Cake, recipe compliments of the late, great James Beard. Need I tell you my response was something to the effect of "Oh, shut up and eat!"? Seriously, this cake was good - even for a non-chocolate food person like me - just don't tell them what gives it the "tweed" texture, or they'll bellow "Eeeewwww!!!!" and run away like crazy people.


2/3 cup instant mashed potato flakes

1 cup boiling water
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1-3/4 cups unsifted flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1-1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup milk
2 ounces semi sweet chocolate, grated

Combine the potato flakes and boiling water; set aside to cool. Combine the dry ingredients and set aside. Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy; beat in the eggs, one at a time. Gradually beat in the flour mixture, milk and reconstituted potato flakes; beat 2 minutes until well combined. Grate the chocolate on the grating side of a box grater, or cheat (as I did) and use the shredder disc for your food processor to take care of it. Stir the chocolate into the batter, and turn into a greased and floured 13x9 pan. Bake at 350F for about 50 minutes; cool and frost with buttercream frosting.
So, shut up and eat they did. And they all lived happily ever after, until they discovered that the earliest risers polished off the leftover cake in the morning, leaving none for the lazy crowd.

Tonight, we try another recipe from the chocolate cookbook; it will be our way of celebrating the end of Calvert School for this year! A cake report to follow on Friday!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Garden Tuesday

When I step onto my back porch to let Thor in or out, for the next few weeks, I will be treated to the sweet scent of honeysuckle. This may be an exclusively Northeastern bush (I'm not sure), but it's one of the nicest I've ever encountered.

As a child, I discovered (as countless others doubtless did, also) that the honeysuckle flowers contained a wonderful, sweet nectar. So if you were fortunate enough to have or live near a honeysuckle bush, on a hot summer day, it was wonderful to sit beside one and savor its sweet scent while occasionally plucking a flower to consume its few drops of nectar.

In the garden, the Simpson Black Seeded Lettuce grows,

the carrots are taking shape,
and my little guy has determined that the radishes are not ready for harvest.

He also talked his Dad into letting him get another garden gnome.

Happy Garden Tuesday!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Frozen Yogurt and Cucumber Salad

Two recipes in one day. Now I'm sure you'll all feel that you got a real bang for your buck here. Or else, you'll realize that you get what you pay for....anyway...

Last week, my farmer had an introductory special on Greek (drinkable) yogurt, so I bought a quart. I tried a bit of it, but it wasn't exactly my cup of tea, so I had to find something
else to do with it. Since my girls were home, frozen yogurt seemed like a no-brainer. This is as easy as life gets, ladies and gents, and it has a nice little tang to it, too!


3-1/2 cups Greek yogurt
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries, pureed to make 1 cup
1 cup sugar

Stir it all together, put it in your ice cream machine, and drool in anticipation while you process according to manufacturer's directions. Put in the freezer for a few hours and drool some more. This will be the hit of your Memorial Day picnic or midnight snack!

This recipe is absolutely the only idea I have ever taken from my mother's cooking. She put chopped raw onions in hers, which I despise, but aside from that, it's pretty much the same as hers.


2 peeled, sliced cucumbers
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp ground pepper
1/4 cup fresh or dried chopped chives

Whisk together the mayo and vinegar; add the pepper and chives. Stir in the cucumbers, and refrigerate for several hours to allow the flavors to meld. This is a great side dish; of course, I tripled it to have enough for everyone here!
And this made me laugh. My 3 daughters and 2 of the big sons drove to Denville, NJ to catch a train to NYC for the day. One of the sons bought this for his sister.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Happy Thorsday!

A young man wanted to share veggie scrap with a guinea pig. He forgot his mother's dictum against animals eating out of her crockery and dishware.
His dog was feeling left out, so the young man threw cucumber scrap to the dog.

And the dog carefully watched the guinea pig when they were left unattended, lest the piggy wander off and get hurt.

Just another day in the life of Thor.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Another Birthday...

A long time ago, I had these adorable people.
This was thirteen years ago tomorrow, in fact, the day we brought Ryan home. He was an 8 pound moose; I felt ripped off, since I'd had 2 month old babies who were that size!

Jeffrey took Ryan kayaking for his birthday. They both had a bit of sunburn issues!

Given a design idea by Mark, Shannon, my assistant cake decorator and yesterday's "Ace of Cakes" drew the picture on the cake: a giraffe riding a bicycle. Yes, 9 year olds have peculiar ideas.

In keeping with tradition, I made a marble cake. Obviously, Thor didn't get any, but he did get Milk Bones. A good day was had by all.

(For anyone who wants to know, use a yellow boxed cake mix for marble cake. Follow the box directions, hold back 1 cup of batter, and stir 1/4 cup cocoa powder into the batter. Drop the chocolate batter by the spoonful into the pan, atop the yellow cake batter, in whatever pattern pleases you. For the record, I put mine in nice, straight, geometric lines. Then use a table knife and swirl the chocolate batter into the yellow, just barely mixing them. Be careful not to scrape the bottom of the cake pan. Again, for the record, I swirl the chocolate to the left of the center line counterclockwise, and the chocolate to the right of center is swirled clockwise. Bake according to box directions, and don't tell anyone how easy this really is!)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Garden Tuesday

Yes, this ongoing theme is lifted from Pam. But, if you see something brilliant, isn't imitation the sincerest form of flattery?

My azalea bloomed this weekend. It's the only deep red flowering plant I have here, and I'm glad it blooms a little later than the trees. The rhododendrons will be joining it soon.

My lettuce is growing, as are my chives and carrots. We've had a couple of sprouts in the squash department, although they don't show up that well, and, of course, you can see the onions. The seeds I got over a week ago still haven't gotten planted, because we've had either rain or cold (or both) constantly. Maybe this afternoon, or tomorrow!
You can see that the little cherry tree near my garden beds still has some blossoms, but they're dropping fast.

And the yard is vivid shades of green, with a couple of red trees thrown in for good measure. Who would believe there are so many greens in the world?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sorta Fajitas

Well, all of you who know me know that I have (among many others) 2 failings which caused this title: first, I don't grill foods, because I don't like black lines, and second, I don't like to follow directions. So, having come up with this brilliant (?) program for Saturday night dinner, the only thing remaining was to find a recipe and not follow it! Brilliant, right? Well, "Fajita" is kinda fun to say, isn't it? So, here's my version of a food everyone else seems to love, and no one has ever seen done this way!


5 pounds steak, cut into 1/4" thick strips
2 onions, minced
2 tbsp minced garlic
3 tomatoes, diced small
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tbsp cayenne
some salt
some olive oil

Sour Cream

Cut the steak into strips, pour the lime juice over it, and let it sit for a while. In my case, since I came up with this program about an hour before dinner, it wasn't long. Pour olive oil in the bottom of a big pan, and heat until pretty hot. Add the onion, garlic and tomato, and saute until the veggies are softened. Add the meat, and cook about 2 minutes, until it's done.
Pour the lime juice over the whole mess, stir it in, and serve with tortillas. Offer sour cream as an optional extra. Heck, you can even add green peppers for color, if you like, but peppers don't darken my doorstep (allergy).
So there you have it. Sorta Fajitas. Well, it'll work for you if it's raining or winter, won't it? And I had to go back and cook another 2 pounds of meat to soothe the starving beasts, so it turns out that it must have tasted pretty good!

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Another son came home Thursday night, and presented me with these on Friday.
I have that little divider over the passthrough between my kitchen and breakfast room, and he hung his flowers there for me. Here they are looking from the kitchen.

My law school daughter comes home this afternoon. It's a great weekend indeed!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Banana Meringue Cake

Melanie asked, and Thor told me to share the recipe for his birthday cake with everyone. He hasn't decided whether he liked this or his applesauce meringue cake from last year better, because he thinks it's just wonderful to have any cake at all!


2-1/4 cup flour
2-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
4 mashed bananas
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sour milk (1 tbsp lemon juice and balance milk)
1 tsp vanilla

4 egg yolks
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
4 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup warm (110F) water
1 envelope unflavored gelatin

Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside. Combine the bananas (which I mash using my mixer) with the oil, milk, vanilla and egg yolks. At low speed, beat in the dry ingredients; beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in the walnuts. Pour into a 13"x9" baking pan, and bake at 350F for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, sprinkle the gelatin over the 1/4 cup warm water and set aside. Beat the egg whites until fluffy, and beat in the sugar and vanilla. Beat until the mixture forms soft peaks, and add the gelatin/water mixture. Beat at high speed until stiff. When the cake has cooked for 30 minutes, remove it from the oven, spread the meringue over the top, and return to the oven for 12 minutes. Let the cake cool before serving.

And, please, unless you're trying to drive everyone else out of the room so you can have all of the cake, don't eat it like this.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Thor's 8th Birthday!

I'm almost positive that Thor's birthday is May 5, but it could be May 8. That's because the breeder had 2 females, and both had litters at the same time. We had the pick of the 27 puppies available, and he was Thor. He weighed about 2 pounds when he was born, 21 pounds at 7 weeks old, when he came home, and today he's just a house pony, as Chan says.

Saturday night, after 3 more of his people came home, we had a birthday party for Thor. He didn't much care for his hat.

In an effort to appease his concerns over Larry's missing squeaker (the generally dilapidated appearance bothers Thor not a whit), Thor eagerly tore into his present.
Darryl the Duck!

This is not a candle in his cake. His brothers insisted that Thor needed the appearance of a candle, so we used a rawhide stick.

Yum, yum! Banana nut meringue cake!

Note that we haven't actually played much with Darryl yet, but Thor did bring Darryl to Ryan to play yesterday. Either Darryl's gaining acceptance, or Thor was supremely bored; I'm not sure which.

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Food Delivery and dinner

First, to answer one question, I ate all of my chocolate covered strawberries. The kids wouldn't touch any of them - not that they hesitate to eat food, they just won't eat something specifically designated for one of their parents.

Second, to answer another - I know what's wrong with cars because I listen to them. I never drive with the radio on if I'm driving less than 200 miles, and I never turn it on unless I'm alone. That doesn't mean I'm super smart or any such nonsense. It just means that I nev
er forget something once I've seen it go wrong. The kids know this, and call me for troubleshooting on the go. It also means I know what to say to the mechanics, and thus can avoid being ripped off.

My son's town car, thankfully, turned out to have only a dead fuse. I'm going to beat him with a stick for not checking this, as soon as I find a chair so I can reach him. Yes, this is the 6'5" son; he's not in any danger; don't contact the authorities. It is handy that the economy's in a slump, because one of my favored mechanics, who's way out in the boonies, had a really slow week last week. I called him to see if one of my cars could be towed by AAA to have the brakes fixed, and he indicated that they didn't have much to do, and would fix anything I needed done. Through the fleet I went, and did avoid being ripped off: 2 pairs of brakes plus a brake line, 2 exhaust systems, 1 b
attery, 1 fuel line and filter, 1 oil change and new filter necessitated by a leak around the filter, and the Town Car diagnosis; total bill $1030. Thank you, Bob the Mechanic.

I thought you'd like to see what my main refrigerators look like after a food delivery. You get all this, plus about 200 pounds of meat, 56 pounds of pasta, a couple of cases of rice, applesauce, mandarin oranges, pineapple and frozen veggies plus assorted other stuff for $888. $30 per week for milk, and I'm good for the next 6 to 7 weeks. Remember this image when you're dragging your groceries in and wearily stowing them away (although, thankfully, mine are delivered).
Last night's dinner: nothing original or exciting. Roast beef, some version of Noble Pig's lemon potatoes, good old frozen cut corn, and asparagus sauteed in butter and pepper.
A side of potato bread rounded out dinner, with Brownie Tuesdays for dessert.
Tomorrow: a recap of Thor's birthday party!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Garden Tuesday

It's Tuesday here in my little corner of the world, and the sun is shining brightly! How much better can life get than that? (Other than maybe school being over for the year...and the remaining 3 kids being home, of course).

Here's the garden, with the little cherry tree between the beds. Maybe putting the beds on either side of the tree wasn't such a dandy idea, but sun hits that spot from 9AM until 7PM, when we're not living in the monsoon (like the past 11 days, and I was counting). You can see that my lawn is a riot of yellow dandelions, and the lawn service isn't due until day after tomorrow. Oh, well, some days go better than others. The big green sprouts are onions. Chives are 1" tall green hairs; carrots are sprouting, as well, and the radishes are doing their thing - you can count on them. I expect to plant more seeds this afternoon, perhaps, now that the rain has stopped.

Close up shots of the black seeded lettuce.

And our lilacs are in full bloom. Can you smell them through your computer? Why not? Don't you have the scratch and sniff monitor? These babies are 80 years old, and smell better than any perfume I've ever encountered.
Happy Garden Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mother's Day Weekend Roundup

Well, it's official. I'm just a dumb**s today. I had a picture card from my "kitchen" camera with a couple of pictures of dinner, and I lost it. About 4 hours ago. And there really isn't much space in which I could have lost it, so that's really, really dumb. Well, I guess I'm entitled to be stooopid once in a while.

Last Wednesday, Jeffrey called me from West Virginia. His Town Car's back end was down. This happened before, when we bought it (which is why an 18 year old had a $1000 Lincoln Town Car), and I was able to get the sensor replaced. He remembered this, and called to ask what to do: find a mechanic there? NO! I told him to haul his jack and stands out
of the car, jack up the back end and put it on the jackstands so the weight of the car wasn't on the suspension system, and take the jack to his dorm room. So, the 3 kids borrowed someone else's car to move their stuff to a storage bin - Mom having ordered that anyone bringing more than 10 pounds of crap home would be caned - and traveled over 300 miles at 45MPH on Saturday. Yeah, they were thrilled.

The 3 kids not home called on Sunday, Jeff bought me 2 plants from the plant sale he stumbled across at school, and the 2 girls gave me tulips and chocolate covered strawberries. The little boys made me cards and hot tea.

The best Mother's Day compliment of all is that they all wanted to call me, and wished they could have been home (law school finals for my daughter, finals grading for son the professor and other son his roommate prevented it), and they're scheduling a second holiday next weekend. I don't need any meals out (and they can't cook); I just enjoy knowing they like me well enough to call and come home. Life doesn't get a lot better than that. I hope you all had as good a weekend.

Friday, May 8, 2009

White Cake

I really enjoy white cake, but I also suffer from a real aversion to using multiple bowls for one cake. Yes, I have issues, but then, who doesn't? Anyway, while scanning the Fannie Farmer cookbook, I found this recipe for a one bowl white cake. Excellent! Now I also have to make ice cream to use up the egg yolks - as soon as the restaurant supply house arrives this afternoon with my shipment, including a case of cream....


2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup milk
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup milk
4 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract

Sift together the flour, salt and sugar, and mix with the oil and 2/3 cup milk for one minute. Add the remaining ingredients and beat at high speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture is well combined and somewhat fluffy. Pour into a Bundt pan and bake at 350F for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cake tests done.
A good, relatively light frosting for this cake also came from Fannie Farmer: Butter frosting

Beat 1/4 cup butter until fluffy and light; add 1 cup confectioners sugar and 1 tsp almond extract. Set aside. Beat 2 egg whites until stiff with 1 cup confectioners sugar. Add the butter mix and beat well. Add more confectioner's sugar if desired to achieve the right consistency. Spread on the cake and enjoy! There's only 1/4 of a cake left this morning, so it must have been good, right?

And Happy Mother's Day to all of my Mommy friends out there....have a fun weekend with the kids!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Thor is 8!

Tuesday was Thor's 8th birthday. He can't read a calendar, of course, so we're going to have his birthday cake on Saturday, after all of his people are home. Shhh! It's a surprise!

I thought you'd like to see some of Thor's baby pictures.

Here he is at 7 weeks old, June 24, 2001.
And the same day, walking toward the camera.
He wasn't a lap puppy for long. It was over before he hit 3 months.

At 13 weeks, again walking toward the camera. One thing we can say is that Thor has always been curious about what is going on, and always headed toward the least amount of action. We didn't see him before we got him, but having paid for the "pick male puppy," we had photos sent, and chose him because of this very characteristic. He has been an excellent value.
He was a very young graduate of something, in June of 2004, at age 3.

And very tolerant of then 4 year old Mark, put on the pony by one of his brothers. I know, I know, this isn't good for the dog, and in fact, he sat down immediately after the picture was taken. But he's great at posing for pictures, isn't he?

I leave you with a reminder from last summer of the joys of having a best friend.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sweet Potato Bread

An case you cared, I was able to get outside yesterday afternoon and take a couple of pictures of my nearly microscopic lettuce, miniscule radishes and onions; I added them to my post. Of course, that was yesterday.

I had some leftover mashed sweet potato from Sunday night's dinner, and decided to turn it into bread. It did make a good bread, served with steak, and was fine for toast and peanut butter sandwiches, too. It didn't really have much different flavor from most other bread, but I knew from the color that it was better than white bread. My picky eaters both consumed it without complaint, too.


1 cup warm water
1 cup warm mashed sweet potatoes
3 or 6 tsp yeast (see my bread guidelines)
2-1/2 cups white flour

1/2 cup cornmeal
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt

Mix up in your bread maker, or using my guidelines. Form into 2 loaves in 8"x4" loaf pans, let them rise until doubled in size, and bake at 375F for 24 to 29 minutes, depending upon how dark you want the crust. This was good with steak, but would be great with chicken!

As an aside to whoever "Anonymous" was: You commented on my last bread post that my bread was ugly. OK, it was. You try turning out 5 pounds of meat, 2 to 3 pounds of starch, 2 vegetable side dishes, bread and dessert in the course of 90 minutes, and tell me just how pretty you can make your bread. I'm thick skinned, so you can't insult me. Just have the nerve to state your name, and I'll respect your opinion.

Have a nice day, everyone! Tomorrow is Thorsday, and since this is his birthday week, I'm going to show you a couple of Thor's baby pictures!