Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Summer of 1909

Hubby's Grammy was a hottie back in the day, which is over 100 years ago. And judging by this picture, she knew it.

I think it must have been somewhat forward of her to take a girl who was presumably one of her nieces to a photographer's studio to have their portrait done in their bathing costumes. A historian dated this photo for us to 1908-1909, so this could not have been Grammy Nellie's daughter, thus my presumption that it was a niece.

Notice that you can actually see the curve of her well turned ankle in the cotton stockings under Nellie's bathing costume!

And now, gents, be glad that the ladies don't wear swimsuits like these to the beach any longer. And, ladies, need I say for all of us, "Thank goodness for tank tops and shorts or short skirts!"

Happy Memorial Day, everyone.

And happy drools from Thor, enjoying his new bib (or "slabber", in Flemish).

Friday, May 28, 2010

Cool Rise Coffee Cake

I'm here to help you get your Memorial Day Weekend off to a good start.

For those of you outside the US, Memorial Day is celebrated the last Monday of May. It's meant to honor those who lost their lives in war, such as my grandfather's youngest brother, who was shot down over Italy in WWII, but mostly, people celebrate the beginning of summer. Especially for those of us in the northern part of the country, that is great cause for celebration, indeed. Count me among those pulling sleeveless dresses out of the closet!

Anyway, back to food, which is why you're here.

Remember my Cool Rise breads? Yes, of course you do. This is the same technique, except you get to have a cup or 2 of coffee or tea while you get good and hungry. And by preparing this tonight, you'll have coffee cake for the entire weekend (unless you happen to be in my household, in which case you'll have "a small smackerel", to quote Pooh). And, trust me, this is better than Mr. Entenmann ever thought of making, and he's pretty darned talented.


5 to 6 cups flour
2 pkgs (6 tsp) yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) softened butter
1-1/2 cup very warm water
2 eggs at room temperature
1 can apple pie filling (or whatever flavor you have handy)
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp sugar

Pour the water into a bowl; sprinkle the yeast over it. Add the flour, sugar and salt, followed by the butter, cut into small chunks, and eggs. Mix the ingredients together with either a Kitchenaid or hand mixer at low speed. With the stand mixer, let it knead the bread at low speed for 10 minutes; if using a hand mixer, after it starts to protest, dump the dough on a floured surface, and knead by hand, pushing the dough backward with the heel of your hand, folding the back over to the front with your fingertips, and turning it 90 degrees, then repeating the process, until the dough is smooth, 5 minutes or so. Regardless of the mixing process, let the dough sit for 10 minutes after the kneading is complete.

Roll the dough out to the length of a cookie sheet by almost double its width (in my case, about 17"x20"). Place centered on the cookie sheet, with 1/4 of the width of the dough hanging over either side. Spread the pie filling over the center of the dough, and fold the sides inward to meet in the center. Slash the dough on a diagonal along either side. In a small bowl, mix the 2 tsp milk and sugar; brush the top of the cake with this mixture.

Cut off a sheet of waxed paper, and brush one side with cooking oil. Cover the cake with the oiled side of the waxed paper, then wrap loosely with plastic wrap. Put the tray in the refrigerator overnight.

In the morning, take the coffee cake out of the refrigerator, then preheat the oven to 375F. Remove the coverings, let the coffee cake sit for 10 minutes, then place it in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until your cake is nicely browned. Then lean back and enjoy a great breakfast treat, and the start of a very fine weekend!

And, tomorrow I'll show you why we should be happy that this summer is 2010, instead of 1910!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Thor and the Piggy

Dan brought the ginuea pig into the breakfast room to visit Thor. Cinnamon the pig had a carrot.

Thor wanted one, too, and chomped it before we could get a picture.

That carrot didn't last long. Who knew that a dog would eat anything any other critter has?

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Chocolate Dessert #146

This is for Sue, and all you other chocolate fiends out there, from my 365 Chocolate Desserts cookbook. Yes, I know Sue wants me to decide I don't love this cookbook and send it directly to her, because she loves chocolate that much. I'm just not ready to relinquish it yet. So you'll have to settle for another recipe.

This one is made with boxes, and is very easy. Of course, box mixes being in short supply in my house, I created my own "box mix" base, just in case anyone else out there is supermarket-phobic and box-mix-lacking.


Chocolate Banana Bundt Cake

1 Devils Foods Cake Mix, without pudding*
2 bananas, mashed
1 box instant vanilla, chocolate or butterscotch pudding mix
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Dump all ingredients in a bowl. Beat for 3 minutes. Turn into a greased bundt pan. Bake at 350F for 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick in the center of the cake comes out clean. Frost with whatever icing suits your fancy.
*If you have no cake mix, use these handy dandy dry ingredients:

1-3/4 cups flour
1-1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1-1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp buttermilk powder or dry milk powder

Proceed as above, dumping all ingredients in the bowl.

See? Absurdly easy. However, I never said this would be low calorie. Just easy and good.

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Garden Tuesday: Planting!

This is what we started with this weekend. 2 square feet of chives, and a couple of onions the boys missed last fall sprouting back up.
My dearly beloved laughed at me for carrying my seeds around in a basket. I told him I'm not a good enough juggler to carry them in my hands.
I've cut chives already, and had better hurry to do so again, before those flowers bloom and release 4 million chive seeds. Then my yard will smell of onions forever.
I found these seeds, dyed different colors, entertaining. I know it's strange.
And now, we've planted. And by "we", I mean that I'm a great supervisor. I don't bend, and I don't play in the dirt. So now we wait for lettuce, spinach, many varieties of tomato, 3 kinds of squash, green onions, cucumbers....

Monday, May 24, 2010

Daffodil Cake

I found this recipe in my "new" Fannie Farmer cookbook, from the last Library Book Sale. I decided I'd wait until my daughters came home to make it, because I knew they would add a positive note to the dessert reviews which inevitably occur. And besides, it was reputed to be pretty, like daffodils, and who doesn't like pretty food?


9 egg whites
1-1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sugar

4 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1-1/4 cup flour

2 tsp orange rind

Beat the egg yolks until thick and light colored. Beat in the sugar, then stir in the orange rind and set aside. In a separate bowl, place the egg whites. Sprinkle the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla over the whites, and beat until soft peaks form. Add the 1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, beating after each addition. Beat until stiff peaks form. Fold the flour into the egg whi
te mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, mixing completely after each addition. Fold 1/3 of the egg white mixture into the beaten egg yolks, and stir until the color is consistent. Spoon the white and yellow mixtures alternately into an ungreased tube pan, not stirring the two colors together. Bake at 375F for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cake is done. Let the cake cool for a few minutes, then turn the pan upside down to cool completely. Frost with a light butter frosting:

1/4 cup (1/2 stick or 4 tbsp) butter, at room temperature
1 pound confectioner's sugar

1 tsp orange extract
1 to 2 tsp finely chopped orange peel

cream as needed

Beat the butter and sugar together; the mixture will be crumbly. Add the orange extract, then add cream until the frosting is of the proper consistency. Stir the orange peel into the frosting, and put a thin coat of frosting on this cake.

The cake had a wonderful citrus flavor. As I predicted, the reaction was mostly favorable: the girls, Jeff, Ryan and my dearly beloved loved it. Dan and Mark thought it was good. Patrick hated it because it's not chocolate. I'm gonna hit that boy as soon as he kneels down so I can reach him, for being such a fussbudget.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Marble Cake

So, Wednesday was Ryan's 14th birthday. That forced me to acknowledge today that I have to enroll him in our local high school. I really didn't want to, but, on the other hand, I don't want him to tell me I ruined his life by making him stay home forever. (True story: one of my older sons told me that I ruined his entire slementary through high school experience by making him wear pullover sweaters to first grade, and everyone made fun of him for that until he graduated from high school. After hearing enough of this - like the second repetition - I told him to stuff it. All true.)

The traditional birthday cake in our house is marble cake. Plenty of times I've used a box, but I've recently been forced to learn to make a marble cake from scratch. So here's the recipe, just in case any of you have a burning desire to make one.


2-1/2 cups flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup (1 stick or 1/4 pound) butter, softened
3/4 cup milk
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

3 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp milk

Sift the dry ingredients together into a mixing bowl. Add the butter and 3/4 cup milk, and beat for 2 minutes. Add the egg yolks, 1/2 cup milk and vanilla extract, and beat 2 minutes more. Pour 2/3 of this batter into a 13"x9" baking pan. To the remaining batter, add the cocoa powder and 1 tbsp milk, and beat for a minute, until it's combined. Drop by spoonsful into the vanilla cake, and swirl with a knife. Bake at 350F for 36 to 42 minute, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

If you don't want to make the cake from scratch, just follow the directions from adding the cocoa powder on, using a yellow cake mix. No one will be the wiser.

Frost with a good buttercream frosting, and enjoy.

Oh, and save the 5 egg whites for a daffodil cake, which I will tell you about on Monday.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thor got Another Present!

Yesterday, we got a box in the mail from Belgium! It was from El'bow the Mastiff and his little friend, Hauwii, the Musterlander.

Turns out that El'bow and Hauwii's sister, Sanne, is a talented d
esigner of Mastiff fashion. Sanne made Thor a lovely, monogrammed terry cloth bib!
Thor wore his bib in hopes of lobster, but had to settle for roast beef instead. And he wore his bib to Ryan's birthday party, and was rewarded with Fruitables.

It is a lovely gift, Sanne, El'bow and Hauwii. Thank you!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Norwegian Chocolate Cake

I don't know why it's Norwegian. I found this in a tattered cookbook called Recipes from Famous Kitchens, and it was offered by Dow Chemical. Come to think of it, I'm unclear exactly what Dow Chemical has to do with either Norway or cakes, but that's to ponder another time.


2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick or 1/4 lb) butter, softened
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tsp baking soda
2 cups flour
1/2 cup boiling water
2 ounces semi sweet chocolate, melted
2 eggs
1/2 cup boiling water (yes, a second half cup)

In a large mixer bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Stir together the flour and baking soda, and add with the buttermilk and the first half cup of boiling water. Beat for 2 minutes. Stir in the melted chocolate, eggs and the second half cup of boiling water, and beat another 2 minutes. Turn into a greased 13x9" baking pan, and bake at 350F for 38 to 43 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cook, then frost with vanilla cream frosting or whatever else you choose.

My kids thought this cake was good, but the level of excitement wasn't such that I'd do this over a chocolate cake that uses cocoa powder instead of melted chocolate. (But, since I'd run out of cocoa powder, I had little choice.) It was, however, nice and moist and crumbly. Just my opinion.

In other news, today is Ryan's 14th birthday. Where did the time go? *sigh* Another birthday cake tonight, but at least the eldest sister is here to decorate this one.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Garden Tuesday: Road Trip

My garden is currently soaked. It's been soaked since yesterday afternoon. So I thought I'd show you a few pictures from our road trip to West Virginia. Obviously, I'm not going to bore you with 700 miles' worth of pictures, but I thought some of you might like to see the scenery from our part of the world.

First up, this sign made me laugh. "Cheat Lake" and "Fairchance Road"? It's for real, and I may be the only one amused by this choice of names, but there you are.
Looking up the interstate in West Virginia. They cut through the rock so the road wouldn't be quite as steep. Aren't the colors wonderful?
This picture doesn't begin to show the depth of the hollows between the hills. But it tries.
This was a nice sign to see, although we still had 200 miles to go before we were home.
My little boys took this picture. Evidently, a giant paint can beside the road is highly amusing.

And at one point my daughter hung her sunglasses off the back of her head. Then she took up scolding the back seat, "Don't make me turn this car around! I will turn around right now!"

For the record, I never said anything like that. I prefer to drive all night, when they're asleep.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men Oft Go Astray!

And I was living proof of that on Friday.

Jeffrey graduated from college this weekend. Obviously, I knew that in advance. Originally, I'd planned to cruise down there in the 1979 Lincoln, but my daughter wanted to go. So, on Monday, I sent Patrick to the junkyard to buy 2 new wheels for my winterbeater Cadillac, get a tire on one (the other tire looked good) and have the studded snow tires replaced. I should know not to put Patrick in charge.

Friday it was do-or-die time for my new dress. So I started at noon, whined at a friend via email a couple of times, and finished at 5:36PM. Yes, I was counting. The fabric was a s-o-b. I almost quit several times. But I got it done.

40 minutes later, I had packed for my dearly beloved and me, directed the boys in packing, and gotten everything rounded up and into the car. Backing out of the garage, I took up mumbling ferociously. Hubby looked at me strangely. Once out of the garage, I started to make a turn, went about 3 feet and took up bellowing HBO words. They looked at me like I was nuts. I bellowed, "The (expletive deleted) tire is flat!" "Can't be!" More HBO words, and, yes, the one we didn't buy new was flat. Worse yet, the morons had cross-threaded one lug nut, and it broke off as we tried to change the tire.

My son Dan has a Caddy like mine, but a couple of years older, and the driver's seat is pretty beat. So he tossed its keys to his sister, helped the boys transfer all the stuff from one car trunk to another, and we headed off in a different car. I rode in the back, and I have to say that being chauffered isn't bad. I'd still rather drive, but not in a car with a bad seat. So we made it around midnight, spent graduation day with Jeffrey, and my beautiful daughter sweet-talked a traffic cop into letting her park right near a door so her poor mother wouldn't have to walk far with her cane and all (props help).

It was not that big a graduation - just the college of business and econ
omics - about 400 people. I counted the seats; there were 540, and not all were filled.

Jeff was right in the front row. I'm pointing him out for you, although he's pretty obvious.

And here he is, carrying his newly minted Bachelor of Science in Economics. I hope it helps him get a job soon.
Cass promptly took his cap. She also stuffed Ryan under the statue of Jerry West (whoever he may be).
Jeff's roommate really dressed for the occasion. I'm proud that Jeff decided to wear pants.

Hope you all had a great weekend!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Yak Herding?

My daughter got home from college on Thursday, and brought me belated Mother's Day presents: flowers and tea.

It was hard to take a good picture of the flowers.

Oh, and the
tea? It is a Zen blend, recommended for invigoration before a session of "Pilates, Yoga or Yak herding."

Me? Yak herding?

Not in this lifetime.

But she is a great kid.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Orange Banana Shake

My restaurant supply house delivered Tuesday, and one of the things on their truck was a case of bananas. Yes, I know it seems stupid to buy 40 pounds of bananas at a clip, but at $23.59 for the case, how can I not buy them? I really love bananas, and I don't care if everyone else doesn't love them as much. It's my kitchen, after all.

This recipe comes from way back when I was in high school. In one of those women's magazines that my mother bought, there was a 3 day diet suggestion, so you could take off the 5 pounds you gained during the holiday parties. I'm not sure this was the magic bullet; I think it was the severe reduction in calories that did it, but the basis of the diet was this shake 4 times a day, with salad and hard boiled egg for lunch and a dinner of meat/veggies with no starch. I didn't care about the weight loss, but I love this shake!


1 banana, broken in bits
approx. 1/2 cup orange juice
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp dry milk powder
1 to 2 tsp sugar or 1-2 packets artificial sweetener
handful of ice

Break the banana into your blender, and pour in enough orange juice to just cover it. Add the lemon juice, vanilla, dry milk powder and sugar or sweetener; whirl until banana is mushed. Turn off the blender (unless you want to wash your kitchen walls, of course), drop in a handful of ice, restart the blender, and whirl until the ice is crushed.

Pour it into a really pretty glass if you want to feel fancy about this. It's filling, nutritious, low calorie and highly flavorful. What more could you want?

Oh, and please don't call it a "smoothie" in front of me. I hate the new trend of naming things with the "ie" at the end. A hooded sweatshirt is not a "hoodie" unless you're too lazy to say four syllables instead of two. It just sounds like something you'd give to your 2 year old, along with his blankie. OK, rant over.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thor got Presents!

There's a lady in New Hampshire who gets lots of free samples of stuff to try out, either in the knitting world or the dog world. And since she's got 4 dogs, she has lots of critics to assist her. So a couple of weeks back, Nichole and her assistants tried out a Planet Dog ball, and offered one to a commenter. As luck would have it, Thor won - on his birthday! Nichole shipped the ball to Thor, and he got it on Saturday.

The helper who fetched Thor's box from the mailbox (notice the ASPCA sticker on the box, which told Thor it was his) immediately helped cut it open.

Thor sniffed at the goodies lined up on the edge of the table, but being a very mannerly fellow, he did not try to snag any.
He watched the unwrapping.

He carefully inspected his ball,
but he really wanted the beef chew.

That sucker was gone in a matter of minutes.

Thank you, Nichole, for such happy presents!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Starbucks on a Plate

Disclaimer: I have only been to Starbucks once, at the Tampa airport, after a misery of a 2 day trip, at 10AM on a Saturday following a 2 hour drive to the airport. Searching for more caffeine (following 4 diet cokes on the drive), I marched in knowing only these things about Starbucks: (1) their stuff is really pricy, and (2) their stuff is really stuffed with calories. So, to the great confusion of the clerk behind the counter, I asked for the biggest giant cup possible of plain, no calorie, black, strong hot tea. She did not understand. I repeated my request; the manager heard, came over and saved me. I'm not the dummy getting 2/3 of my daily caloric intake from my caffeine fix!

But people who love Starbucks coffee swear it's great. So when I tried this cake, I renamed it in honor of Starbucks, because it was really great. And I'm pretty sure you could add cinnamon or whatever other flavors are appropriate to the frosting to make it taste very much like your favorite coffee beverage. This was inspired by a recipe in my newer Fannie Farmer cookbook, although, of course, it has been subjected to some "Marjie" changes.


3/4 cup hot water
3 tbsp instant coffee
1 stick (1/4 pound) butter
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2-1/4 cups flour
3/4 tsp salt

3 tsp baking powder
6 tbsp dry milk
1 cup chopped walnuts

Stir the coffee into the hot water and set aside. Cream the butter with the sugar until light; beat in the eggs and vanilla. Stir together the flower, salt, baking powder and dry
milk powder, and beat in alternately with the strong instant coffee. Beat at low speed until combined, then at high speed for 2 minutes. Stir in the chopped walnuts, and turn into a greased 9"x13" sheet pan or two greased layer pans. Bake at 350F for 38 to 42 minutes for the sheet cake or 30 to 35 minutes for the layer cake. Frost with buttercream frosting (1 stick butter, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 pound confectioners sugar beaten together and whipping cream added to bring it to perfect consistency).

Dan griped about the walnuts, but being a coffee fiend he picked them out and enjoyed the cake. All the other comments ranged from "It's decent," to "This is pretty good!" That's about as big as compliments come around here. So, try out this cake for the coffee fiend in your life, or for yourself. Flavor the frosting a la your favorite Starbucks brew, and you'll be able to say you're dieting while eating cake!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Garden Tuesday: Azalea!

It has been incredibly cold and windy here since Saturday afternoon. We were "fortunate" yesterday to reach 53 degrees, albeit with a vigorous wind. My azalea is so bright and cheerful that it belies the weather we've had.

On Friday afternoon, I made another summer dress, this one A-line, from the same eyelet fabric I so loved. My dearly beloved said he's not sure he can tell the difference between this and the princess seamed one. I laughed at him.
I am pleased by both this one and the princess seamed dress. Until 2 summers ago
, I couldn't make spaghetti straps!

I cut out the yellow dress for Jeff's graduation, but it turned cold, so Ins
tead I finished the eyelet version of the Daisy Lace dress. My sizing is perfect, and now I need to really hunt for just the right fabric. This fabric does have the right "feel" to it - floaty and light. I'm really pleased with myself for the zippers in all three eyelet dresses. When I was 10 years old, I taught myself the geometry of installing a centered zipper, and I've never done any other type of zipper. Last summer, I made myself learn the invisible zipper installation and lapped zipper installation. I am proud to say that I remembered how to do this without referring to my book! This is a close up of the zipper, which shows a good look at the fabric. One of these days, I'll even get a picture of me wearing the dress.

I hope you all are having better weather than we are. Tomorrow, I'll be bringing you Starbucks on a Plate! See you then!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day Coffee Cake

Most of my kids are not home from college yet. Jeff's graduating next week, Kellie wants to be "Independent Playtime Duck" and stay in her college apartment and wait tables through the summer, Shannon is still embroiled in Law School finals (Tax Law today!), and Cass discovered on Thursday night that her car had no brakes. Jeff brought her the 2 hours back to WVU to wait until tomorrow or Wednesday, when the parts for her car arrive and it gets fixed.

So, yesterday morning, I got up to find this:

A chrysanthemum plant from Patrick, cards made by Mark and Ryan, bouquets of buttercups and violets picked by Mark and Thor, and a poem written by Mark. It was setting up to be a fine day.

About 1PM, I decided I needed a coffee cake, so I made one. Around 2, the kids started calling, about one per hour. It was a good day indeed.

Then, around 7, Patrick came dancing into my kitchen with his quilt on his head. Or so I thought, until I told him to get out of my kitchen, and he appeared at the passthrough, and announced that he wasn't in the kitchen. So I told Mark to take the sofa pillow and Patrick's quilt off his head, and off came the quilt, with Dan announcing that he didn't have a pillow on his head.

Now, how wonderful is that? My son decided on Saturday night that he'd surprise me for Mother's Day and drive up from Charlotte for a couple of weeks' visit! Of course, I told him he probably just came for the roast chicken.

I never announced my birthdays, Mother's Day or any other holidays on which I might receive gifts or attention when my kids were growing up. I felt that they shouldn't feel obligated to do anything for me. Unless a mother is a total screwup, her children automatically love her. But the fact that my children WANT to call me a couple of times a month just to chat, make a point to call me on "my" holidays, and one drove TEN HOURS to come home to see me, says I did something right, because they seem to even LIKE me!

I think what I did right is things like this coffee cake. If you want a breakfast that goes together in a few minutes, cooks in under a half hour, and uses only one pie pan, one measuring cup and one fork for mixing, this is for you!


9" pie plate, sprayed

1-3/4 cups flour
2 envelopes or 2 tablespoons yeast

1 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp melted butter
3/4 cups very warm water (about 120F)

Do not preheat your oven! Spray the pie plate. Stir together the dry ingredients with your fork. Melt the butter in your measuring cup and pour it into the dry ingredients. Add the water, stir until it forms a dough, and spread it out evenly in the pie plate. Next, make the caramel topping:

1/3 cup light corn syrup

2 tbsp butter
1/3 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Pour the corn syrup in your measuring cup. Add the butter, and microwave until the butter melts. Stir in the brown sugar. Sprinkle the pecans over the rising cake dough, pour the caramel over the cake, pouring more over the center than the edges. It will run to cover the cake evenly.

Place the cake in a cold oven. Turn the oven on to 350F and set the timer for 25 minutes. When it's done, top with a glaze made of 1 cup confectioner's sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and about 1 tbsp heavy cream. Enjoy, and revel in the fact that you've only dirtied one fork and one measuring cup to make this delight!