Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cherry Pie Bars

   If I ask my husband what he wants for dessert he will inevitably say "Something red." That translates to something cherry. He likes strawberry and raspberry, but cherry is his favorite. Jon also likes the flavor of amaretto so I figured with the almond extract in these Cherry Pie Bars they would be a hit with him. Tonight when I should have run my bath and settled in for the night and headed for a chair with the book I am enjoying right now; I got the urge to bake. Nothing new, I know.
   I remember when I had no desire to get involved in Pinterest. The women at work were constantly talking about it, and honestly it was starting to annoy me. One of my co~workers and friends asked if I was on this Pinterest. I told her I wasn't and she said she was surprised. I asked her why and she proceeded to tell me that she saw my Scottie Cake on there. I was a little confused since I had no idea what all the "pinning" was about. She said to come to her desk once I had my coffee and she would show me. As the reader here I am certain you know what happened. Pinning came from everywhere including blogs. That Scottie cake on my blog had been pinned, A LOT. It was almost two years after that before I even got on Pinterest myself. I was looking to make something and thought that might be a good resource. Was it ever!!! I then realized I could have boards that would keep things organized, all in one place and I could access them so easily. When I realized there was an APP for Pinterest and I could look at my recipes, craft ideas and everything I had "pinned" while out and away from my computer, I decided to try it. Please just know, I am SO NOT an APP person. I keep my iPhone clean and with only what will rest on one screen. I should confess right here that I access my Pinterest page, A LOT. I use it for shopping and used it while at my daughters house because I had deliberately saved recipes to try for her family. Okay, here we go. I love Pinterest. I should tell my friend that. She knows I use it now because she follows one of my boards :-).  Anyway, this is one of the recipes I pinned to my Sweet Treats board with the idea of making it for Jon. That happened tonight.
   I cut this recipe in half and prepared and baked it in an 11 X 7 inch glass baking dish. Since this original recipe was designed to be baked in a Jelly~Roll pan, and they are typically between 10 X 15 and 13 X 18 inches, my pie bars were a little thicker than the photo of the batch shown on Pinterest. They are very good and I am excited about Jon having one when he gets home tonight. I will be baking these again during the Christmas season. Since they will be served to more than Jon and I, I will use my Jelly~Roll pan.

Here is the original recipe I found on Pinterest.

Cherry Pie Bars

1 c. butter, softened
2 c. sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
3 c. flour
1 tsp salt
2 cans (21 ounce) cherry pie filling

1 c. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 Tbsp milk

Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs, beating after each addition. Mix in extracts. Add flour and salt. Mix until well combined.
Spread 3 cups of the batter in a greased jelly roll pan. Spread pie filling on top of dough. Drop remaining dough by tablespoonfuls on top of cherry pie topping.
Baked at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool.

Combine glaze ingredients and drizzle over bars. If serving the next day wait and do this before serving or the bars will be a bit soggy!

   Here is the blog this recipe was pinned from.  Here is the page on Julie's blog for  these Cherry Pie Bars. I plan to follow this blog, Julie's Eats & Treats. She has plenty of wonderful recipes, for instance her recipe today is Overnight Pumpkin Cheesecake French Toast Casserole. HELLO!! Thank you Julie, for such a lovely blog.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Greek Lemon Rice Soup

   Last week after posting a potato soup recipe a friend of mine sent me a message about how much her son loves soup and was looking over her shoulder when she was reading it. This lovely woman, Peggy, use to babysit for my girls. She now has children old enough to read and have opinions. {sigh}. A while back I was in an antique shop and saw the Barbie case and a few of her accessories I played with when I was a young girl. The labels said "Vintage". This past weekend I saw a car that though it was a different color, it was much like the one I spent a good amount of time in while in high school. The plate said "Historical Vehicle". {ugh} Anyway, I asked her if her son had a favorite soup, thinking I could post a recipe for him. She said, "Greek Lemon Rice Soup". Peggy said she never gets it to come out right. So this post is for her and her son, Zach.
   I have several Greek Lemon Rice soup recipes, but this one looked to have more of what I look for in that soup. I had never made this one before. With some tweaking that I will mention in this post, I will use this recipe again. It is rich, and full of flavor. It does not take much to prepare it, but it does need to cook for a while because of the whole chicken. Please do not substitute chicken breasts, especially ones that are boned and skinned. The fat and the bone that gets boiled in the stock is the reason it is so rich and flavorful. I realize the chef that offered this recipe called it "Chicken Soup with Egg~Lemon Sauce", and rightly so as it has an abundance of chicken and you do make an egg~lemon sauce to finish off the recipe. I'm telling you, this is classic "Greek Lemon Rice Soup" and that is how it appears in my recipe file.

   Here is the recipe as she presents it. You can see the original recipe here.

Avgolemeno (Chicken Soup with Egg-Lemon Sauce)
Recipe courtesy Cat Cora

Total Time:   3 hr 45 min
Prep   25 min
Inactive   2 hr 0 min
Cook   1 hr 20 min
Yield:   about 8 servings
Level:   Easy

1 (3 pound) free range chicken
12 cups cold water
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 leek, cleaned and quartered
1 carrot, peeled and quartered
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups finely diced onion (about 1 medium onion)
2/3 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper 

In a 6 to 8-quart stockpot, combine the chicken, water, and 2 tablespoons salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; immediately reduce the heat to a very low simmer, and skim the foam from the surface. Add the leek, carrot, and bay leaves and continue to simmer with the chicken until the chicken is thoroughly cooked, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until translucent, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Remove chicken from the broth, and allow meat to cool. Strain the broth and skim the fat. (Place the broth in the refrigerator to make it easier to skim.)

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, pull the meat from the bones and discard the skin. Dice the meat into large cubes; refrigerate until ready to use.

Return the broth to high heat, add the rice and onion and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the rice is almost cooked through, about 20 minutes. Add the chicken and reduce the broth to a low simmer.

In a medium sized bowl, beat the lemon juice, eggs, and pepper. Ladle 2 cups of hot broth into a measuring cup with a pourable spout. While whisking, slowly pour the 2 cups of broth into the egg mixture. Pour the egg mixture back into the pot with the remaining 1 tablespoon of salt. Stir well to blend. Divide among bowls and serve immediately.

Here we go:

   These 10 ingredients are all you need for this soup unless you do use the leeks which would make eleven, and then of course the water.

   Remove that little pack of goodies from the cavity of the chicken before you start. It is not thanksgiving so I do not need the neck to boil or the gizzards for gravy. Save and freeze them if you like, I tossed mine, for which Jon thanked me :-)  Whole roaster chickens tend to be 6 ~ 8 pounds and fryers 3 ~5 pounds. Roasters tend to be older hens and fryers are younger. Fryers can just be smaller birds, but typically the are younger. I used a fryer chicken that was about 5 pounds.

Always rinse chicken before cooking it.

   Salt added and ready to cook. Covered pot while simmering for about an hour. This recipe calls for 3 Tablespoons of Kosher salt. I realize that though theoretically salt is salt and it should all have the same amount of saltiness. That is not true. The cut of the crystal can alter the level of saltiness. Some salts have more air in them that can affect the saltiness. The denser the crystal the saltier the flavor. Kosher salt is saltier than table salt and sea salt. Morton is the more delicate choice on the market, particularly compared to Diamond salt. I used the 2 Tablespoons this recipe calls for at this stage of preparation, and I used Morton Sea Salt. I am wondering if the increment of salt in this recipe was a typo. More on this below.

   Please do not toss the onions and olive oil in the stock without doing this step of sauteing. This added so much flavor to this soup. Also, you would not want the harshness of the onion dropped in raw. The sauteing really sweetens the onion as the heat forces the harsh gas out of the onion.

   See that fat? Skim it off. Enough will remain naturally in the stock to retain lovely flavor. While this is cooling you can do the lemons and onions. You will notice from here on I use the word "stock" rather than the word "broth" that the original recipe uses. The reason for that is broth is made from meat and stock is made from bones and can have meat. The fat you see congealed in this stock comes from gelatin in the bones that is released when it simmers for a time. The bones give the richness and fullness of flavor. Of course the fat helps, too. You can make stock from just the bones after the meat is baked and taken off of them as well. I have done that with the bones from Thanksgiving turkeys. Boil the bones with a few carrots and onions, strain, and then add chunks of the turkey, some noodles or rice and a few fresh vegetables. 

   I enjoy juicing lemons. I love the citrus fragrance they put off. I never get tired of preparing lemons for recipes. I like lemon a lot! Say that fast a few times. 

   There it is, citrus gold. I used 4 medium lemons which yielded slightly less than one cup. I should have juiced six, but as it was the recipe was calling for only 1/2 cup. More on that later, too.

   I mentioned before how much I like the Pampered Chef Food Chopper but did not think to get a piccie of it when cooking. Here it is in action. You know how some pretty powerful bombs are detonated by mixing of two liquids that kept separate are harmless? Well that is how it is with an onion. That onion can sit long enough to rot and never emit a fume, much less a noxious one. However, There are enzymes and acids kept separate in the cells of that onion and the minute you cut into it they mix and become a nasty volatile sulpher compound that does a horrible number on your eyes. I use a candle when I am chopping onion because the that nasty sulpher compound gas will drift toward the flame and away from your eyes. Don't use a fan while cutting an onion, it only spreads that gas further only making matters worse. You can soak onions in water or cook them first to decrease the gas from forming when you cut them. One of my daughters wears goggles. Ever see Meg Ryan in Addicted to Love? That is what it looks like at her house when an onion is being chopped. Cute, really funny actually. But for me, it's the candle ~ and it works. Using that handy Pampered Chef Food Chopper helps, too.

   I meant to take a picture of this little bowl with it's lid before I cleaned everything up so you could see it. It is a bowl and lid from the 3~ Cup Prep Bowl Set I bought from Pampered Chef several years ago. It holds one cup. I have two sets actually.  I use them frequently for measuring and holding ingredients for a recipe like I am here. I store things in the refrigerator in them nearly all of the time. But a feature I really like about them is that  I can make individual cakes and individual No~Pudge Brownies for those times you just want a sweet nibble, you want it quick, you don't want to cook for half of the free world, and you would like to keep it as healthy as possible. 2 TBS No Pudge! Brownie mix for every 1 TBS of non~fat vanilla yogurt. Stir until smooth. Microwave on high for about 1 minute. YUM!!

   I had no leeks on hand though I think they would add a good hint of sweetness to the soup.Whole carrots had been picked over the last time I shopped for them and so I used baby carrots. That has never happened before, why when I want them for a recipe I want to share on my blog ~ and for a friend no less? Now we simmer for an hour or so. Again, I covered pot while simmering.

   Drain, reserving stock. I tasted one of those carrots here and realized my concern about so much salt was warranted. They were so salty is was just awful. Needless to say that last Tablespoon will not be put in the soup at the end. And in future there will be only 1 Tablespoon at the beginning and no more at any time in the recipe. It can be seasoned with salt at the table if needed.

   Time to cool. I did put the chicken and stock in the refrigerator for a bit.

   This was the first bit that came off pretty much on its own when I removed the chicken.

   This was the start of the process to get all that yummy meat off of the bones. If it were Thanksgiving that wishbone would be something my grand daughter Belle and I would enjoy together. Breaking the wishbone has been around a long time. I have heard that tradition goes back a couple thousand years. I don't know about that, but it the Pilgrim's did bring it over from England when they came. They broke the wishbone of chickens and when they arrived here in the new land it became a tradition done with the wild turkey. In case you haven't picked up on it in my last post, or in this one, I am looking forward to Thanksgiving.  :-)

   The stock is ready for the finishing up of this recipe. You may be noticing the onions covered in plastic back there behind the stock and the olive oil to the left still sitting out. I blew off the sauteing of the onions part of the recipe so in actuality this was when I stopped and did that. I put the piccie of that step up above where it should have been done.

   Chicken is ready.

   Rice added, letting it cook though not thoroughly. I did not use Arborio rice. It was not that I think that style of rice is too expensive, at least not for the Risotto's it is typically used for. It is just what that dish needs to be creamy. I wanted a recipe that would be more along the lines of what is served in typical Greek restaurants.  Peggy and I being from the same area I knew what she was accustomed to. Well, I moved out of the area over five years ago but I am certain the longer grained white rice was still rice du jour. Arborio rice is not milled as much as your average long grained white rice so more of the grains natural starch is preserved. This gives Arborio rice a much higher capacity to absorb liquid, and is why those Risotto's are so creamy. I figured if regular white rice did not give me the thickness I was looking for I could do a quick fix with a cornstarch or rice starch paste. I also was pretty confident the eggs being added like they were would bail my tush out if it came to that. And, I could always just add more white rice.

   After straining I ended up with exactly 12 cups of chicken stock. Had I not covered the pot that would not have been the case. I only wanted about 1/4 of the overall finished recipe to be rice. Cooking regular white long grain rice typically will result in double the amount of dry rice, or you could look at it as the amount of liquid you use. With some exceptions, the rule is typically 1 part rice: 2 parts liquid. So 1 cup of rice calls for 2 cups of water and your end result will be roughly 2 cups. I wanted 1/4 of 12 cups of stock to be rice so I used 1 1/2 cups of rice to yield 3 cups cooked, 1/4 of my 12 cups of stock. And of course you add no liquid because the stock is your liquid.

   Lemon juice and eggs whisked together.

   Chicken added.

   Incorporating the stock into lemon and egg mixture.

  Pouring blended stock, lemon and egg into the rest of the soup.

   Soups on!!!! As I suspected this soup was far too salty, even without the last Tablespoon of salt. I let it cook a little longer to get the consistency thicker so I could add more liquid. Just before serving I added one more cup of water and squeezed two more lemons, 1/2 cup of juice, and added the lemon juice to the soup, stirred well and then served. That balanced it out nicely; it was very good. This soup thickens when it is stored the refrigerator so I add a little water when I heat it up. This does not alter the taste, in fact it was even better the second day.


In the pictorial above I mentioned what I did that varied from the original recipe. This recipe below is the tweaking I did and the things I will also do differently in future. Below is the recipe I will use as my basic Greek Lemon Rice Soup. 

Avgolemeno (Chicken Soup with Egg-Lemon Sauce)   Greek Lemon Rice Soup
Recipe courtesy Cat Cora   Teresa Raber

Yield:   about 10 servings

1 (3 pound) free range chicken  3 ~ 5 pound fryer chicken
12 cups cold water
3 tablespoons kosher salt   1 tablespoon Sea Salt 
1 leek, cleaned and quartered (use only the white portion)
1 carrot, peeled and quartered
2 bay leaves  3 bay leaves
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil     (first cold pressed) ~ my addition
2 cups finely diced onion (about 1 medium onion)  (about 2 medium onions)
2/3 cup arborio rice   1 1/2 cups white long grain rice
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice  1 1/2 cups lemon juice  (about 6 medium lemons)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper 

Directions:   My additions will be in (parenthesis and italics)
In a 6 to 8-quart stockpot, combine the chicken, water, and 1 tablespoons salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; immediately reduce the heat to a very low simmer, and skim the foam from the surface. Add the leek, carrot, and bay leaves and continue to simmer (in covered pot) with the chicken until the chicken is thoroughly cooked, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until translucent, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Remove chicken from the broth stock, and allow meat to cool. Strain the stock and skim the fat. (Place the stock in the refrigerator to make it easier to skim.)

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, pull the meat from the bones and discard the skin (and the bones, carrots, leeks and bay leaves). Dice the meat into large cubes (shred that which is too small to cube); refrigerate until ready to use.

Return the stock to high heat, add the rice and onion and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the rice is almost cooked through, about 20 minutes. Add the chicken and reduce the stock to a low simmer.

In a medium sized bowl, beat (I whisked) the lemon juice, eggs, and pepper. Ladle 2 cups of hot stock into a measuring cup with a pourable spout. While whisking, slowly pour the 2 cups of stock into the egg mixture. Pour the egg mixture back into the pot with the remaining 1 tablespoon of salt. Stir well to blend. Divide among bowls and serve immediately. (Refrigerate leftovers. This is great reheated.)

Please feel free to click here for a cleaned up printable copy of this recipe without all of the corrections visible.

Kali Orexi!   

If that were French it would say, Bon AppĂ©tit! But that is the Greek for “good appetite” or Enjoy your meal!

   While living in NW Indiana I had the pleasure of knowing a woman by the name of Diane Costas. She is a lovely woman, she is Greek and ever so gracious. She wrote a cookbook that included recipes of  friends and family. She dedicated it to her mother and it is a wonderful little treasury of some down home, some entertaining worthy and some good Greek recipes. This is the cover of her cookbook, D C's delicacies. Please forgive the condition of this book. I do use it and have owned it since 1985, maybe '86.

   I thought I would offer Diane's recipe for Greek Lemon Rice Soup as well. This recipe requires fewer ingredients, is simple to prepare and quite good. When I consider the idea of making Greek Lemon Rice Soup; I always go to this recipe.

   Do you make a great Greek Lemon Rice Soup? I would love to hear about it and take a peek at your recipe. Please drop me a line or leave a comment. I enjoy hearing from each of you.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Christmas Novella's

   Remember I mentioned in an earlier post that I would make the Aldi's Pumpkin Ravioli again only the next time would be for breakfast and with something other than cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on them? Last Saturday morning I did just that. Breakfast was Jimmy Dean Sage Sausage, scrambled eggs, coffee and Pumpkin Ravioli with what I will call, Buttery Maple Sage Sauce. It was delicious! I had Apple Cider and just forgot it was in the fridge. It wasn't missed, but served cold would have added a nice dimension to the layers of flavor and textures that did show up for the party. I did however take the mums I had in water on the window sill that broke off while repotting them last week and place them on the table. :-)
   I do think it is a stretch to apply the "Recipe" label to this post but to tell you I put 1/2 stick of real butter, 1/4 cup of real maple syrup and 1/2 ~ 3/4 teaspoon of rubbed sage into a saucepan, melted the butter and simmered all ingredients together on medium low until foamy and began to thicken, would be the recipe for the sauce I put together to gently toss the Pumpkin Ravioli in before plating. So there it is for it's smashing debut ~ my new offering for Thanksgiving breakfast's in future. The real reason for this post however is that little corner of a book you see behind the cream and sugar; the book you will see below.
   Friday evening, as usual, I read when I went to bed. The Christmas Shoppe by Melanie Carlson was the book I was reading at the time. By the time I read to the point I had only twelve pages left to finish the book I was so sleepy my eyes were closing longer than they were staying open, and I just could not focus. I wanted to finish the book awake and alert so I left the ending for Saturday morning. When I woke up it was start the coffee, get dressed, wash face and the rest of that morning routine, pour the coffee in my mug and settle in for the enjoyment of finishing a good story.
This is one of two books I have won from contests Melody Carlson has run in conjunction with her Christmas novella's.
Seems silly I know, but I loved using the coordinating bookmark she sent with the book. 

   In The Christmas Shoppe we meet a number of people right in the beginning that all live in a small town called, Parrish Springs. Having lived in a small town for many years I could easily relate to those characters. There is one woman, Mathilda Honeycutt, an old and eccentric almost hippy type of woman. She is mysterious and calm, despite the fact most of the town is in an uproar over a building she purchases right downtown. She turns this building into..... you got it, The Christmas Shoppe. Through it all Melody does a great job of portraying how being courageous enough, or in some cases broken enough, to take a good and real look at things hurtful in the past we can begin to do things like forgive. In doing that we can be the patient, peaceful and victorious Christians we were meant to be. I really liked this book and do recommend it. Although everything in the the book pointed toward it, it did not have the intensity of that "Christmas" feeling the others have had because bar a few pages at the end, it takes place around Thanksgiving. I would like to have had some of the mystery surrounding Mathilda Honeycutt be removed by reading some more about who she was and what motivated her to do what she did. Be that as it may, it was a good book and I really enjoyed it. I think the elusiveness of Mathilda had its place as did the building up to Christmas. The message of love is most certainly portrayed in these pages.

An Irish Christmas is the first of Melody Carlson's Christmas novella's I read.
   This book is about decisions made, secrets kept, and seeing both sides of a situation. Melody makes no attempt to make this a mystery, she drops gentle clues all along about how a time spent 20 years ago is going to show up in the here and now. Albeit a novella, the characters are well developed, the plot is well woven and you get to travel from the eccentric time of World War II to  President Kennedy's assassination and its impact, from a town in California to a beautiful place in, Ireland. Through that time and bi~continental travel you find the true meaning of, Christmas ~ restoration. This book spoke to me on levels I may never share publicly, but suffice it to say I highly recommend this book.

Christmas at Harrington's was the first of the two I won from one of Melody Carlson's contests.
I enjoyed the using the bookmark that corresponded with this one as well.

   Christmas at Harrington's is a book about new beginnings and the patience, trust in God and humility it takes to get to the point that you can and want to put your past behind you, forgive and move forward to living life to its fullest. This is the other Christmas novella I won from a contest Melody Carlson ran in 2010. This book taught me to look past circumstances and that love needs to always be my first response, to be spirit led, not head lead. Great read, and you don't have to wait for Christmas to read it, its message is absolutely timeless.

   I become so discouraged when I see how long Halloween things are blasted all over the retail environment, particularity in comparison to how soon before and how quickly Thanksgiving gets set out and then vanishes. I would just love to go into a Black Friday discussion here and give my views on how it has stolen the celebration of Thanksgiving weekend............ oh and yes the Grey Thursday that officially began last year that has taken a chunk out of the actual one day of the year set aside to be thankful and enjoy family, but I imagine that will be addressed in few weeks right here on Honeycomb ~ stay tuned. Okay, rambling. What I was trying to get to was that I do start reading the wonderful Christmas stories every year about this time. They do not take away from Thanksgiving, they enhance the whole of that holiday.  Once we get to Thanksgiving and I have read a few good Christmas stories, I am so ready to start the wonder of Christmas. If you don't read Christmas novella's or maybe don't read much at all, I recommend these quick little reads that are so inspiring.  Try one, you have nothing to lose and they truly are quick reads. While there are books she has co~authored and one by another author entirely, here is the best list of Melody Carlson's Christmas books and novella's I could find.

   There are so many other authors out there putting out wonderful Christmas books. Two of my all time favorites are Finding Father Christmas and its sequel, Engaging Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn. Do you read Christmas fiction this time of year? I would love to hear which author's you like and about the stories you have enjoyed.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Coca Cola Cocoa Cake

  Back in July 2008, the church I attended had an auction of baked goods and I chose to bake among other things a cake make with Coca Cola. I could not find the recipe I learned to make this cake with though. Okay, that was back in 1974. I think I found the recipe in a magazine that my mother subscribed to. I originally made this in an Home Economics class I took in high school. The recipe must have been lost along the way somewhere over the years. The recipe I finally found that resembled the one I was looking for was for a Pepsi Cola Coca Cake and I did use Pepsi Cola when I made it for the church auction, it yielded $45.00. You can read about that here. I tweaked the recipe I found in some other ways to match what I remembered doing when I made that original cake. I got requests back then from people for this cake so I made it numerous times. But, I only used the Pepsi for that auction because it was not for personal use and I did not want to do something I might regret. I have always meant to go back and use that recipe I designed and use Coca Cola. This past week I did just that. It was perfect! I was quite happy with the results. The holidays are on the way and this will be something I keep Coca Cola on hand for.

   This past summer Matrona, a neighbor, dear woman and good friend of mine went to Greece for three months. She is Greek and I just love to hear the stories she tells about Greek food, culture, her home and her experiences there. I have an avid interest in World War II. Most of my knowledge is in regard to Britain's role and plight in that war. I honestly never even considered the involvement Greece may have had. Matrona, was a young girl then but old enough to remember a good bit of the tail end of that war. For one thing, her father transported people off the island they lived on by boat and ended up being drowned by a sortie of Nazi's for it. They came to their home looking for him, did not find him there but did so later. Needless to say, Matrona has amazing stories of how her family survived that. She learned to sew at eleven years old and earned money for some years after that. Her passion was wedding dresses. I read a book last spring called The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck. I have been trying to decide what to give her for Christmas. Hum... that just might do it. Yay! Love it when that happens. Anyway, when she came back she brought Jon and I some little gifts. One of those was a beautiful hand crafted silver ring with the Greek symbol for eternity on it for me. Quite out of my norm for accessories, but it feels so right on my hand and I just love it. Always growing and discovering new things about ourselves aren't we? She has video's from her trip and I am eager to see them. I decided to make this cake and take a few pieces over when I was go to see her and spend the evening seeing those video's.

   I really enjoy baking and putting together a layered cake, and certainly I like the presentation so much better than a single layer cake. This one makes up by far in flavor what it lacks in presentation pizzazz and panache.  Here is the recipe.

Coca Cola Cocoa Cake with Coca Cola Frosting


In large bowl sift together:
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour

Mix in saucepan:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup Canola oil
4 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup Coca Cola (warm)

Bring to boil, pour over dry mixture and stir some.

Then add:
1/2 cup buttermilk1
1~1/2 teaspoons soda
2 eggs ( I use Extra Large)
1~1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1~3/4 cup miniature marshmallows

Mix all together well, marshmallows should melt, then pour into well greased pan 13x9x2. Bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes.


Mix in saucepan and bring to boil:
1/2 cup butter
4 tablespoons cocoa
7~8 tablespoons Coca Cola

Remove from stove and add:
1 pound powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2  cup pecans (chopped)       This would be a good time to mention how much I use and enjoy my Pampered Chef Food Chopper.

Mix and spread over hot cake.

I use a hand mixer for both cake and frosting, but you can get away with just mixing well with a spoon.

1 If you do not have buttermilk you can always use 
1 Tablespoon of lemon juice or white or apple cider vinegar to 
1 cup of milk, it can be whole or 2% milk, or heavy cream. 

Mix your choice of milk and one of the acidic selections in a glass container and let it rest for at least five minutes, then pour the whole thing curds and all into your recipe. I know I have said I don’t cook with what I can’t drink and that white vinegar should only be used for cleaning but it does work here. I prefer the apple cider vinegar. This can be halved, doubled or tripled if needed

Still hot and the sweet fragrance is scrumptious.

Better the next day, even better two days after baking.

A piece for, Jon. I nibbled enough and then some to be counted as my piece.

Moist like a brownie, delicate like a cake from scratch, perfectly balanced with decadent silky chocolate frosting laced with the slight occasional nibble of pecan.

I think you will enjoy this cake and your friends and family will, too! Please let me know!


Monday, October 14, 2013

Autumn, Potato Soup and The Croods

   We have been having the nicest autumn weather. There have been a few warm days, no real Indian Summer, and overall we have had cool, breezy, misty, overcast days. The shortened and ever getting shorter days, the splendor of the burnt and vibrant oranges, crimson, burgundy and fiery reds, golden, buttery, mustard and sun~kissed yellows and the purples that display every shade of new wines and royal depth, black walnuts in their hulls on the ground, the sound and sight of the swirling of leaves through the air and on the ground, and the deep warm scent of fires in fireplaces and backyard fire pits evoke so many wonderful memories for me. This is without question my favorite time of the year, and always has been.
   The scent of Honeysuckle instantly takes me back to seeing cousins and neighbors at my grandmother's house, games of croquet and evening hide ~n~ seek, shucking corn and shelling peas, fresh hot sweet corn, fresh green beans with bacon, and biting into warm tomatoes. The scent of pineapple lip balm and/or Love's Fresh Lemon body mist catches me reminiscing about junior high school days, friends, dances and that summer week at Ridgecrest Camp, where s'mores and Coca~Cola were in abundance and shared around a bonfire at night. Are you seeing a theme here? Good memories and good friends are often enveloped with good food. Autumn does evoke powerful memories for me full of bonfires, football games, backyard soup parties, evenings with hot chocolate or tea on the deck with candles, baking for the holidays, and as always ~ good friends. Potato soup is a favorite of mine. I never think of it in the warmer months but come autumn I always enjoy its creamy comfort. I have a few potato soup recipes that I enjoy, one of which is one former First Lady Laura Bush's recipe called, Laura Bush's Baked Potato Soup. Today I will share another potato soup recipe that I really enjoy. This is not my "go to" everyday potato soup recipe, but it is one of my favorites that I prepare when I want something a little richer and a tad more special than my regular recipe.  I originally found this recipe here on It is called Absolutely Ultimate Potato Soup. It is not hard to measure up to that name with key ingredients such as bacon and its grease, butter and heavy cream. Let’s remember Culinary Tips 101; Fat = Flavor.

Absolutely Ultimate Potato Soup

Servings: 8

1 pound bacon, chopped
2 stalks celery, diced
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 cups chicken stock, or enough to cover potatoes
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
3 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

1.  In a Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat until done. Remove bacon from pan, and set aside. Drain off all but 1/4 cup of the bacon grease.
2.  In the bacon grease remaining in the pan, saute the celery and onion until onion begins to turn clear. Add the garlic, and continue cooking for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the cubed potatoes, and toss to coat. Saute for 3 to 4 minutes. Return the bacon to the pan, and add enough chicken stock to just cover the potatoes. Cover, and simmer until potatoes are tender.

3.  In a separate pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Cook stirring constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the heavy cream, tarragon and cilantro. Bring the cream mixture to a boil, and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Stir the cream mixture into the potato mixture. Puree about 1/2 the soup, and return to the pan. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Celery and Onion Sauteing

Garlic now Sauteing

Bacon Cooked and Potatoes Chopped

Tossing and Coating and Sauteing Potatoes

I used Marjoram and Cubed Cilantro this time. Very Good!

Enough fat already, I used Half & Half.

Every thing in pot, now to cook until thick.

Thickened quite nicely.

I puree a smaller portion as we do like the potato chunks.

Not a beautiful color but it smells and tastes completely yummy!

Let's Eat!!

   It was my intent to eat this on the back deck and enjoy that weather only autumn offers that I mentioned above. It began to drizzle rain and it just wasn't going to be as enjoyable outside as I had hoped for our dinner this time. Plan B. Last summer while visiting with some of my grandchildren I went to the morning matinee with them a few times to see some truly cute movies. One evening while the older two were at youth group the youngest, my son~in~law and daughter and I went to see yet another movie. I have seen more new movies this year than I have in probably the the last four to five years combined. It was such fun!!! Anyway, that evening movie was animated, cute, funny, very touching toward the end and its title is, The Croods. I wasn't sure it would be just right up my alley, but I so enjoyed it. I enjoyed it enough that I told Jon about it once I got home. Tuesday, October 1, the movie came out on DVD, and by that weekend Jon brought it home. We hadn't watched it so he suggested we eat our soup in front of the telly and do so. I may hear about this later but I just have to let you know, both my very stable and strong Army son~in~law had very leaky eyes and wet face as the movie was ending and so did, Jon. It ends really well, but has a beautiful story line and ending that can move you to tears. Oh yeah, I cried both times. :-) If you haven't seen it, or have and just want to see the trailer, please click here.

   I would love to hear your opinion on the soup, what you love about autumn and what you thought about The Croods, if you have seen it.

1 An excerpt from Fall, leaves, fall. by Emily Brontë.