Category Archives: cakes

Tidings of Comfort

Food blogging is like the ultimate dinner party. There’s great food, good conversation, a connection between people with similar interests. There’s a kind of sharing that you just don’t seem to find on other blogs. What better way to say “hey, I like you!” than with a heaping plateful of pasta or delectable layer cake. Food makes others feel welcome. In real spaces and virtual ones as well.

I’ve been reading some blogs for four years or more and I love describing them to people who’ve never seen them. “This is so-and-so’s blog,” I’ll say. “She lives here, does this and likes that. She makes the most amazing <layer cakes, Mexican food, meat-free eats, sugar cookies> ” The little details you glean from a few paragraphs, photos and recipes makes you feel like you’ve known someone forever, even if you’ve never met. Sharing in the excitements of accomplishments or the joys of new babies makes it feel like there’s always a friend celebrating. It’s great to share in those moments.

But sometimes, life gets tough. That’s when the blogging community really comes together.

One of my very favorite bloggers, Annie over at Annie’s Eats, posted over the holiday weekend that she lost her father suddenly and unexpectedly on Thanksgiving day. My heart just broke for her and her family. How devastating. Many times over the course of that weekend while in the company of family and friends, my thoughts turned to Annie and her family. I wished there was something I could do to help. Even though we’re strangers, I feel like I know Annie. I think that’s what makes her such a amazing blogger.

So I made a cake. To dedicate and share with a blogger who is restless and hurting. A cake filled with the simple goodness of sugar and butter and cinnamon. The kind of cake to eat in the morning when house is quiet but thoughts are noisy and raw, stinging like icy winter sleet. When the world is washed in the gray-blue shadows of dawn that just don’t seem to brighten. The kind of cake a friend would bring to the doorstep of another who needed it, complete with hot coffee, patience and time. The kind of cake to talk over. Or sit quietly over. To grieve over. Maybe even laugh over. The kind of cake that may taste like a happy memory.

If I could, I would bring a cake like this one to Annie and her family. It’s rich, warm and satisfying. It tastes like a hug with a thick layer of crunchy cinnamon crumbs blanketing a buttery yellow cake. There’s no intricate steps, no fancy ingredients, just plain good food. It’s the kind of cake that can be made quickly, delivered promptly and enjoyed while still warm from the oven. Perfect for a friend in need.

Annie, we’re all thinking of you, praying for you and wishing you peace and comfort during this time. Hugs and cakes to you.

NEW YORK STYLE CRUMB CAKE (Recipe Source: Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented by Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito)

INGREDIENTS:

For the topping:

  • 1 cup packed golden brown sugar
  • ½ cup white granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted (oh yes, TWO STICKS. Faint)
  • 2 ½ cups unbleached all purpose flour

For the cake:

  • 2 ½ cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 ½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups white granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 ¼ cups sour cream

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and with the oven rack in the center. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13 glass baking dish.
  2. Make the topping: Combine sugars, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Pour the melted butter and whisk until combined, crushing any large lumps. Stir in flour until mixture is uniform. Set aside until ready to use.
  3. Make the cake: Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed until smooth. Scrape down the bowl and add sugar, then continue to beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating for 30 seconds  and scraping down the side of the bowl after each addition. Add sour cream and vanilla and beat until just combined. Stir in the flour in thirds, scraping the sides of the bowl before each addition, until fully incorporated. Batter will be thick.
  5. Pour the batter into buttered pan, level with a spatula. Scoop a handful of the topping mix into your hand, make a fist, and break off pieces to crumble the topping over the batter. Repeat until all the topping is used. Crumble topping will be very thick.
  6. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick entered into center comes out clean, rotating the pan twice. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes before serving.

ENJOY! 🙂

 

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Filed under breakfast, cakes

Kitchen Therapy

Somewhere in the middle of a nearly deserted interstate highway in rural southern Indiana, I thought I lost my driver’s license. It was intense, purse-clawing panic. You know, the kind where you empty every pocket, unzip every zipper again and again, pick your way through all the old receipts, even the ones with wads of used gum in them. Nowhere to be found.

Curse words. You better believe they were flying. Everywhere.

I could almost see the scene play out in my head – stepping up to the beer cart at a minor league baseball game in Lexington, Kentucky, tossing my out-of-place, out-of-state ID down onto the counter wet with foam poured off plastic cups, fiddling with money, fussing with change, and walking away hands full of frosty beverages but NOT important things like that silly little plastic card.

I *needed* that card. Two reasons.

1. I was on my way from Lexington to Chicago (with no stop at home) where I was to attend a bachelorette party for one of my best gals the next evening. If there’s one thing you need to party at Rush and Division, besides excellent defense against handsy drunks and a fistful of cash, it’s ID to prove you’re old enough to be there. If I didn’t have my license, I was going to miss all the fun!

2. It was my old license, from my old state, with my old address on it. Do you realize it would be dang near impossible to get a new license, in my new state, with my new address on it without that old one?

Hi, I’m Screwed!

I demanded my husband pull over on the side of the road so I could trade my purse-clawing (that was getting me nowhere, *obviously*) for luggage-clawing. It had to be in my suitcase. And I would stand there and litter the side of that highway with my dirty underwear until I found it.

Imagine my relief when I reached into the back pocket of the jeans I’d been wearing the previous night and pulled out what I was looking for. I almost dropped to my knees. Thank everything that is holy and more. I had the damn thing all along, it was just wasn’t where it belonged.

After that – oh, and the vacation, the rich and decadent food, the beds that weren’t my own, the staying up too late, the partying with my friends, the drinking too much, the trying to maneuver a cooler down the aisle of a Metra train which is much tougher and more exhausting than one might think – I needed a little bit of kitchen therapy. A little R&R for this road weary traveler.

So I gathered my mixing bowls and ingredients, stood with silent purpose alone in my sanctuary, the quiet interrupted only by tiny bursts of sound. The click of the oven while it preheats, the crack of an egg on the counter top, the swish of a knife through a ripe summer berry.

Ahhh. Perfect peace. Recovery. Me time.

Until that got boring. Then I turned up the tunes and belted out a few choice numbers while I used my whisk as a microphone, which is way better than a hairbrush, thankyouverymuch. Only then did I know I’m officially back in my element. Home.

Eric and I have had a very busy couple weeks here as of late. Traveling and celebrating and sightseeing and eating and drinking and what not. When we finally arrived home, I was craving something fresh and homemade but I didn’t want to spend *too* much time making it. A little time was okay. I just really wanted to get to the catching up my DVR and eating it part. Enter this Strawberry Summer Cake.

This is one of those simple, in the oven in 10 kind of recipes. My favorite kind! An entire pound of fresh, summer strawberries are nestled on top of a golden, buttery yellow cake and the entire thing is topped with a generous sprinkling sugar. The berries melt into the batter while the cake bakes, creating juicy, pudding-like pockets of goodness, all while the sugar caramelizes and forms an irresistible crunchy crust on top. Served with a generous dollop of fresh whipped cream, the contrasting textures in this cake make for a extraordinary dessert with almost no effort. It’s the perfect end to a big neighborhood cookout, a day at the lake, or just an ordinary weeknight dinner. If you’re a strawberry lover, you’ll love this.

Deb mentions she thought the original recipe for the cake may have been a tad on the sweet side. Since I’m one who believes there is such as thing as too sweet (gasp!), I went ahead and knocked back the sugar. I measured out the full 1 cup for the cake portion as directed but then took 2 tablespoons out of that 1 cup to set aside for the topping. So in the end, I had 1 cup of sugar total for the entire recipe, not 1 cup plus two tablespoons. Make sense? Great! Okay, time for dessert!

STRAWBERRY SUMMER CAKE (Recipe Source: Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, originally from Martha Stewart)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing pie plate
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 10-inch pie plate, a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate, or a 9- or 10-in springform pan. 
  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl. Measure 1 cup sugar and then remove 2 tablespoons of sugar from the measured cup to set aside for topping. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and 1 cup (minus the 2 tablespoons) sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg, milk and vanilla until just combined. Lower the mixer speed and gradually add dry ingredients, mixing until just smooth and fully combined.
  3. Pour batter into prepared pie plate. Arrange strawberries, cut side down, on top of batter, as close together and in as close to a single layer as possible (there will be some overlap). Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries.
  4. Bake cake for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 325°F and bake cake until golden brown and a tester comes out free of wet batter, about 50 minutes to 60 minutes. Let cool in pan on a rack. Cut into wedges. Serve with whipped cream. Store cake, loosely covered at room temperature, for up to 2 days. Serves 8 to 10.

ENJOY! 🙂

One Year Ago: Honey Teriyaki Chicken Skewers with Scallion Brown Rice
Two Years Ago: Raspberry Peach Mini-Loaves
Three Years Ago: Peach Ice Cream

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Filed under cakes, desserts, fruit

Project Food Blog Challenge 2: The Classics

First off, THANK YOU to all for the votes and the support in the first round of the Project Food Blog challenge!! I am so thrilled to be moving on the next round. It’s been so great discovering new blogs and making new friends. Thank you everyone! Best of luck to all in Round 2!

The challenge this time is recreate an authentic recipe from another culture we are not familiar with. That means by passing the standard Italian and French fare for something outside our comfort zone.

Oh boy.

If I’m to make a recipe from another culture I’m not familiar with, how am I supposed to know for sure it’s authentic?! The Interwebs may tell me a recipe is authentic, but the Interwebs also tell me if I don’t forward an email someone close to me will die! Clearly, the Interwebs cannot be trusted.

After tossing and turning in an insomnia-induced fit earlier this week, it finally hit me. I can’t believe what I read on the internet but I can believe what I read in BOOKS! To the Library, Batman!

Oh, how I love the library. Sitting on the floor in front of the cookbook shelf, I marveled over Mediterranean street food. Drooled over the colors and textures of the cuisines of India, Thailand, China and beyond. I learned about South African cookies and the flavors of Brazil, Peru and Venezuela. How am I supposed to decide?!

And then I saw it. The One. Flipping through an unassuming book featuring recipes from Eastern Europe, I came across the Dobos Torte – a classic Hungarian dessert featuring layers of sponge cake, chocolate buttercream and crunchy caramel. It was the chocolate and caramel that lured me in, but it was the story behind the recipe that sealed the deal.

Invented in Budapest by Hungarian baker József C. Dobos in 1885, the cake quickly became revered all across Europe not only for it’s taste, but also because it kept so well. It was shipped all over the continent during his professional career. Dobos kept the recipe a guarded secret until he retired in 1906 when he presented it to the Budapest Confectioners’ and Gingerbread Makers’ Chamber of Industry, providing that every member could use it how they saw fit.

Perfect. Why? Because if ever there was a recipe that embodied the spirit of the food blogging world, it’s this one. We all have recipes that are near and dear to our hearts, but when we share them in our blogs, we open them up to hosts of others and allow them to add their own interpretation. Tweak this, twist that until a recipe becomes their own. That’s how recipes stand the test of time.

In my research, I found many variations of the Dobos Torte. Expected, given the recipe’s origins. The number of layers varied from 5 to 12. Some featured nuts, some didn’t. Some had a solid sheet of caramel on top, some had broken shards. I combined a couple different sources to make the one that was right for me.

This recipe…is not for the faint of heart. The parts themselves are not difficult to make, but the entire process is time consuming. I found the most difficult part to be trying to make my layers as even as possible. The recipe below makes a enough for six layers of cake. My finished product ended up being seven. I actually lost two of my layers due to operator error (oops) so I made half the recipe a second time around and got three more. Even though the layers are thin, they are light, spongy and not too sweet. The cooked chocolate buttercream is one of the creamiest, dreamiest, richest frostings I’ve ever made. It’s a sin. Really. You’ve been warned. But WOW! And the caramel adds great crunch and texture. This is a special occasion dessert worthy of a special person.

I always find myself humbled and honored to try a recipe from another culture. It makes the world feel a bit a smaller, like we’re all connected through each others food and traditions. I am so glad I got to try this and I hope you will too. Enjoy.

DOBOS TORTE (Based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers’ cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague as seen at The Daring Kitchen. Topping from allrecipes.com).

Sponge cake layers

  • 6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups (162g) confectioner’s (icing) sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour (SUBSTITUTE 95g plain flour + 17g cornflour (cornstarch) sifted together)
  • pinch of salt

Chocolate Buttercream

  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) caster sugar
  • 4oz (110g) bakers chocolate or your favourite dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature.

Caramel topping

  • 1 cup (200g) caster sugar

For the sponge cake layers:

1.    Position the racks in the top and center thirds of the oven and heat to 400F.

2.    Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit two cookie sheets. Using the bottom of a 9″ springform pan as a template, trace a circle on each of the papers, and turn them over (the circle should be visible from the other side, so that the graphite or ink doesn’t touch the cake batter.)

3.    Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup (81g) of the confectioner’s sugar, and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer on high speed until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon when the beaters are lifted a few inches above the batter, about 3 minutes.

4.    In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 cup (81g) of confectioner’s sugar until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remainder, leaving a few wisps of white visible. Combine the flour and salt. Sift half the flour over the eggs, and fold in;
repeat with the remaining flour.

5.    Line one of the baking sheets with a circle-marked paper. Using a small offset spatula, spread about 3/4cup of the batter in an even layer, filling in the traced circle on one baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the center and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes, repeat the process on the other baking sheet. When the first cake is done, put in the second cake and repeat. Invert the first cake onto a flat surface and carefully peel off the paper. Slide the cake layer back onto the paper and let stand until cool. Rinse the baking sheet under cold running water to cool, and dry it before lining with another parchment. Continue with the remaining papers and batter to make a total of six layers. Completely cool the layers.

6. Using an 8″ springform pan bottom or plate as a template, trim each cake layer into a neat round. (A small serrated knife is best for this task.)

For the chocolate buttercream:

1.    Prepare a double-boiler: quarter-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil.

2.   Meanwhile, beat the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened, about five minutes.

3.    Fit bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan (water should not touch bowl) and lower the heat to a brisk simmer. Cook the egg mixture, whisking constantly, for 2-3 minutes until you see it starting to thicken a bit. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and cook, stirring, for a further 2-3 minutes.

4.    Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. It should be quite thick and sticky in consistency.

5.    When cool, beat in the soft butter, a small piece (about 2 tablespoons) at a time. An electric hand mixer is great here, but it is possible to beat the butter in with a spatula if it is soft enough. You should end up with a thick, velvety chocolate buttercream. Chill while you make the caramel topping.

For the caramel topping:

1.   Line a cookie sheet with a piece of parchment paper or silpat. Have an offset spatula or large metal spoon standing by.

2.   In a non stick skillet over medium heat, begin heating the sugar without stirring. Watch closely for slight melting and golden brown around the edge. Then begin stirring. Stir constantly until smooth and a deep amber color, taking care not to burn the sugar.

3.  Pour the sugar onto the lined baking and immediately spread into a thin layer. Allow to cool and harden. Break into small pieces with your hands and sprinkle over frosted torte.

4.  Chill torte until ready to serve.

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Filed under cakes, chocolate, Project Food Blog

Decisions, Decisions

People are always asking me to make decisions. Not big, life altering, finger-on-the-button, pull-the-plug type decisions, of course. I have no say in what happens in the White House, for example. Just little annoying, everyday things.

What movie should we watch?
All heads turn in my direction.

Where should we go to eat?
Erin will chose for us.

Heads or tails?
Erin, you call it.

These types of decisions prove to be too much for me. Yep. I can’t handle it. These are the things that leave me baffled, have me throwing my hands up in despair and declaring WHY DO I ALWAYS HAVE TO PICK? I’m not hard to please – I have strong opinions on almost nothing – but yet for some reason everyone feels like I have to have the final say.

I guess what I’m saying is I am incredibly indecisive. It’s almost a problem it’s so bad. I simply cannot decide. Not only that, I don’t really want to decide. What if I say I want to go out for pizza and everyone else agrees even though they’d really rather have burgers? I’d feel bad. Plus, I’m not married to pizza. Burgers would be fine too. I just want everyone else to be happy, that’s all.

So, family, if you are reading this and we come to another crossroads here in the near future where we are trying to decide something, anything at all, the reason I don’t want to pick the final outcome is simply because in my daily life, I like to put others happiness and preferences before mine. There. That’s it. No arguments. I’ve decided I don’t like to be the one who decides. Glad we could come to an agreement. 🙂

Now that we are well into November here, a mere week and half from Thanksgiving, you are probably trying to decide what to put on your Turkey Day menus. Well, if you are anything like me,this task is probably killing you. Don’t panic! Here’s a recipe to make things a bit easier – at least as far as dessert goes.

With this moist, delicious, fall inspired cake you don’t have to choose between two fall favorites – apple and pumpkin – you can have both in one fabulous package. This Pumpkin-Apple Streusel Cake is like a cross between pumpkin pie and apple crisp. A moist and spicy pumpkin cake is topped with a delicious layer of cinnamon-spiked caramelized apples, then smothered in a crispy, crunchy streusel topping. Mmmm. Serve with cinnamon ice cream alongside and you’ve got the perfect fall dessert. These are simple, familiar flavors presented in an unexpected way. It’s really very delicious.

I didn’t deviate from the recipe too much here, but I did make a couple changes. I didn’t have pumpkin pie spice so I used my own combo of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and allspice. I had a small pouch of pecan pieces left over from another recipe so I tossed those to the topping for some added texture and crunch – that’s a personal preference. It would be delicious without the nuts as well.

PUMPKIN-APPLE STREUSEL CAKE (Recipe Adapted from: Epicurious.com, Originally from Bon Appetit, October 2001)

INGREDIENTS:

Topping:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 cups diced peeled cored Granny Smith apples (about 4 large)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup reserved cake mixture
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Cake:

  • 11/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup (firmly packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup canned pure pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or any combination of your favorite ‘warm’ spices)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 large eggs

DIRECTIONS:

For the Apple Topping:

  1. Melt butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add apples; cook until apples begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add sugar and cinnamon and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes longer. Set aside to cool.

For the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 9-inch-diameter springform pan. Combine flour, brown sugar, butter, and salt in the bowl of of an electric mixer. Beat until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside 2/3 cup of mixture for topping. Beat pumpkin, sour cream, 2 tablespoons sugar, spices, and baking soda into remaining flour mixture, beating just until smooth. Beat in eggs. Spread batter in pan. Scatter apples evenly over top. Add pecans to reserved topping (if using) and mix to combine. Sprinkle topping over apples.
  2. Bake cake until topping is golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack 20 minutes. Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake. Release pan sides from cake. Transfer cake to platter. (Can be made 6 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.) Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream.

ENJOY! 🙂

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Lunch Break

Okay, honestly, was lunch not the most spectacular part of the day back when we were in school? English class = boring. Math? Yeah, ew. And gym?! Please God, let a giant lightning bolt strike the locker room so I don’t have to play dodge ball today. Please? All these just paled in comparison to lunch – the greatest 40 minutes in the history of the American School Day.

I don’t know about you, but I lived for lunch. Only three more periods until lunch. Now two. Next hour is lunch. HOORAY! My friends and I sat huddled around one of those long collapsible tables, laughing hysterically and jabbering back in forth in the strange tongues of adolescent inside jokes (“At least I don’t back up when I beep.” “Stupid bug! You go squish now!” Yep. Ten years later….still funny.)

Of course, lunch was much more about the social interaction than it was about food. No one ever ate what I would call a complete or balanced meal. Ever. Looking around our lunch table you saw things like plain bagels. Breadsticks with marinara. Soft Pretzels. French fries. Really, they should have renamed 5th Hour “Carb Fest ’96-‘00.” When I look back at what I ate for lunch in high school, it’s kind of amazing I even managed to function. It boggles my mind to this very day. From home I brought a piece of fruit and a granola bar of some kind. I’d supplement that with a purchased drink – a bottle of water or my favorite sugary drink in the history of all sugary drinks – Green Squall Powerade. Then I’d buy one other thing completely and totally void of any nutritional value whatsoever – a small bag of Chex Mix or one of these reduced fat snack bar things that were marketed as somehow being related to the brownie family. That’s it. Maybe that’s why I’ve forgotten everything I ever learned in high school – I stopped paying attention after my blood sugar crashed and that groggy “I’m hungry” headache set in. Blah. Clearly I wasn’t the sharpest crayon in the box.

Anyway, that was all in high school – long after the days where mom packed lunch were gone. Now, in all honesty, I’m starting to look forward to BEING the mom and doing the packing of the lunch for my kid myself. Isn’t it funny what a difference ten years can make?

I can already tell you what kind of lunch box packer Mom I’ll be – I’ll be the kind that gives my kid a little treat. I won’t be able to help myself – he’ll get a little homemade love from the oven to enjoy at lunch time each day. Just a little something small, nestled between whole grain bread and raw carrot sticks. Yummy enough to be special, but small enough so that if he tried to eat just that, he’d have to starve the rest of the day. Everything in moderation, right. 🙂

This cake came about by accident, but it is delicious! It’s perfect for lunch boxes because it’s sturdy and packed with oats. Nothing worse than a mushed up brownie, crumbled cookie or smashed cupcake and frosting in a lunch box, right? No need to worry about that with this! This cake will withstand just about anything a kid could do to his lunch box….drop it, kick it, throw it into the bottom of his locker, play keep away on the bus. No worries, this cake will be in tact come lunch. Maybe I’ll even go crazy and embarrass him by including a little note. “For my special baby boy. Love, Mom.” Ha! Okay, maybe not! 🙂

Like I said, this cake was kind of an accident. It started as a cookie recipe. Had I made cookies, I think they would have been a cakey cookie – so maybe the cookie part is the accident. Hm. Anyway, I wasn’t really feeling cookies, but rather something in bar form. I took that even a step further and decided to pursue a more cake-like texture by adding baking powder so they would get all light and fluffy in the oven. The results are a moist and hearty cake with the nutiness of oats, a great banana flavor and just a hint of spice. The crunchy top and creamy chocoloate and peanut butter chips inside are the best part of all! It doesn’t look like much, but sometimes its the simple things in un-fancy packages that are the most important. Like a lunch packed with love in a boring brown paper bag – it’s not the outer package that’s important, it’s what inside that counts!

OATMEAL BANANA LUNCHBOX CAKE (Recipe adapted from: Betty Crocker’s 1963 Cooky Book)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 3 medium)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, raisins, nuts or a combination of any or all! (I used half chocolate chips, half peanut butter chips.)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 9×9 inch pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.
  2. Cream butter and sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla.
  3. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly add flour mixture to electric mixer, beating after each addition until fullly mixed. Stir in oats and fold in chocolate chips.
  4. Pour mixtured into prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan before cutting into squares.

ENJOY! 🙂
Banana on Foodista

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Mighty Fine Blueberry Pickin’

When I got an  email from my mother-in-law last week before we headed to Eric’s hometown for the 4th asking if I wanted to go blueberry picking, I very quickly and eagerly responded YES! How great! I’ve never picked ANYTHING. Well, maybe my nose on occasion when I was a kid, not something I’m proud of, but hey, what are ya gonna do? LOL.

Anyway, I was SO excited to pick blueberries, I can’t even tell you!

Then, the unthinkable. Plans = derailed. NOOO! We planned to leave for our long weekend in southern Illinois on Thursday but Eric didn’t get home from work until WAY later than expected. It’s a pretty long drive, and we’re pretty much old geezers these days and the thought of getting to our destination after midnight just wasn’t sitting right. We had to put off the drive until the next morning.

I pouted. I told Eric I didn’t think we’d get to go blueberry picking after all, since we’d be traveling most of the day. He was already a bit annoyed that we had to put off our trip but seeing my poor sad eyes and trembling bottom lip really pushed him over the edge. Poor guy. He looked so sad that I was sad. My pain over not getting to pick blueberries became his pain. That’s love, people.

He was bound and determined. You’ll get your blueberries, he said in a classic Scarlett O’Hara fist pumping at the sky moment. As God is my witness, you’ll get your blueberries!

His solution? Getting up at the butt crack of dawn and driving all morning and rolling into our destination (a good 7 hours from here) by noon so that we could go blueberry picking in the afternoon.

Ummmmmm. Hold up. Are blueberries worth getting up at 5 a.m. on a free day off work? Is ANYTHING worth that? Well, if you know my husband, you know that he is incredibly stubborn. Once he gets an idea in his head, there is no changing his mind. He had it in his head that we’d get up at 5 a.m. so I could get my blueberries. So that’s what we did. Okay, game on.

So off we went. Free and easy down the road we go. Good thing Eric is a morning person because I don’t think I made it half way down the driveway before I promptly fell asleep again. I had a nice long nappy-nap in the car and was ready to pick blueberries when we arrived. YAY!

My MIL drove us out into the country to an Amish farm where we both picked gallon buckets full of ripe, juicy, delicious berries. Best part is, it’s really easy because the berries grow on bushes that are eye level, no stooping over and they are thorn free! It was great to be outside in the country, soaking up the summer sun and enjoying some quality time. I was worried about the giant bucket of blueberries turning into a giant berry clump in the freezer, but since they are not washed and wet, they actually freeze like little marbles. Just scoop out what you need, thaw in cool water and your ready to go!

Of course I had to make something the minute we got home. Duh. Had to hit up the grocery store for the week first though. The strawberries looked (and smelled!) especially delicious this week so I picked up a pint and decided to make a Starwberry Blueberry Buckle!

Why is it called buckle? I have no idea either. I just call it awesome. It’s a super easy cake recipe loaded with fruit and topped with streusel topping. Goes together quickly and is just bursting with fruity, juicy, delicious goodness. Top with ice cream and you’ve got a great summer dessert!

Now, I found this recipe a couple months ago in a collection of clippings my mom keeps in an old yellow recipe box in her kitchen cabinet. One of those old, wrinkled magazine clippings from days gone by, so I’m not exactly sure where this orginally came from. I apologize for that. I just went ahead and contributed it to my wonderful mother. Once a recipe has been clipped for 15 years plus, it becomes property of the clipper, don’t you think? Sounds good to me! :-p

One year ago: Okay, I’m having a bit of trouble keeping up with what was going on a year ago. A year ago I was out of work and living the life of a lady of leisure and therefore was in the kitchen a lot more. LOL. So ABOUT a year ago OR SO, we feasted on the following:
Asian Inspired Macaroni Salad with Chopped Cashews– perfect for summer cookouts!
Chicken Enchiladas – this is my FAVE enchilada recipe. The sauce is sooo good!
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Ice Cream – yup, it’s as good as it sounds!

STRAWBERRY BLUEBERRY BUCKLE (Recipe Source: My mom)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsps. Grated lemon rind
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped toasted almonds
  • ¼ cup milk (I used buttermilk – had some on hand that needed to be used up. You could go either way.)
  • 1 ¼ cups sliced fresh or frozen strawberries, thawed and drained
  • 1 ¼ cups fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed and drained

Topping:

  • ½ cup sifted all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 375. Grease 8×8 in. baking pan
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt onto wax paper.
  3. Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with electric mixer at high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in egg, lemon rind and juice. Stir in nuts, then milk. Stir in dry ingredients, then berries. Spread into prepared pan.
  4. Prepare streusel topping: Mix together flour and brown sugar in a small bowl. Cut in butter with pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle the streusel in an even layer over batter.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean and cake begins to pull away from sides. Cool on wire rack.
  6. Cut in large squares, serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

ENJOY! 🙂

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