Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Did I Dream All Of That?

 Pot Roast

Those who know me have heard me say more than once that we have so little traffic here, that we watch the cars that pass by for entertainment. "I see a car coming. Wonder who that is?" Well, for the last two days we have been WELL entertained. On Sunday afternoon there was a knock on our door. A nice looking young man said, "We are making a movie and wondered if we could park some cars on the road here." 

After figuring out that wasn't a joke, Daddy-O said, "Sure." And by the time we woke up the next morning, there was a work site set up just in front of our house. They really were making a movie. A real movie. And the North Carolina location got so much snow last weekend that they had to find another spot. Fast. It was the final two days of filming.

And they landed in our front yard. (Most of the filming was in the woods that adjoin us.) So for two days, I looked and watched and gawked as there was constant coming and going. They had about 100 in their crew. At one point we counted over 30 vehicles parked up and down our road. There was the craft wagon (craft services provide the food—yes, I did walk over and get a cup of coffee) and lots of equipment trucks. Lights. Sound. Screens. And so many people.

Of course, I made photos, but agreed not to share them until the movie comes out. (Trust me. I have nothing very exciting, except proof that there was lots of "stuff" in front of our house.) We did get to see the stars. And watch one of them being "thrown" off a vehicle in front of a green screen over and over and over. Now, we'll have to wait until the movie comes out (maybe 9-12 months later) to see how it looks when all the parts are put together.

But with all the commotion going on, I did manage to cook a pot roast. (It was a perfect oven recipe that cooked for hours unattended.) And then they invited us to eat lunch with the crew both days. I must admit that their catered lunch was possibly better than my own cooking. It certainly was more variety than we would have had here at home.

Last night we heard them shout, "It's a wrap!" just as the sun was setting. And less than two hours later, the plot of land right in front of us looked like nothing had ever happened. They packed, loaded and left as quickly as they came. After everything calmed down, we ate the roast I cooked the day before.


3-6 lb chuck roast (I used sirloin tip this time)
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 carrots, cut up
2 celery stalks, cut up
1 medium onion, cup up   
1 cup beef broth

1 cup chicken broth 
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup red wine (optional)
salt/pepper to taste
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. In a French/Dutch oven heat the oil on med-high heat for 5 minutes and brown each side of the roast, 2-3 minutes on each side, adding some salt and pepper on each side.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion, celery, and carrots. Saute for about 8 minutes, scraping up any browned bits from the roast. Return the roast to the pot and add the beef and chicken broths. Add enough water to make the chuck roast submerged halfway, about 1/2 cup. Place the lid on the Dutch oven and put it in the oven (middle rack) and roast on 300 degrees for about three hours.

After an hour and a half, flip the roast. At the two-hour mark, check it for doneness. You should be able to easily tear it apart with a fork. Because the meat is cooking in liquid, you can cook it as long as you’d like without fear of it drying out – in fact, the longer the better (although anything longer than four hours is probably too long). 

Remove the roast from the broth. Strain the vegetables (they will be mushy now) and save the liquid (should be about 1-1/2 cups). Pour the liquid back into the Dutch oven and turn the heat up to med/high. Reduce the liquid to about one cup, which will take about 5 minutes. Next, add the red wine and further reduce the liquid to about 1 cup, which should take another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Once the sauce is ready, return the roast to the broth. Slice or pull apart. Serve the roast with the sauce spooned over the top.

I received a Le Crueset Dutch oven as a Christmas gift and I've been looking for ways to use it. So far I've made soup, meat sauce and this roast. I love that the Dutch oven can be used both on top of the stove and in the oven.  But without that Dutch oven, I could have done this in two steps—brown the meat, add the vegetables, and then the broth to de-glaze the pan. Then put all of that in an oven safe covered dish and continue on.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Winter Day Cooking

Yesterday while I was busy looking out the window all day to see if it was snowing, the "pageviews" counter for this blog rolled past 100,000. Thanks to all of you who visit here and keep me company.

I'll be honest. If there had been a jar of marinara sauce on the pantry shelf, or down in the basement (my emergency food stash) I would have used it. I always have marinara sauce on hand. Except this time I didn't. But the ground beef in the refrigerator needed to be used. And I had plenty of time to cook since the weather was keeping everyone indoors.

It started as freezing rain, then came the sleet and that was topped off by a fine layer of snow. Daddy-O had to feed the cows. He even went back in the afternoon and gave them an extra bale. But other than his tractor, I didn't see one vehicle on our road. (You readers in Minnesota and Colorado, don't laugh. This really is enough to shut us down.)

I took liberties with this recipe to use what I had on hand. No trip to the store in this weather.  Recipes like this one (I think of it as a "starter" recipe) can be adjusted to suit your taste. More seasoning. Less seasoning. Add something different—maybe diced green peppers or celery or a bay leaf or two. More garlic. Less sugar. Red wine instead of water. The possibilities are endless.

But this is exactly how I did it on a cold miserable day. And I was happy with the results. It's on the mild side, but I decided that was a good thing last night. I'll make this one again. Love that it uses ingredients that I usually have in my pantry.


1-1/2 lb lean ground beef
1/2 medium onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced (or 1 tsp from a jar)
1 (28-oz) can crushed tomatoes
2 (6-oz) cans tomato paste
1 (15-oz) can tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a Dutch oven or large pot, brown ground beef, onion and garlic until all pink in the meat is gone. Drain if necessary. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce and water. Add sugar, basil, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and mix well. Reduce heat to LOW, cover and simmer 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Second Time's The Charm

Turkey Meatballs

I had this ready to post earlier in the month just after the family when home after the holidays, but other things kept jumping in front of this recipe. But today, while we wait to see if we have frozen weather this weekend, I'll share it. Thankfully, there are still some meatballs in the freezer. Might be perfect for an easy supper if we are here snowed in for a couple of days.

I know I posted this recipe only a few weeks ago, and this is quick to post again, but I changed the cooking method this time and it made all the difference. A lot of difference. We liked them okay the first time. This time everyone loved them! Little ones. Son-in-law. Everyone. The first time I cooked some of these, I did it all in the skillet—browned the meatballs, poured sauce over and cooked them until done. (The original recipe didn't give a cooking method, just the mixing and freezing directions.) When I cooked them on the stovetop, the meatballs kind of fell apart and the texture was softer than I liked. Cooking them in the oven gave a better texture to the meatballs. I won't try another way after this success.

I had a double batch of these in the freezer to help feed the family while they were here for the holiday. This was a favorite dinner of their two week stay. I am always looking for ways to make supper easy when the little girls are here. Pulling things from the freezer really helps.

 This is a double batch, ready for the freezer.

    adapted from Martha Stewart

3 slices whole-wheat sandwich bread
1/4 cup whole milk
1-1/2 lbs. ground turkey (lean, dark meat)
3 green onions, finely chopped
2 small garlic cloves, minced (I used 2 tsp. from a jar)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 large egg
coarse salt and pepper to taste

Place bread in food processor; pulse until fine crumbs form. In a small bowl, mix breadcrumbs with milk; set aside at least 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine turkey, green onions, garlic, parsley, egg, salt (1-1/2 tsp) and pepper (1/4 tsp) and breadcrumb mixture. Mix gently with a fork.

With your hands, form into meatballs (1 meatball = 2 level tablespoons). Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet with sides. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper.

To freeze: place meatballs on baking sheet in freezer for 1 hour. Move meatballs to a ziplock freezer bag. Label and date. Store frozen up to 3 months.

Makes about 30 meatballs. (I got 28)

To cook frozen meatballs:
This time I heated a large non-stick skillet with olive oil to medium hot. Then I browned the frozen meatballs. Just used my tongs to turn them a couple of times and get a good brown on two or three sides. I don't think any of them were browned all over. I turned them as best I could, but didn't try for complete browning. I didn't want them to break apart.

I moved the browned meatballs into a 8x11-inch baking dish (that's a 2-qt dish) that I had sprayed lightly with PAM. I poured a jar of spaghetti sauce into the warm skillet, then added a can of diced tomatoes and a couple of good shakes of Italian seasoning. Stir that all up and let it simmer a few minutes.

Pour sauce over the meatballs and cover dish with foil. Bake at 350 degrees (preheated) for 1 hour.

This time I served the meatballs with cheese tortellini.  This was a nice change from spaghetti. As we kept talking about how good these are, we said they could also be good for making meatball subs, or meatball sliders. I have enough left in the freezer to cook again. Next time I might pour barbecue sauce over the browned meatballs before baking, then serve them with mashed potatoes.

I also had whole wheat sourdough bread in the freezer. And I just open a can of green beans because I was really looking for easy—and Baby Girl likes green beans. That's as good a reason as any to cook them.

This recipe is now definitely a "keeper."

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Keeping Up With Baby

I am back at home after spending time with Baby Girl. I may sit still in front of the fire all day today. Just because I can. There surely isn't much sitting when you are keeping up with a 22-month old. Unless she was sleeping and that didn't happen as much as you might think. Certainly not as often as I wanted

I was hoping to get lots of cute photos. I ended up with a collection of pink blurs. She is perpetual motion. And after watching her in a hospital bed a few months ago, so still and so quiet, that running at full speed is more than okay. I can rest here at home.

What I did get (instead of photos) was a collection of her words. So funny to hear this tiny person chatter away. If anything happens to you—head bump, cough, anything—she always asks, "You okay?"

So after she swallowed wrong and coughed a little, I asked her...
        Me: Are you okay?
        Baby Girl: No. I'm not. (Like, seriously? Can't you see I'm choking?)

Baby Girl is extremely well mannered. The "please & thank yous" are well in place. And she never misses a "you're welcome" or a "yes, m'am." The NO is just that, though. NO. NO. NO. We did hear that a lot. She's almost two. She's supposed to say that.

She is completely clear on what she wants. "Mimi, I want 'nama." (That's banana.) Or, what she doesn't want. "No, I don't want that." (Usually water.) "I need 'nack, (snack) now." "Teebee on. Mee Mou Mou!" (TV on. Mickey Mouse!) Some of her speech requires understanding toddler-ese.

But other phrases are perfectly clear. "Mimi, sit here. Chair." (As she pats the seat.) "Daddy-O, come. Follow me." (Into trouble, probably.) "Mimi, stay here." (As she tries to go do something sneaky.) "I don't want any." (Beans.) "No nap!" (That one needs no explanation.)

I heard "I tyin." (I'm tired.) "I going." "I hungry." I thought, what an economy of words. She doesn't use verbs. Then I realized that she doesn't need the "was" or the "am" or the "will be." At her age, she lives totally in the present. No need for past tense or future tense.

Well, this morning, I'm "tyin." Very "tyin." But give me a day to catch up and I'll be ready to go again.

Monday, January 18, 2016

How Sweet It Is

Mommy and family arrived home in the wee hours of the morning. We survived a few days here without them and did okay. It helped that by Saturday, the adult/toddler ratio was 3 to 1. Saturday night, (night #3) getting Baby Girl to bed went much smoother than the first two nights.

I got an entire night's sleep Saturday night, so to celebrate I made pancakes for Sunday breakfast! Daddy-O was happy. Jessica (who had come for the day on Saturday then took pity on us and spent the night) was happy. Baby Girl was REALLY happy. Because after her plain pancake, Daddy-O got involved and poured a little syrup for her.

They don't do that when Mommy is in charge. It's probably for the best that Daddy-O doesn't see them very often. I fully agree that teaching them good food habits is important. But Daddy-O made a sneak attack with the maple syrup. And the look on her face was priceless.

              adapted from Mark Bittman's NYTimes recipe

2 cups all- purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 eggs
1-1/2 to 2 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted & cooled

Mix together dry ingredients in a bowl.  In another bowl, beat eggs into 1-1/2 cups milk. Stir in melted butter. Stir milk mixture into dry ingredients, stirring only enough to moisten flour. A few lumps are okay. If your batter is too thick, add a little more milk.

Use 1/4 measuring cup to ladle batter onto a medium hot greased griddle or skillet. When you see bubbles around the edge and the bottoms are brown, flip and cook the other side.

Makes about 16 4-inch pancakes

This is an easy recipe, but there is measuring involved. I think it would be nice to mix up a couple of batches of the dry ingredients and pack and label it. Then it would be really easy to make these. These really are better than using a mix (which I also use.)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Baby Knitting

Pattern: Kid's Fruit Hat by Ann Norling, Jeannee Baby/Toddler Socks
Yarn: Debby Bliss Baby Cashemerino, Pale Pink
Needles: size 6 (hat), size 4 (socks)

Just before I came to babysit a week ago (I'm still here, by the way) I made a cute little baby hat for Jessica to send to a friend. She had hoped I might make a sweater, too, but time ran out, so I knitted up a quick pair of baby socks. So cute. So much fun to make. I sneaked away from babysitting here one night to spend a night in the city with Jessica and delivered this sweet little set.

She has already mailed it to Maggie in North Carolina. I just realized that my little knitted hats have also warmed baby heads in Florida, Arizona, Georgia, Arkansas, California and South Carolina. I know some of the babies' families. Many have gone to friends of my daughters. I've even made them for son-in-law's co-workers and daughter's boyfriend's grad school friends. I'm learning—keep one on the needles at all times!

When I pack to travel, I always pack something to knit. The first part of my babysitting week, Baby Girl slept a little later in the mornings and that gave me knitting time while Little Sister was at school. Our weather finally feels like winter, so a new warm hat for Baby Girl was my choice for quick knitting. (I made Little Sister this same hat in pink a couple of years ago.) How much fun to let her try on the new hat before I finished. I don't usually have the recipient of my knits on hand to try it on in progress. Wish I did!

Baby Girl is a hat lover. She will keep one on much of the time, even with her pajamas. I finished this hat in about a day. I did have to make a quick trip to the fabric store to buy a new pompom maker. The store here only sold the Clover brand. I've been using a Susan Bates pompom maker. They both work fine and make perfect pompoms, but I think that maybe this one from Clover is a little easier to use. Might be nice that I forgot to bring mine from home.

Pattern: Hibernatum
Yarn: Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted, Pistachio
Needles: size 7

Winter has finally arrived here in the deep South with morning temps in the 20s.  This little hat is a warm one. She'll get much wear out of it. I made the size Small and only knitted 2-1/2 repeats of the pattern to make it a little shorter—a better fit for a toddler head.

I have several baby blanket in my knitting line-up, but what a pleasant break it was to make some quick projects! The little hat/socks set took about 120 yards of yarn. A baby blanket, depending on the pattern, can take 500-800 yards. That's SO much more knitting time. It's good to keep all of this in mind when you choose a project. 

Uh oh. I had forgotten how quick and how busy little hands can be. It's a good thing she dropped the hat down in the floor of the car (where she couldn't reach it) before she completely picked the pompom apart! One strand at a time. Looks like her fine motor skills are excellent. Thankfully, there is just enough yarn left to make another one if she has another go at it.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Cold Weather Hot Soup

I have realized that I can write. And I can "grandmother." But it's hard to do both at the same time. This week I'm in full out grandmother mode, so blogging has gone by the wayside. I've been at Mommy's house all week doing a little babysitting before the "big" babysitting starts today. For the rest of the week, it will be just me and Baby Girl here while the rest of that family goes to an out-of-town wedding.

When I arrived here on Sunday, Mommy was making soup for supper. This is a new-to-me recipe but one they love. Now I know why. It's rich and creamy, just right for a cold winter night. It is a copycat recipe from the chain restaurant, Le Madeleine. (There are many versions online if you google the recipe.) That's the restaurant where J-Daddy picked up supper each night while Baby Girl was in the hospital back in October. Mommy said she ate soup every night, not because it was the only good thing on their menu, but because it was good enough to order again and again. She says this soup recipe is not exactly like the restaurant soup, but it is equally good. Maybe better.

It makes a big pot full, so if you have a smaller household, you can divide it in half. We had enough for everyone here to have soup for supper with enough leftover for lunch the next day.


2 (28-oz) cans whole tomatoes
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 large bunch fresh basil (about 15 leaves)
1 stick butter, plus 2 tablespoon butter
1 cup heavy cream
salt & pepper to taste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
goat cheese for garnish

Add tomatoes and broth in a large stockpot and cook over medium high heat for 20 minutes to combine flavors and reduce liquid. Add the basil and puree with a stick blender, right in the pot. (You can do it in small batches in a regular blender if you don't have a stick blender.)

Add the stick of butter and cream and bring to a simmer. To thicken, using a fork, combine the 2 tablespoon butter (room temp) and 2 tablespoons flour in a small bowl. Stir into soup and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring until thickened. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with a little goat cheese on the top.

Fingers crossed that this little person and I will have an uneventful few days!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Making Space

We are one week into the new year. I am reading so much everywhere about decluttering and organizing. Goodness knows, I've done lots of that. My over stuffed refrigerator is back to normal. The pantry is cleaner than it's been in ages. You can see the kitchen countertops. Well, at least there is some empty space. We have put away the decorations. Hauled out the tree. (Our first artificial one, so it got hauled to the barn.) Taken all the boxes to recycling.

But I've taken a bigger step and made space in my life. At the end 2015, I gave up an activity that I loved. I bowed out of a group that I had created. For years, I led a senior adult ukulele band that grew from 5 people who had just learned to play, to 25 accomplished musicians who were in constant demand and entertained thousands. I led the band for a final time just before Christmas—a huge event in a convention center. It went really well. And then I handed the reins over to new leadership.

How hard it was to say goodbye to the people and to the activity. It has filled much of my calendar, my thoughts, and my life for years. But a very wise couple who were in that original five band members—people I am lucky to call friends—have a life "rule." They do one new thing every year. Something completely new to them. They are in their 80s now. Playing the ukulele was their new thing back 2007 when the band started. They meant to stay with us a year. But it was so much fun that they played in the band for five or six years.

None of us could understand how they could do it when they announced they were leaving the band. Or, why they were doing it. I certainly didn't understand. But now I do. They told me that there was not enough time to do new things if they kept up all of the old things. Even when the old activities were good ones.

"Music is the space between the notes. It’s not the notes you play; it’s the notes you don’t play."   ~ Miles Davis 

So, this year I'm working on making space. Space in my house. Space in my life. Breathing room. There can't be new wonderful things unless I part with old wonderful things.

Yesterday at our knitting group, it was more low-key than usual. And everyone commented at one time or another how glad they were for the quiet. It is in that quiet, in the empty spaces, in the breathing room, that we can see and hear and do what is important. It's awfully easy to fill up every part of our lives with "stuff." Possessions. Activities. Electronic devices. Social media. Television. Stuff.

I don't want my days to be so full that I miss the good stuff. I don't want to be too busy to see the little miracles that happen every day right in front of me. I want to spend enough time with my grandchildren that some day they will talk about how they loved spending time with Mimi.

Miles Davis borrowed that quote above from Claude Debussy who only said the first sentence. They both understood. We need the silence to frame the beautiful notes. We don't fully appreciate the glorious sunrises without noticing the bare sky that is outside my window this morning. We need space.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Cold Weather Food

Yep. I'm posting this recipe again. It's the perfect after-the-holiday recipe. Chock full of vegetables. Easy to make. A welcome lunch after chasing cows through the field on a cold day.  It's Daddy-O approved. I really thought that maybe by now, he might decide he didn't care for this. He is a true meat lover. But this is the third time I've made this for him. And he still talked about how good it is. 

If you think your folks won't like the squash in the chili, look at the two photos above. The top photo is just after I mixed all of the ingredients together. That squash is all bright orange—it's like a challenge to the meat lovers out there. But look at the bottom photo. After an hour or so of simmering on the stove, it just looks like regular chili. If you don't tell what's in this one, I don't think anyone will figure it out.

I will tell you that if you use fresh squash, it might not disappear so completely. You can look at my photos (and more photos) from previous winters when I've made this. It all tasted good. But using the frozen vs fresh looks different. This was the first time I found the frozen squash at the store. It was in the organic section. Maybe I've never looked in the right place before. Opening that bag was much easier than peeling and chopping, but this chili is good enough that I'll deal with the fresh squash if I have to.

Daddy-O's question this time was, "What gives it the meaty flavor?" And I'm not sure. I think it's the cocoa mixed in with the other spices. It does have a little bit of a smoky taste. This time we sprinkled a little Monterey Jack cheese on top.


1 medium red onion, chopped
2 (14-oz.) cans diced tomatoes (one can had green peppers & onion)
2 (15.5-oz.) cans black beans (do not drain) 
1 (10-oz) bag frozen cubed butternut squash (or 2-3 cups fresh squash, peeled & cubed)
4 garlic cloves, minced (or 2 tsp of jarred minced garlic)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup water

Combine all ingredients in large pot. Bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer for 60-90 minutes, stirring occasionally. (You can also use your slow cooker  and cook on HIGH for 3-4 hours.)

Taste the chili and if it's too acidic from the tomatoes, add a pinch of sugar.  I don't always think it needs it, but this time it did.

      Optional toppings: crushed tortilla chips, shredded cheese, sour cream

DUH! I just realized that I never put the 1 cup of water into the pot. It was good anyway! Now I want to make it again with the water and the frozen squash and see if there is much difference. Maybe one day I'll manage to not get distracted mid-recipe.

Monday, January 4, 2016

No--We Are Not Eating More Cake

I think some of you at church yesterday heard me say that my kitchen was closed until further notice. There was much cooking here at the farm over the last few weeks and I am cooked out. I declared it closed. And I meant it.

Except, that today it's my turn to provide a dessert for our monthly meal delivery to the Hospice House. And on Wednesday I am scheduled to do supper for the kids program at church. So much for "kitchen closed." I decided that "easy" was the next best thing to "closed."

I had planned to make a Honey Bun Cake yesterday afternoon. I already had cake mix on the shelf. Then when I began to pull out the rest of the ingredients and utensils, I discovered I didn't have a 9x13-inch foil pan. These meals are packaged so that no dishes have to be returned. This is a totally appropriate time to use disposables.

Now, we live six miles from the closest grocery store. I stood in the middle of the kitchen for a few minutes trying to think of some way to avoid making a trip into town. Then it dawned on me. In my rummage through the junk drawer last week, not only did I find Ellen's frosting recipe, I also saw a copy of the little red cookbook I put together right after we were married. Recipes gathered from everyone in the family years ago. I remembered Aunt Betty's coffee cake recipe was in there. (It's her chocolate pound cake recipe I use, too.) 

It also called for cake mix, which was already sitting out on the counter. And I knew I had a couple of round cake boards in the cabinet, so I could pack the cake for delivery. I checked for the rest of the ingredients and breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that I had enough eggs.

I have no clue why this was called "Jewish" coffee cake. I googled that name and saw similar recipes. They made reference to old family recipes from Eastern Europe, and someone's recipe came from her mom who worked at a Jewish nursing home years ago. My Aunt Betty was Southern Baptist. I doubt she ever wondered about the name. It was just one of those recipes that got passed around from friend to friend. All they needed to know is that it was good cake.

It has been ages since I baked this. But I used to make it when I needed to take food to a friend in need. It can be dessert, or put it with a cup of coffee and call it breakfast!


1 box yellow cake mix
1 small box instant vanilla pudding mix
1/2 cup cooking oil
1/2 cup sour cream
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

Filling:  3/4 cup sugar, 1-1/2 teaspoons cocoa, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 cup chopped nuts.

Mix filling ingredients. Set aside.

Mix cake ingredients together. Beat well with hand mixer. Put half batter into well-greased Bundt pan. Sprinkle sugar mixture over batter. Spread rest of the batter over the top. Swirl with a knife.

Bake at 350 degrees (preheated) for 55 minutes. (I dusted it with powdered sugar after it cooled.)

You don't know how hard it was to keep from cutting this cake so I could have a photo of the inside. You'll just have to imagine the cinnamon/cocoa/nut swirl running through the center.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

A New Year—A New Recipe

Gee, it's quiet here this morning. No little feet padding down the hall. No curly headed little girl in pajamas stumbling into the den asking, "Where's my Daddy-O?" No toys scattered all across the floor. No early morning concert. (Little Sister wakes up singing every morning.)

All of our holiday visitors are back in their respective homes today. It just us old folks here at the farm. A few days ago, Little Sister asked me how I got so old, then informed me, "I'm not old. I'm new." So many Christmas memories were made. And I lived in the moment more this Christmas, so there are fewer photos.

While we had little ones in residence for a couple of weeks, we only had about two days when they could play outside. It rained. And rained. And rained. And then it rained some more. The river that borders the farm overflowed its banks. But it was warm enough for flip flops. Crazy weather for Christmas.

New Year's Day is always a big day for us. We had the traditional Southern meal of black-eyed peas, collards, pork and cornbread. Then that evening we had cake. Birthday cake. Mommy's birthday isn't on New Year's Day but it's close. We usually end up celebrating on New Year's Day when we are all together.

This year she asked for chocolate pound cake. And because it was for her birthday, I made chocolate frosting. This recipe was given to me by a sweet lady at our church who is famous for her chocolate pound cake. Mommy would always make a dash for her cake at church dinners to be sure she got a slice before it was all gone. I don't usually frost pound cake, but it's the frosting that made Ellen's cake special.

Last week, I unearthed the recipe card she had given me years ago while I was looking for something in a kitchen drawer (you know..."that" drawer) and I decided it was a sign to make the frosting. Then I read the recipe and wasn't sure it was right. I googled other frosting recipes. There were many similar ones. All had more butter. Some had less sugar. There were more mixing steps. I couldn't believe that 2 tablespoons of butter would work with a whole box of sugar.

But we have eaten Ellen's cake for years, so I decided to follow her recipe exactly as she wrote it, fingers crossed. (I could have served the cake without frosting and it would have been fine.) I did sift the cocoa and sugar together. Then I cut up the butter into smaller pieces and dropped it into the sugar. It really didn't look like enough. In fact, I wasn't sure that 2 tablespoons of cocoa was enough either. But I kept going, trusting Ellen. I added the 5 tablespoons of evaporated milk, plus a little more. I used about 6-1/2 tablespoons total. When I mixed it together, it was like magic. It was just like we remembered.


1 box 10-X powdered sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
2 tablespoons butter, softened
5 tablespoons evaporated milk, plus more to make it creamy & spreadable

Sift sugar and cocoa together. Add softened butter and milk. Mix on medium to high speed, adding more milk by the tablespoon as needed, until it's spreadable. Work quickly to frost cake, as frosting sets up.

We were about to cut the cake after dinner when Little Sister asked, "Where are the candles?" Well, what were we thinking? Of course we needed candles. It's a birthday cake! We added a candle of each color in the box. And then we sang Happy Birthday. That made it a real party.

Happy Birthday, Mommy!
And Happy New Year to all of you!