Eat your heart out Marie Antoinette!

Chocolate Cake anyone?

Let's eat cake!
Let’s eat cake!

Lately, I have had a dilemma. Do I take a chance the road leading north to Tinicum CSA farm will be open? Or closed? If open, great! If closed, it will not be discovered until total drive time will be rather long and require so much backtracking I will wonder why I attempted the route. Not wanting to deal with a turnaround, I have opted to take an alternate route. The shorter alternate route means traveling to New Jersey and on a highway which parallels the road on which I normally travel, but offer very few river views. The longer alternate route will take me on a highway, through a state park, and along the river with several miles of beautiful river views. There is no dilemma, really, The beauty of this route, the longest route, is something I have enjoyed and embraced. It provides the opportunity to relax and reduce my stress level after a long work week. With the beauty of a GPS system guiding me, one lane bridges are crossed, old stone farm house are passed, curves in the road to move through, shade to enjoy, creeks to cross, and the reward of a general store as the farm nears.

As I traveled through a Pennsylvania state park during one of these trips I pondered what to make for the members of the AAUW who would come over to discuss an upcoming presentation. Rarely do I crave chocolate cake, but there had been multiple chocolate cake references in my life that week. There was the mystery books reference, the classroom discussion of the $75 cake, and the appearance of the Ruth Reichl Giant Chocolate Cake recipe in the New York Times. This chocolate

its just a store brand
its just a store brand

cake will feed twenty five people, but not needing to feed such a large crowd and knowing the dangers of left over chocolate cake, I opted to cut the recipe amounts in half. A good decision as this cake gets rave reviews because it is very good chocolate cake.

Not having many cocoa choices at the grocery store (and having a low checkbook balance), run-of-the-mill cocoa was purchased, but I did opt for the Ghiradelli unsweetened chocolate for the icing. (Brands are not suggested in the recipe.) Additionally, there was no whipped cream cheese available so regular cream cheese was used for the icing.

Given these limitations the cake was easy to prepare (why do people make box cakes?), did not require much time to make, and the

Always add salt to your baked goods!
Always add salt to your baked goods!

frosting came together with ease. I won’t bore you with the details of assembling a cake. My only change would be to note on the recipe to wait until the cake is fully cooled before making the frosting in order to have an easily spreadable frosting.

I had made the frosting while the cake was in the oven, then placed the frosting in the refrigerator due to the cream cheese. So the

what happens with frosting that has not come to room temperature
what happens with frosting that has not come to room temperature

frosting had to come to room temperature before it could be easily spread.

This is no humdrum overly-sweet cake from a box or a store, no this cake has flavor and wonderful texture. Therein lies the danger. Remaining pieces of cake will not long remain in my home. It will make it to my tummy. Luckily, while at the hardware store, discussion turned to this cake and so a majority of the remaining cake to the guys at the hardware store and I froze three pieces for me.

I suggest you find a reason to make this cake as soon as you can.

Last: I do not get any compensation for any product or store which is mentioned in any blog posting, including this one. The names I mention are done only to identify, not promote, a company or product. I engage in no promotional consideration from any of the companies mentioned in my blog.

The basic process of making this cake:

you will need to cream the butter and sugars
you will need to cream the butter and sugars
First, you will combine cocoa and hot water
First, you will combine cocoa and hot water
You will need to alternate the flour and cocoa mixtures
You will need to alternate the flour and cocoa mixtures
it will start to come together
it will start to come together

Life, Land, and Peanut Butter Pretzel Fudge

The flat land of North Dakota possesses a beauty in its seemingly never-ending expanse that allows a person to see this

Peanut Butter Pretzel Fudge
Peanut Butter Pretzel Fudge

country unbroken by the intrusion of man. Yet, there is a beauty in the hills and valleys of the land found in other areas of our country. Like the land of this country, life is not always smooth. There are hills and valleys which provide a beauty to this life of ours when we choose to enjoy the view. Fudge is like the land of this country. It has hills, valleys, and flat areas and it is all beautiful if you choose to see the beauty in it.

This post is about the fudge I make which is beautiful despite the fact it is not formed into perfectly shaped pieces ready for their close-up.

One night, I had a craving for peanut butter fudge. As a child, copious amounts of peanut butter fudge were made in my mother’s kitchen. That fudge contained peanut butter, corn syrup, and other now-forgotten ingredients. I knew I needed a recipe, but could initially only locate recipes with chocolate in the mix. Not that there is anything wrong with chocolate. Purists would argue fudge must contain chocolate. Nonsense I say! Yet, I yielded to a peanut butter chocolate combination.

After a bit of a search, I located the How Sweet It Is recipe which I deemed perfect: 3 ingredients and the use of the microwave.

After making, eating, and enjoying the first batch of fudge, I opted to make a second batch. The strange thing occurred in the grocery store isle. I saw a large display of Herr’s Extra Thin Pretzels at the end of an aisle. I would put pretzels into the fudge! Into my cart went a bag of pretzels.

Ready for cooling!
Ready for cooling!

A few days later, with the fudge ingredients in an old Pyrex mixing bowl and already in the microwave, I was crushing pretzels. These crushed pretzels were added to the warm fudge mixture, stirred and were ready to be place into a pan to cool.

After a thirty minute period in the refrigerator the fudge was set and I was hungry. One taste and I was a happy. I trotted to bed knowing peanut butter pretzel fudge wait for me. The next day a coworker confirmed the fudge was good and asked for the recipe (another confirmation). I had a winner. I suggest keeping the ingredients on hand so you can make the fudge whenever you want. Consider making a batch to give as a gift. Maybe a gift to a particular blogger. I can send you my address. Here’s the recipe.

Enjoy.

Just Peachy

Yum!
Yum!

It is hot, who wants to cook? Plus, it is my birthday week and I want to pamper myself by making some element of each meal a bit more special than normal. Since peaches were left over from the Peach BBQ Sauce, I opted to make a peach crisp.

While cobbler may be the go-to option for many with left over peaches, the crisp is a better option in my single person household. A crisp works well for me by limiting the food waste ( a cobbler is too much) and they are a way to get fruit into my diet (always a struggle).

This single crisp recipe is easy, contains ingredients easily found in my kitchen, and bakes in the toaster oven so my kitchen remains cool. Well, as cool as it can be when the evening temperatures are in the 80s.

You will need

1 peeled peach or baking apple, sliced

2 -3 Tablespoons flour

3 Tablespoons long-cooking oatmeal

3 Tablespoons brown sugar (adjust according to sweetness of fruit and preference)

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, more or less to taste.

2 Tablespoons chopped pecans or walnuts, optional

1 – 2 Tablespoons butter, in pea sized pieces, cold is best

Add the sliced fruit to an oven proof dish which is appropriate in size to the amount of fruit you have. If making an apple crisp, you may wish to add raisins and/or dried cranberries to the fruit.

Sprinkle about 1 Tablespoon of flour over the fruit and toss to coat.

Place remaining flour in a small bowl and add oatmeal, sugar, cinnamon, and nuts. Mix and sprinkle evenly over the fruit.

Dot the top with the butter.

Place in hot oven (350 degrees) for approximately 20-30 minutes depending upon amount and type of fruit.

Once cooked, let rest until the crisp is warm, not hot,

Eat as is or serve with cream or ice cream.

Thanksgiving in August

The 48 hours of stark contrasts began on a Tuesday morning when I woke having slept under a family quilt. The often-used yellow and white quilt had kept me warm on a cool night. That morning I was eager to start the day as it was In Service Day, the start of a new academic year. This year, there was a fresh food drive, the first for our school.

As I drove to work the morning sunlight was reaching through the leaves, the cloud-free blue skies were cheerful, and the cool morning air was peaceful, yet invigorating. My thoughts were on the watermelon, the chilies, and the eggplants packed for donation and I was thinking of the lemons I planned to pick up at the grocery store. i wondered what my coworkers would bring from their garden, the farmer’s market, or the grocery store. The fact I was in a position to make a donation made me thankful for the abundance of my life. I do not know the stress of the wondering how I will put food on the table or wondering how bills will be paid that week or

A generous amount of produce was donated at the fresh produce drive.
A generous amount of produce was donated at the fresh produce drive.

month. In other words, I was thankful for what I did have as well as what I do not have. In just an hour more than 200 pounds of food and more than $500 were collected. I was elated and happy at a successful food drive. That is, until…

Until the next day when The Worst First Day of School Ever occurred. Problems with unassigned assignments appearing in the course space. due date ranging from 2014 to 2017, problems with the publisher’s companion website no loading, and the two problems converging in one course. No course went unscathed. In short, problems never before experienced and requiring the assistance of a befuddled IT department. Not good. If I were a drinker, there would have been a bottle opened that night.

The first day of school has passed and I am back to feeling thankful for what I have and what I don’t have. The following is the post written after turning a negative into a positive.

When traveling to Saint Louis, I pass through western Maryland into West Virginia where all the scenery is beautiful, rest

The finished product is best toasted and with lots of butter.
The finished product is best toasted and with lots of butter.

stops give a person no reason to leave, and places to stretch your legs are few and far between. There is, however, a place I call Candy Land. It is a small market with half the store dedicated to penny candy; much of it chocolate. Here is a chance to walk the aisles and stretch my legs and an opportunity to pick up grocery items. On the most recent trip I opted to purchase candy, a few pieces of fruit, noodles, and a pack of dates. The perfect combination of nutrition-filled and nutrition-void car trip foods.  OK, not the noodles, they would be cooked and consumed at home.

The next time you pick up date I hope they are fresh and delicious. In either case you just might want to make this bread and be thankful for all you have.

Get the recipe here.

Tea and Travels

Iced tea on a hot day. Nothing better.
Iced tea on a hot day. Nothing better.

I had not intended to stop at The Tea Shoppe in Morgantown, West Virginia. Country Roads Quilt Shop was my destination. The free 2015 Row by Row pattern was the reason to make the detour into Morgantown. This pattern was of particular interest because it is the perfect companion piece to the Stitcher’s Garden Quilt by Linda Howell (I’m on month 6 -of 12-after 5 years!) A stop would allow me to pick up the pattern and stretch my legs after hours of driving. The Tea Shoppe was a pleasant surprise.

I wandered into The Tea Shoppe and was met by the nicest young college student. She told me about the tea offerings, inquired about my preferences, and helped me select a new-to-me tea, Scottish Breakfast. It is hearty and robust and makes a wonderful hot or iced tea and is beautiful in the summer sun.

Loose tea is not an indulgence, it is an ordinary purchase with an extraordinary resulting cup of tea. If you hesitate to purchase loose tea run the numbers; loose tea is not as costly as one might think, plus you have a

Loose leaf tea has a wonderful aroma.
Loose leaf tea has a wonderful aroma.

fresher, better tasting tea. (Not certain how to prepare loose tea? Just ask the employees in your local tea shop, they will be happy to tell you.) Keep in mind, 2 ounces of tea (about $7-8) will result in about 25 cups of tea if brewed only once. Just thirty two cents a cup. Less than a postage stamp and much more satisfying.

Although it might be considered rough to admit the resteeping of tea leaves, it is done frequently in my kitchen. The morning cup of tea is the caffeinated first steep while the evening steep is decaffeinated, allowing the enjoyment of tea later in the day. The thirty two cents spend for the first cup of tea averages to sixteen cents.

Living in Philadelphia means I will pass through Morgantown only on occasion, I will remember The Tea Shoppe with their large selection of tea when traveling in the area.

No copperheads here!

Some of the blackberries I picked this year. .
Some of the blackberries I picked this year. .

Because I had not picked blueberries in early July as usual, I had to get berries in early August, after my return from vacation. Because it was so late in the season, blueberry picking was light and 90 minutes was needed to pick 2 quarts of berries. Essentially, I had to hunt down the few berries overlooked by others. But I have some blueberries in the freezer and I will be able to make the blueberry corn muffins I love so much.

On that trip to get blueberries, I had blackberries on my agenda. I opted to pick enough for a snack and return when more berries would be ripe and I was not tired from having stood in the August heat for over an hour. That next week I picked enough berries to last until next season. In the meantime, fresh blackberries are being eaten, banana-blackberry smoothies were refreshing during a recent heat wave, and I look forward to blackberry-chocolate chip muffins during the cold winters.

Each year I make Zesty Peach BBQ sauce, a peach cobbler, and eat sliced peaches on hot summer days. The Peach BBQ sauce was recommended to my cousin, Trish, who mentioned she peaches remaining after a day of canning. A few days later she posted she was making the sauce and a few people were requesting the recipe. The Zesty Peach BBQ sauce is an easy recipe made with common ingredients, and the goes well with just about any grilled meat. Note: I do not puree the ingredients, instead they remain chunky. Processing time in the water bath canner is the same as salsa recipes, so I do not alter the processing time. .

If you did not pick berries this year, I encourage you to put berry picking on your list. You will have fun, support your local farmer, and enjoy the berries all year long.

Oh, wondering about my blog post title? My sister has the best blackberries in her backyard, they are small in size, but big on flavor. The problem is there are copperhead snakes in the area. So the berries are left on the bush, but I think of those berries every summer.

‘Local’ what does it mean?

Missouri is where my heart is, regardless of where I live.

Crossing the Mighty Mississippi River into Missouri means I have arrived home. The mile long drive across the span of bridge provides not only an unobstructed view of the tree-laden Missouri river bank, but also an emotional connection to where I have lots of happy memories. The light from the setting sun highlights the tree-laden bank of the river.

Plans to see family and engage in activities such as playing games, visiting restaurants, or dining at a favorite restaurant are made more real with the crossing into Missouri. A favorite restaurant is located in Florissant, Missouri in a century-old railroad station depot. While the train depot has stood over a century, but De.lish Bakery and Cafe has resided in the depot only a few years. Sadly, De.lish will close at the end of this month (see their announcement).

Small, locally owned businesses are important to me and to my family. The closing of De.lish is heart-wrenching. When a business experiences continued losses, businesses cannot survive and face the unpleasant task of shutting the business. The announcement of De.lish’s closing has me reexamining, yet again, what it means to support a business. It is not enough to follow them on social media, promote their social media posts. or talking with friends and family about how great a business is.

Support means cold hard cash removed from the wallet and spent at the business. Money is a fact of life, an unpleasant topic, but for small business owners money is a necessity. Without sales, profits cannot exist. Without profits, business cannot survive. The closure of a business is a loss for employees, customers, and the local community. Town character is determined, in part, by the businesses which reside in the community. It is the population who determines, through where they spend money, if the businesses are big box discount operations or locally-owned businesses. Too many towns in America have the same businesses as the next town, giving people in other towns no reason to visit.

It is my hope people will begin to take notice of the need to support local businesses in the town and embrace the principles of the 3/50 Project. The 3/50 Project encourages you to pick 3 local businesses and spend $50 each month at that business. The $1.67 daily cost is a small price to pay to support your local business. Think of the difference to your town and to your local business people.

Select one business to support this month and ask friends and family to do the same. You will be glad to get to know the small business owners in your community. Everyone benefits. Let me know about your experiences!

First time for collard greens!

Sorry for the delay in posting, yesterday morning I experienced technology failure on three devices. This is my first opportunity to post.

 

Trimmed collard greens waiting to be cooked.
Trimmed collard greens waiting to be cooked.

Collard greens. I would have bet these nutritious leafy greens had been on the dinner table numerous times during my childhood. They have the country cooking image I associate with my father who spent some time growing up with a garden and raising chickens. On a recent trip to my hometown of St. Louis, I learned collard greens were not a part of my childhood. My mother was definite she had never cooked collard greens. If she did not cook them, I did not eat them. Which does not mean if she had cooked them, I would have eaten them.

For those not familiar with this leafy green, collard greens are similar in thickness to kale and similar in color to sage. The leaves store well when properly stored. When preparing the leaves for cooking you will want to remove the stem. Not just the stem end, but the entire stem. They will be too tough even after the cooking process. Once on the stove, the greens need little attention until the end when you check for doneness. In some ways, the greens reminded me of when green beans are prepared with onion and bacon.

In the past, I opted for vegetable other than collard greens or gave to my friends Peggy and Bob who are Southerners and understand collards. To prepare the greens, she and I needed a recipe. Soon we had the Kickin’ Collard Greens Recipe . This highly rated recipe calls for common ingredients and did not fail us.

Next time you are at the farmer’s market pick up some collards and try Kicken Collard Greens. You may find a new vegetable you like.

 

 

Cold Broccoli Dip – yummy!

Cold Broccoli Dip (with bacon and cheddar.
Cold Broccoli Dip (with bacon and cheddar.

If you are wanting more broccoli in your diet, want creative ways to use excess fresh broccoli from the CSA box, or your garden has run amok with broccoli, Cold Broccoli Dip is the answer. It may not sound appealing, but it is tasty and perfect for a summer afternoon. I estimate my version is 55% lower in calories than the inspiration recipe.

The three ingredients needing change are the 8 ounces of cheese, the one pound of bacon, and the mayonnaise-base dressing.

By choosing a sharp cheddar cheese and choosing a fine grate, just 4 ounces were needed. White cheddar was used, but choose your favorite cheese. Do opt for a bulk cheese and grate it yourself; there is no joy in pre-shredded cheese.

To reduce the bacon calories but not reduce the bacon flavor, I chose Applegate bacon because of the high proportion of meat to fat. The experiment began with three slices of bacon because the pan used to cook the bacon only holds three slices. The Applegate bacon would yield more meat and flavor than three slices of any other bacon. I found this amount to be enough and stopped the experiment.

The dressing amount was reduced by half, but pay attention to stirring; more stirring is necessary. Otherwise, there may not be enough moisture to bind the ingredients. The extra stirring is a good trade off. I found the original amount of dressing to be too much and I was looking for any way to reduce calories and fat.

How good is this dip? So good I ate some for breakfast! Make a batch and share with friends or keep to yourself. You will be glad you did.

This recipe is inspired by the Cold Broccoli Cheese Bacon dip from Together we Groh.

Colleen’s Cold Broccoli Dip

2 1/2 cups finely chopped fresh broccoli, use florets and stems

4 ounces finely grated sharp cheddar cheese, grate your own

3 slices bacon, preferably Applegate bacon

1/4 cup diced white onion

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 Tablespoons white sugar

1 Tablespoon white vinegar

While the bacon is cooking, chop the broccoli and onion. Place the veggies in a medium mixing bowl.

While the bacon is cooling, grate the cheese and add to the mixing bowl.

Crumble the bacon and add to the mixing bowl.

In a measuring cup, measure the mayonnaise; add the vinegar and sugar and stir.

When mixed, pour over the veggies and cheese and stir until fully incorporated.

Can be served immediately, but it improves with a 24 hour rest in refrigerator.

Given a bowl of cherries? Make cherry limeades!

Use fresh cherries and limes for a refreshing summer drink.
Use fresh cherries and limes for a refreshing summer drink.

The berries of the season have arrived and are ready to be picked and packed away; savored now and throughout the year. For years, the county had a shortage of pick-your-own cherry trees, but farmers have increased the number of cherry trees they grow. This means no longer is there a mad rush the first morning the cherries are ready to be picked. Now, picking berries can be a calm, relaxing event.

This year, I began to use the fruit in drinks and discovered a cherry limeade does not need added sugar when made with sweet cherries. Just puree the berries (about 1/2 cup) add the juice of half a lime and pour over ice. It is that simple, healthy, and refreshing. I have also tried blueberry lemonade and am looking to find a recipe incorporating raspberries.

Next time you are at the store or the farm, choose a fruit and make a fruit-flavored beverage. It will be better than any flavored fruit beverage available in the store.

Sorry for the delay in posting. I had to get to the store to purchase more fruit so I could take a photo!