Friday, May 23, 2014

Old fashioned Oatmeal Spice Cake

 This is one of my favorite last minute cakes to bake with stuff that is always on hand. The recipe I have came from my childhood neighbor, given to me at my wedding shower. (The friend who had the shower bought me a beautiful recipe box and asked all the invitees to bring their favorite recipe for a new bride.) lol  Even though I was only 17,  I'd already been cooking for years, but I got a lot of nice recipes and a little piece of each of these women to keep with me through the years. It was a lovely thought--we should do this kind of thing more often. Sharing and caring...the gift that keeps on giving.

 Anyway...I hadn't made this cake in a while. I was baking things like Italian Cream Cakes, Mandarin Orange Cakes, German Chocolate Cakes.  Fancy Almond Espresso Cakes. Nothing as everyday and ho-hum as an old spice cake.  Then one day I was looking through my old recipe box and came upon this recipe and thought--I should make one of these.  I haven't had a spice cake in years...nobody makes them anymore.  Then there was a potluck or a birthday coming and I whipped it up. Everyone,  and I mean EVERYONE raved about it.  At least 4 people said--you HAVE to make this for my birthday !!  And a new legend was born.  lol  Thank goodness, it replaced that wonderful, labor intensive, expensive Italian Cream Cake as everyone's ask-for cake.  lol

  Here the list of ingredients:

1 1/3 cups boiling water
1 cup oats (whole or quick--not the microwave stuff)

 1 cup sugar
 1 cup brown sugar
 1/2 cup shortening (I use butter mostly, but original recipe called for shortening) 
 2 eggs

1 1/3 c flour
 1 tsp each--salt, baking soda, nutmeg and cinnamon

[The ingredients for the broiled topping: 1 stick butter, melted - 1 cup brown sugar- 1/4 cup evaporated milk- 1 tsp vanilla- 1 cup coconut-1 cup nuts (pecans or sliced almonds) ]

Okay--first pour the boiling water over the oats, mix with a fork and move it outta the way.

Then, I sift the dry ingredients together and put it aside.
That would be flour, salt and spices.

 Then, in a good sized bowl, put your shortening, sugars and eggs.

 Then get your mixer out and whip these last things together until good and creamy. Then pour in the softened oat and water mixture and mix that in well.  Then add the dry ingredients and mix together until smooth and well incorporated.

  Bake in a 9x13 pan at 350 degrees until done.  Takes about 30-35 minutes usually.

 Take out of oven when done and in a small saucepan, melt the butter, brown sugar, vanilla and evaporated milk. When that's all melty add the cup of shredded coconut and a cup of the nuts of your choice.  Stir to mix well. Spread this out over the top of your still warm cake, and place it under the broiler.  Watch it carefully and don't let it burn !  It will make a lovely crispy caramel-ish topping.  I can't really give you a time on the broiling, because God did not see fit to create all broilers equal. lol  I sometimes have to turn mine a couple of times to brown it evenly. 

  Let it cool and serve. It's a lovely cake and I think you'll like it, if you're the type that likes spice cakes.

Bon Apetit !

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A wonderful Wednesday supper...

It got pretty hot today...and humid as all get out. Apparently this was good weather for catching catfish though, as my son came by with 5 gorgeous catfish,. and left me 4 big beautiful fillets to cook for supper.   For the record, it's not always my favorite fish, but the stuff he pulls out of Beaver Dam State Park's lake is beautiful white meat, firm and clean...almost no fish smell at all.  Beautiful stuff, and he showed up just in time, before I had gotten anything out of the freezer.  lol

I decided to bake them, with a lemon pepper and herb mixture, a little butter drizzled over the top. Major yum. The herbs I used were just home grown oregano and basil. You could do anything you want.

I have a nice bunch of kale out in the cold box, along with some spinach, lettuces and chard.  I marched out there and cut a nice big bowl of kale, with visions of making a bruised kale salad.  This is a wonderful hot weather salad, easy to make,  and very satisfying. I chop or tear the kale leaves into chunks, put it in a big bowl, and pour about a quarter cup of olive oil on it, along with a little sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. I love kale.

 After you have the kale and extra virgin olive oil in the bowl, start massaging the leaves and working the olive oil into the leaves.  It takes about 5 minutes of massaging (or bruising) to get the oil worked in and you will feel the leaves begin to soften. They'll also turn a gorgeous dark vibrant green. Once you have the oil all worked in, juice about a half a lemon (taste after you put it all together--you might need more. lol  I used a whole big lemon tonight...the Irishman thought it was a little heavy on the lemon, I thought it was perfect.  I added the salt and pepper and lemon and mix well. You can add nuts (sliced almonds or pine nuts), dried cranberries, coconut chips (organic, unsweetened--so they actually taste like coconut!!) and / or  sunflower seeds.

It's a wonderful tasty salad so full of nutrition it'll curl your toes.  lol

  Then I made a rice dish that is an old friends stand by recipe from way back when.  Put about 3 tbsp. of olive oil in a big cast iron skillet.  Pour in 1 1/2 cups of uncooked brown rice. Over medium heat, saute the rice until it pops and gets all golden brown.  Then add some diced onions, celery and carrot. Small dice. Saute that a bit until it starts to cook, then add 3 cups of water, dried basil, salt and pepper to taste. Bring it to a boil, then turn heat to low and put a lid on it. It will take about an hour (45 minutes, maybe?) to cook. When it's done, you almost have a meal in itself. It's one of the Irishman's favorite ways I cook rice.  
...and there you have it.  A great Wednesday night supper.  Fish, Rice and kale salad. 

 Bon Apetit !

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Wait...WHAT ??

 We are getting about a week of rain.  And very cool temperatures.  It was 87 on Monday and 60 today. 53 right now, around midnight.  And staying like this for the rest of the week.

  Good thing I like the rain.

 However. This weather is not conducive to getting a garden planted. The old "April Showers bring May Flowers" is getting a little messed up here.  Like a late uninvited dinner guest, it's causing a ruckus.  Bad enough that we are not getting anything done in a timely manner this year.  Bad enough that we can't seem to agree on anything this year.  Bad enough that I still have no strength in my wrist and can't just get out there and do some of the stuff myself. First the temps were scorching and now they're uber wet and frigid.  Ai Yi Yi...

 I made a big pot of 5 bean turkey chili this afternoon. I pulled the last quart of tomato sauce off the shelf.  ARRGGHHhhhh  !!!!   IT'S ONLY MAY !!!!!!  The green beans are getting low too, but there's a good dozen jars or more of that. The Vitamix will make it even easier to can tomato sauce this year. and I will definitely have to check how much I canned (thank you, Garden Journal!!) and up that number for this year.  I'm really happy with the way we have utilized the pantry resources this year.

It looked like this at the beginning of the winter...I love the look of canned foods, don't you ?

The jars below are all my dried goods...some flours and sugar, mostly fruits and vegetables that I have grown and dehydrated.  I'm learning to remember to incorporate more and more of my dried foods into  meals.  It's been wonderful.  Especially since I've almost lost my lunch looking at the incredible increase in grocery store prices this year.  Bad news:  it's not going to get any better, folks. Better learn some ways to feed yourselves.

This is what my garden should be looking like by now.:

 Instead, it looks like this:

  Ah due time...

 I'm getting some spearmint from a pal this year and need to figure out where I want to put it. It will be out somewhere in the back edge of the will grow into a lovely patch, almost a small hedge. I have about 2 weeks to pick a spot and get the thing ready.  I love spearmint...

  We are eating lettuce, spinach and kale and chives and walking onions out of the garden cold box.    At least there's that.   lol

  Well...I've prattled on long enough here. I do need to go to bed.

  Dreaming of gardens and rows upon rows of beautiful preserved foods. 

  If the rain ever stops...  lol

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Cowboy Soup and soft garlic breadsticks

 These  are some yummy bread sticks that I made to go with the Cowboy Soup. A hearty hot supper on a cold and dismal day.  What exactly IS Cowboy Soup, you may be asking. Well, it starts out like most soups...

 A big pot, a little olive oil and some celery.  And then, of course...

  Soups best friends.  Do you know this is called a Mirepoix ?  A combination of onion, celery and carrot that makes a fine basic soup base. For this big pot of soup, I used 4 stalk of celery, 1 large onion and 4 medium large carrots. Diced. Put them all together into your soup pot and stir well and let them sweat.

 Isn't that about the prettiest thing you've ever seen?

 Are you like me ? Do you have some favorite cooking utensils that you use almost to the exclusion of everything else ? These are  2 of my most used: and can't you tell how worn and discolored that wooden spoon is ? I have had that baby for over 20 years...  I have more kitchen utensils and knives and spoons and gadgets than Carter's got pills. (Whoa--am I dating myself here ?)  lol  I have things I never use and should really get rid of and clear out some clutter, but I probably never will.  Anyway...

 Cowboy Soup is the kind of soup that I think would have been made by the really good cooks in a chuckwagon on a cattle drive. The recipe isn't real static, I use what I have on hand, varying things a little. Here's the stuff I used this time:

 All stuff from my pantry. I did use a can of tomato paste as well, which I buy and do not can for  a lot of reasons obvious to me. lol Tomato paste is  labor intensive and takes a LOT of tomatoes to make. I can buy really good tomato paste at Aldi's for about 39 cents  can.  I couldn't do it myself for that, so I don't.  I sauce tomatoes, I can tomatoes whole and I can okra,onion and tomato, as well as salsa, marinara and juice. That's enough.  lol

  I buy ground beef in 10-20 pound lots from my little family market in town. The brothers grind it fresh for me and it makes me happy. I bring it home, patty a few pounds and all the rest gets frozen in quart freezer bags in increments of 1, 1.5 and 2 pounds each.  For this soup, I pull a bag (usually 2 pounds) out of the freezer and while it is still frozen, I use my big trusty French knife to cut it into medium sized cubes. Maybe 1/2 by 1/2 inch. In a separate skillet, I start browning those chunks of ground beef with a little pepper, salt and granulated garlic. They miraculously hold together like a chunk of roast would. Don't ask me why, it's some kind of magic.  lol

  While this is browning, I start adding things to the soup pot, starting with the jar of tomato sauce. then some water. Then tomato paste, and mix it well. This time I threw in a handful of dried corn, a small handful of dried okra,  quite a bit of the dried hen-in-the-woods mushrooms we dried last year and some dried tomatoes. Both the mushrooms and tomatoes, I used my kitchen shears to cut into small chunks.  I added some dried basil from my garden stores and a little oregano. I added a little sea salt and pepper.  I put the lid on and let it start cooking while the ground beef finished up. When it was pretty much done, I mixed it into the soup pot.

Oh yeah...I found some leftover green beans and potatoes on the fridge and I tossed those in too. lol But here's the finished product. I simmered it maybe an hour and a half after everything  was in, to give the dried vegetables a chance to rehydrate and for the flavors to meld.  It was heavenly...

  Because my wrist and arm are still too weak to knead dough, I use this recipe in my bread machine to make these awesome beauties.

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water (70° to 80°)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon minced fresh basil or 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  Put the ingredients into the bread machine in this order, set it to the dough setting and let 'er rip. Mine takes about and hour and a half. Then  turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and cut it into 10 pieces.

 ***Now then, let me tell you something that may (or may not ) be important.  This original recipe says that it makes 20 bread sticks. In Dragon Woman's Kitchen, it doesn't make that many. Because I like them to be substantial, the recipe says to divide the dough into 20 pieces and roll them into ropes. I divide it into 10 pieces and roll it. Then I place it on a baking sheet, right close together, and let them rise for about another half hour. ***

 My bread sticks are about the size of hot dog buns. They are soft and yeasty and wonderful and my husbands nearly swoons every time I make them.  Bake them at 350 degrees for about 18-20 minutes. When they're nice and golden brown, take them out, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with a little extra chopped basil. Sometimes I sprinkle a little extra granulated garlic on top as well.  They are the perfect accompaniment to a hearty bowl of soup or even to a big salad.

  So--there it is. 

  Enjoy !

Bon Apetit !