The little old-fashioned cake

Good evening, Dear Readers:

My apologies for being so long in between posts.

Well, I’m not sick anymore, thank heavens, but I’m cold. Not cold like some folks, but our OCD weather had me wearing a t-shirt and shorts this weekend. Sunday morning, warm, about 75F. Sunday afternoon about 12:30, 55; later on it became low 40’s.

Don’t worry, there’s a big nasty storm coming back, and they’ve named this one Mergatroid or something. WhatEVER. Geeks with time on their hands decide they want to name winter storms like we name hurricanes down here on the gulf coast.

Knock yourselves out, boys. If you want to name your storms, have at it. We’ve got more important things to concern ourselves with in the South.

If you’re in Australia, you’re roasting. I know this because a) I have studied Aussie trivia and b) I have friends in Melbourne, and it’s summer. I am not someone who asks, “if it’s December here, what month is it in Sydney?” (Someone actually called the Australian Embassy in LA and asked that question many years ago. DUH.)

It’s not secret that after losing about 65 painful pounds, some of it came back, about 20 of them, after things went haywire after I was laid off 18 months ago; I was, at the time, within 20 pounds of my goal weight (and stopping traffic again, darnit.)  It still hurts, but since I’ve been laid off again, one of the things I want to focus on is dropping weight again. I’m not sure I’m going to do the hCG diet yet, although I have the pellets this time instead of the drops. Right now I’m concentrating on sleeping more, not eating as much, and a little less chocolate now and again.

I had an obstacle on the way yesterday.

Speaking of chocolate, if you are cold, here’s the simple recipe for Yeast-Free Hot Chocolate:

  • 1.5 cups unsweetened chocolate almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 drop mint extract
  • 4 packets Sweet N’ Low (or natural sweetener of your choice, i.e., Stevia, etc.)

Mix ingredients in a 2 cup measure (or similar vessel) and microwave for 3 minutes or until warm enough for you. (I like to heat the cup first with hot water.)  Stir (or whisk) and pour into 2 cups.

Note: In my house this is a single serving. MINE. In your kitchen it can be two. I love this stuff. I don’t share–but then again, I don’t have to, either.

So last week neighbor K, the supermodel (she hates it when I say that) decided to bake a cake to take to work for a birthday. However, she doesn’t bake. Who does she ask for help? ME!!! (I’m certainly not going to tell her no. K is one of those people whose calls I *always* answer.)  She has a few old cookbooks that belonged to her late father, and for a friend at work, she decided on the Pineapple Upside-Down Cake. The friend doesn’t care for frosting, and really likes this cake, so that was that.

Sweet. Tropical. Ubiquitous. And oh, so much hot, sticky, melted sugar!!

I made some biscotti for Christmas and ended up giving her some when the intended recipient took off early. After polishing off the first batch, K asked for more–she loved them that much. Of course, I gave them to her. Inspired by this and other things, she decided to bake something herself.

Saturday, she brought over the brown-paged book, called “Louisiana Creole Cooking,” published in 1943. I seem to recall this cake being a big thing in the 1960’s, but since I was a little bitty kitty back in those days, well, maybe that’s just me. This book had no pictures, unlike the glossy, heavily researched books I have from Martha Stewart and Ina Garten (aka The Barefoot Contessa.)  It was a fairly simple recipe, and I figured if she followed the directions, one of two things would happen: it would come out great, or it would flop. I managed to learn that much taking Probablilty and Statistics at Tulane. (Twice.)

This book came out during WWII, and for that period, it uses a fair amount of butter and sugar, including brown sugar, considering that rationing was going on at this point in the US. Remember, you had to have a coupon book for certain things (i.e., butter, sugar and canned goods) so this would definitely have been a rare treat in those days.

So the recipe called for “cake flour,” and lo and behold, I had a box! Yes, there is a difference. Swan Cake flour comes in a red box the size of a cake mix, and the flour is sealed in a plastic pouch in the same fashion. I can’t tell you how long it’s been there, but it had never been opened, and I was glad to give it to her to USE UP.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, no, it was NOT gluten free.

Really, I just told her to follow the directions exactly, and if it worked, great, if not, we could find another recipe. Take a look, its pretty simple:

The recipe, from a cookbook older than me and K!

The recipe, from a 71 year old cookbook.

Oh, and the “moderate oven” we estimated to be 350F, and that worked. Whew! That could have been embarrassing. . . .

So, she asked a few questions and borrowed a few things, like vanilla extract. I have two bottles: one, Mexican vanilla from the grocery, and two, a huge bottle filled with vodka and a dozen vanilla pods. Oh, yes. . .you could float on that smell, but I only use it for stuff where the alcohol is cooked or baked out. Honest–I’m not using it for boozy desserts and cocktails. She only needed a quarter teaspoon, so why buy it if you’re not going to use much?

My biggest suggestion was to make it once, follow the directions exactly, and see how it comes out. If it doesn’t work, you know not to try again. If it does, see how you like it. If you don’t like it, try another recipe. It’s what I did at Christmas when I made the rain bonnets–made mine first to see how it was supposed to come out. Then, I knew what to do for K’s and R’s rain hat. Both loved them, made with clear vinyl trimmed with their favorite colors.

Conveniently, this technique works for cakes, too.

If you’ve never made one of these, it goes like this: you make a glazey, syrupy stuff with the brown sugar and butter in a skillet. Pour that brown stuff in the bottom of the baking pan, then line it with sliced pineapple (this one calls for canned, but one in Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook calls for fresh.) Alternately, you can bake the whole thing in the same large cast-iron skillet you made the brown sugar mixture with. When it’s baked, you turn it over on a platter or plate, and the glaze oozes over the top and down the sides. But let’s get back to K’s first attempt at baking a cake for a co-worker’s birthday.

K used a 9″ x 12″ nonstick square baking pan, one with a cover so that she could transport it easily. This cake doesn’t really rise much, either. So when you put the pineapple down on top of the syrup, you pour it carefully so it doesn’t mix with the syrup, bake it, and find your stairway to heaven.

If you think I’m exaggerating, keep reading.

Now, I was certainly happy to offer advice and assistance, but really, K did just fine on her own. How do I know? Well. . .she knocked on my door and asked for a critique. It was freshly out of the oven, on a rack to cool. In other words, it was still hot. . .sticky. . .sweet. . .melty. . .moist. “Take a taste and tell me what you think,” she says.

Holy Shish Kebab.

You know what happened next. One taste lead to another. And another. And before too long we’d eaten half this cake. I kid you not. We could not stop eating it, and finally, we’d eaten so much we both had to stop. It really was half the cake. I couldn’t so much as drink a cup of tea after that–good thing, too, I didn’t get hungry all night.

I asked her if she’d like me to bring a couple of pieces to R and T, two neighbors to my left (T is upstairs, R is downstairs.) She cut huge chunks, put them on paper plates and said “take it!” So I did. Neighbor T said it was her favorite cake, and R ate it a little later, after it had cooled–and couldn’t stop until she finished it. Remember, it’s not a thick cake, and it doesn’t rise much, only about 3/4 inch when baked. It looks good, and even thought it’s flat, one taste and you’ll see that size, in this case, does not matter.

I texted her later and told her NEVER to make that cake again as long as I live here. No can do–K made a second one, this one to take to work, which she said came out even better than the first:

The Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, circa 1943

The Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, circa 1943

This is the cake that went to work today, and everyone had some and loved it. I’m guessing there isn’t any left. That would be good, because then none would come home.

And there may be a third one next weekend. GAWD, I hope not!

That cake, eaten hot out of the oven, is the closest to heaven you’ll ever be. If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself–with a bunch of good  friends, so you can’t eat the whole thing alone. But you must have it HOT to find the stairway to heaven.

I fell off the gluten-free wagon again. I’m back on it.

In the end, K got the confidence to bake, and  will be doing more in the future, maybe for Christmas. K also found a new favorite, one her father used to make when she was younger, and also made it as a salute to him, wherever he is. And it worked! (This one’s for you, Papa P.)

I didn’t really do anything except. . .help her eat half of the first one, and answered some questions. But, I’m glad I could help. Cooking is an art, but baking is a science–if you don’t get the wet/dry ratio right, or don’t have leavening (baking soda/powder) you won’t get what you thought you would. That’s enough to kill anyone’s confidence, especially the first time out.

Then again, when I have a flop, I write blog posts about them. Either way, I win even when I lose.

Thankfully, K succeeded, and this time, she did great. And I went way, WAAYYYY off the gluten-free wagon. Again. Better luck tomorrow.

Got an activity coming up? Look to the past and make this amazing confection for your next activity. You will not be disappointed.

Happy Dining!

The HeatCageKitchen Christmas

Good evening, Dear Readers:

My sincerest apologies for taking so long. One thing leads to another, then it’s the holidays, and the blog just gets postponed. I’ll try to keep up on this during the new year.

BRRRRRR!!!!!  Seems like the whole world is frozen, at least north of the equator! Australia, however, is having record heat, so they’re sort of learning what Texas is like in the summer. Nevertheless, if you are in need of something warm and tasty, please have some Yeast Free Hot Chocolate and remember to bring your pets and critters INSIDE, or somehow keep them from freezing. Not safe for man or beast anywhere!

If you’re wondering how Christmas went, well, it went much better. Hang on, I have a few other things to tell you about first.

Remember the new cupcake shop down in the tunnel, New Addictions? Bad news—they’ve closed for good. I get to my office via an entry that passes right by that place, and I figured, like a lot of places, they would be closed during the week of Thanksgiving. While several eateries in the tunnel were open, most were closed and I just thought they were going to do the same thing.

And when we returned after the Black Friday weekend, the gate was down, and all the fixtures were gone. All that’s left is the name painted on the wall. What a shame—they nearly always had at least one person in there contemplating a cupcake. A click on their website says that they have closed both locations. I sent them an email expressing my condolences, but I haven’t heard back—and there’s a good chance I won’t.

What happened? Who knows. But I’m sure the Fraziers are up to something else, and it’s likely very tasty, too. I hope they do well in whatever they do next; they’re really nice people.

Also, the HeatCageKitchen garden is doing great–I have harvested three tomatoes before the freeze came, and the little orbs are ripening on the breakfast bar. Garlic is shooting up, and while the Meyer lemon plant just grows green leaves, the sage is coming up, the rosemary is enjoying all this, green onions are growing up straight, the strawberry plant is nice and green (no berries), the aloe vera is fine, and I’ve got flat-leaf parsley shoots popping through the soil. No lettuce yet, but I might try radishes soon. I’ve been inundated with seed catalogs after ONE order from Territorial Seed a month or so ago, where I got the garlic.

If you’re someone who watched the cartoon The Jetsons many years ago, or have seen it in reruns, you were likely treated to visions of a 21st century kitchen. Well, it’s what they thought would be “the kitchen of the future,” with lots of buttons everywhere. We have that, with touchpads on everything from microwaves to iPhones, but I don’t think we’re at the point of taking protein pills instead of having food for dinner. The Wall Street Journal did an article recently on the futuristic kitchen we were promised. And while it’s great that we can invent such things, well, the comments indicate that simple is better. 

Do you really need a circuit board and touch panel on your refrigerator or built into your dishwasher? Me either. Turn on and run, OK?

Speaking of fun in the kitchen, another WSJ article told me about something I’ve never heard of, called the Bimby.  There is also a video, but you have to sign in to see it. Also, this magic machine is NOT, repeat, NOT currently available in the US, and apparently not anytime soon, either. It is available in Canada under the name Thermomix, and one of the commenters says that their power is the same as ours, 110v.

Spinach and cod? Oh, that’s right up there with eggplant lasagna. You have it, OK?

Well, it’s interesting, but not as much fun as the YouTube videos of cats riding the Roomba. More robots at work in our homes, while the cat just sees it as catering to his natural superiority. But seriously, you can kind of do the same thing with a food processor and a toaster oven, or maybe a Vitamix (which I don’t have.)

Now back to Christmas.

As I mentioned last time, Thanksgiving dinner was a gluten-free disaster, thanks in part to my enthusiasm and my guest’s gift of some pretty potent Sangria. However, because the guest knows I’m a good cook, he agreed to give me another chance at Christmas; he was not disappointed this time. He did bring wine, and I had some, but there was no intoxication before dinner, nor after. I did bake the raspberry pistachio cake he hinted at, and he took the whole thing home in a disposable pan.

About a week before, I got an email from The Barefoot Contessa Blog, and one recipe she mentioned was Green Beans Gremolata, so I decided to include that.

Green Bean Gremolata. Really good, and easy!

I did turkey again, but of course was unable to obtain a turkey breast on the Sunday before Christmas. There was no way I was going to mess with another whole turkey, let alone a 22 pound beast, so I got turkey thighs, which I prefer anyway. They’re kind of down-market for a holiday dinner, but again, no huge beasts for me this time. I went to Ina’s last book, How Easy Is That? and made Herb Roasted Turkey on page 128, just with turkey thighs. Oh, yeah. . . .

Herb Roasted Turkey Thighs

Herb Roasted Turkey Thighs

Also in How Easy Is That?  I came across Celery and Parmesan Salad on page 62. Pretty darn good!


Celery Parmesan Salad. Must be tasted to be believed.

I also made some more of the Tuscan Chickpea Mash from Foolproof, (page 42) a second cousin to hummus (but with no sesame paste in it.)  I made that as an appetizer, and it’s one I really like, but he said, “Meh.” He did try it and said it was good, but just wasn’t interested.

Tuscan Chickpea Mash with cut celery, a nice appetizer.

Tuscan Chickpea Mash with cut celery, a nice appetizer.

Because I was baking him a cake the night before, I also decided to use up the rest of the buttermilk and made him some cornbread. It’s an old Martha Stewart recipe from her big green compendium on page 107, and I’ve never had anyone turn it down. Yes, the cake and the cornbread both were NOT, repeat, NOT, gluten free, and no, I didn’t eat it, just made it. (Oh, and Miss Gluten Free was in the grocery buying white flour right before Christmas.)

He doesn’t care, like a lot of folks, so I made him what he likes, which is everything you see here.

No, it's not gluten free, except for the pie. I emailed this pic to him the night before so he would know I was serious about doing dinner right this time.

No, it’s not gluten free, except for the pie. I emailed this pic to him the night before so he would know I was serious about doing dinner right this time.

I wanted to also make Nigella Lawson’s addictive white bean mash with lemon and garlic, but I just didn’t have the time, even though it doesn’t take too long. Next time, maybe. That steamed chocolate pudding was untouched, and it’s in the pantry for another day.

Dessert was something I wasn’t going to mess with: pecan pie. I was in Erma’s Nutrition Center the Saturday before and decided to go the bought route. I called him to ask what he’d like: pecan, key lime, or pumpkin, which is what they had that day. He said pecan, so I got one.

The Gluten Free Pecan Pie even a manly man could enjoy!

The Gluten Free Pecan Pie even a manly man could enjoy!

Gluten Free Nation (formerly known as Gluten Free Houston) makes these cute little 5-inch pies that are great. I’ve had blueberry, apple and a few others. This was my first time with pecan, and the pie did not disappoint. A little whipped cream and we had a perfect gluten free dessert. One day I’m gonna visit their store on a Saturday, and maybe I’ll write a whole blog post, too. I’ve met the owner, Randi Markowitz, who herself has celiac disease and created the company to help out folks everywhere who just want to avoid gluten.

After he chowed down on a slice, I told him it was gluten free. He was surprised, and he really liked the pie; but I guess the clue was that I ate a piece, too. No complaints on anything, and he went home happy with a bag full of glutinous munchies, which he later said he enjoyed.

He also claims there are still stains on his kitchen ceiling from when I was cooking in his kitchen. No true. Nothing I made ever exploded in his kitchen.

Mission accomplished. He spent some time with his kitty cat, we caught up on some stuff, and for a little while, all was right with the world. He promised that next time he’d bring some free-range eggs from his bud’s chicken coop to see what I could do with that. Oh, I’ve got just the thing from Giada de Laurentiis–a frittata!

Next up. . .getting over the holidays.

Happy Dining!

The Hot Mess–Thanksgiving Edition

Hello, Dear Readers:

Here’s hoping all of you are recovered from not only Thanksgiving but the god-awful day known as “Black Friday.” I had to work, and at least it was cold.

Yesterday I worked in the garden for the winter growing season,  and it looks a lot better. Yes, I still have that huge pineapple plant (top left), and I’m gonna pass it along to SOMEBODY who has room for it

Looks pretty good! Cross your fingers. . . .

Looks pretty good! Cross your fingers. . . .

I’ve planted three pots of garlic, two of a lettuce mix, and parsley, which was nearly gone and has come back to life with some water and a bigger pot. Let’s hope the mint plant resurrects too, as it normally does. I forgot to take closeups, but there are three little green tomatoes on my scraggly tomato plants (top right.) There is a freeze planned this weekend, so they may not happen unless I bring them in.

Now onto what you’ve been waiting for. Yes, I still have two posts sitting in draft, but I thought you’d enjoy reading about how a food blogger does Thanksgiving for a friend–and messes it up royally.

BTW, the duck dinner was scotched, but that’s another story I don’t want to discuss here.

Last year I decided that I would go straight to one of my favorite Thanksgiving things, Leftover Turkey Chowder, or “The Soup of Enlightenment.”   I invited the ex-boyfriend who is now “very good friend” for Turkey Day and promised him a dinner he’d never forget.

Trust me, he hasn’t yet. But it is partially his own fault.

When he told me that he was likely going to have hot dogs from the gas station, I couldn’t see that happening, and I insisted on making him something delish. This dinner guest is the son of Big Joel, who passed away in September, and has been busy taking care of his late father’s affairs and recently cleared out his father’s house. He is well aware that I’m a very good cook (usually) and accepted my invitation.

I had to do something nice for him, you know? Unfortunately, that’s not exactly what happened.

As it has happened before, I ended up buying a full sized turkey of 8 pounds the night before. Darnit. Well, it was one of those HEB Naturals, you know, the kind fed a vegetarian diet and no hormones or antibiotics. It was the smallest one I could find, and even a turkey breast “roast” was more expensive.

I got it all thawed, and on the hook for dealing with it. While looking up the Cranberry Ginger Relish recipe, I saw on Martha Stewart’s website about a trick called “spatchcocking.” I’ve heard the term for many years but never bothered to learn what it was. I clicked and decided that’s what I would do.

I will also tell you that I made six batches of that cranberry ginger relish, two of them with SomerSweet for me and my dinner companion, and handed off four batches for the duck roaster folks. They were given two containers full of Cranberry Ginger Relish, and I have not heard a word from them since. We’ll not discuss that here.

I also baked a loaf of Rosemary Bread (with rosemary from the HeatCageKitchen Garden) from The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking.  Turned some of that into little squares and made something of a stuffing with it for the Enlightenment dumplings. I like it, but. . .let’s get back on track.

The 8-pound spatchcocked turkey took about 90 minutes to cook, simply by cutting out the backbone and letting it lie flat in the roasting pan over a bed of onions using the method I used last year for The Tuscan Turkey, with some of Suzanne Somers’ now-discontinued Tuscan Sea Salt Rub and a stick of butter. Although the pop-up timer worked well, I stuck and instant-read thermometer into the thigh to make sure. When it went past 200F, I knew we were good. This is what it looked like when it came out of the oven:

Looks a bit strange, being flat, but it cooks a lot faster

Looks a bit strange, being flat, but it cooks a lot faster

Then I got to work on some other things when I heard a knock on the door.

Before he arrived, I tidied up a little too, including mopping floors and making the bathroom look extra nice. Mostly everything was done–I made Yeast Free Brownies for dessert, too. However, when it came to the soup. . .

See, I’ve known this guy for more than 10 years, and one thing he does have is manners. And he brought a nice bottle of Red Guitar Sangria, an import from Spain that was darn good. From the first glass until I finally stopped, with about one fifth of the bottle left. Seriously.

Close friends know I don’t drink much, or often. At least this time, I didn’t have a hangover.

I tossed in four tablespoons of gluten-free flour, the yellowish kind from Bob’s Red Mill. The same stuff I use for Babycakes’ Waffles. Yeah, and I did a Rachel Ray–I “eyeballed” four tablespoons, using my fingers. So by the time it was done, and I was quite. . .juiced, I didn’t realize it tasted, well, not the way I intended. I should have put more half-and-half in it, or less of the flour. Oh, boy. . . .

He didn’t care for it, but I did give him half of the roast turkey, which he later told me was “delectable.” When I had the second bowl of the gluten free stuff, I realized it was a) kinda coagulated and b) tasted not quite right. He did mention that he did not like the soup, but was very polite about it. I gave him four slices of the rosemary bread to make sandwiches with, as well as some of the brownies to take home.

I emailed him later and told him that he was right, that the soup wasn’t good at all. He wrote back and said although I made some great food for him previously, including dinner about a month ago. . .this was the worst food he’d ever had! He didn’t like that rosemary bread, either, calling it “inedible.”


He also offered me a cookbook from the 1950’s; um, probably not, but I do have lots of other good books to cook from. He’s a bit afraid I went overboard with the “bizarre ingredients,” but I guess it was too much gluten free. He also said he told a friend that he should have brought over a loaf of whole wheat bread and a jar of Duke Mayo! They had a laugh at my expense, and I promised not to do that to him again.

Amazingly, he did remember a cake I made for him ten years ago. My Aussie friends had sent me a copy of Donna Hay magazine, a well-known chef Down Under who does simple and delicious food. Her cookbooks are widely available here in the US (with American measurements), and one of these days I’m going to get around to getting them, darnit! The magazine is also available here in the US in bookstores, although out of sync with the calendar in order to keep in sync with the seasons. (It’s currently summer Down Under.) Big and glossy, you’ll see some interesting ideas, like the one he mentioned–a pistachio raspberry cake I made for him one time, and I will have to make him again to make up for the bungled Soup of Enlightenment.

Maybe if I can pull it off, I’ll make it correctly this time, with <gulp> real flour, just for him. Cake too. See, he hasn’t gotten the wind of why gluten-free is a good thing. Not my mission to “convert” him, but I do my best with it.

Remember, a holiday is not a good day for experimenting on your friends! Even the good ones.

Happy Dining!

Good Heavens! Thanksgiving already?

Good evening, Dear Readers:

Well, I’ve been quite busy, and offer my sincerest apologies for the lack of content here. I can’t believe it’s been a month since Halloween already!! SHEEESH!!

I’ve actually got TWO drafts saved, and haven’t been back to finish them off. I hate that, but I’ll try to get back on it this week.

A big Shout-Out to the wonderful folks at Oil & Vinegar in The Woodlands–more in the next post, but I had a recent trip up there and made sure to stop in for some of my favorites. Found out that Anton & Karia Kharoufeh, the owners of the Woodlands Oil & Vinegar, regularly check out my humble blog and remember me when I go up there. Now to have more content! If you’re in The Woodlands Mall sometime, they’re located just inside the entrance by Barnes & Noble (inside the mall, not outside like Anthropologie.)  REALLY, really, wonderful olive oils and delicious vinegars that you won’t find anywhere else, as well as some other great gourmet foods. If you’re truly a foodie, it’s worth the trip. And many thanks to The Kharoufehs for being readers, too.

Incidentally, there are two little tomatoes in the HeatCageKitchen garden, and as I write this, it’s been raining pretty good, and as I write this, it’s 40F outside. Well, at least the rosemary is happy. That’s another long-neglected project that might get some attention this weekend when it warms up a bit.

So, my Turkey Day will not actually involve turkey this year., and the years-long  “Buddhist Thanksgiving tradition” has given way to other things, so we’re all going in different directions. That’s OK–I’m going to my friends’ K&M’s place, and K will be roasting. . .duck. DUCK! Admittedly, I’ve only had duck once, maybe twice, but I’m game. (Get it?? I’m GAME!!) Another person will be bringing brisket, and I’ll be making a big batch of the Cranberry Ginger Relish that nets me multiple emails for the recipe just about every time I make it. (I’ve made it for myself with SomerSweet instead of sugar, and it works well and tastes great.) Five ingredients including water; sherry vinegar works best at the end. Seriously, it’s easy, quick, and is always well liked. First you taste the sweet and tart, then, POW! That ginger/sherry heat hits you right in the kisser! I made some for me with SomerSweet a couple of weeks ago and it didn’t last long. I just kept going back to the fridge for a spoonful. . .yum.

Oh, BTW, a safety warning–one of my favorite celebrity chefs, Giada de Laurentiis, sliced her finger on the set of Thanksgiving Live last Saturday. I did not see this, but saw the pictures on Facebook later. Giada joins a list of celebrities who have had holiday hospital visits, including Martha Stewart and David Letterman. WARNING: please pay attention, because four years ago, I did the exact same thing with a mandoline.It’s what I get for talking to Auntie on the phone whilst slicing onions for the turkey brine. With folks walking around visiting and talking, it’s easy to lose track of what you’re doing, and you don’t realize it until you see the blood.

Nobody wants blood on the pecan pie, OK?

Now, if your Thanksgiving is a bit on the traditional side, and you have a post-dinner football game, um, Jason Gay in today’s Wall Street Journal has some sage advice. OK, it’s hilarious–go read it, along with the comments.

And finally, the preparations for a presidential pardon of the national turkey is discussed in today’s paper. No, I’m not kidding, they TRAIN the turkey to behave in front of the President. Having been turned on to Animal Planet’s show My Cat From Hell, featuring a wild-looking guy named Jackson Galaxy, I can believe that they can condition a turkey to be cool in front of the President, TV cameras, Secret Service guys with loaded weapons, and wild children all over the place.

What is this, American Turkey Idol?

I wrote a post at this time last year on My Alternate Thanksgiving, and if you missed it, check it out, there is a recipe for Leftover Turkey Chowder that is wonderful. Also included was some advice in The Tuscan Turkey and Turkey–The Big Chicken if you are in need of some help with it. Suzanne Somers no longer sells salt rubs on her site, but you can find recipes online (just do a search) or head over to Williams Sonoma and/or Sur La Table to get some already made.

Since I was spending Thanksgiving alone last year, that meant going directly to the soup, and skipping the traditional dinner. This was my choice, of course, and if you try this soup, you will understand why. SOOO good, but I’ll skip it this time and maybe make it for Christmas, unless I get invited elsewhere again.

More articles to come, and thanks for being patient.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


Happy Easter, Passover, Bunny Day, and Sunday!

Hello, Dear Readers:

As I’ve said a few times, I’m a Buddhist, since 1986. Therefore, Easter, Passover, and most other holidays aren’t part of my individual faith. However. . .that doesn’t mean I ignore them, especially if there’s food involved. I mean, why? No need to be rude if someone offers you a macaroon or king cake or something. . . .

Is your church group doing something for Easter? Egg hunt, having an Easter Bunny on hand, or maybe some other kind of spring-related celebration? Bet you’re not having the Easter Bunny jump out of an airplane. Well, someone is. . .and it’s a man who teaches Navy SEALS to jump out of planes, in a bunny suit. I mean. . .that’s a manly man you do NOT argue with, OK? He can kick your butt wearing that bunny suit, and you will address him as “Sir.”

Anyway. . .

I grew up Catholic. Didn’t meet anyone Jewish until I went to college. At Loyola in New Orleans. What I know about kosher is what folks have told me over the years (and the bits I’ve seen on TV), like what kosher salt is really for. (Of course I use it–doesn’t everybody?) I’ve never been to a synagogue. The only reason I know about Rugelach is because they’re in Barefoot Contessa Parties on page 69.

I mean absolutely no disrespect to anyone who is Jewish. I am only proclaiming my lack of information about Judaism, particularly as it relates to the culinary arts. Nothing more, I promise!

Imagine my thoughts when I came across Raspberry Rugelach. I saw them in Central Market on Friday, and I *almost* got some, but. . .it had wheat flour in it. Raspberries in dough? Oh, yes. . .but are they kosher for Passover with flour in them?  I asked the lady next to me if she was Jewish. Well, if she was, then she would have known if the rugelach was kosher. But she wasn’t, and she didn’t. Maybe next year. The cream cheese threw me off–I thought to be kosher for Passover it couldn’t have flour. Maybe that’s Hannukah or Yom Kippur. Again, I’m the *last* person to ask about that sort of thing; I was just hoping for no flour.

In the same book on page 176: Apple Crostata, a delicious dessert that’s good any time of year. (It too has wheat, in the form of flour.) I’ve never had anyone turn it down. Me included. Hey–it’s for special occasions. I’ve taken it to Thanksgiving a couple of times, and to a birthday party once–there is rarely any left. I think a couple of years ago I had one slice left and gave it to my neighbor, who finished it off quickly and enjoyed it as much as everyone else did.

Now, Easter is also wonderful, because there are chocolate bunnies and chocolate eggs and chocolate, well, everywhere. YUM! And those chocolate eggs filled with peanut butter? I’ve craved those once or twice (but not in a while.) I’m trying to stay away from sugar/carbs as much as I can; but sometimes, only chocolate will do. Like this, for instance, found in Central Market on Monday:

Chocolate sold by the pound at Central Market

Chocolate sold by the pound at Central Market


I don’t remember the brand, but I can tell you it’s fancy, possibly from France. This weighed at least 2 pounds and was nearly the size of a brick. This is not a candy bar. Well, not in the traditional sense, but it is for me. Trust me when I tell you I sent this picture to my neighbor, and I was SOOO tempted! this brick is about $10, if I remember correctly; might have been $15. She texted back, “Don’t.” I didn’t. But I thought about it real hard. That’s a lotta chocolate, and even Giada de Laurentiis would be hard pressed to resist.

If someone left that in my Easter basket, I’d be all over it. And I’d put it in a locked safe, too. IT’S MINE!!!

Now, a couple of years ago, I was on a business trip in Washington, DC. Yes, the nation’s capital. There were six of us–four from Houston, one from Florida, and one from California, a younger bloke we sort of tortured a bit. We were walking around somewhere and had dinner in a nice restaurant and dessert in a gelato shop. However, we passed a little shop I found out later was called Edibles Incredible, a DC favorite. I couldn’t resist a little more chocolate (I think I had sugar free), but I had to go back in when I saw this baby:

Peeps Sculpture, May 2011, Edibles Incredible, Washington, DC

Peeps Sculpture, May 2011, Edibles Incredible, Washington, DC

Yes, dear readers, those are hundreds, if not thousands, of marshmallow Peeps, in what one might call a “sculpture,” or as they called it, a “display.” Whatever you call it, that’s a lotta Peeps. OMG. I’m not a particular fan of them, but I HAD to take that picture.

It was absolutely gorgeous, and about 10 or 15 feet high. Heck, I didn’t measure it, but it was way taller than my five-foot-three frame. It was huge–and it was a little bitty store! I forget what kind of chocolates I bought, but it was just a couple, and of course, handmade and very delicious.

Speaking of Easter. . .my mother used to tell the story that her engagement ring was a true surprise hidden in a chocolate Easter bunny, and she nearly threw it away. Whoops. . .fortunately, somehow, a very expensive diamond ring (very 1950’s) was saved and the folks got married some time after that. They’ve been married something like 55 years now.

It’s been many years since I’ve had a chocolate Easter bunny, much less an Easter basket, but that’s OK. Sometimes when I’m having a day. . .only some chocolate will do, you know?

And on Monday, all the Easter candy goes on sale 50% off. The thrifty mother will have a secret freezer to stash them in so that the kids don’t know when she bought it. The chocoholic will simply go shopping and make himself or herself very happy.

I’m going to try and behave myself.

Happy Easter, Passover, and Happy Dining!

Skip to toolbar