Sunday, January 31, 2010

Dippy Sandwiches-Redone

Every family has their own names for certain well known dishes. They are often named by the youngest members, and our family is no different. When my son was about 3 years old he discovered the French Dip sandwich and decided it was the best sandwich ever. The name was a little hard for him to say, so we have called them "Dippy Sandwiches," ever since. This is a remake inspired by many different but similar dishes--the French dip of course, the Cheese steak sandwich with onions and peppers, slow cooker pot roast, and Italian flavors of basil and oregano. The whole family loved this recipe. I paired it up with potato wedges tossed in olive oil, seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, and seasoning salt then roasted in the oven until crisp and golden.

Dippy Sandwiches
Recipe Source: A Cook's Quest

This makes a lot. I had plenty for my family of five, with enough for the freezer and some for my husbands lunch.

1 Chuck Roast 3-5 lbs (Mine was 3 pounds)
1 cup of water
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 beef bouillon cube

1 onion
1 pepper (I used orange because it's what I had on hand)

Place meat in your slow cooker, pour in water and wine. Sprinkle all the seasonings on top and place lid on top. Cook 8-10 hours on low.

When you are ready to eat, saute the onion and peppers in oil until soft. Shred the beef, and place on toasted rolls. Top with the onion and pepper mixture. Use the juice left in your slow cooker for dipping your sandwich. Enjoy!

Total Cost: $9.86 about $1.40 per serving
7 Dinner Rolls .21 each $1.47
Meat $6.79 (on sale for $1.99 per pound)
Herbs and Seasoning .50
Onions-Free from a local farmer
Orange pepper-.75
Beef Bouillon cube-.05
Potatoes for wedges-.30 (I used two pounds of a 5 pound bag that I bought for .78)


Quote of the Day: It's those unpredictable moments in life that make it so interesting. - myself

Got in a fight with a deer. She punched my lights out, but I won. Poor Magoo. We had an early morning departure for the boys' section swim meet in Superior, WI, about a two hour drive away. We left home at 5:45 am, killed a deer and had the attention of three local police officers by 6:00 am.

We, in the north say, "Uff-da!" That's one of those words that covers pretty much everything.

The kids were fine. Seat belts work! The banana, on the other hand, took a beating. I ate it anyway once it got light out and my stomach settled a bit.

I live in the heart of the lakes country in Minnesota with lots of beautiful wooded area. Yes, I killed a deer right in town! Of course, my town doesn't look like a typical town with pavement and row houses. My last house had a lake in the backyard. My current house has woods in the backyard, and I'm within city limits -city sewer and water -thank you very much.

If you live in my neck of the woods, the question isn't IF you'll hit a deer, the question is WHEN? I say it goes back to deer parenting. Why don't they teach their young to look BOTH WAYS before crossing the street!?!

Or, maybe deer have poor vision. Hence, the name I gave my deer victim, Magoo. (I'd name it Mr. Magoo the near-sighted cartoon character, but I think it was a female - no antlers). Deer get scared and run INTO cars, or people. True story - a woman was running a mini-marathon in our area last spring at the arboretum, and the deer came bounding out of the woods and ran into her! She received a few bruises and quite a scare.

The first police officer to stop asked, "Do you want the deer?" I gave him a confused look, "No." What would I do with a deer carcass? I'm not a hunter. I don't know how to prepare venison. It's not bad if killed by a real hunter who has a good recipe. Who needs a gun to kill a deer when you've got a mini-van?

Despite the rough start to the day, we made it to the swim meet before it started. I'd asked the lady police officer if she thought the van looked okay to take me there. She said to pay attention to how the tires were responding. If we had missed the meet, Zach (12-year-old) wouldn't have taken first in the 50-yard breast stroke, qualified for state AND regions, and all three of them would have been the missing members of relays, which would have disappointed other swimmers. My twins were put on the same relay - they were half the team! Most of the relay teams make it to state.

It could have been worse. Hitting deer is a common occurrence here, that's why we pay all that money into our insurance. And, really, despite that mishap, it was one of the best section swim meets ever, I had an interesting story to tell (the boys did, too). They swam great. I relaxed by the end of the day and ate a nice meal with another swim family before heading home (they followed me for support), and, hey, another blog topic!

I once read about a woman who brought her terrified cat to the vet. The cat climbed on her head while she drove her there. She wrote, "The only good thing about driving around with a psychotic cat on your head is that later you get to go home and write about it." Oh, the blessings of a writer.

Drive safely, wear your seat belts, and God bless the boring days of life, as well as the exciting ones!!

Journaling Prompt:
Tell your story. Write about an accident.

What to do with Cresent Rolls?

I had some cresent rolls left from a recent coupon shopping trip. They aren't my favorite thing in the world just baked by themselves, but paired up with other ingredients they are quite good. I felt the urge for cinnamon rolls this morning, but the urge to make the dough and go through the process wasn't there. So I created a litle something that everyone in the family devoured and declared "fabulous." I don't have exact measurements, but the recipe is pretty forgiving. I hope you enjoy!

Apple Cinnamon Cresents
Recipe Source: A Cook's Quest

1Tube of Cresent Rolls
Brown Sugar
1/4 C butter melted
Small apple peeled, and diced

1/2 C powdered sugar
1 Tbl. softened butter
a few Tbl milk (depends on the consistancy you like)

In a pie plate (I used my stoneware pan) combine a few tablespoons of butter and brown sugar. Mix the butter and sugar together. Set aside.

Unroll one tube of cresents. Don't break them apart into triagles. Instead, press the seams together so you have a rectangle of dough. Brush a layer of melted butter, then top with a sprinkling of sugar, cinnamon and then the brown sugar. Top with sugar and butter mixture with the apples and then roll up starting at the narrown end. Roll up tightly, like a cinnamon roll then cut into eight pieces. Place in the prepared pie plate. Bake at 375 15-20 minutes or until brown and cooked through. (I started checking mine at 15 minutes.)

Top with powdered sugar icing and eat right a way!

Total Cost: $1.65 for 18 rolls
2 Tubes of Cresents .90 (.45 each)
Cinnamon, Sugar and Brown Sugar approx. .25
Apple .35

And so it begins!

Well I am finally venturing out into the wide world of blogging in an attempt to share a few things with others and hopefully learn a lot. Cooking for those that I love gives me great pleasure, but like many other busy women I fall into the "life is busy" trap and stick to the same old basic recipes. I am on a a quest to cook 365 new recipes in the next year all that are not only delicious, but won't break the bank either. I have known for years that cooking doesn't have to be hard, expensive or time consuming and I plan to show others that with a little planning you can put a great meal on the table, save money, and time too!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Water Molecule

Quote of the Day: The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers, and cities; but to know someone here and there who thinks and feels with us, and though distant, is close to us in spirit - this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden. - Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

- We're like a molecule of water, ever moving in the cycle of life -

As a need for a starting point, let's say you are dropping from the sky in the form of a snowflake. You land on a frozen field in Minnesota. There you sit, in your frozen state, waiting for something to happen so that you can move on. In this case, the spring thaw. With the warm air and sunshine, you melt and flow together with all the other melted molecules of snow, now water, and become run-off into the big ditch. You're pulled by the slope of the earth into the Red River of the North, which runs the unique course of flowing north. If you think about maps and how North is at the top, it seems like this river defies gravity and flows up, not down. But, North it does indeed flow, into Canada, where it can get stuck for a while again, because it's colder the further north you go. The river feeds into Lake Winnipeg which is part of the Hudson Bay watershed. The Hudson Bay covers most of Northern Canada and meshes with the Arctic Ocean. Your destiny as this particular molecule seems to be cold. However, you could potentially become attached to a ship and sail with it to the Atlantic Ocean, work your way down the coast and settle somewhere off the Florida Keys. One can always remain hopeful. Still, you could get stuck again in an iceberg. You could spend years and years freezing and melting. You could evaporate and become cloud, blow with the wind and end up in some far-off country where you have to learn all over the shape of the land. And, find, that in the end, it was you, a single droplet of water, that gave life to an exotic flower that brightened a dark day for a girl with a heavy heart.

Did you know that no matter where the stream pulls you, no matter which direction the wind blows, no matter how many times you are frozen, you will thaw, you live on, and YOU create beauty in a world filled with darkness.

I often think of this hymn, My life flows on in endless song; above earth's lamentations, I catch the sweet, though far-off hymn that hails a new creation. No storm can shake my inmost calm while to that Rock I'm clinging. Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?

May the waters of life flow in and through you, filling you up to overflowing so that when you're needed most, you will provide the nourishment to bring out the beauty in others.


Journaling Prompt: Describe a time that you brought out the beauty and talents in another person and watched him or her shine.

Daring Bakers Challenge: Homemade Graham Crackers and Nanaimo Bars

This is my second Daring Bakers Challenge and it was an interesting one. (November's challenge, to make cannoli, was my first; I had to skip December's because I just couldn't find the time to make a full-fledged gingerbread house!)

The task this month? First, to make your own homemade graham crackers. The suggestion was to make them gluten free, with the option to use all wheat flour if you preferred to do so; I chose the latter. From there, the mandate was to use the crackers as one ingredient in the preparation of a sweet Canadian classic called Nanaimo Bars.

Why did this month's host, Lauren, pick Nanaimo Bars? Well, she hails from that maple leaf lovin' land, which I might add is just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the Detroit area. And, what with the Olympics arriving there soon, she felt it would be appropriate to select a home-country treat. (Hey, you guys wanna go to Canada? No problem. Just go get in my red minivan, buckle up, and I'll have you in Windsor, Ontario in a few minutes. Detroit and Windsor--connected by an underwater tunnel and by a bridge--are very old neighbors, you know!)

Anyway, back to business. Below is the official Daring Bakers scoop, direct from the horse's mouth, so to speak, along with the recipes we had to follow. (I substituted unbleached all-purpose flour for all of the gluten free flours, and that worked like a charm.)

*All of the photos in this post are from my own baking experience, while the recipe comes right from the Daring Bakers website; the recipe is printed below just as it appears in that site, with no alteration or interference from Jane--I swear!

* * * * *

"The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and"

For Gluten-Free Graham Wafers


  • 1 cup (138 g) (4.9 ounces) Sweet rice flour (also known as glutinous rice flour)
  • 3/4 cup (100 g) (3.5 ounces) Tapioca Starch/Flour
  • 1/2 cup (65 g) (2.3 ounces) Sorghum Flour
  • 1 cup (200 g) (7.1 ounces) Dark Brown Sugar, Lightly packed
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) Baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon (4 mL ) Kosher Salt
  • 7 tablespoons (100 g) (3 ½ ounces) Unsalted Butter (Cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen)
  • 1/3 cup (80 mL) Honey, Mild-flavoured such as clover.
  • 5 tablespoons (75 mL) Whole Milk
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) Pure Vanilla Extract


1. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the flours, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal. If making by hand, combine aforementioned dry ingredients with a whisk, then cut in butter until you have a coarse meal. No chunks of butter should be visible.

2. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the honey, milk and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.

3. Turn the dough onto a surface well-floured with sweet rice flour and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours, or overnight.

4. Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of sweet rice flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be quite sticky, so flour as necessary. Cut into 4 by 4 inch squares. Gather the scraps together and set aside. Place wafers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough.

5. Adjust the rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius).

6. Gather the scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and reroll. Dust the surface with more sweet rice flour and roll out the dough to get a couple more wafers.

7. Prick the wafers with toothpick or fork, not all the way through, in two or more rows.

8. Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. Might take less, and the starting location of each sheet may determine its required time. The ones that started on the bottom browned faster.

9. When cooled completely, place enough wafers in food processor to make 1 ¼ cups (300 mL) of crumbs. Another way to do this is to place in a large ziplock bag, force all air out and smash with a rolling pin until wafers are crumbs.

Nanaimo Bars


For Nanaimo Bars — Bottom Layer

  • 1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) (1.8 ounces) Granulated Sugar
  • 5 tablespoons (75 mL) Unsweetened Cocoa
  • 1 Large Egg, Beaten
  • 1 1/4 cups (300 mL) (160 g) (5.6 ounces) Gluten Free Graham Wafer Crumbs (See previous recipe)
  • 1/2 cup (55 g) (1.9 ounces) Almonds (Any type, Finely chopped)
  • 1 cup (130 g) (4.5 ounces) Coconut (Shredded, sweetened or unsweetened)

For Nanaimo Bars — Middle Layer

  • 1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter
  • 2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons (40 mL) Heavy Cream
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) Vanilla Custard Powder (Such as Bird’s. Vanilla pudding mix may be substituted.)
  • 2 cups (254 g) (8.9 ounces) Icing Sugar

For Nanaimo Bars — Top Layer

  • 4 ounces (115 g) Semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons (28 g) (1 ounce) Unsalted Butter

1. For bottom Layer: Melt unsalted butter, sugar and cocoa in top of a double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, nuts and coconut. Press firmly into an ungreased 8 by 8 inch pan.

2. For Middle Layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in colour. Spread over bottom layer.

3. For Top Layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill."

(If you'd like to comment on this post, or to read any existing comments, just click on the purple COMMENTS below!)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Bearfoot Band

Quote of the Day: Everything that is new or uncommon raises a pleasure in the imagination, because it fills the soul with an agreeable surprise, gratifies its curiosity, and gives it an idea of which it was not before possessed. - Joseph Addison

What do Billy Bob Thornton, the first lady of France, and Courtney Love have in common? They all auditioned for the Bearfoot Band. I won tickets to hear this amazing band through a local radio station and community college. Thank you, Patrick! He talked up the band, which perked my interest enough to turn up the radio. While I was stirring my oatmeal and thinking I'd like to hear them perform, he gave us the above trivia. Then at the end of the interview told us to call in if we could remember who had auditioned for this band when they were looking for a fifth member to join them after an original member left.

The original members are from Alaska and met at music camp. They started playing together throughout their home state, then the Pacific Northwest, and several years later in the heart of the lakes area in Minnesota, where I heard them, and tomorrow - Glasgow, Scotland. Wow! I love their sound. I love their youthful energy and courage to follow their dreams, and I love how comfortable they all looked playing together on stage.

Their style is rooted in bluegrass. They know how to blend the strings - the fiddles, the mandolin, the bass, and guitar. The vocals were smooth and mellow and filled with emotion. I could listen to them all night long. They sing the kind of music that tells a story, a story of real people, people like us.

Thank you, Patrick for the free tickets. Thank you, my friend Jennifer for going to the concert with me. And, thank you Bearfoot Band for coming to my little dot on the map and performing with all your heart and soul. I feel inspired by your song.

Journaling Prompt: Describe your favorite style of music and how it inspires you.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Not Just a Tart . . . She's a Raspberry Honey Mascarpone Tart!

Until one frosty morning last week, I had never purchased it. It's a bit out of my usual grocery price range, and a girl has to draw the line somewhere. Start buying mascarpone cheese on a regular basis and before you know it you're dipping into your kid's piggy bank for spare change. It's a slippery slope. But you can't wait forever to procure interesting ingredients, especially if you're looking to expand your baking and pastry repertoire. Expenditure comes with the territory.

And so, with the temporary mindset of a woman in possession of a much fatter wallet, I tossed the hefty little container in my shopping cart and foraged on. I wandered down the baking aisle. Enticing items beckoned their way into my basket . . . locally produced pastry flour, natural demarara cane sugar, imported instant yeast. All overpriced, but I bought them anyway.

Once at home, I tucked my stash away like a squirrel who'd been ferreting acorns. Except for the mascarpone cheese, that is. I had plans for the mascarpone cheese.

About those plans . . .

This recipe hails from A Passion for Desserts by pastry chef Emily Luchetti, a beautiful book. The only alteration I made included the addition of a tiny bit of Chambord, which is a sweet raspberry liqueur, to the raspberry sauce. And, since I didn't have several small individual tart pans, I used just two 8" tart pans instead. I also reworded the instructions to some extent.

You'll love this simple tart. The filling is luscious, with perfectly balanced flavor. The pastry is buttery and flaky, but firm enough to hold up its end of the tart bargain, and the raspberry sauce is like summertime on your tongue. You can't go wrong.

Raspberry Honey Mascarpone Tart
Makes either two 8" round tarts, or four 4" tarts.

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

For the tart shell dough:
1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
pinch of salt
10 Tbsp. (5 oz.) cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
2 Tbsp. heavy cream
1 large egg

Combine all ingredients except cream and egg in a large bowl. Using two knives or a hand-held pastry blender, cut in the butter until it's the size of small peas. Whisk the cream and egg together in a small bowl. Pour that into the dry ingredients and stir with a fork until the dough comes together. (You can also assemble this dough in a food processor, but if you do that just be very careful not to over-process it, pulsing only as much as necessary for the dough to cohere.)

Dump the dough out of the bowl onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Shape it into a 5 to 6 inch disk, wrap it well, and refrigerate it for at least half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

When you're ready to roll the dough out, lightly flour your work surface. Divide the dough as needed to fit your tart pans. (Note from Jane: I divided it evenly in two for my 8" pans, and there was no dough leftover. I rolled out two circles about 10" in circumference. It was about 1/8" thick all over. For very small tarts the dough should be rolled a bit thinner.)

Roll out your dough, then lift it carefully and place it over your tart pans, pressing the dough gently against the sides. Trim off any excess dough cleanly at the top rim.

Cut out parchment circles--you'll need one for each pan--that are at least three inches larger than the tart pans themselves. Place the parchment circles in the pans, and fill them with weights (I used dry beans).

Place the weight-filled pans onto a cookie sheet and bake them in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, just until the top edges start to turn golden brown but don't remove them from the oven yet. At that point, grasp the excess parchment above the pan rim, and using the paper as a handle, slowly lift the beans in the paper circles out of the tart shells and set them aside. Continue baking the empty tart shells for about ten more minutes so the bottom crust can brown as well.

Remove them from the oven and let the tart shells cool in their pans, on a rack. They must be completely cooled before you fill them.

For the mascarpone honey cream filling:

8 oz. (1 cup) mascarpone cheese
1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. good-quality honey (I used wildflower honey)
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 pinch salt
3 Tbsp. heavy cream

In a medium bowl, whisk together all ingredients until thick. Keep this mixture covered and chilled until you're ready to spread it in your tart shells.

For the raspberry sauce:

One 12 oz. bag of frozen whole raspberries, no sugar added, defrosted
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. raspberry liqueur, like Chambord (optional)

Puree the defrosted raspberries completely in a food processor. Strain the puree over a bowl with a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds. Discard the seeds. Stir in the sugar, and the liqueur if using. Taste for sweetness and add more sugar if needed. Keep this chilled until you're ready to serve the tarts.

To assemble the tarts:

You'll need the baked tart shells, the chilled mascarpone cream, the raspberry sauce, and at least 6 oz. of whole, fresh raspberries.

Spoon the cold mascarpone mixture evenly into each tart shell, one by one, and smooth it out, filling the shell to the edges. Serve each small individual tart, or each slice of tart, with a few fresh raspberries, and use the sauce either as a garnish around the tart on the plate, or drizzled over the tart. (Note from Jane: I put the sauce in a food-safe plastic squirt bottle and used that to easily make the little dotted design on the plates. The sauce is so delicious, however, you might find that your diners request more of it while they're munching on this dessert, so you may want to keep any extra sauce close at hand!)

(If you'd like to comment on this post, or to read any existing comments, click on the purple COMMENTS below!)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Quote of the Day:

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother's womb.
I thank you, High God—you're breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I'd even lived one day.
- From Psalm 139, The Message Bible

Who likes feet? Some people are attracted to feet. Some are repelled. When I consider all my body parts, I don't list my feet on the "they look pretty good" side. They're really not that pretty. The size is fine, an 8, but I have hair on my big toe, and my baby toes are deformed. The pinky toe rests on the guy next to it who curls under the middle toe. You know the rhyme:
This little piggy went to market (that big one with the hair)
This little piggy stayed home (the normal looking one)
This little piggy had roast beef (middle guy)
This little piggy had none (the one hiding behind the roast beef eater)
This little piggy cried wee-wee-wee all the way home (because it had no muscle of its own and just lies on top of the hungry one)

I had a massage this week and the lovely spa people threw in a half price pedicure. I had one last summer, and it was time to file off the winter dry calluses on my heels. The massage was super. I told the gal that I liked the pressure firm to deep, but when she got to that sore and tense area between my shoulder blades, I had to tell her to ease up. She worked out some tight knots. There were times when I felt like the bread dough and her hands the rolling pin. I lift weights at a Group Power class at the YMCA, and I carry the weight of raising four boys and being single on my shoulders. She played ocean sounds while rubbing me down, and at times, her hands moved along my limbs with the sound of the waves. I'm a pianist, so I'll tell ya, the forearm and hand massage was fabulous.

Then, on to the pedicure. I often ask the spa gals about feet and try to get a feel for what they like, or don't, about their job. One sweet gal said, "I like doing pedicures because it helps people relax." I pointed out my crooked toes to another one. She said, "It's our imperfections that make us perfect. It's who we are." I thought that was profound. The young woman who rubbed my feet this week said, "Feet don't bother me. I'd rather give a pedicure than get one. My feet are too ticklish."

As you can see, I went with a wild purple polish this week. After all, I am a Minnesotan, and the Vikings are in the play-offs, and even though I'm not much of a football fan, I do live with four boys. One son is wearing a different Vikings shirt every day to school. At least, I think it's a different one. He's not above pulling an already-been-used one out of the dirty clothes pile!

We have a tendency to look at ourselves, often cringing, and criticise what we see as imperfect, aka ugly. Only the movie stars and super models are perfect, right? Or, are they? NO ONE is perfect. In fact, I think perfect is a dirty word. I'm trying to eliminate it from my vocabulary. We cannot be perfect in our actions, our bodies, our minds, our lives. We can only strive to do and be the best in any circumstance.

I rephrased a portion of that Psalm and wrote it on my mirror: You are beautifully and wonderfully made. - God

All of you - all your parts - lean or lumpy, hairy or smooth, tall or short, even or asymmetrical, are beautiful in their imperfections because they make you who you are.

A great book about body shapes is The Shape of Me and Other Stuff, by Dr. Seuss. To quote the end: Of all the shapes we MIGHT have been...I say "HOORAY for the shapes we're in!"

Journaling Prompt: What makes you beautiful and unique?

Friday, January 15, 2010

200th post


Surgery scheduled for the 26th of this month. This makes me happy.


I met with the surgeon yesterday after finding out I indeed have gallstones. However, the surgeon called it sludge which I am guessing is a lot of small gallstones. After weighing my options, I have decided to have the surgery. I'm a little wary of the people who have said that they still have pain even after the surgery, but I'm hoping that they were a little further gone than I am. I just know that I can't eat like this anymore. It brings me to tears. Maybe I'm just being ridiculous, but I can't live off of salads. My weight is dropping off like crazy, and I didn't have a lot of weight to lose. I am not happy with this, and all I can do is hope that the surgery works. I'm hoping the "surgery scheduler" will be calling me very, very soon, because I know I will have to wait a bit for the surgery anyways. I just want all of this to be over. The pain is horrendous, and I'm eating RIGHT. Everything seems to be giving me pain now.

Winter Loves Sweet Potato Pound Cake with Cinnamon Cream Glaze . . .

Its very name is wintery, don't you think? Though I'm sure I could easily be convinced to do so, at the moment I just can't picture myself biting into a piece of this cake in, say, the dog days of August, while the air conditioning is cranking away and all of the markets are brimming with fresh summer fruit. Some desserts seem to find their reason for existing only in the months ending in "er" or "ary" and clearly this is one of them.

In prowling around our bookshelves and, ultimately, the internet in search of the perfect sweet potato pound cake recipe, I contemplated a few possibilities. One promising candidate was from All Cakes Considered, by Melissa Gray. It looks great, but it contains apple pieces, nuts, and several spices. That all sounds tempting, but today I wanted to make something a little less fraught with competing flavors.

The two primary flavors in the cake that I did bake are simply sweet potato and fresh nutmeg, and the recipe that I settled on comes to us via Molly Wizenberg of Orangette. She adapted it from one that appears in the book Southern Cakes by Nancy McDermott. Molly's post about this cake appeared in her blog last winter in the fretful days just prior to the publication of her warm and funny memoir, A Homemade Life (see what I mean about it being a winter cake?).

Molly used a buttermilk glaze that needs to be cooked, but I've omitted that in favor of a more basic cinnamon cream glaze that's just stirred together. Of course, this is one of those cakes that doesn't really need adornment of any kind. Plain is good too. Sometimes plain is really, really good.

Sweet Potato Pound Cake with Cinnamon Cream Glaze

(For a printable copy of this recipe, click here!)

For the cake:

3 and ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
½ tsp. salt
½ cup milk (lowfat is fine)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups mashed cooked sweet potatoes (Note from Jane: I only had two medium-sized potatoes on hand so, when mashed, that came out to barely 1 and 1/2 cups; I just went ahead and used that amount and it was fine.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 10" tube or bundt pan with baking spray. If you don't have baking spray, do a really thorough job of greasing and flouring.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt. Whisk well. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the milk and vanilla.

In a large mixer bowl, beat the butter, sugar, and light brown sugar until light and fluffy, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the sweet potatoes, and mix until the batter is combined. (The batter looks curdled, but that's okay!)

With the mixer on low speed, add half of the flour mixture. Beat to just incorporate. Then add half of the milk mixture, and continue to beat on low until well blended. Add the remaining flour, followed by the remaining milk, and beat on low until the batter is thick and smooth.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 45 to 50 minutes (Note from Jane: Molly says "60 to 75 minutes," but my cake would have been badly overbaked if I'd left it in that long!) or until the cake springs back when pressed lightly and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes.

Run a thin knife around the edge to loosen the cake, and then carefully invert it onto the rack. Cool completely.


For the glaze:

1 cup sifted confectioner's sugar (or, if you hate sifting this stuff, just be sure to use Domino's 10X)
2 Tbsp. 1/2 and 1/2 
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Combine the confectioner's sugar, half and half, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Stir, and keep stirring, until the sugar is completely absorbed and the glaze is completely smooth.

Set a wire rack, with the cake atop it, over a rimmed sheet pan. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake.

* * * *
Now slice a little piece, sit down, and take a bite.

That's one groovy pound cake, isn't it?

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