Tuesday, September 30, 2008


This weekend, Dorie and I visited my sister in Chicago. I got an aisle seat but Dorie traveled in baggage with tomatoes, chard, basil and arugula from my garden. Adding more weight were a super-sized zucchini and my Dimply Plum Cake. The plan: 1) I'd cook a fabulous dinner for my sister & her husband, 2) we'd eat the DP Cake, and 3) we'd bake a TWD recipe together.

We did all the fun things sisters do. We had morning coffee with pumpkin bread, took a bike ride, shopped at Nordstrom's Rack, had pedicures at a fancy salon (the best foot massage I've ever had), walked & talked. We took a mini-tour of downtown Chicago on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon & checked out niece Emily's apartment with views of the city & nephew Mike's (& Steph's) cool loft-style space in a converted pencil factory.

We did our share of eating, including dinner at Cafe Ba Ba Reeba http://www.cafebabareeba.com/), a bustling paella - tapas bistro in downtown Chicago. Great service - our waitress was attentive & other servers hovered about our table bringing endless tapas & signature dishes of chicken paella plus calderos, a rustic soup-like stew of rice & mushrooms.

Did I eat too much? Sure. This was a two-handed dining experience. White sangria in one hand and tapas in the other. Tapas of note: calamari, riojo short ribs, eggplant with goat cheese. I did not think I could eat another bite, but a real baker wouldn't pass up a slice of birthday cake from Dinkel's. Dinkels has been a Chicago institution since 1922 & is still run by the same family (with computers now). This was a deep dark chocolate experience with alternating layers of chocolate cake, thick fudge and whipped cream with strawberries.

This being Chicago, we watched sports with my brother-in-law. But, what were they thinking when they built that saucer-like stadium inside Soldiers' Field? We also watched the 1st Presidential debate, candidate interviews (real and fake), and all the bad news on the financial crisis. When the news became too depressing, we made apple cake and rugelach.

Rugelach (p.150) is a family tradition. My grandmother made hers with yeast dough & apricot filling. Dorie's cookies are smaller so you can eat more and equally tasty. We made a double recipe and 2 kinds of fillings: a) chocolate/walnut/rasberry jam filling, and b) chocolate/gourmet nut-fruit mix/apricot jam filling. I was surprised that we all preferred the apricot version. Seems that Grandma had it right all along!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


My 1st blog award !

The bakers at TWD have decreed that it is time to bake Dimply Plum Cake. It would be poetic justice if the cake with the worst name in the cookbook received high praise. But, no. Bad things happen to good people. Bad names beget bad cakes. There are dimply thigh jokes & bad reviews of this cake. When Tuesday arrives, I make sushi and post a picture of Nancy's cake. Nancy at Dogs Eat The Crumbs loves this cake. She made 2 cakes (peach and plum) and I figure that she is my surrogate baker.

But Nancy encourages me to bake this cake. Because she has given me a blog award, I cannot let her down. I will bake the cake making a few changes suggested by other bakers. I will bake it an extra 10 minutes, use cinnamon instead of cardamon, add 1/2 tsp almond extract and use white & wheat flours. I also add 1/2 C of ground almonds and 3 T of fresh OJ. The batter tastes soooo good. I have no idea about the cake itself. I'm flying to Chicago tomorrow for my sister's birthday. She has a new coffee maker and I'm bringing the coffee cake & the same birthday card we have exchanged for years.

In her book, Dorie says the cake is best eaten the day it is made, that the texture changes on day 2, but it becomes moist again on day 3. I'm shooting for day 3.

Hot out of the oven

50 minutes earlier

60 minutes earlier

An extra 10 minutes to clean the pantry !


Tuesday, September 23, 2008


That's not me in the photo - I am taking pictures

There are plenty of foods that do not require use of a fork. Like apples, bananas, corn-on-the-cob, Dimply Plum Cake*, egg salad sandwiches, figs and granola bars. But my favorite no-fork food is SUSHI. Forget about California roll, I like my sushi in hand rolls and snake-like formations with soft shell crab, salmon roe, avocado, designer sauces & cool names like Sex on the Moon.

*Dimply plum cake is this week's pick from the bakers at Tuesdays with Dorie. As a member of the group, I am required to write a post about this cake TODAY. I believe I have done so in spirit if not exactly in deed.

Sushi (like Dimply Plum Cake) is best eaten the day it is made. It's also pretty pricey. This is a good good reason to take a sushi class. There's one tonight and it is only $20. It is offered by Sunflower Market, but the instructor is a sushi chef at Whole Foods (!!!). He is funny & very good. My sushi also turns out funny and good.

We start with a practice roll of rice, avocado and veggies. The technique is to:

1) Cover a sheet of nori (sea weed) with a thin layer of sticky rice,
2) Sprinkle the rice side with sesame seeds and turn it over,
3. Put a row of rice lengthwise down the middle of the "blank" side,
4) Put strips of avocado, cucumber & carrot on either side of the rice,
5) Roll up lengthwise and cut into 8 pieces.

Sticky rice: Cook 2 cups of regular or brown rice with 2 cups of water. Let rice/water sit for 20 minutes before cooking it. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover & simmer for 10 min. Turn off heat & steam for 20 min. Place rice in a large bowl & sprinkle with 1/4 C of rice vinegar & 1 tsp salt, mixing lightly with wood spoon (not metal). Optional: dissolve 2 T sugar in the vinegar.

Good luck getting a nice tight roll. Even if you do, the avocado will probably slip out when you cut it crosswise into pieces.

Having mastered the not-so-tight roll, we move on to the good stuff: eel, tuna, salmon & crab. I am making a basic spicy tuna/avocado roll when I see that one student has gone creative. He made a handroll with the assistant chef and they are working on a roll with salmon & avocado on the outside. With help from the assistant, I make a decent rainbow roll, too. We finish it off with a squiggle of teryaki sauce & some sesame seeds. Turns out, she has only been making sushi for a few months. She's new to Colorado and worried about driving in the snow. I try to reassure her that it can't be worse than driving in Minnesota where she used to live. But then again, there are no mountains in Minni.

Handrolls may look easy but avocado comes shooting out of my roll. The chef kindly comments that the winter avocado we are using is not nearly as good or cooperative as the summer kind.

My sushi is almost finished

Chopsticks, anyone?


Two polar bears are sitting in a bathtub. The first one says, "Pass the soap." The second one says, "No soap, radio!"

Two elephants are sitting in the bathtub. One elephant says to the other, "Please pass the soap." The elephant replies to the other elephant, "What do I look like, a radio?"

No soap radio at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_soap_radio


Cake by Nancy at Dogs Eat The Crumbs

Friday, September 19, 2008


Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. The holiday was conceived by two Oregonians, John Baur (Ol' Chumbucket) and Mark Summers (Cap'n Slappy), who in 1995 proclaimed that Sept. 19 would be celebrated with outbursts of "Arrrg" and "Avast!" Last year, as I surfed the net for food blogs, I ran across Talk Like a Pirate Day. That makes today my one year anniversary as far as pirate day goes. So in honor of pirates and the wenches who love them, I will either buy a t-shirt at http://www.talklikeapirate.com/ or finish off the devilishly good chocolate cake I made yesterday.


3 oz good chocolate chopped (I also added 1 oz. semisweet chocolate)
1.5 C brewed hot black coffee
3 C sugar
1.5 C flour
1.5 C cocoa powder (not Dutch)
2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking pwdr
1 1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
3/4 vegetable oil
1.5 C buttermilk
3/4 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 300, grease two 10" pans lined with wax paper or parchment.
Combine chocolate & coffee, mix until melted & smooth.
Sift together: flour, sugar, cocoa, bsoda, bpwdr, salt.
In mixer, beat eggs til thick & lemon color (3 min), then slowly add buttermilk, oil & vanilla, beating until well combined. Add chocolate mixture & combine well.

Add dry ingredient mixture & beat on medium just enough to combine well.
Pour into prepared 10" pans. (If using 9" pans, do not use all the batter. Also bake 3-4 cupcakes)
Bake approx. 1 hr at 300 degrees.

When cool, remove from pans & frost with chocolate ganache or buttercream frosting. This is a rich fudgy cake. I served one layer - with ice cream. I froze the other layer, unfrosted, tightly wrapped. To defrost, remove from freezer, do not unwrap, let thaw.

But if you don't want to bake a cake from scratch, take a look at this Betty Crocker video that shows exactly how to make a pirate cake using packaged cake mix & canned frosting. It's enough to make you say Arrgh!!


Of course, if a real pirate, like Captain Ron, is coming to dinner, you'll walk the plank if you don't serve rum cake. Dark rum is said to be best. But, it is a good idea for the cook to try several kinds of rum before baking. Use the rum that gives the best buzz. That is either the best rum in the group, or the last rum you drank.


1 c. chopped pecans or walnuts
1 pkg. (2 layer size) yellow cake mix
1 pkg. (4 serving size) Jello brand vanilla flavor instant pudding & pie filling
4 eggs
1/2 c. water
1/4 c. oil
1 cup sugar (for glaze)
1/2 c. Bacardi dark rum (80 proof)

Or use pudding included yellow cake mix; decrease water to 1/4 cup.
Sprinkle nuts evenly in bottom of 10 inch tube or fluted tube pan that has been greased and floured or sprayed with Pam pure vegetable cooking spray. Combine remaining ingredients in large mixer bowl. Blend, then beat at medium speed for 4 minutes. Pour into pan. Bake at 325 degrees for about 1 hour or until cake begins to pull away from sides of pan. DO NOT UNDERBAKE. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Prepare glaze. Invert cake onto serving plate. Prick with cake tester or wooden pick. Carefully spoon warm glaze over warm cake.


Combine in saucepan:

1/2 c. butter
1/4 c. water
1 cup sugar

Stir until mixture comes to a boil; boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in 1/2 cup rum; bring just to boil.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


SPRUCE CONFECTIONS 9th and Pearl St, Boulder
What a gorgeous day for a latte with a peach scone. Spruce Confections is a charming little store front with outside seating. Whatever you don't eat, you can give to the birds that hop around at your feet, hoping for your crumbs. Of course, the dog wants his bite, too. So I guard the peach treat knowing his propensity for devouring entire peach pies. He gets a homemade biscuit from the jar at the register. This is a lovely morning & the temperature promises to rise above 80 degrees.
It is a morning worth remembering so I will post it.

Dogs who like peach scones and pies also like the following:

Mix together 3 1/2 cup unbleached flour, 2 cup whole wheat flour, 1 cup cornmeal, 1/2 cup skim milk powder, 1 tablespoon (1 package) dry yeast, 3 1/2 cups lukewarm chicken or meat broth. Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm chicken or meat broth. The richer this broth is, the better your dog will like the biscuits. Let yeast broth mixture set 10 min. Then stir in flour mixture. Roll resulting dough out 1/4" thick. Cut dog biscuit shapes from dough. Brush biscuits with egg wash. Bake on greased cookie sheets at 300* for 45 min. Then turn off oven and leave in overnight to finish hardening. Makes 60 medium-sized biscuits. Recipe from a newsgroup post by: Jill Faerber

Friday, September 12, 2008


Everything is coming up tomatoes....and squash. So what's a girl to do but make soup, of course. The best soups are the simple ones, full of fresh flavor from the garden vegetables. Go wild with the garnishes if you must. For tomato soup, I carmelized a chopped onion & 2 shallots in olive oil, added about 15-20 assorted tomatoes cut in 1/2 (seeds and all). I cooked that down for over an hour on low heat, covered. For flavor, I added some fresh basil and cilantro as well as 4 large garlic cloves, peeled. Once the tomatoes were tender and very soft, I removed the skins by pushing the mixture through a colander into another pot. I then added 1/2 cup of half & half, one T of sugar, a pinch of thyme, a handful of shredded fresh basil, and S & P to taste. I cooked this for about 15 minutes to meld the flavors. A dollop of sour cream and some shaved parmesan reggiano cheese was all I wanted, but I served bowls of Jasmine rice, pine nuts, pecans, shredded basil, and cilantro to round out the topping bar. My version was inspired by a recipe in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison. Her Summer Tomato Soup is on p.216:
Melt 3 T butter in a soup pot over low heat;
Add 1 C of diced shallots and cook for about 10 minutes;
Add 5 Lbs juicy tomatoes cut in big pieces;
Add 1 tsp salt and 1/2 C water to pot;
Cover & cook for 3-4 hrs. Strain, add S&P to taste, serve.
Deborah suggests a splash of lime juice & diced avocado.
I'd add shredded cheese, cilantro & sour cream & serve with
fresh tortillas heated 'til slightly crispy in a buttered fry pan.

But what's soup without a samidge? We're hooked on BLTs, although my personal choice would be a BCT. I love the way the cheese oozes out when the sandwich is perfectly grilled. The browned butter in my pan adds a nutty taste and the toasty bread crunches when I take a bite. This is a sandwich with a lot of bang for your buck. Its chewy texture gives me a mouthful of cheesy/salty goodness that sticks to my teeth and keeps the flavor going long after each bite.

And speaking of toast, we watched an old episode of Two & Half Men last night. Jake, precocious kid that he is, came up with the perfect crime. Death by toast. You just eat the evidence.

Squash soup with the fixin's.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


I planned to skip this week's recipe for health reasons. Chocolate Whopper cookies call for 2 cups of Whoppers, 1/2 bag of chocolate chunks/chips plus a cup of malted milk powder or Ovaltine. That's pretty high on the sugar scale. The other problem is that whoppers make me sick. A lot of people feel the same about whoppers. It is probably because you can't eat just one.

I've been on road trips with a carton of whoppers at my side. The kind of whoppers that come in a milk carton sort of box. A thin chocolate coating that probably isn't real chocolate at all. An hour into the trip, I have that yucky feeling that comes with too many whoppers.

But just in case, I buy some whoppers in bulk at Sunflower Market, which is next to McGuckin Hardware. McGuckins is a Boulder institution. There are smiling men & women at every turn and they all want to help you. "Nuts and bolts" is such a friendly aisle that I share my whoppers with staff & shoppers alike. We are having a grand old time until someone points out that eating too many makes you sick. This pretty much kills the party in aisle 7.

On the way home, I buy more whoppers. I buy chocolate ones & yogurt-covered ones. The latter are white and may not be real whoppers anymore than white chocolate is real chocolate. Nevertheless, I used them both in my cookies with good results. The only other change I make is to use Nesquik, as suggested by some TWD bakers, instead of malted milk powder. (My research on the net fails to come up with a healthy alternative.)

This is my second Tuesday baking with Dorie and I've enjoyed eating the results. I'm not sure what's next, but I hope it involves zucchini. My garden is full of them.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


I'm amazed at the response to my blog. I have only baked the Peanut Butter Chipsters, but look where they have taken me:

Tuesday, September 2, 2008



Tuesday has always been the day I rise early for the weekly office meeting. No donuts (ever) & no treats. Just the facts ma'am. But effective today, I'm spending Tuesdays with Dorie. I'll bake a select recipe & post about the experience. At least 250 other people will do the same, forming a virtual baking circle. This cosmic event beats my office meeting in a number of categories, including taste.

A member of the group has chosen Chunky Peanut Butter & Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters. The other choice, Malted Milk Ball Whoppers, will surely promote hyperactivity in adults and children alike. I choose the chipsters for safety reasons. Dorie warns against using natural peanut butter, but doesn't say why. I decide to use the only peanut butter I have: Whole Foods natural chunky. My research on the net leads to many recipes & similar warnings. Some folks, vegans & others, post recipes using natural PB. Their recipes use less butter (fat) & less sugar.

I also research the issue of salty butter (which I have) vs. unsalted (requiring a trip to the store). I reduce the sugar & butter by 50% and use salted butter anyway. I use WW pastry flour. I also add chunks of Dove bar & 1/2 C coconut. These are thick chewy cookies. Rick eats 7 right away. I take the rest to a party & serve them with vanilla ice cream and a banana rum caramel sauce. The crowd goes wild.

Monday, September 1, 2008


The kids are coming for breakfast. I am cooking on all burners. We're having tomato/mango salad with arugula, zucchini pancakes, bacon (real and turkey) & eggs. For dessert, there's chocolate zucchini cake, peanut chipsters (from TWD), plus fruit salad. Turkey bacon is weird. The first batch turns crispy hard like doggie chew strips. The second batch is a horrible fake pinky-red strip with a white pinstripe.

My tomato salad was a huge hit at a recent tennis party. I made it up but imagine someone else has been eating it for years. Is there really a totally new idea out there? How is it that year after year, bake-off winners come up with their recipes, and are they really original? I read somewhere that recipes published in magazines are selected because they photograph well and are easy to duplicate. They are not necessarily the most tasty but they are colorful.

My tomato/mango salad goes like this:

1 mango cut in bite size pieces
4-6 tomatoes cut "
3 green onions - cut crosswise into 1/4 inch slices, including green tops
1 cup of arugula torn into large shreds
1/2 C fresh basil leaves, torn
1/3 C fresh cilantro, well chopped

Dressing: 2 T olive oil, 2 T balsamic vinegar, 2 garlic cloves minced.

Toss all ingredients with dressing & add salt/pepper to taste. I don't add a lot of dressing because the tomatoes are juicy. If the salad gets "runny" sitting in the frig, pour off some liquid & add another hit of balsamic.

The left over fruit salad goes into a cake that I bring to a BBQ in the mountains. I made a basic sour cream cake, substituting peach yogurt for the sour cream. I added 1 T orange rind, 1/2 cup juice, 2 tsp. vanilla, 1 whole cut up banana plus 1 cup of fruit salad (mango, blueberries, peaches, bananas) cut into small pieces. While still warm, I glazed it with a syrup of OJ, powered sugar & rum (poking holes in the cake). The cake is a hit with the guests, but next time, I will add some coconut to the cake and more rum to the syrup. It is best served as a brunch/coffee cake.