Chocolate Spice Cake

Chocolate Spice Cake

I am very much a planner. Somewhere in my head I believe if I plan enough, the chances of things going wrong are lessened. That’s probably not true but it sure makes me feel better. My husband’s birthday was coming up and his favorite cake is German Chocolate with Coconut Pecan frosting. Being the planner that I am, whenever the local grocery store runs a sale on cake mixes for something like $1.00 a box, I stock up on as many as I can buy so whenever I need a cake mix, I have one.
So knowing I would have the cake mix I needed to make my husband’s birthday cake, when I was at the store, I only bought the jar of Coconut-Pecan frosting. Of course, this was the night before jos birthday and I’d planned on baking his cake while he was out fishing the next day BEFORE I left to spend the day at the zoo with my friend. But as Murphy’s Law will have it, I had almost every flavor cake mix EXCEPT for German Chocolate. What to do, what to do? After examining the cake mixes I had, White, Yellow, Lemon, Spice, Carrot, it dawned on me I could just add cocoa to one of the mixes and make my own chocolate cake. I chose the Spice cake mix and I couldn’t be more pleased with the way it turned out. spice cake mix, cocoa, prepared cake pan and mixer
To turn the spice cake into a chocolate spice cake, I simply added cocoa. In addition to adding 1/4 cup of cocoa, I got a couple of other really great ideas from Rachel Ray’s website, She has a video showing ways to enhance boxed cake mixes. Two of the suggestions were to substitute melted butter for the oil and using hot water instead of cold. The hot water reacts with the cocoa and enhances the chocolate flavor and using butter instead of oil adds more flavor (not to mention butter is a whole lot more appetizing than oil). To check out her other great tips click here.
cake mix in prepared pan I also added about 3 additional tablespoons of flour to upsize the mix just a bit.
I baked it according to the directions on the box and when the cake had completely cooled, I iced it and waited patiently for our dessert time to serve it with a scoop of ice cream. Yum!

Derby Day–Make a Fastinator

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Ever wanted to make one of those fantastic Fastinators  you see the women wearing on Derby Day? Well, I did. Using some cardboard, a headband, hot glue and miscellaneous craft items I had on hand, I made this Fastinator for the annual fundraising Melodrama my church puts on and that year’s Melodrama was “The Brother’s O’Toole. I thought my character needed a little extra panache so what better way than a Fastinator? And just in case you don’t know what a “Melodrama” is, Webster’s dictionary defines it as

drama in which many exciting events happen and the characters have very strong or exaggerated emotions

I don’t know about exciting events but our characters definitely ham it up.

Using some light-weight cardboard and a saucer for a template, I cut a circle out of the cardboard, cut a triangular notch out of the circle and then stapled the circle back together. Fastinator baseI glued fabric from scraps of the dress I made to the circle and glued the fabric covered circle to a headband. Underside of Fastinator I finished the creation by gluing flowers and feathers on top the fabric. To get the perfect angle of the Fastinator, I tried the headband on. One lesson I learned while doing this is not to try the Fastinator on before the hot glue is completely dry. I ended up gluing it to may hair. Oops!

Wearing the Fastinator at Brother's O'Toole

On stage “The Brothers O’Toole”

A Tale of Two Sides

One duplex, two sides

One duplex, two sides. Both sides rented by single mothers with two children. One single mother works full time. One single mother works part time and goes to school part time. One single mother pays her rent from her income. One single mother’s rent is paid for one year by a social agency. One single mother lives alone with her two children. One single mother allows her unemployed, pot-smoking boyfriend to move in. One single mother works twelve hour shifts and is generally gone fourteen hours at a time. One single mother no longer works or goes to school and has another baby with the boyfriend. One single mother assures that her children are always properly supervised. One single mother has Children’s Services called because her children are left home alone or are unsupervised while outside and often in the street. One single mother has visits by the police and arrests made out of her home and one single mother does not.

One single mother trims her lawn, plants flowers, flies the American flag.
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One single mother has weeds growing in front of the house, has broken the glass storm door and blinds in windows are broken and hanging.

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One single mother allows pot smoking in her home which permeates the heating system in the other side subjecting the other single mother and her children to second hand marijuana smoke. One single mother worries that if her blood were tested whether she would have inhaled enough second-hand smoke to test positive for THC.

One single mother babysits her sister’s children making five children under the age of seven in the 800 square foot duplex. One single mother allows her children to run up and down the stairs, banging and screaming at all hours of the day and night. One single mother respects the fact that the walls are thin and most things can be easily heard on the other side.

So which side is which? If you guess the side on the left is occupied by the working mother who pays her rent, you would be correct. But I bet you were hoping that the right side would be occupied by the mother who outwardly is doing all the right things, thereby negating the stereotype of people who receive assistance. This is unfortunate because the single mother who has been afforded the opportunity to live rent free takes no pride in the appearance of her home or how her actions affect her adjoining neighbor or the rest of the neighborhood. Actions such as these perpetuate the stereotype that people receiving assistance are lazy and irresponsible. It is actions such as these which make communities rally to prevent any low income housing in their neighborhoods. It is actions such as these which make prospective landlords refuse to participate in programs which can help the less fortunate, law abiding, upstanding citizens who may just need a helping hand. Individuals described above hurt not only themselves, their children and their neighbors, but also every other person who honestly needs assistance. Will that landlord ever allow someone like that single mother to rent from him again? I wouldn’t bet on it.

I first wrote this post last year, but I couldn’t decide whether or not to publish it. It all sounds so unchristianlike. But between the time I wrote this and all of us in the neighborhood were being subjected to almost daily drama which finally resulted in the eviction of the single mother on the right, and now, the right side duplex has been rehabbed and new renters moved in. What a difference. As an added bonus for the new renters (who, incidentally, paid for all the landscaping and mulch themselves) a water spigot was found buried in all the overgrowth in the front. Bonus!

corleyfoto tale of two sides oen

corleyfoto tale of two sides two

Name Something Your Mother/Grandmother….

Name something that your mother/grandmother cooked that was your favorite
You know how you see those posts on your Facebook timeline asking something like “Name something…..?” The other day one came across my timeline saying “Name Something Your Mother/Grandmother Cooked that was Your Favorite”. Several of the comments said “chicken and dumplings” and I immediately agreed. My grandma was the only person who ever made chicken and dumplings for us, usually on holidays. I loved them. Not sure about my mom though. I don’t know if she didn’t like them, dad didn’t like them or she just didn’t know how to make them because she never did. I’m guessing it was probably a little of all three. Grandmother seated on couch
Another favorite of mine that grandma used to make for us was fried chicken. She made the absolute best fried chicken, the skin always crispy and golden brown; you know, that part of the chicken that is supposed to be the absolute worse for you but tastes the absolute best? Whenever my grandma (my dad’s mom) would come and stay the weekend with us, Saturday night meant fried chicken, mashed potatoes and corn. OMG. I thought I died and went to heaven. My dad, on the other hand, didn’t share my enthusiasm. Having been raised in poverty in the south, a lot of his subsistence depended on chicken. They were cheap to buy and raise and guaranteed meat on the table. I don’t know if my grandma liked fried chicken or not. She had been widowed when my dad, the youngest of her children, was only twelve years old, leaving her with four children to finish raising. I don’t know if my grandpa John was a drinker, but I got the feeling through some of the stories that he may have been. Grandma on one occasion said that Grandpa John would come home late at night, wake her up and make her kill, skin and fry a chicken for him. So, if she didn’t like fried chicken, I think I could see why.
But I digress. Getting back to the favorite thing my grandma used to make for me. Hands down, or at least a dead tie, would be what we called “Grandma’s pancakes”. What they really were, she never told us. They were flat and almost had the consistency of a noodle and she made them big, the entire size of the skillet. She’d serve them to us warm with lots of melted, oozing butter and syrup. Yum! It was just another one of the treats we got when grandma stayed with us. Now I know they were most likely Belgium pancakes or crepes. When my oldest kids were little and my grandma was still alive, I used to make grandma’s pancakes for them. But for some reason, by the time my youngest kids came around (a whopping sixteen years later) and grandma had passed away, I’d stopped making grandma’s pancakes and had forgotten about them all together. That is, until I took a trip to my dad’s hometown and we stayed in a motel across the parking lot from an IHOP. My son and I had breakfast at the IHOP and what was on the menu but grandma’s pancakes! Of course, they called them by a silly name of Crepes. But I was in heaven. I was so excited, that when I got home I googled the recipe and made them for my boys. I just knew they would love them. Well, it didn’t quite go over as I had hoped; they weren’t the pancakes they were accustomed to. But they are still top of the line in my book. Google Belgium Pancakes, or Swedish Pancakes or Crepes and you will find very similar recipes. Or, just do what I did the last time. Use the directions on a regular pancake mix and add two extra eggs and more milk. Worked like a charm for me.

Chicken with Tomato and Basil Cream Sauce-Revamped

Chicken with Tomato and Basil Cream Sauce

I am a recipe hound. I collect recipes. Used to be, “back in the day”, I’d have to buy a magazine (or hope no one saw me tear that recipe out of the year old magazine at the dentist office), but now with the internet and all the wonders that go along with it, I get all the recipes I can handle.cookbook 2014 Last year I started collecting the recipes in a desktop folder and at the end of the year, I printed them out and put them into a spiral bound book. I even designed the cover using my own photographs. So I’ve started collecting again this year and have amassed quite a few already. I saw this recipe on Facebook the other day and I thought it sounded really good and knew I wanted to try it. It had been posted by http://www.gooddinnermom.com.
One of the things I’ve learned over the years, is that most time, and note I said MOST time, you don’t have to follow a recipe exactly to get a good result.

Here I’ve listed Sally’s recipe ingredients (from gooddinnermom.com) for the Chicken and Tomato with Basil Cream Sauce and my changes in parentheses:

1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup white wine (omitted)
Juice from one lemon (used lemon juice from one of those little yellow plastic lemons and just squeezed some in)
2 cups whipping cream (about 10 ozs. half and half)
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 tsp. Sea Salt (omitted)
1/4 tsp. black pepper (omitted)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (used prepared grated cheese)
2 Tbls olive oil (I used bacon grease)
3 or 4 chicken breasts, pounded then for even cooking (no pounding, just cut into strips)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
salt and pepper
3 tomatoes, sliced to 1/4 thickness (used one 16 oz. can tomatoes, drained)
Garlic (her ingredient list omitted the garlic but mentioned it in the instructions. I used minced garlic and used about 1/2 teaspoon)
3 Tbls fresh basil (I used a sprinkle of dried basil)
More Parmesan cheese, to taste. (didn’t use extra)

As you are looking through my changes, I know you saw the fact that instead of using olive oil to cook my chicken, I used bacon grease. So, what’s up with that, other than the fact that bacon grease makes things taste awesome? I guess this is my southern roots coming out. My grandma always cooked with bacon grease and kept all the drained grease in a jar on the stove. I find whenever I use it (sparingly, of course, wink, wink) the flavor of whatever I’m cooking is baconated (after all, what is better than bacon?)

When I cook, I’m all about simplifying. Sally’s recipe called for pounding the chicken, cooking it, slicing it and then keeping it warm in the oven. To save time, I just sliced the raw chicken into strips and cooked it that way. I tried to make sure my slices were fairly uniform in size to assure even cooking and I cooked them in bacon grease.

So if you follow Sally’s recipe, she calls for preheating the oven to 250 degrees. I omitted this step entirely as I found there was no need to use the oven. Her next step is to heat the chicken broth and wine over medium heat, boiling until it cooked down about 1/3. I did this too (without the wine because I didn’t have any) then I reduced the heat, added the lemon juice, butter and the half and half, stirring occasionally while I cooked the lightly floured chicken in another sauce pan (in the heavenly bacon grease). When the chicken was done, (I test by cutting through a couple pieces to make sure there was no pink remaining), I poured in my can of tomatoes and added the garlic and cooked it a few minutes longer. Easy peasy, no chopping tomatoes.

While the chicken and tomatoes finished cooking, in the cream sauce pan I added the Parmesan cheese, cooking until the sauce began to thicken. When it was thickened, I poured it over the chicken and tomato mixture, sprinkled it with dried basil, stirred and served it over egg noodles.

This was a big hit. My husband loved it as evidenced by his clean plate (two helpings) 20150401_181225 smalland my granddaughter liked it too, except for the tomato which she managed to pick out. But what a great kid, she never even mentioned she didn’t like tomatoes.
20150401_181216 smaller I will definitely be making this again.

Click the link for a print version of this recipe: Chicken with Basil and Tomato Cream Sauce