If It’s Important to Him…

We have snow. Lots of snow. And around here snow means one thing – cross-country skiing.

If you would have told me when I was in high school that I would ever strap wooden sticks to my legs and propel myself across frozen ground – I would have laughed in your face.

I’m not athletic. I hated gym class. I’m not even sure I like winter. I know for sure that I don’t like to be cold.

But my mom gave each of her daughters some wonderful advice when we got engaged. “Learn to love what your husband loves so you can share it together”.

SkiSo I did.

I married a Eagle Scout with Scandinavian blood running through his veins.  His boy scout troop used to strap packs on their backs and ski into the Sierra Nevada mountains, set up winter camp and ski back down the next day.

He loves skiing like a fish loves to swim.

So I learned. Ski 2It wasn’t easy.

It still isn’t. But my husband loves the fact that I worked hard to learn something I knew nothing about – just so I could spend more time with him.

Now – whenever the weather cooperates – we have a standing date when he gets home from work. We strap on our skis and head out on the trails around the property.

I wasn’t the only sister to heed mom’s advice.

My oldest sister married a high school coach and had 4 strapping sons before she saw any pink . She learned baseball inside and out.

My next sister married a guy who loves snowmobiling. I mean really loves snowmobiling. She bought a snowmobile suit and learned to cheer when the drifts started to pile up.

My youngest sister learned farming – tractors, seeds, fertilizer, planters, combines & commodity prices.  She works her schedule around planting and harvest because she knows it’s something her husband loves.

And my mom – she didn’t just give us advise – she lived it. She can bait a hook, cast a line, and land the big one with the best of them. She’s had over 50 years of fishing trips with my dad.

If it’s important to him – make it important to you.

Creamy Mocha Fudge Cake

Creamy Mocha Fudge CakeWhile my parents were here over the weekend – Dagmar and my Mom enjoyed some kitchen time together.We all like it when they bond there – some very yummy things result! 🙂

Since Dagmar really loves coffee and doesn’t get it very often, she picked a chocolate cake recipe that includes a mocha whipped cream frosting.

Can you say “rich and decadent”?

You really don’t want to know the calorie count on this one. No – you really don’t.

But it’s very worth the buzz – both sugar and caffeine – that one slice will bring. I went to such a happy place… 😉

Disclaimer : Do not feed this cake to a 10 year old before bed time. He will bounce off the walls while singing all 67 verses to the Arkie Arkie song. If there weren’t 67 verses before – there are now. Trust me on this one – you have been warned.

Creamy Mocha Fudge Cake

1-1/4 cups of butter (yes – that is 2-1/2 sticks)
3/4 cup baking cocoa
4 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup chopped nuts – we used walnuts

Creamy Coffee Filling

1-1/2 cup heavy whipping cream – cold
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons instant coffee

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter bottom and sides of 2 – 9 inch cake pans. Line with waxed paper and butter the paper.

Melt the butter in a sauce pan. Remove from heat and add cocoa, stirring until well-blended. Cool slightly.

Beat eggs in a large mixing bowl until foamy. Add salt and vanilla. Gradually add the sugar, beating well.

Add cooled chocolate mixture and mix well. Stir in nuts. Divide the mixture evenly between the 2 prepared pans.

Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees (or until toothpick come s out clean). Do not over bake!

Cool 5 minutes and remove from the cake pans, carefully peeling off the waxed paper. Cool completely on wire racks.

When cooled, combine whipping cream, brown sugar, and instant coffee in a chilled bowl. Stir until combined, then beat into stiff peaks.

(Note – you should really sample this often as it beats so that you have the proper buzz going to frost the cake!)

To assemble, place one layer of the cake on a serving platter, spread with the Creamy Coffee Filling, place the second layer on top and use the rest of the filling to cover the top and sides of the cake.

Then – sit back and contently lick the bowl – making appropriate smacking noises to show your appreciation for such delicious calories!

Enjoy!

I’ve linked this post up with Tempt My Tummy Tuesday over at Blessed With Grace, Tasty Tuesday over at Beauty and Bedlam, and Chocolate Friday over at Knit1Kids4.

Making the Old New Again

My mom and dad are here for the weekend – and you know what that means!

Projects! 🙂

Mom has been playing games with the kids, at the sewing machine with Angel Girl making quilt squares for a 4H quilt and playing in the kitchen with Dagmar and I.

Cinnamon Twist

I wish you could be here for tea time – we’re having fresh cinnamon swirls!

Meanwhile – we locked Dad in the bathroom.

Not really. 🙂 But he has been finishing up a project that I’m very excited about!

When you’re dealing with an older house, you walk a fine line between renovating and remodeling, between character and function.

And you save everything – like the cabinet doors from the built-in cupboards we ripped out of the kitchen.

Our downstairs bathroom is built under the stair steps, giving it some unique angles.  My Dad studied the lay-out for awhile and came up with a plan to build a big storage closet under the stairs using 2 of the doors.

Then he tucked a linen closet for towels in another of the angles using a smaller door.

Finally, he built a medicine cabinet right into the wall of the bathroom – and used another door.

Not done

It took a while for me to get the doors and the trim stripped, sanded, stained, and varnished. Then we had to wait for the snow to let up for Dad to get down here again to install everything.

done

But the wait was worth it! We now have a built in medicine cabinet, a deep and functional storage area and a linen closet that are beautiful and new to the house – but look as if they have always been there!

The best part is that we not only saved the character – but we added function!

Happy!  Happy!  Happy!  🙂

Parsnips Primer

The garden catalogs are coming in the mail and I’m sighing wishfully over the pictures of all the fresh vegetables!  As I’m working on my seed order for the year,  I’m overwhelmed with the possibilities. Maybe I should be like my Mom and Dad who choose one new thing to try every year. Their latest choice was parsnips. Here’s Mom’s take on this root vegetable.

ParsnipsThis year we chose parsnips as our “new” veggie in the garden.  They were easy to plant and had such pretty leaves.

This fall Papa dug up one for us to try. But now what should we do with it?

It was time for some research!

Rachel Ray’s cooking magazine had a page with information on it and we uncovered a   recipe for Roasted-Parsnip Bread Pudding in a Martha Stewart magazine.  We couldn’t go wrong with this expert advice!  It had to be delicious!

We learned that parsnips can be stored in the crisper, wrapped individually in paper towels in a plastic bag for up to 2 weeks.  A friend said that they would leave them in the soil in the garden all winter and eat them in the spring – we are experimenting with this!

You can also purchase them in a supermarket — avoid roots with brown spots or lots of hair-like sprouts.  Select medium uniformly shaped roots for easier prep.

We discovered that parsnips have a mild flavor so they can be “paired” up with potatoes & mashed; grated raw into coleslaw or salads; used shredded for half of the carrot in a cake or muffin; added to stews and soups; or sliced and roasted in oven.

Roasted Parsnip Bread Pudding
(use as a side-dish)
Can be made ahead, refrigerated for 24 hours, let stand at room temp for 15 min before baking
Serves 6 – 8

1 lb. parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2 -inch pieces
Olive oil for drizzling
Salt & Pepper
2 Tbs. butter, plus 3Tbs. melted
3 Cups chopped onions
2 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme (or equivalent of dried)
2 Cups heavy cream ( I used canned evaporated milk)
5 Eggs
1 Cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 Loaf (12 ounces) bread cut into 1 inch cubes

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Drizzle parsnips with oil, season with salt and pepper. Arrange on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast, shaking occasionally, until caramelized and tender, (25 min). Let cool. Reduce heat to 375 degrees.

Heat 2 Tbs. butter over med heat in a medium saute pan until melted. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 min. Remove form heat. Add thyme and stir in the roasted parsnips.

Whisk together melted butter, heavy cream, eggs and 3/4 cup Parmesan in a large bowl. Season with salt & pepper. Add onion-parsnip mixture, then fold in bread. (This can be refrigerated overnight.)

Pour the  mixture into a shallow, buttered 2-quart baking dish. Cover loosely with foil. Bake until golden brown and puffed, 50 minutes. Remove foil. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan and bake for 10 minutes more.

Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Nana Shirley

I’ve linked this post up with An Oregon Cottage’s Tuesday Garden Party.

Pecan Fudge Torte

My parents have been pretty much snowed in the last week, thanks to the “Christmas Blizzard of 2009”. They used their solitary confinement to work on their to-do list, which included sorting through the recipe tub.  Nana shares these thoughts…

Papa and I have been sorting the “collected” recipes in my recipe file (which has grown over the years until it is now a small plastic tub!) What a nostalgic journey!

As we sorted and discarded we discovered:

  • Our tastes changed over the years.
  • We cook with different ingredients.
  • Some of the newly-clipped recipes were identical to old ones in our file, just a different name.
  • We have developed some “cooking habits” over the years that we are not ready to give up!

The picture on a recipe clipped from a 1996 newspaper looked delicious and since it would use up the rest of a can of sweetened condensed milk that was sitting in our refrigerator, we made it.

It does require several steps, but it is as good as the picture!

pecan fudge tortePecan Fudge Torte

Filling:
1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Cake:
1 pkg Devils Food Cake Mix
1/3 cup oil
1 (15 oz) can sliced pears, drained
2 eggs
1/3 cup chopped pecans
2 tsp water

Sauce:
1 (17 oz) jar caramel ice cream topping
1/3 cup milk

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9″ or 10″ round layer pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Combine filling ingredients and microwave for 1 minute or until melted. Stir to combine. Set aside.  In large bowl, combine cake mix and oil; blend at low speed for 20 or 30 seconds or until crumbly. (Mixture will be dry).  Place pears in blender or food processor, cover & blend until smooth.  In another bowl, combine 2 1/2 cups of the cake mix mixture, pureed pears and eggs. Beat for 2 minutes. Spread batter evenly in pan.  Drop filling by spoonfuls over batter.  Stir nuts and water into remaining cake mix mixture. Sprinkle over the filling.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until top springs back when touched lightly in the center.  Cool for 1 1/2 hours before cutting.  Combine sauce ingredients and microwave for 20 to 30 seconds.
To serve: Spoon 2 tablespoons warm sauce on to each serving plate; top with wedge of torte.  Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Wasn’t sure at first glance if this was a “keeper”  – but after tasting it – it will definitely go back in file!

Until next time,

Nana Shirley