Thursday, March 25, 2010


You've heard "Two in the kitchen, twice as much fun!"  Well, with nine people (as in our Cooking Capers Club) it is really, really fun!!!   Today we ate the vegetarian meal that I planned a month ago [See my post at 2/26/10 for the full menu.].  It was a delicious lunch but the Zucchini Bread Pudding was perhaps the best of all.  Here's the recipe:

* 2 medium zucchini, sliced 1/4" thick
* 1/2 cup frozen whole kernel corn
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 1/2 cup chopped roasted red sweet peppers
* 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic (6 cloves)
* 1 tablespoon snipped fresh basil (or 1 teaspoon dried, crushed)
* 1 tablespoon snipped fresh parsley (or 1 teaspoon dried)
* 1 tablespoon snipped fresh sage (or 1 teaspoon dried, crushed)
* 5 cups Italian bread, cut into 1" cubes (about 13 oz.)
* 4 oz. Swiss cheese, shredded (1 cup)
* 3 tablespoons chopped toasted pecans
* 2 cups half-and-half or light cream
* 5 eggs, slightly beaten
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon pepper (or to taste)
     Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Grease a 2-quart baking dish, set aside.  In a large skillet cook zucchini and corn in hot oil for 3 minutes.  Stir in sweet peppers, garlic, basil, parsley and sage.  Cook and stir for 2 minutes more or until zucchini is tender.  Stir in bread.  Place half of the mixture in prepared dish.  Sprinkle with half of the cheese.  Repeat layers.  Sprinkle with nuts.  In a medium bowl whisk together half-and-half, eggs, salt and pepper.  Carefully pour over bread mixture.
     Bake, uncovered, for 35 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.  (To make ahead: Layer mixture, but do not bake.  Cover; refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours. Bake, uncovered, in a 350ºF oven 45 minutes or until a knife inserted off-center comes out clean.) Let stand 10 minutes.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Previously I've talked about the themed buffet lunches put on by the culinary arts students at St. Paul College in St. Paul;  but today, for the first time, I experienced the fabulous services of the College's Cosmetology, Massage & Esthetics Department.  They offer the full range of services at attractive prices.  I indulged on four treatments - a therapeutic facial ($15), body exfoliant ($16), eyebrow tint ($5), and makeup application ($5).   I look and feel great!  Check it out!  Online: click on "programs" then click on "cosmetology;" on that page click on "menu of services".  Or call them at 651.846.1329.  All I can say is... I'm going back for more!

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Such a beautiful day, and wouldn't it be nice to get out in the garden! Unfortunately, it is too early. At this time we need to stay off the grass and out of the gardens so as to avoid root compaction. It's also too early to begin cleaning out the gardens since the dead material will act as protection when we get colder/freezing weather. So, until we are certain that no more freezing weather is coming, we can't do much outside. That doesn't mean we can't get going on our summer gardening projects. My to-do list includes:
*clean garden ornaments
*clean and oil garden tools
*make to-do list of gardening projects for this summer
*clean garden shed/garage
*order seeds
*sell a set of patio furniture on CraigsList
*get mower blades sharpened
*organize my daylily file
*fix our wheelbarrows
Okay, I guess I should have done these things last Fall or over the Winter.  Well, you know how it goes!

What I have done is plan for a labyrinth garden. The site has been selected; I have drawn up the plans; and we already have the materials. Here are a few photos of the new site and the materials:

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This last photo also shows our fire pit which I put together just before I learned about the truly bad health effects of wood burning.  Now it's unlikely that we'll be using it again.  Anyway, I will be putting in a cotoneaster hedge along the trail edge where you see the black buckets.  That way the labyrinth garden will be enclosed on three sides by trees and shrubs.  More later!

Sunday, March 14, 2010


I don't tend to watch much TV but sometimes I find TV programs on-line and... in this case...get hooked.  On "Kitchen Nightmares" Gordon Ramsey visits restaurants that are going under and works through the issues causing their demise.  See:  The other night I watched three programs in a row! 

So, last night Kevin and I went out to dinner at The Happy Gnome on Selby in St. Paul; and it was packed.  The food was delicious and the portions were perfect.  If I had a camera along I could have captured how beautifully the food was presented.  Then I thought:  Why does this nice restaurant have such a weird name?  What would Gordon Ramsey say?   It's fortunate that the food is so good because if they ever let down their guard, the name could sink them!   Would you be inclined to go to a restaurant named "The Happy Gnome" if you didn't know anything about the restaurant?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


I just finished working out to a couple TPT morning cooking programs.  Mary Ann Esposito was making flourless chocolate cakes and finished with the old saying: "Chocolate is like love, you can never get enough."   I'd probably substitute "cake" for "chocolate" but otherwise I sure like the sentiment.  Have a nice day!

Saturday, March 6, 2010


I don't recall how Sherrill and I got started on this topic but she and I both have cake recipes for tough times.

First, Crazy Cake.  A very easy, dense chocolate cake that is made right in the pan.  No eggs are needed.

Whisk together in an ungreased 9"x13" cake pan:
3 cups unpacked flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/3 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
Smooth out in the pan and make three wells.
3/4 cup salad oil goes in the first well.
2 teaspoons vinegar goes in the second well.
1 teaspoon vanilla goes in the third well.
Then pour 2 cups water over everything and blend all with a fork.
Bake 35-40 minutes in preheated 350º oven.

Second, Sherrill offered up the recipe for Poor Man’s Cake saying:  "Also called 'Boiled Cake,' this is a very dense World War II spice cake that uses no eggs, butter, or milk.  I get a craving for this every October.  It was about that time of year that I would arrive home from school and open the door to the heady spice aroma of this great cake. In my list of comfort foods, this is way up near the top." 
Thanks for sharing, Sherrill!

TOUGH TIMES CAKE (f/k/a Poor Man's Cake)
2 C sugar
2 C cold water
1 C bacon drippings, lard or Crisco
1½ - 2 C raisins
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp nutmeg
scant 1 tsp cloves
4 C flour
2 tsp baking soda
½ - 1 C walnuts
Combine sugar, water, drippings, raisins and spices in large saucepan (this will become your “mixing bowl” so should be large enough to hold approx. 10-12 cups of batter and have stirring room). Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook until sugar is dissolved.  Allow to cool to room temperature.

In large bowl, combine flour and baking soda thoroughly. Add walnuts and mix to combine.  Slowly add dry ingredients to boiled ingredients. Mix well to avoid lumps. Batter will be thick and sticky. Thin with a tiny bit – 1-3 Tbsp – water, if you must (and I generally do), but resist making this as thin as regular cake batter.  Pour batter into 4 lightly-greased mini loaf pans or 9x13 glass baking dish.

Bake in pre-heated 350º oven for about 60 min. or until toothpick comes out clean.