Double Chocolate Layer Cake Filled with Strawberries

Our oldest grandchild turned "sweet sixteen" last week and ordered up (as is our families tradition) a "birthday diner". Desert is to be a chocolate layer cake with strawberries between the layers and frosted with chocolate icing. Due to ball games and tournaments, work schedules, and a garage sale we have had a hard time scheduling this year.

I have gone ahead and baked the cake, wrapped the layers, and frozen them to be in the ready when we set the date. This is not the first time I have done this and find advantages to it. It is easier to split the layers when they are frozen. It is easier to frost the layers when they are frozen, It seems the frosting adheres to the cold cake better to me. If you are going to transport the finished cake a long way on a hot day, as I have previously done, it works great to freeze again after frosting so you are leaving home with a frozen cake. I did two cakes this way a few summers ago and took them on a 4 hour road trip. They were perfect when we got there and delicious as well.

I have adapted this cake from a recipe found on the epicurious web site. It will serve 12-14. 

Ingredients, cake:

3 oz. Semisweet chocolate
1 1/2 C. hot brewed coffee
3 C. sugar
2 1/2 C. all purpose flour
1 1/2 C. unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 t. soda
3/4 t. baking powder
1 1/4 t. salt
3 lg. eggs
3/4 C. vegetable oil
1 1/2 C. well-shaken buttermilk
3/4 t. vanilla

2, 10" x 2" round cake pans

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Grease and line the pans with parchment paper, then grease again and dust with flour. Set aside.

Finely chop the chocolate and combine with the hot coffee. Let the mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is smooth.

Into a large bowl sift together the dry ingredients and set aside. 

In a large electric mixer bowl beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3-5 minutes). Slowly add the oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to the eggs. Combine well. Add the dry ingredients slowly and beat at medium speed until just combined. Divide the batter between the two pans and bake in the middle of the oven until a tester comes out clean, about 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes.

Cool the layers completely on racks. Run a thin knife around the edges of the pans and invert onto racks. Carefully remove the parchment. Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept or frozen wrapped well in plastic wrap.

I have split the layers and added sliced fresh strawberries with glaze and frosted with chocolate butter cream.  Were that not enough I drizzled edges with glaze.  It needs to be refrigerated until serving time,  This makes a really big cake and will easily serve 16-18 people.


My 4th of July Prayer

This three day weekend is one we all look forward to and folks around here have been setting off fireworks for almost two weeks now to just get "warmed up" for the Holiday.

Please remember all of our service men and women and our country in your prayers and God Bless America.

This looms in my mind as I pray, "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." Mark 11:24

So I pray a prayer of thanksgiving for all of the multitude of Blessings my life has received. I am humbled at the grace shown to me and mine. Thank You Lord Jesus.

I pray for peace in the world.

I pray for healing for all of those who would need to be restored to good health or in their finances or in any other way.

I pray for those who suffer in any and all ways that they my be made whole and satisfied and comforted.

I pray for the softening of men's hearts that they can learn to live and work and play together.

I pray for the healing of our planet that it would be resilient and strong.

These things I ask in Jesus name, not my will but Thine be done. A-men.

Taco Salad

Taco Salad with Homemade Seasoning and Ranch Dressing.
There are days I just don't want to leave the house and I am further aggravated that there is something I need and will have to go to the store and pick up. For that reason I began collecting recipes for things that I like and that I bought in processed form but are easily put together. That is how I happened upon this recipe I keep for Taco Seasoning. It lives in my cabinet in a little jar so if I am sewing or whatever I can easily grab it and I can replenish it just as easily!!

Taco Seasoning Ingredients:

4 T. Chili powder
3 T. plus 1 t. Paprika
3 T. Cumin
1 T. plus 2 t. Onion powder
1 t. Garlic powder
1/4 t. Cayenne pepper
1 T. dry Cilantro (optional as desired)

Use 2 T. seasoning mix to 1 pound cooked and browned ground beef or turkey plus 1 C. water. and simmer until the water is almost gone. 

Taco salad:
Build as follows;
Place tortilla chips of your choice on plate and slightly crumble them.

Add a layer of the seasoned taco meat.

Top with your choice of shredded cheese.

Add diced green onions and sliced black olives if desired.

The next layer is fresh diced ripe tomatoes.

Top the tomatoes with shredded lettuce.

Drizzle with your favorite dressing. We like Ranch or Green Goddess.

You can also set up a taco bar and let everyone just help themselves.

This salad is a meal we have enjoyed for many years and came from my first Mother-In-Law, Martha Jean Powell.

Peaches and Pluots with Pistachios make a Delectable Salad

Fresh Peaches and Pluots with Pistachios
Fresh peaches are akin to manna from heaven in my book and nothing tastes better as each season rolls in. I saw a snippet of a salad being made on French Food at Home with Laura Calder a few weeks ago on the cooking channel and adapted my recipe from her inspiration.

You will need:

6 fresh peaches
6 fresh pluots or plums or apricots
juice of 1 lemon
juice of 1 orange
2 T. honey
2 T. sugar
2-3 T. green pistachios

Bring a large kettle of water to boil and cut a small "X" in the center bottom of each fruit. Plunge the whole fruit into the water and remove the smaller pluots first, after only a minute. Plunge them directly into ice water bath. Remove the peaches after 2-3 minutes, depending on the size and ripeness of the fruit. Plunge them also into the ice bath.

Juice the lemon into a large bowl and the orange into a cup and set both aside for now.
Starting at the bottom peel the fruits leaving the pluots whole but slicing the peaches. Add the prepared fruits to the bowl of lemon juice and stir well to coat and prevent browning. 

Using a small pan add enough water to the orange juice to make 1/2 C. liquid. Add the sugar and honey and bring to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes and remove from the heat to cool. 

At serving time either arrange the fruit on a platter or in a pretty bowl. Pour the cooled dressing over the fruit and sprinkle with the pistachios. OPTIONAL: Serve with creme fresh or sweetened cream on the side. Yield 4 servings.


Black Elder Berry Iced Tea

Black Tea Blended with Elder Berries.
Sometime ago I did a bit of research on what properties of what products would help the general wellness of my family. At that time I discovered the Elder Berry. It had properties that discourage the well being of the virus. I believe it has a negative impact on the ability of a virus to reproduce which is good news if you are suffering with one!! 

Black Elder Berries.
There was an Israeli doctor who did research and even formulated a syrup that is currently available at health food store and drug store alike using the Elder Berry.

I ordered several pounds of the kosher dried Elder Berries and use them. 

Steeping Tea and Berries.
Currently I make a very pleasant iced tea using black tea and a couple of tablespoonfuls of the dry berries. For a half gallon of tea I use 4 family size black tea bags and 2 rounded tablespoons of Elder Berries. I add 2 cups of water in a small pan and bring it all to a boil. Strain through a sieve and add 2 quarts of water and honey or sugar to taste as desired.

It is delicious and quite enjoyable as well as a healthful beverage.

Mini Rice Bags

Six newly stitched mini rice bags.
If you know about rice bags than you know how wonderful they are in a multitude of ways. They are unbelievably effective as bed warmers on cold winters nights. Folks with chronic cold feet love them heated up and slid into the foot of the bed to cuddle their frozen toes against! Many have requested I scent them with lavender flowers or with essential oils which permeate the room when the bag is heated.

Those of us with aches and pains swear by them to wrap or brace up against any afflicted area of the body. I generally heat a large one in the microwave for 7 minutes and it will stay warm for hours. No electrical cord or overheating worries. If I get it a little too warm I just place a towel or light blanket around it which seems not only to keep me from being too warm it insulates the bag further and keeps it warm even longer. Just the thing for our weekend warrior activities and overzealous gardening projects.

One day last week I had an epiphany. If the large rice bags are great, why wouldn't small ones you could just tuck here and there be equally useful? For instance, for a stiff neck how about a smaller neck roll? For an arthritic wrist why not a smaller pillow? And, for a sore spot someplace on the back, a larger pillow to just slip into place??

Also rice bags can be put in the freezer to be the ready for bumps and bruises. A rectangle in the freezer might just be lovely for placing it across the forehead and eyes to alleviate a headache.

Funneling rice into a light blue mini rice bag.
I pulled out the fabric scraps and the remainder of the last 25 pound bag of rice I had purchased and set about to stitch the together.  (Although a observer would have wondered if I had gone into producing "corn hole" bags.)

Six assorted bags ready and I am well stocked. I am putting half of them in the freezer and will use the other half for aches and pains.  Time will tell if this is a great idea or not.  Time will tell!!


Fresh Brussels Sprouts with Orange Zest

Brussels Sprouts with Orange Zest.
As I was looking about the wonderful displays of meats and fishes and cheeses at The Rivertown Butchershop owned by Randy Pearson and his lovely wife Diane, Randy caught my eye!!

He was full of smiles and excited to tell me about his newest recipe. We often trade cooking stories and and have been known to swap a recipe or two!!

I have sampled his concoctions and taken him a few of mine. We are foodies. He is a butcher with many talents. In his earlier life Randy was a Marine and proudly served his country. The discipline he learned then now shows in his business. Never, I mean never have I seen so much as a speck on anything at his place of business. His employees are friendly and exacting. First and foremost, the meat is fresh and of the highest standards.

Randy handed me this recipe and explained how delectable the humble Brussels sprout became when enrobed in bacon and onions and garlic. And further how it rose to regal stature when orange zest, salt, and black pepper crowned it as a final touch.

Grated Orange Zest and Strands of Zest.
So I have tried it and was not disappointed. It is a delicious taste with the addition of the unexpected orange zest. As my daughter-in-law Julie says it's a "do again".

Here is what you need:

1/2 lb. bacon (chopped)
1 medium white onion cut in half then slice thin 1/8" with the grain then cut thin slices in half again.
2 fresh cloves garlic thinly sliced
zest of 1 whole orange
salt and pepper to taste
2 lbs. fresh Brussels sprouts still on stems, trim off level.
1/2 C. chicken stock

The Rivertown Butchershop's platter bacon.
Using a wok or heavy flat bottomed pan fry bacon until crisp, retaining the grease. Add the onion and garlic and saute. Turn off and set aside when the vegetables have softened.

Fresh sliced onion and garlic.
Meanwhile blanch the Brussels sprouts for 3-4 minutes. Remove from the boiling water and shock in ice water. Set the sprouts in a colander to drain after they are cold and zest the orange. Set the zest aside.

If this was smell a vision, wow!
Place the cooled Brussels sprouts in the bacon and onion mixture and add 1/2 C. chicken broth over high heat. When it returns to a boil reduce to simmer. Stir and cook for 5-7 minutes until the stock has reduced.

Here is where you start to "know" you are on to something special.
Place entire mixture including the meat juices onto a flat pan with sides, like a cookie sheet with an edge all around or a half sheet pan. Sprinkle with orange zest salt, and pepper and stir well to distribute evenly. Serve hot on a large flat platter. Yield 6-8 servings 4-6 oz. each.

Rivertown Butchershop's Ribeye Steak and Brussels Sprouts with Orange Zest.
Note: This goes great with rib eye steaks grilled to perfection and hot buttered rolls, twice baked potatoes and a semi dry RED WINE.

All of these ingredients can be found at Rivertown Butchershop except the orange and the red wine.
The Brussels sprouts at the Butchershop are frozen and pre-blanched.

We loved these and thank Randy for sharing!


Joe Engelbrechts' Orchard

This sign marks the entry to the orchard at the end of the drive.
Just picked Peaches and an Apricot/Plum cross.
Today was one of the loveliest days we have had. Just beautiful.

After sewing all morning I thought it time for a field trip plus I needed to get Diane's gift tote bag in the mail.
Everything is as neat as a pin including the cheery entry.
We have a treasure about 8 miles up the road. Joe Engelbrecht has an orchard and he has followed in the footsteps of his wonderful parents, Bill and Debbie Engelbrecht and is living a family farm and orchard, an enterprise I am happy to support and hope you will too.
Joe Engelbrecht
There were fresh peaches and blueberries. Lovely little fruits I can't recall the name of. I love them though and bought a box. They are a cross between a plum and an apricot. I have already washed the box of peaches and the cross between fruits and eaten three of them!!

Cucumbers growing on trellis'.
There were also early apples and tomatoes. The cucumbers are on trellises and about an inch long so they may start as early as next week depending on the weather. i love to make pickles.
The retail building.
There was a variety of jams and jellies as well as some hand made items on display too.
To get there from Newburgh you go north on I-164 to Exit 18, 57 South. At the light turn left and go to the very first street to the right. It is right there. You will see the sign.
If you would like additional information they are on Facebook under Joe Engelbrecht's Orchard. Joe's wife Nicole is on Facebook daily giving out information and directions.

SEWING: Finnished Bag for Diane's Birthday

Finished Tote.
I am thinking it is a whole lot harder to express how I do something than it is to just do it!! But I am going to try.

The first thing is to decide the fabric to use than to select either a quilting back fabric which can also act a the lining or an additional lining fabric in addition to the quilt backer. You will also need cotton batting in sheet form and thread as well as material for handles. I like gross grain ribbon sewn in a double thickness.

I like to use all cotton for these bags and start by washing everything but the cotton batting and the ribbon in the washing machine and dry in the dryer. This acts to preshrink the fabrics and remove any finishing chemicals there my be on the cloth.

Next I press everything using a steam iron. 

It is important to try to cut everything straight and with the grain of the fabric. Generally the woven edge is straight, also called the salvage edge. I will try to line up everything straight with this edge and use it as the side of my fabric, saving me a cut.

For this bag I cut 4 pieces 25" wide by 44" long. The finished bag will fold in the center of the long side making the bag 25" wide by 22" long before sewing. The first fabric is the outer bag, next the cotton batting, then the quilt back, and last the lining. I used 350" of gross grain ribbon.

To start place the right sides of the outer bag and the quilt back together then pin them exactly. Now add the cotton batting, pinning it exactly also. Sew across the top and backstich, then sew the bottom the same way. You now can turn the fabric right side and you will have one long piece with the batting sewn inside the outside and the backing.

Stitching Quilt Channels.
This piece is channel quilted which means I just sewed straight lines of quilting top to bottom and in this instance they are sewn 2" apart. So that is the next step. Ignore the two unsewn sides and start top to bottom sewing all three pieces, repeating every 2 "

Measuring Ribbon.
Now I attach the straps. First I cut 2 lengths of ribbon about 133 " each and sew them together at about 1/8" from both edges. 

Sewing Down the Straps.
Now pin the straps on the outside of the bag. I start by folding under the raw edge of the end of the double thick ribbon. Measure in 7 1/2" from either outside edge and mark with a straight pin on both sides. There should be 10" between the two pins. This is where the straps are to be sewn.

Start by pinning them down. When you get to the top of the bag measure 24", this is the handle. ON THE SAME SIDE you are pinning attach the 24th inch and start pinning down the strap 10" over. Look at the finished bag. The straps do NOT cross the bag. They go back down the bag. Then they go under the center of what will be the bottom of the bag when it is folded. The strap goes down and back up the other side then repeats.

Now start 2" BELOW the top edge of the bag and sew down the straps on both sides of the ribbon. Stop 2" below to top on the other side too. Repeat for the other strap. 

Fold the bag in half with the right sides together, matching the top of the bag exactly and sew the seam to close. All my seams are 5/8".

Turn the bag. You can stop here or continue depending on what you want as an end product.

OPTIONAL: To form a square bottom turn the bag inside out again and pinch a triangle shaped fold going short ways across the bottom of the bag. Sew the triangle across about 3" from the point.
Turn the bag right side and you can stop here. 

Stitching under the raw edges for the pockets.
OPTIONAL: This bag has an added lining because I wanted to apply inside pockets. Cut 2 pockets any size you would like. I made one large enough to hold a magazine and two smaller for glasses or a hair brush and wallet. 

Press 1/4" under on all sides of the pockets then at the top fold down again 1" and press. Top stitch all of the way around. Pin the 2 finished pockets on the right side of the lining. Sew the sides and bottom of the pockets to the lining. With the right sides together sew the side seams closed. Turn the lining right side IN. So when you are looking down inside the bag you see the pockets. Fold the top raw edge to the outside 1/4" and top stitch all of the way around.

Go back to the bag now and pin down the straps toward the bottom of the bag and away from the top edge. This will help you not sew them up into the bag as you sew in the lining. 

If you made square corners at the bottom of the bag you need to repeat this again for the lining.

Inside view of finished bag.
Place the finished lining down into the bag as pictured. Pin in place at the top edge of the bag and top stitch all the way around to attach. Being sure you back stitch and trim all strings as you go. 

Stitch exactly 1/4" from the top edge of the bag folding the ends under to finish. This gives a nice finished edge.

View of top finished edge of bag.
To complete this bag go back to the straps and unpin them. Stitch all 4 of them on both sides and across the top edge of the bag reinforcing them with back stitching. I also stitch an "X" in the end of the strap at the top to reinforce for strength. NOTE: I also added a loop of the ribbon at the top and at one of the straps in the inside of the bag as an attachment to hook keys to.

The End, hope you had fun with this. I made the first one almost 20 years ago for my sister Linda and she still carries it. I have no idea how many I have made now for pregnant nieces and gifts. They are all made and given with my love.


New Tote Bag Sewing Project OR Diane's Birthday Present!!

My dearest and best friend in the world, Diane had her birthday last Wednesday and I told her I would make her a tote bag and send to her as soon as I got the logestics of it and the making of it done!!
She lives in Bloomington, Indiana and will be heading out on a family vacation later in the summer and she wants to use it then especially. PRESSURE.
So I have been mulling this around in my head for a good three weeks and it is way past time to get on with it. You see I wasn't commited to the fabric combination to use. She is a special gal. A bit younger than me, a bit sportier, yet conventional and traditional in her decorating tastes. Waaaay more colorful than I am.
I have vetoed the denim, the blue poka dot, and the peach colored sailcloth. I decided against the black and white buffalo check and the brown speckled fabric.
So here we are. Plaid. Going with a plaid. I selected a cornflower blue, eggshell beige, and red plaid to be lined with a contrasting red and white seersucker stripe fabric with cornflower blue handles and straps that will go all the way around the bottom of the bag for strength and stability.
I choose the plaid because it has color and a youthful jazz about it yet the size makes it conservative and not loud or flashy. To pair it with a red stripe seersucker gives it a summer like playful feel and it is not generally done (the stripes and plaid thing).

So there you go.
I have already washed the plaid fabric but I will need to throw in the seersucker and run it through a cycle before I take the scissors to it.
More to come another day.