Pork Cutlets, Chive Potatoes & Pan Gravy, Fresh Green Beans, Cottage Cheese, & Sliced Tomatoes

To celebrate Brian's homecoming I am fixing some of his favorites tonight for dinner.  He loves anything you can cook with white gravy so browning these pork cutlets in a bit of olive oil should give me just enough brown crumbles to make him pan gravy for his potatoes.  I am using reduced fat milk for he gravy and potatoes and the green beans are cooking away right now in water seasoned with several teaspoons of chicken bouillon granules and half a sweet onion,  foregoing any added fat.

Since we are becoming more "heart diet" aware I am somewhat torn between my aversion to chemicals and artificial additives and "fat" such as real butter.  I am struggling to force myself to use margarine  which I view as terrible because of the chemical additives and composition of it.

Fresh Green Beans:

Break and wash one quart of fresh green beans.  (I used 4 cups pole beans.)   Place in a medium saucepan and add 3-4 C. water.  Just to barely cover.  Add a bouillon cube plus one for every cup of water you use.  Example, 3 C. water use 4 bouillon cubes.  Dice about 1/3 c. sweet onion and add, then season with black pepper.  Do not add salt at this time.  The chicken bouillon is salty and may be enough.  Bring to a boil and reduce the heat,  cover  and simmer until the beans are tender.  About an hour depending on the age of the beans, taste and correct seasonings adding salt if desired.  Start the potatoes as follows.

Chive Mashed Potatoes:

3-4 large Russet or Idaho potatoes
salt and pepper to taste or Mrs. Dash
reduced fat milk
4 T. margarine or butter, or  perhaps butter beads as an alternative
2 T. fresh snipped chives or 1 T. dried chives

Peel and quarter the potatoes and cover with water,  add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil.  Cover and cook over medium heat for about 20-30 minutes, until fork tender.  Drain and add margarine or butter.  Add a few tablespoons of milk and the margarine.  Mash with hand masher or mixer whichever you prefer. Add enough milk to reach desired consistency and taste and adjust seasoning.  Garnish with the chives.   Start the cutlets as follows.

 Cutlets and Pan Gravy:

4 tenderized pork cutlets  (chicken cutlets,  or beef minute steaks, any will work fine)
Season well with salt and pepper
flour for dredging
2 - 3 T. olive oil
6 T. flour
2 1/2 C. low fat milk
salt and pepper to taste or Mrs. Dash

Place the olive oil in the bottom of a heavy skillet and heat over medium high fire.   Season the cutlets and dredge in flour, shaking off any excess.  Brown well cooking through and remove from the pan.  Keep the cutlets warm in a 175 degree oven or on a warmer while you make the gravy.

Add the flour to the drippings in the pan and stir in well using a slotted spoon or whisk.  You need to cook the flour a bit for better flavor.  Add the milk and continue stirring until a boil then reduce heat and simmer a few minutes.  Taste and correct the seasoning.  Continue the slow simmer until you have  completed any additional last minute tasks.  Serve atop the potatoes and the cutlet.

Slice the tomatoes and dish up a bowl of cottage cheese and your meal is ready! Our whole family likes to top our green beans with cottage cheese.  

Dessert tonight is chilled watermelon and our beverage of choice is iced tea.


BEST Hot Wings Ever!

These wings really turned out better than any I have ever made and in fact rivaled some of the best I have ever eaten, so said my hubby!  Prior to making these the wings were always cooked entirely in the oven and these were first fried using safflower oil after seasoning for 6-8 minutes until a crispy golden brown doneness happened!

First I looked up a lot of wing variations and recipes and decided to try this cooking method but use my tried and true sauce.  The cooking method is adapted from, classic hot wings by Ree Drummond.

Hot wing ingredients:

3 pounds of wings
2 t. house seasoning (1/3 C. garlic powder, 1/3 C. black pepper,  1 C. kosher salt)
24 oz. safflower oil
1/2 C. butter
1/2 bottle Franks Louisana Hot Sauce
1 T. Worcestershire Sauce
1 lemon juiced

Preheat oven to 400 Degrees F.  Heat oil in a heavy flat bottomed pan ( about 3/4" deep).  Rinse, drain, and season the wings until all are uniformly coated.

Fry the wings in the hot oil until done and golden, about 6-8 minutes, then drain on paper towels.

Meanwhile combine butter, hot sauce, Worcestershire, and lemon juice in a medium pan and heat until the butter is melted, stirring until combined well.

Move the cooked wings into a glass baking dish and pour the sauce over all and toss to combine.  Cover wwith foil and place in the oven for 15 -20 minutes.

Prepare the carrots, celery, and blue cheese dressing and pull out lots of napkins and serve hot!

Yield 2-3 servings as a main dish or 6-8 as an appetizer or snack.


Peaches and Pickles! It's Canning Day!

It is 1:30 PM and I have just  finished cleaning up the kitchen after canning 7 pints of peaches and 7 pints of crispy dill pickles.  They have all sealed so I am a happy camper!!  It is truly music to my hears when I hear the lids ping, one at a time until they have all sealed.  It is that time of year when we put away for the season ahead when the cold wind will again blow.

There were about 10 pounds of peaches in my basket so I slipped 7 pint jars in the dishwasher and found the same for the assorted pile of cucumbers that had accumulated over the last three days in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.  I sorted out 14 rings and seals to pair with the jars and set the dishwasher to the sterile cycle.  Next I set a large kettle of water to boil to use to slip the skins off the peaches.  The cold packer was filled to the appropriate lever and that water was set to boil too. The next step was to prepare an ice bath by dumping ice cubes into a large plastic bowl I use for this and covering the ice with water.

Ascorbic acid keeps fruit from turning dark when preserving so I measured a teaspoon of "Fruit Fresh"  per cup of water and made a bath for the peaches to sit in as I completed each one.  I used 6 cups of water.  I am really big on prep work and it is a heck of a lot easier to do it this way, I promise!  Next step I made a generous batch of medium syrup as I am estimating how much I will need.  I used 3 1/4 C. sugar and 5 C. water as the Ball Blue book suggests.  This I put on a burner and heated to dissolve the sugar and then kept on a very low simmer.

Now the action stated as I dropped half a dozen peaches at a time into the boiling water started for that purpose.  One minute exactly is how long I leave them then using my large spider or a large slotted spoon I remove them from the boiling water directly into the ice bath.   One at a time I take a peach and halve it then catch the skin and slide it off.  After popping out the peach pit I dropped the golden but rosie peach half into the bath of ascorbic acid to just relax until all of the peaches have been prepared in like manner.

When that task is completed I pulled out the hot jars from the dishwasher and filled them with the peach halves placing each cut side down until the jars were full, leaving 1/2" head space.  Upon filling all of the jars with fruit I ladled the hot sugar syrup to cover the peaches again leaving 1/2" head space.  Before sealing the jars I run a butter knife down the inside of the jar between the glass and the fruit to move any air bubbles to the top of the jar.  Generally I take a damp paper towel and wipe the rim of each jar then place on the lid and ring tightening firmly but not tight tight.

By now the water in the cold packer is boiling so I place the jars in the rack and lower them into the bath.  The water should cover the lids by a good inch so add water if needed.  When the water comes back to a boil I reduce the heat to medium high and time the peaches to cook 20 minutes for pints.

When the timer is up I turn the burner off,  take the lid off of the cold packer but I let it sit 5 minutes before taking the rack full of peaches out.  I place a towel on the counter and set the rack of fruit on it to cool.  After the lids ping I take the fruit from the rack and set aside to finish cooling.  Home canned peaches are truly delicious and well worth the effort.  

Since I had the cold packer out I adapted this Crispy Dill Pickle recipe from, as I thought it would be great to just process a few at a time.   This is reported to be a tried and true recipe their family has shared with family and friend for many years.  Sounds good to me!

Note:  Best to pick the cucumbers and have them refrigerated over night and cold.  Then pack them into hot sterile jars.  Time the water bath precisely.   These are the key requirements for the crisp pickle success of this recipe.

Crispy Dill Pickles:

Cucumbers, about 24 4-inch , or 18 large
16 large peeled cloves of garlic
dill seed (I used a heaping teaspoon per pint jar.)
dried hot red peppers (I used 1/2 of a dried pepper per pint.)

5 C. white vinegar
5 C. water
1/2 C. pickling salt

Mix the vinegar, water, and salt in a stainless pan and bring to a boil and set to simmer.

Prepare jars and lids, wash and sterilize as above.   Heat water in cold packer to boiling and hold.

Wash the cucumbers well and cut in whatever size and shape you prefer, chunks, spears, or slices.  Pack the chilled cucumbers into the hot sterile pint jars.  To each jar add 3 whole peeled cloves of garlic, 1 heaping teaspoon of dill seed, and 1/2 of a red hot pepper. 

Take the brine back to a boil and ladle it into the filled jars leaving 1/2" head space.  Wipe the rims of the jars and seal with the hot lids and bands snugly.  Place in the boiling water bath and process for exactly 5 minutes.  Mark the time as soon as you put the jars in.  If you leave the jars in the bath any longer, they will get soft.  Store the processed pickles several weeks before using.   Yield 7 pints.


SPICY Hot & Sweet Sirloin Lo Mein

This is a very spicy dish.  Not so hot it takes your head off but r-e-a-l-l-y spicy.  I used an ingredient that I have never before even tasted much less used in a recipe.  Pepper Jam.  Clint and Tonya Menke had given us a jar of homemade Pepper Jam for Christmas with the directions to eat on crackers paired with cream cheese.  That sounds all too conventional so when I came across a Flank steak recipe calling for pepper jelly in the sauce the wheels started to turn.  I dug out the jar of hot jalapeno jam and got to work.  We loved the jazzed up steak and noodle dish and we will certainly do this again!

Ingredients for Hot and Sweet Sirloin Lo Mein:

8 Oz.  Fettochini noodles
1 pound trimmed sirloin steak sliced thin
1/2 C. hot pepper jam or jelly (I used jam.)
1/2 C. soy sauce
1/2 C. water
1 T. honey
1 1/2 T.cornstarch
pinch salt
pinch black pepper
2 T. Safflower oil
6-7 Oz. fresh sugar snap peas, sliced in half lenghtwise (I used 1/2 of a 15 Oz. pkg.)
1 1/2 C. shredded carrots
4-5 green onions cut into 1" matchsticks

Cook pasta according to package direction.  Drain and return the noodles to the pan they were cooked in and cover to retain their heat. 

Thinly slice the steak and set aside.  Using a small bowl combine the jelly, soy sauce, water, cornstarch, salt and pepper and stir until the cornstarch dissolves.  Set aside.

Heat a large flat bottomed pan or skillet over medium high heat and add the oil.  Stir fry the steak for about 2-3 minutes.  The steak should be slightly pink.  Transfer to a dish and cover to keep warm.  Add more oil if needed and stir fry the peas and carrots for 3-4 minutes.  Stir in the jelly mixture and add the onions, steak, and any juices from the meat that have accumulated.  Cook for about a minute until the sauce is thickened and boils. Toss the noodles with the steak and vegetables and plate on a large platter to serve or in shallow flat bottomed bowls.  Yield  4 servings.

Note:  I will be making hot Pepper jelly for the first time this year!!


Candied Dill Pickles

My late Mother-in-law used to go to Montgomery, Indiana to the Amish community and buy gallon jars of the most delicious candied sweet pickles. thus began my love of them.  Then there was a farmers market that handled candied dills and I was gone on them!  So lately I have been hunting pickle recipes to find one to make myself.

There are quite a few that are quite similar and usually are attributed to family and friends.  They all seem a bit sketchy but alike!  Many claim to be of unknown origin.

I adapted a bit of several and all of none and here is the result for my version of candied dill pickles:

1 large jar of whole dill pickles (I used 42 Oz. size)
3 C. sugar
1/2 C. cider vinegar
1 heaping T. pickling spices

Empty the jar of pickles into a large nonreactive bowl.  Save 1/2 C. of the brine and set aside, discard the remaining brine.  Wash the pickles and slice into 1/4" chunks.  Combine the sugar, vinegar, reserved brine,  and chunks of pickles and set aside.  Stir occasionally until the sugar dissolves fully.

Meanwhile cut a 4" square of cheesecloth and place the pickling spice in the center of the square.  Gather the corners up and tie the cheese cloth securely forming a bag if spices.  Trim the excess if needed.  Set aside.

After the sugar has dissolved drop the bag of spices into the bottom of the original pickle jar and repack the pickles and new formed juices in to fill.  Secure the cap and shake well.  Refrigerate for at least 4 days before tasting because you will not want to quit with just one pickle!!  Shake the jar occasionally to mix the flavors.  These just keep getting better the longer they sit.

Oreo Cheesecake Cupcakes

You should have seen the look on my Granddaughters face when she tasted these!!
It has been a frustrating week for us inasmuch as Brian has had more issues with atrial flutter and fibrillation and we again have spent time in the emergency room.  Next week he will start new medicine that will hopefully manage things and life will find it's routine again.

Yes, I still have cooked but we have clung to old standby favorites like brownies, chicken and dumplings, and BLT's which I have already given the recipes for. (Got 8 fat ripe tomatoes today and these are the things that make a Bacon Lettuce and Tomato sandwich really great this time of the year.)  Meanwhile I did put up another batch of chunky sweet pickle relish and have collected some recipes I am excited about trying out soon.

Today I pulled out one from my "I can't wait to try this one" stack!  I am sure my Granddaughters will love this one!  Oreo Cookie Cheesecake Muffins just have to be good and cute as they can be too!  My adaptation is made from a recipe given by

Ingredients for Oreo Cheesecake Muffins:

22 Oreo cookies
2,  8 oz. blocks of cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 C. sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
pinch of salt
2 large eggs beaten
1/2 C. sour cream

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.

Place paper muffin liners in 16 muffin cups.  Place a whole Oreo cookie in the bottom of each.  Roughly crush the remaining 6 Oreo cookies and set them aside.

Using an electric mixer beat the cream cheese together in a medium sized mixing bowl at medium speed.  Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth.  Add the salt and beaten eggs and blend well. Mix in the sour cream scraping the sides of the bowl to incorporate everything. 

By hand fold in the crushed cookies, do not over mix.  Spoon the batter on top of the cookie filling each muffin cup to the top.  Bake for 24-25 minutes.  Remove to a cooling rack for 20 minutes then refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.  I have made these for Sunday dinners dessert but of course I had to taste them to be sure they are just right.

Yield 16 cheesecake cupcakes.

Note: OREO is also the name of one of the dogs my son owns and has come to have a play day with Molly.  They are underfoot always!


French Cut Pork Chops, Orzo with Peas and Cheese, Roast Carrots, Cucumber Slaw, Strawberry Cake, and Sliced Fresh Peaches and Blueberries = Birthday Dinner Menu.

Our daughter-in-law Julie 1 (we have 2 daughter-in-laws named Julie, thus Julie 1 and Julie 2) has a birthday this week and as is our tradition we had a dinner for her and the menu was her request.  All of these dishes are repeats of her favorites and given in earlier posts but I will tell you where to find them should you wish too!

Our granddaughters Emily and Katie are becoming quite the little cake decorators and came Sunday and helped.  I think they did a wonderful job.  They have helped Grandma since they were old enough to stand on a chair and reach the cabinet.

Cucumber Slaw, 7/7/10
Orzo with Sugar Snap Peas, 9/6/10
Fathers Day Carrots, 6/21/10
Strawberry Shortcake Cake, 7/4/12
or Fresh Miracle Strawberry Cake, 3/25/12

We also had French bread , buttered and grilled as well as the grilled pork chops.   "French Cut" is a preparation  of the meat the butcher does for me.  Basically the end of the rib bone is trimmed well and the fat and gristle is removed.  You often see a pork crown roast with the bones "Frenched" especially around the holidays.  It is the same thing except cut into chops. 

The peaches were blanched by dropping into boiling water for a minute or two then shocked by pulling them from the boiling water directly into a bath of ice water.  At this point the skins slip right off and them I slice them into a bowl with the juice of 1 lemon squeezed into it.  After rinsing the blueberries well I add them to the peaches and add sugar to taste and mix everything together well.

The quantities are variable but the process stays the same.

Easy Chicken Salad with My Homemade Pickle Relish.

Chicken Salad with Fresh Made Relish

You many recall I made pickle relish a few days ago and remarked that I hardly ever use store bought because it is just too mushy for me!!!  Not the case for this little discovery.  I WILL be making more of this magic pickle potion! Yesterday I found that I had a couple of thawed chicken breasts I needed to do something with before they got away from me (if you know what I mean).   After simmering them in stock for about 30 minutes and cooling I chopped them up a bit, added mayonnaise and a couple of tablespoonfuls of the freshly made pickle relish and it is absolutely terrific.  There was my lunch!

There really is no more than that to this.  Of course you could add celery or nuts or any number of things to this but the absolute simplicity of this was the beauty of it.

Note:  Recipe for,  "Fresh Cut Chunky Pickle Relish"  given on 7/11/12.


Peanut Snickers Dip for Apples and Pretzels (That Salty Sweet Thing.)

While browsing Pinterest the other day this one struck me! It originated from and I have adapted it in the saltiest sweet way.  They made a snickers dip for pretzels but I thought it would be even better with the addition of chopped peanuts, and a hint of vanilla.  In addition to pretzels and graham crackers for dippers I thought  apple slices or crisp celery sticks and bananas would go nicely.  So the inspiration evolved and I got busy and made my version up to serve to our guests on Saturday night and on Sunday evening.

The idea was to make it up Friday evening and let the flavors meld overnight,  With the additions and changes I made it was more than enough to split and serve to two different groups of friends and family.

Ingredients for Peanut Snickers Dip:

6 large Snickers candy bars chopped
1/2  C. dry roast peanuts rough chopped + 1/4 C. more for topping (3/4 C. total)
16 oz. softened cream cheese
12 oz. Cool Whip topping thawed
1 t. vanilla extract

Add the soft cream cheese, cool whip, vanilla, and Snickers candy all together in a large mixer bowl and combine well.   Scoop into a bowl and top with the reserved peanuts.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Scoop out half of the dip onto a large platter and assemble fruit, pretzels, and graham crackers in a pleasing fashion ans serve.  The sweet and salty,  tart and sweet, and crisp and creamy combinations are festival in your mouth!  ENJOY, we certainly have.



A well known specialty in Japanese cooking is Tempura.  I don't claim to know a whole lot about this but in 1971 I was given a book, "Better Homes and Gardens Fondue and Tabletop Cooking"  along with a very elaborate Fondue set.  I discovered it in a section titled Skillet Dishes because it can be made at the table around an electric skillet with all of the prep done before hand in a social setting, much like the tradition of fondue.

About once or twice a year I venture into a Tempura meal which centers around batter dipped shrimp and vegetables deep fat fried in a light batter. This is a crisp delicacy generally prepared and served at a low table. (Large pillows for diners to lean on is helpful.)

Condiments used for dipping can include soy sauce, mustard sauce made with 1/2 C. table mustard mixed with 3 T. soy sauce,  grated fresh ginger root, and equal parts of fresh grated radish and turnip.

Japanese Tempura Ingredients:

Raw shrimp, peeled and cleaned
Assorted fresh vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus spears, parsley, sweet potato, spinach, mushrooms, green beans, onions, or white potato
Vegetable oil for frying
1 C. sifted all purpose flour
1 C. ice water
1 slightly beaten egg
1/2 t. sugar
1/2 t. salt
Tempura condiments

Wash and dry the shrimp and vegetables and slice or cut into strips as necessary.  Fill skillet 1/2 full of oil and heat to 360 degrees.  To make the batter combine the flour  and the remaining ingredients.  Beat just until moistened, a few lumps should remain.  Stir in one or two ice cubes and use immediately.

Dip the shrimp and vegetables into the ice cold batter and fry in hot oil until browned.  Drain.

Serve with the prepared condiments and hot cooked rice.  Fresh fruit, tea, and sake complete the meal.


Buttermilk Chive Bread with Fresh Snipped Herbs

One of the blogs I faithfully visit nearly every day is called because I enjoy it so very much and find it fun as well as interesting.  I adapted this recipe from there and it quickly grew to be a family favorite.  Today I plan to serve BLT's on this bread for a bit of a new twist.  It is very good toasted and delicious with egg salad or any other filling you might enjoy.

The bread is extremely easy to make in the food processor and since the first rise takes place there it is a very easy clean up.  The dough is delightful to work and just handles beautifully.   This dough would be just as tasty with dill, parsley, or a combination of you favorite herbs.  I hope you will give it a try and enjoy it as much as we have.

Ingredients for Buttermilk Chive Bread:

5/8 C. water @ 110 degrees F
1/2 C. buttermilk @ 110 Degrees F
2 T. soft butter or oil
2 T. snipped chives or fresh herbs of your liking (If using dried herbs decrease the amount by half.)
2 C. bread flour
1 C. all purpose flour
2 t. instant yeast
1 T. sugar
1/2 T. salt

Combine the water and buttermilk  and warm to 110 degrees F in the microwave for about 30-40 seconds.  Do not overheat or the buttermilk will curdle.  Do not use liquid hotter than this or it may kill the yeast. 

Measure the dry ingredients into the food processor bowl fitted with the dough blade.  With the machine running add the liquids and butter slowly as the flour absorbs them.  Process for 50 seconds.  Add the snipped chives and pulse a couple of times to incorporate.

Let the dough rise in the covered processor for 20-30 minutes until doubled.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured board and shape into a loaf and place in a buttered 4 1/2" x 8" loaf pan.  Cover and let rise for 30 minutes until almost doubled.

Bake at 400 degrees for 26-30 minutes.  Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.  Butter the top lightly while still hot.  Let cool before slicing.  Yield 1 loaf.

Note:  Sue added she slices and freezes this loaf and removes the slices as she needs them.   Sue and Myrna are the authors and sisters who produce The Iowa Housewife.


Fresh Cut Chunky Sweet Pickle Relish

Relish cooling in jars.
I like to see what is in what I am eating so when I saw this recipe which I have adapted from Williams-Sonoma and the delightful colorful chunks it peeked my interest.  It was noted on the recipe you can use the food processor if preferred but that was the furthest thing from my mind.  We don't use a lot of pickle relish.  I never use it in salads, just to top an occasional hot dog or brat.  But, this I might well use in potato salad or macaroni salad or other salads because it is not ground to mush!  My dice was not fine but it was smaller than I would have used for normal cooking.  The dice I choose to use was about the size of a ladies little fingernail. 

I have 5 pounds of cucumbers on hand from the garden and this recipe calls for 2 1/2 pounds so I got busy and started a batch.

Ingredients for Fresh Cut Chunky Sweet Pickle Relish:

2 1/2 lb.  diced cucumbers  (4 or 5 medium)
1 large sweet Vidalia or other sweet onion diced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/4 C. kosher salt
3 C. sugar
2 C. cider vinegar
1 T. celery seed
1 T. brown mustard seed
2 t. whole allspice

Combine the cucumbers, onion, red and yellow bell peppers in a large nonreactive bowl.  Pour the salt over the mixture, add enough cold water to cover and stir gently to mix.  Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 6 and up to 24 hours. 

Ready 4 hot, sterile one pint jars and lids.

Drain the cucumber mixture into a colander and rinse and drain again.  Transfer to a large non- reactive kettle and add the sugar, vinegar, celery seeds,and mustard seeds.  Place the allspice in a tea ball or on a square of cheese cloth and tie it up with kitchen twine into a ball.  Add the spice bag to the cucumber mixture.  Stir well and heat over a medium high burner.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered stirring frequently for 10 minutes.  Discard the allspice bag or tea ball.  Ladle the hot relish into jars leaving 1/4 " head space.   Remove any air bubbles and adjust the head space as needed.  Wipe the rims of the jars if needed and seal tightly with the lids. 

Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  The sealed jars can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.  If the seal fails store the jar in the refrigerator and use within a month. 

Yield 4 one pint jars.

I was also fortunate enough to have enough basil to make up another batch of pesto and freeze and I picked 2 more tomatoes and some peppers this morning. 


Marshmallow Fondant Episode 3, Two Birthday Cakes!!

Dinosaur Cake for Sam, 2 baby T-Rex's and Big Daddy T-Rex!
Digger Cake for Jack with Tools!!
Today Katie and Emily came to help finish the birthday cakes we are making for Jack's  and Sam's 4th birthday.  We have had a great time with this project and I would encourage all Mom's and Grandmother's or sisters or friends to get after trying this.  The girls agree this fondant tastes way better than what you buy already prepared or in a mix.  SEE,  "MAKING MARSHMALLOW FONDANT PART 1"   7/3/12.

First we gathered everything we were going to need and pulled out the Hoosier Cabinet as it is wonderful for rolling anything with it's huge gleaming white porcelain top.  We worked in the dining room on the big oak table and had lots of room to spread out with two caked going at once!

After wiping down the work surface I buttered it and dusted it with cornstarch.   No worries, nothing stuck at all.  Everything kneaded, turned, and rolled beautifully.

We started by trimming the cakes as needed then we brushed them with vanilla syrup to help keep them moist.  We frosted between the offset layers then Katie put on the first crumb coat.  I started the rolling and Emily smoothed it for the final thickness using the banded fondant rolling pin to achieve uniform thickness.  I rolled the sheet onto the pin and lifted it to the first cake then repeated the process for the second.

We used tiny cutters for the lettering and a big 4 to denote the days reason for celebration.

Meanwhile we were placing globs of color into the center of two plain balls of fondant to color them.  One grey for the road and one blue for the stream.

We rolled and cut and lifted.  Until our cakes were created with our imaginations running wild as we added a stop sign, rocks, road cones, and using a garlic press we made enough grass to MOW!! 

Panic struck when my vintage 1965 cast garlic press broke!

Lucky for me our local market had them when I called so off I went.  As we resumed we noted the new garlic press made WAY BIGGER grass.  At that point we went back and took grass off one to finish the other and put all of the new big grass on the first.  It worked perfectly and I only have a couple of new white hairs to show for it!!

Emily and Katie were a tremendous help and did a terrific job!!  The cakes are beautiful.  Jack and Sam will be happy when they see them I am sure.


Baking Birthday Cakes (Marshmallow Fondant Project Part 2)

Four recipes of cake baked and set out to cool.
Baking and decorating 2 cakes for the same occasion is a daunting task.  A couple of years ago before starting this blog I made our nephew 2 cakes and drove them to Gosport, Indiana in the heat of summer.  He was home from the service of our country and there was a family get together to celebrate his return and birthday.  There are so many of us two cakes were necessary to have enough to go around.  Success was due to freezing the cakes after finishing them and allowing them to thaw during the drive.  It  worked beautifully.

This challenge is to decorate 2 children's cakes for the same day and have both children think their cake is wonderful.

12" layers
Today I have baked 4 cakes.  Two strawberry and two devils food.  See Strawberry Shortcake Cake 3/23/12, Brian's Red Devils Food Cake 6/11/10, Fresh Miracle Strawberry Cake 3/5/12,  or simply use 4 box cakes, 2 Strawberry and 2 Devils Food.  The first 2 cakes were baked all in one pan, a large 12" diameter 3" tall round that baked in the same amount of time a 9" x 13" cake would bake.  The second 2 were baked in regular 2" round pans.

I will not use one 8" round in each flavor for this project but will wrap it and freeze it for later use.

My plan is to position the small layer flush to the edge of the large layer on one side creating both a platform and a staircase effect,

The toppers are different on each cake with one having a real toy truck and toy tools atop the platform and the other having a toy T-Rex dinosaur with two babies and a cave.  The lower level should be large enough to accommodate "Happy Birthday" their names and a big "4".

So day two is done for this project except for cooling and wrapping the layers.  Tomorrow I have invited my 2 granddaughters to come help with the decorating.  That will allow me a, "panic and do over" day if I need it.  Nothing wrong with a plan "B".  I just hope we wouldn't need it!

Note to myself:  Purchase new 8" round cake pans.   I just made the exact same cakes twice and the 12" newer pans baked flat and were beautiful.  The 40 year old 8" pans crowned and will have to be trimmed before frosting and decorating.  Pans must be shot?  Makes no sense to me otherwise unless perhaps because the old pans are much shallower than the new ones?

Salisbury Steak in Onion Gravy

Sear the beef patties for 3-4 minutes a side then pour in the brown onion gravy and simmer to perfection.
This is a very retro dish that I have had several requests for.   This is by far the best version I have come up with and my husband loves Salisbury Steak and he loved this one!    I saw the recipe on and liked what I saw,  this is my version.

Ingredients for Salisbury Steak in Onion Gravy:

3 sweet onions diced
2 T. butter
3 T. flour
3 C. beef broth
1/2 C. dry red wine (optional)
1 T. tomato paste
1 t. cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Onions, butter, salt, and pepper perfumes the kitchen.
To make the gravy:  Heat the butter in a large heavy bottomed skillet or saute pan.  Add the onions and cook over medium heat stirring occasionally.

The broth, wine, and flavorings melt together in this dish of the ages.
Meanwhile in a medium bowl add the broth, wine, tomato paste, and vinegar together and stir well.  Salt and pepper the onions and when they have turned a honey brown add 1/4 to 1/2 C of the broth mixture and reduce the heat they cover and simmer 25-30 minutes.  Most of the liquid will cook away by now so add the flour and stir until it is cooked.  About 3-4 minutes.  Add the remaining liquid and keep stirring until a lovely gravy/sauce has formed.  Simmer over lowest heat stirring occasionally until the meat patties are ready.

(Thanks to Sue from the Iowa Housewife for reminding me I had a senior moment and left this off my directions.  THANK YOU!)

Meanwhile while the sauce simmers form the Salisbury Steaks as follows:

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1/2 C. cooked white rice
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
2 clove fresh minced garlic
2 t. Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 C. rough chop fresh parsley
1/4 t. thyme
2 T. olive oil

Mix the beef,  rice,  egg yolk,  salt,  pepper,  garlic,  Worcestershire Sauce,  parsley, and thyme in a bowl.  Then form into 4 oval patties about 3/4 " thick.  Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat and sear the patties about 3-4 minutes a side until a brown crust forma.  Pour the brown onion gravy over the patties and simmer for an additional 15 minutes.  Serve warm with mashed potatoes, noodles, or rice.  Yield 4 large servings.


Almost forgot!! Picked our first tomato of the season on Monday!! EEEhaw!! Nothing better than a home grown Indiana tomato.