(Becky, the Mama.)
What is it about being snowed in that turns even makes even the most anti-cooking folks fire up the oven and don an apron? Here’s a recipe that is not only easy to make, and scrumptious, but will make your house smell like Pure Love.
I know, I know… the last recipe I posted was an apple dessert, too. But as you read in that post, I had somehow purchased THREE huge bags of apples and so, forgive me, but since I am still up to my ears in apples…. here’s another fabulous apple recipe I created that used up the last of my surplus. You’ll take one bite and think, “Oh. My. Goodness. This tastes like my grandmother’s home-made apple dumplings.” (And if you didn’t have an Apple Dumpling-Baking-Granny, the Apple Dumplings at Cracker Barrel are a pretty close second.)
A few decades ago, my mother went through a spell of baking Apple Dumplings from a recipe in the red and white checked Better & Homes and Gardens Cookbook. They were delicious! People raved about them and begged for more. But they were also a LOT of trouble. For my taste they were also a little too sweet and there was too much pastry-to-apples ratio.
This recipe is ridiculously fast and easy and creates a just-right-sweet “cobbler” of apples that make their own “dumplin’ syrup” and is topped with just one flaky pastry crust (thank you Pillsbury for making this part simple, too). Serve warm with a dollop of vanilla ice cream and you’ll be in Apple Dumplin’ Gang Heaven.
One hint: the only time-consuming part of this dish is peeling and chopping apples. To make this effort go faster, conscript every able-bodied adult and child over 8 years-old to come in the kitchen and peel at least 2 apples each, while you do the chopping. Promise them they will be sweetly rewarded for their labor.
Finally, a little bit of fun news from “First Magazine for Women” (you will often see this at grocery check-out counters). Last week the editor of the magazine gave a lovely review for our book, Nourished. Here’s a picture of the article:
As long as you are huddled up inside eating dumplings this week you might as well buy a copy of our funny, uplifting, practical book to cozy up and read as well. 🙂 And our heart-felt thanks to those of you who have already read the book and perhaps posted a review on your blog or on Amazon or sent us a note or email. We are soooo thankful for your encouragement! Be sure to join us on our Facebook Fan Page, too, at We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook.
Apple Dumpling Cobbler
6 to 8 peeled, chopped apples (about teaspoon size pieces) to make about 6 cups total
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1 small to medium fresh lemon
1/2 t. salt
1 T. flour
2 T. butter
Sugar and Cinnamon to sprinkle on top (about 1 T. sugar and 1 t. cinnamon, but just eyeball it to your liking)
Turn oven to 350 degrees
In a large mixing bowl put apples, brown and white sugars, flour, spices and salt. Mix thoroughly. Butter a 9 by 11 casserole pan and pour the apple mixture into it. Squeeze a fresh lemon over the top of the apples and then dot with butter. Place one Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust on top of the apples, tearing it and patching it (pinch pieces together) to create a rustic, “quilted-together” pastry crust as shown below. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Note that you just kind of loosely fold the edges and tuck them around the apples. I also cut a heart shape in the middle, though as you can see, I am not a pastry artist. No worries about it looking messy, it will come out delicious and beautiful.
Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes or until crust is golden and flaky and apples pierce easily with a fork and the juices are golden brown and syrupy. Serve warm, using a big spoon to place in bowls, and top with ice cream.
MOIST Chocolate Layer Cake with Buttery Mocha Frosting (& Story of My Daughter’s Unforgettable Birth)Posted: December 28, 2013
Today is my daughter’s 30th birthday! Sadly, Rachel lives too far away to celebrate with in person today (she is in Texas, and I am in Colorado). So I’ve had to make do with texts, Facebook posts, emails, phone calls, Twitter and now, a blog in her honor!
I have great stories about each of my children’s entrances into the world, but Rachel’s birth story wins the Most Exciting Award, hands down.
She was born three days after Christmas. From December 23 to December 28, I was the proverbial pot waiting to boil, only in my case my visiting family was waiting for me to give birth. It was the coldest winter on record in Texas and ice had frozen inside the windows. After enjoying my two sons who were age 3 and 5, I could not help dreaming of a baby girl. Ultrasound pictures were rare in those days, so we did not know the sex ahead of time.
Because my previous home births had involved long painful labors, when I woke up with contractions this third time around, they weren’t terribly painful. So I decided to just lie still, on my side, in the peaceful darkness and labor quietly by the light of the Christmas tree. I didn’t want to wake my husband, parents or sister who were visiting us over the holidays, until I was sure I needed help. This plan went surprisingly well, until I felt something like the urge to push.
I decided to wake up my husband with this news. His eyes grew large as he announced, “Becky, I see the baby’s head!” This set off a Three Ring Circus with my Dad manning the wall phone in the kitchen talking to the midwife, then shouting directions to my mother who was standing in the living room, who relayed them to my then-husband standing at the end of my bed, like a baseball catcher. My college-aged, organized little sister, who is not fond of feeling out of control was, I believe, hiding in the guestroom taking notes in her journal under“Things I Must Never Ever Do.”
The ice on the highways was so thick, and I’d waited so long to sound the “Baby is Coming!” alarm, that the midwife could not possibly get there before the baby’s entrance. Rachel slipped into the world and soon, into my arms, fairly easily. However, she was not breathing on her own, so I reached into our “Home Birth Kit”, grabbed a suctioning bulb and went to work. It wasn’t long before she took her first beautiful breath. We looked in each other’s eyes and made friends immediately. I named her Rachel Praise, after my sister Rachel. Interestingly, the two Rachels in our family both prefer less-crazy, less-messy lives than I’ve lived. Lives where they keep schedules, know what day it is, give birth in hospitals and don’t mind “bothering” other people when they go into labor. However, all three of us love to laugh and ended up writing books of family humor. (My sister’s latest is The Well-Lived Laugh –ebook download is just $1.00 this week, and ours is We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook.)
As soon as I could stand and walk, I scooped up my new daughter and headed to a store, with her big brothers dressed in cowboy boots and hats trailing behind. I walked in and bought 3 lacy bonnets. Before the days of hair bows on stretch lace, it was a frilly bonnet that would say to the world, “Baby GIRL here!” and I wanted the world to know my beautiful newborn was a SHE.
Besides remembering the story of Rachel’s birth (as I do every year on this day in some way), I decided to have a piece of this incredibly moist and buttery, made-from-scratch homemade chocolate cake in her honor. In fact, I had it for breakfast… because these are the kinds of sacrifices mothers make for their birthday girls.
This cake is a variation of the famous recipe on the back of Hershey’s Cocoa. The frosting is extra rich, soft and fluffy – made with lots butter and melted chocolate.
You are most welcome to join us in celebrating Rachel’s birthday today by whipping up this cake. Then stand back and watch people swoon. Seriously it is the kind of chocolate cake that provokes moans not unlike those of Meg Ryan’s in the movie,”When Harry Met Sally”.
Happy Birthday, Dear Rachel! I am so glad you were born. So proud of you as a wife and mother. So thrilled that we got to write a blog and book together this year. So many good things have happened in the world, because you were born.
Now, let’s eat cake!
MOIST, Chocolate Layer Cake with Buttery Mocha Frosting
Ingredients (Adjusted for High Altitude, See “Normal Altitude*” measurement adjustments below)
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons sugar*
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Hershey’s cocoa
1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder*
1-1/4 teaspoons baking soda*
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk*
1/2 cup light oil such as sunflower, canola or light olive oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water mixed with 1 T. instant coffee (or 1 cup strong hot coffee, brewed)
Heat oven to 350°F.
Grease two 9-inch round cake pans. I use Pam spray. Then cut a circle of wax or parchment paper to fit in the bottom of the pan. Re-spray the top of parchment with Pam lightly.
Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add sugar, eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Carefully, stir in hot coffee, with the mixer on low, or use a hand whisk. The batter will be very thin. Pour batter evenly into prepared cake pans.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with fluffy mocha frosting.
- Normal Altitude Measurements: 2 cups sugar, 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 cup milk
- Vegans: substitute milk with soy or almond milk; use Earth Balance Butter Sticks in place of dairy butter, and Ener-G Egg replacer for eggs.
Buttery Mocha Frosting
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips or morsels (Vegans use dairy-free chocolate chips)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature (really important this be at room temp) (Vegans use Earth balance butter)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 – 5 Tablespoons Strong coffee, cooled
Carefully melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler or use the microwave but watch carefully, only nuking 10 seconds at a time, just until you can stir it smoothly.
Beat the butter until it is light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, the melted chocolate, and then add one tablespoon of coffee at a time until the frosting is smooth and creamy and will spread easily, but don’t whip it. Spread immediately on the cooled cake.
This cake is best served at room temperature. If I make it a day ahead, I put it in the fridge and then let the cake sit at room temperature for several hours so the frosting will soften up to serve the next day. My favorite way to handle leftovers (if there are any) is to cut slices and wrap them individually, very well, in plastic wrap. Then when I want a piece, I unwrap it and put it on a place, and microwave it about 15 seconds to soften.
(Becky, the Mama.)
Yesterday was one of those Sunday afternoons that Greg and I love. I’d popped a roast in the oven before church and then Greg’s sons, a daughter-in-law , one nephew and one grandson showed up to enjoy a meal on the back porch. These are special days as we know summer is waning, the leaves are turning, but for now there are still flowers and green grass and perfect 70 degree weather.
Meals for our big gang of kids (even half our crew) means lots of food, mess, dishes. A virtual kitchen disaster, since I am a fast cook, but not a tidy one. In addition to lunch, I decided to make a quick casserole for my stepson to take home to his family as well. (Tortilla Flower Pie.) They adopted little six-year-old Anthony this year, and suddenly became foster parents to a toddler last week. At minimum, I felt, they deserved a night off from cooking. So more pots and pans were added to the sink creating a virtual mountain dirty dishes.
I took a deep breath and dove in to Dish Mountain, rinsing and washing with gusto, when I felt… not a few drops, not a trickle, but a sudden wave of warm water flooding my feet. A broken pipe. Several trips to the hardware store, lots of under-sink-laboring, not a few choice words, and many hours later…the pipes still leaked like an artsy under-the-sink fountain.
I loaded the dirty dishes into a big ice chest on wheels and alerted my neighbor that I might be rolling up to her door, the Bag Lady of Dirty Dishes, to borrow her sink. Thankfully a plumber showed up today and miraculously fixed the issue, to the tune of $200.00.
Welcome to reality. It is messy. “Mama said there’d be days like this,” and all that. I’ve found, however, that life’s “little aggravating interruptions” get a lot easier to deal with once you accept this truth: About 20 to 30 percent of life is handling hassles.
I’ve found I don’t lose my cool over life’s inconveniences when I…
1) Take care of it – or delegate….or hire someone to take care of it ASAP without wasting time stewing
2) Find something funny in the situation to write and laugh about
3) Remember that it is not a Greek tragedy, it is not cancer, it is not permanent. (This post will appear on 9-11, a reminder of how petty almost all our so-called ‘problems’ really are.)
4) I am not being picked on by God, stuff happens to everybody. Build “yucky interruptions” into weekly expectations
5) Try to think of myself as Molly Brown, and do my best to be that jolly, comforting, brave woman who makes the best of a sinking ship situation.
Or in my case, a sinking sink situation.
I had just a few minutes tonight to prepare dinner after the plumber left and the kitchen was put back in order. (Thank you to my husband and nephew for doing this for me. A gift!) What I wanted to make for supper was four perfectly formed and nicely browned fish fillets. What I got, instead, was a mess, as some of the fish stuck to the pan, and the meat was so fresh and flakey that it began falling apart. Then I remembered something a pro photographer said at the Foodista Blogging convention, “Life is messy. Make some of your photos messy.” Well, then…O-KAY!
Though this “mess o’ fish” dish did not turn out perfectly formed fillets, it tasted amazing. In fact, the broken pieces allowed the lemon-butter-wine sauce to better saturate the fresh white cod, resulting in moistness and flavor in every bite. The family served themselves whatever bits and pieces that looked most tempting to them.
The moral of today’s post is this: When life gives you lemons, slice them and use them to decorate your latest culinary mess. You might find you’ve fouled up your way into a new recipe masterpiece.
“Mess o’ Golden Fish” in Buttery Lemon Sauce
2 T. olive oil and 1 T. butter for browning fish
2 smashed garlic cloves
1.5 lb. white flakey fish fillets (I used cod, but you could use halibut, tilapia, mahi-mahi, catfish or sea bass)
1 large lemon, cut in half
2/3 cup white wine
1 T. butter (for sauce)
1 T. brown sugar
Sea Salt to taste
Few basil leaves or parsley for garnish
Sprinkle fish fillets very lightly with sea salt on both sides.
Put 2 T. olive oil and 1 T. butter and 2 smashed garlic cloves into a large skillet over medium high heat. As soon as it is nice and bubbly, stir to let garlic permeate the oil and butter, then add fish. Turn fish when it is golden brown on one side, about 5 minutes or less. Don’t worry if it comes apart when you turn it: messy is fine. Messy is good.
Brown the other side of the fish. With a wide spatula, remove fish from pan to a large serving platter with about 1 inch high sides, and loosely cover with foil to keep warm. (I used a round Corning Ware tart pan.) In the same skillet, add 2/3 cup white wine, another tablespoon of butter, 1 T. brown sugar and juice from ½ the lemon. Let this mixture simmer and bubble until the sauce is reduced by about a third. Season with salt to taste at this point. Pour the sauce over the “mess o’ golden fish” and garnish with lemon slices (from the other ½ lemon) and a few sprigs of fresh parsley or basil. Serve family style with a spoon for dipping sauce.
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Mess o’ Golden Fish in Buttery Lemon Sauce
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved
On Monday, I got to go up to the mountains to babysit two of my grandsons, Nate (age 6) and Titus (almost 4). Upon arrival, Nate informed they had a Secret Hide-Out, Only Club Members Allowed.
Nate was not inclined to share the whereabouts of the Hide Out with me, though Titus, Mr. Tender-Hearted, was in agony trying to hold back the secret., wanting to blurt it out and take me to it right away.
I knew what had to be done. I commenced with Nonny Charm: reading books, showing off a bag full of garage-sale-finds toys and crafty items, sharing funny stories about their Daddy and his siblings, playing with toys in a bucket of water on the porch, listening to their tales with animated interest, giving them each “critter punch balls” to bounce, and finally, digging for marbles in The Marble Hole.
Nate assured me he’d found three marbles in a dirt hole in the yard, which was about 1 foot deep and 2 feet wide, and that if I would only do the digging, he’d do the sifting and he was sure we’d find more. So I picked up the shovel and went to work. (The things grandmothers do for love.) Alas, we found a rock, a worm, and one beetle but no marbles. Later that day, I placed a text to my son saying, “Well played, Zeke. Well played. Great way to keep the boys busy, but a heads up: it is time to add a few more marbles to hole.”
At some point, Nate weakened and gave in. “Okay, Nonny. Because you are SOOO nice to us, you can be a Club Member and I will now show you our Secret Hide-Out.” Whew! I was IN!
The Club House was impressive. You had to climb up a ladder and hold on to a rope to get up inside the second story. The views of the mountains and deer in the distance were none too shabby. Super Power Rocks lined the inner sanctum’s walls. Nate offered me a seat a crate beside him, put his hands on knees and began to chat, Club Member to Club Member. “Nonny, I had a bunch of plastic swords, but Titus chewed on all of them. So my mom is going to get me a new one.
I looked at Titus and said, “Wow, Titus! I didn’t know you were a sword eater!” Titus responded with a shy head duck. His big blue eyes sparkled as he grinned and gave a little huff of a giggle, then turned his palms up confessing, “Yeah. I was really hungry.” Like, Whaddaya gonna do? I was hungry. There was a plastic sword. I ate it. End of story.
I don’t know what it is about babysitting my grandsons but at the end of the day, I always seem to take a long deep nap, and I am so hungry I could eat a bear. Or possibly, a plastic sword.
After I said my goodbyes to the boys, I arrived home and slept for two hours, then woke at 6:00, starving. Thankfully I had thought to stop by Whole Foods on the way home. Big juicy sea scallops were on sale. I pulled a dinner together in minutes that looked fit for a King and Queen, or a Club Member belonging to a very special Secret Hide Out.
A friend from the shores of Virginia taught me the easy trick to making incredible scallops, perfectly caramelized, buttery on the outside, and tender on the inside. This night I served them on some leftover Jasmine rice, with some freshly steamed broccoli and a side of watermelon-feta-mint salad. The perfect supper to revive a tired Nonny, with minimal effort on my part. Thankfully, Greg volunteered to wash the dishes and didn’t even make me dig for marbles to get him to do it.
Caramelized Garlic Butter Sea Scallops
Serves 2 Hungry People … 3 Not Too Hungry, Skinny People:)
8 to 10 Large Sea Scallops about 2 inches in diameter, and an inch thick
1 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, smashed
½ fresh lemon
Sea Salt to Taste (If you have any fancy gourmet sea salts on hand, this is the time to use them!)
Few pinches raw sugar
Rinse the scallops then pat dry. Sprinkle both sides of the scallops, very lightly, with a bit of your best sea salt. Sprinkle lightly again with little pinches of sugar – just a few grains on each scallop will do.
In to a “screaming hot skillet” put olive oil, butter and garlic cloves, then immediately turn down the heat to medium high. Add the scallops in the skillet and let simmer in the butter and oil until they are a gorgeous shade of golden brown caramel. Turn them and cook them on the other side until they are the same golden shade. The middle should be perfectly done at this point.
Squeeze half a fresh lemon over all and put on a big plate. (As you can see, I like to surround them with broccoli and lemon quarters.) Stir and scrape any pan juices and drizzle over the scallops.
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Caramelized Garlic Butter Scallops
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-A7
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved
For those of you who have seen the HBO miniseries, “Band of Brothers,” you may recall the choking-back-tears comment from Don Malarkey as he described his comrades of the 101st Airborne, many decades after WW2. “Brave, so brave… it was unbelievable.” Greg and I had the privilege of a lifetime 4 years ago, when we got to spend 2 weeks in Europe with Buck Compton and Don Malarkey, two of the paratroopers portrayed in Band of Brothers.
We stood at the sea of white crosses in Normandy as a friend played taps. Don, Irish and emotional, wept openly as Buck wiped away a tear and swallowed. We walked with these old soldiers through the Bastogne forest where they once nearly froze and starved in foxholes to protect our freedom in the Battle of the Bulge. They remember their dear friends whose legs were blown off in this lovely green forest, once white with snow and red with blood and lit up with terrible fire and noise of war. I gathered pine cones on that misty summer day, to give to my children and grandchildren. To help me remember the sacrifice so many made to secure our freedom.
We visited with a family whose parents/grandparents were liberated from their own home by Easy Company soldiers. The family showed us a room with a red stain on the floor. It was were a Nazi was shot and killed. They looked at Don and Buck with such admiration and gratitude.
Everywhere we went these two vets were instantly surrounded when people heard that there were American paratroopers among us. They are rock stars in Europe where children grew up hearing of the “angels coming out of the sky” in parachutes to save them from the German soldiers.
They are rock stars to me.
Greg and I had lunch with Don this year as he was passing through town with a friend. He’s had to give up his beloved nightly nip of Johnny Walker for his health now that he is 90. His hearing is going, but he seemed awfully pleased when I kissed him on the cheek.
Buck, dear Buck, that gentle brilliant kind soul passed away in January. (Click here to read one of many tributes to this brave, humble man who eventually became a judge. )
I doubt there will ever be a Memorial Day when I don’t think of that trip and those heart-tugging experiences, and of these men.
Thank you to Don & Buck for sharing your stories (see information on their biographies below) and for risking your lives for our freedom.
Since Don can’t toast Memorial Day with a glass of scotch anymore, I’m dedicating this Bourbon Pork Loin recipe to him and all the Easy Company men. (The recipe is also “easy for company.”) Since the alcohol burns off, it’s safe to serve to the whole family. It is one of Greg’s absolute favorite meals, and every man I’ve served it to looks heavenward with joy after they take a bite.
“Band of Brothers” Bourbon Pork Loin
Call of Duty by Buck Compton http://tinyurl.com/m6ld3t
http://www.marcusbrotherton.com/(Marcus is the collaborator and has fabulous video/pictures relating to Buck’s book)
Recently Marcus Brotherton interviewed and collected stories from the 101st airborne (Easy Company) into a book called: We Who Are Alive and Remain:Untold Stories from the Band of Brothers by Marcus Brotherton.
http://www.bandofbrothersbooks.com/(website with video)