Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread (cake?!)

I had this big zucchini sitting on my kitchen island, staring me in the face.  For a few days, I looked at it and said, "I know, I'll get around to you."  It intimidated me a little bit, actually.  Then the call came -- yesterday, my friend Joanne asked me if I could bake something for an impromptu going-away/baby shower for her friend Erica.  I said "sure" and she said "no, you don't have enough time" and I said "of course I do."  After all it was for Erica, a lovely soon-to-be Mom who's been great to work with.  I promised scones and zucchini bread.  I searched the internet for zucchini bread recipes, and there are a gazillion, so I decided to go home and open up my baking textbook, the bible of the best (or wanna-be-the-best) bakers, Cooks Illustrated's beautiful book, Baking Illustrated.  It was a gift to myself a few years ago, and as much as I love the internet for instant recipe gratification, it's good to hold a good, heavy book in my hands, to set it on my island opened to a recipe, and even to brush crumbs off a page.  It's like Baking 101, where I can study a paragraph three or four times and really get it without having to scroll up or scroll down. 

Anyway, my point is that old-school is sometimes better, and you can learn an awful lot from a real book, and with this baking book you get lessons based on research in Cooks Illustrated's kitchens, as well as the history and tradition surrounding the recipe (right up my academic alley).  They take one recipe and refine it to perfection before they publish it.  If you ever get a chance to catch their show Cooks Country on PBS (often on Sunday afternoons) it's worth watching.  Christopher Kimball and his staff explain why recipes do and don't work, and they tape their show in a real Vermont country farm house.  There's just so much that is real and authentic with CI and all they do -- it's a refreshing change-of-pace from the glitzy cooking shows populating cable TV.

I found BI's recipe for zucchini bread, and I altered it a bit.  I added chocolate in the form of Hershey's cocoa powder, and even more with mini chocolate chips.  I also added a tiny bit (a teaspoon) of dried Valencia orange peel, just because, but it doesn't have to go in there.  I personally love a little hint of orange in my chocolate.  Once the zucchini was grated and drained, it didn't seem to be that large a component in the bread/cake.  But, it's in there and you can feel good about it!

Here's my recipe for Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread, adapted from Baking Illustrated:

makes two loaves

Grease and flour two 9x5 loaf pans 

12 tablespoons softened butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs (OR for low-fat version, 3 egg whites and one egg, or equivalent in egg substitute - 1 c.)
3/4 c. sour milk (2 tbsp. vinegar and milk to make 3/4 c.) or buttermilk or plain yogurt
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups zucchini, grated, mixed w/ 2 tbsp. sugar, drained in colander for 30 minutes, excess moisture squeezed out (use large holes of a box grater, or shred in food processor)

3.5 cups flour
3/4 c. baking cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
(optional:  1 tablespoon fresh orange rind, grated, or 1 teaspoon dried)

1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted for 5 minutes, dry, over lowest heat setting until fragrant. 
1 cup mini chocolate chips (Regular chocolate chips are heavier and my drop to the bottom.  If you're using them, coat in flour first and then they'll suspend in the batter better.)

Beat butter with sugar until light and fluffy.  Add oil.  Beat in eggs, one at a time.  Add sour milk, vanilla, and zucchini.  Mix well.

In separate bowl, combine flour with cocoa, baking powder, soda, and salt. 

Mix flour mixture into butter mixture until everything is moistened and there are no dry parts visible.  Stir in walnuts and chocolate chips.

Oven 375 degrees

Spray, or grease and flour two 9x5 loaf pans.  Line bottom of pans with parchment or waxed paper (makes it easier to remove later).

Divide batter among loaf pans and bake at 375 until cake tests done - check at 40 minutes.  Cake is done when it springs back when lightly pressed in the middle, or when toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Let cool in pan for 10-15 minutes.  Turn out onto cooling rack to cool completely, and then wrap in saran wrap to keep cake moist.

Like all zucchini breads, this is made to be shared!


Photo:  by me

Friday, August 27, 2010

Cinnamon Swirl Bundt Cake

Last night I made a couple of cinnamon swirl bundt cakes, and told my facebook friends about it.  My friend Donna (from those late teens/early 20s years!) and I have reconnected on FB and she's requested the recipe.  It's pretty simple, pretty delicious, and pretty to look at.  Can't do any better than that!  This photo is from Flikr, not from me, but you get the idea. 

350 degrees F


Cinnamon mixture:
1 cup brown sugar (light or dark) mixed with 2 teaspoons cinnamon.
Optional - you can add chopped pecans or walnuts (1/2 cup) if desired (makes it even better).
Set this aside for now.

Cake mixture:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups sour cream or thick Greek yogurt (plain)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt



Beat butter with sugar for five minutes or until very light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time.  Add sour cream and vanilla extract.  Beat until very well mixed.

Mix dry ingredients together.  Add to butter mixture.  Mix completely, scraping sides of bowl.

Prepare bundt pan:  spray well with non-stick spray or generously grease, making sure to get all the nooks.

Sprinkle a few tablespoons of the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture in bottom of pan.  Put half the batter on top, smoothing with a spatula.  Sprinkle half of the remaining brown sugar mixture (about half a cup) over the surface.  Cover with remaining batter.  Smooth.  Sprinkle remaining cinnamon mixture over top.

Making the swirl:  With a spoon, go in and turn over the batter in a continuous motion all the way around the pan, digging in to the bottom and gently  flipping over around the pan until you return to where you started.  Smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 50 minutes or until cake tests done, or until it springs back when gently pressed in the middle.  Ovens vary, so start checking around 40 minutes for doneness (is that a word?).

Remove from oven and cool on rack for 15 minutes.  Remove from pan and cool completely. If it needs a nudge, I find a grapefruit knife is great at removing baked goods, with its curvy flexibility.  Just a little baker's knowledge to share with you...

Glaze:  when cake is cooled, drizzle this glaze over top:


2 cups confectioners sugar

In medium sized bowl, keep adding water, a teaspoon or two at a time, and mix with a fork until the glaze is silky smooth and the consistency of Elmer's glue (!) -- it's the only way I know how to describe it!  Drizzle it over the top of the cake, allowing the glaze to run down the sides.  You might want to do this on a rack, over paper towels or waxed paper, to catch any drips. 

Photo credit:  http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2279/2302511269_2a2871884b.jpg?v=0

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Swing of Things

You could say I am having trouble getting back into the swing of things.  One week ago today I was jumping in the waves off the shores of North Carolina, aware but not obsessing about how fast time was going and that I had to savor every second of the time there.  Now back in the reality of every day existence, the luxury of time away is a fond memory.

When you think about it, a vacation is such a gift.  It literally means to "vacate" your life for a while.  Who couldn't use a few days removed from the routine goings-on of day-to-day living?  The only down-side to a vacation is that it ends.  There's no way we can maintain that ease of living without paying the price, the need to get back to the business of earning a living so we can, hopefully, put some money aside to take another vacation again some time.

I have been especially fortunate this year, having spent time in Long Beach, California, with my daughter Meghan in June, and then the vacation last week in Emerald Isle NC with my sister Anne and her family.  I know what an incredible opportunity it is to travel, and also know that I worked very hard to make them happen.  I would tell myself, in advance, that "this is worth it, because I'll get to see Meghan" or "I'll spend time enjoying Anne's family."  And it is worth it -- every single effort is worth it.

As much as I hate to see summer go, there's a lot to look forward to this fall.  I look forward to the birth of my second grandson, due in October.  I look forward to watching Henry enjoy the beauty of autumn in the country.  I look forward to time with Katie in exciting anticipation of this next baby boy.  I look forward to making my now 1-year old home the warm and cozy refuge I know it can be. I look forward to the next time with Meghan, and to spending time with my kids who are close by, and my six siblings and their families, also close by. 

I don't want summer to end, but it will.  There are warning signs all over.  Trees are already beginning to turn.  I had to grab another blanket for my bed.  It's getting dark earlier.  There's a certain quickening pace at the college where I work.  All signs.  Christmas is just four months away.  That's scary!  No matter how much I'd love to enjoy summer weather all year round, fall is coming.  I'm just not quite ready...yet.  Give me a little time, and I'll get there.

Photo credit: http://images.free-extras.com/pics/e/empty_swings-1697.jpg

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Last night I made a dozen mini scones.  It takes just a few ingredients, very little time, almost less effort, and the results are a dozen mini (or six regular-sized) scones.  No big mixer here - basically just a bowl and a fork can whip this mixture together.  Last night I made blueberry lemon with frozen Maine blueberries and lemon extract -- frozen berries work very well with scones, as fresh berries might be too delicate for the hearty batter -- but there are endless combinations of great scone add-ins.  In addition to blueberry lemon, my standards are cinnamon raisin (with a brown sugar/cinnamon mixture), cranberry orange, and chocolate chip walnut.  My friend Matt K. made some recently using fresh currants!  See what you've got around that might work, and use your imagination!


1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla or other extract you might want
1/4 c. buttermilk (or 1/4 cup milk mixed with 1 tsp. vineger - let sit for a minute or two - works just as well).
add-ins:  blueberries, raisins, dried fruit, etc.  

Glaze (recipe follows)


Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in bowl.  To the flour mixture, cut in cold butter with a pastry blender or two knives until butter is the size of small peas.  Make sure you don't mix it so much you can't see pieces of butter.

In small separate bowl, beat egg and whisk in vanilla and buttermilk.  Pour into center of flour mixture and, with a fork, pull dry into wet until it is all incorporated.  Pop the bowl into the fridge for 20 minutes or so.

On a piece of parchment or wax paper, spread about 1/2 c. flour.  Dump cold scone batter onto flour.  Turn over so both sides are covered in flour.  Then fold over itself and press into a rectangle, repeating about six or eight times (this makes flaky layers).  Use more flour if needed. Press one last time into a rectangle about 1/2-inch thick.  For a dozen mini-scones, cut this in half and form each half into a circle, still about 1/2-inch thick.  For six regular-sized scones, form the one mass of dough into a larger circle, about 1/2-inch thick.  Firmly press add-ins over the top of the surface, roll up jelly roll style to incorporate, and form again into a circle.  Pop these scone circles into the freezer (parchment sheet can go on a cookie sheet).  After about 20 minutes, remove from freezer and cut each round into six wedges (I use a fluted vegetable cutter).  Separate on parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Brush scones with an egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tsp. water).  Bake at 375 degrees F until the edges begin to brown.

Remove from oven, cool in pan and, when cool enough, remove to wire rack. Drizzle with glaze.


1 cup confectioners sugar mixed with water, 1 tsp. at a time, until it can run off a fork nicely without being too watery. 


Photo: Click on my photo of cranberry orange mini-scones above to see, close up, how good they are!

Saturday, August 21, 2010


It's Saturday night and we're all ready (physically, not emotionally) to leave the beach house tomorrow morning.  We had a dinner of especially good left-overs (scampi, grilled chicken) and salad.  Anne and I emptied out the refrigerator and cabinets of all that we can't leave behind.  The last load is in the dishwasher.  Beach towels are in the dryer.  It won't take much for any of us to pull our things together tomorrow and be on our way.  We had our last beach day today, a few hours under a cloudy but friendly sky.  The waves were strong and quick, and I was tossed but landed on my feet.  I didn't stay too long in the waves.  There was quality time to enjoy under the canopy.  We could see the rain coming in from the sea, a sheet of gray transparency approaching from a distance, and it arrived too soon, sending most beach-goers packing, and quickly.   It was a good beach week -- we were able to spend a good amount of time there every day -- and the rain was polite enough to wait until we had all had a good time.

After the beach, Anne, Kristin, and I stopped at a local shopping center.  I wanted to find a little something for Henry, and an even littler something for his October-arriving baby brother.  Last year I found Henry little Crocs that he wore until they were just too small.  This year, I found a navy blue zip-up hoodie with "Emerald Isle" embroidered on the front.  New baby gets a onesie with a lobster on the front that says "got butter?".  Cute.

Anne and Will are playing checkers right now, and she just triple-jumped him.  There was whooping and holloring that could be heard a mile away!  Now they're back into the game, contemplating the next move, and the move after that.  I can feel the tension!  Checkers is a wonderful game, and we always play it at the beach house.  I seem to never play it anywhere else. 

To wrap up this wonderful week, here are some pictures that will provide me happy memories for a long time to come.

Beach House Entry

John Peeling Shrimp

Seashells Against a Dune Fence

Nightstand Books

Patrick and Frisbee

Will being Creative

Midnight Golf Cart Ride (who knew we had no headlights?!)

Bishop Boys Stargazing
(They saw a bunch of shooting stars!)

Row of Beach Houses
So long, Captain's Quarters!  Good-bye Emerald Isle. 
Thanks for a GREAT vacation.
You will be missed!

Photos:  by me

Friday, August 20, 2010

Lovin' It Here!

It's Friday already. Hard to believe.  I fly home Sunday, so that "end-of-vacation-is-near" awareness is all-too present. My nephew Patrick leaves the beach house today, continuing on to Florida State University where he starts classes on Monday. I'll miss him. We had quite the checkers match last night. He's the reigning king of checkers, but I gave him a run for his money! In the end, my last three options for moves were all fatal, so he won, but it was a good battle!

The storms of the previous night gave way to a hazy day, so yesterday afternoon we decided to go to the beach. Rather than pack a picnic and take the canopy, we took only our chairs and towels this time. The water had cooled considerably, the waves were bigger, and the lack of bright sunshine made for a different beach experience, but equally enjoyable. We still used sun block as if the sun were blazing. My dad always used to say that a hazy day was worse for a sun burn, for whatever reason. The beach was busy, with a lot of people in the water. Every few minutes, a flock (is it a flock?) of pelicans flew overhead.  Patrick and Will played frisbee and we all jumped in and out of the water, read, sat, relaxed, and took it all in (see picture below).

Patrick and Frisbee

The Boys Bishop - My Handsome Nephews!
L-R: Jack, Patrick, Will, Ben

For Patrick's fare well, we had an incredible dinner last night: slow-cooked baby-back ribs, barbequed chicken, corn on the cob, and potato salad. We had been marinating the chicken for a couple of days in an Italian/Balsamic dressing which flavored it beautifully. I can't remember ever having had ribs. I never order them out, and I never make them, so they were a treat for me. John had used a dry rub, seared them on the grill, and then slow baked them in the oven. When we got back from the beach, I made a chunky potato salad with little red potatoes and lots of celery. The kids loved it. It was my favorite dinner so far. The best part about dinner here at the beach house is eight of us sitting around the table, enjoying a meal together, and lingering for a long while after dinner.

It's about time to say good-bye to Patrick.  I'm going to miss his affectionate and sharp sense of humor.  He's a lot of fun to have around.  Fortunately, his three brothers are all equally good company, and I will enjoy every second with them until we all leave on Sunday.  Checkers, anyone?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Stormy Weather in Paradise

After four glorious days, an incredible storm rolled in last night, just as we were getting ready for dinner.  There was no grilling last night -- we had decided earlier to take a break and order pizza.  The boys and I enjoyed some time on the 3rd floor deck, in awe of the approaching storm clouds.  The sky was black and we could actually see the entire front approaching from the southwest.  It was quite a contrast from the cloudless blue sky of the previous day.

A Perfect Day!

Beach Umbrellas Under a Bright Blue Sky!

Lights flickered on and off a few times, and we were ready with the one candle we could find, just in case, though we never lost power.  The panoramic lightning show all around this many-windowed house provided a lot of "oohs" and "Did you see that?" and "Wow!" and forced a few of us away from the windows, actually concerned that we were too close to the action! 

Up on the Roof!

A seaside storm is an awesome thing.  We're pretty sure that one lightning bolt made contact close to home.  We saw the strike and heard a crack.  My sister Anne said that lightning finds them -- they have a history of lightning strikes finding their real-life homes:  one house was struck twice, another once!  Fortunately, it didn't find us last night!

Skies Overhead

We were off to an easy start this morning.  Patrick and John went to play 9 holes of golf.  Anne and I went to find breakfast out -- a little place called Emerald Grill where a breakfasat platter is $4.99.

I'm thinking that I'm going to relish every second of the remaining three days here, and whether the sun comes out or we have storms for the rest of the time, it doesn't matter.  It's great to be here and to be enjoying time with my sister and her family, storm clouds or no.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Our House Is a Very, Very, Very Fine House!

Captain's Quarters is a very fine house, indeed. I can't imagine how completely cool it would be to live in such a place year-round, though most people don't. Most of these homes are built to be rented, week by week, during the tourist season, and beyond. The lyrics "By the sea, by the sea, by the beatiful sea..." keep playing in my head!

Day 2 at the beach house was just what we figured it would be. I slept late, until about 9:30, having earned about 11 hours of sleep from the previous busy day and days before. Man o man, I must have more exhausted than I even knew! After an easy breakfast, Will and I put together sandwiches and drinks and packed for lunch on the beach. The boys went ahead and set up the beach canopy and chairs, and Anne and I followed right behind them. As I was on the walkway heading to the beach, there were two young girls ahead of me, maybe fourteen or fifteen, both so confident in their bikinis. It made me realize how much time has passed between "then" and "now" and also curious about what kind of bathing suits they'll be donning forty years forward, after life and children, perhaps, have had made their marks on what are now flawless bodies. Oh, cynical me! I hope they appreciate their current perfection!

Walkway to Beach

The beach was more croweded than usual yesterday afternoon. Canopies and umbrellas lined the beach in both directions. This beach actually runs east and west along the Crystal Coast, North Carolina's southern shore. Waves roll in at a bit of an angle, depending on how the wind blows. Eventhough there were a lot of families on the beach, it didn't feel crowded. We spent a few hours and then headed "home" to the pool. Soon it was time to get dinner going, so we all headed in for showers and I started the beginnings of the sauce that would be the foundation for our Italian dinner. Ben helped me make the meat balls. I cooked up some sweet Italian sausage and put together a huge tossed salad. We toasted garlic bread under the broiler and then all sat down to a great spaghetti dinner. Anne uttered those wonderful words, "It smells like a restaurant in here!"...music to my ears.

Ben in the Kitchen

The Aftermath

The kids did the dishes, and we played board games and later sat outside on the 3rd floor deck, late into the night. It was dark but we could hear waves rolling on shore. I went to bed, tired and happy, for another happy day in Emerald Isle, North Carolina, in a very, very, very fine house!!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Beach House, Day 1

OK, let me just say I love it here.  This is my fifth or sixth trip to Emerald Isle, NC, with my sister Anne's family.  This house is GORGEOUS.  Like most of the homes in this part of Emerald Isle, the living area is up on the top floor allowing for the best ocean views.   Bedrooms are one floor below, and a rec room is on the bottom floor.  Porches abound.  This house is decorated in a very nautical theme, with a little bit of 50s kitcsh in the kitchen! 

  Anne and John drove the entire distance and arrived just minutes before me.  Once we went grocery shopping (3 carts-full) and settled in, we decided to hit the beach for a late afternoon swim and happy hour.  The ocean water temperature was just right, still cool but not too warm, and the breeze off the ocean provided a refreshing cooler -- that and beverages on ice.  Anne's boys played football on the beach and it was so good to just sit, relax, and enjoy each others' company.

Dinner last night was burgers and dogs on the grill, with baked beans and a Caprisi salad.  After dinner, I was so tired after three flights and one cab ride to get here, and then all the fun, I went to bed and everyone else stayed up to play Apples to Apples, a card game that had them laughing until midnight (I hear) but I was so knocked out I didn't hear them. 

Cute Kitchen

There's no schedule or agenda this morning.  Patrick and Ben got up early to play golf.  Jack and Kristin are swimming in the pool after an 8-mile run (she's preparing for a half-marathon).  Will is still sleeping (11:10 a.m!).  John made a breakfast of eggs, Canadian Bacon, and toast.  I'm blogging away, looking forward to a day of nothing-in-particular.  There's a sign above the window overlooking the beach that says "Another Day in Paradise."  Ain't that the truth!

Friday, August 13, 2010

So long, Hayden, but not good-bye

Yesterday our dog Hayden (actually my son Joe's dog) was adopted by Dean and Jane, a lovely couple who miraculously were the perfect match.  Hayden is not yet 2-years old, still a puppy in Blood Hound terms.  He's all legs and ears and looks like a moose without antlers.  He's a beautiful black-and-tan version of the breed, a gentle dog on his way to becoming, I am sure, a gentle giant.  He still has a lot of growing into himself to do.

I was hopeful but worried that we might never find the right home for Hayden.  Who would want potentially over 100-lbs. of drooling, shedding, howling animal?  Joe had rescued Hayden from a bad situation when he was only seven months old.  Still quite the puppy, he had separation anxiety from his earlier life experience and wanted nothing more than to be velcroed to any human nearby.  He'd howl, grief-stricken, when separated even by a bathroom door.  So there were a number of showers with a puppy's head poking through the shower curtain.  As he grew larger, we got him used to longer and longer spurts of time on his own.  First attempts resulted in lots of chewing:  cell phones, pounds of butter, shoes, coats.  So, we introduced the crate which kept him (and stuff) safe but quite miserable.  I'd open up the crate and he'd leap out and literally bounce in happiness.  To get him into the crate, we'd literally have to sneak up behind him, grab him under his armpits, and walk him into the crate.  It looked like I was doing the Heimlich Maneuver on him.  He learned to become a "C" so as soon as his butt was in the crate his head was out and I'd gasp in exasperation, wait, and try again, though he knew what was coming and would drop to the floor, dead weight, so there was no where my hands could go to get him up.

I love this dog.  Joe was well-intentioned in taking him but it wasn't practical for him, or good for Hayden.  He needs so much more room and time with people than we can provide.  His leaving is bittersweet.  I'll miss his sweet face and good company, and his pure exuberance at loving the outdoors.  There are things I won't miss, like petrified drool on my windows and fur-bunnies the size of small mammals from under the couch and behind furniture. But more than that, I love that he now has room to stretch out, a new home, and three new dog friends -- two English Mastiffs (each over 200 lbs.!) and a Weimaraner, all girls -- his new harem.  He has acres and acres of land to run.  Dean and Jane met him for an hour, and decided right then and there that they wanted him. I heard they had an interesting first night.  Hayden trembled in the crate, so they let him sleep outside their bedroom door.  He heard a train whistle in the middle of the night, which set him to howling, but they calmed him down and eventually everyone was able to sleep.  They already love him, aware of all his breed's particular needs, and welcome him, slobber, shedding, neediness, and all. And we can visit, anytime.  I can't wait to see him in his new world.

What a lucky dog!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Classic Grasso's Italian Ice!

I got mine.  Finally.  Yesterday after work I drove to the Farmers' Market on High Rock Avenue in Saratoga Springs.  Ralph Grasso had posted on his facebook wall that he'd be there between 3 and 6 p.m. (as he is every Wednesday).  I left work and drove directly there.  I had to park way down High Rock but there it was, like a beacon, the little white bubble of a truck, just as I'd remembered, painted in white with red and aqua blue accents.  A little boy was reaching up to grab his order, a red cherry ice.  I saw Ralph.  He didn't remember me at first, but then he recognized me. After all, about 35 years have passed since we last saw each other!  And beautiful Sophia, his daughter, waited on me.  "A small lemon, please..."  Had to have it.  Had to have the lemon.  The lemon I remember wasn't yellow, it was white, but the taste was the same.  That freezing cold, refreshing ice. The best.

Ralph and I caught up a bit, and I asked him what happened to those old paper, foldy cups that we used to get our ices in, when the kids on MacArthur Drive paid a nickel for the treat.  We'd hear Ralph's grandfather coming and yell "The Lemon Ice Man!!!  The Lemon Ice Man!!!" (no matter what flavor, that's what we called him) and all the mothers would empty their change purses and we ran into the street.  It's one of my favorite childhood memories.  "The Lemon Ice Man" provided moments of pure joy for the kids in our neighborhood.

 Ralph Grasso

About those old paper cups -- Ralph said he might have found a supplier, then he reached into a cabinet and brought one out, one of a precious few from the old days.  It would flatten as you ate the ice, and then you could open it up into a circle and still find some of the goodness tucked in the folds of the paper.  I told him I wanted to take a picture of it (yes, he was beginning to realize my obsession, or maybe think I am insane!) and he went one better:  he scooped some cherry and set it up beautifully.

Cherry Ice, Old School

While most people were walking away from the Farmers' Market with bags of vegetables, I strolled down High Rock Avenue with my lemon ice, and not one vegetable, happily reliving childhood memories, and looking forward to the next time I spot that beautiful white truck.

Photos:  by Jeannie O'Farrell Eddy, the Adirondack Baker

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tomato Pie, with a Little Paula Deen Influence

My friend Rose has suggested I post a recipe for tomato pie, something I'd never heard of.  I went on-line to research this interesting dish, and found a number of recipes.  They vary a little, but basically it's seasoned tomato slices in a pie crust, topped with melted cheese.  Seems simple enough, but what sold me are the enthusiastic endorsements from people who love any version of this recipe and serve it again and again.  I haven't made it yet, but the 343 people who positively reviewed Paula Deen's recipe on The Food Network Web site can't be wrong.  Based on some of their suggestions, I've made a few modifications.  I can't wait until Katie's tomatoes are ripe enough to give this one a try! (They're all still very, very green, but beautiful!).  If you try it, let me know how you like it.

adapted from Paula Deen's recipe

2 lbs. tomatoes, peeled and sliced (blanch in boiling water for 15 seconds before peeling)
10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 c. chopped green onion

1 9" pre-baked deep-dish pie crust (if using your own, brush bottom and sides with beaten egg white before baking - that'll help keep it from getting soggy).

1/2 c. mayo
1/2 c. sour cream
1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
Mix all topping ingredients together


Place sliced tomatoes in colander in sink, sprinkle with salt, and let drain for 10 minutes to remove excess water.

Layer tomato slices, basil, and onion in pie shell.  Season with salt and pepper.

Spread mayo/cheese mixture over top.

Bake at 350-degrees F for about half an hour or until lightly browned.  Slice and serve warm.

Photo credit:  http://img.foodnetwork.com/FOOD/2003/09/29/pa1a20_tomato_pie_lg.jpg

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Flurry of a Week!

Since my last post, there's been a wholelottastuff going on.  So this is a long one!   I've been beyond busy, to say the least.  Please forgive the lapse, my readers.  To redeem myself, today I'm providing a recap of the past week, just so you know I haven't been sitting on my posterior eating bon bons, ignoring my blog!

Outside my "9-5" I have, of course, been baking.  I had a four-cake weekend, all birthday cakes for friends.  Friday's cake was for brothers Patrick and Sean, sons of family cousins Danny and Mary.  My camera battery was recharging so no photo of that cake.  It was a big round marble cake frosted in Hershey Chocolate frosting (the recipe on the back of the can).  I didn't want to do the typical flower-y cake thing for these two strapping young men, so I made more of a celebration cake with confetti sprinkles.  There was a problem, though, because I didn't have sprinkles and I had to make my own.  So I took fondant, divided it up in small portions, and made different colors.  I rolled each color out and cut it into little squares.  I tossed all the colored squares together, and taa-daa!: I had sprinkles, home-made, colorful, and pretty!  Here are the other three cakes I made with my home-made confetti:

For Kim's Family, One Cake for Six Birthdays!

For the Kane Girls, Kendall and Morgan!

Before you say "yikes" or "eccchhh" at the intensity, please know that these colorful custom cakes were requested to be bright green and bright purple.  I don't just go around dumping vats of food coloring in my frosting -- no, these were special requests and I honored them, and they're pretty darn cute!  When I stopped by the Kane house to drop them off, the girls were giddy with happiness at their individual cakes, which made me very happy.  The color show went beyond the frosting to the interior of the cakes, which were marbled in white, hot pink, lime green, and purple (also their request).  If it made two little girls happy, that's enough for me.

Prior to Saturday's cakes, I had a crushing headache (started as an ocular migraine) and had to sleep.  By Friday night, I was recovered enough to attend the CD Release Party for Skeletons in the Piano.  Jeff Ayers, my daughter Tricia's boyfriend, is the keyboardist and also plays a wicked electric violin!  The party was at the Putnam Den in Saratoga Springs, an eclectic venue that draws all types of people.  Though I was one of the few older people in the crowd, I was very happy to be there.  Tricia had a table set up selling t-shirts, CDs, and her own beautiful silver-wrapped jewelry (we're both wearing her jewelry in the photo below).  I always knew Jeff was in a band and that he plays often; I'd just never heard or seen them.  A lot of talent in this band.  Jeff was trained as a classic violinist and though his artistry as an electric violinist is 180-degrees distant from his early training, that foundation laid the groundwork for something wonderfully different.  He is an incredible showman.  After the show was over, he ran up to Tricia, dipped her, and gave her a big kiss!  They are a very happy couple, laughing all the time.  I am in awe of their unique talents.

My daughter, Tricia
 Jeff at the Keyboard
Tricia and Me, Wearing her Jewels!

 Jeff on Electric Violin
CD Release Party, Putnam Den, Saratoga Springs

By Sunday, I wanted nothing more than to spend a relaxing, summer day.  My nephew Will (such a great kid) and I drove up to Bolton Landing to swim at my favorite beach on my favorite lake.  Rogers Memorial Beach on Lake George is so beautiful.  It's hard to believe that it costs nothing to spend time in such a terrific place.  Will and I jumped off the end of the dock and swam, got out until we were so hot we had to jump in again, and did that four times!  We had sandwiches from the deli across the street.  On the way home, we drove with windows and sunroof open, talking about what a good day we'd had.  We stopped at Martha's Dandee Creme for ice cream cones.  We ran into my brother Steven and sister Ginny there (quite a coincidence).

Beach at Rogers Memorial Park, Bolton Landing, Lake George
(Sagamore Hotel in the Distance)

And a cone to top it all off!
My brother Steven O'Farrell and nephew Will Bishop

Hope you enjoyed  you week as well.  I promise I won't stay away from the blog this long again.  I missed it, and I still have a lot to write about!

Photos:  by me

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Cake Therapy

Yesterday was one of those days when a big disappointment slapped me right in the face.  Something I had hoped for didn't pan out.  I was miserable. Before I got the bad news, an intense morning session at the gym probably dissipated most of the bad energy that would have festered throughout the rest of the day.  So, I got the bad news, and yes, I was disappointed, but decided to focus on the positives in my life, including very good friends to talk with to help process the news.  As luck would have it, there was an extended power outage at work yesterday which provided the perfect opportunity to go have that conversation, one flight up above my own office.  We found a nook illuminated not only by natural light but by a heart-to-heart discussion about what really matters in life.  The take-away from that time with my friends is that I have nothing to complain about, and my bruised ego will take on lighter shades until it is all but imperceptible.

In the process of healing wounded egos, my mind turns to creating, usually in the form of baking.  It gets me completely involved and when I bake, it's absolutely necessary to pay attention to details like the right ingredients, measurements, and all the things I have to do to make sure my little project is a success.  Baking does not allow time or brain space to focus on troubles and is a great buffer from the sometimes too-real world.  It's like playing Jewel Quest, which provides an excellent 10-minute vacation from reality every now and then (readers know I am somewhat addicted to the free web version of the game!).   Of course, the best antidote to a troubled day is spending time with Henry, who runs toward me with open arms and a bright smile.  THAT is the best, and the fact that his mom, my daughter Katie, invited me down for a warm and comforting dinner...

My buddy...

So, second best to time with my favorite rug rat is making a cake.  Cake Therapy.  It has to be chocolate (otherwise, what therapy could it provide?) and it has to be quick. This recipe from food goddess Nigella Lawson provides as much chocolate as can possibly be infused into a cake.  It's from her book Feast and if this doesn't cure what ails me, nothing will!  Keep in mind that the directions are Nigella's, not mine, just in case you think I've taken on a sudden British essence!  Nope, this Irish-American girl puts forth no pretention in what she offers you!

Nigella Lawson, Feast


    1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 cup cocoa
    1 1/3 cups sugar
    1 1/2 sticks soft unsalted butter
    2 eggs
    1 tablespoon good-quality vanilla extract
    1/3 cup sour cream
    1/2 cup boiling water
    1 cup semisweet chocolate chips or morsels

    1 teaspoon cocoa
    1/2 cup water
    1/2 cup sugar
    1-ounce dark chocolate (from a thick bar if possible), cut into splinters of varying thickness, for garnish

Special equipment: 2-pound loaf tin (approximately 9 1/2 by 4 1/2 by 3 inches deep), lined with greased foil, pressed into the corners and with some overhang at the top. Alternatively, substitute a silicon loaf tin, no foil lining necessary.


Take whatever you need out of the refrigerator so that all ingredients can come room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, putting in a baking sheet as you do so.

Put the flour, baking soda, cocoa, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, and sour cream into the processor and blitz until a smooth, satiny brown batter. Scrape down with a rubber spatula and process again while pouring the boiling water down the funnel. Switch it off, then remove the lid and the well-scraped double-bladed knife and, still using your rubber spatula, stir in the chocolate chips or morsels.

Scrape and pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin and put into the oven, cooking for about 1 hour. When ready, the loaf will be risen and split down the middle and a cake-tester will pretty well come out clean.

Not long before the cake is due out of the oven (when it has had about 45 to 50 minutes), put the syrup ingredients of cocoa, water and sugar into a small saucepan and boil for about 5 minutes, to give a thick syrup.

Take the cake out of the oven and sit it on a cooling rack, still in the tin, and pierce here and there with a cake tester. Pour the syrup over the cake.

Let the cake become completely cold and then slip out of its tin, removing the foil as you do so. Sit on an oblong or other plate. Sprinkle the chocolate splinters over the top of the sticky surface of the cake.

Photo of Henry:  by Grandma

Photo and recipe credit:  The Food Network:  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/nigella-lawson/quadruple-chocolate-loaf-cake-recipe/index.html

Monday, August 2, 2010

Gingered Carrot Soup and a Sunday at Wiawaka Holiday House

Late yesterday  morning I drove up I-87 north toward Lake George.  I got off at exit 21 and took a short ride to the southeast end of the lake and turned into the driveway of the Wiawaka Holiday House.  I've been going there once a summer for the past five or six years, at the invitation of my friend Catherine Golden and her sister Pam Golden (aka "The Golden Girls!").  It was a special day for these accomplished sisters as Catherine gave a lively and informative talk on her new book and a few hours later, Pam dedicated a beautiful sculpture she created to honor this special place.

Pam Golden's Sculpture, Dedicated to Wiawaka Holiday House

Opposite Side of the Sculpture, facing the Lake

The Golden Girls:
Catherine (seated), Pam (L), and cousin Caren (R)

It is obvious that Wiawaka has come to mean so much to the Golden family, and to so many others.  Wiawaka Holiday House opens its doors to any woman who wants to get away for a day or longer.  Their overnight fee is determined by a sliding scale.  For day use, which was for me lunch and a swim, the charge was $25, a great investment in time to stop, relax, and enjoy the absolutely beautiful setting and camaraderie of other women.

View of the Lake from Wiawaka's Boat House and Dock

Yesterday's lunch was soup, salad, and a nice assortment of Rock Hill breads, served with iced tea or lemonade.  There were oatmeal and peanut butter cookies for dessert.  The soup choices were a chicken rice or gingered carrot.  I opted for the carrot soup when a woman came up and said, "I never do this, but this soup was so good, I'm having a second helping!"  That's a pretty good recommendation, and I went with it. The first thing I did when I got home (after spending some time hanging out with my daughter Katie and  grandson Henry) was look up a recipe for this delicious soup.  This recipe, from the Food Network, has earned five stars and most reviewers raved about it, so I'm sharing it with you.


2 tablespoons sweet cream butter
2 onions, peeled and chopped
6 cups chicken broth
2 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 cup whipping cream
Salt and white pepper
Sour cream
Parsley sprigs, for garnish

    In a 6-quart pan, over medium high heat, add butter and onions and cook, stirring often, until onions are limp. Add broth, carrots, and ginger. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until carrots are tender when pierced.

    Remove from heat and transfer to a blender. Don't fill the blender more than half way, do it in batches if you have to. Cover the blender and then hold a kitchen towel over the top of the blender*. Be careful when blending hot liquids as the mixture can spurt out of the blender. Pulse the blender to start it and then puree until smooth. Return to the pan and add cream, stir over high heat until hot. For a smoother flavor bring soup to a boil, add salt and pepper, to taste.

    Ladle into bowls and garnish with dollop sour cream and parsley sprigs.

    *When blending hot liquids: Remove liquid from the heat and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Transfer liquid to a blender or food processor and fill it no more than halfway. If using a blender, release one corner of the lid. This prevents the vacuum effect that creates heat explosions. Place a towel over the top of the machine, pulse a few times then process on high speed until smooth.