Cranberry Cream Cake

IMG_2813Hi friends– It’s that time of year when I can’t go to the market without dropping a bag of cranberries in my cart.  I think it’s because I know, soon, they won’t be around so I have to grab them while I can.  They always go into my absolute favorite orange cranberry bread first.  But there’s a whole lot of delicious ways you can use these little guys, including this yummy cake!

I have to say that his cake is just begging for a party– or a good Thanksgiving dinner!!  It’s bright and creamy, sweet with a little tartness in the cranberries.  Pretty and Pink!


1/2 cup cranberries
3 tab. sugar
1 white cake mix
3 eggs

Cream layer:
1/2 cup sugar
1 tab. cornstarch
1  1/2 cup fresh cranberries
1/2 cup water
1 pint heavy cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3 oz. box of instant vanilla pudding mix

IMG_2825For the cake layer,  mince the 1/2 cup cranberries to little bits– this is the hardest part! They keep rolling off the cutting board!  Then mix them in a small bowl with the 3 tab. of white sugar and set them aside.

Make the cake mix according to the instructions on the box.  Beat the batter for 2 minutes with an electric mixer and then fold in the cut up cranberries into the batter and spoon it into a 9″ x 13″ baking pan or two round 9″ cake pan* that have been sprayed with cooking spray.

While the cake is cooking, make the cranberry “sauce.”  In a stovetop pan, mix together the 1/2 cup sugar and cornstarch, until the cornstarch is all blended in.  Then drop in the 1 1/2 cup cranberries and 1/2 cup water.  Simmer them over medium heat, stirring as you go until it’s bubbly and the cranberry skins all pop.  Takes about 4 or 5 minutes.

Set that aside to cool.  (I usually spoon it into a heat proof bowl and stick it in the fridge to cook quickly).

When the cake and the cranberry sauce are cooled– Use an electric mixer the whip the cream and the 1/2 cup powdered sugar.  When it’s very stiff, stir in the box of pudding mix.  Then swirl the cranberry sauce into the cream, folding it in gently to leave streaks.

Top the cake with the cranberry laced cream and pop it into the fridge until you’re ready to serve it up.

*I use spring form pans because they are deeper to hold all that cream as you spread it on and you can removed the cake from the pan more easily to serve it…

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Pumpkin Pecan Bran Muffins

IMG_2756Hi friends– My most frequent “stress dream” is always the same.  I’m working on dinner for a crowd waiting hungrily in the next room,  and I can’t get it done– I’m trying to summon up dinner from 2 oranges and a can of beans or I’ve lost the turkey…

Well, my nightmare finally came true!  The family was here for a birthday dinner and I realized when it was bout time to eat that my oven was dying!  The roasting potatoes and the corn soufflé was totally raw!!  Ugh.

The bad new is a couple days later I was having 30 friends for breakfast and no oven— The good news is that the world’s best neighbor Trisha let me use her oven.  The crazy news is her house is in the middle of a total remodel, so I was dashing in and out amid the construction crew with tins of muffins and pans of coffee cake…

But it all came out OK (Thank’s Trisha!!)– and these are the muffins– good for a post Thanksgiving breakfast to use up that leftover pumpkin.  They are delish!


4 tab. butter, melted
6 tab. brown sugar
2 tab. white sugar
6 tab. flour
1/3 cup pecans, chopped

1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup flour
1 cup wheat bran
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2/3 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup currants

IMG_2757First make the streusel.  Melt the butter in a mixing bowl (microwave).  Then stir in the 6 tab. brown sugar, 2 tab. white sugar and 6 tab. flour. Chop the 1/3 cup pecans and set all this aside.

In a larger mixing bowl, stir together the pumpkin, egg, 1/2 cup brown sugar and canola oil.  Them mix in the 1 cup flour, wheat bran, baking powder, salt and pumpkin pie spice.
Last, fold in the peans and currants.

Spoon the thick batter into 10 to 12 muffins cups lined with cupcake papers*.

With your fingers, break up the streusel into coarse crumbs over all the muffins and then sprinkle the 1/3 cup chopped pecans over the top.

Pop them into the oven at 350 for 15 to 20 minutes– until they are firm to the touch.

Delicious hot from the oven, or cooled with a bracing mug of tea.

*If you live in socal– Sprouts has the best muffin papers– a pretty light  brown parchment, slightly waxed to the muffins never stick.



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The Kitchen Counter Cooking School



Hello Reading Friends– A few weeks ago our Lit Group settled in for breakfast at an Italian coffee shop to celebrate our 30 year anniversary of reading together!!  Everyone brought a book to recommend and I snatched the copy of The Kitchen Counter Cooking School from Debbie and dug in that very afternoon. Thanks Debbie for the loan!  Here’s what I found…

The author, Kathleen Flinn, returned from studying at Le Cordon Bleu Cooking School in Paris a bit at loose ends, no job in mind.  But one day at the market she noticed a woman with a cart burgeoning with ultra processed foods.  She couldn’t help but say to the shopper, would you like me to help you replace that cartful with some healthful ingredients for simple meals?  Surprisingly the shopper was intrigued and so new project began…

Flinn recruited 9 volunteers to come to her kitchen counter cooking school.  First she visited each of their homes and they talked through their food on hand, cooking and eating styles…  Then they all came together for a series of classes on all the cooking basics– knife skills, baking bread, cooking fish, soup…  with a healthy dose of “food tastings’ thrown in. How do 9 kinds of olive oil compare???

As the weeks pass, the new cooks evolve in their skills– and as they did, I picked up a whole lot of techniques and tips as well.  There were, of course, some great basic recipes to build upon.  So many good resources, I know I need to go out and buy my own copy of the book to keep in my kitchen!

It’s sort of a cooking manual with a fun story line to keep you reading…

So back to the Lit Group– after our breakfast bookish “show & tell,”  we headed out to The Bookman– the kind used book store you can get lost in, nearby, followed by lunch to talk over all the new reading we’d picked up.  Reading and eating.  It’s what we do best!

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Thanks Lit Group Reading Buddies for the fabulous day out– and all those reading recommendations– Here’s to another 30 years of reading together!

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Chili (with beer & bacon!)

IMG_2706Hi there–  I wish I could say we were avid football fans– and we had this super chili recipe to serve up to all our football fanatic friends while we cheered on our team in front of the t.v.  But actually, we go to one one Cal Berkeley game every fall to hang with our kids– and if some kind hearted friends include us in their super bowl party, we’re all in!

But I’m imagining this is the kind of chili that would go just great with football.  So if you love football (& chili) and want to have a big pot of something hearty & warming to serve your football watching friends, well, here it is:

4 strips bacon, cut to small bits
2 yellow onions, chopped
big splash of olive oil
2 pounds coarse ground beef*
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tab. cumin
1 tsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. chili powder
12 oz. bottle of beer (India pale ale– or your favorite)
2 14oz. cans petit cut tomatoes (with garlic & herbs)
2 14 oz. cans of chili beans
1 tab. brown sugar
Salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped finely
1/4 cup cornstarch
for garnish– sour cream, grated cheddar, green onions, more cilantro…

In a soup pot, cook the bacon until it is crisp and then remove it from the pan.  In the bacon dripping, cook  the chopped onions and take them out as well.

Drop the beef into the pot and cook it 5 or 6 minutes until is is all  browned.  Spoon off any extra fat that is in the pan.

Add in the garlic, cumin, paprika and chili powder and stir to coat the meat.

Then mix in the beer, tomatoes, chili beans, and cilantro and set the pot to simmering slowly for about 30 minutes.

In a container with a tight fitting lid, shake together the corn starch and 1/2 cup water.  Stir it into the chili to thicken the broth. Drop the bacon and onions back into the pot!

Serve it piping hot topped with cheddar or sour cream or green onions or cilantro (or any combination there of)– along with a slab of cornbread and a bright salad.  Football watching ready!

*When I went in to the get the meat from the butcher, I expected to find coarse ground beef for chili, but no.  They had “shredded beef steak”–   chunkier than I had planned.  But in the end it turned out great!  I think any chopped beef would do…

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Cranberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

IMG_2725Hello there– I made a couple of these coffee cakes for a Thanksgiving breakfast with about 30 girl friends from church.  It was a grand morning.  They all streamed talking and laughing and pulling out phones to show the the latest grand-kid pics.

We sat down to breakfast all over the house and spilling out from room to room.  Then Sue and Carol tuned up their violin and guitar for some sweet Thanksgiving hymns and we talked and prayed through all our Thanksgiving blessings.  I love those friends– so thankful.


Cranberry topping:
1/2 cup sugar
2 tab. cornstarch
1  1/2 cup fresh cranberries
1/2 cup water

Cream cheese layer:
8 oz. cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg

Cake layer:
1  cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup sour cream
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla

IMG_2731Make the cranberry topping first.  Stir together the 1/2 cup sugar and cornstarch in a stove top pan until the cornstarch is all dissolved into the sugar.  Then drop in the cranberries and water and bring it to a simmer stirring for 5 or 6 minutes until the cranberries all pop their skins and the sauce thickens.

Set it aside to cool.  (I put it in another cool pan and stuck in the fridge to cool– just because I’m impatient!)

Next, make the cream cheese layer.  With an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese, 1 egg and 1/4 cup sugar until it’s smooth.  Set that aside as well.

For the cake, Stir together the 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder and salt.  Then mix in the oil, sour cream, egg and vanilla.

Spray a 10″ round pan or a 9″ square (I used my 11″ flatter tart pan) with cooking spray.  Then spoon the cake batter into the pan.

Gently scoop the cream cheese mixture over the cake batter.  Then drizzle the cranberry sauce over the top of the cream cheese layer.

Put it into the oven at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.

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Giving Thanks

IMG_0634Hello all–  How was your week?  Have you bought a turkey yet?  Planning pies?   Hope you have cozy plans for Thanksgiving ahead with family and friends…

We’re gladly anticipating Thanksgiving here–Of course, I’m deeply thankful for our smallish but cozy home, for our family far and wide, for dear friends and usually pleasant jobs.

And for small things– like the camellia’s blooming early this year in the yard, pumpkin bran muffins on the kitchen counter, yesterday’s breakfast with friends, but there’s really something much more…

I’m profoundly thankful for God, immense enough to create the universe with a word and at once, able to know the secrets and prayers of my heart here in my small corner.  What could be more truly awesome than that?  I am so very thankful to know him and be his.

“for in Him, we live, and love and have our being.”   Acts  17:28  So true.




P.S.– Last weekend the Grand-girls (and their parents!) were here, we spent an afternoon drawing on the kitchen floor to fill this year’s Thankful Heart Chart.  Those girls are thankful for mom & dad, for birthday cakes & Little Mermaid costumes, for donuts and Harry the dog…
And I’m so very thankful for them.

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Chocolate Pumpkin Streusel Bars

IMG_2671Hi all– November baking often ends up one pumpkin recipe after another.  I can’t help it.  And my absolute favorite pumpkin baking event is stirring up 30 loaves of pumpkin bread with my 4th graders the day before our Thanksgiving break!

It’s a pumpkin-palooza! Five teams of bakers are skittering up to my supply table for sugar, eggs, pumpkin, mini chocolate chips (their favorite ingredient)– Eggs are cracking and flour is flying!! I always have to apologize to the janitor at the end of the day.

It’s just great to send them out the door for their Thanksgiving break with that pumpkin-y loaf to share with their family.  They are so proud.

But back to this recipe!  It involved a more sedate baking situation– me alone in my kitchen–less exciting, but even more delicious. And this time it’s tender, streusel topped little pumpkin laced cakes, topped and filled with chocolate bits, little sweet taste of Thanksgiving.


2/3 cup flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
6 tab. butter
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips*

2 cups flour
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup mini chocolate chips

IMG_2666First, prepare the streusel.  Mix together the 2/3 cup flour, 2/3 cup brown sugar and  cinnamon.  Then with a pastry blender (or two forks) cut in the butter until it resembles coarse sand.  Stir in the 1/2 cup chocolate chips.  Set this aside.

In a new mixing bowl, stir together the 1 cups flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder and salt.  Then mix in the oil, white and brown sugar, egg, vanilla and pumpkin.  Fold in the chocolate chips.

Spoon the mixture into a 9″ x 13″ baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Sprinkle the streusel over the stop and pop it into a 350 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes until the bars are firm to the touch.

Let them cool a bit and the cut into tidy little squares.  Pumkin-y good.

*I had a nice chocolate bar someone had given me so I chopped it and mixed it in with the mini chocolate chips for the topping on the streusel.


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