Simple Mocha Cake

Hi all– I’m afraid this isn’t much of a recipe– more like just a tip about putting instant coffee into your cake mix & frosting to give it a rich mocha flavor.  But I promise if you try this simple cake, you’ll have a hard time not licking your plate.  It’s crazy delicious!

SIMPLE MOCHA CAKE

Cake:
1 dark chocolate cake mix
1 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
2 tsp. instant coffee (about 2 small packs)

Frosting:
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 tsp. instant coffee (about 2 small packs)
1/4 cup dark chocolate unsweetened cocoa
8 oz. cream cheese
1 tsp. vanilla
1 pound box powdered sugar (about 3 3/4 cups)
1-2 tab, water if needed
garnish:  stemmed cherry!!

 

With an electric mixer beat together the cake mix according to the directions on the package–mine used 1 cup water, 1/3 cup oil and 3 eggs.  Them mix in the 2 tsp. instant coffee.

Spoon the batter into two 8″ or 9″ cake pans that have been sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes until the cake is firm to the touch.  Cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, melt the butter in the microwave and then mix in the cocoa and instant coffee.  Then with a mixer beat in the cream cheese vanilla and powdered sugar.  Begin mixing on the lowest setting until the sugar has started in incorporate (or you will have sugar flying everywhere!).  Up the speed of the mixer to blend thoroughly.

If the frosting seems too dry, add 1 or maybe 2 tablespoons of water (be careful it’s easy to add to much water and end up with running frosting!)

Frost the bottom layer.   Add to top layer and frost away the top and sides.  Add cherry and it ‘s done!

 

Red Lentil & Black Bean Chili

Hello there– I try not to be too too bossy when I write to you, but today I do want to overstep and  strongly recommend that you try this recipe!  It looks a little plain, no chocolate or bacon involved…  But it’s a new favorite around here.  Hearty enough with all those black beans and lentils– and it’s the flavoring– smoked paprika and roasted red peppers… that make it so savory good.  Also avocados always help!

RED LENTIL & BLACK BEAN CHILI
3 tab. olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 carrots, chopped to small pieces
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tab. chili powder
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tab. cumin
3 bays leaves
6 cups vegetable both
2 cups lentils
14 oz. can petit cut tomatoes
14 oz. can tomato sauce
7 oz. can salsa verde (Herdez)
2  14 oz. cans black beans, rinsed
14 oz. can sweet corn, rinsed
12 oz. jar roasted red peppers, chopped*
1 tab. honey
salt  & freshly ground pepper to taste
garnishes (take your pick!):  avocado, sour cream, grated cheddar, cilantro, quest fresco, a squeeze of lime, tabasco sauce…

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot and throw in the onion bits and chopped carrot.  Cook until the onions are soft and then add the garlic.  Cook 1 minute more.  Add the chili power, smoked paprika and cumin. Cook two more minutes until they are fragrant.

Add the lay leaf, broth, cut tomatoes, tomato sauce, lentils and salsa verde to the pot.  Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a rolling simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the lentils are tender (but not mushy!).

Finally stir in the black beans, corn, chopped roasted red pepper.  Taste and see if you need to add some salt & pepper (I did add a little of both).  Simmer for 10 more minutes to heat it all through.  Serve piping hot with the garnishes you like…

*Roasted red peppers are the best price at Trader Joe’s and come in 12 oz. jars!!

Thankful Today

Hi Friends– Here’s my morning yesterday– I walked by those freesias on the table and was surprisingly thankful to see them fresh and bright.  I didn’t plant them.  Someone before us in this house did.  But for 23 years, jugfuls have popped up every spring.  They’re a gift every year.

And it made me thankful– for small things all day.  Sitting in the sunshine eating frozen yogurt with my mom.  Face timing with Lois (and her mom while she folded the laundry).  Green hills and snow on the mountains to the north.  A quiet dinner at the kitchen table with Larry.  Bright funny friends who come in on Monday nights to talk & pray.  And rest at the end of the day knowing God’s great love and mercy.

There’s more. But that’s enough to fill a heart. So thankful.

Lemon Rolls

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Hello all– Got this recipe from my sis (the REAL baker in the family) years ago.  In fact, when her son was still a school boy he made the rolls with cinnamon (instead of lemon) and won a blue ribbon at the Orange County Fair!  (Shout out to Matt!)

So if you want some tender, bright, prize winning rolls on your table, give these a try!

LEMON ROLLS

Sweet Dough:
1 package dry yeast (1 tab.)
1 cup milk (120-130 degrees)*
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup oil
1 egg, room temperature
3 1/2 cups flour (plus a little more for kneading)

Filling:
6 tab. butter, melted
1 cup sugar
4 tab. grated lemon peel (from 2 lemons)

Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tab. grated lemon peel (from 1 lemon)
2 tab. lemon juice

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Warm the milk to 120-130 degrees.  Mix it with the yeast in a large glass mixing bowl.  Stir in the 1/2 cup sugar, salt, oil and egg.  Then stir in the flour.  When it’s mostly mixed, knead the dough with your hands for 4 or 5 minutes.  If it gets sticky, sprinkle on a little more flour and keep kneading…

Cover the bowl with a damp dish towel and set it in a warm place** for 75 minutes until the dough is doubled in size.

While it’s rising, mix together the filling–melted butter, 1 cup sugar and 4 tab. grated lemon peel.

With a rolling pin, roll out the dough on a counter that is sprinkled with flour.  Roll until it’s about 10″ by 30″.  Spread the lemon/sugar filling to cover the dough from edge to edge.

Roll the dough starting to roll on the long side.  Cut the rolled dough into 12 rolls (to make them larger) or 18 rolls (for smaller rolls) and lay them into a 9″x 13″ baking dish*** that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

Cover the rolls again with the towel and let them rise for 45 minutes in a warm place.

Then pop the rolls in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.

While they are baking, mix up the glaze, powdered sugar, 2 tab. grated lemon peel and lemon juice.  Drizzle the glaze over the rolls warm from the oven.  Delicious hot from the oven with a mug of tea.

*My microwave warms the milk to about this temperature in 1 minute– it should feel just about as warm as you’d want for a baby’s bath.
**For rising the dough, I turn the oven on for just 3 minutes until it gets to about 130 degrees and turn it off.  Then set the covered dough in there to rise.
***I used two round smaller tart dishes instead of a 9″x 13″ pan–prettier for serving.

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P.S.  These are really at their peak the moment they come out of the oven.  And as much as I am against microwaving any kind of bread (heaven forbid!)– These can use 8 seconds in the microwave, if they are day old, to make them tender and hot for breakfast the next morning.

Italian Chopped Salad

 

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Hello all-  Took this salad to dinner with a table full of friends on Valentines Day.  A big Italian feast.  Jill made us all wear large heart name tags (ala Julia Child) and Tim was ready with the go ’round questions after dinner–
What’s the most romantic things your spouse has ever done??
What about you, most annoys your husband/wife??
If your spouse were famous, what would he/she be known for??

It was a a delightful evening, 12 old friends, most of us married around 40 years, and I appreciated my Larry all the more by the time the evening was over.

And– we had this bright salad–full of a lot of my favorite tastes.  It’s hearty enough to be dinner on its own– or just part of a big festive dinner with friends!

ITALIAN CHOPPED SALAD

Salad:
6 cups chopped green leaf lettuce*
1/4 pound hard salami, thickly sliced & chopped
3 oz. feta with herbs, crumbled
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/3 cup bell pepper, chopped
14 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained & rinsed
1/2 cup good mixed cured olives

Dressing:
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tab. white balsamic**
1 tsp. honey
3 tab. parmesan romano
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

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Spread the greens in a large salad bowl and top with the other salad ingredients.

In a container with a closed lid, shake together the dressing ingredients until they are thoroughly blended.  Pour over the salad just before you are ready to serve and do just a bit of tossing to coat all the salad.  (This amount makes 6 servings)  Enjoy!

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(Almost) Winter in Madison!

 

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Hi hi– back from a week with our Laurel in Madison, WI.  I booked this trip anticipating snow up to my waist, icy winds and swirling snowflakes.  But, surprise!, it was all sunshine and balmy days.

Even without snow, it was a sweet time with that girl of ours.  Laurel is the best best travel buddy.  Here’s what we do — tourist, shop, eat.  Repeat.  So here’s a little of each in the dead of Wisconsin winter!

Our winter “touristing” included frozen lakes, state park look outs and a woodsy museum.

Here we are astride Lake Menona (don’t ask me why I thought that was a good idea!)

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Brave people ice fishing on the lake– and ice at the lake’s edge.
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One afternoon we ambled along a trout stream.
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Laurel and John up the look out tower– and we did find real snow–piled in the parking lot!!
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After touring the Aldo Leopold Museum (early ecologist), we took a soggy trek back to the home in the woods we shared with his wife and 5 kids!
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John’s trusty jeep carried us through the woods,gorgeous fungi on the forest floor.
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Through the forest, just before a flock up enormous sandhill cranes passed over head– It was a so magical!
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We squeezed in a little shopping–kitchen store, books stores, thrift shops, the indoor winter farmer’s market along the way.
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And you know we found some good things to eat –starting with morning coffee & scones.
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Friday “Fish Fry” at the Tip Top Tavern–and a humongous pretzel at the Grumpy Troll Brewery
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Indian breakfast at the indoor Farmer’s Market
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And Laurel pulled together a Wisconsin cheese tray feast when friends dropped by…
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And one last P.S.– Thanks to our awesome nephew Shawn– who surprised us with the best seats for a Maroon 5 concert in Milwaukee– a big serendipity!!  We felt like rock stars ourselves!
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So thank you, thank you Laurel & John– you are always so warm and welcoming. Love you.  xox
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Pecan Pie Coffee Cake

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Hello– I love those industrial size bags of pecans from Costco.  A couple years, my mom has given me Costco bags of pecans and walnuts for a birthday gift (she knows what I love!) and it feels luxurious having all those nuts ahead in the cupboard.  Sad to say, making this cake, I poured out at the last dregs of pecans. Time to restock!

And the cake– sweet and rich because you poke holes in the baked cake to let the “pie sauce” seep down inside.  And then there’s all those pecans!!  Perfect for breakfast coffee, or add a scoop of ice cream for a fine dessert.

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PECAN PIE COFFEE CAKE

Cake:
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick), room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup unflavored yogurt
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1  1/4 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup buttermilk*

Topping:
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
1 egg
garnish:  powdered sugar

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To make the cake, beat together the 1/4 cup butter, sugar, yogurt, egg and vanilla with an electric mixture until it’s smooth.  Then beat in the flour, baking powder  and salt.  Finally beat in the buttermilk.

Spoon the batter into a 9″ cake pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Put it into a 350 degree  oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until it is firm to the touch.

For the topping, mix together the corn syrup, brown sugar, melted butter, pecans and egg until it’s thoroughly blended.

Poke holes into the cake with the handle end of a wooden spoon.  Then drizzle the pecan topping over the cake, letting the syrupy part fill in the holes.

Pop the cake with the topping back into the 350 degree oven for 10 minutes more. Sprinkle powdered sugar over the cake sifting through a sieve.   Delicious served warm from the oven!

*If you don’t keep buttermilk (who does?), pour 2 tab. cider vinegar in your measuring cup and add milk to make 3/4 cup.  Let it sit a few minutes to thicken.

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