Wrangling Recipes – A Fun Cake!

Wrangling Recipes – A Fun Cake!

Who could resist making a cake with the name Chocolate Peanut Butter Fun Cake? Not I! It was Saturday, and I was hauling trash out of going through the magazines in my office, and I stumbled upon a Bon Apetit magazine from the 1950’s March of 2012. So I leafed through it, ripping out recipes that looked good, and I stumbled upon the aforementioned cake.

The photo in Bon Apetit that totally captivated me.

The photo in Bon Apetit that totally captivated me.

What got me, though, was the writing above the OH so yummy photo – “This vegan batter is generously versatile: The pastry chef uses it for wedding cakes and cupcakes, too.  Funnily enough, its recipe is similar to one from the 1930s for something called a Depression cake.” ~ Nathanial Meads

Vegan. Cheap to make. I was SO in. Plus, chocolate. Hello! (As well, Father’s Day loomed the following day!) So I made the ridiculously easy batter with ingredients I always have on hand (all purpose flour, sugar, natural unsweetened cocoa powder, kosher salt, baking soda, vegetable oil, vanilla, chopped bittersweet chocolate) and made the cake.

Let me tell you, licking the spoon after the cake was in the oven was – well, heaven. Rich chocolate with bits of kosher salt? SWOON-worthy!

Peanut Butter Fun Cake, made by Moi from the recipe in Bon Apetit, March 2012.

Peanut Butter Fun Cake, made by Moi from the recipe in Bon Apetit, March 2012. Okay, so the chocolate isn’t shaved…it still looks yummy, right?

The hardest bit to do was the peanut butter buttercream for the topping. It was involved (double boiler, anyone?) and used egg whites, so there went the vegan thing. But the oldest son LOVED licking the bowl clean after I frosted the cake.

My reaction to the cake? The cake itself was dense, chewy, lovely and rich with that hint of salt that made everything FANTASTIC. The icing was a bit much – rich and peanutty and overwhelming. But I was the only one who felt that way – the others were too busy scarfing it down. My oldest son has already decided I should make this cake for his every birthday. My husband said let’s not restrict it to birthdays, so my middle son pencilled in September (birthday month) and January (New Year’s) for the cake.

This is the very first time anything I’ve made has been scheduled for a remake, so far in advance. I guess they liked it!

What about you? Do you have any recipes that the family clamors for? Please share if you can! Oh, and if you want the recipe for the cake, go here to Bon Apetit. Enjoy – er –

bon apetit! 

~ Until the next time, cheers! ~


It Takes Skill to Kill a Cabbage

It Takes Skill to Kill a Cabbage

It really does take skill to kill a perfectly grown cabbage, but I apparently have that skill down pat.  But let me ease you into the horror…

Here’s a photo of my beautiful ruby cabbage, just after being picked.

The garden haul on June 8th. Ruby red cabbage, squash, potatoes, and bell peppers. Yum! (Tomatoes in the background are from the 7th of June)

The garden haul on June 8th. Ruby red cabbage, squash, potatoes, and bell peppers. Yum! (Tomatoes in the background are from the 7th of June)

It was a great day to harvest in the garden. I decided that the cabbage was looking a bit “done” with growing, so decided that Sunday was The Day.  I didn’t have a clue as to what to do with it, but I didn’t want the bugs or whatnots getting to it before I could, so I decided to deal with how to fix it later.

When I picked said cabbage, I found the plant marker that came with it when we bought it, and on the back side was a delicious recipe for sweet and sour ruby red cabbage. Perfect! The Answer to my Prayer! How could I go wrong?

It’s An Art. Ruining Cabbage.

No, seriously. I can usually make anything taste good, but I’ve found you need to pretend  to follow the directions. Especially in regards to proportions. (Who knew?!)

Okay, so the recipe goes like this – 1 2lb red cabbage, sliced thin (about 12 cups); 1/4 c butter; 6 Tbsp sugar; 2/3 c balsamic vinegar; salt & pepper. And proceed as you would expect.

I fell in love with the patterns inside the cabbage.

I fell in love with the patterns inside the cabbage.

The problem? I had one cabbage. Not two pounds. Certainly not twelve cups. But I forged ahead anyway. Pan? Check. Melted butter? Check. Cabbage? Check. In it all went, along with the sugar.

Cabbage, simmering in butter and sugar.

Cabbage, simmering in butter and sugar.

Six tablespoons of sugar didn’t seem like a lot until I was on tablespoon four. And then suddenly, six seemed like too many. But I’d put in the requisite 1/4 cup of butter, so the six tablespoons of sugar seemed necessary. So I went ahead and did that. As well, I added the 2/3 cup of balsamic, stirred it, put it on low and covered it. Thirty minutes? Seemed like a lot of time, but okay.

By this time, the house started to smell like cabbage. With a heady balsamic scent, yes, but…unmistakably cabbage. I began to remember why I liked my cabbage in salads.

I’m not totally sure what happened after that, but I think I was on the computer. Or maybe I was reading…At any rate, the buzzer went buzz and I went to check on my masterpiece.

Um. Well…crispy. Crunchy. Kind of like molasses-covered, fried-in-butter cabbage, only not really. The juices were thick and black as tar. The cabbage was either burned, crispy, or raw. (Not sure how that happened.) I served it at the dinner table, because I wanted the boys to understand that even Mom has a bad day cooking but you should try everything once.

We tried it. I tossed it. A novelty dish that threatened the health of your teeth AND tasted of cabbage? Yeah, no.

(I will say the EPA came around that night, having got wind of something unusual on their smell-o-radar coming from my house. After insisting it wasn’t my youngest son’s room with its dirty laundry, I confessed about the cabbage. They took it away to study. Better them than me!)

Here’s the sticky mess, in all it’s glory…I snapped this photo before the EPA took it away.

Carmelized cabbage. A new taste treat? Prolly not...lol!

Carmelized cabbage. A new taste treat? Prolly not…lol!

Eldest son spent most of Monday afternoon scrubbing the tar – I mean, the carmelized balsamic – out of the pan I cooked it in. He napped for almost two hours afterward, poor dear. And so the carmelized cabbage goes into the family notebook about bad dishes served with enthusiasm. My hubby still teases me about the Spam casserole, and that was 35 years ago!

So what disaster in the kitchen have you had recently, or has someone served you? Let’s laugh!

And just for fun, ANYONE who wants one can have an e-copy of either one of my books (or both!), Demon Soul or Demon Hunt, and my short short, Blood Dreams. Just let me know, leave me your email address, and I’ll send it to you!

~ Until the next time, cheers! ~


Demon Soul and Demon Hunt are available for the Kindle and Kobo! Have you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?

My New Go-To Salad Dressing

My New Go-To Salad Dressing

Salad Dressing. Until lately, I did without – at least, at home I did. My best friend, Tammy, always used to make her own dressings without using a recipe – because her mother always did the same. Me? I tend to go for bare greens. But they can get boring.

So, since I’m determined to cram more salad eat better, and since that includes leafy greens, I have been turning to a brand new-to-me dressing.

a photo of lemon curd.It’s a citrus-based salad dressing. Using, of all things, lemon curd. Very simply, you put a lump of lemon curd, add in a splotch of whole grain Dijon mustard, a couple splashes of rice wine. Whisk that all together until the lemon curd isn’t lumpy any more, then drizzle in olive oil while you’re whisking it. Voila – a sweet-tart salad dressing that you can use on just about anything. (Brussels sprouts, anyone?)

Now, please note that I don’t give you amounts. Why? Because when I first used amounts, I made way too much dressing and ended up throwing most of it away. Err on the stingy side of things with the lemon curd, and you’ll cut your calories down. If you don’t have rice vinegar, feel free to use white wine vinegar. I never have that in the house, which is why I use rice wine vinegar. For some reason, I have two almost-full bottles of the stuff. If you don’t want to use whole grain Dijon mustard, feel free to use any dijon-type of mustard like Grey Poupon.

I was in Cost Plus World Markets a couple days ago (I LOVE their kitchen section!), and found an embarrassment of fruit curds available. I never knew they came in other flavors!  Lemon curd, two different kinds and sizes and prices; key lime curd; raspberry curd. Don’t they sound delicious? Don’t they make you yearn for summer and an excuse to bring a bright flavor to your salad?

This dressing plus a bag of 50/50 lettuces equals a nice, big salad for four people.  Sprinkle that salad with some citrus pieces, add a small handful of sliced almonds, toss a handful of the jewel-bright seeds of the pomegranate – mmm. Tasty!  Just keep divvying it up onto plates until the bowl is empty – then fill the rest of the plate with broccoli, perhaps, and a small piece of poached fish. Voila – put a nice Pinot Grigio behind that, and you’ve got a healthy meal.

And if you want to bring out your inner domestic diva and make fruit curds of all kinds for yourself and friends, there are plenty of recipes out there – just give it a google and you’ll see.

In the meantime, my family is eating more salad than ever. And they’re enjoying it more, too. Let’s hear it for (hopefully not too fattening) salad dressing!

What’s your favorite recipe, or do you tend to buy the bottled? I’d love to know!


Demon Soul and Demon Hunt are all available for the Kindle and Kobo! Have you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?


Wrangling Recipes: The Best Scrambled Eggs

Wrangling Recipes: The Best Scrambled Eggs

It’s taken me almost 40 years to learn how to make the best scrambled eggs. That ubiquitous breakfast food, the food that most tender tummies can handle, the very first comfort food I remember shouldn’t be so difficult to make.

In my 20s, I went through phases of adding – milk, heavy cream, sour cream, cream cheese. I tried them one at a time, but none of these really made the eggs taste better. So then I thought, it must be the pan I’m using – and promptly absconded with the small copper-bottomed skillet that my mom used to use. Nope. Not the flavor I was looking for, sad to say.

Mom’s small skillet. Probably bought in the mid-1960’s. Purloined from her house in the mid 1980’s.

In my teens, I spent one memorable Spring Vacation at a friend’s beach house in Laguna Beach while my parents were in Oregon, and my friend’s older really cute brother made us scrambled eggs and he put everything in them. Cut up pieces of salami, cheese, onions, bell pepper, mushrooms, worcestershire sauce, and a little bit of mustard were stirred into a whole dozen eggs before they ever hit the hot, sizzling pan. That is still my second favorite way to have scrambled eggs.

In our first house, my husband found a small skillet in the dumpster behind our condo complex, a perfectly good pan that looked like it would be perfect for omelets. So for years, I made my eggs in that pan, and it served. And slowly, I forgot about my quest for the perfect scrambled eggs.

Pan rescued from Dumpster, late 1980’s early 1990’s.

Then, this year I was talking with one of the geologists in my office about cooking, and he said to me, you know the secret to good scrambled eggs? My whole body sprang to alertness, like a hound dog on a scent. I begged him to tell me.

Fat. A good solid pat of butter or tablespoon of olive oil in the bottom of the pan, melted over high heat. Then once the eggs go in, cook them as fast as you can. The less time on the heat, the better.

I took his words to heart and went back to looking for the perfect scrambled eggs. But it wasn’t until, in desperation, I ended up using a cast-iron skillet about six inches across that I got closer to perfection. And once I just kept stirring the egg, dragging the fork through it again and again and never lifting that fork from the pan, that I got it even closer.

Small cast-iron skillet with bits of breakfast egg still inside. Added to the kitchen late 1990’s, during our camping/cast iron love affair.

The last bit that sent the eggs to perfection? Taking them off the heat when they were still just a little bit shiny. I’d been so used to cooking them until they were dull that it never occurred to me that I was over-cooking them. The first time I served the eggs that way, my oldest son and I had an epiphany over them.

“Good eggs,” he muttered.

“Oh yeah,” I answered back. (Our epiphanies aren’t very eloquent.)

They were very slightly buttery, light, creamy and perfect.  To recap – Good pat of butter + cast iron pan + high heat + quick cooking and lots of stirring = Nirvana Scrambled Eggs.

I discovered how to make the perfect scrambled eggs…and it only took me 40 years to do so.  The lesson to be learned? In the words of Winston Churchill…”nevah, nevah, nevah give up”.

~ Until the next time, cheers – and remember to drink responsibly! ~

Demon Soul, Blood Dreams and Demon Hunt are all available for the Kindle! Have you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?


Wrangling Recipes: Fish Tacos, Part Two

Here’s the first Fish Tacos blog post. But since it had been awhile, I thought I’d give them a try again, with a twist.

The hubby found this terrific recipe for panfried fish that was light, crispy, and very tasty. I decided to take that recipe and make fish tacos from it.

I used Tilapia (got it at Costco – lots of fish!) and cut it into chunks. The order is this; dry fish; cut fish into chunks; coat in flour; salt and pepper; brush with beaten egg and water wash; dip in panko crumbs; fry in a little bit of peanut oil until done.

Serve the fish sticks (because that’s exactly what they looked like) on a platter, and pass around corn tortillas, fresh-from-the-garden chopped tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and pepper, green salsa, shredded cheese, chopped lettuce and slices of lime if you desire. Supplement with tortilla chips and refried beans topped with a little cheese and a dollop of sour cream.

We actually drank sparkling wine with this – a lovely Piper Sonoma Blanc de Blanc, $11.99 at Vons. While a margarita may have been more fitting, the sparkling wine really did a wonderful job.

If you want this to go vegetarian, take a 16 oz bloc of Very Firm Tofu, slice it in half horizontally, then  again into “sticks”. Put in a glass bowl, cover with your favorite salsa to marinate. Let sit in fridge for 30-60 minutes, turning at least once. Then proceed as above with the frying, only omit the flouring and seasoning – do try the panko, though, as it makes the tofu nicely crispy.

Since tofu has no flavor on its own, you really have to marinate it in order for it to have a flavor. If you like, you can simply marinate in a lemon/lime juice and chopped cilantro mixture. Whatever makes your taste buds happy!

How do you make fish tacos? I’m always looking for new recipes!

Wrangling Effort: Easy but time consuming

Taste: Very Good

Make Again? Absolutely – though maybe as fish sticks, lol!

~ ~ ~

Demon Soul, Blood Dreams and Demon Hunt are all available for the Kindle! Have you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?

Wrestling with Recipes – Vegetarian

Wrestling with Recipes – Vegetarian

Sorry about the lack of blog posts the last couple of weeks. I’m finding healing takes up a lot of energy! I am, however, getting a lot of work done on my latest book, so that’s a plus.

But as I get stronger, I am at last cooking again and enjoying it. Getting adventurous. So, yesterday I made this terrific recipe that ended up being more of a pain than it needed to be. (Afterwards, I was a zombie. And it wasn’t the wine I drank that made me a zombie! I guess I need to cook something less ambitious for now.)

Cover of Vegetarian Cook BookI’d bought this book called Vegetarian, over 300 healthy and wholesome recipes chosen from around the world, pubbed by Metro Books with Nicola Graimes listed as the Consultant Editor. (If you click on the link, it’ll take you to Amazon.)

So there’s no one driving Chef force behind the recipes, which may account for the rather randomness of it. And while this is a Vegetarian cook book, they use a lot of dairy and eggs and cheese throughout, which surprised me. Plus there’s NO nutritional information, so don’t go looking for it.

There is, however, a comprehensive introduction and discussion on the basic vegetarian whole food diet, the essentials you need for good health, and over 100 pages on The Vegetarian Kitchen and what to stock and why. Interesting reading, and I’m glad I picked it up in the bargain bin when Borders was going out of business. (Sniff…I miss my Borders!)

Anyway. I’d found this meal in the book called Potato Rosti and Tofu with Fresh Tomato and Ginger Sauce (pg. 312). Since we’re trying to eat a couple meals a week meat-free, and since I have a back yard full of tomatoes, this looked like a good start.

My first hangup? The recipe called for 3 3/4 cups of tofu, cut into 1/2 inch pieces. How do you buy 3 and 3/4 cups of tofu? I went by weight, only later realizing that weight doesn’t equal – well, never mind. I wish they had just said buy one 16 oz block of Tofu. I ended up buying 32 ounces of tofu (two 16 oz blocks) – which frankly was 16 ounces too many (but they were on sale, so I lucked out).

Then the recipe had me marinating the cut-up pieces in a TERRIFIC marinade – but there wasn’t enough marinade, so I had to double the recipe. (I’m finding that to be true very often. Is it just me? Or do recipes tend to skimp on marinade amounts?) After an hour of marinating, scatter on a cookie sheet then bake until crispy, 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven. Um, let me just say – there is no way, even with turning, that you’ll get crispy tofu in an oven. No way. The only way, in my experience, to get crispy tofu is to fry it. If I’m wrong I’d love someone to explain how to do it! My tofu, after baking, was still soft (and yes, I used extra firm).

The rosti was fun – 2 lbs of potatoes cut in large chunks and boiled, cooled, then grated into shreds. Season with salt & pepper, then form by hand into potato cakes, and fry in a thin layer of oil for 6 minutes per side. This recipe made more than we needed, and we ended up using the leftovers for dinner tonight – but would be spectacular with breakfast, as well.

Then there’s a sauce – you add the marinade to 8 chopped up tomatoes and some olive oil in a hot pan, and cook the heck out of it. The recipe called for me to strain the sauce to get rid of the skins, but by that time I’d been in the kitchen far too long to do such nonsense. (By the way – this is a long slog in the kitchen. Easily two hours, with minimal time to just sit and stare at nothing. This is not a recipe you want to make on a busy weeknight with the kids screaming in hunger.)

Two rosti, a scatter of tofu, and topped with the delish sauce. Add a tossed green salad, and it was a wonderful meal. EXCEPT – when I make this again, I will split a cake of tofu in half width wise, then cut in quarters before marinading. None of this 1/2 inch crap. After marinating, I’ll probably dip it into some – oh darn, forgot the name of it…rice based dry stuff – anyway, dip it in that and then fry it quickly for the crispy.

I might add an egg to the rosti, just to keep the potato cakes from separating so easily in the pan. That was a minor headache.

All in all, the men loved the dish. LOVED it. It was a light and yet filling meal, with an label for Alexander Valley Vineyards ChardonnayAsian flair that everyone appreciated. The hubby and I shared half a bottle of Alexander Valley Vineyards 2010 Chardonnay, regularly $18.00 but on sale for $11.99 at Vons. A terrific addition to the meal, though a Sauvignon Blanc would have worked as well.

This is the first recipe I’ve made out of this book, and I think before I make another one I will read the recipe carefully and see where the traps are for the unwary cook. I’d much rather change something up as I go, than buy ingredients I don’t need.

Wrestle Factor (time + grrr moments):  ~ High ~  
Taste/Likeability Factor: ~ High~
A Remake? ~ Yes, Absolutely, With Variations ~

Do you have cookbooks that you always have to “fix” the recipe? Or are you a slave to how it’s written? AND – What’s your favorite cookbook? With the advent of the internet, I do a lot of last minute “what do I want to make tonight” searches, but I still prefer to skim through a cookbook in my lazy time and think of filling happy bellies. What about you?


Thanks so much for stopping by! If you like this post, do let me know. I’m thinking about having a regular feature on recipes if there’s any interest. Of course, I may do it anyway, because I’m like that, lol! Cheers, and remember to drink responsibly!