Pear and Praline Bundt Cake

Pumpkins and apples seem to steal all the attention when it comes to fall baking, but one of my favorite fruits of the fall season is red Bartlett pears.  They are sweeter than their yellow cousin and their light buttery flavor make them one of my very favorites for both eating and baking.

So this week I brought home a bag of these delicious pears and decided they were so good that I would bake a pear cake. When baking at home I love making bundt cakes because they are a fairly quick cake that is easy to decorate and serve. The pear cake is light so I wanted to add a little decadence with a sweet buttery praline frosting that compliments the buttery taste of the pears.

Pear Bundt Cake (Makes 1 ten inch bundt cake)

  • 2 cups Red Bartlett or Bosc Pears (2 medium pears) peeled and diced into small pieces
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) sticks of butter at room temperature
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup milk

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

First get your pears peeled and chopped and set them aside to fold them into your batter at the end.

Mix or cream your butter at medium speed for about two minutes. Then add in your sugar and continue to beat on medium for an addition two to three minutes until your butter and sugar are light and fluffy.

Next mix your eggs in one at a time until they are each incorporated into the butter mixture. Then add in your vanilla, cinnamon and allspice.

Then add in your baking soda and half of your flour and mix on low until just incorporated. Add in your milk and then the remaining half of your flour being careful not to over mix your batter.

Then using a rubber spatula or spoon fold in your chopped pears.

Grease and flour or spray your bunt pan with Baker’s Joy (my personal favorite for ensuring your bunt cake doesn’t stick). Once your pan is ready evenly pour your batter in the pan.

Bake for 1 hour until golden and a long skewer or cake tester comes out clean. Allow your cake to cool at least 10 minutes before you turn it out of the pan. Then allow it to cool before adding the praline frosting.

Praline Frosting

  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup pecans, chopped (optional)

In a small sauce pan add in your butter, brown sugar and milk. Heat over medium high heat until it comes to a boil. Whisk it as it boils for one minute. Then take your pan off the heat and whisk in your vanilla and powdered sugar. Continue to whisk your praline mixture as it cools for about 2 to 3 minutes.

Then pour or drizzle your praline icing on top of your cake. If you want you can sprinkle on some chopped pecans, but the nuts are optional.

 

This cake is so light and sweet that it would make a wonderful coffee cake. I must admit that I loved it so much that I had a small slice for breakfast with my coffee this morning. If you are serving it for dessert then try adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream for rich and delicious treat. So bake with one of my favorite fall fruits and give this red pear and praline cake a try.

 

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The House of Blue and Other Color Stories

This week marks the third anniversary of our move to Chicago. It was an unexpected whirlwind of a cross-country move, but we had hoped that with time things would settle and we would find our way. Our new home was the one our realtor affectionately called the “Leave It To Beaver” house. A two story green and beige colonial revival meets 1960s ranch style home. It was the first house we saw on our fast paced one weekend real estate tour. We loved the big double doors and the beautiful tree filled yard.

Before: this is the first photo I took of our house when we were looking at homes in the area.

We had big painting plans for our new home, but it has taken time to make it ours. Three years and countless gallons of paint later, we have finally painted everything that I had begun to imagine when I first walked in the door. What started out as a big paint-it-yourself project has along the way turned into a journey. There were times when it felt like with two toddlers it might take me forever to finish, but wall by wall and room by room it happened.

This was my then one year old daughter who hated to nap while I was painting so she fell asleep watching me paint the living room.

The last project we just completed was to finish repainting the exterior, we had painted the doors and shutters a year ago, but we got professional help to finish this last project: the siding and windows. I went with a lighter color called Edgecomb Gray. So the “Leave It To Beaver” house has gone a little lighter and bluer.

After: new hardware and paint have given our house a new look

The house that felt so green and gold and far from home finally feels more like us. There is an emotional undercurrent to color and the sea of blues: from robin’s egg to indigo to turquoise and a few other colors too, have in a sense changed the tide. I wondered for a while if this house would ever really feel like home, but I have learned that a lot of paint and time can make a difference. So for all the trends out there I think it’s important to really ask yourself what colors do you really need and love?

I recently came across a book by decorator, Lori Weitzner, called Ode to ColorIn it Weitzner talks about the psychology of why we are personally drawn to certain colors and how you can use that knowledge to create a happier home. She also has a fun color personality test that she developed with the help of a psychologist. So I took her quiz and found that my color personality is what she calls Waterslide, which translated means many shades of blue.

A favorite photo from my travels. Oh how I love a trip to the beach!

Weitzner describes blue as a color of honesty, and intelligence. I find it to be spiritual and peaceful, but when paired with white it can take on a more graphic presence.

Add a brighter color to the mix and it can take on a whole new vibrance and energy.

Or go bold with a deep inky blue.

So what is your color story? Do you have a color you are just drawn to? If you ever wondered what your color personality might be then click on this link to take the quiz yourself.

We may be done with painting for a while, but we are still writing and creating the story of this house. So the work and fun continues…

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Fall Pumpkins and Planters

Fall is here and there are small hints of color as the leaves are just beginning to turn. Porches and front doors are dressed with brightly colored mums, vibrant green and purple kales and orange berries and pumpkins. As I was out walking in the neighborhood I saw some gorgeous planters dresses up in the most beautiful fall colors, so I thought I would share a little fall gardening inspiration.

Kale and cabbage are some of my favorite fall plants their leaves have such beautiful colors and a sculptural quality to them that makes them a great base for any fall planting. I love the height and pop of color that these orange berries add to these arrangements.

These branches in the center of the planters make these pots fall showstoppers.

The color combinations in these planters were so striking. I love the fuchsia cockscomb paired with the yellow mums and purple kale. The grass adds height and a lovely bit of movement to this arrangements as it sways in the wind.

This trumpet-shaped planter with this metal trellis is so uniquely beautiful . I love the hight and sculptural quality it adds to this arrangement. The chili peppers and the black-eyed Susans add color and whimsy.

This new modern home had these beautiful blue gray window boxes. What a lovely view to see out of your kitchen window. The kale pansies and mums add a touch of fall.

This classic English styled home had a beautiful set of window boxes filled with mums in orange and red that caught my eye.

If the thought of all these planting seems like a little much. Then I also saw some simple but stunning pumpkin planters that would brighten any home.

These white planters with these stacked heirloom orange pumpkins were simply beautiful.

This home had antique metal planters scattered in their garden and they were filled with these fairytale like pumpkin stacks that added a little color and fun to their lovely garden.

These planters and pumpkins are a welcome sign of the season and such a great way to add just a bit of color to your garden or front porch. Sometimes just a few pumpkins or well planted pots are all you need to add a touch of fall’s splendor to your home. Happy Fall!

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Apple Streusel Muffins

The air was crisp; the sky, a brilliant blue. The familiar breeziness of fall was in the air, but the warm sun made you want to linger and forget all about being chilly. So on the first official day of fall our family joined some new friends for what felt like a great Northern right of passage: apple picking. We packed up our car with movies and snacks and headed out to an orchard in nearby Indiana.

The orchard had acres of trees and there was a dazzling array of apples in more varieties then we even knew existed. Since we were naive to this new tradition we allowed our girls to pick as many apples as their large bags could hold, so in the end we came home with nineteen pounds of apples. However, I must admit that there is nothing like the taste of a freshly picked apple.

So we currently have a large basket of apples in our kitchen and we are now eating, baking and cooking our way through them. If you too have been apple picking or just want a taste of fall then I have a recipe to share with you. I love the taste of gingerbread and apples so this week I have been baking batches of apple ginger muffins to create just the right recipe. These apple streusel muffins are filled with sweet cinnamon apples and topped with a crispy oat and brown sugar streusel. They are absolutely delicious!

Apple Streusel Muffins -Makes 12 muffins 

  • 1 1/2 cup apples (about 3 small apples), peeled cored and grated
  • 1 small apple or 1 rounded 1/2 cup of apples peeled and diced
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup of oil
  • 2 tablespoons molases
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup of sour cream

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

First prepare your apples. I used a mix of sweet Gala apples and Jonathan apples which a have a touch tartness to them, but you could use all Gala apples or your favorite. I peeled my apples and then cut them off the core in four segments. Since my apples were smaller it took three apples grated to make 1 1/2 cups. I used my food processor to make the grating quick and easy. Then I peeled and diced my remaining apple into small pieces. Then set your apples aside and work on the muffin batter.

Next in a large bowl of your mixer mix together your dry ingredients including your flour,sugar, baking powder and spices. Then in a small bowl or measuring cup mix together the wet ingredients including the oil, eggs and molasses. Pour the oil mixture into your dry ingredients and mix on medium low speed until the batter just comes together. Then mix in your grated apples and sour cream until they are well mixed. Finally, carefully fold in your diced apples with a rubber spatula or spoon.

Then prepare your standard muffin tins with baking papers or cups. Once you have those ready, carefully spoon about 3 tablespoons of batter into each muffin cup. I use a large ice cream or cookie scoop to make quick and even scoops. Finally, make your oat and brown sugar streusel topping (see recipe below) and sprinkle a tablespoon on each muffin top before you bake them.

Oat and Brown Sugar Streusel 

  • 1/4 cup quick oatmeal oats
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons of cold butter, cut into small pieces

In a medium sized bowl blend together your oats, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Then with your fingers, a pastry blender or a food processor cut or lightly knead in your cold butter. You want to get a fine but crumbly mixture.

Then sprinkle about a tablespoon of your streusel topping on each muffin before you bake them. I had just a little of the mixture left over.

Bake your muffins at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.

The ginger and spice from the muffins will fill your kitchen with the most delicious smell. I baked a batch before I picked my daughters up from school and the moment they walked in the back door they want to know what I had in the kitchen. Admittedly, it’s a little work grating and chopping the apples, but it is completely worth it. Because no baking mix could compare with the taste of the freshly grated apples that almost melt in the batter as it bakes and the taste of sweet apple bits in every bite.

I am savoring the sunshine and these beautiful fall days. These apple muffins and a cup of coffee or tea are a wonderful way to start the morning.  There is something about the rich spiciness of the molasses and ginger with the sweetness of the apples that make this recipe just a little different that your ordinary muffin. The muffins have disappeared quickly in our house, so I hope you enjoy them as much as we have. Happy baking my friends!

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Green Chili and Chicken Enchilada Casserole

One of the dishes I miss most from home is green chili and sour cream enchiladas. Although we have certainly found some good Mexican food in Chicago I have yet to find a restaurant that serves this classic Texas dish. So what’s a girl to do? When I have the time I like to make enchiladas from scratch, but sometimes I want something a bit quicker for a weeknight meal. So this casserole is one of my favorite comfort foods made easy enough to enjoy any night.

Green Chili and Chicken Enchilada Casserole – Serves 6

  • 1/2 cup of yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 1/2 cups of sour cream
  • 1 can (10.5 oz) cream of chicken soup
  • 1/2 cup tomatillo salsa
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups of shredded rotisserie chicken
  • 3 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese, divided
  • 10 corn tortillas (fajita sized)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Next chop your onion and cook it in a small skillet with a tablespoon of butter. Cook your onions until they turn translucent and soft.

Next in a large mixing bowl mix together your cooked onions, sour cream, cream of chicken soup, and green tomatillo salsa. I like the La Victoria brand which has a good flavor, but is not quite as spicy as some of the other commercial tomatillos salsas.  You can use your favorite. I try to keep the chili heat index under control for my family and little ones.

Next add in your cumin, salt, shredded chicken and a cup of your Monterey jack cheese.

Finally cut your tortillas into small bite sized pieces. I like to cut mine into quarters  lengthwise and then cut them so I have about 12 bites sized pieces from each tortilla.

Add your tortillas into your sour cream and salsa mixture making sure they get coated and mixed in well.

Then spread your tortilla mixture evenly into the bottom of your greased 8×8 inch baking pan. Then evenly sprinkle the remaining two cups of cheese on top and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the cheese is gold and bubbly.

This is also one of those dishes that you can make ahead and have waiting for you in your fridge. Just add an extra 15 to 20 minutes to the baking time if it has been refrigerated.

While your enchilada casserole is cooking you can make a little fresh pico de gallo as a topping or to serve on the side.

Avocado Pico de Gallo

  • 1/2 cup of tomatoes chopped
  • 3 tablespoons of red onion finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup of avocado chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of cilantro chopped
  • 1/2 of a lime, juiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


Mix together your pico de gallo and either serve it on top or sometimes I like to serve it on some shredded lettuce as a side.

Food has the unique ability to take you places. It can allow you to travel great distances to try new flavors or go back to a time gone by. However, I have come to appreciate that sometimes the best dishes are the ones that take you home and let you share a small piece of that with others. This isn’t a fancy recipe, but oh the cheesy green chili goodness! I hope you enjoy this taste of Texas as much we do.

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Oatmeal Raisin Spice Cookies

These cookies will have your house smelling like fall and the holidays as they bake and once you taste them it will be nearly impossible to eat just one. The cinnamon, allspice and applesauce gives them a delicious spicy flavor and the butter and brown sugar create a chewy, but moist cookie. My husband had to ask me to hide the leftover cookies, because they are so good that you will want one for breakfast or just because you walked in the kitchen. I have been working on perfecting this oatmeal cookie for the past year and countless batches later I think I have just the right recipe that will be a family favorite for years to come.

Oatmeal Raisin Spice Cookies (Makes 14 Cookies)

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, leave out at room temprature for at least an hour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 3/4 cup of flour
  • 1 cup quick cook oatmeal
  • 1 cup of raisins (not a raisin fan then I have tried these cookies without the raisins and they were were still good oatmeal cookies)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

First in the bowl of your mixer mix together or cream your butter and sugar at a medium high speed until they are well blended and the texture is light and fluffy. Next mix in your egg, applesauce and vanilla. Then add in your dry ingredients including your spices, baking powder, baking soda, salt oatmeal and flour. Blend on low speed until just incorporated. Finally add in your raisins.

Then I like to use a cookie or cream scoop to make sure my cookies are all even in size. For these cookies I used a larger scoop that holds three tablespoons of cookie dough. Then take your ball of dough and flatten it slightly so it looks like a little disc or mini hockey puck.

Bake your cookies for 12 minutes or adjust as needed because every oven is a little different. You will know they are done when you see the tops of the cookies crackle evenly and they will just barely turn golden on the edges. I find cookies bake better when I bake just one pan at a time in my oven.

Leave them on your pans to cool and then once they are cool you can drizzle them with the vanilla icing.

Vanilla Drizzle Icing

  • 1 cup powder sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon water

In a small bowl mix together your powdered sugar, vanilla and water. Then place your icing in a pastry bag and cut a small hole to evenly drizzle your icing on the cookies or if you don’t have a pastry bag then use a ziplock bag and cut a small hole in the corner to make your own pastry bag.

The best part about this recipe is that it is easy to bake, which makes it a great recipe to make with kids. Crisp on the outside but chewy and soft in the center these cookies will have you at first bite.

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The Best Cook In the World And A Southern Styled Blackberry Cobbler

I just finished Rick Bragg’s new memoir about his momma, Margaret Bragg called The Best Cook In The World: Tales From My Momma’s Table. Bragg is a masterful storyteller who will make you feel like you have pulled up a chair to his momma’s kitchen table to hear all the best family stories and recipes. A story that begins with an unexpected heroine his grandmother Ava, a woman who at first hated cooking so much that she nearly starved her husband. Each tale will have you loving his momma and her family more as you discover her life’s great truth that “There are few hard times on this earth…that cannot be eased with good savory food.” Margaret believes good food can feed the soul and a home cooked meal is as she tells it is “life’s greatest luxury.”

In this day and age of of restaurants and gourmet takeout she reminds you that there is something about being in the kitchen: hearing a skillet sizzle, watching a biscuit rise, tasting a warm pecan pie and talking around the table. There is more to an oral family history than just words. Her culinary legacy isn’t filled with fancy ingredients, but love and memories shared. As she likes to say, “things just taste better with a story on the side.” This is one of the best books that I have read in a long time. As good books do, it will leave you thinking about your own family history and wanting a second helping.

So to give you a taste of this great book, I thought I would share her recipe for a Southern styled blackberry cobbler. The ingredients are simple and it takes just a little time to let the blackberries create their own “likker” or sauce but the results are worth it.

Blackberry Cobbler With A Drop Biscuit Crust 

  • 2 1/2 cups blackberries (Note: I used 3 1/2 cups because I like my cobbler to be filled with berries and it took that many berries to really fill the bottom of my 8 inch pan)
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 stick of butter, melted
  • 2 cups self rising flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

In a medium sized covered dish or bowl combine your berries and sugar. Then place the berries in the fridge overnight or for 6 to 8 hours till they create their own sugary sauce.

Next preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Then in a medium sized bowl mix together your melted butter, flour, milk and salt to create a biscuit like topping.

I found it helpful to let my batter sit a few minutes, because the self rising flour thickened up a bit.

Then pour your berries and all the juice into a greased 8 inch square baking pan.

Then pour and spread the biscuit batter on top with a separated spatula or or drop rounded tablespoons on top.

Then bake till bubbly and golden brown on top. (About 40 to 45 minutes)

Margaret notes that this cobbler is good all on it’s own, but as cobblers go I have found few that aren’t even better with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

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Summer Flowers

“Happy are those… who find joy in the sky, the trees, the flowers. [For] there are always flowers for those who want to see them.”

-Henri Matisse

There is wisdom in those words, for those who look for beauty and joy in this world will surely find it. I am not a master gardener. Truthfully, I am just beginning to understand how to plant and tend a garden up North. However, it’s my love of flowers that keeps me in the garden trying new things. This year the day lilies I spent an entire weekend moving to a sunnier spot and for the record nearly gave up on, surprised me with an outrageous mid-summer show of seemly endless orange blooms.

There were more pink lilies this year. Some of my favorites, but they got a bit upstaged by all the orange lilies, so I will find a new place for them next year.

I have learned that caladiums, which are easy to grow in shady southern gardens are best not started as bulbs up North. It takes too long for the ground to get warm. I used to take that for granted, but sometimes when spring is cold you need a little head start from a greenhouse or nursery.

This year I discovered these polka dot plants that are originally from Madagascar, but they seem to like summer here in Chicago, who knew. Their spotted foliage has added some color and pattern to my shady back patio.

Annabelle hydrangeas whose blooms last all summer long and fade to a lovely green in the late summer and fall are definitely one of my Northern favorites.

There were surprise flowers that popped up all on their own and I must say I like these little purple flowers, even if I cannot tell you their name.

However my favorites have to be the dahlias I planted this spring. After the success of my tulips I decided I would try planting Dahlia bulbs. I have long loved these colorful show-stopping summer flowers, but it was too hot on the gulf coast for me to try growing them before. So when we lost a tree out front and I had an open sunny spot I decided to plant a mix of vibrant mix of pink, fuchsia, and coral.

A ‘Lake Tahoe’ Dahlia whose layers upon layers of coral petals are gorgeous. What a gift they are to see in bloom.

They have begun to bloom and oh the happiness of seeing them out my front window.

A   fuchsia “le baron” dahlia covered in early morning dew.

The best gardeners I am learning are the ones who love and celebrate each brilliant bloom, and patterned leaf, because each season and garden has a story to tell. How grateful I am for the summer sun and the flowers that continue to surprise me and bring me joy.

 

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Mini Strawberry Cream Cheese Cakes

This year for my youngest daughter’s birthday I decided to make something a little different that your usual tiered birthday cake. I needed to work with our temporary mini fridge situation so I decided to make mini cakes. A little more special and fun to decorate than a cupcake, but as easy to make as a standard sheet cake. My daughter was thrilled with the idea of having her own little cake to herself and I have to agree with her these petite cakes are just a little more fun. No need to trim or spend extra time covering the sides of these pink cakes, because the best part about these mini cakes is how easy much easier they are to frost and serve than a large layer cake. Summer strawberry season here and these cakes would make a fun dessert to serve and share.

The birthday girl with her absolute favorite pink balloons.

Strawberry Cake (Makes one 9x 13 sheet cake or 6 mini cakes) 

  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2  1/2 cups cake flour
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2  1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 (3oz) box of strawberry jello
  • 1 cup of fresh strawberries pureed

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

First, I like to prepare my strawberries by removing the stems and then chopping the berries in half. Then I put my berries in my mini food processor, but you could also use a blender. I then pulsed the berries till they were like a thick jam with some tiny even bits of berry. Then set the berries aside to mix in the batter later

Next using your mixer beat together the sugar and eggs on medium speed for about a minute. Then add the flour, milk, oil, baking powder, sour cream and vanilla and mix until just incorporated.

Line the bottom of a standard 9×13 inch cake pan with parchment paper and spray the sides of your pan with baker’s joy or cooking spray. The pour your cake batter into your prepared pan. Give your pan a few taps on your kitchen counter to ensure you don’t get any air bubbles as it bakes.

Bake the cake for 30 minutes. Keep a close eye on the cake because you don’t want to over bake it. You can check the doneness by testing the cake with a toothpick. If the toothpick comes out clean the cake is done. Let your cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes then turn it out of the pan to finish cooling on a wire rack. You want your cakes to be completely cool before cut and frost them.

Cream Cheese Icing

  • 1 Stick of Softened Butter (I usually let it sit out of the fridge for an hour)
  • 1 (8oz) Softened Brick of Cream Cheese (I let it sit out with the butter)
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla
  • 4 Cups of Powdered Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon of Milk

In the bowl of a mixer cream the cream cheese and butter. Add the powdered sugar vanilla and milk. Mix on high speed until the icing is smooth and fluffy.

Now once you have your frosting ready you can ice your sheet cake and cut it into squares or you could do something a little more fun and cut out six circle cakes. I used a three inch diameter glass that I lightly sprayed with butter flavored cooking spray to cut out my cakes.

These are my cut mini cakes. I was able to make six with a 3 inch diameter but you could make at least two more if you cut your circles slightly smaller.

Now split your mini cakes in half like a biscuit and place some frosting in the middle to create a cake like sandwich. Then place a smooth layer of frosting on top using a separated spatula or butter knife.

Cream cheese icing is just the best with fresh strawberry cake.

Then because our cakes were for a celebration I made some fondant strawberry decorations using three 4 ounce mini container of pink, green and white fondant. I have instructions on how to make these fondant strawberries and flowers here.

Here you can see where I was deciding on the pattern for my design.

If you are short on time or you want to skip the fondant decorations then just place a fanned out strawberry on the top.

No matter how you decorate it these, it’s a fun take on a classic family favorite and a great mini birthday cake. So think outside the box a bit on your standard sheet cake and try making a mini cake instead.

 

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Our Refrigerator’s Last Cry

Picture from Abt Appliances

When we returned from vacation last week at eleven o’clock at night, my husband opens the door and calls out “Amy, you need to come hear this.” “Hear what?” I was unloading my tired, but still very awake daughters from their car seats. Maybe it was the excitement of being home or a few too many M&Ms and gummy bears from the airplane that had them still going, but getting out of the car had been tough. Then when I finally stepped in the kitchen I heard it: the last cries of our refrigerator.

As I was investigating what happened, I opened up the freezer and discovered half melted popsicles. A sure sign that something was wrong. Hoping a power outage was to blame I looked over at the oven clock, but the numbers weren’t flashing and everything else in the kitchen seemed to be running fine. Too tired to deal with it all, we hauled in the luggage and went to bed.

The next morning the sound was gone and now all we heard was this faint whimpering buzz. Hoping this meant good things, I opened the freezer and found the ice cubes were melting and now leaking out of the ice and water dispenser. Upon inspection the fridge was what I would call lukewarm. We had just paid to have an unrelated problem with the fridge repaired two weeks before this. Surely this was not a good sign.

Oh the sadness of having to clean everything out of my fridge and freezer.

We went out to Best Buy to purchase a mini fridge. Frustrated with our old fridge we also took some time to look at new refrigerators. We optimistically took home print outs of new counter depth refrigerators we thought would fit our space. Then just when we had decided to move on and purchase a new fridge I made a terrible discovery while measuring: all the new models were at least three inches taller than our old cabinetry allowed. So I called the repairman out again. The same gentleman who had helped repair it before was back, but unfortunately the outlook on fixing the fridge looked bleak. The sound we had heard was the end of our compressor. So now we have a new challenge finding a fridge.

The only models that fit our existing space are the tall skinny refrigerators made for small lofts or studio apartments. Sure those svelte chrome beverage fridges look pretty, but what about room for all those condiments I love to cook with and there certainly isn’t room for a big soup pot in there. These models might have worked in my single years, but now it would be a problem. There is no room for the four gallons of milk we go through a week. Somehow in the last five years the standard refrigerator has grown taller. Gone are the slightly shorter models that worked with our now vintage cabinetry. So we are going to have to get creative with the existing cabinet above the fridge and find a way to wedge a new refrigerator in that space. I am crossing my fingers and saying a few prayers that the smallest model out there works, but in the meanwhile I feel like I am back to college living out of a mini fridge. Serving what I affectionately call market to table meals served fresh from the grocery store each day.

I am reading Rick Bragg’s memoire about his mother called The Best Cook in the World and there is a part in the book where he talks about how many stoves his mother has cooked out, burned out or used to the last spark. His mother lives in the country so she has kept all thirteen of them as a reminder. I am sure my neighbors and husband would object to keeping our fridge as a memento, so I will just have to document it here. I have officially cooked or frozen my way through one refrigerator. After this let’s just hope it’s a while before we need a new one. Meanwhile, my new mini fridge is inspiring renewed creativity with cooking and blog posts. I have a few things that I planned that will have to go on the back burner for a bit, but I am back from vacation and hungry to write and cook more.

A picture from our vacation in New Mexico. I am trying to remember the pretty views and not think about the two to three weeks it’s going to take to get our new fridge.
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