“Vegetarian?”…. “Occasionlly.”

Hummus w/ Pita

Healthy eating in my opinion should really be referred to as “healthier eating”. Very few of us are going to hit 100% in our attempts at super-dieting.

While the ultimate goal may be to turn into a lacto-octo-vegan overnight and never stray, I tend to support a gentler, more user-friendly approach.

Instead of cutting out meats entirely, try substituting a veggie meal a few nights each week. You will be leaving less of a carbon footprint…improving your health as well!

This week I made some spicy homemade hummus, paired it with pita and arugula salad, a rich tomato soup + a great Cabernet… and no one noticed that it was a meat-free meal. In fact, I think it was preferred!

 Hummus

Combine:
2 Cups cooked Garbanzo beans (Prepared dried & cooked, or canned) 1/2 cup liquid reserved
3/4 Cup drained Tofu (cubed)
2 Tablespoons Tahini
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 Teaspoons Organic Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
5 cloves freshly pressed garlic
Sea salt to taste ( usually about 2 Teaspoons)
Fresh hot pepper to taste
1/4 Teaspoon Cumin
1/4 Teaspoon Coriander

Top with:
1/4 Cup fresh Parsley
Serve with:
Whole grain pita bread
Fresh vegetables

In food processor, combine ingredients, blending until smooth. Add reserved liquid as needed. Hummus should have a thick, peanut butter-like consistency. Taste, and season accordingly. Serve topped with chopped parsley –  tucked into toasted whole grain pita bread with vegetables of your choice. (English cucumbers and roasted red peppers are especially good!)

Tofu adds a great protein boost to this terrific meat substitute. It is “de-lite-ful” change of pace!

“No meat…still a treat!”

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“Dream Cake” – The Perfect Basic All-Butter Cake

The tenderness and moistness of this cake make it beyond compare – like a cloud. It has been a family favorite for decades and has served as a basic recipe for coconut cakes, lemon-orange cakes, cupcakes, birthday cakes…even wedding cakes!

It is typically baked in a sheet pan,  but  also works perfectly when layered with lots of delicious icing. Be sure, though, to handle super-gently if placing on a stand and frosting, since the very delicate texture has a tendency to crumble.

If you are a fan of a Southern favorite – black walnuts – nothing provides a better, buttery batter for traditional black walnut cake than this recipe. Especially when topped with  fluffy, boiled coconut frosting. Too good!!!

 All-Butter Cake

Prepare a 13 x 9″ oblong baking pan or 2 9″ layer cake pans by greasing and lightly flouring.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together:
2/3 cups butter
1 1/2 cups sugar

Beat in:
3 large eggs

In separate bowl, throughly sift together:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp. taking powder
1/4 tsp. salt (1/2 tsp. if using unsalted butter)

Stir above mixture into creamed butter, shortening, & eggs alternately along with:
1 cup whole milk
2 tsp. vanilla

(If a “white cake” is preferred, use four large egg whites, saving yolks for another recipe! While the taste will not be quite as rich, it is still delicious.)

Beat together until light, fluffy and silky. Pour into pans, spreading evenly and bake approx 35 minutes, or until cake passes the “toothpick test”.  It will be golden on top. Allow to cool in pan for at least 15 minutes before removing due to the fragile consistency.

This recipe is sure to become a family classic to all that give it a try. It’s versatility is unsurpassed!

“Life is far too short to eat
cake from a box.”

"Dream Cake"

A Love Story (Prescription for Romance!)

Shopping bag, circa 1989

Such a homage to my old love…

A few days ago, I needed an acceptable-looking shopping bag to transport a few small items to a local consignment shop. While rummaging through my drawers, I discovered an old Prescriptives Cosmetics tote that had been carefully wrapped in tissue paper and tucked safely away. Inside was a sales receipt from long ago. It evoked a flood of memories.

The sales slip showed a charge of $74.55. The purchase was made at Bullock’s department store in Westwood, California – October 7, 1989. Almost 22 years ago. One eyeshadow and two lipsticks. Preparation for an  important event.

The date that night was very special. My eyelids had to have an elegant, soft shimmer – nothing glittery –  and my lipstick,  an expensive “taste”, just in case he kissed me (sigh). Two tubes were required, should I have a last-minute desire for a deeper or lighter shade. Everything had to be perfect. Price was no object.

On this day of reflection, I think about the wonderful teenage excitement anticipating my “big date” years ago, but then have to face the reality that I was 29 years old at the time.

Now I have a better understanding of why I am still single.

“Forever I will remember the sweetness of that first kiss” 🙂

…and, yes, I still love him.

Super-Easy and Elegant Dessert

The secret ingredient

2-Minute (or less!) Dessert

Sometimes simplicity is the key. You can’t go wrong with understatement…as long as everything is absolutely perfect.

For a can’t-be-beat, never-fail dessert – one that can be whipped up (literally) in minutes, and allows variations according to tastes and seasons – this is one to remember!

All you need is some plain Greek yogurt (full-fat for the richest flavor), homemade, whipped heavy cream with an ample shot of natural vanilla extract, fresh fruit of your choice, and pound cake, shortbread cookies, or macaroons.

Mix equal parts of the whipped cream and yogurt until fluffy, assemble in a chilled parfait or dessert glass – layering or topping with cake or cookies and fresh seasonal fruit. Raspberries, strawberries, peaches…whatever you like and what ever is in season, and preferably local. Sprinkle generously with Confectioner’s sugar.

Serve with coffee or espresso. Amaretto optional!

“The best things in life aren’t necessarily free,
sometimes they’re just easy.”

A Cocktail to Remember

Here is a re-post from my Facebook account. It is a vodka/rum drink, with a bit of an island flair, called the Brown-Eyed Susan – a huge hit on the internet, and a favorite from a wedding I attended 2 years ago at the Marriott Ranch in Hume, Virginia. (Beautiful place!)

The bride was kind enough to share her recipe with me. Delicious!

Brown-Eyed Susan
1 1/4 Cups highest-quality Vodka
1 1/2 Cups Light Rum
3/4 Cup Triple Sec
Juice of 2 Limes
4 Cups fresh Orange Juice
4 Cups Pineapple Juice
Lime Wedges, Maraschino Cherries

Mix first 6 ingredients together. Pour over crushed ice. Decorate with lime slices and Maraschino cherries…and don’t forget cocktail straws. Enjoy!
(Serves as many as can handle it!) 🙂

                                              
                                            “One (at least) for the party!”

  

 

Mayonnaise Fancies

The Classic "Mayonnaise Fancy"

Growing up in the 1960’s, processed food was not avoided, but encouraged, and we took advantage of its deliciousness at every chance.  In my home, a favorite sandwich ruled, one which involved only three ingredients – the Mayonnaise Fancy. While the ingredients were few, they were three very special ingredients. The assembly of the sandwich was not to be taken casually, and the accompanying beverages were key to the success of the “Fancy”.  And, of course, presentation played a major part in the simplistic perfection of this delicacy.

The “Mayonnaise Fancy” was as basic as it gets – cheap white bread, mayonnaise, and butter. That’s it. Bread, mayo, butter. The bread had to be fresher than fresh. Preferably the store “house” brand and almost gummy in texture. First the bread was cut into a desired shape with a cookie cutter (we liked stars and hearts… sometimes horses) to “seal” the edges and add style, or fanciness. No trace of crust allowed! The cut-outs were generously buttered before being spread with a thick layer of mayonnaise. Only one brand was ever used – Hellmann’s (Best Foods on the West coast) – ample amounts required. When all was finally brought  together into a sandwich – Voila! – magic on a plate.

The Mayo Fancy was generally served with ice-cold whole milk. However at holiday time, when cut into tiny shapes, with itty-bitty cookie cutters, it was magically transformed from just a sandwich,  into an elegant hors d’oeuvre – and tasted all the  better accompanied with Brut Champagne!  But then, what doesn’t?

                                                      “Viva la Fancy!”

Banana Cream Pie w/Coconut

Banana Cream Pie w/Coconut (Woman's Day) 1965

This is an old-fashioned,  creamy and delicious recipe that requires a little work, but is well worth the effort. The first rendition was published in Woman’s Day “Encyclopedia of Cookery,” Volume 1, circa 1965.  Their version was “richened-up” a little by my grandmom. Grandmoms always seem to have a way of making good things even better! 🙂
Use either a classic short pie crust, or graham cracker,  if you prefer. Both are guaranteed delicious! (I haven’t allowed my brain to think of a chocolate crust…yet.)

Banana Cream Pie w/Coconut

1/2 cup sugar                                               6 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt                                       1  3/4 cups whole milk
3/4 cup half & half                                          1 extra-large egg or 2 yolks
1 tablespoon butter                                   1/2 + teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 – 4 ripe bananas                                       1 baked 9-inch pie shell
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream             1/2 cup shredded coconut,
Confectioner’s sugar                                    sweetened and toasted

                                      

Mix sugar, flour and salt in top part of double boiler. Gradually stir in milk and half & half and cook over boiling water until thickened. Stir continually. (A whisk makes it easier.)

Cover and allow to cook for 10 min. Stir occasionally.

In separate bowl, beat egg and slowly add a small amount of heated milk mixture to temper egg and avoid separation;  then gradually whisk egg – milk mix into double boiler and cook for 3 – 4  minutes over hot, not boiling, water, stirring constantly. This should render a thick, smooth pudding.
 
Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla; allow to cool slightly –  to about room temperature.

Slice 2 – 3 bananas evenly into baked shell. Make sure your bananas are perfectly ripe, yet firm. Pour cooked pudding mixture over bananas, all  at once. Chill for 1+ hours – until completely firm.
 
Spread coconut on baking sheet and toast in 350 degree oven for approx. 10 minutes or until lightly browned. (Be sure  to check frequently!) Stir from time to time. Remove when golden brown.

Just before serving, whip whipping cream. Add confectioner’s sugar and vanilla to taste.  Spread a thick a layer of freshly whipped cream over chilled pie – covering pudding to the edges, evenly. Peel remaining banana and slice into rounds. Arrange slices attractively all around the edge/crust. Sprinkle toasted coconut generously in center of pie, and lightly on plates before presentation. I like placing a few pieces of banana on the plate as well. The more the merrier!  Makes 6-8 servings…sometimes.

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