Friday, September 19, 2008

Cake in a Corning Ware Bowl

A recipe for “cake in a mug” has been going the rounds of the cyber world. There are many variations of the recipe and I was intrigued by them. Obviously this was going to need some serious taste testing! The premise of this idea is that you can just mix up the batter in a mug and then microwave it and presto! Almost instant cake! Well, yes and no. I made one recipe that started with “scratch” ingredients. I greased my mug and nuked it despite my concern that there was no leavening in the recipe. I was right – I had an inedible mess. I took one taste and into the garbage it went. I’m not usually that picky with something that purports to be a dessert – but this was just awful! It was almost enough to make me abandon the project but I’m made of sterner stuff that that. I decided that if we were going to try to make an almost instant cake why was I even trying to make it from scratch. I went the cake mix and pudding mix route and whoo boy – junk food heaven! And easy too. I also decided that I didn’t want to risk breaking my mugs so I tried it in a Corning Ware Bowl. Easy to eat too! I’m going to make up bags of this and send them in a care package to my nieces and nephew in college. The directions that follow assume that a college student is following them.

Cake Mix:

Mix one box of any flavor cake mix with one small (4 serv.) size box of instant pudding (in a compatible flavor). Measure ½ cup of this mixture and put into sandwich size bags with 1 teaspoon Just Whites Egg powder (you can find it in the baking section of the supermarket – who knew?) If you are making this for yourself and not sending it off to a student in a dorm, you can eliminate the egg powder and use one egg white and only one T. of water when making the cake.

Frosting Mix:

Put ⅓ cup powdered sugar in another zip lock bag. You can add some cocoa mix, tang, lemonade mix or other flavoring to the sugar if you want. Use more or less depending on taste and what the flavoring is. I used about 1 1/2 tsp. of Nestles Quik for the frosting in the pictured cake.

Instructions for the student:

Grease or oil a Corning Ware Bowl or other microwavable bowl. Empty the bag of cake mix into the bowl and add 2 T. of water and 1 T. of oil. Mix it up with a fork that you’ve “borrowed” from the cafeteria. (I know it’s done – I used to work in a college cafeteria, all kinds of things mysteriously disappeared). Maybe you can figure out how to get the oil from the cafeteria too – otherwise you might have to actually buy a small bottle of cooking oil. (I plan on including a small travel size bottle of oil and a Tablespoon measure with the care package). Anyway – once the lumps are out of the batter and it is smooth, put the bowl into the microwave. Nuke it for 1 minute on high if you have a high power microwave or up to 1 minute more if you have a low power one. It’ll take some experimenting to determine the right time. You don’t want the cake doughy in the middle but you don’t want rubber either!!

While the cake is in the microwave, add about ½ of the Tablespoon measure of water to the bag with the frosting in it. Close the bag and squeeze the bag until it’s mixed and free of lumps. Cut off a corner of the bag and frost your cake when it comes out of the microwave.

Wait a few minutes to eat your cake so that you don’t burn yourself. Ask me how I know this. Oh, and you don't have to be fancy and put it on a plate - you can eat it right out of the bowl!


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Eastern Shore Yarn Crab Crawl (guest blog)

My daughter Amy wrote another guest blog post for me. So here's a little taste of what the yarn experience is like in the Maryland area! Note: Grandma got some great granddaughter pictures!!


Some of the yarn shops in my area have decided to get together and host a yarn crawl for the month of September. It is eight (seven) different shops up the eastern side of Maryland and one in northern Delaware. You buy a special tote bag with a post card and as you visit each shop, you get the card stamped/signed. If you get the card filled by the end of the month, you get entered into a grand prize drawing. I think there may be littler drawings at each of the shops, but I’m not certain how that works. Oh, and you get 20% off of any yarn you buy when you get your card stamped.

Day 1

On Thursday last week, my friend Jean and I went and started our yarn crab-crawl. We started at the farthest shop first, a place called The Fine Needle (a house surrounded by pine trees) in Snow Hill, MD. It took us several hours to get there, but it was a lovely place with a lot of nice yarn and quilting materials.

Next we went to Cambridge, MD to go to the Fibre CafĂ©. It was a nook of yarn nestled inside an art gallery, which had some cool metal crab sculptures that Jean really liked. Abigail was asleep so we didn’t spend much time there.

The next area had our last three stops for the day. One in St. Michaels called Frivolous Fibers, and two in Easton. Frivolous Fibers had some really cute baby sweaters knit up and had a lot of neat local art in the front of the shop.

The first shop in Easton was not really a shop, but the home of a local dyer called the Sanguine Gryphon. She normally does her business online, but I’m really glad she opened her doors to us this month because her yarn is fabulous. If you get a chance to visit in September, I highly recommend it. I should have bought some yarn for my mom there. (Ed. Yes she should have!!)

The last shop was the Yarn Co. They’ve done some neat things with novelty yarns as accents in garments. I liked a top with ribbon yarn running through it, but she doesn’t have the pattern available yet. Since our visit, they’ve decided to drop out of the yarn crawl.

Day 2

This Thursday was a much more relaxed day. We had the two closest shops on our list to get to. First we went to the Yarn Shop in Chestertown, MD. I think they are going to teach needle tatting at the store so I bought some tatting supplies in hopes that I could convince my mom to teach me tatting.

The second shop was called Vulcan’s Rest in Chesapeake City, MD. It turns out that they aren’t too much farther from me than Stitches With Style so I’m sure I’ll be back again. Abigail made sure of that when she threw her ring toys somewhere in the depths of the yarn, never to be seen again. It also looks promising that I could get spinning lessons there. Vulcan’s Rest compliments SWS nicely so I’m sure I’ll never be in need of the perfect yarn.

The eighth shop is Stitches With Style, my LYS in Newark, DE. I haven’t gotten my card punched there yet, but I’m sure I’ll be there several times before the end of the month. My favorite part is the huge wall of sock yarn and it always seems like they have a new one each time I go.

We had such a great time. I hope that the shops in the area get together again next year. Oh, and how did my budget fare? Slightly worse than planned, but not too bad. I can make two pairs of socks, carry a sock-in-progress in my new paint can, learn to tat, and make a couple of toy moles.
y sent me a picture of her first needle tatting projects!! Another tatter is born!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Friday Food - Oops, It's Saturday

I've been working on a post about cake in a mug but I feel that more taste testing is necessary before sharing my absolute favorite recipe. Hee, hee. The Compadre is enjoying the process. By the way, I went back to my blog to use the recipe for pickled beets and found that I must have been imbibing when I wrote that recipe down. I was so wrong that there wasn't any hope for it. I've corrected it and if you copied it please correct your copy, otherwise you'll have very weird pickled beets!

So I've decided to share an old family favorite with you. This is my Mom's potato salad recipe. It's the gold standard that I compare any deli potato salad to. And the deli stuff never measures up! Potato salad is a very personal thing. Some like is heavier than this but I've never served it to anyone that didn't like it. Except for my son John who wouldn't even try it because he won't eat anything with mayo in it. His loss. Hope you like it!

Mom's Potato Salad
Serves 12-16
3 lbs. Red Potatoes (7-8 large or 8 cups cooked and sliced)
1/3 c. Italian Dressing
1/2 tsp. Salt (I always leave the salt out)
1 dozen hard cooked eggs, sliced
1 cup sweet pickle relish, drained (I use dill pickle relish and like it better)
1/2 cup thinly sliced radishes (can omit)
1 cup sliced celery
1 cup chopped onion
Dressing (see below)

2 cups mayonnaise (I used Miracle Whip and cut the amount a bit)
1 cup Sour Cream
2 Tbsp prepared mustard
1 tsp celery seed (Mom omits this but I don't)
1/4 tsp pepper (or a few grinds on the pepper mill)

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. You can save out a couple of the hard boiled eggs and arrange slices on top to garnish. Sprinkle with paprika if desired. Serve and enjoy!

This recipe serves a crowd but is easily divided. I always make a mess of the kitchen when I make it but it's worth it!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Pretty Flowers

Last week we took my Mom to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum for her 85th birthday. She was just thrilled. We ate lunch at the Arboretum and had dinner at a nice restaurant nearby. If I lived closer to the Arboretum I would join it in a minute! Can you imagine being able to get my exercise by walking the trails among all these beautiful flowers!! I think that I might actually stick with an exercise plan if I could.

I composed these flower pictures so that you could use them as a desktop background it you want. I love the closeup feature on my camera!

Monday, September 8, 2008

It Was A Very Nice Weekend

Saturday was our 33rd anniversary. It’s hard to believe that it has been that long. I found an old journal while cleaning out my nightstand last night and read some of what I was thinking about back in 1984. We had been married only 9 years then. It was so cool to remember life with small kids and that I loved my husband just as much then as I do now. We sure were in a different place back then! We couldn’t have taken off for a weekend like we just did without much more planning. The Compadre made the reservations for the Jailhouse Inn last week. It was sort of a well if they have an opening then that’s what we’ll do kind of thing. They usually are booked solid for months out. Must have been the economy, the time of year, or gas prices but as long as we were willing to switch rooms between Friday and Saturday they had room at the Inn. We’ve gone there many times and it’s our favorite B & B. It’s also the first one that we ever stayed at. It’s the standard by which we measure all other B & B’s. Wonderful rooms, great historical place (the old Filmore County Courthouse), friendly hosts, fabulous gourmet breakfast, and lots to do in the area. What more could you ask?

The Compadre wondered what we would do for the weekend because I’m not bicycling anymore. The Jailhouse Inn is located in Preston Minnesota right by the Root River bicycle trail. It’s by our estimation the most scenic of the trails in Minnesota. Every other time we’ve gone there we’ve had bicycling as our main activity. So we were going to see what someone who doesn’t bike would do in the Lanesboro/Preston area.

We checked into the Inn on Friday night and then went to our favorite restaurant in Preston – The Branding Iron. Mmmm, good food. The chef cooks on the grill right out in the dining area and while enjoying our food we could see miles and miles of bluff country hills from the window. After dinner, our hostess at the Inn provided us with a bottle of wine and we sat by the fireplace in our room.

Moving right along to Saturday. We drove to Lanesboro after a great breakfast at the Inn. Lanesboro is sort of tourist central for the Root River trail. There are gift shops, restaurants, and more B & B’s. We zeroed in on the Scenic Valley Winery because I wanted to buy a case of their raspberry wine. Unfortunately they were out of it but they did have many others we could try and so we did. And of course we came home with a case of wine – just not the kind we had expected to. We got some that I liked and some that the Compadre liked. Good times to come!

I had noticed when we passed the bike rental place (Little River General Store) that they had side by side tandems for rent. Maybe we could bike on the trail after all! The Compadre had been thinking that we could inquire about canoeing on the river but water and I don’t get along very well unless it’s in bathtub with lots of bubbles. Anyway – turns out that the recumbent side by side tandem was just what we wanted (I want my very own now!). I could pedal only when I wanted and the Compadre did most of the work. That kept me and my knees very happy. You have to understand that the Compadre is a very strong bicyclist and he didn’t mind one bit. Only one of many reasons I love the man! We had a blast biking from Lanesboro to Preston – about 22 miles round trip. We chose to go that direction because it’s the part with the bluffs and we think it’s the prettiest. By the way, in a pinch, I could knit while riding this bike! That is if I got bored with the scenery or anything


We got back just in time for lunch at Das Wurst House, where we listened to the polka music and ate our bratwurst. There were 5 kinds of mustard on the table to choose from! Mmmm, sauerkraut and mustard.

We left Lanesboro and I didn’t even subject the Compadre to any of the many gift shops! But we did have a special destination in mind. I’ve shopped in Harmony, Minnesota for Amish made furniture for years. I’ve been looking for a new nightstand for a long time and thought that R & J Woodgoods might have something that would fit in my very tight spot. And they did!! I am able to get rid of yet another of our early married hand me down pieces of furniture and now I have a “real” nightstand. With some drawers that will hold some stuff!! We packrats need storage.

Next stop while in Harmony is always Austin’s Mohair! Jim and Ada Austin raise Angora goats and Baby Doll Sheep and have a very purple shop where they sell everything you can imagine made from mohair. Since I now have the spinning bug as well as the knitting bug I had to buy fiber while I was there - two different reds that I’m going to spin and ply together. Red is a color that I don’t usually gravitate to but these reds are something else. They’re a mixture of mohair, wool, alpaca and a little bit of sparkle. I’m anxious to see how it spins up! The Compadre spent the time while I was fiber shopping taking pictures of purple tractors and goats and little sheep.

After we left Austin’s Mohair we drove around the gravel roads in the area looking for the little shops that the Amish have for their handcrafts. We had been on an Amish tour before so since the Compadre has a map of everywhere he’s been in his head, I knew that we’d find some of the places we’d been to on the tour. I was looking specifically for another birdhouse like one I had bought for my Aunt Ann. It was fun to stop at the Amish farms and talk to the people. We bought jam, eggs, cantaloupe, squash, and potatoes but didn’t see the birdhouse that I had in mind. We saw many baskets made in a similar manner and we asked at one farm where to find a birdhouse. We went there and the friendly man and his daughter gave the Compadre directions to yet another farm where we did find my birdhouse. The Amish are interesting people. It’s hard for me to imagine living the way they do, it must be a hard life.

At the Inn our luggage had been switched to our new room. This room had a king size bed and a porch instead of the fireplace. We decided to be unoriginal for dinner and we went to the Branding Iron again. The hostess remembered us from the night before and seated us right at the window. Saturday is prime rib night – need I say more? We had enough left over to take home and make another meal (we were able to put it in the freezer at the Inn). Sunday morning we had another wonderful breakfast and we stayed as late as we could to enjoy the atmosphere of the Inn. We enjoyed talking with our hosts Marc and Jeanne before we left and they directed us to a place where the trail intersected a road and we were able to park our car and hike up the part of the trail that climbs up to Harmony. I took a picture of cows looking very suspiciously at me. Good thing there was a fence between us!

Thanks for the suggestions for what to do. You’ll see that we did take part of several of them. We had a marvelous time.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

We Have a Winner

I got 7 comments and they all had wonderful ideas for our anniversary. (Sorry Compadre your comment didn't count). Anita and Dave both had ideas and used the same comment to tell me them but I counted them separately anyway. Thanks for all your suggestions. I'll let you know what we decide after we do it. I'm sure that we'll have a memorable anniversary!

Sooo, you're all waiting to see who won!

Here's the bowl with all the same size pieces of paper with all the names on it.

AAAnnnddd. Here's the winner:

Dave!! Come on down. Actually I'm sure I'll be seeing him someday soon and I'll be sure to give him his choice of the yarn or the gift certificate. I'm guessing since he doesn't knit that he'll choose the gift certificate. Right, Dave?

The Compadre says that I'll just have to have another contest to give away the yarn. So I'll put my thinking cap on and come up with one sometime soon.

Thank you to all who entered and keep those comments coming!

Monday, September 1, 2008

This and That

Thank you for all the great ideas that you’ve come up with for our anniversary! I even got a comment from someone who wrote the book on what to do in Minnesota! Thanks Amy. Thanks also for MNLacer’s very thorough research! And indigorose has faith that I would be able to conquer my fear of heights and to go up in a hot air balloon! Anita and Dave have good ideas too, we’ll have to consider them. Miss T, I’m not going anywhere downtown until the RNC is over!! I’ll leave the contest open until Wednesday morning at 10 AM central time in case there is someone else out there that still wants to comment. The Compadre and I have had lots of fun discussing what we’ll do and considering all your ideas!

I’ve been continuing to work on the fleece that I washed. I spun some of the carded wool and found that it made very nice yarn if I didn’t care about the slubs that I got from the neps (little bumps) in the fiber. I did some internet research and found out that some people use a tool called a flick carder to tease the wool apart and also to remove some of the short fibers that cause slubs or neps in the spun fiber. I happened to have that and tried it. Gosh – more work before I can actually spin this fiber. Yes, it worked, but I got tired of it really fast. I might as well have hand carded it. More experimenting is in order. Maybe I’m “teasing” the fiber too much and can put it through my drum carder partially teased. I’ll keep you posted. There is a meeting of the spinning study group tomorrow and I might be able to get advice from them.

Saturday morning the Compadre and I had great fun going to the St. Paul farmer’s market. I rode my scooter and he rode his bicycle. It was a role reversal. He’s always been a much stronger bicyclist than I ever was and so it was so much fun to see him biking as fast as he could and I was just putzing along going really slow. Of course I had a 50 cc motor helping me :-). The farmer’s market was crowded with people. We don’t go very often because it’s so far from our home it’s hard to justify the miles but it’s fun. Live music, friendly people, colorful produce, heavenly baked goods, and on and on, it’s too bad I forgot my camera. Now that we can go by scooter and bicycle maybe we’ll be able to justify it more often. And the trip itself is part of the fun.

On our way back we passed a shop that sells motor bikes and I noticed that they sold jackets. I’ve been told that even though I ride a scooter that it would be wise to have a better jacket than my denim Taz jacket. I bought a high tech, pink and white real motorcycle jacket. It has “armor” or hard pads in the arms, shoulders and even a pad on the back. But it has a removable lining and when you do, the air flows right through it so I’ll be able to wear it even when it is hot out. Yay! I'll have to wear Taz for non scooter outings! We stopped at the grocery store also on our trip so we found out how much we can carry home between the scooter and the bicycle. My pink crate on the back was full and the Compadre had a pack on the back of the bicycle. We could carry even more if he were to put full panniers on.