Chocolate Cake with Fudge Icing


Nora likes chocolate more than I do, if that is possible so we both looked forward to making this cake.  Some of my earliest memories are of being allowed to lick the bowl when Mother made a chocolate cake. She always made the icing in an iron skillet in the same way she made fudge, and as soon it was cool enough, I was allowed to have that spoon, too. Mother’s cake sometimes cracked when she put the 2nd layer on and I liked that piece best because the frosting soaked down into the cake through the crack. so when our cake cracked a bit near the edge, it was OK!  The recipes that follow were never written down for me, but I did find the cake recipe in my mother’s cookbook (given to her by her mother on Christmas, 1933.)  The fudge icing recipe is closest to the way I remember her making it. But instead of timing for a minute after the mixture boiled, she always cooked it until it was at soft-ball stage –  tested by dripping a few drops into a cup of cold water.

Chocolate Cake

1/2 cup shortening (we used Crisco)

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

Cream sugar and shortening. Add vanilla and eggs; mix until well blended. Sift dry ingredients and add alternately with milk to the first mixture. Pour into two greased and floured cake pans, making the batter higher toward the edges so it rises more evenly. Bake in 375 degree oven for 39 minutes or until it tests done. Remove from pans, cool, and assemble by adding a layer of Fudge Icing between layers and frosting sides and top with the remainder.

Fudge Icing

2 cups granulated sugar

3 heaping tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

⅔ cup whole milk

½ cup (1 stick)  butter, cut into cubes

1½ teaspoons vanilla

Mix sugar, cocoa powder, and milk together in a large saucepan.Cook over medium-high heat until large bubbles form and reaches a hard boil. Boil one minute at a hard boil. Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla.Beat with a wooden spoon until thick and smooth.Pour over cake. It will harden as it cools.

Cup of Christmas

Today it is cold, windy, and wet. We may have a fire in the fireplace for the first time this season tonight. Siting by the fire and the Christmas tree is a perfect time for a hot drink. Along with our collection of Christmas mugs,we have a number of hot drink recipes that have been favorites during the holidays through the years. Years ago, I always kept a spiced tea mix and hot chocolate mix that I made.  I don’t make those anymore because there are so many available on the shelves of the supermarket, but there are other recipes  I will share.

Hot Cranberry Punch 

This recipe is on a card in my mother’s handwriting. As usual when she passed on a recipe she liked, she noted “Good!” at the top of the card!

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

4 cups water, divided into 1 cup and 3 cups

2 cans jellied cranberry sauce

1 quart unsweetened pineapple juice

Butter to add before serving


1.Bring spices and 1 cup water to a boil and simmer just until well blended.

2.Combine (separate from above) 2 cans jellied cranberry sauce and 3 cups of water.  Add water a little at a time and beat to blend well.

3. Then combine spice mixture and cranberry mixture with 1 quart unsweetened pineapple juice. Heat to serving temperature.  Add 1 pat butter to each cup you are serving and ladle hot punch on top.

Mother added an asterisk, telling me “never serve without tasting”

This sounds crazy, but it is delicious!


Hot Buttered Pineapple Punch

1 46 ounce can unsweetened pineapple juice

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup lime juice

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3 1/4 cups dry white wine


In large saucepan, combine pineapple juice, sugar, lime juice, and nutmeg. Bring to boiling, stirring till sugar dissolves. Reduce heat,; stir in wine. Heat through but do not boil. Pour into heatproof glasses or mugs; float a pat of butter on each. Serve cinnamon stick with each serving if desired. Makes about 9 cups


Spiced Percolator Punch

We used to make this so often, we kept an extra large coffeemaker with spigot to make it.

2 32 ounce bottles cranberry juice cocktail

1 46 ounce can unsweetened pineapple juice

1 cup packed brown sugar

4 teaspoons whole cloves

12 inches of stick cinnamon, broken

peel of 1/4 orange, cut in strips

Optional – 1 fifth (3/14 cups) light rum

In 24 cup electric percolator, combine cranberry juice, pineapple juice, and brown sugar. Place cloves,cinnamon stick pieces, and orange peel in coffee maker basket. Assemble coffee maker; plug in and percolate. Just before serving, remove basket and stir in rum if you are using.. Keep hot. Float a quartered lemon slice in each mug if desired. Makes about 17 cups!

Of course we enjoy wassail, and everyone has their favorite recipe for that cup of holiday cheer, but I hope you enjoy trying one or all of the above as well.

Steamed Artichoke with Lemon Butter

We have one huge artichoke plant in our garden, planted with dreams of growing a crop of artichokes. So far, nothing but gorgeous leaves have been produced. My daughter in law, Kristen, planted and babied this and has watched it anxiously to see if there was anything to harvest. On April 1, my husband bought a small artichoke and nestled in the center of this plant with a small April Fool! note stuck to the bottom. Kristen pulled at it, only realizing the joke when it came out so easily!  She had a good laugh, and so did the rest of us.  So far, even this has not prompted the giant plant to produce.

Wanting to grow our own has nothing to do with enjoying an artichoke while we wait. This is a special treat, but it does not need to wait until we have guests for dinner or a holiday. In fact, I think we enjoy it more when we make it the star attraction. There is nothing hard about preparing and cooking artichokes, but it does take a little time, so it is a special occasion when we have one. You can find this recipe all over the internet and in many cookbooks, but they don’t have our April Fool story!

Steamed Artichoke with Lemon Butter

1 or more Medium to Large Globe Artichokes

2 Lemons, 1 sliced and 1 juiced.

1 Bay Leaf (optional)

2 Teaspoons sallt

4 Tablespoons Butter

Add about an inch and a half of water to a saucepan large enough to set the artichoke in and leave room to cover.  Add salt and bring to boil while geetting the artichoke ready to cook.

  1. Cut off a slice of the bottom and any stem so the artichoke will sit upright. Then slice off the top of the artichoke about an inch and a half down.
  2.  With sharp kitchen shears, cut off just the tip of all the leaves, going around the artichoke until all leaves have the sharp little point on the the edge of the leaves removed.
  3. Reduce heat enough for water to simmer. Set the artichoke into simmeringng water.  Lay lemon slices on top and around. Add bay leaf, if using.  Then cover.
  4. Steam the artichoke for 25 to 35 minutes, depending on size. When you are able to pull one of the leaves out easily, it is done. Remove to serving dish, sitting upright.
  5.  Melt butter and add lemon juice.

Serve the artichoke with lemon butter on the side.To eat the artichoke, pull off leaves, or petals, one at a time. Dip in lemon butter, Tightly grip the stem end of the petal. Place in mouth, and pull through teeth to remove soft, pulpy, delicious portion of the petal. Discard remaining petal .

With a knife or spoon, scrape out and discard the inedible fuzzy part (called the “choke”) covering the artichoke heart. The remaining bottom of the artichoke is the heart. Cut into pieces and dip into sauce to eat. Continue until all of the petals are removed.

With a knife or spoon, scrape out and discard the inedible fuzzy part (called the “choke”) covering the artichoke heart. The remaining bottom of the artichoke is the heart. Cut into pieces and dip into sauce to eat. Many think this is the best part of the artichoke!

Cook’s Note: An alternative dipping sauce is mayonnaise with a splash of balsamic vinegar.

Zucchini Fun

Last night I pulled out the handy little tool that turns vegetables into works of art like this.  Weird name, but it fits – a spiralizer.  Long before zoodles and other veggie noodles began appearing in supermarkets, we discovered how much tasty fun preparing them like this can be. The plate of zucchini ruffles, or curls, shown here took only 2 medium squash and less than 5 minutes to produce.  I sauteed these in a bit of olive oil with some herbs tossed in, but they make a lovely salad dressed with lemon vinaigrette.   I featured them skewered for kabobs in a previous post.

If you click on that link, you will see photos of the tool with which you crank out these lovelies. It works for other veggies as well, but I have used it most often with squash.

Don’t cook the ruffles too long, it only takes a few seconds.  This makes a great substitute for pasta if you are watching carbs.  The dish also looks wonderful served as a side, making any table look like a celebration.


Curried Nuts and Dried Cherries

This is a spicy version of trail mix that will make it hard to go back to your old mix if you like curry!  Toasting the spices along with the nut mix makes your kitchen full of mouth-watering aroma.  Tart dried cherries are suggested ( my husband says he would add more!) – but any dried fruit would be delicious. We always keep dried cranberries in the pantry so I will make some soon with cranberries and chopped dried apricots.  Great party food!

Curried Nuts and Cherries

2 tsp olive oil

½ cup raw cashews

2 ½ tsp curry powder (I used hot curry powder, but use sweet if you prefer)

¾ tsp ground cumin

¾ tsp kosher salt

½ cup dried tart cherries
Heat  olive oil in a large cast iron skillet. Add all nuts, then stir in the curry powder, cumin, and salt. Toast for 5 minutes stirring frequently. Stir in the dried cherries and let the mixture cool. Serve.

Split Pea Soup with Sherry

splitpeasoupCold weather and hot soup – perfect combination.  We enjoy a number of different soups, but this split pea soup is one of my favorites. It is a hearty soup, nutritious, and easy on the budget. If you have leftover ham, this is a great way to use it.  Bits of bacon work great too. We like to add a splash of dry sherry at serving time.This is is good served with crusty French bread.

Split Pea  Soup with Sherry

1 lb. dried split peas (2 1/3 cups)

8 cups chicken broth

2 cups chopped ham

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup sliced carrots

1 Bay leaf

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

Dry sherry, optional

Rinse dried split peas and add to large soup pot. Add ham and chicken broth.  Bring to simmer, cover, and cook on low for 30 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and continue cooking for another 30 minutes, or until it reaches the texture you prefer. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve steaming hot with a splash of sherry stirred in.

Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies


Nora is learning to make cookies but she has a distinct preference for chocolate! A recipe found in a cookbook written by my cousin Jane Purtle was just what Nora ordered!  In Food from the Hills, the author recorded family recipes from her family, which happens to be our family, too.  My grandmother, Clyde Curley Terrell, and Jane Purtlle’s father, Russell Hill, were half-siblings.  My great-grandmother Ernestine Augier Hill Curley was married to Jane’s grandfather, James Hill.  After he died, she married my Great Grandfather Curley. These chocolate oatmeal cookies were a favorite in the Hill family.

But there is more to this cookie story.  The original oatmeal cookie (without chocolate) recipe was one found in the Home Economics class cookbook from Bullard High School in Bullard, Texas where Jane Purtle’s mother Ruby and my mother, Opal attended.  So I am certain Nora’s great-grandmother Opal also made these cookies. Nora’s middle name is Opal.  I had fun thinking about all these connections while we made these cookies.


Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

1 egg

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons buttermilk

1 cup oatmeal  ( recipe says Quick, but regular works great and makes a chewier cookie)

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted (Please note:  I substituted 6 Tablespoons Dutch cocoa powder  plus 2 Tablespoons oil for the melted baking chocolate)

Break egg in mixing bowl and beat in sugar.  Add oil to sugar and eggs. Add milk and oatmeal. Sift flour with salt, baking powder and soda into the first mixture.  Add chocolate and beat well.  Drop by teaspoonfuls on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees until firm around edges but soft in center.

If desired, omit chocolate and add 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Remove from baking sheet and cool on rack.







Mini Almond Croissants


One of our favorite treats is almond croissants from the bakery at Le Madeleine.  These little croissants come close to the taste without the trip into town to purchase the flaky bakery product. I usually have crescent roll dough and sliced almonds in the refrigerator because I use both often. Recently I had a tube of almond paste bought for a different recipe and changed my mind.  These tasty minature croissants are the result of “shopping from the frig and pantry” – which I try to do often.

1 can of refrigerated crescent roll dough

almond paste

sliced almonds

Preheat oven according to instructions on the crescent roll package.  Unwrap and separate dough into triangles, placing several inches apart on a baking sheet.  On each dough triangle, squeeze a generous amount of almond paste.  Roll, starting with large end of triangle.  Press ends together to avoid losing filling during baking.  Sprinkle with sliced almonds and bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.

Hot Cranberry Apple Salad


Our church Thanksgiving dinner is tonight. Turkeys and pans of dressing are volunteered for and prepared ahead of time, but those attending (it is one of our congregations favorite functions all year) bring salads, vegetables, and desserts.  I am bringing 2 salads.  One is Caprese in a bowl using the last of the season’s basil leaves along with c herry tomatoes and tiny mozarella balls. The other salad is a hot salad, one of our favorite dishes this time of year.  I first found a similar recipe in a church cookbook given to us by friends from that church many years ago.  It can be found with many variations online, but this is my old, tried and true way to make it.

Hot Cranberry Apple Salad

21/2 c.whole washed cranberries
3 c. chopped apples, no need to peel
1 c. sugar
1 c. quick oats
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1/2 stick butter
In an 8X10 inch baking pan,.mix together apples, cranberries, and sugar mixture of oats, brown sugar, and nuts over top. Cut pats of butter to dot over all. Bake 1 hour at 325 degrees. Serve warm.


Halibut with Lemons, Olives, and Rosemary


We have enjoyed halibut and salmon from the fishing trip that Joe and our sons took to Alaska in May.  I am still experimenting with different ways of serving the halibut, but all of them have been delicious. This is my favorite, a variation on a recipe I found from The time my family spent living in Indonesia created for us a fondness for Southeast Asian food and I love using a spice blend from Penzey’s called Singapore Seasoning. This is aromatic mixture that contains lemon peel, garlic, turmeric, cumin, fennel, ginger, and cayenne pepper among other spices that are perfect for fish and chicken.

Roasted Halibut with Lemons, Olives, and Rosemary

Halibut Filets (I used only one large filet for 2 of us)

1 Tablespoon olive oil

Sea salt

2 teaspoons Singapore Spice Blend from Penzey’s

Fresh rosemary

1 lemon, sliced thinly

1/4 cup sliced, pitted Kalamata olives

Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Coat a baking dish with cooking spray. Lay the fish in pan, then brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and Singapore spice blend. Top with twigs of rosemary and slices of lemon. Sprinkle olives and remaining olive oil over all and bake 15 minutes or more, depending on thickness of filets.  Lemons will brown and fish will flake when pulled with fork.  I like to make this with roasted fresh green beans and red potatoes, baked in the same oven.