The Rose Cake

Today is my daughter Susan's birthday, so I wanted to bake a special birthday cake for her. I wanted to make something pretty, but not the typical sheet cake with piped borders and "Happy Birthday" script that I have done for her so many times. Instead of the usual, I made her this Rose Cake.

There are different tutorials for rose cakes online, but I found the one at I Am Baker to be helpful.  I used a boxed white mix and baked the cake in two 9-inch round pans.

Classic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened, but not melted
3 - 4 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
up to 4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream

Beat butter for a few minutes with the paddle attachment of an electric mixer on medium speed. Add 3 cups of powdered sugar, turn mixer on lowest speed (so sugar doesn't blow everywhere) until the sugar has been incorporated with the butter. Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and 2 tablespoons of milk/cream and beat for 3 minutes. If frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add remaining sugar. If frosting needs to be thinned out, add remaining milk/cream 1 tablespoon at a time.

This makes a creamy smooth frosting.

I found that one batch of this frosting was not enough for this cake. I made two batches.

I put the layers together with frosting, then did a thin coat of frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Then I put the cake in the freezer for a few hours to make it easier to work with.

Then using a 1M tip, I started the roses around the outer edge of the cake. This was my first time to attempt decorating with this tip, so my roses are far from professional.

Next, I did the roses on top of the cake. I believe it would have been better had I squeezed in more roses, because all that empty space has to be filled in with swirls.

My daughter Susan is a dedicated nurse who works very hard at her job. I hope this cake and this birthday will be special for her. Happy birthday, Susan.


The Enemy

I'm battling an enemy in my garden. I checked on the tomatoes today, and the top leaves were gone. On closer inspection, I found the cause.

I've always called these ugly creatures tomato worms, but they are actually Tobacco Hornworms. They like to eat tomato plants in the South. The stripes and red horn help to identify them. They look really vicious, but all they seem to want to do is eat. In a very short time they ate a lot of the foliage of my tomato plants. Some of them worked in pairs.

The garden is my domain, but I don't deal well with creatures like these. My girliness took over, and I had to ask my husband to "relocate" them for me. We found eight eleven of them, but I suspect there might be more hiding. They're hard to spot. One can be right in front of your nose and it blends in with the foliage. But, I imagine the tomato plants won't last long at the rate they are eating them.

After all the tending and watching over my tomato plants this spring and summer, all I have to say to these Tobacco Hornworms is good-bye and don't come back.


Lemon, Almond, and Raisin Loaf

Today's recipe is a rich quick bread that would be great served at breakfast. The loaf makes a striking presentation topped with sliced almonds.

The source of my recipe is a cookbook called Quick Breads by Linda Collister.

Lemon, Almond, and Raisin Loaf

1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
grated zest of 1 lemon
2 eggs
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds
2/3 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and base-line with parchment paper.
Put the butter, sugar, and lemon zest in a large bowl, and beat with an electric mixer until light and creamy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt to the mixture. Mix until flour is incorporated. Remove bowl from mixer. Add lemon juice and milk, stir in with a spoon. Mix in the almonds (reserving 1 tablespoon for topping) and the raisins.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Scatter the reserved almonds over the top, then bake for about 50 minutes until golden and firm, and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then carefully remove from the pan and place on a wire rack to cool completely. Serve thickly sliced.

This recipe makes a thick batter, so it needs to be smoothed out before baking.

Scatter the reserved almonds over the top of the batter before baking.

Serve thickly sliced.


Crunchy Granola

My friend Tammy asked me for a granola recipe, but not just any granola. She wanted it to taste like the granola she had eaten on her yogurt while staying at the Galt House in Louisville, Kentucky this summer. She described it as very crunchy with a brown sugar taste. I checked a lot of recipe sources, but I was most inspired by a recipe and an article by Pam Anderson for USA WEEKEND. According to Pam, as long as you stick to a master recipe, you can customize the extra ingredients to suit your personal preferences.

Here's the version that I made today.

Crunchy Granola
2 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup honey
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup dried cherries, diced

Adjust oven rack to middle position, and preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray, set aside. In a large bowl, mix oats, wheat germ, brown sugar, salt, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and walnuts. In a small saucepan, mix together honey, oil, and water; bring to a simmer. Drizzle liquid mixture over oat mixture and stir to combine. Pour mixture onto prepared pan. Working a handful at a time, squeeze cereal to form small clumps. Bake for 30 minutes in preheated oven. Stir in dried cherries, continue to bake for 15 minutes longer until golden brown. Let cool. Granola can be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

These are the ingredients that I chose to give my granola its crunch.

Both brown sugar and honey give the granola its sweetness. Molasses or maple syrup could be substituted for the honey if you like one of those flavors better.

After the dry and liquid ingredients have been mixed, pour the mixture onto the prepared pan.

Squeeze the cereal a handful at a time to form small clumps. Bake for 30 minutes in preheated oven.

Fruit is optional in granola, but I decided to add dried cherries to mine. Other options could be raisins, golden raisins, banana chips, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, dried pears, dried dates, or dried mangoes. Add the fruit last, and bake 15 minutes longer after fruit is added.

Remove from oven and let cool.

This granola is good all by itself . . .

. . . or my favorite way, as a crunchy topping for yogurt and fruit.


Pina Colada Pie

I saved this recipe for Pina Colada Pie when I came across it back in the winter, knowing that I would want to try to make it during the summer months. The directions for it are on the All Recipes website, and it was submitted by Phyllis. It has a cookie crust and a creamy tropical flavor - I loved it. Here's my version.

Pina Colada Pie

1/2 cup coconut, toasted
To toast the coconut, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the coconut evenly on a baking sheet and toast in the preheated oven for 5 minutes, until golden brown.

Remove coconut from oven and set aside.

2 cups crushed vanilla wafers
1/3 cup butter, melted

I crushed the vanilla wafers in a food processor until I had 2 cups.

Then mix the 2 cups of crushed vanilla wafers with 1/3 cup of butter that has been melted.

Mix well, then pour into a 9-inch pie pan.

Press mixture firmly into bottom and side of pie pan.

The crust is finished, now we'll make the filling.

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup cream of coconut
1 teaspoon rum flavored extract
1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 cup maraschino cherries, chopped
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 (8 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed

In a large mixing bowl, beat together cream cheese and cream of coconut until fluffy; add rum extract. Mix in drained pineapple, cherries, and pecans, then fold in whipped topping. Spread mixture into crust. Sprinkle with toasted coconut. Chill several hours before serving.

The cream cheese and cream of coconut whip up together to be a very fluffy mixture.

Add the rum flavoring to the cream cheese mixture, then mix in the pineapple, cherries, and pecans. Fold in the whipped topping last.

Spoon the filling into the prepared crust.

Spread the filling into the crust . . .

. . . and sprinkle with toasted coconut; chill.

You have to try this pie.


Brown Sugar Smokies

Yesterday after making the Bacon Wrapped Pineapple Bites, my sister and I decided to make another appetizer that is wrapped in bacon. These appetizers are made in a similar way to the Pineapple Bites, but use mini smoked sausages as the treat inside the bacon.

Brown Sugar Smokies
1 pound bacon
1 (16 ounce) package little smokie sausages
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Wooden skewers or toothpicks

Soak the skewers or toothpicks in a bowl of water.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a broiler pan with nonstick cooking spray, or you may use a baking rack with a sheet pan. The appetizers need to be cooked on a broiler pan or a rack so they will be up out of the juices that are released as they are cooked.

This is the type of sausages that are needed.

Cut bacon slices into thirds. If you are using center cut bacon, the slices will only need to be cut in half.

In a shallow bowl, mix brown sugar and cayenne pepper. Dredge bacon slices in the mixture, then wrap a strip around a little sausage. Secure bacon with a wooden pick or skewer.

Arrange wrapped sausages on prepared pan, then sprinkle with remaining brown sugar mixture.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, then place under the broiler for 3 additional minutes.

These were so good.

The cayenne pepper adds just a little kick, making them perfect party food.


Bacon Wrapped Pineapple Bites

I'm in Texas at my sister's house this weekend, and I have been enjoying cooking with her today. We made some yummy appetizers, Bacon Wrapped Pineapple Bites. These were quick to put together and were tasty little morsels.

Bacon Wrapped Pineapple Bites
1 pound bacon
1 (20 ounce) can pineapple chunks, drained
1 cup brown sugar
Wooden skewers or toothpicks

Soak skewers or toothpicks in a dish of water.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut the bacon slices in half.

Put the brown sugar in a shallow bowl and dredge each half slice bacon in the brown sugar.

Take one pineapple chunk, place on one end of a bacon slice and roll up. Secure with a toothpick.

After all pineapples are rolled, sprinkle remaining brown sugar over the top.

We baked them on a broiler pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray for 20 minutes at 375 degrees F. They could also be baked on a rack on a baking sheet, just something that will keep them up out of the juices that are released. After baking, crank up the broiler and broil for 3 minutes - but no longer - so the brown sugar doesn't burn.

These Pineapple Bites are such tasty little appetizers.


Spicy Shredded Pork Tacos

The last couple of days I have been traveling. My daughter Susan and grandson Landon and I left home on Thursday. We spent Thursday night in Little Rock with my daughter Angela, then drove on today to my sister Helen's in Nacogdoches, Texas. While we have been traveling most of our food has been the kind that is found beneath the golden arches, until tonight. Helen made Spicy Shredded Pork and served it tonight as tacos.

She had both corn and flour tortillas for the tacos along with several choices for toppings. There was homemade guacamole, pico de gallo, and Salsa. She also served shredded cheese, sour cream, lettuce, and tortilla chips.

The tacos were a great way to serve the shredded pork. I have made it several times at home for barbecue sandwiches, and I have also used it for pizza. I've found Spicy Shredded Pork to be a versatile meat. Let me know if you have a new or different way to serve Spicy Shredded Pork.


Doggie Treats

Today's cooking project was a first for me. I made homemade doggie treats, and what's really strange about that is that I don't even have a dog. My only household pets live in an aquarium. My grandchildren do have dogs, though, so I made the doggie treats for their dogs, Rascal and Buddy.

My friend Tammy gave me this recipe. She is a preschool teacher, and has made this recipe at school with her students. This was a part of the Mutt-i-gree Curriculum from the Pet Savers Foundation. After she told me about all the activities and how much the students enjoyed it, I knew that this recipe was something that I wanted to try as well, dog or no dog.

My grandson Landon came to spend the day with me today, and he brought some stuffed friends, Dog Vader, Brownie, and Bully with him because he knew we were going to be making doggie treats today.

Bone Shaped Biscuits
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup canola oil
2 eggs
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients together well. Roll or press out flat. Cut out with bone shaped cookie cutter. Bake at 400 degrees F for 8 to 10 minutes on ungreased baking sheet. Turn off oven; leave treats in oven for an additional 20 minutes to harden.

Combine all ingredients.

Mix until well combined.

Roll out flat. At first I lightly floured my surface, then soon realized that it is not necessary.

Cut out treats with a bone shaped cookie cutter. The cutter I used is about 2 inches long.

Landon also did a lot of the cutting.

After all the cutting is done, bake on an ungreased sheet pan at 400 degrees F for 8 to 10 minutes.

After the treats are baked, turn the oven off and leave them inside the oven for 20 more minutes to harden.

This recipe makes an amazing 100 treats.

Do you know a dog who would like one of these treats?