Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sleep Well, Sweet Cole

Cole, happy to see me home after 2 weeks away in October


This is my sweet boy of almost 2 years, before stupid deadly cancer took him away. He was going to be 8 years old in January.

Cole was a bit of a mess when I adopted him in January of 2012. He had abandonment issues, and had been relinquished to the shelter by his family after his Dad died. For almost 6 months straight after bringing him home he would come nuzzle my hand with his nose several times a night, checking to make sure I was still there. It took almost 5 months for him to stop looking for his old family every time we went for a walk. Labs are prone to food allergies and ear infections, took over 8 months to clear those up/get them under control. And Cole hated the car.

This was especially challenging for me because I love to take my dogs everywhere - hiking, the beach, on road trips. With Cole it was not to be. He managed to improve enough to make it to the dog park, and we had a wonderful summer this year when he realized the car ride meant we were going to the river so he could swim. He so loved to swim. I would have to time him and cut him off after 45 minutes to an hour, or he would be so sore the next day he had trouble getting around.

Cole loved everyone. He was nice to dogs, but really loved people, and his favorite people were kids. For an almost 100 pound dog, he was very gentle around kids, wanting to snuffle up to them and kiss them, and of course lean on them. If a baby was crying he would cry along in sympathy. Such a sweetheart.

Sweet dreams buddy. I miss your smiling face and wagging tail when I come home these days, but you were a gift. We packed a lot of fun and love into our almost two years, and I am very happy to say I caved in and spoiled you every time you wanted to sleep on the bed with me - you deserved it.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Cinnamon Vanilla Monkey Bread (Cakes of Summer)


Here is yet another of my cakes of summer project - this time Monkey Bread. I found a few different recipes, but wound up copying and then altering a recipe from The Pioneer Woman . I didn't want the orange flavor, so opted for dumping in cinnamon and nutmeg and a few tablespoons of vanilla. It was like a cinnamon toast cake - yum!


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Ribsy! Summer picnic fun

One of the many items of my Life List for living in Portland has been to visit the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden in Grant Park.  Luckily I have good friends who are also book nerds and will indulge me in my summer fun plans. So a couple of weeks ago we had a picnic with one friend's 5 and 2 year old. There was fried chicken, orange juice, grapes, cheese crackers, and those adorable dot cupcakes from Saint Cupcake.  It was a typical Portland summer day, in that it was not too hot, but still warm enough for the girls to run around in the splash fountain.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Cakes of Summer - Cake 2 - Holiday Sheet Cake!

I've never made a patriotic cake for the 4th, so this year had fun when going to a day-late 4th party on the 5th of July:

This was super easy - just box mix for French Vanilla cake, with a package of semi-sweet chocolate mixed into the batter and some extra vanilla as well.  Then frosting and berry topping with blueberries and raspberries.

Next time I won't add the chocolate, it sunk to the bottom and created an interesting textural layer. Big hit all around, and will certainly do this again with different occaisions.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Cakes of Summer - Cake 1 - Icebox Cake!

I have always been a baker. Some of my earliest memories as a little kid are of helping my mom in the kitchen when we were expecting large amounts of family for holidays and other gatherings. Mom believed in putting kids to work early, as soon as we expressed an interest and wanted to help. Often I was in charge of baking the bread for those gatherings, my small fingers hammering and pounding at the dough, taking delight in punching the risen yeasty mixture down, to let it rise again, before rolling it out and prepping it for the oven.

As I got older I moved on to desserts: brownies, cookies, cakes, with mom being an accomplished and amazing example to follow. I remember she once made my dad buy her a large crystal/glass dessert bowl because she said she thought she could make up a dessert that would be perfect for that bowl. She was right. 

This summer I thought it might be a fun exercise to move out my baking comfort  zone and experiment with new desserts, specifically cakes that are traditionally summer cakes, and ones that I don't normally make.

First up - Icebox Cake.

Wikipedia explains it was introduced in the U.S. in 1920 and was derived from the trifle. It also seems to have traditonally been all chocolate and whipped cream. Deb at Smitten Kitchen says it came over in 1924 and has this amazing recipe

I grew up with trifle as a dessert staple - New Orleans is pretty hot, and it was a great dessert for get-togethers in the summer, as well as a huge crowd pleaser. But I cannot remember my mom making any other icebox type of dessert/cake and wanted to try my hand at it.

Most of the recipes I found were either for chocolate ones, or single fruits, like this Lemon Cream one at Apartment Therapy's The Kitchn  But since the one I was making was to be a special going-away dessert for a much-loved co-worker, I wanted it to be a bigger deal.

So I looked over a few of the recipes and then created my own, Blackberry Raspberry Tayberry Icebox Cake.  It went over quite well. This is a shot of the cross-section after it had been attacked at work:


Blackberry Raspberry Tayberry Icebox Cake

5 tubs of Cool Whip - for layers & 1 for the topping
2 tubs of French Vanilla Cool Whip - for topping 
1 12 oz package of semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 - 1 1/2 boxes of graham crackers
4 pints blacberries
4 pints raspberries
2-4 pints tayberries
2-3 tablespoons of vanilla 
Chocolate syrup - for garnish

Scoop 2 -3 tubs of cool whip into a food processor. Add the package of semi-sweet chocolate and blend until the whipped cream is infused with the chocolate. You may want to hold some of the chocolate back and add more cool whip to mix after you've started making the layers.

Since this was for a large group of people I used a disposable aluminum pan from the store, bigger than a 9x13, I believe it was an 11x15.

Start by lining the bottom of the pan with the cool whip mixture. Next put a layer of graham crackers on top of the cool whip to make a full layer I had to break graham crackers in half for the last bit. Then add another layer of the cool whip mixture to that. Then place a layer of the berries on top of that layer. Next, add the second layer of graham crackers, and then the third layer of cool whip on top of the graham crackers. Then add your second layer of berries. On top of the berries add the third and final layer of graham crackers. To this add the French Vanilla cool whip (I mixed in one tub of regular cool whip and 2-3 tablespoons of vanilla, and softened it up in the food processor.) Place in refrigerator overnight. When ready to serve, garnish with remaining berries and drizzle chocolate syrup over it for the final touch.  Feeds roughly 30 people. 

Sunday, June 30, 2013