Blueberry Brunch Cake

Ah, Mom’s Blueberry Brunch Cake!

That smell.

That pungent smell of blueberries baking in the oven still transport me back to any given Sunday when my family would gather together for brunch after a long morning at Sunday school.  And, to think that I couldn’t find that recipe in Mom’s vast handwritten recipe collection.  So many Sunday brunch memories are woven throughout that cake; they’re as integral as its key ingredients.

How undeniably fitting is the article, Playing Kitchen Detective, in the Food & Dining section of the Wall Street Journal:

“As people become more accustomed to cooking in their own kitchens, they start looking for [the dishes] they have fond memories of”

“Fueled by nostalgia, legions of eaters are returning to the kitchen to recreate fond dishes from their childhood made by older relatives.”

My son was only 3 years old and my daughter 6 years old when my Mom passed away.  Most of their visceral memories of her alive are only drawn from  final week(s). Through my cooking, she’s been resurrected. With the aromas and comforting heat from the oven, the sounds from the stove top and the beautiful creations served on the table, she’s very much alive and vibrant and continues to nourish us all.

Mom spread her love through her food.  She took time and patience creating dishes that wowed the masses and made indelible imprints on every beneficiary.

The absence of that Blueberry Brunch cake recipe left a whole in my heart.  A lifetime of memories and tastes and smells bundled up in that one 9″ cake.

Can you imagine the huge wave of relief that washed over me when I received a random email out of the blue, entitled, “Blueberry Brunch Cake?”

The email was sent from the mother of a very good friend of mine from grade school (we’re talking MANY years ago).  She told me she recently made Mom’s Blueberry Brunch Cake to take to a friend convalescing from surgery: “I enjoy making  this cake all the time for book club.  I received it from your mom many years ago.  I miss her so much and think of her often.”

Even to this day, over 6 years later, people are still touched by Mom and spreading her love…

INSERT LONG SIGH HERE

So, back to the cake.

Don’t be fooled, it is SWEET.  Don’t take it lightly.  The cinnamon-sugar topping makes a strong case for BRUNCH– the kind where you’re prepared to sit at the table and eat and talk for hours.

Cinnamon and sugar baked into the cake

But, the sweet flavor of the baked blueberries contrasted with the perfectly moist, fluffy cake is a must for after dinner too.

Fresh blueberries lightly dusted with flour (to prevent them from sinking to the bottom!)

Blueberry batter!

Therefore, don’t be fooled by the name either.  This cake is so good, you can eat it all-day-long!

Betcha can’t just have one slice

 

Valentine’s Sweetheart Bark

sweet heart bark

Sweetheart Bark is the ideal candy for anyone who has experienced the gamut of emotions on Valentine’s Day.

Maybe your most intense memories date all the way back to grade school when you exchanged those cheesy VDay cards in those makeshift paper bag mailboxes.

Or, maybe it was a Valentine’s Day you spent broken-hearted, alone, cursing the Hallmark holiday.

Or, perhaps it was a Valentine’s Day with your loved one, in a romantic place, sharing an unforgettable moment.

Or, maybe your most meaningful Valentine’s Day has been as a parent connecting with your children.

Whatever the sentiment, making Sweetheart Bark appeals to the masses:

If you’re angry or lonely or frustrated or jilted, crushing the candy hearts with the mallet on your kitchen table can prove to be very very cathartic.

If you’re happy and fulfilled you can rejoice in the sweet smelling milk and white chocolate as it slowly melts in your boiler.

If you’re sharing the day with your children, you will have a blast pouring the melted chocolate into the molds and dumping the crushed hearts over top.

This candy is kitschy, playful, fun, colorful, tasty and BEYOND easy to make.

With only 2 ingredients and 3 steps, you can’t pass this up!

Heart-shaped molds for bark

Molds filled with melted chocolate

Sweet hearts before

Smashed sweethearts

 

 

 

 

Rum Raisin Rice Pudding

rum raisin rice pudding

I am thrilled to be a StirMaker for the #CreateAStir campaign sponsored by Della Rice.

To be properly armed and ready to make a tasty Stir, I received an Aroma rice cooker for hassle-free cooking ( oh, and you have an opportunity to win your own rice cooker so read on) as well as Della’s amazing varieties of healthy rice: the Arborio rice is super soft and creamy, the light brown rice tastes a bit like white rice but has the nutritional value of brown rice, and the Jasmine with Roasted Garlic is a unique culinary blend that adds just a touch of flavor to your rice stir.  Which one would you choose?  I’ve been enjoying Basmati rice for my stirs.

A Stir has many benefits but, most importantly, any novice home cook can easily assemble a Stir with the myriad ingredients found in the refrigerator or pantry. It’s that easy. For a Super Bowl viewing party I made and awesome Jambalaya Stir that was a huge hit i.e. no leftovers.  It left me inspired to create more stirs.

Since Valentine’s Day is this weekend, instead of purchasing a box of chocolates or a bouquet of roses, how about making a tasty dessert stir for someone special?

Better yet, what if you made a dessert that’s so rich and creamy, it should be reserved for Valentine’s Day, because you definitely shouldn’t eat it on a regular basis. Intrigued?

What if I told you the base ingredient for this creamy, sinfully sweet dessert is RICE?

I decided to try a Rum Raisin Rice Pudding recipe for my next stir. Since Mom’s Old Fashioned Rice Pudding is still one of the most popular recipes on my blog, why not use Della Basmati Rice and half and half as the creamy base canvas and combine additional stir toppings of rum-soaked raisins, shaved dark chocolate, and spicy cinnamon?

rum raisin  ingredients

raisins

And, you don’t have to stop there. I’m already concepting my next rice pudding stir which will contain diced mangoes, some crushed almonds and some coconut flakes. As you can see, your stir opportunities are endless.

You can also enter to win your very own Rice Cooker from Della.  Simply enter here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Can’t wait to see what you Stir up…..

 

Disclaimer: I received product samples and an Aroma Rice Cooker as a thank you for my participation.  All opinions expressed are, as always, my own.

How to Boost Your Immune System

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Please note, I wrote this article under contract for P&G.  It originally appeared at P&G Everyday.

January and February have reeked havoc on those in the northeast.  After weeks and weeks of frigid temperatures with every form of participation imaginable (and a serious Flu epidemic going around the schools), it’s imperative that we try to focus on fortifying our immune systems to help and maintain good health.

Remember, it takes more than an apple a day to keep the doctor away.

Simply tweaking your diet to focus on foods full of essential vitamins and nutrients is a great start.  Here are some other helpful hints:

Invest in the food you eat
The more involved we are in creating what we eat (from shopping for ingredients to growing vegetables), the more mindful we are to make sure our meals contain foods full of antioxidants — vitamins, minerals and nutrients — that boost our immune system. Integrating these foods into your diet doesn’t have to be difficult and doesn’t require any gourmet cooking either.

Add color to your plate
Incorporate fresh fruits, vegetables and grains in your meals. You’ll immediately notice the difference in your mood and sustained energy levels. Veggies and fruits high in Vitamin E and C are good choices.

To reap the biggest benefits of these antioxidants, eat your veggies raw or lightly steamed — no fancy preparations are necessary. Try simple, light ways of preparing vitamin-rich foods and you may find yourself with a family of veggie fanatics at the next dinner. With just a little sauté of olive oil on the stove, Brussels sprouts are ready to eat — and they’re good! Stick kale leaves in the oven with some oil and sea salt and enjoy crispy kale chips in place of potato chips (no grease, but lots of nutrition). Of course, the usual staples of broccoli and carrots are always good back-ups. And, like Popeye said, the health benefits of spinach are impossible to ignore: The vitamins and calcium in spinach, combined with its overall nutritional value, make this vegetable the gold standard for healthy food choices. Just a simple side of steamed spinach packs a powerful punch!

A Strong Start
To jump start a healthy breakfast, integrate vitamin-rich fruits and grains. Always have fresh strawberries, berries and oranges on hand for a zesty shock to the taste buds in the morning. Try a slice of fresh grapefruit. Add a spoonful of berries or fresh granola on top of Greek yogurt. Swap out sugared cereals for whole grain. Make simple, healthy shakes with some milk, ice cubes, fresh frozen fruit and honey.

The Power of Zinc
Veggies and fruits aren’t the only foods important for an immune system boost: Foods high in Zinc have resounding effects too. Keeping a healthy amount of Zinc in our diet is important to maintain the development of white blood cells — the cells that recognize and destroy harmful bacteria and viruses. Getting your dose can come from lean beef, poultry or pork. (Not into meat? Try fortified cereals, yogurt and milk; they’ll also do the zinc trick.)

And, don’t forget what our grandmothers have known for centuries: Chicken soup is good for our immune system. It has anti-inflammatory properties, which could explain why it soothes sore throats and eases the misery of colds and flu. Throw some celery and cooked carrots into the broth and get ready for some serious healing!

Don’t Forget Snack Time
Forget the bag of chips and close the cookie jar. Stock up on simple treats more nourishing and immunity-boosting like sliced oranges and apples (with natural peanut butter), nuts (raw almonds, raw pistachios — both high in protein and fiber), raw carrots, Greek yogurts, raisins, prunes, and even grapes (try them frozen)!

Here’s the bottom line: One of our best defenses against illness comes in the food we put on our plates. Making sure we’re eating nutritious foods full of vitamins and minerals will ensure that our bodies and immunity run smoothly.

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