Wednesday, 30 April 2008

And this, too . . .

"It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men
to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view,
and which should be true and appropriate in all times
and situations.
They presented him with the words: "And this, too, shall pass
How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of
pride -
how consoling in the depth of affliction!"
~Abraham Lincoln

That phrase . . . this, too, shall pass . . . is a phrase I have often used to comfort and console myself and those that I care about, but it was not until this very morning that I have come to realize it's history. Those four little words have gotten me through some very rough times in life and helped to give me the motivation to go on when many other's would have given in to despair and allowed life to crush them. I have low moments, just like anyone has. I don't know a person alive who has not had them, and there are times when I just want to give in to despair and let it carry me away, but then I remember some other words that take over and give me hope when nothing else will, when all seems dark and dismal and like nothings ever going to turn out right again . . .

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart."
~Jeremiah 29:11-13

Isn't it nice to know that bad times won't last forever . . . and that wherever, whenever and however . . . there is One who is always able and willing to listen and who has a plan for us?

I was given two lovely awards recently. I am always thrilled when someone in the blogosphere chooses to give me something special like these two awards because I know it is a gift that comes from the heart and it may not be an Academy Award or a Bafta, but to me they are much more cherished than either of those two things. (If someone could tell me the code to get them in my side bar I'd be much appreciative!)

Rhondi of Rose Colored Glasses has given me the Arte Y Pico Award. I feel quite honored that she chose me because it is an award given for creativity, design, interesting material and contribution to the blogging community. Thanks so much Rhondi. You have really touched my heart and I was thrilled to think that someone considered me worthy of such an accolade.

Laura of Harvest Lane Cottage chose to give me the "You Make My Day" award, and let me tell you Laura, when you did that YOU made MY day, and it couldn't have come at a better time!

The lovely thing about awards is that not only do they make you feel good about yourself and what you do, but you get to pass them on to other's you deem worthy of receiving the same. They're like a gift that continues to give and so I would love to pass both these awards to the following bloggers, in no specific order:

Angela from Stressed Out Mum Seeks Inspiration
Miranda from A Duck In Her Pond
Tracy from Pink Purl
Diane from Duda Daze
Misty from A Road Less Travelled
Melody from Slurping Life

Six special ladies who, each one of them, never fail to touch me with their words and their creativity. Blogging is an art form and these wonderful women really have it going on! Now that y'all are award winners, don't forget to pass them on to other's who have touched your lives in some special way, you hear!

I did my Make Me Bake Challenge yesterday but I think I'll make y'all suffer and wait an extra day before I post it, as we just had cake yesterday. In the meantime I'll tempt your taste buds with these little gems. Delicious, easy and oh to quick to make, you're gonna love these!

*Crumpet Pizzas*
Serves 4 as a snack or two as a main course

Crumpet pizzas are sooo simple to make and so very tasty when you are done. You can have a tasty snack or lunch on the table in under 15 minutes. I like to serve them with some simple salad leaves and a drizzle of honey. Pears, blue cheese, walnuts and honey have such a wonderful affinity with each other. You can use other toppings as you wish, they're all good, but this is my favourite version.

4 crumpets
8 ounces of blue cheese, cubed
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, cubed
2 ounces of chopped toasted walnuts
1 large conference pear, cubed (peel or not as you like)
runny honey for drizzling

Heat your grill (broiler) to high. Place your crumpets on a baking sheet and toast them lightly on each side until golden brown, about one minute on each side. Remove from the oven.

Now all you do is pile the cheeses, pear chunks and walnuts on top of each toasted crumpet and then bang them back under the grill, a little bit further away this time than when you toasted the crumpets. Probably a good 5 or six inches. Watch them carefully. You only want to grill them until the cheese is bubbly oozing and meltingly delicious. Remove from the oven and let them sit for a few minutes before removing to warm plates and drizzling with some runny honey to serve.

These are absolutely delicious. The cheese melts into all those toasty little tunnels of the crumpets. I think the correct word to use is "SCRUMMY!"

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

A Cake You Can Really Sink Your Teeth Into

Welcome to my weekly edition of Tuesdays With Dorie where I get to tempt you, my readers, once more with a delicious recipe and photos from my most bestest baking book of all time . . . Baking, From my home to yours by my most bestest baking book author of all time . . . Dorie Greenspan! Yes, this is the one day a week I join in with some couple hundred plus (my . . . how we have grown!!) "Like Minded" bakers from across the world and bake yet another tempting delight from within it's pages.

I was so excited when I read that this weeks recipe challenge was going to be the Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake as chosen by Caitlin of Engineer Baker !!! I have always wanted to make a polenta cake, but have always been a bit afraid of it. Perhaps because I was thinking that it may be too much like cornbread and I'd have to break out the baked beans and ham . . . instead of the ice cream . . . I could not have been any more wrong in my thinking than that! This beautiful cake in no way resembled cornbread and I have to say it turned out to be the moistest, most lucious cake anyone could ever want to eat . . . . and . . . . oh so very yummy!

I decided to bake it on Saturday last and I went out to get my groceries in the morning. We decided we were going to shop at Lidl's from now on as the cost of food is escalating beyond what we can afford at our local haunt and Lidl's is fairly cheap in comparison. I figured they would have pretty much everything I needed that I didn't already have in the larder. WRONG!!! They did not have ricotta cheese. What to do . . . what to do . . . I knew Todd would rebel if I asked him to take me someplace else, grocery shopping not being his chosen way to spend a Saturday morning in the first place. I put my thinking cap on and ta da!!! I decided that I could use plain cottage cheese instead . . . I'd just put it through a sieve first. Problemo solved!

The instructions as normal were excellent and very easy to follow. I had a lovely jar of New Zealand Thyme Honey in my larder that I had been saving for a special occasion. I thought this would fit in perfectly with the Mediterranean flavour of the cake . . . especially where Dorie had mentioned tossing the figs with thyme leaves. I wasn't sure I wanted leaves in my cake but I thought the honey would give it the mysterious hint of thyme that would leave people guessing, but not being able to quite put their fingers on it . . .

I was a bit worried when I had read the other baker's experiences in the question and answer thread on the Dorie page and some of the problems they had been having, but I am the type of person that likes to do things by the book the first time I do them before I mess around too much with any recipe, especially a baking one. Okay . . . some might say that using cottage cheese instead of ricotta is messing about . . . and maybe it is, but they are like the same thing . . . sorta . . . kinda . . . almost . . .

The batter was really kind of runny after I had beaten in the honey. Her recipe had not stated whether we should use set or runny honey and I had used runny. I wondered after that if I had made a poor choice, but I crossed my fingers and kept going. It was not a really thick batter at the end of it all . . . but it was sleek and smooth and definitely pourable! I had no need to smooth the top with my spatula as the batter was thin enough that it just kind of smoothed itself out. It filled my fluted tart tin almost all the way to the top and I was a bit worried as I slid it into the oven that it was going to overflow all over the place and I checked on it frequently to see if it was.

All my fears were for naught! At the end I was presented with a lovely golden brown cake that neither overflowed my pan and looked perfect in every way! It was all I could do to wait until it cooled, patience not being one of my virtues, and one that I am constantly working on achieving. Once cooled I dusted it with some icing sugar and cut into it with a sharp knife . . . sliding that first piece out onto a plate for my Todd. (He's not only my husband, he's my taste tester) It looked to have a lovely texture and perfect in every way. I had really wanted to garnish it with some strawberries but wondered how they would go with the figs . . . but what the heck I went for it anyways, popped a lovely sliced strawberry on top, and he gobbled it down poste haste and went in for more! (He's rather lucky that way. He's as thin as a rail and can eat for England and never gain an ounce! I know! How frustrating is that!!!)

This is a lovely cake that I would definitely make again and maybe even without the figs at some point, but the figs did add a lovely crunch and texture to what was a beautifully rich and moist creation. I loved the flavour of the honey and I agree with Dorie, three days later and this cake is just getting better and better!

*Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake*
Makes 8 servings

About 16 moist, plump dried Mission or Kadota figs, stemmed
1 c. medium-grain polenta or yellow cornmeal
½ c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 c. ricotta
1/3 c. tepid water
¾ c. sugar
¾ c. honey (if you’re a real honey lover, use a full-flavored honey such as chestnut, pine, or buckwheat)
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 stick (8 TBS) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus 1 TBS cut into bits and chilled
2 large eggs

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 160*C/325*F. Butter a 10 ½-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and put it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Check that the figs are, indeed, moist and plump. If they are the least bit hard, toss them into a small pan of boiling water and steep for a minute, then drain and pat dry. If the figs are large (bigger than a bite), snip them in half.

Whisk the polenta, flour, baking powder, and salt together.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the ricotta and water together on low speed until very smooth. With the mixer at medium speed, add the sugar, honey, and lemon zest and beat until light. Beat in the melted butter, then add the eggs one at a time, beating until the mixture is smooth. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are fully incorporated. You’ll have a sleek, smooth, pourable batter.

Pour about one third of the batter into the pan and scatter over the figs. Pour in the rest of the batter, smooth the top with a rubber spatula, if necessary, and dot the batter evenly with the chilled bits of butter.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. The cake should be honey brown and pulling away just a little from the sides of the pan, and the butter will have left light-colored circles in the top. Transfer the cake to a rack and remove the sides of the pan after about 5 minutes. Cool to warm, or cool completely.

Serve the cake while it is still slightly warm or wait until it reaches room temperature, my preference. Honey cakes are good with tea, and this one's no exception. While I like the cake plain, it's very good with a little softly whipped cream that'e lightly sweetened with honey.

Wrapped in plastic, the cake will keep for about 5 days at room temperature. In fact, it will be even better after it's had a day's rest. The cake can also be frozen up to 2 months; defrost in it's wrapper.

Playing Around:
For a cake that's even more reminiscent of a Mediterranean sweet, toss the figs with a pinch or three of crushed fresh thyme leaves or minced fresh rosemary.

Tune in next week when Elizabeth of Ugg Smell Food has chosen . . . . Peanut Butter Torte!!! Mmmm . . . . peanut butter, one of my most favouritest of all things!!! It might be very hard to keep my face out of this one . . . (not to mention my fork!)

Monday, 28 April 2008

Love is Spoken Here

"The gospel of Jesus Christ is the greatest force for peace and unity on the face of the earth and when every knee shall bend and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ, there will be no division among us." ~Marjorie Pay Hinckley

We travelled to our Stake Centre yesterday to attend one of our bi-annual Stake Conferences. For those of you who don't know, our church is composed of first of all countries, then areas within the different countries, stakes within the areas, and finally wards within the stakes. Each level has a distinct leadership, all falling under the leadership of the whole church, which is the church presidency. Twice a year we gather as a world wide membership to hear our leaders speak to us as a whole, and then twice annually we meet as a stake to her our stake leadership speak to us as a smaller group. They are always very uplifting experiences and when you belong to a church that, in this country at any rate, is very small in size, it's really heart warming to be in a larger group and experience the great feelings of love, acceptance and understanding that is always present in one of these events.

The spoken words at one of these events is always exceptional. We are spoken to by various individuals and their words are always very uplifting and inspirational. The stake choir always sings and it never fails to be beautiful and moving. I often find myself in tears actually. Music does have such a powerful influence on hearts and minds. Yesterday was no exception. I was especially moved by the last hymn that they sung, entitled "Love Is Spoken Here." It is sung in parts, the males singing one part and the females another. It is a song usually reserved to be sung in our children's Sunday School, but it was particularly moving yesterday, when it was sung by the adults. Here are the words:

Female part:
I see my mother kneeling with our family each day.
I see the words she whispers as she bows her head to pray.
Her plea to the father, quiets all my fears,
and I am thankful, love is spoken here.

Male Part:
Mine is a home where every hour
is blessed by the strength of priesthood power
with father and mother leading the way
teaching me how to trust and obey
and the things they teach are crystal clear
for love is spoken here.

The parts are sung individually, first the girls and then the boys, and then finally they are sung in unison and they go so very beautifully together. It's immensely moving and inspiring. It really touches the heart. It really touched mine . . .

I sat there and thought . . . did my babies see me kneeling to pray when they were growing up? Oh, they knew I was a praying woman for sure . . . I never made any secret of that . . . but we never prayed together, other than at meal times . . . and . . . they never saw me pray my own secret prayers . . .

I found myself wishing that they had. I found myself thinking that . . . if we had been a family that had prayed with each other and together . . . then perhaps there might have been a very different outcome than there was. Perhaps there would never have been a divorce. Families are sacred, and my heart often aches at the thought that mine was not eternal . . . mistakes made in our youth, the fingers of bad decisions made in ignorance and haste have far reaching and painful implications that we don't realize at the time.

As I listened, I felt Todd's fingers creeping into mine and we looked at each other and I could tell that we were both feeling the same thing, thinking the same thoughts, feeling the same sorrow. We both have families . . . mine all being thousands of miles away in Canada, his no longer on this earth, with the exception of one son and a step daughter who don't want to know. It took each of us two marriages and two divorces to find each other and finally get it right. We, neither one of us, had the blessing or the advantage of having been brought up by parents who were in the Gospel and we both came into the church, for whatever reasons, late in life. We look at each other and we both feel the longings and the heart ache of regret for not having found each other sooner, and for not having been able to have a sacred family together . . . and yet . . . at the same time, we both feel incredibly blessed for finally having found each other at all, and our hearts fill with joy because we know what true love is and what it means, after all this time . . . both incredibly grateful for finally having gotten it right . . .

And so . . . our fingers touched . . and two pairs of eyes, brimming with tears met, and two hearts filled with love and gratitude reached out to each other . . . both thankful for the love that is spoken here . . .

(If you wanted to hear the song I am talking about you can find it here: Love Is Spoken Here Make sure you click on Recorded Music, words and music. You will be blessed by listening to it, I promise.)

After we got home yesterday we had a relaxing day the rest of the day. I made us some dinner, just leftovers from Saturday and then I had some bananas that needed using up and so I made us a lovely banana loaf, another delicious recipe from my Big Blue Binder. It makes two scrumptious loaves so you'll have one for eating now and one for the freezer, or to give to a very lucky friend!

*Cinnamon Streusal Banana Nut Bread*
Makes two loaves

This may well be the best banana bread you will ever eat. Moist, flavourful with a deliciously crunchy topping of brown sugar, nuts and cinnamon, this pleases everyone.

3/4 cup butter, softened
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
2 cups caster sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 medium bananas, peeled and mashed
1 cup toasted pecan nuts, chopped
1/2 cup firmly packed soft light brown sugar
1/2 cup toasted pecan nuts, chopped
1 TBS plain flour
1 TBS melted butter
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Lightly grease and flour two 8 by 4 inch loaf pans and set aside.

Cream the butter and mascarpone cheese together in a large bowl, until creamy. Gradually beat in the sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the vanilla extract.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in another bowl and then gradually stir this mixture into the banana mixture, beating at low speed until just blended. Stir in the bananas and pecans. The batter will be thick. Divide it amongst the two prepared loaf pans, smoothing the tops.

Make the streusal by stiring together all the streusal ingredients until crumbly. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over each banana loaf.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for about an hour, to an hour and fifteen minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. You may need to cover the top with aluminum foil the last 15 minutes or so to help prevent it from over browning.

Cool in the pans on wire racks for at least 10 minutes before removing from the pans to finish cooling. Slice with a serrated knife to serve.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Nature's Theme Park

"I like to look at everything -
A snow capped peak, a sign of spring;
A moonlit night, a sunny day,
A swallow winging on it's way;
A rose in bloom, a cherry tree,
A shore's liaison with the sea;
A lazy river winding by
On which reflections catch the eye.
I like to look at things each day,
It's all a Theme park in a way.
The only difference seems to be,
In Nature's park, admission's free."
~ J M Robertson

All around me now, are signs that spring is in full motion. The countryside is rapidly greening and the birds, which have been pairing up for weeks now it seems, are now busy gathering in little bits of this and that to help build their nests with. The other morning I saw a wag tail with bits of straw in it's beak and then, later on in the day, a song thrush sitting on a post at the end of the lane, with a beak full of moss.

All the leaves have burst out on the trees, seemingly overnight, and the lilac is full of buds which will be soon in full bloom, gracing us with their wonderful scent and beautiful blossom. When I was a much younger woman, one of my first apartments was in an old Victorian house, which was surrounded on three sides by a lovely lilac hedge. In the springtime it was like heaven on earth, and my kitchen table was often graced with a mason jar full of lilacs, their lovely fragrance making my two room home smell just wonderful . . .

As I look out over the orchard, it's plain to see that the apple trees are beginning to break into blossom as well, and indeed the tractors have been very busy this past week running up and down the rows and spraying. The hedges are full of May blossom and when we venture out for a walk, the slightest breeze fills the air full of petals . . . falling softly like snow and dancing all around us. It's all so very beautiful . . .

As I look out across the Downs, the rolling hills and fields are full of the wonderful yellow of rapeseed in bloom. Not so delightful to anyone who suffers from allergies of any kind, but so very beautiful to behold . . . it's so very good to be alive, and happy and surrounded by all this beauty . . .

Well folks . . . it was bound to happen sooner or later . . .

Yes . . . I finally bought me a cookbook that I don't really like all that much!!! Perhaps it will grow on me with time. (Here's hoping) Those are the risks of buying a book, sight unseen, I'm afraid.

I have had all of Tessa Kiros's cookbooks for a while now and they are my most beloved of all my cookbooks, especially her book entitled "Apples and Jam." Her recipes are always lovely and simple and easy to do on a budget. The books themselves are a work of art, with beautiful covers and pictures inside, not only of the food and recipes, but also of little snippets of Tessa's life and environment. I could just sit and read and browse through them for hours and never cook a thing, and still be happy with them. I do confess, I have always loved her recipes . . .

I was so excited a couple of weeks ago to see that she had published another book, and so I ordered it, sight unseen, just because it was hers.

It came several days ago, and it has a beautiful cover, just as her other books do, as well as a lovely blue and white striped book marker ribbon . . . blue and white being two of my favourite colour combinations. The pictures inside are lovely as well. My problem with it is . . . they're almost all seafood. I suppose it was kind of dumb of me to buy a cookery book about Portugal and not realize that indeed a lot of the food would be seafood based, and I am sure the recipes are lovely, well, at least to anyone who can eat that type of food and who enjoys it, and to someone who enjoys that type of food this book could be considered a real winner . . . it's just not my cup of tea, I guess. There are a few lovely desserts though, so I suppose I can make them . . . but I do have to say . . . this is not my favourite book and indeed I might even go so far as to say this is my least favourite book and I am sorely disappointed! Oh well . . . you win some . . . you lose some!

I did another painting yesterday afternoon, this time as a gift for my mother for Mother's day, which is rapidly approaching. You can pop over to BLOSSOM TIME CREATIONS and have a gander if you wish. I call it "Being Mom." I just love it and I hope that my mom loves it too!

I just love chicken wings, but really they're not that healthy, all that skin and fat you know . . . probably why they taste so good. They're one of the things I always liked best about the Chinese Food Buffet place back home. Other people would come away from the buffet table with plates heaped with sweet and sour chicken balls . . . not me . . . it would be the wings. I also really love hot wings . . . Buffalo Wings. This lovely recipe I am going to share with you today is a way of enjoying the taste of Buffalo Wings without all of that skin and fat, and I do have to say, they are yum, yum, yum . . .

*Boneless Buffalo Wings*
Serves 2

This is a delicious way to have your cake and eat it too . . . ahh . . . err . . . wings, I mean. Tender, juicy and chock full of flavour, these please on all counts! If you are not a fan of really spicy food you can cut down the amount of cayenne pepper and they will still be very good.

1 cup plain flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup milk
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast fillets
vegetable oil (for frying)
1/4 cup hot sauce (I use Louisiana which my friend Eliza brought over to me)
1 TBS butter, melted
Blue Cheese Salad dressing for dipping, if desired (see recipe below)

Whisk together the flour, salt, peppers and paprika in a bowl. Set aside. In another bowl beat together the egg and milk.

Slice each chicken breast crosswise into about six pieces. One at a time, dip each piece into the egg mixture, and then into the flour mixture, turning it to coat. Repeat once more with each piece of chicken so that they are double coated. (I use one hand for the flour mix and one for the egg mix, that way my fingers don't get as messy) Place each piece on a plate while you finish coating them all. Place in the refrigerator to chill for about 15 minutes.

Heat about a 1/4 inch of oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Once it is hot add the chicken pieces a few at a time and cook them for about 3 minutes on each side, until nicely browned. Remove to a dish lined with paper toweling and keep warm while you are cooking them all.

Melt the butter and stir it together with the hot sauce. Once you have finished cooking all the chicken pieces, brush them with this mixture and then serve with some blue cheese dressing to dip them in if desired. Delicious!

*Chunky Blue Cheese Dressing*
Makes about 2 1/2 cups

If you use light mayonnaise and sour cream, this is not all that bad for you. I think in America you can even get low fat blue cheese. It goes very well with the chicken and is also a lovely salad dressing.

1 cup good quality mayonnaise (I use Hellmans)
1 cup dairy sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons grated onion
4 dashes Tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 dash cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons sugar
6 ounces crumbled blue cheese

Whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream and mayonnaise. Whisk in the remaining ingredients, making sure that they are well combined. This should really be made the day before to get the optimum flavour, but you can make it just a few hours ahead of time as well and it's still quite good.

PS - I'm sorry to disappoint anyone who came here looking for cheesecake pops. I'm afraid I did not do the Daring Baker's Challenge this month. I could not find anything to use for holders and I did not have enough room in my freezer, and to be honest . . . I am not just all that fond of cheese cake . . . well, not fond enough at any rate to have a whole passel of the stuff hanging about the freezer taking up space . . . I know . . . crazy me!!

Saturday, 26 April 2008

I have a family

"Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. ‘Children are an heritage of the Lord’ (Psalms 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.” ~The Family, a proclamation to the world.

I have a few families . . . each one is important, each one is meaningful, each one is much loved and cared about . . .

My first family is composed of all the people that are related to me by blood and by choice . . . and unfortunately most of these much beloved ones live quite far away from me at the moment. These are my husband, my parents, my siblings, members of my extended family, my children, their spouses and my two grandsons. A family is such a special institution and, I believe, a gift from God. It's like we are all the part of one orchestra, and we are all playing the same symphony . . . each one of us a different instrument, but in total harmony with one another . . . each playing a song of the heart that is singular and understood only to that family. No matter how much distance may separate them from one another . . . the song remains and draws them together in a unity of feeling and love for one another . . . or at least that's the way it should be . . . that's the way it was planned to be.

My second family is like unto the first, but the family that is with me all the time . . . Todd and my Jess. We are a family. Todd and I met rather late in life, too late to have children together, but we have Jess. She is a dog, but she is much more than that to us. We love her the same as we would had we been able to have a child and she is important to us as any child would be. The three of us, we make beautiful music together. We understand each other. We love and care about each other. We belong together . . .

Then there is my church family. These are the people that I feel a special kinship with, a supernatural bond. We meet together at least once every week, sometimes more often than that, and there is always this special feeling present. It's hard to describe, but . . . we love each other and we feel the same way about most things, we, too . . . understand each other, or at least we try to! It's so nice, in a world where good people feel increasingly like aliens, to have a place where we can go and feel like we fit, like we belong, like we are not alone . . .

I have a family at work. United in purpose, we all strive to do our best to please our employers, both singularly and co-hesively as a group. We help one another, because we know that, if one of us falls, it will drag the rest of us down and so we need to support one another in all things. We care about each other and about our employers, and while we seldom, if ever, get together apart from in those working hours, when we are together there is a friendly harmony that helps to cement us and to keep us strong and unified. It is a real blessing. I have worked in other places where these feelings were not present, where there was no real caring or compassion from my fellow employees, or even my employer, so this special relationship that I have with my co-workers . . . this is a special treasure . . .

Friends are family too. I like to think that friends are family you get to choose for yourself. This is another special bond and I am happy to say I have special friends all over the earth. We love and care for each other as well. Like minded, and yet different in many ways, there is a special kinship that draws us together and speaks to our individual hearts. Each one is important to me in their own unique and individual ways and I feel as if we have known and loved each other forever. It's a truly special way to feel, and my life has been truly enriched and blessed by these very wonderful friendships.

You, my readers, are another special family to me. I come on here each morning and I pen my thoughts, and you come on each day to read them. There is a wonderful bond that is forged between me, the writer, and you, my readers . . . another relationship of caring and special feelings. You are all very important to me, and I hope that I am important to you, and I can tell from each comment that is left, or, even the words that are left unspoken . . . that I am . . . another blessing in my life.

And those are my thoughts on this Saturday morning . . . I hope you didn't mind me sharing them.

Boudreau is home and while he is in a bit of pain (who wouldn't be!!!) he is resting comfortably and is happy to be back with the people who really care about him, his family. Many thanks to all of you for your special thoughts and prayers. We should find out next week if the growth was malignant or not. We're all praying that it wasn't

I think one of the things about any family is the feeling of comfort that goes along with the relationships. I like things that are comforting and cosy, a home, a special chair, my own pillow on my bed and this delicious version of macaroni and cheese . . . convenient, easy and much tastier than anything you could ever get in a box . . .

*Stove Top Macaroni and Cheese*
Serves 4

I got this recipe from my sister a long time ago, and yes, it too comes from my big blue binder. I'm not sure where she got it from, but I am sure it's delicious! Whenever I make it, I picture her in my mind . . . standing at her stove and stirring it up the very first time she showed me how to make it. I guess that's what makes the recipes in my blue binder all the more special . . . each one has a particular memory attached, a person, a feeling . . .

8 ounces of uncooked macaroni
4 tablespoons butter
2 eggs, beaten
6 ounces evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed)
If you want to make it lower in fat, use the low fat version
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon sea salt, rubbed between your fingers
freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon mustard powder
10 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (I use a combination of mature cheddar and leicester cheese)

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Cook your macaroni in this until just al dente, according to the package directions. Drain well, then return to the pot. Add the butter and toss the macaroni well in it to coat. In a large beaker, whisk together the eggs, milk, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and mustard. Stir into the hot pasta, and add the cheese. Turn the heat to low, and continue to stir and cook until cheese is melted and mixture is creamy. Serve.

PS. The Tres Leche Cake lost out by a narrow margin to my Peanut Butter Picnic Cake on my Make Me Bake Poll this week. Look for a new poll shortly!

Friday, 25 April 2008

This and That and The Great British Fry Up

"Every life has it's dark and cheerful hours.
Happiness comes from choosing which to remember."
~Author Unknown

I've often been asked how I can be so cheery much of the time. Oh, it's not to say I don't have my moments. I do have sad moments and plenty of them. I just choose not to dwell on them. The past is in the past and there is nothing I can do about it. It cannot be changed. The future, well, that's not actually happened yet and I can still determine, for the most part, what happens then, by the choices I make now. Now, well . . . now is now, and it's up to me how my "now" is going. I determined a long time ago that I was going to do whatever is the task I have at hand with as much joy as I could muster, even if I didn't always like what I had to do. Moaning about it doesn't make it any easier and doesn't get the job done. Better to just get on with the task and do it as cheerfully and as well as you can do. I always just tell myself that I am doing it for God. In truth, there is nothing that I would not do for Him, and nothing that I would not put my best effort into, and so it goes . . .

Every month on the web there is a food blogging event called, Waiter there's something in my . . . and it is generally hosted by one of the three bloggers, Jeanne of Cook Sister!, Andrew of SpittoonExtra and Joanna of The Passionate Cook . There is a new theme each month and this month Joanna chose breakfast. We were each challenged to present to the world our very own Breakfast Special. Now I love making pancakes, and often do, but to me a breakfast special has to do with eggs, and nobody does breakfast better than the British!

All over the country in the mornings,and most especially on Saturday mornings, you can partake of lovely breakfasts, knows as "The Full English" or the "Great British Fry Up". When we lived in Chester we often used to go into the town centre shopping on Saturdays and early enough to go to the market cafe and partake of a lovely full English breakfast, complete with bacon, sausage, beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, eggs and fried bread . . . no black pudding for me thanks!

To be sure it's a total "Heart Attack" special and not something that you would want to sit down to each and every morning of the week. I doubt any of us would survive for very long if we did, but as an occasional treat, you just cannot beat a traditional "British Fry Up."

As a young bride in the 1970's we lived on a military base in Southern Alberta which housed the British Army Training Services while they were stationed in Canada. I can remember my husband coming home and telling me about the breakfasts on offer at the British men's mess kitchens. They always sounded lovely, and indeed, they truly are.

A few summers ago, we spent a week down in Devon taking in the beautiful countryside. We stayed in Bed & Breakfasts all along the way. (Another British Institution I have come to love!) Each one had on offer in the morning a beautiful cooked English Breakfast, complete with eggs, bacon, sausage and all the fixings.

You will not find anything so tasty on the continent. They think breakfast is crispy rolls and cafe au lait, which can be pretty lovely in it's own right, but we are talking British here, and when on holiday, a "Full English" is the only way to go!I had never had fried bread until I came over here, and I have to say I fell quite in love with it, but it must be done the correct way, so that it is just crisp and golden on the outside and not greasy and sodden with fat.

*The Great British Fry Up*
(the angst free way)
Serves 1

Feel free to multiply the quantities and directions according to however many people you are wanting to serve. Pop your plates into a warm oven while you cook everything up and be prepared to serve immediately with big mugs of milky tea, coffee or hot chocolate. Pick your own poison!

Per person allow:
2 sausages (buy the best you can buy. Cheap sausages are just plain nasty and full of fillers and fat. This is one instance you DO get what you pay for. I prefer Cumberland chipolatas myself)
2 to 3 rashers of back bacon
a hand full of mushrooms, sliced
1 to 2 ripe tomatoes
1 large free range organic egg (another instance of getting what you pay for. If you are going to be eating an egg like this, it better be a good one that tastes the way a proper egg should taste)
1 slice of bread
1 small tin of baked beans
Olive Oil and a bit of butter
Cooked hash brown potatoes or potato waffles

Heat a large heavy skillet over low heat and brush it very sparingly with a light coating of olive oil. Open the tin of beans and pour into a small saucepan. Put over low heat and heat while you are cooking your breakfast, giving them a stir once in a while to help keep them from sticking.

For the sausages:
Using a sausage with a high meat content, add the sausages to the pan and allow to cook slowly, for about 15 to 20 minutes, turning occasionally, until golden. Remove and keep warm on a plate in the oven while you cook the rest of the breakfast.

For the Bacon:
I always buy dry cure bacon for the best flavour. It has less water in it and cooks up really nicely. You can choose smoked or non-smoked as you wish. You may also use streaky bacon, back bacon is my personal preference. Snip a few small cuts into the fatty edge of the bacon. Place straight into the pan and fry for 2 to 4 minutes on each side, or until your preferred crispness is reached. Remove to the warm plate in the oven and old there while you continue cooking your breakfast.

For the Mushrooms:
Increase the heat to medium high and add a small knob of butter to the hot pan. Once it begins to foam, tip in the sliced mushrooms. Let them cook, without disturbing them, for several minutes before giving them a stir. Avoid moving them around too much while cooking as this makes them rather soggy. Once they are as browned as you like, remove them to the hot plate in the oven as well.

For the Tomatoes:
Cut the tomatoes across the centre if using regular tomatoes, or in half length ways if using plum tomatoes. Cut the "eye" out of the top with a small paring knife. Season with salt and pepper and place cut side down into the pan drippings, adding a bit more butter if need be. Cook , undisturbed for about 2 minutes over medium heat. Gently turn over and continue to cook for another 2 to 3 minutes until tender but still holding their shape. Remove and place in the oven with everything else.

For the Fried Bread:
For the best fried bread it is highly recommended to cook it in a separate pan. Stale bread works best. Just plain old store bought white bread. Heat a skillet to medium heat and cover the base of the pan with oil. Once it is hot, add the bread and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until it is crispy and golden brown. If the pan starts to become dry you can add a bit more oil. I always like to add a small knob of butter to the pan just after I turn the slice to add a richer flavour. Delicious! Again, keep this warm in the oven with the rest of the breakfast while you fry your egg.

How to fry a perfect Egg:
I always start off with a clean pan for the egg. Heat the pan over medium heat. Add a good knob of butter and allow it to heat until it is foaming. Crack a fresh egg into a bowl and then slip it into the foaming butter. Don't be in a rush to cook it. Cook it over medium heat, basting it with some of the hot butter from time to time, until it is cooked to your preferred stage of doneness. If you prefer it over easy, flip it carefully once the whites are completely set and then remove it from the pan immediately. I prefer it sunny side up with crispy brown edges.

If you must do Black Pudding:
Cut the black pudding into 3 to 4 slices. Remove the skin. Place in the heated skillet and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on each side until slightly crisped.

Hash brown potatoes:
We like hash brown potatoes with ours. You can make your own from scratch of course, but you can buy some really good frozen ones nowadays as well as potato waffles, which some people like also. I cook these before I even start the breakfast and just keep them warm in the oven while I cook the rest of the breakfast.Once all the elements of your breakfast are cooked,place it all on warmed plates and serve along with lashings of tomato ketchup or brown sauce!

Thursday, 24 April 2008

It's the Little Things

Little things often get overlooked and forgotten. People might be tempted to think that little things don't really count or matter, but consider this . . .

A sneeze can start an avalanche . . .

A pinprick can cause a horse to gallop in a wild frenzy . . .

All disease is spread by germs, which are invisible to the human eye . . .

It only takes a tiny hole in the bottom of a boat to sink it . . .

Water, one tiny drop at a time, can carve a hole in rock . . .

Everything is composed of molecules, which cannot be seen with the naked eye. Two molecules rubbing together can cause an atomic bomb to explode or heat a country . . .

A pen and a scrap of paper is all it takes to sign a Peace Treaty . . .

A slim gold band seals a marriage . . .

A tender kiss . . . says I love you . . .

Yes, little things do mean a lot . . .
and the best things do
come in small packages!

I finally got those rocky road bars done that had tied on my Make Me Bake challenge last week. They turned out some delicious, but then, they always do! They are having a combined Birthday Party for everyone at Young Men's and Young Women's tonight, or what's called Thursday Night Mutual Activity . . . I think these delicious bars will go down a real treat with the younguns! (Us oldies will probably enjoy them too!)

*Rocky Road Brownies*
Makes 16 (depending on how big you cut them and how greedy you are!)

These lovely bars are every body's favourite. Rich, fudgy, gooey and very moist, I've never had anyone turn one down! Another one from my Big Blue Binder . . .

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup butter (4 ounces)
2 cups caster sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 TBS butter
8 ounces pure chocolate chips
1/4 cup pure chocolate chips
2 cups miniature marshmallows
1/2 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans or walnuts

Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Butter a 9 inch square baking pan, line it with parchment paper (to ease in removal and cutting), and butter the paper. Set aside.

Put the chopped chocolate and 1/2 cup of butter into a medium sized saucepan and set over a burner on very low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until melted and thoroughly amalgamated. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing in thoroughly each time. Blend in the vanilla. Whisk together the flour and salt and then blend it into the chocolate mixture, blending only until no white streaks remain. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until dry on top but still moist. A toothpick inserted in the centre should come out with moist crumbs clinging to it's surface. Cool the brownies in the pan for about 10 minutes.

While the brownies are cooling melt the butter and the 8 ounces of chocolate chips for the topping together over low heat in a small saucepan. Whisk together until smooth and keep warm.

Mix together the remaining chocolate chips, marshmallows and chopped nuts. Sprinkle them evenly over top of the brownies. Return them to the oven and bake for an additional 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and drizzle the melted chocolate mixture evenly over top. Set aside to cool completely on top of a wire rack before removing from the pan and cutting into squares or rectangles. Enjoy!!

PS - So far the Tres Leche Cake and the Peanut Butter Picnic cake are tied on my Make Me Bake Poll so far this week. Don't forget to vote!

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

This and That and Spring Time Asparagus

Mr Squirrel has been giving us nothing but problems. We moved the nut feeder over in front of our window and hung it from the eaves, thinking that it would make it a bit harder for him to access it, but he just jumps from the drain pipe and hangs on for dear life as it swings about while he feeds. We have even tried putting an old pizza pan on the top of it thinking it might make things a bit wobbly, but nothing works. He is determined to feast on the nuts regardless, even though I went out and purposely purchased nuts in the shell specifically for Todd to put out, thinking that the Mr Squirrel would go after them instead! Oh how misguided I was. Mr Squirrel completely ignores them. I suppose he is lazy and prefers the easy way out!

Mr Crow has been enjoying them though and it has been quite fun to watch him hammer them open with his strong looking beak. Did you know that crows mate for life? It's quite true and there is actually a pair of them that comes together, although only one feeds at a time, whilst the other one waits in the tree. I think this one in the photo must be the female as the other one has a much stronger looking beak that is quite a bit thicker!

You've probably noticed that I have my Esty shop up and running now. After much encouragement from friends I have decided to sell prints of my artwork. It is amazing to me that people are so interested in it. They're only little paintings to me, and while I really enjoy doing them, and am somewhat proud of them when I am done, I guess I don't really see them as all that special in the world of art. I mean, they are hardly Van Gogh's or Rembrandts! I guess they are cute though and I do really get a lot of pleasure out of creating them. Hop on over to my new page BLOSSOM TIME CREATIONS if you are interested in having a peek. I'm really quite proud of it. I am not the most technologically aware person in the world and I have even managed to make myself a banner for my Esty shop and even put words on it!

We had such a lovely day here yesterday. The sun was shining for most of the day and it got quite warm in the afternoon. Warm enough that Todd was able to sit out in the garden and read and Jess enjoyed being out there with him. She's a funny dog, in that she doesn't really like being outside by herself. She likes one of us to be out there with her.

I took advantage yesterday of some lovely Italian Asparagus that I got at the store that had been marked down. It looked perfectly good to me and I can tell you it tasted lovely steamed and served up with a delicious Caper Vinaigrette last night along with some steaks I grilled. This vinaigrette also goes very well drizzled over grilled fillets of any mild flavoured white fish. It's really quite yummy!

*Asparagus with Lemon and Caper Vinaigrette*
Serves 4

I think I got this out of an old Good Housekeeping magazine. I have had it stored in my old Blue Binder for a number of years now. It's one of my favourite ways to dress up early spring asparagus, and is really quick to do. This is a great one for dinner parties as well as you can make it up ahead of time. It keeps well in the refrigerator for several hours. Just bring it to room temperature before serving for the best flavour.

1 pound of fresh asparagus, washed, dried and trimmed
1 tsp salt
the juice of 1 lemon, divided
1 TBS capers, drained and chopped
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 TBS extra virgin olive oil

Place the trimmed asparagus in a large skillet and cover with cold water. Add the salt and 1 TBS of the lemon juice. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 4 to 5 minutes until crispy tender. Do not over cook.

Drain immediately and then run cold water over it to stop it from cooking any further. Drain again and set aside while you prepare the vinaigrette.

Whisk together the remaining lemon juice, capers, mustard, sugar and black pepper. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking the whole time to that it emulsifies and thickens. Toss the cooked asparagus with a bit of the vinaigrette and then drizzle with the rest when you are ready to serve.

This is nice served warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

One of Your Daily Five

Well, it's Tuesday morning and we all know what that means now, that means it's Tuesdays With Dorie day, one of my most favouritest days of the week. The day that I get to join in with some bazillion of other bakers around the world and bake a recipe from our most bestest favouritest book of all time, Baking From My Home To Yours, by the bestest baker in the world, Dorie Greenspan! Whew! What a mouthful! If you want to know more about the group and how they got started, and how you yourself can join, you can go to their page Tuesdays With Dorie and it's all there in glorious Technicolour for you to read all about it, but to make a long story short . . . each week we all prepare the same thing, and once in a while we even get to pick which recipe it is we are going to bake. It's going to be a loooooong time before it's my turn, but that's ok . . . I am enjoying baking, not to mention eating, my way through the book!

This week's recipe was Bill's Big Carrot Cake as chosen by Amanda of slow like honey . Ohh, what a delicious choice Amanda! Carrot Cake has to be both my and Todd's favouritest cake of all, and also one of the easiest types of cakes to make!!

I had the chance this past week to get together with some friends for a bit of a coffee morning and a gab. I don't really drink coffee myself, but it is always nice to get together with people you enjoy and share in some refreshements and a nice chat. When I saw this weeks choice for the baking challenge I just knew it would be the perfect accompaniment.
Carrot cake has to be one of most people's favourite cakes!

I decided from the very beginning that I would bake the three layers and use one for the coffee morning, one for Todd to eat right away, and then freeze one for a later date. A three layer cake is just far too much for Todd and I to ever get through on our own, and I would hate to waste any of it . . . plus who can't use an extra cake layer in the freezer, ready and available to pull out at a moment's notice!

Carrot cakes have to be one of the easiest of cake recipes to execute and bake. They always go together like a dream and are fairly hard to screw up in my opinion, and this one was no exception. In fact as I don't really have a good stand mixer here at home I actually put this one together with the aid of my trusty wooden spoon, just like I always put carrot cake together. The longest part of the whole recipe was the grating of the carrots, and about half an hour and a couple of orange hands later I had a lovely pile of them just waiting to be stirred into the batter. I have to be honest here and admit, I did add a tin of drained pineapple crush to the recipe, because

  1. I had one in the cupboard that was close to it's use by date and it needed to get gone . . . and . . .
  2. I happen to love the extra moistness and delicious flavour pineapple gives to a carrot cake, end of . . .

All I had to do was to reduce the amount of carrots I was using by the same amount of pineapple I had and presto, no problemo! The cake baked up beautifully and was cooling on my wire racks in no time at all, well . . . er . . . about an hour later.

Cream cheese over here in England is not the same animal as cream cheese in North America. Yes, it's still called Philadelphia Cream Cheese and they also have various store brands, and you can get it in high fat and low fat as well. (Guess which one I used?) Anyways, it is a lot moister than North American cream cheese, hence you can't make cream cheese frosting in quite the same way. You need a whole whack more icing sugar just to help it to hold up and you daren't ever add any extra liquid such as lemon juice or it would never come together in a million trillion years, so I had to fly by the seat of my pants and make my own frosting for this one. (Sorry girls) Basically all I did was whip the required amount of cream cheese together with a lump of butter and about 5 1/2 cups of icing sugar and I had a lovely icing to spread on top of two of the layers.

Oh . . . we did have a grande time digging into this cake. It was hard to get a word in edgewise in between the ooohs and the aaahs, mumbled through mouthfuls of moist and delicious cake, but it went down a real treat and everyone around the table, all five of us gave it two thumbs up! There was only a little bit left at the end and I gave it to our visitor to take home to her father, who suffers from Alzheimer's and I had an e-mail from her the next day telling me how much he enjoyed it.

The one I had at home went down really well with Todd too, and I had a good time convincing myself, for a few mornings at least, that I was actually eating something quite healthy for breakfast. Cake for breakfast turns it into a meal instead of a dessert, and that has to be good right? After all, this one contains carrots . . . and carrots are one of your daily five, not to mention . . . they are full of anti-oxidants and are one of the world's richest vegetable sources of the pro-vitamin A carotenes. Carrots' antioxidant compounds help protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer and also promote good vision, especially night vision. That's a fact . . . so mama wasn't lying when she told you to eat up your carrots so you could see in the dark! We won't talk about the icing . . . Hmmm . . . I think I'll take that last layer out of the freezer this weekend and we'll just have it plain with some Lemon Curd drizzled over top a la Dorie's idea . . . Lemons are one of your daily five as well, not to mention chocked full of vitamin C! (Shut up!)

*Bill's Big Carrot Cake*
Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Yields 10 servings

For the cake:
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon salt
3 cups grated carrots (about 9 carrots, you can grate them in food processor fitted w/ a shredding a blade or use a box grater)
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
½ cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden) or dried cranberries
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
4 large eggs

For the frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick ( 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 pound or 3 and ¾ cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or ½ teaspoon pure lemon extract
½ cup shredded coconut (optional)
Finely chopped toasted nuts and/or toasted shredded coconut (optional)

Getting ready:
Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter three 9-x-2-inch round cake pans, flour the insides, and tap out the excess. Put the two pans on one baking sheet and one on another.

To make the cake:
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, stir together the carrots, chopped nuts, coconut, and raisins.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the sugar and oil together on a medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs one by one and continue to beat until the batter is even smoother. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing only until the dry ingredients disappear. Gently mix the chunky ingredients. Divide the batter among the baking pans.
Bake for 40-50 minutes, rotating the pans from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until a thin knife inserted into the centers comes out clean. The cakes will have just started to come away from the sides of the pans. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes and unmold them. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up.
The cakes can be wrapped airtight and kept at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.

To make the frosting:
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until the frosting is velvety smooth. Beat in the lemon juice or extract.
If you'd like coconut in the filling, scoop about half of the frosting and stir the coconut into this position.

To assemble the cake:
Put one layer top side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. If you added the coconut to the frosting, use half of the coconut frosting to generously cover the first layer (or generously cover with plain frosting). Use an offset spatula or a spoon to smooth the frosting all the way to the edges of the layer. Top with the second layer, this time placing the cake stop side down, and frost with the remainder of the coconut frosting or plain frosting. Top with the last layer, right side up, and frost the top- and the sides- of the cake. Finish the top with swirls of frosting. If you want to top the cake with toasted nuts or coconut, sprinkle them on now while the frosting is soft.
Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes, just to set the frosting before serving.

This cake can be served as soon as the frosting is set. It can also wait, at room temperature and covered with a cake keeper overnight. The cake is best served in thick slices at room temperature and while it's good plain, it's even better with vanilla ice cream or some lemon curd.

The cake will keep at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. It can also be frozen. Freeze it uncovered, then when it's firm, wrap airtight and freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost, still wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator.