Monday, October 8, 2012

Parties and distractions!

*think music*Woody Nelson*cue guitar*

 "On the road again. Just can't wait to get on the road again..."

Okay, if you'd rather hear Woody sing it, go here, but then come back!

Jan here, and I'm on the road again...

One thing about living in the north is that you can't count on the weather during the winter. All plans are made with the contingency "depending on the weather". So if there's someone you want to see, you'd better get on the road and see them before the snow flies!

Mom, 2009
Which is where I am this week - two days on the road, two days with my dear mother-in-law in Michigan (doing quite well in spite of being 89 years old and widowed in January), two days with my parents in Indiana (not doing as well - Mom's Alzheimers is worsening, and that's very hard on Dad), and fitting in some research time in Amish Country while we're there. And then two more days back home.

My in-laws in 2009
So by the time you read this on Monday morning (or late Sunday night for you westerners), I'll be in Central Michigan, enjoying the colors and my mother-in-law's company - but with no internet. I'll try to get somewhere on Monday to check in on the conversation, but I can't guarantee it!

Grandpa loved playing dominoes.

But you have a treat today: a look into my week and bonus recipes!

The week started out nice enough - warm weather, balmy breezes, everybody's work and school schedules humming along, and my line-edits turned in :)

Time to ramp up the tension, right? After all, don't we all live in a romance novel?

On the way to pick up his sister from work, our 20 year old son (yes, the same one who had appendicitis last summer) wrecked the car.

No one was hurt. What could have been a tragedy is just a minor, expensive, irritation. You can't see it in this picture, but the frame is buckled. We can drive it - for short distances and for a short time. No road trips to someplace exotic like Walmart.

He stopped at the stop sign, looked left - no cars, looked right - car coming. He waited, and then pulled out to turn left, right into the front wheel of the SUV he neglected to see when he didn't check left for the second time.

While waiting for the police and tow truck, the people on the corner (who have a beautiful garden and many children on their minuscule lot) gave my husband a couple zucchini.

Now the reason for this whole story so far is the zucchini.

The ladies at church were getting together for dinner Wednesday evening, and I had planned to make Missy's Amazing Oreo Cake (the recipe is here). I hadn't picked up the ingredients ahead of time can't put Oreo cookies and me in the same building and expect both of us to survive.

So without a car to drive and a busy schedule, I had to make do with the zucchini, and I'm glad I did! I found a fabulous recipe for Chocolate Zucchini Cake!

I started working on the cake on Wednesday afternoon...but wait. My daughter and I were eating with the ladies, but what were my husband and the boys doing for dinner? So at the same time I made Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches.

And then when my daughter came home from work, she made Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Crisps to take with us.

Are you ready for all three super-easy-peasy recipes?

First, I started cooking the chicken in the crock pot.

I cut an onion into five rounds and lay them on the bottom of the crock pot.

(Yes, I use those crock pot liners. My one decadent habit!)

Lay boneless chicken breasts on top, season with salt and pepper, and cook on high for four hours.

While the chicken was cooking, I shredded the zucchini. Even though I had two, one of them was past its expiration date - tough and woody. But the other one made 14 cups of shredded zucchini! All but three of them went in the freezer :)

Here's the recipe for the cake:

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

I always use Cake Flour for cakes!
2 1/2 cups cake flour (or all-purpose flour)
1/2 cup cocoa
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups grated zucchini

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup chocolate chips or chopped walnuts, if desired

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare a bundt cake pan by spraying with cooking spray or grease with butter, and then dust with cocoa powder (thank you, Missy, for this suggestion!).

Set the shredded zucchini to drain in a sieve over a bowl (you only need to do this if the zucchini is very juicy or has been frozen).

Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, soda, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl and set it aside.

With a mixer, beat together the softened butter and sugars until they're smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. With your mixer set on low, add vanilla and zucchini.

My mixer's name is Bosch. Very original.

Now alternately add the flour mixture and milk, about a third of each at a time. Stir in the chocolate chips or nuts, if desired.

Pour the batter into your prepared cake pan and bake for 50-55 minutes at 350 degrees, or until done. Test it with a toothpick, or if you don't have a toothpick, gently press on the top of the cake with your fingers. If the cake springs back, then it is done.

Cool in the pan, and then turn out onto a large plate.

You can decorate the cake by drizzling a glaze made with 2 cups powdered sugar and 3 Tablespoons milk over it, or you can sprinkle it with powdered sugar.

By the time I finished the cake, the chicken was done, so it was time to make the sandwiches.

Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches


4-5 boneless chicken breasts
barbecue sauce - your choice
hamburger buns

I took the meat out of the crock pot and let it cool slightly (reserve the leftover broth - you're going to need it). Cut the chicken up into cubes and then shred it with a couple forks. Add some broth to moisten it, and then add your favorite barbecue sauce. Stir it all around until it's well blended. Cover it well (I put it in a covered casserole dish) and put it in your cooling oven. I set the oven temperature at 170 degrees to keep it hot until the boys got home.

When my daughter got home from work, we made her part of the ladies dinner.

Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Crisps

3 kiwi fruit
3 Golden Delicious apples
1 cup strawberries
1 cup raspberries
2 Tablespoons white sugar
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
3 Tablespoons strawberry preserves

Dice the fruit into uniform sized pieces and stir it all together in a large bowl. Mix the sugars and strawberry preserves into the fruit. You can use less sugar if your fruit is riper than what my daughter was able to find.

The original recipe said to make cinnamon crisps out of tortillas, but we used cinnamon graham crackers, and they were perfect.

The ladies gathering (catchy name, right?) was at Mel's house out in the Hills. A beautiful setting. There were eleven of us there, plus Dane and Noem - two cute toddlers :)

Here's part of the spread - cake, fruit salsa, a cookie/pie/cake thing that was so delicious!, and Mel made a quinoa/fruit/chicken salad. She's promised to give me the recipe :)

Janet made her Italian cheese dip with pita chips. Another recipe I need to get! Marcie and Claudia both brought salads, and both were fabulous.

Giselle brought a baked potato bar - such a great idea for a group like this!

I didn't get pictures of everything, but we had plenty of food, plenty of fun, and Lisa announced that they have a new baby on the way.

Now isn't that the perfect way to spend an evening with friends?

(BTW, keep Lisa in your prayers. Her husband in deployed in Afghanistan and she has a very difficult time with her pregnancies. Thanks!)


  1. WOW!!! Talk about a packed post...

    As for the aging parents. Love thos sweet pictures and hugs to them.

    Your son... So glad he's alright. The exotic walmart made me laugh.

    The zucchini chocolate cake is going to be made tomorrow. I'm trying to make room in my freezer and have way too many bags of shredded zukes.

    And that spread... oh, boy! I would have gone nuts!

    Praying for dear Lisa and her new baby and the safety of her husband!

  2. Ditto on prayers for Lisa, baby (we love us some babies!!!) and her husband. Huge thanks to him and that family for serving!

    Love the old ones, oh my I keep thinking what will it be like when that's US?????

    In forty-five years. (I am a big fat liar.)

    I'm all over the Baked Potato Bar.

    OH MY STARS, we could have a party on just that! We could do "Outlaw" potatoes....

    Party at Ruthys!

    SWEET, JAN!!!

  3. My goodness, Jan, what a packed post for a traveller. First, hugs and prayers to your mother-in-law and your parents. They are blessed to have family like you!

    And oy to the car wreck! You must be a mama-of-steel! And even after all that you toss out recipes like a pro. Love the fruit salad and the zuccini chocolate cake. Haven't had one of those in ages. I made Virginia's beginner's chocolate cake yesterday and oh my what a train wreck. Tastes great though -- I was just too eager and tried to remove it from the pan too soon.

    Safe travels and fruitful research -- oh and when is your book out? Have I asked that before? If so it didn't get on my book buying calendar.

  4. yum - the other pics and descriptions I can *almost* forgive you for the pic of willie nelson- had just chomped into my turky and cheetohs sandwich(breakfat yes..well brunch maybe since I was up til 4 am quilting...)anyways not a pleasant pic for eating breakfast (or waking up...)

    btw I've discovered I'm an excellent cook for a 4 yr old - special salad all chopped up before it gets to the table(usually Little Dude has to wait for his mom to cut his up for him before he can eat) and this morning I succeeded with 'strawberry milk'- she mixes 2% milk with a bit of some healthy stuff like ensure for kids?blech - and a bit of nestle strawberry syup..well aunt sue-anna didn't see the healthy stuff so itw as a cup of the milk and a very generous squirt well ok STREAM of the strawberry syrup- had him taste it and his eyes lit up like mine do when I get a bit of luscious chocolate turtle cheesecake or brownie with syrup and bluebell icecream or..well you get the picture! :-)

    going home today and gonna miss the little guy and my friend.

    my aunt makes a chocolate zucchini cake that's good (of course!) can't even taste the zucchini!


  5. Hi guys,

    I'm on the internet at my sister-in-law's, and able to check in. Thanks for your prayers and well wishes.

    And after reading this post again, I'm hungry for that cake all over again!

    We had lunch with the Drexler cousins, and that was an experience.

    A good one, though!

    I'll see you all later in the week!

  6. Thanks for sharing recipes, even on the go, Jan. I've been in a mood for anything autumn - apple, pumpkin, spice, etc.

    Then my daughter in Ireland emailed asking me to send a Christmas cookie recipe that she wanted to share with her host. Now suddenly I'm wanting Christmas cookies.

    Going to settle for my cinnamon tea and a cranberry walnut scone and try to get back into an autumnal state of mind. The cool weather helps!

    Will definitely keep Lisa in my prayers. Please keep us up to date on her pregnancy. I'll echo Ruthy on the thanks for the family in service.

    1. Christmas cookies!!!

      Oh. Yum.

      Grinning, just thinking about it!

  7. Wow, what a lot of yummy food! My daughter is especially excited about the fruit salsa! I also look forward to your friends' recipes. :) Thanks for sharing, jan! I hope you have a great trip.