Thursday, March 31, 2016

Jello Eggs, Cookie Cake and Killing Wallpaper

That is the worst blog title ever.

My friend Tina would scold me and say that I need to be to the point, I need to entice people over so that they come for a reason!

And I would say, "Hey! I gave them three reasons! Eggs, cookie cake and the death of wallpaper as we know it!"


March is a crazy month at our place for multiple reasons. We have six birthdays, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, Dave retired (had to postpone retirement party due to a gajillion sick kids) Holy Week, 3 books releasing (not my fault!) and cooking and baking for all the aforementioned, and did I mention the marketing side of 3 books releasing?

But we've done it, we did it, we're celebrating the risen Lord, the Savior of the world....

And we've got snow coming this weekend, so we're staying off the 'spring is here' bandwagon for a week or so!

First, the Jello Eggs. SO EASY AND FUN!

Here's what they look like:

Beth used her deviled egg container for the, and these beauties made folks of all sizes, ages and genders happy on Easter!

First, you need an egg mold AVAILABLE HERE! Wait...

I thought I'd give you a handy-dandy link to the egg mold, but it's not there!


If you ever see one of these, or more, at garage sales or from Jello, buy them! This is such a simple table dressing bowl of yumminess and everyone loves them!

For eggs:

1 6 oz. (or 2 3 oz.) boxes of Jello, various colors/flavors
1 1/2 Cup boiling water.

Lightly spray egg molds with cooking spray. Close mold, sealing edges.

Combine water with Jello, stir and stir and stir, then pour into the egg molds until just to the top of egg-shape. Chill. Unmold by releasing the "lock" on the mold carefully. Slowly draw top back and then tip eggs out, into bowl. Refrigerate.

And because this is a crazy month of birthdays here, cookie cake was a given several times!

Use your favorite chocolate chip cookie dough recipe. Trace circle onto parchment paper about 2-3 inches smaller than platter you're going to use for the cookie cake. If the platter is 12 inches wide, make a nine inch circle on the parchment paper.

Bake at 350° for about 15-20 minutes, checking to make sure you don't overbake...

Cool, transfer to platter and decorate!

And then there was this from my delightful daughter-in-law Lacey:

How stinkin' cute is this for an Easter centerpiece dessert?

Lacey used two 6" yellow layer cakes. She put a layer of frosting between them to stack them, then frosted the outside with chocolate frosting.

Take regular sized KitKats in sections of "2" for the outside of the "basket". Settle them into the chocolate frosting, upright, and ring the entire cake with KitKats... what can possibly be bad about that?

Tie a pretty Easter/spring themed ribbon around the cake, and fill with pastel M&M's. The bunny is a great touch for the top, isn't he?

We all loved this! So fun and so festive!

We had a wonderful busy weekend, some sick kids, beautiful Easter Masses and services, company, joy and prayer.

It was Easter.

And it was beautiful.

The Killing Wallpaper Segment, addendum:

My fifteen-year-old friend Christina has hired on to the crazy!!!!

Wallpaper and border:

Christina and Lizzie working on wall #1:

Christina, Wall Section #3!!!!!

And here is the mess involved! :)

We have three walls done, there is one half-wall to do tomorrow... and then patching, and then painting!

I need to brighten this room, so I'm thinking a warm, soft yellow and white trim, windows??? What do you guys think? The other thought was very "Fixer Upper" friendly, white on white on white...

And we're pulling up the old carpet and refinishing the 162 year old hardwood floor beneath it.

A great project, right?

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Fruit Makes Anything Better

When my daughter texted me on Friday afternoon to ask if it was okay to come over for dinner, I had to do a quick adjustment of dinner plans. I wasn't really in the mood for salmon, but it was the one thing I had plenty of in the freezer that I know she eats.

She's pretty predictable. Her salmon is paired with buttered penne. I didn't want that.
Since I'd been planning on shrimp with pineapple before her text, I figured I'd just try the pineapple on the salmon. (Confession: I'm not really a fan of the taste of plain salmon.)

But when I opened the freezer, I saw the nearly empty bag of frozen blueberries. I've been craving blueberries.

And then there was that bag of frozen peaches I bought because I was reading Linda Goodnight's Honey Ridge series set at the Peach Orchard Inn (And thus was craving all things peaches).

(Quick plug for these books because I've been loving this series SO much.)

See how easily I get distracted? That's because I'd rather be reading than cooking.

But back to dinner -

I decided to toss all three fruits together with a smidgen of water and simmer.

Brilliant idea if I do say so myself!

I'd made rice for my husband's cod (Not enough of that for daughter.) so I placed rice on the plate, sat the poached salmon on top, and drowned the whole thing in warm fruit sauce.

Just the thing for this under-the-weather author! The warm fruit was soothing to my throat and the mix blended perfectly with the salmon.

I will definitely make this again!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Ham's Best Friend

We had a couple of visitors the other day.
Yes, this nice pair really enjoyed themselves in our pool. Our presence didn't seem to phase them in the least.
Nor did the dogs.
However, past experience has taught us that allowing such creatures take up residence in your backyard is not a good thing. Especially when they decide to hatch nine little ducklings and teach them to swim in your pool. Sure they're cute, but boy do they make a mess.
After quite a bit of prompting, they finally flew away.

Okay, show of hands here. How many of you had ham on Easter?

Yes, my hand is in the air. And whenever I serve ham, there's one side dish that's the perfect accompaniment. However, I think this dish needs a new name, because Onion Shortcake just sounds kind of weird. So I'll share the recipe, then maybe we can rename this delicious side.

You're going to need:

1 large sweet onion, sliced
1/4 cup butter
1 box Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 15 oz. can cream-style corn
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon dillweed
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Sauté onion in butter until soft and translucent.
These are almost there.

Set cooked onions aside.
In a medium size bowl, mix together muffin mix, egg, milk and creamed corn.
Pour mixture into greased baking pan, an 8x8 or something thereabouts works well.

Rinse bowl and reuse or simply grab another and mix your sour cream, salt, dillweed and half of the cheese.
 Now add the onions and stir until blended.
Spread onion mixture over the batter, being careful not to disturb the corn mixture.
Top with remaining cheese.
Bake 25-30 minutes.
I think it's the hint of sweetness in the muffin mix that compliments the ham, but it really is the mixture of flavors going on here that is so delicious.

So about that name, Onion Shortcake. What say you? Good or needs to be changed?
Any ideas?

Monday, March 28, 2016

Not Your Mother's Cabbage!

I've shared cooked cabbage here at the Cafe before, like this post about Hannah Yoder's favorite "rote kraut."

But this recipe is going to blow all of your preconceived notions about cooked cabbage out the window!

I'm calling this one "Sauteed Cabbage with Caramelized Onions."

(makes one serving - multiply the ingredients for more servings)

1 slice bacon (I used that Applewood Smoked Thick Sliced bacon that Ruthy and I both love so much!)

vegetarian option: substitute 1 Tablespoon butter for the bacon!

2 or 3 slices sweet white onion, cut in half

1 teaspoon garlic powder, or 1 clove garlic

2-4 cups thinly sliced cabbage

salt and pepper to taste

This recipe is easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy!

Cut the bacon into one-inch pieces and start browning them in your favorite pan. When the bacon is partially done and some bacon grease is beginning to accumulate in the pan, add the sliced onions.

Cook and stir for about 10 minutes, or until the onions have a nice, tasty brown sheen.

Add the cabbage and garlic. Keep cooking and stirring for another ten minutes or so.

See how the cabbage is taking on the delicious carmelizing from the onions? Yum!

Season with salt (I left it out) and pepper to taste, reduce the heat to low, cover, and let simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

And now you have a side dish that you'll never forget.

No stinky boiled cabbage smell, I promise!!!

This is buttery, savory goodness. Melt in your mouth tastiness. And definitely NOT your mother's cabbage!

I served this dish with pulled pork BBQ sandwiches (no bun for me) and veggies. A nice, light meal for a spring evening.

But then, of course, the next day we had snow. Not as much as Colorado and southern Wyoming, but about four inches at our house. Two days later another storm rolled in and gave us an additional three inches. But hey! This is spring! The snow melts so fast we can hardly tell it's been there.

And meanwhile, we get some of that wonderful moisture we need so badly this time of year!

On top of that, there's nothing like a snowy day to get some writing - or snoozing - done.

What's been going on at your house? Did you miss last week's spring storm, or did you get the full brunt of it?

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Happy Easter!

All of us at the cafe wish you a Happy Easter!
The tomb is empty...

I hope you all have a wonderful Easter Sunday with family and friends!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Holy Week Fellowship

I'm copying Ruthy this week and sharing a previous Holy Week post because I love this week so much! Rather than taking new photos and reinventing the wheel, I'll just share the ones from last year...

Missy Tippens, here. Do you remember how I shared our special Ham & Egg supper our church does each year? (Click here to see that post.)

Well, we also have daily noon as well as some evening services each day during Holy Week. It's a community gathering with guest preachers from other churches around town. And after each service, we have a meal together.

I attend the noon services, and for our meals, we enjoy sandwiches and dessert. On Thursday, we also have homemade vegetable soup (my favorite day of the week!). Traditionally, each day is hosted by a different United Methodist Women's circle. My circle has always hosted Tuesday, but we're also helping with Mondays as well now. Circle members as well as others in the church donate the sandwiches and cookies/desserts.

This week, I took photos to share! So y'all can feel as if you've been there with me. :)

This is after I made my sandwiches at home. Four loaves of ham or bologna sandwiches--cut in half so the insides show for making selections. And I saved the end pieces to freeze to make croutons!

Here you can see where we've set  up the tables so a large number of people can flow through, picking out their sandwiches. Lots to choose from!

Here's the iced tea station.

Here are two sneaky official taste testers caught in the act. :)

And here comes the crowd filing in from the service!

Some close ups of the more popular sandwiches. Spinach (I'll get you the recipe later!). 

Here you see ham and cheese, chicken salad (some had cranberries and nuts that was SO good!), ham salad, peanut butter and jelly, and egg salad. Oh, and another one so scarce I couldn't get a photo before they were gone: pineapple and cream cheese!

Here, along with my finger, is a photo of those chicken salad sandwiches I mentioned.

And here's the popular peanut butter and jelly on raisin bread.

And of course, the homemade cookies and brownies!

Here's a shot as the tables were filling. Lots of eating and fellowshipping this week. One of my favorite weeks of the year. We've had some great preaching as well, time to reflect on the Passion of Jesus.

No cooking to share today since I made ham and bologna, :) but I hope to get a couple of recipes to share later.

I pray you each have a blessed Easter weekend!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Chocolate Coconut Nests for Easter (slight repeat from 2013!)

Ruthy here! I am repeating this wonderful, simple, marvelous Easter treat from three years ago because this has always been a family favorite and it's such an easy (and impressive) treat to take to parties or to use in baskets. You can use this candy as a "mound" without the jelly beans (like a drop cookie, with no baking!) but our favorite is to use the tiny jelly beans (not the weird flavored ones, okay?) to make the "bird" nest effect. 

Life has been crazy here the past two weeks, so much illness that we had to cancel my husband's retirement/birthday party for a couple of weeks. I've heard from folks across the country that many are feeling the same kind of push, so there's been little new cooking going on... but that's okay because this little trick is awesome and so much less expensive than buying the nests in stores. (I love the Russell Stover nests but I loved reproducing them, too!)

Easy-peasy, I'm tellin' youse.

Here's all you need: (I use the Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips or the Hershey's Milk Chocolate chips. Dark chocolate works, too, it's just a matter of taste...)

I keep toasted coconut in the freezer all the time. It's so simple, just lay a bag of coconut on a cookie sheet, spread it out, and toast in a 275° for about 20 minutes, give or take. I stir it around every five minutes or so. Remove from oven when most of the coconut has turned golden brown and is crisped up.

So for this easy peasy Easter treat:

Melt 2 bags of milk or dark chocolate chips over low heat. I use this method which helps prevent graying... some folks use the microwave. Whatever works for you!  Hershey's milk chocolate chips melt wonderfully with very little chance of graying as long as you melt them s-l-o-w-l-y. Which means you can get other stuff done...

Oh, RANDOM!!!! They're playing Mandisa's "Good Morning!" on K-Love right now and I used that as Lisa's favorite song in "The Lawman's Second Chance"...

 it's such a great song and I love the Toby Mac interlude!  Here's a link if you don't know what I'm talking about:  Mandisa's "Good Morning!"   But then come back here, okay???

I love this vintage Pyrex bowl. It brings back lots of memories of my mother and grandmother, and my older sister, cooking up wonderful things in these bowls! 

Put the first bag of chips in the bowl over a pot of very warm water. When they get soft, toss in the other bag and stir... stir again in a few minutes.... Once they've all "smoothed" (melted) add in about 2 cups of toasted coconut.

Drop by rounded tablespoons onto foil covered cookie sheet. Dip spoon in center to make nest "divet" or hollow. Mary Ruth likes helping Grammy!  :)  (Shamelessly exploiting small children for kitchen labor and to sell sweet books... And I'm okay with all of that, LOL!)

Now we add the bird eggs, aka: Jelly beans. I use smaller ones like they do at Russell Stover because they're SO STINKIN' CUTE!

Put in cool place (not like "hip" cool, or "chic" cool but temperature cool...) to firm up. No refrigeration needed.

Ah, help has arrived! They love the placing little "eggs" part the best!

And this is what they do at Russell Stovers:

You can buy one of these for $.99

We just made 23 of them in about ten minutes time (minus when I toasted the coconut and put it in a double zip-loc freezer bag...)  

For about $5.... Okay, maybe $6.  I buy chocolate chips at Sam's or when they're on sale and this week you can get two bags for $4.... so then $2 for the coconut and handful of jellybeans.

Pretty sweet deal, right?

If you have colored plastic wrap, it's cute to wrap them in it and put a smidge of tape on bottom.

And that's it.


Here's the bane to my diet:

Right here, in person:




Oh, I'm laughing because when I originally wrote this post, I think Mayor Bloomberg had just outlawed large drinks. Obviously I felt compelled to take a shot at him!

Holy Week is my favorite week of the year. Easter is still such a beautifully sacred holy day around here, and our 40 days of Lent are focused on remembering what's been done in our name... and being grateful for the amazing life we've been given.

Even with a few naughty kids, now and then!

So this week is filled with lovely services, quiet time, prayerful moments, and then the wonderful family celebration of the risen Lord on Sunday.

God is good, all the time...

And we are so blessed to be in a land where freedom of religion is a right... not a privilege.

God bless America, and happy Easter!