Saturday, August 23, 2014

Recipe Link: German Chocolate Cookies

This has been the summer of the German Chocolate Cake for us! I made it for a friend and loved the complexity and beauty of the cake. The bittersweet chocolate combined with caramel filling, toasted coconut, toasted pecans, and chocolate frosting was to die for.

And I wasn't the only one who liked it! My father-in-law saw a picture of it and requested it for his birthday. And since everyone in our family seems to like a challenge, my husband (not a coconut lover) suggested making the cake sans coconut.
I didn't know how it would turn out, as the coconut adds a flavor, some texture, and I was pretty sure some binding properties so the filling wouldn't be gloomy. I made the version lacking coconut, modifying the recipe slightly... and it was still delicious. (Personally, I prefer the addition of the coconut, but it was still yummy.)

And then I saw this recipe for cookies, inspired by the traditional ingredients for German Chocolate Cake. I can't wait to try them..Chef in Training shares a recipe for German Chocolate Cookies.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Rules for Life... Lessons Learned

I love learning. I love the feeling I get during that Eureka! movement when something finally clicks inside my head and makes sense. I've found that even though it might take a long time coming to that point, it is usually a strong basis for continuing to learn.
For example, in tennis my coach will repeat a strategy to me, fifty or a hundred times. He'll try and reword it in an attempt to explain it, but until something clicks inside me, it's direction, not knowledge. Once I am able to comprehend what he's referring to, BAM! I can do it! It's an exciting feeling and it helps me to grow as a tennis player. This is true for me in life as well.
There is so much for me to learn and so much I want to learn... and learning takes time. But, when it does, it's rewarding and strengthening.
Luckily, not all lessons require me to actually do something. There are times (few, though they are) that I can learn from observing and then incorporating that knowledge into my life.
Observation, alone, does not create learning, you need to reflect on that which you observed and really see it in your own life.
One lesson I learned, and I mean truly learned, was what that you don't scrimp on birthday cakes. While this may sound rather frivolous and silly, like all lessons, it has greater meaning.

When I was a child, we a Bunny Cake Fiasco of '86. In short, August was a month with many celebrations, in addition to back-to-school preparation, and closing up the woodhouse for summer. It was a hectic time as that time of year is for many people. My mother thought she'd be shrewd and celebrate everything on one day. She looked through her freezer and removed a cake shaped like a bunny face that she purchased back at Easter time.
The cake came out after dinner and was quietly divided into seven teeny tiny pieces. No one said a word, but ate the few bites of cake that was offered. We were taught to be polite and never complain about a gift, but to be gracious and appreciative. Then, one day, my grandmother (who was one of the recipients of the cake) let out a chortle and made a funny comment about the lack of cake. We all laughed, relieved that she said something.
Through the years, my siblings and I have retold the story and the disappointment from that day is still evident.  In fact, none of us can see a bunny shaped cake without giggling like fools.
But, what is the lesson here?
It's not to criticize something that was done twenty + years ago, but rather to embrace the opportunity to make a birthday (or anniversary) a celebration. Making a birthday cake for the birthday celebrant is a gift, a simple acknowledgment that they are loved and worthy of a simple gesture.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

86th Birthdays Dinner Menu

New England Lobstah Rolls
Homemade Potato Salad
Creamy Cole Slaw
August Tomatoes

Coconut-Free German Chocolate Cake
Daffodil Cake

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Recipe: Apple Pie Nachos

 The other night I wanted a sweet snack. Lately, I haven't wanted anything sweet, like I did when I was younger, like ice cream or cake. I prefer savory now, so it was a bit odd for me to crave something sweet. I made some modified nachos... using tortillas that were baked until crispy, cheddar cheese and some sautéed apples for that sweet punch I craved. They were good. Not sugary, but with a hint of sweetness, some salty flavor and cheddar cheese. A great snack!

2 flour tortillas
1/4 cup cheddar cheese (sliced or grated)
2 apples, peeled and chopped
2 T brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon (or more to taste)
olive oil
1 pat butter

Heat oven to 400. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Slice the flour tortillas into wedges (like a pizza) and place each wedge on the cookie sheet. Drizzle the slightest amount of olive oil on top (or spray if you have a Misto sprayer) and then sprinkle salt on top. Bake for 10 min until crisp... or more if needed. Remove pan from oven and turn chips over. Place back in oven for 3 more minutes to firm up underside.

Meanwhile, in a pan, melt butter and add chopped apples. Sautee' until the apples begin to become fragrant. Add butter and cinnamon, until the apples begin to brown on the edges.
Place by the spoonful onto the chips. Top with cheese and bake until bubbly.
Serve immediately.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Currently Working On...

Working on another sketch of the Clown Trigger Fish and studying photos.
Learning the ladder stitch to make these wrap bracelets.
  • Sketching in my journal
  • Researching my next book
  • Working on my two-handed backhand
  • Planning a dinner for a joint 86 year old Birthday Party
  • Planning on the family boat cruise to celebrate the publication of Death on the Water
  • Getting the girls ready for another year in Boston

Monday, August 18, 2014

Drawing in Stages... Ralph's Clown Trigger Fish, "Spot"

Here's a drawing in stages that I did for a friend. It started as a sketch in my journal in colored pencils.
I took the image and scanned it into the computer.
 I wanted the background to be a bit more like water and lights in a tank, so I went to work on the background. I made it a solid color. I chose blue for the obvious water reference.
 Then I added some texture and some squiggles, some green reminiscent of algae and sea plants.
 I added some bent light rays, using the lighter blue and some green. I liked the contrast with the colors of the fish.
Then, I added a simple greeting and sent it off to our friend.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


 The summer is coming to an end and we have only a couple of busy weeks before the girls return to college. I made them cinnamon rolls, one morning, and was thrilled with how they looked before they baked.
Allie and I saw wild dolphins playing, splashing, and jumping in a small cove. It was the most beautiful sight and our excitement at seeing them was tremendous.
Allie took me to a little restaurant that is operated by a cook who owns a fishing boat. If he catches something that day, the restaurant is open. If not, no food... pretty simple formula. We lucked out that he was open the night we went. I had scamp for the first time. (Scamp grouper is a delicious, sweet white fish).
 Ashley found a beautiful fish market. We went inside and the fishmongers helped us with some delicious fish and shrimp. I had to take a photo of the cooked octopus!
 Here are my angels in the elevator. They smiled even though they are sick of me snapping pictures. I'm grateful for the three of them everyday.
We found a new-to-us restaurant and had to have my picture taken with the mascot. Love a man with an eye-patch!