Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Family Favorite ~ Fudge Sheet Cake

Today is Valentine's Day! What better way to celebrate than with chocolate? For this week's Kitchen Adventure, I thought I'd share with you all my Fudge Sheet Cake recipe. It's not really much of an adventure for me to bake this cake, as I've made it dozens of times, but it is a family favorite and a great way to show some love. Well, actually, I did have a bit of an adventure making the cake yesterday - it refused to get done in the usual time, which put me behind schedule by several minutes. Not a huge deal, but it caused me to forget to take along my poster for our church's Lent Challenge. It would have been nice to get it set up before tonight's Ash Wednesday service. Ah well, it is what it is!

I made Fudge Sheet Cake yesterday morning for the circuit Pastors' lunch we served at church the same day. Luckily, there were a few pieces leftover for me to take home to serve to my sweetie (and myself!).

Nearly 29 years ago, we received a Mennonite cookbook as a wedding gift, in which I found the first recipe I used to make Chocolate Sheet Cake. It called for margarine and shortening, as well as a higher baking temperature. The cake always turned out perfectly, and tasted very good. It's been my son's most requested birthday treat over the years. When I discovered that butter is superior to margarine, I made that substitution, but never could figure out how to ditch the shortening.

Fast forward to just a few years ago, when I discovered a recipe for Texas Sheet Cake in Cooking Light magazine that uses ONLY butter! My son was a bit skeptical the first time I made it, because he knew he liked the old cake - could a new, lighter version be just as good? He and I were both pleased to learn that it not only tastes better, but also has a better texture and scent! Honestly, isn't everything better with butter?

Of course, being the rebel that I am, I don't follow the Cooking Light recipe exactly. For one thing, fat-free milk is really wimpy pale white water, so it absolutely never finds its way into my grocery cart. And I haven't bothered to flour-dust baking pans in ages. I use my stoneware pan for sheet cakes; it's so well-seasoned it almost doesn't even need cooking spray. Most recently, I increased the cinnamon in the cake, because a friend of mine accidentally put too much in hers, and I loved it! Both sheet cake recipes I've used in my life call for chopped nuts in the frosting, but my family believes that is just wrong, so we opt out.

A few notes - Use the same pan and wooden spoon for heating the butter portion of the  cake batter and for making the frosting. You're putting almost the same ingredients in the pan each time, so there's no reason to dirty more dishes. There are a couple of things that I don't measure:  vanilla and powdered sugar. Splash in however much vanilla you want! Measuring powdered sugar for frosting is pointless; just dump in half the bag, beat, then add more if you need it. I'm guessing it's around 3 or 4 cups. This frosting isn't supposed to be too thick, so keep that in mind, but you don't want it runny, either. I like it best about the consistency of white gravy. Also, don't scrape out the pan too well as you pour the frosting onto the hot cake. Part of your reward for slaving away in the kitchen is cleaning up that hot fudge yumminess!

Here it is...the way I show love to my favorite people....

Fudge Sheet Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa, divided
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp vanilla, divided
2 large eggs
6 Tbsp butter
1/3 cup milk
3 or 4 cups powdered sugar

Heat oven to 375°F. Spray a 15 x 10 jelly roll pan (stoneware is best!) with cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. In a large saucepan, combine water, butter and 1/4 cup cocoa; bring just to a boil, stirring frequently. Pour into the flour mixture. Beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended, scraping sides of bowl with a rubber spatula. Add buttermilk, 1 tsp vanilla and eggs; beat well. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake at 375° for 17 - 19 minutes or until pick comes out clean and cake springs back when lightly touched. Place on a cooling rack.

When there are 5 minutes left on the bake time, begin preparing frosting. Combine 6 tablespoons butter, milk and 1/4 cocoa in the saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in powdered sugar enough to keep it from making a mess, then use the mixer to fully blend. Add more powdered sugar if needed. Stir in 2 tsp vanilla. Pour frosting over hot cake and spread evenly. Cool completely on cooling rack.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Vegan Hot & Sour Soup

Back when I was a "normal" eater, we used to eat at the local MSG Palace on occasion. They had all kinds of saucy ways to serve chicken. My favorite was Walnut Chicken. I'm sure it was chock full of sugar and sodium, but so SO tasty! Salt & Pepper Shrimp was another thing that always went on my plate. And my meal was never complete without a bowl of Hot & Sour Soup.

I've found a brand of meatless "chicken" chunks that I like, so maybe I could find a recipe for Walnut Chicken to make a vegetarian version. Fish sometimes agrees with my tummy nowadays, but not shrimp, and I've never seen faux seafood at my grocery (sounds rather awful, anyway, don't you think?). That leaves a remake of S&P Shrimp out of the question for now. Hot & Sour Soup, however, is completely doable!

One shelf of my cookbook cupboard is filled with vegetarian and vegan cookbooks. After consulting several of them, I found two recipes for Hot & Sour Soup and decided to combine them. Not all of the ingredients were readily available to me, so those were either skipped or substituted. One recipe called for tofu, which is not something I find palatable, but since there was a package of tofu in my freezer that had been there for several months, I decided to use it anyway. My combo/revised recipe is at the bottom of this post.

All the ingredients are gathered.

Doesn't tofu look like a sponge? Tastes like one, too! :p

Something I've learned from watching cooking shows on TV is to do all the prep work BEFORE beginning to cook. This is not something I've done much in the past, and it almost always results in frantic antics in the kitchen. And sometimes, it really messes up the end result. So, the next thing I did was chop all the vegetables, open cans/boxes, and zest/juice the limes.

The tofu was supposed to be deep fried, then cut into chunks. Since I don't have a deep fryer, and I wanted to save time, I cut the tofu into cubes first, then fried them in some olive oil in my small cast iron skillet. The tofu didn't brown up as much as I thought it would, but it did get a bit of a crust on the edges. I sampled a tiny bit after it was done. Verdict:  nope, still don't like tofu! Hopefully it will absorb the flavors in the soup.

After the majority of the vegetables were simmering in the veggie broth, I took the scraps out to the hen pen for the chickens to eat. They love it when I bring them snacks! We don't have a garbage disposal in our kitchen sink, and never will. Food scraps never go to waste here on the farm!

After the pot simmered a while, the rest of the ingredients were added, and the soup was done. It smelled delicious!

The soup is supposed to be served with a garnish of sliced lime, but garnishing isn't something I'm accustomed to doing. I'm not a fancy cook. And now I'm noticing that I forgot to put a spoon with the bowl of soup in the photo. While you certainly could use this Frankoma bowl like a mug and slurp the soup, I did use a spoon like a civilized eater.

My conclusion:  While this soup doesn't taste anything like the Hot & Sour Soup served at MSG Palace, it has great flavor and I love it! The tofu isn't horrible in it, but I could happily leave it out next time. The original recipes both called for some type of Asian hot pepper, which I did not attempt to find, or even use a different kind of hot pepper, because I don't care for very spicy-hot foods. The Thai red curry sauce and chili paste that I used offered some heat, although I could probably handle a bit more. A pinch of Sriracha sauce might be good. I'm the only one who is eating this soup at our house; Some Postman hates ginger with a passion, so he won't even taste a bite. That's fine with me - it's ALL mine! Of course, I can't eat an entire batch alone without it going south, so two-thirds of it was poured into freezer containers and stored in the deep freeze for later use.

Hot & Sour Soup

7 oz firm tofu, squeezed dry, cubed and fried lightly in olive oil
4 cups vegetable broth
3 thin slices fresh ginger
1 drop lemongrass essential oil (use fresh lemongrass instead, if you can find it)
2 Tbsp Thai red curry sauce
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp Bragg's liquid aminos (I used this because I didn't have enough soy sauce.)
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice and the zest of 1 lime
1 - 14 oz can light coconut milk
1 tsp jarred garlic (or one clove fresh garlic, minced)
1 tsp ground chili paste
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp coconut sugar
3 green onions w/ greens, sliced
1/2 head bok choy, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 red pepper, cut into very thin slices
4 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 cup bean sprouts
1/4 cup fresh basil, loosely chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Fry the cubed tofu in a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a cast iron skillet; set aside. Put ingredient list A in a large soup pan and bring to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and add list B to pan; simmer about 20 - 25 minutes. Remove ginger slices (chickens will eat it!). Add list C; simmer 4 minutes. Gently stir in the eggs and cook another minute or so to set. Serve with a slice of lime.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Peace and Crumbs Revived and Revised!

I'm baaa-aaaack!!!!

Life was simply too hectic for a few months for me to attempt keeping up with writing, and I'm really glad I took the break. We had a wedding in the family, lots of holiday celebrations, winter weather, and numerous funerals at our church (I'm on the funeral lunch committee). Keeping on top of all that was enough of a challenge. Recently, I've begun missing the creative outlet, though, and I could hear my old blog calling to me. Therefore, Peace and Crumbs is being revived!


I still feel like there isn't any need for me to keep up with the style (outfit) posts. The blog did accomplish its original goal; I feel like I've got a good grasp of what my personal style is now. What should be my blog's primary focus instead...that's what's been pin-balling around my thoughts the past week. I know that it should be something about which I'm passionate, like one of my favorite hobbies.

Think, think, think.... 

While I enjoy sewing and crafting, I'm only marginally talented in those areas, and don't actually do it very often. Hmm...maybe if I had the incentive of writing about such things, I'd sew/craft more often. Then again, who would want to read a blog about mediocre sewing projects? Surely I'd get better with time, but still.... Nope!

Thrifting is one of my most favorite hobbies. Whether it's yard sales, thrift stores, flea markets or antique shops, I love to hunt for bargains! This would be a fun topic (it has been in the past!), and I will probably write some thrifting posts, but I don't think I want it to be the primary focus. Sort of yes?

I love reading, and have loved books since I was very young; perhaps I should write about the books I've read. Oh dear, that sounds like a book report. Writing book reports is something I have hated since I was very young. Another nope!

Baking and cooking bring me lots of joy, and my talents in the kitchen are relatively good. While I'm not a great chef by any means, my family enjoys most of the dishes I make. And I love trying new recipes! Or using new recipes as a spring-board, in reality (it's pretty rare for me to follow a recipe exactly as written). This definitely has possibilities of being the blog's new direction! Of course, there needs to be a purpose to put behind the focus. Sometimes it seems like too much work to prepare decent food for myself, although it's not hard for me to cook for my husband. (In case you're not aware, I stopped eating meat about 5 years ago, but my hubby still eats normally.) It can be very tiring cooking two separate meals all the time. Many times, I make do with eating the veggie and side of the meal I've prepared for him...but that isn't very satisfying, which leads to snacking. And you know what happens when you snack a lot - the pounds begin to pile on the ol' hips. Aha! That gives me two purposes for writing about my kitchen adventures: discover fun new recipes and eat better in the process. Yes!

There we have it! Peace and Crumbs is being revived and revised. It is now a blog about the kitchen adventures of this Flint Hills housewife, with a bit of thrifting fun tossed in for extra flavor. At this point, I'm not going to set up a regular schedule for posts to appear on the blog, but I do hope to write once a week. I've written a few food-related posts before, and they do take longer to put together than outfit posts. Once weekly posts is a reasonable goal.

What you won't see in my blog are professional-looking photographs of my recipe creations. I'm not a skilled photographer, nor do I own a fancy camera. What I have is a little point-and-shoot that I got from Target 5 or 6 years ago. The lighting in my kitchen is horrible. Someday, we plan to fix that problem, but remodeling the kitchen will be the very last thing to be done in The Eternal House Project. (If you're a personal Facebook friend of mine, you'll notice the extra adjective I've added to that phrase! This remodeling project is taking FOREVER.) Also, I'm not going to pretend that I'm a great cook or even a neat and tidy one. What you'll see here is REAL LIFE.

(This is a picture of my camera, taken with my phone's camera, which is even less fancy.)

I'm so excited to get started on my fresh "new" blog! Yay! Watch for my first Kitchen Adventures post soon!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Bye For Now

My sincere apologies to those of you who regularly read this blog. I've neglected to write very many posts over the past several months, for numerous reasons. Real life is keeping me busy, and quite honestly, I haven't been very inspired to write much lately.

Rather than leave you wondering why it appears I've abandoned my blog, I thought it would be kinder to let you know that I'm going to take an hiatus from blogging. I don't know for how long; I may eventually start up again...but I may simply be done.

Until we meet again....

Friday, September 15, 2017

What 8¢ Can Buy

My lovely sister-in-law C and her fiance spent a few days visiting us last month. They timed it perfectly - our local thrift store was having their semi-annual $1/bag sale. C and I got in line about 20 minutes before the door opened, ready to stuff our paper sacks!

We spent a good two hours shopping. C got two bags crammed fuller than I ever imagined a person could manage. I used 5 bags to get almost the same number of items. One of my bags was mostly shoes, tho, which takes up a lot of space. Still, it's obvious that C is a better packer than me! Ha ha!

When we got back home, we sorted through our treasures and figured out how much each piece cost us. She had about 50 items, so each piece cost 4¢. I had a little over 70 items, costing me about 8¢ each. We were both thrilled with our thriftiness!

The next day, C wore some of her "new" clothes. Here is her 8¢ outfit:

Notice the cute details at the cuffs of the capri jeans. I love the graphics on her t-shirt!

Here is my favorite 8¢ bargain - a LuLaRoe Classic T! (The leggings are some I already had.)

Three cheers for super awesome thrift shopping! 

Friday, August 4, 2017

2nd Week of Work Outfits

Week 2 of filling in for our church secretary went pretty well, although I still didn't quite get the bulletin printed totally correctly. When Alice returned home from her vacation refreshed and happy, however, it made me glad to give her a much needed break. She asked if I'd be willing to fill in for her again sometime, and I agreed, mainly because I would really like to get that bulletin done right for once!

Once again, I took Monday off to get my own work done at home.

I'm not a fan of wearing shorts. They don't do my chunky legs any favors. Capri pants are OK, but still feel too hot to me. I did like this all-neutrals outfit, however, while I was working at church in the air conditioning. As soon as I got home, I switched to a skirt.

Outfit details:  top & cardigan ~ thrifted;
pants ~ JC Penney's; Vionic sandals ~;
necklace ~ JCP (I think?)

Please forgive the wet hair. In the middle of watering the garden, before getting dressed for work, it began to rain. It was just a few drops at first, and since it seemed unlikely we'd actually get enough rain to justify not finishing the watering...I finished watering. And it poured on me until I was winding up the garden hose.
Wearing a maxi skirt that day wasn't one of my better ideas. I don't understand women who say they are cool wearing a maxi skirt. Once again, it was tolerable in the AC, but I hiked up the skirt to my knees driving home, and practically stripped as soon as I got home! Maxi skirts are better suited to fall and winter for me, I think.

Outfit details:  t-shirt ~ Thrivent;
LuLaRoe maxi skirt ~ Facebook group;
BOC sandals ~ Vanderbilt's;
bracelet ~ yard sale

Print the bulletins day! A twirly skirt and tshirt is my ideal summertime outfit, so that's what I wore for a day of darting around the office. And it was fine for getting stuff done at home, too! I didn't think to get a close-up picture of the vintage fishy pin...but my explanation for why it goes with this outfit is that God created birds and fish on the same day, so a fish pin goes perfectly with a bird skirt.

Outfit details:  tshirt - JCP;
LuLaRoe Azure skirt ~ FB group;  sneaks ~ JCP;
vintage fish pin ~ MIL

There wasn't much left to do in the office, so I went home after about an hour. If it hadn't been so stinkin' hot that day, I might have worn this outfit around the house, too, but even being indoors, wearing black on a hot day isn't cool. I got a great deal on this skirt on eBay. The person selling it must have found it second-hand and didn't know anything about LuLaRoe. I'm surprised I found it! Glad I did, tho - not only does the Madison skirt have pockets, but this one is a BIRD print!

Outfit details:  tshirt ~ JCP;
LuLaRoe Madison skirt ~ eBay;
sneaks ~ JCP; bird pin ~ thrifted;
bird earrings ~ ???

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Week's Worth of Work Outfits

Our church secretary is taking a well-deserved vacation, and I am filling in for her while she's away. It's gone OK, although I did make a couple of mistakes last week. And I'm sure there will be more this week. This is not my normal gig, so it takes all of my concentration...and I still goof up!

While there isn't a formal dress code for church workers, I believe it's important to look nice. It's also important for me to be comfortable and able to move about easily. This is not a job where one sits all day! Each outfit I wore last week featured at least one LuLaRoe clothing item, because the very definition of LuLaRoe is "Simply Comfortable!"

Monday is Pastor's day off, so I have taken off Mondays as well. I'd planned to use that as my grocery day, but I've found that I need ONE day in which it is not required to get in the car and go somewhere. Some Postman gets home earlier on Tuesdays, so we decided that would be my grocery day because he can go with me and put gas in the car, a chore I dislike. Gasoline is stinky and the smell doesn't wash off easily.

There wasn't a lot to do in the office this day; most of my time was spent tidying up the sanctuary, which involved a lot of bending, reaching, and walking. In the afternoon, Some Postman and I did the grocery shopping and went out for dinner. This simple outfit was perfect for all the day's activities.
 LuLaRoe Carly Dress ~ eBay
Dansko Sandals ~ zulily

This outfit was just right for doing work at the computer and answering phone calls, but it also allowed for searching high and low for pens (which I did not find until Friday!). The LLR Cassie may be a slim pencil skirt, but it's VERY stretchy, yet keeps its shape. And even though the top is too big for me, I could not resist buying it - it's a constellation print! I'm not entirely pleased with belting it this way, but it was far too sloppy to leave it hanging loose with a pencil skirt. 
 LuLaRoe Classic T & Cassie Skirt ~ Facebook groups
Sandals ~ eBay; Necklace ~ MIL's collection

The BUSIEST day of the week at church! It's the day the bulletins get printed. I was only slightly nervous about it, and only wasted one sheet of paper trying to figure out alignment of the large print music sheets. As it turns out, I made two mistakes in the weekly calendar section of the bulletin, which was pointed out to me on Sunday.'s a good thing the regular secretary will be back in another week! 
Dachshund T ~
LuLaRoe Azure Skirt ~ Facebook group
Sneaks ~ JCP

I didn't anticipate being at the church for long on Friday, because the only thing to do was check email and tidy up the office for the weekend. But the computer decided it needed to update Windows first thing...and took almost 2 hours to complete! Tidying up lasted about 5 minutes; next, I set up a display of library books, answered a few phone calls, chatted with the older gentleman who drops by the church every day, and finally ♥'d pictures of my cute grandkids on Instagram until the computer was finished updating. (On a side note, my personal computer at home also updated - and now it makes me upload photos from my camera in a totally different way and I do NOT like it one bit! Gotta figure out how to change it back.)
This LLR Carly dress is probably my most favorite one in my collection; it's 100% cotton - cool and comfy!
LuLaRoe Carly Dress ~ Facebook group
Belt ~ saved from an old dress
Floral sneaks ~ zulily

As you can see from the above photos, I've found a "new" location to take outfit pics with the timer on my camera. Our latest House Project was remodeling the upstairs gable room, which used to be our guest room / storage area. It is now my sewing/craft room and eBay inventory storage area; my old sewing/eBay room is now the guest room. It's tiny, but it makes a cozy private place for guests to stay - without a bunch of totes and boxes making it feel like they've been squirreled away in the attic. The chest of drawers turns out to be the perfect height and distance from the opposite side of the room for taking outfit pictures, too!