The best job in the world

chasing shadow

The best job in the world is not even a job. It’s pure love. Love that is unexpected. Joy that cannot be put into mere words. I am the Gramma to this sweet girl. She is now 13 months old. She came over to hang out with us today. We went for several walks and strolls. Looking for puppies. Listening to the birds chirp. Feeling the rays of sun on our heads and our toes. Babbling in our own language. Who cares that neither of us understands what the other is really saying. It just does not matter. It is pure unadulterated adoration. At least on my part. The Cutest Granddaughter in the World toddles around, climbs stairs at an astonishing rate of speed, eats saltines, sips water, looks at books, plays with Kermit the Frog, giggles uncontrollably, looks for the cat that hides from her, changing her voice as she tries to find her, moves a couple of my goofy paintings around from one spot to another, tries to open all the cabinet doors, plays hide-and-seek with her Granddad (yea, Granddad!), plays with the refrigerator magnets, and just generally brings a light to our lives that we never imagined possible.

We love you, Pumpkin. May you always know that in your heart of hearts. You are amazing.

We will make cookies one day soon! Which ones should we start with? Gramma can’t wait. Should we tell Mommy??

I am going to go with sugar cookies. Not only sugar cookies, but Quaker sugar cookies. You are part Quaker, thanks to the Bell side of the family. You need to know this.

Rolled Sugar Cookies

From Springfield Friends Cookery, Springfield Friends Meeting, High Point, NC

Marilyn Hipps (Mrs. Richard)

Makes 2-1/2 dozen cookies (depending on the size of the cookie cutters)

1/2 cup butter; leave out to soften 30 minutes before making the cookies

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup sugar

2 beaten eggs; leave eggs out to come to room temperature

1 tablespoon milk

2-1/2 cups sifted flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Additional sugar for sprinkling

Cream the butter until soft; add vanilla. Gradually add the sugar and cream until light and fluffy. Sift dry ingredients together. Combine eggs and milk and stir into creamed mixture. Add half the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Add the remaining and mix well. Chill dough for at least an hour. Preheat oven to 400˚F. Roll a little more than 1/8 inch thick on well-floured surface. Cut with floured 3/4- inch round cookie cutter. Sprinkle with additional sugar. Place on baking sheet (lined with parchment paper) and bake in hot oven (400˚F) until only lightly browned, 6-8 minutes. Remove from pan while warm. Cool on rack.

Bon appétit to all grand- and great-grand- parents out there. Isn’t it the best?

 

Once in a blue moon

(photo: Sam Bland)
I’ve heard the old expression, once in a blue moon, all of my life, but only just recently found out where it comes from. A blue moon is when there is a second full moon in a given calendar month. It isn’t really blue, of course. Although Sam Bland, an amazing photographer, one of the Ex-Ex’s best friends, brother-in-law to my sister-in-law, and uncle to the Adorable Granddaughter’s mom (have I confused you enough?) sent me a blue one recently, along with the other photos of the moon in this post.
He used it in an article he wrote for Our Coast Magazine. I, too, am fascinated by the moon. I run outside with my iPhone or camera every time it appears, but my photos aren’t much to brag about.

(I started writing this blog about three weeks ago and I just have not been able to finish it until tonight. The passing of my mom’s second husband and then the death of my father-in-law have been tough. Memories of my dad’s death came rushing back. It has now been three years since my brother passed away. Death is a part of life. I know this in my mind, but it is tough on my heart. But… I think that I am ready to finish now.)

January 31 brought us the Blue Moon. And the day before that full moon brought the passing of the patriarch of our family. My father-in-law, Nelson Leonard Engebretsen, left us. I like to think that Nelson is somewhere on the other side of this moon looking down on us now. He would love the color of that blue moon because he was a die-hard Duke basketball fan. As a matter of fact, he watched Duke beat Notre Dame 88-66 from his hospital bed on January 29, his last night.
Nelson was the kind of man you meet once in a blue moon. Ask my mother-in-law, his bride and best friend for 62 years. She told us yesterday that they met when she was 15 years old.

Nelson and one of his buddies gave her a ride to the July 4 Sioux County, Nebraska rodeo. She sat between the two 17-year-olds in the cab of a pick-up truck and, as the drive to the fairgrounds progressed, she scooted closer and closer to Nelson and the rest is history. Nelson was a real cowboy, not the drugstore variety. He worked as a rancher and herdsman for most of his life, first in Nebraska then in North Carolina. He was tending cattle for TexasGulf when I came into the family in 1981. He worked for the state of Nebraska at Fort Robinson until 1970 when they closed the cattle operation there. A friend convinced him to move to Aurora, NC to tend cattle on reclaimed land after phosphate had been mined from it. He moved his bride and their three children, 1,850 miles from the only home they had known, leaving behind relatives and friends. I watched him tag cattle, birth calves, and corral steers.

Nelson was an extraordinary ordinary man. He loved Nebraska Cornhusker football, Duke basketball, Nebraska wheat fields, the Black Hills, being outdoors, God, his cat Socks, grilling, a cold beer while mowing the grass, and his family. I am so lucky that I was able to call him my father-in-law.

The Ex-Ex gave an amazing eulogy at his dad’s funeral service. I will let him take it from here.

I’m a bit like my father- I do not cry often – but when I do, I don’t have much control over it, so bear with me.

I’m Steve, the middle child and oldest son in our blessed family, and I am here to represent my sister Cindy, my brother David, and their families, as well as my wife and children.

I am also here to represent my amazing mother, who along with Dad, provided us all with a loving, happy, fun, nurturing home. One that I wish every child could have growing up.

My father moved our family to Aurora in 1970, after living and working as a rancher and cattleman in Western Nebraska where he grew up. Dad then spent some of the best years of his life as the herdsman for the large cattle operation that TexasGulf included at the time. He became an important member of the TexasGulf and Aurora community- making friends, being involved in the lives of many people and getting to know just about everyone. Our family has often talked of the bravery it took to make that move in 1970. Moving three children ages 6-13 to a new land, a new job, a completely new way of life. But my Dad was wise and brave and turned this leap of faith into a great opportunity and a great life that we have all benefited from for the last 50 years. My Dad did a lot of things in his job over the years, but what he was best at and enjoyed the most was his time as a cattleman or, as his grandsons like to say, a cowboy, both in Nebraska and in North Carolina.

To use a sports analogy, my Dad was an all-star. He was an all-star husband, an all-star father, an all-star grandfather, and, just recently, he became an all-star great-grandfather.

He was also an all-star son and brother to his own family in Nebraska. He loved his own parents and two younger sisters very much. I think that many here would consider him an all-star friend or co-worker or community member- maybe one of the best any of us has ever known. My Dad was also any all-star “griller” throughout his 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. His skill was so intimidating- to the point where I am still reluctant to grill anything for the family!

My Dad did not have a college education- but was perhaps the smartest man I know. He could be a man of few words at times- but when he spoke it was always best to listen- he was wise, and he was a great conversationalist. Dad was smart and he was talented. He could recall and loved to tell stories from the Nebraska days, his childhood, our teenage years, special times with his grandchildren, and all the more recent happenings of our family and special events in our lives. We all will always remember the twinkle in his eye and the smile on his face when spending time just being with him and talking to him.

When his grandsons were younger we often found ourselves at Grandma and Grandad’s house on holidays. Dad had a VERY large jar for collecting pennies. Aaron, Jake and Grant were always fascinated by it. One day, my Dad told them “When I’m gone all those pennies will be yours!” It think it was the youngest, Grant, who said “Where are you going and when are you leaving, Granddad?” Dad just laughed and said “Nowhere for a while… you’ll have to wait a bit longer!” He retold that story dozens of times with a laugh.

We all know where you are now, Dad. And Aaron, Jake and Grant- Grandma says you can come get that big heavy thing our of the house anytime!

My mother told me the story of when they were first dating in the 1950’s in Nebraska. She said to him once “I’ve never known a person named Nelson who wasn’t rich or famous (Rockefeller, Mandela, Nellie Foxx, Ozzie Nelson). And my Dad said to her “Well, sweetie- just give me time!”

My Dad was famous, I think, to all of us here today.

My Dad was rich. You see, our dad measured that type of thing differently and I believe he felt like one of the most blessed people ever.

If my Dad could speak to all of us right now- and he is listening- he’d say to the great folks of this church and to all of his friends–

–Thank you for a lifetime of memories and for helping make my life full.

–Keep doing good work.

–Keep helping people- try not to let things get too complicated and when in doubt, be kind to people.

My Dad was, in my eyes, the ultimate example of how to be a good man.

So, to me, David, Rick, Aaron, Jake and Grant- We have had an example right before our eyes of how to be a great father, spouse, in-law, brother, son, friend. Let’s all try to remember to follow that example and be better at all of those things. Living up to how he did it is some serious pressure, I know. But let’s try.

To Cindy, Teresa, Kim, Katie, Elizabeth, Makayla and little Kennedy and Lily, my Dad has lived and shown you what you deserve from the men in your lives. Help the men in your lives live up to that- try to be the kind of mother, spouse, sister, friend that our mother has been in her nearly 62-year partnership with Dad. Sometimes it may take patience with this crowd of men!

Mom, I’m pretty sure you’ve felt and heard Dad’s words of comfort and love to you in these past six days. Everyone in this room knows you were the light of his life. And that he was that to you. That will never change. And we all also know that he hopes– and expects– you to enjoy many more of those happy days with your family, friends and your church.

We all need that and look forward to that with you. And we all love you.

Thank you, Dad. We love you.

Bon appétit, mes amis. Love with all of your heart. Life and love are all too short.

All I Want for Christmas

As I sit here, next to my beautiful Christmas tree,

listening to the cat lap up water and to cars pass by at 7:15 on Christmas morning, I have the song All I Want for Christmas stuck in my head. Yesterday I had almost everything I need right under one roof. Adorable Granddaughter spent the night so she was crawling/toddling around the downstairs. Son #2 came in from Charleston by way of Charlotte, bringing Couper-Dog with him. Son #1 and EB came over to fetch Miss Adorable and stayed around to have some Maple View Farms eggnog and cookies. And for Miss Adorable to open her gifts. Not that she has any clue about what’s going on other than there are some bright lights on a tree and tissue paper to pull out of bags.

They are off to visit the other grandparents today.

Christmas is much calmer when your children are 30 and 25. And way quieter. So I am in my silent house (even the cat has gone back to sleep now) thinking about what I want for Christmas, the real list. In no particular order:

  • good health for my family, my friends and me
  • the satisfaction that comes from hard work and a job well done at the end of the day
  • kindness in this world
  • politicians who genuinely care about the people they represent, true civil servants
  • laughter
  • good books
  • an end to poverty, hunger and homelessness
  • more time with Mama Mildred and the SP gang
  • equity for everyone, regardless of their skin color, religion and geographic location
  • music to sing along with and dance to
  • delicious food and drink, shared with family and friends
  • travel
I know that I could add many more, but as we always told the Sons, Santa doesn’t like greedy children (or adults- especially adults).
On today’s menu, biscuits for breakfast. Or maybe French toast? Pancakes? (At least I already made the coffee.) For lunch, I will cook a roast beast (actually a beef tenderloin, I just like to call it that), gravy, garlic mashed potatoes, green beans/haricots verts, if you want to get fancy, yeast rolls and an apple-cranberry crumble-type dish using a recipe passed on to me by the BFF (Miss Helen’s specialty). We will time this lunch so that it doesn’t interfere with the Boston Celtics basketball game later this afternoon. Son #2 is a huge fan and has started writing for a Celtics blog.
Time to get on with the biscuits– I hear the thundering paws of a white lab upstairs so the house is coming to life.
My final cookie creation from Christmas Eve–
 
Chocolate Peppermint Kiss Cookies
adapted from Sally McKenney’s Rainbow Kiss Cookies
 
makes 24
 
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 tsp. table salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
2 Tbsp. whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
24 peppermint kisses
  • Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Whisk together flour, cocoa and salt in a medium-sized bowl.
  • Beat butter with an electric mixer until smooth, about 1 minute. Add sugar and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes, scraping down the bowl a couple of times. Add egg yolk, milk and vanilla; beat on high speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down sides and beat again as needed to fully combine. Gradually add flour mixture, beating on low speed just until combined. You may need to switch over to a wooden spoon to finish adding the flour- this dough is thick.
  • At this point, I wish that I had refrigerated the dough for 30 minutes so that it would have been easy to roll. You may do this, if you wish.
  • Shape dough into balls. Place them 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.
  • Bake cookies for 9-10 minutes, until set. When out of the oven, gently press an unwrapped peppermint kiss into the center of each cookie. Cool on baking sheet for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Be careful handling the cookies until completely cool. The kiss gets melty from the warm cookie. (I messed one up and had to eat the evidence.)
**Sally’s recipe calls for the balls of dough to be rolled in rainbow nonpareils or sprinkles before baking and then a chocolate kiss pressed into the center of each cookie when they come out of the oven. With all the different flavors of chocolate kisses out there, you could be quite creative.
Bon appétit, Joyeux Noël and Merry Christmas, if you celebrate. If not, I wish you a plain old wonderful day. I hope that you are warm, safe and well-fed. And with at least one person you love.

Casseroles and cakes

mushrooms

When there is a death in the family of a friend, Southerners head to the kitchen. We don an apron and heat up the oven. We get out the cast iron skillet, casserole dishes and cake pans. We need to feel useful and we know that there will be people who need to be fed. Maybe it’s the same in the Midwest or North, but I have only lived in the South. I remember once when a Bell relative died and my cousin from Raleigh came for the funeral. Maybe my Uncle Buck? We were maybe in the fifth grade? Anyway, she and I ate a whole loaf of white bread, toasted, with butter and jam. Grandma Christine was a jelly/jam lover of the first order so we had many choices. We sat at the kitchen table, where the toaster was always plugged in. I have no idea why we chose toast because I am sure that there were a lot of “real” things to eat in that kitchen.

This past week, the BFF’s mother-in-law passed away. Sweet T’s mama. We’ve been friends for 26 years so I met Eleanor early on in the friendship. I remember driving over one summer day to pick up their Son #1 to come to play with our Son #1. Those two became fast friends on their first day of Pre-K. Anyway, the BFF had forgotten to tell Eleanor that I would be coming and she wouldn’t let me have her grandson. There was no use arguing. She was not going to let him leave without written permission. So, I loaded up a tearful 5 year old and his 10 month old brother into the mini-van and went home. The BFF and I had a good laugh over it at the end of the day. Just the thought of me actually kidnapping another boy to add to my collection was hilarious and not at all believable in the least.

Sweet T is a creative, talented man. He wrote his mama’s obituary. It is my all-time favorite. I’ve promised him that if he will write mine that I will cook for him until we are both called to great beauty parlor in the sky. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

You were the world’s best son, Sweet T. I hope that my boys take care of me the way you did Eleanor.

wo0141164-1_20171127

Eleanor Daniels King

May 21, 1926 – November 26, 2017

Eleanor would like to inform everyone that King’s Beauty Shop is now officially CLOSED… stating, “It has truly been an honor and a pleasure to have helped make the world a prettier place by washing, cutting, setting, styling, and coloring the hair of so many wonderful women (and even a few men from time to time) in and around my second home, Durham NC.” 

So now, after 73 glorious years as a self-employed Beautician in the Bull City, she recently received a call — sort of an offer she couldn’t refuse — to travel to a wondrous place where she can “catch up on all the latest” with all of her Customers, Family and Friends who have gone before her… and there have been many. As she would say, “It’s impossible to do somebody’s hair for 40 years and not become a friend — even the ones that aggravate you.”

Eleanor Grey Daniels King was born in Orange County in 1926, when the average life expectancy for women in the US was 58 years old. She was the second child, but the first girl, for Rainey Samuel Daniels and Lola Harris Daniels. Raised on a farm, she quickly learned that “Without hard work, nothing grows but weeds.” And while she was a good ol’ country girl at heart, the big city lights were also calling her.

Right after High School graduation, Eleanor moved to Durham to attend Beauty College in 1944. And by the end of the year, she graduated as one of the top hairdressers of her class… and the rest is history.

Sure, she’s had her ups and downs, but to borrow a line from the movie, Steel Magnolias (one of her all-time favorites); “…my personal tragedy will not interfere with my ability to do good hair.” And that’s the way she rolled. She didn’t have time to stop and feel sorry for herself. She had her Customers, and they were depending on her, regardless of how she felt or what she was going through personally.

She’s also seen Customers come and go, but she was most proud of her “Regulars” — the ones that came to get beautiful again every week or so, year after year. But as her “Regulars” would one-by-one leave this earth, she would simply pack up her “Beauty Bag” and head off to the Funeral Home for one last “touch-up” (I still don’t know how she did that). 

And yet, with all that dedication to her Customers, she still found time to be the best Mom in the whole world.

But, now it’s time for her to put away her appointment book and finally close up shop here on earth. Eleanor, you done good, girl. 

Eleanor was preceded in death by her father, her mother, her older brother Wayne Daniels, her brother-in-law Cecil Isley, and her niece, Sheila. She is survived by her only son, Tracy King and his wife Martha, of Durham, NC, and 3 Grandsons who were her pride and joy – David King (and Lexi) of Wilmington, NC, James King of Greensboro, NC and Andrew King of Raleigh, NC. Eleanor is also survived by her younger brother Richard Daniels and his wife Bonnie, of Mebane NC, her younger sister Raynelle Isley, of Elon NC, and 10 nieces and nephews, Linda, Larry, Sam, Mike, Kay, Dianne, Kenneth, Deborah, Randy, and Rick.

There will be a graveside service for all of Eleanor’s Customers, Family and Friends on Wednesday, November 29th at 2:00pm at the Lebanon United Methodist Church cemetery, located down the road behind the church at 6101 Lebanon Road in Mebane, NC. Eleanor is returning home, to be buried on land that her father donated to the church many, many moons ago.

I decided to make one of my favorite casseroles. And a pound cake. We are in the South, after all.

pound cake

Chicken (or Turkey) Tetrazzini

adapted from Culinary Hill

Ingredients

For the topping:

  • 4 slices high-quality sandwich bread torn into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons butter melted

For the filling:

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • pound spaghetti broken into thirds
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 16 ounces sliced white mushrooms
  • 2 onions finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 cups cooked chicken or turkey cut into 1/2 inch pieces (I used a supermarket rotisserie chicken)
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas

Instructions

 To make the topping:
In a food processor, process the bread and butter until coarsely ground, about 6 pulses. Set aside. (You can also just tear it into small pieces and mix in the melted butter.)

To make the casserole:

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees.

  2. In a large pot or Dutch oven, bring 4 quarts water and 1 tablespoon salt to boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain well, keeping in colander, and toss with olive oil.

  3. Return same pot to medium-high heat and melt butter until foaming. Add mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until the mushrooms have released most of their liquid, about 7 to 10 minutes.

  4. Add onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, thyme, and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

  5. Stir in flour and cook until golden, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Whisk in broth and half and half.

  6. Bring to a simmer and continue to whisk until sauce thickens, about 1 minute longer. Remove from heat and whisk in Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  7. To the pot with sauce, add pasta, turkey/chicken and frozen peas, stirring to combine. Pour into a 13-inch by 9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with crumb topping.

  8. Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping has browned, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Recipe Notes

Adapted from The Cook’s Country Cookbook.

tetrazinni

Bon appétit to all, especially to Sweet T, the BFF and their boys. Thinking of you and am always ready to tie on the apron to keep you fed. Much love. Rest in peace, Eleanor. I hope you meet my Grandma Christine. I think that the two of you would get on quite well. I don’t know if you were a Jim Nabors fan like she was, but I can picture the three of you having lunch. With a big slice of pie or pound cake and a cup of coffee for dessert. And maybe a song.

Give thanks

give thanks

I am thankful for so many people and things. I have a good life.  As I was stirring up biscuits for breakfast this morning, I started a list in my head.

A: animals, Arles, apples, art, Aaron, Amelia, Andy, Appalachian Mountains, Abby, airplanes, Alex, adjectives, adventures

B: Bertie, butter, bacon, baguettes, buttermilk biscuits, bluegrass music performed by Balsam Range, books, Barb, blogging, bracelets, Betty, baking, BFF

C: children, choices, colors, Candice, Caleb, Côtes du Rhône, Cindy, champagne, colleagues, Christiane Buchanan, cousins, Carmague, cheese, chocolate, cookies, coffee, café au lait, cats, cafés

D: dancing, David, Durham, Duke basketball, dreams, Daddy, Durham Academy

E: Elizabeth, elephants, electricity, Érick

F: family, friends, Fanny, French, France, fall, foie gras, figs, flamingos, fresh flowers, french fries, Facebook, freedom

G: Grant, grandchildren, great-nephews, grandparents, Ghislaine, Google, Grandma, gum, garlic, goats, goat cheese, Granny, girlfriends

H: home, health, heat, herbes de Provence, hand-me-downs, Hailey, hamburgers, hearts, history

I: ice cream, internet, Impressionism

J: Jake, Jared, Judy, jokes, jeans, Joel/Joey, jam, Jean Valjean

K: Kennedy, kittens, Kim, Karen, kindness, Katie

L: love, lavender, lemons, lambs, laughter, lipstick, letters, Logan, llamas, Lily

M: Mama Mildred, Marsha, Martha, muffins, macarons, moon, music, Makayla, Monette, mascara, movies

N: Nelson, North Carolina, Natalie

O: oysters, Olivier

P: Paris, Provence, pasta, pesto, pizza, pink, photos, passport, perfume, pens, postcards, poetry, parents, Papa

Q: quirkiness, questions

R: Rick, rain, reading, resilience, Rob Hershey

S: Steve, sons, students, Sean of the South, soldiers, sleep, smiles, steak-frites, Sundays, spring, shrimp, sea salt, sisters, Seth, sunshine, Snoopy, Sandra Boynton

T: turkey, travel, teeth, teenagers, tears, teachers

U: underwear, uncles

V: Vincent Van Gogh, vacation

W: weather, walking, winter, writing

X: Xmas, xylophones

Y: Yolanda

Z: zebras, zoos

Perhaps this will be the last pumpkin muffin recipe of the year? Who knows? I had some leftover pumpkin from making pumpkin cheesecake and it simply couldn’t go to waste. This recipe comes from The Kitchen Paper, adapted from Smitten Kitchen.  I didn’t mess with it. No variations. Seemed pretty perfect. We will find out in about 20 minutes. I will say that my kitchen smells pretty darned good right now. Wish you were here to have a cup of coffee while we wait. Stay tuned.

Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Muffins

12 muffins

  • 1 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tsp pumpkin-pie spice**
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

**If you want to make your own pumpkin pie spice, use this recipe (from My Baking Addiction.)

  • 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cloves
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line or grease muffin tins.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin and butter, then whisk the eggs in one at a time.
  3. Add 1 1/2 cups sugar, pumpkin-pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir to combine.
  4. Stir in the flour, then divide among muffin tins.
  5. Mix the remaining 2 Tbsp sugar with the 2 tsp cinnamon, and sprinkle over the tops of the unbaked muffins.
  6. Bake for about 30 minutes. (I set the timer and started checking them after 20 minutes. Mine took exactly 30 minutes.) You know your oven. Test with a wooden toothpick.)

muff

Bon appétit! Make your own thankful list. You may shed a few tears while doing it, but those are good tears. Eat something good today. Savor every crumb or bite. You deserve it. 

What’s your favorite recipe?

Thanksgiving card

(Carlton Cards)

I found this card to send to my turkeys in SP since I will not be with them for Thanksgiving. Too funny. I miss those turkeys. I will visit them soon. I promise.

Today’s question of the day… “What’s your favorite recipe, madame?” Asked by one of my 6th graders after she told me that she had read some of my blog entries over the weekend. She is new to my school and a sweetheart. My favorite food/recipe/dish depends totally on the day/hour/minute that I am asked. If I had to decide on my last meal on earth at this very second, it would change by tomorrow morning. However, I did my best to answer LZ. Since it is (almost) Thanksgiving, I would have to vote for Dorie Greenspan’s Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good. I plan to make it for my small crew in just a couple of days. Of course, I might change my mind…

stuffed pumpkincheese thyme nutmeg

It really is delicious.

It was fun to reread the post with the recipe. From November 2010. Can it really be seven years since that post? And funny thing is… I am waiting for the BFF to stop by tonight, too. Her mother-in-law is in hospice and I wanted to make something for her husband to eat whenever he gets to come home from being with his mama. Nothing fancy. Just chicken-pasta-vegetable soup. I hope it helps his aching heart. We are never ready to lose a loved one.

The best part of making soup? You can add whatever you want, as much or as little as you want, throw it all in a pot and voilà. Dinner is served. With lots of leftovers.

The Sabbatical Chef’s Chicken Soup

Olive oil – about 2 Tbsp.

1 onion, diced

4 stalks celery, chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)

8 cups chicken broth

8 oz. pasta (elbows or whatever you want) or you could add rice instead

1 rotisserie chicken, meat pulled off the bone, chopped/shredded

1 bag frozen mixed vegetables

Torn baby spinach leaves, optional

Seasonings- salt, pepper, herbes de Provence, etc.

Parmesan cheese, for garnish, if desired

In a large pot/Dutch oven, sauté the onion, celery and garlic (if using) in olive oil until soft. Add the chicken broth and water, if needed, and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 2-3 minutes less than the cooking time on the package. Add the chicken and frozen vegetables. Season to taste. Bring to a second boil. Reduce heat. Add more water or chicken broth, if needed. Add spinach leaves. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Taste and add more seasonings, if needed/desired. Serve with grated Parmesan, if desired. (Spinach and Parmesan added at the suggestion of my lifelong across-the-creek neighbor Ms. Mary!)

soup

Bon appétit and Happy Thanksgiving Week. Hold your loved ones near. Tell them how much you love them. Feed them good food. One of the highest forms of love, in my opinion. Keep asking questions, LZ!

 

 

Random thoughts on a chilly November night

helmet

It’s Veteran’s Day. Armistice Day in France. The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. I have visited the site of the signing of the Armistice, the replica of the train car tucked away into the forest near Compiègne in northern France. The original one was burned by Hitler. Merci, Ghislaine. Thank you to all who have and continue to put their lives on the line so that I can be free to do whatever I please whenever I please with whomever I please.

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It’s hard to believe that is almost Thanksgiving. It seems that once we survive Halloween in the middle school that the year is almost over.

I am a lucky Gramma! Miss K came to visit me in my classroom one day.

K in my class

I have a sparkly Eiffel Tower that fascinates her.

The Ex-Ex and I have had the opportunity to babysit a few times recently. So much fun!

k with bow

The intensity of the love that I feel for her surprises me every time I see her.

School is keeping me busier than I ever imagined it would at this stage of my career. If Son #1 and Son #2 were still at home I am not sure they would ever get fed. Luckily, the Ex-Ex can fend for himself. Curriculum mapping brought a two-day workshop in Atlanta, though. With an amazing meal at Miller Union. Our waiter was amazing. The oysters were amazing. The field peas were amazing. And the colleagues I shared the meal with were amazing.

“Steven Satterfield’s menu shows off the best of the South’s okra, field peas, turnips and tomatoes in a style that would make Alice Waters weak in the knees. Perfect for a date night or lunch at the counter, where one can explore an innovative wine list with pours by the glass.”     – The New York Times, 2016

The farm egg baked in celery cream was amazing. After the amazing pork roast with polenta, there was no room for dessert. I know. Kind of shocking.

Last week, Arles Lucy and I had a date for Pompieri Pizza‘s Sierra Nevada Beer Dinner. I tend to choose wine over beer, but the pairings between the food prepared by Chef Joe and the beer were perfect. I enjoyed every sip. I took lots of photos and a few notes.

Beer cheese bites, scallops, duck, duck, duck, ribs with a ginger soy glaze, dark chocolate parfait… Pale Ale, Nooner, Torpedo, Porter, Narwhal.

yo and me

To quote Arles Lucy when the chocolate parfait was placed before her:

“I don’t know whether to pray over this or not.”  Eat, pray or love?

The BFF asked Tom to do her nails in Sierra Nevada’s colors for the occasion.

nails

This one is for you, too, Best Sister-in-Law, since you told me the Porter is your favorite. Next time we come to visit, we need to take a field trip to visit Sierra Nevada’s Mills River facility. Ok?

Since it seems that all I do is eat, I might as well include the recent France 2017 reunion dinner. Each year, I offer a Sabbatical Chef dinner as part of our school auction and for the past two years the same family has bought it and we’ve had a France trip reunion. Two daughters down and two to go! Here’s part of the crew–

2017

It was a great trip. I miss these kiddos. They are all off being freshman now. We laughed a lot looking at photos of the trip.

looking at photos

KR was still doing her trip duty and photographing our every move! Merci beaucoup!

We made cheese fondue and had Fanny’s Mousse au chocolat with locally made macarons for dessert. And to any Frenchies reading this… I apologize. Yes, the kiddos were actually dipping those cheese puffs into the delicious melted Gruyère and Emmental fondue. Teenagers.

a and k

My co-chaperones love their dessert. And the guy in the back, licking the mousse bowl? Master of the House caught on camera.

The Ex-Ex and I attended the Celebration of Life for a former student. Chris Rosati passed away after living for several years with ALS. And the service was indeed a celebration. He planned it himself. I’ve been listening to his playlist for the past week and reflecting on kindness and how to keep his motto alive– Be kind and worry less.  Thank you, Chris, for the lessons you taught us. And for the Cheerwine and Krispy Kreme glazed donuts.

cr

Life continues to be good. I am blessed with a wonderful family, many friends, a job I love and beautiful fall weather here in North Carolina. As Thanksgiving comes galloping towards me, I realize just how lucky I am.

Cheese Fondue

  • 1/2 pound Emmentaler, grated
  • 1/2 pound Le Gruyère, grated
  • 1 package of Emmi Fondue Original (optional, I used it on the advice of the very helpful guy at Whole Foods, Durham- he also helped me choose the wine)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 1/2 cup white wine such as a Chenin Blanc (I used The Holy Snail, a French Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 2 loaves bread with thick crust, cut into 1-inch cubes
Combine cheeses with flour in a medium bowl and set aside. Rub the inside of the fondue pot with garlic. Heat wine in fondue pot over medium heat until warm. Add lemon juice. Add cheese mixture gradually, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until melted and cheese-wine mixture has the consistency of a creamy sauce. Open package of Emmi Fondue and add, stirring well to mix. Add pepper and nutmeg. Bring to boil. Adjust flame of burner so fondue continues bubbling lightly. Serve with bread cubes.
**Granny Smith apples are really good as well. Pears, maybe? Boiled potatoes for a raclette-type taste. Cheese puffs?
**Can be served with slices of ham and small pickles, if you wish.
sunflowers
Bon appétit, family and friends far and wide. Happy November. Live like you were dying. And to shamelessly steal, once again, from Sean Dietrich— Life is a gift. And people are beautiful. 
playlist

 

 

More Muffins?

pumpkin muffins

Sister Moo found an incomplete place setting of Fiesta ware for me at Kohl’s. The dinner plate was missing. Who cares? I love the color. And I realized that it matches the salt and pepper shaker that she found for me at a yard sale in Spruce Pine. (Turns out that the set belonged to the grandmother of one of my high school classmates. Makes me love it even more.)

Son #1 and Fiancée invited us over for an end-of-summer cookout at the pool at their apartment complex. The Most Adorable Baby in the World (who is now 7 months old) loves water. She would have crawled right into the deep end if her mommy had let her. No fear. I am very happy about that. I want her to be fearless and think that she can do anything that she sets her mind to. I, on the other hand, have long been afraid of water that is over my head. I didn’t learn to swim until I was in the 6th grade. My uncle taught me when I visited his family in Raleigh for a couple of weeks that summer. They had a pool in their backyard. I love to waterski and ride in boats, but I don’t like the idea of deep water. I took a swimming class in college. My teacher was a very patient woman and she taught us all the strokes, made us dive off the side of the pool, and timed us while we dog-paddled. Even though it was an 8:00 am class I enjoyed it tremendously. I enrolled both boys in swim lessons early on and they loved hanging out at the pool, but neither had any desire to be on a summer swim team and I was not the kind of mom to make them do something like that. I never told them about my fear of water. I swear I didn’t. But I don’t think that’s a genetic thing.

Anyway, Son #1 loves pumpkin spice. I thought of him when I found this for MABW–

kenn pumpkin spice

Too cute. The little black leggings have a ruffle-y tutu-like thing on the back.

I like to try out new recipes on the Ex-Ex and Son #1 and I found one for muffins on Sally’s Baking Addiction a couple of days ago. I took them to him yesterday and he texted today– “Those muffins btw were excellent. They are already gone.”  That’s my boy! And I am so happy that I found Sally!

Another thing that I’ve found (at Target)–

parchment liners

These are the best. The muffins don’t stick like they do sometimes in regular cupcake liners. (That is a major baking pet peeve of mine.) Target had two boxes left on the shelf and I bought them both.

Pumpkin Crumb Cake Muffins

15 muffins

  • 1 and 3/4 cups (220g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (340g) canned pumpkin puree
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) milk, at room temperature (buttermilk would probably be really good in this recipe)

Crumb Topping

    • 3/4 cup (94g) all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
    • 1/4 cup (50g) packed light or dark brown sugar
    • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
    • 6 Tablespoons (86g) unsalted butter, melted

Maple Icing (optional)

  • 1 and 1/2 cups (180g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons (30ml) pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons (30ml) milk2

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F (218°C). Spray a 12-count muffin pan with nonstick spray or line with cupcake liners. This recipe makes 15 muffins, so prepare a second muffin pan in the same manner. Set aside. (SC note- I didn’t read this part– and wondered why I had leftover batter. I doubled the recipe so I used the leftover batter to bake a small loaf.)
  2. Make the muffins: In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and salt together until combined. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk the oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar, pumpkin puree, eggs and milk together until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, then fold everything together gently just until combined and no flour pockets remain.
  3. Spoon the batter into liners, filling them almost full.
  4. Make the crumb topping: Whisk the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and pumpkin pie spice together until combined. Stir in the melted butter until crumbs form. Spoon crumbs evenly on top of the batter and gently press them down into the batter so they’re snug. (The recipe for the topping makes a lot. Don’t be afraid to use a lot on each muffin.)
  5. Bake for 5 minutes at 425 then, keeping the muffins in the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 350°F (177°C). Bake for an additional 16-17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The total time these muffins take in the oven is about 21-22 minutes, give or take. Allow the muffins to cool for 10 minutes in the muffin pan as you make the icing. *For mini muffins, bake for 11-13 minutes at 350°F (177°C) or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Make the icing: Whisk all of the icing ingredients together until combined and smooth. Drizzle over muffins and serve warm. Cover tightly and store at room temperature for 1-2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Make ahead tip: For longer storage, freeze muffins (with or without icing) for up to 3 months. Allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature or warm up in the microwave if desired. Top with icing before serving if needed.

I didn’t make the icing. Not enough time. But I bet it would be really good with the maple syrup added.

bran banana muffins

Today I decided to use up the overripe bananas in my refrigerator when I discovered a forgotten box of Raisin Bran Crunch next to the flour in my pantry. (How on earth I could have forgotten about it I have no idea. It hadn’t been there long, only a couple of weeks, and I am constantly pulling out the flour. Who knows? Anyway, I found a recipe to use as a guide. I cut down on the amount of sugar Genius Kitchen listed and I added cinnamon to mine. See how easy that liner peels off?!

Think I will make a cup of tea and enjoy one! While I do the week’s lesson plans.

 

Banana Raisin Bran Muffins

Makes 12

Adapted from Genius Kitchen

1cups Raisin Bran cereal

cup buttermilk (I used almond milk because that’s all I had in the refrigerator)

1cup vegetable oil

egg

1cup brown sugar

1teaspoon vanilla

small bananas, mashed

cup flour

teaspoon baking soda

teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix together cereal and milk; stir and let stand ten minutes while you assemble the other ingredients.

Combine vegetable oil, egg, brown sugar, vanilla and bananas, then add to milk/cereal mixture.

In a small bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

Add to first mixture and stir until just blended.

Spoon into greased or lined muffin tins.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.

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En français:  L’automne est un deuxième ressort où chaque feuille est une fleur.

…Copyright © French Moments Ltd unless otherwise stated. Read more at https://frenchmoments.eu/french-quotes-and-sayings-about-autumn/ .

Bon appétit, tout le monde. I hope you are having a great Sunday afternoon wherever you are and whatever you are doing! Merci, French Moments and Albert Camus!

Blue

 

clean water

Meet Lightening. My advisory mascot. An African Spotted Water Frog. Oui, une grenouille africaine. One of the girlies brought him in to share with the rest of us.

While out and about, roaming around in one of my favorite thrift shops, Pennies for Change, I found a treasure.

blue nude

I am a fan of Henri Matisse and his Blue Nudes are beautiful. I found this on a website called Paradis while looking for “my” nude:

The Blue Nudes refer to a series of cut-outs by Henri Matisse. Completed in 1952, they represent seated female nudes, and are among Matisse’s final body of works. Blue Nude IV, the first of the four, took a notebook of studies and two weeks work of cutting and arranging before it satisfied him. The pose he finally arrived at for all four works—intertwining legs and an arm stretching behind the neck—was his favorite. The posture is similar to a number of seated nudes from the first half of the 1920s, and ultimately derives from the reposed figures of Le bonheur de vivre.

The Blue Nudes also reflect Matisse’s earlier sculptures. Despite the flatness of paper, they are sculptural in their tangible, relief-like quality, as well as the sense of volume created by the overlapping. Blue Nude I in particular can be compared with sculptures like La Serpentine of 1909.

The color blue signified distance and volume to Matisse. Frustrated in his attempts to successfully marry dominant and contrasting tones, the artist was moved to use solid slabs of single color early in his career, a technique that became known as Fauvism. The painted gouache cut-outs that comprise the Blue Nudes were inspired by Matisse’s collection of African sculpture and a visit that he made to Tahiti in 1930. It took another twenty years and a period of incapacity after an operation before Matisse synthesized these influences into this seminal series.

“Mine” is the bottom left in the series.

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I am spending the weekend in the Blue Ridge Mountains visiting my family. Great Nephew J and I decided to cruise around the Blue Ridge Parkway this afternoon. He took me to his favorite spot, Chestola Overlook.

mountains

blue skies

Table Rock

trees

Lovely views. These mountains will always be my home. The Cevennes are the closest to the Appalachians that I have found in France. I took these two photos in 2008 when Chef Érick and I went to visit his friends Richard and Nadine at their beautiful home built into the side of a mountain. This is the view from their patio.

france mtns france mtns 2

Thank you, Great Nephew J. For organizing my phone apps, for helping me with my photos, for cruising around the mountains with me and showing me where you spent a lot of time playing when you were a mere young’un and for enthusiastically eating and photographing the cake I made.

jared

Keep taking photos, working hard in school, and having fun. I am very proud of you.

Today’s recipe came to me from an 8th grade girlie. She wanted to make a cake for her advisor to celebrate the opening of Ms. S’s play. (I work with some seriously talented people.) Ms. S asked for a Funfetti Cake. Girlie doesn’t bake from a mix. Scratch only for her. A girl after my own heart. She has even started a binder of her favorite cake recipes. Thanks to Sally’s Baking Addiction and Girlie for the recipe!

Here is a photo from Sally’s blog. She made it in one 9-inch pan.

blog cake

Girlie’s cake was amazing. Dense and very vanilla-y.  She doubled the recipe and made two 9-inch layers.

pages cake

I decided to make it for Mama Mildred and Moo. (Favorite Niece, I hope they save some for you…) I doubled the recipe also. I used a 13 x 9 pan. I didn’t account for the doubled recipe and I didn’t have enough sprinkles for the batter.

my cake

But lots of them for the top!

sprinkles

Yum.

Homemade Funfetti Cake

Ingredients:

Cake

  • 1 and 2/3 cup (210g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick or 115 g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50g) packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup (60g) yogurt  (plain or vanilla; or greek yogurt; or sour cream-I used Oui vanilla flavored)
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) milk (cow’s milk; or soy milk; or almond milk)
  • 1 Tablespoon (15ml) vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup (90g) sprinkles (not nonpareils)

Vanilla Buttercream

  • 1 cup (2 sticks or 230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3-4 cups (360-480g) powdered (confectioners’) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream (see note above about substituting milk or half-and-half)
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Spray a 9-inch springform or baking pan (round or square) generously with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. Melt butter in the microwave in a microwave safe bowl or on the stove top. Whisk in the sugars vigorously getting out any brown sugar lumps – mixture will be gritty. Whisk in egg, yogurt, milk, and vanilla extract until combined. Slowly mix in dry ingredients until no lumps remain. Batter will be thick. Slowly stir in sprinkles, but do not over mix because the sprinkles will bleed their color. Do this at the last minute.
  3. Pour batter into prepared cake pan. This cake takes around 33-37 minutes to bake. What I suggest is to bake it for 20 minutes, then cover loosely with aluminum foil (loosely to avoid the top from sticking to the foil) and continue baking for 13-17 more minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool.
  4. To make the frosting, beat softened butter on medium speed with an electric or stand mixer. Beat for 3 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add powdered sugar, cream, and vanilla extract with the mixer running. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add more powdered sugar if frosting is too thin or more cream if mixture is too thick. Add 1/4 teaspoon (or more) if frosting is too sweet. Frost cooled cake as desired and top with sprinkles. There may be leftover frosting depending how much you wish to use.
  5. Cake stays fresh covered at room temperature or in the refrigerator for 5 days.

 

Bon appétit, my mountain family. Thanks for letting me hang out for a couple of days. You can take the girl out of the mountains, but you can’t take the mountains out of the girl.

 

 

 

If God’s not a Tar Heel fan…

sky

then why is the sky Carolina Blue?

That’s a question I’ve heard most of my life. Actually, I am pretty sure that God has a lot on his plate right about now… hurricanes, earthquakes, terrorists, people who feel so alone that they don’t know what to do or who to turn to. Who wins a Saturday afternoon college football game isn’t high on his list of worries, in my humble opinion. Probably not there at all. He might be keeping an eye on those young men off the field, trying to give them some guidance about keeping out of trouble, though.

But, back to Carolina Blue. Son #2, GF and I went to see UNC play Louisville yesterday.

game1

An absolutely perfect day. I now know who Lamar Jackson is- the defending Heisman trophy winner and the quarterback for the Cardinals. He had a record day yesterday, if you care about those things. I love college football. Particularly, the Tennessee Vols and the Duke Blue Devils. You can add the Appalachian State University Mountaineers and the Nebraska Cornhuskers to the list as well. A colleague gave us the tickets and a parking pass. The Ex-Ex couldn’t go because he was working. (He watched the second half on TV.) So, sorry for not really caring who won. I cried when the marching band played The Star-Spangled Banner. I am a sap that way.

SSB

Halftime was exciting.  Mo came to see me, trekking across the stadium from her seat to  mine.

mo

She’s a die hard Tar Heel fan (along with the BFF, my Favorite Niece, Andy P, who also came to find me, and the colleague who gave us the tickets). Check out the necklace!

The big deal at halftime was the presentation of the 2017 NCAA Championship Rings to the UNC Men’s basketball team. James Worthy, of the 1981-82 championship team, presented head coach Roy Williams with his ring.

roy and james

basketball team

I am a James Worthy fan as well as a fan of Roy Williams. That 1982 championship was legendary coach Dean Smith‘s first and Roy was an assistant coach then. Roy is one of my hometown boys. He lived in Spruce Pine for a while as a little boy. He is a few years older than me, so we didn’t live there at the same time, but that’s okay. It still counts.

It was a fun afternoon. Carolina didn’t end up winning. But what a day to be alive and outside. Eating hot dogs, people-watching, cheering for great plays made by both teams. A real slice of American life. And a few hours respite from worrying about Hurricane Irma and her path of destruction. That’s why Son #2 and GF (along with the way too cute and lovable Couper and his sidekick Charlie) were here.

couper and charlie

They left Charleston, not knowing if Irma was headed that way or not. GF hails from Texas so she knows football. She was a cheerleader for UT-San Antonio. I hope she was impressed with the Carolina cheerleaders. She has already heard of the Louisville squad.

Yesterday was also JC’s birthday! Duke won just for her, I am pretty sure. We went over to her house for a cook-out. I was in charge of dessert. She loves chocolate so I decided that little chocolate cakes would be a good way to go. I just happened to have three bars of European dark chocolate in the pantry.  A gift from Pretend Daughter #2. I made them in a muffin tin and wasn’t happy that they didn’t come out easily. So much for presentation. But they tasted good, with a little whipped cream on the side. Pas mal du tout.

choc cakes

Natalie’s Melting Chocolate Cakes

makes 12

200 g (7oz/ scant 3/4 c.) butter, cubed

200 g (7 oz/ 1 1/3 c. dark (bittersweet) chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), broken into pieces

200 g (7 oz/scant 3/4 c) castor sugar (superfine sugar)

4 eggs

1 tsp plain all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 180˚C (350 F˚/gas mark 4).

Place the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir until the chocolate has melted.  Transfer to a large mixing bowl with the sugar, stir with a wooden spoon and leave to cool a little while.

Add the eggs to the chocolate mixture, one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Finally, stir in the flour and mix well.

Pour the cake batter into 12 mini-loaf pans (or buttered muffin tins) and bake for 12-15 minutes until the centers are set but still a little wobbly.  Turn the oven off but leave the cakes inside for another 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

You can store these covered, in the fridge, for up to 2-3 days.  Take out 30 minutes before serving.

Bon appétit et bisous! I hope that Hurricane Irma loses steam and there is minimum damage and no loss of life in Florida. Be safe. Stay dry. Hug your loved ones.