How Would You Like to be Queen for a…

Double birthday celebration tonight!! Esther and Ilayne are just a day apart and as tonight was Book Club night it was a perfect time to celebrate both. In keeping with the theme of the event (no woman considers herself less than a princess) I thought a tiara on a pillow cake would be perfect.

First the tiara as it takes a couple of days to make. I found an online tutorial which showed how to make the tiara. I found a pattern that I liked, copied it and enhanced and printed it.I wrapped it around a plastic Tupperware type bowl and covered it with waxed paper, piped Royal Icing (appropriate, I think) using a #1 tip to follow the lines. Letting it dry for at least 2 hours I added a second layer being sure all the contact points were well connected. If you don’t do that the tiara will be to fragile to move. When the second coat is complete, leave it on the bowl for at least a day to dry completely. Carefully remove it and airbrush it with a silver edible paint. When that is dry I added the rubies by painting the areas with red gel food coloring. When everything was dry I dusted it with some silver to make it sparkle.Make two 9″x2″ cakes and bind them together with some chocolate ganache.Freeze the cake overnight. To sculpt the cake place tooth picks in the center of each side, about one inch from the edge and cut a smooth curve from each corner, through the toothpick to the next corner. When completed, shave some of the cake away from the edges to make the rounded pillow look. Use some buttercream frosting to crumb coat the cake then put it back in the fridge to set. After a few hours I like to smooth it off with my gloved hands so the cake will have a very satiny finish.

Knead coloring into a large piece of fondant (about the size of your fist.) Roll the fondant until it is very thin and drape around the cake. Overlap the bottom to be sure it holds together and trim the rest. I used the remainder to cover the small 6″ crumb coated cake I used as the base. I airbrushed some pearl dusting to give the fondant a satin finish.

Let this sit for a while to dry, then using some more butter cream frosting (dyed pink this time) I piped the seams and tassels of the pillow. Finally with white butter cream I piped the names of my two royal princesses, Esther and Ilayne.

From what I heard it was well received. They seemed to love that they could eat the tiara… go figure!

I Love the Sound of the Shofar…

Especially that first blast to start the New Year’s season… tequila… and we start fresh again. No, I mean it tequila!! I found some in the cupboard and as Fran was out for the ladies, I decided a little Tequila Sunset dinner would be pefect. A few carrots from the garden, a spare chicken breast and some tomatoes and provolone and I have a feast.

Saute the carrots in a tblsp of butter, two oz of tequila and 3 tblsp of brown sugar (being sure not to burn the sugar.) I kept them just about boiling until the carrots were tender. Cook it a little longer just below boiling to let the brown sugar and tequila caramelize. Meanwhile add a little butter or EVO to a large fry pan, put the chicken in with some diced fresh tomatoes and cook at medium until the chicken is almost done. Add a couple of slices of the fresh tomato on top of the chicken, cover and simmer for 10 min. With about 5 min to go cover the tomato/chicken with the provolone, re-cover and when the provolone is melted serve.

Easy to make, easy to clean, delicious!!


Tropical Get-a-way Dinner

Neil is here for a visit!! We live in a resort area and sometimes we drive down A1A through Ft. Lauderdale beach, just to remind ourselves of this fact. The Bahamas are just about the same distance from us as Orlando. Did I mention that Neil is here? We invited the Fink and her Folks over for dinner to welcome Neil home (he is here for a visit) and I decided to make it a Tropical Bogandanza!! One of the fruits found throughout the tropics are mangoes so it seemed like a good idea to make a mango themed dinner.

We started with baked brie and mango chutney wraps appetizers, followed by a 100% home grown garden salad and the main course of: mango steak; my famous rosemary roasted potatoes; tomato-pepper-green bean (home grown) casserole (I have to hide the green vegetable so Fran will eat them) and personalized chocolate souffle’s for dessert. (PS, Neil is home for a visit.)

The baked brie and mango chutney is very easy, once you have some chutney. Wait… you don’t BUY chutney, do you? No, I didn’t think so. Winners never cheat and cheaters never win. Fist make the mango chutney:


INGREDIENTS:  (makes about 2 cups)

  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 small red hot chile peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 large onions, chopped
  • 1/8 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons golden raisins
  • 2 teaspoons raisins
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger root, chopped
  • 2/3 cup sliced, semi-ripe mangoes


  1. In a large saucepan combine vinegar, white sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, ground ginger, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, chile peppers and salt. Bring to a boil; boil covered for 1/2 hour.
  2. Stir in onions, garlic, golden raisins, raisins and ginger and boil covered for another 1/2 hour.
  3. Stir in mangoes, keep heat high enough to reduce some of the liquid (about another 1/2 hour.)

INGREDIENTS  (makes about 20 pieces)

  • phyllo dough, thawed
  • melted butter
  • 1 (8 ounce) round Brie cheese
  • 1/4 cup mango chutney


  1. Cut the phyllo dough into about 3″ squares and stack 5 sheets, coating with a thin layer of butter
  2. place equal amounts (about 1/4 tsp) of brie and chutney in the center
  3. wet the edges with water and fold into an interesting shape. (I like making them look like turkish taffy candies)
  4. broil on low until the tops are brown. (4 minutes in my oven…don’t burn the brie!)

I made a marinade from mangoes, apples, honeydew and spices. The steak (I used a nice sirloin, but most any good cut would work fine) was marinaded for 3 hours before grilling. When finished it was cut into strips, the width of each determining the serving size, but assume a 6-8oz portion for each person. The steak was placed cut side (red side) up between two rows of honeydew, veggie casserole and roasted potatoes to the side. Neil is here for a visit!!

INGREDIENTS (this amount serves six)

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup minced apple
  • 1/2 cup diced honeydew
  • 1/2 cup diced mango
  • 1 tablespoon garlic salt
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 3 pounds boneless steaks (again, I used sirloin)


  1. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the oil, apple, honeydew, mango, garlic salt, Worcestershire sauce, kosher salt, hot pepper sauce to taste and ground black pepper.
  2. Heat for about 5 minutes to get warm. Place the steak in a shallow nonporous dish. Cover with the marinade and refrigerate, covered, for at least 3 hours. Flip steak over halfway through marinating.
  3. Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat and lightly oil grate.
  4. Grill steak for 10 minutes per side, dousing with remaining marinade, if desired. Steak is done when internal temperature reaches at least 145 degrees F (63 degrees C).

In a small skillet heat a couple of tbsp of EVO, add skinned, cubed tomatoes, slided and diced peppers. Add garlic, salt and pepper to taste. After the tomatoes cook and reduce add the green beans and simmer for 15- 20 min, until the beans are tender.

Cut wedges of red potatoes and put in a plastic bag. Add some EVO (enough to coat the amount of potatoes, fresh rosemary (from my garden) some fresh chives (from my garden, hehehehehe) and salt and pepper to taste. I use Kosher or sea salt here. I don’t know why except I like the big grains of salt. Roast at 350 deg for 20 min and if necessary to brown nicely broil for 3 minutes at the end.

see previous posting at Except Parfaits, perhaps the bestest dessert there is

Neil is here for a visit!!

Once upon a midnight dreary…

Poetic license here, it was 12:00pm (noon) not midnight. It was sunny and warm, nor dreary. Otherwise the title was spot on. I saw this recipe for Chicken Pasta Primavera and thought it would make a nice, easy dinner. As is often the case, I was only mostly right. I made a couple of baguettes over the weekend and thought they would be good for garlic toast. We has a frozen chicken breast left over from a dinner last week and we had some peppers (some from my garden)… perfect!

(Not my photo)

The chicken was neither boneless or skinless, but that was easily rectified. I also butterflied it to reduce the time required to cook it in the skillet.

Baguettes are easy to make with or without a bread machine. I use our machine for ease and consistency. Set the menu to dough so it does the work of kneading and the first rise. When it finishes its cycles remove it from the machine, punch it down, divide it into two balls and put on a slightly greased cookie sheet, covered with a kitchen towel and placed in the oven with the light on. This makes a nice, warm, draft free place to let the dough rise again. After it doubles roll each ball into a rope as long as your baguette pan, dust with corn meal and let rise again until doubled. When ready place in pre-heated oven at 375 degrees for 20 – 25 min. Spray with water, brush with egg white or as I did, but a pan of water in the oven will make the bread nice and crusty.


  • 1 cup warm water (110 degrees F.)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 3 teaspoons Instant Active Dry Yeast
  • Cornmeal (optional)

Chicken Pasta Primavera recipe


  • 1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can peeled and diced tomatoes
  • 1 pound angel hair pasta
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – cut into bite size pieces
  • dried basil
  • dried rosemary
  • dried thyme
  • garlic powder
  • grated Parmesan cheese


  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook red and green bell peppers in 2 tablespoons olive oil with garlic until just tender. Stir in diced tomatoes, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 10 minutes. Reduce heat to keep sauce warm.
  2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
  3. While pasta is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons oil and butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Cook chicken in butter mixture until juices run clear, 5 to 10 minutes. Place cooked chicken over tomato sauce and sprinkle with basil, rosemary, thyme, garlic powder and Parmesan. Serve with cooked pasta.

Brinnnnggg… Brinnnnggg… Brinnnnggg… No wait!

It was a bee-dup, not a brinnnngggg, yeah thats right bee-dup. Hold on, it wasn’t a bee-dup either it was definitely a deedle-deee, yes that’s it, a deedle-dee. Marc send me an email not a phone call or text, requesting a cake for his mom’s 80th birthday party. He wanted one cake shaped like an eight and the other like a zero. After some serious investigative questioning of the client I discoverer his mom likes hazelnut and black and white. So the plan was set. One chocolate cake shaped like an eight with hazelnut butter-cream frosting, and one round white cake for the zero with white hazelnut cake and butter-cream frosting. Through various devious and nefarious means I also discovered the cake would need to feed about 45-50 ravenous 80 year-olds.

Now that the cake(s) were designed, the logistics needed to be planned. I decided one two layer 12″ cake for the zero and two 8″ two (I love numbers) layer cakes with the bottoms of each cut off and the flat sides set together to make the eight.

The 12″ cakes should take about 90 minutes to make and bake, then another 30-45 min to cool. (Wrapped in the heavy duty plastic wrap I use it will stay fresh for at least a week.)  The chocolate cake is pretty easy, but as I only have three 8″ cake pans I knew I would have to make 2 batches. If I had one set of cakes made and cooled, I could frost/decorate it while the other cakes cooled. Make one cake Thursday, one Friday and frost/decorate Saturday, no problem.

I made the hazelnut cake Thursday night after work in one single LARGE batch. Friday night I made two of the four chocolate cakes before dinner and the final two after. Saturday morning I leveled the first of the two 12″ and would you believe it the *#&%#@ of the  12″ cake wasn’t cooked at all. *#&%#@ !!. It’s Saturday morning and now I have to make two more *#&%#@ 12″ cakes, cool them, frost and decorate before 5:30 when its time for our traditional New Year’s pizza and a movie. I decided to make the hazelnut cakes one at a time, it takes longer but is safer and I didn’t have time for any more *#&%#@ errors*#&%#@. While the first cake was baking I made a double recipe of butter cream frosting, crumb coated and cut the chocolate cakes, putting them in the fridge to set. I baked the second set of hazelnut cakes at a lower temperature for a longer time, covering the cakes with aluminum foil to keep them from over-browning. (While the first cake was cooling and the second was baking, Fran and I went and upgraded our iPhone 3’s to iPhone 4s’s, a good move at a great price. The new phones are much faster and we probably wont complain about the speed for a month or two.)

After lunch (note Wendy’s cup in one picture) I frosted the two now cooled hazelnut cakes which were baked perfectly. The white cakes did not need a crumb coat (thankfully) so I could frost and decorate them fairly quickly. My piping is definitely improving, but as I can barely read my own handwriting I do not hold out much hope for my lettering. The ribbons and flowers really set the cake off nicely.

Now, for the mechanics: White Hazelnut Cake

Ingredients (for one 12″ round cake)

  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups butter
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup of hazelnuts. (I used a blender on “food processor”) level and beat the *#&%#@ out of them, then sifted the lees through a strainer leaving essentially hazelnut flour)
  • 1 tablespoon and 2-1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 cups milk


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour a 12 inch round cake pan. Fran bought these exceptionally cool silicone liners which i cut to fit the bottom of the cake pan, parchment paper will also work and both make the cake release from the pan very easily.
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. (Be sure they are well creamed, 7-8 min at level 2 on my KitchenAid mixer. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder, alternately add these dry ingredient and milk to the creamed mixture starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Pour or spoon batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 60 minutes, covered with aluminum foil, in the preheated oven.  To keep the bottom from over browning try setting the cake pan in an inch of water as it bakes. I did not try this, but will next time.

Chocolate Cake and Butter Cream Frosting

Both are described elsewhere in abatteredoldsuitcase so I won’t re-iterate here. I did substitute 3 oz of Frangelica for the vanilla to give the frosting the hazelnut flavor.