1950’s Boiled Raisin Cake

boiled raisin cake

The glorious Big Sky country of Montana was the recent setting for my mother Pat’s memorial, which holds the story of redemption.  This couldn’t have been more special, with family there from all over the state, as well as Washington, California, and Oregon.  It was a blessed reunion of next of kin and old friends, many of whom I hadn’t seen for decades.  My 94-year old mother, who was so eager to be with her Maker and my father, was smiling down from heaven, highly pleased with all our gaiety.

Needless to say, the food at this week’s many meals was the greatest.  My sister Maureen, who follows a ketogenic diet, is highly gifted in creating memorable ailments. (She trains people in ketogenic-style cooking and presently is writing a cook book, which includes beautiful creative desserts; I will promote it when it comes out.)

Today’s boiled raisin cake, however, dates back to my early childhood in the 1950’s; my mother probably found this well-known cake recipe in a popular magazine.  Maureen knows the original instructions by heart, to which I have added a few twists of my own, such as freshly ground flour-this is totally optional, but oh so good!

Pleasing the palate beyond words, this world’s easiest, foolproof cake is mixed in the saucepan in which you boil the raisins.  I couldn’t help but share it at this time, thus honoring my mother.

Death normally brings loss; Mom’s departing, however, promoted life and goodness.  Her long-term desire to be with Jesus and my father “Buzzy Baby” was finally granted; our Redeemer brought great liberty to many with her passing.

Food, friends, and faith were the best description of her earthly sojourn; thus, these attributes also marked her transition to heaven, for my sister Maureen labored to insure their presence at all our gatherings, thus commemorating our beloved mother-nothing was overlooked.  This week-long series of family events highly esteemed this great woman, with the actual memorial, in our village of East Glacier Park, being the height of the glory which was signified by her home-coming.

At this treasured celebration, I was able to reunite with many childhood friends-some of whom I hadn’t seen since the 1970’s.  During the reception, extreme laughter blessed us at one table, as we traversed memory lane, for we were recalling our shared employment at my parent’s restaurant.

So many people who came to memorialize Mom’s life had worked for my parents in their fifty-plus years of restaurant ownership; all were bearing rich, belly shaking stories.  It was at this respected establishment that I first learned my love for food, in which I have a unique approach of educating with health and history.

Here I note that the raisins in this cake receipt were most likely sun-dried on rows of paper in the vineyards for about three weeks, as is their most common form of production in the United States.  There are many thousands of grape varieties, which are of the genus Vitis V. vinifera.  Here in North America, we have about 25 native grape species, where in temperate Asia, there are about 10; the major source of wine and table grapes, however, is native to Eurasia.  About two-thirds of the world’s grapes result in wine; of the rest, about two-thirds are consumed fresh, with the remaining made into raisins. 1

Urbain Dubois published a recipe in his 19th century cook book, in which he ingeniously combined raisins and capers; presently, Jean-Georges Vongerichten has capitalized on this unique paring, enhancing it even further by pureeing it with nutmeg as a sauce for skate (this popular dish is on his restaurant menu). 2

Loving food and adventure, my mother would have appreciated this daring treatment of raisins.  You may experiment with this raisin/caper combination, or just securely rest in Mom’s proven boiled raisin cake.  (I suggest making the latter with white vanilla, which is ideal for white frostings-this uncommon flavoring was my recent gift from friends traveling to Mexico, the home of the world’s most outstanding, dirt-cheap vanilla.)

References:

  1. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 363.
  2. Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, Culinary Artistry (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley& Sons, Inc., 1996), p. 70.
  3. https://calraisins.org/about/the-raisin-industry/

finished cake after final frosting

Boiled Raisin Cake  Yields: 12 servings.  Total prep time: 1 hr & 50 min, with 45 min inactive prep time for cooling raisins, unless you boil them ahead of time, following step one/  active prep time: 20 min/  baking time: 45 min.

3 c flour  (Optional: may grind 2 c organic soft white wheat berries to make 3 c flour.)

2 c raisins

3 c water

1 cube butter

2 lg eggs, beaten

1 tbsp vanilla

2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 c sugar  (Coconut sugar has a low glycemic index; for health benefits, see Zucchini Bread, 2017/07/24.)

1 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive, fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco.)

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp cloves

1 c pecan pieces, optional

Spray oil  (Coconut oil is best for flavor and health; Pam coconut spray oil is available in most stores; our local Winco brand, however, is far cheaper.)

Glaze:

2 c powdered sugar  (Organic is best; Trader Joe’s has 1-lb packages, where Costco has more economical, larger packets.)

1/2 c butter, melted

1/2 c cream  (Organic heavy whipping cream is better for your health.)

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp salt

  1. easy mixing of batter

    In a 3-quart sauce pan, bring raisins to a boil in 3 cups of water over medium heat; cook for exactly 5 minutes; add butter.  Place in a sink full of cold water to cool quickly.

  2. If using fresh ground flour, grind wheat berries now.
  3. Make glaze by mixing above “glaze” ingredients, set aside.
  4. When raisins are cool, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  5. Add flour and all other “cake” ingredients to pan; blend well; do not over-beat, however, as this toughens cakes and cookies.  IF grinding your own flour, be sure to let batter sit for 45 minutes, as freshly ground flour is coarser and absorbs the liquid more slowly.
  6. Pour batter into 9”x13” pan, which has been sprayed with coconut spray oil.
  7. icing cake the first time

    Bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean, and cake lightly responds when pressed with finger.

  8. When hot out of oven, immediately poke holes over the whole cake with a toothpick or skewer.
  9. Pour 2/3’s of glaze evenly on cake (see photo).  When cake has cooled, frost with remaining icing; see photo of finished product at top of recipe.
  10. This cake is dynamite, and it gets better as it sits over time!

1960’s Josephines (a great hors d’ouvres)

josephines

Join me on a journey to the mysterious wonder-world of childhood foods; we can all relate to the thrilling memories of our particular favorites from mom’s best.  These captivated our young hearts with taste thrills in our mouths, as well as simultaneous, soft sensations in our stomachs.  When faced with like foods today, we instantly return to these initial impulses from our treasuries of early experiences.

Such comes to me double-fold: not only did my mother supply these rich impressions, but my father, also a great cook, left indelible culinary marks on my soul.  Mom applied her expertise to the hosting of dinner parties, while Dad skillfully prepared food in our family’s restaurant, where we ate all our meals while I was growing up.

Both parents were self-taught.  My mother lacked the normal advantages of learning cooking from her mother, who died of cancer when Mom was 11 years old (her father passed on two years later).  Hence being raised by Catholic nuns at a boarding school, she didn’t receive the normal, gracious “passing-down” of womanly skills, rather these were hard-won for her.

Everything Mom put her hand to, however, she mastered, for she knew the importance of “pressing-in” ardently (a trait I learned first-hand); this included cooking in which she particularly excelled.  I grew up amidst the flurry of her entertaining many guests with gourmet foods.  She was always baking Irish oatmeal bread to go with her many feasts, often with foreign themes; this at a time when America was eating Spam, jello, canned vegetables, and the perpetual, “miraculous” Crisco.  (the history of shortening is in 1880’s Ozark Honey-Oatmeal Cookies, 2017/10/30, while that of canning can be found at Bean, Corn, and Avocado Salad, 2017/10/02.)

On the other hand, my grandparents, on my father’s side, lived in a small house just behind our home, allowing for their constant, close presence.  Grandma was a fantastic cook, accomplishing all by a sense of feel, with no recipes needed-a handful of this, a pinch of that.  Nevertheless as with Mom’s maternal experience, Dad didn’t learn his methods from her, but rather his schooling was provided by a gigantic industrial cook book, brought to our restaurant by a traveling salesman in the early 1960’s (see Buzz’ Blue Cheese Dressing, 2016/08/25).

Today heart-imprints, established as a result of my father’s disciplined efforts, literally soar when I encounter light buttermilk pancakes, exceptional potato salad, or a good doughnut, for these were institutions in his establishment; thus, such soul foods provide me with a quick transport back to the mid-twentieth century.

For me these Mexican-inspired Josephines carry this same weight, with recollections from Mom’s culinary domain.  Hors d’ouvres were always a part of her feasts; this being one of our favorites.

As mentioned, 1960’s cooking employed lots of canned foods, with this recipe being no exception, as it calls for canned green chillies; originally this vegetable made its way from America to Europe, and beyond, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Chilli peppers were first introduced in India by the Portuguese, where they added heat to curries.  Curry is actually an English name, derived from the Tamil word kari, meaning “sauce”; thus, our English word indicates the basic Indian method of preparing food, utilizing their ever-present sauces.

Red and green chilies have long been present in both Hindu Indian and Muslim Pakistani cuisines.  These social groups existed together in Kashmir for most of the 400 years prior to the 1947 formation of Muslim Pakistan; here both cultures relied on the basic dish of rice and either kohlrabi or a vegetable similar to our spring greens, which was flavored with red and green chilies.  The Muslims enhanced this with garlic, while the Hindus added hing (asafoetidfa), distinguishing the two styles of preparing this food.  A more marked difference in their diets, however, resided in the ratio of meat to vegetables, with Hindus eating far more vegetables than meat, while Muslims did the opposite.

This American receipt calls for chillies, long present in world cookery; not being fresh, these reflect the popularity of canned goods in the 20th century.  Enjoy the ease of this hors d’ouvres with its great taste-my niece Cammie retains our family’s fond memory, by creatively using goat cheese and gluten-free bread here, to meet her dietary needs.  One way or the other, you will never forget this taste-treat!

References:

Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1988, 1973), p, 271.

James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995), pp. 87, 88.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chili_pepper

https://cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/65202/what-was-indian-food-like-before-the-arrival-of-the-chilli-from-south-america

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kashmir

finished product

Josephines  Yields: about 1 1/2 dozen.  Total prep time: 45 min/  active prep time: 25 min/  baking time: 20-25 min.  Note: may make cheese/mayo mixture ahead, to have on hand in refrigerator.

1 c aged, grated cheddar cheese  (It is preferable to not use packaged shredded cheese; Mom always grated Sharp Cracker Barrel; I use imported, aged cheddars.)

1 c mayonnaise  (Best Foods has the highest quality.)

1/2 c butter, melted

1-7 oz can diced green chillies

Tabasco sauce, about 8 vigorous shakes, or to taste

easy grating of cheese with food processor

3/4 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is so important for optimum health; an inexpensive Himalayan salt is available in bulk at our local Winco.)

1 loaf French bread  (Trader Joe’s sells an ideal, organic 11.5-oz baguette for $1.99; this spread is enough for 2 baguettes.)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grate cheese by hand, or with grating attachment for food processor (see photo above).
  3. spooning chillies/butter on loaf

    Mix cheese and mayonnaise in a bowl, set aside.

  4. Melt butter; mix in drained chillies, Tabasco, and salt.
  5. Split loaf of bread in half lengthwise, place halves on cookie sheet split-side up, and evenly spoon butter/chillies on these surfaces (see photo).
  6. Proportionately spread cheese/mayo mixture on top of buttered loaf (see photo below).
  7. bread spread with cheese/mayo mixture

    Bake in hot oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown (see photo at top of recipe).

  8. Cut and serve.  These are dynamite!

Borscht (Beet Soup)

a bowl of borscht

This borscht recipe has been with me since my catering days, during the early 1980s, in Billings, Montana, when I was preparing soups for a café in an art gallery.  Now it graces my table every summer.  A particular prayer partner claims my version is far better than that which she had in Russia.  Indeed, this chilled soup is a beautiful offering on a hot summer day!

This delicacy has been long popular in Eastern European countries under the following names: borscht, borsch, borshch, and bosht.  Over time it has spread from these nations to other continents, as their people emigrated.  In North America, it is commonly linked with the Jews and Mennonites that came from these areas.  The common name borscht is derived from the Russian borsch meaning cow parsnip, which was an original recipe ingredient of the Slavs.

The most familiar American adaptation of this soup, which is made with beetroot, is of Ukrainian origin.  With its first record being in the 12th century, this dish subsequently emerged from a wide variety of sour-tasting soups present in the Eastern European section, such as rye-based white borscht, sorrel-based green borscht, and cabbage borscht.  Our well-known Ukrainian recipe was originally inspired by the addition of leftover beetroot pickling; thus, its brilliant color and tart flavor.

There are as many different preparations for this beet soup as there are homes in which it is consumed; they may include the additions of meat, fish, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, and potatoes.

Spanish conquistadors brought potatoes and tomatoes from America to Europe in the 16th century; these vegetables, however, weren’t a common part of the Eastern European peasants’ diet until the 19th century, at which time they found their way into the Ukrainian and Russian borscht-food of both poor men and princes.  As a result of emigration, tomatoes and potatoes are a part of borscht recipes around the world, but my version has neither of these.

Still other variations occur with this renowned soup involving its garnishes and side dishes.  Smetana, or sour cream, is its most common topping; chopped herbs, hard-boiled eggs, bacon, and sausage may also be utilized.  There are plentiful side dishes; among them are pampushky (Ukrainian garlic rolls) and treasured pirozhki (individually sized pastries or dumplings filled with meat and onions).

You can see that despite its centuries-long history there is no consistent receipt for this sustaining chilled delight, for even this latter characteristic may vary, and it may be served hot.  My borscht is a cold, meatless, summer soup adorned with sour cream and eggs; for the benefit of added protein make this recipe with bone broth (see its benefits and easy recipe at my post on Tortellini Soup, 2016/10/10).  This is a treat!

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borscht

https://www.britannica.com/topic/borsch

www.dictionary.com/browse/borscht

easy mincing of onion

Borscht (Beet Soup)  Yields: 4-5 servings.  Total prep time: 1 hr/  active prep time:30 min/  cooking time: 30 min

1 tbsp oil  (Coconut or avocado oil is best; olive oil is carcinogenic when heated to high temperatures.)

1 med/lg yellow onion

3 lg purple beets, a little less than 2 pounds trimmed

1 qt broth  (I prefer bone broth-for recipe and powerful health benefits, see Tortellini Soup, 2016/10/10.)

1 c water

2 small lemons, juiced  (Use half of this to start; then, adjust with more to taste.)

1 tbsp honey, or to taste  (Local raw honey is always best, for its localized bee pollen is known to relieve allergies naturally, through the concept of immunotherapy.)

1 tsp Better than Bouillon, or to taste

1/2 tsp salt, or to taste  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco.)

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper, or to taste

sweating onions

Sour cream

3 eggs, hard-boiled and chopped  (I prefer duck eggs; see Rosemary Eggs, 2017/08/21, for their information.)

  1. Chop the onion in small pieces the easy way.  Peel it leaving the root on; next, score this by cutting slices close together across the top one way, going 3/4 of the way down into the onion; then, turn it and cut slices the opposite direction.  When onion is thus prepared, shave the small pieces off the end with a sharp knife (see photo in list of ingredients).  May discard root end; set aside chopped vegetable.
  2. Heat oil in a stock pot over medium heat; add piece of onion; when it sizzles, add remaining onion; sweat, cook only until translucent (see photo above).  Set aside, go to next step.
  3. Spray beets with an inexpensive, safe, effective vegetable spray (mix 97% distilled white vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle).  Let sit for 3 minutes and rinse well.
  4. Peel and cut beets in 1/4″ dice; add to cooked onions.
  5. Cover with broth and water; bring to a boil over med/high heat; reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until beets are soft.
  6. borscht cooking in pot

    Add half the lemon juice and honey.

  7. Stir in Better than Bouillon; then, add salt and pepper.
  8. Adjust lemon juice, honey, Bouillon, salt, and pepper to taste.
  9. Chill for 4 hours or overnight.  Serve topped with sour cream and chopped hard-boiled eggs.
  10. This freezes well.  I love this summer soup!

Williamsburg Orange Cake

Williamsburg Orange Cake

Williamsburg Orange Cake

The spring and summer of 1973 brimmed with vitality for me; I had taken the quarter off from college “to find myself.”  However, I forgot my mother’s birthday in the midst of my prosperity.  My heart broke when I soon realized my mistake.  To make amends I baked and delivered a glorious cake; I drove it 200 miles across Montana’s Big Sky country, from Missoula to East Glacier Park.  My benevolent mother graciously welcomed both me and the confection!

This beloved parent learned the powerful lesson of forgiveness in her youth; she is always eager and ready to forgive as a result of this.  Mom taught me this precious wisdom, which exempts us from much disruption when mistakes are made: immediately we amend all with our Father in heaven; next, we lavishly forgive others and ourselves; finally as needed, we seek compassion from those we have hurt in our wrongdoing. This spells freedom for our emotions and minds!

Me, my brother Paul, mother Pat, sister Maureen

me, my brother Paul, mother Pat, sister Maureen-June 2016

That was Mom’s 50th birthday and the first time I made this outstanding Williamsburg Orange Cake.  I went home to Montana to celebrate her 93rd birthday this past June. We had a repeat of this treasured sweet!

The recipe calls for zesting oranges.  I like to equip my sister’s kitchen with gadgets which I find helpful in cooking.  This year I blessed her with a GoodGrip zester and thus insured my ease in making this cake. GoodGrip is high quality and economical.  A large array of this brand’s useful gadgets is available at our local Winco.  This particular zester is most efficient; it makes a difficult job super easy.

My recipe appears lengthy.  It is actually very simple, for I have included many baker’s tips. Don’t be daunted by deceptive looks!

Williamsburg Orange Cake  Yields: 2-9 inch round layers, 3-8 inch rounds, or 2-9 x 5 inch loaves.  Total prep time: 3 hr/  inactive prep time to freeze cakes for easy frosting: 1 hr/ active prep time: 1 1/2 hr/  baking time: 30 min.

2 1/2 c flour  (Bob’s Red Mill  organic unbleached white flour is best; better yet grind 1 2/3 c organic soft white wheat berries to make 2 1/2 c of flour.)

1 c raisins, soaked in boiling water  (Organic raisins are available inexpensively at Trader Joe’s.)

1 1/2 c milk or cream, soured with lemon juice from a squeeze ball

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive, fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco.)

1/2 c butter, softened

1/4 c butter  (This 1970’s cake called for the then popular Crisco.)

1 1/2 c sugar  (May use coconut sugar, or sucanat, which is evaporated cane juice; if using sugar, organic cane sugar is premium.)

3 lg eggs, at room temperature

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

3 oranges  (It is important to use organic, as the zest of regular oranges taste of pesticides.)

1 c pecan pieces

Spray oil  (Coconut spray oil is best.)

Flour for dusting pans

Williamsburg Orange Frosting  (This is for 2-9 x 5 inch loaf pans or 2-9 inch round layers; 1 1/2 recipes will be needed if making 3-8 inch round layers.)

1/2 c butter, softened

4 c powdered sugar  (Organic is available at Trader Joe’s.)

1 1/2 tbsp orange zest

3/8 c orange juice, freshly squeezed

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt

10 narrow slices of orange rind, cut lengthwise on surface of orange (see top photo).

Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. If using fresh ground flour, begin grinding now.
  3. Cover raisins with water in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, remove from heat, and set aside.
  4. Place milk or cream in a medium bowl; sour with about 6 squirts of lemon juice from ball; let sit.
  5. Stir together flour, salt, and baking soda in a med/large bowl with a fork.
  6. In a large bowl, beat butter and Crisco until light and fluffy, add sugar, beating thoroughly.  Add 1 egg at a time, beating well with each addition.  Mix in vanilla.
  7. Add 1/2 the flour mixture to butter mixture, blending only until all is incorporated; then, mix in 1/2 the soured milk. Repeat these steps to use all the flour and milk; do not over-beat, as this toughens cakes and cookies.
  8. Wash and dry oranges.  Zest 2 oranges (set aside); save these two oranges-for juice for frosting-and the third unpeeled one for decorative strips.
  9. Drain the raisins, which have been become plump in the hot water. Blend the raisins, l tbsp of zest, and nuts into the cake batter.
  10. Spray pans with coconut oil and dust with flour lightly. (Rinse nozzle on can with hot water, for easy spraying in future.)  Pour batter in the prepared cake pans.
  11. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cake should respond, bounce back, when pressed with your finger.  Do not over bake!
  12. Cool in pan for 5 minutes to facilitate removal; slide knife around edges to gently remove; then, freeze cakes on separate paper plates for at least 1 hour-this prevents cake from crumbling while frosting.

Frosting  (Make 1 1/2 recipes for 3-8 inch round layers.)

  1. Cut 10 narrow slices of rind from third orange for optional decoration: using a sharp knife, cut just below rind from top to bottom of orange, gently peel stripes off orange, set aside (see top photo of decorated cake).
  2. Squeeze oranges to extract 3/8 c juice, set aside.
  3. In a med/large bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy, preferably with an electric hand mixer.
  4. Mix in 2 c of powdered sugar.
  5. Beat in 1/4 c of orange juice, 1 1/2 tbsp zest, vanilla, and salt.  Add remaining sugar, 1 c at a time, blending well; set aside.  (Save extra orange juice.)
  6. Frost frozen cake layers or loafs-only if frosting is too stiff to spread easily, add more orange juice, 1 tbsp at a time.  Optional: decorate with slices of orange rind while frosting is still wet, arranging narrow slices back-to-back on top of cake (see top photo).
  7. If making the loaf cakes, to keep in freezer for unexpected company, be sure to freeze the frosting on cake, before sealing in gallon-size freezer bag.
  8. Enjoy this delightful cake!

Buzz’ Blue Cheese Dressing

Mom, my siblings, my great nephew, and me at Mom's 93rd birthday

my siblings, mother, great nephew, and me at Mom’s 93rd birthday

My heavenly Father bestowed the best parents in the whole world upon me!   Many gifts have been mine through  them: the biggest from my earthly father was his grand heart, while Mom’s was her beautiful faith.

My 93-year old mother always responds to my gratitude for these holy blessings: “Your most treasured present to me was bringing my husband to the Lord.” This took place in a Starbucks two years before Dad passed.

My parents visited me in Portland every October starting in 1986, until age prohibited their travels.  The momentous day of my father’s salvation took place on their last trip here in 2004.  Note: the jubilance of my family’s glorious reunion will reverberate throughout heaven one day soon.

My father and I hung out during their blessed visits, while Mom shopped ‘til she dropped.  My beloved papa always did one thing: he stocked my larder to the brim every year.  I hopefully anticipated this godsend long before their arrival, as times were lean back then.

Dad taught me how to make his famous blue cheese dressing during one of these hallowed, shared days.  It has graced my refrigerator ever since; there is nothing like it; even people who don’t like blue cheese love this!

Buzz’s recipe has a history. My parents purchased our family restaurant in 1954. Traveling salesmen often stopped at our business in the little tourist village of East Glacier Park, Montana, which is on Highway 2.  I was just approaching puberty in the early sixties, when one of these self-promoters sold Dad a mammoth cook book for restaurant owners.  This huge culinary account was about 10 inches thick.  It contained all that was needed to train my father to flawlessly run his eatery, which grew exceedingly in fame over the years.  Thus, a lone man’s fervid, cold call brought a lifetime’s bounty to me and many others.

I share this magnificent recipe for blue cheese dressing, obtained from this book, with great joy!

easy juicing of lemons

Buzz’ Blue Cheese Dressing  Yields: about 1 3/4 quarts.  Total prep time: 30 minutes.

.5-.7 lb. blue cheese, frozen and thawed for easy crumbling  (For quality, do not use pre-crumbled cheese; Cave Age Blue Cheese from Trader Joe’s is ideal; keep thawed cheese refrigerated until ready to use.)

5 extra large cloves of garlic, or more if smaller, to taste

1/2 medium yellow onion, cut in large chunks

36 ounces Best Foods mayonnaise  (Use 1-30 ounce jar plus 1/5 of another jar.)

2 small lemons, juiced

3/4 tsp salt, or to taste  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive, Himalayan salt is available in bulk at our local Winco.)

3/4 tsp fresh ground pepper, or to taste

6 vigorous shakes of Tabasco Sauce, or to taste

1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce, or to taste

  1. Freeze blue cheese ahead of time; thaw in refrigerator before using; this makes crumbling very easy.  Keep cheese refrigerated until ready to use.
  2. In a food processor, puree garlic and onion; stop processor and scrap down sides twice; set aside.
  3. Place mayonnaise in a large bowl.  (Set aside empty mayonnaise jar.)
  4. Roll lemons on counter, pressing down hard with palm of hand; this loosens the juices in the meat.  Juice fruit, straining seeds, and add to mayonnaise. (Handheld lemon juicers, such as the one in the above photo work really well.  Watch the marketplace to acquire this and a small strainer for bowl.)
  5. Add onion/garlic to mayonnaise to taste-this should taste REALLY STRONG, as the flavor mellows much after several days.  Blend in salt, pepper, Tabasco, and Worcestershire.
  6. Crumble blue cheese into mayonnaise mixture and stir gently, mixing only until blended.
  7. Adjust seasonings.
  8. Fill a sterilized, quart-size, wide-mouth canning jar with dressing.  Place the rest in the empty mayonnaise jar.
  9. Refrigerate, keeps well.

1950’s Banana Cake

1950's banana cake

1950’s banana cake

My mother let each child choose his own birthday cake while we were growing up.  My little heart worked overtime each year to decide between banana cake and fresh pear pie.  Both are awe-inspiring!

I spell out the wonders of my mother’s banana cake here. The delectable pie will follow this fall in a series of recipes extolling my family’s favorite meal since the 1950’s; until then you will be pleased with this memorable confection.

I grew up in the small tourist village of East Glacier Park, Montana.  It is the east entrance to the spectacular display of Rocky Mountains in Glacier National Park.  I have seen mountain ranges all over the world; none compare with that of my home.

There my young mother was mentored by several “older” women as I was maturing; one was Leone Brown.  She was all of 50 at the time, but she seemed very old to me.  This knowledgeable woman taught Mom much about cooking.  She created many beautiful crafts for her as well; my 93-year old mother still has her handmade Easter eggs, made out of delicate egg shells.

This beloved cake is the fruit of Leone’s bountiful wisdom; personally I have been making it with joy since the early ’70’s.  Believe me, it will knock your socks off!

Banana Cake  Yields: 2-9 inch layer or 2-9 x 5 inch loaf pans.  Total prep time: 2 1/4 hr (with  inactive prep time of 1 hr or longer for freezing cakes to facilitate easy frosting)/  active prep time: 50 min/  baking time: 25 min.

Note:  1 1/2 recipes will be needed for 3-8 inch layers.  I like to make 2-loaf cakes and freeze them separately on paper plates, sealed in gallon-size freezer bags, for cutting off frozen slices as needed.  Dessert is always on hand for unexpected guests!

1/4 c milk, soured with few drops of lemon juice from a squeeze ball

3/4 c butter, softened

1 1/2 c sugar  (I prefer coconut sugar, or sucanat, evaporated cane juice.)

2 lg eggs

2 1/2 c flour  (Bob’s Red Mill unbleached flour is best, or grind 1  2/3 c organic soft white winter wheat berries to make 2 1/2 c fresh ground flour.)

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; available in inexpensively in fine grind at Costco.)

3 ripe medium bananas  (1 1/2 c mashed)

1 tsp vanilla

Spray oil  (Coconut spray oil is best; Pam is available in most supermarkets; our local Winco brand, however, is cheaper.)

Flour for dusting the sprayed pans

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Sour milk in a med/large bowl with a few drops of lemon juice from a squeeze ball, set aside.
  3. Cream butter in a large bowl, add sugar, and beat until light.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well with each addition.  Set aside.
  4. Shake together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a sealed gallon-size storage bag, or stir all together in a large bowl with a fork.
  5. Add bananas and vanilla to sour milk, mash bananas with a fork, and blend all (set aside).
  6. Mix 1/2 the flour mixture into butter; then, add 1/2 the mashed bananas into this, beating only until all is incorporated, as over-beating toughens cakes and cookies.  Repeat steps, using remaining flour and bananas.
  7. Spray cake pans; dust with flour.
  8. Pour batter in prepared pans.  Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes back clean and cake lightly springs bake when you press with finger.  Do not over-bake (time varies with size of pans).
  9. Cool in pan for 5 minutes.  Then, slide a knife around the edges, gently remove cakes, and freeze these on paper plates for at least 1 hour, to facilitate frosting (this inhibits the crumbling of cake as you frost).

Cream Nut Frosting  (Note: make 1 1/2 recipes for a 3-layer cake.)

2 1/2 tbsp flour

1/2 c cream  (Heavy organic whipping cream is best for health.)

1/2 c butter, softened

1/2 c sugar  (Preferably organic cane sugar; available at Costco or Trader Joe’s.)

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp vanilla

4 c powdered sugar (Trader’s has organic powdered cane sugar.)

1 c pecan pieces (Least expensive when bought in bulk at local supermarket.)

  1. Blend flour and cream in a small saucepan with a wire whisk.  Cook over med/low heat, stirring constantly, until a thick paste is formed.  Set aside to cool to room temperature.
  2. Cream butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer, add 1/2 c regular sugar, beat until light and fluffy.
  3. Blend in salt and vanilla.
  4. Mix in cooled cream paste, beat well.
  5. Add 1 c of powdered sugar, beating thoroughly.  Add rest of powdered sugar, 1 c at a time, beating with each addition until all is incorporated.
  6. Frost the frozen layer or loaf cakes.  Cover top and sides with pecan pieces. (If freezing cakes for future use, be sure to freeze frosting on cakes before sealing in gallon-size freezer bags.)