Friday, September 23, 2011

Italian Prune Cake

Growing up, we had a few prune trees around the place.

I have since come to realize that they are called Italian Prune Plums, and often used to make the dried prunes that we all know and love (?). When most people think "prune" they think of a shriveled up dried fruit that old people eat. :) Really, a dried prune is a dehydrated (mostly) plum. At least as far as I know. And as many of you already know, that's not all too far.

Back to our prune trees on the Parker Estate: we used to eat prunes right off the tree and loved them! That type of plum is so sweet and tart and yummy. After moving away from home, I sort of forgot about them, until a few years ago when we visited down there and realized that the trees had started bearing fruit again after several prunings that left them barren for some time. We brought a couple flats home with us, and enjoyed them while we had them. I didn't preserve any that time, but the next year, Costco had them! I was so excited. It's almost become a tradition to get some whenever they're in season. And it's a *short* season.

These days, the old prune trees back at home are all gone. So whenever Costco carries these prune plums, I grab at least one container for us to eat. This year, for whatever reason, I decided to see if I could make something out of them.

Enter, the prune cake recipe. Yeah. The recipe. This is why you're here, right? The recipe.

I found this recipe online somewhere and modified a bit. Some call it Prune Coffee Cake, some call it Plum Kuchen (a German coffee cake). If you want to drink coffee with it, knock yourself out. I just call it Italian Prune Cake. And sometimes I drink coffee with it.

If you don't have Italian Prunes, then just use some other plums. Whatever works!

Here's what you need:

1/2 C butter (one stick)
1 C sugar (I used raw sugar)
2 large eggs
1 C flour (I used wheat pastry flour)
1 tsp baking powder
6 or 7 Italian prunes, pitted and quartered (or more to your liking)
1 Tbsp lemon or lime juice

1-1/2 Tbsp Sugar (again I used raw sugar)
1/4 tsp Cinnamon (or just make up some general cinnamon sugar, to your taste)

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter a 9-inch springform pan.

Cream together the butter and sugar until well blended. Beat in eggs, followed by flour and baking powder. Beat to mix will and spread into the prepared pan (it's a thick batter). Place plum quarters on top of the batter, close together in circles, covering the batter. Make designs if you want! Sprinkle with lemon juice.

Mix up the cinnamon sugar topping and sprinkle over the top of the plums and batter. Bake on center rack of oven for one hour or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean and the top of the cake is golden brown.

Serve warm or cool, preferably with home made sweetened whipped cream (see recipe below).

This is a super yummy cake! The prunes bake down and combine into the batter and are nice and sweet but then you also have the slight tartness of the skin with it -- this is so good. I never thought it would be, but was delightfully surprised.

Here's what the cake looked like before I put it in the oven. I used about 6 prunes on this cake and made little flower patterns. But the last one I made I used 7 or maybe even 8 and put the prunes on in a circular fashion, just around the perimeter and then made circles inside of that big one. I wanted to put on as many as would fit, because when these are cooked into the cake, they are *so* good!

Here's what it looked like after I baked it -- but also after we dug into it. I sort-of forgot to take a shot of what it looked like right out of the oven. So just pretend all the pieces are there.

Since making this recipe twice now, I've frozen a bunch of prunes so that I can make this cake whever I want until they are in season again. (Or until I run out of prunes...)

Hope you have a chance to enjoy this cake! If not, come over to my house and I'll make you some.


p.s. Here is the whipped cream recipe:

Whipped Cream:
1 C heavy whipping cream
1/4 C powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Combine ingredients in a cold mixing bowl (or blender).
Mix until blended and peaks form.
If you prefer unsweetened whipped cream, just whip the cream by itself, or don't add as much sugar. It's up to you to make it how you like it!

Vinyl Cupcake

Emma and I went yard sale-ing a few weekends ago, and found this shelf for one dollar. It had a really ugly spot on top, but we are all about fixing things to suit our fancy here in Montgummibear land.

So when she was at school the other day, I cut out this super cute cupcake and put it on the top of the shelf so the ugly spot was covered up! It turned out beautifully.

I used my Gypsy (Gypsy Wanderings cartridge) to create the cupcake to the correct size, and used my Cricut to cut the pieces out in different colors of vinyl.

Here it is!
Before (very ugly, no?):

 After (super cute!):


Jewelry Display

I put this jewelry holder up last weekend. It's a towel bar and S-hook shower hooks. It's so super easy and so elegant. I love this!

My grandmother gave me a little jewelry holder (pictured below) that I've been using for a long time, but this way I can put each necklace on a separate hook. I'm still using the one she gave me, but now just for bracelets and some of my very cool vintage pins that used to belong to my mother and grandmothers.

The closeup of my newly acquired very-cool-jewelry-holder, looks just like the picture I pinned to my Pinterest board. :)

 Here's the whole thing. So pretty!

 A closeup of the one my grandma gave me a long time ago - super cute!

And this is what it looks like on my wall. It's not centered, because the small one on top is where it was before but the new one wouldn't fit if it was centered. So I don't care. Hee! I absolutely love this. I would have done it sooner, but it took me a little while to find S-hooks shaped shower curtain hooks.

I'm so glad I did!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Homemade "Lawry's" Seasoning Salt

I've been making my seasoning salt from scratch lately. I've mainly switched my kitchen to  unrefined sea salt, which is way better for your body than regular table salt. There are lots of reasons, which I will address at the bottom of this post. :) First, here's the recipe.

Homemade "Lawry's" seasoning salt

(this recipe times 4 makes about enough to fit into a typical sized spice bottle)

2 Tbsp Unrefined sea salt
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp Turmeric
1/4 tsp Onion powder
1/4 tsp Garlic powder
1/4 tsp Arrowroot Powder
1 pinch Cinnamon

Combine all ingredients into a small bowl and mix well.
When I make this I put everything into a pint jar with a lid and shake.
Pour the blend into a spice jar for storage.

I've been making this recipe for months now, and my family loves it. Lawry's was a staple in my kitchen, and this is a great replacement. We even think it tastes better than the stuff you buy in the store! Now *that's* grrrrrreat!

Ok, now here's my soap box about salt. I guess you could call this my "salt box". :)

Salt is not a bad thing. In fact, our bodies need salt. It's the way God made us. The problem is, the refined salt that we usually use on our tables has chemical anti-caking agents and it no longer has the trace minerals that unrefined salt has. For these and other reasons, refined salt prevents the human body's ability to regulate hydration. We are led to think that salt is the bad guy - which is only partly true. *Refined* salt *is* a bad guy.

But the good guy is just around the corner. Unrefined salt has no chemicals, contains naturally occurring essential trace minerals, and our bodies recognize this salt as something it's designed to use. Unrefined sea salt, Himalayan salt, Celtic Sea Salt, are all good salts. Unfortunately, much of the "sea salt" you see in stores is still refined, unless the package is labeled as "unrefined". This is also true for Kosher salt! It still has anti-caking agents. I don't want that in my salt, as much as I enjoy Kosher salt. And I don't really care if my salt cakes up a little bit in the shaker or the salt crock. It doesn't bother me at all, actually. Especially when I know that it's better for me.

I purchase mainly Celtic Sea Salt, ( which you can get from their site or on Amazon. Many times it's cheaper on Amazon. I usually buy the finer-ground salt for table use, and then the coarse gray salt for use in cooking where I have used Kosher salt in the past. Another good one is Redmond Real Salt. I find that has some fine grit in it, which we don't like as well for eating, but I do like to use it when I'm using it for veggie soaks or something when I have to use salt and then rinse (like when preparing eggplant). I can find that one in my local grocery store and I think it's a bit less expensive than the other kind. But it's still good stuff to be using on my food. With all of these unrefined salts, I know I'm feeding my family good whole-food seasoning instead of chemicals.

As a bonus, I don't worry about salting my food or my dishes when cooking!! Of course you should always use salt in moderation (as with everything in life). But this is a way healthier alternative to the "pretty", "profit-making", "easy-pouring" refined salt that I once simply thought was the *only* alternative. It's not.

And there you have my salt rant. It's over now. There's lots of info on the internet about salt and the benefits of unrefined salt. Don't take my word for it. Have a look!

Try it, and you won't feel guilty when salting your food.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Zucchini Bread

So, I've had a bountiful harvest of fruits and vegetables this summer due to our CSA - Community Supported Agriculture - box of goodies each week. We've gotten to try many new things, some good and some not-so-good.

This week I got 3 round zucchini squash-y things. They basically looked on the outside like typical green zucchini, but they were round instead. As it turns out, they look pretty much like zucchini on the inside too. I didn't know how I wanted to use them so I obviously turned to Pioneer Woman's website for ideas. I love her. If I lived by her or if she lived by me we would most certainly be very good friends.

I first searched her site, and thought about trying the zucchini cakes that came up when I searched for zucchini, but really had bread in mind so I turned to her Tasty Kitchen website and found this recipe. It's not one she personally posted, but it looked good, and with a title of "The Best Zucchini Bread EVER!", how could I pass it up?!?

So here's a link to the recipe. It's filled with yummy goodness and a lot of cinnamon, which, for picky eaters, hides the look of the zucchini quite well. It tastes great. My family liked it, which means it's a keeper.

The only thing I will do differently next time is to split one recipe up into two loaf pans. I think it will cook better and be less dense. My loaves were huge (almost ran over the pan) and I don't think they cooked as well as they could have if they weren't as full. Of course I will want to watch the cooking time if the pan isn't as full. A little kitchen logic there for ya.

 When you make this recipe, don't forget the tall jar of iced tea. It's just a necessary part of life.

Who doesn't like a nice closeup?

Give this one a try! It's yummy!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Don't be impressed...

Today, I made a mermaid.

I'll bet you're impressed. Don't be.

My girls have been watching a tv show on Netflix about girls who turn into mermaids whenever they get wet. They've watched all 3 seasons of the show now, and slightly obsessed with mermaids. As a result, they want to swim like mermaids, dress like mermaids, sing the theme song about being a get the idea. They even looked up on YouTube how to make a mermaid costume, complete with mono-fin flipper. I draw the line there. It's just not on my bucket list.

So I compromised. It's how I roll.

Emma cut out a little mermaid doll and I sewed it up for her. It's not very good, it's a feeble attempt at sewing up a made-up-as-you-go pattern, but it works.

She had some old shirts that weren't even really yard-sale worthy, so I told her she could keep them for scraps. She pulled out some scraps and cut them up into mermaid pieces. I sewed, she stuffed, she made hair, and voilĂ ! A mermaid. Ok. It wasn't really that easy. I'm making it sound easy. It wasn't. Just trust me on this one.

She actually cut out three tails, knowing full well that I had the stellar seamstress-ing skills to make all 3 dolls. But after sewing up the tails, then finally sewing up the first doll, I told her there was no way [anywhere] that I was going to sew up two more. At least not at *that* size. Those arms? They're very tiny. I actually sewed them *and* managed to get them turned right-side-out. I'm sure larger mermaid pieces will be visiting my dining room soon, hoping to be pieced together to form a larger and more easier-to-work-with doll. In fact, maybe I'll just teach her how to use the machine and let her go to work on a larger version. (Yeah, that's the ticket...)

So, here is the mermaid. It turned out pretty cute. She cut out the pieces (you can see a few marks where her outlines were), she made the hair, and I sewed it all up. There, I made it sound easy again. I'm telling you...never mind. Just take my word for it.

Here's Emma with her new little friend:

Behold, a "mer-made-up-as-you-go".

Tuesday, August 02, 2011


I finally like sewing again.

Here's why.

First, the history: my mom sewed almost all of my clothes when I was young. She even made my prom dresses and my wedding dress. And my bridesmaids' dresses. And I could go on and on.

But I won't. {You're welcome}

I learned how to sew, but since my mom always did the sewing, I never really had to. Earlier this year I finally got rid of an old machine that wasn't working well (and helped create a disdain for anything that had to do with using that machine) and replaced it with a new machine from Costco. I got a great deal too since a), it was at Costco and 2), it was the "floor model", so I got a discount on top of the already good price.

Last weekend I found this sewing table - complete with old (early 60's?) Singer sewing machine. I haven't tried that machine yet, but I was told it works. So I cleaned the table up yesterday and gave it a light coating of Old English, and it looks pretty good. It really needs to be refinished - the stain was chipping off here and there as I was cleaning it. But it will work for now.

I added my knobs to the drawers for my own personal touch, and put my new machine on top. I sewed some little mermaid tail toys for my girls this afternoon and flipped out the top flap of the table on the right side for more table space - it worked out really well. I can't put my machine on top of the existing one when I flip out the left side of the table - it won't fit in the space unless I put some other piece of wood over the top of it. But the way it is for now worked like a charm. I'll most likely be keeping this around for a while.

I think it turned out pretty nicely for ten bucks. And the machine looks in good shape to boot -- I'll be trying it out later and let you know how it goes.

 What shall I sew next?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


I love yard sales. I love to find great deals on stuff that other people want to offload. As a result I sometimes end up with my own "offloads" so I also enjoy spending time with my dear friends having our own yard sale once or twice a year.

A few weeks ago I went out with one of my friends and we both found antique glass door cabinets, they were in a driveway back to back. She looked at one, I was drawn to the other. It was so much fun to find these things!!

So here's mine. It goes great in my entry way. I put my fun kitchen knobs on it instead of the brass-y ones that were on it, and it's perfect.

I know I do, every time I walk by.


Thursday, July 07, 2011

Fun Art

These pictures have been sitting in the basket in the cupboard above my computer desk for months. I've been meaning to somehow get them into a format in which I could keep them for posterity. Yesterday I finally took pictures of them so that I can post them (as I have with past notes and artwork) so I will hopefully always be able to go back and view them whenever I want. I love that I can post things like this on my blog and be able to access them later (as well as sharing the fun things of my life with whomever wants to see them).

So here are a bunch of pictures Rachel drew - sometime this year, but she doesn't remember exactly when.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Elegant Birthday Desserts

Emma's rainbow birthday cake was the dessert for her "friend" birthday party on Friday night, but she wanted another dessert for the "family" birthday party on Saturday.

So she was going to have ice cream cake - and we had been looking at several different recipes. But then we went to the orthodontist and saw a Martha Stewart Living magazine - and found this dessert, so we decided on this instead. Here's magazine picture - I snapped a picture in the orthodontist's office so we would have a quick reference. 

This is what we saw in the magazine. I did *not* make this.
It is super easy and makes a really elegant-looking dessert. It's also really super yummy.

You'll just need a quart of ice cream that you get in a box - whatever flavor you want. Emma opted for one Vanilla and one Neapolitan.

We got some dark chocolate slabs from the bulk food section at WinCo, and I also scooped out some of the little broken pieces to use for sprinkling on the top and around the edges of the finished "cake".

So here are the steps:

First, cut the carton off the ice cream, place it on serving platter, and refreeze until it hardens. Then pour some slightly cooled melted semisweet chocolate over the top, and let it drip down the sides. Now is a great time to scatter some of the chunky bits of chocolate on the top and around the edges of the bottom of the ice cream. Then you will want to refreeze once more so it hardens nicely.

That's it! You have a very elegant looking dessert that was super easy to make.



I was really impressed at how amazing these desserts looked.

Try this sometime! It's super easy and really yummy.

Rainbow Birthday Cake

Emma turned 12 on May 18. I am now the proud parent of a 12 year old and it's really quite nice to have an "almost" teenager. I don't buy into the "oh no, you have a teenager!" mentality. It simply doesn't have to be "that way". That's just about all I'm going to say about that. :-)

Emma decided she wanted to copy a birthday cake out of her American Girl magazine from several years ago (they really are worth keeping around!). So of course, since I let them both choose what dessert(s) they want for their birthday parties, I agreed to make it for her.

It's really pretty simple, but just takes a bit of time. If I were you, I'd try it sometime. It looks daunting but if you are patient, it will work out. Frosting is a layer-cake-baker's friend, let me tell you.

So here's what you do!

Mix up a plain white cake mix, out of a box - you can make it from scratch if you want to, but it's a bit easier sometimes to just use the box.

After mixing up the cake, split up the batter into 4 even amounts. I used my Pampered Chef 2-cup prep bowls - I'm so glad I got a couple sets of these before I stopped selling PC. Super love these bowls.

You'll color the batter in each bowl a different color - the recipe in the magazine said to use a couple teaspoons of flavored Jello in different colors, but instead of wasting Jello, I just used food coloring. Mr. (Ms.?) Wilton is also a baker's friend. I love him (her?).

Wilton is my friend...
Make the 4 different colors of batter, and then bake each in a well-floured pan. I was reminded that well-floured means exactly that...well-floured. I have this great baking spray, that has flour already in it. I did not realize this until after the first two cakes were baked and they did not come out of the pans very well. I tried to spray them and then flour them - when all I had to do was liberally spray each pan with only the spray that contained flour. This flour spray works great. And, I'll say it again. Frosting is my friend when baking layer cakes. You'd never know that the first two layers came out terribly. I froze them on the rack for a bit first before wrapping them in saran wrap.

These pans were *not* floured nearly well enough. I shouldn't have used flour, just the flour-spray.
Red and Orange cakes
First two cakes didn't come out real well...
Love my prep bowls!!
The second two came out perfectly after cooling for a few minutes.
After all 4 cakes are baked and cooled, you'll want to freeze them. Just wrap them up in saran wrap and let them freeze a while. I baked mine on Thursday and then assembled the cake on Friday. But if you only have a few hours that will do. Cakes are usually easier to frost when frozen - less crumbs. Also, once they are frosted and then thaw, they're nice and moist on the inside. We'll just call that a perk.

Next it's time to make the frosting. The recipe calls for cans of frosting, but I prefer to make my own. I made a buttercream frosting, and I made a lot since I wasn't sure how much I'd need to "fix" my layers that didn't bake well. Plus, with a layer cake, sometimes the layers aren't exactly perfectly sized, so you need some more frosting sometimes to make the cake look even.

After the frosting is made, you'll want to split it up into 3 portions - leave some white for the clouds, make some yellow for in between the layers, and make some blue for the outside of the cake. I rinsed out one of my 2-cup prep bowls and used it again for the yellow frosting. Have I mentioned how much I love these bowls? I also used my small batter bowl for the blue, since I need more blue than yellow.

Mixing up the blue sky frosting

Not quite bright enough...let's add more color...
Beautiful! Frosting is fun.
Now it's time to frost the cake.

Place your bottom layer on your cake serving plate. I got this cute little cake pedestal the last time I went to IKEA. I used to have a cake plate but didn't have room in my old kitchen for it. Now that I have room I decided it was time to have my cake plate again. Anyway, I also put a dab of frosting under that first layer, so when I frosted the cake it wouldn't slide all around. I put a little cloth-y thing under my pedestal so that I could turn it around easily and also to make sure I didn't scratch up my countertop. It's way easier to turn the cake around for frosting all around. You can also put your plate on a lazy susan if you want - I've done that before and it works great.

Then you'll frost the top (only) of the bottom layer with yellow frosting.

 Then the next layer,

And so on.

You'll only need enough yellow frosting for the 3 bottom layers, since the top layer will be frosted with blue.

Next you'll frost the rest of the cake! It can be messy, but put a big glob on and start spreading. Do the top first, then the sides, then you'll smooth out the top again. You can glob some into the uneven places so the cake will look nice and even and smooth. You'd never know that my two bottom layers didn't turn out of the pans very nicely.

After the frosting is done, you can clean up the serving plate with paper towels (or whatever tool you want to use). Next comes the clouds - just spread some blobs of white frosting so that they look like clouds. I wasn't sure how mine would turn out, but I think they ended up looking fairly good. Any shape of clouds will do.

Birthday Girl
Silly Birthday Girl.
My example
That's it. I left the cover off of the cake pedestal until after we cut the cake, since it would have touched the top layer and messed up my clouds. When we cut the cake to serve it, it was super moist and yummy. Layer cakes are slightly time-consuming, but are really simple to put together, so don't let yourself be overwhelmed by the prospect.

Emma's other dessert (for Saturday's family birthday party) was really fun, elegant-looking, and easy to make too...stay tuned for that one.