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.