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The recipe

Yesterday Jenni asked me if I’d be willing to share my Nana’s recipe for Tomato Soup cake. I said, “Why yes Jenni. I’d be happy to!”

And since I’m always good for my word… here it is!

Nana’s Tomato Soup Cake

Sift two cups plain white flour with

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon of nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon baking soda

In a separate bowl cream until soft 1/2 cup butter

Gradually stir in 1 cup sugar and cream the two together.

Stir the flour mixture in three parts into the sugar mixture, alternating with

10 and ½ ounce can tomato soup

and stir until smooth after each addition.

Finally, fold in 1 cup raisins

and 1 cup walnuts chopped

Bake in loaf pan at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes in the center of the oven.

When thoroughly cooled, cover top of loaf with cream cheese frosting.

Beat 4 ounce package of cold cream cheese with

2 tablespoons softened butter

1 teaspoon vanilla until combined.

Gradually add 1-1 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar.

Continue to add powdered sugar until the consistency is right.


For the first time this year, I’ll be making up several extra batches of tomato soup cake to share with neighbors, church friends and probably the gals over at Mamie’s house.  Wonder if they’ll even take a bite once they hear the name…

cuz let’s be honest: it really sounds quite disgusting.

But it’s not.

Oh my goodness, no.

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Strength for the journey

Sunday mornings sorely try my no-drive-thru resolve. To help forestall temptation, I’ve started making these homemade breakfast sandwiches. Whole wheat bread toasted on the griddle, an omelet-y sort of egg melted with cheese and a couple of slices of bacon; including the strawberry-apple juice it works out to less than two dollars a serving. And at under fifteen minutes in the kitchen, I even have time to blog about it.

Just don’t ask about the breakfast dishes. Yeah.

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In search of cocoa

Since we have determined that cocoa most definitely does not count as breakfast and can therefore be consumed during morning devotional, Noah has gotten very attached to his morning cuppa. Bleary eyed, he stumbles downstairs and makes his way to the microwave where he uses one of those instant cocoa packets and milk to make the brew to his very meticulous and exacting specifications. O yeah.

Now, I am all for independence, and far be it from me to ever stand between a man and his cocoa, but I have to admit that those individual packets are a bit of a stretch for my food budget. And I am thinking that there is likely a homemade “instant” cocoa mixture that would surpass it for taste as well as frugality. Sadly, I do not have such a recipe. I suppose I could just do the google, but I instead I thought I’d consult all of the real experts on such things: you ladies, my sister-mamas. So give me your best gals… your own personal family cocoa recipe if you have one. And if you don’t, well then maybe you can point me in the direction of someone who does. I know there just have to be goodles of yummy and convenient cocoa concoctions out there.

These internets are a beautiful thing.

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Second helping

We had Kelly‘s Black Bean Soup last night, and oh my gracious me, was it ever a hit! So easy and with such simple ingredients, it’s certain to become a cold weather staple ’round here.

Please excuse the bean-y dribbles on my tableware, but by the time I thought to take a photo everyone was already on their second bowl, and neatness was only a faint memory. We’ll just think of those drips as testament to the yumminess of the meal, and pretend they’re picturesque… ummyeah.

I substituted grated carrots for the celery Kelly used. Partly because we’re not that partial to celery, but mostly because I had none on hand. We had carrots because we always have carrots. I was very generous with the spices, and served the soup with a spoonful of white rice smack dab in the middle, grated sharp cheddar on top and a good crusty bread on the side.

Amelia has already claimed the leftovers for her lunch today, but I think she just may have a fight on her hands.

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For a super-quick, super-easy and super-light tomato sauce, just combine a tablespoonful of prepared pesto with a cup of tomato-based vegetable juice. No need to even heat it up.

Spooned over these jumbo ravioli stuffed with leftover chicken, herbed breadcrumbs and Italian cheeses, it made quite the yummy dinner indeed.

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Consider the ant

Last week the food pick-up yielded a vast array of mushrooms: shitake, maitake, cremini, oyster, enoki. Most of them we had never heard of before and we weren’t quite sure what to do with our bounty. Although I enjoy mushrooms, the children aren’t quite so fond of them… which (as all you mamas know) means they pick any mushroom pieces larger than a pea out from their food.

We do eat lots of casseroles though, many of which call for the ubiquitous canned condensed cream of mushroom soup. I prefer to do without such processed foods for both health and economic reasons, but often the dish just isn’t quite right without that creamy mushroomy addition. In her search for some means to use up our mushrooms, Louisa came across this recipe. We made an immense batch substituting heavy cream for the evaporated milk just out of personal preference, and it appears to be a real winner. The texture is right. The flavor is delightful and even using the finest and freshest ingredients it’s a money saver over Campbell’s…. especially when you get the mushrooms free of charge. Yeah, big advantage that. According to the recipe, it freezes well- so I packaged it up in can-sized portions for easy use with my recipes and into the freezer it went. And in a few weeks’ time we’ll find out if the deep freeze affects the flavor or texture. At any rate my tuna-noodle casserole will never be quite the same again.

Ants are creatures of little strength,

yet they store up their food in the summer

Proverbs 30:25

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So not worth the effort

I admit it. We’re a bunch of Jane Austen fanatics around here… well, excepting Noah. But we’re working on the kid… give us time, yeah. Anyway, when Louisa laid her hands on a historically accurate cookery book from Regency era Britain we are very excited. And when we heard that some of the dishes were reportedly favorites of the Austen family we were beside ourselves.

Last week for our girl’s night we planned our menu around a dish called “Chicken baskets.” The recipe was very involved requiring the chicken to be poached, then finely ground together with suet (yes, that kind of suet) and finally simmered with cream, nutmeg and lemon. The mixture was served in tiny baskets fashioned out of a short pastry. They looked so sweet on the dish surrounded by a “grass” of broccoli rabe.

Unfortunately, the chicken mixture had a flavor and texture all too reminiscent of Gerber’s chicken’n'gravy toddler dinner which not even the adorable pastry wicker could redeem. The cat however, rated it four stars.

We ate frozen pizza.

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Manly boys cook

This book, “Healthy Cooking for your Kids,” by Sarah Banbery is my favorite children’s cookbook ever. It doesn’t rely on the use of heavily processed foods or sugary sweets like so many similar books. On the contrary, the foods are healthy and very appealing to both kids and adults. While the recipes aren’t simple enough for young children to complete on their own, it’s ideal for budding young chefs in middle childhood.

Noah decided he wanted to make a new dish for dinner last night, and chose Pasta Salad… page 54. Except for the draining of the pasta he was able to complete this recipe all on his own.

31/2 oz/100g small whole wheat pasta

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp mayonnaise

1 tbsp plain yogurt

2 tbsp pesto

7 oz/200g canned no-sugar-added corn kernels, drained

1/2 green bell pepper seeded and chopped

1/2 avocado, pitted, peeled, and chopped

sea salt and pepper

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water for 8-10 mintues until only just tender. Drain, return to the pot, and add half the oil. Toss well to coat, then cover and let cool.

Whisk the mayonnaise, yogurt and pesto together in a small bowl adding a little oil if needed to acheive the desired consistency. Add a pinch of salt and season to taste with pepper.

Mix the cooled pasta with the tuna, corn, tomatoes, green bell pepper and avocado, add the dressing and toss well to coat.

This dressing is the absolute best we’ve ever tasted for pasta salad. Amelia despises pesto and she really liked this. The rest of us just plain loved it.

The differences in my children’s tastes never ceases to amuse me. Amelia’s favorite food as a little one was cherry tomatoes. She’d eat them by the basketful, whereas Noah can’t abide anything with uncooked tomatoes. He does however, love bell peppers which Louisa claimed made her desperately ill. Millen likes green olives, Noah prefers black and the big girls are indifferent to either kind. They all adore avocado.

House rules say the chef gets discretionary choice on any substitutions… so Noah nixed the tomatoes, and added black olives. The green pepper was replaced with red and yellow ones to keep things bright and colorful. I’d like to make it again using chicken in place of the tuna and Noah wants to try pepperoni. We doubled the recipe which provided four good sized main dish servings.

Next time I think we’ll double it again… I’m thinking leftovers for lunch would be right tasty.

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Mothers are the necessity of invention

The other night I impulsively decided to change our dinner menu… pizza for vegetable stew, which thrilled the kids no end. However after making this lofty promise I was aghast to discover that we had no pizza sauce. No canned tomatoes. Not even the tiniest smidge of tomato paste. And no time to cook my fresh tomatoes down into anything vaguely sauce-like. Louisa suggested running out to the store for a jar, but if there is one thing I hate more than disappointing my kids, it’s running out to the store for some last minute forgotten something or other. And I hate that ready-made so-called pizza sauce anyway. Harumph.

Louisa looked on dubiously while I grabbed a bowl and began chopping and dicing anything remotely appropriate for pizza: lots of leaves from our Basil, lots and lots of tomatoes, onions, garlic, red peppers, oregano, sea salt and loads of ground black pepper. I stirred and mashed and tasted. Added a bit more of this and some more of I don’t even remember what. Tossed the lot onto a slightly cooked crust, topped with mozzarella and parmesan cheeses and cooked it until it was bubbly brown. And it was good, really really good. The kids have been asking for some more of the “tomato pizza” and I’d be happy to oblige…

Except I can’t seem to remember exactly how I made the stuff.

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Breakfast on the go

Today was a busy day. We left the house bright and early to deliver Amelia to her new job at a family day care. After that we planned to spend a couple of hours with another homeschooling family working together on our Little House in the Big Woods lapbooks. Promptly at noon we needed to be on the loading dock at our local Wegman’s market for the food pick-up. During the afternoon, we had committed to babysit for a friend’s children, and following that Noah needed to be delivered to Daddy’s house for dinner and Cub Scouts. Phew!

You may have noticed that a midday meal is noticeably absent from that line-up… Noah certainly did. And although I assured him that snacks would be available, he remained concerned about his ability to remain “nice and happy” with a potentially empty tum.

So in order to stave off those hungry-grouchies, I planned ahead for an extra hearty, extra healthy morning meal. Last night I mixed up a batch of slow rising whole wheat bread dough and tucked it into the fridge. This morning everyone got their own ball of dough to roll out and fill with their favorites: softly scrambled eggs, extra sharp cheddar, spicy sausage, tiny onions and little dices of peppers and tomatoes. They cooked on my pre-heated pizza stone while hair was done, faces washed and teeth brushed. I gave the kids their calzones wrapped in a cool fresh napkin along with one of these sweet clementines as I hustled them out the door.

And the hungry-grouchies were nowhere to be seen all day long.

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