Saturday, December 26, 2009

Easy Coconut Cake or Bars

For the hectic holiday season, instead of making coconut bars, my husband's favorite Cleveland confection, I made coconut cake. I saved much time by making the cake instead of cutting the cake into smaller pieces and turning each into a coconut bar.

I made a white cake using Pillsbury low sugar white cake mix and followed the directions using three eggs. I hand-mixed the cake batter as was watching my 92 year young Mom in her bedroom and did not want to work in the kitchen with the electric hand mixer. The cake itself was as light as a feather. I poked some holes in the cake, an option that adds a nice touch per the final product. You will understand why as you read the next section.

I placed about 1/3 cup of Hershey's chocolate syrup in a microwavable glass measuring cup, added a few drops of water, and heated the syrup mixture until warm. I use my two cup pyrex measuring cup for this as do not wish to spill the warm syrup.

I poured the syrup over the cake, making sure some goes into the the areas where I poked the cake. I spread the syrup over the top of a one layer cake. Next, I put coconut on the cake to cover up the chocolate syrup. The cake looks beautifully decorated and tastes delicious. The coconut sticks to the chocolate syrup on the cake.

I have made coconut bars using a frozen pound cake. It is easy to cut a pound cake while still frozen into bars. Dipping each cake bar into the syrup and coconut can be messy and unless you prefer bars, an unnecessary step. I have made a two layer cake with one cake mix, placing the syrup and coconut between the layers and repeating the syrup, coconut layer on top of the cake.

This cake is an easy and beautiful cake in spring, can be a no-bake cake in summer and everyone in my family loves it during the holidays when it reminds us of snow. Using a frozen pound cake, one need turn on the oven during our hot Cleveland summers.

I told my 17 year old nephew about this cake should he wish to impress a girlfriend with a simple, easy, beautiful cake. The cake can be any flavor. We like the contrast of the chocolate between the white cake and the white coconut.

Another version of the cake, using chocolate syrup over a chocolate cake topped with white coconut, is wonderful for chocolate lovers.

If one prefers to make coconut bars, the trick is not to get the coconut brown as one does not want the look of "dirty snow". Use one hand to roll each frozen cake bar into the syrup and the other hand to roll the syrupy bar in the white coconut.

I do not poke holes into the bars but poke holes when I make the cake version.

In the cake the holes become filled with a bit of chocolate syrup, making this an easy marble cake!

If your family prefers all white, yellow or chocolate cake, do not poke holes in the cake.

The easy technique makes an incredible German chocolate cake.

For a big party, bake several white, chocolate, and yellow cakes and after cooling, freeze them. While frozen, cut them into single serving bars before dipping each in the warm syrup and coconut. Place each small coconut bar in a colorful cupcake baking cup and pile high on a decorative plate for a colorful, edible centerpiece!

Let me know if you like this easy recipe for Cleveland style coconut bars by emailing me via my web site at

Friday, November 27, 2009


This was an easy Thanksgiving dinner to prepare and best of all, my 92 year young Mom was able to chew everything.

We are so blessed that she asked to live with us one year ago. Mom came for Thanksgiving dinner last year and stayed!

I tried a turkey breast tenderloin that was easy for my Mom to chew and swallow. I told my situation to the salesperson in the grocery store who assured me, my mother would be able to chew and swallow this meat.

It was wonderful that I could make one meat that we all could enjoy on Thanksgiving.

Although a bit pricey, the marinated tenderloin was superb. I added 1/2 apple to my homemade dressing recipe to insure it would remain soft enough for Mom to swallow. Baked sweet potatoes are easy for Mom to consume as is the jellied version of cranberry sauce.

I made a tender peach pie and will make the homemade apple and pumpkin pies on another day.

Happy Thanksgiving to all who read this.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Apples in October

I picked 37 pounds of assorted apples last week and seven pounds of concord grapes at Eddy's Fruit Farm in Chesterland, Ohio.

My husband benefited from my pickings as I made two apple pies including JonaMac, Cortland, and Muen (spelling?), and Gala's that I had from a local grocery store.

I love to use the largest apples I can find and picked enormous apples this year. The larger the apple, the less time I need to peel and core for the apple pies that my husband loves.

Since my mother recently became diabetic, I use as little sugar as possible and load up on cinnamon.

Because my husband is on a very low fat diet, I modified the American Heart Association pie crust recipe and lowered the fat content without compromising the flaky crust.

What is the secret to a low fat, flaky pie crust?

Email me for the answer at and mention my blog.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Early Signs of Fall

I purchased my first 1/2 bushel of apples from Patterson's Fruit Farm in Chesterland, Ohio, today.

The apples are JerseyMac, wonderful for eating, baking, and sauce. The apple has a wonderful taste and aroma. This early fall apple appeals to my 92 year young Mom, husband, and me.

The flesh is fragrant, white, crisp, but not too crisp for my 92 year young Mom to enjoy. The apples vary in size from small to medium with an appealing pattern of red to light green coloration on each apple's peel.

I traveled to Patterson's Fruit Farm two times this week, both Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday I took Mom for her favorite lunch of bratwurst and beer, at the Snack Shop adjacent to the Orchard Hills Center. Later that evening when she prepared for bed, Mom noticed that she had lost one of her hearing aids. We searched the house, car, and hoped that a phone call to Patterson's in the morning might help.

To my surprise, when I called about Mom's hearing aid this morning, the kind person answering the phone at Patterson's Fruit Farm was involved in the previous night's wedding and told me that someone at the country wedding on Saturday night found my Mom's hearing aid.

Announcements were made during the wedding at the Orchard Hills Center that a hearing aid had been found. We had gone to the Snack Shop for lunch and were not part of the wedding. We had enjoyed watching some of the wedding preparations as we ate our most enjoyable lunch. We are lucky that a wedding guest found Mom's hearing aid that evening in the parking lot.

Thank you, whoever you are, that found the hearing aid for my 92 year young Mom. Mom can not hear without her hearing aids. You have my mother's blessings.

Best wishes and congratulations to the young couple getting married at Orchard Hills Center in Geauga County, Ohio, on Saturday night!

I gave some of the JerseyMacs to my sister, Maria, who commented on the enticing aroma of the apples in my kitchen. We enjoyed the tasty and aromatic strawberry-rubarb pie that was freshly baked at Patterson's earlier in the day and are looking forward to Patterson's blueberry pie for our celebration on finding Mom's hearing aid.

We saw a few leaves on Maple trees begin to turn a bit reddish on our drive in the country to Patterson's. The scents and signs of fall are here as many children and college students return to school.

My husband is looking forward to a home-baked apple pie and loves the taste and aroma of Patterson's apple cider. I think I will get a glass for myself as I write this blog entry.

Tonight my mother gave me the biggest hug that one can imagine for finding her hearing aid. I am most blessed that she came for Thanksgiving dinner and chose (asked) to stay with us.

I look forward to baking my first apple pies of the 2009 season that will fill our house with the wonderful smell of cinnamon sugar and freshly picked early apples.

Thanks again to all those working and enjoying wonderful life events at Orchard Hills/ and Patterson's Fruit Farm in Chesterland, Ohio. The staff at Patterson's Fruit Farm made this day one I shall long remember and enter into my album of wonderful family memories at Patterson's !

The wonderful personnel, fruits, and vegetables at Patterson's Fruit Farm continue to inspire me to cook and bake.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Diabetic Recipes

My Mom found out she is diabetic at age 92 years. Mom is a cookie lover. I can not find any cookies in the stores that she likes. I am in the process of developing my own recipe for a cinnamon-raisen cookie that is low fat, without the use of sugar.

Mom does not need to lose weight, however, I would like to create a cookie that my husband may also enjoy.

I am lowering the fat content, removing the sugar, yet hope to create the best diabetic cookie in the world for my family to enjoy.

My recipe to date includes whole grains, a bit of oil, eggs, and a sugar substitute that diabetics may have in unlimited amounts. The recipe I am creating is not for children but for aging parents who love cookies and have been found in old age to have diabetes.

Does anyone out there have a recipe they love or any suggestions? I have created a wonderful cookie but would like additional recipes for low fat, no sugar cookies.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Carolyn's Incredible Pudding

I have an addition to Carolyn's wonderful homemade hot pudding topped with cold whipped cream.

I decided to put a banana between the pudding and the whipped topping to get Mom to eat an extra piece of fruit. On other occasions I place slices of banana under the pudding.

Today I also added some of my husbands chocolate, pumpkin brownies (no fat) to Mom's tapioca pudding for a banana split type dessert. I include freshly grated nutmeg or cinnamon depending upon the flavor Mom suggests for the day. I always include pure vanilla, eggs, whole milk, and tapioca in the basic pudding recipe.

Mom says this pudding is yummy. I estimate that it contains a serving of calcium per the milk, a serving of fruit (banana), a bit of chocolate, protein (egg), and a bit of vegetable per the pumpkin brownie sliced in the smallest pieces under the whipped cream.

Mom tells me when the whipped topping disappears and needs to be refreshed.

I will try variations of the pudding by including cherry topping, peaches, blueberries, fruit cocktail, or cooked apples to keep Mom interested in this wonderful, quick, and simple dessert.

Colorful toppings might appeal to those with low vision.

Carolyn's incredible pudding is truly a winner for those that need the extra calories and a time saver for caregivers!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Add Pizazz to Incredibly Delicious Pudding

My friend Carolyn has added a wonderful ingredient to her incredible hot pudding recipe. Carolyn tops each serving of hot pudding with real whipped cream.

It is exciting to see the whipped cream melt into the pudding at the edges, adding richness, cooling the pudding, and increasing the calories for those that deserve this most special treat.

Mom is eating the whipped cream topped hot pudding as I write this. Mom is skimming the edges of the pudding as she always does but now enjoys an additional treat, the whipped cream melting into the pudding. She is thoroughly enjoying herself. She loves this pudding so much that I will have to come up with a version for my husband who is sitting with her in the kitchen.

While reading Carolyn's email about her new pudding creation, I envisioned use for the cans of whipped cream I often pass in the dairy case at Costco.

For my husband, I will try to top his pudding based on almond or rice milk with fat-free Cool Whip topping.

My mother asked me to taste her delicious dessert. I was able to decline today, as I have gained a tremendous amount of weight just licking the pots of the meals I prepare for her. If I had her metabolism I would love this warm dessert that appears to be as beautiful as it tastes.

As I watch the whipped cream melt into the pudding, I remember a vacation at Cape Cod years ago where on a very cool day, we sat in a waterfront restaurant eating a very hot blueberry cobbler topped with cold whipped cream!

Thanks to Carolyn, my warm homemade pies and cobblers will include cool whipped cream for my Mom who will be 92 years young this March.

The warm pudding, now topped with whipped cream, turns an ordinary glass bowl into a piece of art. The topping adds more than pizazz to one of our most cherished comfort foods.

My adviser at The Ohio State University always said the kitchen is the science laboratory and
adds a creative side to my research activities in the materials sciences (see

Thanks once again to my dear friend Carolyn, who lives in Columbus, Ohio, for sharing her special pudding creation.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Hurry-Up Pizza from Scratch

My family wanted pizza and I did not have time to find my usual pizza crust recipe. My crust turned out wonderful per the most critical opinions of my husband and mother, both pizza gourmets. I doubled the recipe shown earlier in this blog and added a new skill, hand tossing the pizza. Some of the discussion herein repeats what I posted last year and I have included additional tips and explanations.

My husband's cardiologists had told me to keep him at zero fat. This is almost impossible but he is a special case and a special person who adheres to his dietary restrictions and allergies. My nephew has 37 allergies but luckily, to date, no one is allergic to wheat in my family. I use whole wheat for my husband, mother, and me as often as I can. I do not use whole wheat when preparing products for my nephew, but use unbleached flour.

Herein is a pizza crust that my entire family can enjoy. I made it in a hurry yesterday and did not measure as exactly as I normally do.

Please note that I never use hot water from the faucet but microwave cold water until it is lukewarm to the touch. I am particular about my yeast and purchase in the large (only) package sold by Costco or Whole Foods as the yeast looks finer and never fails. It also lasts a very long time in the refrigerator.

My ingredients and the secret to a crispy, thinner type crust include:

2 teaspoons yeast (I used a real teaspoon as this is fast pizza and my two sets of measuring
spoons were in the dishwasher)
2 cups lukewarm water (cold water heated in the microwave, I use my Pyrex measuring cup)
2 teaspoons sugar (scant but measured with real teaspoons)

Very gently stir the above for a second. Yeast is alive and we want it to bubble and grow. I check for some bubbles before proceeding to the next step. The bubbles come from the yeast eating the sugar. If the water is too hot, it will kill the yeast. If the water is too cold, it will take longer for the yeast to grow and the flour to raise.

4 cups of unbleached flour (a bit more if the dough is too sticky but be cautious as adding too
much flour (especially when using the traditional whole wheat flour, will result in a tough dough. If too sticky, dust with a bit more flour until you can hand toss the dough).

Mix the flour into the dough and I knead it about 10 times, dusting with a bit of flour if the dough is too sticky to handle. I let the dough raise in a warm place but before I do this, I sprinkle a bit of flour over the dough. In the olden days, when my husband was not so fat restricted, I would place the smallest coat of olive oil on the bowl and on the pizza dough. It is important to cover the dough.

Some of my friends make the dough the night before, divide it in three or more portions for individual pizzas and let them raise in individual storage containers or bags in the refrigerator overnight, or all day, before a late evening dinner party of make your own pizza. I have done this and it works too, but I prefer to have the pre-baked crusts ready for my hungry guests.

Once the dough has doubled in bulk on its first raising, I punch it down and begin hand tossing the dough. After hand tossing to fit each pizza pan, I let the dough raise once again in a draft free place, usually in my oven, but I do not cover the dough this time, as it raises in each pizza pan.

I saw a glimpse of the hand tossing of pizza on one of the cooking shows and need to see this process once again. I need to perfect this skill that truly results in a wonderful crust.

For hand tossing, I started with a ball of dough, flattened it a bit and began tossing it from hand to hand. Miraculously, it begins to get larger and thinner. My first one had several holes in it that I patched once placed in the pizza pan, the second ball of dough was better, and the third ball I tossed was the easiest. I did not wear rings while tossing as feared tearing the dough.

I made three different pizza's from the dough recipe. One pizza was a medium pepperoni with lots of cheese for my mother, a pizza lover. It also included onions and sweet red bell peppers.

Another large pizza was made with no cheese as my husband is allergic to dairy products. His pizza included sauce (recipe follows), microwaved fresh onion, slightly microwaved fresh red peppers, and his specially thin sliced, non fat hot dogs.

My own pizza included cheese, sweet red peppers, and onions.

In the summer I add almost anything growing in my garden to the pizza shells that I have pre-baked on cooler spring days. I do not like to bake in the summer. I have added any kind of summer squash, fresh basil, fresh tomatoes, cilantro, any garden peppers, and onions from my garden.

I love a thick pizza crust too, but my husband and mother prefer one a bit thinner with some crispness. Majority rules in our democratic household.

After forming a circle of crust by hand tossing, I place it on a pizza pan sprayed with Pam.

I pre-bake the pizza crust for 6-10 minutes on the bottom rack of my oven at 425F.
When the top of the crust is set -- springs back slightly to touch, I add the sauce and the other ingredients. Depending upon the preferences of the member of my family, I have two procedures concerning the part-skim Mozarella cheese added to those who may have cheese.

My mother likes a crispy texture to the top and bottom of her pizza, thus I put on all the ingredients on her pizza crust after it has been pre-baked. I place the sauce over the pizza and add the vegetables, cheese, and top it with the pepperoni. I add olive oil to the top of her pizza on those occasions when she does not want pepperoni.

For my cheese pizza, I assemble all the ingredients on the pre-baked crust but do not add the cheese until the last 5 minutes in the oven. I love the cheese just melted to form strings. More baking of the cheese, as I do with my mothers cheese, decreases the strings. My mother can not handle stringy cheese but loves the part-skim Mozarella cheese. I also love Provolone.

A hand tossed pizza makes the difference.

I will use whole wheat flour, especially the newer white whole wheat flour but if I do not have it in the house, I use the unbleached flour. I never used bleached flour as the dough does not come out the way we like it. When using the whole wheat flour I have substituted it for all the flour or for one or more cups of the flour included in the recipe.

What is so nice about the new white whole wheat flour is that the color of the dough is one my family is familiar with and the taste of the crust is not as heavy as the traditional whole wheat flour. My family is happy with any homemade pizza.

When we order take-out, we must emphasize that no cheese or dairy product may land on my husbands pizza. On more than one occasion we have carefully placed our order only to find his pizza smothered in cheese.

Our family pizza sauce recipe is included herein. I have found the cans of pizza sauce sold in the stores to be good but we restrict our salt and have some allergies.

For the dough in the above recipe that makes three pizzas, one medium, and two large I use:

2 small cans of tomato paste
2 cans of water (helps rinse out the tomato paste)
3-4 T of Ketchup (some add a bit of sugar instead to bring out the sweetness of the tomato)
garlic powder (to taste, I prefer lots, I have also roasted fresh garlic from the garden)
basil (dried is fine added to the sauce, if I have fresh basil, I add entire leaves with the other
vegetables but be gentle as basil leaves bruse easily)
oregano (optional, I generally do not use it unless it is growing in my garden)

Both the initial pre-baking of the crust (helps prevent soggy pizza) and the final baking are done on the bottom rack of the oven at 425F. Pre-baked crust usually takes 6-10 minutes and the final baking takes another 10-15. Always preheat the oven. I keep an assembly line going so the oven is not empty until all the dough has been pre-baked and pizzas have been baked.

I watch the oven carefully and check for doness by lifting up a small section of the crust that lifts up easily from the sprayed baking pan (or pizza pan).

Caution: for the second raising, do not use the pizza pans with the holes in them. They are great for a pre-baked crust. However, if you place dough in them, the dough will raise through the holes. It is almost impossible to remove the pizza from the pan as the dough raises through those holes in the pan!

An easy way to cut pizza is to use a pair of scizzors. I devote any type of scizzor that will do the job to the pizza pan but am careful not to scratch the pan as I lift and cut the pizza slices.

One secret to storing pizza in the refrigerator was taught to me by my sister whose inlaws are Italian. Her husband likes cold pizza for breakfast. I too like cold pizza for breakfast in the summer, especially with fresh tomato slices on it.

Here is my sisters secret: to store the leftover pizza in the refrigerator, place the first set of slices, face side up on a plate, cover with a second set of pizza slices face down over the slices that are facing up. The toppings touch each other and the crust surrounds the pizza protecting the toppings, yet keeping the crust from becoming soggy. Cover the entire plate of pizza slices with plastic wrap. When needed, take out a slice or two and microwave for a great snack.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

A Pudding without Milk!

I am so excited as I have a pudding recipe that my husband enjoys. He is allergic to dairy and watches longingly as I prepare pudding for my mother of almost 92 years to help her gain weight.

The pudding recipe that I use for my mother, also works for my husband. Since my husband does not tolerate milk and is sensitive to eggs, I removed these from the ingredients and substituted Rice Milk or Almond Milk. He loves the pudding that includes:

2 cups of Rice Milk or Almond Milk
3 T Minute Tapioca (generous Tablespoons)
3 T sugar (scant Tablespoons)

Let the above ingredients sit in a saucepan for about 5 minutes.

Cook the pudding on medium heat a bit past boiling, stirring constantly.

Add the vanilla (I use about 1 teaspoon real vanilla, as my husband loves vanilla) and take the pudding off the heat but continue stirring.

Pour the pudding immediately into serving bowls, carefully, as it is very hot.

Please let everyone know that you are serving "hot" pudding. The pudding will become more and more dense as it cools but my family loves it hot.

My mother loves the pudding as hot as it can be served. She has a technique for eating it. Mom skims the outside rim of the pudding and continues this process until she has finished. Although my Mom eats what I consider to be very little, she can manage two servings of the homemade tapioca pudding. Mom's pudding includes a beaten egg that I add to the saucepan before cooking using whole milk. The egg adds a bit of richness and color to my Mom's pudding while the pudding for my husband varies in color whether I am using the Rice Milk or the Almond Milk.

My husband and my mother now both enjoy eating pudding warm. For my mother I grate fresh nutmeg into the pudding while it is sitting in the saucepan for the first 5 minutes prior to cooking. I also grate a bit of nutmeg on the top of each serving to be eaten by my Mom.

My mother can smell the freshly grated nutmeg with its fresh spice and lemon scent. I do not get the same response from my Mom when I use nutmeg from a can. I do not include nutmeg in the pudding for my husband. For one variation, I add cinnamon to the pudding for my Mom and my husband. Both also enjoy the pudding when it includes sliced bananas. I place the slices of bananas in each individual serving dish and make sure to cover all the banana slices with the hot pudding.

The first time I ate warm pudding was when I visited my friend Carolyn and her daughter many years ago. Carolyn made the most heavenly puddings and served the freshly made pudding, warm -- I had only eaten cold pudding until that time and was always impatiently waiting until the pudding cooled off and could be placed in the refrigerator.

At my friends home, I realized that there is nothing better than warm pudding in the middle of our cold Midwestern winters. Carolyn's young daughter, Jenny, loved the warm pudding as much as I did. I remember Carolyn's butterscotch pudding that warmed the palette as well as one's soul. Jenny would chose the pudding flavor for dessert each evening. Jenny is grown and has two young daughters of her own. I imagine her young family enjoying warm pudding together.

Carolyn's tradition continues in my home. The pudding that is refrigerated in our house is microwaved as everyone wants warm pudding, a special treat to eat as one watches the snow fall. I am careful to pour pudding into serving dishes that can be refrigerated and microwaved as no one in my family wants to eat cold pudding, once they have enjoyed warm pudding.

Thanks Carolyn, for sharing your warm pudding and home with me so long ago.