Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake

This show-stopping cake everyone loves, and it’s gluten free with little sugar! The berries bring the majority of the sweetness. You may substitute other berries, see additional photo below, but it’s best appreciated with strawberries. It’s a light and refreshing treat perfect for a dessert course or as a midday teatime break. Often I hear, “I’d eat gluten free more often, if it all tasted this good.”

Ingredients – Cake

  • 3/4 c unsalted butter – softened
  • 1/2 c coconut palm sugar (this recipe doesn’t work as well with xylitol)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 2 c almond flour
  • 1/2 c coconut flour
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/4 t salt

Process – Cake

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Lightly oil 3, 8-inch round* pans (I use coconut or olive oil) and then flour the pans with almond flour.
  • Cream together butter and sugar until smooth.
  • Add in eggs, one at a time, and beat until fully blended.
  • Add milk and vanilla. Mix until combined
  • In a separate bowl mix the dry ingredients
  • Combine the dry and wet mixtures. Mix until well blended; it will be dense like a cookie dough mixture, don’t worry!
  • Evenly spread into the 3 pans. If needed, wet your hands and gently level the batter.
  • Bake for 25 minutes or until the cakes are pulling away from the edges.    
  • Let cakes cool in the pans and remove once totally cooled.

* Disposable aluminum tins work fine and I like the scalloped edges.

 

Ingredients – Filling

  • 2 c heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 c coconut palm sugar or other sweetener
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 1/2 16 oz. packages of strawberries

Process – Filling

  • Whip cream, sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Be careful not to over-whip. Refrigerate until ready to assemble.
  • Wash, hull and quarter the strawberries. Refrigerate until ready to assemble.

 

Process – Assembling the Cake!

  • Place first cake on serving tray.
  • Top with approximately 1/3 of the strawberries.
  • Cover the strawberries with approximately 1/3 of the whipped cream.
  • Place second cake on whipped cream covering the first layer.
  • Top with approximately 1/3 of the strawberries.
  • Cover the strawberries with approximately 1/3 of the whipped cream.
  • Place the last layer on the whipped cream covering the second layer.
  • This last layer switches the order. First, cover the top cake with the remaining whipped cream.
  • Then top the cake with the remaining strawberries.
  • Serve immediately.

 

Fun Optional Toppings when served (both are shown in the lead photo)

  • Grated chocolate
  • Shaved chocolate

 

Credit

The above recipe is a variation of a Bob’s Red Mill recipe and a Driscoll’s recipe.


Here’s an example with other berries: raspberries, blueberries and blackberries.

Millennial Power Ballad – World Book Day April 23, 2017

Millennial Power Ballad – World Book Day April 23, 2017

Good-Bye Def Leppard: I’ll Miss Those Jeans
By Stef Kramer
CreateSpace, 312 pp., $12.49

Stef Kramer’s debut novel, Good-Bye Def Leppard: I’ll Miss Those Jeans, is more than a coming of age flashback drama directed at Gen Xers. It’s a smart, thoughtful story about life decisions.

The quick introduction commences in the present, when “trying to be happy with life” Amy Gaer, wife, mother of three, and professional woman returns home from another day at the office. After getting the children in gear and putting on an old pair of acid-washed-ripped jeans to show her daughter fashion doesn’t always change, the reluctant tiger mom listens to her piano practicing teenage daughter. The music, tight jeans that she never wears, and memories sweep across the scene causing her to reflect.

The majority of the novel occurs in the summer of 1992. Young Amy decides the trajectory of her life starting with her May Graduation day, kind of, meaning she’s achieved her Bachelor of Arts in English, but plans to return in the fall to work on a business degree or maybe to wrap up a music minor. She heads home to rural Iowa for the summer, picks up a internship at a bank, runs into an old boyfriend, lives with the parents and then meets a married man, in the process of a divorce, with whom she’s, well, truth be told, she’s not sure what to think or feel about Nick.

Ms. Kramer delivers a well-written and well-crafted story with music, humor and character development. Music floats throughout; in fact most of the chapter titles are popular lyrics or song titles from the 70s through the early 90s. For example “Material Girl” is the chapter title of Amy’s interview at the bank, immediately calling to mind Madonna’s song (and video!) as the reader watches Amy, the English major, explain why she’d be a perfect fit for a summer teller position which the bank might transition to a management trainee program. Def Leppard, James Taylor, Guns & Roses, Whitney Houston, the Cheers Theme Song, Bryan Adams, Eric Clapton, Aerosmith, U2, OMD, Abba and more set the stage for each scene. Ms. Kramer also adds good doses of humor; Amy plays the Dead Game with her dad, poorly wears her mom’s clothes to work, owns several three-legged pig good luck pieces, drinks memorable shots like “slippery nipples”, and despite growing up in a farming community, knows little about farming. Lastly, Nick’s journals added a layer of complexity to his character and their relationship. Without them, Nick would have been a weaker character. Gordon and Dave, both of whom have physical and mental handicaps, also add a natural and needed dose of reality into Amy’s self-centered focus. Amy’s experience of gender roles, in the banking industry, aids her character’s growth too, despite her youth.

There is one minor challenge stemming from pace, appropriate for a movie or video but harder to process when read. At times the book is slow, perhaps to mimic the hot days of summer where every movement requires effort, or due to an over focus on Amy’s interior thought processes. Each chapter is tightly woven, none should be cut and they’re well edited, but some came off as interludes, when the reader is ready for more.

Good-Bye Def Leppard: I’ll Miss Those Jeans is a fun, unique story, best read with others. A book club could create play lists, the drinks, and reminisce about those first few big decisions made when you finally enter the world as an adult.

 

Exciting Feedback

Exciting Feedback

I just received a personalized and positive rejection letter!

I’m over the moon as previous feedback, from a different editor, stated, “we felt that your over-use of dialogue decreased the tension.” They were correct. Their insight pushed and encouraged me to undertake major revisions before shopping the piece again.

Today’s feedback, “there was much to admire in it as it presented to us a narrative landscape stunningly wrought with haunting imagery and beautifully crafted language

I’m making progress!

 

Quinoa Bread

Quinoa Bread

Quinoa bread has a unique, hearty flavor, but it’s a seed, so it’s perfect for those with nut allergies. I suggest slicing and toasting pieces to serve as a side with breakfast. It’s a great way to add more protein to your first meal of the day!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 c quinoa flakes
  • 1 c quinoa flour
  • 1/2 c flax meal
  • 2 1/2 t psyllium husk whole
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 c apple sauce
  • 1/2 c water
  • 3 eggs

 

Process 

  • Preheat oven to 375.
  • Lightly oil pan (I use coconut or olive oil).
  • Mix, using a whisk, the dry ingredients.
  • Add wet ingredients (there isn’t a need to premix them).  Mix together well.  The batter will be similar to cookie dough batter.
  • Pour entire mixture into the pan. Round the top, as the bread won’t rise.
  • Bake for approximately 35 minutes until the bread has a nice, firm golden brown top and the edges are pulling away from the pan. About 15 minutes in to the baking cycle, if the top seems too brown (or you’d prefer a less crusty top) loosely cover with aluminum foil. This will stop the browning while still cooking the center.
  • When cooked test with a toothpick and if it comes out clean, then let the bread cool in the pan. Remove from the pan once completely cooled.

 

Makes one well rounded magic pan (7.5 by 3.5) loaf.

Bison Chili

Bison Chili

Who does’t love a great chili? This recipe is a large batch perfect for entertaining and you’ll still have left overs for lunch. The spices add wonderful flavor that you may punch up with heat, if you prefer a burn.

Ingredients

  • 3 T olive oil
  • 2 medium sized onions, chopped – I suggest at least one red onion for spiciness
  • 3 bell peppers, chopped – I suggest orange, yellow and green, since the red color of red peppers get lost in the tomato color
  • 4 garlic cloves, diced
  • 24 oz. bison
  • 2, 14.5 oz. cans of diced tomatoes – for more heat Kuner’s and Hunt’s both have chili tomatoes, jalapeño tomatoes and chipotle tomatoes
  • 2, 7.5 oz. can tomato paste
  • 2 T chili powder
  • 1 rounded T ground cumin
  • 1 rounded T dried oregano leaves
  • 1 t dried basil
  • 1/2 t red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 t pepper
  • Optional – 1, 15 oz., can of red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

 

  • Optional Toppings when served
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Sour Cream
  • Diced red onions

 

  • Optional Bottoms when served
  • A hollowed out bread bowl
  • Atop rice

 

Process

  • In a large, 4 qt., sauce pan over medium head add oil, veggies and garlic.
  • As they cook down and become tender, add the bison. Cook until the meat is browned.
  • Transfer all to the slow cooker.
  • Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and all spices. Stir well.
  • Cook on low for 8-10 hours. You can cook on high for 4-5 but it’s significantly better when cooked on low.
  • Enjoy!
  • Tip = this recipe is sized for a 6-quart slow cooker.  You may need to scale the ingredient amounts if your slow cooker is smaller or larger.

Active Settings 101

Active Settings 101

Writing Active Setting Book 1: Characterization and Sensory Detail
By Mary Buckham
Cantwell Publishing, 59 pp., $3.99

USA Today bestselling author Mary Buckham’s Writing Active Setting is one of her non-fiction books on the craft of writing. With thirteen published fiction novels she enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience with others.

This three-part short writing guide provides a wealth of information, examples, and assignments. She teaches like a mentor, meaning she explains and then demonstrates a practical application. The bibliography includes 17 works of fiction and recalls the Donald Maass book Writing the Breakout Novel. Most authors are also active readers so pulling examples from works you’ve read, or at a minimum authors you’re familiar with, further illuminates her points.

Ms. Buckham’s strongest chapter discusses character reveals through the setting. She offers concrete examples ranging from genetic, to slightly improved, and then to the final published work. She shows how each character may view the setting differently and how those unique, layered point-of-view descriptions inform the reader about a main character, especially when the character isn’t self-aware.

Sensory detail via setting was weaker as too many sense images overwhelm and become data dumps whereas too few leave the reader to their own imagination. Here, Ms. Buckham, walked a challenging line between encouraging more information from the author without underserving the reader. The published examples in this section are helpful, but further highlight the struggle to balance this approach.

Writing Active Setting Book 1: Characterization and Sensory Detail is a helpful, quick read which can enhance your writing by better developing your created world.

Bolognese Sauce

Bolognese Sauce

This is an Italian Ragu sauce you won’t forget. The slow process fills the kitchen with heavenly aromas and offers time to prep the rest of the meal. Shown is a primo plate of mini gnocchi bolognese.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef/bison
  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 2 celery ribs
  • 2 medium size carrots
  • 1 large onion
  • 8 oz. red wine
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes
  • 2T tomato paste
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • water to cover

 

Process

  • In a large skillet brown the beef/bison, remove cooked beef/bison to a small container
  • Using the same skillet, cut the raw bacon into the pan, cook slowly on low until fully cooked
  • While bacon cooks, finely chop the celery, carrots and onion
  • Add the celery, carrots and onion to the skillet still containing the bacon. Increase the heat to medium-high and brown the veggies in the bacon fat.
  • Transfer the contents to large, 4 qt., sauce pan. Add the reserved ground beef/bison. Set the heat to medium and pour in the red wine.
  • When the red wine has evaporated, add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, pepper and bay leaves. Stir. Then add water to cover, about 9 oz., and cook over medium for at least 1 hour. If needed add more water.

 

Credit

  • This recipe based upon a recipe provided the Santa Chiara study center.

 

I’ve just recently found this at Kroger. It’s delicious!

Gazpacho

Gazpacho

The chilled Spanish soup is always a hit with guests. We often serve it as dinner starter during warm months, however it’s great for lunch with a side sandwich too. It’s simple to make the day before and the flavors meld overnight while it gets to that perfect chilly temperature.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium-size cored tomatoes
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 1 medium to large cucumber
  • 1 small red onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 8 oz. vegetable juice, like Kuner’s
  • 2 T apple cider vinegar
  • If you’d like some heat, add a few drops of Tabasco sauce to taste (a little goes a long way)
  • Optional Toppings when served
  • Sour Cream or yogurt
  • Chopped cilantro

Process

  • Add all ingredients to blender or Vitamix
  • Pulverize
  • Chill in the refrigerator for at least 8-10 hours; overnight is better,
  • Enjoy!

 

  • Tip = this recipe is sized for a 64 oz. Vitamix container.  You may need to scale the ingredient amounts for your blender.

 

Credit

The above recipe is a slight variation of a The Woman’s Day Cookbook recipe. There are many Gazpacho recipes out there but over the years we’ve found this one to be the best starting point.

Forgiveness: Clemency in Action

Forgiveness: Clemency in Action

The Hiding Place
By Corrie ten Boom, Elizabeth Sherrill, and John Sherrill
Chosen Books, 273 pp., $12.99

At age seventy-nine Corrie ten Boom wrote her 8th book, a biography co-written with Elizabeth and John Sherrill, entitled The Hiding Place. She shares her life from ages six through fifty-seven. It also includes an extensive timeline with a prologue section providing information spanning from 1837 when her Grandfather, Willem ten Boom, acquired the shop, and later purchased it with the house, to her death upon her ninety-first birthday in 1983.

Ms. ten Boom until age forty-nine lived an unremarkable life, excluding her achievement of Holland’s first licensed female watchmaker. She remained unmarried, stayed in the family home, worked in the family business, was involved with her church (Dutch Reformed), took in missionary children, and organized Christian girls’ clubs. She experienced much suffering, through family members’ illnesses and deaths, but home remained a place of love through prayer, work, and charity both inside and outside the house.

In 1941 about eighteen months after the Nazis invade Holland, Corrie located a safe house for a Jewish neighbor. Five months later, her family opened their home to Jews, most quickly relocated to safer locations, but some stayed longer. In addition their family home also provided lodging for resistance workers. They build a hiding room for impromptu raids. It’s estimated the ten Boom family saved 800 Jews’ lives and protected many of the Dutch underground.

Things changed February 28, 1944. Their raided house offered safety for their six current guests who fled to the hiding room. The family, first detained in their local jail, moved to the Scheveningen prison, then to the Vught Concentration Camp, and ultimately to the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. Corrie lived; most of her family didn’t, either dying while in captivity or soon after release due to illness acquired during incarceration.

Her biography is balanced and never sensational; violence, difficulties, and fear don’t headline her experience. She’s honest and tempered by years of telling her family’s story. The radical sections are those where she inwardly resists the temptation to hate and pushes herself to love. Betsie, her sickly, older by six years, sister reminds her “we must tell them that there is no pit so deep that he is not deeper still. They will listen to us, Corrie, because we have been here.” (pg. 220) It’s Betsie’s faith, hope, and love propels them through harrowing experiences. Later as their situation deteriorates Corrie realizes Betsie meant tell everyone – the former Nazis, the complicit and non-complicit Germans, the Jews, the Christians, even the Dutch collaborators who caused harm and were shunned after the war – everyone needed and deserved healing.

Ms. ten Boom’s The Hiding Place refers to the room but also the Psalm 119:114, “ You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.” Her reaction to her time of darkness offers inspiration for all sojourners.