I should have been writing. Instead…apple cake.


You know how it is.

You find out that the distance between you and YouTube is just a voice command and a few clicks on the TV remote and there really is no reason to leave the recliner.

Okay, maybe you don’t know how it is. [i.e. you are not a slothful low-life.]

Anywaaay, this recipe from joyofbaking.com was the first to show up on the big screen. Stephanie Jaworski’s demonstration was clear and concise. My version matched the one in the video. Always reassuring. The baking time was within the +/- 5 minutes margin-of-oven-performance estimation. Taste and moistness and ingredient ratios–spot on. Final grade: 91%. [Bravo, Stephanie!]

Ready for baking: 


More than a few notes:

  • One of the best parts of baking–Wife comes in the front door, breathes in, and announces to the world: “Someone’s been baaaaking!”
  • Liked Stephanie’s idea of making an apricot jam glaze. I went with raspberry. Yep, I’d do it again. Always one to hedge my bets, I glazed only half the cake.
  • I add tons more cinnamon than is called for and included allspice as well.
  • I mixed brown with white sugar.
  • No raisins in the house [my preferred dried fruit]. I went with dried cranberries, which I nuked in water for about 45 seconds to tenderize them a bit. Wouldn’t have hurt if I subbed in brandy or creme de cassis for the water.
  • I’m sure this has been suggested elsewhere in the world, but…the microwave’s ‘defrost’ setting works great for melting butter. Ditto for gently reheating certain delicate leftovers like shrimp.
  • Type of apple used: Winter banana [from our weekly community-supported agriculture box. A shout-out to Denison Farms, by the way.]
  • I cook/bake better when a towel is draped over my shoulder. Go figure. I’m not an Emeril Lagasse fan-boy, but he rocks that same shoulder accessory.
  • Yes, I will continue my socially marginal habit of consuming cake by the manually mangled hunk.
  • Where did today’s inspiration come from? A. Those winter banana apples weren’t going to cook themselves.   B. The apple festival-winning cake in last night’s Hallmark movie. [Hey, call me a wuss, but our current crop of semi-journalistically responsible ‘BREAKING NEWS!!!!’ channels are just plain bad for our health. If I’m going to engage in harmful behaviors, they’ll include flour, sugar, butter and a message to someone that I care about them.]
  • If I had more time, I would have revisited Maida Heatter’s apple cake recipe .
  • Lest you think my life is perfection on a plate, consider this:

Our toothpicks are scattered throughout the pot holder drawer. Really…rounding them up and replacing them in a too-small box, from which they will no doubt roll out within minutes…unfathomable torture.

  • I miss having a dog lurking nearby watching my every move.


Thanks for visiting. Give this recipe a try. It has ‘comfort on a fall Sunday afternoon’ written all over it.



I should have been writing. Instead…Stovetop Chocolate Cake.


File_001Yes, stovetop. A challenge worth pursuing.

This recipe came from Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street website.

And I have to say, as with Cook’s Country/America’s Test Kitchen [C. Kimball’s most recent endeavor], the accompanying video segments were extremely helpful.


As the cake steams–yep, steams– toward completion, some questions and notions:

  • This will be my default ‘baking’ method during the heat of summer. 
  • A while back, I mentioned my tendency to do weird, lame stuff in the kitchen, such as mixing or chopping at the very edge of the counter. Wull-gee, what are the odds something’s going to end up on the floor? I do eventually learn from repeated bungling, however. So this time, the floor was spared the usual cascade of ingredients. Bravo.
  • Buuuut, did that keep me from having my laptop hanging precariously over counter’s edge as I began typing this post? Uhhh, no. Seems like once I hit my threshold of competency, all bets are off. Hide the knives, check the burners, and pray. [Doesn’t matter which god you choose, by the way. They all understand kitchen hazards. And at some point in the process, I become the poster child.]
  • I should have hired a first-grader to cut my circle of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan.
  • With this stovetop strategy, will we still be treated to the warm, enveloping aroma of a baked chocolate cake? Answer: No.
  • I’m not supposed to lift that lid till the prescribed 23 minutes has lapsed. I actually resisted. Decision: It needed an extra five to seven minutes. On the upside, unless the water has evaporated, the risk of burning the cake is minimal. In other words, steam bath: forgiving…oven heat: cruel and merciless.
  • When it comes to chocolate desserts, our mantra: Dark = better. Darker = more better.
  • Always remember: Eating cake by the hunk enhances flavor by 23%. [Margin of error: +/- 5%]
  • My wife rolls her eyes at my Philistine ways, bBut I say, ‘If I bake it, I break it.’ And it’s oh-so-good that way. Besides, she gets to even out the ragged edges.

Final verdict: This recipe is a keeper. The cake came out dark and dense and moist. What more could you want?



The steaming takes place inside a Dutch oven–actually any pot with a tight-fitting lid and deep/wide enough to fit an eight or nine-inch cake pan. The coil of aluminum foil simply keeps the cake above the heated water.


The chocolate shmeer on the plate is a sure sign of this cake’s moistness. [The added chocolate chunks don’t hurt either.]

Added notes: Apologies to Bitter Ben, whose blog I follow. Rather than bittersweet, I used semi-sweet chocolate chunks from Trader Joe’s.

And to faithful reader Virginia [Roses in the Rubble], try this recipe. It should be a fair payback for the recipes you’ve shared with me.


I should have been writing. Instead…biscuits.



biscuits reduced size

Yep, biscuits. So much more rewarding than wrangling over a first draft that points to the dwindling intellect of a ‘certain writer’.

They were the finale after the arugula pesto and the tofu spread.

Pretty sure I lost my two readers with those last two words, but stick with me here…

Solution to tofu that tastes [and behaves] like spackle: Heat the olive oil, bloom the spices in the oil, *then* add the tofu, the caramelized onions, the arugula, and whatever else won’t resist your purposeful grope into the fridge.

Essentially, you make a tofu scramble and pulverize it in the food processor. Now you actually have something with flavor that you can spread on bread, but without the sinfulness of cheese.

Back to the biscuits…today, I used the New York Times’ all-purpose biscuit recipe as my starting point. I had already sullied the food processor when I made the pesto, so I snagged a cube of butter from the freezer and grated it into the flour. [The photo below is telling me I should have also added parm to the mix.]

parmesan-cheese grater


So, no cheese this time, but afternoon coffee and biscuits ensued.

dog mug

Sitting in the backyard sun, feet up on another chair, two of my favorite foods, my truly favorite person, and the knowledge that the writing projects will still be there when I saunter back. Life’s good.



Writers Horoscope for September 30: You will finish a project today.

Okay, so you’re past the guilt. You’ve conquered despair. [Frankly, you were a mess this week.]

It’s time to finish something.

the end finish line artsy

Yes, to you, a foreign concept.

But today’s the day.

The TV is unplugged [yes, you’re that serious], the wi-fi will soon be off, fresh coffee awaits, and you dove into the freezer for those cinnamon rolls. [Cooking takes a back seat today.]

And you’ve reached a conclusion: You don’t work well under pressure.

So you’re going to: A) Start with the smallest unfinished project first. B) Work in 15-minute increments.

Joe Bunting from thewritepractice.com prescribes small deadlines. Sounds contrary to your not working well under pressure, but…

Cut to Jon Acuff in his book Finish–“Cut your goal in half.”

Jane Porter also chimes in with solid support in her Fast Company contribution.

Final word: Go!



Writers Horoscope September 29: Cashing it in…soooo tempting.


You made it past yesterday’s guilt.

Time for another demon.

gratisography leaning against fence giving up

You want to give up. Words aren’t flowing. Ideas aren’t flowing. Tears, however, well, they might be another story.

Ben Angel in his contribution on Entrepreneur suggests two steps to win out:

  • Remind yourself of what you stand to lose by quitting.
  • Make a public declaration of what you’re working toward.

Ali Luke’s guest post on Goinswriter.com teases out the issue even more extensively. Lots of good ideas here to think through, including ways to cope with:

  • present-day life’s incompatibility with your writing
  • discouraging feedback
  • your loved ones not understanding your work or your calling to put pen to paper

And you could always subscribe to Copyblogger’s Brian Clark’s mantra: Keep going.