Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Summer Cat Camp

Where have I been.. Some tropical vacation, kidnapped by Tibetan Monks, off on a non speaking retreat.. NO. I just have not been writing. There are loads of things going on. New recipes that have been conquered, and even summer camp for cats at my house.

Binx and Ziggy came to our house on May 30th. My friend was changing jobs and moving from Indiana to the Boston area. They came to our house for a low stress summer vacation. These boys had a lot of fun. They even lost a pound or two. They had never had stairs before. Who knew that camp would have a work out program

                                                They always liked sleeping next to each other    

These two love bugs needed a place to hang out for the summer while their Mom moved and traveled for work. My Husband and I decided this would be a good experiment. We have always talked about becoming cat foster people. Summer camp went wonderful. Our three cats were a bit challenged at first, but they all became fast friends. Black Cherry was no longer dominated by girls. He had to get use to 2 other Males in the house. But the boys hung out together.

Watching for bunnies and birds

Black Cherry and Ziggy.
Buddies and Lovers

Apple Jax and Smokey accepted the boys. Binx would love to tease the girls and chase them around. Once in a while little Smokey would hiss at big Binx. He was never mean to her. Girls can be so moody..

One morning I snagged this picture. Smokey and Binx looking out the door

They always wanted to go outside

This was another thing that made Binx and Ziggy perfect, just like our cats,  they like being outisde. They were also harness and leash pets. The boys hung out often on the patio. I have several cute cat photos. Probably more than you would want to see.
Apple Jax and Binx coexitsting

My Friend's cats were just lovable. They made everything so easy. When you came home everyday, they would be sitting by the back door waiting for you to come in. If people tell you that cats have no emotion and do not care, they are WRONG. We could have keep these cats forever, but their Mom also missed them very much. With her new job going good, the new house was unpacked, it was time for another new adventure in the Boston area. So on September 6th, we said our final good byes. 

 Their Mom told us how they howled and cried for hours in the car. My cats looked around for the boys. Wondering where they went. Black Cherry was so mopey and clingy.  He really missed his friends. 

My Husband and I did shed some tears, but we also realized that there are many cats out there that need temporary homes. Not every experience is perfect, but there has to be more to life. We are really happy that we meet these wonderful Fur Boys. Life is always full of new experiences, even at summer camp.


Sunday, May 31, 2015

Homemade Snickers Bars

Hello holy homemade Snickers bars. These little puppies are amazing.  If you want to wow your spouse,  or just impress your friends, make these easy bars. They have a few steps but they go together quickly.  

I am not a huge Snickers fan, but these are just delicious. These are not calories friendly, you will not eat huge pieces, but you could.. I really could eat the whole pan.

Homemade Snickers Bars
Adapted From Imperial  Sugar
1 cup Semisweet Chocolate Chips
3 Tablespoons  Creamy Peanut Butter
7 Ounces Marshmallow Fluff
1/4 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
1 1/2 cups Powdered Sugar
1 cup Dry Roasted Peanuts
11 Ounces Caramels
1/4 Cup heavy Cream
1 cup Semisweet Chocolate Chips
3 Tablespoons Creamy Peanut Butter

Line a 11 x 7 baking Pan with Parchment paper.

Place 1 cup of chocolate Chips and 3 tablepoons of peanut butter in a heat proof bowl. Microwave for 60 seconds and stir until smooth. Microwave for Few more seconds if necessary.
Pour Mixture into prepared Pan and spread evenly. Place pan into the freezer For 2-3 minutes until hardened.
Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl with a paddle attachment, place marhmallow cream, 1/4 cup peanut butter and powdered suger and Mix until a soft ball forms. Remove dough and press on top of the chocolate layer.
Sprinkle peanuts on top. Gently press them in.
In a small saucepan, add the caramels and heavy cream. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until melted. Immediately pour over peanuts. Spreading evenly.
Refrigerate for 5 minutes until set.
In a Heatproof bowl, melt remaining chocolate chips and peanut butter. Pour over caramel layer. Spread out evenly.
Place pan in the fridge for 10 minutes until chocolate is set.
Cut with a sharp Knife.

First chocolate and peanut butter layer

Marshmallow Creme

Fondant Creme Filling

Spread Into the Pan

Banana... Something Healthy


Caramel bits, so much


caramel sauce over peanuts

Just delicious... eat up buttercup

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Banana Crumb Cake

Holy Crap, I decided to go back to writing and here I am again today. I am glad I got my head out of my butt and started moving forward.

TODAY is the THREE Year BLOG anniversary. I really think this is what completely motivated me to start writing again. I was trying to decide what I was going to do with this site. There is so much I have to say. AND all of you are such a wonderful audience.

I had no 3 candles. Unbelievable..
I made cupcakes for a customer on Tuesday, and did not photograph with candles
I could have done something there.. oh well.. 

Last month I came across this recipe. I had bought a crate of single bananas and this recipe was perfect. We had overloaded on different smoothies, but these bananas were ready for baking. 

This recipe is a dairy free recipe. If you do not have Soy or Almond Milk, use regular milk.
The recipe called for a 10" springform pan or a 9x13 pan, I used a 10" square pan with foil. Whatever floats your boat. With the 9x13 pan, you can cut more pieces.
There is also Coconut Oil in the recipe. Oh had I forgotten how much I love coconut oil. 
Please do not skip the crumb topping. It really sets the cake apart from being basic. I think it made it delicious. If you do not like pecans, please omit. I LOVE nuts, so a few extra for me to munch on.

Banana Crumb Cake
adapted from
For the CAKE
2 cups all purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 ripe bananas
1/2 cup coconut oil, room temperature
1 1/4 cups of granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup soy or almond milk

For the CRUMB Topping
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1 cup chopped pecans (Optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. If using a spring form pan, spray your pan with cooking oil and set aside. If you are using a square pan or 9x13 pan, Layer with tin foil, edges overhang, and spray with cooking oil.

In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, mash the bananas until smooth. Add coconut oil and beat until combined with no lumps, and then add the sugars, eggs, milk and vanilla extract and continue mixing.

Add in the flour, baking powder and salt and mix together. 

Pour banana cake mixture into your prepared pan. 

In the same bowl, prepare the crumb mixture. Combine in all ingredients and slightly incorporate for course crumbs. DO NOT over mix or you will just have a glob. 

Top the cake with the crumb mixture. Place in oven and bake. Bake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. About 50 minutes. Transfer the spring form pan to a wire rack and let cool for about 15 minutes. And then remove sides. Or let the cake cool for at least an hour

2 ripe bananas and 1 very dark banana

I am bake cooking and baking with Coconut oil. Yummy

Mixing all the batter. 

It is a full pan. That is why a 9 x 13 pan will also work

The crumb topping. Rough Chucks, do not over mix

Ready for the oven

Out of the oven, cooling and we are patiently waiting to taste

Oh my.... this is an all year round cake.
Perfect for party, or just with lunch.
Fabulous flavors the melded together. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Breaks in the weather

Where have I been.  Really almost no where. I went to Florida last weekend to see my nephew graduate from High School.. He was in National Honor Society and all advance placement classes since he was in first or second grade. He is very smart. Good kid also.

He will be attending the University of Florida next fall. We are very proud of him.. My twin nieces graduate this weekend. They are also going away to college. I will post their graduation picture next week. 

I have had this stupid hip issue for the past year that has somewhat sidelined me. I am still able to go to work and workout and bake cakes and treats, but the pain has been horrible the last five months. Going to the Chiropractor three times a week sucks up an enormous amounts of time and money. The woes of getting older. After 38 visits, I am starting to get better.  I still have a bit of a limp and different amounts of pain.

So, what have I been doing.. There are still Sweets by Shayla jobs every weekend. Some big, some small. I have been catering some here and there. 

These Lillies of the Valley came from my Mom's house over 10 years ago. 
They still smell amazing and always make me smile.

The Chicagoland weather has been all over the block. In fact today, it is 46 degrees and sleeting. Oh my goodness. We have had our air conditioner on last week. It had been in the high 80's and very humid. I will not turn my heat back on. Throw on a sweater and a pair of socks. 

On a warm Friday a few weeks back, my husband and I went fishing. These were 2 turtles that we spotted. It was so cool to get this close. We just idled up to them and I keep taking photos. Then they jumped into the water. It was very calming out be out in the fishing boat. My husband loves to fish, among all hisother hobbies. I read a book and got some sun. That made me very happy.

These are all three of my kitties co-existing for a few minutes. I do not know what they were looking at, I just thought it was cool. I always wonder what goes on during the day when we are at work, probably just a lot of sleeping... 

OK... I think I am back.. I thought there was nothing left for me to talk about. I have several recipes to share with you. Sorry for the hiatus, I wish I could say there was some sort of enlightenment. Really, just coming to terms with my age and deciding there are loads of things that need to be on the internet. 

Maybe you will see me tomorrow.. I forgot that I like to write. ROCK on kids

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Florida Strawberry Pie

Where have I been.. It has been a crazy couple of weeks.. This blog should have been posted a few days ago. The days just seem to evaporate... On March 6th, I celebrated my 50th birthday. AUGH.. I was really dragging my feet about turning 50. My hip has been bothering me, I need readers all the time and winter just seems to be dragging on forever. WHINE..

So, my wonderful Husband and my fabulous sisters threw me a birthday party the week before my actual birthday. It was at a local bar. My Husband invited everyone, ordered the cake and paid the bill. He also flew my Florida sister in. She was glad she was here, but did not like the super cold weather. My sisters went WAY over the top. They decorated the place, made fabulous appetizers and really made me special. They are all a very special part of my whole life.  Sometime I will post my birthday pictures.

My birthday party started February 27th and finally ended on March 7th. Wow 10 days of lots of fun. If you are approaching a new decade, hit it up with a bang.

So off to Florida we went to celebrate my birthday. I was really missing my Mom. She was very glad to see us.. The first day we were there, we went to Bonefish Grill for are usual, Bang Bang Shrimp and Martini's. Well Martinis for me and beer for everyone else..

It is wrong to start a vacation with Bang bang shrimp
and a delicious martini.. well 2 martinis

Florida agrees with my Mom
My Husband and I after watching a beautiful sunset

Super long walk all the way to DOCS

Even the birds have fun on the beach

Going to celebrate my birthday some MORE with my family

My Florida sister and I after dinner

My handsome and TALL nephews

Another cocktail and another perfect beach day

My Mom made me a wonderful Florida dessert. Strawberries were in season their and just delicious in this birthday dessert. This recipe came out of either Cooks Illustrated or America's Test Kitchen. Make Ahead Dinners.. There recipes are always tested and come out perfectly. Time and time again. 

My Mom made this in a 9 x 13 pan and doubled the recipe. I am going to give you the recipe for a 9" pie pan. This dessert does go a long ways. This PIE could be made the day before. It could be covered with the topping even several hours before your event. The original recipe calls for a homemade pie dough. Mom likes to use a graham cracker crust. It does not break down so fast and is just perfect for Florida or anywhere you call home. It is up to you. Today I am posting a graham cracker crust recipe.

Icebox Strawberry Pie
original recipe for America's Test Kitchen
Adapted by my Mom
1 cellophane package of graham crackers, crushed
4 ounces (1/2 stick) butter, melted

Filling and Topping
2 pounds strawberries (7 cups)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
1 cup granulated sugar
1 pinch of salt
1 pound strawberries (3 cups), hulled and sliced thin
4 ounces Cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream

For the pie crust
Preheat your oven at 350 degrees. 
Crush the graham crackers. Add melted butter and mix completely. Pour into a 9 inch pie pan. Using your fingers and hands, press the graham cracker mixture into your pie plate until smooth. Bake in oven for 12 minutes. Remove from oven and let complete cool.

For the filling and topping
Cook the 7 cups of strawberries in a large saucepan over medium low heat until they begin to release their juices. About 3 minutes. Increase heat to medium high and cook, stirring frequently, until mixture is thick and jamlike. It should measure 2 cups, this takes about 25 minutes

Combine lemon juice and water in a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over lemon juice mixture and let sit for 5 minutes until the gelatin softens. Stir 1 cup of sugar, salt, gelatin mixture into cooked strawberry mixture and return to simmer, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool for 30 minutes.

Fold fresh strawberries into filling and spread evenly into cooled pie crust. Cover pie with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set. at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, mix cream cheese, vanilla extract and 3 tablespoons of sugar on medium speed until smooth.  About 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add cream and whip until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes. Spread over the top of your set up strawberry pie. Decorate with additional strawberries if you want. 

My Mother did not want ANY one in Florida 
to not know it was my Birthday. 

The original pie was not photograph before cutting...

It was beautifully decorated and served perfectly
Additional strawberries fanned over the top.
AND Candles if you want

Is that just a perfect dessert.
Cut beautiful and easy to serve

I really liked how it set up. 
You could serve this at a casual gathering or
Pre-plate it for a more formal occasion

This is what the caught on the beach one day...

They call this a Lemon Shark...
I call it never going into the water again

My Mom and I in front of this large gardenia bush.

And this is how you end a wonderful vacation..