ARCHIVES:  December 16-23, 2004

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December 23, 2004 - Thursday

Pecan Pie Cake & Popovers

Sara P. brought us two delicious slices of Southern Living's Pecan Pie Cake. It was very good -- and not overly sweet - but full of nuts -- just perfect. Here's the recipe:


Pecan Pie Cake

3 cups finely chopped pecans, toasted & divided
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs, separated
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup dark corn syrup

Sprinkle 2 cups pecans evenly into 3 generously buttered 9-inch round cake pans; shake to coat bottoms and sides. Beat butter and shortening at medium speed with electric mixer until fluffy. Gradually add sugar, beating well. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Combine flour and baking soda. Add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk. Beat at low speed until blended. Stir in remaining pecans. Beat egg whites at medium speed until stiff peaks form; fold 1/3 egg white into batter. Fold in remaining egg whites. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes or until done. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Invert layers onto wax paper-lined wire racks. Brush tops and sides with corn syrup. Cool completely. Spread on half of Pecan Pie Filling on one layer, pecan side up. Place second layer, pecan side up, on filling and spread with remaining filling. Top with remaining layer, pecan side up. Arrange Pastry Garnish on and around cake, if desired. Makes 1 three-layer cake.

Pecan Pie Filling

1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup dark corn syrup
1/3 cup cornstarch
4 egg yolks
1 & 1/2 cups half-and-half
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk together first 6 ingredients in a heavy 3-quart saucepan until smooth. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly, and boil 1 minute or until thickened. Remove from heat; whisk in butter and vanilla. Place a sheet of wax paper directly on surface of mixture to prevent a film from forming, and chill 4 hours.



On a related note, I am trying to make a perfect popover. Throughout the past 25 years I've been attempting this almost impossible task. Once or twice, the popovers have actually popped. Unfortunately, I can not repeat my rare successes even though I follow the same steps. Its a real mystery. I still make them but I call them "popunders."

The closest I got to perfection was a recipe from the Joy of Cooking. Nevertheless, repeated attempts failed to produce the right results. I could not figure it out.

Then on Good Morning America appears a review of cookbooks. One of the books recommended is New Best Recipe. The authors of this book tried different recipes with variations and various ingredients to come up with the best version of any recipe. (I guess that is the premise of other cookbooks like The Joy of Cooking, but in Best Recipe, they discuss their failures and how they corrected them.)

I needed a book like that so I went to the bookstore and read the section on popovers (then later ordered the book from What I had not been using was a popover pan - a real official pan, not just a muffin tin (Best Recipe explained the difference). I ordered one from (they had the best price).

Some recipes had me beating the popover batter well, others said to beat very little. Best Recipe explained why it should be barely mixed, the importance of letting a batter rest, the importance of using a real popover pan (but said they could be made in a muffin tin with slightly varying results) and more. I could identify with this book.

I like being a breakfast chef. I want to make perfect homemade pancakes and waffles, hash browns and popovers. I want to be able to whip up the best breakfasts in the family -- as well as a good dessert now and then.

P.S. I was going to see Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events but I stepped outside into low 20's temperatures and much lower wind chills. Suddenly, all I wanted to do was be in my house, wrapped in blankets with a cup of hot cocoa and a cat in my lap. The movie will have to wait until next week. My sister who just left her home near the southern Georgia coast to come here for Christmas, e-mailed me before she left. She said it was 60 degrees there and exclaimed over our low temperatures. It will be about 17 when she gets here. Maybe we should all have gone to her place this year.




December 22, 2004 - Wednesday

Diet Soda Wars

Diet soda is becoming increasingly popular. Yay! The diet soda wars are on. I was very happy when visiting Nothing But Noodles and Tellini's last week; they both offered diet and caffeine-free in the same Coke. It has always been a pet peeve of mine that we couldn't find a single restaurant soft drink free of both sugar and caffeine. I am so-o-o-o-o glad to see this new trend.

Now, if Huntsville could only get back my favorite soft drink of all: Diet Orange Slice.



December 21, 2004 - Tuesday

Busy, Busy Day

Life was busy today, but in a happy way. Richard got to remove his bandaging this morning. Underneath was a 4 inch scar- that was a big cut! It looks like it is healing cleanly.

Someone I know got a flame point Himalayan kitten today and I got to go along to check him out. He's a little doll and I'll get to take pictures of him from time to time. His father is a very dark, rich brown sealpoint. His mother is a light tortie. It will be interesting to watch him grow up.

My daughter and I went to the mall and the bookstore -- very busy places in these few days before Christmas. I loved being in the Christmas shopping crowds (well, except for the traffic and if I have to wait in a long line). People were amazingly nice. There seemed to be much good cheer - at least what I experienced today.

I saw a cute little girl with long light brown hair being lifted into Santa's lap. She gave him a big hug - so sweet. A visiting friend brought over a couple of pieces of her new recipe for Pecan Pie Cake - yummy! I have asked her for the recipe. It's from Southern Living Magazine. I love this time of year.

(P.S. This is a picture of my favorite Santa pin. It's 10 years old or more.)



December 20, 2004 - Monday

Throughout history, science came up with some strange ideas. This site is an interesting place to read about those.

I plan to see Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events this week. I am trying to get the movie times from but the site is not working right today. Right now, they are saying that Huntsville has no theaters. Its only a city of about 170,000 people so right, we'd have no movie-goers living here.


Google is doing cute things with their logo today -- and probably all week or more.

Richard is continuing to improve (see Dec. 17th). He can move around a lot more although he's still in some pain.

Myst has been living with us for a week, now. He's a very small shaded silver Persian and an absolute doll. He and Muddy are already friends. We have to keep him apart from Dandelion who is older and more inclined to "defend the home against marauding cats" but we can do that since Dandelion likes the garage more and Myst likes the house more. Muddy gets along with everyone. What a great cat he is! Recent photos of the cats.




December 19, 2004 - Sunday

Jib Jab's Santa Claus Movie

Jib Jab has done it again with a new flash movie about Santa Claus. Their political stuff is the funniest out there. This Santa Claus movie was amusing, too.

P.S. It is VERY hard to put a Santa hat on a cat. None of the ones who were awake would cooperate. We tried anyway, though --> Santa Cat (click "Newer Photo" to see all three cats in hats).


December 18, 2004 - Saturday

One More Week

Christmas is only a week away! Too much has happened this December, but I still enjoy Christmas. I wish it was not so soon. I want to look at my tree, wear holiday clothes, bake Christmas cookies and listen to Christmas music on the radio for another month.

This Santa is from a jacket that I bought at a craft show. I love going to these shows. If nothing else, just walking through one makes me feel Christmasy.


The stores are filled right now. (The Saturday before Christmas is truly the biggest shopping day of the entire year.) I like being out in the crowds (well, except for long lines - both at the register and in traffic). People are fun to watch, the malls are well-decorated. Life seems a little more exciting and sparkly right now.

An interesting tidbit that I read in one Sunday's Parade Magazine is that suicides do NOT go up at Christmas. They actually go down. The worst time of year is in summer. So maybe the holidays are good for us.

I've gone snickerdoodle crazy, thanks to my daughter who made some for us last month. I made them for every occasion this month and will bring them on Christmas Day to put on the family snack table.

Richard is doing well. He is in a bit of pain. Medication works for that. It makes him sleepy. I think sleep is a good way to rest, though. He can move around -- we even went out to eat today. He moves very slowly. I like it. For once I can keep up with him.



December 17, 2004 - Friday

Richard's Successful Surgery

Richard had a benign tumor (an "intramuscular lipoma") in his stomach muscle. It was "huge" was all the doctor said - I'm guessing golf-ball sized or bigger. The doctor advised that it be removed because of its location. Richard had the surgery today. We thought this would involve muscle-cutting and overnight stays at the hospital.

Fortunately, it did not. The surgeon made a 3" incision to pry it from the muscle. Richard had to have complete anesthesia, he got to go home right away and will recover much more quickly than we originally thought. The muscles were not cut as we had expected.

In fact, Richard is here walking around - a  bit stiffly, but walking nevertheless (which the doctor said was okay - he is even allowed to climb stairs - just not lift heavy objects). I keep trying to tell him to sit down and let me serve him, but after all the stresses of the day, he wants to go brush his cats. Isn't he a sweetie?!!


December 16, 2004 - Thursday

The Pug Before Christmas

This flash video is sweet and a little funny. It has been so popular that the site crashed for lack of bandwidth. They eventually got back online, though. Thanks to Janice M. for sending the link.


The Pug Before Christmas sells only one item per day - but at a very good price and they often sell out before the day ends .. amazing how such publicity and community can surround a site that sells one thing.



Need a Christmas Laugh?

Here's a site with plenty of Christmas humor and games. This is one of the poems:



Twas the Day After Christmas

Twas the day after Christmas, and all through the house,
Every creature was hurtin' even the mouse.

The toys were all broken, their batteries dead;
Santa passed out, with some ice on his head.

Wrapping and ribbons just covered the floor,
While upstairs the family continued to snore.

And I in my T-shirt, new Reeboks and jeans,
I went into the kitchen and started to clean.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the sink to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the curtains, and threw up the sash.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a little white truck, with an oversized mirror.

The driver was smiling, so lively and grand;
The patch on his jacket said "U.S. POSTMAN."

With a handful of bills, he grinned like a fox.
Then quickly he stuffed them into our mailbox.

Bill after bill, after bill, they still came.
Whistling and shouting he called them by name:

"Now Dillard's, now Broadway's, now Penny's and Sears
Here's Robinson's, Levitz's and Target's and Mervyn's.

To the tip or your limit, every store, every mall,
Now chargeaway--chargeaway--chargeaway all!"

He whooped and he whistled as he finished his work.
He filled up the box, and then turned with a jerk.

He sprang to his truck and he drove down the road,
Driving much faster with just half a load.

Then I heard him exclaim with great holiday cheer,