Monday, October 13, 2008

Change Is Gonna Do You Good

No, this is NOT a political post. You'll have to look for that elsewhere.

This post is about a change of seasons, a change to our property, and the changes that come from the air, literally.

Last weekend was full of all of these. First off, I made turkey Italian sausages, but, since the seasons have changed, I didn't cook them on the outdoor grill. First I browned them in a skillet, then took them out and sauteed some sliced onions and red bell peppers in a little olive oil. Then I put the sausages on top of the veggies, covered them up and baked them in the oven at 350 degrees F for half an hour. Excellent results! The sausages stayed plump and moist and the peppers turned velvety.

While the sausages were cooking, I decided to bake a dessert from my childhood; pudding cake. Using a small box of cake mix, a one layer chocolate type, I was able to mix it all up and get it in the oven to cook while the sausages cooked, and just a little while longer. Efficient use of resources, although that's just an excuse.

Sometimes the hankering for chocolate just overtakes me. I do like the direct hit of a bite of semisweet or bittersweet Scharfenberger chocolate, but my very favorite way to have chocolate is as cake. Pudding cake, with it's sauce on the bottom, is even better. I think the recipe might come from a Hershey's cocoa can, since there is a lot of cocoa powder, but we've had the recipe in our family so long that I can't be sure where it came from. If you don't have a one layer size box of chocolate cake mix, you can use a one layer chocolate cake recipe, or use a two layer box of chocolate cake mix, divide it in half and save the rest of the mix for the next time that the chocolate bug bites!

For whatever reason, this time I made the recipe, the sauce was soaked up by the cake, so there was none on the bottom. It did, however, make the cake very moist and delicious, especially with the chopped pecans. I served it to Sweetie with a scoop of Strauss Creamery Organic Raspberry Ice Cream...totally decadent!

Pudding Cake
from Family Food, June 1994

a recipe or box for one layer cake - chocolate cake
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1 cup HOT water

Prepare the recipe for one layer chocolate cake, following the directions on the box if you have a one layer box, or dividing by half if a two layer box, or following the directions in the recipe if you have a 'from scratch' recipe.

Pour into a greased and floured 9 inch square cake pan (8 inch is OK, too). Mix together the cocoa, brown sugar and chopped nuts. Sprinkle over the cake batter.

Place the pan on the oven rack in a preheated 350 degree F oven. Pour the hot water over the cake mixture.

Bake for 30 - 35 minutes.

Best when served warm with the sauce from the bottom of the pan spooned over the top. Serve with cream or ice cream. Serves 6 or so.
Other changes included trimming the Lawson cypress trees that line the road on the south, and windward, side of our property. Any time that you have a yen to have country property, think again. The work involved in keeping up property is endless and expensive. All day Saturday we had two or three of us working. The guys went up in the rented machine that raised a basket far up in the tree canopies. They wielded chain saws to trim out the dead and dangerous branches before the winter rains and winds can cause damage below. I hauled the trimmed branches to the piles where they will wait to be chipped next weekend using a rented chipper machine. The work was dangerous, but not rocket science. We'll have firewood next winter from the larger limbs and lots of wood chips for mulch once the chipper part of it is done. All in all, a good thing.

Another change happened at last, also this past weekend. Christmas before last we went to Seattle to share the holiday with our daughter. While there I purchased the Macrina Bakery Cookbook. One of the things that I found interesting was the recipe for bread starter made using grapes. It was too late that year for grapes from our property, and last year was just plain busy, but this year it all came together. I gathered and weighed the grapes, put them in the cheesecloth sachet, tied it up with string and then crushed the grapes with my hands.

The sachet was put into the starter, which is a simple mix of unbleached flour and water. A couple of days of sitting out allowed the yeast on the grapes and in the air to work their magic. By the weekend after next I should have a sourdough starter. Can't wait to try some of the Macrina recipes using that starter! I'll let you know how it goes. A challenge is that the directions call for keeping the starter at 70 degrees for 48 hours and then another 24 hours. In my house there is no such thing as constant temperature, except in the fridge. Not sure if this experiment will work with the fluctuations in temperature that are normal here. We'll see.


  1. My post is political...but only because they messed with my hockey.
    Change is tood. I love walking around right now and just looking at the trees. So pretty.
    Looks like a quick and easy cake.

  2. The cake sounds delicious, and the starter is so interesting! Can't wait to see what comes of it! And we have a tree in our front yard that needs trimmed, so if you get some time... :)

  3. Ooh ... I can't wait to see the results from that grape starter! I've always wanted to try that!

  4. The starter looks alive - kind of like the creature from the lagoon. I can't wait to see the result.

  5. One way to stabilize temperature is to put the bowl of starter inside a little bigger bowl just a little water and then cover that with several towels. I can't say it'll be 70° but if there's any yeast growing it will tend to keep itself warm and steady. The other place is of course in the oven but you have to not be turning it on.
    I've not tried it with fresh grapes but you should have good results. I have done it with raisins.
    I do love the change of seasons.

  6. Peabody, Yeah, love the fall colors and cooler air...and change of sports, too. The cake really is quick and easy.

    Deborah, At the rate we are going, we can get to your yard in about 20 years once we have gotten rid of all the tree trunks and branches in our yard. It looks like a hurricane came through! The starter for the bread is looking good so far.

    Creampuff, The starter has another 8 days to grow. It smells a bit sour but nice and is sort of spongy. Turns out that Della Fattoria breads started out with a grape starter. Their bread is very popular at the San Francisco Farmers Market, but who knew that their starter was grape based, too?

    Giz, well it IS alive with all those natural yeasties.

    Tanna, Thanks for the tip. My next starter will be made with whole wheat and rye flours & I'll sue that method. The starter seems to have survived my erratic temperatures's looking great.