Tuesday, January 31, 2012

BFF's Birthday

January 31st has always been my oldest and dearest friend Roberta's birthday. I've known her since she was six years old. That's me in blue and she's in the yellow shirt.

She moved to New York state in 1966. Here we are in 1967 on my annual summer visit to her place. I spent one month down there and Bert spent one month with me in Montreal. We did that until we both went to university.

1975: Here we are in New York at Bert's little brother's bar mitvah.

Bert and I spent most of the summer of 1976 in Montreal going to every Olympic event we could get ticket to.

And we're together again in 2000 in New York at her little brother's wedding.

Bert and her husband Phil moved to Florida a few years back and when Bert turned 50 in 2009, Phil flew me down to surprise her. January 31st was the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in West Palm Beach so we did 5 km. -- with Phil and daughters Whitney and Stephanie -- as part of Bert's birthday celebrations.

In November of that same year, Richard and I flew down to Florida for a quick visit. I wish she lived closer! Happy birthday Bert!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Bedtime at Natalie and Gordon's

My friends Natalie and Gordon share January birthdays and asked me to make them a cake.

I decided the perfect thing to do would be to make a cake with them surrounded by all their animals.

At first I was going to sit them on the edge of the cake, but then when my cat Nutmeg jumped into bed with me one night, I had a "eureka moment" and figured I'd make a cake looking like Nat and Gordon's bed with all their animals piled in on top of them.

Besides their big dogs Tristan and Sophie, they have three cats and a new kitten and all sorts of fancy roosters.

They also had many adventures this summer with their mama duck and 12 sweet ducklings.

The dogs got toy balls, the kitties a small ball and purple mice. (Gordon and Nat ate the mice!)

And I couldn't forget their 19-year-old leopard gecko, given to them as a wedding gift as well as Natalie's beloved bees.

 All in all, one of the most fun cakes I have ever made.

Natalie loved the cake...

They both loved it. 

And we all loved eating it. I guess this is what it must look like to be sleeping in a double layered chocolate bed with dark chocolate chunks and ganache frosting between the layers.
If you haven't already, please "like" my cake page on Facebook. I'd love to get 400 followers.
Click here: 
facebook.com/RonnasCakebook and then click on the little grey box with the thumb up at the top of the page. Much obliged!!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Warm Inside and Out

When it's cold outside, it's nice to get the stove going and cook onions in beef broth and then add a shot of sherry. (Recipe courtesy my sis!) The whole house warms right up.

Then I top it with a slice of toasted, crusty bread and some cheese and melt it under the broiler using my mum's old onion soup bowls. Now we're warm on the inside too! It somehow makes winter that much more bearable.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mini-Cinnamon Buns

I saw this recipe for mini-cinnamon buns and it looks so easy that I had to try it. To see her fabulous step-by-step instructions click here: Iowa Girl Eats
You start with a package of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls. I took 4 of the triangles and pushed them together to make one square-ish piece of pastry. Then I repeated and did the same with the other 4 triangles. (Iowa Girl is much neater than I am!!) After I brushed them with melted butter, I sprinkled them with cinnamon and sugar. (On one of them I added raisins too.)

Then I rolled them up...

...and sliced them into 16 cinnamon rolls, 8 per roll.

I placed them in a greased mini-muffin tin and baked 'em for 10 minutes or so.

And this is how they looked when I took 'em outta the oven. Yum or what?

Iowa Girl suggested a glaze of maple syrup, milk and icing sugar so I gave it a whirl. Thanks Iowa Girl. These mini-cinnamon buns rock!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Flower Cakes in Baskets

It's hard to believe it was 20 years ago that my friend Wendy and I had a cake business. Sometimes I go back to our old photo album of cakes and see what we created. Here's a page of flowers in baskets, all made from buttercream icing. The blue morning glories are done from royal icing. Frankly I'm not sure I could do any of this anymore! And...check out that fabulous calligraphy on paper. Again, could I ever do that again? Not so sure...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Self Portrait with Flying Squirrels

I had three flying squirrels feeding at night but by the time I got my camera, only two remained. Still, pretty neat to be able to photograph nocturnal critters with my desk lamp. Bonus? Seeing a quick glimpse of my reflection peering into the night.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Devil Made Me Do It Cake

My sister gave me a cookbook of gathered recipes she found for sale online at the Saint John Jewish Historical Society dating back from 1947; it's photocopied pages are stapled together. I decided to give one of the recipes a try. It's called Black Devil's Food Cake and the cake itself is very dark, moist and delicious.
The recipe is attributed to Goldie Rozovsky. Thanks Goldie. Your cake was yummy!

1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup hot coffee
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

Combine cocoa and hot coffee. Mix sugar, butter, eggs and coffee and dry ingredients. Pour into a 9" square pan and bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes.
(I dusted with icing sugar.)

Friday, January 20, 2012

My Favourite Risotto

Back in the '80s, my favourite cookbook was called "The New Basics" and still my go to reference for making risotto, a dish also very popular back then. I kind of wing it when making risotto depending on what I have in my cupboard. You can add frozen peas at the end or shrimp. My sister makes a mean pumpkin risotto! Be creative.

I decided to use some dried morel mushrooms I had picked in the woods a few years back.

I reconstituted a handful of mushrooms in a cup of boiling water and let them soak about 15 minutes. (The broth is very dark and flavourful!) Set it aside.

In a heavy bottomed pot on medium heat, soften (about) a cup of chopped onion in 3 tablespoons of olive oil till they're soft.

Then add 2 cups of uncooked Arborio rice and stir it around for a few minutes. Add hot chicken stock (simmering in another pot) by the cup into the rice and stir until absorbed. Keep doing this in steps, cup by cup. You should start with about 5-6 cups of liquid and add it until it's all gone.

 Meanwhile, grate 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese and set aside.

Once all the chicken stock is absorbed, add the mushroom liquid and mushrooms to the risotto and stir until it's nearly all absorbed. Stir in the Parmesan, add salt and pepper. I sometimes add a shot of white wine near the end as well.

It's incredibly yummy and a great dinner on a winter's eve. I was once told by an Italian that the best way to eat risotto is to eat around the edges first, so that when you get to the middle, it's still warm.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Birds Not of a Feather

I love bird watching from my office window. The chickadees are so cute and friendly. They'll actually feed out of your hand, if you're patient enough.

The American tree sparrow is also called the "winter chipping sparrow" because they look so similar. But we only get chipping sparrows in these parts in the summertime. They're easy to confuse!

The downy woodpecker hangs out at my suet feeder. This is the female of the pair (she lacks the red spots behind her head).

And here's the man in her life. The ever handsome and showy boy downy woodpecker.

And here's the ultimate birdwatcher, Oreo, who doesn't give a hoot what kind of birds show up. She wants to eat them all! Thankfully, she's an indoor cat.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Winter Walk

The cold weather can really get to you but living in the country it's the best time to walk the back 40! Here's the old butternut tree. Many of them are dying of butternut cancer. I had a tree expert here last year and she said this one is dying of old age, likely 75-100 years old. It's actually one tree, with a huge base at the bottom with two trunks coming out of it.

I love looking around spruce and cedar bushes to find where the deer have been sleeping. To the left of the spruce tree trunk you can see where the deer has slept. The snow under him is all melted.

 Where oh where is Richard?

 Richard got to test out his new snowshoes!

This topiary tree was on my list to cut down. Richard said we should let it grow and he was right! It's practically doubled in size in the last few years.

I just love how the hollyhocks wear their snow in a white coat.

I sort of thought the snow on the branches looked like fish skeletons. Am I nuts?

What I call the Boo Radley tree. Wonder what critter lives in that hole?

The deer seem to be the only ones who are walking by the old picnic table in the woods. Almost time for our annual winter picnic though...

The Mighty Mogelon is snow covered at this time of year, making its crossing very easy!


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