"My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four... unless there were three other people.
-------Orson Welles

Monday, December 8, 2014


Swedish Teaballs... Russian Tea Cakes... Mexican Wedding Cakes.  What do these all have in common?  Everything!  I wonder if there is any other food item that is claimed by so many different countries.   Also, why are they called "cakes" when they are actually "cookies"?   

A few friends came over the other night to bake Christmas cookies, and we each brought a recipe to make.  One person had a recipe for "Swedish Teaballs" that we thought sounded (and the picture looked) just like Russian Tea Cookies.  The only difference was that they were made with cake flour rather than all-purpose flour, and they baked in a 275º oven for an hour,  rather than a  400º oven for 10 minutes.  We were curious to see how those two factors would impact the cookie.  The short answer is... not much.  They turned out somewhat lighter and crisper, but also dryer.  In the final analysis, the added expense of cake flour, and the long cook time, did not result in a better cookie.  

Now is the time of the year to make these delicious cookies.  Here is the best recipe I have for Russian Tea Cakes (donated last year by friend, Diane).  I'm going to change the recipe, though, to call them "Russian Tea Cookies."  When you make them, you may decide to select your ethnicity and rename the cookie... perhaps "Italian Tea Cookies"?

*  1 cup butter at room temperature
*  1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar
*  1 teaspoon vanilla
*  2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
*  1/4 teaspoon salt
*  1 cup finely chopped pecans
In a mixing bowl beat butter for about two minutes until creamy.  Beat in the sugar and salt for about three minutes, until creamy.  Beat in vanilla, then slowly beat in flour until blended.  Stir in chopped pecans.

Preheat oven to 400º.   Roll dough into 1" balls, dusting hands with flour if necessary.  Place about 1" apart on ungreased baking sheets.  Bake about 10 to 12 minutes, or until set and bottoms are lightly tanned.  After removing from the oven and allowing to slightly cool, roll the cookies in powdered sugar.  For a holiday look you can add colored sugar.  Very pretty!

Here is a photo of the cookies we made.  

Top:  Buried Cherry Chocolate Cookies.   Right:  Italian Almond Cookies - the 2014 winner of the Star Tribune Holiday Cookie Contest.  Bottom:  Cookie Cut-outs.  Left:  Swedish Teacakes.  Far Upper Left Corner:  Gingerbread Cut-outs.

Monday, December 1, 2014


I have rather an extensive filing system to manage all of my recipes.  I'd be happy to tell you all about it... but more people than not use the following system:

I can't help laughing out loud (LOL!!!) every time I read this.  It was in this Sunday's comic section of the Star Tribune.  Thanks to "Rhymes with Orange" by Hilary B. Price.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


My sincere wishes that you have a warm, happy and healthy Thanksgiving.  Today, as everyday, find and appreciate the wonderful things in your life.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


We have been fortunate in our lifetimes to witness the amazing feat of the Rosetta Mission.  On November 12, after ten years and a 6.4 billion mile journey, a washing machine-sized probe called “Philae” landed on a moving comet.  This is a first in many ways, but most obviously is the fact that this is the first time humans have soft-landed a probe on a comet.

Comets have been observed by humans since millennia, and their significance or meaning has been debated throughout times.  In 1910, Halley’s Comet passed particularly close to the Earth.  In fact, for six hours on May 19, Earth’s orbit carried it through the end of the comet’s 24-million-mile-long tail.  Yellow journalists of the day used this to spread fears of the end of the world.  In all events, this was a very “big deal” for the times.   As an aside, in 1909 Mark Twain said "I came in with Halley's Comet in 1835.  It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it."  Twain died on April 21, 1910, one day after Halley's comet appeared.

This postcard, postmarked in England on October 24, 1910, refers to the fact that the comet, in the form of a bird with a long tail, has finally arrived.  Notice the look of fear on the dog’s face. 

Halley's Comet most recently appeared in 1986, and it is expected to appear again in 2061 (about every 75 years).   It's interesting to think about what will be known about comets, and what will be known about the universe, by then!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Ray Villafane sculpts pumpkins.  Perhaps you've seen some of them as they arrive in your email box from friends.   Check out more of his carvings on his Facebook page.

Villafane is an American artist based in Arizona.   According to Wikipedia:  "In 2007 Villafane was contacted by High Noon Entertainment and asked to participate in the Food Network's Challenge Show for a segment called "Outrageous Pumpkins". He competed against three other professional pumpkin sculptors and won all three rounds to receive the grand prize.  The Food Network contacted Villafane again in 2009 to come back to the show and defend his title. He was also the grand prize winner for the "Outrageous Pumpkin Challenge II".  In 2011, he carved the world's biggest pumpkin to resemble zombies.  He also provided pumpkins for Heidi Klum's annual Halloween party in Sin City in 2011."



Friday, November 7, 2014


Time to use up some apples!  Our apple trees had a good year and I want to be baking every day!  The only trouble is that I am the one in this household who eats the sweets.  Oh well... this is a task that I can handle!

I am always looking for relatively simple recipes that use up a lot of apples at one time.  The recipe I made today fits both those requirements.

*  3 large eggs
*  2 cups sugar
*  1 cup oil (I used olive oil.)
*  2 teaspoons vanilla extract
*  2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
*  1 teaspoon baking soda
*  1 teaspoon salt
*  2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
*  1 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
*  4 cups peeled and chopped apple
*  1 cup chopped pecans
Beat the eggs at medium speed with an electric mixer until thick and pale.  Gradually add sugar, beating until blended.  Add oil and vanilla; beat at low speed until blended.  Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; add to beaten mixture, stirring until blended.  Stir in apple and pecans.  Pour batter into a greased and floured 10-inch tube or bundt pan.  Bake at 350º for 1 hour and 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool cake in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes; remove from pan, and cool completely on wire rack.  

Source:  Southern Living 1992.

Just a little mess!

Ready to go in the oven.

A long baking time - 1-3/4 hours!

Cooling on a wire rack.

A simple dusting with powdered sugar.
As soon as the cake was cool enough to eat, I had my first piece.  Conclusion... very good BUT it will be even better with a scoop of ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce.  Next time....

Saturday, November 1, 2014


This weekend the Twin City Postcard Club is holding its semiannual postcard show and sale.  As I've mentioned previously, I was a member of the Club for many years, and I still love my thousands of antique/vintage postcards.  My love of travel is reflected in my collection of map postcards, a few of which I will share with you here.

This first postcard is a "real photo" postcard showing a map of the United States in 1968, and highlighting the states voting for Nixon, Humphrey and Wallace.  You will notice that Minnesota is shown as supporting Humphrey, which is no surprise given that Hubert H. Humphrey represented Minnesota in the U.S. Senate for two terms.  He also served as Vice President under President Lyndon B. Johnson from 1965 to 1969, and, as shown in this postcard, was the nominee of the Democratic Party in the 1968 presidential election, which he lost to the Republican nominee, Richard Nixon.

The following "Greetings from Minnesota" postcard is a cartoon showing some of the things Minnesota was known for in the early 1900's - particularly farming.  On the back of the card it states:  "Minnesota - area 84,682 sq. miles, of which 3,824 sq. miles is water; 10,000 lakes; 11th state in size; admitted to the Union in 1858.  State flower:  Moccasin Flower.  Capital - St. Paul."

The next map card of Minnesota was mailed in 1909.  On the face of the card is the Seal of Minnesota with the moniker "L'Etoile du Nord" or "Star of the North".

Early in its history the State also adopted the moniker "gopher" which is the mascot of the University of Minnesota sports teams.  The following postcard, mailed in 1908, shows Minnesota industries of Spring Wheat, Iron Ore, Dairying and Salt.  The population at the time is shown as 1,751,394.

It has been interesting living in the land of 10,000 lakes.  Summer cabins, trips to the lake, and visits to friends' cabins continue to this day for most of us.  In the Twin City Metro Area, Lake Minnetonka is well known as one of the most affluent areas.  A fun summer activity is taking a boat ride around the lake, looking at the numerous mansions owned by Minnesota's rich and famous.  As an aside, Lake Minnetonka postcards are much sought after.  This postcard states that Lake Minnetonka is 20 miles long and 4 miles wide, with a shore line of over 300 miles.

Resulting from its glacial past, these lakes offer a wide range of activities including fishing, swimming, boating and, as shown in the following postcard, canoeing the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

Just west of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area is Voyagers National Park.  The name "Voyagers" (French for "traveler") reflects the early history of the area as a large fur trading route of early French entrepreneurs.  The Park, established in 1975, is not shown in this U.S. Map of National Parks in 1966, the 50th anniversary of the National Park Service.  Here's an interesting side note:  The rocks at Voyagers National Park are older than those found at the bottom of the Grand Canyon!

Itasca State Park in northwestern Minnesota is the headwaters of the Mississippi River which runs south through the continental U.S. and into the Gulf of Mexico.

Many of us remember "Mark Twain" (nom de plume of Samuel L. Clemens)  and his tales of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer.  This postcard is identified as the "Mark Twain Literary Map" in the Mark Twain Hotel Lobby in Hannibal, Missouri.

I hope you have enjoyed this little travelogue, via postcards, of Minnesota.

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