21 September, 2016  |   Comment

Repost! Wine Wednesday: Wine Cake Recipe

Wine Cake is our town’s go-to fundraiser cake. If you know exactly which women’s auxillary group has it for sale, you could even find it at the Harvest Festival and pet parade.

Thanks to a sticky glaze, Wine Cake is squishy and sweet and super-delicious. We serve it with barely sweetened whipped cream and all the berries.

Wine Cake Recipe


Cake ingredients

1 box yellow cake mix
1 three and a half ounce box instant vanilla pudding
1 cup white wine (I like Sutter Home’s Sauvignon Blanc for cooking)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs

Glaze Ingredients
1 stick butter, cut into chunks
1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup white wine

Directions
Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease and flour a 10″ Bundt pan or grease and flour one and a half cupcake pans.

Combine the yellow cake mix, box of instant vanilla pudding, white wine, vegetable oil and all four eggs in a large bowl and beat with a well-muscled arm or (my preference) an electric mixer.

Pour the batter into your choice of pan.

If you’re going the Bundt route, put the filled cake pan in the oven for 45-50 minutes. Cupcakes should only take about 20 minutes.

About 10 minutes before the cake is done, make the glaze by stirring the butter with the water, sugar and white wine over medium heat until dissolved. Increase the heat and bring to a bubbly boil. Be careful, for it is sugar and can hurt you badly if it spilled on your skin. Remove the danger pot from heat. Set aside.

Remove the cake or cupcakes from the oven and let the pan cool for 10 minutes.

If using the Bundt pan, poke holes in the bottom (top) of the cake. Pour 1/2 of the glaze into and around the holes. Let the cake absorb the glaze. If you’re working with cupcakes, remove all from the pan and set on a tray upside down. Poke holes in the bottom of the cakes and pour the glaze into your holes.

Invert the cake onto a serving dish and drizzle the rest of the glaze on top. You may need to do this in several batches. Serve and await the cheers and happy hollers.

14 September, 2016  |   1 Comment

Repost: Helen Jane’s Minestrone Soup Recipe

  • Seasons, seasons.
    This month seems all about revisiting things after taking a break from them.
    Sometimes the things are relationships, sometimes they’re beliefs, and sometimes they’re hobbies.

I’ve taken a big break from my blog, no surprise. Due to a combination of time and social media and a personal turn to the more private, this seems like the worst, most dangerous hobby in the world. Of course, I miss it.

Lately, due to wonky plug-ins and comments, I’ve had to go back in the archives.
I’m surprised at all the energy and adjectives.
I shared so much.
I’m not much like that anymore.

But all those past, bubbly posts remind me that I’ve shared some useful things. We still eat this soup nearly every other week. In fact, we ate it Monday.

Eat this with grilled cheeses and grapes

When I first made this recipe, we had no kids. I had more energy and adjectives. I shared so much.

Things change. Soup remains.

Now, this minestrone soup recipe is the most effective way I have to cram veggies into the girls. I make it on Sunday, we eat it on Monday. We eat it up and ask for seconds, not realizing the cabbage, greens, beans and lycopene doing their healthfuls.

Minestrone Soup is good for your ass and ass.

Helen Jane’s Minestrone Soup Recipe

Ingredients
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 pieces raw bacon, chopped fine
1 large onion, chopped fine
3 stalks celery, chopped fine
3 carrots, peeled, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic
1/2 green cabbage, sliced into thin ribbons
6 leaves swiss chard, stripped from the stems and sliced into thin ribbons
1 32 ounce can of chopped tomatoes
2 quarts chicken broth
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 bay leaf
2 cups water
1 16 ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed – we like butter beans
1/4 cup tiny star shaped pasta or 1/3 cup Ditalini pasta.
A block of parmesan cheese and a fine grater

Directions
Chop the onion, celery and carrots fine. You want them small, especially if small mouths are consuming. Mince garlic. Slice the cabbage fine. Remove stems from swiss chard and slice fine. Open the can of tomatoes.

Veggies are ready.

Warm olive oil over medium heat in a large dutch oven or soup pot. Add the chopped bacon and stir until the bacon is cooked through and fat has melted down.

Remove the bacon from the oil to drain on paper towels. Add onions, celery, carrots, salt, pepper and bay leaf to the pot.

Stir and cook veggies for 2-3 minutes.
Add garlic, cabbage and kale and stir frequently until mixed through and limp.
Add can of tomatoes, chicken broth and water.

Stir through until everything is mixed. Turn heat to high, bring the soup to a boil and then turn to low and simmer. If I have a random Parmesan cheese rind, this is when I add it. If you have no Parmesan cheese rind, I promise I won’t hold it against you.

After 15 minutes, add the white beans. Cook for another 20 minutes, add the pasta (if you’re using) and cook until the pasta is tender (7-10 minutes, depending on the size). Remove bay leaves, taste and adjust salt and pepper.

Leave the bacon out and swap the chicken broth for vegetable broth and you’re looking a little Vegan around the edges.

Serve with sprinkled reserved bacon (this keeps it crunchy) and a healthy scattering of grated Parmesan cheese.
(Sometimes, when lilygilding, I drizzle olive oil over the whole thing.)

We serve this soup with grilled cheese or panini and a chopped antipasti salad. The girls eat it up. Now you can too.

3 February, 2016  |   Comment

Helen Jane’s Granola Recipe

I feel like this should be said in the tone of the Law & Order beginning. (Indulge me.)

Every year, we make granola for our friends and family.
This is our recipe

Granola Jars, ready for filling.

This granola is perfect on thick yogurt. I’m currently loving it with blueberry Noosa, but you could love it with a Gogurt. I won’t judge, it’s your life, your yogurt.

Ingredients
3 cups oatmeal
1 cup almonds
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup coconut flakes
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup dried peaches, chopped small

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 350° F, and then cover a baking sheet in parchment paper and set aside.

Put the almonds in a plastic bag and smash them with a hammer or mallet until they are smaller than pea sized, but not yet dust.

In a large bowl, add oatmeal, almonds, salt and coconut flakes.

In a saucepan over low heat, mix canola oil, honey and vanilla until it is all well-blended and warm.

Combine the oatmeal and honey mixtures in the large bowl until it’s coated and spread onto the covered baking sheet.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Then stir in your cup of dried peaches.
Stir a little more.
Let cool completely on the pan.

Then squinch up the granola from the big nuggets before adding to jars.

Happy granolaing!

30 October, 2015  |   Comment

Helen Jane’s Apple Crisp Sipper

My first apartment.
Winter in Wisconsin.
Homesick.

(This is me back in the mid-nineties, all film camera and apple crisp.)
Helen Jane, mid nineties

During a particularly brutal winter, in those early grown-up years, I learned to bake apple crisp.

The ingredients?
Inexpensive staples.
The outcome?
Warm and loving.

Now that I’m in sunny Napa Valley, November temperatures can reach the nineties. So when I’m craving something cold and cozy, spiced and sweet, fresh yet comforting, I make this Apple Crisp Sipper.

Turns out, this autumn-inspired cocktail is the perfect pre-Thanksgiving cocktail. Pair with gently spiced nuts to keep guests cheerful when the turkey roasts.

Helen Jane's Apple Crisp Sipper recipe

Ingredients
2 ounces apple juice
2 ounces cranberry juice
1 ounce amaretto
2 ounces rum
2 ounces hard apple cider

Directions
Add the first four ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake and strain into an pre-iced old-fashioned glass. Fill the rest of the glass with hard apple cider. Garnish with a cinnamon-sugar crusted apple slices if you’re feeling ambitious or a cinnamon stick if you’re not.

Helen Jane's Apple Crisp Sipper recipe

Three cheers for cozy, icy drinks!