SOL 11: Art

But I don’t wanna go to bed. The sun is still up.

Daylight savings time is killer on a toddler’s routine. She gets out of her bed every 10-15 minutes until close to 9:30. Tomorrow morning is going to be awful. I need to wake her at 6:00 AM when her little body still thinks it’s 5:00 AM.

Come morning, I bribe her to get out of bed with the promise of some TV before we leave…as long as she gets a move on.

It’s not time to go to school, Mama. It’s too dark outside.

She’s right. Just last week the sun threatened to burn a hole through your eyes when we pulled from the garage. Leaving home in the dark has a certain kind of eeriness about it…so much more so than coming home in the dark.

Along our way to school, the sky begins to brighten and we can see the trucks hauling their cargo beside us. It’s a new favorite game of ours.

What’s in that truck, Mom?

I think it’s a whole bunch of balloons.

And that one?

It must be macaroni and cheese.

It’s a fun game that began one day when she saw a large salad painted onto the side of a semi as we traveled our familiar route.

Look. God is painting the sky this morning.

When I look at the horizon, my heart stops. She’s right. It’s so beautiful that it could only have been created by God.

I think my Angels are helping him. They like to paint.

These are such wise words from a child who has never really spent a Sunday morning in church. Although we talk about God and she unfortunately is all too familiar with angels, we don’t attend any sort of formal religious services. We pray pretty regularly a simple prayer of Thank you, God, for…and please keep safe… Of course, we talk about our Angel Grandmas–we have all too many of those. Although we are fortunate to have many Grandfathers, we are light on Grandmas as they have all been called to heaven much earlier than anyone could have ever anticipated.

My Angels are good painters. Do you see all that pink, Mama? That’s my favorite color. They know that. They are painting for me.

I’m sure they are, Little One. I’m sure they are.

I am writing for the 2019 March Slice of Life Challenge


So, I haven’t done a Memory Monday in a very long time.  I haven’t actually blogged in a long time.  I guess being pregnant keeps you just a busy as the actual baby.  What have I been doing?  Nesting.  Nesting at work and nesting at home.  My classroom is officially set up for my maternity leave.  Lessons are planned, worksheets are copied, IEPs are written.  Very little left to do and if it didn’t all get done…no one would know but me.  Nesting at home…eh.  Laundry is done.  We had two BEAUTIFUL showers hosted by our families.  So many generous gifts…so much to organize.

My mom had 6 babies in 5 pregnancies.  I remember a little about my brother Ds pregnancy but I remember a LOT about her pregnancy with the twins.  I don’t remember her being nearly as neurotic as I am.  Maybe it was because these boys were her FIFTH and SIXTH children.  Maybe it was because she had pretty much everything she ever needed so prepping wasn’t necessary.  Maybe I just don’t remember as well as I thought.  What I do remember from then and years after, were a lot of easy to prep, budget friendly meals that could be put together with a toddler attached to you legs while you fed a couple of babies.  One of our of my sister L’s favorites…was chicken and rice.  Everything gets prepped and baked in one dish making it the ultimate meal of ease.  A few pantry staples and a package of chicken and you had dinner!  So…tonight, in honor of my mom and the upcoming arrival of Baby Boss…I give you Chicken and Rice!

Chicken and Rice

  • 1 lb chicken trimmed and cut to preference–I cut into long strips (more or less as necessary)
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup (I use LF soups)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom (sub with another chicken or even celery if allergies or preferences)
  • 1 can white rice
  • 2-3 cans water or broth
  • onion soup packet
  1. Mix together the rice, water/broth, and soups.  Top with chicken.  Top that with soup packet.
  2. Bake tightly covered with foil for 90 minutes on 350* to 375*
  3. Bake last 10 minutes uncovered.
  4. Serve with fresh bread.

Memory Monday: Taking Comfort

It’s been along time since I wrote for Memory Monday.  Of course, being Tuesday, I am still a bit late.

There are just those things I find most comforting.  I’m sure it is the same for everyone.  Some of my favorites include

  • the delicious scent of a pot of soup on the stovetop on a cool afternoon
  • cozy PJs in a bed with clean sheets–bonus if it was made by Marcella the super cleaning lady
  • the buttery decadence of family recipe known as Susie’s Favorite
  • and thunderstorms…

Well, it used to be thunderstorms.  As you can imagine, I lost my love of thunderstorms shortly after the flood.  I slept so soundly the night that the house flooded that I often wonder if I had woken earlier would anything have been different?  You cannot live with the shoulda, coulda, woulda‘s.  It’ll drive you batty.  Since the flood, I have been less than comforted by raindrops against my windows.  A storm now brings anxiety and stress…

…that is, until last night.  For some reason, snuggled up with the hubby, I was once again comforted by the sounds of the rain.  Maybe it was because I was just that exhausted.  Maybe it was because I finally have put it all behind me.  Who knows.  But when we went to bed at 8:00 last night…yes–8:00…I drifted off into a peaceful sleep waking only to lulled back again by nature’s lullaby.  I would like to imagine I had a lazy little smile on my face but that would be silly.  I was probably mouth breathing and drooling a bit.  Regardless, last night, I was comforted once again.

This weekend I indulged in another comfort, the infamous Susie’s Favorite.  I am sure that it was designed to feed a lot of hungry mouths for not a lot of money.  Most people are a little boggled by this bizarre family pasta that brings me back to the house on Ridgeway with the tiny kitchen.  I remember having it most often on Friday’s during lent or Saturday afternoons at Grandma’s house.  It could be made without milk–which I am sure we were always out of with 6 kids gulping it down at every meal.  I would guess that it has more bang for your buck over a few boxes of mac and cheese.  Nevertheless, it is the taste of my childhood.  Having introduced some childhood and college friends to this yummy dish, I am sure we were the craziest family out there to pass this off as some sort of normal meal.  I put it up there with those tomatoes with bread: an acquired taste that just reminds you of home.  Although I never asked {damn}, I am sure that the one-pot-wonder was named after my Aunt Sue.  I imagine that us 6 McKenna kids turned our noses up at this orange colored, mac and cheese wannabe.  Then I am guessing that my mom called it Aunt Susie’s Favorite.  Who could argue with that review?

Susie’s Favorite

1-8 oz. box of small pasta (my mom always used elbows while grandma’s house usually had shells–I like the shells better but will settle for whatever is in the pantry)
1 can tomato soup
1/2 stick butter or margarine

Make the noodles according the the directions on the box.
Drain and return to the pot.
Add the can of tomato soup and the butter–NO WATER…trust me!
Stir until the butter is melted and serve immediately.


I know. I know.  It’s not Monday.  But the week was a busy one and it pretty much feels like Monday.

My mom was a sucker for a casserole.  It stretched a buck and hid a variety of veggies even the pickiest of eaters could enjoy.  Better yet, it was easy to add rice or pasta so that even if one of the neighbor kids stayed for dinner, there would be plenty to go around.  A family favorite was Chicken Surprise given to my mom by her BFF, D.  It was a tasty little concoction with chicken…duh…broccoli, and a killer sauce that had a base of the cream soup pantry staple.  We LOVED it.  Really.  It was a meal that pretty much everyone in the family would gobble up with out complaint.  Imagine MY surprise when a friend of mine gave me a recipe called chicken divan that was pretty much the same recipe.  Paula Deen had stolen D’s recipe…

Regardless, that recipe, both D’s and Paula’s, will pretty much add 5 pounds to the scale and more than a few inches to your waistline.  After many years of WW, I am pretty good at lightening up a recipe.  I was certain I could work wonders with this one and I did!!  Check out the changes I made below.  I made some common sense swaps, lessoned the amount of pasta (who needs THAT much), and tweaked the sauce a bit.  Even WITH the addition of pasta, the way my mom always made it, I was able to get the points plus value down to 11PP from 19PP.  With my mom’s pasta addition, the full fat version was a whopping TWENTY FOUR points plus.  WOW!

Enjoy this as an all inclusive meal: protein, starch, and veggie.  You can round it out with a fruit dessert or add a light green salad.

LOW FAT Chicken Surprise–11PP

20 oz cooked frozen chopped broccoli
20 oz cooked skinless boneless chicken breast, about 2 lbs raw–trimmed
2 cans low fat cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup light mayo
1/2 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
8 oz uncooked pasta (elbows or shells)
3/4 cup 2% shredded cheddar
3 Tbsp l Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter–LIGHT
1 Tbsp lemon juice
3/4 cup whole grain/wheat bread crumbs

  1. Trim and poach the chicken until cooked through.
  2. Dice or shred.
  3. Mix together the yogurt, soup, mayo, and lemon juice.
  4. Cook the pasta until mostly cooked through.
  5. Mix 1/4 of the sauce with the hot pasta.
  6. Mix the additional sauce with the broccoli and the chicken.
  7. Layer the pasta then chicken in a sprayed pan.
  8. Melt margarine and mix with bread crumbs.
  9. Top the casserole with cheese then buttered bread crumbs.
  10. Bake for 30 minutes at 350*

FULL FAT Chicken Surprise–24PP (19PP without pasta)

20 oz cooked frozen chopped broccoli
8 cooked skinless boneless chicken breasts
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 cup mayo
16 oz uncooked pasta (elbows or shells)
1 cup shredded cheddar
1/4 cup butter
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 cup bread crumbs

  1. Trim and poach the chicken until cooked through.
  2. Dice or shred.
  3. Mix together the soup, mayo, and lemon juice.
  4. Cook the pasta until mostly cooked through.
  5. Mix 1/4 of the sauce with the hot pasta.
  6. Mix the additional sauce with the broccoli and the chicken.
  7. Layer the pasta then chicken in a sprayed pan.
  8. Melt margarine and mix with bread crumbs.
  9. Top the casserole with cheese then buttered bread crumbs.
  10. Bake for 30 minutes at 350*

MONDAY MEMORY: gobbledy…what?

Remember those meals your mom used to make when you were a kid that you absolutely hated?

Liver and onions anyone? Yuck.

For me, that meal was pot roast. As a matter of fact–once when she made it when I was in 7th or 8th grade–I announced that I had given up eating red meat and therefore could not partake in the wretched pot roast. Imagine my surprise when that backfired on me the next night since my mom was serving grilled cheeseburgers. How disappointing.

Goodbye pepperoni and sausage pizza.

Goodbye BBQ ribs.

Goodbye steak.

What was I thinking? I held my ground, though. I remained a chicken and turkey only eater for about 8 years. Then, with just one tentative nibble of a juicy cheeseburger, I was back to carnivore-land.

Since then, I realized my palate has changed…matured over time. When my mom made pot roast post college, not only did I like it–I LOVED it!! My mom made her pot roast the same way I assume many other moms made theirs: giant chunk-o-beef, dry onion soup packet, water. Fairly simple and straight forward.

However, I assume that most moms did NOT serve some bizarre warm stewed tomatoes with bread concoction alongside their pot roast…at least I don’t think they did. No one I know has ever even heard of this.

So today, when I was making my own Pinterest version of pot roast, I did a little investigating about this tomato dish. Apparently it’s really a thing. I always thought my mom or grandma had made it up out of necessity: too many cans of tomatoes + too much stale bread = world’s most peculiar side dish.  


It’s called Gobbledygook. Really. I found a recipe for it here. It’s a southern dish so I am not really sure how this Chicago based family got their hands on this strange recipe.  We make ours just a wee bit different but the idea is the same.

Now, I have to say, this stuff is pretty damn good. It’s as simple as can be and just reminds me of my mom. Growing up, though, my mom was the only one who would eat it. I remember my sister eventually enjoying it but that was about it. The first time I made it for my husband he was more than a bit suspicious of this stuff. Last night, though, I could hardly get a second scoop before he polished it off.  An OJO tradition now a Bossenga tradition.

So, to accompany my Pinterest Pot Roast (recipe found here), I give you the Ojo Stewed Tomatoes with Bread–apparently otherwise known as gobbledygook. Keep in mind, I’ve been trying to eliminate packets from the pantry entirely. That being said, I have created my own version of a ranch dressing packet and italian dressing packet using herbs and spices for the roast (I’ll have more about that soon). Although I did use a gravy packet, next time I will use some beef broth thickened with a little roux instead.

Stewed Tomatoes with Bread

  • 1-15 oz can diced tomatoes (can also use stewed or whole but will have to break them down while simmering)
  • 3 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 slices white bread torn into pieces
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Add all ingredients to a small sauce pan including the liquid from the tomatoes.
  2. Allow to simmer on low for 30-45 minutes.
  3. It will thicken while simmering.
  4. Be sure to break up the larger tomatoes while heating through.
  5. This serves best with pot roast or roast beef


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Yesterday was Mother’s Day. I thought that the day would see me curled up in a ball unable to speak or see through my tears. I was wrong. I was overjoyed at seeing all people at the 15th Annual Beverly Breast Cancer Walk in support of those surviving, battling, or taken by breast cancer. We had never walked as a family before. The day my mom had her second surgery, my brother mentioned that maybe we should walk this year. Then, just two weeks ago, my dad brought it up again. We got working to put together a team and logo. Yesterday, in a sea of pink, 19 crisp white t-shirts with a beautiful butterfly and the words FIGHT STRONG stood out from the rest. Those were the people walking in honor, memory, and celebration of my mom, Debra McKenna…Grandma to some, GramCrackers to a special little one.  My mom’s familiar signature saying Love, Mom took my breath away when I first saw it.  I just felt her with me.

We gathered together in the early sun hugging and saying I love you.  We told stories that made us laugh until we teared up.  Yesterday, I didn’t let one sad tear drop.  Perhaps I had cried them all in the days prior to Mother’s Day.  Many tears fell  when thinking about my mom and all the things that were left unsaid, unseen, and unknown.  Then my sister gave me a lovely necklace Saturday afternoon.  It is a set of guardian angel wings.  There is a little story with the necklace that says to make a wish before putting it on.  It is a reminder that you are never alone.  So yesterday when I was walking and saying hello to all the people I knew walking with me, I felt my mom all around.  She was walking, too.  Although on her walk, I am sure it was snowing and she was wearing her Uggs.  She was beautiful and healthy and without pain.  She was smiling upon us all, amazed to see so many of her family and friends together in her honor.  She was getting ready to plant her summer flowers and count freckles on her grand babies.  She was happy and so was I.



MONDAY MEMORY: I Rolled ‘Em Myself

It was our fourth date, the first meal I ever made for my new beau.  I slaved all day Thursday making my mom’s spaghetti and meatballs.  Everyone loved her sauce and I was certain that by making it, he was going to fall in love with me!  The night before, as I was finishing up cooling the big pot, I casually asked him while chatting on the phone what he had for dinner.  Imagine my heart sinking when he told me spaghetti.  I was devastated.  It was one of the few dishes in my repertoire that I was confident I could get right.  I had to go to plan B–lemon chicken.  It turned out delicious but didn’t have the impact I’m sure the spaghetti would have had.

Flash forward several months when I made spaghetti and meatballs again.  It was a HIT.  My guy declared it better than his grandma’s–SORRY GRAM!  He asked me if the meatballs were homemade because they were really, rEALLY good. I looked him dead in the eye and said, “I rolled ’em myself!”  See…this was my mom’s secret recipe.  I’m not sure if it was passed down over generations, but I can tell you my sisters and I all make the meatballs the exact same way.  And now, I’ll share that secret with you:  2 pounds of S&T meatball mix…then roll ’em yourself and toss into the sauce.  The cat’s out of the bag.  We don’t actually MIX the meatballs–we just roll them.  The premixed, spiced and seasoned meat makes the perfect addition to your red sauce.  This stuff is seriously amazing.  My sister and I have even talked about forming into burgers and serving it on garlic toast.  They are really THAT good.

It wasn’t until about 4 or 5 months ago that I finally came clean to my now hubby.  I’m sure he always wondered why I could ONLY buy my meat for meatballs at S&T. I could never make the recipe without planning WAY ahead to go to the old neighborhood to grab the beloved meatball mix.  I told him it was just something about the way they ground the beef/pork mixture.  I didn’t exactly lie…but I did omit the part where they did all the hard work!

After mom passed away, spaghetti and meatballs would be the first meal we ate together as a family.  My sister prepared the sauce and rolled the meatballs herself.  It was just as we had all remembered.  Mom never wrote the recipe down.  And as I’ve talked to my sisters, she may have made it a tiny bit differently each time…so I’m sure our recipes differ just a little. But Mom and I made it together many times over the almost year my husband and I lived there.  This is the recipe I remember.  The taste is perfection.  It’s a sweeter sauce, thinner than some others you may have had.  It takes only about 10-15 minutes to toss together.  The longer it simmers the more delicious it gets.  I’ve been known to make it the day before then add the raw meatballs and sauce to the crockpot the morning of.  It’s an extremely cost effective meal to serve to a large family–which is why I’m sure we had it so often.

It will forever be the first family recipe I remember learning.  It’s the taste of my childhood.  Just the smell of onions and garlic bring me back to the house on Ridgeway–walking in after school to discover our favorite meal was being served: homemade spaghetti and meatballs–where the McKenna women roll ’em themselves.


Mom’s Spaghetti Sauce


2 medium or 3 small onions finely chopped

3-4 cloves garlic pressed or chopped

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

1-15 ounce can tomato puree

1-29 ounce can tomato paste

¾ paste can of water

1-29 ounce puree can of water

1 tablespoon salt

¼ cup sugar

2 tablespoons dried basil

2-3 dry bay leaf

2 pounds S&T meatball mix


  1. Heat oil on medium-high heat.

  2. Add onion and garlic.

  3. Sauté until onion is translucent but not burned (if garlic has burned you must start over).

  4. Add the tomato paste and mix it into the onions and garlic until fragrant (about a minute or so).

  5. Add ¾ of the paste can filled with water and stir until well combined.

  6. Add tomato puree and a tomato puree can of full of water.

  7. Add sugar, salt, basil, and bay.

  8. Allow to simmer as long as possible on LOW stirring to avoid burning.

  9. Adjust seasonings (salt, sugar, and basil).

  10. Serve over pasta.

  11. If you want to add meatballs, roll 2 pounds of S&T Meatball Mix and add to the sauce raw.

  12. Allow to simmer until cooked through—at least an hour.


Monday was my husband’s birthday.  Last year, just a few days before, the house flooded.  You can read about that day HERE.  We spent his special day emptying the house of all our personal belongings.  We sang Happy Birthday over a double cheeseburger from McDonald’s.  His gift was delivered to a house that was torn into pieces.  It was his 35th birthday.  By the way…it was a fantastic HD projector with a TEN FOOT screen for watching movies in the backyard.  The screen is in my brother’s garage the and projector is still in the box.


So this year I wanted to do something a special as a 35th birthday REDO.  Yesterday I wrote about the meal we had at Drury Lane to celebrate our first Valentine’s Day, our first anniversary, and my birthday.  It was an eventful weekend for sure!  The dish both of us sometimes still drool over was delicious braised short ribs in a mushroom ragu.  That’s what my dear hubby wanted for his birthday.  How on earth was I supposed to recreate THAT?!?  I scoured the internet and couldn’t find a single recipe that hit all the same flavor notes.  I did find something to work with though…THAT is why I love cooking and detest baking!  I used this recipe from Bobby Flay as a base.  After reading through it, I was certain that this would be the most complex flavor profile I had yet created.  What bubbled away on the stovetop was a rich, layered dish full of bold flavors and tender short ribs.  Do not let the ingredient list or number of steps deter you.  It was not nearly as difficult as I anticipated.  The work was well worth it!!  Of course, for dessert, we enjoyed cheesecake–my husband’s all time favorite treat.  As a non-baker, I purchased the cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory.  Someday I will tackle the baker’s pantry.  Just not today!



Total Time:
4 hr 15 min
Prep:  30 min
Cook:  3 hr 45 min
Yield: 6-8 servings

A rich deeply flavored sauce over fluffy potato pasta pillows--the perfect birthday dinner comfort food for a cool rainy night

a rich, deeply-flavored braised short rib ragu full of earthy mushrooms over fluffy potato pasta pillows–the perfect birthday dinner comfort food for a cool rainy night

2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
3 1/2 to 4 pounds short ribs, each about 2-inches long
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 package dry porcini  mushrooms
10 ounce Baby Bella mushrooms chopped
2 dried bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh rosemary chopped
5 sprigs fresh thyme chopped
2 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley chopped
4 small carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 small onions, diced
2 medium shallots, diced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bottle red wine, such as cabernet
1/2 head garlic, cloves separated, peeled, and chopped
3 1/2 cups beef stock (I used boxed)
2 beef bouillon cubes
2 lbs gnocchi
2 tablespoons butter.
grated Pecorino Romano, for garnish
Heat oven to 325*
  1. In a medium sauce pan–reconstitute dried mushrooms in broth along with bouillon cubes until tender. 
  2. Remove mushrooms with slotted spoon and roughly chop reserving broth.
  3. Over medium heat, add oil a 5-quart casserole or Dutch oven until almost smoking.
  4. Season short ribs generously with salt and pepper and brown on both sides.
  5. Remove ribs from casserole, and transfer to a large bowl–set aside.
  6. Add carrots, celery, onion, fresh and reconstituted mushrooms, and shallots to oil in the casserole, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and golden, about 10 minutes.
  7. Add flour and tomato paste to the casserole, and stir to combine. 
  8. Add 1 cup of wine; stir with wooden spoon until all browned bits have been scraped from the pan and the bottom of the casserole is clean. 
  9. Add remainder of red wine, and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. 
  10. Add garlic, beef-mushroom stock, chopped herbs, bay leaves, browned ribs to the casserole and bring the liquid to a simmer over medium-high heat. 
  11. Cover the casserole, and place it in the oven for 3 hours or until ribs are very tender.
  12. Remove the cooked ribs from the casserole. 
  13. Set the casserole on the stove top over medium heat, and simmer to thicken sauce just slightly. 
  14. As soon as the short ribs are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones, and shred into small pieces. 
  15. Degrease the sauce and discard the bay leaved. 
  16. Return shredded meat to casserole and simmer until thickened.  
  17. Prepare the gnocchi according to package directions–being sure to add plenty of salt.
  18. After drained, add a couple pats of butter to the pan–allowing to melt completely.
  19. Add the drained gnocchi to the butter and saute until lightly golden brown.
  20. Add just a little ragu to the gnocchi to coat.
  21. Portion out and add additional ragu and cheese to the top.
  22. Serve with crusty bread.



MONDAY MEMORY: Easter Traditions

This Easter was the first holiday without my mom.  Although it was tough one, family traditions seemed to help comfort us with shared memories from Easter mornings past.


This year, each little sub-family had so many other things going on that we were separated on Easter Sunday itself.  Instead, on Saturday, we celebrated my nephew’s 9th birthday along with an early Easter party at the YMCA followed by a low key meal shared together afterward.  My sister is a fantastic cook who can put most people to shame.  So when she asked me to make my homemade mac and cheese, I was more than thrilled that she would want my dish to accompany her delicious concoctions!  It was a beautifully sunny day to share with family and friends…the kind of day that my mom loved.  Each year, she spent many hours gathering the perfect gifts for each grandchild’s Easter basket.  Rather then letting the tradition go, we modified it just a little.  Each godparent put together a basket for their godchild.  I had a blast choosing the perfect superhero bucket, PJs (a grandma special), candies, and a few Aunt KK originals like a new toothbrush, a jump rope, and some silly putty!  A HUGE Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup made my godson the happiest kid on the block.  I’m pretty sure that he had never even seen Silly Putty before…can you even believe that?!?!


Easter itself was a bit more low key.  My sisters spent the day with their little families since we were all together the day before.  I put together a simple brunch for my brothers, dad, husband, uncle, and our dear family friend at my dad’s house.  Of course, the famous party potatoes were on the menu along with a variation of my aunt’s stuffed French toast, a delicious eggs Benedict casserole, deviled eggs, fresh fruit, and Grandma O’s cream cheese coffee cake.  It is truly the PERFECT cake.  It is dense enough to enjoy as breakfast with a bold cup of coffee but light enough to add to brunch as a dessert.  It was one of my mom’s favorite treats…I must have made it a half dozen times in the weeks she was home recovering from her operations.  Now, those of you that know me, know that I am NO BAKER!  I actually despise baking.  It is too technical and leaves no room for error.  I prefer the freedom cooking offers me…a little of this and a little of that and a meal is served.  However, at the request of my mom, I made it a couple years ago.  It’s since been one of the few baked goods I have mastered.  I did make just a one tweak to it over the last few years…nothing that changes the perfect consistency of the cake, but just enough to make it my own.  I have to say, my mom loved my addition but always insisted that it needed the icing.  I never did add the icing preferring the buttery cinnamon strudel to shine on its own but feel free to add it for an extra sweet kick.  No fancy ingredients needed for this one.  I usually have pretty much everything on hand in the pantry and fridge.


As I sit and plan my Monday off {including a couple of surprises to help celebrate my husband’s birthday tonight} I am enjoying a slice of cream cheese coffee cake and a cup of tea enjoyed Mom’s way…with a little milk and sugar.  I am flooded with memories of past Easter mornings hunting for the SIX dozen brightly colored eggs (a dozen for each kid), ham glazed with 7-up, and of course Grandma O’s coffee cake.  Adding something so familiar made this holiday a little less bitter and an bit more sweet.


As for my husband’s birthday today, he asked if I could possibly recreate a meal we had our first Valentine’s Day together.  He had surprised me with a weekend full of fun activities to celebrate Valentine’s Day, my birthday, and our first anniversary.  At Drury Lane, before enjoying a super fun performance of Monty Python, I ordered braised short ribs with mushroom ragu over gnocchi.  I am making an attempt at this meal with complex flavors.  I am using this recipe from Bobby Flay as a base to build in the other flavors we both remember.  If all turns out, I’ll try to post the recipe with my additions soon.


Cream Cheese Coffee Cake–GRANDMA O’S ORIGINAL

30-40 minutes–when toothpick comes out clean
1 large cream cheese–softened
1 stick margarine–softened
1¼ c sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
2 c flour
2 t baking powder
½ t baking soda
½ t salt
½ c milk
½ c butter–chop while still cold
Coat with
   ½ c flour
   ½ c sugar
1 c powdered sugar
2 T warm milk
½ t vanilla
  1. Make the topping and put back in the fridge to keep cold.
  2. Cream margarine and cream cheese.  
  3. Add sugar and beat together.  
  4. Add eggs and vanilla and beat together.  
  5. Add flour, powder, soda, salt and milk and beat together.
  6. Pour batter into a greased 9×13 pan.  
  7. Sprinkle sugared/floured butter on top of coffee cake.
  8. Bake 30 minutes in 9×13.
  9. When cool, make icing by mixing ingredients until smooth.
  10. Drizzle on coffee cake and allow to harden.  
Cream Cheese Coffee Cake–FROM KARYN’S KITCHEN

30-40 minutes–when toothpick comes out clean
1 large cream cheese–softened
1 stick margarine–softened
1¼ c sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
2 c flour
2 t baking powder
½ t baking soda
½ t salt
½ c milk
½ c butter–chop while still cold
Coat with
   ½ c flour
   ½ c sugar
   1 t cinnamon (my ONE change)
  1. Make the topping and put back in the fridge to keep cold.
  2. Cream margarine and cream cheese.
  3. Add sugar and beat together.
  4. Add eggs and vanilla and beat together.
  5. Add flour, powder, soda, salt and milk and beat together.
  6. Pour batter into a greased 9×13 pan.
  7. Sprinkle sugared/floured butter on top of coffee cake.
  8. Bake 30 minutes in 9×13.