Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Back-to-school meetings, PTA boards, church committees, and teacher conferences only mean one thing . . . soup for dinner. Here's a perfect one for the busy days of fall.

Autumn Minestrone

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Vidalia onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
3 zucchini squash (not peeled), chopped into 1/4 inch dice
1 can tomato paste
1 can butter beans
1 can kidney beans
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 cup pepperoni slices, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups water
2 cups beef stock

In a stockpot, saute onion in olive oil over medium heat for five minutes. Add garlic and saute another ten minutes. Add celery, green pepper, and squash and saute another five minutes.

Add the water and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add tomato paste, butter beans, kidney beans, oregano, and basil. Simmer for 45 minutes. Add pepperoni. Salt and pepper to taste. Simmer another 10 minutes and serve.

Can make a double recipe and freeze half. Serves 8 - 10.

This soup is wonderful with a loaf of bread and a glass of red wine--for the adults, of course!

Friday, September 7, 2012


This is a favorite recipe, given to me by my husband's Aunt Carol. Since Carol and her twin brother (my father-in-law) turn 80 this weekend, I wanted to celebrate by making this cake. We'll just forget the chocolate birthday cake I made yesterday for my husband because bathing suit season is over!

Chocolate Pudding Cake

1 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons Hershey's®  Cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup Hershey's®  Cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups boiling water

Hard Sauce:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1 Tablespoon milk or brandy (your preference)
1 dash almond extract

Heat oven to 350º F. Lightly butter a 9-inch square glass baking pan. 
In a medium-sized bowl, stir together flour, sugar, 3 Tablespoons cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Mix in milk, oil, and vanilla. Spread batter evenly in pan.
Combine brown sugar and the 1/4 cup cocoa and sprinkle the dry ingredients over the batter. Slowly pour boiling hot water over the batter and brown sugar mixture and bake for 40 - 45 minutes, until top is set. 

While cake is baking, cream together butter and sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Slowly beat in milk or brandy and the drop of almond essence.

Let cake stand for 5 minutes before spooning into dessert dishes. Serve with hard sauce.

Make sure you have glasses of cold milk ready! 

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Today is my husband's birthday, with my children's birthday coming up in a few days. This time of year, besides presents and candles, the one thing they all ask for is my triple-layer chocolate cake with homemade cocoa frosting. And with smiles like these, how can I say no?

Triple Layer Chocolate Cake with Cocoa Frosting

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups cold water
1 cup corn oil
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
5 cups powdered sugar
8 Tablespoons (or more) whole milk
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup plus 3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter and flour three 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Sift dry ingredients into medium bowl. Mix water, oil and vanilla in a large bowl. Whisk in dry ingredients. Divid among pans. Sprinkle 1/2 cup chocolate chips over batter in each pan.

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on a rack for 30 minutes. Cut around sides of pan to loosen cakes. Turn cakes out. Cool completely.

Beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually beat in 3 cups sugar. Beat in 8 Tablespoons milk and the vanilla. Add in cocoa and remaining 2 cups sugar, beat until blended, thinning with more milk if necessary.

Place 1 cake layer, chocolate chips side up, on a cake plate. Spread 2/3 cup frosting over top. Cover with second cake, chocolate chips side up. Spread 2/3 cup frosting over top. Top with remaining cake layer, chocolate chips side up. Spread frosting over sides and top of cake.

Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome and let stand at room temperature.

Serves 8-10.

This cake needs a tall glass of cold milk and maybe some ice cream!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


My roses are fading and the kids headed back to school today. That means the nights will start to cool and the evenings will be filled with kid activities and homework. So hot soup will become a weekly supper event in our fall household. And this is one of my favorites!


2 pounds butternut squash (or a combination of winter squash and butternut squash)
2 Tablespoons butter
2 cups chopped Vidalia onions
1 1/2  teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
1 cinnamon stick
4 cups chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450º.

Peel the squash and cut into 3-inch chunks.  Put the squash and 1 cup of water into a glass roasting pan and bake until squash is tender, 30 - 40 minutes. Take out of oven and cool in pan.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until onions are soft and translucent, about 15 minutes. Add the spices and the cinnamon stick, stirring constantly for five minutes. Add the chicken stock and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and discard.

Add the cooled roasted squash to the saucepan and puree with an inverted blender until smooth. Reheat soup and add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 6. This soup can be made three days in advance and/or frozen for up to two months.

NOTE: Serve with a side salad and warm baguette. Chocolate pudding would make a wonderful dessert!

Do you have a favorite soup recipe you'd like to share? I'd love to know!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


To my sister-in-law Kieran Kramer, congratulations on the release of Loving Lady Marcia!
(aka The Pink Book!)

So Kieran, in honor of your book's birthday, here is a virtual pink bouquet from my garden "picked" just for you. I know it's not a delivery, but at least the blooms will last forever. I hope you enjoy it!

Kieran, I am so proud of you! Congratulations on Loving Lady Marcia. You deserve it!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


For after all the best thing one can do when 
it is raining, is to let it rain.
 - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
But once it stops pull on your boots, grab your camera, and head out to the garden. Because this is what you might find . . .

 I hope you all have a moment today to spend time in a garden.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Isn't this one of the loveliest covers ever?
And to show my thanks to Máire for sharing her cover with me, I'm asking you to tweet the link to this cover to all of your followers. 
Why am I showing my appreciation?
Because it's been a long, dark winter.  

I know it's a strange thing to say since the weather has been so mild and my garden is in full bloom a week before Mother's Day.  
But as many of you already know in February my CP and best friend Karen Johnston was diagnosed with brain cancer,
and for months I've blocked out the world and stayed silent.

Then yesterday something amazing happened to draw me back to blogs, loops, and all things Social Media. One of my Golden Heart sisters and fellow Duchess, Maire Claremont, sent me a link to the cover of her dark Victorian debut novel The Dark Lady. It is one of the most beautiful covers I've seen in a long, long time, and it reminded me of why I spend so much time at my desk writing stories.

A cover like this makes all the rejections worth it. 

This cover proves that if you don't give up amazing things can happen. Unpublished authors can achieve their dreams and sometimes friends can recover from cancer.
The bonus is that Máire's fabulous cover is only eclipsed by the story itself:

The Dark Lady
Childhood affection leads to adult romance in this haunting love story and captivating debut that shifts from the wretched hell of a cruel insane asylum to the lavish ballrooms of London’s high society. 

Lord Ian Blake failed to keep the oath he made to his childhood friend Eva that he would bring her husband Hamilton back from India. Though his heart longs for her forgiveness, he knows he doesn’t deserve it, as he is responsible for Hamilton’s death. And not only has Ian failed Eva, he has returned to England too late. Eva’s brother-in-law has locked her away in a madhouse. Nothing will stop Ian from saving the beautiful, independent girl he’s always loved and claiming her—at long last—as his wife.

Lady Eva Carin doesn’t think she deserves to return to society, not after the death of both her husband and young son. When her childhood friend appears in the dismal asylum for women to save her, she cannot ignore the hope that sparks in her heart. Against all odds, fate has reunited her with the one man she has ever loved, but he turned his back on her once before. How will she be able to trust him again?

And for those of us with little patience, Pocket Books has put up a sample chapter for The Dark Lady, and the sexy, lyrical writing (yes, those two words do work well together) will pull you in and not let go. 
Like I mentioned above I have a huge favor to ask. Please send The Dark Lady link to your favorite Social Media sites. Twitter, Facebook, and anything else you can think of. I know Máire will appreciate it as much as I do.
And, I humbly ask again, please keep Karen and her three children in your prayers. They mean more than you can know.