Aunt Josie’s Coconut Cake Squares aka “Snowballs”

Coconut Chocolate Snowballs

I have wonderful memories of my Aunt Josie making these for every family gathering. Aunt Josie cut the cake into squares. They were all perfectly even. I asked her how she did that. She told me that she used her cooling racks to get the lines even. She would set the cooling racks on her cake and use the wires as guides. So clever.

I never could seem to get them even, so I bake my cake in cupcake tins and call then snowballs. Whatever the shape, these little cakes are a favorite treat in my family. I made them for a recent family clambake and everyone enjoyed them. I even made a batch of gluten free ones for my cousin, Sue, who has celiac. For the gluten free ones, I just bought a gluten free cake mix.

In bakeries, you’ll find them in squares or rectangles. She shared her recipe with me a long time ago, and I am sharing it with you.

You can bake the batter in mini muffin pans or standard muffin pans. It just depends on what size you want your snowballs to be. After the cupcakes  are baked, freeze them. The frozen cakes are dipped in a chocolate sauce and then rolled in desiccated coconut.

Desiccated coconut is dried and unsweetened. It looks like coarse, white bread crumbs. You can find it in stores that carry baking supplies and at Asian markets. It is the same kind of coconut used to make coconut shrimp.

Here is the recipe for making the “snowballs”. The recipe for the cupcakes is listed below, as well. I just doubled my classic white cupcake recipe, but you could use a box mix, if you prefer.

Aunt Josie’s Coconut Cake Squares aka “Snowballs”

1 white cake, prepared and frozen solid* or cupcakes

Chocolate Sauce
1 c. unsweetened cocoa
1 1/4 c. sugar
2 c. water
1 t. vanilla

1 c. desiccated coconut (available at cake supply stores and some health food stores)

Cut frozen cake into small squares, or cake can be baked in regular or mini cupcake tins. Keep cake frozen until ready to use. Meanwhile, make the chocolate dipping sauce. Combine remaining ingredients, except coconut, in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil then simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely.
Using toothpicks or fondue forks, dip frozen cake in sauce let drain a few seconds, then roll in the coconut. Can be enjoyed right away or frozen again for later use.

*If you make the cake in muffin tins you’ll get 24 cupcakes or about 60 mini cupcakes.

Classic White Cupcakes

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with 12paper liners. In a medium bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder, add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Finally stir in the milk until batter is smooth. Pour or spoon batter into the prepared pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cupcakes are done when they springs back to the touch. Makes 12.

Classic Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict

If you are looking for a special breakfast or brunch recipe, Eggs Benedict would be a top choice for me.

Eggs Benedict are English muffins, split and toasted, topped with some lightly browned slices of ham, or more traditionally, Canadian bacon. That is topped with poached eggs and then the Hollandaise sauce. There are a lot of variations. You can add wilted spinach, bacon, crab or even lobster, if you really want to splurge. I have a vegetarian friend who subs out the meat with some asparagus or cauliflower. Whatever makes you happy, works for me.

Here are the directions for making a classic Eggs Benedict.

Eggs Benedict

English Muffins allow one per serving
Eggs – for poaching – you’ll need 2 for each serving
Ham or Canadian bacon
Hollandaise Sauce- recipes follow

Get all your ingredients ready. You’ll need a skillet with water boiling in it to poach the eggs. Add a couple of teaspoons of vinegar- it helps hold the eggs together better. Slice the ham, if needed, and brown it in a skillet. Keep warm until needed. I put the split English muffins in the toaster oven, so I could start toasting them when I started poaching the eggs. Next, make the Hollandaise sauce. I have included two ways to make your Hollandaise. One version is made in the microwave, the other with a traditional double boiler. Both come out great. For traditional Hollandaise you’ll need either a double boiler, or a pot with simmering water for this, so get it ready with hot water. For the microwave, just a glass bowl and a whisk. Recipes and directions for both versions follow.

Microwave Hollandaise

1 stick butter ( 1/2 cup)

3 egg yolks

1/2 T. lemon juice

pinch of salt

fresh ground pepper, optional

In microwave safe bowl, soften butter. This will take 10-15 seconds. Don’t melt the butter, just soften it. Watch carefully. It may take less time if the butter is already room temperature, longer if butter is cold. I often make a double batch, so allow a few more seconds for larger quantities. Whisk together the egg yolks and lemon juice. Whisk the yolk mixture into the softened butter. Let stand on the counter a minute or two. Place in microwave and cook on high heat for 15 seconds. Be careful- only 15 seconds at a time. Whisk the mixture and return to the microwave, cooking 15 seconds. Repeat this process until sauce is thickened, smooth and shiny. It should take 3-4 of these 15 second cooking sessions, but ovens vary. It takes a little longer if you double the batch. Don’t worry if the sauce doesn’t look smooth the first time you whisk all the ingredients together. It gets smoother upon further cooking/whisking. Season with salt and pepper to your own taste. Enjoy with Eggs Benedict or as a sauce for steamed veggies.

Classic Hollandaise Sauce

4 egg yolks
1 T. lemon juice
½  cup butter, melted
Salt and cayenne to taste- just a pinch of each will do.

Since I used a bowl over a pot with simmering water, I put the egg yolks in a stainless steel bowl with the lemon juice and whisked until kind of frothy. If you are using a double boiler- do that in the pot from the double boiler. Once the mixture looked thick, I placed the bowl over the pot of simmering water and whisked it for a couple of minutes to warm the eggs. The simmering water in the pot should not be deep enough to touch the bottom of the bowl. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the melted butter. Keep whisking so the mixture stays smooth. If you don’t, the eggs scramble and get all lumpy. Once all the butter is in, cook about a minute longer- or until sauce is thick and smooth. Remove from the heat, season to taste, and keep warm until ready to use. Don’t wait too long. Hollandaise is best used pretty soon after you make it. If it gets too thick, add a little warm water to thin it out.

To poach the eggs, place eggs, gently, in the simmering water- the stuff in the skillet that you added vinegar to. Some people like to have the water swirling when they do this by stirring it just before adding the eggs. I just put the eggs in gently, and it seems to work just fine. Use a slotted spoon to sort of fold the whites up over the eggs. Poach for about 3½ minutes. Whites should be set, but yolks will be runny. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on a folded towel to get off some of the water.

To assemble the eggs Benedict, place toasted English muffins halves on a plate. Top with a slice, or two, of the ham. Then gently add a poached egg on top of the ham. Spoon over the Hollandaise and serve. A little more work than most egg dishes, but worth the effort.

Zucchini and Corn Saute

Corn and Zucchini Saute

For those of you looking for another way to use some of those zucchini this dish is really fun and easy. The flavors of the zucchini, corn and peppers work really well together and makes a tasty side dish in just a few minutes. I served mine in pita bread. I sometimes add a little cheese, too.

Quick Zucchini and Corn Sauté

2 sweet peppers, seeded and cut into strips

2 medium zucchini, sliced


2 c. corn kernels cut from cobs, about 3 ears

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 t. salt

2 t. Italian seasoning

In oil, cook peppers and zucchini until crisp tender, about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and cook 4 more minutes, or until heated through. Serves 6-8.

Linguine with Clam Sauce

Linguine with Clam Sauce

This classic is one of my favorite pasta recipes. I like to keep it pretty simple. Clams, half and half, garlic, parsley and linguine. Sometimes I add a little white wine or sherry to the sauce.

I have been craving it for a few days and decided to make it for dinner yesterday. As an added bonus, it is a dish that can be prepared in no time at all.

I like the pasta to absorb flavor from the clam sauce so I cook the pasta barely to al dente. Then I add it to the clam sauce and let them cook together a few minutes. The sauce almost disappears, but the flavor of the pasta is wonderful!!

I use frozen clam meat (thawed), instead of canned clams, when I have them. I get them at my local Asian grocery store. If I do use canned clams, I drain the liquid and save it to use later in clam chowder. I just pop the liquid in the freezer.

Linguine with Clam Sauce

1 T. oil or butter

2 cloves garlic, minced- you can add more garlic

2 cans, 10 oz. each, whole clams, drained*

½ c. white wine or dry sherry, optional

1 c. finely chopped parsley

1 c. half and half or milk

1 T. lemon juice

Salt and Pepper to taste

1 lb. linguine

Heat oil in skillet and sauté garlic until tender. Add clams, wine or sherry, if using, and parsley and cook over medium heat 5 minutes. Add half and half, lemon juice, salt and pepper and simmer 5 more minutes. Sauce should start to reduce a little. Meanwhile prepare linguine al dente. Drain pasta and transfer to the skillet. Toss with the sauce and simmer together a few minutes. Pasta will absorb some of the liquid. Adjust seasonings. Transfer to serving bowl.  Makes 6 servings.  

* Rather than using canned clams, I have been using frozen, cooked clams that I get at the Asian grocery store. A one-pound bag gives me a lot of clam meat for the sauce. Thaw and drain before using in this recipe.       

 For linguine with a red clam sauce just substitute 1-2 cups of your favorite spaghetti sauce for the milk and lemon juice. Serve with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

Homemade Plum Jam

This is one of the easiest jams you can make. You don’t need pectin and it cooks pretty quickly into sweet, thick jammy goodness. I prefer a softer set, so I stopped cooking mine a little sooner than you might prefer. I like a jam that spreads easily, even after it has been opened and stored in the fridge. I love this jam.

I did a test with just a couple of plums. The flavor was great, but some of the pieces of the peel seemed too big. I could see them in the finished jam. To insure the skins got chopped up, I cooked my jam for awhile then used an immersion blender to smooth it out. This is just a cosmetic preference. You can just cook down chopped up plums and they will be fine.

So here is the recipe. I got it from the NCHFP website. The only changes I made was to up the processing time to 10 minutes, so I didn’t have to sterilize the jars. I also let the jam sit in the canner a few extra minutes to prevent siphoning.

Plum Jam

2 quarts chopped, pitted tart plums (about 4 pounds) – any plums will work

6 cups sugar

1½ cup water

¼ cup lemon juice

Combine all ingredients; bring slowly to boiling, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Cook rapidly to, or almost to, the jellying point (which is 8°F above the boiling point of water, or 220°F at sea level). Stir constantly to prevent sticking or burning.

Pour hot jam into hot jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; adjust two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow jars to remain in canner 5 minutes before removing. Set jars on cooling rack or towel in a draft free place while they cool down. Check seals once jars are cool. Yield: About 8 half-pint jars.

Aunt Josie’s Clam Chowder

Aunt Josie’s Clam Chowder

It is clambake season around here and it seemed like a great time to share this recipe. Aunt Josie’s clam chowder is a favorite of mine. I have loved it from the first time I had it. It is pretty easy to make and full of flavor. We have it at every family clambake.

You have the option of adding some stock or water at one point. I sometimes have seafood stock in the freezer, but a bottle of clam juice would work great, too.

So here is the recipe. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Aunt Josie’s Clam Chowder

2 T. butter

1 onion, chopped

1 rib celery, chopped

2-3 small potatoes, cubed

1 c. water or stock

2 (10 oz.) cans clams, undrained*

1 T. butter

2 T. flour

2 c. milk – I use half and half

salt and pepper to taste 

Sauté onions and celery in butter until tender, but not browned. Add potatoes and water or stock and cook, covered until potatoes are tender. Stir in clams and set aside. In another saucepan, combine butter and flour over low heat and stir in milk, stirring to make a white sauce. Cook mixture until it thickens and starts to bubble.  Add it to the clam mixture and adjust seasonings. Bring to a gentle simmer. I added some parsley right before serving. Serves 4.

* You can also add clam meat and a little extra stock. I often buy frozen clam meat.

This post is dedicated, with love, to Aunt Josie.

Tailgate Treats – New Day Cleveland

Meat Muffins

Here is my latest appearance on New Day Cleveland. Had a fun time. The staff there is so nice to work with. Special thanks to Natalie.

Mom’s Cornbread

Mom’s Cornbread

I have made a lot of versions of cornbread in my life, but this one might just be my favorite. Perhaps because it is my Mother’s recipe.

Her secret? She put a layer of shredded cheese between layers of batter. She also added cream style corn to some of the batter.

You end up with a cornbread that is full of flavor. It is also very tender and crumbly, but not dry. I bake mine in a cake pan, but there is no reason you could not bake this recipe in cast iron, if you prefer.

Mom’s Cornbread

1 c. cornmeal

1 c. flour

2 T. sugar, optional

4 t. baking powder

¾ t. salt

2 eggs

1 c. half and half

¼ c. oil- or melted butter or bacon fat

4 oz. pepper Jack cheese, shredded

1 c. cream style corn

Grease a 9-inch square pan and set aside. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine dry ingredients in medium bowl, and set aside. In small bowl, combine eggs, half and half and oil and beat until smooth.  Stir egg mixture into dry ingredients, stirring until combined. Don’t over-mix. Pour half of the batter into prepared pan.  Sprinkle shredded cheese over the batter in the pan. Combine remaining batter with the cream style corn. Pour this mixture over the cheese in the pan. Bake 20-25 minutes. Serves 8-9.

Caramelized Onion Toasts

Caramelized Onion “Toasts”

I love onions. Like them in most everything I make. I especially love them when they have been slow cooked and caramelized to bring out their natural sweetness. The onions, once cooked, can be used in sandwiches, with cheese and crackers as an appetizer or used as a topper on breads. I place some on rye bread squares and topped that with squares of Swiss cheese. Toasted until cheese was melted and onions were heated through. Yummy!!

These are a great appetizer because you can make then ahead and reheat when ready to serve. You can serve them on bread, crackers, with tortilla chips or on tortillas. I sometimes serve the onions with slices of smoked sausages, too.

I sometimes make a double batch and freeze some for later.

Caramelized Onions

2 lbs. Onions, chopped

3 T. oil

1 t. salt

2 T. brown sugar

¼ c. balsamic vinegar

Dash red hot pepper sauce


Sauté onions in oil with salt over low heat for 25-30 minutes. Onions should begin to caramelize and brown without burning. Add remaining ingredients and cook slowly another 15 minutes. Adjust seasonings, if needed and serve warm with crusty bread, crackers or smoked meats. Keeps in fridge for a couple of weeks or can be frozen.

Ginger Curry Pork Bites

Ginger Curry Pork Bites

These pork appetizers are sure to please any carnivore at your next party. Cubes of pork are marinated for a day or two, before being sauteed. They are full of flavor and easy to make. You can bake or broil them, if you prefer.

I used cornstarch, soy sauce and sherry to start my marinade. Then I added ginger, garlic and curry powder. You can play around with different spices. Garam Masala would work well, too.

I decided to make a peanut sauce to dip them in.

You can serve them as is, or on small skewers. People always seem to love food on sticks. They can also be cooked ahead of time, then just reheated when ready to serve.

Ginger Curry Pork Bites

1-2 lbs. pork, cubed into 1-inch pieces – I used western ribs

½ c. cornstarch

¼ c. soy sauce

¼ c. dry sherry

1 (2 inch) piece fresh ginger, sliced

2 large cloves garlic, peeled and sliced

1-2 T. curry powder

2 T. oil

Combine pork cubes with cornstarch, soy sauce, sherry, ginger, garlic and curry powder. Mix well and refrigerate overnight or up to two days. Heat oil in skillet and sauté pork until just cooked through. Serve with peanut sauce on skewers.

Peanut Dipping Sauce

1/3 c. peanut butter

1/3 c. milk or coconut milk

1/3 c. chicken or vegetable broth

1/2 t. crushed red pepper

1-2 cloves garlic

1 t. fresh grated ginger

1 t. soy sauce

Dash hot red pepper sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth.   

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