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Cooking with Myra: Enjoy signs of spring, new life

By Victoria Advocate
March 30, 2010 at midnight
Updated March 29, 2010 at 10:30 p.m.

Rosemary and Orange Rum Cake with Glorious Glaze and Pineapple Flowers

ROSEMARY AND ORANGE RUM CAKE WITH GLORIOUS GLAZE1 package yellow cake mix

1 small package vanilla instant pudding mix

1 Tbsp. finely minced fresh rosemary

Grated zest of one orange

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup light rum

4 large eggs

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Glorious glaze

Combine cake mix, pudding mix, rosemary and orange zest in food processor or blender. Process until mixed. Add water, oil and rum and mix well. Add eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition. Stir in nuts (pecans or chopped walnuts).

Pour into prepared Bundt pan*, which has been sprayed with non-stick baking spray. Bake at 325 degrees for one hour or until wooden pick comes out clean.

Pour Glorious Glaze over the cake in the pan. Allow glaze to soak in completely before removing the cake. Invert the cake so the glazed top is facing up.

Garnish with rosemary sprigs.

Other garnishes: Pineapple flowers, blue pansies

*Bundt pan should be used for the recipe so the cake orientation is correct after pouring on glorious glaze.

GLORIOUS GLAZE1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup rum

Bring butter, sugar, water and rum to a boil in saucepan. Boil until this mixture reaches soft-ball stage or 235 degrees on a candy thermometer.

PINEAPPLE FLOWERS2 large pineapples, top removed and peeled

Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Using a small melon baller, remove and discard the eyes of the pineapple. This will make small holes in the flesh of the pineapple.

Using a very sharp knife, slice the pineapple crosswise into very thin slices. Place the slices on baking sheets.

Bake until the tops look dried. Flip the slices. This will take about 30-45 minutes on each side depending on the thickness. If they do not appear to be drying increase the baking time, but watch closely.

Pinch the center of each pineapple to shape. Allow to cool in a clean muffin tin (lay on top of the muffin cups).

Once the flowers have cooled they can be stored for up to 3 days. Place a sheet of parchment paper in between each layer.

By Myra StarkeyMy mom and dad drove over from Lake Charles for a visit. They are both pushing 80, and by that I mean years, not their driving speed.

They are fairly healthy after each having bypass surgeries in the last several years. They might be moving a little slower and watching Fox News a little more often, but for the most part, I don't view them as being particularly elderly.

I enjoy spending time with them because they aren't usually in a rush to do anything and they are just as happy to sit and visit as do anything else. For me, that makes for relaxing conversation.

We try to entertain them when they are here. They don't necessarily want to go eat out. It has always been sort of a family thing to all cook a big meal together, and since we are from Louisiana, that often entails frying something or making a gumbo and then adding lots of spices.

In fact, if you eat the food and it doesn't make your nose run or prompt you to grab your glass of sweet iced tea, then it probably needs more spice.

Sometimes, we just drive around and look at the beautiful countryside around Victoria. They are excited to see the wildflowers during the springtime. The winter rains must have been just right this year because there seems to be lots of color in the fields.

In a small town nearby, we drove through a cemetery that was totally full of bright yellow lazy Susans and vibrant bluebonnets. It was such a spectacle of new life among the gray tombstones.

My dad asked if he had ever told us the story of how he and my mom had taken a wonderful trip to Colorado one summer. They had gone up there to get out of the sultry South Louisiana heat and were having a really enjoyable time. My mom told him that someday she wanted to have a nice piece of property that she could call her own. She would want to be able to spend a long time in that special place.

As with all vacations, it came to an end, and they returned home. It wasn't a week or two later that they were together at his dental office and he told her he had some good news. There was a guy in the waiting room who wanted to sell a little plot of land that my dad thought would really suit her. She would be able to call it her own and get to stay there for a long time. It was gently rolling, lots of nice grass and pretty trees.

She was excited and went out to meet the man with the land for sale. He was a kind sort, neatly dressed, and she thought she recognized him from church. She couldn't quite remember his name but then noticed he was wearing a name tag . from his job at the cemetery.

The coming of the wildflowers brings me joy, because it signals the end of winter and longer, warmer days.

The flowers of Easter remind me of the new life, of the passing of the dark season and of sunny times ahead. It is finally spring.

The kids and the future son-in-law will all be here for Easter weekend. For me to have them all around the table, talking, eating and laughing, is the greatest of joys. It gives me a sense of wholeness that I miss when they are away. They are too old to hunt Easter eggs, but not too old to want to eat Easter candy.

In fact, when I return to Lake Charles for Easter with my family, my mom still puts out the three Easter baskets my sisters and I had as children.

Several weeks ago, I attended a birthday party for my neighbor who had turned 100 years of age. It was quite an accomplishment, so I baked a Rosemary Rum Cake for her and decorated it with dried pineapple flowers. I had several requests for the recipe from the party, so I am reprinting this delicious cake recipe. The cake is perfect for Easter Sunday lunch and the pineapple flowers can be made three days ahead. The dried pineapple slices look like pressed flowers.

My friend, Bill Varney of Fredericksburg, created this cake for his cookbook, "Along the Garden Path." The cookbook is still one of my favorites and uses many fresh herbs in unusual ways. Enjoy.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or e-mail myra@vicad.com.

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