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Cooking With Myra: The best Valentine of all

Feb. 7, 2011 at midnight
Updated Feb. 7, 2011 at 8:08 p.m.

Almond Joy Cake

ALMOND JOY CAKE1 box of chocolate cake mix

1 (12-oz.) can of evaporated milk, divided

1 cup of sugar, divided

31/2 cups mini-marshmallows

3 cups of sweetened coconut

1/2 stick of unsalted butter, divided

11/2 cups chocolate chips

1/2 tsp. of vanilla extract

1 cup of sliced almonds, divided

*9x13-inch baking pan or heart shaped pan

Prepare the cake in a 9x13-inch baking pan according to the package direction. Set aside to cool. *You may use a heart-shaped pan to make this cake for your Valentine.

In a small saucepan, stir together 1/2 of the can of evaporated milk and 1/2 cup of the sugar; bring the mixture just up to a boil, but do not allow the mixture to continue boiling.

Remove from the heat and immediately stir in the marshmallows until they melt and are well incorporated. Add the coconut, stir well, and then spread this on top of the warm cake. Mixture may be thick; drop in dollops and use a spatula to push the coconut layer out as evenly as possible.

The coconut mixture can be put back on the burner to "melt" the mixture. Removing the pot from the burner will thicken the mixture slightly. Both of the icings will need to be spread on the cake.

In a separate small saucepan, combine the remaining evaporated milk, 1/2 cup of the sugar and the 4 Tbsp. of butter and bring mixture just up to a boil - but do not let it continue to boil. Remove from the heat, stir in the chocolate chips and stir until melted and smooth. Add vanilla. Add about 3/4 cup of the almonds, stir and pour that over the coconut layer. The mixture should be fairly thick, but if it gets too thick, return it to a low burner briefly, stirring until it returns to a spreadable consistency.

Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of almonds over the top and let cool completely before cutting.

By Myra StarkeyI've been thinking a lot about joy lately. This would be the kind of joy that makes you smile, even though you don't realize it. It is the joy you feel when you see a new baby or someone you really love. A joy that creeps in and covers you before you realize what is happening.

Love and joy have a lot in common. Both are felt deep down in your heart and bubble up when you least expect it.

For more than half of my life, I have had the same Valentine, Taylor. It is remarkable that two people could live together for so long and still be in love. The love we first felt as college kids is different than the love today. Back then, we did not know each other as well as we do now. We could not predict each other's behaviors or reactions. I did not know what he thought about various things, but I was certain how he felt about me.

Taylor and I are very different in many ways. He likes things neat and ordered, and I tend to be messy. He likes the cold weather, and I prefer it to be hot. If we were going on a vacation, he would choose the mountains, and I would pick the ocean. He doesn't like to eat big quantities of anything and never seems to sit still, while I often love to eat all sorts of things and am content to skip exercise and sit on the couch and watch an episode of "CSI."

Taylor and I have worked in the same office for more than 20 years. He would say that works out because he allows me to be in charge, and he really does not like to be a personnel or business manager anyway. I believe it is possible for us to be around each other all the time because we practice kindness toward each other.

We greatly value our relationship and work hard to keep our love alive. Working side by side is not always easy for spouses. Many of my friends tell me they simply could not do it, and if they tried, it would cause major conflict.

We do not always agree with each other, but we frequently agree to disagree. There are things in his personality that I simply love.

I love to see him as he encourages patients to take control of their lives and be healthier. I love to see him with our children, laughing and listening intently to them about their lives. I love to see him chasing our two poodles around the house, humored by their dog behaviors. I love to see him sit down to a meal I have prepared and give me compliments.

I love that he loves me for the way I am, for better or worse. I think that is what love is really about.

Love is about accepting people for who they are and how they feel. Taylor will point out my behavior flaws, but usually in a quiet way, trying hard not to hurt my feelings. His intent is only that I become a better person. I suppose that is why he puts up the Girl Scout cookies when he thinks that eight cookies are enough for dessert. If I chide him, he reminds me that I told him I wanted to lose a few pounds, and he is trying to support my efforts.

We all need people in our lives who love us just like we are, but at the same time help us to become better humans. Looking back on those early days of dating in college, I had no idea that I would love someone as much as I love Taylor, now. I am so blessed that long ago, I was given such a wonderful Valentine.

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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