Thursday, March 31, 2016

Pineapple Angel Food Cake

 It's quick and easy. You need just two ingredients: one box of Betty Crocker Angel Food Cake Mix (I suppose any brand would work but every recipe I've seen calls for this one) and a 20 ounce can of crushed pineapple.

Pineapple Angle Food Cake
with whipped cream and fresh red raspberries

 Place the cake mix in a bowl. Add the crushed pineapple (along with all the juice). Stir thoroughly. That's the entire recipe.

 As you mix the pineapple with the cake mix, the mixture will get light and foamy.

 Pour the mixture into an ungreased 13" and 9" pan. I used metal even though glass was recommended. Do not grease the pan. The recipe can probably be better made in an actual fluted angel food cake pan. You'll see why in a moment.

 In my pan (it's closer to 13 x 8" for some reason), the batter continues to foam as it begins to bake and rises above the edge of the pan ... almost an inch! It doesn't run over - thank goodness - but I suppose it would be better made in the actual size pan recommended.

 Here's the finished cake. The recipe calls for 33 to 38 minutes at 350°. I shoved a toothpick into the cake at the minimum time and found it finished. The toothpick came out clean.
 In a standard angel food cake pan, the cake could be placed upside down when it's first taken out of the oven. That's necessary to prevent the center from falling a bit. Remember how we'd suspend angel food cakes upside down on a soda bottle? Where do you still but glass soda bottles (today's plastic ones would melt)?

 I've seen this cake on the Internet in several guises but all use the same recipe. Call it a "fluffy cake" a "two ingredient cake", whatever. It's all the same thing.

 The cake remains moist and sweet due to the crushed pineapple. It's a super dessert that makes an ample quantity quickly.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Cincinnati Observatory

 It isn't particularly easy to find. I plugged "Mt. Lookout" into Google Maps and Tom and I drove around the Mount Lookout neighborhood for some time. We didn't see a thing. That's because it isn't there.

 Instead I should have searched for "Cincinnati Observatory". Google quickly placed the red push pin just to the west of Ault Park. And there, indeed, it was.

It's called "The Birthplace of American astronomy" and indeed its roots date to the 1840's. That's when the German telescope was installed at Mount Adams. But soon coal smoke and the industrialization of Cincinnati obscured the sky at this site. The telescope, according to an article in CityBeat, "was moved to a more remote, rural area for optimal viewing in 1873".

 Two original cornerstones tell the tale ...

Originally at Mount Adams, the location was named for John Quincy Adams who dedicated the observatory in 1843. Now at Mount Lookout, two of Cincinnati's seven hills are named for the location of this telescope.

 Nowadays, I suppose Cincinnati's lights are the main problem and the site is hardly "rural". But it is, at least, high.

The Cincinnati Observatory 

 The main building of the Cincinnati Observatory is quite impressive.

 This building dates to 1873. The older telescope is actually housed in a smaller building on the grounds. This building houses a telescope purchased in 1904. Neither were open while we were there.

 It's a stately old building, having weathered 143 years at this location.

 Tom - and me, too - found the old pine as beautiful (maybe more so) as the building itself.

 This view is through a rear window of a relatively small telescope on display there.

 This building houses the original telescope. The optics for this scope were obtained from Munich, Bavaria by Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel. It was then the second largest refractor telescope in the world.

O. M. Mitchel Building 

Mitchel (1809-1862) died while serving in the Civil War. His telescope is still in daily use, according to the Ohio Historical Society. It is, they say, "the oldest such instrument in the United States".

A Return to Hauck

 Last year Tom and visited the Hauck Botanic Gardens in Cincinnati on April 13. There's no doubt that things are running early this year - over two weeks, for sure. This year we made our annual pilgrimage on March 26.

 To see last year's post, click here. The Hauck material is at the end of that post.

Magnolias in full bloom 

Looking up at the sky through a magnolia 

A variety of daffodils bloom at the Hauck 

More daffodils ... 

And spring beauties, too ... in shades of white and blue

Vernon Manor Hotel

  The Hauck Botanic Gardens are at the intersection of Reading Road and Oak Street. Visible from the Hauck, and on Oak Street, is the building that was once the Vernon Manor Hotel, Though the hotel was permanently closed, it was converted to office space for Children's Hospital.

 Why would I even mention it? Because in August 1966 when I attended a Beatles concert at Crosley Field, this is where the Beatles spent part of the night prior to the concert. Their limousine was parked "behind the Vernon Manor at 3:30 a.m." according to The Beatles Invade Cincinnati: 1964 & 1966.

The Beatles stayed in Suite 624. That'll be 50 years ago in just five months.

 In general, the Hauck seemed less well cared for than we found it last year. There were lots of weeds and untended areas. I suppose that contributes to the natural look but it was a bit unkempt in many places.

 Even Northside, where Tom's apartment is located, is showing a flashy display of spring. At Hoffner Park, just a block away from Tom's residence, hyacinths bloom beside Hamilton Avenue. It's not only a gorgeous sight but an intoxicating scent.

 A great Saturday ... sunny, calm and in the 60's. All in all, this was the winter that wasn't.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Molasses Cookies

 I'm in a baking mood and Mom's in a cupboard-cleaning mood. What about the jar of molasses I had her buy a month or more ago? Did I plan on doing anything with it, she hinted.

 So I pulled a recipe out of the box for award-winning molasses cookies as published in the Dayton Daily News (see bottom of this blog). It's Karen Findlay's recipe ... and it's a good one.

 This recipe makes a lighter-colored cookie when using the "Robust" version of Grandma's Molasses. I love how the tops crack and crinkle. That's probably due to the action of rolling the balls of dough in granulated sugar before baking.

 While the recipe is supposed to make three dozen cookies, I got a few more (41). "Walnut-sized" is hard to estimate and I must have made them a little on the small size. As suggested, I used parchment paper on my cookie sheet (though it is non-stick).

 The first batch of cookies took just ten minutes. The lower time (8 minutes) probably results in a cookie that's a little more chewy. These are crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.

 I lined them up to cool on paper (I don't have a wire rack) and then, as they cooled, I stacked them into rows to save space.

Credit: Dayton Daily News

 Here's Karen Findlay's recipe as it appeared in the Dayton Daily News. Click on any picture to see it in higher resolution.

 Now, time for a cup of black coffee ...

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Daffodils in Bloom

 Every year I watch for our meadow to show flashes of yellow, the time when our daffodils bloom. Yesterday, as Mom and I left to drive north to the library in New Lebanon, I was pleasantly surprised to see this ...

 ... clumps of yellow scattered among the dry grass.
 I saw that they had sprouted already in February but then cold weather moved back in and I forgot about them. March has been quite warm and the plants have quickly developed and sent out their blooms.

 Yesterday (03/14/16) was rainy and windy - even stormy during the afternoon - but the plants seemed to enjoy the weather and became top-heavy with blooms.

 Today (03/15/16) the clumps have progressed even further. In addition, it's a calm, sunny day. It was 66° at 2:30 pm as I took these shots. I have been working in the meadow, cutting sapling trees that have sprouted last summer. All the while I worked, I kept glancing at these spectacular flowers. What better accompaniment could I ask for?

 I will never cease to be amazed at how these flowers can come up year after year with no care. They are watered only when it rains. They are strangled by high weeds and grass during the summer months. They are never fertilized but for leaf mold that nature applies freely. And they are never dug to have their bulbs thinned and spread out. They are doing that themselves.

 I believe I transplanted these from our front flower bed many years ago. It was after they had bloomed that year. I wasn't careful about transplanting them, just dug the bulbs up and dropped them into new holes. Each clump has expanded quite a lot in that time.
 Luckily the squirrels do not like them and leave them alone.
 Who, someday, will enjoy these and wonder where they came from?