26 September 2011

Caesar Salad Pizza - PPQ

It's my turn to host Project Pastry Queen for the first time! It was hard to choose from the remaining recipes but I couldn't pass one up with pizza in the title. I also wanted to give it a try because I've never made Caesar dressing from scratch. 

There's one thing I've noticed about Rebecca Rather's recipes - they make more servings than suggested. I decided to halve the recipe for the crust and I should have done the same for the dressing because it made 20 oz. Even though half the recipe was supposed to make two 8" pizzas, the crusts were too thick for my liking and next time I would make three or four 8" pizzas out of half a recipe for thinner crusts. The crust was tasty, but would have been much better if I would have added the Parmesan cheese to the top before baking like the recipe called for. (oops!)

I used my food processor to make the dressing and it came together very quickly while the dough was rising. It was delicious, but since it made so much I might be having Caesar salad for lunch and dinner all week.

I added croutons & slices of a lemon pepper rotisserie chicken to the lettuce and tomato topping. I recommend the chicken if you want this to be a heartier meal, but skip the croutons - they were too much with the crust. One of the Chicken Caesar Salad Pizzas was enough for 2 of us. I will definitely make the full recipe the next time our whole family is home.

The recipe below is the full version from the Pastry Queen cookbook. (Take care if you use a pizza stone, it gets extremely hot!)

I'm looking forward to next week's recipe: Tuxedo Cake. A search for this cake online, when I had misplaced my PQ cookbook, is what led me to Project Pastry Queen. So happy I found this amazing group of bakers/bloggers! Be sure and check out the other members' version of this pizza here:

(Chicken) Caesar Salad Pizza
--- yield: Four 8-Inch Pizzas

  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water (110 to 115 degrees F)
  • 2 (1-ounce) packages active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional for brushing on crusts
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 4 to 5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/4 cup coarse cornmeal
  • 1 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 anchovy fillet (optional)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten, or 1/2 cup pasteurized egg product
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large head romaine lettuce, washed and cut into 1 1/2 inch slices
  • 1 pint organic cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 rotisserie chicken breasts, sliced (optional)
  • Freshly shaved Parmesan cheese, for garnish (optional)

To Make the Crust:

Combine the lukewarm water, yeast, olive oil, and honey in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add 3 cups of the all purpose flour, salt, and crushed red pepper; mix on low speed. With the machine running, add 1 cup of the all purpose flour to make a soft dough. Mix the dough on low speed about 5 minutes longer, until smooth. Add up to 1 more cup of the all purpose flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking to the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 to 15 turns. Place in a large oiled bowl. Cover and let rest at room temperature for 30 to 40 minutes.

Generously coat 2 baking sheets with olive oil. Sprinkle the sheets with cornmeal. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. (If you have a pizza stone, use it instead of the baking sheets, preheating it along with the oven. No need to grease the stone, just sprinkle it with cornmeal just before you bake the pizzas.)

Divide the dough into quarters. Roll each piece into a ball, place the dough balls on a baking sheet, cover with a damp towel, and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes longer. Use immediately, or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 3 hours.

Using a floured rolling pin, flatten each dough ball into an 8-inch circle. Brush each dough round with olive oil and sprinkle each with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Transfer the crusts onto the prepared baking sheets and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until browned and crisp.

To Make the Dressing:

Press the garlic and anchovy into a paste in a mortar with a pestle. Scrape the paste into a medium bowl. Whisk in the eggs, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and mustard, then slowly add the olive oil in a thin, steady stream, whisking until thoroughly incorporated. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper.
To make the dressing in a food processor, place the garlic, anchovy, eggs, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and mustard in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process until smooth. With the processor running, add the olive oil through the feed tube in a thin, steady stream. Pour the dressing into a bowl, stir in the Parmesan cheese, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

To Make the Salad:

Toss the lettuce and tomatoes with the dressing. Place a generous amount of salad on top of each warm pizza crust. If desired, layer sliced chicken on top of the salad. Garnish with shaved Parmesan cheese. Serve flat like a tostada.

Estimated  Time:  90 minutes 

20 September 2011

Green Beans Provencal

Okay, I'm not a fan of olives. They are just too bitter for me. When Mark suggested that we make this for our first Midweek Connections meal, I was a little hesitant. I don't like mushy beans, but I also don't like crunchy ones either. We cooked the beans a bit longer than the recipe called for and served them hot. They were delicious (I just gave him my olives!!).



1 1/2 pounds haricots verts, ends trimmed
1 T. olive oil
1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
2 tomatoes, diced
15 kalamata olives, pitted and halved
2 T. freshly chopped basil leaves
1 T. red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper


Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the beans and cook until tender, about 8 - 10 minutes. Drain well in a colander

In the same pot, heat the oil over low heat. Add beans, garlic, tomatoes, olives and basil, and toss to combine. Drizzle vinegar over beans and toss to coat. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve hot, warm, or cold.

This is one recipe from Midweek Connections Menu on September 14, 2011.


Hash Brown Potato Casserole - a lighter version

This is one of our family favorites and it often gets served at special occasions or Holidays like Easter or Christmas. It's not made too often because it is not necessarily dietetic. I decided to try lightening it up a bit to see if it lost any of its flavor. I cut out 1 whole stick of butter and substituted lower fat versions of the soup, sour cream and cheese. It was still WONDERFUL! One of the things I did was to saute the onions a bit longer, just until the point of where they started to caramelize.

Hash Brown Potato Casserole

1 cup chopped onions
8 2 T. butter
2 lb. bag, frozen hash browns, thaw
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. white pepper
1 can, cream of chicken soup, 98 % fat-free
16 oz. light sour cream
2 cups reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups crushed cornflakes
4 2 T. butter, melted

Saute the onions with 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat just until they begin to turn a light brown. In the meantime, mix together the thawed hash browns with the salt & pepper. Stir in the soup, sour cream, and cheese. When the onions are ready, add them to the potato mixture. Lightly spray a 9"x13" baking dish and add the potato mixture.

Stir together the crushed cornflakes and remaining butter. Since I cut the butter in half, I actually mixed them with my (clean) hands like I was mixing a meatloaf. This helped to distribute the butter more evenly. Sprinkle the crumbs over the potatoes.

Bake @ 350 degrees for about 1 hour, or until the potatoes are tender.

This is one recipe from Midweek Connections Menu on September 14, 2011.

Gluten Free Turkey Meatloaf with Feta and Sun Dried Tomatoes

Last year I discovered Quinoa and have fallen in love with it. It is a substitute that is often used in place of wheat products to make a recipe gluten free for those who have Celiac's disease. Since most meatloafs call for some kind of bread crumbs, I have started substituting Quinoa.

I altered a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis just slightly. The quinoa makes the turkey very moist and the feta and sun-dried tomatoes add a ton of flavor:



Vegetable cooking spray
1 cup cooked quinoa *
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped marinated sun-dried tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten, at room temperature
2 T. milk
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 1/2 t. kosher salt
1 t. freshly ground black pepper
20 oz. ground turkey
  • COOKED QUINOA - Bring 1/4 cup quinoa and 1/2 cup water to boil in a saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the quinoa is tender, and the water has been absorbed, about 15 - 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Spray a 9"x5" loaf pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, stir together the quinoa, parsley, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, eggs, milk, feta cheese, salt and pepper. Mix well. Add the turkey and gently mix together with your clean hands to combine - careful not to overwork the meat.

Lightly pack the meat mixture into the prepared pan and bake until the internal temperature registers 165 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Serves 6 - 8.

This is one recipe from Midweek Connections Menu on September 14, 2011.

Cucumber Salad

Mark's mom makes a delicious Cucumber Salad, but we can never seem to make it as good as she does. He found this recipe from the Food Network Kitchens and it comes close:


3 medium cucumbers (about 2 1/4 pounds), peeled, halved lengthwise, & thinly sliced
2 T. kosher salt
1/4 cup + 2 T. sour cream
3 T. chopped fresh dill
1 T. white distilled vinegar
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper


In a large bowl, mix the cucumbers and salt and set aside at room temperature for 1 hour.

In a colander in the sink, drain and rinse the cucumbers thoroughly under cold running water. Set aside to drain for 10 minutes.

Press down on the cucumbers to extract as much liquid as possible. Transfer the cucumbers to a large bowl and mix with the sour cream, dill, vinegar, cayene pepper, and season to taste with the black pepper.

Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

This is one recipe from Midweek Connections Menu on September 14, 2011.

18 September 2011

Frosting for the Cause Project

I hope you will head over to Frosting for the Cause today to see my FIRST GUEST POST!! I am so excited and honored to be included among the 365  bakers who are using their skills both as chefs and as bloggers to make a difference in the fight against Breast Cancer. Each one of them has been personally affected by this disease, and has taken a turn sharing their stories along with a delicious recipe. The baked goods they make are then donated to a local place that serves cancer patients. I will be taking my cookies to the same infusion room where I received my chemo treatments. Here is my post:


I am grateful to Paula for starting this Frosting for the Cause project. It is an honor to be writing this post today. Today, you see, is the THIRD anniversary of the date when my Breast Cancer was diagnosed.

In April, the only thing I knew about blogs was what I learned from watching the movie "Jule & Julia". I needed to make some sugar cookies for my niece Melissa's baby shower and I searched online for ideas. It didn't take long for me to realize the results I kept coming across were from BLOGS, and some very amazing and creative ones at that. In May, one of the blogs I had started following just happened to be the guest post for Frosting for the Cause. What a wonderful and thoughtful idea! I am a Breast Cancer survivor AND I love to bake, but there was one problem. I was not a blogger and I had no idea where to start. The idea wouldn't go away so I had no choice. I went to the bookstore, bought "Blogging for Dummies", did more research and in June started my blog.

The tagline for my blog is "Biking and Baking Beyond Breast Cancer". My idea was to write about the things I love and am passionate about. When I started writing down my own Breast Cancer Story for this post, it became way too long. I ended up posting it on This Home Plate -- I hope you will take the time to read it.

One thing cancer has taught me is that everyone affected by it has a story, whether it is the patient, the caregiver, the family, or the friend - and that is evident by the stories told over the past 261 days on Frosting for the Cause. I have enjoyed reading them all and getting to know your loved ones.  My original plan was to bake a chocolate shortbread cookie, similar to one we used to eat when we lived in Italy. But the closer the time came for my guest post, I kept thinking of the tagline for This Home Plate. Frosting for the Cause had the Breast Cancer and the Baking covered, but not the Biking. Then I found a bicycle cookie cutter and started thinking of the possibilities. More ideas popped into my head and I couldn't decide which one to do, so I did them all! (Well, except for the one where I was going to depict the Champion crossing the finish line in the Tour de France with all the bikers behind him, and the fans cheering. Now that would have been too much!)

I can't think of biking without thinking of the Texas Mamma Jamma bike ride. So many people love Austin and want to live here - it's known as the live music capital of the world. In fact, thousands of people are here this weekend for the 10th annual Austin City Limits festival.

There's one other thing Austin is good at, but it's not necessarily famous for, and that is cancer support and services. I have come to realize that if I had to get Breast Cancer, I'm sure glad I live here. No matter what the need, there is a Non-Profit rganization (NPO) that is there to provide services and support to fill that need. The Mamma Jamma Ride raises money for these NPO's, some of which supported me on my Breast Cancer Journey. I found out about the ride when I was getting my last chemotherapy infusion, and it has changed my life.

This is the logo for the first two rides in 2009 and 2010

This is a take-off of the new logo for this year.
Unfortunately, my cookies don't do it justice!

People come from all over the country to do this ride in honor or in memory of their loved ones. The ride takes place in the Hill Country just north of Austin. Less than 5 months after my last infusion, my husband and I rode 100 miles in the inaugural Texas Mamma Jamma Ride.

Like I said, the ride benefits 11 different Non-Profit Organizations that provide life-saving services to Breast Cancer patients and their families. I decided to make a cookie representing each one of them. I will be handing out the cookies in the same infusion room where I received my treatments. They will be labeled with information for all of the Mamma Jamma NPO's so that way, these new patients that have followed in my footsteps will be able to find the same hope that I did.

You can learn more about these organizations HERE

In the future, I will be sharing inspirational stories of women that I have met, and writing about the latest BC news I come across. My HOPE is that someday, I will only need to blog about Baking and Biking. My DREAM is for every state, not just Texas, to have their own Mamma Jamma Ride. Please feel free to contact me for more information.

I am participating in the ride again this year and have set a goal of $15,000. If you are interested in supporting me in this worthy cause, you can find more information HERE.

I'm also interested in making things safe on the road for both bikers and car drivers. People for Bikes is a great organization that is working towards this. Their logo inspired me to make these cookies:

Draw a line with white royal icing and let it dry.

Do the same with red icing below the white line and then flood it.

Let it dry.

Repeat with sky blue icing, and let it dry.

Draw on the "bicycle" smiley face with a thicker, white outlining royal icing.

I tried several sugar cookie recipes. Some were too sweet, and some used so much flour they were stiff to mix up. I stumbled across Alton Brown's Sugar Cookie Recipe from the Food Network and have been using it ever since.

Alton Brown's Sugar Cookies


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Powdered sugar, for rolling out dough


  • Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  • Place butter and sugar in large bowl of electric stand mixer and beat until light in color.
  • Add egg and milk and beat to combine.
  • Put the mixer on low speed, gradually add flour, and beat until mixture pulls away from the side of the bowl. Divide the dough in half, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Sprinkle surface where you will roll out dough with powdered sugar. Remove 1 wrapped pack of dough from refrigerator at a time, sprinkle rolling pin with powdered sugar, and roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick. Move the dough around and check underneath frequently to make sure it is not sticking. If dough has warmed during rolling, place cold cookie sheet on top for 10 minutes to chill.
  • Cut into desired shape, place at least 1-inch apart on greased baking sheet, parchment, or silicone baking mat, and bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until cookies are just beginning to turn brown around the edges, rotating cookie sheet halfway through baking time.
  • Let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes after removal from oven and then move to wire rack for complete cooling.
  • Ice as desired. I'm still experimenting on my icing, but either Haniela's blog or Bake at 350's has a great tutorial for royal icing.
This yields about 3 dozen, 2-1/2" cookies.


17 September 2011

The Inaugural Mamma Jamma Ride - 2009


(. . . You can find Part IV here)

Over 182,000 women were diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2008 and 182,000 stories that could be told. This is just one of those stories. 
This bandana has over 100 names written on its borders, 
each one representing a different breast cancer story...

After my last infusion on May 5, 2009, the 3 weeks of recovery from chemo passed quickly and were NOT the worst like I was expecting. Learning about a charity bike ride in October that would raise money to support breast cancer patients gave me the mental edge I needed over any physical side effects.

May 14, 2009 was the Kick-Off Party for the Inaugural Mamma Jamma Bike Ride that would be held on October 10. The party was outdoors on a beautiful cool night in Austin, TX; I went with the purpose of learning more and to register for the ride.

I talked with representatives for the ten non-profits that were the ride beneficiaries. I listened to the Ride Director - David C. Smith, and the Honorary Ride Chair - Kerry Tate, speak about what the ride would mean for patients and families dealing with this disease. Three things became evident:

1. I felt like a selfish cancer patient. I had been so self-absorbed in my own cancer treatment that I hadn't thought about what it was like for others:
  • Women in their 20's or 30's have young children who can't understand why mommy's hair is falling out. 
  • Some face the disease alone and have no one to cook meals for them, or no transportation to treatment. 
  • Others have no medical insurance and can't afford the care they need to save their lives ... just to name a few...
Compared to any one of these, my cancer treatment - though difficult - had been a breeze. I always had someone to mentor or help me every step of the way. What a blessing to have these people in my life, making my cancer treatment "manageable". It could have been so much worse like it is for many.

2. The Mamma Jamma was different kind of fundraiser - A Gala on a Bike, money raised by the ride would provide numerous services & support to patients and their families. The impact is immediate - improving the lives from those newly diagnosed, to those whose cancer has metastasized.  It is a ride to let cancer patients know they are not alone. The 10 beneficiaries form a continuum of care for our community.

3. I needed to form a team and try to encourage as many friends as I could to join me. Signing up to do the ride myself would not be enough. Instead of just asking for donations from my biking friends, together our fundraising efforts could do so much more. I left the party that night feeling as if I had been given the biggest gift ever - the gift to "pay it forward".

By the end of May, the "Big Guns" chemo had ended, but the Herceptin infusions would continue once every 3 weeks for the remainder of the year. Fortunately the only side effect was an occasional runny nose AND I started noticing some stubble ... my hair was growing back!!!!

I was SO ready to get back on my bike. My first training ride was a little frustrating. A year prior I was able to ride a hilly 65 miles, but the hint of a small incline that day had me panting for breath. Mark and my friend Samantha rode with me and we did about 12 miles. At the end I was elated, but exhausted and I went home and took a long nap.

Samantha & I, she had voluntarily shaved her head
as a fundraiser for children with cancer.
 She was an example of hope that my hair would come back.

I made the decision to ride 100 miles in October, I couldn't think of any better way to convince myself that I had looked Breast Cancer straight in the eye & kicked its butt than to ride my first Century Ride for Mamma Jamma. Two mornings a week Mark & I would ride before he went to work. My friend Jane would join me for long rides on Thursdays (take THAT Puny Thursdays!) and Mamma Jamma offered free training rides for us on the weekends. I regained my strength quickly and by September, I was averaging 150 miles each week.


Fall weather in Texas can be hit or miss. The forecast on Ride Day, called for cool temperatures and early clouds/drizzle with clearing by the afternoon. I was pumped and it was a struggle to keep my emotions in check. Just before the start for the 100-milers, I found the Capital of Texas Team Survivor MJ team and posed for a pre-race photo with them:

Ride start for the Main Group

Samantha had joined my team along with 2 of her coworkers, Keith & Andy - they were doing the 100 mile route with Mark & I. About 50 riders were taking on this challenge and we got an hour head start as the rest of the riders cheered us on. The small numbers made it easier for us to ride together and enjoy the Hill Country of Texas. It was wonderful!!

One of the volunteer SAG vehicles that provided route support

90 minutes into the ride, Mark got a flat tire. Instead of waiting for mechanical help he changed it himself. This proved to be instrumental in finishing the ride because it took him less than 5 minutes and we were on our way again.

The lunch pit stop in Joppa, TX - the half-way point

There were pit stops about every 12-15 miles where we could stop for water and food. Each one had a party atmosphere, staffed by volunteers who were cheering us on. The lunch pit stop was especially fun; there was great music, carnival games to play, and delicious food. 

We almost lingered there too long. As we were getting back on our bikes, a woman walked onto the road with a sign saying 100 milers needed to turn around and go back. Panic set in as I rode up to talk to her. She told me there was a cut-off time but since we were getting on our bikes she would let us go through. I told her 3 more in our group were in the bathroom and she said if they hurried she would also let them continue. I rode back to tell Samantha, and then Mark & I took off. If Mark had taken any longer to change his flat tire, we might not have been so lucky. My mind was racing: I couldn't believe it ... I had trained so hard ... I told my donors I was riding 100 miles ... I couldn't let them down.

The weather matched my mood. Instead of clearing, it was getting colder and drearier. The woman in the road said there were cut-off times at all the remaining pit stops. Instead of waiting for the others, we picked up our pace. Mark had not trained as much as I and was getting tired. He finally told me to go on without him. We had reached the hilliest part of the course and I was worried about him so I waited at the next pit stop. I didn't have to wait long but once again he told me to go on - he would wait for the others. I felt better knowing he would have someone to ride with.

My bike - "ArVi"

As much as I loved riding with my husband and my friends, I realized I needed this time alone to reflect on events from the past year. But I wasn't really alone - I could feel the presence of my mom and dad with each pedal stroke. My mom, Virginia, passed away in 1999; my dad Art, passed away in April during my chemo treatments. I decided to name my bike after them - ArVi so I have them with me whenever I ride.

Beautiful Scenery
One of the many signs along the route, reminding us why we ride

With no other riders around, I was able to let all the emotions from the previous year come pouring out. I thought about the fears I had buried deep inside; fears of not being there for my daughters' weddings, not being there for grandchildren, not growing old with the love of my life - and the tears finally came, real tears. Up until now, most of the tears had been silent as I tried to stay strong for family and friends.

Oops, then came a hill, time to focus. More miles went by and I remembered each milestone that had come and gone the past year; the diagnosis, doctor appointments, the surgeries ... and ... oh, here was another hill to climb. I thought of the people I had met because of my cancer, fellow survivors, skilled physicians and the kind, gentle nurses in the infusion room. More tears came, and more hills. With each hill, I remembered the names I had written on the blue bandana that I carried on my bike. I thought of all the strength each one had showed through their treatments, and for some through their death. Their strength became my strength.

The feelings culminated with a one-sided conversation I had with my parents. I remember tearfully saying out loud, "Mom & Dad, I hope I've made you proud." (Isn't that what we all want?) I wasn't sure I had done enough with my life up until then. This cancer was a wake up call and by gosh I was going to step out of my complacency and do something with my life that WOULD make them proud.

I was cold & I was tired and there was another really long and steep hill ahead. Suddenly it dawned on me, you know what ... if I could make it through chemotherapy, I could make it up that hill. I realized at that moment that cancer had made me a stronger woman, and I was grateful. Then I noticed a sign that said "One mile to the next pit stop". Funny what that sign did for me, I wasn't tired any more!

A short rest refreshed me and I got a surprise call from my BFF, Glenda. She had joined my team and was doing the 46 mile route. "Where are you?", she said. It turned out she had left that same pit stop a few minutes earlier. It felt like forever, but I finally caught up with her. As we rode I learned she had been talked into doing the 70 mile route, even though she had not been riding much. Before the ride, I was sad that our start times were different and I wouldn't get to ride with her. Another blessing just came my way.

I called Mark and learned he and the others were about 10 minutes behind me. This was going to work into my plan. I had been disappointed to find out the actual mileage for the ride was 98.2 miles. How could I "legally" say I had ridden my first Century ride? I was familiar with the area so instead of making a right turn I went straight and rode an extra mile out and back. Shortly after I got back to the turn, Mark, Samantha, Keith & Andy came riding up. We had 5 more miles to go.

Finish Line Cheerleaders
WE DID IT!!! 100 Miles!!!

The finish line soon came into sight. Once again I could not hold back the tears. As we crossed the finish line I could see not only my team members lined up to greet us, but also our middle daughter Sarah. The adrenaline in my body made me want to keep riding further, but it was time to stop and enjoy the moment. I'll let the pictures do the talking because words are inadequate:

Most of my 2009 Mamma Jamma Team. Instead of the $500 check I was going to write if I rode by myself, we raised over $25,000!!
My ride bandana also went 100 miles.
Written on it were the names of the breast cancer
 men and women I was riding in honor of, and in memory of.
Getting a hug from David, the Ride Director and Kerry, the Honorary Ride Chair
Parade of the SAG wagons, the last rider was back safely.
  My friends Deb Carroll, Alice Wilson and Sandy Kugelman

At the end of the day, there was time for reflection on loved ones lost and the seriousness of this disease. There is still so much more to be done. 

Together our team of 20 raised just over $25,000. WOW! Originally I had planned to just write a check for my $500 fundraising obligation. This was enough to pay for an entire year of cancer treatment for one individual with $11,000 left over to spend on some many other things like mammograms, biopsies, bloodwork and so much more.

If you have a diagnosis of Breast Cancer, Austin, TX is a good place to be. There are groups here to help you if you need it. I have learned that many other communities are not so fortunate. To quote Martin Luther King, Jr., "I Have a Dream." My hope is that someone out there will read a post about one of the local non-profits here in Austin and decide to start a similar one in their area. My BIG DREAM, is that every state will have their own Mamma Jamma Ride.

I don't know how my story will end, whether the cancer will ever return or not, but for now it doesn't end here. I am enjoying a life filled with wonderful family and dear friends. These loved ones are what life is all about, and I am so blessed. (Update, almost 6 years and counting...)

Other members of the Breast Cancer Club that have come into my life are also part of my story. These men and women continue to inspire me and I want to share their stories with you in future posts. I hope you come back to read them, and ... thanks for reading my story.

As a way to pay it forward for those who have breast cancer right now but don't know it, please help me raise much needed funds for cancer services. You can visit my donation page here:


Oh, one more thing, here is the Mamma Jamma kickoff party video that first inspired me:

14 September 2011

Torta di Mele - Apple Cake

Once again this fall, Mark and I are volunteering to cook a meal for 65 - 70 of our dear friends on Wednesday nights. Our church has something called "Midweek Connections" that is full of classes & activities for all ages. Families are able to come straight from work for a meal and the evening ends with a short service (unless you stay for choir). We are always asked to share our recipes so I thought, "Why not Blog about it?".

September 14, 2011

Souperior Meatloaf
(recipe on the back of Lipton's Beefy Onion Soup mix,
substitute cooked quinoa for bread crumbs)
Torta de Mele (apple cake) with Creme Anglais
Brownies (Ghiradelli mix - the best!)

When our girls were little, we would occasionally have a backwards meal with dessert first. So, since I've already posted about the Texas Pecan Pie Bars, I decided the Apple Cake, or in Italian - Torta di Mele would be next.

If I had to choose something for the last meal of my life, this cake would be at the top of the list. It is my future son-in-law's favorite and everyone else I've made it for raves about it. The first time I had Torta di Mele was in a little restaurant named Trattoria Pallotta, in Assisi Italy.

Tip to eating in Italy - eat where the locals eat. This is one of those places. They had a tourist menu where you get your choice between 1 of 2 appetizers, 1 of 2 Main Courses, and 1 of 2 Desserts. For dessert, Mark and our 2 friends chose the fruit & cheese plate. The Torta de Mele sounded too good to pass up, so I went with that. Good choice, GOOD CHOICE!! I rarely take photos of food I order in a restaurant but when this was brought to the table, still warm from the oven, I whipped out my camera:

"Puoi darmi la ricetta per favore?"

Each bite just melted in my mouth it was so moist. The flavor was not too sweet, and the texture was light and airy. I HAD to have the recipe! My gourmet friend Patty has been known to ask the chef of a restaurant to share their secrets, but I never had the courage, until that moment. We lived in Milano, Italy from '92-'94 so I knew some Italian. It had been 12 years and I was a bit rusty but all of a sudden the word "ricetta" - recipe, came to my head. When the waitress returned, I pointed at the plate and butchered together some kind of a sentence as politely as I could. She nodded and headed towards the kitchen. She came back smiling, with a scrap of paper in her hand. "Grazie, molto grazie, per favore grazie alla chef", I thanked her over and over again. I hoped she understood. This is what was on the paper:

180 C, per 35 - 45 minuti

4 uovi
2 etti di burro
3 etti di farina
3 etti di zucchero
succo - 1/2 limone
succo - 1/2 arancia
2-3 mele
una bustina Lievito dolce

This can be found at Amazon in a package of 10,
but I have started using baking powder instead.

Notice anything:
  1. The directions are missing
  2. NO mention of what size pan to use
  3. Italian measurements (1 etti = 100 grams)
  4. and yes, it's in Italian. At least that was easy because I was used to that.
Here is what I came up with:

Apple Cake

  • 4 eggs
  • 14 T. butter - room temperature
  • 300 grams flour (about 2 cups)
  • 300 grams sugar (1 1/3 cups + 1 teaspoon)
  • Juice of 1/2 a large lemon (or all juice from a small lemon)
  • Juice of 1/2 a large orange (or all juice from a medium orange)
  • 2 large Braeburn apples (or 3 medium)
  • 2 t. baking powder (or 1 pkg of Italian sweet leavening if you can find it - see above)
Pre-heat oven to 355 degrees (F). Grease and flour a 10" round cake pan.

1. Cream together the butter and the sugar:

2. Add in the eggs, blending after each one:

3. Blend the flour and the baking powder (or leavening packet) together. Italian flour is different than American flour. Once I've weighed the flour, I sift it 2 or 3 times. Slowly add to the batter until it is blended in:

4. Peel and chop the apples. I like to have a mixture of coarsely and finely chopped pieces. Mix the lemon and orange juice into the chopped apples. Fold into the batter until well mixed:

5. Pour into prepared pan:

6. Bake for at least 45 minutes or until golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. The first time I made this I set the timer for 35 minutes and it was far from done. I kept adding 5 minutes at a time until finely at an hour, it was ready. Sometimes it is done in 50 minutes, I think it depends upon the amount of apples you use. Let cool for 10 minutes and remove from pan:

The cake is at its best when served warm, but tastes great no matter what the temperature. I have served this with a warm butter sauce, but I think it was served in the restaurant with Creme Anglaise. One option is to spoon either sauce over the cake and then sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Creme Anglais 


  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup white sugar


  1. Whisk together egg yolks and sugar until smooth.
  2. In a small saucepan, whisk cream and vanilla together over medium heat until you see bubbles forming at the edges.
  3. Remove from heat and, slowly whisk 1/2 cup of hot liquid into the egg mixture.
  4. Gradually add egg yolk mixture back to remaining cream mixture, whisking constantly.
  5. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon.

I fell in love with Assisi and it wasn't just because of the Apple Cake. When we visited 5 years ago, it was late fall. The skies were so blue and the air was so crisp. Most cities in Italy are a bit on the grungy side, but not Assisi. It was stunningly beautiful. I found some of the pictures and thought I would share them with you. Hope you enjoy. But first one more look at the cake I made today. By the way, I bought the plate it is sitting on in Deruta - a little town just outside of Assisi. I could spend a week there shopping for ceramics ... but that is another post entirely!

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