Category Archives: Kitchen Creativity

Baking Barefoot – Apple Cinnamon White Cake

It’s a lazy little Saturday and I was padding around barefoot this morning (because it still feels like summer and it’s warm outside), dying for fall to arrive*, when I found a sweet recipe for a seemingly simple apple cinnamon white  cake that seemed perfect for today – a little something to bring on that fall feeling in the absence of actual fall temperatures. Plus, I had apples that I bought for some reason I no longer remember and needed to get rid of them before they went bad**.

*And by “arrive”, I mean for the weather to be cooler than 75 degrees on any given day so I can wear my favorite riding boots without sweating.
**Which is where most of my kitchen inspiration comes from: An attempt to resuscitate almost-expired items in my fridge or cupboard before
they move toward the light. I’m like the Dr. Quinn of foodstuffs.

In any case, as you likely know, I’m a bit of an impatient baker* so – surprise, surprise! – I might have combined the first and second steps of the directions  (evidence below), which made me burst out laughing, because… well, what else is there to do? I forged ahead anyway.

*Or, I don’t read directions.

Recipe below (modified slightly from Jinglebells’ original recipe):


  • 1/3 C brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 C white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 C milk
  • 1 apple, peeled and chopped

Directions (follow more closely than I)

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Grease and flour a 9×5-inch loaf pan (this is where the Crisco comes in handy)
  • Mix brown sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl. (Note: important for the remainder of the recipe. Don’t combine this step as I did.)
  • Beat white sugar and butter together in a bowl using until creamy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time; add vanilla extract.
  • Combine flour and baking powder together in a bowl; stir into butter mixture. Mix milk into batter until smooth. Pour half the batter into the prepared loaf pan; add half the apples and half the brown sugar mixture. Pat apple mixture into batter. Pour the remaining batter over apple layer; top with remaining apples and brown sugar mixture. Lightly pat apples into batter; swirl brown sugar mixture through apples using a finger or spoon. (I missed the swirling step, too, but the cinnamon mixed through still adds that kicky little sweet spice to the cake.)
  • Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes.
Chopped Apples and Peeler on Cutting Board

the recipe didn’t specify, so i used fuji apples. which are delicious.


Crisco Can

i’m old school. i still like to have a can of crisco on hand, always (i bake like my mother).

Baking Bowl

perhaps the sugars weren’t supposed to be added together with the butter from the beginning. maybe they were supposed to be separate. maybe.

Baylor With Pig's Ear

little dogs must be occupied to prevent severe boredom while baking. a disgusting, greasy pig’s ear does the trick nicely.

Apple Cake and Fork

despite the initial mixup, the end product is pretty delicious.

Apple Cake in Baking Pan

recipe success!

Success: Something about the smell of sweet goodness in the oven really does make today feel a little more like fall. And something about enjoying the taste of that goodness with a steaming cup of coffee and a happy little dog chewing his bone in the background makes a house feel like a home.

Happy Saturday.


Chicken Tortilla Soup

Like most of my kitchen adventures, tonight’s chicken tortilla soup experiment started as an idea* somewhere after my second cup of coffee and before lunch that became an obsession by early afternoon and an absolute certainty by the end of the day: I would be making chicken tortilla soup tonight.

*Read: Craving.

However, the problem with having a craving is that by the time it becomes a craving, it’s not really logical. So when you set out for the grocery store after a long day at work with an empty stomach and only a vague idea of the recipe in mind, you’re likely to end up with a bunch of ingredients that aren’t especially cohesive. You might even have to go back to the store after you’ve already started cooking to obtain the correct ingredients*.

*This may or may not have happened.

And even though you’d think it should be easy enough to just quickly look up a recipe online while shopping in order to obtain the correct ingredients while in the store, sometimes technology (i.e., WiFi) fails you and you can’t download any recipes and there are a million people who are also tired and hungry checking out at the same time as you so you end up wandering around in a craving-induced grocery coma, guessing at ingredients:

 Okay, so, I am sure tomatoes, canned, I think whole, maybe diced? I can’t remember, but if I cook whole long enough, I can smash them up, and then I’m pretty sure a bunch of powders, probably garlic and cayenne will be enough, but do I have chili powder? And then beans, but do I need to be official and cook them from scratch or can I use the canned ones? Something else…something…OH! Corn, but wait, canned or frozen? And OHMYGOD I almost forgot the tortilla chips! But hold on, what was I looking for…hmmmm…oh yeah, green chiles, and definitely an onion but I’m just SURE I am missing something…

And on and on, until you give up on trying to get it right and figure you’re pretty much close enough* and focus on getting through the masses so you can just get home and get started.

*Which is exactly why I don’t care as much for baking, because you really can’t get away with “close enough” in baking and clearly I’m not much for following directions.

So between my memory of my friend’s amazing tortilla soup from several weeks ago and these two tortilla soup recipes I pilfered from Damn Delicious and Martha Stewart on the fly,  here’s what I came up with:

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (fresh or defrosted)
  • 1 large can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cans or approx. 4 cups chicken broth (I used reduced sodium)
  • 1 small can (4 oz.) diced green chiles
  • 1 or 2 cans whole black beans (ideally, reduced sodium), drained
  • 1 package (10 oz.) frozen corn
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • Several cloves garlic (which I excluded, but would have made it better)
  • 2 tsp. EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1 tsp. cayenne powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder (in lieu of garlic cloves)
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 avocado, cubed
  • Sour cream
  • Shredded Mexican cheese
  • Tortilla chips, crushed


Simmer defrosted (or fresh) chicken breasts in a medium frying pan for approximately 20 minutes. Here’s the secret: Simmer on low. No oil necessary. Let the breasts* simmer in their own juices, turning occasionally.

*Heh. Breasts.

Meanwhile, cook the diced onion in olive oil for approximately 2 – 3 minutes until translucent.

In a large saucepan or pot, warm the chicken broth, tomatoes, chiles, beans and spices. Throw in the diced onion/garlic when done. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for about 15 minutes (until sauce starts to thicken). While the mixture is simmering, shred the chicken with a fork. Toward the end of the 15 minutes, throw in the chicken and corn and simmer for another 3 – 4 minutes.




Two staples of cooking: A glass of wine, and a hopeful little dog.

Two staples of cooking: A glass of wine, and a hopeful little dog.

Ladle some of the hot soup into a bowl and let cool for about 3 – 5 minutes, then add toppings as desired: a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkling of cheese, a handful of cubed avocado and of course, the crushed tortilla chips.

Finally, dive right in with a giant spoon and die from the deliciousness.


Let’s keep the focus away from the calories, shall we?

PS – I froze half of this, which I was delighted about, because it made a TON of soup.

Bon appetit, friends!