Best Buttercream Frosting and Cat Shenanigans

The Christmas Baking is underway. I have used this cut out recipe for 37 years now. We received it along with others for a wedding gifts and it’s the gift that keeps on giving. This is a triple batch. They are so good you could eat them without frosting and they do not need cooled before I roll them out.

This is the best tasting homemade buttercream frosting I have come across. It is not too sweet, it is smooth and I love the different flavorings that it calls for.

 

RECIPE: 1/2 cup Vegetable shortening… 4 cups powdered sugar… 5 Tablespoons water…. 1/2 t. salt…. 1 t. vanilla…. 1/2 t. almond flavoring…. 1/4 t. butter flavoring.  Mix it together until smooth and creamy.

I was trying out some torn paper flowers that I am going to use in a painting soon. They turned out fine and are fun to make too.

The next few pictures are the cat shenanigans that have happened this week. If you saw these on facebook, please bare with me.

 

She was stealth. Plugged in the iron, turned my back and turned back around, there she was. 

Look at me, look at me. Just keeping everyone company up there.

I pulled this from the archives. It’s amazing to me that this little kitten in June.

Has turned into this big guy a few short months later.

I love this picture! We have this tree in a box window that looks out over the front of the house. It’s a favorite of the cats.

This little guy is the cat above and below. They stay kittens such a short period of time.

I am invisible.

He needs to be careful, he is growing so fast he might not be able to get out!

Love to see this big tree it makes the room so warm. I have a time getting the angel on top though. I have to remember to attach her to the top first before we add the last set of branches. Yesterday watched the classics, Rudolph, Frosty and then Elf. That one always makes me laugh. I am going to put in : It’s a Wonderful Life today. Gotta get those cookies frosted! Hope your preparations are coming along well.

 

It’s all about Organization

It’s friday, the week after Christmas and quickly approaching the new year. My job was not closed the day after Christmas like many so I have hit the ground running. I didn’t have a chance to sit on the couch in my sweats thinking about everything we gave and got, drinking my coffee and eating a cut out star with a cinnamon candy in the middle. It has been a full week.

I have been trying to decide what to do because it has been a weight on my shoulders. This desk was a catch all for receipts. There was not one open space, it was claustrophobic. The first thing I did was sort through and paperclip all the receipts. Just doing that made me feel much better. The little yellow pads you see on the right are handy. Not very big, nicely lined and when finished with the list tear it off and toss it away.
I am a list maker, that’s how I keep things straight and that is the next thing I did. All the thoughts are swirling around in my head and I need to get it down to free up space up there also. Trust me…..this is an improvement. The beginning of organization. For me, this messiness was a major creative killer.

The next agenda item that was sitting heavily on my shoulders was going to the grocery and figuring out food to eat. The holiday food items have been eaten and the shelves need restocked here at the Hawkins house. I came up with some items that seemed tasty.

1. Homemade pizza
2. Oriental sauce with cooked chicken breast and vegetables over Jasmine Rice.
3. Fluffy French toast made with texas toast bread. (Recipe can be found in my pinterest recipe board)
4. Tuna Noodle Casserole
5. Chicken Noodle Soup made from a recipe in the newspaper.
6. Chili made from Stubbs in the bag. (Picture to follow)
That should get us through the week. I came out of the grocery $300.00 lighter but with a very heavy cart and one more item to check off my list. Here is Joan’s Chicken Soup. I really am just using the ingredients and may just use boneless chicken breast. Another option is baking some chicken thighs too, they are easy to take off the bone. I am not big on boiling chicken.I will also use chicken broth for the liquid.

 

Joan’s Chicken Soup calls for a parsnip,(pictured). I picked one up, and have not used one and thought I would go for it.

Another thing on my list was to make an appointment. with our family doctor. We are new to this group and have been going for about a year. I would call, get a message that says this is scheduling and to leave your name and phone number and they will call me back. There was no:, we are on vacation, our phone lines are busy, hours that they are open or no option to stay on the line. The next day I tried again, same thing. They did finally call, when I was outside the grocery store, the wind blowing by my ear and a family of five by me all talking to their mother at once. I know you are not surprised, that’s just the way things roll. Got that item taken care of and my shoulders are a little lighter yet.

Now I am sure you were wondering what this Stubbs is all about, here is the package. It can be found where the meatloaf and spaghetti seasoning packages are. I haven’t tried this yet but I have tried other Stubbs items and find them to be phenomenal. We like to have corn chips and cheese with our chili too, what about you? I will most likely do this in the crockpot.

To recap; Feeling overwhelmed and claustrophobic?
1. clean off, throw out, paper clip 2. make a list and check off your items. Very simple, nothing fancy. Good Luck
 If you have any good ideas let me know. I love to learn from others.
I am feeling more like painting now and the ideas are coming back.

Pork Sandwiches with Root Beer Barbecue Sauce

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Made this new recipe today. I found it in my Taste of Home crockpot cookbook but I made it in the oven instead. Here is the recipe: 3 pound boneless pork loin roast, 1 medium onion sliced, 2 tablespoons of minced garlic, 3 cups of root beer divided, 12 ounces chili sauce, 1/8 tsp. hot pepper sauce, I used whole wheat rolls made at Kroger. Oven 375, put roast in dutch oven, add the onion, garlic and one cup of root beer. Bake for two hours until done. Take out of the oven and let cool. In a small saucepan combine the chili sauce, two cups of the root beer and the hot pepper sauce. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes or until thickened. In the dutch oven discard the cooking juices, shred the pork and put back into the pan, add the barbecue sauce. Cook for 30 minutes or until heated through. Serve on the buns. Interesting ingredients and easy peasy! Enjoy!

Recipe-Pepperoni Pizza Casserole

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I found this recipe in my Taste of Home cookbook and it is very good and easy. Here is the recipe: 3 cups uncooked spiral pasta (I used whole grain kroger) 2 pounds ground beef, 1 can 15 ounce tomato sauce, 1 jar 14 ounce pizza sauce, 1 can 6 ounces tomato paste, 1/2 tsp. sugar, 1/2 tsp. garlic, powder 11/2 tsp. onion powder, 1/2 tsp. dried oregano, 2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, 1 package sliced pepperoni, 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta according to directions. In a dutch oven brown ground beef along with 1 tsp. onion powder. Cook until there is no pink. Drain if necessary….I use very lean ground beef. Stir in tomato sauce, pizza sauce, tomato paste, sugar and seasonings. Drain the pasta and stir it into the meat sauce. Spray a 9 X 13 dish with oil and pour in the meat sauce. Next spread out the 2 cups of mozzerella cheese. On top of the cheese put slices of pepperoni very close together and lastly put the 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes, remove foil and bake uncovered for 15 more minutes.

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The crispy pepperonis are quite tasty. This can go well with a salad and bread sticks or texas toast. Hope you give it a try, it got thumbs up here. Enjoy!

Journey to Rocky Ridge and Lawrence KS

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After having a nice breakfast and conversation with Innkeeper Connie Roberts and having inquired as to where the Mansfield town cemetery was located, I checked out and started my journey. As you can tell by this picture many travelers make their way to the grave sites. I think cemeterys are very interesting and historical. This one was set up in 3 sections. The oldest had so many headstones that were not legible at all because they were so old and the elements of time wore them down. The second section was probably only 100 years old and that is where the Wilder’s graves were located. The 3rd section is where the graves were adorned with flowers because there were family members alive to take care of them.
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It was well kept and the Ozarks were visible there. It looks like there is plenty of area for expansion too.

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Almanzo and Lauras headstone. It was nicely done to distinguish them from the others with well manicured bushes and chain to the rear. As you can tell visitors feel the need to put pebbles and coins on the headstone maybe to just leave a marker noting they had been there. I didn’t know them while they were alive but I feel like I did since I have read so much about them. This is where the human bodies were laid to rest and was a very serene area.

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Rose’s grave is right next to her parents with the same kind of pebbles. After speaking with the tour guide at Rocky Ridge I have a whole new view of Rose Wilder Lane. My view was that she was bossy and didn’t treat her mother very well. The tour guide said that to understand Rose more I should read her writings. She probably would be considered “gifted” in our educational system now. She had an insatiable thirst for reading, she traveled all over the world and for her time was the second highest paid journalist.

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Rocky Ridge farm was just a mile out of town which may have seemed like a little trek with a horse and wagon but I can see why they built on this land. When I am at places where historical figures lived I like to feel that this is where they walked and made their life, hallowed ground. I guess I try to feel their presence.

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I walked around the grass to be able to get a good picture of Rocky Ridge. Here is the wonderful home that was build over a 20 year period as they worked the farm and in town and as money became more abundant. My next pictures are from the front porch on the right side.

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This section of the house was built last and I am sure Laura came out of this door often to sit on this porch in the shade and catch a breeze.

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The wonderful view from the porch. Not too hard on the eyes. They did not allow pictures inside the house or museum. The house was left just the way it was when Laura passed away in 1957. The countertops were made low because Laura was not even 5 feet tall and Alamanzo was not a tall man either. They were very hard working, frugal, socially conscious people. I thought this was very interesting, that they did not like Franklin Delano Roosevelt because he implemented the New Deal and all the plans that helped the country get through he depression. They felt that everyone should make their own way and work through the lean times as is what they did exactly in their lives.

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After the tour of the farmhouse we made our way over to The Rock House that Rose had built for Laura and Almanzo to make their lives easier. It was a Sears and Robuck house and she hired high school boys to dig rocks for the house one summer. Many of the original fixtures, doors and such are still in the house. They lived in the house for 8 years with Rose living in the farmhouse. It had electricity, running hot water, and all the amenities that were not available in the area during the late 1920’s. As the tour guide said, it did make Laura’s life easier and in this house is where she started writing the Little House books.( The woman in the picture is named Misty Miller from Alabama and she was waiting on her ride to pick her up). The Rock House was build on the Wilders land of course. It was 3/4 of a mile away from the farmhouse and Rose and Laura walked a path back and forth over the hill to visit each other. Laura felt isolated from others while living here and missed her farmhouse which she and Almanzo had built together. Her heart was still there and also Rose had equipped it with the needed amenities of the Rock House.

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Rose also had a garage built for their Buick and Rose had taught both Laura and Almanzo to drive.

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The view of the Ozarks from the Rock House. Stunning in the fall I am sure.

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Their land went to the tree line.

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A new museum is being built right now and should be opened next year. I loved the museum because it diplayed so much of the items that we read about in her books. Pa’s fiddle, the china figurine, Mary’s quilt that she made and I could go on and on. In her 80’s Laura appliqued a morning glory quilt that was spectacular. Oh and the Our Daily Bread plate that was saved from the house fire of Laura and Almanzo’s home in South Dakota. I was also impressed the the wall display of all The Little House books in different languages. Children in China and Germany wanted to read about the pioneer spirit.

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Plaque outside of the wonderful bookstore that beckoned me in. I had read Pioneer Girl before I left on this trip. It was the original story that Laura wrote and that the Little House Books were written from. It had more adult content like drunken people and such. Not like adult content of today. It came out in December 2014.

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The ticket for my tour. A bookmark I received with my bookstore purchase. I love the receipt from the bookstore with the graphic of the farmhouse. The cashier wanted to know if I wanted a receipt and I said “yes”. After I got it I said I love the graphic and she said, “that’s someone who has too much time on their hands”. I thought it was quite special.

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I picked up this very small, easy reading book since I had stayed in Mansfield the previous night. It talks about the train, the bank of Mansfield and I just wanted to picture what this little sleepy town was like during that period of time.

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I picked this book because it has wonderful pictures of the inside of the houses and of things I wasn’t able to photograph. I also liked it that it was from the recipes that Laura used. It also had a picture of her recipe book, how she reused many different papers to compile them all. I made Farmhouse Stew last night and it received a good review from the family.

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This one I chose because it had great pictures of all the places where the Little House books take place. It took me on a tour without having to go, just like I am doing for you. that Cabin on the front is a replica in Independence, Kansas.

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So it was about 1:00 in the afternoon and I had a 4 hour drive ahead of me to Lawrence, Kansas. Got my GPS up and running and I was mostly on Hwy. 13 in Missouri to take me to Kansas. Observations I had along the way: Lake Truman is huge! I knew it had to be man made because there were dead trees in the middle of the part that I saw. Here is information I found about it. At one point on the lake were pelicans, I wasn’t expecting that. Here is talks about pelicans. Along the road I saw a dead armadillo, which is something I don’t come across in Indiana, mostly raccoon’s and deer. Here is tells about armadillos in Missouri. I got to my room in Lawrence about 6:45 and needed to get to this bookstore that I read about, from another blogger from Kansas. Here is the link to her amazing blog. The bookstore is The Raven and it was just 3 blocks from my hotel. As you know I love books and I love cats and this store contained both. As I walked up this one cat had slipped out with a customer and was hiding behind the potted plant outside the door. The clerk was having a bit o f a time getting him back into the store. Of course once she did the cat kept looking out the door planning his escape again. I saw cat toys on the floor so he and I got into a little cat play. I am sure he was glad that I came along.

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Then this other handsome fellow came out to see what it was all about. He was very pettable and joined in on the cat play also.

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This quilt was also displayed and I asked who had made it, some group in town she said. It had book covers on it.

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I had about a half and hour after playing with the cats to browse and make my choices. I fell in love with this book and it’s beautiful pictures.

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While I don’t like to make my watercolors to be used in a botanical book this had many good watercolor tips and pictures.

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The clerk included two bookmarks, each has a different quote from well known authors. She also gave me some good advice on where to get something to eat.

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Lawrence is a college town and Massachusetts avenue was a bustling place. Very interesting and I went to a brew house bar to place an order and took it back to the hotel. This is a building I passed and don’t know if it was a movie theater or a play house, but it was pretty.

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So Spring Hill Suites was at the end of my journey for the day. Very nice, sizable room. I watched the Republican Debate because I didn’t have to think too hard about anything. When you are driving by yourself you have to stay alert at all times so by the end of the day I was a bit depleted. It has been a great experience! To keep me awake and interested I am listening to audio books.  The first one I chose is Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult, 15 hours long.  Check back in for day three. Thanks for stopping!

 

Bread Monday

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I love to make bread and I do it the old fashioned way, mixing it by hand, kneading it on the counter. I picked up a magazine that has recipes for homemade bread a few years ago and I don’t think I used any of the recipes yet. So I pulled it out today and tried the first one. It was fabulous! Buttermilk-Honey Bread. I use Fleischman’s in the jar and keep it in the refrigerator. I also keep dry buttermilk on hand in the refrigerator.

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The front of the magazine in case you are looking for one also. I have so many great cookbooks but I find myself going to the internet to find a recipe.  I am going to try to use my cookbook collection more.

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The recipe and directions.

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All the ingredients except the flour.

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Two cups of flour.

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with the complete 7 1/2 cups of flour. Ready to knead.

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Dumped out on the counter with all the flour that didn’t get mixed in. It will get kneaded in. I also add a large spoonful of flour as I knead it if the dough is stickky.

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While I am kneading the dough I put hot water in the mixing bowl for two reasons. One is to heat up the bowl to help the dough rise. The other makes it easier to get the bread off the sides for cleaning.

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Here it is, soft as a babies behind. It will be going back into the warmed bowl.

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I also put a towel damp with warm water on top for more warmth. After 1 to 1 1/2 hours it has risen to double the size.

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One thing I would change in the recipe would be that I would make a third pan. It called for only two but 3 loaves could have easily been made.

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The recipe called for these slits to be made on the diagonal. It gave it a nice touch.

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Here they are, warm and golden brown, but the one on the right is too tall.

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A perfect loaf of bread. So good when it is warm. Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed. Thank so much for stopping!

A little dirty shirley

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After the terrible weather on Saturday, the rain and the wind, it was amazing that Sunday was gorgeous! It was cooler and sunny, the kind of day that I was waiting for to do this….tear out these dead, nearly wild roses. They just didn’t come back after our winter. We had quite a few and the others are hanging on by a leaf. I didn’t have the heart or the muscles to pull them out. I was pretty well pooped after digging out six. They hung on for sure, it wasn’t easy.

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To replace them I bought these really pretty coneflower plants. I love the different colors on one plant. They tolerate the heat, they stay upright and compact. I think they will do well in the spots. See that rose in the front, how half of it has nothing on it. I will give it a chance and see what it can do. I don’t get upset when something dies…I remember watching a master gardener on television saying that things will die and all you have to do is replace them, it just happens. So right they were.

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The only casualty we had from the wind was this daylily branch full of not ready to bloom buds broke off. I brought it in and put it in water to see what it will do.

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While buying the coneflowers I also purchased these beautiful blue delphiniums. I am very attracted to their eye catching color.

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They are a really nice addition to my flower garden. I didn’t water any of my new plantings because I knew it was going to rain the next day, and it did. Today was dreary again. So then after I had done the pulling and the planting and Tom had mowed the lawn, we sat down to watch the Tigers and have a Dirty Shirley beverage. We both fell asleep in our chairs on the porch getting a neck ache. The Tigers were behind and when we woke up an hour later they had tied it up and went ahead to win! It was worth falling asleep and missing the aggravation. Let me give you the Dirty Shirley Recipe. ice in a glass 1 1/2 ounces orange vodka1 1/2 ounces grenadine or maraschino cherry juice top off with sprite, cherries and an orange slice. Depending on how big your glass is how strong you make it. It’s refreshing…..and it will help you sleep! Thanks for visiting!

 

me oh my…bean soup

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Inside this pot…..is…..you guessed it….I’m sure….Ham and Bean Soup. I am going to share my recipe for this. It smells so good and makes the best broth. This time I used a package of dried Navy Beans but have at other times used the ready to use beans in a jar. I let the dry beans soak overnight to soften them up. In a large pot I put 1 package or jar of navy beans…. water to cover plus 2 inches over…. 1 large onion chunked not diced if you have someone who doesn’t like the feel of onion as we do. 1 celery stalk chopped…. chunked up ham…1/2 to 1 pound…. 2 T. brown sugar…. salt and pepper to taste…. 1 tsp. minced garlic…. 2 T. Worcester sauce. Stir together and let simmer for 3 hours. I will be making cornbread to go with this also.

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I got this nice ham at the grocery last night. I like a little fat on the outside, I think it helps the flavor.

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I cut off what I needed for my soup ( I took off the fat) and wrapped it up in foil. In a couple of days I am going to bake this and make scalloped potatoes. At our house we say we are open 24 hours a day. There is somebody up during all hours because of the times they work. I like to have something that is filling and keeps well so that there is something to eat without any more preparation then the microwave. We try to eat well, and not so fattening, but I also like to have food that tastes very good. I would rather eat less of something that tastes fantastic, than eat more of something that tastes like cardboard because all the fat and sugar has been removed . Moderation is the key to everything.

I also am going to make up some strawberries and shortcake.  Good dessert, and something easy to dish up yourself.

I also have some asparagus to bake….I will meet resistance with wrinkled nosed possibly, but if the cook likes it….the cook makes it.

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Why am I making something that is usually saved for cooler weather, you are wondering I bet….well maybe not. This is the kind of weather we are having today….rain, heavier rain, really heavy rain and wind. Normally you can’t see the water on the far pond because it is down there. Not so today. We have had the wettest June on record here. It keeps the grass green and the flowers watered but people who are flooded are having a tough go.

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The geese are even huddled over on the far bank. Standing water in the bean field. That goes down into a creek that runs into the far pond you saw earlier. I hope we have a little moderation on the rain here soon for everybody’s sake. Other places in the US would love some water, like California and Utah. The weather amazes me all the time. Till next time…..Thanks for stopping!

Texas White Sheet Cake

White Texas Sheet Cake

I was looking at one of my favorite blogs-Tall Tales from Kansas- the other day and she featured a recipe that I knew I had to make. I liked her original recipe picture, done on the typewriter. This was a tasty and quick recipe. I never feel you can go wrong with almond flavoring and toasted pecans.

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I didn’t get the picture taken before the cake was dug into but here it is at one fourth  of the cake left. It was fantastic and I will definitely make it again. I am sure you will enjoy also.