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Angels Unawares, Serial #28 and Magic Cake

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So what makes Magic Cake magic?

Does it make itself? Well, no (you’ve been watching too many reruns of I Dream of Jeannie). Does it frost itself? No, though we do have a self-frosting cake recipe we might pull out for later. Is it zero calories? Nice try, but no. Well then, I give up–just tell us and stop with the stupid game of twenty questions.

O.K. This Magic Cake (there may be others so named out there) is “magic” because it becomes two cakes in one as it bakes. The top and outer edges are light and airy, almost like an angel food cake. But the middle and lower half are dense and eggy, like a rich custard. And that’s what makes it “magic,” two cakes in one from very basic ingredients and a simple recipe. Dust it with a little confectioner’s sugar, serve it with some fresh fruit on the side or all by itself. It’s nice as a unique after-dinner dessert, but just as appropriate for a brunch or lunch sweet. And don’t tell anyone, but it’s mighty tasty cold (keep any leftovers in the fridge) for breakfast. So I guess it’s “magic” for its versatility as well.

Oh, and one final thing, this cake is magic (to us, anyway) as it is the companion recipe for the last chapter of Angels Unawares. Our serialized novel that began on the second day of what was then the “new” year wraps up this week with Serial #28. Give it a look, or go all the way back here to check out the beginning.

  magic cake

Magic Cake

2 eggs, separated

6 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup lukewarm milk

powdered sugar for dusting

close up

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 5×7 inch pan with cooking spray, and set aside.

Put the egg whites in a clean bowl and beat with a handheld mixer until stiff.

In a separate bowl, add the egg yolks and granulated sugar. Beat until the yolks turn light yellow. Add the melted butter and vanilla extract, and mix all of the ingredients together. Slowly mix in some of the flour, then some of the milk. Continue to alternate and add these two ingredients, beginning and ending with the flour. The batter will be very thin. Once the flour and milk have been mixed into the batter, fold in the egg whites.

Pour the batter into prepared pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the cake is mostly set. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool completely. When ready to serve, sprinkle the top of the cake with powdered sugar. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Makes 4 servings.


{Adapted from Jo Cooks}

Click the cover below for a link to the entire novel.

Click the links below the cover to listen to or read Angels Unawares, Serial #28.


Angels Unawares, Serial #28, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Angels Unawares, Serial #28, text © Jeffrey Anderson



Angels Unawares, Serial #27 and No Bake Peach Cheesecakes

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Out of the strawberries–and into the peaches!

Those of y’all (guess where we’re from–then again, we could be faking our regional identity; you never know) who follow this blog regularly (must be one or two of you out there) know we recently went through a strawberry phase, as we designated strawberries the Reading and Recipes fruit of the spring and highlighted them in several recipes.

Well, springtime is over; it’s on into summer.

And while there are many fruits associated with summer, the early summer fruit of our choice is the peach. In the temperate climates, local peaches are starting to show up on fruit stands and in the farmer’s markets. And if you’re lucky, and willing to brave the heat and those rickety leaning ladders and the itchiness of peach fuzz, you may be able to find a pick-your-own peach orchard nearby where you can pick this delicious fruit at the peak of its ripeness and juiciness. A truly ripe peach doesn’t last long or transport well, so you probably won’t find one in the grocery store. They are worth the effort if you have an orchard nearby.

And once you have your peaches (from whatever source), save out a couple for these No Bake Peach Cheesecakes. As the name tells you, this is a great summertime recipe because you don’t have to heat up the oven or the kitchen. And the graham cracker crust and Greek yogurt are the perfect complement to the delicate flavor and sweetness of the peaches. What a great treat to kick-off the Season of the Peach!

Bring on the heat. We’re ready now–with these No Bake Peach Cheesecakes!

mini peach cheesecakes

No Bake Peach Cheesecakes

4 mini graham cracker crusts

2 medium ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons water, divided

2 teaspoons cornstarch

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup peach Greek yogurt

2 Tablespoons powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large saucepan, combine the peaches, granulated sugar, and 1 tablespoon of water. Heat this mixture over med-high heat, stirring occasionally, and bring to a boil. While you are waiting for that mixture to boil, mix together the cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of water. Once the peach mixture comes to a boil, stir in cornstarch. Bring the mixture to a boil again and stir constantly. Boil for 2 minutes, or until the mixture thickens, and remove from heat.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, yogurt, powdered sugar, and vanilla with a handheld mixer for 3-4 minutes, or until very fluffy. Pour the cream cheese mixture into the graham cracker crusts. Top the cheesecake mixture with the peaches.

Refrigerate for at least an hour, or until ready to serve.

Makes 4 mini cheesecakes.

peach cheesecake

{Adapted from Cooking to Perfection}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #27 of “Angels Unawares”.

Angels Unawares, Serial #27, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Angels Unawares, Serial #27, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Angels Unawares, Serial #26 and Banana Crumb Cake

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Summer (it is officially summer, in case you’ve been asleep the last few days–the Druids welcomed the sunrise at Stonehenge last Saturday!) offers such a wide range of possible activities. One of my favorites is sitting out on the porch on a weekend morning before it gets too hot, checking out the birds and the flowers and the foliage still green and succulent from the previous night’s dew. Those moments are so soothing.

Some other great summer activities include a walk or a hike, a picnic lunch at the park, a bike ride along a trail, a chance for some sunbathing and a cooling swim at the pool, or that old standby–a trip to the beach, whether the beach is at a pond or lake or river or ocean. Summer offers so many inviting recreational options.

And of course each of these activities has its own set of food possibilities, and requirements. The fancy spread that could be stored into a beach cooler or a picnic basket might not fit so well in a hiker’s backpack or a biker’s belt pack.

But we’ve got a recipe here that will go anywhere this summer, and taste great everywhere! This Banana Crumb Cake is both delicious and versatile. Part coffeecake, part banana bread, you can cut a square, pop it in a Ziploc bag, and take it anywhere, no refrigeration or special handling required. This recipe may have started out as a breakfast favorite (remember that relaxing pause on the porch in the cool of the morning?), but turns out it’s great any time of day and with almost any mix of food and drink.

So give this Banana Crumb Cake a try. Take it anywhere, everywhere, with you this summer!

 banana crumb breakfast cake

Banana Crumb Cake

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt

2 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 egg yolk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup mashed bananas (about 2 medium ripe bananas)

2 Tablespoons plain Greek yogurt or sour cream

For the streusel:

1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup chopped nuts or chocolate chips, optional

banana breakfast cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a 5×7 inch pan with cooking spray, and set aside.

Add the flour, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to a small mixing bowl. Whisk these ingredients together until well combined.

In another mixing bowl, beat the butter with a handheld mixer until it is light and fluffy. Add the granulated sugar and beat it into the butter. Next, add the egg yolk, vanilla, mashed bananas, and yogurt and mix into the butter until well incorporated. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients until everything is combined, careful not to over mix.

To make the streusel, mix together 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon and the brown sugar (and nuts or chocolate chips, if using).

Pour half of the cake batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle half of the streusel on top of the cake batter. Pour the remaining cake batter on top of the streusel layer, and sprinkle remaining streusel on top of the cake. Bake for 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 4.

banana crumb cake bite

{Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #26 of “Angels Unawares”.

Angels Unawares, Serial #26, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Angels Unawares, Serial #26, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Angels Unawares, Serial #25 and Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Cookies

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Let’s do a science experiment. No, I’m not talking about the one where you blow up the high school chemistry lab. And I’m DEFINITELY not referring to the one where you dissect that ooky frog (I still can’t get that smell out of my nose and it happened forty years ago!).

I’m talking about a culinary experiment. And not the over-the-top esoteric ones like you see on the TV where they have three competing chefs try to figure out how to combine some root vegetable dug up from darkest Amazon with a whole squid still flopping around on the tray with an unfamiliar distilled liquor from a former Soviet republic–and, oh, you have thirty minutes to figure it all out and make it presentable not to mention edible; I mean, twenty-nine minutes and twenty seconds. Not this chef, thank you very much.

Call me boring but my kitchen experiment would go something like this–let’s go to the pantry and pull out our favorite foods and mix them together and see what we get. Of course, you’ve got to have chocolate. That goes without saying. And then you have to get down that jar of peanut butter sitting there looking so sweet and demure when you know darn well it can’t wait to get together with that choco and make some sparks.  But we can’t have only fireworks, got to get a little healthiness in there. Oatmeal! The nutritionists say it’s good for just about everything that ails you. And what the heck, let’s throw in that soft butter sitting out on the counter and a little sugar to sweeten up the choco and a splash of vanilla just because it smells so much better than it tastes. (Remember the first time you licked the teaspoon after your mom measured out the vanilla–that was a rude awakening!)

OK–enough ingredients. Let’s stir it all together, warm it on the stove (if it’s an experiment, you have to heat it , right?), adjust the consistency with a little milk, take it off the heat, let it cool down, form the stuff into a cookie shape, pop it in the fridge to firm up (or eat it right then, doughy fingers and all)–and voila: Chocolate Peanut Butter No-bake Cookies!

Of course, the instructions for this experiment are a little vague and ragged; you might want to check out the details below. But you get the idea–this recipe is supposed to be FUN and EASY. Who said science can’t be a pleasure (as long as you leave the frogs in the pond!)?

no bake

Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Cookies

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

2 Tablespoons milk

2 Tablespoons peanut butter*

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup old-fashioned oats


Add the butter to a sauce pan. Heat over medium heat until melted. Add the sugar, cocoa powder, and milk to the sauce pan. Continue to heat the mixture, stirring constantly, until it begins to boil. Boil the mixture for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove the mixture from the heat.

Add the peanut butter and vanilla to the mixture and stir ingredients together. Last, add the oats and mix until evenly distributed throughout the cookie dough.

Drop six spoonfuls of dough onto a plate lined with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.** Gently press the cookies down and form into a circular shape. Place the cookies in the refrigerator and allow to set completely before eating.

Makes 6 cookies.

*You can use smooth or crunchy style peanut butter. I’ve also made these with Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter for an extra chocolate-y cookie.

**You can also make these into bars. Lightly spray a small square or rectangular dish with cooking spray and pour the batter into the pan. Refrigerate bars until set before cutting into squares.

no bake cookies

{Adapted from Lick The Bowl Good}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #25 of “Angels Unawares”.

Angels Unawares, Serial #25, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Angels Unawares, Serial #25, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Angels Unawares, Serial #24 and Strawberry Frappe

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Was it only a month and a half ago that we were just starting to emerge from the icebox of winter (like those little shoots of flowers popping up in the yard) and dreaming of springtime and fresh hand-picked strawberries when we posted our Strawberry Crumble recipe? My, my, how time flies. Now here we are on the threshold of summer, already complaining about the heat and humidity, and wondering how to cool off. Where did spring go?

Well, spring is still here–on the calendar and at Reading and Recipes! It may be hotter than heck in a lot of places, and the pick-your-own strawberry patches may be closed or closing down in many regions. But we can’t turn our attention to summer fruits without paying one last tribute to the ultimate springtime fruit–strawberries! 

But in this parting (till next year) tribute, we’re also aware of the rising heat and our growing need to cool down. So leave your oven turned off and pull out the blender and mix up a batch of this simple and delicious and healthy Strawberry Frappe. It uses milk instead of cream, yogurt instead of ice cream, fresh strawberries (run down and see if the pick-your-own patch has a few left) instead of frozen berries, and jam instead of sugar. But don’t worry, it’s still plenty rich and satisfying while also being cool and refreshing–which is a good thing, because we’ve got to find a way to deal with this heat!

And thank you fresh strawberries for a great spring season. Now bring on the peaches and blueberries! (Who says I’m fickle? I’m just a realist!)

 strawberry frappe

Strawberry Frappe

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup vanilla Greek yogurt*

3-4 strawberries, hulled and sliced

1 Tablespoon strawberry jam

1 cup ice cubes

strawberry jam

Add all of the ingredients to a blender in the order listed, adding the ice cubes last. Blend for 30 seconds, or until everything is well mixed. If you want a thicker frappe, add more ice; if you want a thinner frappe, add more milk. Pour the frappe into a glass and top with whipped cream, if desired.

Makes 1 frappe.

*For a richer frappe, add vanilla ice cream instead of Greek yogurt.

strawberry frap

Click below to listen to or read Serial #24 of “Angels Unawares”.

Angels Unawares, Serial #24, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Angels Unawares, Serial #24, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Angels Unawares, Serial #23 and White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

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There’s a new kid on the block. No, I’m not talking about a new pop singer or baseball pitcher or tennis star. I’m talking about macadamia nuts.

O.K. I admit it–I’m probably a latecomer to this party. You know, the one that shows up just as everyone else is leaving and wonders why the dip is all dried out and the ice in the bucket all melted, the one that wants to crank the music up and start dancing just as the host comes out with his pajamas on and a toothbrush in his mouth and wonders what all the racket is. Yeah–I’m that guy when it comes to macadamia nuts: way late to the party.

But for me, walnuts and pecans were the only nuts you ever baked with: pecans with chocolate, walnuts with bananas, and flip a coin for any other recipe. And almonds? Oh, how radical! Hazelnuts? Revolutionary in the extreme! Macadamia nuts? Macadamia nuts? What’s that?

O.K. Maybe I’m exaggerating just a tad. But they are a new discovery for me, and a wonderful one at that. And part of this new discovery is that they are the perfect complement for white chocolate. In fact, I think macadamia nuts and white chocolate are secretly married and just aren’t telling anyone about it.

So grab yourself a bag of these newfangled nuts and throw them together with some white chocolate chips and this kick-butt cookie dough and bake you up a batch of these White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies. You’ll be glad you did. And if you’ve been enjoying these “newcomer” nuts your whole lifetime–well, send me a dose of your pity. I really should get out more–and try harder to get to the party on time.

white choc macadamia nut cookies

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

6 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1 egg yolk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 Tablespoons white chocolate chips

2 Tablespoons chopped Macadamia nuts

white choc mac nut cookie

In a small mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. In another mixing bowl, add the butter and both sugars. Beat these ingredients together until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat into the butter mixture. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the dough and mix until just combined, careful not to over mix. Fold in the white chocolate chips and chopped Macadamia nuts. Cover and refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes or overnight.

When ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Roll tablespoon-size balls of dough and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the edges start to turn golden brown. Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 6 cookies.

white choc mac nut cookies

{Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #23 of “Angels Unawares”.

Angels Unawares, Serial #23, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Angels Unawares, Serial #23, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Angels Unawares, Serial #22 and Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

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In this week’s reading segment, Angels Unawares, Serial #22, Laura agrees to make blueberry muffins for Devon and Josh but then realizes she doesn’t have the recipe. And even if she can recall the recipe, she might not be able to find the ingredients in Josh’s unfamiliar kitchen. These uncertainties, combined with the emotional stress she’s under, result in a mini-meltdown right there in the kitchen (we’ve all been there, haven’t we?).

Too bad she didn’t have Internet service with access to Reading and Recipes. We would’ve provided her with the recipe right here. Instead, she had to get help from a long-lost spiritual companion named Amy, one of the several spiritual entities that populate this book and guide their human charges to a safer shore.

Picking up on this muffin theme, this week’s recipe is Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins. These might not be quite as universal as the tried and true blueberry muffins Laura plans to make, but they come in a close second. The nice thing about Poppy Seed Muffins is that they are so versatile–good for breakfast, to be sure, but also great on a brunch buffet, for a picnic lunch, or even as an accompaniment to many dinner entrees. Not too sweet or gooey, they transport well (try them in a bag lunch) and keep for several days. Oh, and did I forget to mention the lemon flavor? That little tartness is just the right complement to the richness of the muffin and the earthiness of the poppy seeds. And it smells so good while baking. So give them a try.

And if you’re really ambitious, follow Laura’s lead and mix up the blueberry muffins as well. Then you’ll have two kinds of muffins and your stomach, and anyone else in the house, will be doubly happy.

lemon muffin

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup plus 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt

1 Tablespoon poppy seeds

1/4 cup buttermilk

optional: zest from one lemon

lemon poppy seed muffins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a regular size muffin pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

Add the butter and granulated sugar to a large mixing bowl. With a hand mixer, cream ingredients on high until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and mix into the batter. Add the lemon juice and vanilla extract and mix in. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl and make sure all ingredients are mixed together.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and poppy seeds. Add some of the dry ingredients to the creamed butter mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, and beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix just until incorporated, careful not to over mix.

Divide the batter between 4 muffin cups in the prepared pan, filling each about 3/4 full. If you have enough batter left over, fill one more muffin cup. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let the muffins cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan and putting on a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 4-5 muffins.

lemon poppy seed muffin

{Adapted from Cooking to Perfection}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #22 of “Angels Unawares”.

Angels Unawares, Serial #22, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Angels Unawares, Serial #22, text © Jeffrey Anderson