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Like clockwork, orange cake and other IOUs come home to roost

Sunday, January 19, 2003

By Suzanne Martinson, Post-Gazette Food Editor

My house is full of food, but it's all inedible. At least for me.

I hate January. Holiday indulgences have come home to roost or, more specifically, home to the hips, while my every passing thought lodges in the sweet minefield of my mind.

I came into January with unfinished business. There was all that baking that I didn't get done. So this month is all about fulfilling some baking IOUs, including one already completed project just in time for Orthodox Christmas. Then there's trying a Swedish recipe praised by a reader and settling into a routine that is no routine at all for me.

As I began my sabbatical last week, I was astonished at how quiet it is was in our neighborhood, although I felt relieved that there's no office candy machine or lunchroom one flight down, either. I have worked since I was 16 years old, and setting my own time and pace is going to take some getting used to, especially when it comes to mealtimes. People who say at 3 o'clock, "Oh, I guess I forgot to eat lunch," amaze me.

January is typically my time to clean up, take down and get organized. I'm talking about my eating habits. So these three months are going to be especially hard. I'm going to have to rethink what goes in (calories) and what goes out (exercise), because I've got a goal in mind.

Our family is doing something special in March. We're going on a cruise of the Hawaiian Islands. We have things to celebrate, and there will be photos.

I don't want to look like a whale.

Three or four years ago, I started teasing my "I'm 10 years younger, and I'll always be 10 years younger" sister Roxann. Because she and I would both celebrate our silver anniversaries within weeks of each other, I figured our husbands deserved a trip to Hawaii.

At the time, neither of us had ever been hot to hula, although our 83-year-old mother, Ann, had a certificate to prove her prowess.

"We'll ask Mom -- she'll teach us the moves," I told Roxann. (Her key to getting my late farmer father to take her to exotic locales: "I just pack his bags.")

Our husbands, Dutch (hers) and Ace (mine), who are about the same age, just exchanged knowing glances, as in, "Why would you want to go there? Wouldn't you rather have a nice pizza out? We could even have one delivered!"

Then, one Saturday last summer, the phone rang. For some reason, Roxann wasn't at a horse show, and she was calling us -- from Mom's phone.

"Want to go on a Hawaiian cruise for our anniversaries?" she asked, right up front.

"I'm ready, but I'll let you talk to Ace," I said. I carried the phone up to where he was pounding away on his novel -- or maybe he was checking how the stock market was tanking. Again.

"Sure, sounds fun," he said.

Well, you could have pushed me over with a Hawaiian pineapple.

So we're going. Mom is going along, too, rooming with a friend of hers. (In the past, I wouldn't have had to specify female, but in today's times, I will let you know that it's a woman friend.) A couple of couples -- Roxann's teacher friends -- also will make the trip.

Days later, perusing cruise photos and prices, Ace was feeling a bit of buyer's remorse.

"We don't have to go if you've changed your mind," I said, thrusting out my petulant bottom lip but cleverly adding, "This could be my anniversary present."

If there's anything Ace hates more than shopping, in 25 years of marriage I have not discovered what it is. Maybe dancing, particularly the hula.

After my brother, Jon, a grandfather of four, got married in August, he and his bride, Martha, a mother of two, were invited to go along, too. Sort of a second honeymoon. Their first was Alaska, my brother's happiness heightened by a visiting moose in their hosts' back yard.

We started thinking we ought to buy those bumper stickers that proclaim, "We're spending our children's inheritance." They're probably cheaper if we buy in bulk.

And that's another reason I'm going to increase my activity and decrease my cupcakes -- I don't want a bottom big enough to put a bumper sticker on.

So the delicious dishes that I'll be testing in the next three months will be distributed to friends. Luckily, when our daughter, Jessica, took that paying job in Michigan, she left her little red wagon behind. I plan to load it up with goodies and go door to door, and I can imagine our neighbors quickly closing their curtains when they hear the wagon wheels creaking toward their house. I'm counting on our church family, too.

Still, as we say to our children when introducing a new food, "You don't have to eat it all -- you just have to taste it."

Ace will be grateful, too. Those grass skirts don't cover everything, and he's just bought an authentic hula shirt -- half price at a thrift store. It cost 99 cents.

Addendum: I made the Apelsinkaka (see accompanying recipe) for Ace because it is Swedish and so is he.

"I've never liked orange flavoring in recipes," he said as he watched me pull it out of the oven and apply the glaze. (It was delicious. He ate a slice in spite of himself.)

Twenty-five years. Live and learn. It's another way to diet.

Orange Cake (Apelsinkaka)

This recipe comes from St. Marys, Elk County, reader Delane Thorwart. She bought the cake at a bake sale and "simply had to have the recipe," which came from the 1956 "Daughters of Sweden Cookbook."

  • 1 orange, grated rind and juice

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup nuts, finely chopped (we used sliced almonds)
  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup sour milk or buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix orange juice and 1/2 cup sugar and let stand while preparing cake.

Cream butter. Add remaining 1 cup sugar and cream until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and nuts.

Sift together flour, baking soda and baking powder. Fold into first mixture alternately with sour milk. Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into batter.

Pour into greased and floured 8-inch tube pan. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes. (We used a 10-inch tube pan, so our baking time was reduced to 40 minutes.)

Remove from oven. Pour mixture of orange juice and sugar mixture over cake.

Lemon-Cranberry Mini Loaves

One of these little loaves makes a nice hostess gift, or you could wrap each individually in aluminum foil and freeze for unexpected guests.

  • 2/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon peel
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups dried cranberries
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • Glaze:
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter, sugar, lemon juice and lemon peel.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt; add to the creamed mixture alternately with milk. Stir in cranberries and walnuts.

Pour batter into 8 to 10 (5-by-3-by-2-inch) mini loaf pans (we greased with vegetable oil spray), and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. (Ours didn't brown much, except around the edges, but the toothpick did come out clean.)

Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

With a toothpick or skewer, poke 12 holes in each loaf. (We did 15.)

Glaze: Combine 1/4 cup sugar and lemon juice and stir until sugar is dissolved. Spoon over loaves. Cool completely before slicing.

Tester's note: We made 8 loaves in throw-away aluminum pans, filling each about one-half full. Next time, we might make 6 larger loaves. They don't rise that much.

"Candy Christmas's Christmas Collection"

Suzanne Martinson can be reached at bsjmar2@aol.com.

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