Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Way to a Man's Heart...

My sister and I became our grandfather’s caregivers after our father passed away. Since our dad was his only child, and at 89 most of the members of his already small family had also passed away, this labor of love was left to us. Grandpa was still really “with it” mentally, but between his poor eyesight and bad knees, he needed our help to get around and take care of his business. He was actually doing both until the day his car hit a pole that “jumped out from nowhere” in the alley behind the neighborhood Big Lots. His car was totaled, his face was bloodied and his pride was mortally wounded. I still get a guilty chuckle from the memory of my six year old son’s description of the carnage when he and his father arrived on the scene. Thank goodness Grandpa wasn’t really hurt, but since he had let his insurance lapse because their customer service representative was “snotty” to him, he was out of a car (boy he really showed them!) and we realized that his paperwork had become a burden. The possible repercussions of this poor financial decision scared us all to death, so we were relieved that Grandpa’s driving days were over. Little did the people of America know, but from that day on, their streets were much safer. Oh sure, with the loss of his car, Grandpa’s “George Clooney” status slipped a bit at the independent living complex where he lived, but he still managed to remain pretty hot stuff with the female residents. He was clever, funny, darned handsome and continent. With assets like these, who really needs a car anyway?

Cooking for Grandpa was a real pleasure, he really loved regular old food, and as long as there was lots of it, he was a happy man. Being a long term bachelor and living off institutional cuisine for a couple of years made him a grateful and eager diner. He never tired of the down home food from the land of his childhood and God’s chosen country, Oklahoma. He loved liver and onions, chicken fried steak, pinto beans, turnip greens and a surprising new favorite, blue Jell-O. He claimed that he ate it to improve the thickness of his fingernails, but we all knew the truth, it just made him smile and sometimes that’s the best reason of all for loving something. No excuses or further explanation needed. Cooking for my father on the other hand was always a pleasure but also a real challenge. While he was always pretty tactful about it, he more often than not let you know that improvements could be made on your technique and/or ingredients. Even though this was sometimes a bit disheartening, when you got it right, it was as exciting as receiving a James Beard Award. His accolades were earned, not given capriciously.

Grandpa passed away a little over eight years ago. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him or something funny he said. That scraped up pole behind Big Lots still stands like an unofficial monument to that stubborn old man. Even though Grandpa and Dad are gone I thankfully still have two grateful diners to cook for and they are both pretty easy to please themselves. My husband likes nothing better than dry Texas sausage and Bavarian sauerkraut. My son on the other hand is easier to please than that, his current summer favorite is grilled bacon wrapped hot dogs on buttery toasted buns with jalapeno mustard and a gooey Hot Fudge Pudding Cake for dessert. Even though I am grateful for my two simple eaters, I still greatly miss a good Sunday dinner James Beard challenge with a side of blue Jell-O.

Since there is no recipe needed for bacon wrapped hot dogs, as they pretty much speak for themselves (forgive me Hebrew National), I thought I might share the Hot Fudge Pudding Cake recipe. It may seem like more of a winter recipe but I can vouch for the fact that it is just as delicious after a summertime barbeque as it is after a wintertime Sunday roast.




Kevin's new favorite - No recipe required



Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

1-1/4 cup (250g) granulated sugar, divided
1 cup (128g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (64g) best quality cocoa, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (125ml) milk
1/3 cup (75g) melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (110g) packed light brown sugar
1-1/4 (312ml) cup hot water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, 180 C.

In a medium size bowl combine 3/4 cup granulated sugar, flour, 1/4 cup cocoa, baking powder, salt, milk, melted butter and vanilla, stir until smooth. Pour into a 9 x 9” baking dish that has been lightly sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

Combine the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 cup cocoa, and the light brown sugar. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the batter in the baking dish. Pour the hot water over the top but do not stir. Place into the preheated oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the center is almost set. Remove from the oven and rest for 10 minutes before serving warm. Top with ice cream, cream or whipped cream.

Makes 6 generous servings.
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