You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Friday Favorites’ category.
Don’t these look swoon-worthy? My son got our entire family hooked on the cola cake made by Cracker Barrel, so I was delighted to find this healthier version of the treat on Holly Clegg’s website. The recipe is from her cookbook Too Hot in the Kitchen.
Holly contributed recipes for my book Dead Pan. She also tweaks recipes for those fighting cancer, arthritis, and diabetes. Check out her website for more wonderful recipes and information on her books: Freezer Friendly Meals, Eating Well Through Cancer, Eating Well to Fight Arthritis, Trim & Terrific Diabetic Cooking, Kitchen 101, Gulf Coast Favorites, and Too Hot in the Kitchen.
Here is Holly’s recipe for Chocolate Cola Cake/Brownie. If you get around to making them before I do–and just go ahead and err on the side of caution–please call me. Having posted the recipe, I feel responsible for helping you taste-test them before giving them to your family. We might have to test to many that you’ll have to bake another batch, but that’s okay. We’re thorough. 🙂 By the way, the symbols to the right of the title indicate the recipe is freezer-friendly, vegetarian, and diabetic.
The secret recipe is now out!!! I participated in a regional diet coke promotion and this recipe was all the rage each year so I am excited to share it with you and included it in my cookbook for everyone to enjoy now.
Makes 60-70 squares
1/3 cup canola oil
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup diet cola
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
Cola Chocolate Icing (recipe follows)
1. Preheat oven 350°F. Coat 15x10x1-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray.
2. In mixing bowl, beat together oil, sugar, egg and vanilla until creamy. In another bowl, mix together cola and buttermilk; set aside.
3. In small bowl, combine flour, cocoa, and baking soda; set aside. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with cola mixture, mixing only until just blended. Stir in miniature marshmallows.
4. Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake 12-15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven, and immediately pour Cola Chocolate Icing (see recipe) on top of cake and carefully spread. Cool to room temperature, cut into squares.
Cola Chocolate Icing This icing hardens on cake-delicious.
6 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup diet cola
1/4 cup cocoa
1 (16-ounce) box confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. In medium pot, combine butter, cola, and cocoa, bring to boil. Remove from heat, and add confectioners sugar and vanilla, mixing until smooth. Icing will thicken.
Spicy Advice: For cakes like squares, make in 13x9x2-inch pan, bake 30-35 minutes.
Calories 84 Calories from fat 24% Fat 2g Saturated Fat 1g Cholesterol 6mg Sodium 29mg Carbohydrate 16g Dietary Fiber 0g Sugars 12g Protein 1g Dietary Exchanges: 1 other carbohydrate, 1/2 fat
I spent all of my early childhood living everywhere but the South. My father was a Master Sargent in the Air Force, so we traveled all over Europe and up America’s east coast. To this day, I am sure it was these years of exposure to diversity that shaped my appreciation for Dixie. When I came ‘home’ to Georgia to live with Granny—my maternal grandmother—at the age of ten (1967), I was greeted with recent stories about the surrounding area. The high school—directly across from Granny’s little house, where my mother graduated—burned to the ground one night, filling Granny’s bedroom with orange light, scaring her to death. And I was soon to find out my granny didn’t scare easily. And, only months before the fire, a jet pilot from the nearby Air Force Base flew into a two-story Victorian owned by two old maid sisters at the end of the road. One of the sisters and the pilot died. The only survivor was the sister who was wheelchair bound. Granny said the hand of fate sometime had a sick sense of humor. She was no stranger to a hardscrabble life.
Granny was very proper in her speech, the ways she dressed, and her choice of company. She was what was known in the South at that time as a white-glove lady. Meaning, if white gloves were appropriate for the occasion, she wore them. The year I came to live with her she had been a widow for thirty-eight years. My grandfather died during the Great Depression when my mother was six. Yet, Mother had no memory of him. This should have been a hint, a sneak peek into Granny’s past.
Twice a month Granny pulled her car out of the driveway and drove us into the mountains. Later I would learn this area was part of Appalachia, but at the time it seemed like as far away from Atlanta life as we could get. The four-lane highway became barely two lanes and twisted up into the thick woods with only the occasional house tittering on stacked field stones instead of a solid foundation. Sometimes there would be kids playing in the yard, who would stop and stare at us as we drove by in Granny’s brand new baby blue Oldsmobile.
My great aunts lived in a cluster of similarly described houses close to each other while the grown cousins were within walking distance. We always went to Aunt Stella’s (pronounced Stellar) house. None of them had an indoor bathroom to my horror. Instead outhouses dotted the woods in back of the homes. On the first visit, I swore I would never go into such a place. Mother’s answer was a hard pinch to my inner arm. My first lesson in Southern manners.
Granny’s visits brought all the cousins and second cousins to visit. We gathered in Aunt Stella’s high-ceiling front room. Granny, when offered snuff, smiled and dipped the brown powder into her front lip. I thought I would die on the spot. This was the equivalent of witnessing the Queen of England smoke a cigarette. Each of us were given a jelly jar of thickly sweetened tea and a large wedge of homemade cake. My favorite was Aunt Stella’s orange cake. I always sat in the far corner of the room, seen but not heard. When the younger cousins went out to play in the bright sunshine, I stayed behind, blending into the rose covered wallpaper. Quiet. Listening. And the real stories were told. Tales of haints—in case you don’t know, that means ghosts—moonshine, and conjures were my lessons at the feet of these strong women. They taught me two important things: one catches a story and throws a spell.
My favorite ghost story was how my great uncle—dead for ten years—sat in the little straight back chair on the wide front porch each evening and watched the sun fade into that gray in-between place before pitch dark, and there was the one about the scent of lavender scooting through the room when the great aunts were talking—my long dead great grandmother had come to join in on the gossip. She died when Granny was five.
But the one story that made the biggest impact on my work was how my great grandmother’s death tainted the family’s life for generations. Great Grandmother Hawkins’s whole head turned black a few days after a little fall. The granny woman was called to no avail. She died. Folks in the area believed Great Grandfather Hawkins had a spell conjured on her. After all he married less than three months later. People were so convinced of his guilt they shunned him and the family was never the same. Of course the part left out of the story is the eight children, ranging from 6 months to 16 years, he was left to raise. In this time of history his quick marriage seemed normal, a business decision, seeing how his second wife had just become a widow with two boys.
One of my last visits to Great Stella’s still remains a poignant memory. Upon arrival we were ushered through the house to the kitchen where a bathroom had been added onto the house. Everything was stomach medicine pink, toilet, sink, and tub. We each were allowed one turn to flush the toilet. It was in that moment I understood we all have a unique story to tell, and we owe it to the next generations.
Out of all those visits, I never heard the story of how Granny came to leave Appalachia for Atlanta. Then one day on our way back home, Mother pointed to a shed perched on the side of an embankment. “I slept in that barn. I could see the stars through the holes in the roof. Your granny took us away from the mountains. We left on foot and walked for days. And just when I thought we would starve to death a big dump truck pulled up beside us. The man picked us up, fed us, and help us get a room. Your granny found a job at Bell Bomber making plane parts for World War II. From that day forward she saved every paycheck she had until she bought us the little house we live in now. “
Later I would find out Granny had a twenty-five year relationship with the married dump truck driver. That day she had only one thing to say and subject never came up again. “Annie, you do what you have to do to survive. That’s what I learned growing up in the mountains. I’m not always proud of the choices I made, but I put a roof over your mama’s head and food on the table.”
These family roots turned me into a writer. I grew up with haints, conjures, and a brave risk-taking family. This gives me a wealth of material to keep me coming back to the page for as long as I want. Visit the website www.annhite.com
Cleo, a psychic midwife from the 1800s channels her life story through Willow, an egotistical, contemporary sixteen-year-old girl.
x Does a mystical Celtic spirit live in Cleo’s oak?
x Are there really magic circles?
x Can a butterfly lead you out of deep despair?
x Can the dead tell their story through channelers?
Cleo’s Oak contains answers to all of these questions plus sex, birth, death, marriage, war, religion, adultery and perhaps murder.
Everyone that ever had a grandmother should read this book. You will agree that across time, human values have not changed.
—Pearle Munn Bishop
I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. I could write I hate it five hundred times and I would still hate it.
Cleo has forced me to spend my whole sixteenth summer telling her story. If I had wanted to tell a story it would be about myself. I am, first of all, beautiful. Everyone says so and I know it is true. I look like a young edition of the models you see on television and in magazines. I am five feet ten inches tall, weigh one hundred and twenty pounds. I have thick hair and long legs. My background is German-Lutheran, but my family on my mother’s side has been American for at least six generations. I have had everything money and prestige can give a girl in sixteen years—private schools, tutors, dance, music, tennis, golf, and skiing. Maybe I am vain but I have lots of friends and I was happy until one day everything changed.
While playing Frisbee with my younger brother, I fell and hit the back of my head on a rock. The blow knocked me unconscious for less than a minute. My mother was frantic. Doctor Johnson told her I seemed to just have a lump on the back of my head, for her to watch me for nausea, slurred speech, unresponsiveness, and for me to get some rest. Sleep came easy. My dreams were about people, mostly women in old-fashioned clothes. My mother must have called everyone she knew. Although I was at home, I received flowers from ten people and cards and email from people I hardly knew.
One thing I have always done is to write thank you notes as quickly as possible. When I started to write my first note, the words were not mine. They were about canning peaches, back porches, cows, pigs, then something about playing baseball. This was the beginning of the story you are reading. I had become a channeler for Cleo. My sixteenth summer was spent at my computer. I pray that Cleo is the only spirit that will use me to tell her story. I am not a part of her story—or perhaps I am.
Cleo’s Oak Chapter 1: To Willow
Willow, I am Cleo. I want you to write my story.
My father Alexander Lamb came to America in the year 1844 at age sixteen working his way across the Atlantic on a sailing ship. His Scottish family was large and poor. His mother had second sight and predicted great things for the new country, America, although she never told Alexander if his future was revealed to her. In New York, Alexander found other people from the Isle of Bute and got a job with the city, building roads. He was restless. For a while he helped build sailing ships, then went to work in stables caring for horses.
A local policeman’s daughter, Rosa MacRay, kept her horse in this stable. My mother’s father was a hard-boiled, ambitious, angry Irishman that did not want his only daughter to become involved with a ne’er-do-well Scott who couldn’t hold a job and worked at a horse stable. Somehow, the young lovers found a way to be together. Sometimes they met on a rooftop, and as my father told me later, “they were married in the sight of God,” on a rooftop. My mother convinced friends to help them elope, and he married Rosa MacRay, the policeman’s daughter. I was born seven and a half months after the marriage. My mother must have been a romantic to name me Cleopatra. I have no memory of that period, of course, only what my father told me later. When I was about two years old, my mother died in childbirth. The stillborn baby boy was buried with her. After my mother’s death, my grandparents wanted to take me to raise. My father was afraid if he refused, he would wind up dead. Since my grandfather was a New York policeman, my father was sure he could find a way to kill him and suffer no repercussions.
Then started our period of wandering. My father’s feet were made for leaving, but he never left me but once. I was always a big, big part of who he was. He was a large, quiet, handsome man, a nice shy smile and he was always loving and protecting me. He was a listener—spoke only when he had something important to say. He read stories to me until I learned to read. Then I read to him. We sat for hours. I would sit on his lap or at his feet, wherever the light was better. He would hug me, touch my face or arms, and play with my hair. His jobs were varied. Sometimes we would live in town, sometimes in the country, nice houses or shacks. Early during the time my father was working, I would stay with different families. When he was off work, we were together. I went to so many different schools I lost count.
At my first school on the first school day I talked a lot. No one, not even father, had ever told me to shut up. Other children were talking as much as I. We got through one day, then the teacher took charge. Rule one, stay in your seat. Rule two, talk only when asked to by the teacher. Rule three, if you must speak, hold up your right hand. She had to teach most of us which was our right hand and what the other one was called. On the playground at recess, the teacher came over to the swing I was using, caught the rope, took hold of my shoulders with both hands, looked me straight in the eyes and said, “You are a challenge.”
Challenge was a new word for me. I quit talking for the rest of the day. Later, Father listened to my stories of the day, smiled and said very little until I got to the word, “challenge.”
Then he told me about his childhood. He had been sent to a Catholic boarding school before he was two, had become a ward of the Church and cared for in a group of other children by two Greek nuns.His mother requested he be given lessons in swimming. If she gave the Priest a reason, my father was never told. He wondered if she had known he would cross the Atlantic as a sailor. He became a strong swimmer and loved the water. The Priest taught him English and Latin. The sisters taught him Greek. He also took classes in Hebrew, theology, rhetoric, composition, mathematics, public speaking, chemistry, astronomy, philosophy, history and law. He retained most everything he was taught. The whole school considered him a “challenge,” he was such a good student. When father was sixteen, the nuns went back to Greece and he knew he did not want to become a priest. The Father gave him new clothes and a small amount of money. His mother gave him a scarf she had woven from wool she had gathered on the farm where they lived. She also gave him a small green stone. He visited his family, said good-bye and went to sea. Until then, I had not realized the medical books I was taught to read were Latin and the beautiful book about the Greek Gods was Greek. The Bible was English. I made up my mind to always be a “challenge.”
Father and I fished, swam and rode horses together. We ran instead of walked. We had runs down miles and miles of country roads. He loved me; I could not wait to spend time with him. As I became older I hung around his place of work. I rode horses, learned to care for them, drove the buggies, whatever I could do to be close to him. We always had a good horse and wagon. Talk—my mouth ran all my waking hours. If no one was around, I talked to the trees. “The moss on your north side is really thick this year. Does that mean a cold winter is coming?” The beauty of talking to the trees is they talk back. This I would do with rocks, chicks, people, dolls—whatever or whoever was around. Not only would I talk, I would listen. I knew secrets, some I was told, some I just knew. Sometimes knowing made me happy. Other times I would rather not know.
When I was about six, I told a woman I hardly knew that her three-year-old son would be washed away in the river and when his body was found, it would be eaten away by fish and turtles. This I had seen in a vision. I had not only seen it, I heard it, I smelled it—the water in the river was cold. What an uproar that caused. When three weeks later what I had told the mother came true, even I was frightened. How did I know this? Were all the things that filtered through my brain true? That ship wreck I “saw,” did it really happen? I knew that old lady Pridgen was going to die on Sunday, but most anyone else could figure that out. Maybe not see her as I did in her death bed and hear her last gasp of air, but surely everybody knew her time was near. After the death of the three-year-old boy, some people wanted me to tell them “things.” Other people would cross the road and hide when I was near. No one would look me in the eye.
Soon after that, one Friday, Father said it was time to move on. We packed our covered wagon with food, clothes, pots, pans, books, saddles and hay. Sometimes when we moved the people would give us a party. Not this time. The only gift I received was an all-black, five-week-old kitten. The five-year-old brother of the boy that drowned met our wagon about two miles down the road. Without a word, he handed her to me. I took her.No one spoke. I did not learn if she was a gift from the mother or the boy. I named her Friday. From then on, Friday and I seemed attached to each other. I had heard tales of witches and black cats but I knew I was not a witch. Witches were old crones with big noses, warts and hunched backs. They boiled things in pots. The things I boiled in pots were good to eat or maybe the kettle would hold our clothes boiled to get clean.
Available on Kindle http://dld.bz/CleosOakKindle
Available in Paperback on Amazon http://dld.bz/CleosOakPaperback