The Lenten season began on March 6!

This past week was a wonderful one for me, as not only did I get to spend time with my family and bunco friends, but I also got to see another daughter and her family. My grandson, who is in the U.S. Navy is stateside at the present time and he, his wife and children and my daughter, all came to my daughter’s home near Moore, to spend the afternoon. We had a great visit and a good time together. The four little ones all seemed to get along great and didn’t do any bickering or arguing, and this was good as they we all under four!
In addition to all the fun I got to have with these great-grandbabies, I also got to have lunch with my son, visit with my cousin and a friend of hers at the assisted living facility in Castroville, have dinner with my grandson and breakfast before I left town Friday morning with another friend and some of my family. All in all, it was a truly great and wonderful visit.
By the time many of you get your papers, we will have begun the Lenten Season, on Ash Wednesday, March 6; the six weeks leading up to Easter. Tuesday was “Shrove Tuesday” which means that all the Mardi Gras parties that have been ongoing in some parts of the world came to an end, the kings and queens were crowned and now the quiet time of Lent begins.
The first day of spring is not until the 21st of March, and I have seen it freeze well into March. I’ll believe spring is here when I see the first Scissor-tail Fly Catcher. That is what the late Mr. Alfred Brieden once told me was the real harbinger of spring! The wildflowers in my area are beginning to bloom, with mostly the beautiful reddish hued Indian Paintbrush, (they are, according to my Texas Wildflowers book, also called “Scarlet Paintbrush”), being fairly profuse. They are not in clumps this year, but mostly growing as individual blooms. On my trip home, I saw just a few patches of bluebonnets, but lots of the tiny red wine cups and another yellow flower that I have no clue as to the name, it grows in small bushes.
This is not actually the time to bring you recipes for something sweet with Lent beginning, but I thought maybe you would enjoy them. Either one would make a beautiful Easter cake! The current issue of Food Network Magazine has several different recipes for mac/cheese, some of them sound great, and some of them just sound so-so. One of the things I noticed as I read these recipes, they have simplified the way my Mother-in-law made hers, which has always been my favorite way to make it. She always made a white sauce and placed a layer of cooked macaroni, some white sauce topped with cheese and built the casserole up in layers. The new way seems to be to stir the cheese into the white sauce until it’s melted thoroughly, then stir in the macaroni, top the dish with cheese and bake until it’s heated through and lightly browned on top. I have done the old recipe that way when I was short on time and it worked great.
When is the last time, or have you ever baked a cake from ‘scratch’? When I was growing up, cake mixes didn’t exist. All cakes were baked from ‘scratch’, meaning that you got out a mixing bowl, a big spoon to mix the cake batter with and your ingredients. Until after the years following WWII many homes did not yet have a mixer, and everything that needed mixing was done with a spoon! Times have changed, haven’t they, and aren’t we glad they have? The first cake mixes came out in 1947, after the war years, and bearing the Betty Crocker label.
And, now, the manufacturers have made the boxes smaller, containing three ounces less than before! This makes it really difficult to use cake recipes that are in older cookbooks, I’ve been told two or three different ways to compensate for this: 1. Add 3 tablespoons of baking mix, i.e. Bisquick® or Pioneer® baking mix. 2. Take a box of cake mix and divide it into five equal parts, place it in small zipper type bags and use one each time you use one of the older recipes. It works, as I keep some on hand all the time, as this is my favorite. However, sometimes, it is just as easy to make a cake from “scratch”!
A cake from scratch is not hard to make. It just takes a little longer than a box mix. My two favorite recipes for yellow cake (which means you used whole eggs to make it, rather than just the whites of the eggs), were from my mid-1950s Betty Crocker Cookbook. These were two cakes that Mother had also used frequently. Also, there were a couple of good chocolate cakes that I frequently used. This cookbook gave two methods of mixing, the older, “cream together…” type and the newer, “mix together…” type. Both made wonderful cakes. Each page also has several variations of each cake, using the main, or “key” recipe and then adding nuts or fruit to the batter. Both of the following recipes are from this Betty Crocker Cookbook. I have used the first one many, many times for birthday cakes and they never last long! In those days, we always made a homemade butter cream frosting, or a beaten egg white type of frosting. Now, you have the convenience of using a can of frosting. The are not quite as good as the old fashioned ones, but they sure are convenient!
Light Golden Cake
2¼ cups, sifted Softasilk cake flour or 2 1/8 cups Gold Medal® Flour
1½ cups granulated sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1½ teaspoons flavoring
2 eggs
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour two 9-inch round or square cake pans or a 9X13 pan; set aside. Sift the dry ingredients together, stir the flavoring (usually vanilla extract) into the milk, add the shortening to the dry ingredients, along with a little over half of the milk/vanilla mixture; beat 2 minutes. Add remaining milk mixture and the 2 eggs. Beat 2 minutes longer. Pour into prepared pans; bake until cake tests done. Frost as desired.
Rich Golden Cake
2¼ cups sifted Softasilk cake flour or 2 1/8 cups Gold Medal® flour
1½ cups granulated sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup soft shortening
1 cup milk
1½ teaspoons vanilla
3 eggs
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour two 9-inch round or square pans, or one 9X13 pan. Stir together milk and vanilla, set aside. Sift together the dry ingredients; add shortening and a little over half of the milk and vanilla, beat 2 minutes. Add remaining milk and the eggs; beat 2 minutes longer. Pour into prepared pans; bake until cake tests done. Frost as desired.
Cheese Soup
¼ cup butter or margarine
½ cup EACH, finely chopped carrots, celery and onion
½ cup flour
1 ½ tablespoons corn starch
4 cups chicken broth, or vegetable broth (canned is fine)
4 cups milk
1 pound shredded cheese, (I use a mixture of Velveeta if I have it, cheddar and American or Colby/Jack)
Salt and pepper to taste if needed (if you use canned broth, you may not need to add salt)
1 tablespoon chopped parsley (optional)
Sauté the vegetables in the butter or margarine until onions are transparent; mix the flour and cornstarch together and stir in; cook and stir until bubbly. Add the broth and milk; and cook and stir until smooth. Add the cheese and continue cooking until thick, add salt and pepper if used. Stir in chopped parsley if desired. Do not boil. Serves 6 to 8.