Paying Da Bills

My friend Margaret preserved her family legends of hospitality and food in her own family heirloom cookbook. With each recipe she told a story to go with it. She recalls the following story about her grandmother’s cakes.

My parents were born in 1924. When I asked them questions about food and their childhood, their memories were vivid and clearly influenced by the Depression. My favorite story was about my maternal grandmother’s cakes. My grandmother, her sister-and-law and a friend sold cakes, pies, cookies and fresh fruit at a little stand my grandfather built near his brother’s farm. They set up on Fridays and Saturday mornings. My grandmother also paid the family’s doctor bills with angel food cakes. For years, she baked an angel food cake each week and took it to the family physician as payment.

I wonder if our kids will be talking about memories of food? Hope so!

Esther’s Spice Cake

This was one of the cakes Margaret’s grandmother sold at her cake stand during the Depression. The mocha icing probably made it a best seller. Cindy Dyer photographed the cake I baked from Esther’s recipe with the Depression-era milk glass cake stand.

  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon mace
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup molasses

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour two eight-inch round cake pans.

Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, mace, and cloves. Sift together and set aside.

Put the butter, sugar and eggs in a large mixing bowl.  Cream the butter, sugar and eggs until smooth and well blended.

Stir the milk and molasses together in a smaller bowl.

Add the milk-molasses mixture into the creamed butter mixture in two stages alternately with the flour mixture.

Beat until the batter is well blended and smooth after each addition.

Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean.

Cool for 5 minutes. Turn out the cakes from the pans onto a cooling rack. Cool completely.

Photo by Cindy Dyer.

Read more about Margaret Barkers family cookbook in the Winter 2013 Celebrate Home Magazine, page 54, “Green Chicken: Creating a Family Heirloom Cookbook.”


Comfort Food Refined

Bread puddings are from a simpler era when home cooks used up stale bread and mixed it with milk, eggs, sugar, dried fruit and spices. Bread pudding knows no geographic limits— its variations are still made throughout the world.

This Amaretto Bread Pudding uses the basic ingredients with some refined tweaks. Before serving, the pudding is topped with an amaretto sauce and put under the broiler. Bookmark this one, because it’s the perfect fall dessert.

Amaretto Bread Pudding

The recipe is inspired from a 1989 bon appétit magazine issue. I lost the recipe and couldn’t find the precise recipe on a Google search. But I replicated the flavors and texture in my test kitchen. I nailed it!


  • 1 loaf challah bread, approximately one-pound loaf, torn into one-inch pieces
  • 1 quart half and half (Note: I did one batch with fat-free milk and, although a little less rich, it was delicious, so milk is a fine low-fat alternative)
  • 1-1/4 cups of sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons almond extract
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • Butter, unsalted and at room temperature, for greasing a 9” x 13” baking pan

Combine bread and half and half in a large bowl. Cover and let stand for one hour, stirring occasionally.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease pan with butter.

Whisk sugar, eggs and almond extract together. Stir into bread mixture. Gently fold in almonds and raisins. Spoon into baking dish.

Bake 50-55 minutes until firm. Cool. Can be prepared a day ahead (do not refrigerate).

Amaretto Sauce:

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature, well beaten
  • 1/4 cup amaretto liqueur

Stir sugar and butter in top of a double boiler until sugar dissolves and mixture it very hot. Remove from heat and whisk in egg a little bit at a time until mixed well and slightly cool. Whisk in amaretto liqueur. Sauce can be prepared ahead and refrigerated.

When ready to serve, preheat broiler. Cut pudding into squares. Spoon amaretto sauce on squares and broil until bubbly.

Amaretto Bread Pudding makes a lovely dessert to take to a potluck party during the holidays. Decorate the tray with the colors of the season and label it for a buffet.

Amaretto Bread Pudding makes a lovely dessert to take to a potluck party during the holidays. Cut the pudding and decorate the tray with the colors of the season and label it for a buffet. Or table the dish it was baked in.

I’ll Fudge a Little for Valentine’s Day

A few years before mom died I asked her if she would make me some of her peanut butter fudge. I lived 1,000 miles away so that meant not only making it, but packing and shipping it. At the time, her illness was starting to take its toll and she sounded worn out. But she made the fudge and shipped it to me. That was the last time I had mom’s fudge made by her. But, the recipe and memories live on.

I planned to make mom’s peanut butter fudge for Christmas, but time got away from me. I have all the ingredients, so why not make it for Valentine’s Day? I added a little chocolate to top it off for the occasion.


Mom's recipe card

Mom’s recipe card

Here’s mom’s recipe in her handwriting. Note that the 9-ounce jars of marshmallow cream or 12-ounce jars of peanut butter don’t exist anymore. Consider the recipe a guideline, not an exact science. You’re going to have to fudge it on the fudge.

Mom’s terminology is amusing. When was the last time you heard of oleo? And her instructions to “remove from fire” is classic. Julia Child often said this very phrase. (I know because I’ve read every book written about and by Julia).

Everyone who tastes mom’s fudge claims it’s the best peanut butter fudge they have ever eaten. It’s not a family secret, so spread the love and make some fudge.

Mom’s Peanut Butter Fudge
From the kitchen of Lois Garneau

  • 1 box confectioner’s sugar (1 pound or 3 cups)
  • 3/4 stick margarine (no butter)
  • 1/2 cup milk (any kind will do, I used skim)
  • 1 twelve-ounce jar of peanut butter (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 1 nine-ounce jar of marshmallow cream (closest I could find is 7.5 ounces)


In saucepan, mix confectioner’s sugar, margarine and milk. Cook and stir for about 6-1/2 minutes until it boils. It should be at the candy soft ball stage.

Add peanut butter and marshmallow cream. Beat by hand, Pour into square pan. Cool and cut.

2013 — A Year of Hospitality

I’ve collected some favorite photos from my 2013 blog postings. Kelley Hospitality is about heartwarming stories of people, food, family and home, and making others feel good about themselves.

Please join me in remembering 2013 and looking forward to another year of making the ordinary extraordinary.


Spinach Guilt

Spinach balls ready to pop in the oven.

Spinach balls ready to pop in the oven.

Margaret and I regularly exchange emails comparing menu items for holidays throughout the year— especially at Christmas. Her list of menu items often read, “Your Mother’s Spinach Balls.” Sometimes, she writes, “I’ve made your mom’s Spinach balls and they’re in the freezer.”

For the past several years (maybe two decades), I haven’t included mom’s spinach balls on my menu. But each time Margaret reminds me they are a mainstay at her holiday dinners, I get a pang of sentimental guilt. I love that she always makes them and how she calls them, but I almost feel I should be in solidarity and make mom’s spinach balls too.

So, Christmas 2013…enough Margaret! I finally made the spinach balls! I forgot how delicious and pretty they are (especially when you add some red pomegranates to the serving platter). Make them for New Year’s. They’re easy and good.

Spinach Balls

  • 2 packages frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and thoroughly drained
  • 2 cups stuffing mix
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Using hands, roll mixture into small balls, Freeze on cookie sheet for one hour. Place in plastic bags and store in freezer or refrigerator until ready to bake.

Bake in 375⁰ oven on a cookie sheet for 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Read Margaret Barker’s article “Green Chicken — Creating a Family Heirloom Cookbook” from the Winter 2013 issue of Celebrate Home Magazine.

Setting the Holiday Table — New Year’s Eve Sparkle

Set a festive table for New Year’s Eve by using what you have on hand. Look indoors and out for potential bling for your festive table.

Pick Your Colors and Theme

I have a gold tablecloth so decided on a red and gold color palette. I then found a tall candlestick in bronzy-brown and a brown table runner, so I decided to go with an earthy theme. Once I had these items in hand, my search was narrowed down.

Now, off to the outdoors where I cut some huge Magnolia tree leaves and Holly tree branches. I went indoors to the basement where I keep my floral picks and trims and found red, gold and sparkly things and fruit. I decided the setting needed more candle light, so I added various unmatched votive candle holders. (Always use unscented candles on the dinner table.) I whimsically placed it all together and a tablescape was born!

Whether it’s a buffet table, a formal table, or an open table for people to sit once they get their food, create a centerpiece from what you have on hand — including your imagination.

Happy 2014!