Here and Now. Buttermilk Skillet Cake with Praline Topping.

This weekend I am focusing hard on the here and now, not on the what I wish and what should have been. Because in reality what should have been is right where I am here and now.

Here is a snoring pup and a snoozing cat. A gin, tonic, and mango juice beverage. One pound of bacon vs. one girl. The Rhythm Center with one of my favorite almost-four-year-olds. March Madness. And cake, because as Julia Child said,

I have a cake recipe for you to, you know, help you avoid meetings. It comes to you from the Joy the Baker Cookbook. I’ve passed the recipe over many a time, probably because it looks so simple. I’ve passed it up for the fancier carrot cakes, avocado cupcakes, brown butter chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chocolate muffins … uh, maybe I just passed it up for chocolate.

You should probably bring this cake to your next meeting at work, because every office could use a midday party. And it is the perfect cake for a spontaneous meeting-gone-party. So simple and unassuming in its cast-iron skillet (though you can make it in a cake pan, too). It most importantly is easier to make than going to the grocery to buy a cake. If you bake or want to start baking, the ingredients in this recipe are ones you either always have in your kitchen or ones you should buy, because you will use them in any other recipe you’ll make. It smells just like a simple, perfect cake should—buttery, warm, vanilla-y. Buttermilk is key here, making the cake lovely and tender.

And the praline topping? It looks like caramel, but it’s so much easier. Trust me. Caramel and me do not have a good relationship.

But as this topping boils on the stove, your kitchen starts to smell like a candy store. I may have stood over the pot just breathing in the sweet scent.

Sweet and simple cake like this is perfect with a cup of coffee after family dinner on Sunday night. I guess that makes family dinner a party.

Here and now is pretty good.

Recipe after the jump!

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Pumpkin pancakes with apple maple syrup

Right now I am sitting in a coffee shop. Michael is sitting across from me doing work on a paper for Sweden. He’s a big deal. The couple at the table next to us is having a first date. Michael and I text back and forth about them. He has nice eyes. She’s a lot smaller than him. He was probably skinnier back in the day, but maybe he doesn’t have time to workout now that he has a 9-5 job. And HOLY SHIT WTF does that dude have a tail? Welcome to Broad Ripple. In order to make this afternoon more…cafe-like, I’m listening to Pink Martini on my phone. Some of their songs sound very Parisian cafe. All of them sound like they could be on the soundtrack of a black and white movie from the 40s. It’s making the ambiance less dude-with-a-tail-y. I feel fancy.

I love breakfast. Have I said that before? Making a pot of coffee, taking the time to cook eggs or pancakes or biscuits, making my plate look pretty before I set my fork to the food, and then sitting on the couch and eating at a relaxed speed without the pressure of having to run to work hanging over my head. I love drinking multiple mugs of coffee over a few hours, really taking in and enjoying the taste. Breakfast can really be a ritual.

I have two weekend breakfast stand-bys: eggs with runny yolks, poached in my new-old egg poaching pot from my grandparents house or fried eggs, or pancakes. I have a variety of pancakes in my weekend breakfast repertoire. The latest addition are these pumpkin pancakes. They’re filling and thick and made with whole-wheat flour, and full of autumn spices. And the apple maple syrup. Oh heaven. sautéed and cinnamoned apple slices briefly cooked in a dousing of maple syrup. This is the breakfast of autumn kings and queens. Or at least the exact breakfast I’d like to eat on a blustery November day. This recipe makes more than enough for one or two people for one meal. I still like to make the full recipe though, and put the extra batter in the refrigerator to use for a quick weekday breakfast.

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Jars, Jars, Jars

Last week we sat on the couch watching T.V. together. I very softly began singing a Green Cove Tajar Day chant, “Thunder, thunderation, we’re the witches, and we create a sensation…” Michael looked at me and said, “Are you singing an0ther camp song?”

So when I suddenly ended up at camp last Thursday evening for a week to help out, I don’t think anyone in my real-world life was too surprised. Things haven’t changed much here, and yet the differences are noticeable. First year counselors were my campers. Stalker Carol, she’s a counselor. What? I’ve taught riding lessons, rode a horse, checked heads for lice, almost cried at campfire, and gone to a co-ed. This place, God what is it about this place that gets in your blood? I love it.

So, I haven’t been cooking or baking. I’ve been eating camp food, which really isn’t that bad. But, no recipes for you. Instead, I’m going to give you a kitchen tip. A life organizing tip, if you will. Jars. The uses are endless really. And not only that, but they are so pretty all lined up on your counter top, filled with iced coffee or a smoothie, or soup for lunch. Mason jars are classic, and you can buy them for fairly cheap at most grocery stores. However, I just reuse food jars from things like spaghetti sauce, peanut butter, and lemon curd. Wash the jar and remove the label and sticky gunk with a hard-bristled brush or a scouring pad. Then start filling!

Make raspberry infused vodka (via Shutterbean)

Mix the vodka with lemonade. Enjoy on hot summer days. Store extra vodka (what extra?!) in a jar.


Mobile breakfast in a jar: smoothies!

Delicious cold-brewed iced coffee that you should drink every morning (via Smitten Kitchen).

Store dried goods like rice, beans, lentils, and quinoa in jars. Be sure to label them! (Chalkboard paint on the lids would be cute.)