05-20-19 Tomato Soup Cake- An Honest Review

The Recipe

Do everyone’s parents have a random stack of old cookbooks from various churches and clubs they belonged to way back in the day? You know the ones that were made on a typewriter and assembled by hand. And you flip through them and see where your parents or grandparents have made notations of the recipes they’ve tried, the changes they made to them, and the ones that were made once and that was enough?

The one I stumbled across last week was for a nurses’ auxiliary in Pennsylvania. By the look of it, I would date it at some point in the mid 70’s. The cover is creased and the pages are browned with age.

Out of curiosity, I was flipping through it this morning when I came across a very peculiar recipe- Tomato Soup Cake. A quick google search informed me that this was a legit thing back in the Depression era when women learned to replace milk and eggs with a can of tomato soup. It seemed just disgusting enough that I couldn’t pass it by. What would a tomato soup cake taste like? Was this Ms. O’Kane on to something? Have I been missing out on an incredible delicacy for years out of sheer ignorance?!?!

So I went to the store and bought a can of soup… tomato soup.. FOR MY CAKE…

I got home and quickly assembled my ingredients.

I decided right off the bat to make two changes- swap out the crisco for some butter, and drop the raisins completely because raisins were just a bridge too far in my tomato cake.

Mixing up the butter and sugar got me off to a good start. I mean, that seems like a completely acceptable dessert right there, am I right??

Then I dug out my mom’s sifter. It’s the first time I’ve used a sifter since the mid-90’s but it’s kind of like riding a bike, you really don’t forget how to use it. I let the kids help me with that part because of the novelty-wow factor. They thought the sifter was awesome. We added all the dry ingredients except the spices.

This is where things got a bit dicey. I really had to talk myself into pouring a whole can of tomato soup onto my perfectly white, perfectly normal baking concoction. Everything about that seemed completely unnatural, and to make matters worse, it started to smell like ketchup. It wouldn’t be a lie if I told you I started breathing through my mouth at that point.

Next I added the spices- ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon. I regretted my decision as those smells began to mingle with the tomato aroma. But I had committed to this experiment, so I pressed on.

The batter moistened quickly with the tomato soup mixed in. At that point it both looked and smelled as if it had been eaten before and returned for an encore…

But then the strangest thing happened. As the batter took on a cake mix form, the smell of tomatoes went away and all I could smell was the pleasant aroma of nutmeg and cinnamon.

I poured the batter into the pan and placed it into the preheated over.

Curious as I was to the flavor of this experiment, I was not yet brave enough to try the batter. So I did the most sensible thing I could think of and invited the three children to try it for me. I was surprised when all three of them told me how delicious it was and I was even more surprised when I snuck a bite myself and agreed with them. It wasn’t terrible at all.

I set the timer for 40 minutes and went to work on my computer to pass the time. As I sat there, the house began to fill with the aroma of a freshly made cake.

When the timer went off, I carefully removed the cake from the oven.

And when it cooled off, I got it onto a plate. From the recipes I had seen online, tomato soup cake tastes the best with cream cheese frosting, so I melted some down and drizzled it over the top of the cake and let it cool.

The only thing left was to wait for dessert time! The kids rushed through their dinner so they could get a piece of cake. When I finally cut into it, I was surprised at how soft and moist the cake was. It was denser than a traditional box cake. When I took my first bite I discovered that I couldn’t taste the tomato in it at all! It tasted exactly like a spice cake with cream cheese frosting! I was shocked!

All in all, I would say that the great experiment was a success!! The whole family enjoyed it and the kids asked for seconds. I’m not sure that this will become a regular staple in our home, but I’d definitely make it again.

Now I want to go through all the old cookbooks and find more crazy recipes to make and feed to my family. If you see any, feel free to pass them on my way! And if you ever want to invite me to a potluck, I’ll bring the tomato soup cake!!

05-19-19 The Unexpected Hazards of Gardening

I’ve mentioned before how happy I am to be putting in a ‘garden’ this year. It isn’t much, a few vegetables in pots and some flowers planted into the flower beds. There were still a few plants to get into pots today, but it was so hot we decided to wait until later in the evening when the sun started setting. Most of it was smooth sailing, and we made a lot of progress.

It was getting late and I wanted to get two more small mint plants into planters before calling it a night. Everyone else had gone inside except me and Big E. We pulled over the pot, the mint, and the large bag of potting soil. As I was filling the pot, I asked Big E to grab the seed starter mix I had been using over the past several weeks. It was closed up and propped against the house. He picked it up and noted how light it was.

At this point, night has started to settle in. The sky was almost dark and we were working by the light of the front porch. Big E and I both knelt down beside the planter as I started to pour the contents of the bag into the pot. All of a sudden I felt something drop into the pot and a sudden movement. It was dark and my eyes took a moment to comprehend what I was seeing. It was like something was trying to jump out of the pot. And that’s when I realized it was a snake recoiling, leaping, recoiling, and leaping itself out of the pot less than a foot from our faces!!! Big E and I both screamed and jumped back as quickly as we could. It was dark, but I was pretty sure it was a black snake. Big E ran towards the front door. Tim must have heard my screaming because he came out to investigate the racket.

Poor Big E was in tears and my adrenaline was pumping hard. We needed to track down the snake to make sure it wasn’t poisonous. After finding flashlights, we determined it was a black rat snake about four feet in length. It was very agitated. Tim found a rake and twisted him up onto it like a large noodle and managed to dump it in the woods behind our house.

Needless to say, I was done gardening at that point. Tim put everything back for me and I have vowed to never garden after dark and never trust an open bag of ANYTHING EVER AGAIN.

Big E and I had a good laugh about it later, but if he has a lifelong fear of snakes, I think we can point with some confidence to the events of this evening!

Also, if you are keeping count, that’s three snake encounters in the last four days!! I think we’ve met our quota.

Our snake encounter completely overshadowed our toad visit earlier in the evening. In fact, the toad was still hanging out nearby when the snake showed up. It didn’t take him long to get out of Dodge.

05-18-19 The Watering Can

Over the past several months we have been assigning more and more chores to the children. One of Big E’s favorite chores is to water the plants. It is his responsibility to water the flowers in the flower bed and the potted plants on the front porch. It takes him ever so many trips with the watering can, but he is very conscientious and is sure to water each one.

He’s doing a great job at it and this morning I counted 34 bean plants in our planters!! Our flowers are looking lovely too!

05-17-19 Soccer

The weather cooperated this afternoon for us to go to soccer. Over the course of our season, the kids have gotten more comfortable with playing. Today C even asked to be goalie. She did great and even stopped the other team from getting a goal!

05-16-19 The Snake Park

We had tromped through mud and rocks for a good twenty minutes down a trail we found at a local park. We made our way to the river side, only to find ourselves thirty feet up a cliff looking down on the swift moving water below. By then the kids were tired and longing for the playground we had left behind by the parking lot, so we turned around and headed back.

The big kids were about fifteen feet in front of me and Baby E on the trail when they passed by a snake slithering through the leaves and small plants parallel to them. They walked past in ignorance, but I was worried Baby E would see it and freak out so I grabbed his hand and rushed by. When I knew we were a safe distance away, I stopped them and we went back to see it.

It was black with a white belly and it measured about four feet long. I figured it was a black snake, like the harmless ones we used to find in our garden growing up. It had stopped slithering as we approached, us still keeping a healthy distance. It stared at us for a moment and then slowly began to coil its neck back in what looked like a lunging position. We weren’t close enough for it to strike us so we just watched it for a minute. That’s when I noticed an odd sound, like a rattling. My eyes wandered down the length of the snake to see its tail violently shaking, making a rattling noise as it hit the dry leaves and twigs around it.

I’ve never seen a black snake rattle before, so for a moment I worried I had misidentified the snake and put my kids in unnecessary danger. I moved them away from the snake very quickly and when I turned around to check it once more, it was gone.

The kids were very eager at that point to be out of the woods so we booked it to the playground. As they played, I sat in the pavilion and researched snakes. The best I could come up with was a Black Rat Snake, which will mimic a rattler if it senses danger, but it isn’t poisonous.

Satisfied that my kids hadn’t been in any real danger, I relaxed and let them play for about 45 minutes. By that time other families showed up and at one point there were a bunch of kids standing in a semi circle on the other side of the playground. I heard one of them day “snake.”

I got up to look and sure enough, there was a snake. It looked identical to the one we encountered in the woods 200 yards away. Either that snaked made serious headway in less than an hour or it wasn’t alone. Either way, we had had enough snake encounters for one day. We left a few minutes later. While I absolutely loved our hike, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to refer to that place as anything other than “The Snake Park!” *shudder*

Thank you for all your prayers for my mom. She came home from the hospital this afternoon and is looking forward to her recovery here!

05-15-19 The Hospital

The hospital that my mom had her surgery in is different than the one my dad spent so much time in. Most of the rooms here are double occupancy and they don’t allow family to spend the night. They kick you out by 9pm.

Mom did well today. They had her up and walking again and made her navigate some stairs in preparation for sending her home sometime tomorrow.

Her spirits are good, but she is extremely tired. Praying she gets a good night’s sleep tonight!

05-14-19 By her side…

Late last summer my mother was scheduled to get a hip replacement. Less than a week before surgery she got a phone call from one of the doctors saying they weren’t clearing her for surgery until she saw a cardiologist. With only a few days until surgery, she wasn’t able to secure an appointment and the surgery got cancelled.

The very next day my father was in the ER and our long, arduous ‘hospital season’ began. I shudder to think what life would have looked like if the timing had been different.

But God was in control and his timing is perfect.

Today my mother finally had her long awaited surgery and it went very well. They even had her up and moving a couple hours later, which I think is pretty amazing.

And one of the best parts about today was watching my dad sit by her side all day, like she had sat so many days and nights by his.

I love them both so much. ❤️❤️

05-13-19 My Favorite Ballerina

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked if I’m ok recently. The truth is I really am, I just don’t seem like it. Last week my allergies got so bad, the worst I’ve ever experienced, that my doctor put me on a steroid treatment to bring it under control. Thankfully the medicine seems to be working very well in controlling my symptoms, but it’s unpleasant side effect is that it makes me a little foggy and feel a little sad. I’m only on it for a few more days, so I’m happy about that. In the meantime, I’m being patient with myself. I’m just so thankful I can breathe again!

***

I was looking through old pictures this evening and one of my all time favorite pics of C came up. It was from years ago when she was taking ballet classes at the same studio Tim had practically grown up in. I love that connection those two share and I still think she’s the cutest ballerina I’ve ever seen!

05-13-19 The CE Theatre

This afternoon our living room transformed into a theatre complete with stage and scenery. The kids gave us each a ticket to come and watch a special Mother’s Day Production of the CE Play (a play written and performed by C and But E.) It was a perfectly adorable gift from my sweet babies for Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day my friends!

05-11-19 A Monster Calls

I didn’t anticipate the emotional clobbering I would receive this evening from a book I was reading.

I had picked up “A Monster Calls” at the library book sale last week. I had seen the cover and thought it looked interesting and a quick skim of the back made me decide to put it in the bag. It’s a kids book, intended for ages 12 and up, so I figured it would be a quick read. I hoped it would avoid the shallow characters and thin plotlines that typically run rampant in such books.

I read about a quarter of it yesterday and I was pleasantly surprised at how well it was written. This evening I figured I’d read a little more, but like any truly great book, it refused to be put down… So now I’ve finished the book and it is very late. My eyes are swollen and puffy from a mixture of allergies and the tears I shed over this story.

It was a poetic, haunting, and devastating tale of a child coming of age while navigating the heartbreaking reality of loss and grief. I had tears streaming down my face.

This is one that will stay with me for a very long time.

On a brighter note, we were invited to our friends’ house today for a non-Easter Easter egg hunt. The kids had such a wonderful time playing with their friends and hunting for eggs. They wore themselves to exhaustion.