Tag Archives: jack russell terrier

Easy Italian Plum Cake

Sometimes things don’t have to be complicated.

Like chores. With our youngest going to college locally this semester household chores somehow got into a boondoggle. Then came the chore wheel and the quagmire of who was supposed to do what evaporated as the house settled into a clean (or as clean as we get) routine. I got a chuckle when I realized that every time MOM (i.e. me) was on dump duty or bathroom cleaning I was WOW. I love the fact that being upside down makes me wow!

Chore wheel

Another thing that isn’t too complicated is getting our dog Oliver to come back into the house after chasing bunny rabbits. Just open the back door and yell, “Steak” and he comes dashing. It works because he is a very clever Jack Russell Terrier, who has a formidable understanding of the english language. So much so that we’ve gotten into the habit of spelling, rather than saying, certain words. A friend cautioned us against making him food-centric, but I’ve found it very helpful over the years, especially owning a breed of dog who thinks about whether or not he wants to obey. Plus it costs us nothing. I simply cut up the scraps leftover from any meat dinner we have and pop those morsels into a bag we store in the freezer. Oliver knows he’ll get a frozen tidbit if he comes running at the “S” word.

Oliver coming home for steak

This week I was tickled to come across the most un-complicated cake ever. One of those oh so simple recipes that I somehow missed when Marian Burros first published it in the NYT thirty plus years ago, but which thankfully circled around and around, ultimately finding me again through a news feed. If you have the ingredients on hand you can pop it into the oven in less than ten minutes. An hour later you have the perfect Friday afternoon plum tea cake. Which can then morph into Saturday morning breakfast before you head out to the Farmer’s Market. Or turn into a late night snack as you finish your homework.

Fresh out of the oven italian plum cake

While the recipe is clearly adaptable, which you can read about here, I was possessed to make the original version which features Italian plums. This was a tad complicated due to Mother Nature’s mercurial nature. Last spring, just as the blossoms had come out on many of the fruit trees we had a very hard frost. A bit of a weather tizzy. The result was zero cherries, zero peaches, and zero plums. This summer and fall I’ve been concerned for all the farmers in our happy valley who rely upon those crops for their income. I’ll also admit to being a bit cranky as I watched other food bloggers posting their scrumptious recipes featuring stone fruits that were not available in Massachusetts all over their blogs and social media feeds. But as I know from years of food styling, most foods are available if you’re willing to hunt them down, and pay for them. This proved true for Italian plums this September – the hunting part at least.

Italian plums

Making Italian plum cake

Use as many plums as you can fit in the pan

My local Big Y had a small display of Italian plums when I popped in earlier this week so I grabbed a bag and headed home. Turns out one bag was not nearly enough though because I needed to test and retest this recipe. Not because it was hard to make or had failed in any way, but rather because it was so dang good! Incredibly simple and delicious. So I went back to the store yesterday, and after a brief moment of panic when the plums weren’t where they’d been the day before, I found them and bought six more bags.

Marrian Burros super simple plum cake

As I forced myself to stop eating this cake straight out of the pan I recalled owning a set of delightful fall fruit plates my Mom had gotten me years ago. Remembering where they were, and subsequently being able to find them, gave me the excuse to enjoy another slice.

I really must stop…

Limoge fall plum plate

Please may I have one more slice of plum cake

Easy Italian Plum Cake

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

2/3 – 3/4 cup plus 2-3 Tablespoons sugar

2 eggs

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

pinch salt

1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract, optional

12 – 14 Italian plums, washed and halved with pits removed

1 small lemon, optional

Preheat oven to 350º F. Butter a 10″ springform pan (or you can use 8″ or 9″ if that is what you have). You can either line the base with parchment first (extending the sides outside of the pan) or you can simply make sure to put a jelly roll pan beneath in case some of the butter drips out.

Cream the butter and sugar for 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy. If your butter isn’t really, really soft you will not get light and fluffy – just aim for thoroughly incorporating. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. After beating in the eggs your mixture might be a bit soup-y which is perfectly okay. If you want you can add an extract. Then pour in flour, baking powder, and salt. mixing until all is combined, at this point the batter is quite thick (as you can see in the photo). Spread the batter into your springform pan. It will be quite thin. Add the plums, cut side down, but don’t press. I like as many plums as I can possibly fit. If you’d like squirt the juice from half a lemon over the plums then sprinkle with the extra 2-3 Tablespoons of sugar. It’s good with or without.

Bake the cake for one hour. Remove and cool for a few minutes. Carefully run a thin sharp knife around the edge to loosen the cake then open the spring latch. If your cake is on parchment you can slide it onto a cooling rack. If not allow to cool sufficiently to be able to move it onto a flat plate.

Want to see what other bloggers have done with this cake or how they’ve extended the story? Check out this half-dozen

Deb Perelman at Smitten Kitchen

Merrill Stubbs at Food52

PJ Hamel at King Arthur Flour

Molly Wizenberg at Orangette

Erin Boyle at Reading My Tea Leaves

Lynne Rosetto Kasper at The Splendid Table

Some plum-y notes:

1.  I have now made this cake many, many time. It seems odd, but if you half the recipe it needs almost as much time as a full recipe to bake – 50-55 minutes. 2. Having made it with vanilla extract and almond extract I find I like it best with the later. 3. The original recipe called for 1 cup sugar. Later this was reduced to 3/4 cup. I am fine with 2/3 cup. You need to go by your personal taste. 4. It is purported to freeze will, which I cannot say as we gobble it up to fast to get one in (and then out of) the freezer.



Filed under 50 Recipes

The Cape of Shame

Today is day three of a forty-five day quarantine.* It looks like it will be a long month and a half.

The Cape of Shame

Mother’s Day was beautiful – 70s, sunny, enough breeze to keep away the bugs. I was enjoying myself sitting out on the deck for the first time this season and painting. Someone let the dog out so he could enjoy it too. We all, humans and animals alike, have had a serious case of cabin fever after such a relentless winter. Then – zoooom – the dog launched himself off the deck to go chase something furry. What can I say? He’s a terrier.

I kept on painting and sipping my wine until his barks switched from “I’m the boss and you’re in my yard” to “I’m in trouble, but that doesn’t matter cause I’m still going to get you”, punctuated with yelps of pain. We all dashed down and found our Jack Russell Terrier had taken on a raccoon. There was a lot of racing under and around the wood piles, with lots of barking and growling. We couldn’t really reach them, and even if we could have, no one wanted to get between the two combatants. Finally my husband managed to separate them after Oliver had grabbed the raccoon by the back of its neck and given him a vicious shake. I took off my work shirt and wrapped the dog with it since he was covered with dirt and blood and who knows what. He was also crazy out of his little walnut sized brain with the excitement of the hunt.

Shawn came up to the house to bathe Oliver while I called our town’s animal control officer. By the time the ACO arrived Oliver was ready for round two and the raccoon had crawled back under the wood pile. The officer decided not to dispatch the raccoon in part because he didn’t have a clear shot and in part because he felt the raccoon wasn’t acting all that strangely. We knew we’d have to get Oliver a rabies vaccine booster and figured that was that. Our Mother’s Day dinner would be a little late, but we’d all move on.

Turns out it’s not that simple. Yes, if your pet is up to date on their shots, they do need a booster, but they also get put under house arrest/quarantine for 45 days. In the house, with only short leashed walks (by an adult), for a month and a half. Did I mention we have a Jack Russell Terrier?

Also because my husband and I had both touched Oliver we too needed to get rabies shots.  A lot of them. Starting with five given at the ER, followed by several more at our doctor’s office over the next three weeks. It is a serious pain in the ass, and I mean that literally since that is where many of the initial shots go. As my sister said via text:

Super bum-mer! Pun intended!!!


Cape of shame indoors

So I made Oliver a cape of shame. His very own necktie with a hot pink Q on it for quarantine. Think The Scarlet Letter meets Wishbone. My god-daughter suggested the orange and pink color combination after a favorite pair of sandals she had last summer. I hope Oliver likes wearing it for the next few weeks.

A short walk with the cape of shame

After my Easter disaster and now the Mother’s Day debacle the nurses at our local ER cannot wait to see what I do for Memorial Day.

*From some of the emails I received I realize I need to clarify that the 45 day quarantine is for the dog, not my husband or myself. Though if we start foaming at the mouth and acting all crazy I believe we will get our own special quarantine in a hospital somewhere.


Filed under In between

A Dog and his Bone

A number of years ago I wrote a small piece for FamilyFun magazine on how to make a dog bone wreath. It was pretty simple – cover a wreath shaped piece of cardboard in foil, tie on dog bones and voila a simple pet present. The photo stylist got a bit wild and ended up adding real greenery to the wreath as well as tying on dog toys which both made it more complicated and more expensive. To me the original idea seemed the easiest and best and the one I go back to again and again.

"Oliver with a bow for Christmas"

Oliver dressed for Christmas

There are four ways to do this project. The first it to buy pre-made dog bones and cover cardboard wreath shapes with foil which you then tie the bones onto. The second and third options are to make your own dog bones, which gives them a home-made appeal, then either tie medium size bones onto the foil covered wreaths or slip larger bones into those tiny stockings you can buy at craft stores around the holidays (I tend to buy as many as I can find after Christmas for the following year when they go on sale in January). The fourth possibility is to decorate a real wreath with dog bones, though that can get pricy and prickly (depending on the evergreens you use).

"dog bone wreath #1"

5 bone wreath

"dog bone stockings"

Big dog bones in stockings

"dog bone wreath #2"

9 bone wreath

For years my kids went for the second and third options. They would mix up homemade dog bones, tie them with saved ribbons from Christmases past onto foil-covered cardboard wreaths or slip the bones into miniature stockings and sell them to our neighbors, almost all of whom either have a dog or two or know someone who owns one. Isabelle and Russell were smart, taking scraps they baked as “samples” to each house so the canine inhabitants could taste test the bones before their owners pulled out their wallets.

"cutting out home-made dog bones"

Cutting out home made dog bones

We make these with bacon fat which we save each time we fry up some bacon. It seems to last indefinitely in the freezer, though if you don’t eat bacon you can always substitute vegetable oil, but I think part of their appeal to canines is the bacon fat. Our family eats nitrate free bacon, which is another selling point to our neighbors who are picky about what their dogs consume, even if their dogs couldn’t care less.

"stored bacon fat"

Stored bacon fat

This year I’m passing on the recipe to my brother’s kids who can carry on the tradition. My two nephews have decided their little six-year-old sister will be their “secret weapon,” the charmer whom no one will be able to say no to. Personally I think she might be the brains behind the whole operation after I overheard her tell her dad, “We need to make sure the Smith’s dog gets one.” My brother hesitated, I’m sure thinking Great-we don’t have a dog and we’ll end up buying the entire inventory when his daughter concluded, “Of course they’ll have to pay for it.”


Saved ribbons – Grammy Caldwell taught us to never throw anything away if you could use it again

Home-made Beef and Bacon Dog Bones

1 pound whole wheat flour (you can mix in some wheat germ if you want)

2 beef flavored bouillon cubes

1 egg

1 cup cold water

6 Tablespoons bacon fat, melted or vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Mix flour and crumbled beef bouillon with egg and water. Add the bacon fat or vegetable oil and need. Roll out to 1/2″ thickness and cut with dog bone shaped cookie cutters. Place on parchment or foil covered cookie pans and bake 23-30 minutes depending on size. Flip the bones over half way through baking and bake an additional 22-30 minutes. Cool and then use to decorate wreaths or stockings.

"beef and bacon home-made dogbones"

Bacon and beef dog bones ready to bake

Note: These dog bones have no preservatives and so will not last much longer than a few weeks. Our dog Oliver loves these so much he will eat them as quickly as we will give them to him so it has never been a problem for us, but don’t plan on keeping them the same amount of time you’d keep store-bought dog bones.

"Oliver waiting to taste test dog bones"

Oliver waiting to taste test dog bones

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Filed under 50 Recipes