“You Are My Sunshine”

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Here’s our Eclipse Edition of BigLittleMeals, and well as 2 favorite Sunshine songs and 1 special Moonshine/Sunshine recipe.  Since this is ostensibly a food blog, I’ll start with the recipe.

Screen Shot 2017-08-16 at 7.24.04 AMA version of Sunshine Cake was one of my teenage baking specialties.  My mother coerced me into making angel food cakes, cleverly saying that I could make them so much better than she could.  Then I branched out to baking Sunshine Cakes and finally to a Moonshine Cake.  Sunshine/Moonshine.  How fitting for August 21, 2017.


My much-abused and used hand-written recipe for the cake came from my brother’s mother-in-law, Mrs. Brandenburg, who was not only a fabulous baker but a wonderful person. Her Moonshine Cake recipe is a version of one which also appeared in a very early edition of the  Fannie Farmer Boston Cooking School Cook Book but had been omitted by the time my 1959 edition was published.  And – just so you know – there was a total eclipse of the sun in 1896, the year Fannie Farmer first published the Sunshine Cake recipe in her Boston Cooking School Cook Book.

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Moonshine Cake – for August 21, 2017

As for my favorite sunshine music, John Denver’s Sunshine on my Shoulders  was released just a few weeks before our son, Travis, was born.  Maybe that’s why I love the lyrics, especially this line: “If I had a wish that I could wish for you, I’d make a wish for sunshine for all the while.”

Just as I was ready to put this blog “to bed,” I remembered another favorite song about sunshine: Jimmie Davis’ You Are My Sunshine.  Maybe even a better choice than John Denver, given today’s world.  Since most of you haven’t lived in Louisiana, let me encourage you to read up on one of our more colorful governors: from the NYTimes, November 2000 –  Jimmie Davis, Louisiana’s Singing Governor, is Dead. Given that we had one governor shot and killed (Huey Long), one governor committed to a mental institution (Earl Long), and one governor indicted twice (Edwin Edwards), JD seems relatively cool.  I love these tidbits from the Times:

Governor Davis…..had the reputation for instinctively liking everyone. At the end of the legislative session he would gather friend and foe alike and lead them in singing his hit song ”It Makes No Difference Now.’   Kevin Fontenot, a historian at Tulane University, told The Washington Post in 1999. ”He has just never been a demagogue or a hater.”

And one final note on Sunshine:  I was trying this morning to remember the name of a favorite abelia grandiflora (great shrub, if you don’t know it) because I wanted to add more to our garden.  When I finally found my notes identifying it, it turns out to be Abelia Sunshine Daydream.

“Please don’t take our SUNSHINE away.” 🙂

Moonshine Cake

  • Servings: 8-10
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  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 10 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 7 egg yolks
  • 1 T water
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 c cake flour – scooped out gently into the measuring cup and then leveled with a knife (or sift it, if you’re of that generation)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Put the egg whites into a large bowl; then add the salt and cream of tartar and beat to soft peaks; gradually add the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.  In a medium bowl beat yolks, water, almond, and vanilla until the yolks are somewhat thickened and lemon-colored (note: I took the liberty to change this a bit from Mrs. Brandenburg’s instructions).  Fold 2 heaping tablespoons of the beaten egg whites into the yolk mixture and then mix the flour into the yolk mixture.  Fold the yolk mixture carefully but thoroughly into the beaten egg whites; take care not to overmix.

Put in an (UNGREASED) tube pan (aka angel food cake pan) and bake for 45 minutes.  Invert pan on a bottle to cool.

This cake is put together a little differently than you’ll find in many recipes , but it works.  The Moonshine Cake will keep a day or two, covered tightly and not refrigerated, and it freezes well.  Serve it with slightly sweetened whipped cream. Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann

Lettuce Alone


Lettuce alone!!!  Lettuce alone?  Or no lettuce at all? That is a salad issue which deserves delving into.

And Andy’s Corner is delving deep into Army Officer Candidate School, circa 1968, looking at beans and donuts.

What would I do without my compadres giving me inspiration and feedback? The other evening I got an email from Jane W in Sonoma, following up on our pun-filled last post. Jane sent a pun about lettuce. And voila – this blog’s title was created!

And as I was thinking about salads, another friend and CC-mate, Joanne, emailed me the title of a book on food she highly recommended: Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat. I ordered it.

At dinner that week our friends, Buck and Carolyn, served a fabulous green salad with a dressing which I thought was perfect – not too vinegary, not too oily, just a touch sweet. Buck, who likes simple cooking, said it was a super simple recipe and agreed to share it: Seasoned Rice Vinegar Dressing, our newest Best of the Besties.

That Friday Andy and I went to the great little farmers’ market in Sonoma and I loaded our bag with Romano beans and haricot verts, little radishes, and some Black Krim tomatoes, Persian cucumbers, and, of course, sweet corn.

My blog ideas had congealed! But there will be no congealed salad recipes offered here.


If you really must have lettuce by itself – perhaps you have no vegetables in your refrigerator except some Iceberg lettuce – it’s going to be all about the dressing.  And here’s the winner in our minds: Blue Cheese Dressing (and/or dip). Don’t despair that the recipe is too much for just one or two of you, since it will keep up to 5 days in the fridge and can be used multiple ways (maybe it’s because I add a touch of Accent – aka MSG – but I am slightly addicted to carrots dipped into this dressing).  Quick idea: pound flat a couple of chicken boneless/skinless thighs or breasts; quick fry them with salt & pepper, add a little hot sauce to pretend they’re Buffalo Wings and serve them with the dressing along side.

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About the MSG – it’s gotten a bum rap, so be sure to read the two articles that I just posted under Food for Thought.  And while you’re there, read the article I posted on “Why Salad is so Overrated” from the Washington Post.  Gives one pause.


Lettuce-less gets my vote for salad preferences, and I’m not alone. Deb from smittenkitchen.com, my very favorite food blogger, has this to say about lettuce. We know that there is some question about whether growing lettuce in huge quantities is really that good for the world’s environment (see Food for Thought post from 5/21/2017), but even putting that aside, I find iceberg and romaine and butter lettuce all a little boring. I had a brief love affair with Baby Gem, but I’m over that too.

Lettuce-less idea #1: slice your freshly-picked, height-of-the-summer, tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, and/or quickly blanched string beans. Drizzle a little of the Seasoned Rice Vinegar Dressing on them, plus a sprinkling of sea salt and pepper – and eat and enjoy. Or if you can find Buffalo Mozzarella, put some of that on your sliced tomatoes, along with the drizzle of dressing and a little fresh basil, and you’ve got an Italian salad – plus, sheer utter deliciousness.

veggie dish for salad dressing


Lettuce-less idea #2: if you want a tossed salad, take the same veggies and cut them up; add a little diced red onion and some diced feta cheese, sliced Kalamata olives, and a bit of minced fresh oregano leaves, if you want. Then toss gently with the Seasoned Rice Vinegar Dressing to taste.  If you’re having company, impress your guests by referring to it as a Horiatiki Salata (Greek Salad).

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Lettuce-less idea #3: if there’s beautiful sweet corn at the market or you grow it in your yard, you’ve got to try Corn Salsa Salad which comes mostly from Tacolicious and Sara and is summer perfection. It keeps well; it’s easy; it goes so many ways, and it’s YUM. Plus, it doesn’t have any oil in it, if that’s important to you.

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Lettuce-less idea #4: if you’re loaded up on freshly-picked carrots and bell peppers and cucumbers and/or zucchini and want something Asian-inspired, try the Peanut-y Asian Slaw.  Salt Fat Acid Heat has a Vietnamese Cucumber Salad with peanuts and a similar dressing, but I decided to branch out from that and incorporate more fresh veggies….and even kale, should you have it.

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Finally, a reminder that you’ll find other tempting lettuce-less salads under the Recipes category.  One that got rave reviews recently is Mystery Mix Rice Salad.

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Airmail via Email

To celebrate the start of another lovely summer month, here’s A Best of the Besties: San Francisco Korey and Kory are two of our family’s Besties and they shared their version of the Airmail Cocktail (maybe in today’s lingo it should be the Email Cocktail) with us via Sara.  You may not associate champagne as an accompaniment for Jamaican food, but surely a rum drink sounds apropos.

So if you’re in the toasting mood before you sit down to a Jerk Chicken Bowl, using the recipe from Sunday’s blog, here you go.  You can substitute any dry sparkling wine for the champagne; you want to offset the sweetness of the honey.

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Airmail Cocktail

  • Servings: 1 - but you're not going to want to open a bottle of champagne for just 1 drink - plan to quadruple it or more.
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  • 1 oz gold rum (Kory recommends St George, a rum local to the Bay area, if you’re local to the Bay area)
  • 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 oz honey syrup (to make this combine honey and water in a 1:1 ration)
  • dry champagne or a dry sparkling wine such as Brut (we used about 3 oz of champagne per cocktail)

Shake rum, lime juice, and honey syrup with ice.  Strain into a champagne flute and top with the bubbles.

Recipe brought to you by Korey and Kory in SF and by Big Little Meals.com



Jerk, Fungi, & Thyme

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“And indeed there will be Thyme.  Time for you and Thyme for me” (is T.S. Eliot too sacred to parody? Actually, I just re-read The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock and find it speaks to me more today than when I read it in my 20th-Century Lit class at CC 54 years ago). Today’s BigLittleMeals’ post is all about recipes spiced with thyme – and about how we label men; it’s about Brooklyn and Jamaica and about good food. Andy is going public with the fact that he has CPD; you’re going to love it!  Read on.

Fun-gi or jerk? Scanning those faces above, the choice may not always be obvious.  And the choice is trickier yet if you’re deciding what to cook with your chicken breasts or thighs tonight.  Fungi/Italian or Jamaican/Jerk?  Quick and easy – or a little more creative time in the kitchen?  Mild and delicious – or tongue-burning spicy and delicious?

Our daughter and I recently spent a few days in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, where our son and his girlfriend live.  And I am making arrangements for Andy and I to get back there soon.  Of course (OF COURSE!) I want to visit the two of them again, but even more I want some of the jerk chicken we ate at two different, totally funky spots, Peppa’s and The Food Sermon.  I love this timely quote seen at The Food Sermon:

“In Our Home, There is Laughter. There Are Mistakes. There is Noise. There are Apologies. There is Affection. There is Love.”  

After watching this video, I’d pick the owner of The Food Sermon, Rawlston Williams, to be a Fun-gi even though his specialty is Jerk 🙂 And, should you be tormented by your inability to identify all of my fungi/jerks, go to the very end of today’s blog, and we’ll help you out.

Speaking of noise, I always want music turned up loud when I’m doing serious cooking, here’s what I recommend for the Caribbean mood; oh the memories…dating back to 1956.  A banana bread recipe has to be forthcoming.

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“Open _____.” (fill in the blank)

sBefore we get to today’s puzzler and food focus, here’s a hint about Andy’s newest post: he’s contemplating retsina wine, Zorba the Greek, and happiness.  It’s multi-faceted.  And in Food for Thought I share details about my new favorite plant.  But I may just have to love it from afar.

Now – the puzzler: what do these three pictures have in common?

Of course!  You knew it, didn’t you?  But I’ll bet you didn’t know that Sesamum indicum, from which we get our sesame seeds, grows to about 3-6′ tall, is planted annually, loves high heat, and is one of the most drought tolerant plants in the world. But for those doing the farming, it’s labor intensive because the harvesting must be done manually, and the capsules want to shatter (unless they’ve been bred to be shatter-resistant) before the crop has been harvested; 1/3 of the crop can easily be lost.

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The capsules are 1-3″ long and there are about 50-80 seeds per capsule.  And it takes about 1000 seeds to get one ounce, so it took at least 100 capsules of sesamum indicum to fill the 8 oz jar of seeds that’s in our cupboard.  I don’t think I’ll be growing the plant any time soon.

Even though sesamum is not the crop for our backyard garden, I have a bit of an addiction to the seeds.  In addition to the recipes posted here, which include a favorite cookie, I love Italian Biscotti Regina with their sesame coating; I crave Dan Dan noodles, which makes use of both sesame seeds and sesame oil, and we’re headed for Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2018 to taste their moles, which often include sesame seeds.

When I taught Social Studies at Scotlandville Magnet High School in Baton Rouge, LA, I had the privilege of connecting with amazing kids from lots of different cultures and backgrounds.  It was an eye-opening experience for someone who had grown up in the very white Fort Collins of the 1950’s (known then as the city with wide streets and narrow minds!).   In my World Geography classes I was way more excited to teach about the food of an area than about climate, landforms or capital cities, and we had fun with in-class samplings of food from some of the countries we studied.

We recently had a little dinner party at our house, and the featured course was Korean Sesame Noodles with Zucchini and Ground Beef.  Since a version of that recipe appears in our daughter’s first cookbook, Asian Vegetables, published 16 years ago, you might think that she developed the recipe.  But no.  Food bloggers are instructed to give credit where credit is due, so I must report that Sara got the recipe from me, and I got the inspiration for it from a recipe given to me at SMHS by a Korean-born student.  And Andy and I consider it our comfort food – we love it that much.  Its unique flavor comes from the 3 tablespoons of ground sesame seeds which are added to the ground beef.

A few weeks ago my Glen Ellen neighbor and friend, Deb, who is an excellent and precise cook – and a vegetarian – brought me some of her favorite recipes and one of them is Sesame Noodles with Asparagus Tips.  It’s our 3rd Best of the Besties recipe and provides a different but equally delicious approach to Sesame Noodles.

Korean Seseme Noodles

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Another recipe provided by a student from my Scotlandville days is a hand-written note on a scratch pad – printed, BTW, not cursive (she was ahead of her time 🙂 – for Humus [sic] Me Tahini.  I quote:

“Tahini is ground sesame seeds made into paste – Cheapest @ Oriental grocery.  I don’t like the taste when using peanut butter.”  

I’m guessing I didn’t have a clue what tahini was before receiving that note; and I certainly didn’t know that peanut butter could be a substitute for it.  Live and learn.

And my student is right; though you can substitute peanut butter in the fabulous Tahini Dressing, it’s just not the same.  Try the tahini dressing on roasted or steamed vegetables, on green salads, as a dip.  And it’s easy to make it more Asian-oriented by using some sesame oil (MORE sesame!!! YUM :), rather than all olive oil, and soy sauce, rather than salt.  Remember the recipe for Dukkah I gave you a while ago?  If you made it, toss some of it on top of the veggies and tahini dressing, and you’ll be so-gourmet, so-simply!  If you’re wondering what brand of tahini to buy, here’s what Saveur has to say.

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