Happy Birthday!

This my friends is the breakfast of  birthday champions. As soon as the light of day breaks through the windows, the Littles will enjoy a nutritious, hearty helping of birthday cake. All before 8 am. Cake for the Littles, coffee for the mama.

Nine years ago on my 33rd birthday, our second Little and first daughter made her way into the world. I can see you doing the math in your head, you know. I’m 42 today. My beloved Little is 9. So today we celebrate! Beginning with Birthday Cake for breakfast. Because, why not?

Here’s the birthday girl just moments ago opening her presents. She found the princess crown (from her 1st birthday) and somehow woke up with it already perfectly in place on her sweet birthday head. Clearly her mother’s daughter.

Bed head and dragon breath, the birthday girls pose for their first pic of the day. Y’all it’s still in the 7’s in these parts…very early.

Yesterday, the grand assembling of the cake occurred. Dubbing the occasion in this manner makes it seem more important because the truth is…

Our cake came straight out of the box. Both of them. I just didn’t have my wits to try all the new flours and sweeteners necessary to make a perfect gluten-free cake. So can I get an AMEN for Pamela’s gluten-free cake mixes? And icings too!

The birthday princess requested a double layer cake of vanilla and chocolate. She also requested a strawberry layer, but Pamela’s Baking Goods glory does not extend that far. Here is the cake at the ‘big fat oreo’ stage.

I love this photo and it will always remind me of Littlest who is ‘up the counter’ in her princess big girl panties. We are 10 days into successful potty training and this it the ultimate birthday gift in my book. I do wonder what I will think in years to come about the purple finger nail polish on my birthday girl? I hadn’t noticed her manicure until I took this photo. Nice.

About this time during the grand assembling of the cake, just as the finishing touches were settling into place, Littlest threatened to destroy the masterpiece by secretly pulling the cookies off the cake and leaving finger trails through the icing. The birthday princess extended grace and patience as she swiftly moved her younger sibling from the scene of the crime. I was proud. Then the birthday girl declared ‘I want a gluten-free, dairy-free, SISTER-FREE cake’.  And proceeded to bop her sister on the head. Again, my pride swells.

Gratefully, this  younger sister stopped short of removing cookies and left sprinkles in place. But, she gave it a long contemplative thought…

Neighbors joined us from a far (long blocks, really!) and distracted the Littles from completely eating the cake on the eve of the celebration. All was quiet during the night.

This is the live-real-time-blogging scene from my writing perch. Littlest is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to cake. She wise beyond her three years.

And I am powerless to keep this birthday Little waiting any longer. Excuse me, while we celebrate 9 and 42 with birthday cake. For breakfast!


Valentine Mice

If you have your own Littles running around the house, this Valentine’s Day treat will surely bring smiles to your house too.  These adorable, edible strawberry mice are a healthy and fun alternative to balance out all the chocolate and candy the Littles will end up scarfing at Valentine’s Day parties this week.

Valentine’s Day Mice

fresh strawberries

mini chocolate chips

sliced almonds

licorice pieces

Wash and hull the strawberries.  I sliced off the bottoms so they will lay nice and flat.  I put all the ingredients out on the table and let the Littles go to town making mice using the mini chocolate chips for the eyes and nose, the almonds for ears, and the licorice pieces for tails.

These fun Valentine’s Day treats have always been the hit of the party at The Schell Cafe.  I hope your Littles will enjoy them too!

Happy Valentine’s Day!



Tuaca & Dulce de Leche

It’s New Year’s Eve! While the rest of the world celebrates the dawn of 2010, Husband & I will quietly (well, four Littles quiet) toast 12 years of marriage tonight.

New  Year’s Eve looks different for us every year.  Some years we celebrate with friends, once (maybe twice) we’ve stolen 24 hours away alone, and on at least four New Year’s Eves we’ve held a tiny newborn in our arms as we clang our champagne flutes and kissed at midnight 9:45 pm.

But there are some constants in our twelve years of celebration.  We were given gorgeous silver champagne flutes for our wedding toast and each year we use them for a special anniversary toast.  And, for at least half the decade + we’ve been married we’ve enjoyed a special spirited dessert.

Only the festive, over-the-top, decadent cocktail dessert has NO name.  So I need your help.  I’ll share our New Year’s Eve / Anniversary dessert with you, if you’ll help me come up with a name.  Deal?

I get the easy end of the deal, as there are only two ingredients to share:  Tuaca and Haagen Dazs Dulce de Leche ice cream.

Tuaca is an Italian liqueur which dates back to the Renaissance. The northern Tuscany delicacy is known for its distinct sweet flavor with hints of vanilla and orange. I’m sure the 16th century Italians who first created Tuaca would cringe at mixing it with American ice cream, but you my friends will beam ear to ear with this unique combination.

You’ll need Tuaca…

And, of course the caramel ice cream sensation….

There really is no magic to the recipe.  You just blend the softened ice cream with one or two shots of tuaca.  I serve the dessert in big stemless wine glasses with a spoon on the side.

No, the Littles will not be partaking in our annual New Year’s Eve dessert.  We have another decade until the oldest Little can join us in this tradition. I’ll be serving the Littles Whoopie Pie.

Because everyone deserves a little whoopie on New Year’s Eve!

Now, please help me name this drink! It’s so creamy, delicious, mouth watering good it’s just a shame to leave it nameless any longer.

Happy New Year!

Big Sur Cherry Crisp…just for you!


Back in the day, Husband and I were lucky enough to make frequent trips to California.  We had our little get-aways perfectly planned.  We’d hop the Thursday morning Nerd Bird to San Jose, jump in a convertible, and head south to Carmel or Big Sur.  We felt the pressures of the world unwinding like clockwork about an hour into our car ride when the concrete crust congealing Silicon Valley dissolved into an earthy, fertile oasis somewhere around Watsonville.  It’s a surreal transition. One we always marked with a quick stop to a farm stand to buy cherries.  There is nothing more cathartic than zooming down PCH 1, wind in your hair, ocean on your right, mountains on your left, and spittin’ cherry pits to mark your path.

These memories inspired the cherry crisp baking in my oven at this very moment. In fact, I’m naming this dessert Big Sur Cherry Crisp. If you happen to have a big bowl of cherries on your counter as I did, toss them into a crisp, and you’ll be California Dreamin’ too.

Big Sur Cherry Crisp

3 cups cherries, pitted

1/4 cup sugar

1 Tbs vanilla

2/3 cup flour

1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

1 Tbs cinnamon

1 Tbs maple syrup

1 Tbs vanilla

8 Tbs (1 stick) butter

Do you have a cherry pitter? I’m not much in to one trick ponies, but I heart my cherry pitter! Pit the cherries in a bowl.


Sprinkle cherries with sugar and vanilla.  Toss to coat.


Pour cherries into a baking dish, and set aside after you taste just one!


In a medium bowl, mix together flour, oats, sugars, cinnamon, vanilla and maple.  Slice butter into pieces and cut into mixture by hand.  Knead the mixture until its well combined and crumbly.


Sprinkle the oatmeal crumbles on top of the cherries.  Bake for 45 – 50 minutes at 350 degrees.


Speaking of California, we are blessed to have weather this morning that feels coastal.  I’m off for a quick hop, limp or walk just to enjoy the cool temps.  And to work off tonight’s Big Sur Cherry Crisp.


Grandma’s Oreo Peppermint Ice Cream Cake


I’ve never had a Christmas without this dessert.  If you’ve been around the cafe for a while, you can figure out that this will by my 41st Christmas.  That’s a lot of Oreo Peppermint Ice Cream Cakes.  Who knows how long my grandmother (Popa’s mother) made this treat before I joined the scene?!?  All I know is it wouldn’t be Christmas without this sweet tradition.

Mia took over the honor of making the cake when Grandma was no longer able.  And we are all grateful she’s kept the tradition alive, especially Popa and my brother.  This year, I’m stealing the duty from Mia.  Mostly, so I can share the love of our family’s Christmas cake with you.

Merry Christmas!

Grandma’s Peppermint Ice Cream & Oreo Cake

1 lg. pkg. of Oreo Cookies (hint: buy two packages!)
1/2 gal. (2 qt) Peppermint Ice Cream
1 stick of butter, melted
Pulse cookies in a food processor until coarsely crumbled.  Melt butter and add to cookies. Pulse until combined.  
Add 1/3 of cookie mixture to form crust in bottom of 9 x 13 pyrex dish.  Place crumb filled dish in freezer to set, 15 – 20 minutes.  Freezing crumbs makes it much easier to spread the ice cream!
Place ice cream in a large mixing bowl and allow to thaw slightly.  You should be able to stir the ice cream, but it will still be near frozen.  
Layer 1/2 of the ice cream on top of frozen crumb crust.  Layer 1/3 more of the cookies on top of the ice cream layer.  Place dish back into freezer to set, about 15 – 20 minutes.  I put the remaining ice cream in the fridge while the cake sets in the freezer.  You don’t want it to melt.
When cake is firm to the touch, remove from freezer and  repeat layering remaining ice cream and ending with cookies.  
Depending on how many cookies were eaten when  you started this recipe, you may or may not have enough cookie mixture to completely cover the cake.  If it looks slim, you can either add more cookies to the original mixture and pulse to combine or hand crumble a few and sprinkle on top!  
We were short about seven or eight cookies this year….I’ll let you decide where they went??!!! I had to dip into the extra package of Oreos to get enough cookies to cover our cake.  I think Grandma would have approved. 😉
The cake should be made at least 24 hours before serving.  Store in freezer and remove about 20 minutes before serving to make it easier to cut and serve.

Pecan Pie


Husband grew up with an enormous pecan tree in his front yard.  It yields massive amounts of pecans each year and we are the grateful recipients of any amount my mother-in-law choses to give us.  Some years we come home from visiting with buckets of unshelled pecans.  Other years we get baggies full of perfect pecan halves.  This year we left with a huge plastic bag filled with ready to use pecans.  Oh the joy!

Husband loves pecan pie. He loves it so much that life is actually better when there is pecan pie in the house.  I confess I use this to my advantage.  But, I would never, ever do anything so obvious as make him a pecan pie on the same day that an unusually large credit card bill arrived.  Nope, wouldn’t do that.

Today, I’m making pecan pie because its almost Thanksgiving and I need think we need to have a little taste test.  You know, just to make sure it tastes ok.  Wink. Wink.

Pecan Pie

3 eggs, beaten

2/3 cup sugar

dash of salt

1/3 cup butter, melted

1 cup pecan halves ( I toast mine!)

1 cup light corn syrup

1 tsp vanilla

In a mixing bowl, beat eggs.  Add sugar and salt.  Stir in corn syrup, melted butter, vanilla and mix well.  Put toasted pecans in the bottom of an unbaked pie crust and pour mixture on top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.  I usually tent my pies with foil after 30 – 35 minutes of baking so the edges of the crust don’t get too dark.

Heavenly Hash

So the past seven days are really a blur. The details of our week are vague; however I am pretty sure I have not made a meal since last Sunday. A funny concept since I spent the entire week entertaining. Note to self: cooking and entertaining are not mutually exclusive!

Suffice it to say, between hosting Easter parties, our church Wednesday night supper, and shuttling children with overloaded dance cards, I spent the week wired on grande-non-fat-one-Splenda-lattes.

Thank goodness I had the weekend at my mother-in-law’s to come down off my adrenaline buzz. I caught up on several FoodTV and HGTV shows, watched Gidget and It Runs in the Family, and finished needle pointing one of the elephants on my son’s Noah’s Ark stocking. I didn’t cook, wash, clean or even make my bed! And, it was delicious.

Our Easter feast was traditional with expected favorites including spiral glazed ham, potato salad and baked beans. Perhaps the unsung hero of the day was the Heavenly Hash. I remember a variation of the dish my grandmother added to holiday meals, so today’s rendition struck my tongue as one part nostalgic and two parts unfamiliar. In my wildest dreams I could have never come up with this concoction of marshmallows, cherry pie filling, pineapples and Cool Whip. Yet the sugary-sweet pink cloud stole the show. When asked what the best part of the meal was the girls responded without hesitation, ‘the pink stuff’.

In my opinion Heavenly Hash gets a bad rap. Yes it’s sinful, but thankfully it’s not addictive. In fact, Heavenly Hash is one of those dishes you are embarrassed to admit you actually really like. But, it’s so damned good eventually you just give up and dive in head first.

Don’t get me wrong, Heavenly Hash definitely has its place. The pseudo fruit salad dessert wannabe isn’t fit for every affair. It won’t grace the occasional table and might only make a cameo if requested by really insistent children. Or will it?!??!

As I was driving my snoozing family back home down I-35, I resisted the temptation to plan this week’s meals. The weekend’s not over yet! Besides I’m still noshing on chocolate eggs, jelly beans and secretly dreaming of Heavenly Hash.

Heavenly Hash
1(14 ounce) can
sweetened condensed milk

1 (16 1/2 ounce) can cherry pie filling
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup pineapple chunks
1 large container Cool Whip, thawed
Mix all ingredients together. Refrigerate overnight.