Saturday, December 10, 2011
The day after Thanksgiving Michael wasn't feeling well. Actually, he hadn't been feeling well for a couple months. He was complaining of shortness of breath and a dry cough that kept him up at night. His doctor diagnosed "Post Viral Cough" which supposedly is a cough that hangs around after a cold or the flu. Finally, it was bad enough that he was exhausted and could barely go from room to room without having to rest. The Friday after Thanksgiving he deigned to go to the ER at University Medical Center.
The doctors and residents were able to figure out this wasn't a "Post Viral Cough" but rather congestive heart failure. Long story short they discovered he has several things wrong with his heart. He spent a few days in the hospital and is now on a number of medications as they try to rehabilitate his heart and let it strengthen and repair. He's also on a new "heart healthy" and low sodium diet. Obviously, that is challenge for me in the kitchen since my cooking fortes are Southern and French - meaning a stick of butter or a cup of cream in pretty much everything! But, I'm trying and so far he's liked my low sodium and heart healthy dishes.
Obviously, with all this going on my baking has taken a big hit. I had planned to do big trays for friends, family, and others but have had to put that on hold because I've fallen so far behind.
I did manage to throw together a little snack cake/coffee cake this morning, though. I really love this cake and have made it a couple times. In fact, it was going to go up right after Thanksgiving but, well, you already know. The original recipe was found in the Penzey's Spices catalog. We have one of their stores a few blocks from here and I've become a big fan. Their spices are so fresh and interesting. I simply won't buy grocery store spices now. Their catalog is wonderful and full of great recipes, too.
In this recipe I use their Ceylon Cinnamon which is one of the few true cinnamons available today. The Ceylon variety is very popular in Europe where it's complex and soft flavor are more appreciated than the overpowering cinnamon used here in the states. I adore the citrus notes that can be tasted in this variety and it has become my "go to" cinnamon for use in my traditional recipes. I highly recommend giving this one a try.
I've also become a big fan of Penzey's Mexican Vanilla extract. The first time I opened a bottle of this stuff in the store and took a whiff I was blown away! It has an incredibly complex and floral scent. The taste is also incredibly smooth with none of that slight alcohol bite you find in many supermarket vanilla extracts. Unfortunately, they don't seem to have this one available in their online store.
This little cake is really easy to throw together in a few minutes and pop in the oven for a wonderful breakfast dessert, brunch, or coffee break. It even works if you forget the cinnamon which I admit I have done! In that case it has a lovely buttery flavor that shines through and the brown sugar and vanilla streusel (sans cinnamon) is very rich with hints of molasses flavors. So, if you want to purposely leave out the cinnamon you can have a whole different flavor experience with the same cake!