The Stuff We’re Made Of


This post has been staring me in the face for over a week. I’ve opened it nearly every day, wanting to write something, but not quite finding the right words. The recipe was decided over a week ago, but what words to pair with it? Now that it’s written, be duly warned, dear reader: it’s a long one!

Last week I (with my three girls) went to my dad’s to visit and help sort through stuff. My attempt pales in comparison to what my younger sister had already done cleaning out closets, but I’d say nine boxes, two grocery bags, and two large garbage bags of stuff to get rid of is a valiant effort! Sorting through stuff in my own house can be difficult, determining what to keep and what to get rid of; sorting through stuff in my parents’ house is even more difficult. 

My dad loves coffee–loves it, which means he’s invariably collected a lot of mugs over the years. Each one holds a memory of someone, which makes it tough to get rid of any of them. We filled one box, leaving one full cupboard shelf. I found another box of mugs in the storage closet the day I was leaving. That will have to be another time…

Then the books… My parents encouraged us to read when we were younger. They took us to the library, bought us books. Many of those books (the ones they bought, not the library ones!) were on the shelves, memories wedged between the pages. The Little House series… Baby by Patricia MacLachlan… Beauty by Robin McKinley… Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper… My mom loved to read, too, though it wasn’t until they moved to Minnesota where she was without kids to take care of and no teaching position to prep for that she joined a book club and really started reading, at least that I saw. And she loved the feel and smell of books, so that meant a lot of books were bought. Seven boxes–six donated to the library; one came to my house. Did I mention that I didn’t even touch the picture books?

And then there were the cookbooks. Oh, the cookbooks! While I might be considered the perfect one for the sorting of those, I was also the worst one to be sorting through those. You can’t just discount one book in favor of another. Why did she have it? What did she use? Was it marked? What other culinary gems could be hidden in the pages? With my dad’s help, as the keeper of the best ones, we crammed two grocery bags full of cookbooks for my siblings to go through. I grabbed two books, though I’d happily have claimed the lot of them. So what if my shelf is already crammed? I can always make room for cookbooks! 🙂

It wasn’t until my dad pointed me to the overflow shelf in the home office that I realized I was doomed. A whole stack of cooking magazines! I paged through the first one. Oh, this looks good… and this! It’s a keeper! Then the second one… same thing.  The third… Man! I am my mother’s daughter! This could take hours, and I still had to help weed the back patio (the two large garbage bags). The stack came home with me for leisurely perusal.

As I drove the seven hours home, I thought about this whole process. We as Americans are blessed beyond our imaginations. Our homes are filled with things–things we need and things we want. Things we like and things we love. Stuff. While it’s fairly easy for me to go for a few days and sort through things in my dad’s house, it can’t be easy for him. While I hear him longing for a smaller place that he can manage, a place that’s his and not a constant reminder of my mom, I also hear him hesitating as things are removed, things that are a reminder of my mom and their life together. Even the dumbest little things mean the world when they’re from someone you love more than anything. You can’t put a price on that. And when that person is already waiting for you in heaven… Well, I can imagine you kind of want to hold on to all that stuff, as impractical as it may be.

I’m not sure quite how to segway from that into the recipe. I guess you could say that my mom was a little impractical in keeping a lot of stuff, cookbooks included. But you never know when you’re going to use something. Keep in mind, in a world before the culinary world was at your fingertips 24/7, cookbooks were your food network.

The recipe is from Betty Crocker’s Microwave Cookbook. The only two recipes I ever remember being used from the book–the only two marked–are for cooking squash and this cake. This recipe makes me think of suppers in the middle of the winter, dark at 5:30, when warm fudgy cake made the dark chill a little more palatable. It’s really also perfect for summer, when the days are so scorching the mere thought of turning on the oven heats up the kichen. Topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream… bring on the memories! This is the stuff I’m made of.


Peanut-Fudge Pudding Cake

from Betty Crocker’s Microwave Cookbook

  • 1 cup flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. cocoa
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup chunky peanut butter
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup cocoa
  • 1-3/4 cups hot water
  • Ice cream

Mix flour, sugar, 2 Tbsp. cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a 2-quart microwavable casserole dish. Stir in milk, peanut butter, oil, and vanilla until smooth.

Sprinkle with brown sugar and ¼ cup cocoa. Pour hot water over batter. Microwave uncovered on medium (50%) for 9 minutes; rotate casserole ¼ turn. Microwave on high (100%) until top is almost dry, 5 to 7 minutes longer. While warm, spoon into dessert dishes and top with ice cream. Spoon sauce over ice cream.


Butterscotch Sundae Cake: Omit peanut butter. Add 1 package (6 oz.) butterscotch chips (1 cup). Decrease brown sugar to ½ cup and the ¼ cup cocoa to 2 Tbsp.

Chocolate Sundae Cake: Substitute 1 cup chopped nuts for the peanut butter.

Marshmallow-Fudge Sundae Cake: Omit peanut butter. Add ½ cup chopped nuts and ½ cup miniature marshmallows. Decrease brown sugar to ½ cup.

Raisin-Fudge Sundae Cake: Omit peanut butter. Add 1 cup raisins. Decrease brown sugar to ½ cup.


One response »

  1. Pingback: As Evening Descends « The Magic Apron

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