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Where’s the Fire?

By Gini Rainey

For those of you who might not know, I’m part owner of an independent automobile dealership that just happens to be in an old City of Tyler fire station.  Built in the mid-40s, it was replaced with a newer station forty years later and pretty much sat around waiting for someone to figure out what to do with it next.  When Jim Lozier saw the building, he had the vision to re-model and restore the building into a business which is where I have spent the majority of my waking hours the past 22 years.  While Jim sold the business to me and my business partner over ten years ago, he still drops by to visit and catch up at least once a month.  A couple of weeks ago he stopped by to take me to lunch and brought me a surprise.

Knowing of my huge interest in cookbooks and of course the fire station link, when he spotted “San Francisco Firehouse Favorites: Great Recipes by the Bay City’s Famous Firemen Chefs,” he picked it up to give me.  Co-authored by Tony Calvello, Bruce Harlow, Georgia Sackett, and Shirley Sarvis, this book was published in 1965 by Bonanza Books and not only has some great sounding recipes, but also has some pretty cool black and white photos of firemen in action.

With contributions from San Francisco firemen, this book is loaded with hearty recipes that are easy for the men to cook at the station while helping maintain the energy and gusto that firemen need to draw on while responding to emergency situations.  True to the legend of a fixed budget of a dollar a day per man, this book is a prime example of how the city’s fire department was able to serve meals and dishes of great style and ingenuity.

While I could share one or more of the heartier, main course recipes, the one that popped out at me more than any other was for Mocha Éclairs.  I love making éclairs.  There is just something so cool about how the eggs, butter, and flour incorporate with each other when making the pâte à choux that is the pastry basis for the éclairs.  If you’ve never made them, this will be a great recipe to try. To make the pastry, combine 1 cup water, ½ cup butter, and ¼ teaspoon salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Add 1 cup flour all at once and beat over a low heat until the mixture leaves the side of the pan and begins to form a ball.  Remove from heat and continue beating to cool mixture down slightly – about 2 minutes.  Add 4 eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition, until the batter has a slight sheen.

Spoon the pastry onto a greased baking sheet, shaping into fingers about 1 inch wide and 4 inches long, with about 2 inches between to allow for expansion.  Bake in a 425° oven for 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350° and bake for another 35-40 minutes, or more, until golden brown.  Remove to a wire rack to cool, and then split open and remove any filaments of soft dough.  Then fill with Coffee Cream Filling:  Beat 2 cups heavy cream with 6 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons very strong coffee, and 2 teaspoons vanilla until stiff.  Then top with Mocha Frosting: Stir together 2 tablespoons each melted butter, very strong coffee, and powdered cocoa.  Gradually add about 1 ½ cups sifted powdered sugar, beating until smooth and of spreading consistency.  Chill for 2 hours before serving. This should make 10-12 really yummy éclairs.



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Reading the Kids Back to School


By Gini Rainey

“Mischief and Mayhem: Part I of the Faerlands Chronicles”

by S. D. Nicholson

I think you know me by now to know that magical kingdoms and fantasy are not the usual genre of reading that I reach for.  So, when I was approached by the author’s publicist to read and review this book, I wasn’t even aware it fell into this area.  With that being said, I must admit that I have thoroughly enjoyed and been intrigued by the characters and tiny world that Mr. Nicholson has created in his first book.  Without a doubt, the main character, the tiny fae Ophelia, is every bit a heroine as are her six-foot tall counterparts.

I have no doubt in my mind that while the faes and faers of Nicholson’s book are In a struggle to preserve and maintain peace in their homeland, it is also analogous to the struggles we humans face on a daily basis while trying to attain a peaceful coexistence with the other inhabitants of this big blue marble.

The not so terribly hidden messages in Nicholson’s book came through loud and clear to me:  that if we spend quiet time by ourselves, we will be able to find and explore fully what our capabilities are, and additionally, fight for what we hold near and dear.  This is an outstanding read.  Not only will it capture your imagination, but it will also have you start thinking about what undeveloped talents and truths you might not have discovered about yourself.

I read the teaser at the end of the book and am anxious to read Part 2 of the Faerlands Chronicles!

5 of 5 – Copyright 2019 – Köhler Books

“Big Little Lies”

by Liane Moriarty

This book from which the HBO series starring Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman was adapted, is a pretty slow starter.  Working backwards from an event, the first third of this book was busy building strong characters, exposing bullies (adult-sized and pint-sized), failed and new relationships, and various points of view about the culmination of events.  As usual, Ms. Moriarty isn’t afraid to cooly broach hot topics: blended families, sexual assault, violence against women and children, all carefully tempered with unexpected humor and human emotions.

Set in a rather cliquish, upper-end Australian beach community, the human interests begin to develop by retrospect following a murder at the exclusive private school.  Liane develops some pretty interesting characters using her very successful skills and creating some of the most flawed people this side of Sidney.

Definitely worth the read for anyone with school-aged children as it brings together three moms whose only commonality is their kindergarten-aged children. While pointing out each of the character’s flaws, Moriarty gently has a couple of fingers pointing at the helicopter-parenting skills of modern-day moms that perhaps are creating our current crop of young adults who are clueless.

Without a doubt, this is yet another in a long stream of controversial topics that Liane Moriarty isn’t afraid of writing about and the plot twist at the end will keep you reading till the final page.

5 of 5 – Copyright 2014 – Berkley

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A Good Pounding!


By Gini Rainey

Good grief, that’s exactly what I deserve.  I have been so over-whelmed with life in the past few months – okay, this year – that I have neglected to do what I love doing – writing!  So, apparently it took an email to our editor/publisher to get me off high center.  She forwarded this email to me on June 24th and it comes from an editor named Jess Miller who just happens to be associated with  Jen Reviews is the authority on everything food, fitness and home and has been featured in some mind-blowing (my mind, anyway!) publications such as Forbes, Fast Company, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan, Greatist, Reader’s Digest, MindBodyGreen, Livestrong, Bustle, Lifehacker, Wikihow, and oh my goodness, many many more. 

Jess email says “I was doing research on pound cake recipes and just finished reading your wonderful blog post: In that article, I noticed that you cited a solid post that I’ve read in the past:  We just published a delicious cranberry pound cake with orange glaze recipe complete with step-by-step pictures and detailed instructions. It is completely free and you can find it here:  If you like the recipe we’d be humbled if you cited us in your article.” 

The gauntlet was thrown and I tried it.  I baked it last night and it is yummy.  Of course, knowing me, you know I have to pull in a cookbook of some sort, and for those of you out there who don’t know where the name “Pound Cake” comes from, I pulled out my earliest reference that I have, which is a replica of “American Cookery” written by Amelia Simmons in 1796. It’s really interesting to leaf through this book and try to read some of the recipes.  It is actually a photocopy of the original and along with various spots and stains, the letter “f” is used in place of the letter “s.”  Originally, a pound cake called for one pound of sugar, one pound of butter, one pound of flour, one pound or ten eggs, one gill of rose water and spices to your taste. (Hence pound cake!) We are told to watch it well (remember – wood burning stoves/ovens back then) It will bake in a slow oven in 15 minutes. 

The recipe referred to by Jess is a bit different and perhaps produces a much lighter version than the 1796 version.  What you will need to do to make Jess’s recipe is to begin with a 350° pre-heated oven and a lightly greased and floured 12×4 inch loaf pan.  Then in a bowl, whisk together 1 ¾ cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder and ¼ teaspoon salt.  In another bowl, cream 9 ounces of softened butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon orange zest until light and fluffy.  Then slowly add in 4 eggs plus 2 yolks (at room temp), followed by 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar. Then alternating between the flour mixture and ¼ cup room temp milk, gradually add to the sugar/egg mixture.  Lightly dredge in flour 1 ¼ cups of washed and dried fresh cranberries (because fresh cranberries aren’t on the market at this time, I substituted rehydrated dried cranberries and I think they did well) and gently fold into the mixture.  Pour into the pan and bake for 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  For the glaze, combine 2 cups of powdered sugar with 2 ½ tablespoons of fresh orange juice, and using a small spoon, drizzle over the completely cooled cake. 

This is one yummy cake – the unexpected tartness is a wonderful compliment to the buttery richness of the cake and would serve you well at a winter holiday meal – or even right now in the middle of the hot Texas summer along with a bowl of home-made ice cream! 

ben wheeler
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