Thursday, July 21, 2011


In America, churches are abundant. In the south, where I grew up, there seems to be a church on every corner. Before moving to Italy, I wondered what type of church we would find. I was very surprised and relieved to find a thriving protestant chapel community on base.  I grew up Southern Baptist and have always attended SB churches. The chapel is definitely different than any church I have ever attended.

Military chaplains are required to serve all denominations including Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, even Wiccans, and many more. They do not have to officiate services for religions that they don't agree with, but must offer resources if requested. Our chapel has Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Church of Christ services. We attend the Sunday morning protestant service, and I have truly enjoyed the opportunity to worship and serve alongside other Christians of all protestant denominations. We all desire to serve the Lord of creation, and although we have some different beliefs we can still worship our Lord in unity. In my opinion, as long as we agree on biblical salvation, most other issues are not worth dividing over.

You may be wondering what this has to do with Baklava. I am getting there. We truly appreciate the opportunity to attend services at the base chapel and be involved in ministry there, but we miss participating in a small group like a community group or Sunday School. So a few of our friends have gotten together and started a small community group. We meet weekly and watch sermons by Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. He is a young, jean wearing, no holds barred preacher that teaches biblical truth. He isn't concerned with being politically correct or watering down scripture for the fear of offending anyone. He preaches about the depravity of the human soul and how we are all in desperate need of Jesus, but also preaches about the love and grace of God. He is very engaging, and we are really enjoying his messages. Even my 15 year old son enjoys listening to him. You can listen or watch his sermons at .

Ok, now to the Baklava. Each week at small group we have a themed potluck meal. Since most of the restaurants here in Italy only serve Italian food it is nice to occasionally enjoy other types of cuisine. A couple of weeks ago the theme was Greek. My husband suggested that I attempt to make Baklava which is a sweet pastry type dessert filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with a honey syrup. I was first introduced to Baklava when my son's teacher made it for a class party last year. I happened to have a recipe that a lady in my bible study emailed me a few months ago so decided to give it a try. It really wasn't difficult at all. Phyllo dough makes up the flaky crust and is a cinch to use. It is a really simple recipe and super yummy.

Kale Orexi!!

Makes 32 pieces

12 oz. pistachios, walnuts, or almonds
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 16-oz. pkg. phyllo dough, thawed
10 oz. (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted

Honey Syrup
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup honey
Zest of 1 lemon, removed with vegetable peeler

To make Baklava:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread nuts on baking sheet, and toast in oven 6 minutes. Cool.

2. Pulse nuts, sugar, and cinnamon in food processor 8 to 10 times, or until finely chopped. Set aside. (I don't have a food processor, but I used a cuisinart electric chopper and it worked just fine)

3. Brush 13- x 9-inch metal baking pan with butter. (I used a pottery type casserole dish and it seemed to work well)
• Line with 2 phyllo sheets; brush phyllo with butter.

• Repeat 4 more times, or until you have 5 layers of 2 phyllo sheets each (10 sheets total).
• Sprinkle with one-third of nut mixture.

• Top with 2 phyllo sheets, brush with butter, and repeat phyllo layering 2 more times (6 sheets total).
• Sprinkle with one-third of nut mixture. Top with 2 phyllo sheets, brush with butter, and repeat phyllo layering 2 more times (6 sheets total).
• Sprinkle with remaining one-third of nut mixture. Top with 2 phyllo sheets, brush with butter, and repeat phyllo layering 2 more times (6 sheets total).
• Lay 1 phyllo sheet on top, brush with butter, then lay last phyllo sheet on top, and brush with butter.
• Chill 10 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut Baklava into 16 squares with knife. Cut each square into 2 triangles or for larger dessert-size serving, leave in squares.

Bake 30 to 40 minutes, or until top is golden brown.

To make Honey Syrup:

5. Combine sugar, honey, lemon zest, and 1 cup water in small saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 15 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Remove lemon zest, and pour syrup over hot Baklava. Cool on wire rack.

6. To serve: recut triangles or squares with knife, and remove from pan. Store covered at room temperature.

Friday, July 8, 2011

William and Kate's White Almond Wedding Cake

I am a little behind on blogging to say the least, but wanted to share this wonderful cake recipe!

Less than a week before the Royal Wedding, I decided to throw a party. I thought it would be great fun to invite over some friends, get dressed up, and celebrate the mementous event. Most everyone dressed up in either wedding attire or something that they would wear to a wedding. Guests brought wedding pictures and/or momentos from their wedding and a finger food to share. It was so much fun!

Since you can't have a wedding party without a cake. I decided to attempt my version of a wedding cake. I wanted to decorate it using wildflowers, and at the time, wildflowers were abundant here in Sicily. The day before the party, I went to the flight line on base (the area where planes take off) and picked a trunk full of wildflowers while dodging bugs and fighter jets! After I got home, I put the mound of flowers on the floor near the kitchen. The next thing I knew there were creepy crawly things all over the place. So, I put the flowers outside until it was time to decorate the cake. By the time the cake was ready for decorating, most of the flowers had wilted.  I salvaged as many as I could and put them in the fridge. That didn't work so well either and by morning there just a few purple flowers that were usable. So shortly before my guests arrived, I was in my backyard cutting yellow flowers from our bush. Not exactly what I had in mind.

As for the recipe, I discovered it at It had great reviews, and I was confident it would be really good. Most of the time when I bake a cake, I do a simple 9 x 13 inch sheet cake and serve it straight from the pan, but I knew that wouldn't suffice for the wedding party.  I decided to do a two tiered cake. The top tier was 6 in round layers and the bottom tier was 9 inch round layers.

After baking the layers and allowing them to cool, I leveled them using a cake leveler that I bought at The Nearly New Shop on base. (It is a thrift store run by Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. All the proceeds from the store go back to the military community.) It is a very handy tool and much easier than trying to level with a knife. The cake was so moist and delicious! I couldn't quit eating the leftover pieces.

 Instead of putting icing between the layers, I decided to use apricot preserves.

Next, I assembled the layers.

I iced the cake with a buttercream frosting and added ribbon, wildflowers, and some free printables that I found online.  

Here is a pic after it was eaten.

I had leftover batter, so I cooked a 9 inch cake and wrapped it in wax paper and foil then put it in the freezer. The next time I needed something to take to a potluck, I simply thawed the cake and topped it with a frosting of cool whip mixed with crushed fresh or frozen strawberries. The frosting was runny, so I put the cake on top of a wire baking rack and poured the frosting over the cake. I let the icing drip down then transferred the cake to a serving dish. Here is a pic of a slice.

A few weeks later I was asked to make a cake for a baby shower for one of my husband's coworkers. I decided to use this wedding recipe again, but wanted to do a cream cheese strawberry frosting instead of the buttercream frosting. She is expecting a girl, and I thought the pink icing would be pretty. Unfortunately, I cannot post the icing recipe, because I didn't pay attention to measurements, and it ended up being a concoction of cream cheese, cool whip, powdered sugar, frozen strawberries, and I think some strawberry sundae topping. I was given a bouquet of flowers for my birthday and used some of the flowers to decorate the cake. It turned out nice except you can see the layers of the cake since the icing was not very thick.

If you are looking for a very tasty, moist, and versatile cake, I would definitely recommend this recipe. 



1 (18.25 ounce) package white cake mix
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups water
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 egg whites


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease and flour an 11x13 inch cake pan.

2. Stir together the white cake mix, flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl until well mixed. Pour in the water, sour cream, vegetable oil, almond and vanilla extracts, and egg whites, and beat with an electric mix on low until all the ingredients are mixed and moistened but some lumps still remain, 4 minutes.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, and bake in the preheated oven until the top is a light golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Allow to cool before frosting.

Buttercream Frosting
(I doubled this recipe for this cake)

4 cups powdered sugar
1 cup crisco
1/4 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla flavoring (clear) or almond flavoring
dash of salt

Mix together with a mixer until smooth.