Tag Archives: spring

Is it too late for an Easter post?

According to my priest it’s not.

Easter marks the beginning of a season of celebration and new beginnings so technically I’m not late in delivering this Easter cupcake recipe to you.

Technically, I’m right on time!

And I’m not just emphasizing my punctuality because my husband told me mass started at 8:30 last Sunday when it really started at 8:45 to get me out the door in time.

I’d like the record to show that I made it to church on time for many years before I met him.

Thanks, mom! 

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Planned out or last-minute, these cupcakes are great for any spring celebration. I’m actually not a big fan of coconut, but I’m a sucker for a cute bird’s nest and toasted coconut makes the cutest bird’s nests so coconut it is. (note: If you are a coconut lover, you can add coconut flavoring to the icing and/or shredded coconut to the batter)

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Banana Carrot Cupcakes (adapted from How Sweet Eats)

  • 2 C flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 C melted butter (substitute coconut oil)
  • 1 C sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 2 C grated carrots
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 C buttermilk

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with liners.

Toast coconut in a thin layer (I use a silpat) until just slightly browned. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon together. Set aside.

With an electric mixer, blend sugar and butter. Add eggs. Add bananas, carrots and vanilla until well combined.

Add half of dry ingredients and mix together (being careful not to overmix). Add buttermilk and remaining dry ingredients.

Using a 1/4 cup scoop, fill cupcake liners until they are 3/4 way full.

(Or, if you’re like me, accidentally forget the buttermilk and remember after you’ve already filled your cupcake liners, scrape everything back in the bowl and add buttermilk)

Bake 16-18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting

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    1 1/2 blocks of cold cream cheese

  • Blue Gel Food coloring
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Toasted unsweetened flaked coconut
  • Cadbury mini eggs

In a stand mixer, whip cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually add powdered sugar. Add in vanilla extract and food coloring until you get a robin’s egg blue (or until your sister tells you it looks unappetizingly gray).

Ice cupcakes and top with coconut and cadbury mini eggs.

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Oh and I almost forgot to mention the best part, these cupcakes are basically more fruit and veggies than they are dessert so you can eat them without any guilt whatsoever.

 

Hello Spring. 

So how do you survive your first winter back in the Midwest after living in Florida?christmas in florida, holidays, florida,
Don’t blog about it and it’s like it didn’t even happen.

Not sure whether there is a joke or an excuse in there, but I needed a transition so take it for what it is.

Truth is our first winter back has been pretty mild. And only in terms of temperature.

But if you’re gauging it on social engagements and work schedules, it’s been red hot. Most likely from a combination of living closer to friends and family, low housing inventory and increased demand for local athletic training services.

I’ll save you the apologies for my absence in this particular corner of the internet and instead bring you up to speed with photo montages and random things our dog has eaten (and had surgically removed) since we last talked (spoiler alert: it’s my favorite cashmere scarf).

superbowl cookies, football cookies, superbowl, dessert, sugar cookies, royal icing

Super Bowl Sunday

valentine's day dessert, yogurt covered strawberries, ombre strawberries, dessert,

Galentine’s Day Brunch

St. Louis Blues Hockey, Blues,

First St. Louis Blues Game

spring, tulips, whole foods, st. louis, flowers

Visiting Flowers at Whole Foods

gender neutral tassel garland, gender reveal, tissue banner, tassel garland

Saeger Gender Reveal Tassel Garland

valentine's day cookies, m&m cookies, baking, cookies, holiday

A Valentine’s M&M cookie recipe not worth sharing

Finn, greater swiss mountain dog, finnegan, swissy, gsmd

Watching my favorite show on T.V.

Finn, greater swiss mountain dog, finnegan, swissy, gsmd

Showing off my new belly scar

And since I’ve had this draft for several weeks now, it seems like as good a time as any to do a St. Patrick’s Day recap of recipes I used to make when I was fun.

on girlfriends…

Sitting 30 days out from our wedding day (no hives yet), I was browsing through the photos one of my girlfriends sent to me yesterday from the festivities and I realized something. People should really get married more often.

I mean when else do you get a chance to spend time with all of your girlfriends from your whole life all at in the same place and all at once? From braces to bachelor degrees, from late night food to Sunday brunch, the chance to merge groups of girlfriends together for one mega girl’s night is pretty awesome.

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A chance made even better if they all get along. Think about it. Chances are you align yourself with similar types of personalities throughout the years. And let’s say, for example, the middle school and college versions of two life of the party personalities meet for the first time in Vegas and realize how much they have in common, you just facilitated perhaps the greatest (or most dangerous) girlfriend setup in history.

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As my nephew would say, it’s pretty epic really. A chance to spend time with that all the females you love all at once and question why you don’t do this more often. We should really do this more often.

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Weekend recap: Chicago style

Historically I’ve not been the best at weekend recaps. Especially weekends that involve all of my favorite females in one room, baby snuggles and Chicago nights. I suppose it could be because recapping a weekend means it’s over and I have to accept the finality of it all. And just like knowing when to end conversations with strangers after several shots of tequila, I tend to have a hard time letting go.

You know what doesn’t seem to be have a hard time letting go once you turn thirty?

Hangovers.

I hope you’ll forgive me if my sentence structure is off today. Earlier I blasted one of the walls of a cubicle while walking out of my office. And we’re not talking about my usual slight shoulder tap due to a clumsy streak that I’ve never seemed to grow out of, but rather a solid clavicle impact that left the metal frame ringing.

You’ll forgive me if I’m not myself today. My flight home last night was terrifyingly turbulent thanks to an apparently unavoidable line of weather. And the moment in which the pilot decided to bail on the landing about two feet above the runway was just a cherry on top. I feel like a well-shaken margarita, which isn’t very far off considering the amount of them we consumed Saturday night.

But it wasn’t a completely horrible travel day. I got expedited through security at O’hare yesterday and avoided bending over to take my shoes off, a perk I can only assume was given to me when the TSA saw the pitiful look of nausea on my face. And when I sought relief in greasy fast food in Terminal C, I was both pleased and disgusted to find a bonus order of french fries in my mighty kids meal. Pleased at the luck and disgusted because I could no longer stomach the idea of airport french fries about two minutes later.

It was thanks to an experienced pilot and a very calming ARMY sergeant seated next to me that our second landing was much more successful than the first (we actually landed that time) and that I now have a horrifying story to pass along to my future children and secure my newly developed fear of flying for another generation. I suppose I could accept the encouragement my future husband had for me when I text him what happened and he said, “Wow. Good for you. Now you’ve lived a little. Haha.”

And lived we did. Both literally and figuratively. We lived it up for all the new babies born who were finally spending a Saturday night alone with their dads, for a chance to get the gang back together and for a solid rendition of friends in low places at the best little karaoke spot in bucktown.

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Summer Chicken Salad

Is it too early for me to mock the weather in Florida? It pains me to do it especially considering the winter we just came from in Chicago, but I can’t help but laugh at these people when they deliver the news every morning.

lakewood ranch palm trees, florida weather

Traffic is a hoot. Yes there’s violence but on a completely different level. Don’t get me started on the local morning show. But the weather. Lord does it get me laughing.

I giggle at the TV, as a chipper weather girl comes on every morning and delivers a 7-day forecast identical to the 5 days prior plus or minus a few percentages of humidity.

florida weather forecast, sarasota forecast, tampa bay weather

Bright and sunny with a high of 88 today folks! It’s another beautiful day out there!

Don’t get me wrong it’s awesome to know you can walk outside sans coat, boots, hat and gloves no matter the hour, but where’s the variety? Coming from the Midwest we killed for this kind of weather. Ok, maybe that’s not the analogy I am going for but the bottom line is we relished in 88 and sunny because we rarely saw it. 88 and sunny. Are you kidding me?

Get the sprinkler out hunny! I hope the Ice Deli is open because we are totally going there after we grill everything in our fridge! We’ve only got 24 hours to enjoy this before it rains, storms or snows.

siesta key beach volleyball tournament, siesta key, florida

And the radio meteorologists aren’t much better. I’m just cruising along trying to avoid anyone who should no longer have their license and all of a sudden a deep authoritative voice comes on and says,

‘Now, the official suncoast forecast’

Here I am expecting a tornado (water spout) warning, flood watch or at least an excessive heat advisory, but nope. Each and every day this intro is followed by the following:

Sunshine for the remainder of today with a low of 68. The temperature is currently 88 under clear skies.

siesta key beach, siesta key, florida
Now I realize we’ve only been here the better part of a month and there will be plenty of weather changes over the course of the year, but you should have seen them last weekend when we had a ‘cold front’ come through.

‘Good morning. Sunny and 88 for most of the week until the a cold front comes through on Thursday. Things will really cool down as our high on Friday will only reach 84. Still sunny though!’

siesta key beach, siesta key, florida

Cold front? It was 92 by noon that day. Meanwhile my friends in Chicago are sending me pictures of snow. Snow! In May! And this lady is warning of a cold front that is nothing like any cold front I’ve ever experienced. It’s hard to be a Midwest transplant in Florida in May. I still catch myself putting on layers to walk the dog only to sweat more than the fur covered mountain dog himself. And I can’t help but laugh at the way these newscasters report on delightful weather.

It’s been beautiful out. So while my Midwest family is still deciding whether it’s safe to pack away their coats, I’ve been jumping straight into summer recipes.

summer chicken salad, recipes, spring, greek yogurt chicken salad, almond chicken salad

 

Summer Chicken Salad

  • 2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked
  • 3 TBL greek yogurt
  • 2 TBL spicy brown mustard
  • 1/4 C chopped roasted almonds
  • 1/2 C chopped celery
  • 1/4 C chopped red onion
  • 1/4 C chopped apple (can substitute grapes or craisins)
  • 2 TBL chopped green onion
  • lemon juice
  • cilantro, chopped
  • salt, pepper

Cook chicken breast according to your preference. I did a salt brine on mine for 30 minutes and then grilled them. You can bake or boil as well. Once chicken is cooked, shred into pieces and let cool.

In a large bowl, combine yogurt, mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Fold chopped vegetables, chicken and apple into dressing. Add chopped cilantro and almonds before serving.

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Stay cool out there, folks!

 

Farmer’s Market Strategy

One of my favorite things to do with my mom on Saturday mornings was to head downtown to the farmer’s market and shop for produce. I love to social aspect of it, the people watching, the beautifully lined vegetables, the music.

sarasota downtown farmer's market, produce, vegetables, farmers market, spring, tips for making the most of the farmers market

Isn’t it amazing how the things you absolutely dreaded as a child have become some of your favorite activities as an adult? I can picture my sister rolling her eyes right now, making some reference to how much I’m turning into our mom, but I’m ok with that. My mom is a subject matter expert when it comes to farmer’s markets. She knows all the vendors. She knows what’s in season and what’s priced appropriately. Not that the price matters. I’ve never seen someone throw around cash more than she does on your average Saturday morning. But when your cash is supporting local business, it’s worth it. Bottom line is if you need a crash course in farmer’s market strategy, consider letting my mom accompany you to your local farmer’s market. You’ll be a pro in no time.

Unfortunately I didn’t have my mom with me when I visited the downtown Sarasota Farmer’s Market on Saturday, but based on her lessons and my experience, here are my five tips to make the most of your local farmer’s market:

Step 1. Survey the lot before you buy. Chances are there are at least 2-3 stands with the produce you are looking for. See what’s out there before you commit to anything. Most farmer’s markets take cash so you don’t want to spend it all at the cookie bar when you really came for peaches and cucumbers. Not that you shouldn’t spend a little at the cookie bar because well, it’s a cookie bar.

sarasota downtown farmer's market, produce, vegetables, farmers market, spring, tips for making the most of the farmers market

Step 2. Consider what’s in season and stick with that. We are very fortunate to be living in a place where fruits and vegetables that might not regularly be in season are. Find out what was recently harvested in your area and plan your meals around those foods. It makes the seasons fun!

sarasota downtown farmer's market, produce, vegetables, farmers market, spring, tips for making the most of the farmers market, peaches

Step 3. Talk to people. Farmer’s markets don’t work the same way grocery stores do. Show up with your headphones on and your head down and you may lose out on a great experience. Not only did I meet two people from Chicago and one from Green Bay Wisconsin on Saturday morning, but I got a free dinner and several local recommendations for restaurants in our new area. I was also asked if I was getting married in Siesta Key that afternoon by an older gentleman who was absolutely convinced I looked like the bride. Don’t get me wrong, I hear it’s a great location for a wedding but any bride who is shopping hydrangeas solo at 10 a.m. the morning of her wedding is straight up crazy.

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Step 4. Bring cash. This should probably be step 1 but let my mother be an example for you to load your pockets and purse with small bills before heading to your farmer’s market. It’s a busy place so the key is to make the transaction as quick as possible. No one wants to see your AMEX or $100 bill when all you have is a pint of tomatoes in your hand.

sarasota downtown farmer's market, produce, vegetables, farmers market, spring, tips for making the most of the farmers market

Step 5. Slow down. Farmer’s markets offer a rare chance to take a break from technology and talk to people. For once you not only have the chance to find out where your food came from, but to talk to the person or business owner and learn a little about their story as well. And it doesn’t just stop at food. These markets are a great chance to hear good music and survey the local arts.

sarasota downtown farmer's market, produce, vegetables, farmers market, spring, tips for making the most of the farmers market, peaches

Do me a favor and go check out your local farmer’s market this spring. Most should be opening soon if they aren’t already. Order a cup of fresh-squeezed lemonade and be sure to say hello to my mom when you see her.

 

Mango salsa for the win

One of my favorite things about cooking is the way that a recipe can evoke emotions and memories from your life. Recipes can bring you back your childhood, where you had nothing else on your agenda but to spend Saturday mornings baking cookies with your mom in a 1970-style wallpapered kitchen. They can take you back to that first meal you shared with your significant other, even if it was heavy on the booze and light on the food. And they can stir up the happiness you felt during the countless holiday parties where you and your best friends shared signature dishes in celebration of the season.

food memories, news gazette, beth bosch, food columnist

Did you know my mom was a food columnist? Me neither.

Food can be so much more than just fuel.

I had a food moment last night when I decided to make a batch of mango salsa for dinner. It isn’t the making for a Lifetime movie or anything, but as I sliced the mangoes and mixed up the ingredients, I was instantly reminded of the summers of the past several years where I made this simple recipe nearly every time I could get my hands on some ripe mangoes.

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One of the things I’m really excited about our move to Florida is access to fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the year. Whereas in the past, I hit the mango salsa train hard for the few short months we had access to the fruit, I can already feel it coming back into rotation and it’s still early in the season. This is a super simple recipe as it only has 5 ingredients and it can be served over grilled fish, on top of turkey burgers or just with chips.

mango salsa, 5 ingredient mango salsa, easy salsa recipe, fruit salsa, spring, summer

5-ingredient Mango Salsa

  • 2 ripe mangoes
  • 1/4 C red onion, chopped
  • 6 grape tomatoes, chopped
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Lime juice

In a medium, bowl, mix sliced mangoes (tutorial here), onion, tomatoes, cilantro and lime juice. Add a little kosher salt to bring out the juice.

Told you it was easy.

And because she’s one of my most loyal blog followers, I’d like to give a birthday shout out to my friend Trista today. Happy Birthday! I made you some mango salsa. You just have to come down to Florida to get it.

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Have a great day!

 

 

 

 

Workout Wednesday

Please excuse my absence this week. I guess being at a company for 5-plus years makes for a pretty busy final week.

Speaking of finals, I decided that this last week of work feels a lot like college finals. The springlike weather (let’s not even talk about the snow we had yesterday), finishing up those big projects before a much-needed break, the anxiety that comes with realizing that your break actually consists of finding a job and the celebratory drinking. Ok, so I think we can all agree the drinking will never be on the same level as college finals but you get the idea.

And the packing. Don’t even get me started on the packing. Let’s just say my next few Workout Wednesdays are going to look a lot like this.

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I’m going to try my best to continue to post regularly but please forgive me if I’m off schedule for a few weeks. I am a self-proclaimed packing procrastinator. Heck, this post alone is proof of that.

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But I’m wearing my marathon shirt as a reminder that I can do hard things. That and it was the one on the top of my oh-so-messy workout clothes to pack pile.

Sincerely,
Sarah ‘almost to graduation’ Murphy

A dog was here: Week 3

Finn spent most of his weekend socializing with his friends in the neighborhood. The weather finally warmed up enough yesterday for us to get out and play so I took him over to a new dog park to see what all the hype was about.

K2 dog park, chicago, west loop,

First of all let me explain that the dog park by my place is about 1/10th the size of this one and entirely cement. It’s a great park don’t get me wrong, but you don’t see anything of this size or quality in the city. Imagine both of our surprises when we saw nearly an acre of grass nestled in the Fulton River district and at our disposal.

Once we got a few sprints out of the way, Finn decided to introduce this park to his latest game of playing lion as other dogs in the park became is unsuspecting gazelles. Here’s how it goes down:

K2 dog park, chicago, west loop, swissy, greater swiss mountain dog

The lion crouches in the distance as the gazelles enter the area to play with one another. Just as they are through the gate, the lion strikes at full sprint, scaring the crap out of both the gazelle and his human friend. Instead of going in for the kill, the lion then turns on his heels as soon as he is confronted and retreats back to his perch to rest. He repeats his scare tactic each time a new gazelle enters the area.

It figures I’d get a lion than is scared of the gazelles.

But I digress. We’re here for another week of a dog was here and though are space be little, Finn has no problem spreading his toys for all to enjoy.

a dog was here photography series, dog toys on coffee table, photography, greater swiss mountain dog

No we aren’t gator fans. Yes the ball takes approximately 5 minutes to re-inflate because there are so many punctures in it at this point.

a dog was here photography series, dog toys on coffee table, photography, greater swiss mountain dog

No it should not reside on the coffee table.

As always, I’d love for you to join me in sharing your photos documenting your pet and the traces they leave behind. Like Finn’s cousin Charlie for example, who destroyed a CD and a chip clip last week for dessert.

a dog was here, charlie, golden retriever, caitlin lisa photography

Charlie’s mom takes amazing photos of just about everything. Check out her Facebook page, Caitlin Lisa Photography, if you are interested in having yourself or your pet photographed this spring.

Have a great week!

Spring Cleaning with a side of Rhubarb Cake

I had grand intentions this weekend. With an extra day off, I intended to make a to-do list and actually do the things on it. That’s right folks, spring was coming and I was feeling the itch.

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Unfortunately in order to do spring cleaning you actually have to have weather that indicates some sign of spring. It’s no fun to dust with the door shut or to store away those bulky sweaters when temps are still in the twenties. Trust me. I tried.

I know I keep talking about April showers but they really hit us hard here in Chicago last week. April showers followed by April flooding and capped off with more April snow showers.

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what’s that you say? oh just your average manhole turned geyser in the middle of the city. NBD.

But the difference between April and January is that  in April the sun eventually shines and the cold weather doesn’t last as long. So as the city dried itself off, I set out to tackle my to-do list again.

I tried to get Finn involved. Telling him that if I was going to do a purge and donate a bunch of my clothes, that he had to pick one toy to get rid of, too.

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time-stamp: 11:25 a.m.

Clearly, he was game.

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timestamp: 11:27 a.m.

I think I mentioned last week in my post about Jake’s Captain America Party that my sister is much better at purging things than I am. And even though she was in town this weekend, I still managed to part with my abundance of t-shirts that I haven’t touched in years all by myself. Many, many years.

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if I told you I used to have 3 drawers full would you believe me?

Why? Because you never know when you might need that sleeveless basketball t-shirt from 7th grade you spent hours wearing while doing suicides in an 80 degree gymnasium. Or that the memory of the co-ed flag football championship that you and your fellow Tampax Runstoppers won might not be enough without the long-sleeved uniform that went with it. Because those shirts are attached to life, folks. And that’s hard to let go of.

Well it was hard. Until you’re living in a one-bedroom condo and you literally run out of space for your hoarding problem and then turn into the purging sister you never thought you’d become.

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this empty basket’s for you Anne

I managed to make a decent dent in my closet and actually felt better about myself once it was all over. I’d like to thank you for helping me let go through this post as well. After all, I think some of the parting process comes from documenting the encounter. Who am I kidding, of course it does. And I can only hope that a teenage boy in the city will learn something about the female reproductive system after he wears that shirt to school one day. And that makes me giggle.

After the cleaning was done I set out to completely reverse it by messing up my kitchen. I hit up the grocery store yesterday and bought a plethora of rhubarb. And when I say plethora I mean both in amount and size. My produce market is like the Gold’s Gym of produce markets. Everything there is on steroids. And I’m ok with that.

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After the blueberry cake last week, I couldn’t stop thinking about my grandma’s rhubarb cake. And since it was a co-worker’s birthday the next day, it was the perfect excuse to kick off the season. If you haven’t tried rhubarb cake, you’re missing out. I can’t take credit for this one beyond throwing everything together. Credit goes to my Grandma Bosch. Hers puts mine to shame.

rhubarb cake

Remember what I said about recipes with stains? Well this one takes the cake. Not only do I have one stained recipe, but right above it I have another. That’s right. Two of the exact same recipe written down in the same cookbook on the same page. Clearly a trusted recipe. 

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Grandma’s Rhubarb Cake

  • 2 C Sugar
  • 1/2 C Shortening (other recipe calls for butter-makes sense now)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 C flour
  • 1 C buttermilk (mixed with 1 tsp baking soda)
  • 4 C Rhubarb, chopped

Topping

  • 1/2 Sugar (there’s always extra)
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350.

Chop rhubarb into 1 inch pieces. Set aside.

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In a large bowl, mix flour and salt.

Mix 1 tsp baking soda into buttermilk.

Cream shortening or butter with sugar. Add egg and vanilla. Alternate adding dry ingredients and buttermilk until combined. Fold in rhubarb.

Spread into greased and floured 9×13 pan. Dust cinnamon sugar mixture over the top. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until knife comes out clean. NOTE: I have a gas oven and mine was done in less than 40.

rhubarb cake

Now eat your cake and forget about all of the memories you just threw away. Happy spring!