Tag Archives: family

Hummingbird Cupcakes and a Tale of Two Crows That Led the Way

hummingbird cupcakes 1Today is All Souls Day, a holy day in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican churches that honor the dead.  My friends, I have been saving this recipe for over a year now, having been inspired to make these cupcakes from an event that occurred at my grandmother’s burial in May 2014.  I am thinking today is the perfect time to share these Hummingbird Cupcakes with you as we remember and pray for those who have gone before us.

IMG_9038 sm

Jack Jones, my 4th great grandfather and grandson of the patriot Stephen Jones of St. Mary’s County, Maryland.

As I shared with you almost a year ago now in my post, Grilled Salmon Cakes – Saying Good-bye to Grandmaafter my grandmother passed in February of last year the final remnants of winter prevented us from laying her to rest until the weather warmed and the snows melted away.  That May I finally got to see where my grandmother’s family had lived since the late 1700s when American settler’s began pressing westward out of Virginia and North Carolina.  Having roots that deep in South-eastern Kentucky, of course we have a family cemetery filled with generations of my grandmother’s family.  It is out of this cemetery that the story inspiring these Hummingbird Cupcakes came about.

My grandmother’s constant companion for years was my very free-spirited cousin, Shelley.   Of course I was not surprised when my dad’s middle sister  checked in with my dad the evening we arrived in Kentucky and announced that Shelley had set up camp in the graveyard and would not be joining us for dinner. (That of course had my mother worried!)

hummingbird cupcakes 6The next morning after the family caravan wound through back-roads, passing house after house (and trailer after trailer) upon which I read  names familiar from my grandparents’ family trees, we found our way to where my grandfather was waiting for my grandmother under the eves of what  is now the Daniel Boone National Forest.  Shelley stood in front of a shelter  at the top of the dirt road waving at us, barefoot and smiling.  She had a story to share.

Her story began with two crows and ended in a place we thought was lost forever.

The previous evening, after my aunt had dropped her niece off, Shelley was communing with the silence , the trees, and the graves surrounding her when a pair of crows began cawing at her.  Shelley just drank her wine and eventually hummingbird cupcakes 7drifted off to sleep despite her noisy, uninvited companions.  In the morning, those two crows were still there and cawing at her when one suddenly spread it’s wings and flew away.  Shelley relayed that she had felt the need to follow it and so she did, chasing it down the dirt road and out of the cemetery. It came to rest at a small farm down the road where an astonished man was just coming out of his trailer when he saw Shelley come out of nowhere.

Turns out this man and the folks living in the neighboring trailers were distant cousins on my grandfather’s side…not completely surprising as we knew my grandfather’s parents had owned much of the surrounding land and had bequeathed it among a dozen sons and a daughter (never mind that my grandfather’s father was one of nearly 30 children).  Shelley was ecstatic. “Do you know about Barbecue Cliff???” she asked excitedly.

Hicks BBQ Cliff 3

Walking along a stone cropping along the path to Barbecue Cliff

Barbecue Cliff was a place our grandmother had spoken about often during the years of their companionship.  It was a huge gathering place for family shindigs (and I’m sure revivals as my grandmother was descended from generations of Baptist ministers).  Shelley had heard many stories about it from Grandma…but her mother, my dad, and my other aunt did not know its location. When Grandma passed, Shelley feared it was lost to our branch of the family forever.

Of course the man knew about Barbecue Cliff! He pointed over beyond the farm to the trees and hills behind and offered to show her.

“We can all go together and see it after we bury Grandma,” Shelley finished.  The woman who had owned the land previously had left a caveat in her will…no member of the entire clan could be denied access to the area.  We were all welcome.

Hawk Creek Exploring Stones

Exploring family history with my cousins.

I wanted to ask Shelly if she thought Grandma had sent the crows to show her the way…but I knew what her answer would have been.  “Of course!”

So now you know the story of the two crows.

Time for the cupcakes!

Now how did crows inspire these, you might ask.  Well they’re birds, right? LOL!  Anyway, besides the avian influence, I was also inspired by the fact that Hummingbird cake is a Southern favorite and my grandmother was a Kentuckian through and through.  Who would have thought  these pretty treats had started out with a pair of crows, huh?hummingbird cupcakes 2

Hummingbird Cupcakes

makes 2 dozen cupcakes
Dry Ingredients
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon all spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
Wet Ingredients
  • 3-4 large, very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple, juices drained
  • 3/4 cup dried, shredded coconut, preferably unsweetened
  • 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) olive oil
  • 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Frosting –

Garnish options: shredded dried coconut, shaved dried coconut, whole or half pecans

  1. Pre-heat overn to 350 degrees Farenheit.  Line two standard muffin tins with your desired liners and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.hummingbird cupcakes dry ingredients
  3. In a large bowl, add the sugar and vanilla.  With an electric mixer on medium, begin streaming the olive oil into the bowl.  Continue beating the oil, sugar, and vanilla until combined.
  4. Add eggs one at a time to the sugar mixture.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and beat mixture until it reaches a smooth, thin custard-like consistency.   Turn mixer off.hummingbird cupcakes oil sugar eggs
  5. Add the mashed bananas and crushed pineapple to the egg and sugar mixture. Turn the mixer on to medium-speed and beat until ingredients are combined.hummingbird cupcakes combining wet ingredients
  6. Turn mixer down to low speed and begin to gradually add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Do not over-beat or the cupcakes will be tough.  If preferred, fold the flour in with a rubber spatula instead of using the mixer.hummingbird cupcakes adding dry ingredients
  7. Fold chopped pecans into the batter.hummingbird cupcakes fold pecans
  8. Divide batter evenly among the lined cups.  Begin with approximately 1/4 cup of batter in each.hummingbird cupcakes filling liners
  9. Place muffin tins in oven and bake 20-25 minutes.  When finished, cupcakes will be golden brown and a toothpick inserted into their center will come out clean.hummingbird cupcakes cooling
  10. Cool completely on wire racks before topping cupcakes off with Cooked Cream Cheese Frosting.hummingbird cupcakes icing
  11. Decorate as desired with shredded dried coconut, shaved dried coconut, whole or half pecans.

hummingbird cupcakes 4

Grilled Salmon Cakes – Saying Good-bye to Grandma

Grilled Salmon Cakes 1Just a smidgen over a week ago our neighborhoods were haunted by the cutest little gremlins in search of a sugar rush.  Like many of the major holiday’s in western society, Halloween is grounded in Christian tradition (sans Sexy Pizza Slice of course) and is the vigil to All Souls Day, a feast day of the Catholic church dedicated to the souls of those who have gone before us.  I’ll be the first to admit that my catechism is horrible and that my faith’s dogma often rubs me the wrong way, but All Souls Day is a feast I find comforting and beautiful. In my parish, the church hangs a ceiling to floor scroll on which the names of those who died in the past 12 months are listed.  Although not on the list, my paternal grandmother, a stalwart Baptist (over 200 years of ministers in her family!) who left us on 27 February, was in my prayers as the mass was celebrated.

Salmon Cakes internmentAs I said, my grandmother died in February.  However, we were unable to bury her until the end of May.  I’ll spare you the family drama that ensued, but on that lovely spring weekend my parents and I loaded up for the eight hour drive to the family cemetery in south eastern Kentucky where my father’s maternal ancestors have been placed to rest for the past 200+  years (My grandmother’s line has several original families that migrated from Virginia and North Carolina to settle Kentucky. One was even BFFs with Daniel Boone. Crazy!)

I don’t think its a surprise that my dad and his middle sister reminisced over theirSalmon Cakes reminiscing favorite dishes their mom used to make them.  My youngest cousin (a vegetarian) and I cringed at some of them…I mean I love bacon, but my arteries (and hips) can only take some much bacon grease lol.   Apparently Grandma cooked everything in the stuff.  However, this is one dish that I swear causes everyone a foodgasm: Grandma’s salmon cakes.

Grilled Salmon Cakes 2Ever since I was little, these salmon cakes always came up when we talked about Grandma, especially during holiday meals since, as a Marine family, we were always far away from either of my parents’ families.    I think I was 10 years old the first time I had these. We were in between over-seas tours, where you have to return state-side even if just for a little bit, and we spent it in Indianapolis with my dad’s family.  Canned pink salmon (my dad actually pronounces the “l”, arg!) patted together in mayonnaise to form the cakes, fried in bacon grease, and served over buttermilk biscuits and smothered in a bacon grease based gravy…and of course crumbled bacon. Oh dear me, they are sooooo soooo good.

GMP_Grandma w Dale Sherry Dixie 1But like I said, I can only take so much bacon grease…and my parents’, with their blood pressure and cholesterol issues…yeah, no, no, no!

That’s how I came up with this salmon cake recipe.  Loaded with smokey, grilled flavor and topped with a creamy, but light coleslaw (I prefer Greek yogurt, but since I made these for my dad, I used an olive oil based mayo)…it is satisfying enough for even my very picky, picky dad (and mom) in between treat times where I’ll cave and give them the bacon grease…not too often now…they have grandchildren to watch grow up!

Salmon Cakes Grilling


Grilled Salmon Cakes

makes 10-12 slider sized cakes


  • ½ pound grilled salmon
  • 1/3 cup green onion whites, finely sliced
  • ¼ cup Greek yogurt or mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Cajun or seafood blackening seasoning
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons or more vegetable oil as needed for frying pan


  • With a fork, flake the grilled salmon once it has cooled enough for safe handling.  Add the flaked salmon to a large mixing bowl.
    Salmon Cakes grill 1     Salmon Cakes flaking fish
  • Into the same bowl, add the onions, mayonnaise, sour cream, Dijon mustard, seasoning, egg, and parsley. Use your hands or a flat spatula to mix the ingredients together.
    Salmon Cakes everything in the bowl
  • Add panko bread crumbs to the salmon mixture and fold gently.
  • Take 1/4 – 1/3 cup of salmon mixture and shape into ball.  Carefully press ball into a flattened cake.  Repeat with remaining salmon.Salmon Cakes forming 1 Salmon Cakes forming 2
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a frying pan or cast iron skillet over medium high heat.
  • Cook salmon cakes until golden, about 3 minutes on each side.Salmon Cakes frying pan
  • Place cooked salmon cakes on a paper towel lined plate to drain excess oil.
  • Serve on slider potato rolls with your favorite coleslaw recipe.Grilled Salmon Cakes 3


Au Revoir 2012 – A Look Back

We’ve only got about a week left in 2012, and, since you are all reading this, we can safely say the Mayans were wrong and the world continued past 12/21/2012.


And it really is just as well, because I need 2013 to get here so I can enjoy it! 2012 flew by in a blur of big life changes, ___________, and ____________. Let’s take a look back at what 2012 meant to us here at Cork and Spoon.


We were pretty boring in January- recovering from the holidays and using up left over champagne from New Years Eve.


Ruth and I continued volunteering with Potomac Point Winery this year, starting off with the Virginia Wine Expo, host to the Virginia Governors Cup. We went in with a well designed battle plan and had another fabulous time chatting with wine makers and vineyard owners, and interacting with the crowds.


March was a busy, busy, busy month, especially for me. In the very first week of March, I turned 30th, took (and passed!) my Certified Information Privacy Professional exam, and Cork and Spoon posted its 100th post!

In addition to all of that, Ruth moved to a new job within the Marine Corp, and I got to spend a weekend with my newest nephew Logan.

Logan's first cooking lesson, 2


After the busyness of March, Ruth and I laid low in April. We did enjoy a night out in Old Town Alexandria belatedly celebrating my birthday at GRAPE + BEAN’s Taste like a Sommelier class. (Read about fellow blogger, Karen of Back Road Journal, and her Alexandria, VA experience here and here.)

Taking notes during our blind flight after class.



Ruth sipping coffee on the patio of her family’s timeshare in Spain.

May saw Ruth flying to Spain and spending a week soaking up the sun, culture, and food. She made sure to inspire us with a Spanish inspired Gin & Tonic and homemade aioli.



Ruth spent all of June at Patuxent River Air Station taking a class required for her job. While it certainly involved a lot of work and more than a little stress, she did get to spend part of her weekends exploring Maryland wineries – a nice change of pace for us here at Cork and Spoon.

Meanwhile, even though I was promoted in June to a Privacy Analyst position, I still extolled the virtues of finding great wine that doesn’t break the bank. Promotion or not, money should always be spent frugally so there is plenty left over for shoes!

The wines


Ruth and I both laid low during the month of July. There were weekends at the beach, and Independence day cookouts. And of course, like so many around the world, we were eagerly following the 2012 Summer Olympics while making our own version of Olympic athlete approved dinner.


August is Virginia Craft Beer month, and here at Cork and Spoon , we got into the spirit with home-brewed ale.

Brewing Beer Time to Enjoy

The first weekend of August, also saw me moving back to my beloved Washington, D.C. in a lovely apartment in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Not only was I blessed by awesome friends to help me move, but a trip to Ikea for a couch gave me the excuse to finally buy elderflower syrup. The result was a tasty drink, perfect for sipping while unpacking.

Unpacking and an Elderflower Fizz


September was another laid back month for Ruth and I. I fought a nasty cold… like I said, it wasn’t a very exciting month 🙂


On October 1st, I started a new job with a privacy and information security focused government contracting company. Finding a new position in my still pretty new career was an amazing feeling, and definitely confirmed that things are working out well.


October, as you may recall, is all Virginia Wine month. Again this year, the amazing folks at VA Tourism invited Ruth and I to participate in one of the month’s many activities celebrating Virginia wine – the Virginia Crush Bus tour of Loudon County wineries. We eagerly accepted the invitation, although prior commitments kept me from attending, so Ruth went, making sure to send me envy invoking photos all day.

Meanwhile, I was in the wilds of Maryland, preparing for the zombie apocalypse by participating with friends in the Run for Your Lives 5k race. It was a tough race filled with obstacles such as swimming across a freezing cold pond and zombies bent on stealing the flags that kept me “alive.” The good news is, I crossed the finish line alive and kicking. Now I just need to practice my survivalist cooking techniques and I’ll be ready for my own version of The Walking Dead.

zombie race_Emilie Schulz


Logan's first Thanksgiving dinner

November marks the start of the holiday season here in the U.S. Its the start of holiday parties and plenty of quality time with family. And while Thanksgiving Day menus are remarkably similar from house to house, it doesn’t mean that Ruth and I play it safe. Nope we’re still experimenting, and just using our unsuspecting families as guinea pigs.


Between more holiday parties, holiday shopping, and Christmas dinner planning, December is always a busy month in its own right. Add to that a bend of creativity that has both of us making homemade Christmas gifts in our kitchens and Ruth and I are constantly moving during the month of December. But that didn’t stop us from heading out last night for a little bit of fun with one of our longtime favorite bands Carbon Leaf.


All in all, its been a crazy year for Ruth and I, and I don’t think we’d have it any other way. So here’s to what 2012 gave us and to what 2013 has in store. We couldn’t ask for better followers and friends to have along for the ride!

My nephew’s first cooking lesson – turkey chili with butternut squash

Before I start, I need to ask your forgiveness for any typos, bad grammar, or just non-sensical crazy talk in this post. I’m writing with only about 5 good hours of sleep in 48 hours, so my brain isn’t fully functioning.

See, last night I flew in very late from a wonderful weekend with family in Minnesota. I got to celebrate as my brother brought a wonderful woman in to our family; see my nephew A.J. (and decide that he needs to be wrapped in bubble wrap until he turns 18. Only days after having stitches removed from his forehead, he picked up the wrong end of a very hot curling iron, so I’m thinking bubble wrap might be the only option); and spend serious quality time with my newest nephew, 3 month old Logan.

In addition to snuggling with my nephew and catching up with my family, I spent some time in my sister’s kitchen making easy freezer meals that will help make her and my brother-in-law’s evenings a little easier. In addition to making spinach-mushroom stuffed shells and chicken pot pies, I also whipped up a few batches of my famous pumpkin scones and bacon-cheddar scones. Although the best part of the day had to be giving Logan his first cooking lesson as I made turkey-butternut squash chili.

Discussing proper knife safety with Logan

Turkey Chili

1 large onion
2-3 cloves garlic
1-2 tblspn olive oil
1lb ground turkey
1 medium butternut squash
1 can white hominy
1 15oz can tomato sauce
1 14.5-15oz can diced tomatoes
1 15oz cans kidney beans, with sauce
1 can chicken broth
1 can green chilies
1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
1-2 tsp chili powder (depending on desired heat)
½ tsp ground cumin

1)      Dice onion and garlic. Peel and cut butternut squash into ½ inch cubes.

2)      Heat olive oil in a large stock or soup pan. Add onion and garlic, sauté over medium heat until translucent. Add ground turkey and cook through.

3)      Add butternut squash and sauté for another 5 to 7 minutes.

4)      Add hominy, kidney beans (with sauce), tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken broth, and green chilies.  Stir in spices.

5)      Simmer for 30 minutes, or longer, to let flavors develop. Logan and I recommend dancing around the kitchen while the chili simmers.

Seriously, look at that face (his, not mine!)