My grandmother and Mae were good friends, as were their mothers. Mae is like a ‘special aunt’ to my mom, and she is certainly special to my brother Adam and me, as she was our much beloved part-time caregiver for a number of years.
The Rogers’ and Stemmler’s are the most calm and kind people I know. When we pulled into the driveway of their Habermehl Lake cottage, they were waiting for us, waving and smiling. You’d be rather hard-pressed to find them harried or stressed.
They treated us to a delicious lunch consisting of creamy Italian chicken, steamed rice, a delicious tossed salad with balsamic vinaigrette, Mae’s jellied pineapple, carrot & nut salad, and marinated vegetables.
As we were 'oohing' and 'aahing' over the food, Karen explained that she wanted to serve an easy, make-ahead meal so that she could spend her time catching up, not cooking. The chicken was made in a slow cooker while the rice did its thing in a rice cooker. Everything else was prepared in advance.
It is my opinion that your guests can sense your mood upon arrival, and if you’re stressed, rushing around and/or exhausted, they’ll be bound to feel at least a little bit guilty. This is just one of the many reasons why I’m a firm believer of preparing make-ahead menus when you’re entertaining at home. The whole point is to relax, have fun and enjoy the company of your guests. As the “Barefoot Contessa” Ina Garten frequently states; “your guests aren’t going to have more fun if you spend a week making the food!”
After a relaxing boat ride (but also very exciting, as this was Johnny’s first time in a motor boat!) we sat at a cozy outdoor table to enjoy dessert. The dessert was a delicious hazelnut cake with ice cream and fresh berries. I sheepishly asked for the recipe (not everyone likes to share!) and Karen promptly made a photocopy for me.
This cake is called “the easiest cake ever” because it contains only 5 ingredients and it’s prepared in a blender! It can also be prepared gluten-free. (it calls for only 2 tablespoons of ANY flour – and when I tested the recipe, I used rice flour with great results).
It was a memorable day – full of reminiscing and laughter all at a relaxed pace; in part made possible by simply prepping the meal the day before.
hazelnut cake (a.k.a. the easiest cake ever)
- 1 (one) cup hazelnuts (skins left on)
- 2 (two) tablespoons flour (any kind – use rice flour for gluten-free)
- 2½ (two-and-one-half) teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ (three-quarters) cup sugar or honey
- 4 (four) eggs
- Preheat oven to 350º F.
- Place nuts in a blender and blend on high speed until they are finely ground.
- Add all other ingredients to the blender and blend until everything is incorporated.
- Pour batter into a parchment lined 9” by 9” square cake pan.
- Bake at 350º F for 20 – 30 minutes. Test with toothpick.
- Serve with ice cream or Devon cream or whipped cream and berries