Valentine’s Day: 3-in-1 Cake Surprise

For a special Valentine’s Day treat, a nice homemade dessert is filled with love!

It doesn’t have to cost a fortune or take all day.  All it takes is a cake mix, a few little ingredients you probably have on hand, and a lot of love.

Whether it’s for your sweetie, a friend, or your kids, you can create a triple surprise on a shoestring budget.  I made these little surprises for my sweetheart (my husband), and my children and grandson.  I had a red velvet cake mix which I thought would be perfect for Valentine’s Day.

Valentine's heart-shaped cupcakes

Valentine’s heart-shaped cupcakes

Valentine’s 3-in-1 Cake Surprise

1 Red Velvet Cake Mix (or your favorite or what you have in the pantry) – bake as directed

Ingredients as directed (3 eggs, 1 c. water, 1/3 c. oil)

1 container of prepared frosting (or homemade if you have the time!)


Prepare 3 different pans for baking.  I used 1 8″ heart-shaped pan, 1 miniature bundt pan and a silicone heart-shaped cupcake pan.

Heart-shaped cupcake and mini-bundt pans

Heart-shaped cupcake and mini-bundt pans

Spray each pan with cooking spray and add a little flour to prevent sticking.

Mix cake batter as directed and pour some batter into each pan.  Fill up to 1/3 or 1/2 of the pan or cupcake section with batter.  If you overfill, the cakes will be rounded when you turn them over to frost.  If that does happen, just trim the excess and frost anyway!

After cooling each cake or cupcake, frost with your choice of frosting.

For my Red Velvet cakes and cupcakes, any of these flavors would work well.

——White Cream Cheese Frosting (leave white or add red food coloring)

——White Vanilla Frosting (leave white or add food coloring)

——Any kind of Chocolate frosting (after all, the Red Velvet cake is chocolate!)

1 – Frost a large heart-shaped cake and decorate as desired.  I used the chocolate fudge frosting. and added a white heart and “Luv U”.  I then sprinkled the heart with a little powdered sugar.

Heart-shaped Cake

Heart-shaped Cake

2 – Frost the heart-shaped cupcakes with small frosting hearts and red sprinkles.  I added “I-L-U” on one for my sweetie.

Valentine's Cupcakes with frosting and sprinkles

Valentine’s Cupcakes with frosting and sprinkles

3 – Frost the remaining mini-bundt cake with a drizzle of chocolate frosting.  I softened the frosting for 5-10 seconds in the microwave, added to a disposable piping bag, and drizzled the thinner frosting back and forth over the top of the little bundt cake.

Mini-bundt red velvet cake

Mini-bundt red velvet cake


I used one cake mix for all three surprises, but the amount of batter from just this one cake mix could be further divided to make:

—-6 more cupcakes, or

—-1-2 more mini-bundt cakes, or

—-1 more heart-shaped cake layer to make a 2-layer cake (with slightly thinner layers)

This was a treat for Valentine’s Day, but you can use the same idea to make multiple treats for any occasion, birthday, or family gatherings.  Use any cake mix or frosting, and use your favorite pans!  An ordinary cake mix can create several special treats!


Snow, Beautiful Snow — Snow Cream Treat!

After such a warm winter in the mountains of North Carolina last year, we were all a little spoiled by the unusually warm weather.  We also missed out on any significant snow.  Good for safe traveling, but no chance for snowballs, snowbuilding or snow cream!

Snow Cream!

Snow Cream!

Yes, Snow Cream!  For anyone who has not tried this tasty treat, it is so easy and so  much fun for kids and adults alike!  As a child, my mother and grandmother made snow cream every winter.  We used to have several good snows each winter.  Lately, it’s been small amounts of snow every once in a while.

We used to help make snow cream in the winter and put some in the freezer to have in the summer.  It didn’t usually make it to the summer because we would raid the freezer and eat it up by spring!  When our kids were little, we made snow cream maybe once or twice a winter.  Some years there wasn’t enough snow to make it.

I save up freezer containers (which I haven’t used for the last few years!), and use a couple of large bowls to gather the snow.  Once there’s a few inches, take a large clean spoon and bowl outside and scoop in “Clean” snow.  Or, leave a couple of large bowls outside in a clean open area where clean snow can fall naturally.  Less scooping!

Snow Cream!

Large bowl of snow

Sugar or splenda (yes, splenda’s okay)

Milk, cream (evaporated milk)

Vanilla flavoring (real or imitation)

Large spoon, Freezer containers

The old original method was adding a lot of sugar and whole milk and vanilla.  Over the years, I used whatever type of milk or cream I had available.  As long as you have the vanilla and sweetener, it will all taste good!  Use your preferred sweetener, something like Splenda-type sweeteners should work.

When our kids were little, I learned to adjust to a little less sugar so they didn’t go bouncing with too much sugar!  There are no magic measurements for snow cream. You learn as you mix.  Snow must be clean, no contaminants, no sticks or leaves, etc!

If the snow is light and fluffy, it’s perfect!  It’s harder to get good snow cream if there is sleet or ice in the snow.  When gathering the snow, spoon about an inch or so above the bottom so it’s cleaner.

Setting out the bowls to gather the snow

Setting out the bowls to gather the snow

2 Bowls of snow ready to turn into snow cream

2 Bowls of snow ready to turn into snow cream


Don’t pack the snow, just scoop it into the bowl.  Then sprinkle on sugar.  For a large bowl, you could use about 1 cup.  If you like it sweeter, go for it!

Stir gently and quickly so the snow doesn’t melt.  Then pour a couple of teaspoons of vanilla over the top of the snow.  Pour milk a little at a time, just until the snow is the consistency you want.  It tastes great if it’s a little damp, but not melting wet.

Stir sugar, milk and vanilla into the snow

Stir sugar, milk and vanilla into the snow

We like to fill the available freezer containers first, and get them into the freezer before they melt and get soupy.  The snow cream freezes better and is easier to eat when you take it out.  Then the “chefs” get to eat what’s left in the bowl.

Snow Cream ready to eat or freeze for later!

Snow Cream ready to eat or freeze for later!

If you have a large snow, you might make several batches in a day!


For a chocolaty treat, sprinkle a pack of hot chocolate mix and stir it into the snow.

I have seen recipes for using sweetened condensed milk. I’m sure it’s heavenly, but it may be a little difficult to stir and mix. Remember the touch of vanilla!



Family Recipe – Daddy’s Thick and Hearty Vegetable Soup

One journey finished, another started!  I have not posted in a few weeks because I have been busy shifting the focus of my life!  I have now retired as a full-time teacher and am spending my time taking care of my little grandson and my family.  Except for some part-time work, I am re-visiting my daily routines, and catching up on some cleaning and busy work I have not had time for.

Teaching and working with young children has been a blessing in my life, and my students will always have a special place in my heart.  Now we are blessed with our own little boy who needs lovin’ while his parents work, and I’m blessed to be able to provide that.

The support of my loving friend of over 32 years, my husband, has been a blessing during this transition.  Leaving behind over 32 years of students, education and training, planning, and colleagues has been harder and more emotional than I expected, and he has provided his shoulder when I needed it.

This month, for example, he has helped with dinner while I began my new job or while I was caring for the little one!  Tonight, he made his wonderful beef and veggie soup that he has made for years, and it is especially tasty on this cold winter night with a winter storm approaching!  We will have leftovers for a couple of days — it stretches out the food supplies when bad roads rule!

Hot Soup - Easy and Hearty

Hot Soup – Easy and Hearty

Perfect snowy day for a hot bowl of homemade soup!

Perfect snowy day for a hot bowl of homemade soup!

Thick and Hearty Vegetable Soup

1/2 to 1 lb. of lean beef (1/2″ cubes)

2 cups water

1-2 Tbl. red wine vinegar

4-5 small-medium potatoes (diced)

3 carrots (diced)

1/2 rib celery (minced)

Salt & Pepper to taste

2 cans tomato sauce

1/2 – 1 tsp. chili powder

2 cups chicken broth

1 small onion (minced)

2 green onions (diced)

1 Tbl. minced garlic (optional)

1/2 cup broken spaghetti

Boil meat and water for 5 minutes.  Skim the fat off.

Cut beef into bite-sized pieces...

Cut beef into bite-sized pieces…

Meat in the pot, skim the fat...

Meat in the pot, skim the fat…

Add vinegar and cook 1 minute.  Add the broth, vegetables and garlic.

Veggies for the soup...

Veggies for the soup…

Diced veggies

Diced veggies

Bring to a simmer and simmer for 1 hour.  Add the remaining ingredients.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes longer.  Let stand about 10 minutes.  After standing, add the broken spaghetti pieces.

Veggies in the pot ready to simmer for 1 hour...

Veggies in the pot ready to simmer for 1 hour…

Adding tomato sauce for final 30 minutes...

Adding tomato sauce for final 30 minutes…

Ready to serve with your favorite bread!

Ready to serve with your favorite bread!

Serve with your favorite biscuits, rolls or garlic toast. Makes enough for a family or 2-3 meals for 2!  And the leftover soup can be frozen for a later meal!


Adjust amounts and ingredients according to taste.

Optional ingredients:

1 small green pepper (minced)

1/4 cup turnip (diced)


bay leaf