Monday, May 25, 2015

Red Velvet Berry Crumble

When it comes to holidays, you will find me in the kitchen. Memorial Day is an especial favorite because it's low pressure (to me, anyway). Unlike Christmas, it doesn't involve icy December weather or heavy-duty entertaining. I always look forward to this end-of-May holiday. It's a time to remember our servicemen, time to say goodbye to spring, and time to slow down and be carefree and breezy, enjoying the smells of fresh cut grass and charcoal grills.

Here in the mountains, it's too soon for fireflies--but not too early to go barefoot. You aren't facing the blistering hotness of July, and the mugginess of Labor Day seems like a world away. The menu can be super easy--grilled burgers, potato salad, dessert, and plenty of sweet tea. Red and blue berries add a festive touch--in fact, they are almost mandatory. 

Over the long weekend, I put together an easy dessert with leftover red velvet cake, berries, and vanilla ice cream. Actually, the cake wasn't leftover--it was a crumbly mess. You see, while I was mixing ingredients, two birds somehow got into the house, and it was pandemonium. Zap freaked out (and while it was good to see him so alert and feisty, I didn't want him to overdo). Meanwhile, the birds were perching on the draperies and flying into windows. Soon, I was in the grip of Bird Fear--when I was 8 years old, I got attacked by a territorial mockingbird. Well, I was climbing a tree, and the bird swooped down and flogged me. I ran screaming to Mama, a woman who has no such fear, and she tried her best to calm me down.
All these years later, I was still a big, ole sissy baby.
But I kept working on my cake. Unfortunately, I added too much of something--or too little. If I threw out the batter, I'd have to walk around the island to the sink, near the birds. In a flash, I dumped the batter into a pan, slid it into the hot oven, and fled to the den, leaving the men to secure the house. By the time the birds found their way to freedom, Zap and I were calm, but my cake was a wreck. Instead of patching it with icing, I added berries and ice cream. A good time was had by all, proving that it's well nigh impossible to mess up red velvet cake.

Tonight, after supper, we're tuning in to a new mini-series on History Channel, Texas Rising. Are you planning to watch it? It basically follows the heroic story of Sam Houston and the Texas Rangers after the fall of the Alamo. I can't resist anything that gives a glimpse of Sam Houston. He went to law school in our town and set up a practice on the Square. We'd heard some of the stories, but the juicy parts were a mystery. We knew that he became Governor of Tennessee; he married Eliza Allen, a younger woman, but we don't know why the marriage failed so abruptly. Some say it only lasted six weeks; some say eleven. No matter, gossips of the day cut him no slack, and Houston was wounded to the core. He resigned from office, then left Tennessee and wandered several years, only to show up in Texas, playing a pivotal role in the battle for Texas independence. But for the rest of his life, he would never, ever speak about Eliza.

I was familiar with the Alamo, but I knew little about the aftermath. My knowledge of General Santa Anna was just as sketchy. Historical gossip suggests that he was handsome and charming; some reports claim that he was an egomaniac (he styled himself "The Napoleon of the West") and had no real talent for the battlefield. After the Alamo, his victory had an unintended effect. The massacre rallied the Texans. The Mexican general and his huge army chased Houston and his Rangers. Houston kept retreating, knowing that if he lured Santa Anna into the U.S., our government would send an army. But Houston's own men questioned his plan, and it came perilously close to failing. As he retreated, he saw a way to attack. It was a gutsy move, but Santa Anna was captured, and Texas eventually became our 28th state.
That, to me, is the soul of Memorial Day--honoring the gift of freedom.

Because I love to do this sort of thing, I planned a meal that would compliment Texas Rising: baby back ribs (with a chili powder/paprika rub and a tomato based BBQ sauce), grilled vine tomatoes, Texas baked beans, red potato salad, cornbread sticks, and buttermilk pie. Of course, anything red velvet would work, too.

Here's a peek at Texas Rising.


  1. Thanks for the Texas lesson, I am woefully unaware of much past the Rockies ;-) what I am keen on is your stunning photography... love your shots! You always crack me up, only you could rival Hitchcock with birds... mind you filmed just a smidge down the coast from my sea dream ;-) have a wonderful holiday I have fruit picking, tea party planning and cat wrangling in my future today before the wild blue sea.

  2. Oh boy the birds in the house must have been quite a scare! I'm guessing they were barn swallows as we had trouble with them getting in our garage once when the door was left open. They are notorious for creating nests in barns and out buildings. They will quickly swoop in to check things out . It looks like you found a great way to use the cake! I do plan to watch Texas rising this evening! I even put it as a reminder on my cell phone so I won't forget! We're having a rainout Memorial Day so the grilling will be done in between rain drops!

  3. It must have been something having birds in the house! This looks so refreshing, love berries! We will be having good ole'hamburgers cooked on the charcoal grill. Thanks so much for sharing at AMAZE ME MONDAY!

  4. Gorgeous pics and colors for Memorial Day Michael! I've had a bird or two in the house and think pandemonium is a good description:@) Enjoy the day!

  5. I would be the same way with the birds. My childhood horror was the afred hitchcock movie...the birds. Now at least I can see the old movie and laugh at the low tech movie. I feel your bird issues! Thanks for the heads up on Texas Rising. I just old hubby, the resident history scholar, and I believe will will tune in also.
    Your berries and photos look delicious!

  6. Hope you have had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend.

    Enjoy your new series!

    We've been watching "Turn," and can't wait for more episodes to be availble soon.

  7. Id be freaking out with birds in the house, too, Michael Lee. I had one in my garage recently, and I ran for cover.
    You're so resourceful in using your red velvet cake as a base for your yummy berries. Your photos are outstanding!!
    Thanks for the info on the series that you're watching. Happy Memorial Day to you!

  8. What a happy accident, I bet you will be turning to this red velvet berry delight often in the summer nonths! I would freak if there were birds in my house, I still haven't gotten over the Hitchcock movie "The Birds!" Happy Memorial Day, freedom is indeed a cherished gift~

  9. An interesting post--I enjoyed it. The pictures are wonderful. Bet that cake was, too.

  10. Thanks so much on the history of Texas. I am sorry that I missed the beginning of this show, maybe they will re-run it.
    Your food sounds so good. So glad that you could salvage your cake and make it into something delicious. Sorry about the birds. Those mocking birds can get very aggressive. Enjoy your weather and have a good week.
    So glad that Zap was feeling better.

  11. What a story! It was brave of you to stick around long enough to throw it in the oven. And what a way to use the cake for something beautiful and tasty. Sometimes small oopsies turn into great victories after all!

  12. Hi Michael :)

    Only you would think of making a lovely dessert after a cake accident. It looks really good! Dinner sounded great too.

    We watched Texas Rising last night and we'll be tuning in tonight. I thought it was really good. Weird seeing Brendan Frasier though.... where has HE been?? My family migrated from Alsace to Texas, so I'm really interested in the history.

    What did you think?


  13. I'd be the same if I had birds in the house. You always make the best of any situation, ML. I think you had the perfect solution. The dessert looks pretty and delicious.
    Thanks for the visit and thoughtful comment on the flooding here in TX.

  14. Lovely pictures.
    Got a fairly good idea of how the 28th state was born.

  15. Scariest movie we ever saw as kids - The Birds. My kids just laughed when they watched it.
    Love your red white and blue. I need to up my game on the red white and blues. Looks yummy too!

  16. Lovely photos and the berry crumble looks very festive and patriotic! Thanks for the Texas history recap-- I always love hearing the history and backstories of places and cities. My husband and I intended to watch Texas Rising, but forgot. Hopefully we can find the premier episode on OnDemand so we can get caught up.

  17. Great save on the red velvet cake! I can just imagine you tossing the cake in the oven and running out leaving the men to settle the bird situation!

  18. What a beautiful and delicious way to save your red velvet cake! The crumble with the berries and the whipped cream make the perfect patriotic fare! I had a bird fly in my potting shed while I was working with the door open. There are so many obstacles and things hanging from the rafters I thought it would die from exhaustion before it was able to fly its way to freedom. I don't know who was more distraught, myself or the bird :) Hope your Memorial Day was as delicious as your crumble. ♥