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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Simple Chocolate Cake {Flavor of the Month}

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February’s flavor of the month with Bridget over at Bake at 350 is chocolate.

Ohhhhh yeeeeaaahhh.

Read. My. Lips.

Cho---co---late!

This is not a hard topic for me. Because chocolate is like second nature to me. I mean, you know how I adore my friend Lisa over at Stop and Smell the Chocolates (where I am also linking up this recipe for her weekly Chocolate Friday carnival). But I hadn’t made anything new lately.

Then I came across this recipe in one of last year’s issues of my favorite cooking magazine, Cook’s Illustrated. I had been wanting to try it and all of the sudden one afternoon I had an insatiable chocolate craving. The kind that the candy version just wouldn’t fill. I needed a baked good. Enter this Simple Chocolate Cake recipe.

This is a surprising little cake. The surprising ingredient is mayonnaise. NOT “salad dressing,” mind you. No. The real stuff. Mayonnaise.

It was a method used in war-times when butter and eggs were scarce due to rationing, so the mayonnaise served as a substitute for those ingredients. However, the writer of the article was working to bring out more chocolate flavor in it and invited coffee to the party along with a combination of cocoa powder and solid chocolate.

It is a perfectly sized small cake so that there is not the guilt of making a whole big cake that your family would never finish. And, it is definitely simple enough for a week-night dessert.

(I apologize ahead of time for the availability of decent pictures for this recipe. We, um, well, we kind of ate it… fast.)

Simple Chocolate Cake
from Cook’s Illustrated (March/April 2009, pg. 25)

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Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup (2 ounces) Dutch-processed cocoa powder (or “Special Dark”)
2 ounces dark, bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (chopped fine)
1 cup hot coffee (or equivalent mixture of hot water and espresso powder)
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

You will also need:

8 inch square cake pan
Non-stick cooking spray
1 large mixing bowl
1 small-medium mixing bowl
Confectioners’ (powdered) sugar for garnish

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and prepare cake pan by spraying with non-stick cooking spray.

In large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. In smaller bowl, combine cocoa powder and chopped chocolate; pour hot coffee over cocoa/chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth. Let this mixture cool for several minutes then whisk in mayonnaise, egg and vanilla. Pour mayonnaise/chocolate mixture into flour mixture and stir until combined.

Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth it all around. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out with few crumbs attached after being inserted into the center of the cake. Note: the cake will have a nice rounded domed middle and cracks on the top. This is normal.

Allow cake to cool in pan on wire rack for 1-2 hours. Turn cake out onto serving platter and dust with confectioners’ sugar to serve.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Your Dachshund might be spoiled if...

Your Dachshund might be spoiled if...



... you put a heating pad under her bed because she is 14 years old and cannot keep from shivering unless the house is 80 degrees.

BBA Challenge #17 – Lavash Crackers

I had a helper in the kid-tchen the day I made the Lavash Crackers.

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I rolled out my dough and it took up a big area on my counter top.

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I had read previously that some people had an issue getting their dough to roll out as thin as they wanted it. For some reason, I didn’t have that problem. Look at how thin I got this. A fraction of a centimeter.

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The area of my dough was large enough that one single sheet pan would not cut it.

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I topped one pan with coarse kosher salt and toasted sesame seed and the other with salt and poppy seeds.

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They really turned out quite nice if I do say so myself.

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Overall Impressions:
This was not difficult. Like I said, I heard of some people having problems getting the dough rolled out thin enough, but I for some reason did not encounter that issue.

I really rather liked the portions of my crackers that had the salt on top. It could have used a little less salt, according to my husband, however. But what that tells me is that I would likely mix some salt into whatever topping I was using for that extra flavor.

Would I make this again?
It’s a nice formula to have in the back of your mind, but I don’t know that I would actively seek out opportunities to make this like I might some other recipes. Although I think they would be really good with some hot Gorgonzola Spinach and Artichoke Dip.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Church Choir {Mama Braggin' Monday}

My daughter's 3rd & 4th Grade choir sang in church yesterday morning.


I'm bragging not because of my mad iPhone photo taking skilz. But because while I was listening to them I thought that their teacher had included the voices from the track in their performance and was a little disappointed. But then I spoke to her choir teacher that evening.

"No," she said. "There were no voices piped in. What you heard was THEM? With the harmony part and everything."

She then went on to tell me that Sarah was one of the children who volunteered to sing the harmony part.

I was proud.

Not only because they sounded so good, but because I told Sarah before we went into worship service, "Just sing because you love Jesus."

And I believe she did.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Supermodel MeeMaw

I could so totally be on America's Next Top Model, y'all.

Totally.

A friend called me earlier this week and asked me if I could help her out with a project for her work. She works in marketing and communications for a local children's hospital and they were putting together a marketing piece showing a "day in the life" of a working mom.

Being a non-profit, they were on a limited budget and needed to get some volunteers to interact in some of the scenes with their "mom" for the photo shoot. I got to play the part of her boss who was not real thrilled with her having to leave work to pick up her sick child.

Apparently I played the part well. I was told that I was "the meanest boss ever" as my friend stood on the other side of the room and giggled at me as I said things like, "I don't have kids because I'm focused on my career," and sighed loudly as the "mom" pretended to take a phone call in the middle of a meeting.

I felt like I had to say out-loud several times, "I am SO not that person." Clearly, I relate more with the mom who has to leave work sometimes for her kids. And I certainly get the feeling that the men I work with don't get it. They aren't as blatant as I was being, but it's a similar sentiment and definitely a negative vibe at times.

It was a fun experience for a first time doing something like that. And I went through the rest of my day feeling pretty good about myself after it.

Then came aerobics.

For some reason after no very far into our step aerobics workout, my lower back became very sore and fatigued. I thought I might not finish the workout. But after some stretching I decided to just power on through and it wasn't too bad. Then during our floor exercises (leg lifts and abs) my hip started really hurting. Like down in the joint. (I'm guessing I must have been compensating for my back, causing the pain in my hips.)

I finally hobbled home feeling like I was falling apart.

I promptly told my man to just start calling me MeeMaw because clearly I had aged 50 years in the course of a day.

Would America's Top Model take an 86 year old?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

So. It's Lent.

I'm a member of the Baptist denomination. I've been a Baptist since 9 months before I was born. I probably understood what a Baptist is before I understood what a Christian is. As a college kid, I never thought I'd continue going to a Baptist church in my adult years. But here I am.

A Baptist.

All that being said, it would come as no surprise to you that I have never truly observed the Lenten season for the 40 days before Easter.

Although I must admit that I recognized my fair share of Mardi Gras in my college years.

If you didn't know, my unspoken motto during my college years was "There's a time and a place for everything and it's called college."

But I digress.

Since those reckless college days, I have learned what Lent is actually all about and in turn find the observance of Mardi Gras a little ridiculous.

I have found a lot of value in recent years in the discipline of fasting. While I don't typically fast from food for an entire day, it is not uncommon for me to fast during lunch if there is something specific I am seeking the Lord's wisdom, direction or revelation about. So the idea of binging the day before a fast that is supposed to help us understand the sacrifice Jesus made for us and bring us into closer communion with Him really just sounds ridiculous to me any more.

But again, I digress.

Last year I had a dear bloggy friend who took a complete blog, Facebook and Twitter hiatus during Lent. It really convicted me at the time and I have since tried to tone down the time I spend with such things; which consequently may be why you haven't seen me around here as much.

Over the last week, as I have seen the season of Lent approaching, I had a tugging at my heart to give up something similar. To replace that time in my day with meditation on and service to my Lord.

So yesterday, I tweeted these tweets...




(As a point of clarification, I did, in fact, post on both Facebook and Twitter at some point that I was seriously considering giving up diet and exercise for Lent. I know... I'm so funny... ha ha ha!)

So there you have it. I have given up Twitter for the Lenten season and you won't see me out there until after Easter (I guess unless my Facebook page updates over there also I suppose). I will still be around on the Blog and on Facebook some.

So. It's Lent.

Do you observe Lent? What are you giving up this year?

Monday, February 15, 2010

snOMG

Yes, that's what they called it around here last week. The Mid-Atlantic and Northeast portion of the country seem to have claimed "Snowpocalypse" and "Snowmageddon" so we are stuck with "SNO-M-G".

*Sigh*

But it really was amazing. We received a record breaking foot of snow between the early morning hours of Thursday and about 2 am or so on Friday. It is difficult to take pictures to really show how much we got, but here are a few.

While it was still snowing on Thursday afternoon. We already had about 6 inches at this point by my untrained measurement.



A snowman as tall as Nathan in Texas?!?! That NEVER happens. Especially for there to still be plenty of snow leftover.


It continued to snow throughout the afternoon and into the early hours of Friday morning. It weighed down the tree branches and brought many down... along with the electricity.


That is supposed to be a step down for Frankie to go and do her business. Pardon our redneck dog... we're not used to all this white stuff coming up past our step down.


See how far up the kids' legs it comes? And that's after melting a bit in the above freezing temperatures.




In spite of losing power Thursday night, we had a good time with the snow. We had friends over on Thursday to sled with us. Then, on Friday my sister-in-law, who happened to be in town, came over along with my father-in-law.

We had an awesome plan to build snow forts and attack them with snowballs when they drove up.


And we had a ready arsenal of snowballs made.



Then something went wrong. They drove up from the opposite direction than we were expecting and we were caught off guard. After we began throwing snowballs, they drove off and went around the corner.

We waited.

And wondered what they were doing.

But we knew.

They were getting ready for us.

They came back around the corner with Mike's sister in the bed of the truck stocked up with snowballs.

It was war.

And we laughed like little kids the entire time.

I really had wanted to get the whole thing on video, but like I said, the sneak-attack at first threw me off.

We took my in-laws to our wicked-awesome sledding hill and somehow the barrage of snowballs did not cease the entire time. You got snowballs thrown at you while you were getting on the sled, sledding down the hill, falling off the sled and hiking back up the hill. Especially while hiking back up the hill.

But after a while, everyone was cold and wet and we went back to our house with no power to this....



... and this ...



... and this ...



... and snOMG it smelled and tasted like we were on the slopes in Colorado.

I hope you had some fun in the snow, too.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

BBA Challenge #16 - Kaiser Rolls

It’s been so long since I actually made the Kaiser rolls (as you can see from the October date on the pictures) that I don’t remember much about them.

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The one thing I will say is that I really enjoyed making the knots.  I can totally see using that technique to make garlic knots or some other such goodness.

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May I interest you in a BLT served on a fresh kaiser roll?

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I do remember the crust on mine being a little crunchy.  I think I might personally prefer a softer crust in this case. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

To keep or not to keep? That is the question.

I’ve been on a cleaning out binge lately.  I get the phrase, “Get it out of my house,” in my mind and I just go cleaning out nuts.  I took the day off of work one day recently to do some more cleaning and my project for the day was to clean out our stash of books.

Do you know what I realized?

I have travel books from almost every international trip I have ever taken.  You know, just in case I ever decide to go back and need to remind myself of what there is to do there.

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I mean, seriously.  I have over a decade of travel books.

I have books that were given to me as I prepared to spend a summer in southern France as an au pair in 1994 between my junior and senior years of college.  And not just any old books, mind you.  Clearly the members of my family had some concerns that were expressed in the books they gave me.

I think my dad was concerned that I’d get lost… I’m sure in more ways that in the physical sense.

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And clearly my sister was concerned that I would either commit some kind of horrible cultural faux-pas or be horribly dressed and out of style. 

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I have travel books from our honeymoon to New Zealand in 1996.  Never mind that we actually have a cousin living there, now. 

I have not only travel books, but a language book complete with tapes from our trip to Greece in 2000.

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But let’s keep in mind that when we’re talking Greek, a couple of tapes are only going to get you as far as “Please,” “Thank you,” “Bathroom,” and “Beer.”  Those are the four most important things, anyways.  Right?  Right.

And, of course I still have the Paris and Continental Europe books from the trip in 2004 when I had the opportunity to travel with Mike on business. 

Isn’t it funny the things we hold onto to remind us of where we’ve been?  We buy souvenirs and, apparently, some of us keep travel books.  But think of how old those books are.  Are they still accurate?

Granted, there are certain things like the Notre Dame, the Parthenon and Buckingham Palace that will never move or really change.  But the restaurants and hotels?  There’s no way any of that information is accurate. 

But, when it comes down to it, I am a keeper.  I like to keep things that remind me of good or special times.  Historically, I have been a scapbooker and while life recently has not afforded me time to work on such endeavors, I enjoy doing scrapbooks because of this very reason. 

But my “keeper” mentality goes beyond travel books.  I keep other things also.  For instance, I just realized the other day that I still have every bit of crystal giftware that we received for our wedding 14 years ago.  Bowls, candlesticks, platters, picture frames and a hurricane lamp.  Some of it I used decoratively in our home at first.  But then tastes change and kids come along and now it’s all just sitting on a shelf collecting dust. 

As with the books, I have to sit back and ask myself, “Why?”

For one thing I think keeping is sometimes easier than getting rid of or cleaning out.

Isn’t that true in other areas of life as well?  Isn’t it sometimes easier to hold on to fear or bitterness than to let Jesus do a healing work?  If nothing else, it’s usually more comfortable.

For a time.

But once you truly do the cleaning out your house just feels so much better.  Just like our lives and the freedom we have when we let Jesus do a healing work in us.

While I don’t normally make New Year’s resolutions, I am attempting to resolve to not be such a keeper. 

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And not just of books.

What about you?  Are you a keeper?

Monday, February 1, 2010

2 things I like about Christmas {Mama Braggin’ Monday}

This came home in Sarah’s folder last week.  Reading it just made me smile.

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2 things I like about Christmas

Written by: Sarah

There are two things I like about Christmas.  The two things are celebrating Jesus’ birth and giving presents.  The first thing is celebrating Jesus’ birth.  I like this because Jesus came to die.  The second thing is giving.  I like giving because God gave His only son Jesus.  I like these two things because they remind me of Jesus birth.