Sunday, January 20, 2008

the pie has left the building

OK, so after shelling out 24 bucks for a PTO pasta dinner and sitting by the door selling tickets for 2 hours and not getting a bite of any of it my rage was assuaged somewhat by a FREE PIE ! (Flash won the door prize). It was one of those pure refined sugar/refined petroleum super-long shelf life frozen pies with scary stabilized whipped cream on top, french silk flavor. Normally I can control my appetite and portion sizes, but the past 4 days have been ALL ABOUT THIS PIE... to the point of making myself sick. I'm happy to report that the last of the pie was consumed whilst watching Northanger Abbey on PBS tonight. So it's back to peanut M & Ms and Coke Zero. It was a sweet ride, the week of THE PIE.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

me! me!

Another idea snatched from Kristi's blog. This one is a fun little meme:

On My Bedside Table:
Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict
Harper's magazine
A Passage to India
Wired magazine
lip balm
ear plugs

Next Up from Netflix:

Meet the Robinsons
Fantastic Four: The Rise of The Silver Surfer
Herbie Goes Bananas
The Man with the Golden Gun
Aliens of the Deep
The Forsyte Saga
(can you tell we all had some input here?)

Latest Interests:
deep sea creatures
spice rubs

On My Mind:
the presidential election

to use creative discipline with Super Q

[Thinking about] Making:
light fabric baby "wrap" for my sister's new wee bairn
curtains for the computer room

Looking Forward To:
pasha's visit!
any and all weekends

the last of the Ferrero Rocher jumbo pack
the cold weather

Amused By:
the presidential election
the fallout from the writer's strike

fortune cookie mystery solved

Having never seen fortune cookies in Hong Kong or mainland China, I have often wondered why they are associated with Chinese food. The answer is here. Now, on to the next mystery: how did large spring rolls come to be called "egg rolls"? In China, an egg roll is a crisp sweet rolled-up cookie.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


I just read on Kristi's blog that there is a Masterpiece Theater Jane Austen marathon afoot! My heart started beating faster when I read that and then I checked out the offerings and couldn't be more excited... Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility--a super economy sized jumbo pack of love, loss, snarky sisters-in-law, poor spinsters, handsome men with 10,000 a year, and the most awesomely subtle proto-feminist that the 19th century ever produced. I love PBS.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

chocolate cake = panacea

In response to Patty's question, I did make the "towering" chocolate cake mentioned below. She asked how I made it, so here it my cheater "recipe" made up on the fly from stuff I already had:

1 devil's food cake, with 1/2 of the water called for replaced with milk and 1/2 cup chocolate chips added

1/2 recipe buttercream frosting with 1/4 cup toasted almonds added

3 tablespoons corn syrup
6 ounces heavy cream
12 ounces dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small saucepan combine the corn syrup and heavy cream. Bring to a simmer and add the chocolate. Stir until smooth. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla extract.

Make the cake in 2 layers and bake according to box directions. Remove from pans and chill for a few hours. While layers chill, make buttercream and ganache. Slice cakes laterally in half. Put buttercream/almond mixture in between the layers. Spread ganache on top and let it drizzle down the sides of the cake. If you want to spread it instead, add powdered sugar until it reaches spreading consistency (while mixing with hand mixer).

I had leftover ganache and my family was mad that I sent the remaining cake home with my friend who had the birthday (how could I?) so I made another cake, this time from the back of the Hershey's cocoa tin, and man, it's really good. Here's the recipe:

* 2 cups sugar
* 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
* 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 2 eggs
* 1 cup milk
* 1/2 cup vegetable oil
* 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 1 cup boiling water

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.

2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.

3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with "PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE" CHOCOLATE FROSTING. 10 to 12 servings.

ONE-PAN CAKE: Grease and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Heat oven to 350° F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely. Frost.

THREE LAYER CAKE: Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost.

BUNDT CAKE: Grease and flour 12-cup Bundt pan. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 50 to 55 minutes. Cool 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely. Frost.

CUPCAKES: Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups. Heat oven to 350°F. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. About 30 cupcakes.


1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or margarine
2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.

By the way, I don't usually spend this much time baking. After that much time in the kitchen, I spent much of the next day catching up on "Reviews of new food" at the McSweeney's website.
I was laughing out loud like an insane person. Little warning: the reviewers occasionally find a spurious reason to put the f-word in their reviews, so watch out.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

thank heaven ... for grown-up girls

Sometimes I'm just so grateful for my friends here. Although I haven't met many people here that I feel as close to as my sister or certain college friends, I'm just so blessed to have a strong web of church friends, neighbors, moms of my boys' friends. I had a smallish birthday party for one friend today, and it was just so nice, for lack of a better word. An almost spring-like breeze waving through the house, chicken salad and lemonade, grandmothers and moms and wee little babies, toddlers knocking stuff off the coffee table. And then later a towering chocolate layer cake (because there must be chocolate if I'm hosting something, I know it's a cliche by now, but it's become axiomatic in my house). Just laid back and relaxing, talking about mom stuff and politics a little and mutual acquaintances. Just nice.