Cake Wars: The Recipes

As promised, I am now posting the recipes to the cakes I baked the other day: One chocolate, one berry upside-down cake. (See Cake Wars)
As expected, I garnered two commenters on the post, but that’s more than enough for me to keep going and going since I like to talk and write and probably won’t stop until someone begs me to. Maybe not even then.

But I digress… :)

Nido, just for you, here’s the chocolate cake recipe:

Nido’s Dark Chocolate Cake
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup buttermilk (you can substitute by squeezing 1 tsp of lemon juice onto regular milk and let it sit for at least 5 minutes)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar (Note: I usually cut down to about 2/3 cups of sugar – try it if you don’t like your cakes too sweet)
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1.5 teaspoons baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9-inch round pan, and if you have it, cut a round of parchment paper and line the bottom of the pan.

Mix cocoa and boiling water together in a small bowl and set aside.
Mix buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla together in a large mixing bowl.
Mix sugar, flour, salt and baking soda together in a second mixing bowl.

Mix dry ingredients into buttermilk/oil mixture and stir well with a wooden spoon (or rubber spatula). Mix in cocoa mixture.
Stir until well mixed, but don’t overbeat the flour. A few lumps in the batter are ok.

Pour batter into pan. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes before turning from pan.
Allow to cool before eating.

Enjoy!!

For Angela: Mixed Berry Upside-Down Cake Recipe

Mixed frozen berries – about 1/2 pound or enough to coat bottom of 8-inch cake pan
1/3 cup raspberry or apricot jam (whatever you prefer), heated slightly until it melts
2/3 cups  sugar
Cooking spray
1.5  cups  all-purpose flour
1.5  teaspoons  baking powder
1/4  teaspoon  salt
1/4  cup  butter, softened
2  large eggs
3/4  cup  buttermilk

Butter and flour 8 or 9-inch round cake pan. Cover bottom of pan with frozen berries, then drizzle melted jam on top.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
Beat 1/4 cup butter and sugar with a mixer at medium speed until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Pour batter over berries, spreading batter evenly.
Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Let cool 10 minutes. Run a knife around edge.
Place a plate upside down on top of cake. Invert cake onto plate, then allow to cool.

Last step: Let me know how it goes! :)

Bon appetit!

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Dat’s Two Words

Giggling on the couch, wrestling and tickling my almost-4 year old wonder, silliness rising, happiness enveloping. Jumping, attacking, and creating imaginary fight scenes.

I never thought I would be good at this.

Always a tomboy, but never really a boy, I thought I would get tired of the wrestling, the trucks, the trains. But this one, he has the ability to make it all fun, to make me want to come into his world.

He steals my heart every day, this boy with the shining brown eyes, filled with playfulness and mischief. His smile is irresistable, his little body unstoppable. He goes and goes and goes with endless energy, and it’s contagious. I gather all 31 pounds of him in my arms and sneak in a hug before continuing with our Kung Fu fight scene.

We move off of the couch, and he runs away. He is drunk with energy and activity, and in the middle of one of his self-orbit frenzy, he stops, looks straight at me, and blurts out,
“HELLO POOPOO!”

I decide this is the moment to draw the line, pull out the Parenting manual, and teach him about respectfully addressing elders.

I try really hard to keep a straight face, but find it almost impossible.
“NO. That is not a nice word to use when you talk to someone.”

A moment of silence. His eyes quickly search my face to make sure he’s right about his instinct – that his mom is desperately trying to be serious, but that in truth, she is fighting laughter with every ounce of strength she has.

“AAACSHALLY, mama, dat’s TWO words.”

Aaaand, I’m done. We fall over each other, laughing  hysterically at his joke, holding on to each other for dear life as we try not to fall off our couch fortress.

He is my joy.

Cake Wars

At our house, there is an ongoing rivalry about a highly important, life or death topic: Dessert Superiority. In a nutshell, the man of this house believes chocolate (dark) reigns supreme over all other forms of sweet treats. If (hypothetically) I were to offer to make dark chocolate cake, dark chocolate chip cookies, or brownies every single day, not only would he not object, but he would probably think he died and went to Dessert (and Perfect Wife) heaven.

I say, yuck. I can sometimes appreciate a bite or two of a high-quality chocolate something, but generally, chocolate and I are not tight. (Thank you, taste buds). To me, a yogurt parfait, some kind of fruity tart/cake, carrot, banana, or zucchini bread all leave chocolate in their dust.

This morning I was feeling generous (and selfish), so I decided that I would go the extra mile. Instead of choosing to only making a chocolate cake (which I knew would please the boys), I also made something I knew I would enjoy, too. That something ended up being a mixed berry upside-down cake.

So, this time, we had something for everyone. Here’s a really bad picture, taken with my phone:

The berry cake was DIVINE. Chocolate cake: I heard it was good, I guess it’s all relative.

So in a desperate (a.k.a pathetic) attempt to gain more than 2.5 regular commenters (and because I’m falling asleep while typing this, and I don’t think it’s responsible to post a recipe while I’m sleepy – what if I forget something and contribute to my husband’s theory about women always leaving something out so nobody else can quite replicate their cooking?! I would never live it down), I am going to ask the following:
1- Which of the above (chocolate or berry cake) do you prefer?
2- Are you interested in the recipe?

3- If so, leave a comment and I’ll post the recipe ASAP!
(Note: It’s super-easy and super-fast, and you can easily halve or double the recipe.)

Preschooler Car Talk – Pie and Pigrims

Thursday, Nov. 25th, 1:04 p.m
“I want turkey NOW”
“Sweetie, I told you, turkey is at 6 o’clock.”

Thursday, Nov. 25th, 1:07 p.m
“Mama. Can I have turkey now?”
“Look at the numbers on the clock. Is it 6?”
(Major huffing and puffing from back seat)

A few kicks of the passenger seat later…
“Mama! When we go have turkey at de people’s house, dey have pie too, right?!”
“Maybe. I’m not sure, but they might!”
“Yeah dey WILL! Because mama! Indians bringed pie when dey teached Pigrims to grow food.”
“Wait a second, what did the Indians do?”
“Indians teached the Pigrims to grow food, and eat turkey, and pie, and corn!”

Heheh… Almost 4 is such a fun age.

The Wednesday Before Thanksgiving

If you’ve ever worked the Wednesday right before Thanksgiving, you’ll understand the completely-checked-out-and-useless syndrome I am suffering through at this very moment.

You start your day optimistic and sunny, thinking about turkeys and pies and days off of work. You sit at your desk, typing furiously for the first hour or so of work, banging out emails with a general sense of cheer and goodwill. You are beaming, and you don’t even know it yet.

You’re feeling good – on top of the world even, and a simple concept such as breakfast sounds like the most brilliant idea you’ve ever had. You spend another half an hour sipping that coffee like it was the most delicious coffee you’ve ever tasted, and taking delicate bites of your sandwich/donut/apple/muffin/falafel/McMuffin, savoring every moment. Then, 9 o’clock rolls around, (or maybe 10 if your work day starts a little later than mine does, or anyone else’s who also works for the Anti- Work-Life Balance Movement, (a.k.a Bloodthirsty Time-Suckers International).
The morning cheer starts to wear off, just as the breakfast sugar-crash starts to make its way across your brain. Your fingers get a little slower on the keyboard, and at this point the smile on your face is just perma-etched on there since you were smiling so hard while eating the Best Breakfast Ever.

You look around and realize that 67.5% of the office is empty, and remember that, Hey! It’s a holiday tomorrow! Nobody’s REALLY going to be doing work today, are they? You start imagining all the things you are going to do with the extra time off, like how much you are going to sleep, or eat, or read, or watch TV, or go to the movies, or a combination of all of the above!
(Or, if you’ve become an old boring anal parent like me, you’ll be thinking about how much more time you’ll have to clean your house and do the laundry and re-organize your cabinets and teach your pre-school children to read the encyclopedia and recite the capitals of all the countries in the world.)

So, you turn on your brain’s cruise control and start browsing the Internet, keeping your browser window down at the bottom of your screen, alternately covering it up with your email Inbox, and then throwing all caution to the wind for a few minutes and just doing your thing, checking out what the celebs wore at the AMA awards. (For SERIOUS, what WAS Ke$ha thinking???) 

Or, you start playing with MS Paint and writing on your blog.
TOTALLY not a work-sanctioned activity. But, Hey! It’s a holiday tomorrow! They’re probably FINE with it. RIGHT?!?!

RIGHT?!

Oh, who cares. Is it time for lunch yet?

Harry Potter Madness

So, out of pure, dumb luck, I got invited to a pre-screening of the latest Harry Potter movie. I tell you, I gots friends in high places. So, with a mixture of shame and slight satisfaction, I declare that I am a participant in Harry Potter Madness!

Ok, to be honest, I have no clue what the name of this latest installment is, and I’ve never seen any of the other Harry Potter movies, either. I tried (really hard and after the encouragement of people at work) to read the books but only got through the first one, and maybe a quarter of the second.

BUT!
Who am I to forego a free, after-dark outing with a good friend that involved dinner beforehand?! And, regardless of the actual movie, it was at a MOVIE THEATER, which used to be my weekend hangout. This was before kids, of course.

Even after kids (well, kid), we were still able to go see a movie every now and then through the generosity and help of good friends who would shoo us out the door and tell us to “just go have a good time!”. And we did! Alas, we have not yet fallen to our knees and begged anyone we’ve met out here for that type of favor, as we are still in the delicate relationship-forming stage where a night left alone with our Spiderman may end up causing irreparable damage. (This is why you don’t move after you’ve had children and have secured free babysitting from multiple sources :) Especially when you can return the favor to those sources by either: a) Cooking a simple dinner and inviting them over, or b) Babysitting in return!)

So, I went. And ate. And drove around for half an hour before and after the movie looking for parking, since apparently the whole city was at the movies that night trying to secure tickets to the midnight screening of Harry Potter, 2010 version. We dove into the darkened theater a few minutes after the movie had started, quickly saw that it was completely packed, and proceeded to sit in the only empty seats in the house. Three feet away from the screen. My eyes are still recovering, and I think I’m done puking from all the motion sickness.

Fast forward a few minutes into the movie, and there’s me, sitting there with my mouth open, surrounded by the sound of teenage girls giggling with utter delight at references that made no sense to me. It was like a series of inside jokes that I was not privy to, making me feel both old and… old.

Still, it was fun. Going out was fun. Dinner was good, the company was great, and going to the movies after such a long absence was refreshing. Also, the movie was definitely not bad! It made me determined to figure out a way for me and the hub to go out and see more movies.

Wish us luck! Babysitters, make yourselves known! You will be adequately compensated with food and cookies!

Howling at the Moon

To my dread and surprise, I have recently discovered that, unlike me, but COMPLETELY like his father, my son is a night owl. All day he can be the quietest kid you’ve ever seen, or at worst, a child with an energy level so even-keeled that surprising bursts of it are unheard of.

And then the sun sets, and the moon comes out.

And it’s all downhill from there. Or uphill. Whatever indicates an elevated energy level that I have never before witnessed in my son, that’s the direction in which it goes. Suddenly, he transforms from Mr. Mellow to a person who PHYSICALLY CANNOT SIT DOWN. I swear to you, if I tried to get him to sit during these .. um.. episodes, he would probably self-combust from the intensity of the energy vibrating and coursing through his veins.

It is, in the mildest description possible, a sight you have to see to believe.

His voice starts to take on a high-pitch, he starts literally running in circles around himself and challenging fate and Murphy by jumping off any and every elevated surface that can be found (and climbed) in the house. I am constantly worried he will break a leg or land foot-first into my kidney in the case that I happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Tonight, I could do nothing more but allow my jaw to hang open as he went through his frenzy. The most interesting part to observe was how much fun he was having watching my eyes grow in disbelief, and my jaw open wider and wider (I can’t guarantee there wasn’t any drool starting to drip out of the side of my mouth either. All I remember was thinking that the Energizer Bunny had been put to shame).

People, he was LITERALLY laughing at me. His eyes had that evil twinkle in them you see on cartoons, and he was mocking me as I tried to get him to calm down. He was infinitely playful, and EVERYTHING was the funniest thing he’d ever seen/heard.

The worst part of it all? The never-ending stream of words spewing from his mouth. I never knew a human being (one whose vocabulary is still MAJORLY in development, nonetheless) could utter that many words for that long of a time, in that quick of succession.

My question to the parents out there with more experience at this than I have is: WHEN DOES THE TALKING STOP???!?!?!??!!? OH. CRAP. You have no idea. Here is just a tiny taste of my evening. Enjoy:

“mamadidyouseetheplanetwhatwasthatattackingtheplanetandthendisappearingitwasitsomethingfromarocketship?orwasitthebigbluenoseinspacewasturningintowaterandthendisappearingwooooooowmamathat’ssuchabigvolcano!isn’titrightrightrightcanihavesomecandyfrommyhalloweenbucketpleasepleaseiwasagoodboymamaWHYNOT?!butyousaidok!thegreenthingisattackingtheplanetandthendisappearingitwhereisMARSTHEFIREPLANET?!seethesunit’sbigthemoonisreallysmalltheearthisourhouseisontheearthrightMAMA?theearththeearthPPHEWWWPHEWWWattackingtingscrashtogederandthentheyturngreenandblueanddisappeaaaaar!”

And that was just the first 30 seconds. Imagine (SERIOUSLY TRY TO IMAGINE) two full hours of the above.
Are you scared yet? You should be. Veeery, veery scared. And if you haven’t had children at this point in your life yet, you’re welcome.

I think Halloween has caused irreperable damage. Next year it’s carrot sticks and cucumber slices. Fruit has way too much sugar for his system, apparently. If I had done my math right, I would have been able to prevent this. At 20% percentile weight for his age, that means his system can only tolerate 20% the amount of sugar a normal child can handle before going to la-la land of the never-ending stories.

Lesson learned.

And now I will try to empty my head of all that noise, since I’m still shaking from the impact.

Hibernation

Why, hello there! Nice to see you again.
Where have I been, you ask?
Well, I’ve been hiding under the covers, hibernating. Sleeping off the cold, trying to escape the inevitable freeze of the Utah winter. We’ve already seen snow a few times, and we’re now scrambling to make sure we’re each appropriately prepared with more layers of clothing than we would have all worn collectively as a family back in Southern Cali. *sigh*

I have to admit, I do enjoy actually having a valid reason for pulling on knee-high boots, and wearing sweater tights with snazzy-looking dresses.

This past week was another ~60 hour work-week for me. I know many of you probably work similar or more hours per week, but it’s been a challenge to keep up my domesticity (i.e. sparkling-home syndrome) and parenting standards. I’ve allowed my child to consume a less than ideal diet on more occasions than I like to admit, and I’ve gone for longer stretches than my normal 2-3 days between bathroom and kitchen scrub-downs. I guess it’s all a part of adapting, but some days, the guilt just eats at me. Mostly, it’s the guilt of not spending enough time with my son than I feel is right. I leave before he wakes, and pick him up after he’s been wiped out by the day. (Of course, by the time we get home and get some food in him, he turns into a hyperactive monkey, using the sofas as trampolines).

Anyway, there goes another week, and I have nothing interesting to contribute. But I will be back, with new content! That is a promise. Just as soon as I get over my 10-hour sleep stretches. (For serious, I slept 10 hours last night. I NEVER sleep more than 6 hours. I guess I’m not a cold-weather creature).

Weekend Playmates

My little guy and I spent some time this afternoon making ourselves some new playmates.

I think they ended up more interested in each other than they were in us, though.
Heh heh. I take no responsibility for the consequences.

I had nothing to do with this, by the way. Totally spontaneous.
Ok fine, it’s not that funny. I had to amuse myself somehow.

Coffee Break

If you know me, you will not believe what I’m about to say. And even if you don’t know me that well, you may have read one of my many love letters to coffee at some point.

I have an announcement to make.

Friends and fellow coffee-lovers, I will no longer be partaking in the universal morning ritual of coffee-drinking. (Morning?! HAH! Any moment of the night or day is more accurate in my case).
Yes, indeed, I have quit. Cold-turkey. COLD. TURKEY.

And do you know what the best part of cold turkey is?

Withdrawal symptoms! Yay!

What, you think it ends with the headaches? Oh no. There are night sweats, appetite fluctuations, and a general crankiness that makes PMS look like a walk in the park.

Be glad you don’t live in our house this week.

*Disclaimer: I do not make any claims or guarantees regarding the permanency of this caffeine-free existence.
I’m just sayin’. Just so you don’t call me a liar someday.

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