Resolution #31 & #9: Learn or Create a New Craft + Something I Can Wear and Oreos on Steroids

Let me tell you a secret.

I’m half grandma.

I already had my suspicions when I learned that I loved baking from scratch, scrapbooking and starting sentences with “Back in my day.” But, now… I also crochet.  It’s official. I’m a grandma minus the age and the grandchildren part.

Before I get all excited about needle craft, let’s talk about this baking from scratch thing, because I had a girls night the other night and was introduced to the most glorious creation I think has ever come from an oven.  These:

379318_10151306964887149_991732097_n (1)

Can you see that? Oreos. Peanut butter. Brownie. Now go ahead and try to think of something more brilliant and amazing. You can’t, I know. So, since I had to forego alcoholic libations at this girls get-together because of a medical study I’m participating in (more on that later), my night was full of…these.  In fact, I didn’t feel like I was missing a thing.  Of course, like any attempt on anything I’ve ever made that looks beautiful on a food blog, ours came out ugly. No, really. Really ugly.

Our Version

Note the ones in the pan that have fallen apart, oozed peanut butter, or otherwise. But, hey, they all just get chewed up anyway and they were to die for, so what’s it matter?  You want to make these at home, you say?  Well it’s easy.

Just grab a pack of Oreos, a jar of peanut butter, and a box of brownie mix (confession time: there is nothing ‘scratch’ about these). Dig out a muffin tin. Then either line it with papers or go heavy on the Pam, we did the latter and they still stuck a bit but it was okay.

Then, proceed thusly: Oreo, peanut butter on top of Oreo, another Oreo, more peanut butter on top, drop into muffin tin, cover in brownie batter.  Repeat x12. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.  Voila!  You’ll thank me later. Also, if you try this at home, send me your pictures? I want to see if anyone can make them as pretty as the picture perfect food blogger original. Go on, try it.

Anyway, on to the crafting. I’ve been doing this medical study for the last couple of weeks to fulfill resolution #40: Pay off at least one credit card. But, here’s the thing about medical studies: They are BORING. And you can’t do ANYTHING. No exercise, no snacking, no leaving the building. Basically, you are left to whatever entertainment you can fit in a suitcase and of course, whatever companionship you find with other subjects. So, week one I was pretty content with Netflix, mindless social media and catching up on work and writing. By the end of the week, though, my eyes were aching from screen time and if I saw one more hashtag I swear I’d have lost it.

I did notice a woman while I was in there who seemed perfectly content with a ball of yarn and a crochet hook. Why didn’t I think of that? So, as soon as they set us free for a few days I high-tailed it straight to the craft store (okay, I went and got pancakes first, because there isn’t real food in there either), picked up some yarn and a hook and set to google to teach myself how to create something wearable.

I got a little ambitious and wanted to try for this, for my roomates’ new baby:

SockMonkeyHat_1

But then I started reading through the pattern and seeing abbreviations I didn’t know and realizing I should probably start small so I settled for…these:

photo (3)Those are mine!  I made those!  Essentially it’s a tube with thumb holes, but I call it… A GLOVE. Resolutions accomplished!

I even had enough yarn to make another pair and Dru thought they were so warm-looking and fashionable that he wanted some too. Grandma powers activate!  (I think that face means he’s happy, but I can’t be sure.)

Gloves

If you’re interested in some of your own, check out http://crochet.about.com/. I learned everything I had to know there and found the pattern for these gloves. It even came with patterns for a matching hat and scarf, but we’ll see about that. I’m now on the path to learning how to make elf hats. …What, you thought I’d be making average stuff? No way. Elf hats. Then maybe I’ll revisit the sock monkeys once I get some experience under my belt.

Back from the dead, and hungry! [Resolutions #8 and #78 with Recipes]

I now see what bloggers mean when they write those inevitable posts after a long hiatus apologizing for their short disappearance. When I wrote my resolution list, it was assuming that I would have noooothing better to do for the rest of the year.  No unexpected occurrences, no troubles, no distractions.  And that just doesn’t happen.  So, my apologies for the break!  But, I’m back, with food!

I can easily call food one of my greatest loves in life.  It’s good for enjoyment, for comfort, for showing affection, and bringing people together.  For a lot of people, including me, life kind of revolves around food.  That might explain why food shows up so many times in my list of resolutions.  Including #78: Make a Traditional Dutch Recipe and #8 Cook a Julia Child Recipe.

#78 Cook a Traditional Dutch Recipe

I complain a lot that since my parents divorced, and then after my father passed away, a lot of my Dutch heritage was lost for me.  I was no longer in an environment where the traditions, food and culture permeated my everyday life. I felt a little cheated.  I’m always proud to tell people that I’m half Dutch, but what good does that do me if there’s nothing Dutch about me but my genes?

So, since the language is notoriously difficult to learn (though I hope to learn it someday), I figured I could at least get really good at cooking the food.  I started small with this one, a recipe I remember from my childhood as one of the most hearty and comforting foods that came out of my mom’s kitchen.  Hutspot.  It’s a mash of potatoes, carrots and onions that is usually served along some sort of meat like sausage or beef.

This traditional dutch recipe was ever present at holiday meals, when company came over, and most of all on sick days where all we craved was something simple, warm and comforting.  Dutch food is good for that.  But as soon as I moved away from home, hutspot disappeared off the menu, because I never bothered to learn to make it.

So, I figured the first recipe I should learn is that one that I would most want to be able to make for my own family–if/when I actually have one of my own.

There are a hundred and one recipes out there for hutspot.  Including a Flemish version that isn’t mashed at all, but for the sake of tradition I went with this recipe from Food.com and it turned out great.  We served it up with some simple beef tips and gravy, which I highly recommend.

Ingredients:

  • 6 onions
  • 6 large carrots
  • 8 russet potatoes
  • 1/2c evaporated milk
  • 1/4c butter
  • Salt & Pepper

Directions:

Dice the onions and carrots and boil for 20 mins, then drain and set aside.  Peel and quarter the potatoes and boil 20-25 minutes until tender; drain and dry thoroughly.  Add onions, carrots and potatoes back to the pot and mash well until combined. Add butter, milk and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and serve hot.

#8 Cook a Julia Child Recipe

It’s thanks to Julie and Julia that I actually know who Julia Child is, and I’m so glad I do, because while I thought I was pretty good in the kitchen, her collection of brilliant and complicated French recipes makes me feel like a rookie. You mean there are instances in which a cake requires more than one bowl??  The best brownies don’t come from a box?

…Kidding about that last one.

Anyway, I’ve always wanted to try my hand at one of her famously decadent recipes, and after scouring the internet for sweet and savory, I landed on her Reine De Saba (Queen of Sheba) cake.  A nearly flourless chocolate almond cake that is supposed to put all other chocolate cakes to shame.

For a simple chocolate cake, it’s a pretty labor intensive endeavor, involving perfect timing and the ability to multi-task, but it was pretty worth it.  Isn’t there a quote about the more work it takes, the sweeter the outcome?  I think they were talking about this cake. My only complaint is that I think I cooked mine a little too long which I think detracted from how fudgey it should have been, but it still tasted delicious!  It’s not a very sweet cake, which surprised me.  Not even the icing called for added sugar. It’s very much a chocoholic’s cake where the chocolate is the star, not the sugar.  It’s dense, heavy, and just about 80% butter.  In short, my dream cake.

Here is the original post where I found this recipe.

Ingredients:  

For the cake:

  • 4 ounces or squares semi-sweet chocolate melted with 2 tbsp rum or coffee
  • 1/4 pound or 1 stick softened butter
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 egg whites
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup pulverized almonds
  • 1/4 tspn almond extract
  • 1/2 cup cake flour (scooped and leveled) turned into a sifter

For the icing:

  • 2 ounces or squares semi-sweet baking chocolate
  • 2 tbsp rum or coffee
  • 5 to 6 tbsp unsalted butter

Preparation: 
For the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Butter and flour the cake pan.
  3. Set the chocolate and rum or coffee in a small pan, cover, and place (off heat) in a larger pan of almost simmering water; let melt while you proceed with the recipe.  Measure out the rest of the ingredients.
  4. Cream the butter and sugar together for several minutes until they form a pale yellow, fluffy mixture.
  5. Beat in the egg yolks until well blended.
  6. Beat the egg whites and salt in a separate bowl until soft peaks are formed; sprinkle on the sugar and beat until stiff peaks are formed.
  7. With a rubber spatula, blend the melted chocolate into the butter and sugar mixture, then stir in the almonds, and almond extract.
  8. Immediately stir in one fourth of the beaten egg whites to lighten the batter.
  9. Delicately fold in a third of the remaining whites and when partially blended, sift on one third of the flour and continue folding.  Alternate rapidly with more egg whites and more flour until all egg whites and flour are incorporated.
  10. Turn the batter into the cake pan, pushing the batter up to its rim with a rubber spatula.
  11. Bake in middle level of preheated oven for about 25 minutes.  Cake is done when it has puffed, and 2 1/2 to 3 inches around the circumference are set so that a needle plunged into that area comes out clean; the center should move slightly if the pan is shaken, and a needle comes out oily.
  12. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Run a knife around the edge of the pan, and reverse cake on the rack.
  13. Allow it to cool for an hour or two; it must be thoroughly cold if it is to be iced.

For the icing:

  1. Place the chocolate and rum or coffee in a small pan, cover, and set in a larger pan of almost simmering water.
  2. Remove pans from heat and let chocolate melt for 5 minutes or so, until perfectly smooth.  Lift chocolate pan out of the hot water, and beat in the butter a tablespoon at a time.
  3. Then beat over a bowl with a tray of ice cubes and water until chocolate mixture has cooled to spreading consistency.  At once spread it over your cake with spatula or knife.

To serve, use the butter icing and press a design of almonds over the icing.

Question of the Day:  What is the recipe that brings back the fondest memories for you?

Tribute Tuesday (one day late): Chocolate Covered Katie

So I know it’s not Tribute Wednesday, but to be totally honest, Tribute Tuesday was full of all sorts of things that kept me far far away from a keyboard.  It’s not all something I’m quite ready to share with the blog world yet, but let’s just say that change is never easy.  And the most difficult part is the uncertainty about whether the change is for the better or not. Certainly, in the moments of pain and discomfort it’s hard to believe that changing anything at anytime is ever a good idea.  I’d much rather things just be happy, sunshine and rainbows all the time, but I know that’s not realistic. I recently read a post about change by a blog-o-sphere friend Danasia.  It came through my feed just as some major changes were happening in my life, a perfect moment of blog serendipity, and came along with a quote from an unknown source that said “Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.”

Personally…I am much more interested in this quote at the moment:

“May your life be filled, as mine has been, with love and laughter; and remember, when things are rough all you need is … Chocolate.”
― Geraldine Solon, Chocolicious

So, at a time when the last thing I want to think about is adventures and talking about my own life, and the only thing that sounds good is curling into a ball and cradling a pint of ice cream, I decided it was high time for another Tribute.

I won’t lie, I’m somewhat of an emotional eater.  I try to keep it under control now in the interest of my health, but when things get rough…I give myself at least one day for just no-holds-barred comfort food. Ordinarily that means making and eating an entire tin of brownies, or treating myself to a bag of Dove chocolates, but recently I’ve been trying pretty hard to cut out processed and unnatural foods, even in my comfort food binges.

Luckily, my sister Bella, who has as much a passion for indulging her sweet tooth as much as I do, introduced me to today’s tribute: Chocolate Covered Katie.

She’s a food blogger, but instead of blogging about all of those decadent “sometimes foods” as Cookie Monster would put it, she writes recipes that make dessert an “at least once a day food.” This makes my comfort food binge not only guilt-free but also allows me to extend it for as long as I freaking need it, since now I can eat things like…

Triple Chocolate Nutella Fudge

A big fat Cake Batter Milkshake

A healthy stack of Chocolate Chip Cookies

Or if I’m really feeling like I just need it injected straight into my veins, I can skip the oven all together and just get to the good part…the frosting, just a big shot of it, no cake necessary.

And, it’s all healthy, and all natural, and (I believe) all vegan too.

So thank you, Chocolate Covered Katie.  For making the rough times easier…or at the very least chocolatey-er.

And, as a tribute amendment, I would like to publicly thank all of those who are lending their support, kind words, and just sending love in general. Like I said, change isn’t easy, but having amazing and caring friends and family certainly makes it easier.  I love you all.

[Resolution] #34 Make a “Raw” Dessert

This has been on my want-to-do list for a while (out of sheer curiosity about how it works), and there have been two things deterring me.  First, nuts and dates are expensive. Far more expensive than flour and eggs, and nuts and dates are the flour and eggs of raw cooking, you can’t do it without them.  And second, do you KNOW how much fat is in a walnut? Well, it’s a lot.  And if you substitute walnuts for flour, then add frosting made of avocado you get…the equivalent of eating half a stick of butter just for fun.  But, the difference is, they are “good fats” and that’s how I justified it.

After searching and scouring the internet for a raw dessert that sounded appropriately appetizing, I landed on a recipe for Raspberry Ganache Fudge Cake. Not only was it chocolate, but it included raw “home-style” chocolate frosting too, which makes it a winner in my book.

What I learned: Raw cake will never be light and fluffy like regular cake, but that doesn’t mean it can’t taste damn good.

It’s not super sweet like the cake I’ve been surviving on my whole life, but the chocolate really shines, something like it does when you’re eating a very dark chocolate bar. But, then there’s the frosting.  Let me tell you what, when convenience is not a factor, I will be making this frosting for all of my cakes whether they are raw or not.  Good GOD it’s good. I’m making a double batch next time just so I can use half for the cake, and eat the other half like pudding. Seriously, even if you have no interest in raw food, make this frosting.

The recipe goes a little something like this:

Raspberry Ganache Fudge Cake

adapted from Ani’s Raw Food Desserts via Raw Epicurean

Servings: About 10 mini cakes (as pictured), can also be made as a layer cake

Fudge Cake
3 cups dry unsalted walnuts
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I prefer dutch process)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup pitted Medjool dates

Frosting
1/3 cup pitted Medjool dates
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup ripe avocado flesh
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Topping
1/2 cup fresh raspberries

To create the cakes, add the walnuts, cocoa and salt to a food processor and pulse until coarsely mixed. Don’t over process of you’ll end up with nut butter. Add the dates and continue to process until mixed well, about 20 seconds.

Press the mixture into a mold of your choice. We just used the 1/4 cup measuring cup and ended up with 10 cakes exactly. Make sure you really pack it in there or the cakes just won’t hold up. Place the cakes on a plate and set aside, or in the fridge to firm, while you make the frosting.

Clean out the food processor to remove any crumbs, then add the remaining dates and the agave.  Process until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the avocado and process again until smooth. Finally, add the remaining cocoa powder and process one more time, about 10-15 more seconds. Scrape the sides as needed. Voila! Home-style frosting.  Go on, take a taste.

See what I mean?

Just before serving , frost the cakes on all sides, then top with raspberries.  If making a layer cake, raspberries can also be used as filling. Just frost the top of the bottom layer, cover with raspberries, then top with the second layer and frost.  Keep the finished cakes in the fridge for up to three days.

Legos for Adults & Vegan Cookies for Non-Vegans (Recipe with Pictures)

My morning started off a little like this.

I love IKEA.  I mean, it’s cool that all of their furniture is modern, goes with almost any room and makes particle board look good but I really love it because it’s like Legos for adults.  You remember those Lego kits? You bought a ninja hideout or the Hogwarts castle in pieces in a box and it came with those IKEA-esque instruction sheets telling you how to make all those tiny pieces look like the photo on the box.  And you know what else?  …They cost about the same amount, except I can actually get use out of IKEA later.

Here’s the finished product.

Looks complete right? Fooled ya.  I managed to have 5 pieces left over.  I still don’t know where I went wrong… but it looks whole and feels sturdy so until it falls apart I’m not going to worry about it.  🙂  It’s even Mana tested and approved.

But the real highlight of the day wasn’t this magnificent furniture creation. It was……THESE.

Vegan. Chocolate. Chip. Cookies.  Well, almost Vegan in our case because we took some liberties with the recipe, but if you make it as it’s supposed to be: vegan and amazing. But you know what else, there’s a super special secret ingredient in these cookies.  These cookies are made with BEANS, and with the butter, milk and eggs omitted they are so low in fat.

Long story short: These cookies are guilt free. Not almost guilt free. If you use dark chocolate (70% cacao or higher) with all of its health benefits, there’s just not a thing in these cookies that will keep you up at night.

Oh. You want the recipe?  Okay, sure I guess I can do that.

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