Saturday, November 26, 2011

June Cleaver is a Lazy Woman!

I had a very un-lazy day on Wednesday, when my washing machine caused a huge flood, and ensuing six hour clean-up.  But, I had a very lazy Black Friday when I walked into a brand new electronics store, famous here in Southern California for having good deals.  Recommended by a friend, I went over there after searching for the best deals online, stopping at Sears.  I walked in and there was hardly anyone there because it's a brand new location for the chain.  I was helped immediately, and realized I could actually have my dream washer and dryer. 

I did my first load of laundry in it today and I may just sleep outside with it tonight, I love it so!  It's gorgeous and so efficient and my clothes haven't been this clean in year.  I think I should apologize to anyone I even brushed by in the last two years because I realized my clothes haven't really been clean for that long. 

I was so excited by my new appliances, I cleaned out the utility room where the washer/dryer are, then went to the garage, cleaned and organized even more, and brought in all the Christmas decorations.

And, then, what did June Cleaver still have energy to do?  Bake a birthday cake for my friend's 92 year old mom who is in the hospital recovering from a hip operation.  I googled "Best Chocolate Layer Cake Ever" and found this well-reviewed recipe.  It truly is fantastic.

The only change I made was to cut the sugar in the frosting by 1.5 cups -- so 4.5 cups instead of 6.  I also chopped up about 10 Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Crisps and put them on top of the frosting between the layers to add some very dark chocolate and for some extra texture. 

I got to taste it because I had enough batter to make extra cupcakes.  Yummalicious!

Buon Lazy Chocolate Appetito!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Seriously People...Best Carrot Cake Ever in History of Mankind -- with CHOCOLATE CHIPS!

I had a very big cooking challenge on my hands this week.   I was throwing a birthday dinner party for my friend who looooooooooooooooooves Carrot Cake.  He told me the best carrot cake he ever had was at a restaurant in Kansas City that no longer exists.  I tried tracking down the recipe to no avail.  I was even in Kansas City recently and hunted around a bit.  No go.  It turns out my friend paid the chef for the recipe many years ago and makes the cake, but I didn't want to cheat and ask for it.

So, I then did the next best thing: I googled "best carrot cake ever" and found this recipe from Southern Living 1997.

My friend is from the south so I thought that might do the trick, and it called for something I had never seen before -- a buttermilk glaze that you put over all the cakes prior to the cream cheese frosting, thus locking in the moisture. Super creative, plus adding another level of flavor with the buttermilk. I then thought "hmmm.....what about chocolate chips mixed in?"  So, I put chocolate chips in just one of the three layers -- to test it out.  I know it was risky for an important Birthday Carrot Cake, but it turned out amaaaaazing.   I put chocolate chips in only the top layer, and then.....drum roll....I put crushed the Chocolate Crisps between only the bottom two layers.

The verdict?  This cake recipe is so divine, it definitely doesn't need chocolate, but it really adds a supercalifragilisticexpialidociousness to it.  You don't need a lot.  I'd say 1/2 to 3/4 cup for the whole thing so each layer is "dotted" with them. 

But, you could also just do the crushed Crisps in between all three layers -- I'd say crush up 10 to 12 crips for each in-between layer spot.

Also, I made two alerations to the recipes -- I cut the sugar in all three elements -- cake, glaze and frosting -- by 1/4.  AND, I added about 1/4 cup -- maybe 1/3 (needs to remain spreadable, so be careful) -- buttermilk to the frosting.  It made it particularly creamy, and gave it an extra kick to offset all the sweetness.

Buon Sweet Carrot Appetito to all!

P.S. Sorry I didn't take a photo fo the cake all purdy and looked amazing I promise!


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Winter Yum Soup

I am in the middle of a 3 1/2 day meditation retreat that I am participating in remotely, via phone and web.  It's fantastic, especially because I can do things like I just did!  We had a 15 minute bathroom break, an hour prior to the two hour lunch break.  Already hungry and craving a warm vegetable soup, I threw this soup together in just about 8 minutes.  All of this can be found at Trader Joe's, but all stores have all of these ingredients, except possibly the broccoli slaw, which could actually be replaced with normal ol' cabbage slaw.

2 - 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
2 - 15 cans pinto beans (or whatever your favorite bean is -- this happens to be mine)
1 - 32 oz vegetable stock (or other stock if you prefer -- I'm a vegetarian)
1 - 28 oz can of water (i.e., when you empty it, fill it with water and throw that in!)
1 - 10 oz bag of sliced mushrooms (I chopped them up further)
1 - 13 oz bag of broccoli slaw
1/2 cup red lentils (I just threw them in for texture and color)
2 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
2 Teaspoons Red Pepper Flakes
2 Dashes Lemon Pepper
Salt to taste

After 1/2 hour it was actually ready to go, but I turned the heat very low and let it simmer for a full hour.  It just gets better and better over time.  And, super miraculously the broccoli stays crunchy!

Obviously you can add all kinds of yummy extras that meet your taste wishes and needs.

Buon Cozy Appetito!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

When You Have Your Health....

All those adages about how lucky we are when we have your health, always knew they were true, but this last year was the absolute proof.  I have been sick for just over a year, with the last four months being nearly intolerable, and boy was it a difficult journey. 

Last week, though, I finally found a doctor who prescribed the right medicine!  I was trying homeopathy, naturopathy for 8 months and then it go so much worse I sought out Western medicine.  Four doctors later, and I am finally taking the right meds!  Hallelujah.   I feel like I am born again!  It's a whole new world having my health back. I'm not even at 100% yet, and I'm so blissed out.

I have always had deep compassion for people dealing with long-term pain or illness because I have had brief experiences in my life with both and I know how intolerable even a month or two month long flirtation with either can put a dent in your life force.  Fighting pain or illness takes it all out of you, leaving little bandwidth for things like creativity, love, giving, and expressing all that you want to express in your life.

I look back at the last year and I can report that my productivity and creativity have been gravely affected.  Projects that were born but never grew to fruition, dinner parties cancelled, parties missed, relationships waning as I couldn't give them proper attention, and even, in the last couple of months, lost hope of ever being well.

One day I was speaking to a doctor on the phone and he said "We will figure this out."  As he spoke those words I watched a hummingbird poise itself right outside my office window at the bottle brush only feet away from where I sat.  I dared to have hope when I saw that sign.  My heart lifted for a moment, and then my mind said "why hope?" and then my heart won and I held onto that hope, clinging to it like a vine Tarzan would grab to cross the jungle.  It was the next day that I met the doctor who would prescribe me the winning solution. 

I am blessed. I was blessed when I was sick and I am blessed now that I have my health again.  I feel prarticularly blessed to have the energy to express myself.  I will write more here, and give back a whole lot more than I have been, and live, live, live....with extreme gratitude.