Mocha Marble Cake

Two weeks ago, I made a super short trip to Vegas to see Mom and Dad. Emphasis on the “super-short” part. I left Austin early Saturday morning, and returned late Sunday afternoon.

phew…. 

I purposely arranged my trip over the weekend, as I wanted to make sure the posse didn’t skip school during my brief absence. It’s not that I don’t trust them…… but I don’t trust them.

Anyway, before I left, and even though I was only going to be away for one night,  I prepped a pan of enchiladas for Alexander, Chicken Fajitas for Sabrina, and baked up two cakes. For her, a Banana Zucchini Bread – and for him, this Mocha Marble Cake.

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When I got back to the house Sunday afternoon, half of the cake was gone. His words? “Best cake ever, Mom”.

Mocha Marble Cake – adapted from a recipe by Flo Braker

1 tsp instant espresso powder
1 tbs. hot water
¾ cup Hershey’s chocolate syrup
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
8 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12 cup Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a small bowl, mix together the espresso powder and hot water. Stir the mixture into the chocolate syrup and set aside. Sift together the flour, and baking powder, and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. On medium speed, slowly add the beaten eggs a bit at a time – this should take about 3 minutes.

On low speed, add the flour mixture in three parts alternately with the milk in two parts, scraping down the bowl between additions. Stir in the vanilla after the last addition of flour.

Spoon two thirds of the batter into the pan, and smooth the top. Stir the baking soda into the chocolate syrup mixture, and add this mixture to the remaining third of cake batter. Pour the chocolate batter on top of the vanilla batter and immediately put the pan into the oven. Bake until the cake is set, and a tester comes clean, about 65 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, then unmold the cake and allow to cool completely.

Cacio e Pepe Pasta Pie – and a complaint

I generally don’t like to complain, because if you stop and think about it, complaining serves no purpose whatsoever. If you can change something, do it. If you can’t, work around it and move on.

That mindset has worked out quite well for me, until recently. I am faced with a dilemma that I HAVE to complain/vent about, because I can neither fix it nor work around it. My gripe? The school system. Here’s the situation: Sabrina’s graduation ceremony is at 8:00 a.m. on a Thursday. I have to get her to the school by 5:45 a.m., so she can attend the senior breakfast, then the entire class boards a charter bus that will take them to the ceremony site – which happens to be about 25 minutes from the school.

That, however, isn’t where the problem lies.

The problem is that Alexander naturally wants to attend his sister’s ceremony. It’s an epic day in her life and he really wants to be there to commemorate it with her.  Side note: The realization that she’s not going to be at the school next year hit him hard about two weeks ago. She has a potential plan to attend college in Indiana, and Alexander was genuinely upset, concerned about her ability to still have dinner with us every night. She just looked at him like he’d fallen out of the sky and said, ” I told you that you’d miss me someday!”

I gritted my teeth and took another sip of wine, because at that moment I realized she might actually move away this summer. Is it too early to start turning her room into an office? I’m kidding, I’m kidding…

Anyway, due to a school district member’s clever planning abilities, the rest of the high school students have final exams scheduled for the day of the graduation. And they thought that was a good idea? Why on earth would they plan the graduation ceremony on a day when the other students have finals that they obviously can’t miss? Why not have the ceremony in the afternoon? Or early evening? The other high schools in the district are scheduled for the following Saturday. How did we get the short end of the straw?

Oh – and one more thing: we (the family) are supposed to be at the ceremony site at 7:30 a.m. Again, no problem. Except that Alexander starts school at 8:45 a.m. Last time I checked, I was unable to be in two places at the same time. So I have to drop him off at 7:00 a.m. in order to make it out to Cedar Park by 7:30 a.m. Ok, I can do that. 

Then I made the mistake of saying, out loud, that I was going to go into the school office and see what could be done about having Alexander attend the ceremony. Surely I can’t be the only parent with this complaint? Sabrina put her hand out , looked straight at me, and said, “Mom, stop. Don’t be confrontational.”

Me? Confrontational. I think that’s a compliment. 

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Cacio e Pepe Pasta Pie – adapted from Food and Wine

I learned a very valuable lesson while making this – don’t judge a recipe by the simplicity of the ingredients. I am probably going to make this again for Sabrina’s graduation dinner – it’s equally delicious hot, or at room temperature.

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces Fontina cheese, shredded (2 cups)
  • 6 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)
  • Butter, for greasing
  • marinara sauce, for serving

Preheat the oven to 425°. In a pot of  boiling water, cook the spaghetti until barely al dente. Drain well.

In a bowl, mix the milk, Parmigiano, eggs, pepper, and 1 1/2 cups each of the Fontina and cheddar. Add the hot pasta, and mix well using two forks or tongs to get everything blended together, and that the pasta has a chance to absorb some of the liquid. Pour into a buttered 9-inch springform pan, then sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup each of Fontina and cheddar on top. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Transfer to 
a rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Remove the ring, cut the pie into wedges and serve with marinara sauce.

 

S’More’s Bars

Yesterday, I took Alexander to the DPS for his driving permit.

*gulp*

And then I let him drive halfway home.

*choke*

This morning, he drove us to school.

My stomach is still a bit queasy from the ride……

So I’m left wondering, how did all this happen? How is it possible that my youngest child will be 16 in less than two weeks? I’m not sure, considering in my mind, he is still this size:

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Which reminds me – he’s not. Of course, he’s about two inches taller than me now, and it has become quite obvious that his growth is not slowing down anytime soon, as evidenced by the amount of grocery shopping I do almost every day, and the fact that his clothes, once again, are becoming increasingly ill-fitting. We made a trip to DSW on Sunday, so he could pick up a few new pairs of shoes that actually fit properly, weren’t torn to shreds on one side from skateboarding, and will be acceptable to wear in public so he can attend his sister’s high school graduation ceremony, which, conveniently, takes place the day after his birthday.

Conveniently.

Next trip? New, properly fitting clothes for him. And you know how much teenage boys loooooove to go clothes shopping. Although, now that he can drive us there, it might make the trip a bit more bearable.

Might is the operative word. Wish me luck…….

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S’More’s Bars – adapted from Food and Wine/Cheryl Day

I’m not a marshmallow fan by any stretch, but I have to admit that I really liked these. The key is not to over-bake the brownie filling. Watch it closely after about 10 minutes – you really do want the center to appear underdone.

  • 3 cups corn flake crumbs (or graham cracker crumbs)
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tbs. packed light brown sugar

Brownie Filling

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cubed
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Meringue:

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  1. MAKE THE CRUST Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 9-inch-square baking pan with foil, allowing 2 inches of overhang on two sides. In a medium bowl, using a fork, mix all of the ingredients until evenly moistened. Press the crumbs evenly into 
the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, just until lightly browned. Let cool completely. Leave the oven on.
  2. MAKE THE FILLING In a heatproof medium bowl set over 
a saucepan of simmering water, melt the butter with the chocolate over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the sugar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs until smooth, then stir in the flour until just incorporated. Spread the batter evenly over the cooled crust. Bake for about 13 minutes, until the edge is set but the center is still slightly jiggly. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely.
  3. MAKE THE MERINGUE Preheat the broiler. In a heatproof medium bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk the egg whites with the sugar until the whites are warm and the sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes. Transfer the egg whites to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk. Add the vanilla and cream of tartar and beat at medium speed until firm. Increase the speed to high and beat the meringue until stiff and glossy, 5 to 7 minutes.
  4.  Mound the meringue on top of the filling, swirling it decoratively. Broil the meringue 8 inches from the heat until lightly browned at the tips, about 1 minute. Cut into bars and serve.

 

Thoughts and Randomness

I can’t believe it’s been 9 days since I last posted to this blog.

Oh, it’s only been 9 days, you say? That’s not long at all. However, in my current mental state, 9 days feels like 9 years. As The Queen Mother would say, “The days are long but the weeks are short”. How very true…...

So, starting at the top (which is how every good story starts, or should anyway), here’s what’s been happening: As most parents know, life with two teenagers is always interesting. The shenanigans and goings-on have certainly tested and tried my patience, sanity and (at times) my temper. I am very fortunate that they really are good young adults, and are simply exercising their right to question my intelligence at every turn. I’ve turned to long walks and quality time with my Pilates video to keep my thoughts in order and my blood pressure down. Side note: it definitely helps.

Along that line, I haven’t been cooking and/or baking as much as usual, it seems that most evenings I eat dinner solo (J is still out of town). Sabrina and Alexander’s social lives are keeping them on the go-go-go, and I have had to stop and remind myself, on more than one occasion, that I don’t have to prepare dinner for four.  And the benefit is that I get to eat whatever I want :) 

I’ve also made a point to set aside the time and put more work into the family cookbook, and when I read this article earlier today, I must admit that it brought a tear to my eye, as so much of our lives are centered around food, family and (my) memories of childhood dinners. And it also made me exceptionally thankful that my Mom was (and still is) a great cook.

In other breaking news, we recently acquired 6 goats at the ranch:

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Say hello to Calvin (Klein), Tory (Burch), Kate (Spade), Tamara (Mellon), Stuart (Weitzman) and Cynthia (Rowley). About their names: I took the liberty of naming them after my favorite designers. The smallest one, Cynthia, will also go by the name Snowflake, as she is pure white. Mom bestowed that moniker on her, and Sabrina and I decided that will be her stage name. After all, I found her on top of the flatbed trailer the other day, standing at the front, in what looked like a scene from Titanic. I was about to get a picture, but the donkey next door started braying so loudly it startled all of them and they bolted. Anyway, the group are quite content in their new environment, as there are plenty of good eats – i.e. grass, flowers, and thistley plants they seem to enjoy – and a nifty water system I bribed Alexander and his friends to help me with. Now Sabrina is on me to procure a mini horse that she wants to name Reginald…..

Good lord.….

Speaking of Sabrina, she is thrilled to be attending prom next weekend:

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I sent this picture to The Queen Mother and Dad for dress approval, to which Dad replied, “Nice dress, and by the way, WHO is that?!”

I replied, “You didn’t hear it from me, but she’s going to be 18 next month. And graduating high school.”

So amidst and amongst all of the activities, party planning, and general end-of-the-school-year hullabaloo, I have taken to preparing highly detailed Excel spreadsheets, and making copious notes in my calendar to ensure I keep track of everything.

Organization = a woman’s secret weapon. So is a loaded .45, but that’s another story…….

Doughnut Waffles

Like I needed another reason to break out the waffle iron:

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There’s not much I can say for these tasty tidbits of cinnamon-sugar coated delicacies, except for the fact that I made them two weekends in a row, and each time every single one was eaten demolished.

Of course, my test audience was a group of hungry teenage boys (and dang, they are ALWAYS hungry!) – so perhaps my scientific approach (and test subjects) was flawed. No matter – these were worth the tiny bit of effort it took to make them and will definitely be made again.

Doughnut Waffles

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 cups flour

For the topping:

  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup of melted butter

Pre-heat your waffle griddle, and spray with non-stick cooking spray.

In a shallow dish, combine the granulated sugar and cinnamon for the topping. Put the melted butter for the topping in another shallow dish and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the sugar, baking powder, and nutmeg. Mix in the eggs, milk and melted butter. Stir in the flour, mixing just until combined. You are going to have thick, sticky batter.

Place the batter in the middle of each waffle part (some waffle makers will have 2 or 4) You can do large or small doughnuts. Cook for 3 minutes until golden brown. Remove the doughnuts from the waffle iron and place on a cooling rack.

Dip the waffle in butter, shake off, then dip into the cinnamon sugar mixture. Set back onto the rack and continue with the other doughnuts until finished.

Molasses Ginger Chocolate Cookies

Two days of baking disasters and I’m ready to throw in the towel. Wave the white flag. Concede defeat. Surrender my baking pans and whisks.

Well…..I don’t think I’m prepared to go that far.

It was very disheartening to have thrown out an entire cake yesterday (the texture was like rubber), and a 9″ x 13″ pan of congo brownies today (the brownie batter was dry with a capital D… and completely inedible).

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Instead, I’m going to chalk my losses up to a bad week, and try again tomorrow. I think.

Thank goodness these cookies came out perfect. However, I realized, as I was typing out the instructions, that I neglected to roll the uncooked dough balls in additional granulated sugar before baking.

As the recipe clearly states.

I think I need to stop while I’m ahead.

Molasses Ginger Chocolate Cookies – adapted from Susan Spungen

  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1½ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tbs cocoa powder, sifted
  • 12 tbs unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus another 1/2 cup for rolling the dough in before baking
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup candied ginger, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 350°. Whisk together flour, baking soda, spices and cocoa in a large bowl. Set aside.

With a stand or hand mixer, cream together butter and 1/3 cup dark brown and 1/3 cup granulated sugar until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.

Beat in egg yolk. Add molasses and vanilla. Add flour mixture. Mix until combined and no flour pockets remain. Stir in chocolate chunks and candied ginger. Chill dough until firm.

Roll 1 ounce tablespoonfuls of cookie dough into balls. Roll in the additional granulated sugar. Place on cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Bake 10-12 minutes, rotating after 5 minutes, until beginning to crack and edges are just set. Do not overbake. Let cookies cool briefly on baking sheet then transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely.