Tag Archives: American

The Best Chocolate Cake Ever!!!

I have found this recipe online several times, often with the title “The Best Chocolate Cake Ever!!!”  And while it is a very good, very chocolatey chocolate cake, I don’t know if I could say it’s the best ever.  That is a very big claim.  But yesterday, after much pleading from Lulu and feeling like we all needed the mood boost a chocolate cake brings, I decided to bust out my new silicon cupcake pan.  I was hoping for cute little mini-bundt cake looking cupcakes.

IMG_0356

Bonus points because it’s green!

Instead, I got this:

IMG_0354

Now, it’s kind of hard to tell from this lousy photograph, but that is a clumpy pile of chocolate cakes that have none of the decorative grooves and whatnot I expected.  Which brings me to my problem with this cake: both times I have made it, it has refused to come out (the first time I used a metal cake pan).  No matter how good a cake tastes (and this one does taste very good), I cannot consider it “the best ever” it it sticks to the pan and breaks.  I’m a bit perplexed as to how to fix this…increase the baking temperature?  Cook it longer?  Maybe oil the pan instead of butter-and-flouring it?  If any of you baker pros out there have any tips, please leave them in the comments!

No matter how this cake looks, it does taste very good, and the recipe is a nice basic one to have on hand.  You could easily tweak it a little bit (like I did for Christmas, adding ground cardamom and orange zest) to add a flavor boost.  And, um, if it does happen to fall apart on you, just follow Lulu’s example:

IMG_0359Grab the biggest clump you can find and shove it in your mouth!

(Maybe) The Best Chocolate Cake Ever

1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. espresso powder (I used 1 tsp. instant coffee added to the boiling water)
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup boiling water

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients thoroughly.  (You can do this recipe by had with a whisk or with a hand mixer.)  Add the remaining ingredients except the boiling water and mix thoroughly.  Add the water (with the instant coffee if you’re using that) and mix as fast as possible for one minute.  Bake at 350 F for 30-35 minutes in a 9″ pan that has been greased and floured.

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No-Bake Cookies

My relationship with food has become very complicated during this pregnancy.  There are so many “guidelines” about what and when and how much pregnant women are supposed (or not supposed) to eat.  And don’t forget the cocktail of vitamins.

For instance:

  • I am supposed to get about 567% of the average person’s daily amount of iron and calcium.  But for optimal absorption, iron and calcium should not be consumed (whether in food or vitamin form) within two hours of each other.  So, if my breakfast cereal is fortified with iron but I eat it with calcium-rich milk, is it even worth counting the amounts of minerals in that meal?  And my three-times-a-day iron supplements, plus the regular prenatal vitamin…when do I take those?
  • Also, the midwife wants me eating 90 grams of protein each day.  Seriously?  Maybe I should consider this my free ticket to eat steak every day, but as much as I try to cram in dairy products and eggs and tofu and beans and reasonable (affordable) amounts of meat, I doubt I am anywhere close to 90 grams of protein.
  • Can we also discuss the fact that most protein-rich foods are also very high in calories?  Pregnant women only need 300 additional calories every day.
  • Don’t forget too the commandment to eat at least six servings of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Given these imperatives, it must be seen as a divine miracle that humanity has survived as long as we have without a mass proliferation of useless limbs, third eyes and missing organs.  And while I really do want a healthy baby and have worked very hard to follow these eating guidelines as much as possible, there comes the occasional moment when I just have to say, “Screw it.”  And then I make these no-bake cookies.  But only a half batch, because there’s no need to go overboard in indulgence 🙂

That's all I left for Hungry Husband.

No-Bake Cookies (makes about 3 dozen)

  • 1 3/4 c. white sugar
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 4 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 c. crunchy peanut butter
  • 3 c. quick-cooking oats
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, milk, butter, and cocoa.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 90 seconds, stirring.  (These 90 seconds are really the key…if you cook this for too little time, the cookies will not set, and if you overcook it they will be dry and crumbly.)
Remove the pan from heat, and stir in the peanut butter, oats, and vanilla until thoroughly mixed.
Drop by spoonful onto waxed paper (or, if you are like me and don’t have waxed paper, a regular plate/platter will do just fine) and let cool.

What I’ve Been Up To…

Hi there.

Yes, it’s been a long time.  Longer than I ever would have expected.  When I started this blog, I vowed I would not be “one of those people.”  You know, the ones who start going strong and then suddenly drop off the face of the virtual world.

But, that’s what happened.  Multiple moves, one (very healthy, pleasant, and still ongoing) pregnancy, and a very uncertain future have taken the vast majority of my physical, mental and emotional energy over the past few months.

Still, I’ve come up with a few things worth sharing.  The first (which I only tell you about because it was something new to me) falls into the category of “church potluck casserole.”  That is, it contains canned cream of (anything) soup and some sort of crust on top–often, french-fried onions, but in this case, crumbled crackers.  I thought it absolutely revolting and wrong in so many ways, but Hungry Husband liked it, and so did the people at the homeless shelter.  But I threw the recipe away.  Quickly.  Because canned cream of (anything) soup is not real food.

Church Potluck Casserole

Fortunately, I have had better luck since then.  In the midst of what has been a long and very stormy spring, I have been yearning for summer and light, fresh flavors.  First, I came up with a lovely black bean-based salad.  It’s the sort of thing that does not have a recipe…I just threw in things that reminded me of the Caribbean: black beans, mango, celery, red peppers, red onions, cilantro, lime juice, chili powder, chicken, corn, jalapeno, garlic, cumin.  It is very flexible and tasty.  I took a big bowl to a friend’s graduation party last weekend and the dish was cleaned out rather quickly.

So pretty!

Finally, another recipe-less dish based on one of my favorite marinades: olive oil, lemon juice, cilantro, and garlic.  I whipped up some penne pasta, opened a can of salmon (fresh salmon is way out of our budget right now–boo!) and had Hungry Husband chunk the meat, and turned the marinade ingredients–plus a slab of butter) into a sauce.  When the pasta was ready I threw everything together and voila!  A fresh and flavorful pasta dish that pairs perfectly with sauteed or grilled vegetables.

A perfect pasta for summertime longings

Tonight, I am having Taco Lasagna with Cilantro Lime Cream Sauce (from Sweet Peas and Pumpkins), and I’m secretly glad that Hungry Husband is away for the night, because I may eat the whole pan myself.  Good thing I only made a half recipe!

What do YOU eat in Winter?

Toast slathered with butter.  Couscous porridge with butter and whole fat milk.  Potatoes mashed with butter, whole fat milk, and an entire head of garlic.

See a theme here?  For me, winter is all about fat and carbohydrates.  I have no qualms confessing that my diet is highly influenced by the season; I know I’m not alone here.  Most of humanity begins thinking this way as evening falls earlier and earlier and we all huddle about wondering how to survive another long, cold winter.  We may not be able to hibernate for the entire three or four months, but we can sure eat like we’re preparing to!

Tonight I made a cheesy potato-corn-white bean chowder.  It started out with onion cooked in a large chunk of butter until translucent, then a few minced cloves of garlic, two smallish diced potatoes, and about 2 1/2 cups each chicken broth and fully fat and wonderful milk, brought to a boil and simmered gently.  Oh, it smelled heavenly!  Once the potatoes were tender I added one (drained) can each of corn and white beans, a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and some cubed cheese, maybe 1/3 cup, which led to the only slightly disappointing part of the whole shebang.  In my extreme cheapness, I had forsaken the real cheese and bought processed cheese.  I was thinking Velveeta; what I got instead was a sticky white brick that refused to melt even when cut into very small pieces, meaning that instead of a consistently gooey cheesy broth, I ended up with a milky broth with bursts of cheesy(ish) goodness.

(That’s all the recipe you’re getting for this.  It’s so very simple.  And soup is really something that was made for adaptation and improvisation, so you can take this idea and recreate it yourself in whatever manner works for you.  I would suggest better cheese, though!)

And I ate it out of a mug, because it is a well known fact that soup (umm, or chowder, whatever the difference may be) always tastes best when eaten out of either a mug or a bread bowl.  Bread bowls being in short supply round these parts, I happily grasped my mug in both hands (giving the additional benefit of warm to my chilly little fingers) and soaked up my leftover broth with a warm wheat roll.  (And no, I did not butter the roll.  But I did consider it…)