Archive | April, 2014

Everybody Has a Little Jack in Them

30 Apr

 

Image courtesy of Shuffle.com

Image courtesy of StatusShuffle.com

 

Apparently he thinks I’m like Jack.

 

Jack is back

Jack is back … Are you ready?

 

And you know what?

Sometimes I am.

Although I may need a little more than 24 hours to save the day and a lot of chocolate to celebrate.

Things get rough and tough, whether you’re married, or divorced. Parent or living single. I’ve learned that everybody has a struggle. Everybody has something in their life that challenges their patience, their zen-like state of mind, and their road to happiness. Everyone has something that will eventually burn them out. I know something pops up for me at least once a week.

But I think I’ve found it.

Perspective. Sometimes I lose it.

Yeah it’s gone missing a couple of times during road rage, relationship disasters, and personal crises. Writer’s block attacking you when you’ve only got an hour to spare, mother reminding you of things you just can’t bear, rejection letters piling in, anti-aging creams that are just not working,  kids that love you but don’t listen, and student loans that don’t seem to be shrinking. All this burns me out, but it doesn’t completely ruin my day anymore. I don’t know if I’ve developed a thicker skin. I’d like to think that I’ve just managed to find my Jack Bauer.

Yeah … I eventually have a light-bulb moment and it comes back to me.

I’ve found a routine that’s helped me uncover it … helped me find my hidden Jack Bauer. Normally it takes a triathlon or climbing 1,400 stairs to ignite this bad-ass nature but I can still capture that feeling without running a race or achieving a Bucket List Adventure.

Through my hour of power in the morning, which includes a Rocky Balboa type of work out minus the raw eggs of course, thoughts on gratitude although on days when everything blows up I’m just grateful that I have clean underwear, and my pump-it-up jams which often include 80s music and Pharrell Williams, and my meditation challenges in the evening which at times lead to a snooze fests in mid session because I’m not as Zen as I’d like to think, just exhausted. With all of these steps I’ve managed to improve my outlook in the last couple of months.

I’ve managed to find my inner Jack Bauer. My badass.

Dude … everybody has a little Jack in them.You just have to remember to let him out.

Jack is back.

 

 

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The Seinfeld Chronicles: My Big Salad Moment

28 Apr

It’s worse than taking the last potato chip.

It’s worse than drinking all the Simply Orange and then leaving the carton in the fridge.

It’s worse than eating the last piece of chocolate cake.

Yeah … it’s pretty bad. It’s a did-that-just-happen-to-me-yeah-it-did-I can’t-believe-that-just-happened-to-me moment. And only one person could understand what I was going through, could understand the principle of the thing.

The principle.

Costanza. George Costanza. He knows exactly what I’m talking about.

“Yeah sure … you’re welcome.”

I sat there on the couch and I heard it, but I couldn’t believe it. I mean it’s family. My family. And within this Guat familial structure you know you’re not supposed to cross culinary lines. You’re just not.

The kitchen is sacred ground. You don’t go taking credit for something that isn’t yours. If it’s Tia Lola’s guacamole, it’s Tia Lola’s guacamole.  You don’t go passing it off as your own. Just because you put the guacamole in an avocado looking bowl doesn’t mean you should get the thank you that rightfully belongs to the chef. If it’s my broiled chicken in special red sauce, then it’s mine. You can’t go off pretending like you made it. You can’t.  I mean you may kid around a bit, but in the end you usually cave into the truth.

This did not happen.

I saw the thank you happen as she handed the plate over and then the you’re welcome followed. And I sat there in my George Costanza state of mind as compliments were being exchanged. I sat there waiting for it. Waiting for the … oh no I didn’t make it, she did.

I was waiting for it.

And it never came.

 

Has this happened to you?

Has this happened to you?

 

Normally I guess I would have let it go, but the compliments kept coming in and she just took them. Just grabbed them. She stole them, really. It was like class 5 felony.

And in truth she could have stopped it at any time. There were plenty of pause breaks. But she continued to nod her head and smile, as if taking the chicken out of the package was somehow a contribution to the final dish worthy of a Food Network Challenge. No dude. No it wasn’t and she knew it too. She knew. But what made the moment worse was the fact that someone in my family that rarely gives thank yous or compliments was gushing over the chicken, asking for seconds and thirds and even a take-home plate. And there she was taking the apron off and pretending she had something to do with that bird.

Dude.

I had no words. I sat there betrayed by my family in the kitchen.

I was just feeling the George Costanza in me bubble out.

But I waited. I waited for her to leave and then said …  Duuuuuuude … that was my chicken! What the hell?

And all I got was a raised eyebrow questioning the validity of my statement.

Dude.

Serenity now.

 

 

 

12 x 12 Chocolate Challenge: Getting Drunk on Chocolate

25 Apr

To make up for last week’s chocolate disaster I wanted to make a change-your-life cake that would actually live up to its hype.

You know … make me breathe different. Make me change my state.

Now normally the frosting or the filling on the cakes blows me away and sort of takes over the chocolate challenge. But I gotta say this week the sweet stout-infused whipped cream frosting came in second to the amazingly moist light chocolate stout cake with a tender crumb that makes you close your eyes and sigh.

I thought beer was just good for burgers and carne asada.

Never cakes.

I mean I was a little worried considering my chocolate beet disaster from last week. I didn’t really want any surprise ingredients. And if you want to know the truth I’m not a real big stout drinker. All I knew about stout was that Guinness made one. My stout education was limited. So when I went to pick up a bottle stout for this recipe I had no idea which one was sad and which one would rock my world.

My pub expert TB Markinson lives way across the Atlantic Ocean and I didn’t realize I’d be stout shopping, otherwise I would have totally asked her for some guidance before today’s baking adventure began.

So after about thirty minutes of studying bottles and cool labels I asked the beer dude to give me some recommendations on good stout. He got into an apples and oranges discussion about preferences, textures, and finishes. Then the “say-what?” expression on my face made him realize I was a stout rookie and he just pointed me in the direction of Samuel Smith.

Dude.

 

IMG_4280

🙂

 

I could have easily eaten half of the cake and gotten drunk off of it … but I didn’t need to go into a sugar coma, so I showed some restraint and only ate two pieces.

I’m back on the saddle again. Giddy up.

 

 

This recipe is ginormous so unless you’re have a gazillion people I suggest you half the recipe and create a more modest two layer cake.

 

Recipe courtesy of Brooklyn Supper

 

Chocolate Stout Cake (adapted from Bon Appétit via Epicurious)
makes three 8-inch layers

for the cake
2 cups good stout, such as Samuel Smith’s or Guinness
4 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups Dutch-process cocoa powder
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 eggs
1 1/3 cups sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter three 8-inch cake pans, line bottom with a parchment circle, and then butter that too.

In a heavy-bottomed medium-sized sauce pan, heat the butter and stout over medium-low heat. When the butter has melted, turn heat to low and whisk in the cocoa. Remove pan from heat, and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt together in a medium-sized bowl.

Using a hand mixer, or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sour cream together on low speed. Slowly add the cocoa mixture, mixing just until combined. (Scrape down the sides as needed.) Gradually add the flour mixture, and beat just until it is well-incorporated. Turn off the mixer and use a spatula to scrape the sides and catch any stray flour.

Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans, and then slide into the oven. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached.

After 10 minutes, flip the cakes onto a wire rack and cool completely before frosting.

for the whipped cream stout frosting (adapted from Gourmet Live via Epicurious)
2 cups cold heavy cream
1/4 cup stout
3 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt

Use a mixer or whisk to beat all of the ingredients to stiff (but still supple) peaks. Frost and assemble the cake.

Keep in the refrigerator until your are ready to serve for optimal looks.

Weekly Photo Challenge: On Top

23 Apr

 

Cairns, Australia

Cairns, Australia

 

On top is pretty awesome.

Although on top, on vacation, in Australia … Spectacular!

 

 

The Guat Eggstravaganza

21 Apr

It’s the time of year when I usually prepare myself to see the worst.

The trampling, the pushing, the shoving, the crazed eyes, and the intensity.

I witness the ultimate I-can’t-believe-that-just-happened moments out there on the Easter Egg Hunting fields.

And you … the parents. Yeah I’m talking about those khaki wearing, high-heel clacking, sun hat styling parents. You look nice enough, but once that teenager on the bull-horn shouts “go!” … it’s like you forgot you were normal, or maybe that’s just the real you coming out. I don’t know …

Luckily there was only one of you … just one. I couldn’t believe it. Maybe the others woke up late or something. In any case it was good that there weren’t too many of you. Just the one. It made for a more enjoyable egg hunting experience.

But our Easter started way before we hit the grassy fields. It all began with egg shells. At home. My son was already a professional egg artist. However my daughter needed a little more time. Thank God I had so many 12 x 12 Chocolate Challenges, we needed a couple of practice runs before my daughter finally found her inner Rainbow Brite.

 

 

 

One of the most important parts of the weekend was coloring eggs. Once they got the hang of the egg art I was sidelined and their artistic independence busted out.

One of the most important parts of the weekend was coloring eggs. Once they got the hang of the egg art I was sidelined and their artistic independence busted out.

 

After our eggstravaganza we headed to our Easter Family tradition ... thought about my Dad, placed some bets but didn't have Dad's magic touch. I was 0 for 3.

After our eggstravaganza we headed to our Easter Family tradition … thought about my Dad, placed some bets but didn’t have Dad’s magic touch. I was 0 for 3.

 

After watching a few races, it was time for the main event. And after all the running around we do at home and with our adventures they did just fine beating out the crowd.

After watching a few races, it was time for the main event. And after all the running around we do at home and with our adventures they did just fine beating out the crowd.

 

They definitely nailed it ... although once we opened the eggs the chocolate seemed to have melted in the California sun. But that didn't seem to matter to my kids chocolate was chocolate and it was on.

They definitely nailed it … although once we opened the eggs the chocolate seemed to have melted in the California sun. But that didn’t seem to matter to my kids chocolate was chocolate and it was on.

 

After eating about five pounds of chocolate and hosing off, we headed to the play area and made friends with the coolest dude. Seabiscuit made an appearance and I was so glad that we all got a chance to meet him.

After eating about five pounds of chocolate and hosing off, we headed to the play area and made friends with the coolest dude. Seabiscuit made an appearance and I was so glad that we all got a chance to meet him.

 

After all the Easter fun, with no nap and pretty awesome tans, we decided to roll out and get home in time for dinner.

After all the Easter fun, with no nap and pretty awesome tans, we decided to roll out and get home in time for dinner.

 

But once again no Guat holiday is complete unless Snoopy and Charlie Brown are involved. :)

But once again no Guat holiday is complete unless Snoopy and Charlie Brown are involved. 🙂

 

And cake ... you gotta have chocolate cake :)

And cake … you gotta have chocolate cake 🙂

 

 

12 x 12 Chocolate Challenge … I Only Had One Piece

18 Apr

You know what?

They lied.

It didn’t change my life.

It was one of the things that shouldn’t be on a list. You know how they have those 10-best-things list on every magazine or mindless entertainment gossip show. They come up with the beautiful people on the Earth list and then there’s that one person that doesn’t belong –like that materialistic reality star that has absolutely no talent but managed to get on the list because they had a sex tape.

Yeah.

This is what happened to this bundt cake. It should not have been on the 12 Life-Changing Chocolate Cakes List.

I only had one piece.

Just one. It never really happened before. I’m an automatic two-piece-kind-of-gal when it comes to chocolate cake. But this time I only had one. And it had nothing to do with what it looked like … it looked enticing, smelled awesome, and the texture was nice, light, and crumbly. I couldn’t wait to dig in. I mean look at it … if it was at an Easter Brunch Buffet, I’d be all over that.

 

:)

Notice the size is not as big as my previous 12 x 12 chocolate tastings.

 

But I realized not everything goes with chocolate.

I never thought I would say that but yes it’s true.

Almost everything … not this. This was supposed to add a natural bit of sweetness in addition to the honey and maple syrup. But all it added was an un-camouflaged vegetable.

Beets.

It was a Dark Chocolate Beet Bundt Cake.

I mean when you think about it, really I should have been psyched. Beets have all kinds of benefits. I mean it has Boron which is supposed to produce massive amounts of sex hormones so dudes should be feeding this to their wives all the time. It has all of the awesome vitamins, all the ABC’s, plus iron. It’s supposed to cleanse my body and prevent a few forms of cancer. Plus it has all these natural components that are supposed to lower my blood pressure, relax my mind, and help with my depression.

Yeah …

I should have been psyched, but I’ve never mixed vegetables and cake before. I know it exists out there, I mean I’ve had carrot cake, not too fond of it, but I’ve had it. However chocolate and vegetables? Never heard of it. But if I was trying to get my kids to eat more vegetables this would be the cake to do it. But that wasn’t my plan. I wasn’t going for that. I was going for the change your life cake.

It was on the list. I had to give it a try.  After all it was chocolate. And in all fairness it was pretty tasty, pretty decadent, all the parts … except when I got to the beets. Imagine if I would have followed the directions … there would  be beets in every bite. I didn’t do it on purpose though. It said three medium-sized beets and that’s what I got. They were supposed to yield two cups of shredded beets. However I just came up with one.

It’s all good though. I think I was better off with my adjustment. I was able to weave my way in and out of that hidden vegetable. But you never know … if you’re a vegetarian, or love beets, or want more Boron in your diet so you can have all kinds of hormones surging, then this is the cake for you. This cake is on your list.

 

 

Dark Chocolate Beet Bundt Cake Recipe

 

Cook the beets ahead of time and this cake will come together fairly quickly. You can boil, steam, or roast your beets whole, then peel and grate them. Recipe adapted from the Green Market Baking Book.
Ingredients
  • 3 medium beets, cooked and cooled
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup light olive oil
  • 3/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup organic, unbleached white flour
  • 1 cup organic whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter a 10-cup bundt pan and dust it lightly with cocoa.
  2. Grate the beets on a box grater and measure them; you should have 2 cups of grated beets. Transfer them to a medium colander and allow them to drain of any excess moisture while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the melted butter, olive oil, maple syrup and honey until everything is well blended.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until smooth. Add the vanilla extract.
  5. Sift together the flours, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Gently fold the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, but do not over mix.
  6. Fold the beets into the batter until distributed, then scrape the batter into the prepared bundt pan and spread around until it is even.
  7. Bake for about 35-45 minutes, until a wooden skewer comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool, in the pan on a wire rack, for a good 20 minutes.
  8. Carefully invert the pan onto a plate, tap gently, and the cake will drop out. Serve warm or cool. Will keep for up to four days, well wrapped in plastic.

Recipe Courtesy of Simple Bites

 

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Monument

16 Apr

 

A nice tribute.

A nice tribute.

 

It’s not as inspiring  as the original in Iwo Jima, but I thought this was such an amazing tribute created by the LEGO Master Builders.

At least 1,000 pieces.

More.

Definitely more.

Definitely monumental.

 

 

Sanbox List Adventure 29: Meeting Your Hero

14 Apr

We have 13 of them.

Over the past year we’ve collected 13 of them. We started with three and now we have 13. I’m sure the count is gonna keep on rising. Apparently the Cape Crusader is the best superhero on Earth, even though he doesn’t actually have superhero powers, he’s super skilled in martial arts and has all kinds of gadgets to assist his crime fighting capabilities.

So it was of the utmost important that we didn’t miss meeting him.

At last year’s Festival of Books, we witnessed the awesomeness of The Justice League read one of their adventures on stage, but failed to meet them in person, which did not go over well with the kids. Luckily I was able to distract them with snacks, samples, superhero books, Captain Underpants, Scooby-Doo, and other scavenger hunt prizes.

I was packing light this year, and didn’t think sandwiches, Cutie oranges, cheese sticks, and graham crackers would cut it. So I was determined to weave my way in and out of the overheated masses and their cranky parents to reach the Meet-and-Greet line. I was on a mission to make the introduction. I was on a mission to make a Sandbox List Adventure come true.

So I was a little worried when a guy wearing a batman t-shirt and cap came on stage to read Skyscraper Showdown. I didn’t see Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, or Batman. Don’t get me wrong the guy was quite animated and very into the story, but he had nothing on the Cape Crusader.

I began to worry as my son asked me for the third time where Batman was and my daughter was wondering when Flash or Wonder Woman were going to show up … but then just as the Joker was about to escape … he showed up and the crowd went wild. Apparently it was one of the best readings we attended. And even though Batman was the only superhero there, my daughter followed her brother’s lead and enjoyed the book.

But the magic of reading didn’t stop there.

We spent the rest of the day exploring the books, going on adventures that can only happen with literary magic, listening to music, and meeting all kinds of authors. It was one of the best Sandbox List Adventures this year. I know that because they’re still talking about it.

 

We got there early and saddled-up for an awesome adventure.

We got there early and saddled-up for an awesome adventure.

 

One of our first stops was the checking out the featured band ... that woke everybody up with their awesome jams.

One of our first stops was checking out the featured band … they woke everybody up with their awesome jams.

 

We followed that up by adding our names and favorite books to the wall of inspiration. My son of course chose Batman :)

We followed that up by adding our names and some of our favorite books to the wall of inspiration. My son of course chose Batman 🙂 My daughter chose The Very Hungry Caterpillar book. I decided to add The Alchemist, Eat Pray Love, and The Life of Pi.

 

We managed to play a few games before we went to the main event.

We managed to play a few games before we went to the main event.

 

Then we headed to the children's stage to check out our main event.

Then we headed to the Children’s Stage to check out our main event. We got front seats and enjoyed the reading of Skyscraper Showdown.

 

This is when all the kids went crazy ...

However the crowd went wild when this guy showed up …

 

However this is when my son was starstruck. He could barely contain himself. He was so excited to meet his hero and have Batman sign his book. It was his cartwheel-worthy moment of the week.

My son was starstruck. He could barely contain himself. He was so excited to meet his hero and have Batman sign his book. It was his cartwheel-worthy moment of the week.

 

When the awesomeness of the Cape Crusader was done, we explored the rest of the festival and discovered new authors.

When the awesomeness of the Cape Crusader was done, we explored the rest of the festival and discovered new authors.

 

During our exploration this was one of the funnest books and booths we discovered. My daughter did her best surfer pose and joined the characters ofthe book.

During our exploration this was one of the funnest books and booths we discovered. My daughter did her best surfer pose and joined the characters of the book.

 

During our browsing session, I found this book that caught my eye. The fact that Diego Luna read it aloud intrigued me.

During our browsing session, I found this book that caught my eye. The fact that Diego Luna read it aloud intrigued me.

 

After we picked up all of our books, from new and established authors, we headed home with all kinds of inspiration and new ideas.

After we picked up all of our books, from new and established authors, we headed home with all kinds of inspiration and new ideas.

 

 

 

 

12 x 12 Chocolate Challenge … The One That Requires Massive Wipes

11 Apr

Just when I think I might not pull it off … I do.

I like that I can surprise myself. Makes me feel chocolate-worthy.

Although I didn’t think it would happen today … there was frosting and powered sugar everywhere. It was a culinary disaster demanding the power of wipes all over the counter tops and the magic of The Swiffer on all floors.

However the recipe seemed so deceptively easy being that I cooked everything in one pan, but I realized I’m not that great of a pourer when it comes to stove-top action. And if your hand-eye coordination sporadically fails you, like it does me, wipes are definitely a necessity when attempting this recipe.

Costco-sized wipes.

Regardless of the mess, it was amazingly awesome. It was the first sheet cake of the challenge, so I was worried it wouldn’t rate as well as the other double-decker dessert masterpieces I baked. But when someone calls this recipe the “Lighter Version of Grandma’s Chocolate Sheet Cake,” you know you’ve got something. Grandma’s seal of approval on anything coming from the kitchen is high-five worthy.

Plus I had to make something spectacular that would last until Sunday … you know to celebrate.

Because you all know what’s happening on Sunday, don’t you?

Don.

Don Draper is back and I need to celebrate the return of Mad Men with something special. The Lighter Version of Grandma’s Chocolate Sheet Cake seemed appropriate. Although just because it says it’s lighter doesn’t mean it’s less chocolatey, it’s plenty chocolatey and buckle-your-knees tasty. The “light” in the title  just means you’re tempted to eat more pieces because it has the word “light” in it and you think it will be all good. It’s not … you still have to walk it off, dance it off, or work it out. Especially if you eat half of the cake.

Yeah … I think I might do some push-ups tomorrow.

 

This definitely made me happy today :)

This definitely made me happy today 🙂

 

Recipe Courtesy of I Heart Eating.
Chocolate Cake
1/2 c. butter
1/4 c. cocoa
1 c. water
1/2 c. low-fat buttermilk
1/4 c. fat-free plain Greek yogurt
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. granulated sugar
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
Chocolate Icing
1/2 c. butter
1/4 c. cocoa powder
1/3 c. low-fat buttermilk
3 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. chopped nuts (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a cookie sheet (I use a 15×11-inch rimmed cookie sheet) with edges.
  2. Melt butter in a large saucepan.
  3. Once butter has melted, stir in water and cocoa powder; bring to a boil.
  4. Once at a boil, add buttermilk, and stir to combine.
  5. Remove pan from heat.
  6. Add the yogurt, eggs, and vanilla, and stir until well-combined.
  7. Stir in sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt until just combined.
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
  9. While the cake is baking prepare the icing.
  10. For the icing, combine the butter, cocoa, and buttermilk. Bring to a boil.
  11. Remove from heat, and add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and nuts (if using). Stir to combine. Pour icing over hot cake and spread evenly over cake

I Have Umph …

9 Apr

 

They made my commercial :)

They made my commercial 🙂