I used to dislike baking. Too much science. You have to get the proportions right or things go really wrong. Not like ‘not my favorite dish’ wrong, like ‘that wasn’t supposed to be a pancake’ wrong. But sometime in the last couple of years I decided that if my sister could bake, so could I. We both have about the same genetic material. I should be able to do it. So my cakes have been getting progressively more elaborate.
I’ve planned my husband’s birthday cake this year doing a couple of things I haven’t done before and I’m afraid I may have overdone it. Since he does most of the shopping I decided it would be easier to tell him what I was doing instead of trying to surprise him. I’m making chocolate coffee cake with chocolate ganache and mochoa creme frosting. The best part is that he seems to like the idea of a chocolate-coffee flavored cake. But I’m a little apprehensive. I’ve never made ganache before and I’ve heard it can be tricky. I also never tried to modify the flavor of a cake before. I’m planning on using Starbucks Via and I can’t find much on using it baking. From what I’ve found, you use it more like a spice, mixing it with your dry ingredients, but there’s no info on how much of it to use. Oh boy! Improvisational baking. ‘Cause that’s worked out so well in the past. I’ll err on the low side and add more to the batter if necessary. I’ll bake the cake tonight and frost it tomorrow. And find someplace to hide it from my cat in the meantime. One time I made a cake, set it on the table and started to walk away. Before I had gone two steps she had jumped up on the table and taken a bite. Finding someplace cat-proof is a necessity.
Didn’t go anywhere for the 4th at all. The usual family thing is to go to Mom’s, swim in the neighbor’s pool, barbecue hamburgers and hot dogs a let off a box of “safe and sane” fireworks in the front yard. This year youngest sister’s kids had their own thing to do and middle sister just had back surgery. Youngest sister and I had lunch with Mom; I cooked steaks. Mom ate more steak than anyone. Success! Note to self: stick with the simple stuff. The fancy stuff looks like it might be fun to try, but too many things can go wrong.
So on the 4th, we did go anywhere. I made another rock for the front yard. It was a bit more difficult than the first one. The egg shape sheds water downward, making the lower part mushy and prone to collapse. I had to make the mixture much drier to compensate. I tried to make a pot. It was not a success and I just didn’t have the energy at that point to continue working until it was. Today my back is sore and I still have cement under my fingernails. I didn’t plan for sweat to be a major component of my cement, but it is.
The rest of the day was very quiet. Mostly me laying around trying to recover from rock building. The Wonderful Spouse made dinner, yay! Then we watched a couple of episodes of . Gibbering gonzo, that show has a major dose of weird. Not as weird as American Gods, which we are also watching, but weird. That seems to be the flavor of the month. Overmanipulated, hypersaturated colors in the video and improbable mythology.
The things we did, or didn’t, were good, but at the end of the day I found myself missing the tiny, underwhelming family holiday.
Made what Mom called 24 hour salad this weekend. I think most people would call it Ambrosia Salad, which I can’t think of without thinking of Edward Scissorhands. It consists of whipped cream and canned fruit and would never be something I would choose to make.
I also did something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I downloaded a recording app to my phone and asked Mom questions about family history and recorded the ensuing conversation. Her answer to my questions weren’t what I was expecting. Which is the point, when you think of it. We’re getting together for my nephew’s birthday on Saturday. I’m going to go a little early and see if I can get another question answered. She’s been looking so frail and feeling so poorly lately, this is not something I want to put off. I wish I’d started a long time ago. I was really happy with the way the recorder worked on my phone. It’s really easy to use. I just pushed the record button and placed the phone face down on the table between us and started talking. I was worried that it wouldn’t pick up her voice because she speaks pretty softly, but the recording was clear and easy to understand.
Part of our Too Much Cake day was my first cheesecake. Which turned out to be too much cake all by itself. It was too much to eat it all, but too good to throw away. It was at least successful, which I count as a plus.
Forecast for my neighborhood today is 112, (44 C). Not my favorite time of year. Everything in the garden goes on hold and we barricade ourselves in the house, windows closed and blinds drawn. It’s a struggle to keep anything in pots alive. I’m going to move some into the planters, just so that they won’t get the reflected heat from the patio surface. Things in smaller containers just dry out so quickly that it’s hard to keep up.
Weather this hot is always disappointing to me. It makes it much more unpleasant to be outside and I really can’t plant anything, even stuff that I’ve had waiting for a while. The plants have enough stress with all the heat. Most wouldn’t survive the stress of transplanting right now. So rather than the high possibility of killing my plants, I’ll wait. But since today is the first day of summer and hot weather often lasts through the end of October here, I may be waiting a while. Impatiently.
Cooking with Mom this weekend was pizza rolls. Not really much of a cooking challenge, but tasty nonetheless.
Crescent rolls filled with a mixture of cheeses, rolled up, sliced and baked, eaten dipped in pizza sauce. We seem to be be doing a lot of pizza sorts of things. We’re going to try the tomato tart again next week with a slightly different recipe. I’ll try to remember to bring the balsamic glaze this time.
We had our first failure at the Mom and Me cooking club this weekend. A totally inedible, throw them in the trash failure.
Mom picked this recipe for us to make. It sounded good. A little sweet, a little savory. They looked just like the picture from the recipe before they went in the oven. When they came out of the oven, all of the cheese had melted out of the apricots and burned. Each piece was sitting in a puddle of charred cheese. I’m kind of thinking that the temperature in the recipe (425F for 15 – 20 minutes) is a mistake. 225 until warmed through seems like it might be a more reasonable instruction. But I’m not that good a cook. I generally make things by the book the first time around. I don’t get creative with recipes until I’ve made it once and have some idea of what I’m doing. On the plus side, I now have some mascarpone and some ricotta and I think some manicotti is in the future.
Spent most of Saturday potting up succulents. I have a hard time matching the plant to the pot sometimes. I got several nice pots from Seaside Gardens in Carpinteria. They had both long tom pots and shallow terra cotta pots. It’s hard to find anything ordinary pots at the local nurseries, so when the opportunity comes around I try to stock up. I’ve had several glazed pots that I got just because I liked them, but hadn’t put anything in them. I did my best at matching the needs of the plant to the pot. I’ve had some trouble with root rot this year because of the rains. The way my yard is set up it gets shade in the winter and sun in the summer. Not an ideal situation.
It was a beautiful day for working in the yard Saturday. Not too hot. Had several butterflies hanging around for most of the day. A couple of large monarchs floated around.
And a less countable number of gulf fritillaries. They move so fast.
The fritillary larvae are all over the place. Most of the passionflower vines that come up all over from seed are chewed leafless. I’m always tempted to put a bunch of them in my bug jar, but I’ve been resisting. The yard can only support so many, so I’ve been letting nature decide how many I have. I let all of the passion flower vine and milkweed that sprouts grow, despite the fact that they don’t add to the aesthetics of yard, being perpetually caterpillar eaten.
It’s funny how I can work in the yard all day and no one but me can tell the difference.
This is a brand new favorite. Last night I made a Bulgogi chicken pizza based on this recipe. I used chicken instead of beef, and skipped the corn and pepper and sauteed onions and mushrooms with the chicken. Instant favorite. I did have some errors in technique. I did not immediately realize that temps were in Centigrade, although that was only during the time I was warming the pizza stone. Outside of having a crust that wasn’t as crispy as I’d like, it was great. Definitely something to add to the dinner menu rotation. Providing that I can make it the same way twice. Consistency in cooking is something that often evades me.