My Twentieth Birthday Wishlist

2015 Birthday Wishlist

In exactly one month and a day, I will be graduating out of the Teen Blogger hashtag and into my twenties. My TWENTIES!

I honestly only dreamed out my life until about eighteen, where I would have finally graduated from High school and left that horrible life of Math and History behind. Then I figured it would be pure bliss from then on. The world would be my oyster.

The world is still my oyster, and besides falling in love with blogging, I don’t have a set path for my life. But I’m figuring it out. I feel like I’m getting closer to what I want to do.

Anyways. All that to say, my birthday is coming up, so I started brainstorming what my answers would be to the inevitable question: what do you want for your birthday?

Vanilla Pound Cake

So, if you read my previous post. You know that I was excited about making the vanilla pound cake I read about on Martha Stewart’s site. And I was.

This recipe was so easy a ten year old could do it. At least, one claimed to in the comments. So, challenge accepted.

It’s actually really cool that if you want, you can try the recipe with me. Just follow the link to the recipe in my previous post, “On The Hunt“, and let’s try this thing.

If you do decide to try this out, I’m going to add in tips on things I figured out the hard way, so you don’t have to mess up like me.
You begin by creaming the butter and sugar. Yeah, I didn’t do this so well. However, my kitchen aid was all messed up. The paddle kept hitting against the bump in the bottom of the bowl (why is that bump there, anyway?) and I had to dig up the instructions booklet and figure out how to raise it. The paddle, not the bump.

It said to get a screwdriver and tighten or loosen that middle screw in the notch. That hard to reach one? Yeah. Then it said to turn it slightly. I think it was: left to raise it, right to lower it. Well, I did turn it slightly. Like, fifty times until it almost went full circle. And ten minutes or more later, I finally got the paddle to beat the butter without bumping into the bowl.

Make sure you don’t have any chunks of butter in your bowl before you move on. I guess that’s a given when they said “beat until light and fluffy” but I need someone to tell it to me straight. Because I did find a stray chunk of butter at last minute (I’ll show you in a sec) and it hurts the ego when something like that happens to you.

Next it says to add the eggs one at a time. This recipe requires four eggs. So before you even THINK about wanting to make the pound cake, check to see if you have enough eggs.

It said to add the eggs one at a time, “beating well after each addition”. I kept my kitchen aid stirring while a cracked a egg in the bowl and waited for the mix to reach the same consistency every time before adding the next egg. I was so busy over thinking this whole “beating well” thing that I forgot to take pictures, sorry. But it really just looks like yellow snot or something. . . Oh. Sorry again, that wasn’t very appetizing sounding. .

Moving on! Next comes the flour. It said to add it gradually until it was just combined and “DO NOT OVERMIX!!!!” Okay, it’s written “(do not overmix)”, like a meek little suggestion. But the exclamation points – and like – “overmix and die!” are what I see.

So I was maybe a little paranoid through this whole Vanilla Pound Cake process. But give me a break, a ten year old said how perfect hers was. Not that I was thinking about that the whole time. But it may have affected my subconscious.

Once it looked nice and mixed, I scraped the bowl with a spatula, making sure that everything was combined – or so I thought. Then dumped it into a crisco-and-flour coated loaf pan. (The recipe actually says butter, but I was naughty and used crisco).

Do you see it??! The picture isn’t that good. But if you look closely, toward the left in the middle is a pale-ish chunk. . . of butter. I don’t know how it survived, the darn thing. But it did. Unbelievable. But don’t worry, I squished the heck out of it until it agreed to commit to the rest of the loaf and not be an individual anymore. Team work is necessary.

After smoothing it out with a knife, making sure it got into all the corners of the pan, I slid it into the oven, where it stayed for fifty minutes.

After fifty minutes, I slid a knife in the center and it didn’t come out clean, so I left it in for ten more minutes, which I believe might’ve been too much.

The corners were already a threateningly dark brown. And very dark and crunchy. The loaf came away from the pan easy enough and after letting it cool I sliced it.

It actually does look like the picture, which is pretty cool, but there’s a distinct dark browning happening on the corners there. So yeah. I overcooked it a bit. But that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to try it.

*insert big smile*

Ever since I was little we would make something called “Cafe con leche”. It’s translated to the oh so descriptive term meaning: coffee with milk. . . Cafe con leche sounds way smoother and attractively mysterious, doesn’t it?

Cafe con lecheeee . . Oolala. 

Ha, I’m done. So anyway. My Abuelita would tear up slices of just regular sandwich bread and put them in a bowl, then pour cafe con leche in there with a little sugar, cause we were kids (oh and it’s decaf instant coffee, nothing weird or anything) and it would be like a bread pudding breakfast, I guess you’d describe it. Or bread cereal. Anyway. It was good.

So nowadays. I have a more adult version of it. Which is making cafe con leche in a mug and dunking sweet breads into it. Yes, it’s way more mature.

Anyhow. All you do is fill a mug with milk and pop it in the microwave for a few seconds ’till it’s warm.

Then you add as much coffee as you like. I don’t even use a tea spoon. I’m so used to my kid version. And hey, it makes me happy, so whatever.

Then you stir and taste it to be sure it’s good. I usually add sugar, but the pound cake is pretty sweet so I skipped that.

About at this time, I whined how my milk was still cold, and my mom (a more frequent cafe con leche-er than me) said I needed to put it in the microwave for a minute.

You can imagine the necessary steps I needed to repeat.

Hot enough after thirty more seconds. I then sat down with my cafe con leche and a few slices of pound cake and had a little party at the kitchen table.

And at the end of eating one slice, I found  that. . .one slice was enough. This pound cake is no light dessert. You feel that one slice collide to the bottom of your stomach and fill you up. It was very thick.

It tasted good too, don’t get me wrong. I just can’t stop thinking that maybe if I gave it five minutes less next time, it’ll be more moist and then hit perfection.

So I wouldn’t call this a fail. More like a work in progress. Anyone else out there try this recipe?

I’ve Fallen. .

I’ve fallen. . . From the face of the earth.

So sorry.

I very much so left you all hanging about the birthday thing. My apologies. I think the real problem was that I not responding” is fun. Just think if kids did that, if they just decided that today they weren’t going to respond. And, not only that but, just to be even more irritating, they’d respond every once and a while, until boom: “not responding” again. There would be a lot of beatings at that house.
didn’t have a true catastrophe to motivate me to write a blog post. And then, my laptop decided that playing “tag! I’m

I wanted to KILL my laptop.Yes. Sadly, I do admit to having some very unChristian thoughts towards it. . . I was frustrated to the point of tears, and to such an extent that the only thing that made me feel good was pulling the plug. (You know. Literally?) And then I sat there, disappointed, as it calmly went through the process of shutting down, as opposed to the dramatic bizz! black screen, I wanted. . So then I vented to a friend over text and text *beat the heck out of the darn thing* in the *backyard* and said how much I “hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate it” (Excuse my profanity) until I felt better and went and stuffed myself on crackers and chocolate.


All that to say, as irony would have it, I’m using my dad’s laptop. It’s an old HP with a place-mat size sticker of long aqua blue feathers stuck to the front, very tre masculine. It’s my old one. But it’s been working for the most part, so I ain’t complaining.

Anyhow. So for my birthday I made the ginger snaps, chocolate, and white chocolate bon bons, and lemon bars. *brings fingertips together and kisses them* muah, a masterpiece.

The ginger snaps I’ve made before, and since they require refrigeration, I prepped those first – in my handy dandy kitchen aid – dumped the ball into a bowl and covered it and stuck it in the fridge. (That’s the pic up there.)

How do I like my kitchen aid, you might ask. I like it A LOT. This is coming from a girl who’s found clever ways of holding the hand mixer without making her arm muscles burn. It is a glorious convenience to just flip a switch and stare. You can even get other things ready, or clean, or put ingredients away or bring them out. It’s very amazing, and I have to stop saying “very” like that, I’m annoying myself.

The kitchen aid makes a high pitched whirring sound, if you’ve ever wondered. It kind of caught me by surprise at first, for some reason. . Something else it does, is it sometimes leaves ingredients unmixed at the bottom of the bowl. The bottom of the bowl has a bump of a point right in the center where naughty ingredients like to hide. I read the instruction manual and it claims I just need to adjust the paddle a bit and that’ll fix itself.

Otherwise. Ver— ha, caught myself. I really like it. =-)

The bon bons were SO pleasant to make, not having to go through all my little tricks to get it to mix in all the way. With the Kitchen Aid, I just clicked it to a higher speed.

And the lemon bars I made from a box. Tip for the clueless (like me. Don’t think I’m judging you): if your lemon bars are too mushy, which you’ll find out when you start cutting, it means you need to cook them longer. Mine were a little undercooked, but God willing, I got them to plate nicely.

My mom even made cupcake ice cream cones. All you do is bake the cupcake in an ice cream cone. As simple as that. It fills up the whole cone and bakes beautifully. And the cone doesn’t burn. The small problem my mom came across is that the batter spilled from the cones during the baking, but she just sawed it off with a knife and you couldn’t even tell. And we got to eat the scraps. They tasted good too. A light crunch and then the spongy cake. Try it. =-)

Well. I guess you can call this a random post. I just didn’t want anyone to think I was being rude, leaving you hanging. Hopefully something from this post proved helpful, or entertaining.

Until next time!

My birthday!

My birthday was on Tuesday. Yup that’s right, I’m so special I share birthdays with Bruce Willis. (Betcha didn’t know that!) I always knew we had a connection.

My birthday was pretty awesome, because I got presents that correspond with each of my blogs  (keep an eye out for those posts!). I got three different kinds of pants (From My Second Hand Closet). I got a book (If Anyone Cares.  .), annd I got a hard core Kitchen Aid Stand alone mixer (this blog you’re reading, syk).

And, the mixer’s orange!

Orange is my favorite color, which you may or may not have deducted from the background of this blog (it is kinda pinkish). So it’s pretty awesome that I got a mixer that color. I even found out there are all sorts of colors and designs!

As you can imagine, I can’t wait to really put this thing to work. What better way to do that than have a par-tay? Next weekend, my older brother (20, can you believe it? Seems just yesterday he was living with us and locking me out of the house to stuff his face full of my fresh baked cookies), well he and I are having a double birthday, and I’ve already promised several of my friends that I’d make the two versions of my chocolate bon-bons. Though I really doubt I’d end there.

I’d love to make a lot of other treats. Maybe I’ll experiment and do pretzel bites or something not desserty. I just need to find some recipes that aren’t . . so complicated. X-) I think I’ll do sugar cookies and even chocolate chip too.

I know, it’s coming up real soon and I have barely prepared, like always. . I guess that’ll just make it more interesting though. Hehe. At least this time, it’s my mixer and me against the world!

Happy happy birthday from all of us to you

     My dad’s birthday was here once again. And this year. . . I nailed it.
     It was beautiful.

     He didn’t want a German chocolate this year so you’ll see a new type of cake with “Papi” on it.
     Devil’s food cake with white frosting. Yum!

     Even though I did well I do have a story — because my mom had some last-minute card buying to do. And we needed an stealthy excuse to go out, without giving our intentions away.

     I had actually messed up my mom’s clever reason to “stay home” as my dad and brothers went for a run. It went so stupid I have to tell you how it happened.

     My mom, ever so nonchalant: “Maybe we should stay home as you boys go out.”
     Me, ever so . . . very, very chalant: “No! We have to go on this run . .” I made a fist and planted it in my palm, “as a family.”
     I was so incredibly and idiotically passionate about this that I didn’t notice the what-the-heck-are-you-doing look on my mom’s face. Then, when I eventually did notice, I was confused. Haha. Took me a moment until “ohhhhhhhhhh, heh, whoops”.

      So I had to fix it. This was the day before my dad’s birthday. I had to think of a reason to go out.
      “Hey, um, I think we need cake mix.” (Okay, okay. My secret’s revealed. I made my dad’s cake from a mix. You caught me.)
      My mom chipped in, “yeah, we should go tonight to get some.”
      I nodded like a good little actress.

      The second I got home, I scrambled to the pantry and grabbed all (six) of the boxes of devils food cake, spilling spaghetti, bottles, and spice containers then ran to my room and stashed them in my closet. The best part of my sneakiness was I was able to come home afterward, casually go down the hall with the bags, and oh “whoopsie” I left them in my room by mistake. Silly me. =->

     With my record clean of stupidities, I baked the cake and decorated it. The best decorating job I’ve ever done too. Pretty proud of myself, I have to say. Success!
       

Crumble Cake

       Wow. . . I took a little longer than planned, huh. Just a bit. Well I’m sorry. Life has been hectic. I haven’t been able to bake for months! Not to mention, I’ve been sick. And sick bakers are generally frowned upon. .
       But this post isn’t just so you know I’m still live.
       Oh no.
       See, just ’cause I’m sick, doesn’t mean there isn’t any baking going on at my house. Or baking failures, that is.
       My Mom’s birthday came around. . *dramatic gasp* This is almost an anniversary. Remember last year, I made that smelly mug cake! Wow! Remember that? Oops sorry, being sick makes me easily distracted. *sniffs then stiffens* I’m focused now. Back to my post . .
[For the record, I did ask him if I could write this story on my blog.]
       My older brother took charge of making Mom’s birthday cake this year. I think his plan was to bake two rectangles of yellow cake, fill the center with chocolate frosting, and frost the rest of it with white frosting. Simple enough, right?

       I was studying at the breakfast table while he baked. When I finally turned to look into the kitchen, I saw him in there all right. But it was the strangest form of cake decorating I’ve ever seen. Since he had already baked both layers of cake and filled the inside with chocolate, all he had to do now was frost the entire thing white. But what I saw was my brother with an expression of determination and concentration, hovering over a half frosted cake. He had a messy decorating knife in one hand and was kind of pinching a bare side of the cake with the other. His attempt seemed to be to gently squish a broken section of cake into place, while using icing as glue. Honestly, I thought he was on the right track. Seemed logical to me.
       What came next was somewhat humorous in my eyes. (Okay, I thought it was the stinkin’ funniest thing in the world, at the time.) But I can only imagine that if I were the baker, I’d be one angry puppy.

It looks better in the picture

       While he was patching up that one corner of cake, an opposite corner fell off. Then another. Eventually, the entire left side fell off. He fixed this problem by cutting off the right side to make it even, and then it seemed good.
       Have you ever used one of those push-down apple cutters? You shove it through the apple, then the little sections pop out in different directions like flower petals? Does that make sense? Well, that was how his cake looked in the morning, the day of my Mom’s birthday. Despite the inch of frosting, the cake still fell apart. There’s no better way of saying it. It fell apart. Crumbled. Disassembled. The sides tumbled. The center separated. This thing hated itself. It was almost depressing.

Thinking back, I guess we should’ve
turned the cake around so the birthday girl
saw the nice side, instead of the
photographer.

       But by golly, he made that cake, we were still using it and eating it. So we put the candles in and sang happy birthday. And you know something? That cake was delish! It was moist and spongy. It didn’t even need the frosting to taste great. Mmmm, I want some right now.
       The next day, we figured out what went wrong with his cake. He never leveled it. So since the tops of both layers were rounded, it collapsed on the sides. Then I guess the cake concluded that it was already ugly so it decided to die and separate in the middle too. But hey, it was still bomb.
       Here’s a little extract of that night that he was baking. It was too good to not record.

       Dad came in the kitchen to wash the dishes just as my brother finished putting the cake in the oven. He looked around the cluttered sink. “Oh, did you wash the little whisks for the electric mixer?”
       “Huh? What mixer?”
       Dad turned to look at him. “You have to use the mixer for the cake batter. . You didn’t use a mixer?”
       “No, I used a spatula.”
       “Didn’t you read the directions?”
       “Well . . .  I thought I did.”
       Ha, brothers; ya gotta love ’em.

The Day Of Trial — Part #2

(Continuing from part one. . .)
         When I came back from my music lesson, I realized a couple things. 1. In my rush, I had left everything on the counter instead of in the fridge. 2. The chocolate balls I left out for dipping were a little dry. And 3. I could feel myself getting in a bad mood. Oh, and 4. It was already 3:45. (Even more of a bad mood arising. Like I’ve said in Bravery, Optimism, and Chocolate, never try to make a good impression on someone the day you have to bake a lot of desserts – especially if you’re like me. It ain’t pretty.)
         I had to crumble all the beautiful, already-made balls in order to moisten them from the inside out. That resulted in more work to remake the balls for a second time. While I was doing this, I had a new pot of cheapo chocolate chips and oil melting. Eventually, I was able to roll the balls in the lumpy chocolate and place them on the wax-paper-covered cookie sheet. Now, you’d think – and hope (at least, I did)- that I was done there, but I wasn’t.

         I took out the vanilla cookies this time and white chocolate chips. The cookies were being a little stubborn, though. After they were crumbs, they refused to mix in with the cream cheese. Psh, teenagers. I developed a technique, though. If I smash the cream cheese chunks with a spoon and then go over it with the mixer, they combine a little faster. So I did that for a couple minutes. (I don’t know how many minutes. If I had been checking, I would’ve given up on the whole thing I long time ago.) Then, I dipped them in the melted white chocolate. This time, the chocolate was beautiful. Gorgeous. It was smooth, white, creamy wonderful-ness. My only problem was that I never seemed to have enough. I’d dump some chocolate chips in my mini chocolate melter, wait for them to melt, dip a few balls, then I’d have to add more chocolate and wait some more. I guess I was being stingy. I didn’t want to put too much chocolate, be done with the bon-bons, and then have all this chocolate over that I’d have to throw away. So I went a little bit at a time. Then, I moved on to my last dessert.

         Curiously enough, the dough for the Choco-mint stars was a little stickier than before, but I could still work with it. I rolled it out, in between two pieces of parchment paper and cut out the stars. Sometime between my fifth and fifteenth star is when I realized what I had done: I forgot to add more flour like last time! Whoops. Good thing it wasn’t that big of a deal, because that would really stink if the dough was a bust.

         My older brother showed up while I was doing the cookies. His annoying mood also showed up. You’d think that the same brother that I’m giving of my blood, sweat, and tears for would be a little more courteous to me as I’m slaving away in the kitchen. Ha, that’s a good one, Rose. No, instead, he decides he’s going to make himself a ham and cheese sandwich.
         Here’s a new fact about me that you didn’t know: I like to be in the kitchen alone when I work. I don’t want to be worrying about bumping into or tripping on someone. So when I cook, it’s MY kitchen. And when even the cat knows how to whine at me from the outer skirts, there’s a problem with older brother here, in my territory.

         “O.B., move your stuff, I’m going to put the cookies there when they come out of the oven.”
         “I will. I’m almost done.”
         “The oven’s ringing. Move over.”
         “I will. I’m almost done.”

         Being the patient and kind sister that I am, I gently moved the lunch meat, bread, and cheese to the side for him, with a graceful swoosh of my hand.

         “Hey!” Was his thankful reply – can’t you hear the gratitude?

          I took an oven mitt and brought the cookies out. When I turned around, with cookie sheet in hand, I found that he was rearranging his things where I had just moved them. This was ridiculous. I pushed the package of ham out of the way again and grabbed the mayonnaise with my free hand while attempting to elbow him into submission. But the second I had a good grip on the jar, my other hand slipped and the cookie sheet went diving for my wrist. I could almost hear a sizzle. It hurt. With that, the battle of the counter-top was over (I got an injury. As usual, we call truce.), so I put down the sheet and ran my burning wrist under cold water. Usually, I put minty toothpaste on my burns. But I still wasn’t done baking and I didn’t want to worry about smearing toothpaste in my mixing bowls. It wasn’t that bad of a burn, either. About an inch long, but on the bony part of my wrist on the thumb side. (If that makes sense.) At first, it just looked like a red line, but after a while, around the line, was red and swollen, then it was a wrinkled brown line, and now, it’s going back to a red line. I always found burns interesting.
         As the mint star cookies were cooling, I poured melted chocolate and white chocolate in Ziploc bags. The best way to do this, when you don’t have a partner to open the bag while you pour, is by getting a cup and putting a Ziploc bag in the cup like you were prepping a trashcan with a new bag. Ta-da. Now you can pour at ease. Then, zip it, make sure there’s no air, and I like to wrap it in a towel because I think it conserves the heat. I’m not sure if that actually works, though. When you’re ready to drizzle, just snip a tiny bit of a bottom corner off, and you’re good to go.
I love the old-style look of this pic
         I was trying to drizzle the milk chocolate on the cookies, but my hole didn’t seem big enough. So I cut it a little more. Still, there wasn’t anything coming out. This time I just squeezed harder. A little chocolate lump fell out, and there was this sudden flood of chocolate. That poor cookie never saw it coming. From then on in, I had to, not only be careful that I didn’t drown a next cookie, but squeeze out any other lumps. This is why you invest in good ingredients, people, so you don’t have to be squeezing chocolate lumps from supposedly melted chocolate. Finished, I moved on to the white chocolate. Of course, that came out perfectly. I tried to decorate the chocolate bon-bons with my leftover chocolate. Found that less is more when it was too late, but they looked okay. I had to keep reminding myself that the desserts were for teenage boys not the queen of Sheba. Then I added green to the white chocolate to drizzle some more on the mint stars. For some reason, my brother thought I put green last time, so I thought I’d indulge him. I also thought I was done when I ran out of chocolate and all the desserts were done. But sadly, no.
         I still had to wash the dishes.
         The best part, I must admit, was getting Chinese food when I was FINALLY finished. And even though the boys only ate two of my choco-mint stars in the end, I’ll tell you that my desserts were pretty darn good.

The Day Of Trial — Part #1



Breakfast

          I believe every sane person goes through these moments in their life when they think they’re crazy. Well, I had that moment around Wednesday afternoon, when I realized that I should have been done with my baking for Thursday, and I hadn’t even begun.

         Can you say “whoopsie” in french?

         Maybe I should get a calendar or something because I lost track of the dates AGAIN, and guess what? Magically, it was Thursday morning, and my brother’s guests were expected at six o’clock. Perfect.

         After scarfing down two slices of buttered toast and a gulp of iced tea for breakfast, I made a strategic mental list of the dessert-baking sequence:
– Chocolate and white chocolate bon-bons (they need to be refrigerated after, to set the chocolate)
– Choco-mint stars first (because they have to be refrigerated before baking)
– and Funfetti cookies (no refrigeration needed, in case you were wondering)

         Also, I was this close to making yet another batch of cookies. Good thing I didn’t. See, originally, I was expecting to have five guys to feed, but two couldn’t come. A group of five shrunk to three is a big difference. You know what I mean if you’ve ever cooked for teenage boys. Anyway, I started with the choco-mint stars.

         Just like last time, my dishes had flowed over to my brother’s day. I had to do them all; mine AND his. Ugh.
         I was once asked if I rather wash dishes or do hair. In my ignorance, I picked dishes. And it was the honest to goodness truth. I stink at hair. But that didn’ mean I liked doing dishes for actual fun! (I needed to clear this up. Seems that dreaded comment has cursed me.)

         While collecting the ingredients for the bon-bons, I thought that it’d be a good idea (not to mention, great time saver) if I were to start melting the chocolate beforehand. That way, by the time I was done with all the prep, the chocolate would be ready. Now I’m thinking ahead! Then, I realized that I forgot to buy meltable chocolate.
        “That’s fine,” you might think, “you have two chocolates to melt. Just start with the other one.” But I didn’t have enough of either. I only had about a tablespoon, tops, of milk chocolate and my white chocolate was practically gone. So I texted my mom, asking her to buy my missing chocolate, and moved to the second dessert on my still-strategic list.
        I didn’t have much of a problem making the dough for the mint stars. Cream butter and sugar, yada-yada, add mint, bla-bla-bla, and I’m done. Shape into two balls and stick in fridge.

        By some wonderful luck, I bought a Pillsbury cookbook for ten CENTS at the library one day. Is it the best buy ever? Heck yes. In it was the recipe for their funfetti cookies. Usually, you find this recipe on the box of the funfetti cake mix. But we had some sort of Betty Crocker “candy bite something-or-other” cake. Same thing. The sprinkles are just smaller (and there’s about 1.14oz less mix than in the Pillsbury box, but no biggie). So I used that. To flatten the balls of dough on the cookie sheet, I had to use my fingers, though, because all the glass cups were dirty. But I found that smacking the balls a million times with three fingers worked just as well. And while those were baking, I started on the dishes.
         I didn’t get very far.
         By the time I was done with the smaller plates (about five), the oven rang. I put the cookies on the cooling rack, added more dough balls, flattened them, and put the tray in the oven. Then my mom showed up with the chocolate. Oh darn. I guess I’ll have to finish the dishes later.
         I started with the chocolate bon-bons. Took me forever, like it usually does. But this time mom helped me scrape the cream from the cookies. Which helped a bit. But the cookie crumbs and cream cheese were refusing to cooperate by mixing together in the bowl. Which slowed me down a lot. Finally, there were no white spots left and the whole thing was greasy crumbs. I checked the chocolate.

         Mom had bought some sort of cheapo chocolate chips. When I had first put them in my chocolate melter, they seemed to be melting, except for a couple lumps. But I figured that after a little while longer on the MELT setting, it’d smooth out. . Yeah, I was wrong. The chocolate seemed to be baking to the bottom of the pot. It looked like chocolate icing that was left outside for so long that it crusted over. It was just thick and disgusting. I couldn’t even roll the chocolate balls in the stuff, let alone dip. But! Google comes in handy, folks. I used my cell phone to google how to thin chocolate. And funny enough, I got the answer from Yahoo!: use canola oil. Canola oil, eh? Go figure, we had a massive jug of canola oil in the pantry. So I took moms little oil pitcher and filled it to the brim (later, I found that was a bad idea because the little pitcher is for her salad dressing OLIVE oil. Not canola. Heh. I didn’t get as bad a scolding for this as I expected, though). But hey, you know that stuff actually works! After a few splashes of oil, the chocolate thinned. It still had the lumps in it, but it was way better than before. Yep, things were going smoothly again. Then I looked at the clock, I was going to be late for a music lesson. Ugh.
         The desserts would have to wait.
(To be coninued . . .)

Too easy?

I actually used my camera for this pic. Pretty good, eh?
          It feels like I haven’t posted in a while. Feels like I haven’t baked in a while. Feels like .  .  .  man,  I’m lost. And I’m off-balanced. This is crazy. Who would’ve guessed, right? That by not baking something that is destined to go horribly wrong, you can mess up your whole inner, subconscious to the unconscious cycle. (Okay. Just then, did I sound like a genius or an idiot having fun with big words? . . Darn it.)

         Well in a way, I’ve been saving my baking-energy for this explosion of desserts I’ll be making for my older brother’s 18th birthday. *fake sniffle* He’s growing up so fast. My big brothie. *wipes imaginary tear* Busy brainstorming all the different kinds of desserts and keeping in mind time, energy, and the fact that we don’t want to serve too much chocolate, I forgot a very special event. .
         My grandmother’s birthday.
         Doh. Does this make me a horrible granddaughter? Um, maybe. Does this mean I can’t redeem myself with an O-mazing cake? Not exactly. Ah-ha! Light at the end of the tunnel. Time to get busy.

         Luckily (well, for me, that is), she had a dentist appointment the morning of her birthday. Since she lives with us, this gave me time to bake a cake as quickly as possible, frost it, and toss some sprinkles on before she came home.

         My first decision was what kind of pan to use. For regular cakes, we generally use a rectangle pan. It’s simple because we pop it in the oven, take it out, let it cool, frost it, cut, and serve, all inside the handy dandy pan. But it doesn’t really look good, presentation wise. So I used a circular pan. It’s actually the mama-bear medium-size of a three-pan set. When used properly (which I doubt I’ve ever done), they’d make a three story cake, looking like one you’d see a little kid draw with the base the largest circle and the layers shrinking the higher you go. I took a second to think over splitting my batter between, maybe the mama and baby bear sizes, to make a two story cake. But I had done that before and it usually ended up as two, very thin, layers with an even thinner coating of frosting. No. Using just the mama bear pan would work.
        
         It didn’t take me long to follow the instructions on the Pillsbury cake mix box. Hey, don’t judge. Like I said, I didn’t have much time before she came back to bake AND decorate it. Using a mix was a necessity.
         Classic yellow cake with vanilla frosting. She’s not a chocolate person. In fact, she’s the first one to groan, “oh no, chocolate?” after just about every one of my baking experiences. So this one was all hers. Vanilla, vanilla, vanilla. According to the box, it would take around thirty minutes to bake, so I washed the dishes.
         I know. “Aww, what a wonderful little dear you are, washing the dishes. [Son or daughter] why don’t YOU do that?” Don’t elbow your kid, just yet. Sadly, (and it is a darn shame) I can’t take the credit for washing the dishes. Actually, my day to wash dishes was the previous day. But I didn’t do them so they spilled over into my brother’s day. The only reason I did them first thing in the morning was because I didn’t want to get stuck doing my dishes, his breakfast and his lunch dishes. The threat of having more work is a lazy bum’s motivator.



         I was just getting started on the silverware (the last stage of my dish washing cycle) when the oven rang. But the second I touched the pan the batter jiggled. Hmm. That wasn’t right. I couldn’t remember for the life of me how long I set the timer for. It had to be about twenty minutes since I was almost done with the dishes. I set the timer for seven minutes. Halfway done with the utensils, it rang again. The cake wasn’t jello-y anymore, but the center still wasn’t cooked all the way. Something else that worried me was that the top was a dark brown. A little more and it could burn. Did that mean I should lower or raise the temperature? It was just by providence that the phone rang. It was my dad. He told me that, if anything, I should lower the temperature, but it would be better if I left it in the oven for a little longer. He was right. About five minutes later, I poked a toothpick in. Clean as a whistle.

         When I was finally done with the dishes, I found a nice circular plate, placed the cake on it, and released it from the pan. Yet another cool thing about these pans is that they have a buckle-type-thing that pull away the sides. It’s a little hard to explain. But there are two pieces: the base and the sides. And when you unbuckle the side, it expands, leaving the cake and the base behind. That’s my best description.

         I used a leveler to . . . level the cake. (Bet you never would have guessed that.) I don’t know when we got this thing. If you’ve never seen it, it’s like a stretched out “U” with a metal string running through it. One of those insanely simple looking tools that make your life so much easier. Why did I level the cake if I’m not going to layer it? Well, the center was caved in slightly. I wanted the cake to be perfect.

         Done leveling with the leveler, I made a discovery. (You’ve probably already guessed this.) And yes, the cake wasn’t done. In my defence, though, the darn toothpick was clean. I poked it in the center twice and on the sides before taking it out of the oven. Clean! I took my lying toothpick for a second test run and poked it into my now-level undercooked cake. Still clean. Who knew that small wooden sticks could sin – repeatedly. It has been condemned to the inner darkness of the trashcan.
         To save this very sad cake, I took a glass cup and shoved it in the center. I imagined the cup cutting out the squishy middle like a perfect little cookie cutter. I’d pop it out and voila, a hole. Well, that didn’t really happen. I more like smushed the cake, but I did have an outline of a circle that I followed as I scooped the rest out with a spoon. Voila, a hole.

         I got a text that they’d be home in a couple minutes so I had to work fast. I scooped a lump of frosting on my new bunt-cake and coated only the top. (Which, I later found was a good thing because my grandmama isn’t a big fan of frosting.) Then, after much mumbling and grunting as boxes and containers fell from inside the pantry, I finally found the sprinkles. Took even longer to find the candles, which are never where they should be. But everything worked out beautifully. She was pleased, and surprisingly, no one asked how I made a bunt cake without a bunt pan.

Minty Fresh-ness

          The way my family celebrates birthdays is we have a family celebration on the date and a friend celebration sometime near that. This year was a party full of insanity, laughter, and (of course) good food. Yes, this year was girls-only.
         A couple days before, I somehow, by a miraculous occurrence, convinced my mom to buy me peppermint extract. Don’t ask me how I did it. Tears might have been shed at one point or another, but anyway, it worked, mission accomplished. So, with the reward of my hard day’s labor in hand, I flipped through the new cookbook for something minty. Found it: choco-mint star cookies. Perfect! Well . . . almost.

         I missed a whole ingredient when I scanned the page the first time. Stupid shredded coconut. We never have coconut. I don’t even know what section of the store to find it in. But I had gone through all this trouble, just to give up at a slight set-back? No way. I planned on making choco-mint stars, and by golly, I was going to make choco-mint stars. Maybe if I just happened to misplace that one teeny ingredient, no one would know.

         I followed the recipe (minus the coconut).

         Luckily, I already knew what texture dough should be. (Is that lucky?) So evidently, the creamy wad inside my bowl wasn’t right. Okay, cooking 101. It was just the basics, right? All I needed was to make my dough thicker, and flour’s a thickening agent. I sprinkled some flour. Mixed. The pale gunk was still sticking to the sides of the bowl so I added a little more flour, maybe a little more. When it wasn’t sticking, I stopped, seperated the dough into two lumps, wrapped them in plastic wrap, and placed them in the fridge. Fingers crossed.
         About an hour or so later, I spread parchment paper on the counter, and retrieved the dough balls. I poked them. Seemed alright. In fact, the dough was perfection itself. I was able to roll it out, cut my stars, and everything. All the while being greeted with this minty smell. Mmmm. Fresh.

         They baked perfectly. Actually, they were the same texture as the Chocolate buttons I made before. Moist and (hmm) not crumbly but not chewy. What would you call that? A soft crisp? I don’t know. Anyway, they were good. But I wasn’t finished there. I still had to drizzle the chocolate.

Can you smell the minty chocolate-ness?
         For, I think, my thirteenth or fourteenth birthday, my parents bought me a chocolate melter. It’s basically a mini pot that you plug into the wall, and (duh) it melts chocolate. I like it mostly because – daydreamer that I am – I can forget about the chocolate without worrying about it burning, catching flame, boiling over, blowing up, or whatever disasters my imagination can come up with.
         In the picture, the white chocolate is on the bottom and the milk chocolate is drizzled over the top. So that’s what I planned on doing. The only thing is, it probably took me twice as long as the person who made the cookies in the picture, since I had to melt, first the white chocolate, drizzle it, wash the pot, then melt the milk chocolate.
         Surprisingly enough, it never crossed my mind as to why the heck I was going through all this trouble for my friends. They would’ve been perfectly fine if I simply dipped the cookies half in chocolate, half in white chocolate, which might’ve been easier. But they looked great (the cookies). Tasted great also. I don’t think I’ve ever had a mint cookie, not to mention, ever baked a mint cookie before. And these were still delish. Kudos to me (not to toot my own horn, of course) for beauty on my first minty freshness try.