Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sibling Love and 7 Minute Frosting

Siblings and fighting go together like peanut butter and jelly, wine and cheese, and pie and ice cream, they are just a natural pairing. As I remember it, it was pretty darn fun too if nothing else was going on. My sister and I used to fight constantly and it drove our parents around the twist. Even though she was 2-1/2 years older, we were actually pretty evenly matched. What I lacked in size I made up for in stubbornness and determination. She would dig her fingernails into me and I would bite her and pull her hair. It worked out pretty well until she gave me a black eye two days before I started the sixth grade in a brand new school. I think that may have been one of our last physical altercations. It became apparent that we could really hurt each other’s image if this behavior continued. Good thing that my cuteness helped me to overcome my more than obvious affliction on that first day of school.

A couple of weeks ago a young relative of mine announced the birth of his beautiful new baby girl on his Facebook page. He had the most adorable photo of his older daughter smiling from ear to ear while holding her gorgeous new baby sister. Well you know me, I just had to say how beautiful I thought they were and then went on to add (I think this is where I might have gone too far) that the fighting should begin in about a week. Judging from his lack of a reply, I don’t think he was amused. I’m sorry, but I have virtually the same photo of my daughter holding her brand new baby brother. . .

. . . and then I have this one which was taken just a very few months later. You be the judge.

What, you think I make this stuff up?!

I was really fortunate that this is just about as bad as it got for us. I would always guilt my daughter into being kind to her brother by pointing out that she was 4-1/2 years older and hitting him would be totally uncool. As for him, I convinced him that boys don’t hit girls and thankfully that worked pretty well. Of course there was lots of shouting, some door slamming and a toy tug of war a time or two but we decided that we could definitely handle it. I think my parents really didn’t have a good argument for us other than that lame-o “you should love your sister" stuff. I don’t think they ever understood that that was how we loved each other, knowing that all would be forgiven by suppertime.

I don’t know, I may be wrong about those girls fighting but I don’t think so, they can’t help it, like I said before it’s just nature. Something else I can tell them whether they want to hear it or not; for about 10 years starting at age 8 or so their lives will be one drama after another and it won’t be from their daughters fighting with just each other. In addition to the domestic violence that will occur in their own home, they will both be fighting with other girls over boys, best friends, clothes and pretty much everything else but it won’t last long, for they will waltz out of their home as quickly as they entered it. Then, believe it or not they'll miss the loud voices, slamming doors and tug of wars, so they should enjoy every decibel because their nest will be empty before they know it. From what I understand that’s when the real fun starts for sooner or later, if you are very lucky the grandchildren will arrive.

Like my mother before me, I have bestowed upon my daughter the mother’s curse. You know the one I’m talking about, the “I hope you have one just like you” curse. Only I had such a time with my daughter that I kicked it up a notch with ultimate “I hope you have triplets just like you” curse. Don’t worry I plan on helping her out every now and then if it works. I’m going to take each one of them and have their ears pierced at 8, teach them how to put on make-up at 10 and buy them really skimpy thong underwear at 13. Hey it’s really her idea! She always told me that unlike me she’s going to be cool with her kids, so you see I really owe it to her.

Writing this post conjured memories of a little bakery that my parents used to frequent when my sister and I were in our fighting heyday. The Kolache Shop was located in a little drive-in building on the south side of Houston. I would always choose my two favorite kolaches, cherry and cream cheese that they sprinkled with the perfect amount of crunchy crumb topping. On occasion, if we were very good and had kept the fighting to a minimum, our parents would spring for a small red velvet cake with heavenly 7 Minute frosting. Since this is how I got to know this cake, to me this is how it should be made. Most recipes that I have seen call for the cake to be topped with cream cheese icing which I really love, but not for my beloved red velvet. I prefer saving my cream cheese icing for carrot or chocolate fudge cakes. I highly encourage you to make this frosting if you never have or if it has been awhile. I will tell you in advance that even though you can make it with an electric hand mixer, it really helps if you have a stand mixer. Go ahead, give it a try, its elegance will really surprise you.

As for the cake itself, I landed up making two for this post. One was a dreadful, tough recipe that was made without cocoa. Not only was it heavy and dense but without the cocoa powder, it looked a bit anemic.

My first sad attempt

The second recipe I made was from Cook's Country which I always depend on to be the best and I wasn't disappointed. I really wanted to bake my cake from scratch for this post, and although this recipe was very good, I have to admit that Duncan Hines makes a great mix and at $1.25 it is much cheaper than the $2.50 bottle of red food coloring that I had to buy just to get started. If you can't find or don't have access to Duncan Hines mixes, this is really a good recipe.

Thanks to Cook's Country, my successful second attempt

Red Velvet Cake

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons liquid red food coloring
12 tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks) butter, softened to room temperature
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees 180C.

Grease and flour 2 – 9” cake pans or one 9 x 13” baking dish; set aside.

Whisk flour, baking soda and salt in a medium size bowl; set aside.

Whisk buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla and eggs in a small bowl or cup; set aside.

Mix cocoa and food coloring until a paste is formed; set aside.

With an electric mixer beat butter and sugar until fluffy, approximately 2 minutes. Add 1/3 of the flour mix and beat on medium low speed about 30 seconds.

Add 1/2 of the buttermilk mixture and beat on low to combine, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides and repeat with 1/2 of the remaining flour, all of the remaining buttermilk mixture and finally the remaining flour mixture, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl before adding cocoa paste and beating on medium speed about 30 seconds or until completely combined.

Pour into the prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, approximately 35 - 40 minutes for the 9 x 13” pan or 20 – 25 minutes for the 9” round pans. Allow cakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes before turning out onto a rack to complete cooling.

7 Minute Frosting

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place one cup sugar, corn syrup and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan. Cook, stirring occasionally until the mixture begins to simmer and sugar has dissolved, approximately 6 – 7 minutes. Wash down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent crystals from forming. Raise heat to medium high. Cook without stirring, until a candy thermometer reaches 235 degrees (soft ball).
While the syrup is cooking, put room temperature egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 1 tablespoon of the sugar and the vanilla extract. Continue beating until peaks are fluffy but still soft. Slowly pour in the hot syrup, drizzling it down the side of the bowl. Raise the mixer speed to high and beat the mixture until it has cooled and stiff peaks form, approximately 7 minutes. Use immediately.

Makes 4 cups of frosting

Drizzle the hot sugar syrup down the side of the mixer bowl containing the beaten egg whites while mixing on medium high

After mixing on high for approximately 7 minutes to cool the frosting, you will have a stiff yet glossy and soft frosting that I can only describe as cloud like

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Don't Go Bitin' My Heart: Raspberry Freeze

To me Valentine’s Day is really about more than romantic love. Oh sure, it is fabulous if you are in a new relationship and spend the evening gazing into each other’s eyes over a romantic dinner. Been there, done that and loved every minute of it, but now after having been together for years and building a relationship consisting of children, extended family, animals and life, Valentine’s Day takes on a new meaning. To us Valentine’s Day now means a celebration of our family, our milestones, our successes and failures and our continued commitment. We now proudly stand as decorated Valentine soldiers and have the battle scars to prove it. We love including our children, parents and friends in our celebration because we feel their love is what makes our love complete. I wish I only would have known on our first Valentine’s Day how much more this man would mean to me all these years later; now knowing this, I so look forward to all of our Valentine’s Days to come.

(I know that by looking at the reflection in the gold it kind of looks like a Power Ranger took this photo, but I promise it was just me!)

Every February 14th I make a point of wearing a gold puffy heart that my husband gave me many years ago. It wasn’t extravagantly expensive but I really love it. I wore it on a long chain every day for years and years, in fact it was a favorite plaything for both of my infants as I held them in my arms. It made it successfully through my daughter and almost through my son before I noticed one day that he was finally able after months of trying to give it a big bite without my noticing. At first I was quite perturbed with the little stinker until I remembered a story about one of my grandmothers. Not having much when she was first married she prized her large family bible above all else and displayed it proudly on her coffee table. One day she caught her two year old daughter in the process of giving several pages of it a good scribbling with a pencil and she was heartbroken. Several months later when her little daughter suddenly died those scribbles soon became more precious than the bible itself. Hearing this lesson loud and clear, I now wear my heart on only the most special of occasions for fear I might lose the imprint of my sweet baby’s tooth. Sometimes what first looks like a tragedy is really a blessing in disguise, it just depends on how you look at it.

Whatever you decide to wear, eat, cook or do, I hope your Valentine’s Day is a really great one. Our little family will be together probably doing lots of laughing at and with each other just the way we like it. I have no idea what we’ll eat or whether or not I’ll even cook, but I do want to give you a special little recipe for a sweet treat that we’ll probably have during a game or two of Scrabble. You can either blend the ingredients up and serve it right away as a dessert drink or freeze it for several hours or overnight and serve it as a frozen ice cream sundae. It is really delicious accented with some sort of chocolate sprinkles or sauce.

Raspberry Freeze

1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
1/4 cup vanilla syrup
1/2 cup milk
3 cups best quality vanilla ice cream
4 ounces Chambord raspberry liqueur

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until all ingredients are combined. Serve immediately topped with whipped cream and sprinkles or transfer to a covered bowl and place in the freezer for several hours or overnight; scoop into serving dishes with an ice cream scoop and top with whipped cream and chocolate syrup.
Serves 4

I am happy to announce that chose Lea Ann as the winner of this CSN giveaway. Lea Ann please contact me and I'll send you your $65.00 giftcode. Thanks to all my followers new and old for participating. Keep checking back for my next giveaway.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Spaghetti Alla Carbonara

It’s pretty cold here today. By “pretty cold” I mean 12 below 0. Well, that’s the claim. Every time I hear the weather forecast on the news it gets a little more dramatic. Before we know it, it will be dipping down to -100. Anyway, what I do know is that it is so cold that the usually heartless bastards that run my son’s school district cancelled classes today so that means hell IS freezing over. I know from talking to my mother in south Texas that they are also anticipating a cold snap themselves of degrees in the high 20s. All I have to say is that until you have to worry about your car radiator freezing to your driveway, it’s not that cold. I love you all, but you guys are a bunch of babies.

In preparation for the incoming storm and a snow day with a hungry boy at home, I slid all the way to the grocery store yesterday afternoon for a few staples with no clear game plan on what I would be preparing for the next few days. I picked up some cooking oil, orange bell peppers (at $1 each I couldn’t resist), a gallon of distilled water for my son’s chameleon, a gallon of chocolate milk for my son and a bottle of wine for me; as you can see very important ingredients for life during a winter storm. I was so proud of myself making it to the store and back in one piece. . . and then evening set in. I had no plans for supper and a motley collection of ingredients in the fridge. I didn’t think that the guys would go for fried bell peppers in chocolate milk sauce, so I got a little creative with the few things I had on hand. What I decided on is a favorite of mine when I go out, but something I’ve never made at home, Spaghetti Carbonara. I have to say that this simply delicious dish that is easily assembled with six, count ‘em SIX ingredients, was so delicious that the only audible sounds at the table were the oohs and aahs coming from my husband and son. Seriously, next time you find yourself with a box of spaghetti and ingredients for half a breakfast, give this super simple recipe a try.

Spaghetti Carbonara

Originally this recipe called for only 4 ounces of bacon but I love bacon so much I doubled it. If you do this you will need to pour off about half of the drippings so it won’t be too greasy. I also like to sprinkle some chopped parsley, freshly ground black pepper and red pepper flakes on it if I have them on hand, but it is still delicious as is. I also hear that this is best when made with Pecorino Romano but I usually just have Parmesan which I think is great.

1 pound dry spaghetti
2 tablespoons light olive oil
4 – 8 ounces smoked bacon or pancetta, sliced into thin strips
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus a couple tablespoons extra for serving

Cook spaghetti according to package directions; reserving 1 cup of the pasta water before draining.

While pasta is cooking, fry bacon in olive oil a large non-stick frying pan until it is crisp; add crushed garlic and cook for 1 minute longer.

Combine eggs and 1 cup Parmesan cheese in a medium size bowl; set aside.

Pour drained pasta into the frying pan with the bacon, drippings and garlic. Remove pan from the heat. Toss to coat spaghetti with the ingredients in the frying pan. Pour eggs and cheese over the pasta and toss quickly to coat. If pasta seems a bit dry, ladle reserved pasta water over a 1/4 cup at a time until desired moistness is achieved. This isn't a saucy pasta but it should be moist. Serve immediately with extra grated cheese sprinkled over.

Serves 6.

This current CSN giveaway is open to all public followers of this blog who just simply leave me a comment. If you don't currently follow please sign up by clicking the white "Follow" button and leaving me a comment at the bottom of my post. That's it, you're in! I'll let choose my winner on the 10th of February around 12 noon mountain time. Please only one comment per follower. Good luck!!!