Sunday, June 26, 2011

Start Summer, End Renting

School is officially out for Summer! With professional development all this coming week, I don't think I'll feel like I'm on vacation until after July 4th. In any case it's good to be out and get some time to read, sleep, and socialize!
I can't believe a whole year has gone by since I started this blog. I don't know if it's truly kept up it's original purpose of keeping in touch with old friends, but it has certainly been a way for me to keep a record of everything that has been going on in our lives. I can't imagine when I wasn't blogging! It's also a great place to keep all my favorite recipes. New schools, new rentals, new friends, new house (as of this Wednesday!), new jobs, it's all here!

Speaking of the new house....we have our closing on Wednesday and we're looking forward to finally getting in there and making it our own. It's going to be a good amount of work and we're going to be visiting Home Depot or Lowe's quite often. We went earlier this week and picked out paint colors. We bought some sample containers to test. We also think that we have found a light fixture for our dining room (which will soon no longer be pink). I'll keep you updated as we make progress on OUR NEW HOME!

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Zucchini Cake
adapted from
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3 eggs
2 cups white, granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (from about 3-4 regular sized zucchini) grated un-peeled zucchini (place grated zucchini in a sieve and press out some of the excess moisture before measuring)
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1/2 cup golden raisins (optional)

3 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 to 2 cups of powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9x12 or 9x13 baking pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

In a mixer, beat the 3 eggs on high speed until frothy. Lower the speed and beat in the sugar, vegetable oil, and vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture, a third at a time.

Stir in the zucchini and chopped nuts and raisins.
Pour mixture into a 9x13 baking pan. Bake at 350°F for 40 to 45 minutes. (For cupcakes/muffins bake 20 to 30 minutes).Remove from oven and let cool completely before frosting.

While the cake is cooling, let the frosting's cream cheese and butter sit at room temperature to soften.

To make the frosting, beat together the cream cheese and butter.

Add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth.Frost the cake and serve. Store covered with aluminum foil.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Lost in the Woods

Happy Father's Day! I started thinking about memories with my father and my father-in-law. Some of the best memories with my father seem to center around being outside or helping with fixing or building things: trips to the hardware store (where I slammed my finger in the truck door), changing tires on the van before I could go on my trip to Vermont, and helping take down the wall connecting the guest room and living room (we were listening to records as we hammered through). He is definitely the reason for my coffee addiction (Dad, do you remember the awful coffee at TruValue and the crappy powdered creamer?). One of my favorite memories is when my Dad took me fishing (I must have been about 9 or 10 years old). We walked through the woods to a pond (it seemed like miles away). The best part wasn't even the fishing. The best part was on the walk back, when my dad got us lost! He denies it to this day (admit it, everything in the woods looked the same). I don't remember what we talked about as we walked around for hours, but it was an adventure I'll never forget.
     One of my favorite memories of my father-in-law is when he made me scrape gum off the back of a dresser in my husband's college dorm room. An odd memory, however, I realized then that I was officially part of the family. I was no longer a "guest". You'd only ask a true family member to scrape gum!
Of course there are so many more memories and so many more memories to be made. Happy Father's Day to both of you!  Here's two cookie recipes in honor of you both, Sables and Rolo Cookies.

Sables (French Butter Cookies)
by Pierre Herme,

2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) salted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 large egg whites
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and beat until combined.

Beat in the egg whites, 1 at a time, then beat in the flour. Refrigerate the dough until firm.

Divide the dough in half and transfer to 2 large sheets of plastic wrap. Shape the dough into 2-inch-thick logs, and wrap in the plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Using a sharp, thin knife, slice 1 log of dough 1/4 inch thick. Arrange the cookies 2 inches apart on 2 large cookie sheets. Bake the cookies on the middle and lower racks of the oven for about 17 minutes, or until golden at the edges, shifting the pans from top to bottom and back to front halfway through. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer them to wire racks to cool completely. Wipe the cookie sheets clean and let cool completely, then repeat with the second log of dough.

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 2 months.
Rolo Cookies
adapted from
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cocoa
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Bag of Rolo candies, unwrapped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone mat. Set aside.In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa. Set aside.

With a mixer, cream butter and sugars together until smooth. Add in eggs, one at a time. Next, add in vanilla extract. Mix until blended.Slowly add flour mixture to sugar mixture and blend well.

Take a spoonful of chocolate cookie dough and wrap around one Rolo candy. Make sure Rolo is completely covered with cookie dough and place on prepared baking sheet. Continue until you run out of cookie dough.(about 36 cookies)

Bake cookies for 7-10 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit on cookie sheet for 3-5 minutes. Move to a cooling rack and cool completely.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

How many more days?

"So how many more days do you have left in school?" This is the big question. It's under ten now, so I feel that I can talk about it without jinxing it with a snow day. Believe me, even teachers want out come June (okay, May). As much as I have loved working at my new school it's nice to start thinking about staying up late, being able to sleep in, not correcting papers, not making tests, not responding to annoying emails or phone calls, not having to listen to excuses for lost homework (or books, or calculators), being able to eat lunch at a normal time, and being able to go to the bathroom when you need to! So, yes, I am looking forward to my summer vacation!

My mother-in-law's birthday was today. We celebrated with family and even got some shoe shopping in! She requested a chocolate cake with white frosting. I searched around for a new recipe and spiced it up a bit. This one was from an episode of $40 a day with Rachel Ray, when she was visiting Santa Barbara. It looked so good, I knew I had to try it. It's very rich, so only a small piece is necessary. 14 of us only finished half of this towering cake, Food Network says 6 servings...who are those 6 people?!?

Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting and Chocolate Ganache

adapted from

3 cups packed brown sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
3 eggs
2 2/3 cups flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/8 cups cocoa powder

Chocolate Ganache Filling:
9 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon dark rum (optional)

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:
6 cups confectioners' sugar
2 cup butter
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons whipping cream

Chocolate Ganache Topping:
9 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon dark rum (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 3 (9-inch) cake pans with non-stick spray.

In the bowl of an electric mixer on low speed, combine the brown sugar and oil. Mix in the eggs. Let the sugar, oil, and eggs mix while sifting together the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt in a separate bowl. Set this mixture aside.

In another small bowl, mix the vanilla into the milk and set this aside as well. Bring the water to a boil and pour over the cocoa and whisk it until it is smooth.
To the egg mixture, alternately add the flour mixture and the milk mixture beginning and ending with flour, scraping  down the sides of the bowl after each addition. With the mixture at a low speed add the cocoa. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and pour this mixture into the prepared cake pans.

Bake the cake for approximately 25 minutes or until tester comes out clean. When cake layers have cooled, remove from pans and refrigerate until cold.

Chocolate Ganache Filling:
 Place the chocolate into a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil, watching very carefully because if it boils for a few seconds, it will boil out of the pot. When the cream has come to a boil, pour over the chocolate chips, and whisk until smooth. Stir in the rum if desired.

Allow the ganache to cool until thick, then whip with a whisk or electric mixer until light and fluffy. Spread a layer of this on two cake layers. Refrigerate until vanilla buttercream is ready.

Vanilla Buttercream:
In an electric mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.

Add vanilla and cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading.

Spread over the chocolate ganache filling and assemble cake layers. Frost the entire cake and refrigerate for 10 to 20 minutes.

Chocolate Ganache Topping:
Place the chocolate into a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil, watching very carefully because if it boils for a few seconds, it will boil out of the pot. When the cream has come to a boil, pour over the chocolate chips, and whisk until smooth. Stir in the rum if desired.

Allow the ganache to cool slightly before pouring over a cake.Refrigerate for 20 minutes or longer.

Serve the cake cold or allow it to come to room temperature before serving

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Breakfast Club

I finished yet another master's class this week. Only two more to go! This class was a lot of work and it may have ruined the movie The Breakfast Club for me (we analyzed the different characters and their application to the theories of Carl Jung). It was relevant, but sometimes I just want a movie to be a movie. I did have fun texting quotes back and forth with colleagues and my husband. It's amazing how many people know quotes from that movie! Classic.

I went out for coffee with a colleague this week. It was great to talk about everything going on with the end of the school year and get a new perspective. It's always stressful getting everything done (finals, grading, PGPs, etc). We ended up talking for 2 hours, we were both shocked when we left!
I also found out that I will be teaching a new course at our school next year. I have to go for a one week training the last week of June. There was a possibility that I'd have to travel to Texas, but luckily the group is coming here. That week is going to be a busy, that's when we're closing! We've started looking for counter stools and thinking about new bathroom fixtures. So exciting!

Black-Bottom Coconut Bars
from Everyday Food at


½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
½ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)

2 large eggs
¾ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 package (7 ounces) sweetened shredded coconut; ½ cup reserved for sprinkling

For chocolate base: Preheat oven to 375°. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving a slight overhang; butter bottom and sides of foil (not overhang).

Place butter in a large microwave-safe bowl; melt in microwave. Add sugar and salt; whisk to combine. Whisk in egg, then cocoa and flour until smooth. Spread batter in prepared pan.

Bake just until sides begin to pull away from edges of pan, 10 to 15 minutes (do not over bake). Let cool slightly while preparing coconut topping. Keep oven on for topping.

For coconut topping: In a medium bowl, whisk eggs with sugar and vanilla. Gently mix in flour and coconut (except ½ cup reserved for sprinkling).

Drop mounds of mixture over chocolate base; spread and pat in gently and evenly with moistened fingers. Sprinkle with reserved ½ cup coconut.

Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan. Lift cake from pan, peel off foil, and cut into 24 bars. Store in an airtight container 3 to 4 days.