The great birthday cake disaster of 2010

Oh no!!!! Say it isn’t so…you didn’t!

…I’m afraid I did. I burned my own birthday cake.

It started out as a stubborn notion that, no, I didn’t want a store bought cake. I wanted the chocolate carrot cake I made for a previous year for my boyfriend’s birthday. The cake in question was baked years ago before this stupid, stupid notion that all of the homemade baked goods in this house have to be made of unrefined sugars, preferably from a local source. I wanted to make the cake exactly the way I made it the first time. It turned out perfectly. It had real sugar. Two cups of it (in the cake before you even start to think about the cream cheese filling and the gorgeous chocolate ganache). It was my boyfriend’s idea to use honey. He takes full blame for the catastrophe that ensued.

A perfect storm of too much honey, black cake pans and too many distractions during the allotted baking time conspired to leave me with two charcoal briquettes. But, where some people would see coal, I saw diamonds. I remembered some treats on Dan Lepard’s site that used cake crumbs. Once I cut away the blackened exterior of the cakes, I struck gold. The interior was soft, rich cake. After the salvage mission, I could still have a birthday treat: rum balls. Mine are a little different than the ones I read about, they are filled with raspberry instead of apricot. Heady with the aroma of rum, they may not be beautiful, but they are just wonderful!!

Before we talk about the method of turning a ruined cake into concentrated delight, I have a couple of happy announcements! I have a job and I completed my first week there. The people are nice and the work is interesting, so life is good! In addition, my good friend Amy at Ohiofarmgirl’s Adventures in the Goodland gave me an award. It’s been a wonderful week indeed!

Chocolate Raspberry Rum Balls

5 cups crumbs from any unfrosted chocolate cake

2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

5 tbsp fruit juice sweetened raspberry fruit spread

6 tbsp rum

½ – 1 cup chopped almonds

Mix cake crumbs, cocoa powder, raspberry fruit spread and rum. Form into 2” balls. Roll the tops of the balls in chopped almonds. Proceed to gobble them up!

 

Beauty

So much beauty in the world: scene from the film American Beauty

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I feel really beautiful today. My friend Tanna from My Kitchen in Half Cups told me I am beautiful and gave me an award to prove it. When Tanna received this award, she was modest and said she was not beautiful. She lied. She is gorgeous! If you don’t believe me, just go take a look at her blog and you can tell. She is smart, she is caring, she bakes a mean loaf of bread and she is beautiful to the core!

In order to accept this award, I have to tell you seven things about myself. Pull up a chair, get a snack, because I think this might get a little long:

I love red wine, I like the movie Sideways, I hate what the movie did to Santa Barbara’s wine country. Let me explain: I have been drinking local wine and following the local wine scene since the 80’s. In the old days, wine tasting was free. You tasted a good sample of what was available and they poured enough so you could really experience each wine (you needed a designated driver for this sort of experience). Later on as people began to discover wine tasting, the wineries began to charge a small fee for a souvenir glass. The small fee got up to about $5 or so. An outrage at the time, that was justified because the small handful of wineries were probably struggling to make a profit. In the beginning, they tried growing Pinot Noir. Except for a few pockets of acreage, it didn’t generally do well here. I remember at some point being told that it was being abandoned in favor of Syrah and Merlot. Fine with me, I love Syrah and Merlot.

Fast forward to 2004. The movie Sideways comes out. It’s like a bomb went off. Suddenly everyone wants to come here and recreate what they saw in the movie for themselves. My favorite winemaker who since the 80’s has made some of the most amazing red and white wines and an absolute stunning Port is featured heavily in the movie. We belong to the wine club and feel like we need an appointment to get in to our winery. The quality of the wines goes down, we cancel our membership. Nobody wants to sell Merlot, everyone wants to sell Pinot Noir (due to the main character in the movie commenting that Merlot was bad and Pinot Noir is good). Wineries seem to pop up like weeds. Everyone charges a minimum of $10 to wine taste, some ask up to $25.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am happy for the wine industry here. They are finally turning a profit and some amazing wine is being made here, but when I go wine tasting now… I can’t help but abuse the staff at the winery. I love to mention something controversial about the movie and watch the person pouring wine squirm. Why do they squirm? I suspect the real opinion about “the movie” is that they hate what has happened to the area too, but the politically correct answer is that the Sideways effect was wonderful. So, I am a sadist and I enjoy it… a lot. Especially when I have to pay $15 to try precisely 1 oz. tastes of a flight of insipid Pinot Noirs at a new winery who is growing nothing but Pinot Noir and they are growing it in the wrong place.

Side note: I thought I remembered the Pinot Noir thing wrong but was vindicated by the January issue of Sunset magazine: “There’s the rub: A wine is “discovered” by fans, gets planted in spades to chase demand, and loses credibility because it really shouldn’t have been planted in all those places”. They also interviewed Jeff Smith from Hourglass Blueline Vineyard in Napa Valley who had this to say: “Of course the true irony is that Miles’s Holy Grail wine (the bottle he chugs with a burger at the movie’s end) is Cheval Blanc, a Merlot-inspired Bordeaux! The fact that most people missed the irony highlights that we have a lot of educating to do.”

I have crazy hair and it’s not from drinking wine, it’s due to heredity. My hair has a life of it’s own. I have to buy gallons of conditioner just to make it look almost normal. It is five times as thick as a normal head of hair. It is curly. It used to be brunette, but it is starting to go gray which makes it look crazy because now that I don’t work, I’ve neglected to get it dyed back to it’s former color. It is long. The last time I saw my hairdresser, she shook her head and said, “I don’t know what I would do if I had hair like yours… I.. really…don’t.” Uh. Thanks. Just wait till she sees me now, lol! I’ll get her!

I have perfect teeth. I hadn’t been to a dentist in a long time. My new dentist was amazed by my teeth. He thinks they are the most beautiful teeth he has seen. I had a hereditary problem that caused issues with my gums. He sent me to an oral surgeon, the oral surgeon, loves my teeth and says they are perfect. Both dentists were amazed that there was not an orthodontist involved in their perfection.

If I were diagnosed with Celiac disease tomorrow, I would commit suicide by the next day. I think you already know this due to what I like to write about on this blog. To me, every meal is better with wheat. If I could live on pancakes, muffins, bread, pizza and pasta, I would. And then, I would have cake or pie for dessert.

Due to some health issues we had money issues and my Dad sold our car when I was around eight years old. He didn’t buy another car for years. As a consequence, I did not drive or acquire my first car until I was twenty three years old. We walked or took public transportation everywhere until then. I am not comfortable driving cars although I have loved every car I’ve owned. I just love them from the passenger seat. This poses a problem to everyone I know since I will usually be the last person to volunteer to drive and the first person to ask someone to drive me somewhere.

If I had a time machine, I would go back to a time somewhere between 1973 and 1990. I liked it there a lot.

Although I love pickles and I get extremely excited when I see them especially if they are homemade. I don’t really like sour foods so I can only eat a bite or two of them before I am completely overwhelmed. My sister loves pickles and can eat a whole jar. When she left home my Dad forgot who liked pickles and kept buying them and then wondering why I stopped eating them.

If you got this far, you now know that I am beautiful like a succulent or a sea creature. Thank you for being my beautiful reader (you are beautiful too!)

Now I get to single out 7 beautiful bloggers. The first rule of the beautiful blogger award was to talk about me. The second rule is to pass the award on. As usual, If I’ve tagged you, I want to let you know that you are under no obligation to treat this like a chain letter. If you don’t want to do this, I won’t care, I just want to let you know I think you are wonderful.

To my readers: I encourage you to click on these links. These seven blogs are where I have been spending a lot of time lately. These people are witty, smart, artistic, compassionate and altogether beautiful:

Stacy at Little Blue Hen: Vegetables are so beautiful when Stacey sees them through the eye of her camera. Go here to see what she is cooking and baking. Stay to discuss food related topics.

Peter at Cookblog: An artist, an omnivore and a wonderful writer. What a great combination. You’ll be drooling over pictures of the restaurant quality food, he served his family for dinner last night.

Tia at Buttercream Barbie: I don’t bake as often as I want to, so this is where I go to dream. Tia bakes constantly and I’m always amazed at how tiny she looks in her pictures. I gain five pounds just by looking at all of the wonderful treats.

A girl whose name I don’t know at Fatty Dumpling: Go to her about page before you start reading. This girl is the funniest writer I have ever encountered on a blog. I hope she ends up with a long and happy career in television and movies.

Jacqui at So Good, So Tasty: This blog is just beautiful. Jacqui is a graphic designer as well as a talented cook. Her blog has feng shui. Something about the colors and the design just make me feel so happy when I go there.

Beth at One Hundred Eggs:  Does anyone remember the blog called a bread a day? Beth is the remarkable woman who baked 365 loaves of bread last year. Now she has this new blog and it’s just so pretty. Great writing, healthy food and she somehow makes it more than ok that she is practicing her photography skills on her lunch every couple of days because the results are stunning.

Amy at Ohiofarmgirl’s Adventures in the Goodland:   A woman gets laid off from her job and rejoices because now she can pursue her dream of running a farm! Pure chaos from another talented writer.

I’ll be gone for a few days visiting my parents while my Mom has surgery. Please forgive me if I don’t respond to comments until I get back. My parents have the last home in the U.S. that does not have internet!

Come out of hiding with me.

Hello.

 

Did you miss me?

 

Sorry.  I didn’t mean to make you forget that there was a blog called Delectable Tidbits.  If you remembered it was out there in the blogosphere and you stopped by to wonder what happened to it’s author, I am sorry you were disappointed that the very rude looking baguette pointing itself straight at you in a very crass way was still sporting itself as the leading photo. 

 

Let’s catch up shall we?

 

I stopped blogging because I was going through some pretty heavy personal turmoil.  I am dealing with something that is a very big deal.  A big deal for me anyway.  Unfortunately, it is the kind of thing I don’t want to share.  Some of the closest people in my life are probably really frustrated with me right now because the silence on my blog has been nothing compared to how little I’ve been keeping in touch with them.

 

Anyway.  One thing that happened while I was away is that I finally came to terms with the fact that exercising myself to death without dieting and dieting without exercising will never make me lose the weight I need to lose.  As you know, I dealt with a scary health issue with my Dad this year and got to live with my Mom for three weeks and see how bad her health really is.  That and the general personal turmoil that is now my life, made me really reflect on how very little I care about myself.  In fact, I’ve cared zero about myself for years and years now.  Sure I talk like I care, but when it comes right down to it, I haven’t cared.  Sometimes a disaster or two or three can help put things in perspective.  Once I decided to care, I began going back to the gym in earnest and I walked during my breaks at work.  Since I did nothing about the huge amounts of food I love to eat, the scale didn’t budge.  So after really concentrating on what was wrong with me, I finally decided I needed help.  I joined Weight Watchers two weeks ago.  So far, it is working out well, but I have been relying on restaurant food and frozen food and food that is way simple to make due to a very strange couple of weeks that coincided with my new “lifestyle”.  So there you have it.  Any posts to my blog going forward will have a bit of a diet bent to them. I hope I don’t lose anyone during this interesting time.  The good news is that Weight Watchers allows you to eat whatever you want as long as you don’t go over the amount of points they give you.  Points you say?  They have you take a questionnaire, which determines an amount of points you can have each week.  The food you eat is assigned a point value.  You add points each time you eat, you subtract points each time you exercise and hopefully you don’t go over your allotted weekly points.  If you are good at it, you lose weight.  So far I have been very good at it and I have lost more weight per week for the past two weeks than they recommend.  Unfortunately, I am a Virgo and bean counting is my forte.  I’m trying not to be too restrictive since I am a little freaked out about the warning on the W.W. website that states that losing weight too fast can cause gallstones.  Yikes.  So in the spirit of not being too restrictive, I will share a recipe with you in a little while.

 

But now, more catch up.  Did you hear about the Gap fire in Goleta?  The fire was extremely close to my house.  So close in fact, that we were right next to it.  Although we were five houses outside of the mandatory evacuation zone, the quarter size pieces of ash raining down on our house, the thick smoke that we couldn’t keep out of the house, and the fact that we could see flames from our kitchen window prompted us to leave on our own.  We went to my Boyfriend’s Dad’s house and spent a lovely fourth of July weekend in fire free Orange County while we kept an eye on the news to see if our house burned down.  The fire crews did an excellent job and very little structural damage occurred during the fire.  We are so very thankful for the firemen in this country.  They are amazing.  Most of them were fresh from battling blazes in Northern California and they still had the bravery and energy to save all of us too!

 

Now I need to share something wonderful.  Corinne from “A Gourmet Love Affair” didn’t forget about me while I’ve been gone.  In fact, she has been making my day by still posting comments to my blog even though there has been nothing new to talk about.  Now she really made my day by giving my blog its first award.  She gave me a “you make my day” award. 

 

 

Since there are no rules I am not obligated to pass it along but I would like to. There are three Bloggers who have been keeping me sane during this time and I’d like to pass it along to them:

 

Dylan of Sourdough Monkey Wrangler.  Why?  Because he shares his kids with us every week.  I don’t have kids so reading about his adventures as a stay at home Dad really makes me smile.  Sometimes his kids are so cute, it makes me feel like I’m missing something and sometimes… I like that he shares his kids with us and I don’t have to have my own, lol!!

 

Peabody of Culinary Concoctions by Peabody and Northwest Noshings.  Why?  Her stories and sense of humor are wonderful.  I laugh out loud when I read her posts.  Nobody else has the energy she has.  This gal can cook and cook she does.  She posts several times a week!  Fantastic!

 

Susan of Farmgirl Fare.  Why?  The “daily dose of cute”.  She posts pictures of her farm animals every couple of days. If you are blue, there is nothing like a baby donkey or a furry lamb to lift your spirits.

 

Let’s talk about food now.  One thing I am noticing about this diet is that I am getting hungry.  Like… really hungry.  The kind of hunger you don’t get when you indulge yourself ALL OF THE TIME.  When I eat now, I am so hungry that food tastes, well, fantastic!  And I am eating so little of it that every bite is wonderful.  We’re talking almost as good as sex.

 

When you are on Weight Watchers you try to fit as much food as you can into that set amount of points.  You realize that fruit and vegetables are your new best friend.  They are worth very little points so you can eat lots and lots of them.  At the same time, you begin to realize that you need to not eat so much butter and sugar and the usual crap you are used to eating because these things are worth a high percentage of your meager amount of points.  I have been eating very little sweets these past two weeks.  I did find myself fantasizing about a half rotting banana at work the other day.  When I think half rotting banana, I usually think banana bread.  I began to think cookie instead.  (Probably because of the whole portion control thing).  From cookie, my thoughts wandered to biscotti, which led me to this recipe on Cooking Light magazine’s website for banana biscotti.  The cookies as they published the recipe are worth two points each.  It turns out that by making a few tweaks such as upping the fiber content with whole-wheat pastry flour I was able to knock the point score to one Weight Watchers point per cookie.  I just had a freshly cooled cookie and it was crunchy, lightly sweet, with a subtle fruity flavor.  Even if you are not watching your figure, I highly recommend you find a half rotting banana and make these cookies!

 

 

Banana-Pecan Biscotti

Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine

 

Makes 24 Biscotti (one Weight Watchers flex point each)

 

1 ¾ cups whole-wheat pastry flour

½ cup evaporated cane juice or sugar

1 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

1/3 cup mashed very ripe banana (about 1 small banana)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 large egg

1/3 cup chopped, toasted pecans

Parchment paper

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

 

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.  In another bowl, combine mashed banana, olive oil, vanilla and egg.  Add wet to dry ingredients and mix until well combined (I had to get in there and knead a little bit, the dough did not combine easily).  Turn the dough out onto a floured board.  Cut the dough into two equal halves.  Form the dough into two eight-inch rolls.  Transfer the rolls to a parchment lined cookie sheet and then flatten the rolls slightly.  Bake for 23 minutes.

 

Remove the cookie loaves from the oven and cool them on a wire rack for ten minutes.  Meanwhile, lower the heat to 250 degrees F.  When the loaves have cooled, Carefully cut each loaf into 12 diagonal slices.  Place the slices on two parchment lined cookie sheets.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Turn all of the cookies over.  Bake them for 15 more minutes.  Transfer the cookies to the wire rack and cool completely before serving.