Friday, January 18, 2019

Comfort Foods: Mom's Chocolate & Marshmallow Cake

I've been feeling rather nostalgic lately, particularly about the comfort foods I knew as a kid.

I love cooking, and I come by it honestly--I have many memories of making pies with my Grammy, or helping my grandpa make spaghetti, or eating my Meemaw Opie's famous fried chicken.  My Aunt Loyce is famous for her amazing sugar cookies, and at Christmas we would go to her house to make big batches of Christmas desserts like cookies, fudge, and divinity.

But my mom has always been a bit more of a utilitarian cook.  You can't blame her--she (still) works a full time job, did much of the housework, and at many times, worked a second job helping my dad with his business.  Food was something to sustain you.  We had a lot of freezer meals (pot pies, taquitos, pizza rolls, and the like) so that we could fend for ourselves as needed. Since we were a fishing family, fried crappie and french fries were on the menu at least once a week.  Hamburger Helper was also fairly common.  Friday nights we would go over to The Extra Point for dinner. 

When my mom did cook, it tended to be in big batches--like chili, vegetable beef stew, or her famous chicken & noodles.  Things that we could eat off of for the whole week.   For big family dinners, my mom always provided a sheet pan of no-bake cherry cheesecake (still one of my favorite desserts), and sometimes a batch of no-bake cookies (also a favorite).
And every so often, mom would get a hankering for chocolate cake.  Jiffy chocolate cake, to be exact.  You may only know them for the cornbread mix (still a staple in my kitchen pantry).  It's a smaller amount than say, a Betty Crocker box mix--perfect for an 8x8 square pan.  Once baked, Mom would cut out a still-warm square, slice it in half horizontally (like a biscuit or piece of cornbread), plop an oozy layer of marshmallow cream, and then close it back up.  And then we would devour (with forks, not our hands. We're not animals.)

Unfortunately, Jiffy no longer makes a chocolate cake mix--at least, no where that I can find, and it's not listed on their website.  They do have a recipe for chocolate cake on their website--so we're just going to assume that's about as close a replica as one can get.
Ingredients: (makes 6 servings)
1 box Jiffy yellow cake mix
3 Tbsp instant chocolate pudding mix
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
2 Tbsp butter, softened
1 jar marshmallow cream (no, we're not going to use the full jar....probably.)

Heat the oven to 350F, and grease a 8x8 or 9x9 glass pan.

Combine all the dry ingredients, and then beat in the eggs, milk and softened butter for 2 minutes. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 34-38 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

While still warm, cut cake into 6 pieces (cut cake in half in one direction, and then in thirds in the other).  Remove a piece and then slice in half horizontally (like a biscuit).

Spoon a healthy dollop of marshmallow creme into the center of the cake, and replace the top.  Devour while warm.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

2019 Resolutions and Top Posts of 2018!

Happy New Year all!  Hope everyone had a great Christmas and didn't get alcohol poisoning on New Year's Eve (set the bar low, yo.)  We had a pretty chill NYE, had some friends over (who also have young kiddos) so everyone had dispersed by 9pm.  We did a champagne toast at 8pm, because hey, it's the New Year somewhere (in the mid-Atlantic).  Then we got the Lil' Man down to bed, set up our WiFi extender in our kitchen, and went next door to hang out with neighbors (WiFi extender allows us enough signal to check in on the kid's video monitor at their is great, ain't it?)

So--last year I set three resolutions: let's see how we did!

1) Eat more vegetables.  I did a pretty good job with this one, mostly by eating more salads.  I realllllllly love a good salad, guys. I know that sounds weird, but seriously.  The more stuff you put in that bowl, the happier I am. I also read the book "Eating on the Wild Side", which focuses on the fruits and veggies that provide the most nutritional bang for your buck.  So when I go to the salad bar, I load up on things like dried or fresh berries, nuts/seeds, dark greens, cauliflower (who knew a white food could be so good for you?), radishes, broccoli, etc.  

2) Exercise.  I started out strong on this in 2018, and much like almost everyone else, fizzled out somewhere around April.  Then my boss convinced me to sign up for a marathon relay to run in November, so I ramped up gym visits again...until after the relay, and then didn't really go back.  But, it's still more than I went in 2017, so I call that a win.

3) Moisturize.  This I did really well with...for the first half of the year. I had a sticky note on my bathroom mirror that read "Have You Moisturized Today?" and looking at that reminded me to do it every day.  And then...that sticky note fell down, and I never replaced it.  But I still probably remembered about once a week.  My kid's bath time is actually great for this, because he mostly entertains himself, I'm in there anyway (he and I share a bathroom), so might as well put on some lotion.

This year?

1) Use my FitBit.  I've had a FitBit since 2011, and I wear it everyday, but in the last couple years, I haven't really been *using* it.  I haven't been tracking food, sleep, water, or really trying to hit any step goals.  But The Hubs got me a new FitBit Alta HR for Christmas, so I'm hoping the newness of the extra features (detailed sleep tracking, heart rate, "nudges" to make sure you get at least 250 steps an hour) will get me back into gear.  My goal is to track food and water daily, staying under my caloric goal and hitting at least 64 oz of water a day.

I'm not making a gym goal, because last year, even with doing better about going to the gym, I didn't lose a single pound (even though I did significantly improve my running stamina).  And that's likely because I wasn't tracking my food and was still eating crap.

They say weight loss is 75% diet and 25% exercise, and frankly, I'm not good at making myself go to the gym, especially if I have other outside of work commitments (like the continuing education classes I'm taking over at the university).  But they also say that by tracking your food, you're also far less likely to eat bad crap, because it means you have to acknowledge it in your food log.  So hopefully, the simple act of logging my food will help me make good choices and eat less.

2) Get more fiber.  The USDA recommended daily allowance for women is 28 grams.  Most people are woefully under that (myself included).  People spend all this money doing detoxes and cleanses to reduce bloating/water weight, or battle with high cholesterol, when in reality, they probably just need to eat more fiber.  Soluble fiber slows digestion and allows your body to absorb more nutrients from the foods you eat.  Insoluble (bulk) fiber helps clean out your GI system.  And they make you feel full so you eat less, so that's a bonus.

3. Build Others Up.  Earlier this year I was doing some goal-setting at work and trying to create a 5 Year Plan for myself.  But while meeting with my mentor, he said something that really stuck with me.  "Maybe the question isn't 'Where am I going", but rather "Who can I bring with me?"  The idea being that rising tides raise all ships--if I dedicate time to helping others on my team succeed, we all succeed organically. So I've set a goal to have more 1 on 1 meetings with my mentees and teammates and find ways to help them be better, and look for opportunities to help them hit their goals.

Now, on to the Top Ten Posts from 2018!

How about y'all?  Any resolutions to share? Leave them in the comments on on Facebook!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Thirsty Thursday: Strawberry Ginger Smash with Homemade Ginger Beer

In case you didn't know, the Hubs (and me, technically...I'm more of an assistant) is a home brewer.  We've been brewing for several years now.  It's a fun if periodically frustrating hobby (like most hobbies, probably), that gives you a tangible result in the end...that can also get you buzzed.  Earlier this year we decided to branch out from our usual beermaking to make some spicy ginger beer from an extract kit we found at our local homebrewing store.
The full packet makes 16 Liters, so we bottled four 2-Liters, and then put the rest in the fermenter with some yeast.  The yeast gobbles up some of the sugar and converts it to alcohol, and have hard ginger beer.
BOOM, is right...since we decided to use champagne yeast.  Which not surprisingly, makes the bottles fizz up like crazy when you open them...much like a bottle of champagne.

Anyway, aside from those incidents, it's tasty stuff...providing you like ginger. Like, REALLY like ginger.  This stuff will go up your nose and make you cough.

Much like the other super-spicy ginger beer, Q, this makes an excellent moscow mule. Or Dark & Stormy  But since we've already made those here before, I wanted to try something a little different.
INGREDIENTS: (per cocktail)
4 hulled strawberries
1 tsp honey
5-7 mint leaves (note: I think this would be equally delicious with basil)
1/2 lime juice
3-4 oz strawberry infused vodka 
8 oz homemade ginger beer 
Crushed ice

Place the strawberries, mint, and honey in the bottom of the glass and muddle with a wooden spoon.  Then top with crushed ice.
Add the lime juice, vodka, and ginger beer.  Garnish as desired.  Kick back and enjoy with a nice cheese plate.
Featured cheese: Mango Ginger Stilton