Catching Up

WHERE HAVE I BEEN?

Between a nasty sinus infection, a cat who decided to develop asthma, and a huge project at work, finding time to blog was next to impossible.  But here I am.  I made it.  Let’s catch up!

Muffins (Baked Milk Challenge): The muffin game is still going strong over here.  Emily won’t touch a bowl of oatmeal, but she LOVES oatmeal muffins.  My last three batches have all been variations of oatmeal muffins.  Emily BEGS for her “muffies” and it’s hard because she’s only allowed one every couple of days.  We’ll have to do this until January and then we’ll retest her IgE levels.  In the meantime, she likes to “help” me bake.

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Cooking: YOU GUYS, I’ve finally started cooking pork chops!  First I followed this recipe for Glazed Pork Chops, and last night I used Shake & Bake (shhhhh…).  My hubs is grateful to be eating something that’s not chicken, and Emily appears to be a big fan of pork.  YAS.

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Other shenanigans: I’m plotting a ginormous organizing spree at home.  (Side note: Since when is “ginormous” considered an actual, proper word? I think I missed a memo.)  I have a list of small projects that will hopefully make life in a small house more tolerable.  I started a Pinterest board for home organization and I’ve got items in my Target and Amazon carts stacking up.  It’ll be a ridiculous amount of work but worth it in the long run!  I’ll be taking before and after photos and I’ll be sure to share my favorite organizational hacks.

Lastly:  Let’s talk cheese.  Or, “cheese.”  I have a handful of vegan “cheese” recipes to try for Emily, but since my last two cashew-based cheese attempts were flops, I’m emotionally scarred and I’m afraid of trying again.  We recently tried Heidi Ho, a plant-based “cheese” I found at Whole Foods, and both Emily and I enjoyed it but it’s so…damn…expensive and it doesn’t have a long shelf life.  I’m not ready to admit defeat yet, so I’m gearing up to try a new vegan cheese recipe.  If you have one that you think is foolproof (remember who you’re dealing with here), please share!

So there’s a few weeks worth of stuff crammed into a 400-word post.  Now that my cat and I are both breathing again, I’m hoping to be back here this weekend.

Don’t Forget the Broth

I have this way of just…screwing up in the dumbest of ways.

A couple of nights ago I made this Orange Beef Stir Fry (sans mushrooms) I found on the Allergic Living website.  Although I did read through the recipe before cooking it, I have to be honest that I’ve been slacking on my mise en place lately.  I could give you every excuse in the book, but what it comes down to is that I tend to convince myself that skipping this step is saving me time.  Not only is that wrong–so, so wrong–but this is what got me into the most trouble all those years ago when I started cooking.

Long story short, when I was finished cooking this recipe I regarded the appearance of the stir fry with serious confusion.  The sauce didn’t seem very sauce-y.  It was gelatinous and somewhat chunky from the cornstarch.  It was three times thicker than I expected it to be, and it was white with a soft yellow tinge–nothing like the gorgeous brown stir fry sauce shown in the picture of the dish on the website.

I dipped my finger in and took a quick taste.  The flavor wasn’t bad.  It might not have been the consistency I’d expected, but it wasn’t awful.  I called out that dinner was served, and we all sat down at the table to eat.

Although it didn’t taste bad, and my husband and daughter were both eating it, I couldn’t shake the fact that something was off with the sauce.  Then it hit me:  THE BEEF BROTH.

I’m guessing the 3/4 cup of beef broth I was supposed to add with the cornstarch/orange juice mixture would have made a huge difference in the outcome of this dish. When I realized my mistake, I sheepishly admitted it to my husband, who did a horrible job of disguising the fact that he’d known something was off.

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Snot sauce, anyone?

I have vowed to myself to return to my mise en place ways.  This cannot happen again.

Also this week, I made Cinnamon Roll Bread for Emily’s week 9 baked milk challenge. It’s gorgeous AND terrifyingly delicious.  Swaps I made for allergies:  vanilla almond yogurt in place of the plain Greek yogurt, and a flax egg in lieu of the real egg.  This bread truly tastes like cinnamon rolls.  It’s dangerous to have a whole loaf of it calling my name from the kitchen.

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My husband will be away with a friend on a camping trip this weekend, so I have a rare opportunity to “cook outside the box,” so to speak.  He hates all the good foods like sweet potato and quinoa and avocado, which means the kiddo and I will be trying out some different things while he’s away!

Chicken Pot Chicken Pot Chicken Pot Pie

It’s FINALLY FALL, Y’ALL.

Okay, technically I’m writing this post on the last day of summer.  But it’s been cold, rainy, and windy, and I’ve been wearing scarves and sweaters.  As far as I’m concerned, fall has begun, and that means it’s time for comfort food cooking.

Comfort food around this house isn’t as easy as it used to be.  Most of our favorite comfort foods involve cheese, heavy cream, butter, and eggs, which are all off-limits when cooking for my family.  My daughter, Emily, has multiple food allergies.  She can’t eat dairy, eggs, peanuts, or pumpkin.  Peanuts and pumpkin are easy enough to avoid in our own house (in fact, peanuts in any form do not even enter this house), but milk and eggs can be tricky.

I’ve been in the mood for chicken pot pie.  Can you imagine cooking chicken pot pie without milk and/or eggs?  Well, I went for it.  I made up a recipe on the fly using our go-to substitute ingredients, and as with many things I cook these days, I kept my expectations low.  Here’s what I did:

1. I made a basic white sauce using dairy-free margarine, flour, and unsweetened rice milk.  When it started to thicken, I tossed in a chicken bouillon cube and sprinkled in some pepper.

2. Once the sauce had thickened to my liking, I added a couple of cups of shredded chicken and half a bag of frozen mixed veggies and kept on the heat until the sauce was warm.

3. I spread out a Pillsbury pre-made pie crust into a glass pie dish.  Strangely enough, these pie crusts don’t contain dairy OR eggs.

4. I dumped the sauce/chicken/veggie mixture into the pie dish and covered with another crust.

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5. I baked for 20 minutes at 450 degrees F.

The verdict?  My daughter cleaned her plate, if you don’t count the green beans she thinks are evil.  I had to go back for seconds.  My HUSBAND, who never goes back for seconds, especially not when I load up his dinner full of vegetables, went back for seconds.  The best damn pot pie I’ve ever made, and without any dairy or eggs.

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Say something about my dirty stovetop–I dare you.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to get too cocky.  This is a rare victory for me.  *Has traumatizing flashback to the last time I tried to make vegan Alfredo sauce*  It is nice to have a good ol’ comfort food recipe to file away for later use, though.

Earlier this week I also baked a loaf of Dutch Apple Bread.  This one I actually made as a part of Emily’s six-month at home baked milk challenge.  Two months ago, her IgE numbers for casein (milk protein) dipped low enough that her allergist thought she could possibly tolerate baked milk.  When milk is baked, some of the milk proteins bake out. We started out with a baked milk challenge done at the allergist’s office so she could be monitored in case she went into anaphylaxis.  Unfortunately, she failed the challenge; she reacted to the milk, but it was a mild enough reaction that her allergist asked us to give her half of a muffin or slice of bread three times a week to help her body build up a tolerance for the protein.  The muffins and bread must contain a specific amount of milk so she’s getting enough, but not too much, exposure to those proteins.

LONG STORY SHORT…I baked bread.

I started out with this recipe, but I made several modifications.  First, I didn’t make the glaze.  Considering I have to make these things for Emily weekly, I figured she didn’t need all that extra sugar.  I did opt for a light sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar on top.

Second, I omitted the walnuts.  Emily is only a year and a half old, so I’m still cautious about choking hazards.

Third, I added half a teaspoon of cinnamon to the dry ingredients.  Just ’cause.

Lastly, I substituted ground flax for the eggs.

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That brown goop?  That’s “egg.”

THIS BREAD IS SO DAMN DELICIOUS.

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All in all, I feel pretty good about this week’s creations.

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Rolling in Dough

Over the weekend, I was bit by the baking bug. It happens quite rarely, but when it does…oh boy.

And of course I didn’t start off with something easy. On Sunday morning, I drank a cup of coffee for a burst of energy and then stepped right into my bread-makin’ shoes. (Note: I didn’t actually have any shoes on while I made bread. I did, however, bust out my trusty pink floral apron.)

Right off the bat, my husband had little faith in me. I can’t say I blame him. He’s more familiar than anyone with my work in the kitchen. But he had good reason to be weary of my bread’s success; I was making a mixed-grain bread that called for quite a bit of whole-wheat flour, which is notoriously more difficult to bake with than your standard all-purpose flour.

The husband went out for a mountain bike ride and I got to work mixing and kneading…and kneading…and kneading. Honestly, longest six minutes of my life.

And when my husband returned home, look at what I got to gloat about:

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He was quite impressed. Truthfully, it was too early to be genuinely impressed, as I hadn’t yet tasted it. Luckily, the first bite validated my ability as a baker; I baked one seriously delicious loaf of bread! I was telling my coworker about it, and in a surprised tone she asked, “You made your own bread? Like, with a bread machine?” Let me tell you how good it felt to tell her that I did all the dirty work by hand: it felt goooooooooooood.

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That same afternoon, I made these Oreo Cheesecake Cookies:

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I’m pretty sure this was the simplest cookie recipe I’ve ever used, and the cookies were to die for. I took them to a family get-together that evening, and within five minutes, they were gone. Every last one of them.

I recently posted a rant about my food looking nothing like the pictures in the recipes I find online, and what made me happiest about these cookies is that mine looked exactly like the pictures in the original recipe. FINALLY.

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Have you baked anything good lately?

Chili Tweaks and Homemade Cornbread

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A few years ago, I found the easiest chili recipe and I’ve made it several times over, always using a different kind of salsa. I make it probably once a month, and I almost always serve cornbread on the side.

Cornbread from a box.

From a Jiffy box, to be exact. We’re not even talking fancy Marie Callender’s cornbread mix. We’re talking 48-cent Jiffy cornbread.

I’ve considered making homemade cornbread, but laziness (and shame) have always taken over and driven me to purchase the boxed mix. But since part of my cooking journey is to rid my kitchen of as much boxed stuff as possible, I finally went through with making cornbread from scratch!

But first, back to the chili. As I said, I’ve made this same chili recipe numerous times. I’ve got it down to perfection. I almost don’t even need the recipe anymore. I wrote this down in my recipe notebook a LONG time ago, and unfortunately I don’t have the teensiest clue where it originated from. If I ever find it, I promise I’ll edit this post and link to it.

Ingredients

1 pound lean ground beef
1 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 16-ounce cans of kidney or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2.5 cups salsa
1 4-ounce can of diced green chiles
2 teaspoons of chili powder

Steps

  1. Cook the ground beef, onion, and garlic in large skillet until beef is browned. Drain.
  2. Add the beans, salsa, chiles, and chili powder. Bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to low and cover. Cook, stirring frequently, for 20-25 minutes.

I repeat: it’s easy, and I’ve perfected it. No mistakes. No disappointments. It was a combination of bravery and confidence that influenced me to make some alterations this go-around.

First, I swapped out the ground beef for some stew meat chopped into half-inch pieces. Second, I used homemade salsa. And third, I eliminated the green chiles because I completely forgot about them at the grocery store.

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I wasn’t horribly impressed with the salsa I made for use in the chili. It was the same recipe I used in a recent post, but it didn’t really have that “chili” flavor I was going for. So, I cracked open a can of tomato sauce and poured half of it in, and I added about 2-3 extra teaspoons of chili powder for good measure.

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While the chili cooked, I started on the cornbread. I used a recipe from my Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. I was pleasantly surprised to discover it was almost as effortless as the boxed Jiffy mix. My only mistake was melting the butter, and then whisking in the milk and eggs and letting it sit for a few minutes while I tended to the chili. By the time I poured it all into the flour/cornmeal mixture, the butter had become wax-like. I frantically stirred the batter in an attempt to break it all up. It must have worked, because the cornbread was fabulous!

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The chili I was worried about? Also fabulous! I was a little saddened that I used a salsa recipe with no chunkiness to it, as that’s one of the things I love about chili. Next time, I’ll still make my own salsa, but I’ll try a different recipe that doesn’t puree it down to that sauce-like consistency. The taste was still wonderful and I’m proud of myself for taking a bit of a chance and seeing it pay off!

Do you prefer chunks of beef, or ground beef in your chili? I think it’s a tie for me, but it was a nice change from the typical chili I make. 🙂

Ninjas and Gingahs

Christmas was quite good to me this year. My parents’ gifts to me and my husband were a Ninja Mega Complete Kitchen System and a set of embarrassingly nice steak knives. I’m not lying to you when I say I almost cried when my husband unwrapped the Ninja set. As soon as we returned home, we packed our old blender and its components into a box and threw it in the big trash can in the garage.   Good riddance.

I haven’t yet cooked anything that requires the use of the new steak knives, but my Ninja is almost the coolest thing I’ve ever owned. All of this is to say, you might expect it to make some appearances on the blog in the near future. I mean, the things that system can do!

For Christmas, I was tasked with preparing dessert. My father is a diabetic and a dialysis patient, so his diet is extremely limited. Since gingersnaps are among his favorite cookies, I chose a recipe from the DaVita dialysis website for some soft ginger cookies. Remember my recent post about my peppermint cheesecake cookies that tasted delicious but fell horribly flat? Well, I’m happy to report that I actually learned something from the experience. Here’s what I did differently with the ginger cookies:

  • Used butter softened at room temperature—not butter melted in the microwave.
  • Was ridiculously careful not to overmix the dough.
  • Chilled the dough in the fridge for several hours before baking it.

The cookies were so, so soft and didn’t fall flat at all! YAY!

Fresh out of the oven...

Fresh out of the oven…

Cooled, but not flat!

Cooled, but not flat!

Once they cooled, I transferred 28 cookies into a gallon-sized Ziploc bag. After Christmas dinner, the five of us—my husband, my stepson, my parents, and myself—busted into the cookies as we played Aggravation. By the time the game was over, only four cookies remained. Five people, 24 cookies…you do the math.

Now, I will leave you with the Barf of the Week, courtesy of the above cookies:  Diarrhea Dough!

If only real diarrhea smelled this good.

If only real diarrhea smelled this good.

Amateur Candy Cane Pounder: or, Peppermint Cheesecake Cookies

Although I love to bake, I don’t do it very often. One reason is that it’s usually time consuming, and the other is that it would soil my plan of maintaining a healthy body weight. I typically channel my inner baker only for birthdays and holidays. And—oh my—Christmas is just around the corner!

I hadn’t thought much about baking any Christmas goodies yet this year. But I’ve been watching the Holiday Baking Championship on Food Network, and…well, try watching that show without getting a deadly craving for baked goods. Yesterday I finally made a date with Google to find a yummy recipe.

In an ideal world, I would have baked a cake. I LOVE CAKE. But the husband doesn’t care for cake, and for some reason I decided to be a nice wife and bake something we’d both enjoy. (Santa, are you taking notes?)

I settled on some Peppermint Cheesecake Cookies. My husband has been buying enough candy canes to warrant purchasing stock in Ferrara Candy Company, and everyone in my house just loves cheesecake. Win!

After a trip to the store to pick up some missing ingredients, my stepson asked if he could help bake the cookies. Ten years old and still wants to help me bake cookies—heart, please don’t melt! Of course I took him up on the offer.

The recipe calls for peppermint baking chips, which—of course—I couldn’t find at the grocery store. Why is there always ONE stupid ingredient you can’t find? Well, I’m an improviser if nothing else, so I purchased a ginormous peppermint candy cane for making my own peppermint chips.

The kiddo and I prepped the ingredients and while he mixed the butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, and pudding mix, I readied the candy cane for smashing.

Shit just got real.

Shit just got real.

I’m here to tell you, the way to a ten-year-old boy’s heart is to give him a candy cane and a mallet.

Before I tasked my stepson with the smashing of the candy cane, I took the first whack to make sure it would work. I hit it far too hard and sent shards of peppermint flying in every direction. Oops.

I think I broke it.

I think I broke it.

I gave the mallet to my stepson and instructed him not to hit too hard, and he gladly went to work breaking up the candy cane into little shards. While he created our impromptu peppermint chips, I mixed the flour into the batter until it made a nice, buttery cookie dough.

Boys and their tools...even in the kitchen.

Boys and their tools…even in the kitchen.

After several minutes, the candy cane was completely smashed but most of the shards were still pretty large. When we tried to smash them into tinier bits, they flew outward and landed on the floor, which excited my puppy to no end. Finally, I told my stepson to stop because I was tired of intercepting the dog’s consumption of the peppermint. Only then did the little light bulb come on. AHA!

I scooped up the peppermint shards and tossed them into my mini food processor. Within seconds, we had perfectly tiny peppermint bits to fold into the dough. What did I ever do without my food processors?

Eat my dust.  No really, it's delicious.

Eat my dust. No really, it’s delicious.

The dough made 24 beautiful cookies. After an agonizingly long cool-down, I split one cookie into thirds and we all taste-tested it. Delicious!

Yum times infinity.

Yum times infinity.

The only thing that disappoints me is that in the pictures in the recipe, the cookies are nice and puffy and look perfect—yet my cookies fell very, VERY flat. They still taste glorious, but damn it, I want my cookies to stay puffy!

I found this thread on Chow about preventing cookies from falling flat and it looks like there are several reasons mine turned into pancakes. For instance, I softened my butter a bit in the microwave and the bottom of it (but not the whole stick) straight-up melted. Since I had the kiddo do most of the mixing while I was measuring ingredients, the batter might have been over-mixed. Lastly, in hindsight I realize I probably should have chilled the dough a bit longer before sticking it in the oven.

Still, the cookies taste amazing. I guess I’ll just have to make another batch next weekend and see if I can make them stay puffy.  😀

 

 

Thanksgiving Success!

I have never truly contributed to Thanksgiving dinner at my parents’ house.  It’s not to say I don’t offer.  Every year it’s the same drill:  I ask my mom what I can do to help and am assigned chopping the celery, opening the cans of olives, and setting the table.  Anything to keep me away from the actual cooking.  It doesn’t bother me; this arrangement has always been a necessity because of my notoriety for ruining anything that touches the stove.

This year I tossed out my usual offer to help, but several weeks ahead of time.  My parents were hosting between two and four additional guests and I didn’t want my mom to be overwhelmed.  To my surprise, she said, “Sure, you can be in charge of the rolls.”

Now I should be honest:  my mom kind of thought I would just buy some rolls at the grocery store.  At first, I kind of thought I would just buy some rolls at the grocery store.  But damn it, I’ve worked hard on my cooking skills and a surge of confidence came over me.  I was going to make the Thanksgiving rolls.  From scratch.

Of course, I always have to have a Plan B.  Just like Plan B for ruined dinner is a trip to Chipotle for burrito bowls, Plan B for Thanksgiving was a trip to the grocery store to buy some bakery rolls.  For this reason, I made my rolls on Wednesday so I would still have time to hit the store that night if all else failed.

Before I continue, look at this picture of the rolls we had for Thanksgiving.  You’ll have to keep reading to find out if they are Plan A or Plan B.

IMG_0528Tuesday, 7 p.m.  First things first, put on my trusty apron.  I rarely wear it but I was working with flour and…well, let’s just say I’ve learned my lesson.

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I mixed all of the ingredients, got in a mini-arm-workout stirring what felt like 50 pounds of wet flour, and stuck the dough in the fridge to chill overnight.

Wednesday, 1 p.m.  Punched the dough down as instructed.  (No one warned me baking was such a violent activity.)  Divided it in two and honestly couldn’t imagine each half turning into twelve glorious and perfect rolls.

IMG_05211:30 p.m.  Rolled a total of 23 little balls and took the puppy for a long walk for the 45 minutes I needed to give the dough to rise.

2:30 p.m.  Took the first half of the rolls out of the oven.  They…were…PERFECT!  Tried not to squeal.  Squealed anyway.  Stuck in the second tray while the first twelve cooled on a wire rack.

I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I make adorable little rolls.

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There were seven people at my parents’ house for Thanksgiving dinner, and I brought 23 rolls.  By the time we cleaned up from our giant feast, only three rolls remained.  If that’s not success, I don’t know what is!

I’m really pleased I didn’t ruin the first Thanksgiving item I’ve ever cooked.  This year rolls, next year THE TURKEY!  Bwahahahahaha!

(Just kidding, mom.  Don’t scream.  I won’t touch the turkey until it’s carved and on my plate.)

PB&J Cake; or, giving my cake pan the middle finger

As it turns out, the third time really is a charm.

I have nearly ruined one cake and completely ruined another because for some stupid reason I couldn’t get the cakes to not stick to the inside of the pan.  I’ve always loved baking and have never been too particularly bad at it–except for when it comes to turning a cake out of a pan.

After ruining my last cake, which had been intended for a friend who is battling cancer, I was instructed by this particular friend to practice a new cake and to bring her one once I had broken the curse.  The cake I was ordered to make is a Peanut Butter and Jelly Cake, which can be found in the latest issue of Food Network Magazine.

Instead of covering the cake pan in greased parchment paper, as the recipe instructed, I followed my mom’s advice and bought a can of cooking spray made specifically for baking.  I doused the ever-living crap out of the pan; I mean, I’m surprised there was any cooking spray left in the can by the time I was finished.  Not this time, cake pan.  Not this time.

While the cake baked, I made the peanut butter frosting out of peanut butter, regular butter, powdered sugar, and milk.  I would almost forfeit an entire year’s salary in exchange for eating a bowlful of this frosting daily without becoming obese.

When the cake came out of the oven,  I waited anxiously while it cooled enough that I could try turning it out of the pan.  It was a defining moment in my culinary self-teachings.

Awwwwwww yeah!  IT WORKED!  With the hurdle of uncertainty behind me, I continued onto the fun part:  the transformation from cake to PB&J.  First, I cut off a thin layer on the top and bottom of the cake with a serrated knife so that the cake looked like a big slice of bread.

Next, I cut the cake into two equal slabs and piled the bottom layer with peanut butter frosting and some of my grandma’s homemade raspberry jelly.

Finally, I replaced the top layer of the cake and cut it in half diagonally.  It’s hard to tell it’s not just a boring PB&J sandwich!  (Disclaimer:  I don’t think PB&J is boring at all.)

Last night we had dinner with my parents and I brought this over for dessert.  It was a hit!

Trash can cake

Today I’m driving to a nearby town to visit one of my good friends, who is currently battling cancer.  She loves my blog and she’s always cheering me on, giving me pointers, and sharing her recipes and cookbooks.  One might say she’s my biggest fan.  🙂

I wanted to bake her something special, so I turned to my new BHG Bridal Cookbook and picked out a recipe for a Cream-Filled Cake Roll.

[Photo source: Better Homes and Gardens]

I want to preface what you are about to read by saying I really did have confidence that I could pull this off.  I really, really did.  As it turns out, my confidence is no match for my terrible cake-making skills.

The Cream-Filled Cake Roll was a series of new firsts for me, starting with the concept of beating eggs until they form soft or stiff peaks.  My stepson assisted me with much of last night’s cake-making, so we took turns operating the hand mixer, ooh-ing and ahh-ing as the eggs turned creamy and foamy.

The process of beating the egg yolks and the egg whites (separately) took about half an hour (come on, eggs, I don’t even spend that much time on you in the morning!).  We were finally able to fold the yolk mixture into the egg white mixture, followed by folding the flour mixture into the egg mixture.  Mmmmm, cake goop.

So far so good, right?  I poured the batter into my parchment paper-covered, well-greased pan, and let the oven do its thing.  At this moment in time, confidence was still high.  No way my 60 minutes of prep time wouldn’t pay off!  In the meantime, I made the cream filling by beating together whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla.  My stepson and I sliced up fresh raspberries (sampling along the way) and I folded them into the mixture while he washed all of the red juice off of his hands and face.

With the filling done, the next hurdle was to get the cake out of the oven and onto the towel coated with powdered sugar.  When the cake came out, I diligently followed the recipe’s instructions to immediately loosen the edges of the cake from the pan.  I turned the pan upside down over the towel; at this point, a big slab of cake should have slipped out of the pan’s grasp and landed cleanly on the towel.  Since a picture is worth a thousand words:

The “big slab” of cake on the towel was missing chunks, all of which had stuck to the parchment paper.  All of its holes made it the Swiss cheese of cakes.  Stifling a scream, I pulled myself together:  it’s still salvageable, I told myself.  I continued to do as the recipe indicated, rolling the towel and the cake into a spiral.  Once cooled, then maybe, just maybe, I could still turn this into an edible (albeit ugly) cake.

Again, since a picture is worth a thousand words:

When the time came to unroll the cake and the towel, the cake had stuck to the towel so badly I couldn’t even remove it.  Furthermore, it had cracked into a million little pieces while cooling, so it was no longer a holey cake–it was simply a collage of cake scraps.  After several unsuccessful attempts to remove chunks of cake from the towel, I dumped everything in the trash can–towel included– and said good riddance.

My stepson asked if I was going to try again, but at 11 o’clock at night, my sanity depended on my surrender.  When I told him that I would not be attempting it a second time, he responded:  “Well, you could always just bring her some flowers.”

It’s apparent that my cooking has improved ten-fold since I started my blog in March.  But when it comes to fancy cakes, I am a LONG…long…longlonglong way from improvement.  To the friend for whom this cake was intended, I’m sure you’ll be reading this at some point, and I’m sure you’ll understand that it’s the thought that counts.  Going forward, I’ve heard Costco sells some nice desserts…