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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tunnel of Fudge chocolate cake

I made this cake yesterday for some family and thought it turned out great, despite the fact that I mostly baked the tunnel right out of it...I was nervous about under-doing it. Shouldn't have been, I'd eat this thing raw. Ohhhh delicious, especially with the cream cheese glaze on top. Ignore the sad attempt at a picture, I was running out of time.

Tunnel of Fudge Chocolate Cake
1/2 cup boiling water
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, broken in a few pieces (I like Valhrona)

2 cups flour
2 cups powdered sugar
3/4 cup good quality cocoa powder, dutch processed
1 tsp. table salt

2 & 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (Just call me Ina)
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 TB. good vanilla
5 large eggs, room temp

1 recipe cream cheese glaze

Adjust oven rack to lower middle position. Preheat to 350 degrees. Spray a 12 cup bundt can well with Pam.

Whisk the boiling water and chocolate together in a small bowl until melted and smooth. Let cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, powdered sugar, cocoa and salt together.

In a mixer, beat on medium the butter, white and brown sugars and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 3-6 min. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined, about 1 minute. Beat in the chocolate mixture until combined, about 30 seconds. Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture. Beat slowly JUST until incorporated.

Scrape batter into prepared bundt pan and smooth the top. Give it a tap on the counter to settle it. Bake cake until edges pull away from the sides of the pan and the top feels springy. (That never happened in my case.) Check it at 40 min, may take 45 minutes. Don't try to use a toothpick, if you are doing it right, the center will still be wet, just like an underdone cake.

Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes, then flip it over. Cool it completely before adding a glaze.

Cream Cheese Glaze
1 & 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 TB. cream cheese, softened
3 TB. milk
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/8 tsp. table salt

Combine ingredients together in a small bowl, beat until smooth. Drizzle it over the cooled cake. Let it set for 25 minutes before serving.

I'm sure this cake will keep really well, you could easily make it a day or two in advance and refrigerate.
Recipe based off of Cook's Illustrated

Monday, June 28, 2010

Small Daily Happenings

Things we've enjoyed this summer thus far:

1) Hanging out by the downtown fountain, throwing in pennies, dipping our heads in on a hot day and picking morning glory flowers and handing them out to people.

2) The French Market every Saturday!

3) Sam being obessesed with "driving da car." Scott lets him sit in his driver's seat and push all the buttons. We've inadvertantly honked the horn at ungodly hours of the sorry dear neighbors!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Tiger Lilies

The lilies along the (death-trap) west side of our house are blooming! All this rain has the garden completely taking off, many perennials are taller then I am!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Makin' Lemonade

It's been edging 90 degrees with sopping wet humidity and rain this whole week. Today started off with a thunderstorm, rain scheduled all day long.

What to do, what to do all day inside with my infant and three year old...we decided to strap Charlotte in the Baby Bijorn, grab our umbrellas and go find puddles.

It was a lovely 45 minutes and it'd been way too long since the last time I had jumped in some muddy water myself.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Oh. MY. lord.

WHAT IS that?!?!?!?!

I just came in from getting the mail on our front porch (BAREFOOT) and narrowly missed stepping on this, this, rhino of a bug. Anyone know what he is? What shall I do with him? Flip him over with a stick and let him continue on his merry way? Squish him? Ohh, I don't think I can handle the crunch he'd make.

Can someone come over and take care of it for me? Anyone? Anyone?

Scott has something to look forward to now when he gets home from his golf outing today. Heh.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Chubby Baby at the Pool

Please ignore my Bert-like (from Bert and Ernie) voice, when will I learn to say less on videos? I certainly don't want to hear myself and I imagine no one else does either. :)

Side note, the last week has been a tough one, Charlotte decided she no longer preferred to take a bottle, leading us to a hellish battle every time we tried to give her one. I am reluctant to just go cold turkey with it, since I don't have a deadline of going back to's just for my own sanity and the knowledge that Scott and I can get away if we need to at some point in the next 8 months. Here's hoping she gets over it at some point. If she doesn't, as one wise friend pointed out, "You'll blink your eyes and she'll be one." We'll cope.

Scott did tell her after a rough 45 minutes on Saturday that we were drawing up the adoption papers. Charlotte dear, don't believe him.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Come on Over...

The black raspberries are ripening!
Just for good measure, we've got some Kafir Limes and Meier Lemons too, after three years of coaxing the trees through hard Illinois winters they are producing!

Now if I can only keep Sam from picking everything before it's ripe.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Abandon is...

...a fearless three year old and a big boy diving board.

I love his pointed toes and the expression on the lifeguard's face. We had an awesome, if cloudy and sporadically rainy, Sunday afternoon combined birthday party with all Sam's cousin's at Medinah.

Some Reason's Not to Take a Nap

"I not seeeeepy."
"I need a drink of water."
"It NOT time to take a nap."
"See Mom, it not dark out yet!"

And my personal favorite,
"But I have a bad dream coming up!"

Great Sermon

If you have time and a cold Frappichino from your fridge to sip on, listen to this sermon from our church this past Sunday. We had a guest speaker who was great, awesome message about what True Christianity is about.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Training of the Potty

Well, it's been a week.

Seven days ago we began potty training with Sam. It has been a long, house-bound, interesting week. I've only been "peeped" on once. Only had to wash out poopy underwear twice. That's still two times too many. The kid is a champ, he totally loves going on the big potty now, and will chase me down, asking if he can go, in order to earn yet another jelly belly. We have consumed countless number of candies, I hate to see what the dentist will say when he goes later this year. One thing at a time though.

Seems like he's got it (knock on wood), much to my relief. I jumped the gun (just alittle, ha) with trying earlier. Sam still wears a diaper at night and during naps, but for the most part we now have only one child in diapers. What will I do with all that extra money each month? Started by buying myself Ad Hoc at Home and reading 60 pages of it during naptime.

Happy Potty Training to me. I deserve it.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

A Sam-ism for today

Just heard in our kitchen:

"Sam, come here, let me wipe your face, sweetie." After he pounded down a chocolate yogurt and had it all around his mouth.

He runs in the opposite direction, launches himself onto our couch and proceeds to rub his face into the cushions.

"Sam, get your bum over here RIGHT NOW." (Spoken in a firm, slightly raised tone.) "One....Two............three."

And he's there, standing in front of me by three. I wipe his upturned face and he says, "You really good at your numbers Mom!"

Sunday, June 06, 2010

First Annual Pool Trip!

We hit the pool at Medinah, Memorial Day Sunday, after a loooonnnngggggg winter of Sam asking, "'Member the pool? 'Member da diving board?" And sure enough, with no hesitation he marched his newly-turned-three legs up to the big diving board, crawled right up there, and jumped right in. Over and over and over again. We couldn't get him away! Finally Scott had to move to the side and that little guy did it all by himself, straight down into the water.

Charlotte was a champ. By 5:30 pm the sun had moved low enough where she could enjoy the warm water with the rest of us. She LOVED it. Not quite sure what she thinks of a bathing suit though. I think she wants more ruffles. Thank you Mary for the adorable swim suit! She would have stayed in the water with me for hours.

A lovely evening and a great way to use our post nap time. Looking forward to many more days like this, Lord willing.

A Lovely Weekend

Grace just left, having driven down from Ann Arbor Friday night. I feel like it wasn't nearly a long enough visit, but we both have responsibilities at home and cannot pretend we are still the girls who run to catch trains in Geneva, Switzerland, sit in coffee shops journaling about our angst, and eat ice cream three times a day with no thought to our 22 year old hips.

She is a dear friend and it was so much fun to drive into the city on a torrentially raining Saturday morning to enjoy breakfast at our favorite spot, Fox and Obel. That's the breakfast burrito with potatoes, a double baked almond croissant and a caramel latte, in case you wondered. It was luxerious to just SIT. Finish our sentences. Eat a meal uninterrupted and savor the taste of the food. Wander the store aimlessly. Laugh at how ditzy I've become, feeling like the baby is somehow taking all my brain cells. Shop on Michigan Ave. Lust over the iPad at the Apple Store. Suck down a papaya lime juice from Rick Bayless's XoCo. And...much to Sam's jealous amazement, make friends with the giant, Lego Woody at the Lego Store on Michigan. His little heart is breaking, believing that Woody is cheating on Bo Peep with Grace.

Just kidding. Thanks for coming Grace, someday we will be able to go farther, for longer. I'll take what I can get for now.

Tap House Grill in Glen Ellyn

Scott and I recently discovered this awesome little gem and have been four times in the last two months. I figured it was time to write about it. It is our favorite spot for a quiet date night together, and the menu is chock full delicious, well made, bar food.
Each month they run a drink, appetizer and meal special for an ungodly cheap price. The Berry Cosmo was last month's drink and it was delicious.

Don't be scared off as you enter in off Main Street, the first room is a dark bar with high tops. Check in with the hostess at the back of that area and keep walking back...further the large, warmly lit room with booths. If you are really in the know, you'll as for a table out on the patio, under the massive flowering tree with twinkly lights in it. Can't beat the atmosphere on a warm summer's night.

Items that we've loved off their menu: Meatball panini
Mini bbq pork sliders
Mini kobe beef burger sliders
THE PORK NACHOS. Oh. My. Goodness.
Tater tots, tater tots, tater tots! Don't bother with the fries, they're pretty pedestrian
The warm chocolate cake is to die for, surprisingly.
The apple flatbread
And the carrot cake. You won't want to share any of that frosting but you should

Next on my list to try: the Homemade Kit Kat (homemade chocolate mousse layered with peanut butter wafer cookies)
The Adobo Chicken wrap with TOTS

Have a I sold you? Go enjoy a date with your someone for about $35- two meals and two drinks. Save room for dessert and ask early about the Kit Kat, they sell out quickly.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes

Ok, so folks. I have made this recipe twice in the past week and can't get enough of it. Costco sells 16 oz. of super jumbo lump crab meat for $13.99 a can. Seriously! And it feeds four to five adults, or even more! I made 8 huge crabcakes out of this recipe and gave two to each person, it was a ton of food. Based off of Ina Garten's recipe, I doubled the meat, and tweaked it in a few other spots. It is a commitment to make, the dicing takes a good 20 min, but you can make the entire dish ahead of time, cool them to room temp, freeze them in a ziplock bag, and then reheat in a 350 degree oven when you are ready! Again, seriously! So stinking good.

Jumbo Lump Crabcakes
2 TB. olive oil
1 & 1/2 cups small diced celery
2 shallots, diced small
1/2 cup small diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup small diced yellow bell pepper (or orange, whatever)
1/4 tsp. Tabasco sauce
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
1 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. lump crabmeat, rinsed, drained, and gently picked through to remove any shells
1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs (Trader Joe's recently started carrying these, they're great)
1/4 cup minced fresh flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup good mayo (I like the new organic one at Trader Joe's)
The zest and juice from one lime
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
3 eggs

For Frying: 4 TB. butter
1/4 cup olive oil

Heat a large skillet (great time to use your cast iron pan), and place 2 TB. of olive oil, the shallots, celery, bell peppers, tabasco, Worcestershire, Old Bay, salt and pepper in it. Cook over medium low heat until vegetables are soft, about 15 min. Cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, mix mayo, bread crumbs, mustard, lime juice and zest, parsley and eggs together. Gently fold in the crabmeat. Add the cooked vegetables and mix gently. Chill bowl in the fridge for about 30 min.

Wipe down your skillet with a paper towel and melt 4 TB. butter with 1/4 cup olive oil. With your hands, shape crab mixture into about 1/3-1/2 cup patties and ease gently into the hot butter and oil. Cook them over medium low heat, keeping a close eye on how dark they are getting. I find it easiest to use two spatulas, to help press and keep them in their shapes and to lift them out. Cook for about 6-8 min, until browned. Drain on paper towels, keep them warm in a 250 degree oven and serve hot. OR, cool to room temp, stick in a ziplock bag and freeze until you want them. When you're ready, place on a jelly roll pan and heat until warmed through in a 350 degree oven.

Makes 8-10 large crab cakes

Mustard Lime Cream Sauce
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup good mayo
2 tsp. dijon mustard
1 TB. champagne vinegar
the zest and juice of one lime
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper

So much of this sauce is to taste, I made it up after Anna mentioned one they made at Moveable Feast. I started with 1/4 tsp. salt and kept adding a little more until it started to taste right. Same thing with the vinegar, mustard and lime juice. Good luck. It's worth the hassle, so yummy.

Playing Around

So I finally bit the bullet. Broke down last week and bought an SLR, Nikon 3000. It's taken me practically all of the holiday weekend to read the manuel through and then figure out how to use some of the settings. Charlotte was very patient on Saturday, to a point. Looking forward to playing around some more...