Let’s make a cake!

My kid has this thing about cakes. A couple of months ago he asked me to buy a yellow cake mix. “Let’s make a cake, Mom!” Yeah. Sure. OK. Fine.

It wasn’t bad.

But the baking fan in me struggled a bit with the fact that it came from a mix.

Still, it was fun. He loved it. And it was easy. Easy is good, right?

I was at Target recently, just browsing the grocery aisles, when I spied another vanilla cake mix. I smiled remembering the other cake we’d made. Then I shrugged, picked it up and put it in the cart.

And the very next day I decided to mix it up for him. (He assisted with the previous one but was hosting a friend for a video-game session this time around.) I just couldn’t remember which frosting recipe I’d used last time. (That part I can at least say I made myself!) So I searched Pinterest and came up with one that used ingredients I had on hand. This one.

And that was my mistake.

Why? Because that frosting is possibly the best I’ve ever had. It wasn’t super-sweet like some buttercreams. I could sit with a bowl of it and easily eat it all. Sadly. (Can you say sugar freak?) So in these photos you see a cake slathered with frosting. Because I went WAY out by making a double batch to ensure I had enough. And I was determined to enjoy it to the fullest! (The kiddo loved it too. He asked for leftover cake every night this week.) So I guess you could say I recommend you try that recipe.

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Is it possible to have too many cookies?

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Some people would say yes. I might have said yes at the end of the sessions. And yet it’s nice to have a lot of tasty gingerbread people cooling their heels in my freezer.

If you can believe this, I’ve never made gingerbread people before. So this wasn’t just an adventure in baking cookies that my gluten-free stomach can, uh, stomach, but also in baking a classic that I really didn’t have a good standard to measure against.

We had various thicknesses so some are soft and some are crispy. But they’re all good! And Dev rocks the icing piping. He was so eager to help me this year. I’m not sure how long the sous chef/baker thing will last, but I’m enjoying it for now.

We made snowy lemon cookies for the previous weekend, along with a GF version of the classic tollhouse variety (because Dev insisted he was going to bring his own cookies to the shindig). So between the three, we’ve spent our fair share of time in the kitchen together.

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A cat and some breadsticks

Cats. I love them. Sometimes, though, they can be incredibly frustrating (as any human or other animal can be, I’m sure). Such as this morning when I was walking around in the dark looking for my gym bag and stepped on Finn. He has far better eyesight in the dark than I do. Why wouldn’t he have moved when he saw me blundering his way?

Nick Furry has his own issues. He’s a total nut. He’s still a teenager, though. First thing in the morning he races around the house, jumping on furniture and into windowsills. He hits the dining room chairs so hard that they often slide across the floor. No one’s chasing him. But I think he thinks someone is.

He and I also have a skirmish, usually daily, regarding his desire to sit on the dining room table. Our cat Lucy used to do the same. I’d take her down, she’d get back up. I’d squirt her with a squirt gun, she’d stand there and take it with a look on her face that said, “Nice try!” Nick actually gets down when squirted, but he pops back up like a prairie dog as soon as I’m not looking.

And he, like her, often plays this game when I’m baking. There must be some cat sense that tells them that it’s more fun to be naughty when it requires me to wash my hands after every extrication.

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So, he was interrupting this particular project: rosemary breadsticks from Against All Grain. They are super easy to make, but you have to roll them out one by one, of course, and that’s when he would hop on the table. He’s too smart for his own good.

I want to make sure to mention that not only did Scott like these, Devin actually asked for seconds. That never happens! Especially if he has an inkling that they’re gluten-free. The recipe is in her book, which I highly recommend.DSC_7651
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The coffee ice cream that took a week to make

Yes, the headline is true. One week.

But that’s only if you’re me and you’ve only made ice cream once before, years ago. And you make a mistake that seems entirely silly later on.

Let’s start with why I decided to make this particular ice cream. It goes back to my favorite store-bought ice cream. Which sadly no longer exists. I was very sad for a very long time. And then I had to get over it.

(Why, you ask, didn’t I just switch to another Starbucks ice cream flavor? This one was low-fat, people! And it tasted so creamy and delicious. How could it be low in fat? How? The others were full-fat blowhards. I just couldn’t do it.)

Back to this ice cream. The one I was so excited to make.

It started out nicely. Egg yolks. Aren’t they kind of cool looking all together like that in the bowl?
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And then there’s this. (Obviously, this particular coffee ice cream isn’t low in fat. Ahem.)
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I scalded it as the recipe said.
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I mixed it in with the yolks and sugar and it got all frothy.
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Then I got interrupted by the cat. That wasn’t the problem, though.
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I returned the whole thing to the stove, as instructed, and stirred for 12-15 minutes. (Well, a little bit longer.)
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Then I added the coffee, cooled it down and put it in the ice cream maker. That’s when things went downhill. It churned and churned and churned and churned and…

You get the picture. It was still liquid. No creamy anything. *le sigh*
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To make myself feel better, I enjoyed a glass of wine with my friend Fiona.
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And then I had a cup of coffee. The Escapist. Yum. From The Sparrows.
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And then I watched Devin and Scott play carpetball.
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These things took my mind off of my coffee-ice-cream sorrows.

My sadness was truly lifted when my co-workers heard my tale and began to query me about what I’d done. The ice cream maker was spinning, right? You added salt, right? You used cream, right?

Yes, yes, yes.

And then I innocently said, “I used skim milk. Do you think that was a problem?”

Um, yeah. It was indeed.
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Oh, July…where have you gone!

Someone said just yesterday that it seems like it takes forever for July 4th to arrive, and once it does summer just speeds right by.

That may be true. It seems like we just celebrated Independence Day. Which happens to be my son’s favorite holiday. Even better than Christmas, he claims. And I did indeed take photos over that weekend. And afterward. I actually had a hot streak going with my camera for a bit there.

So with a bit of a delay, here are some photos of our July so far.

Starting with the Fourth, of course! I took lots and lots of photos, but most had my neighbors in them. I didn’t feel like getting all of those photo releases signed. Ha! So you get to see my son’s fireworks wagon – filled to the brim. He was giddy, even if it’s not apparent in these photos.

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The next day we went to Meijer Gardens (free passes from my company – woot!). It was bittersweet for me. The kiddo was hardly interested in the boats this year. The entire children’s garden elicited very little enthusiasm. I remember sitting several times for what seemed like hours as he pushed his little plastic boat around the “great lakes.” Sigh.

But he enjoyed our walk out to the farm garden and the trails.

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Then I made blueberry scones. Which I’m posting here specifically because my mom complained that I post sooo many food photos to my blog. The fact is, I don’t cook or bake enough so when I do…I have to take photos!

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And this was the prep for the faux cherry garcia frozen yogurt that I found and just HAD to make. Can you believe how adorable that cherry pitter is? And way less messy than the other one I had. I wasn’t thrilled with the yogurt, but I think I’ll try it again with a couple of change-ups. It was very close. We’ve also been using our ice cream maker for slushies. They’re Dev’s new obsession.

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Four Mondays in a row!

For some reason, I’m in a bit of a pattern here. Snap photos over the weekend. Post them on Monday.

I’ve actually become quite offline-focused over my weekends. So much so that people are a bit amazed that I didn’t see a Facebook post or respond to their email. I’m in front of a computer all through the week. I guess I see weekends as times to step away. I’m not against picking up my iPad and playing a game of Dots (so flipping addictive) or snapping photos for Instagram or even watching a Netflix movie on the computer. I just don’t feel the desire to engage the way I seem to during the week.

So not unplugged. Un-surfed? Eh. Something like that.

This weekend I caught up on some gardening tasks. It’s amazing how many weeds will grow if you’re not diligent for a few days. (Although try to grow something I *want* to be there and it takes forever!)

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And I finally tried a recipe I’d been dying to make for a few weeks now. Yes, it’s cornbread. And, yes, if you know me well enough, it’s gluten free. I’ve made a few versions. I’ve liked most of them. But this one has rocketed to the #1 spot on my list. I still haven’t mixed up Shauna’s all-purpose flour, which I’ve been meaning to since she made it seem so easy, but the King Arthur version worked just fine here. This is another one of those recipes where you really can’t tell that it’s gluten free. It’s just a really great cornbread recipe. You should try it!

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Mmmm…caramel macchiato

I have Festival photos to post, but I wanted to get these up first. Because my new favorite thing, I’ve decided just now, is making angel food cake. I’m guessing that’s because it tastes so darn good when it’s done. But I’m a bit enamored of the egg-white-whipping process as well. Geeky.

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This one I’d found on Pinterest a few weeks ago and it immediately called my name, “Lori? Lori! You need to make this recipe. You won’t regret it!”

Today turned out to be one where I actually had the time. After three straight days in downtown Grand Rapids, I had one free day to myself. (Well, I was supposed to be on a field trip with my son, but I had an asthma attack last week. Ah, that’s another story.) And today just happens to be my 13-year wedding anniversary – and the day after Scott’s birthday, which he spent crewing stages at the before-mentioned Festival. So I went all cake-baked-bean-lemon-chicken happy and made dinner.

Starting with dessert, of course.

What’s that interesting looking concoction above? Well, this angel food cake is titled Caramel Macchiato Angel Food Cake, so that would be the macchiato ingredient, I believe. It called for espresso power, which I’m clueless about, but Starbucks Via Italian Roast worked great in its place. Just in case you were wondering.

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One dozen eggs. I had to crack 14, though. A couple outwitted me.

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The first time I tried this, I was soooo nervous about whether it would turn out. Soft peaks. Stiff peaks. How was one to tell the difference? But you know what? It’s easy. The egg-crackin’ part is the most challenging part.

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For some reason I really like folding in the flour and such afterward. First, I folded in the espresso-y stuff, which was kind of a new element. Although I felt I had sufficiently folded it, later I found that there were still smatterings at the bottom of the bowl. They ended up kind of “ribboning” through the batter and it made a cool effect. So all was well.

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And ta-dah! Well, it’s not my most smashing photo of an angel food cake. Rushing does that. But you get the idea of the scrumptiousness.

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Especially after Dev blobs on some whipped cream and raspberries. The original recipe calls for caramel sauce, but we didn’t have any and this combo seemed to work out just as nicely.

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Apple? Cheddar? Bacon? Together? Yes!

Yes, I was excited when I read the title of the recipe too. Those three yummy tastes in one loaf of bread? It’s too good to be true.

I had no intention of making this today. I had two other things lined up for the oven in preparation for tomorrow. But I made the mistake of browsing Pinterest this morning and I just couldn’t resist adding this to the menu too. The popover recipe (which I’ll show ya below) only makes six. So this will augment that so everyone gets their fill of carbs.

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So here are those popovers I mentioned above. I love popovers. I don’t know why it took me so long to bake my own, but I’ve been hooked ever since. So easy! And delicious. And addictive. These were supposed to feature four different herbs, but fresh chive and dill were the only ones I had. I haven’t tried them yet since we’re saving them for tomorrow, but they smell divine. So they can’t taste bad, right?

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In the spirit of working backward here, which seemed necessary so that I could feature the bacon-oriented food at the beginning of the post, this was where I started this afternoon. Dev asked for apple pie for dessert. Poking around on Pinterest (yes, again), I discovered this clever take that seemed a bit more fun. And possibly less bothersome when it comes to crusts and such. Also, Grandpa is diabetic and I wanted an option with less sugar, and this seemed like it would work nicely.

So I give you…the making of gluten-free apple pie crostatas.

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And now that the baking is finally done, I’m going to relax and enjoy this spring weather. Wishing you and your family a happy Easter!

Now for the cinnamon rolls

You know how you realize something is probably not good for you, but it looks so tasty, that you decide to go ahead and make it anyway? That’s where I was with these cinnamon rolls.

I’ve never made cinnamon rolls before. I haven’t eaten that many either, to be honest. Most of the bakeries near me bake up versions that are as big as your head. I tend to be a more modest eater of baked goods.

But I saw a photo on Pinterest and it just called to me. The recipe seemed pretty straightforward too. So there ya go…I had to do it.

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I got a bit discouraged at this point when I realized I now had to roll all of this dough up into a log. I was right to be wary, too, since the dimensions I’d been instructed to roll to made for some pretty thing dough. Dev walked by when I was in the midst of it and about to give up and said, “You’re doing great, Mama!” So I persisted and grabbed dough from the ends to cover all of the spots where the brown sugar was tumbling out.

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And that’s why my log looks a little, um, homely. I figured no one would really care about the appearance if they actually tasted good.

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And they did! Taste good, that is. Not just good. Really good. I had to make myself stop picking at them while they were cooling.

Of course, just because they’re gluten-free doesn’t mean they’re better for you. Uh-uh. These clocked in at more than 400 calories each. So I’ve been trolling around for some alternative recipes that might make me feel a bit less guilty. But I don’t really regret trying this out. Especially when Dev requested one for breakfast the next day.

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Kiss us, we’re Irish

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We are waiting, sort of patiently, for spring to arrive. I think this past winter (it’s officially spring, so I think I’m allowed to put it in the past, cold temps withstanding) will be one for the record books. Well, at least I hope it will. If I have that to look forward to for the next winter season, I’m seriously contemplating moving the entire family south. Forever!

OK…drama’s over.

St. Patty’s Day is a spring-oriented holiday, yes? Our neighbors had a gathering and I made these strange-looking mint cheesecake cups. They weren’t a big hit. Because if you saw these next to some perfectly decorated, decadent-looking brownies, you’d probably choose the brownies. But I promise…they taste pretty good. Mine didn’t look nearly as nice as the ones on the blog where I got the recipe. I believe some extra spinning in the food processor might be called for next time.

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Also, these are vegan cheesecake cups and made with only natural sugars. Unlike the cinnamon rolls I made yesterday (with photos to come), which came out to 440 calories per roll! So good, but so full of sugar. I’ve been a sugar fiend for my entire life and my attempt to reduce my intake is genuine, but not an easy feat. I know I feel better when I eat less of it, though, so the cinnamon rolls will be a rare treat.

I didn’t take the irish soda bread to the party. For two reasons. One, it’s gluten-free and I’m the only one who in that circle who needs to eat that way. The other reason is that it turned out so well that I kinda wanted to keep it to myself. So I did! (Well, I did share with my husband. The kid didn’t really care one way or the other. ) I found another recipe last week that I’m also going to try. This one has raisins. It sounds pretty temping too.

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More potatoes and a candle

Since my last potato post, we went on a vacation. But I’ll go against my instincts of posting in chronological order and share today’s meal first. Because it was super easy to make and super delicious.

Red potatoes + sweet potatoes = potato goat cheese gratin. The original recipe called for squash, but my two guys aren’t keen on that particular vegetable. So I improvised. I used a big 13 x 9 dish and we hardly had any leftovers. So a good choice, I’d say! I paired it with grilled chicken and fruit. And followed it with the chocolate goodness below Start scrollin’!

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Mousse!

I love mousse. Lots.

This one’s made with tofu. My only beef (food pun) is that it turned out crumbly. That may be operator/chef error. But the taste was delectably awesome. And with his birthday just a couple of days away, Dev decided to make this his first birthday treat by plopping in a Lego candle.

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