Sunday, June 5, 2011

It's a MisCake!

My beautiful daughter Meg
(who will say "MOM this is such and OLD picture!!")
but it really isn't - only a year :-P
I  chose this picture because of her face - she makes funny faces, and honestly I know she gets it from her mother 
case and point...

this blog post is about NOT being perfect, and well...if I chose a 'normal' picture, that wouldn't help illustrate my point now, would it?

My daughter has turned into quite the accomplished baker.  I am so happy and proud she's finally found a passion for cooking.  She is a health nut, and eschews oil whenever she can, and happily subs out mashed banana or applesauce for oil/butter without blinking an eye.  The majority of the stuff she makes is yummy.

She called me at work the other day in a panic:


"What happened?"

"I was making this yummy recipe for chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, and I accidently put 10 ounces of milk in the bowl instead of 1 ounce!!!!!"

"Did you mix it in yet?" (If you catch your error before mixing it in, you could pour it out of the bowl and fix your error)

"Yes! and it's really, really thin!! I don't want to throw it out!"

...thinks....then I have a moment of inspiration

"Add another cup of flour, 1/2 cup of sugar, and a teaspoon of baking powder, then put it in a cake pan and bake it  for 30-40 minutes, or until it's done"

My rationale for this was as follows:  Meg put WAY too much milk in a cookie batter.  It was even too thin for a cake batter, so add some flour, a bit more sugar, and some more leavening to make it rise to the occasion.  Heck, it was worth a try, and better than throwing out a bunch of good-for-you ingredients that happened to be in the wrong ratio by human error.  It couldn't come out THAT bad...

"But...then it won't be cookies!"

"Yeah, but if you wanted cookies, you'd have to add 10x more flour, sugar, etc. you really feel like baking 50 dozen cookies?"

"no.  K' I'll give it a try"

It was in the oven when I got home.  The only thing I forgot to tell her to do was lower the heat to 350.  She had it at 375.  We made that minor adjustment, and I have to tell you, the cake looked pretty darn good.  There were hazelnuts and chocolate chips in it - two of my favorite things.

We took it out of the pan, popped it onto a cooling rack, and it looked pretty.  I suggested throwing some confectioner's sugar on top in lieu of icing, and when it was cool, we cut a slice, and it looked like this:

Doesn't it look good?  Let me tell you, it also TASTED good.  It was a chewy cake with chocolate chips and hazelnuts.  Meg coined the name "misCAKE", and I loved it.

THIS is the link to the original recipe she wanted to try, and THIS is the link to the "misCake" :-) if you are daring enough to give it a try.

I don't expect you to try the recipe.  My point of this blog post is to tell you - almost *anything* is worth salvaging, unless it's really gross and disgusting and you wouldn't eat it in a million years - but if it got to that point, that means you finished it without (as my father in law used to love to say) "doctoring it up a little"

Of course, sometimes that is out of your control.  There was only 1 cake in my life that I threw in the garbage, and it was a chocolate buttermilk cake that was dry and tasteless as dirt.  After I pitched it though, my friend Tarri pointed out to me that the crumbs would have been perfectly good over ice cream or stirred into vanilla yogurt.  You see? another salvage opportunity.

If you mess up in the construction stage, take a deep breath and STOP...then THINK...If you added too much liquid, you could pour it out into a measuring cup, and guesstimate about how much you need to pour back in.  If you added too much salt to a sauce, just double the sauce and serve some crusty bread to mop it up with.  If you've already stirred in the ingredients (like Meg did) think about what you are making.  If you were making cookies, and added WAY too much liquid, well then, make a cake.  You know cakes are lighter than cookies, right? So you will probably need more leavening, or something to make it rise.  Baking powder should do the trick.  About a teaspoon would be fine, because most cookie recipes have baking soda in them already.  You will need to thicken up the batter, so add some more flour.  If you add flour, you know you are gonna need more sugar to keep it sweet.  Start with half cup of flour, and 1/4 cup of sugar, and add until you get a cake batter consistency - usually they are sort of pancake-batter like.  Don't be afraid to try it - you may be surprised by the results!

If you mess up in the end stage, don't panic.  You can peel off burnt cheese, put some more on and rebroil it. You can scrape the black off garlic bread.  You can thin out a tomato sauce that looks like concrete with some water or wine.  I would say 90% of the time, there is SOMETHING you can do to save what you are making, if you just stop, think, and don't panic or give up.  Too much pasta for your sauce? use the leftovers for pasta salad, or if you've already thrown it in the sauce, pick out as much of the sauce-free pasta you can, then if you need more sauce - throw in a small can of tomato sauce I keep a couple in the pantry for just this reason and a few more spices and garlic.  No one will even know the difference.  And yes, I *have* picked sauce free pasta out of a serving bowl before!

I have a philosophy in life - I always look at mistakes not as something I did "wrong" to me, "wrong" connotes that I was "bad" sort of like when your dog decides it would be fun to decorate the kitchen floor with garbage, and you discover his artwork and go "BAD DOG!! BAD!!!"  but rather as a lesson that I can learn from, and improve "me".  Each "mistake" makes you stronger, better, and puts you a step up from where you've been before.  I don't care HOW big of a "mistake" you think it is.  This applies to life as well as cooking.  Looking back on all the mistakes I've made, there's always been an improvement in "me", and that's a good thing. time you mess up - don't fret - stop, think, then act, and you may be happily surprised with the results! (at least in the kitchen LOL)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Lemonade NOT out of a can.

Ok...I don't know about where you live, but where I live, it's been hot.  Icky, humid, oppressive, hot.  It was a beautiful spring, and all of a sudden, Mother Nature decided to have a hot flash :-P.  It was 98 degrees yesterday, which broke a previous record of 97 in 1895.  Ugh.

With the sudden onslaught of hot weather, I've had a hankering for cool stuff.  Salads for dinner.  Ice cream, Italian ice, and lemonade.  I usually just buy a can of lemonade in the frozen food aisle, but  I thought "why not MAKE some lemonade?"  Have you ever looked at the ingredients on a can of frozen lemonade?  I can guarantee you at the top of the list is "high fructose corn syrup".  Unless it's organic, that bad boy is not going into MY body.  It's most likely genetically modified, and I'm making a concerted effort to remove *all* GM ingredients from my house.  Yes, this means almost anything that is not organic - unless it does not contain soy, corn, or canola.  If you are not familiar with GMOs, or genetically modified ingredients, you can start your education HERE .  I'm going to stop now, because if I get started, this will be a blog post about Monsanto and GMOs, not lemonade :)

Making your own lemonade is ridiculously easy.  And good.  You also to get to put lots of fun stuff in it - like pomegranate juice, or raspberry juice, or tea, or anything else your little heart desires.  I make mine with a healthy dose of pomegranate juice - which I happen to love.  It also gives the lemonade a pink color, which is pretty!

This recipe is so simple, you don't even need a printable one.  There are just 4 ingredients - sugar, water, lemons, and pomegranate juice.  If you are a purist, omit the POM juice.

What you DO need however, is a juicer.  I have a fancy Jack LaLanne juicer, but honestly, I use my little 99 cent plastic one, and it works JUST FINE.

So, gather about 4-5 good sized lemons, your POMegranate juice, some sugar and you are set!
First, take 1 cup of sugar and put it in 1 cup of very hot water, and stir with a spoon until the sugar is dissolved.
Obviously not dissolved.  See the granules on the spoon?
No granules - the sugar is fully dissolved.

 This will give you 1 1/2 cups of what is known as simple syrup.  This will sweeten your lemonade, and you won't have any undissolved sugar at the bottom of your jug.

While you are stirring your sugar and waiting for it to melt, you can start juicing the lemons.  You'll need about 1 cup of lemon juice.  Use your juicer, and clean those bad boys out.  There shouldn't be much pulp, if any left.  Didn't I tell you this would be easy? *TIP* roll the lemons firmly on a hard surface with the palm of your hand before halving and juicing them.  You'll get more juice out of them - it loosens up the pulp.

Now...grab a half gallon container, pour the simple syrup and lemon juice in there.  I will add about 1/4 - 1/2 cup of pomegranate juice because I like to.  Fill up to the top with cold water, and give a shake.  Voila! Pomegranate Lemonade!

I thought with the hot weather, maybe I should have put the lemonade in a pretty goblet on a table with white linen and a flower arrangement in the background, but I quickly suppressed my Martha Stewart and went practical.  My only nod to Martha was the lemon slice.

This takes no time at all to make - maybe 10 minutes, tops.  You can zest the skin before juicing the lemons, and freeze it for future recipes.  You can put the rinds in your garbage disposal to freshen it, and rub the leftover lemons shells on your cutting boards to freshen them up as well.


1.  Juice about 8 limes, and make limeade.
2.  Juice 3 lemons and about 4 limes, and make lemon/limeade.
3.  Add 1/2 cup of raspberries you've pureed in the blender to the lemonade.
4.  Add 1/2 cup of strawberries you've pureed in the blender to the lemonade.
5.  Heck, add 1/2 cup of *any* berries you've pureed in the blender :-)
6.  If you like your lemonade pulpy, just add some of the pulp from your juicer to the mix.
7.  Add equal parts of water and tea (green or black) instead of just water.

This doesn't even last a day in my house.  Hubby and son scarf it down so quick, Meg and I are lucky if we get a small glass.  Be warned though - once you taste the homemade stuff, you will *not* go back to the store stuff.  Ever.