Monday, August 31, 2009

Time Off

Remember when I said I would be posting a lot more, etc.?


And the bad news is that I am leaving tomorrow for a whole entire month. (Actually, to me, it's good news.) I'll be hitting up San Francisco to hang out with my brother (and his family) and my sister (and her family) for a week before making the cross-country trek to be with Sam for three weeks. Am I excited? YES. Am I incredibly nervous about flying with Bria all over the country? More than you'll ever know.

So sorry, dear readers, I'm afraid I won't be around much over the next month. I'll try and update when I can, but don't expect anything exciting until October. Can you believe it? In one month it will be October, and that is just madness. See you then!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Review: Julie & Julia

So, I saw it. And I loved it. LOVED it. But I knew I would. When I saw the first preview several months ago, it kind of changed my life, so I could only imagine what the whole movie would do. I mean, what's not to love? Learning that Julia Child didn't go to cooking school until she was in her thirties was kind of revolutionary for me. And I will admit to feeling slightly like the Julie Powell portrayed in the movie: a little lost, a little passionless-- and the fact that cooking is what made these women reclaim their lives? Umm . . . yes. Yes, yes, yes.

First of all, Meryl Streep. She is magnificent. I mean, really, beyond words. Her portrayal of Julia is so enthralling and fascinating and lovely. The writing is fantastic, but Meryl Streep is positively magical. And clearly, it's not just this movie either. I am constantly captivated by Meryl Streep. I loved the way the movie addressed Julia's childlessness. So understated, but so real, and so moving. And the relationship between Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci and Julia and Paul was fantastic. The Valentines cards of them in the bath tub filled me with glee.

Second, Amy Adams. I think she did a great job. And unlike many of the reviews I have read, I really loved Julie's storyline. I thoroughly enjoyed watching her character blossom and change. I didn't find her whiny, self-important, or annoying. I really rather enjoyed it.

The importance of both Julia's and Julie's marriages and the portrayal of their relationships was such a pleasant surprise. I never expected it to be such a key element to both characters' stories, but it was fantastic-- so sincere and moving, really. Stanley Tucci is a stud. Seriously.

Ok, so, did it change my life? Yes and no. Yes because it made me remember that anything is possible and it is never to late to reclaim your life. There were times I felt like I was watching myself (and Sam said he felt like he was watching me too), and I mean that in the least narcissistic way possible. And I feel giddy at the idea of buying Mastering the Art of French Cooking and trying Boeuf Bourguignon (and definitely not trying the aspics) (and how have I not bought this cookbook before?).

So there you have it. Probably the most positive review out there of Julie&Julia.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Cake that Shouldn't Be Allowed to Be Called Cake

Sam flew back to D.C. today, so there was sadness all around. But I'm planning on going out there in a couple weeks, so I'm not a complete emotional wreck. So last night I made Sam a celebratory bon voyage dinner to please and soothe his soul via his taste buds. I hadn't yet made him the Mediterranean-style meatballs, so I made those along with cous cous and a simple salad. My mom even made pita bread, which was positively lovely. And, just as I had hoped for, Sam nearly died from gastronomic delight. He said they were better than he even imagined they would be, and I have been talking those puppies up for weeks! A chef could never feel so happy.
And for dessert, Sam requested his favorite cake. The cake he says should not be allowed to be called cake because it makes all the other cakes feel bad: I first made this cake several years ago, and have made it billions of times since then. I started with this recipe, but since Sam (horror of horrors) "doesn't like coconut" (I think he secretly does, because how do you not love coconut?), I decided to substitute chocolate shavings. I am still dying to try the coconut, because, clearly, I love coconut (pine for it. lust after it. dream about it. covet it.). But alas, I think I will never get the opportunity. My bro-in-law Jason doesn't like it either. Weirdos.


This is the recipe now:
1 box white cake mix
splash almond extract
1 c sour cream
1 c sugar
2 c whipped cream or cool whip
Chocolate bar (I use a semisweet Ghirardelli bar)

Bake cake according to directions in 2 9- or 8-inch cake pans. When cakes are cool, make the frosting and filling as follows. Mix sour cream, and sugar together until sugar is dissolved. Grate in chocolate-- as much as you like. I just start grating and stop to stir everyone once in a while to see how much there is. This last time I probably grated about one square or so of the bar. Mix thoroughly. Put on cake upside down on cake plate or serving platter. Spoon several spoonfuls of mixture onto the bottom (not the top) of the cake. Spread the mixture around, coaxing it into all the nooks and crannies of the cake. Keeping spooning and spreading until you've used just over half of the mixture. Spoon a little more onto the bottom of the other cake-- just enough that the mixture soaks into the cake. Place the second cake on top of the first, bottoms together.
Mix the whipped cream or cool whip and the almond extract together with the remaining mixture. Frost the entire cake. Shave more chocolate all over the cake. Eat it up, yum.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Sam has been in Utah for the last week and a half, but he's headed back to D.C. on Monday for a temporary position at National Geographic. We are pretty stoked, so we bought some Virgil's to celebrate.

Sam introduced me to Virgil's root beer back in 2005, when we were dating. I expected a regular ol' root beer, so I guzzled it, and I ended up with quite a hefty stomach ache, since it is such a rich, full-bodied brew. Ever since, I have only sipped the stuff. Sam can't get enough of it--we even bought a keg of Virgil's root beer at World Market for New Years in 2007. So for celebration tonight, I opted for a lighter drink, the orange cream soda, and it was delightful. So light and simple. Both flavors, the orange and the vanilla, were so clear and tasty. The carbonation was also perfectly light; I hate overpowering carbonation.
We sat in the backyard at dusk, swinging on the porch swing, drinking our celebration beverages and discussed our future. Hopeful plans for the next year and immediate things to be done before Sam leaves. We are gearing up emotionally to be apart again, but I will probably go out there for a week to ease the pain of separation. I am feeling a little sick from the amount of sugar (and the anticipation of his departure), but it was well worth it to celebrate with Sam.

Friday, August 7, 2009

National Root Beer Float Day

Let me first admit that this picture is from google image search. I need to permanently tether my camera to my side.

So yesterday was National Root Beer Float Day. And, have I ever needed an excuse to make root beer floats? Heck no! I love the things. In elementary school, along with the cartons of chocolate and regular, we had root beer milk. Oh it was sooo delicious. It tasted like a melted root beer float. Actually, now that I think about it, such a drink might make me gag, but as a kid? Oh, I was in heaven. Plus I loved that it had a root beer-colored cow on the front. (Yes, root beer is just brown, and a very normal color for a cow, but to me, it was a root beer cow.)
So when I learned that yesterday was root beer float day, I immediately enlisted my sister Lindsay to join me in my float exploits. I have always wanted to have a root beer float taste test, where you decide which root beer and which ice cream make the best float, and you may think that's what we did, but we didn't. I'll have to save that test for another date. We went with the classic A&W with Breyer's vanilla. I think A&W has such a lovely taste. Sam is becoming quite the root beer connoisseur, and he really enjoys obscure, darker flavors, but I am all about a bright, sweet, and happy root beer-- like A&W.
And speaking of varied drinks for floats, Sam really likes kool-aid floats. Grape kool-aid and vanilla ice cream. That makes me want to puke. Also, as a youth in Denver, a popular place to hold birthday parties was at the local roller-skating rink: Skate City. When they served the birthday food, everyone got a Little Debbie's Swiss Cake Roll and a Pepsi float. I can practically taste it right now, just thinking of it, and my memory tastes really good. and a little bit waxy.
Back to the root beer. I think the best part of a root beer float (and I am not alone in this) is when the ice cream gets all crusty and crunchy from the root beer. Sadly, ours didn't do that last night. I think the ice cream wasn't solid enough-- it had gotten a little soft in my parents' over-crowded freezer. But they were still so tasty. And of course, Bria loved it. I'm training her young, folks.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Denver Chocolate Pudding Cake

I've been meaning to post about this forever, and I finally remembered to bring the cookbook from downstairs to my room upstairs so I could share. Denver Chocolate Pudding Cake. When I initially made this, I was searching through cookbooks for the perfect chocolatey dessert. The picture looked divine, so decided it was a go. As I made it, I kept reading and rereading the instructions to make sure I had it right: "dump a layer of sugar, brown sugar, and cocoa right on top?" and "pour boiling water over the whole thing?!" It seemed so odd, and I was sure it would turn out horribly. But no. Quite the opposite in fact. Somewhere between cake and a brownie, this deliciousness is marbled with chocolate pudding-like sauce. Served with ice cream, it is fantastique. When I made it last time, I only remembered to take this picture right before the last bite.

And when I made it again on Sunday, the same thing happened, so that picture is all you get. Sorry. But do try it. It's very fun to make. And it's also very fun for babies to lick the beaters and the rubber spatula and cover themselves in chocolate right before bed. It was like this all over again.

Denver Chocolate Pudding Cake
from Williams-Sonoma's Chocolate cookbook

2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 c unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/3 c granulated sugar
1 c flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 c milk
2 t pure vanilla extract
1/2 c firmly packed brown sugar
3 T cocoa
1 1/2 c boiling water

Melt chocolate in a glass bowl set over simmering water in a pot (don't let the bowl touch the water). Stir until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.
Combine butter and half the granulated sugar in a bowl. Mix on high until light and fluffy.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and pour onto the butter mixture. Then add the milk. Mix on low speed until well mixed.
Using a rubber spatula, fold in the melted chocolate and 1 t vanilla until fully incorporated.
Pour batter into a buttered 9" square pan.
Stir together the remaining granulated sugar, brown sugar, and cocoa. Sprinkle batter over batter in the pan (I sift it onto the batter so i don't get any clumps of brown sugar).
Add the remaining 1 t vanilla to 1 1/2 c boiling water, then pour gently over the batter. Be careful not to disturb the batter too much; pour slowly.
Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until the top is firm, about 1 hour. Let cool slightly. Serve, and make sure to spoon the saucy goodness over the top with some vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream.