Friday, August 15, 2014

Honey Apple Cake

It seems like almost every show JI watches has an episode about honey cake. I'm not really sure why, but it usually involves someone getting stuck in honey, and someone else having to rescue them. Needless to say, JI wanted me to make him a honey cake.
I searched for recipes on Pinterest and Google, and nothing sounded good or easy. There were plenty of honey cake recipes that called for alcohol, and those sounded good and easy, but being pregnant led me to think I might hate the smell and/or taste, so I skipped those too. Finally I came upon some recipes for honey apple cake, and that was the solution. Yum yum double yum.

I used this recipe from Tori Avey, adjusting for my available ingredients. I didn't put a glaze on, but rather served it warm with vanilla ice cream. I also made mine in two small baking dishes because I could not find my bundt pan! I still can't find it!

Honey Apple Cake
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups all purpose baking flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 4 Granny Smith apples - cored and shredded
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Beat the eggs until they are frothy; add honey, sugar, oil, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and spices. Combine the dry ingredients into the wet; fold in the shredded apples. Pour the batter into a well-greased baking dish or cake pan. Bake for 75-90 minutes (my two cakes took 80 minutes). Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My Parenting Style - K

My parents would tell you that I was (am) a rebel. I don't recall any rule-breaking prior to high school, but I know it happened because we fought a lot. I'm pretty sure it involved staying up too late and being on the phone or the computer all the time (I was working on my first novel!). In high school, I just wanted to do my own thing. All my friends lived in the neighborhood that my high school was in; I lived twenty miles away. It sucked. So, of course, I was home late all the time, and back in the 90's there were no cell phones, and I forgot to call a lot. But that's a different story.

I'd like to talk about what my childhood was like! I remember playing in the kiddie pool, alone. I remember walking to my friends' houses, through my backyard and across two other yards, alone. When I got old enough, I rode my bike to M's house past the top of the hill. I had a friend on the next street over on the top of the hill, and I went there alone. In fact, I did almost everything alone! There was nothing scary, nothing to watch out for, my mom didn't worry. I played alone all the time, even at home. I was an only child until I was seven, so that was a long time to play alone.

When I got pregnant and started reading all the typical books and blogs and talking to other moms, I got kind of confused. I had never experienced so much one on one interaction with kids, even as a teenage babysitter. I never saw the parents of my friends focusing the majority of their time and energy on their younger children. It was all so strange to me. My parents weren't like that - what had changed?

I still can't answer that question. There are so many differing opinions out there! Be hands-off. Be hands-on. Watch your child constantly. Don't be a helicopter. Let them explore. Don't let them get into anything. There seems to always be a "but". Personally, I'm hands-off. Perhaps it has to do with SPD, because I don't like to be touched or laid on or sat upon, etc., but I think it has to do with how I was raised.

My parents did not sit and spend tons of time entertaining me. Yes, we read books, colored, went to the park, etc. I don't mean it to sound like they ignored me, because they didn't. But my dad worked in an office and my mom was a housewife and they had things to do. That's why when I started reading these things that told me I need to/should spend x amount of time with my baby, I was kind of baffled. Really? When am I supposed to do the housework? When do I get my time for me? When do I get to watch my TV shows? I remember coming home from preschool, eating my Creamette's Macaroni & Cheese while I watched Sesame Street, and then playing by myself while my mom did laundry, cleaned, etc. Nobody gave me black and white board books to stimulate my brain. I wasn't an expert at stacking cups. I just played with my awesome toys! Now I have a high IQ and I'm very independent. I want the same thing for JI.

I let JI do everything on his own. I tell him the directions, and I let him go. If he messes up, I only help if he is in danger or if he asks for help. I want him to use his brain to figure out the solution. Sometimes I don't even tell him the directions, I just let him go, and he figures it out. JI has scored in the kindergarten range on some of his aptitude tests when he was being evaluated for Autism and his speech/language delay.

Overall, I'd say that I've done a pretty good job with JI. He does typical toddler things like running away from me and throwing fits when he doesn't get his way, but I'm sure he'll grow out of it... I hope!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Husband Lunch Series #6: Sandwiches!

I promise that I do more than cook. Someone commented to me that my part of the blog is almost all recipes, and while it's true, I have to defend myself... Um, Let's see... Okay, well, I used to be a chef, so much of my brain is still centered around food, and I have a toddler, so the rest of my brain is focused on keeping him alive and calm. So there you have it : Food. Hehe!

Anyway, HLS #6 is two different sandwiches, which Poke loves. A lot of people think you can't pre-pack sandwiches, but I am here to show you how you can! It is very easy.

If you are using deli meat, you can make the sandwich as you normally would, just leave off any condiments. Deli meats generally are not moist enough to make the bread soggy. If you are using homemade meat, such as sliced roast, then keep the bread separate from the meat. In both cases, I put the toppings, such as onion and tomato, on the side, and make up enough condiment in a small container to last all week.

Turkey with tomato and grapes on the side (mayo-mustard not pictured)

Roast beef with tomato and onion on the side (horseradish mayo not pictured)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Basement "Remodel" for under $20

Our basement has been a source of pain for us since we moved into this house three and a half years ago. When we had our home inspection done, there was no water on the floor and no visible signs that there was ever water damage or issues with flooding. Well, unfortunately, we had our inspection done in February during a literal ice storm (the grass was frozen! it was like walking on an ice rink!) and when April came after we moved in, so did the streams through our basement.
We immediately contact a basement waterproofer, who subsequently swindled us out of $8,000 and didn't solve our problem at all. The BBB was a little help, but the company was so big (and mean!) that going to court would have cost us everything and gotten nothing in return. So we got another basement waterproofing company to come out and fix the first guys' mistakes. This cost us $13K, but we haven't had a drop down there since! I highly recommend Everdry Waterproofing to every person who needs work done on their basement. I don't generally endorse specific businesses on here, but they truly did an excellent job, especially since the first company had screwed up so royally.

Anyway, after wrestling with mildew and moisture and fleas, I finally got all that under control a few months ago. We got a dehumidifier to help with the dampness, and for once the basement felt dry. With the dawn of the new baby quickly approaching, it was time to snap into action! First, I had Poke bring up all the toys. I washed them all by hand, dried them in the sun, and then brought them back in to live upstairs for awhile. Then I swept the whole basement, mopped it the old fashioned way with a solution of water plus washing soda, vinegar, and dish soap, and let it dry overnight. The next day, I laid down the flooring, aka car mats, an indoor/outdoor rug (purchased for $17.97), and foam ABC/123 squares. Poke brought all the toys downstairs, we set them up, and that was that. We also moved our huge old couch down there, to make room for other furniture in the living room upstairs.

The only cost was the new rug. Everything else we already had, and honestly I don't know how I existed with all these toys upstairs! Our house is only 950 square feet, and looking at this picture makes me feel like 875 of it was covered in toys. Seriously.

The great thing about this new playroom, well, there are several: First, I can safely leave JI down there because it is nothing but toys and there is a gate keeping him from the rest of the basement. Obviously I'm not going to leave him down there for hours, but I can actually get stuff done without him underfoot. Second, it truly made our main living space much bigger. There is no longer a peremitier of toys around every room! Third, it is a place for JI to go and be crazy and loud, without my shushing him every five minutes because Poke is sleeping down the hall. Finally, having everything downstairs makes my next project, the baby's room, easier to tackle (except for my hundreds of books in that room right now... ugh...)

Caramel Blondies

I have been craving lots of caramel lately, and what better way to get my fix than a chewy, delicious bar that is literally oozing with caramel? I can't think of another. Plus, these were so easy to make that it was almost too good to be true! When I bit into the first one, I thought I was dreaming. It was amazing.

Caramel Blondies

  • 2 sticks butter
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4t vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4t salt
  • 1/2 cup caramel sauce (homemade or from a jar)

First, preheat te oven to 350F. Second, cream the butter and brown sugar together until nice and fluffy. Add in the eggs, vanilla, flour, and salt. Mix well until all ingredients are incorporated and there are no dry flour lumps. The batter will be thick, almost as thick as a cookie dough. Spread into a 9x13 baking dish (I used my Pampered Chef bar pan). Pour the caramel sauce over the top, and swirl in with a knife or fork. Bake for 25-45 minutes. 

WOW! What a big time window! Well, I think if I had used a regular baking dish, the time would have been less, but I used the stoneware so it took a little bit longer. Plus this is a double batch of the recipe I adapted it from, so that may have added the extra time as well. Cool on a wire rack, eat immediately. Try to share. Top with ice cream! Poke dunked his in coffee a few days later when they turned crunchy and biscotti-like.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

No-Bake Boston Cream Pie

I found a recipe for an Eclair Cake, and it sounded pretty good, but I was tasting for custard, specifically a Boston Cream pie. Being hot and pregnant, my desire to bake a cake was completely nil, and I had a toddler begging me to let him help. Enter my modified recipe!

No-Bake Boston Cream Pie
  • Graham Crackers (I used two sleeves)
  • 2 boxes vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 tub frozen whipped topping, thawed (8 oz)
  • 3 cups milk (I used 1%)
  • 1 container chocolate frosting (16 oz)

Combine the pudding mixes and milk, and whisk until thickened, about two minutes (or less). JI was able to mix it up himself with a little help from me and it took under two minutes to thicken. 

Fold in the whole tub of thawed whipped topping, set aside. 

Place one layer of graham crackers on the bottom of your square or rectangle baking or serving dish and top with some of the pudding mixture. Repeat until you are out of pudding mix, ending with a top layer of graham crackers. 

Microwave your frosting, opened with no lid, on defrost for 20 seconds at a time until it is pour-able. Cover the top layer of graham crackers with all the frosting. 

Chill in the fridge for at least 6 hours; I ate some last night and it was awesome, but today it was ten times better! I don't know why or how, but wow. SO GOOD.

I could literally eat this entire cake myself, but it is so rich and probably has a million calories, so I won't... hopefully.  It is kind of messy, and didn't set up to be served like a cake, but that doesn't matter to me! If you're serving it to guests, well, once they taste it, they won't care either!

Even though I have been getting away from using processed foods, I used ready made everything for this recipe. I chose products off the shelf that had no high fructose corn syrup and no partially hydrogenated oils, because those are the two things I really hate. You could make this using homemade pudding, graham crackers, and frosting, it will just take about five times as long. Sometimes, in the interest of time and sanity, we have to use packaged stuff!