Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Crave Wednesday: Chocolate-Hazelnut Mousse

My family history is decidedly localized to the Eastern part of Europe.  So I completely blame my St. Patrick's celebrating on Thatboy and his potentially Irish heritage.  According to his family, they are 100% Irish.  But family history stories, including where in Ireland they were from, and prominent members who were decidedly un-Irish, calls this percentage into question.  We'll go with the fact that he probably has some Irish in his bloodline and use that as an excuse.

He started by coming home Friday night with St. Patrick's Day doughnuts from his favorite doughnut shop.

I started Saturday morning out with a race.  Which meant I wouldn't be there when the boys got up (hahahaha - shame on me.  Of course they were up before I left) so Friday night I prepped their breakfast for Thatboy to give to them.  Green Lucky Charms pancakes topped with whipped cream and Lucky Charms.  They were in heaven.  Or so I heard.

When I got back from the race we headed to Garage Brewing Company, who was having special releases in honor of the holiday. 

The kids are always happy going to Garage Brewing Co, because who doesn't love make your own pizza?  Thatboy and I are always happy because who doesn't love good beer?

My un-Irish heritage isn't the only reason I didn't grow up celebrating St. Patrick's Day.  It's also Thatmom's birthday.  So we usually celebrated that instead.  This year was no different.  After lunch we drove up to her house for a little family birthday party

Since we didn't get our traditional St. Patrick's Day dinner that night, we took a rain check, and I prepared it on Monday night instead.  Which made the holiday seem to last even longer!  I always make corned beef and colcannon, but this year I decided to try my hand on Irish soda bread too.

It came out really well.  As did dinner itself.  We found a new, perfect, family movie for St. Patrick's Day - Luck of the Irish.  And we watched that while we ate.

A more classic dessert recipe would be something with Baileys or Guinness, but there's something about hazelnut seems like it should be a St. Patrick's Day treat.  Frangelico makes this chocolate hazelnut mousse the perfect way to round out the meal.  

Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse (From Cooking Light)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
2 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 cups 2% milk
1/4 cup Frangelico
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups fat-free cool whip
2 Tbsp chopped hazelnuts, toasted

  1. Combine sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, salt, and eggs in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk.
  2. Heat milk in a small, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until tiny bubbles form around the edge. 
  3. Gradually add hot milk to sugar mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk.  
  4. Place milk mixture in pan and cook over medium heat until very thick and bubbly, stirring constantly. 
  5. Spoon mixture into medium bowl and add liqueur, vanilla, and chocolate, stirring , until chocolate melt.  Place bowl in a large ice-filled bowl for 15 minutes or until mixture is cool, stirring occasionally.
  6. Remove bowl from ice.  Gently fold in 2/3 cup cool whip.  
  7. Fold in 1/3 cup cool whip.  Cover and chill at least 3 hours.  
  8. Top with cool whip and hazelnuts.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Crave Wednesday: Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

As you may or may not know, it's been awfully rainy here the past few weeks.  Which always seems to surprise everyone but me.  You guys, it rains in Southern California.  It rains all winter.  It rains so much that every year the first few games and practice of baseball season are always cancelled.  You think they'd figure it out, but nope.  Just me.

So in fitting with the theme of the last few weeks here on the blog-o, when Thatkid's baseball game got called for rain a couple weekends ago, we threw our things in the car and headed out on an impromptu weekend getaway to the Happiest Place on Earth.

Because we weren't getting there until afternoon, we decided to spend the first day (or half day) at California Adventure.

As I expected, the rain kept crowds at bay.  That and the later hour had us waltz right through security, onto a tram, and into the park.  We arrived just in time to grab some lunch and take advantage of the Food and Wine Festival.

Thatboy and I each grabbed a flight of beers - hoppy for him, fruity for me, and pork bahn mi.

The boys were happy with their garlic macaroni and cheese.  Very happy.  This is where I confess that they ate macaroni and cheese more often than they didn't this weekend, and Thatkid declared this was the best.

And then it was time to ride the rides!  We rode several together before splitting up so that Thatkid and Thatboy could ride the bigger rides that Thatbaby was too short and too uninterested in.  Instead I brought him over to Ghiradelli and Boudin for chocolate and bread, while I enjoyed one more treat from the Festival - popcorn lemonade.

The big boys headed over to ride the one ride Thatkid was REALLY interested in - Guardians of the Galaxy.  Thatboy was only too happy to join him.

And they had a little celebrity sighting while waiting in line!

Thatkid thought the ride was scary, but still declared it his favorite of the whole weekend.

Meanwhile. Thatbaby and I did a little celebrity stalking of our own.  He REALLY REALLY REALLY wanted to see Mickey, so I brought him over to where he was most likely to be.  He wasn't there, but we did get a chance to see Goofy.

And Minnie!

Minnie's friend told us that Mickey was expected to be arriving within the next 15 minutes (Disney Cast Members are so awesome), so we hung out for a little until we finally got to see the Mouse Himself.

After that, Thatbaby and I went to do our own rides.  Hollywood Studios was up first, and then Bug's Life - where every ride was just his speed.

And of course, Radiator Springs - Carsland!

The Mater ride was his FAVORITE and he couldn't wait to meet back up with the big boys to share it with them.  We traded ride partners for the last ride of the night before dinner and heading back to Thatmom's house for the night.

The next morning we headed over to Disneyland, and with nicer weather and an earlier start, it took a lot longer to get into the park!  It still was a pretty quiet weekend and we were able to jump right on to Haunted Mansion.  Which Thatbaby DID NOT appreciate.  Poor kid.  We headed up to Critter Country for a little Pooh, which was more his speed.  He got a chance to meet Tigger.

And "Seahorse" (which, to be fair, is a more recognizable word to him than Eeyore is) who he said was his favorite character he met.

And "Minnie the Poop" (which, to be fair, he only says to make us laugh)

Next came Pirates of the Carribean, which also failed the Thatbaby test, and we could tell the early morning was getting to him.  We went and grabbed lunch, then I tucked him into his stroller and he was out by the time I crossed the park.

Once again, the big boys went and rode their "big kid" rides.  Last time we went to Disney, Thatkid absolutely, positively, refused to ride Space Mountain.  This time, he was all about it.  And while he is tall enough to ride, he is not tall enough to be caught on camera in the back row. 

We met them over at the Matterhorn where Thatbaby woke up and then we got to ride Buzz Lightyear together before heading over to Toon Town.  Which is always a nice break for the kids to have a little freedom running around.  Thatbaby and I headed over to Small World while Thatboy tried to round up Thatkid, when I got a call that they were in line to see Pluto and we should hurry over.  Carrying Thatbaby, I sprinted over and got there just in time.

After Small World we did one more split up so the big boys could do Indiana Jones, before dinner and heading out of the park.  But not without one more stop to say goodbye to the Mouse behind it all.

It was a quick weekend with a lot crammed in.  Which is pretty much our style.  It was such a whirlwind, that when Thatmom mentioned the date, Thatboy and I realized it was our dating anniversary.  18 years together!  We did a bare bones celebration by doing our Disneyland dinner at the Blue Bayou, where he has always wanted to eat.

Once your're married, dating anniversaries aren't as big of a deal, but it still seems totally crazy that we've been together so long.  And 18 years?  Holy moly!  Sometimes I feel like I'm still a kid, but our relationship is old enough to have a kid of its own!  And that deserves something more than an amusement park with kids.  Something like...cake.  Because cake is what you eat to celebrate.  A great chocolatey cake that represents the sweetness of those years.  A buttermilk chocolate cake, because it takes a little bit of sour to really appreciate the sweet.

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake (From Cooking Light)
2 cups flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 2/3 cup nonfat buttermilk
3 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup egg substitute
1/2 cup whipped cream cheese, softened
3 Tbsp skim milk
3 oz semi-sweet chocolate melted
3 cups powdered sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Coat the bottom of 2 8-inch cake pans with cooking spray and line with wax paper. Spray wax paper with cooking spray.  Combine flour, 3/4 cup  cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk until blended.
  2.  Combine buttermilk and 2 tsp vanilla in a 2 cup glass measuring cup.
  3. Place granulated sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended.
  4. Gradually add egg substitute and beat well.
  5. Add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
  6. Pour batter evenly into prepared pans. Bake for 38 minutes or until cooked through. Invert on wire rack and cool completely.
  7. Place cream cheese and milk in an electric mixer and beat at low speed until smooth. Beat at high speed until creamy.
  8. Add melted chocolate and beat well.
  9. Combine powdered sugar and 1/4 cup cocoa.
  10. Gradually add sugar mixture to cheese mixture, beating at low speed until blended.
  11. Add 1 tsp vanilla, beat well 1 minute or until very creamy.
  12. Remove wax paper from cake.  Place 1 cake layer on a plate and spread with 1/2 cup frosting.  
  13. Top with second cake layer and spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. 

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Crave Wednesday: Butterscotch Bars

The Horsewhisperers picked up and moved to New Mexico the end of 2016.  I've been lucky enough to see them a couple times since then, but it's always been them traveling to us.  I decided it was time to return the favor and at the end of last year we started planning a long weekend getaway to New Mexico.

None of us had been before, so we put the trip in the very capable hands of Mrs. Horsewhisperer.  She had us meet them in Santa Fe.  The original goal was to get a tour of the town, but by the time we got off the plane, got our car, and got into town, there was just enough time to grab some chocolate before walking to dinner.

We got a chance to catch up over drinks and dinner while the kids played on the playground in the restaurant.

After we got a little driving tour of the city - they still have their Christmas lights up, which Thatbaby remarked was "beautiful."

We headed to our hotel and checked in for the night.

The next morning we got to explore the town they live in, and even got a trip to the barn to see Horsewhisperer's happy place.  And her horses.  Then we were off on the next part of our trip - Taos.  We made a stop in Chimayo to visit the churches.

And indulge in chiles.

We checked into our adobe cabin in Taos, hit up the supermarket, and then put the kids in charge of dinner.

There was a disappointing amount of snow in Taos for my little California boys.  Especially because we saw quite a bit on our way up the mountain.  So we headed back to the snow to let them loose on their sleds.

And Thatbaby had his first taste of snow.

We went back to the cabin to get warmed up, then went in to Taos.  The Horsewhisperers knew of a great toystore with a huge playground in the back.

And we walked around, checking out tourist traps and historical sights.  Of course the family with two lawyers managed to find the old courthouse and jail.

We grabbed some dinner, and stayed up late talking.  The next morning we were on our way to the airport, flying home.  The trip was so wonderful, and obviously too short.  Or exactly the right amount of time since we left on good terms, despite sharing spaces!  We can't wait for our next visit.

We brought chiles home and I've been using them on everything.  We've become especially fond of it on our chicken.  Having a little bit more of a kick on our entrees, means balancing it with something sweet.  These butterscotch bars are really oatmeal bars with butterscotch.  There's a subtle difference.  Like a coffee cake, with a swirl of sweet sandwiched between the less sweet layers, this bar strikes the perfect balance.  It pairs well with hot chocolate on cold winter days, whether you've got snow or not!

Butterscotch Bars (From Cooking Light)
1 cup brown sugar
5 Tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 cups flour
2 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 cups butterscotch morsels
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts, toasted
  1.  Preheat oven to 350. Combine sugar and butter in a large bowl.
  2. Stir in vanilla and egg. 
  3. Combine flour, oats, salt, baking soda in a bowl. 
  4. Add oat mixture to sugar mixture.  Stir with a fork until combined.
  5. Place 3 cups oat mixture in the bottom of a 13 x 9 inch metal baking pan coated with cooking spray.  Press into bottom of pan.  Set aside.
  6. Place butterscotch morsels, sweetened condensed milk, and 1/8 tsp salt in a microwave safe bowl.  Microwave on high 1 minute, or until butterscotch morsels melt, stirring every 20 seconds.
  7. Stir in walnuts.
  8. Scrape mixture into pan, spreading evenly over crust.  
  9. Sprinkle evenly with remaining oat mixture, gently pressing into butterscotch mixture.  Bake for 30 minutes or until topping is golden brown.  Place pan on a wire rack and run a knife around the outside edge.  Cool completely.