Demented Ramblings life is too short to refrain from eating jam out of the jar


Fun with Cake!

I don't have the patience for lovely staging of food photos for my blog. I tend to just snap a quick shop before digging in. The flash always winds up washing everything out until it all looks white. Believe me, though, when I tell you that this cake tastes amazing and actually looks fairly pretty.

A few weeks ago, I heard something on TV about "Derby Cake". I've heard of Derby Pie (chocolate chip pecan pie) but never Derby Cake. So, I went to my old pal Google for the answer. Derby Cake was just created last year by Mert's Cakes in Louisville to be the official cake of the Kentucky Derby. It's described as "an amazing fusion of moist butter praline cake, dark chocolate and fine Kentucky bourbon." As we all know, I prefer attempting these things myself as opposed to just purchasing them. Especially when the price is $40. For a cake? Is it going to do tricks for me? Clean the house?

I was thinking of making this cake for my derby party on saturday, but I wanted to do a test run first. I hate to serve something without ever having tasted it. I've also been thinking of experimenting with a bananas foster cake. A test cake doesn't have to be a full sized cake, it can be just one layer. The flavor is all I really want anyway.

So, I started with a boxed cake mix since I was feeling kind of lazy about it. Just your standard run of the mill Duncan Hines yellow cake mix. I mixed it up per the package directions except that I left out 1/4 of the water. Then I split the batter into two bowls.

To the first bowl, I added enough dark rum to make up for the lessened water. Stirred it all up and baked it according to the directions. This will be my bananas foster cake, but for tonight was set aside after baking.

To the second bowl, I added enough bourbon to make up for the reduced water. Mixed and baked. Once it cooled, I evened it up and put it on a platter. I toasted some pecan halves while starting the frosting, then placed the halves on the top of the cake, trying to spread them out evenly.

For the frosting, I put 1 cup of brown sugar, 2 tbsp salted butter, and 1/4 cup of milk in a pan and cooked it over fairly high heat until it started boiling. Then I reduced the heat and let it come up to 236 degrees (soft ball stage). I removed it from the heat, added a bit of vanilla and stirred until it started to thicken. I spread/poured this over the single layer of cake and pecans. Then, I melted some dark chocolate and drizzled it around on top.

The bourbon taste, which seemed very minimal in the bite of just cake that I tasted (from evening it off) seemed to step up quite a bit with the addition of the frosting.

Notes for next time:

  • Don't let dad bully me into using the cheapass bourbon again. I'm 90% sure a better bourbon would make for a better cake.
  • 1/4 of the liquid is plenty of bourbon
  • Maybe try cooking the frosting slightly less next time so that it doesn't get as hard when it cools. Of course, it was the consistency of a praline and that's what I was after, so maybe not.
  • The cake didn't rise very well, maybe due to the fact that we've had those cake mixes for probably 5 years. Pop likes to catch things on sale and stock up to a stupid level. Buy a fresh mix for next time or make a cake from scratch.
  • Watch the pecans closer so that they don't burn when toasting! But they didn't burn so badly that they tasted burned, so I used them anyway.

Here's a horrid picture for you...


Still no time for veranda sitting, but I swear it’s coming!

Tonight I cooked a most excellent dinner. I cooked up my latest farmer's market haul. Green beans, yellow squash, corn - all trucked in of course, it's too early for that stuff to be in season here. I also sliced up a locally grown tomato that Pop said was really good.

In addition to the veggie feast, I made this recipe that I found while cruising the food blogs early sunday morning. So tasty! I'm betting that they'll be excellent cold too, but I'm not positive that they will last long enough to find out.

Then I topped it all off with fresh homemade vanilla ice cream and strawberries.

Normally, I wouldn't buy strawberries that had been shipped in. They usually don't have any flavor. However, as I walked through the farmer's market saturday morning, I caught a whiff of these and decided that I must investigate. I asked the adorable little grandma working the booth if she'd been spraying strawberry perfume in the air to bring me in, she just laughed and said that they tasted every bit as good as they smelled. Boy howdy, was she ever right!

I'm really looking forward to later in the summer when some of my veggies can come from my very own garden.

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A happy accident

Yesterday, I had to work. This is not normal for a Saturday, but it was a special case. Being that I had to be there super early and would not finish before the farmer's market closed, this means that I had to wake up super early to make it to the market before work. After work, I stopped by the garden center and picked up plants before coming home and working in the garden until it was dark last night.

All of this makes for one very tired Ysha. By the time I had showered and was ready to think about dinner, it was almost 10 pm. Obviously, I was too tired to cook the veggies I'd gotten at the market. So, I opted for a tuna sandwich.

I've been playing around a bit with the standard tuna salad that I grew up with - mayonnaise, sweet relish, and tuna. I've begun adding a bit of pepper relish to it and a smattering of herbs. For some reason, completely unclear to the rational side of my brain, I took the lid off of the dill seasoning mix and dumped it in to the bowl, right on top of the tuna.

I couldn't pick it all out, so I just mixed it in (maybe a tablespoon of it?). Truth be told, quite scrumptious. Spread on toast, this was a tasty and simple meal after my day of slaving.

I am now looking forward to many weeks of just sitting on the veranda, sipping lemonade and watching my garden grow. That's how this works, right?


Joy! It is officially spring!

The weather is still horrible. It was raining all day yesterday and must have been about 40 degrees. I was freezing, but braved the ick for opening day of our local farmer's market. I nearly had the place to myself.

As I had expected, most of the produce was trucked in from much further south. However, I did manage to find a few local goodies. Shiitake mushrooms, baby green garlic, hydroponic tomatoes, and a basil plant. Put that all together with a few other items and you get my favorite homemade pizza.

Truth be told, I really don't like tomatoes. I don't hate them as much as I used to, but as a rule I won't eat them. However, mixed with a bit of olive oil, salt, garlic and basil, they become my favorite pizza sauce. And that stuff I could just stand there and eat with a spoon. But I don't because it's too durned tasty on the pizza.

For the last few weeks, I have been getting raw milk from a local source. It is wonderfully tasty and seems to be helping a bit with my weight loss. Today, however, I plan to take my fresh milk and make lovely lovely fresh mozzarella cheese from it. I will try my best to take some actual photos of the process.

In other news, I am attempting to plant a garden this year. I've been spending the last few weeks preparing the soil and hopefully will be able to set out my first plants in a week or two.


I’ll never be a good food blogger

By the time I get finished cooking, I'm always too hungry to remember to get a picture. I tend to remember it when I am looking down at a half eaten dinner.

The menfolk have obviously decided that if they want anything other than a sandwich, they are going to have to start doing the cooking themselves. I'm hoping though that the opening of our local farmer's market this coming saturday will help to bring back my desire to cook and create.

The sweet boyfriend came over on saturday night and cooked for me. We tried out a recipe he'd seen on television that morning which had piqued his interest. Of course, we adjusted it slightly, but not much.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara
1 pound of spaghetti
3 eggs
3/4 grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup half & half
12 oz. bacon*, cut into small pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced

Boil the spaghetti in salted water. While that is going on fry the bacon and garlic until the bacon is crispy, drain on paper towels. In a large bowl mix eggs, half & half, and parmesan. Scoop hot drained pasta into egg mixture and toss about. Toss in bacon/garlic bits and a goodly amount of pepper.

*the original recipe called for 8 oz, he said that they used a pound on the show. I bought a package of center cut and we used whatever was in the package, I didn't check the weight.

Served it up with a caesar salad and garlic toast. Scrumptious and simple.


Hoo Hah! and other such exclamations of glee!

I believe that I mentioned here a while back that my diet pill was causing complete disinterest in food.  I was no longer obsessively surfing food blogs and watching food network to find new recipes.  I've spent most of the last 2 months just eating whatever was easiest and fit within my calorie range.

I've been feeling rather like I was stuck on a plateau.  I'm keeping a spreadsheet of daily calorie intake and weight.  Up a pound, down a pound, up, down, up, up, down, down, down.  I wasn't gaining back the 15 pounds I'd lost the first month, but also didn't seem to be going anywhere.

Mum and I went to lunch this week and I realized that the salad I had that day was the first one I'd had in a week or more.  I thought a bit more about it and realized that I was basically going through my days cramming 1600 calories worth of junk food down my gullet.  Not complete junk, but a high carb, low protein, low veggie, low fiber diet.  Starting about thursday, I started making a conscientious effort to add more vegetation to my diet.

Also in the last week, I've found myself becoming interested in cooking again.  I blame/credit Ree for this.  Just before valentine's day, she posted her cooking lessons on lasagna and chocolate cake.  I found myself thinking more and more about these recipes until I knew that I would have to make them this weekend.  I invited the boyfriend over to share in this gluttony.

My mom used to make lasagna when I was a kid.  When she and dad split up, the relatives expected me to start providing them with this dish.  I refused, probably one of the first times I ever stood up for myself with the relatives, but definitely not the last.  I'd make manicotti (which is fairly close, but different enough to make me happy) and eventually I started experimenting with lasagnas that were vastly different than mom's.  Ree's lasagna is almost identical to my mom's.  I hadn't realized how much I missed that flavor until it hit my tongue tonight.  I also sauted/broiled some zucchini and garlic in just a bit of olive oil (must have a veggie!), warmed up a loaf of whole clove garlic bread, and whipped up a quick ranch dressing for a bagged salad.  I told pop not to completely hog out, as I'd be making cake in a bit, but it just couldn't be stopped.  I think he'd missed that flavor too.

After letting dinner settle a bit, I headed back to the kitchen to get started on the chocolate cake.  Pop hollered at me that it seemed like an awful lot of work for cake, you can fling together a boxed mix in 10 minutes.  After I let him taste the batter, he shut right up about any old box mix.  While the cake was baking, I made the frosting.  I think I might have done something wrong, as my frosting was very very runny, but it tasted damned good, so I didn't care.  Plus, with it being so thin, when I poured it over the warm cake it ran off the edges of the pan.  I just scooped a bit of it off and put it into a bowl, it'll make damned good ice cream topping.

If this cake were human, I'd marry it.  Super moist and the most delicious cake I've ever had.  Caused a foodgasm, it was so tasty.  Altogether, an amazing dinner, start to finish.  Everyone go visit Ree and try these for yourself, then go back and tell her that she's a goddess.

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It's been almost a year, but I've finally figured out where I went wrong with last year's Cinco De Mayo spread.

I set up my fondue pot and put cheese in it to become all melty for the tacos and nachos.  I used Queso Fresco, which has a lovely lovely taste.  But it didn't melt for doodly, just glomped and burned.

Last night, Alton's show was about more uses for tortillas.  In this show he mentions that queso fresco is great because it doesn't melt and run everywhere.

OOOOOOOOhhhhhhhh!  Oops, I learn something new every day.

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Craft catch-up (image heavy)

It's time to finally let you see some of the projects that I've been working on lately.


Peanut butter and jelly diet

I'm still dealing with the lack of interest in food. I don't watch food network as much as before, nor do I surf the food blogs as much. If something strikes my fancy in the little perusing I actually do, I'll throw myself into it with zeal. However, nothing has really struck my fancy for a couple of weeks now. Most evenings I eat a quick sandwich or a microwaved convenience meal of some sort.

However, this week was my mum's birthday. Normally, I plan for this for weeks and weeks. Actually, last march, when I first had shrimp and grits, I thought that'd be a lovely birthday meal for mum. Then I used that recipe for christmas, when I went over and cooked them dinner. She loved it and wouldn't have complained about the repeat, but it takes a bit too much effort for a tuesday night after working all day. Especially with the sort of days that I've been having.

I solicited my livejournal pals for advice, but then the wonderful boyfriend called me up with the idea that sparked a darn good dinner - why not grill some shrimp or chicken? Mum loves the shrimp, but only if it's deep fried, so I tossed that out and went with the chicken.

Last week was pop's birthday, and we'd gone out for his dinner - to Outback Steakhouse. The first thing that jumped out at me from their menu was the "grillers", beef and veggie kabob served with rice and grilled pineapple. The grilled pineapple was wonderful. I loved it so and was dying to use some myself. So, I tossed that into the menu for mum's dinner.

We wound up marinating boneless chicken breasts in pineapple juice all day, then placing them and pieces of fresh pineapple on the barbecue grill. While that started cooking, I threw together a simple salad with bagged greens, diced mango, and toasted almonds. Then I whipped up a fruity vinagrette with mango pulp, lime juice, pineapple juice, chardonnay, white wine vinegar, mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper.

I went out to check on the chicken and they were cold! Oh no! Out of gas! We swapped out the tank for a fresh one and were back in business. But we weren't really. Something was wrong with the burner and the flame kept going out. So, I moved the chicken breasts (which did have a little color and grill markage on them) and pineapple to a pan and put them in the oven. 20 minutes later, the chicken still seemed incredibly underdone and the pineapple were juicing all over them. I extracted the pineapple and moved the chicken to the stovetop. In the time that it took for the pineapple juice to be absorbed/evaporated, the chicken finished cooking and actually carmelized slightly in the juice (only about 5 more minutes). I then sliced the chicken into small bits and put it atop the salad, with the pineapple on the side.

It turned out to be a lovely, healthy meal. Not at all the sort of fare that I usually make for mum (heavy and cheese filled), but we all enjoyed it greatly. I was thankful for my flexible nature, I've known folks who would've thrown the whole thing out when the grill died.

Next, we moved into dessert. My version of bananas foster. I had a recipe once, but over the years that I've made this, I've made it my own. As you may know, I rarely measure anything, a trait that I find endearing in myself and infuriating in others. I melted maybe half a stick of margarine in a pan (mum never has actual butter) and added what looked like way too much brown sugar (but really wasn't). When it came to a simmer, I added banana slices and stirred it around gently until the bananas started breaking up, telling me that they were done. At that point I added a small splash of vanilla extract and a goodly splash of dark rum (myers). Let the alcohol cook off and spooned it over vanilla ice cream.

In good keeping with my diet, I only ate a very small amount. My stepdad, who really isn't that much of a sweet eater, paid me the greatest compliment by having to have two large servings! I also found out that night that bananas foster is one of mum's favorite desserts. Perhaps sad that I didn't know that, but it has just become so in the last 5 years, in which time I haven't lived with her.

One very nice thing about the lack of interest in food is all of the free time that I find myself with in the evenings. No longer do I come home from work, cook something, clean up, and fall in a heap on the couch. Instead, I've been crafting like a mad woman. This week, I finished the organizational drawers that I've been painting, knitted a scarf, and knitted a sock. I will follow up later with pictures of some of my finished projects.


Lack of interest

I've not had near the interest in food that I previously did.  I do still occasionally get excited enough to cook, maybe once a week.  Early this week I tried out a recipe from Paula Dean for an italianish chicken cordon bleu.  It was ok, but caused the reflux to kick up and has thus been banned.

I'm more about the crafts lately.  Last weekend, Mimi and I had "sock sunday", where she came over for the day and taught me to knit a sock.  I finished the first one that day and started the second.  I didn't finish the second one until friday, but it was a busy week.

I've also been painting up these cutesy crates with drawers that I found at Michaels.  I'm trying to get my craft supplies organized, and this is helping greatly.  Probably with two more crates I'll have enough drawers for all of the interests.

I found a new project which interests me greatly, but the more I think about it, the more I think it'll take quite a bit of time to make.  I'd like to make it very special.

My abstinence from the gawd nectar (pepsi) is not going quite as well.  I haven't had one in 19 days now, but I WANT ONE!  Probably a hormonal craving.  I've done so well though that I hate to give in now.  I'm just trying to hold out a bit longer.  I never said I'd give them up for life, but not drinking them is surely helping with the weight loss.