Sunday, February 14, 2016

Living the Dream

February was my turn to host dream group. Since we always meet on a Sunday, I selected the 14th.  Why not capitalize on the holiday?  Early in the week I started my search for a couple of recipes that would a) look pretty, b) taste good and c) satisfy the health conscious members of the group.  Ideally the refreshment should satisfy all three but, two out of three would suffice.

Probably because I had dream group on my mind, I woke up one morning during the week with a dream that didn't evaporate the minute I opened my eyes.  In fact, it was the dream that actually woke me.  It had one of those common themes where the dreamer is trying to get somewhere but there are a series of delays, obstacles, or dead ends that don't allow the dreamer to fulfill the intention.  The dreamer gets more anxious, frustrated, or even more determined as time after time the desire is thwarted.  Often the dreamer wakes up feeling emotionally exhausted.  This was one of those dreams in spades. I thought about it a few times during the week wondering if it was a dream I should share with the group.  But mostly I was focused on what I was going to prepare for them to eat.  I needed to make sure I had all the ingredients and that I knew what serving dishes were needed.

Ironing the napkins and selecting napkin rings was also on the to-do list.
Finally I settled on a bundt cake with a cranberry topping.  It called for almond paste, sorghum molasses, and cornmeal along with the normal butter, eggs, etc.  I consider myself a fair judge of recipes and this one sounded like something a little special.  It also covered category a. It would look pretty.

 I followed the directions carefully and popped it into the oven for the designated 75 minutes.  Because my stove is fairly new, I have been monitoring the oven temperature and have determined that things seem to take a bit longer than the suggested baking time.  So, I set the timer for the recommended time and did not check the cake until the buzzer went off.  Oops!  Too late.  The cake was a little brown on top but maybe it would be fine.  The directions said not to turn it out of the pan until it was completely cooled.  Again I followed the direction given.  Oops #2.  After, much assistance with a knife down the sides of the pan and some gentle prying most of the cake fell onto the platter.

The fresh cranberries, brown sugar and butter that formed the first layer in the bottom of the pan were supposed to come out as a lovely red gooey glaze on the top of the cake.

Part b of oops #2.   Most of the delicious candied cranberries stayed in the pan.  Still not willing to give up, I scraped the pan and deposited the glaze onto the cake in the most presentable manner I could manage.  At this point, I think it could have worked, but a nagging thought made me taste it.  Not bad, but not yum-yum either. Should I serve it or not?  It appears the decision was made without my input.  Because I had broken the circle by cutting into the cake, it lost stability and started to split into thirds.  Now it really did look like a train wreck.  I tried to brace it by sticking a spoon under one side meanwhile looking frantically around for something better to prop it up.  Finally, I threw in the towel.
The second recipe I had planned was a breakfast like mixture with oatmeal, yogurt, protein powder, coconut milk, almonds, and cocoa to make it a little chocolatey for Valentine's Day.  It sounded like something my group would like.  But, so as not to have two flops in one day, I made a one serving portion to test the results.  It is meant to be refrigerated for a few hours or overnight before serving.  I left it for about three hours and then tasted it.  Really?  Can this be happening again?  It was bland, boring, and not something I would serve to guests.  It was something you could call a treat if you were on a restricted calorie diet, I suppose.

It was now mid-afternoon and I had another engagement at 5 P.M.  I turned to my recipe file.  Yes, that box that holds those old recipe cards that date back about 50 years.  I'm not exaggerating.  This oatmeal cake recipe is one I saved from my early twenties.  No worries now.  This would be a slam dunk and I actually had everything I needed to make it.  Baking required a 9x13 pan and the topping was chocolate chips and walnuts, so no frosting required.  This time I tested it a little early but kept it in the oven the suggested time.

While the cake was baking I ran out for a loaf of bread to make a bread pudding recipe that had been on my initial list of possibilities.  Lots of milk and eggs and bread and the surprise ingredient..cranberries.  I wasn't ready to give up on Valentine Red yet.  Aside from cutting all the crust off the bread, this recipe went together quickly and I popped it into the fridge to be baked the next morning.

Off I went to my party, happy that I was now prepared for guests at 9:30 A.M. on the next day.

Sunday morning I put the bread pudding into the oven for 75 minutes and then went about making the coffee and lighting candles and all those last minute things.

As soon as I cut the cake I knew I was in trouble.  Actually, I knew I might have a problem a little sooner but I was in denial.  Once I cut into it and tasted it, I knew I had to face the fact that this was another disaster.  The texture was that of a dense, almost gooey brownie which is OK for a dense gooey brownie, but not for this cake.  The first thing I did was check the expiration date on the baking powder.  Oct. 2017, I was good there, I guess.  Why didn't it rise?  What went wrong?

I don't really think it was anything I did that created these problems.  I think it was life imitating a dream.  My subconscious was not going to let me bypass that dream.  By plopping the theme right into my waking life, I was again reminded that there is a message here that needs to be heard.  Have I figured that message out?  Not completely, but I'm not going to dismiss it.

In case you are wondering, the bread pudding fell a little short on categories "a" and "c" but it seemed to hit "b" out of the park.  Most everyone had seconds.  This recipe I will willingly pass along.  Check it out here.  Add raisins if you are a fan.  I know I will next time I make it.
As shown on Pinterest.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

I'm Back

I cannot believe it has been seven weeks since I last posted.  Many of you probably thought I was sunbathing on a beach in Mexico.  Those who know me will find that comment pretty amusing.  I haven't been in a bathing suit in thirty years and have no intention of shopping for one either.  So then, what's my excuse?

No excuse worthy of mentioning except that I haven't done a project that seemed blog worthy.  I do my blog posts on my desktop because I have it hooked to my TV and I really love working with that large screen as a monitor.  Unfortunately my computer started acting strangely.  It would randomly power down.  Sometimes it would be an hour or two into my work session and sometimes it would be immediately after powering up.  I put up with that for awhile and then my son took on the challenge of diagnosing the cause.  He tried several fixes but nothing helped.  So, off it went to a friend with more tools only to come back with the same result.  It was determined the motherboard has just gone beserk and my computer is toast.  So, for now, I am left with the laptop only.

This seemed like the perfect opportunity to give my shabby little computer chair a makeover.

This is the perfect seat for computer work because it slides inside the closet that hides my computer when I chose to have it disappear.  My brother found it in a house he was rehabbing.  I painted it a terracotta color and upholstered it in a very pretty coral toile fabric.

Obviously it has had plenty of use since then.

Thanks to some very mild temperatures in early February, I was able to give it a fresh coat of spray paint.  I brightened up the frame with a color called Paprika.  This was a "last minute, take advantage of the weather, spontaneous" decision so I was not about waste time seeking out the perfect color.  I grabbed a rusty colored primer spray for the first coat.  That would have been the last coat if I had been satisfied with the color.  Next I tried the Paprika and decided that would do.

Because I had a few remnant pieces of this fabric that would be enough to cover the seat, back and arms of this little chair, it became the fabric of choice.

Luckily I had a good sized piece of foam on hand so I was able to replace that too.

The worst part of the whole project was pulling all the staples to remove the old upholstery.

The paint color is more subdued than it looks here.  In fact it really is more of a tomato red than orange.  You'll have to take my word for it.

Now that I've gotten my toe back in the water, I hope to have more projects to show you soon.