Monday, January 31, 2011

Fantastic. All Time FAVORITE & So EASY: Eclair Cake.

Oh. My. Gosh.

Don't even get me started on this cake.



I mean...


I don't know what it is about this recipe but, I go ga-ga for this dessert. Ga-ga to "Lady" proportions. That is how over the top my love for this recipe is. Sure it may look like a hot mess but, its delicious, spoon cake. You know? A dessert that can only be served with a spoon and eaten with one as well? Soft, creamy, yummy, goodness?

And the thing is, this recipe is so straight forward, so DISGUSTINGLY easy, that it really shouldn't even count as a recipe. Just throwing things together.

Which... I suppose is technically what a recipe is.

Anyway, back to the point I was trying to make. This "cake" is layers of a pudding whip, graham crackers, and then chocolate topping. It may not be much to look at but, when properly combined and layered, everything becomes a kind of pudding, soft to the spoonful, that tastes exactly like a chocolate eclair.

Except, unlike an eclair, this treat is exceptionally low fat.

THAT my friends is a beautiful concept.

Since most of the ingredients are "cool whip" and "graham crackers"- by buying the fat free or low fat versions, you cut calories without cutting taste.

Once everything is combined, I swear you won't notice.

Make and enjoy :)

Eclair Cake:

-1box of graham crackers,
-2 small pkgs. french vanilla pudding
-3 1/2 cups milk
-8 oz. cool whip


The Ingredients 4 the topping for the eclair:
-1 1/2 cups powdered sugar,
-2 envelopes unsweetened chocobake
-2 tsp. light corn syrup
-1 tsp. vanilla
-3 TBLS milk
-3 TBLS melted butter
Mix together with beater. (If you cannot find chocobake, you can melt chocolate yourself. Or if you want to skip the work altogether, a can of chocolate icing, heated in the microwave to easily pour over the cake, will work nicely!)

Make the pudding less 1/4 milk per box = 3 1/2 cups milk
fold cool whip in pudding.
Butter the bottom of a 9 by 13" pan
Line the pan with graham crackers on the bottom.
Pour 1/2 of the pudding mix over the graham cracker.
add another layer of graham crackers,
then the rest of the pudding.
Top with another layer of graham crackers.
Make frosting and pour over that,
then refrigerate overnight for the best combination/blending.
If you can't keep it uncut overnight (I rarely can!) give it at least 3 hours to go soft.

Originally from our dear family friend, Pam Bassi! Enjoy :)

Spicy Wing Dip

Perhaps not the most appeal image ever...

It got attacked though. I couldn't take the shot fast enough!

But if you like buffalo wings, this dip is amazing. Seems appropriate with the Super Bowl fast approaching to make a batch or three of chicken wing dip. With some celery stalks, (healthy and delicious!),  or chips to dip into this, I am sure it would be a hit at any bowl-gathering! My aunt made two double batches in 9 by 13 pans of it for family Christmas and it was still gone before all the other food at the feast. 

For me, I love buffalo wings with ranch dipping sauce but, seem to always stain myself and need to wash up after eating them. I like to think it's not because of my poor manners of eating but more because they are messy but, having a dip that tastes almost EXACTLY like chicken wings without the mess is phenomenal. 

Plus, 5 ingredients. Simple.

Spicy Chicken Wing Dip
-1 large can diced white chicken (or 2 small)
-1 8oz cream cheese
-1 small bottle Frank's Hot Sauce
-1 small bottle Ranch Dressing
-1 pckg mozzarella shredded cheese

Layer pie pan bottom with cream cheese, smooth. In bowl, mix chicken, ranch dressing, and hot sauce. Pour and smooth on top of cream cheese. Top with shredded cheese. Bake at 350 til melted and bubbly, (about 10 minutes).

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mack & Katie

My mom, Katie, is this little red headed Irish babe, a total force to be reckoned with, running around at all times, taking on her kids, household, and the world.

Us kids usually being more difficult to manage than the world.

She is also exceptionally short. Shorter than all of her kids, even the baby by a small margin, and we don’t often let her forget her height when she is around us.

Out of all the people and pets who live in our household, she is really only taller than one. And that is because we have a Yorkshire terrier among our ranks, Mack the Knife.

My english major of a soul is dying... I meant to say "I am taller thAn you". My apologies to all.

The love Mack has for Katie is quite possibly the greatest love affair in history. Beyond Anthony and Cleopatra, Scarlett and Rhett, JFK and Jackie O, Ross and Rachel, the couple from season 13 of The Bachelor, and even more passionate then the love between the Obamas—Mack and Katie win.

Which is even MORE amazing because it is almost entirely a one sided emotion. Mack being completely and totally obsessed with my mother. Which, since Mack is supposed to be my dog, I find fundamentally unfair.

I had begged for a puppy, written reports, made posters I would cleverly leave on my parents bed, and eventually once we got Mack, been overjoyed when my hard work paid off. Sadly, from the very first, he seems to have considered himself my mom’s, not mine.

Mack follows my mom around like her living shadow. It is almost as though he is trying to make sure she is always secure, always protected, and he considers himself her 7 pound body guard. He would absolutely take a bullet for the woman. He very rarely strays from my mom, usually only doing so to bark at people on/near our lawn or scare away small animals who are threatening our home’s security.  There is a very specific zone in which Mack feels happy and safe, my mom being the center of that boundary.

It is always amazing to observe the single minded devotion Mack has for my mom. Sometimes, it borders on sad when you realize how great the difference is between how he feels and how my mom does. His feelings are simply not returned to the Armageddon-may-take-me degree he feels for her. My mom is definitely fond of the little guy, he is very very cute and he is, after all, entirely devoted to loving her. It can just be hard sometimes because… Mack is a jerk.

Mack is like… your racist great uncle. You love him, of course. And he is so cute in his little old man way. But, he is also crazy, likely paranoid and extremist. And he is mean to everyone outside of the family.  That is exactly Mack. He is really old for a dog, pushing 12, and he is definitely a punk basket to everyone who is not a family member or a family friend he has tried to attack 100 times in the past and has just given up on. He goes ballistic whenever people come to our house, trying to get them to leave, until one of us calls him off and he sulks off to protect my mother from the stranger in defeat. Oh, and delivery people, Lord help us.

It is a wonder we haven’t had to lawfully put him down. The fact that he is about as threatening, in size and stature, as a beanie baby is probably the only thing that has spared his life.

Essentially, like your great uncle, my family and I are the only people who appreciate  Mack being around. We are the only people who even like Mack. He is grouchy and perpetually freaked out that everyone who enters our place is a terrorist. Our neighbors definitely hate the constant barking from Mack, his alarm system to alert the neighborhood when there are birds, squirrels, or children playing, eventually becoming repetitive. All of our friends seem to hate him if only because he seems to hate them, rarely warming up to anyone outside of our family. And even then, members of the family can be the object of Mack’s loathing.

Or at least, that’s the case for Toby.

Toby is the golden retriever my family got this past summer. When we brought the puppy Toby home, Mack was mortified and then quickly angered. He attacked the little fluff, which was smaller then him at the time, and even made his ear bleed before we all banished Mack to other corners of the house.

Therefore, grouchy old man Mack, was nothing short of devastated by the addition of Toby. Why were we all playing with the enemy? What did we mean when we said “play nice”? And where in God’s name was Katie?

We set up barricades around all the areas Toby was growing up in to protect him from Mack. This usually worked well since Mack wanted absolutely nothing to do with Toby, but whenever my mom would go to check on the puppy or play with him, Mack would flip a flap jack and bodily throw himself against the gates, yipping and barking until Katie came back over to where he could see her.

My mom, obviously, was less then thrilled with this situation. Mack’s obsession with her was making her life a living, bark filled, hell. Plus! She never got to play with cute, puppy Toby!

As happens with puppies, much too quickly Toby was a full sized dog. While Mack is an old, grouchy, man dog, Toby is like Doug, the dog in “Up”. He has absolutely no clue what’s going on 99.9% of the time, is easily distracted, knows he’s fridgin’ cute, loves everyone and everything, and therefore thinks everyone and everything is his friend. Especially Mack.

Mack is his best BEST friend.

Of course, Mack still hates him with every fiber of his being. If not more so now that Toby is too big for Mack to attack and he is nothing short of vigilant in his pursuit of friendship with him.

All Toby wants, more then anything, is to play with Mack. He will walk up to a sleeping Mack and whack him with his giant paw, intended him to get up and run and play. He will chase Mack down when Mack is trying to guard my mom, intent on having him play tug of war. Toby will spaz out with joy whenever Mack is in the room, ignoring furniture, people, and WALLS in his attempts to be in Mack’s proximity. Our doors have been clawed to death.

The gates that were once barricades against Mack have become his only salvation. Due to the crazy happiness that rushes through Toby, we had to cut holes in the gates so Mack could get away safely. Toby could accidently break Mack’s spine in his excitement. We keep the dining room portioned off from the rest of the house so Mack can duck through the gates and hide from Toby for a few hours peace or in case such an attack is eminent.

Mack’s life is pretty much hell right now.

And Toby and Mack are pretty much making my mom’s life hell right now by acting like lunatics and destroying her house in the rampage.

And my Mom is then upset with my Dad because he works outside of the house, so she has to deal with it on her own.

And then my Dad is upset with us four kids because, by having four of us, he never intended on having to deal with the pets himself.

And we are all annoyed with the dogs because, if they could just be cool, we wouldn’t be in the hot seat.

So, in conclusion, if Mack could just not be a grouchy old man dog and could play nicely with Toby, there would be peace on Earth.

For now, however, there is only peace when Toby is dead asleep and Mack is with my mom. Which kind of works … Well, for everyone but my mom. Who I am told once had a life outside of the dog drama but, no one (my mom included) can remember that far back.

(Mack on my mom's knees (blue jeans), Toby nosing in.) 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Yoda Lime Bars

Lime bars shaped like Yoda! And colored green to match his signature color. I found this recipe for lemon bars and decided to make some green lime bars to utilize the Yoda shaped pancake mold I have from William Sonoma. I had already used my Storm Trooper and Vader mold so, Yoda was due to have a turn. 

These lime bars were truly luscious. Creamy, sweet, yet tart. The oats were a great touch and made the entire treat more homey in flavor. 

The green was a touch too far on the slime green color in the green spectrum, not necessarily a good "Yoda" green. But I still thought it was fun.

The only thing I would say about this recipe is there was MUCH too much flour in my batch. I don't know if I measured wrong or the recipe just has too much powder for my taste but, I would cut it easily in half. Next time I make these, I will be sprinkling flour into the crust until it's an amount I like more. I'd like the crust to be composed of more brown sugar and oats anyway. 

Hopefully you guys have fun with these and enjoy the recipe! It was seriously divine. Happy baking! And may the force be with you.

Lime Bars:

  • 1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 teaspoons grated lime zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/4 cups flour (As I mentioned before, however. Mine needed far LESS flour so next time I am going to add flour slowly, just until I like the consistency. Do as you like though, Jill's looked great!)
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Heat oven to 375ºF degrees. Coat 8x8 inch pan with non-stick cooking spray. Mix milk, lime zest and lime juice in medium bowl until thickened; set aside. Mix remaining ingredients in medium bowl until crumbly.
Press half of the crumbly mixture in pan; bake about 10 minutes or until set.
Spread lime milk mixture over baked crust. Sprinkle remaining crumbly mixture over the lime milk mixture, press down gently. Bake about 20 minutes or until edges are golden brown and center is set but soft. Cool completely. Cut 4 rows by 4 rows. Or into Yoda if you want to magnify the dessert's awesome.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Cocktails and Deliciously Mixed Up Flavorings

The cocktail pictured above is something I call "Pink Lady" but it is a drink that many college kids know and everyone seems to have their own name for. My favorite thing about it is the unexpected main ingredient, which no one seems to believe me makes up the beverage until they see me making a batch. This is a drink that you make in large quantities, for parties and the like, and whenever I've made it, it's always been gone mid party. No matter how many pitchers I put out.

Also, I don't have any reason I posted the photo with fireworks. It just looked pretty. 

Unexpected combinations are something that brings me considerable amusement. Following the recipe for the unexpected Pink Lady ingredients is another cocktail recipe that people are often hesitant to try- Basil Strawberry. And then following THAT are some more strange combinations in food and drink. Hope you enjoy :)

Pink Lady
-1 to 2 containers PINK lemonade mix (large)
-1 small bottle Cranberry Juice
-4 cups blackberry or raspberry vodka
-1 case Natural Light Beer (or whatever cheap beer you like)

Pour the cheap beer (unexpected, right?) into a container big enough to mix everything and take foam into account. Add remaining ingredients, the amount of lemonade mix to taste preference, and stir carefully. Allow to settle, pour into pitchers, and serve. 

Strawberry Basil Lemonade
-3 strawberries - de-stemmed
-5 basil leaves
-1.5 ounce Smirnoff Strawberry Vodka
-1 ounce Island Oasis Strawberry Puree (or just pureed strawberries)
-Fill (approximately 4 oz.) Lemonade
Muddle 3 strawberries - de-stemmed, with the five basil leaves and Smirnoff in a 16-ounce glass. Mix Strawberry Vodka, and Island Oasis Strawberry Puree in mixing glass or martini shaker. Add ice, shake for 15 seconds and pour into glass. Fill with lemonade and stir.
Cocktails are not the only place where unexpected combinations can be surprisingly delicious! For example, some of my favorite foods:

-Chicken salad with rosemary and grapes
-Baked tatter tots with cheddar cheese and bacon
-Peanut butter sandwich on toast with grapes, bananas, and honey
-White bread sandwiches with cheddar cheese and ranch Doritos
-Salami and Cream Cheese on toast (which inspired these weird lil guys)
-Hotdogs (on a bun) with celery salt and ketchup
-Crushed pretzels with cream cheese and raspberry jam on toast
-Marshmallows, chocolate chips, and pretzels
-Eggo waffle ice-cream sandwiches 
-Rainbow Rice Krispie Treats*

Those are just some of my favorite comfort/random combination foods. Any weird flavor combos you recommend?

Here's the recipe for Rainbow Rice Krispie Treats as a final note on the delicious and intriguing food combos. Promise you won't want to make normal rice krispie treats ever again.

Rainbow Rice Krispie Treats
-1 small box fruity pebbles
-1 bag large marshmellows
-3 tablespoons butter
Make as you would old school rice krispie treats. Meaning, melt the butter and marshmallows together until boiled down. Stir into cereal, press into 9 by 13 pan. Let cool about 15 minutes to solidify. 

And as a FINAL final bonus recipe, Jello Shots:

As a college student, this recipe was a must know. Outside the university setting, these may be inappropriate but sure as heck can be fun.

Jello Shots
-2 cups boiling water
-1 large box jello (6 oz I believe)
-2 cups flavored vodka/cold water (try to pick a complimentary flavor or go flavorless)

Boil your water and then dissolve your jello mix into it. Pour in your 2 cups vodka/water and distribute between cups. If you want strong shots, go for 2 cups straight vodka. You can water then down, literally!, with water though if you don't want that sugary burn.
I personally feel this is a situation of go big or go home though. You should really make your mama proud and make them as strong as you can :)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I was "That Kid" in school...

You know... that kid....

The guy or gal who just needs to shut up when the teacher asks a question. Any question. They always have an opinion and they always want to share it. Doesn't matter that no one, possibly not even the teacher, wants to hear it. They are so excited about learning and knowing and being... they must say whatever they have to say.

I am one of them.

I know...

I knooooooooooooow!

Now, you may be wondering how I can recognize "that kid" when I am amongst their ranks. Because, when not in an English classroom, I was NOT that kid. In high school, I was never that kid. In high school, avoiding being that kid was easy because I was constantly insecure about everything I said- convinced it was stupid, wrong, would sound funny, or all of the above.

Ah, high school. Good times.

For a large portion of my undergrad, in fact, I was completely silent. Borderline mute. I was usually thinking about whatever I was reading, doodling in my margins about story-lines, or staring at the chalk boards in horror as they tried to teach me concepts I'd never understand. Simply beyond my realm of comprehension. Such as math. Or science.

But then, midway through my undergrad...things changed. I finished my gen eds and was suddenly in the world of my major: writing! Reading! And then my minor, interactive media! Designing! Illustrating! Creating! About writing! And reading!

Cue monstrous transformation. 

Frankly, becoming that kid... was inevitable. Once the high school insecurities fell away, my passion for reading coupled with my lack of a filter lent itself to my never. shutting. up. 


And when teachers stopped calling on me... it didn't stop my determination to speak. I would just flutter around in a panic, hoping to be called on, begging to speak my mind, whatever it was on- despite the rolled eyes of my fellow classmates staring at me in exhausted horror.

Honestly, even at the time, I didn't know what to do. I couldn't stop it. The compulsion was too strong. Like word vomit. I would always go into my English class thinking quiet thoughts. But, they would burst forth as soon as my teacher asked a question I thought I knew the answer to.

Having been a normal student in all of my other classes- I knew how loathed "that kid" was. I myself had loathed "that kid". They came off all superior, all excited and awake. When all you want to do is sleep, "that kid" is bouncing off the walls with answers to questions you'd rather not be thinking about.

Everyone wants to kill that kid when they are in class with them. Everyone. There is a breaking point, of course. It's not an immediate murder plot. But eventually, everyone gets fed up with "that kid". And then everyone spends class imagining how to kill them.

There aren't a lot of ways to kill a student in a class room. At least, without getting caught. 

All things pointy, while probably the most tempting to day dream about, would never work to rid the world of "those kids". I am pretty sure the fact that my teacher had us in lecture seating is the only thing that saved me from death by pencil in my English 311 class, but really, all things pointy wouldn't work out in the assailants favor. 

Thankfully, most of the other ways to kill another person are JUST as conspicuous as sharp methods. Therefore, neither of the following were attempted by my classmates. Although, I am certain they were considered.

Wow. That last image is really violent.

I apologize. 

To you and to Darth Maul. 

In conclusion, next time you are fantasizing about killing "that kid" in the class you find boring or exhausting, try and remember that, while they may be a geek, it doesn't mean you should mentally kill them. 

First of all, because most of the methods are too obvious and flawed plans are no fun to fantasize about. No one wants to think about failure. Secondly, because "that kid" may be nice. Like I try to be. And maybe in other classes, they are just like you, quiet and annoyed with that other kid who won't shut up.

So, to all you normal people out there who just want to learn in a balanced learning environment, try and be forgiving for "those kids". Patience is a virtue.

And to my fellow out-spoken geeks, watch out for subtle murder plots. If you have people in your class who are more creative than pointy things, fire, and light sabers... you could be in trouble.

I'm not saying be afraid of your class mates...

Just cautious. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Cake is NOT a Lie... Soda Cake

So, for those who are unfamiliar with the video game "Portal", I don't suppose this post's name makes a whole lot of sense...

I suppose one could simply summarize the game for the newbies who come across this page but, the important part of the story is really just that this recipe is a complete facade. You should go play portal and work it out for yourself. This here though, is DISGUSTINGLY simple. It is cannot count as a recipe, it is a completely ridiculous, just 3 ingredient, recipe. For a cake. 3 ingredients, including the can of icing, FOR A CAKE. And YET! It really is just three ingredients. Including the can of icing!

This is "No Lie" Cake. It's fluffy, light, and made with just one can/12 oz bottle of soda and a cake mix. That's all.

Being a stage 10 klutz, I still made my kitchen/self a disaster. As you can clearly see, right here:

Oh, and here:

But in the end, the cake turned out nicely.

This cake, shown here, is a vanilla cake mix made with a black cherry soda. You simply combine the cake with the pop and mix it. I never used a hand mixer, just a big spoon, but I imagine that would make it even more ridiculously fluffy. I topped mine with a can of icing (vanilla) and ATTACKED everything with sprinkles.

I piped "no lie" in melted chocolate that I let cool in the fridge until it'd create that nice 3D look and, ta-da! "No lie" Soda Cake.

Anyway, please make note that this cake is simple and you should keep it simple when working with it. Twice now I have overshot the ability of this treat to hold its shape once free of the pan. I will never do so again. That is the main reason I got into an epic battle with those sprinkles. The cake was near cracking, in a desperate attempt to glue it together with frosting, I covered it with sprinkles to keep things in place. Just save yourself the nightmare, keep it in a pan or in a single layer. You'll be happier, promise.

Make and enjoy :)

Soda Cake
-1 box cake mix
-1 can/bottle (12 oz) soda

Choose any flavor of both cake mix and soda. Stir to combine.

Pour into greased pans, bake at 350 until a tooth pick comes out clean (approx 25 mins). Cool it entirely and top with icing, powdered sugar, or cinnamon to your liking. Yellow cake mix with coke and cinnamon is delicious. Dr. Pepper with chocolate cake is also intriguing. Try something fun and let me know how it goes!

*Update* Showcased on Sweet Saturdays

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Talking with My Hands

I talk with my hands.

I, in fact, almost named this web blog "Talking with My Hands" because I liked how this could be a place for me to tell my thoughts and stories, adding illustrations where I would usually gesture crazily with my hands.

I don't know if you are like me and are a hand-talker, but it's a really annoying habit to have. When people know you do it, they will occasionally stop listening to your over-the-top story in order to observe your over-the-top hand gestures. And you still can't stop it.

It's like a killer instinct. A ninja instinct.

It causes endless amusement to those of my friends who have caught on. I will mime to the extreme whatever my words are trying to express. I feel like a shadow puppet master, making shapes and motions like Mary Martin in "Peter Pan". It's truly an art.

I get it from my mother.

One night in particular, I recall my family giving my mom a really hard time about her hands constantly moving when she spoke. I'm from a pretty big family- two brothers, a sister, and my parents- and we all like to tease the others and joke in good fun. If you can't laugh at yourself, you won't do well around my family. And if you can't laugh at yourself and possibly laugh at others, you should probably avoid my giant extended family.

We think we're funny...

Anyway, my mom was actually seeming to get annoyed with our teasing so, we all tried to take it easy and just listen to her story. However, she was making it exceptionally difficult...

It looked like she was doing some crazy version of the YMCA. While her story was obviously rather interesting, all we could do was laugh. Once we noticed just how often she talked with her hands, we couldn't NOT notice long enough to listen. Plus, we wanted to mess with her even more now, having ample ammunition.

My brothers found that if you held her hands "nicely" while she was trying to tell a story, she'd start to stutter and be unable to speak full sentences.

Mom: Yeah! we walked helicopter... house... OH MY GOSH- What are you two doing?!
Brothers: Nothing.
Mom: Stop it! I don't believe you!
Brothers: We just want to hold your hands in an experiment.
Mom: I...wha...that is insulting!

Once she realized the game, she tried valiantly to defy them and tell her story any way, hands imprisoned or not. By J.K. Rowling, she was going to tell her story or kill my brothers trying!

And yet, try as she might, she couldn't tell her story without being able to gesture elaborately. She got frustrated and annoyed with my brothers and I began to feel genuinely bad for our teasing. I made everyone stop laughing and tried to defend my poor mother... it was all in good fun but, now it was just mean spirited.

Shock filled me as my family erupted in laughter. My dad actually choked on his double-buttered garlic bread he was laughing so hard.

I was hit with the swift realization that I now was now going to be the subject of torment for the evening.

For those of you who think my mom would have defended me, especially since she clearly brainwashed me to talk like a crazy person, you'd be wrong. She was right there with the rest of them, laughing and teasing like a champ.