Lemon Yogurt Cake Helps Brighten the Day

Lemon Yogurt Cake

For most of us it seems as though April 15th, AKA tax day, is approaching too fast. But for my sister, Marci, and other family members it couldn’t come soon enough. Pretty much all of them are CPAs (yes, I’m the culinary rebel of the family) and have been working crazy hours since February.

With long days that don’t allow them any actual sunlight, I doubt my sister and her coworkers are eating anything homemade right now, and they truly seem to appreciate any gesture in that direction: two weeks ago I sent Marci to work with cake balls and she and her coworkers are still raving about them!

So, to help make this last week of tax season a bit easier to swallow, I made them a lemon yogurt cake. This brightly-flavored treat has a moist crumb but is light in texture so as not to bog them down, plus there’s just enough sugar to help them get through the day.

Of course, I had to try one small piece just to make sure it was edible – and trust me it was! Oh, how I hated to part with the rest of that cake, but certainly this was a worthy cause.

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Family Food Traditions: PB&J with Chicken Noodle Soup

My dad excited to eat his soup

My dad excited to eat his soup

As I mentioned in the post for cracked Yukon gold potatoes, my family officially celebrated my dad’s birthday a few days late. My mom and I made potatoes, chicken, fish, broccoli and a chocolate cake (I’ll post that recipe soon). A nice, traditional meal.

Well, I didn’t tell you what my dad ate for dinner on his actual birthday, also a traditional meal for him. He asked my mom to prepare his favorite: peanut butter and grape jelly sandwhich with Lipton chicken noodle soup and crackers. At least he’s finally transitioned from white Wonder Bread to whole grain!

Classic birthday dinner: peanut butter and jelly with chicken noodle soup
Classic birthday dinner: PB&J with chicken noodle soup

I didn’t realize how strange this meal request was until I told a few friends about it. Then, earlier that day I had lunch with my friend Sara and her three-year-old son, Ben, requested a PB&J. That confirmed it: my father’s favorite meal is the same as a child’s, but I find it endearing rather than strange. And it completely fits his Peter Pan personality.


Licking the Bowl, Part II

Remember my post last week about the joy of licking the bowl and how I described a photo of my doing just that as a child? Well, I can’t seem to find that photo but I found this one instead:

Licking the bowl, Jan. 1984

Wasn’t I precious? Ha – proof of my long history of licking the bowl. See how happy I looked?

This picture may be even better than the one I was originally thinking of. Notice how the mixing bowl covers most of my body and how half my face is smudged in chocolate batter? I don’t know how I managed to get it on my nose.

Also, isn’t that primary-color flower wallpaper fantastic? They sure don’t make things like they used to. Oh, to be young again.


The Joy of Licking the Bowl

Empty bowl and broken spoon

Have you ever made a dessert – brownie, cake, cookie – simply so you could lick the bowl? Every once in a while I get a craving for batter. Not the end product (although that certainly doesn’t get thrown away), but literally the brownie batter or the cookie dough.

It’s become pretty common to find a roll of cookie dough in a woman’s refrigerator or freezer. She doesn’t keep it there in case company suddenly comes by and she needs to make a quick treat, but rather for the simple pleasure of eating that cookie dough raw.

A little more unusual is what I did the other night: make brownies simply so I could lick the bowl. It took practically no time as I used a store-bought brownie mix that has been sitting in my pantry for well over a year (it was purchased on clearance after Christmas 2007 so one can only imagine the freshness…). Obviously, I don’t often use mixes or else it wouldn’t have lasted so long.

Brownies Day 1

Anyways, the mix was whipped together in about 1 1/2 minutes (I was mixing so vigorously that my plastic spoon broke during the process – no big loss, one less thing to wash), then less-then-generously poured into a large baking dish. This was intentional: the thinner the layer, the quicker they would be cooked and the sooner I could eat them! Remember, the batter only gets you so far, in the end the brownies are still appreciated.

By the time the dish was placed in the oven my self-control had disappeared: I grabbed the bowl, the broken mixing spoon and made a mad-dash to the couch. I didn’t even get a photo of the bowl before being wiped clean! The only thing missing from this spectacle were the beaters, because there’s no better joy than licking the beater – all kids know the beater trumps everything else.

The point: there’s something inherently comforting about licking the bowl and eating raw batter. I think this is because baking brownies, cakes or cookies is usually the first experience we have helping in the kitchen. One of my favorite pictures from my childhood is of me standing on a stool in the kitchen, wearing an apron that entirely covered my three-year-old frame, with beater in my hand and batter on my face. After a tough day, it can be comforting to return to that childish pleasure (I’m trying to find that photo, but as my mom said, it’s like finding a needle in a haystack).

Brownies Day 3

And when the batter is gone, I can return to the everyday pleasure of eating the resultng brownies. Note that I didn’t share them with anyone – I worked my way through almost the entire pan before becoming so disgusted with myself that I threw the last bit in the garbage.

Brownies in the trash


Really, Really Cooked Beef Stew & Beer Bread

Beef stew with beer bread

The Cubs lost a playoff game last night. And the night before. I was at the second game, the game wherein they truly self-destructed, and I can’t even begin to express the despair felt by all in the stadium. Even the Dodger fans sitting next sit me seemed a bit bummed. Of course they wanted their team to win, but still would have appreciated a good game. A day later and I’m still feeling glum (good word, right?), so I figured it was necessary to bring out the big guns with something I like to call Really, Really Cooked Beef Stew. You see, I like my stew thick with the meat falling apart as though it were braised, which let’s face it, isn’t too far of a stretch.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really think the whole meal through before I began. I got the stew going and all was good until about halfway through when I realized that I needed something to eat with the stew, namely a nice chunk of crusty bread. At this point there just wasn’t time to make a starter or even allow a rapid-rise bread the time needed to proof.

Damn it, I was glum and getting a bit hungry (also the reason why I didn’t take photos throughout). I quickly Googled “quick rise bread,” “no rise bread,” and finally “beer bread,” which is where I found my answer. I followed the recipe with two exceptions: used whole wheat flour (which incidentally expired 11 months ago – oops) and cold beer rather than room temperature. In the end I decided this bread is good to have as a back-up when you’re craving fresh, warm out-of-the-oven bread with a nice crust but wouldn’t be my first choice overall, and it has a slightly off aftertaste that is probably just the beer flavor, but a little unfamiliar to me as I rarely drink beer.

Blurry piece of beef stew
*This blurry photo was intended to show just how tender the beef was, but turned out poorly because the camera fell into the stew while taking it.

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