Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Doghouse Gifts

Right before Christmas someone showed me a commercial, the premise of which was that men had to be very careful about the gifts they gave women because the wrong gift would land them in the doghouse. Apparently, demeaning, degrading gifts like household appliances or diet aids were the worst and the only foolproof gift a man could give was jewelry. This got me thinking about what kind of gift my husband could possibly give me that would merit that kind of reproof.

My husband is very sweet and thoughtful and tries to give me gifts that he knows will please me. So when he gave me a washer and dryer, I didn't feel that he was demeaning me, assuming that my only job in life was to wash his underwear. On the contrary, I was thrilled! It's a fact of life that I do the laundry in our home and to finally replace the machines that I've cursed for the last ten years was a huge blessing to me.

Likewise, when my son-in-law gave my daughter a treadmill for Valentine's Day, not only was he not in the doghouse, he was king of the day! His message was not "I'm skipping chocolates and giving you a treadmill because you really need to do something about your figure." Quite the contrary. He knew that she doesn't love chocolate and she really wanted to master treadmill dancing. His gift probably got him almost smothered in kisses.

So, what would get my husband sent to the doghouse? Hmmmm. A new lawnmower? I'm not about to start mowing the lawn. But if it made my husband happier, a happy husband is a good gift. And I could always balance it out by buying him a new sewing machine.

A gift that is always appreciated is pound cake. Especially when it's peppered with luscious, ripe blueberries. I know it's not blueberry season just yet (it snowed here yesterday!), so you'll have to tuck this recipe into a safe spot and bring it out again when fresh berries show up in the grocery store, the farmer's market, or better yet, your own bush!

Blueberry-Lime Poundcake
adapted from Fine Cooking

8 oz. (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
10-1/2 oz. (2-1/3 cups) all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking power
1/4 tsp. plus 1/8 tsp. salt
1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp. finely grated lime zest
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
2-1/2 cups room-temperature blueberries (about 13 oz.), washed and drained on paper towels
4 oz. (1 cup) confectioners’ sugar
2 Tbs. fresh lime juice; more as needed

1- Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. with a rack in the center of the oven. Butter and flour a 12-cup Bundt cake pan.

2- Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Set aside.

3- Place the sugar and lime zest into a food processor and pulse 20 times. If you don't have a food processor, you can omit this step and just work the zest into the sugar with your hands.

4- With an electric mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese at medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute.

5- Add the sugar mixture and continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, an additional 1 to 2 minutes.

6- With the mixer running, add the eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, beating well after each addition, and stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides as necessary.

7- Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl and beat at medium speed for about 20 seconds.

8- With a rubber spatula, gently fold in the blueberries.

9- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Run a knife through the batter or gently tap the pan on the counter to eliminate any air pockets. Bake 50-55 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

10- Set the pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then remove the cake from the pan and let it cool on the rack to room temperature.

11- To glaze the cake, combine the confectioner's sugar and lime juice. Whisk until the mixture is smooth and runny, adding more lime juice if necessary. Pour the glaze over the cake and allow it to set before cutting.

Note: as you can see from the photos, I skipped the glaze and the cake was still wonderful!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Movie Star Cake

Many people look at the glamorous lives of movie stars and wish that they, too, could have that life. I think that's nuts. I can't imagine how horrible it would be to live your life in a fishbowl, your every move scrutinized and reported on in the press. I want to live my life in peace and not be a featured tabloid headline when I go to the grocery store in sweatpants sans makeup.

That being said, I do think it would be cool to make a movie. I just wouldn't want to be a star. I wouldn't want to carry the responsibility of making a multimillion dollar gamble pay off. I wouldn't want the attention. What I would want is to be the weird character actor that you see for 30 seconds onscreen. That would be fun.

I could be an awesome bag lady, the nasal complaining neighbor, a bored salesclerk, or the belligerent shopper. It would be fun to put on makeup, play pretend, see the inner workings of movie-making (fairly boring, so I've heard), and then go back to real life and still be able to shop in my sweatpants.

So if either of my loyal readers are casting directors who are looking to fill slots for Curious Bystander #2 or Complaining Restaurant Patron, give me a call. I have an amazing repertoire of annoying voices and weird faces I can do. I don't have any headshots to send you, but I've got lots of food pictures. Does that count?

Today's cake is a good example of make-believe. Doesn't it look glamorous? All moist and marbly, with delicious chocolate chips sinking into it? You would think that the recipe came from a big name cookbook, possibly one associated with a bakery in New York or LA. And you couldn't imagine that this beautiful baked good could be made without grains or refined sugar, could you?

Surprise, it's both! Yes, as deceptively gorgeous as a Hollywood celeb on the red carpet, this cake is actually something that fits our current, weird dietary needs. Imagine how happy it makes my family to have cake and eat it, too! And it's full of good ingredients, so I'm happy to bake and serve it.

Grain-Free Marble Cake 
 - adapted from The Spunky Coconut Grain-Free Baked Goods & Desserts

2 cups room temperature cooked, rinsed, and drained white beans (Great Northern or navy)
6 eggs at room temperature
3/4 tsp vanilla liquid stevia
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup coconut oil, liquified
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 Tbsp + 1-1/2 tsp coconut flour
3 Tbsp mini chocolate chips

1- Preheat oven to 325 deg. F. Grease an 8x8-inch pan.

2- In the bowl of a food processor, combine the beans, eggs, stevia, vanilla extract, and honey. Process till smooth.

3- Add the coconut oil, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Process till smooth.

4- Pour half of the batter into a medium bowl. (I eyeballed the halfway point on the side of the food processor bowl and marked it with my finger.) Set it aside.

5- Add the cocoa powder to the batter in the food processor bowl. Process till smooth. Pour the cocoa batter into the prepared pan.

6- Sprinkle the coconut flour over the batter in the bowl. Whisk to combine thoroughly. Pour the batter over the cocoa batter in the pan. Gently drag a table knife through the batter, swirling to create the marbled effect. Don't overdo, or you'll lose the pretty swirl effect. Sprinkle the top with the mini chips.

7- Bake for about 32 minutes, till a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Allow to cool on a wire rack before cutting.