Thursday, July 28, 2016

Scraps and Snippets ~ Delicious Vanilla Cake

The epic cake adventure was made possible by this cake. 

3 and 1/3 Cups flour
2 Cups sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 TBSP and 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
3 tsp vanilla
2/3 Cup oil
2 Cups water

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour two cake pans or a 9 x 13. Or prep 18 cup cakes, or a combination that makes sense for your creation. 

Place all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Stir well. Dig wells in the dry mix, two smaller and one larger, large enough for nearly a cup of liquid. In the large well pour oil, vanilla in one of the smaller and vinegar in the other. Pour the two cups of water in and stir well. 

Divvy up the batter. 

Bake until golden and the cake springs back and knife comes out clean. Bake cake pans approx 28-30 minutes. 9 x 13 approximately 33-35 and cupcakes about 17-20 minutes. 

Cool about 10 minutes. Pop out of pans. Cool completely. Frost. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Scribbles and Scrambles ~ Current Affairs Part 2

Sometimes hiding from trolls is a good idea. 
Yesterday was about big pockets and corporate nastiness taking advantage of the little guy just trying to make a living. 

Today. Politics. And the tension in every city in every state and nation. Racial, religious, political. Our world is a hot mess. 

Anyone with access to technology and social media can spew hate. Or stalk. Or rip down and destroy.  Free speech in America gives voice to every oddball thought and bigoted hatred or attention seeking narcissist. These are my opinions, shared through a simple wifi connection and a used Mac. If I chose to I could wallpaper Facebook, tweet my brains out and Instagram the crap out of my opinion.

But I choose to limit my comments and limit what I allow my mind to ruminate on. 

Fear and bitterness are two deadly poisons. Bingeing on them with endless streaming horrible news feeds and opinion pieces and polarizing dogma is going to result in more explosive thunder claps of bad news and reactionary knee jerks. 

Ignorance is not bliss. But neither is immersing ourselves in the cesspool of trolls or fear mongers. 

Vote your conscience. Pray for America, for the world, for victims and families touched by tragedy. Be kind. Be respectful. Set boundaries. Go outside and smell the roses. (Or watch three puppy or cat videos for every political cartoon ummm I mean commercial.)  Things may not be getting better but that doesn't have to mean Hell reigns on earth or the Zombie Apocalypse is imminent. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Scribbles and Scrambles ~ Current Affairs Rant...

9 year olds' selfie of her Lego person
I think it's fascinating when big companies try to sweep oops under the rug and then threaten and bristle if anyone comes questioning them. Yet, so many get busted. And when it's all said and done the money they shell out to cover their lie on top of the thing they were trying to cover has to be so much more than had they done the right thing in the first place. Yet. It happens. 

Not that I know any involved in this latest deal. A company, Zara, has apparently been using designs that are real simplistic but obviously real similar to artists without giving the artists credit or payment. And the bootlegged designs are being placed on items for sale, and, therefore, Zara is making some bank. When confronted Zara threw a lawyer at the artists so they are taking matters into their own hands through a social media campaign. Like I said, I know nothing beyond just what I read on the link, but I hate the abuse of power. 

Having posted so many recipes and book reviews I try to stay on top of the legal and ethical waves of doing the right thing.  For starters I don't use photographs taken by others, unless it's one of my people who give me permission or use my camera to take it. (I'm taking to you 7 year old oh, and 5 year old.)

If I get a book for review, the free book has nothing to do with the honesty of my review. I write reviews for the people who love to read, not the authors. That's what endorsements are for, and even then, the few I've written, are honest. I'm not selling my integrity for a free book I may or may not like. I have a disclosure notice right on the review blog. And seriously, the major point there is that I can't review something I haven't been able to read. Or products, same deal. Can't review it if I don't have the product to try out. But there are laws out there to make sure people aren't taking money under the table to "endorse" products. So many bad apples. 

If I make someone else's recipe or take one from a cook book that is still available it is unethical for me to post it as is and call it my own. That makes a ton of sense to me. The Rice Krispie folks own the Rice Krispie label and trademark. They also owe whoever came up with that recipe. There are many slightly tweaked versions. I've tweaked one myself. But I can't claim the on the box Rice Krispie Treat exact recipe as mine. That said, recipes are kind of tricky. Honestly, one person needs a written list of instructions to make pulled pork in the crock pot. Another wings it. The similarities of a several pulled pork recipes are going to be a lot. You'll need pork, seasonings, spices, a way and length of time to cook it. That's where the tweaking and uniqueness comes in. So in a situation like that where there is an on-line or cook book recipe, the proper and appropriate thing to do is link to the original author's recipe so that the person reading my blog can go to the other person's page for the recipe. If I change multiple ingredients (use of jack fruit, heart of palm and diced seitan instead of pork for example and 5 different spices added and two subtracted for the sauce) and rewrite the steps accordingly I can name it my own but I also should link to the person or give a shout out to the cookbook who inspired me. 

Also blogging gains me next to nothing. I have ads on my page. And I get a PayPal deposit of cents every month or so. 

So it kind of ticks me off that just because someone has a lawyer on staff they can borrow anything they consider simplistic and make money on it all the while intimidating and threatening the people who say "Foul!" 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Scribbles and Scrambles ~ Cake Diva Continued

The day of creation was here. And Cakey-Girl was thrilled. 

We set the fondant out to hit room temperature. As I said yesterday this is something I wouldn't do again. The fondant was pretty easy to put together. I'd make it right before I needed it, maybe while the cake is cooling. It was so much easier to work with while still slightly warm from the microwave. 

Since my job was basically grunt labor, wrestling and rolling the cooled and stiffened fondant Cake-Diva was full on decorating, dictating and running the show. She wanted bright vivid colors and I think she pulled that off. 

We dirty iced the layers, she plopped the fondant down and cut it and patched it. This went real fast and we both loved the texture of the covered cakes. With a little buttercream to hold the second layer we repeated that step with the different shaped cake and the differently colored fondant. 

We slapped more buttercream down, glued the cupcakes in place and began to make them look like roses. I did half of the first one and suggested a technique. She went rodeo and did her own thing. They looked enough like roses that she was happy. At this point we popped the cake into the fridge because it was warm enough in the kitchen to soften the butter cream a bit too much. 

While that firmed up I rolled out the third and fourth colors of fondant for the decorative touches. She took to the  cookie cutters and the cute little metal alphabet cutters we got at Hobby Lobby for under $6.00. I'm definitely going to get $6.00 multiplied worth of fun and joy out of that purchase. She found that she could use jack-o-lantern cutters, and corn-on the-cob skewers for shaping and and detail. 

She began loading shapes with buttercream details, and cutting/poking and prepping like a beast. Once I got the cake back out of the fridge she frosting glued all of her designs on the cake and embellished everything. 

It was so cute. And surprisingly delicious and oh so sweet. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Scribbles and Scrambles ~ Cake Diva Part 1

I mentioned that my oldest granddaughter was staying with us and wanted to make a welcome home cake for her mom and siblings. We had watched several episodes of the Next Great Baker and she was enthralled. 

I have an awesome and easy vanilla cake recipe and I found a DIY fondant recipe, too. How challenging can this be? I thought. 

So over the course of three days we set out to build an epic cake based on the lil baker's cake book. (Drawings, diagrams, plans sketched by the nine-year-old master chef.)

A square layer, a round layer and 4 cupcakes were baked and frozen for ease in frosting. On day 1. 

Fondant made of marshmallows and an unholy amount of powdered sugar was put together on day 2. This was so easy. A big bowl, 4 cups of miniature marshmallows, 2 TBSP water and 4 plus cups of powdered sugar. Yep. That's right. Marshmallows and powdered sugar. You melt the marshmallows with the water in the microwave, stir it till smooth and begin adding powdered sugar one cup at a time. Then you sprinkle more powdered sugar on the surface of the table and begin kneading until it is no longer sticky, turning it over and folding it as needed until its all smooth. 

Roll it out. 

Lay it over the "dirty iced" (technical term learned from "reality" television in which a cake is iced with a thin layer of butter cream to set the fondant and cut down on crumbs) cake and smooth it out. 

That's if you want white. If you want colors then warm up because you have the need to knead some more. Our creation needed four colors. So to be safe we doubled the batch above. (If you are local and have a need for marshmallow fondant which tastes eerily just like Lucky Charms marshmallows, come on over, we have some left.) Green, blue, lavender and orange. We used regular food color, no need for the heavy and more expensive paste. 

I was the sous chef mixing and kneading because the executive pastry chef lacked even more height than me and lacked the kneading hand muscles. This next step I will skip when attempting fondant in the future. We wrapped the little logs of fondant in plastic and chilled them once the colors were mixed. 

The next day after we made the buttercream we began to work with the fondant. The much harder and firmer fondant. The little cake diva immediately assigned the rekneading to me. The rolling became mine as well. She work on the cutting and placement instead. 

More steps and the final creation tomorrow. My typing muscles took a beating from the fondant wars! 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Scribbles and Scrambles ~ My Favorite Role

My grand babies are so exhilarating and exhausting and overwhelming and precious. I just can't even. Okay. I can and will. 
The nine-year-old spent two weeks with us while mom and younger siblings were away. The first sorry it's fuzzy...I snapped it on the low down so she didn't notice I was social media-ing it. We were asked to put on name tags for church on Sunday. As per usual I was gabbing away and asked her to make me one. This is my name tag. Heart exploding.   

The two little ones arrived last night. Apparently the five-year-old asked about me every day. And the seven-year-old almost every other day.  It was so good to see them and hug them. Little stinkers. Ha. The five-year-old was wanting me to spell everything for her. And so annoyed if the same letter appeared twice in a row.  
She asked what I wanted for dinner. I told her cake. She said something healthy first. So I gave her my menu and had to spell every word. Brussels Sprouts was nearly her undoing. "Another S?!?" I totally recommend you get yourself some grandkids if you haven't done so yet. Contented sigh.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Scribbles and Scrambles ~ Whoooo Boy Learning Curve Ahead

Our 9-year-old granddaughter is staying with us for a couple of weeks.                                       One of our couple rituals is when we have finished what we need to finish (i.e. when we are tired and should just go to bed early to get a great night's sleep) we end the evening with Hulu or Netflix. Our favorite shows are usually reality. The cooking challenge shows are right up there. 
So CeeCee (the 9 year old, name changed to protect me) has joined in with us watching whichever shows strikes our fancy collectively. What has become her favorite and possibly a new obsession is Next Great Baker. This photo is her first cake design. CeeCee wants to make a cake welcoming her mom and siblings home. And she wants to make this cake. 

Okay. Now here's where is gets real challenging. I don't have the skill set.  I have never, ever worked with fondant. And I've watched some epic fails on this type of show. I also made one huge and elaborate cake for each of my children then began buying them after that telling myself that I had indeed accomplished memorable cakes and now could hang up the apron with a smile. And I never really desired to pick up said apron inside my brain somewhere is a WaaWaaWaaWaa siren sound attempting to remind me how very, very complicated cake making is and this probably shouldn't be attempted at home. Especially with fondant. Even now my brain is screaming "Leave that to the professionals, Honey," (Okay, I added Honey to soften brain never calls me honey.)

Like with her mother before her and her aunt and uncle, I have always melted when presented with a kid dream. I mean, if I don't put some effort into helping them explore, then they don't learn, and if they don't learn, maybe they are missing out on something huge inside of them that the world needs. Or a coping skill that will help them navigate life and all its challenges.  

 Fortunately, I've convinced her that it needs to be real small. Like the top tier (ha, ha I gots the lingo down) could be a cupcake. Praise the Lord she thought that was a good idea. I even found a recipe for DIY fondant made out of marshmallows and powdered sugar. Seriously, marshmallows and powdered sugar....wonder if that's going to be sweet or savory? 

I told her we'd begin this epic project on Saturday. Because the professionals on the show get hours to create and pull off a cake, therefore, we will need days. 

I will be reporting on this adventure...stay tuned. Now to make the shopping list. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Scribbles and Scrambles - Views From the Scene

I don't know if I've mentioned here that a few months ago I found out our independent clinic was being absorbed by a much bigger, much more machine-like entity. For a bit I seriously wondered if I'd even have a job. As of yesterday I signed on the dotted line to be absorbed. The pressure of the unknown as to whether I'd be employed is off. Two of my coworkers weren't so lucky. They have been let go. I'm grateful, but might hold a smidge of survivors guilt and a lot of stress over what exactly is going to change around my office, besides almost everything. I had to pursue my new wages. Turns out that they were content to cut my benefits and a little bit of my take home. I had to stand firm and make a sacrifice and now I'm going to be getting a salary that will compensate me for 20 years of experience and knowledge far beyond what their expectation is. I lost 6 paid days a year and paid continuing education and a paid lunch period as well as a special grandfathered perk those of us who've been there over 20 years had. If I would have just said, "well, at least I have a job" and accepted the hourly rate they offered this would have cost me. I had determined what would be fair for me to give those items up and it just so happens they ended up beating that number. Prayer helped. The worrying and complaining and calculating did not. Weird, huh?                                           

I think if the past few months has taught me anything it's that I don't adapt well. I mean, on the surface, it might look like I'm adapting, but on the inside I'm just kind of putting one foot in front of the other because it's what I'm supposed to do. 

Acceptance. Well, now that Rob has a knee, I have a new job and our lives might get back to our normal, I can accept that. 

Here's to a new normal? 

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Scribbles and Scrambles ~ Delirium

Thank you for your grace. I have been slacking. I have a load of excuses. Furry excuses, lame excuses (puns intended), and legit excuses.

The next couple weeks are full of two extra hounds, a sleepover grandchild with a schedule. Blessedly, my weeks will include a haircut tomorrow. My mop is mopey. Sloppy, curly, long and HOT.

I get to interview with human resources to see if my 20 years is worth the same or more money. To see if I am going to be a little compensated for the loss of days per year of benefits through this merger, or if I am going to just have to be grateful to have a job.

Rob is doing so well with his new knee. But he's not 100% and not likely to be for quite awhile. I am feeling the burden of his long ordeal and feeling guilty for owning any of his illness because he's the sick one. I would have been a hot mess if I'd had no knee.

I'm feeling behind and ill prepared for a book release in September. Soon I get to share a cover photo. I also get to ramp up social media to promote. My Gertrude is currently whining and pushing two chairs against each other to make them squeak to get attention. My daughter's Lola wants to go out to pee, again. And I blessedly just finished my monthly article that is due on the 5th of every month with two hours to spare.

I'm not whining. Just stating that I'm grateful for grace and will need a lot more of it over the next couple of months. Good is happening, and bad always will until the battle is finished. And God is in control.