Sunday, February 28, 2010

For the first time in my life, the basement in my house flooded last week.
Yes, I'm serious. It did. This past week's Nor'easter dumped 2 inches of rain PER HOUR late Thursday afternoon. Most of which ended up in my back yard......on top of the frozen ground......then into my basement via the ground level laundry room window. Sigh. What a "bleepin" mess, but thankfully the water never reached the carpeting in the adjoining room. Thank god for my neighbors, Bob and Doreen! After using their Wet-Vac to remove hundreds of gallons of water from the floor, I was able to divert the continuing flood in my yard and keep it from flowing back into my basement by running two borrowed submersible pumps every 25 minutes throughout the night. Yes. All night long. Me. In my giant zebra-striped rubber rain boots and bright orange rain slicker. In the yard. All night. Alone. I want to go home. Oh wait, I am home. Crap. "Auntie Em, I'm frightened". I felt like Kate Winslet in Titanic. Only not as beautiful. The only thing missing was my life jacket.

And Leonardo DiCaprio.

........and come to think of it......maybe Noah.

Because just as I was getting ready to assemble the animals in pairs.......the rain finally stopped. Actually, it was 2 am and it slowed, then the temperature dropped about 15 degrees and it changed over to snow.


Anyway, the following day, after self-medicating with Ibuprofen and a giant cup of coffee I had both of my "oars" finally back in the water, I was ready to do some baking. Something fun. Something to take my mind off of anything to do with WATER. Hmmmmmm, something chocolate.

Enter Chunky Chocolate Monkey Bread!

Now, before I tell you the long version of this recipe, I have to tell you that this bread can be just as easily made with a couple of tubes of refrigerated Pillsbury Crescent Rolls. But since I was still feeling the "high" of working off my narrow escape from going down with the Titanic, I was feeling a little more adventurous than usual. Hence the long way 'round......

This recipe was adapted from Lara Brody's fabulous cookbook, Chocolate American Style. It's a fairly easy recipe to follow with a mouth-watering result. You'll see.

4 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon active dry yeast

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature

3 extra large eggs

20-30 Hershey's Kisses

Cinnamon Sugar for rolling

1 stick butter melted and cooled slightly for dipping

Mix the flour,

sugar and salt,


three extra large eggs,

..and 2/3 cup very warm water.

This measuring cup belonged to my mother. Although it's very worn and cracked, I love it. It makes for the coldest drink of water ever!

I used the bread hook attachment for my Kitchen Aid.

Start the mixer out on slow speed, just until everything is combined,
then turn it to high until the dough is moldable.

Form it into a ball. I looks like something else here, doesn't it? Anyway, shake that image from your mind and leave it in the bowl, covered tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate anywhere from four to twenty-four hours.

After about four hours, I took the refrigerated dough and split it into four sections. Then I floured an area of the counter and rolled out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick.

Now comes the fun part. Hershey's Kisses. You know them. You love them. So unwrap them. A bunch of them. Milk chocolate please!

...and because I'm a rebel, I unwrapped a few Dark Chocolate Kisses too.

Then mix them all together.

I used a two-inch round cookie cutter and placed a Kiss in the center of each one. Then pinch the sides together, making sure the chocolate Kiss is completely sealed inside.

Then melt some butter and coat each little ball of dough.

Then roll each little ball in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.

Then stack them in a loaf pan. Or an Angel Food pan.....if you're feeling angelic. I was able to stack them about 2-3 layers high. I finished by pouring what was left of the melted butter (not alot) over the top and shaking the last of the cinnamon sugar mixture.
Bake in a 275 degree oven for about 60 minutes. If it looks like the tops are getting too brown, lightly cover it will foil while the bread is finished baking.

Then take the bread out and let it cool a bit. But not too much. This Monkey Bread is best when it's eaten warm from the oven, or at the very least the same day that it is baked. Yeah, right.

I have willpower. I think I can wait it out.

Can you?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Year of The Blog

Today is the one year anniversary of my Blog.

Since I didn't bake anything this weekend, I thought it would be appropriate to mark the occasion by posting on the same subject matter that I began with one year ago. I hope this doesn't bore you. If it does, go get a piece of chocolate to eat while you're reading it. What have I always taught you? That's right.......chocolate always helps.

You've been introduced to Emily several times over the past year. She's good girl and thankfully, she's still with me. But like everyone else (including me) she's another year older. Her bones hurt a little more, and some days, she only has one speed. S-L-O-W.

But she's still here.

And she's still fiesty. Did you know that when Boxers are mad or upset, they will sit and turn their back on you. See this?? This is what she does when I'm on the phone.

I wouldn't say that she completely rules the roost though, would you?

(Please note the print hanging over the bed..would you call this life imitating art or art imitating life? )

Although she'll be twelve years old in May, she's still pretty sharp.
Except on those days when she misplaces her glasses.

Boxers are "people" dogs. They like nothing more than to follow you around and gaze at you with THESE pathetic little eyes.

Her favorite thing to do (besides eat) is lay on the carpet in the sun.

Doesn't matter where that patch of sun is, so long as she can stretch out and bask in it.

And sometimes that sun feels so good, she flips herself over, gyrates back and forth and scratches her back for about 5 minutes.

"Oh I'm such a happy dog!"

In 1988 I brought my first Boxer home. Her name was Bridget. I remember people commenting on my particular choice of breed because in 1988, there weren't too many Boxers around.

I've learned that they can be extremely needy, they love people, they love children, they love to stomp on bugs then eat them, they love the sun, they love popsicles in the summertime, they are unbelievably stubborn, fiercely protective and once you get past the farting, they are undeniably sweet.

Although the breed has short hair..............they shed. Seriously, they do. They shed a lot. And when their "winter coat" begins to shed, look out. Don't let anyone tell you differently on this subject. I can't begin to tell you how many people have commented to me how Boxers "don't shed". To those people I say this.........

Trust me,

They do.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


My beautiful niece Brenna will turn seven years old this Friday.

She is a scamp, a whirling dervish and a doodlebug.

She has a fabulous sense of humor, is a great conversationalist and is extremely capable at almost everything she does. She loves to organize things and clean. I know. Go figure, right? We think this is either an early sign of OCD or she is truly a gift from the cleaning gods. She loves to cook, play hockey, get her nails done and water ski. Of course, she can and does do most of these things while singing something by Taylor Swift (perfectly pitched) at the top of her lungs.

A true fashionista, she was careful to select coordinating sunglasses for the first day of first grade. Because as we all know, first impressions are important, and the future of your entire social life could well be determined on that very first busride to school.

You wouldn't know it by looking at her, but she is fearless. Whether it's riding her four-wheeler, playing hockey or riding a pony, she is determined, capable and completely joyful in her endeavors. Moses, she reminds me of someone. Hmmmmm. I just can't think of who.


No similarities here.




I tried a new chocolate cake recipe for her birthday this year....only I made cupcakes. Delicious! These cupcakes are dense and rich. The kids loved them, and they're really easy to make too!

The Best Chocolate Birthday Cake Ever!

(or cupcakes)

2 1/4 cups sugar

1 3/4 cups cake flour

1 1/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1 /2 teaspoon salt

3 extra large eggs

1 stick unsalted butter melted and cooled

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1 teaspoon instant espresso powder dissolved in 3/4 cup boiling water

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the sugar, cake flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Place the eggs in a medium mixing bowl. With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs well, then beat in the melted butter and vanilla. With the mixer still on medium speed, beat in the buttermilk and espresso, and beat only until they are combined. The mixture will appear curdled...BUT DO NOT PANIC. It's not. Scrape the liquid mixture into the flour mixture and beat on medium speed just until all traces of the flour mixture disappear. Scrape down the bowl as you mix and pour batter into the prepared pan (s). Bake for 25-30 minutes. Let cool and frost or DEVOUR accordingly.

Melt and cool the butter in a small bowl.

In another bowl, mix the cake flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs and slowly whisk in the buttermilk.

Then add the Vanilla,

With the mixer running, gradually add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients.

I ordered these paper muffin cups a few months ago and almost forgot that I had them. I wanted to use them for popovers or Monkey Muffins (you'll love those!), but thought they'd make a nice presentation for Brenna's birthday cupcakes.

Fill the cups about 3/4 full and bake at 350 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes.

For the medallions, I melted chocolate wafers in a double boiler and make discs with the back of a spoon on a piece of waxed paper.

When the medallions were dry, I flipped them over and wrote a birthday message in hot pink buttercream!

I doubled the buttercream recipe because I wanted big, fluffy tops on the cupcakes.

That will about do it.......bubble gum pink!!

I used an oversized fluted decorating tip and piled on the pink stuff!

More sugar??? Of course!! Just a few sparkly sprinkles, please.

Ahh yes....the big seven. Do you remember?? It was a time in your life when the days and weeks stretched out forever. You could run, jump, hop and skip without any worries. There were no bills to pay, no time to keep and no problems to solve.

It was a time in life where there was nothing else to do but relax and float through life without a care in the world.

I find that as I've gone through life, not too many of those things have changed for me.'s fun when you find a couple of goofballs guys to hold you up on a boogieboard in the air.......just so long as you know that when they drop you (and they always do) you'll get hurt when you fall. That's just life I guess. Unless of course, you're able to beat both of them up......and they can't hit you back 'cause you're a girl. For me, the days still stretch out forever........but only when I'm working. I can still run, jump, hop, and skip .......but now I have to sit down in between hops and jumps and take at least 800 mg of Motrin the following morning. The rest of it gives me a headache to think about.

So I won't.

I'd rather sit back and watch her being seven. It's one of my favorite things to do. For when you're seven you know you can do anything.

You can even fly.