Monday, June 28, 2010

Secret Recipe Chocolate Cake

We celebrated a special event with a gathering of artist friends. It was a "carry in." I brought the cake.
Chocolate cake, raspberry buttercream, strawberries and mint leaves.

Secret Recipe Chocolate Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and if your oven has one of those moving racks... either use a different rack or detach it so that it does not move. Moving a cake in the baking process can kill it.

1 Duncan Hines Devil's Food Cake Mix
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup water (Or cold coffee if you like, I don't drink coffee so I use water.)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp vanilla
3 large yada yada eggs

(Yada yada eggs are the good ones that have fancy labels like "organic" or "free range" or "from happy chickens who listen to Mozart..." or simply from someone you've actually met who doesn't seem like the type that would be mean to critters... that sort of thing, you get the idea.)

Combine everything but the mix in a mixer and... uh... mix. Then add the mix and... well... uh... mix. Spray a 10 inch round cake pan with Baker's Joy.  (It has the flour and the shortening together in a one step spray.)  Put batter in pan and bake.

Most people over-bake cake, and dry cake = a waste of good calories.  So... here's how I tell if this cake is done.  I touch the surface of the cake.  If your finger comes back covered in batter... well... it's time to see if the oven is turned on.  If the surface jiggles and looks wet when you open the door, don't even touch it.  If it's starting to look baked and you touch the surface and you leave a finger print, it is not done.  As soon as you can touch the surface and it springs back... it's done.  Cake pulls away from the edges of the pan slightly as it bakes... the longer it bakes the more it shrinks.  You want to catch it just as that shrinking process starts.  Does the surface spring back?  Has it started to pull away from the edge?  Then it's done.  I should try the toothpick test, but I never remember.  Any longer and it will start to dry out.

Bring it out of the oven, put waxed paper over the top of the hot cake and then add a cutting board, a piece of cardboard... a plate... something... over that.  Put the cake pan with the waxed paper against the solid surface and FLIP the cake over.  A friend of mine baked lots of cakes, but she would leave them out on the counter to cool for hours and then wonder why they turned out so dry.  As soon as you can, remove the pan and wrap the warm cake in plastic wrap.  I've never had the plastic wrap actually melt into the cake and I'll wrap a steaming hot cake, so don't worry about that.  The plastic wrap and the waxed paper on the bottom are designed to seal in the moisture of the cake, try not to leave any bits of cake uncovered.

If you'll need to carve the cake or split layers for filling, or if you won't be using the cake until the following day, then place the cake in the freezer once it has cooled and been securely wrapped.  It's easy to carve a frozen cake, but very difficult (if not impossible) on fresh moist cake.  Cake is very sensitive to picking up freezer odors, so don't leave it in there indefinitely but overnight or till the weekend should be fine. 

Take the cake out of the freezer, carve if desired and ice immediately, even as the cake is still frozen.  Garnish and serve.  It thaws quickly and if you do this step just before a meal, it will just be chilly by the time you serve it, rather than frozen.

It's an easy recipe, and if you get it out of the oven at the right time, and keep it wrapped up tight until it's time for the icing... you should have an excellent moist chocolate cake.

Shhhh... this ultra easy little recipe has been my little secret for a long time!  Try it and let me know how it goes.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Oh... I'm not sure if I should confess this or not... but it you like Whoopie Pies...
as I do... (And who doesn't like whoopie pies?!) Then simply line a cookie sheet with parchment and using tablespoons, make drop cookies with this recipe. Bake them at 350 degrees for about seven minutes.  Watch these close so they don't over bake. They should be cakey, not crispy.  Add whoopie pie filling or vanilla butter cream between two halves. (Some people use marshmallow fluff)  I leave some out and wrap the rest individually and freeze them. I love these, especially right from the freezer on a hot summer day.

Savor the Flavors,
Carmen Rose

Chasing Love

What a beautiful concept.  This amazing woman has entered the contest for a new show on Oprah's network.  Please take a look at her video and vote for her if it resonates with you.  Ingrid's Audition.

Ingrid was my RA when I was living in the dorm in college.  I thought she was pretty cool then, I've since seen her on stage a number of times and been completely blown away each time.  Ted Swartz is the man in the video.  He is the surviving member of "Ted and Lee" a theater duo.  Lee was one of my brother's best friends in high school, I remember my brother playing a trick on him at our house once.  His loss rocked my brother and I.  It's now "Ted & Co Theaterworks."  Everything I've seen Ted in has been phenomenal.  Not just excellent... but really off the charts!  Ingrid and Ted have done some stage work together, I am SUCH a FAN!  It really would be cool to see Ingrid on TV, she's beautiful and talented.  I know that what she'd bring to a show on Oprah's network would be significant, full of purpose and depth.  I'd LOVE to see that happen!  Please check out her audition, vote for her and pass it along.

Chasing Love,
-Carmen Rose

Friday, June 25, 2010


I did some extensive research of my ancestors about ten years ago and found lots of information at the time.  I had it all written out on large white sheets of paper and rolled up tight in the bottom drawer of the buffet.  I pulled it all back out the other day to have a look.  I remember what started it, I stumbled upon a website that talked about Mennonite family names and gave brief histories of the families.  My family names where in there and that sparked a renewed curiosity about the people I came from.  That led where it always does for me... big sheets of paper, hours of research and a pencil.  Not a pen... a pencil!  (Believe me, not a pen!)
I started with another really big sheet of paper, this one thankfully had lines and I made the framework for my family. I thought I'd be able to get more generations on this sheet, but the fact that each generation requires twice the lines, it gets tight in a hurry. Hours... and hours... and hours went by and there were more and more names on the 254 lines. A few days passed... and this is one of those photos you take at about 1:30 am when you are just too tired and bleary eyed to continue:
 Lots of those lines have names above and dates below.  Progress. 

At this point the top half are my father's father's ancestors.  The lower half are my mother's father's ancestors.  Mainly because I have very little information to go on for either of my grandmothers.  So... I'll keep working on these for a while and then move on when I can't find any more.  I'm missing some information at this point to finish out these nine generations (including me) and will then follow some of these lines that go back to 14 and 15 generations... maybe further.  It's tedious and I'm not really sure what I'm learning about myself in this process.  I'm enjoying it though, aside from the tedious aspects.  There are discoveries that mean something to me along the way.  More on those later. 

-Carmen Rose

Computer Problems, Red Salad and Lemon Lavender Iced Tea.

Somewhere along the line I got out of the habit of blogging and into the habit of tweeting.  Twitter is perfect for my ADD mind... that seems to run on fifty tracks at one time.  I think it also contributes to the reality that my life feels that it's going fifty different directions most of the time. One of these days I'll figure out what I want to do when I grow up.

I spent some time Tuesday unplugging and that was wonderful.  But since then the unplugging was more forced than usual as my computer suffered some serious issues.  Silly thing fainted on me repeatedly and I began to be very frightened for her welfare.  There was a point yesterday when it was all very touch and go.  I considered calling in the relatives.  She'd go non-responsive, "Clear!"  ZZZOT!  over and over again!  Yesterday there was surgery to remove McAfee and Adobe Acrobat, and she pulled through that ok.  Overnight I left it with a second scan for virus and she came through that clean.  There was a transplant of my files to my external hard drive and some very stern language at points.  There were all kinds of scans and diagnostics, some very invasive testing.  Today she is having a better day.  She has not fainted even once all day, we hope that we are past the worst.  In my solitary life, this contraption represents my connection to a world beyond these walls.  Believe me, I am very grateful that she's doing better!

And here is a random fact from my meaningless existence:
I must be very bored to be taking photos of my lunch. Red salad, iced tea. Red salad = strawberries, mint leaves cut up into little slivers (there is a big fancy schmancy word for that, which I have forgotten and couldn't spell even if I remembered.) black pepper and a bit of sugar. Lemon Lavender iced tea. That was an interesting experiment, it works.

Here's how I make iced tea:
I have a coffee pot that has not, and will never see coffee. I really dislike coffee on so many levels, but that's a bit beside the point. One large family style naturally decaf bag of tea goes in the basket. Half a lemon, sliced, goes in the glass pot. I added three stems of lavender blossoms to the pot as well this time. Turn it on and wait until all the water has gone through. Add the warm mixture to 3/4 cup of sugar (or to taste - and don't you dare put any chemical fake sugar stuff in this recipe! Gag me with a SPOON!) and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add lots of ice and enough water to make a gallon. Presto! It's easy and it's yummy.

I'm very glad to be back online today, grateful that the silly computer didn't die. I would have been very cross! I'll try to do better about blogging the mundane details.

Savor the Flavors,
-Carmen Rose

Sunday, June 20, 2010

I love to cook

Here are some of the things I've made, or cooked with.  I was wading through some of my ba-zillion photos on my computer and started to realize that I take lots of photos of food, but don't manage to write bog posts about all the food I photograph.  So this post is designed to catch me up.  One day I'll be a foodie, but for now I'll just enjoy eating!  LOL!

Savor the flavors
-Carmen Rose

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Quail Eggs with Alton Brown & Benedict (perfect for the Hollandaise!)

Hmmm... I have two dozen quail eggs from my CSA... what to do? What to do! As a child I hated eggs and realized later that I had been allergic to them. I would eat them when I had to, then be nauseous for most of the morning. In recent years have I tried them again and realized that they didn't make me sick anymore, plus - I kinda liked them. I'm not a fan of yellow goo oozing from a fried egg. I don't like the texture of whites or yolks in a hard boiled egg. I do, however, LOVE a good scramble or omelet. So with all that in mind... I am going to try to make something wonderful with quail eggs.
It seems to me that the first step in doing something wonderful with quail eggs must include... Bacon! I cook bacon in the oven, it's so ultra easy and nobody has to hover over the range while a fine spray of grease coats everything nearby. Just line a pan with foil, spread out the bacon and cover it with foil (to keep that fine spay of bacon grease off of the inside of your oven) and bake at 400 until it's the crispness you prefer (between 20 - 30 mins.) I like it crispy, DH likes it chewy. (So I make it crisphewy.) While I was at it, I tried making some little cup like shapes out of bacon, just to see if it would work.  I curled up some bacon in some foil cupcake cups and covered that with foil.
And into the oven it went:
And then I started on the Hollandaise sauce.  I used the Alton Brown recipe that calls for butter chunks rather than clarified butter.  It sounded easier to me, plus Alton Brown is a genius.  If he says it will work... it will work!  There are three organic chick egg yolks in here (I get 1 doz free range, organic, yadda yadda eggs in my CSA box each two weeks.)  STIR!
Add a few chunks of butter at a time and keep stirring, make sure it doesn't get too hot.  Don't want to make scrambled eggs!
OO00oooo... pretty!  Add the lemon juice, salt and cayenne.  I added those, then added more for a little additional flavor.  I ended up using the juice of half a lemon, nice bit of tang!
The bacon came out of the oven looking all lovely and filling the kitchen with "ode to cooked PIG!"  (yum)
I don't have photos of the next steps cause it all pretty much happens all at once.  The English muffins went in the toaster oven and I broke four little quail eggs into a round ring in my egg skillet and began frying them.  Eggs Benedict call for poached eggs, but that's an adventure for another day when I want to work with chicken eggs.  This whole adventure started with Quail eggs... so I fried them a bit, pried them off the cookie cutter round and flipped them.  They were SO cute in there cooking away, but quail eggs are really hard to crack.  The shells are very soft and the membranes are pretty strong.  But they are O SO CUTE!  (I had to go after a piece of shell with  my tweezers, that's why there are tweezers in my kitchen.)
Get the English muffins from the toaster oven, add the bacon, top with the four fried quail eggs...
Hurry now, eggs are never good cold!
Top with the Hollandaise and run to the herb garden for some fresh chives and sprinkle those on top.  I called the man and he sat down to eat his... I looked up and it was gone while I was still working on mine.  He eyed my plate while I finished mine, then he licked his plate clean.  Yes, literally.  He kept eying mine until I gave him the last bite.  Not bad, not bad at all.
What a lovely breakfast!  (DH's second breakfast, my first)  Hmmm... I still had those little rounds of bacon, so the next experiment involved getting quail eggs into the little bacon rounds.  As you can see from the photo, it really only worked about 3 out of 12 cases.  What a silly MESS!

I decided that if they already looked that bad, flipping them wasn't going to hurt them.  So... over they went - as one solid mass.  Then I picked them back apart...  I put some Hollandaise on the plate, tucked three little quail eggs in bacon baskets into the sauce.  I sprinkled this with the rest of the chives.  Now they aren't exactly pretty, they didn't turn out looking at all like I imagined... HOWEVER!  When one pops one of these little buggas into one's mouth... it does elicit an involentary creamy-smokey-bacon-and-egg YUMMMMMMmmmmm!
Ok, so not entirely pretty food... but a pretty big YUM! 
I love my CSA!  (Community Supported Agriculture) 
I would never have tried quail eggs without them!

Savoring the Flavors,
-Carmen Rose

Friday, June 18, 2010

Joseph and Bill

Yesterday evening I met the cast of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and enjoyed watching their rehearsal for a while.  They sound fantastic, the blocking is original and they're lots of fun to watch!  There is lots of talent in this cast!

On a break, I took some head shots for Bill.  He has acted in many productions and is a gifted actor.  I met him when we were both in Shenandoah Moon, his character was my character's father-in-law.  We didn't have long to work before they needed him again, but we got some good shots and some silly ones also.  Rehearsals take place at Covenant Presbyterian and it's a really beautiful classic Greco-Roman church, it made a great photo shoot location.

Happy Creating,
Carmen Rose

Thursday, June 17, 2010

TURNIPS? Surely you jest!

Well... I've never cooked with turnips before but it's time to start!  Turnips are in my CSA box this week and so I'm going to see what I can make with them.  (Photo above includes everything but the chicken and quail eggs that came this week.)  And here are those turnips:
I gave some consideration to mashed turnips Ina Garten style.  Seemed a little plain to me.

And considered slicing them like potatoes and making turnip chips with them.  But I'm not a big fan of fried foods, especially as I consider the additional pounds of baby elephant that are hanging out around my middle. 

And let's face it, the first thing I often do when I need a good food idea is google it with the magic words.  So I entered: "turnips bobby flay" in the search engine.  Yeah!  And I landed on a creamy turnip soup, which sounded really good.  Bobby Flay invited onion and garlic to the party (See Ina, that's why I love him) and it just sounds wonderful.

But if one is going to the trouble...  of making some food that one hopes will be delicious... then it might be good to try the main ingredient to see whatcha think.  I suspected that I did NOT like turnips, I don't know why exactly.  I don't like radishes, pushy little overbearing root.  And these LOOK like radishes.  I popped a little slice in my mouth and found them to be similar texture to potatoes, with a bit of a tangy sweet dirt flavor.  Not at all unpleasant.  TA DA!  We have food worth cookin! 

(Oh drat, I should have bought more butter when I was at the grocery!!)  Sorry, ADD digression.
So... I'm going to follow Bobby Flay's recipe, except add some taters and carrots.  And let's face it, two cloves of garlic is not going to be enough, especially these litttle ol things, so I'm using four.  Flavor is GOOD!

I started with the onions and garlic in the pot with the olive oil, per the Bobby Flay recipe.  I threw in the roots as I chopped them.  After about 10 minutes I tossed in what was left of my glass of white wine.  Yummm...  It smelled good in the kitchen but needed something.  So I went out to the herbs on my back deck and cut some sage and rosemary.  Into the pot it went.  Smelled even better after that!
After the white wine had cooked out I broke out the quart of chicken stock I had in the fridge from the last chicken.  I poured in enough to cover the roots, added some sea salt (salt early to enhance flavor, salt late to make it salty) and freshly ground pepper and popped on the lid.  I set the timer for 20 minutes and did my best to ignore it.  As much as you can ignore a pot of something that smells that good anyway. 
I opened it once to stir and the steam bit me on the hand, so I figured that meant it was time to turn down the heat a bit.  No problem. 

After 20 minutes I stuck the immersion blender in the pot and did my best to get it ultra smooth.  That didn't work too well so I transferred it to the blender and gave that a whirl.  The Bobby Flay recipe says to "strain it through a fine sieve" and so I did.  I ended up with lots of black pepper in the sieve, looks like I need to adjust my pepper grinder.  I tried the soup at that point and nearly fell over, it was WONDERFUL.
 Bobby Flay's recipe calls for "crème fraîche" which is great for a TV kitchen, but come on people!  I don't keep that on hand.  I tried the soup and really wondered whether or not it needed anything else.  My instinct was no, leave it alone.  But this experiment is about playing (not about the baby elephant growing at my waist line.)  So... I plurped two big dollups of sour cream in and stirred... then tasted.  It was the right choice, mercy!  Big creamy wonderful YUM!  I'm still struggling to put my finger on the flavors, in the end no one wins out over the rest.  It's harmonious, creamy and wonderful!   (I LOVE EATING!)  I garnished it with fresh green onion, sea salt and cracked pepper.  The onion was the perfect crunchy counterpoint to the ultra smooth and creamy soup.
 And that was my lovely lunch!  Now... what's for dinner?  I guess it's time to take another look at the loot from the CSA!  Hmm... 2 doz quail eggs...

Food is an art if the chef is an artist!
Savor the flavors,
-Carmen Rose   

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Such a Sushi Scenerio (A Beautiful Yum)

Tell me, is this not a beautiful yum?!
I've been wanting to try making sushi ever since I saw this amazing work of art by Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto.  To me this looks like an edible quilt and I think it's truly amazing!  I don't even want to show my own work in the same blog post, but hey... I'm a completely unapologetic novice!

My first try:  Oh, they do look a little awkward and embarrassed don't they?!  However, the rice stuck together.  Booooy, did the rice stick together!!  lolz
The second batch tastes the same but looks much better:

I'm always up for a culinary adventure. I grew up with such a limited range of foods, exploring new flavors has been a real treat over the years.  I remember the first time I had sushi.  I was with Charles, my photographer friend.  We were enjoying a concert in the park and some sushi from Martins and I was really taken by the flavors, and the way the food looked.  I got to watch a co-worker make it when I was a cake designer a few years back, it looked simple enough.  Then I saw the episode of "Good Eats" where Alton Brown dedicated a whole show to sushi.  Then I knew I had to try it.

I'm doing makeup and hair for the cast of "Lunch Hour."  It is the first production this season at Oak Grove Theater and we got rained out one evening of the run which left me with a free evening.  I wandered around town for a while, not ready to go home.  I kind of landed at the grocery in the sushi section and ended up with a lovely little collection of sushi paraphernalia.  And I didn't have time to try it until today.

As Alton would say: "Good Eats!"
As Paula Dean would say: "Best Dishes!"

& Happy Creating... 
(no matter what artistic media)
-Carmen Rose

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