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Since I never seem to get around to sending out Christmas cards or letters, I decided to blog a bit to keep my fans updated. :-)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Molten Chocolate Cakes (also called "Lava Cakes")

Last night I entertained two young ladies from my neighborhood while their mother nursed a cold and their dad was out of town. They were quite excited when I suggested we might make Lava cakes for a treat, so we whipped them up and wolfed them down while we watched the Nancy Drew movie. I'd also made them on Sunday for lunch guests, who were equally pleased with them. Two home runs made me think maybe I should share the recipe here. Every time I take these somewhere, someone exclaims over the individual ramekins and wishes they had some. (One person (male) just thought the word "ramekin" was cool...)

Molten Chocolate Cakes (or Lava cakes)

4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 cup Butter
1 cup Powdered Sugar
2 Eggs
2 Egg yolks
6 Tbsp. Flour

Preheat over to 425 F. Butter 4 (3/4 Cup [6 oz]) custard cups or ramekins. Place on baking sheet. (I just coat the ramekins with vegetable oil spray)

Microwave chocolate and butter in a bowl at 50% power until butter is melted. Stir with whisk until chocolate is completely melted. Add sugar and stir until blended. Whisk in eggs and egg yolks. Stir in flour. Divide batter between prepared custard cups.

Bake 11-13 minutes until sides are firm but centers are soft. Let stand 1 minute. Run a small knife around cakes to loosen and invert cakes on plates.

Serve immediately with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

By the way, I thought the movie was great!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Custard (or, what to do when you have lots of egg yolks)

Here is the promised custard recipe. It is intended to be used as pie filling, so it is quite firm. If you want a softer consistency, reduce the amount of cornstarch or add more milk. Just a "heads up", this one is very rich.

Chocolate Custard
5 ounces fine-quality Bittersweet (Dark) Chocolate
4 ounces Unsweetened Chocolate
1 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Cornstarch
3/4 tsp. Salt
6 large Egg Yolks
4 1/2 cups Milk
3 tablespoons unsalted Butter, cut into bits and softened
1 1/2 tsp. Vanilla

In a microwave-safe bowl or measuring cup (I prefer the 4-cup pyrex measuring cup), melt the chocolate using 50% power. Start with 2 minutes, and then check the chocolate by trying to stir it. If it is still pretty hard, go for 1 more minute (still at 50% power) and check it again. Repeat until it is soft enough to stir. There is a fine line between melting and scorching, and you don't want to cross it. Chocolate doesn't really lose its shape when melting, but it does get soft enough that when you start to stir it, the shape collapses into a melty pool of chocolate. Keep stirring until it is all melted and smooth.

In a heavy saucepan (about 3 quarts) whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt, and egg yolks until combined well and add milk in a stream, whisking. While whisking, bring milk mixture to a boil over moderate heat. Allow to simmer (keep whisking!) until thick, about 1 minute. Force custard through a fine sieve into a bowl and whisk in melted chocolate, butter, and vanilla until smooth. Cover surface of filling with plastic wrap and cool completely (unless you like the skin on top. I do!)

To use as pie filling, pour custard into a 10-inch prepared crust and chill pie, covered, at least 6 hours or overnight. Top with whipped cream just before serving (if desired)

Variation: Coconut Custard
Omit chocolate. Toast 1 cup coconut in a dry skillet over low heat, shaking constantly. Do this before making the custard so that the coconut has time to cool before being stirred into the custard (add with vanilla)

And the award goes to...

LOTS of Juvenile and Young Adult book awards were announced at the American Library Association Mid-Winter Conference today.

To see winners for all of the awards, click here

The Newbery Award this year went to "The Graveyard Book" by Neil Gaiman

There are 4 honor books
The Underneath by Kathy Appelt

The Surrender Tree : Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle

Savvy by Ingrid Law

After Tupac and D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson

Remember that just because a book wins the Newbery it doesn't mean it is something you will enjoy reading. Look for reviews on Amazon or Good Reads. I understand that "Surrender Tree" and "After Tupac" may not be titles I would recommend to my readers, though more than one person I trust liked "Graveyard book" (I'm next in line at the library for that one), and I've had a good review of "The Underneath".

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Angel Food Cake

When I was a young baker, my mother taught me that Angel Food Cake should be make with a box mix because it was too tricky to make one from scratch. For a beginning baker, this is very true. However, for an intermediate-to-experienced baker, making one from scratch is, well, a piece of cake! Especially with this recipe:

Angel Food Cake
1 1/2 cups Sugar, divided
1 cup Cake Flour, sifted (not All-Purpose flour)
9 Egg Whites (I recommend separating the eggs when they are cold, then allowing the white to warm up to room temperature. They seem to whip up higher at room temp)
1/4 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Cream of Tartar
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp. Almond Extract

Preheat oven to 325F.

Sift 1/2 cup sugar and flour twice. Beat egg whites until foamy. Add salt and cream of tartar and continue to beat until they hold soft peaks. Beat in extracts and remaining sugar until peaks become a little stiffer. Using a rubber spatula or your hand, gently fold flour mixture into eggs white mixture.

Turn batter into an ungreased tube pan (not a bundt pan). Bake 45-60 minutes until cake is firm, resilient to touch, and nicely brown. Invert cake for an hour. Remove carefully.

Cuts best with a serrated knife or pair of forks.

Best on the day it is made. Strawberry mousse makes a great filling/topping.

Chocolate Angel Food Cake Variation: Substitute 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder for 1/4 flour.

I made one of these last week as a birthday treat for a co-worker. Someone else on the team, when he found out it was an angel food cake, asked "What's all that brown stuff on the outside?" (It was the crusty bits). Turns out, he'd only ever had angel food cake that was purchased from the store already baked, which I guess doesn't have the brown crumbs on the outside. At least not on the top.

I love this homemade version, though you are left with lots of egg yolks. I usually make custard or pudding with them.

I'll post a custard recipe tomorrow!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Reporting back

Thoroughly Modern Millie at BYU is definitely worth seeing! The singing was great, the costumes were fabulous and the choreography was terrific. Oh, and the pit orchestra was fantastic, though a little too much in a couple of places where they overpowered the singer. That is really my only criticism. Go see if you get the chance!

Need something to do tonight?

Tonight is opening night of BYU's production of the musical "Thoroughly Modern Millie". It starts at 7:30 PM in the DeJong Concert Hall in the Harris Fine Acts Center. When I called for tickets yesterday, they mentioned a special -- two for one balcony seats tonight. That is a sweet deal, and when I looked at the open seats yesterday, there were lots available.

So, if you like musicals, especially high-energy funny ones, give it a try. I'm going tonight, so will let you know later if it lives up to my expectations.

If you want to take advantage of the balcony deal tonight, call the ticket office at 422-7664. The offer is only for tonight, though the show runs through the end of the month. There are matinees on both Saturdays and those tickets are a bit cheaper ($13). Regular prices are $21 for adults, $19 for Alumni. I don't remember the student rate.

If you are a current member of KBYU FM, your member card is good for 2 for 1 admission to any showing, any seating area.

Get ready for some toe-tapping!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Connectivity continued...

One of my earliest posts was about reconnecting with friends via internet social networking tools like Facebook. This past week has been another big week for finding and being found! I found two high school friends on FB, which led to another finding me -- and she passed along contact information for another friend (who is not on FB) and told me about several mutual friends she still encounters regularly.

My family moved to Emporia, Kansas the summer before my Freshman year of High School, and my dad promised that we'd be there at least long enough for me to graduate. Coming from a military life, I had already attended several different schools by then, so it meant a lot to me that I would be at one school for four years.

When I got there, I found a very different world than the one I'd known. I discovered that most of my classmates had lived in Emporia their whole lives. For me, home was wherever my immediate family lived at the moment. Many had never been out of the state, and I'd spent very little time in America. They had lots of history together and I had history with no one outside of my family and a few friends from my previous school in Germany with whom I corresponded (REAL letters that you actually mailed and then waited days and days for a reply)

My Great-Aunt Helen jumped in and arranged introductions to a few girls my age, one of whom became a very good friend. She is a musician and her father was a physician and that gave us two great starting points. She was one of the first two people I found on Facebook.

When school started, the English class I would like to have been in was full, so I found myself in a very small English class that seemed to be where they put the leftover students. That's where I met a girl who would be a great friend through high school and beyond (she's the other person I found the day I signed up for FB).

It was a tough adjustment. I remember one day, early in the school year, we were discussing recent movies while waiting for Algebra to start. When I commented that I had seen the movie being discussed, a fellow sitting across from me said, "You watched movies in Germany?" To which I think I responded "Ummm....yes...did you think we all lived in castles and rode horses?" I got the impression that that was exactly what he thought.

I felt terribly like a fish out of water in Emporia for a couple of years, but the more people I got to know, the happier my existence became. I came away from those four years much the richer for the experience.

During college I went home for 2 summers and 4 Christmas breaks, and that was about it. I finished my coursework in 3 years, then taught 2nd grade for a year. Two weeks after I finished the school year, I began a period of missionary service for my church -- two months spent learning Dutch, then 16 months living and serving in the Netherlands. Not long after I returned, my family relocated to Colorado Springs, and I lost track of nearly everyone I'd known in Emporia. (Which would NOT have happened if we'd had FB and email back then!)

All this reminiscing is leading up to something fun I did this weekend -- I phoned one of my friends from High School. As we chatted, I was amazed by how easy and comfortable our conversation was. We got caught up on families, swapped stories, and just enjoyed chatting. The years fell away. You would think it had only been a few months since we had chatted, not many years. I think that is a mark of a good friend -- when you can pick right up and feel like you've never been apart.

I was only in Emporia for 4 years, and I have often wondered if anyone with whom I went to high school even remembers me. For my classmates, that 4 years translates to less than 10% of our lives at this point, which isn't much. I was humbled this weekend to realize that even as I remember people and experiences, so am I remembered. Thank you Susan and Kandi!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

I got the better end of the deal!

Last weekend I received a voice mail from a neighbor asking if I had any extra jars of the Apricot jam I had given away at Christmas because her daughter had decided it was her FAVORITE. And if I had some, what payment would be desired?

I knew I had some remaining jars, but couldn't remember if they were peach or apricot, so I called back to let her know I'd received the message and would look when I got home.

I was pleasantly surprised, when I did look, to find that most of the remaining jars are apricot (because it's my favorite too), and phoned the neighbor back with the news that I had a jar available. When she asked me what I would charge for it, I had my request ready -- dinner or a game night with her family (they have 5 children ages 14 down to 3). "DONE!" was her reply and we scheduled for tonight.

So, in exchange for a half-pint of apricot jam, I got a great dinner tonight with a very fun family AND we played a game (Pictureka of course!).

I definitely got the better end of that deal!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

For my fellow readers

Here is a lovely article about Newbery awards. This year's winners will be announced on the 26th of this month.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I was introduced to a new game tonight (new to me anyway), Snorta, made by the game company "Out of the box" (the "Apples to Apples" people)

What a hoot! Literally! The recommended age range is from 8 on up, but there are some younger kids who could probably hold their own.

The premise is that each player chooses an animal from the set that comes with the game. It's the usual barnyard variety (cow, horse, rooster, etc.) with a few extra (snake, owl). You get to choose the sound your animal makes (it does need to be recognizable as that animal)

After you do show-and-tell with your animal and demonstrate your sound a couple of times, your animal is hidden away in your own personal barn.

As you are playing the game, when you and another player turn over matching cards, you have to:
1. Remember which animal represents that player
2. Make the animal sound designated by that player

And you want to do this before he remembers YOUR animal and sound. The one who loses gets to add the turned-over cards to his stack. First one out of cards wins.

Sounds simple, but when you are looking at matching pig cards and your opponent's animal is a donkey, it is hard to remember to bray rather than oink!

We were playing with kids, and the pace was friendly. I can imagine with an older crowd the pace picks up and is quite frantic. This could be almost as fun as my brother's Monty Python Fluxx game!

Click for a free bottle of Suave shampoo

Click here to request a coupon for a free bottle of Suave shampoo - but do it before 10 PM Mountain today!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Book recommendations

I read a LOVELY book last weekend -- "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society". I could not put it down! Check out the blurb at Amazon and if you like the sound of it, log into your local public library and put a hold request on it. Both Orem and Provo have copies (print and audio CD). I think it would be a big hit with book clubs.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Chocolate Chelsea Buns

After my post last week about making rolls with chocolate milk instead of regular milk, a friend emailed me a recipe she recommends for chocolate cinnamon rolls, or, as the recipe calls them, Chocolate Chelsea Buns.

I couldn't resist, so tried them out on Sunday to take as my dessert offering for Sunday dinner. They were mmm-mmm-good! Here is the recipe:

Chocolate Chelsea Buns

1 cup Milk
1/4 cup Granulated Sugar
1 1/2 tsp active dry Yeast
1 Egg
1/4 cup Butter, melted
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Vanilla
3 cups (approx) All Purpose Flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Cocoa powder, sifted

1 cup Chocolate Chips (I used half semi-sweet, half milk choc)
1/2 cup packed Brown Sugar
1/4 cup chopped Pecans (optional)(I did some both ways and liked both)
1/2 tsp Cinnamon (I will put in a bit more next time)

Scald the milk, let it sit for a few moments, then remove the skin off the top. Allow it to cool a bit before proceeding (at this point is it too hot for the yeast)

Dissolve 1 tsp of sugar into the warm milk. Sprinkle with yeast and stir. Let stand until frothy.

Whisk in egg, butter, remaining sugar, salt and vanilla. Gradually whisk in 1 cup of the flour. With a wooden spoon, beat in the cocoa and enough of the remaining flour to make a stiff dough. Turn dough out onto floured surface and kneed about 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. (Umm...I did this all in my Bosch)

Place in greased bowl turning to grease all over. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in bulk (about an hour).

Melt chocolate chips. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon together. Punch the dough down, turn out onto lightly floured surface. Roll out to 14 x 12 inch rectangle.

Spread the melted chocolate on the dough, leaving a 1-inch border uncovered. Sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon mixture over chocolate. Starting at the long side, roll up tightly, pinching seam to seal. Cut into 16 slices. Place in a greased 9x13" pan, like you would cinnamon rolls (swirly side up). Let rise until double in bulk again.

Bake at 350 for 20 to 30 minutes until firm to the touch.

Option: If you don't want to melt the chocolate chips, spread 1/4 softened butter on dough before sprinkling with brown sugar and cinnamon mixture. Spread sugar over, then chips, then roll up.

Drizzle with a glaze icing if you like... eat them warm.

That's it!

My friend and I IM'd about these today, and tossed around some possible variations. She thinks white chocolate chips would be good. I tossed in the suggestions of a mixture of chocolate and butterscotch or chocolate and peanut butter chips. My friend also brought up the possibility of a peanut butter glaze or frosting. Last night when they were served up in Lehi, my dinner hosts tried Hersey's chocolate syrup and caramel sauce on some of them (not both on the same bun, but I suppose you could). In the end, we decided that this is a good base recipe that will be fun to play with.

If you try it, let me know! I think I might have to make these the next time I take fund-raising treats to KBYU-FM. Maybe I'll even remember to take a picture of them. :-)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

One of the nicest things anyone has ever wished for me

Years ago, as I was out running errands with Yevi's wife and daughters, the older one, (who was probably only 5 or 6 at the time) commented from the back of the van, "Aunt Holly, I wish you would get married". When I asked why she wanted me to get married, her answer tickled me from head to toe.

"Because then you would always have someone to play games with".

Isn't that a lovely wish?

BTW, she meant BOARD and CARD games, not MIND games. (I qualified that because I KNOW some of you will go down that path)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Just to tease my brother...

Yevi -- yesterday snow was predicted with an expected accumulation of 1-3". Guess what we really got? About 9 inches! I came home from work and shoveled the first six inches, then went out early this morning to get the three that had come down since then. It's a lovely winter wonderland out there -- too bad my favorite snow fanatic isn't here to enjoy it!

your sister

P.S. while I was typing this and getting ready for work, another inch came down...

Update: several inches came down while I was at work -- now it is the wet stuff that is heavy. A neighbor had already done my drive and sidewalk with his snow blower just before I got home, but I bet I will need to go out and shovel again before I go to bed tonight!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Baking experiment

On Sunday while my mind was wandering during church, I started thinking about making rolls when I got home. The recipe I wanted to use calls for milk for the liquid, and thinking about that, I remembered I had some chocolate milk in the fridge. Hmmm...what would rolls made with chocolate milk be like?

I've never seen a roll recipe that calls for chocolate milk, but decided not to let that stop me. So, when I got home, I made a regular batch for dinner and a chocolate batch for fun.

The color was only little darker than normal, similar to what you might see if some whole wheat was added. I decided I would experiment further...so I rolled out the dough and spread nutella on it, then rolled it up cinnamon-roll style.

mmmm...I was pleased with the results. The bread itself doesn't taste very chocolate-y, but the nutella takes care of that. I think this could lead to a pretty good breakfast roll and I might have to experiment again in the future.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Why I haven't moved

My address has not changed in nearly 9 years, which is an amazing length of time for me to live in one place. I've lived in the same town for several years, but not ever this long in one house.

Want to know why I stay? Because I love watching the kids grow up. Tonight I attended an Eagle Court of Honor for a young man who lives one street over. I've watched him grow from a young boy to a young man as I worked with him in Primary (our church's organization for children). Once, while I was a cub scout leader, I called this young man to see if he would organize a Color Guard for the flag ceremony at our Blue & Gold Banquet. It only took one call and it was done. That was impressive. It was so much fun to see him receive his Eagle tonight!

A young lady who lives across the cul-de-sac from me once told me "You are like the neighborhood aunt!". I like that. (Thank goodness she didn't say "neighborhood grandma" -- I am NOT ready for that yet.) This is the first time I've lived anywhere long enough to watch the kids grow up, and I LOVE it!

Want to know why else I stay? Because I have fantastic neighbors. They watch out for me and my house and bless my life continually with their many kindnesses. They have winterized the swamp cooler in the Fall, gotten it going in the Spring, tilled my garden, figured out I have bugs in my lawn, removed a live bird from my furnace, replaced a cabinet door hinge, replaced a disposal, shoveled snow, cut down and hauled away two massive trees (and a few small ones) and more. When I am sick, they take excellent care of me. When I am here for a holiday, I have more invitations to join family celebrations that I can possibly accept. When I am hungry, I can drop in at dinner time at any one of several households and a place will be set for me at the table. When I am tired of my own company, I can wander to any of several homes and find companionship.

I used to worry about the fact that I seem to need so much help, but then a friend pointed out that we each help out in the ways we can by sharing our talents. This has taught me to watch for ways I can help others so that I can try to pull my share of the load.

Hopefully it all balances out in the end!

Update on Monday -- I thought of another one. One of my kind neighbors convinced a fledgling robin to vacate my garage last June. The bird had taken refuge while I had the garage door open as I finished my outdoor chores before leaving for a 10-day choir tour. I noticed him in there, and thought "Oh...you do NOT want to be in here my friend -- my garage won't be opened again for a long time". So, I called across the street and got some help from a pro. He poked and prodded and slowly shooed the bird out of the garage. Success! I closed the garage door and the back door and did not open them again until I returned from my trip.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Saturday Surprise

Just a few minutes after I got up this lovely Saturday morning, my phone rang -- it was a friend from the Netherlands calling to say she was in town! She and her 4-year old daughter and I went to breakfast and had a great visit. Here is a picture:

What a lovely way to start my day!

It's been a great week here -- I spent New Year's Eve with neighbors (we had a wonderful dinner and played lots of games and watched some old home movies). The next day I had lunch and played games with friends a couple of town north of me, and then had dinner with friends in my neighborhood. But wait, we're not done yet! Last night a neighbor served up a delicious turkey dinner with all the trimmings and I was lucky to be on the guest list. While my friend's husband and his brother watched the Sugar Bowl game, we played a couple of board games AND watched the Sugar Bowl. (I think that kind of multi-tasking comes easier to women)

It was snowing when I left to walk home -- big, fat, fluffy flakes -- the ones that seem magical.

Here are some views from my back door today. I LOVE it when the sun comes out after a fresh snowfall!