In My Life, I've Loved Them All

PSYCH you out in the end

Shawn Spencer aka James RodayI made Shawn Spencer’s TOP 24 on MySpace! Sometimes the little things can make your whole day.

Who is Shawn Spencer, and why do I care if he thinks I’m a top friend? WELL… using his “psychic” abilities, Shawn and his best friend Gus solve crimes in Santa Barbara, CA… on the TV Show PSYCH. Yes, Shawn is technically a fictional character (played by James Roday), but he has 2,400 Myspace friends, and I’m topping the list :) (Gus is his TV land best bud, and The Friendly Indians sing the PSYCH theme song).

PSYCH is hands down THE BEST show that you’re probably not watching yet. Last summer, when the major networks turned to re-runs and lame-reality-filler shows (David Hasselhof thinks you have talent, it MUST be true), the USA network debuted PSYCH on Friday nights. I was drawn in 1) it looked pretty funny 2) West Wing was over and Dule Hill was now playing BF Gus 3) Reality TV can rot your brain. What first seemed to be an overly ridiculous story idea turned out to be on of the most light-hearted, interesting, knee-slappin’ hysterical shows on the air. PSYCH is consistently funny, and in a very witty/not forced way. I commended Hill earlier this year about the move to PSYCH... it may not have the glitz & glamor of working on the award winning West Wing, but PSYCH has a loyal following and is genuinely original entertainment.

If you missed last season of PSYCH, you can catch it in re-runs this June on USA Network (it is on Thursdays at 1am however, so set your TiVos). The new season starts on July 13. Get Excited.




Playing in the Kitchen: Apple-Spice Layer Cake


The recipe for this delicious Apple-Spice Layer Cake comes from the pages of the Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook, one of my new favorite additions to my cookbook collection. This is one of the few cookbooks where I genuinely want to try every recipe, and it is full of helpful techniques that even a novice baker can handle. Each recipe has a beautiful picture too.

So, when my mom needed a dessert to contribute to her Garden Club luncheon, I jumped at the opportunity to use my Baking Handbook. The Apple-Spice Cake (with Cream Cheese Frosting) turned out great… much better than I anticipated. It was more dense than the kind of cake you get from a boxed mix, but still very moist with just enough spice so as not to be overpowering. Another perk is the homemade applesauce at the beginning of the recipe… it tastes fabulous on its own, and so easy to make! Now it seems almost silly to buy it in a jar.

Luckily, I was able to snap a picture while there was still a slice left. Yum.

Apple Spice Cake

Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups plus 1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 lbs (about 4) McIntosh apples, peeled cored and cut into chunks
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter at room temperature
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp all spice
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup honey
4 large eggs
Cream Cheese Frosting

Directions:

In a medium sauce pan, spread 1/3 cup sugar in an even layer, cook over medium high hear, without stirring, until sugar begins to turn golden and melt around the edges (3-4 min). Using a wooden spoon, slowly stir until meted and mixture is a translucent golden amber. Add apple chunks and lemon juice, and stir to coat apple pieces with caramel. Cover and cook over low heat until apples fall apart, 6-8 minutes. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until mixture reaches the consistency of applesauce and generously coats the back of the spoon, about 5 minutes more. Remove from heat and cool completely.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using butter wrappers, grease 3 6-2” round cake pans (or 2 9-2” pans); line bottoms with parchment paper. Butter parchment, and dust with flour, tapping out excess; set aside. Into a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice, ginger and nutmeg; set aside. In a small bowl, combine milk and vanilla; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, remaining 1 3/4 cups of sugar, and honey on medium high speed until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition, until smooth.

With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the milk mixture and beginning and ending with flour, beat until just combined after each, being careful not to overmix. Add cooled applesauce; mix to combine, about 1 minute.

Divide the batter among prepaired pans. Bake, rotating pans halfway through (don’t think you can get away w/o rotating the pans… I did and ended up with loppsidded layers), until the cakes pull away from the sides of the pans and a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean, 35-40 minutes (40-45 min if using 9” pans). Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 20 minutes. Run a knife or offset spatula around the edges. Invert cakes onto the rack; peel off parchment paper. Reinvert cakes and let them cool completely, top sides up.

Frost with Cream Cheese Icing and decorate as desired. I was in a hurry and used a canned forsting, but here is a simple recipe for making some at home:

Cream Cheese Frosting

16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Put cream cheese into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until smooth. Reduce speed to medium-low, and mix in sugar and vanilla. Raise speed to medium-high, and mix until fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes.


Playing in the Kitchen: Chocolate Turtle Cake

I very much enjoy baking… namely cakes and cookies. One great thing about college (or working in an office) was the ample amount of people willing to accept free food! A great way to test new recipes… even the ones that turned out not-so-hot would be devoured in minutes when left alone in the break room. My APO Brothers even nicknamed me “Betty ‘Fire’ Crocker” because I’d constantly arrive at meetings with batches of cookies (the “Fire” stems from the accusation that I almost burnt down my dorm baking cookies my Sophomore year). Plus, “sharing” my baked goods prevents me from eating an entire cake by myself.

These days, I don’t have so many opportunities to bake for large groups of people… so when the opportunity arises, I jump on it! My latest experiment was a CHOCOLATE TURTLE CAKE I baked for my mom’s Pokeno Group last week. The recipe came from a Betty Crocker cookbook, and I was a bit hesitant because the directions make it seem like it would over bake… so I was pleasantly surprised when everyone who tried it loved it and asked for a copy of the recipe! My recipe is an adaptation from the original, making it quick and easy yet still producing impressive results!

I didnt get a chance to take a picture of the full cake, just a slice that my mom brought back with her… its a basic Devils Food chocolate cake with middle layer of chocolate, carmel and pecans. Yum Yum. This recipe is so easy, even my sister could make it (and thats saying something)!


Chocolate Turtle Cake
Ingredients:
1 package Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® devil’s food cake mix
1 1/3 cups water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 12oz jar Carmel Ice Cream Topping

1 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans, divided
1 12oz bag mini semisweet chocolate chips
1 can chocolate icing

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease &
flour* (or lightly spray with cooking spray) bottom only of 13×9x2 rectangular
pan.

*Instead of Flour, dust bottom of pan with the cake mix

2. With an electric mixer, beat cake mix, water, oil and eggs on low speed for
30 seconds, then on medium speed for about 2 minute, scraping bowl as needed (do not overbeat).   Pour half of the batter into pan. Bake 20 minutes.

3. Remove lid from jar of carmel; heat in the microwave for about 30 seconds. 
Remove baked 1/2 of cake from oven and pour about 1/2 to 3/4 of jar of hot
carmel over the cake.  Tilt pan so carmel is evenly distributed over the
layer.  Sprinkle about 1 cup of chopped pecans in an even layer over the
carmel.  Sprinkle 1/2-3/4 of the bag of mini chocolate chips evenly over
the carmel.  Carefully pour remaining cake batter over chocolate chips. 
Do no stir or disturb layers of carmel/pecans/chocolate chips while evenly
distributing remaining batter.


4.  Bake 30 minutes. Cool completely,
about 1 hour. Frost with Chocolate icing of choice.  Sprinkle remaining
pecans and chocolate chips over top, and drizzle with some of the remaining
carmel. 

Makes 20 servings

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