My little birthday cake

My husband’s birthday is one day before mine. That was great one year. We were living in the same town as my aunt. She made a cake and we had a family party, it was wonderful. Other times my husband has been “out of town” (deployed) for my birthday or left on my birthday. One year I was at my parent’s house and it was wonderful (besides the absence of my husband). All my family was there and I requested Thanksgiving dinner. May is the perfect time for turkey! Some years we go out and have a cake on his birthday and have leftovers for mine. This year has been pretty fabulous. We went for a road trip last weekend. We saw Bruneau Dunes, soaked in Miracle Hot Springs, gazed in wonder at Shoshone Falls and marveled at Balanced Rock. Super-fun trip. For my sweetie’s day I grilled shrimp and chorizo kebabs and made a triple layer chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream frosting. I assume the cake is pretty good, he ate 1/4 of it in one sitting. However, I am staying away from chocolate and I used real butter in the frosting so I can’t really say. On to the point!

I decided to make myself a little carob birthday cake.  When I make things dairy free I am usually satisfied with the results. However, I am having a difficult time substituting carob for chocolate. It is not that the recipes are too hard to find or that I can’t just substitute carob powder for cocoa powder in most recipes. It is the taste. Carob is pleasant, it gives a gorgeous color to brownies and cakes, but it is not chocolate. Before giving up chocolate I ate some every day. I was perhaps a chocoholic. I wasn’t aware of the way it affected my body because it was never out of my system. I really don’t know if can do this. Can I live without chocolate? Back to the point!

I bought Carob Cookbook by Tricia Hamilton and the first thing I made was the Mocha Fudge Cake, but it wasn’t mocha because I am also trying to avoid coffee. I think it would be better with coffee, in fact it would have been amazing with cocoa powder and coffee, but then I couldn’t have eaten it, so I made it with carob and water. I am seriously considering buying coffee substitute, but holy moly, that stuff is expensive! Anyway, I made a half recipe to fit into two 6″ pans and made it dairy free. When I bought the cookbook I didn’t really think about the recipes being dairy-free friendly. They are not, if you were wondering. For the frosting I used an old recipe called “Ciddy Ellifson Frosting”, it’s also called Cooked Icing and Red Velvet Frosting. We never had Red Velvet cake when I was a kid, but I loved this frosting on chocolate cake.

 

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Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo

When I was single a lot of meals took hours to prepare (because I didn’t have anything else to do) and often consisted of variations on pasta. Occasionally I had a meat of some sort and odd vegetables left in the crisper. Other times garlic and olive oil was about all I had. I still love pasta and I hope my family does as well. My girls prefer good old spaghetti with meat sauce, but sometimes I like to have Carbonara, Piccata or Alfredo. Yes, dairy-free. Carbonara is pretty easy because you use an egg yolk and pasta water to make the sauce. Parmesan is added at the end, but it tastes fine without it. Sometimes I grate some Brazil nuts on top. but not always. (I use the Rachael Ray recipe Spaghetti alla Carbonara: Bacon and Egg “Coal Miner’s” Pasta.)Piccata may not taste as good without butter, but I just use more olive oil to make the roux. (I use the easy Piccata Toss recipe from Rachael Ray.) Now, Alfredo is a whole other ballgame. How do you make a dairy-free sauce that is supposed to be made from cream, butter and cheese? Hurrah for the internet! Hurrah for the Vegans! I found a great Alfredo recipe called “Hurry Up Alfredo”. It uses cashews to make a creamy sauce. My husband loves it. He asked me not to tell him what it was made of because he didn’t want to risk being freaked out by the ingredients. He was totally fine with cashews. Sometimes I make this with whatever pasta I have on hand, but sometimes I get all fancy and use fettuccine, add grilled chicken and steamed broccoli. This is one of those meals I don’t have to worry about anyone complaining or whining about the food. Luckily both of my kids love broccoli. I never thought about hurting my mom’s feelings when I whined about dinner, but now I know it must have upset her. One more thing you can’t learn until you have kids of your own.

Weekends Off? Bread Pudding!

During the week I do pretty good drinking green thickies, doing 15 minutes of T-Tapp and generally eating healthy, but then Saturday comes. On Saturday I have time to make a big breakfast with pancakes and bacon or biscuits and gravy or breakfast burritos or any number of yummy, not terribly healthy foods. I make desserts and think if I eat them over the weekend they don’t count. Yes, I mean eat the entire dessert over the weekend. I noticed my weight is creeping back up. This has to be a lifestyle not a job. But I love food! I am an equal opportunity food lover. I love veggies, and fresh healthy meals, but I love sugar and fried things too. I think I have to change the way I look at things. Weekends are not “off”. I need to eat healthy everyday. If I slip up that is fine, let it go and continue to eat healthy. When I designate a day off I feel like I need to make up for all the things I wanted to eat during the week. Instead of treating myself with one dessert I eat a weeks worth of food in two days. Not good. New plan. But first…

My mom loved bread pudding, she loved custardy bread pudding. Last weekend I found the best bread pudding recipe for people who love custard. Puerto Rican Budin.  Budin? Looks odd, but say it out loud and it sounds like pudding. This budin is a fabulous cross between bread pudding and flan. I didn’t remove the crust from my bread and it was not visually pleasing. Next time I’ll remove the crusts and make bread crumbs out of them. This recipe is adapted from Nande on Allrecipes.com. I’m sure someone could make this with whole wheat bread, stevia and rice milk, but I don’t think it would taste as good. I don’t want to make food my enemy. Maybe I should work out more. Good plan.

Chicken Fried Steak! P.S. NOT low fat

One of my mom’s guilty pleasures was eating Chicken Fried Steak. I never remember her making it, but if we were in a little diner somewhere with chicken fried steak on the menu she would probably order it, with cream gravy. I didn’t know what I was missing and that was a good thing.
A few years ago my husband bought a quarter of a cow from a friend of his. After we ate the steaks and burger there were several packages in the bottom of the freezer labeled “Cubed Steak”. I had no idea what to do with them. I, of course, looked up recipes on the internet. The first recipe I found was some sort of goulash, I think, it didn’t make the rotation. Then I found a recipe on AllRecipes.com called Country Fried Steak and Milk Gravy by LIKESTOCOOK. Chicken fried steak! Breaded and fried meat with mashed potatoes and gravy! So dangerous. So yummy. I can’t be healthy all the time. I mean really, I love food. I know people who don’t get exited about food, they can live on smoothies and salads. I am a cook. I am a good cook. My husband loves to have a green smoothie for breakfast, but he’ll do the dishes if I make Chicken Fried Steak. That is love right there. We don’t eat this once a month, but every once in a while we need some good ole down home cookin’.

May Menu

I really don’t want to have a menu. Dinner plans for the month? It’s so constricting and boring and organized and totally not me. However, I have found if I don’t have any plans written down and posted on my fridge we might starve or live on frozen pizza. I am starting to feel the lack of healthy food. If I don’t plan for veggies they stay in the fridge or at the store. So, time to get back to a plan. Woohoo!