Sunday, July 15, 2007

Co-Cola + Chocolate = Yum. Plus other baking and a bit of catching up.

Warning: this is yet another long one. Since figuring out the CSS for cuts is more than I want to learn tonight, I apologize that you'll just have to bear with me. There are links to food pr0n ahead; it may be worth your time. Thank you.

First, while many other Texans (and others) have discussed this in a more timely fashion, I wanted to pay my respects to Lady Bird Johnson, the third well-known Texan lady par excellence to pass on within the last several months. I didn't follow her life as closely, but I am enamored of what she did with her prominence. On top of being a calming, charming influence on late 60s politics and a devoted family woman, Lady Bird considered conservation and beautification of "green space" to be of the utmost importance.

So when millions of people drive up and down I-45 (and a lot of other roads) in late March and early April, we have Lady Bird to thank for the profusion of bluebonnets, Indian blanket, evening primrose, and black-eyed Susans lining the shoulder. And her efforts are further enshrined in the Wildflower Center just outside Austin that bears her name. Small things to some, but to those of us who love photos of wildflowers more than any others, it's made a world of difference.

Rest in peace, Mrs. Johnson, and thank you for keeping Texas beautiful.

A photo to tide you over throughout the rest of this lengthy post:

Pandora's not a big fan of being in photos, but she humored me for this one.

So I may have mentioned once or twice that I was handling cake for July work birthdays. And I knew that my kitchen wouldn't hold up to making one big cake - so I decided to make three desserts instead.

Dessert the first is a creation from The Cake Mix Doctor: Old-Fashioned Cola Cake. It's based on legendary recipes that add a touch of fizz to a standard-type chocolate sheet cake...and its icing. Coke and chocolate? It's a sin I've never made this before.

Of course, as I am a good Tex-Southern girl, "cola" most assuredly meant Coca-Cola. And in the interest of avoiding the scourge of high fructose corn syrup, I asked TechieBK* for Mexican Coke...pure cane, baby. You can see this beaut of a sweet chocolate cake in living color.

Second, assembled mostly from what I already had, are Cranberry-Pecan Oatmeal Cookies. I started with Mom K's Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, which never fails, and which I normally leave alone (except for omitting the nuts).

I decided to mix things up, and went for the cranberries instead of raisins as some of my work peeps think that raisins are evil (a sentiment I do not share, but there you go). I almost never use nuts in baked goods that I plan to eat, but it turned out that the pecans absolutely lifted the texture and flavor a couple of notches. See the cranberry-pecan-oatmeal goodness at your leisure.

And finally, I took the Cake Mix Doctor's recipe for Basic Yellow Pound Cake, added Smucker's strawberry jam for filling, and slathered it in cream cheese frosting from the good ol' Betty Crocker Cookbook, 40th Anniversary Edition.

I didn't have a name for this at first, but it finally came to me after my work peeps and I devoured it: Heaven and Hell Cake. Because it's so luscious it tastes like heaven, but you feel like you're going to hell for eating it. (For the record, you're not.) Pictures were taken, but photo editing is'll see it next time.

One thing this process brought home for me was how very desperately I need a better camera. My Olympus D-380 is really showing its age (which, if I remember correctly, is about 6 years at this point), and it was never all that flexible to begin with. Not a bad buy at the time, mind you, but I could get more than triple the camera now for what I paid then...and all things considered, I couldn't pay much.

I was going to buy Amy's camera, which is much newer and definitely takes better shots, but due to some recent misfortune, she won't be parting with it just yet. So I've returned to doing extensive research and trying to determine how much I'm willing to shell out. $350 is the outside limit for sure, and I'm focusing (heh) on Canon. I'd really like one that's pretty small and pretty powerful; the PowerShot SD800 IS ELPH is topping the list at this point, and it's at the upper end of my price range.

I swear, I used to take much better photos. While I'm a fan of digital's convenience, I started shooting film in a semi-serious way when I was about 11, and it still holds a lot of appeal to me; I'm not sure I've ever thoroughly gotten the hang of good digital shots. I think that something more functional will get me further down the least, I hope it will.

Still here? Amazing! At any rate, sorry for the delay on this, and on the promised bookishness. I couldn't let another day pass, though. I'm really glad to be writing regularly again, and it appears I even have a little readership now. Thanks!

No promises on when, as usual, but this week should hold at least one post before the weekend. Ta-tas, until then.

* Let me tell you, folks - my husband, knowing full well that not all of the baked goods were staying in the house, still volunteered (volunteered!) to go to the store and pick up everything I needed. If you have not already done so, I highly recommend acquiring an SO or spouse that will do this for you.

1 comment:

Kara said...

Wow, I didn't hear the news about Lady Bird until I read your blog. We were in Seattle for almost 2 weeks and didn't so much as turn on a television. And when I got home I asked my mom if I missed any big news... I'm going to have to nag her about that.

So sad! She was such a neat lady. I have some of her recipes so I will have to cook something up in her honor.