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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

THE SPEED of TIME

Can you believe it? January is done. It's over. All 31 days are forever gone, completely spent. Were you ready for that? Didn't you just put away Christmas decorations? Please tell me you have taken down the lights!

One minute it was New Year's Eve, the next we're staring at Groundhog Day on the calendar. So did everything get done on that 'good intentions' list...you know, all the stuff to get done in January to get a fresh start on a new year. Yeah, good intentions are always better than no intentions so don't feel bad. There's always February but be warned...only 29 days so you'll need to kick it up a notch.

As far as the January headlines around the world it was the same old doom and gloom since that seems to be the main point to 'breaking news' reporting the worst possible events. I mean seriously, have you ever had a television show interrupted to tell you a good thing?!

Then in the political arena (circus-not caucus)there's really no sense in commenting on the so-called presidential candidates...more like bumpkins than candidates. They are all so busy degrading the opponents you have no clue what they're really all about but you sure learn the other guy's faults don't you? I've got one word to sum the lot of them up...embarrassing. That's all I have to say on it except that I am glad to be feline and not have to pay attention to such political malfunctioning.

Then we've got your weather. While sunny and 70 degrees in some parts, other places have been completely devastated by tornadoes. Mother Nature never did play a fair game. One state can have floods while another suffers drought conditions. This states unbearably hot and the another state is below freezing. There's not much one can do about it unless able to relocate somewhere you might feel is better, otherwise it's put up and shut up.

So that's it for January, 2012. First month done and over with whether we were ready or not. Might as well welcome February with open paws and hang on for the ride. The speed of time seems to be gaining on us. Now what are you going to do with your next 29 days?

Friday, January 27, 2012

IT'S NATIONAL CHOCOLATE CAKE DAY!

Believe it or not January 27th is National Chocolate Cake Day. News to me and I'm betting it is to you as well so let's discuss it. Something as important as a holiday for chocolate cake should not be eaten lightly. Like Garfield has a thing for lasagna, I am a chocoholic to the core. I happened to learn about this holiday just today when I was on my favorite website, LOL I Can Has Cheeseburger. To be sure I wasn't seeing things I Googled 'National Chocolate Cake Day' and sure enough, it does exist. I will definitely be noting it on next year's Sister Very Catty Calendar, you can count on it.

After researching a few different sites regarding this holiday I found several that say the creator or origin of this day is unknown. There are no presidential proclamations or anything official like that and the only reason this holiday is referred to as 'national' is because that's just the way it is with food holidays. However, on other websites credit was given to a Dr. James Baker for developing a way to make chocolate by grinding the cocoa beans between two millstones back in 1764. Consequently this was the actual birth of cocoa powder which led to the endless possibilities for baking.

So to celebrate this day the best thing to do is bake a chocolate cake and then enjoy eating it and that's exactly what we did tonight. I'm here to tell you the cakes we baked were so yummy I decided to share the recipe we used. You won't believe how simple it is, with ingredients you probably have, and very little effort or mess you will have yourself one really good cake...well, actually two good cakes. Hang on...I'll get to that in a bit.

This recipe & info was taken from "The Best of America's Test Kitchen-Best Recipes & Reviews for 2011". It's called "Individual Fallen Chocolate Cakes For Two". The recipe explains that fallen chocolate cake is an intense, rich chocolate cake that ranges in texture from a dense, brownie-like consistency to something altogether ethereal. Essentially it is undercooked chocolate cake. It makes a perfect dessert for two and only requires a handful of ingredients. Under-baking it keeps the center of the cake slightly saucy. To bake the cakes you'll want to use two 6-inch ramekins, greasing them well and then dusting with cocoa powder for an extra chocolate flavor. This way they will easily release from the ramekin. The cakes are best served warm but we enjoyed the second cake later on after dinner and it was just as good as when warm. Positively sinful it was so chocolatey good.

So you will need the following:
2 six inch ramekins
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
Confectioners' sugar for dusting (optional)

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Butter two 6-inch ramekins and dust with cocoa powder.
2. Combine the butter and chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high until melted, 1 to 3 minutes, stirring often. Stir in vanilla.
3. In a large bowl, whip the egg with an electric mixer on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium-high and whip the egg to soft, billowy mounds, about 1 minute. Gradually whip in the granulated sugar and salt; continue to whip the egg until very thick and pale yellow, 5 to 10 minutes longer.
4. Scrape the whipped egg mixture on top of the chocolate mixture, then sift the flour over the top. Gently fold the mixtures together with a large rubber spatula until just incorporated and no streaks remain.
5. Divide the batter between the prepared ramekins, smooth the tops, and wipe any drops of batter off the sides. Place the ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet and bake the cakes until they have puffed about 1/2 inch above the rims of the ramekins and jiggle slightly in the center when shaken very gently, 10 to 13 minutes.
6. Run a small knife around the edges of the cakes. Gently invert each ramekin onto an individual serving plate and let them sit until the cakes release themselves from the ramekins, about 1 minute. Remove the ramekins, dust the cakes with confectioners' sugar (if using), and serve immediately.

This was without a doubt the ultimate taste sensation in chocolate cake and credit goes to Mr. Dan Zuccarello of America's Test Kitchen Books for his wonderful test results.

Now you know all about National Chocolate Cake Day and I'll just apologize for letting National Peanut Butter Day get past us on January 24th. Try to keep up people!

STOP THE GUILT!

Confession is good for the soul, right? As humans you at some time or another may do something or say something and then decide it wasn't such a good idea to have done that or said whatever it was you said. Then you start to worry about it, you can't shake it, you fret over it, you really wish you hadn't done it. Guilt starts creeping in and soon it begins to eat away at you until the urge to get it off your chest is so strong you feel you must spill your guts to somebody. I'm talking none other than the human condition known as guilt which leads to confession time. Who out there does not know what I'm talking about? Trust me, I listen to it all the time so I thought I might attempt to ease some of those guilt-ridden consciences a little bit by discussing another human ritual known as the New Year's Resolutions.

On that note let's see a show of paws....how many of you actually made New Year's Resolutions this year? That's right, just a few short weeks ago you possibly "resolved" to do something new this year. Admit it, maybe that midnight toast got to your head and you once again created these grandiose, impossible to keep resolutions. Did you write them down so you'd follow them? Did you even take yourself seriously when you concocted them? Or was it just the standard same old, same old, the ultimate boring BS resolutions....going to eat better, going to eat less, going to exercise, lose weight, join a gym, maybe go to church, save money, cut down on drinking, on spending, stop smoking, be kinder to others, call your mother. C'mon, let's hear it. Spit it out while I find the shovel...you know...since confession is ...well, you know!

My next curiosity...of those alleged resolutions, would it be easier to tally up how many actual resolutions were made, how many you've actually kept or how many have you already forgotten about? Go ahead, do the math. Then let that shame start invading your head, jump on board that guilt train to nowhere. You know the one that just keeps cruising down the tracks of the day to day grind, stopping occasionally to view a television commercial designed to keep you 'on track' and guilty! The ads that flood the air waves as soon as the holidays are gone, the ads showing you every imaginable piece of exercise equipment known to humans complete with a wafer size model to take you through the boring as hell infomercial. Don't forget the ads for all the different miracle ways to drop those holiday pounds, now endorsed by a famous celebrity. See the domino-effect conspiracy happening here? The marketing world knows you've made these ridiculous resolutions so they flood you with reminders, commercial after commercial with false promises of weight loss, or wrinkle removers, or anti-anything, instigating that guilty feeling over that empty resolution you made on new year's eve. Damn the champagne!

My mission here is to erase that guilt so people get a clue here once and for all. It's easy to see from a cat's perspective that you simply should not be making these silly resolutions when you begin a new year. What are you thinking anyway? How dumb can you be? Why torture yourselves like this? You and I know full well you have no intention of keeping that resolution so give it up. No resolutions, no guilt. Stop kidding yourselves. It's as easy as that. I mean you sure don't see us doing such a silly thing...why would we when we are already perfection in fur?!

In summation I might confess that I had a resolution to write more frequently in my blog but noting the date of my last entry it would appear as though I had not kept my resolution, correct? Wrong! Did not make any such resolution, will not be boarding any guilt train and you know what else? Frankly my dears, no one gives a damn! There...guilt absolved for all!