Birthday Black Cake Saga – The Layers

Ironic that this XKCD.Com comic came about cooking. 
At any rate, I have a cake recipe.  Yes, from scratch.  I can predict a few things about this particular recipe.  First, it will go wrong somehow.  I always forget something, and always recover.  One year I had the Butter creaming in the mixer and found out that I was short on flour.  This year it was that the chocolate squares were over warmed in the microwave and crystalized around the edges.  No big deal, it wasn’t so bad that anyone noticed right?

Another is that it runs a little dry.  Not markedly so.  Just with this terrible oven I have, it isn’t as moist as commercial cakes are.  I could add a little more fat (butter or shortening) to it, but that would change the taste.  It isn’t DRY, it’s merely not as moist as I like it.

Otherwise the recipe is a good one, predictable.  I can always get a very nice flavor out of it following it literally and a cake I can serve to others.   The results are in the refrigerator.  This time I got a very tall, three layer chocolate cake out of this. 

Whenever I bake I purposely cream my butter much longer than suggested.  It gives me a lighter batter.   I’m certain there are places where all that air will result in the wrong texture… I’ll let you know if I find it. 

I also creamed the batter itself.  I think by the time I had all the air in this it doubled in size.  It is hardly necessary, more of a “ooh look what I can do” sort of thing.  The texture didn’t suffer, and in fact it turned out quite nice.  Three layers of chocolate goodness.

If you never have made a chocolate cake from scratch it can be tricky but not something to run screaming from.  Melt your chocolate in the microwave at low to medium power.  If not then do it at full at a very short blast, maybe 10 seconds at a shot.  I turned around and got cocky and thought “Hmmm 30 seconds will do it!”.  Sure, but it gave me caramelization that I did not care for.

You will need a proper stand mixer to do it the way I did, but a hand mixer will work if not as easily.  

The ingredients are:

3/4 Cup (1 1/2 stick) of butter or margerine
2 Cups Sugar
2 2/3 cup sifted cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking POWDER
 3/4 tsp each of baking SODA and salt

1 1/3 cup of milk (2% recommended)
3 eggs
3 squares unsweetened bakers chocolate melted and cooled
1 tsp of Vanilla Extract

Wax Paper
Shortening to grease pans
3 8 inch or 2 9 inch cake baking pans

1) Cream butter until fluffy

2) Sift Sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the butter.  Note: You will want to sift the flour into a measuring cup first and not measure then sift – sifting will make the flour expand some and that could be why my cake turns out a little dry since I usually forget this step.

3) Add 1 cup of milk and mix until the ingredients are smooth and dampened.  Remember to reserve 1/3 cup roughly of the milk.

4) Beat for 2 minutes vigorously.  (More air gets in there)

5) Add the remaining milk and ingredients while beating and beat another 2 minutes.  (This loves to be beaten the naughty thing!)

6) Pour into 3 8 inch or 2 9 inch cake pans that are greased and the bottoms are lined with Waxed Paper.  Make sure that the mix is evenly distributed. 

7) Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in a preheated 350F Oven. 

8) Turn out on racks and peel off paper after pulling them from the oven.  Allow to cool thoroughly.

9) Frost with icing and enjoy.

Happy Birthday Kevin

I won’t tell you just what the age is but there is a five and a zero in it.  He’s not 5 so keep guessing!

Kevin and I last night went out for dinner.  Partly courtesy of my Godmother Kathie and her husband Larry, we went to use the gift card at Grand Lux Cafe in Sawgrass Mills.  We could have went to any of three in nearby areas, this one was my idea as I wanted to get to see the mall.  I haven’t been there in over a year, and it was going to be a night out.

We got to the mall around 5:30 and immediately went to try to find the place.  Murphy’s law being what it is, we drove 3/4 of the way around the mall before we went and started cruising the parking lot.  You see the lot was slammed with cars. 

Kevin’s normal comment is particularly appropriate “You know… we ARE in a recession you see!”.  Ok, yes, but sometimes you just have GOT to get out and see other people.  Sawgrass being a destination mall in a resort city in high season is just going to be busy.

Cruising the lot for about another 15 minutes, we finally found parking “way off over there” near “Needless Markup”.  Or basically as I usually call it “Coventry” … or East Naples.

We got in, immediately got a table and were seated.  The portions were large for anyone else, although my Asian Chicken Salad was what I am used to having when I make my patented dinner salad in a mixing bowl which is around 2 quarts of “stuff”.  Roughly.

Kevin got an excellent Black Angus Burger with fries, and I have to say his portions were generous as we were warned, but more “reasonable”.  We’re both big guys with high metabolisms so we thought it was fine.  A smaller person might want to consider forgoing dessert.

On the other hand you see dessert.  That dessert in the background was a bread pudding made from a cinnamon sticky bun.  Rightly sized and excellent, or so I have been told…

I didn’t sample Kevin’s because I was working on that massive slab of Red Velvet Cake.   The cake was simply excellent.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was however, huge.  What I should have done was to have around 1/2 of the cake, then ask to take away the rest for today.  As a result it became a challenge for me to finish it.  I recommend the cake, as I did to the neighboring table, although I suggested that they split it between husband, wife and pre-teen daughter!

But finish it I did and that became the entertainment of the evening.  Both Kevin and I walking around feeling bloated with meals of size that we normally don’t eat more than once a quarter.  While we are both big men, we are both reasonably fit. 

The mall presented an opportunity to walk some of our meal off, and it was needed.  On the other hand, the crowded parking lot meant a crowded mall.   It looked like the days before christmas in there as the place was crammed with people.  Oh well, it was literally for us, a once in a year opportunity. 

All in all it was a fun night, we did things we normally did and I got to spend time with Kevin in the mall. 

Happy Birthday, Kevin.

As I am writing this, at 10:30 AM we are both still digesting that dessert.  No breakfast for either of us!  On the other hand, dinner is cooking in the crock pot…

10 Canine Commandments

I shamelessly borrowed this one from the I Can Haz Cheeseburger Network.  I’m sure they didn’t make this up on their own, but if you would like to see their silliness about dogs, or their silliness about cats, you can click along.

I saw the pic and had an Awwww Moment and wanted to share it.

This all was spawned in the whole “LOL Cats” internet meme.  A lot of it is just mindless amusement, and if you’re like me and have many web pages to read in the morning, AKA Job Search, you can break up your own “entertainment” with some of these. 

Click on the picture though, it’s “Squee Inducing“!

Make Facebook More Secure with HTTPS

Simply put the “S” on the end of “HTTPS” is for “secure”. 

It means that if you take your laptop to your nearest friendly coffee house you are less likely to have someone capture your password.  There are other ways to get onto your computer, to be hacked, but this plugs one hole in the most popular website, and one of the worst from the standpoint of security.

Really Simple Instructions, I promise.  I’ll blather on afterwords but here goes.

1) Log into your Facebook account in your favorite browser.
2) Click on the link in the upper right of the screen for “Account”
3) Select “Account Settings” which is under your picture and on my list it is the third entry.
4) You will now be on the “Account Settings” page.
5) On my page, it is the seventh entry, “Account Security”, select that by clicking on “change” on the right.
6) The page will open up more information.
7) Find the check box under “Secure Browsing (https)” and click the check box on.
8) Click Save – you are done.

Facebook exists to sell your information.  It is up to you to decide how much of that you want to sell.  Seeing that you get no money back from that, you get no direct benefits from their having your information, and that its basically a very creepy situation, take matters into your own hands.

I suggest that you may want to consider going through your profile in Facebook and ask yourself, “Do I Really NEED To Share This?”  If I don’t know you, you will only see my name, my picture, and the city I live in.  There is an amazing amount of information tie-in that you can do from that, and if you doubt me, go to Google and type your own name in. 

After all, it is YOUR information so it should be YOUR choice.

It is ironic that I suggested for you to search Google for your own information since they exist to sell your information as well.  The creepy factor is on all of these New Media sites, you are being watched, so learn what they know about you or at least what you can.

Blogger, which is where this blog is hosted is a Google Site.  I use Facebook extensively to contact my family and friends, to find discounts on deals, and to try to win a Mac Book Air (Got a spare one? Let me know – this laptop is creaky!).  I’m part of the problem as well by adding content onto my own Facebook group, and that little stripe with the link on it is there so you can like the site.

I will continue to use all of those sites.  After all, blogging and Facebook are great outlets for verbal creativity.  If you read the site here, search for Ramblingmoose on Facebook and join the group.  You can let me know there.  After all, that’s what Social Media is all about.

The Story of Mark Pretzel

I had a friend all through high school, Jim, who went to the same University that I did, Drexel University.

We both started out with the same major, and we both changed them to other majors around the same time.  The first term that I lived in the dorms, we both were in Kelly Hall.   Kelly was this cinder block tower that was wrapped in the same bricks that gave Drexel the nickname that it wore through the years I was there, Orange Brick University.  The buildings were faced in Orange Bricks through the construction into the 90s when they switched to a more conventional brick because it was cheaper.

Inside of Kelly Hall, the rooms were uniform unless you were lucky enough to live in one of the end units. These had the best view of the city of Philadelphia from their perch in West Philadelphia.  Behind the room doors were nearly indestructible furnishings made of metal and thick wood with veneer.  These places were built to last.

Each door in the building were solid wood.  I had to assume that these were made to last in an environment of 18 year old plus men and women doing what they would which included water balloons, bowling and football games in the hallways. 

Most of these doors had little nails or hooks in them so the students could tack notes to them so you knew what the inhabitants within had on mind. 

That was where Jim came in.  You see this particular door was directly across the hall from Jim and he got to hear all of Mark’s partying, listen to his music and experience when Mark was doing things that you would not be able to do in public.  Mark was, you see a partier. 

To call Mark a partier, is probably one of the better understatements that I could make.  More like Mark was an epic partier, he raised it to an art form.  Seeing that the Residential Assistant of that day was a partier, the bookish Jim was out of luck.   Jim would disappear to the library or my room on another floor or the lobby of the building so he didn’t have to be assaulted with more Album Oriented Rock at small hours of the night.

Jim was a thin person, is to this day.  I doubt he ever packed more than 140 pounds onto his 6 foot tall or more frame.  Not the type that would be doing contact sports or having your back in a fight.  Nice guy but not good at that sort of thing. 

The strongest thing Jim would do was to drink cola, lots of it, and eat pretzel rings.   If you ever had the munchies for Bachman’s Pretzel Rings, no matter what time of the day, you could ask him and he would cheerfully say “That’s what they’re there for” and hand you the bag.

One day Mark came back to the room in the middle of the night after partying with the frats, and crashed out on his bed behind that solid door with his Led Zeppelin screaming through the night and Jim had had enough.

Yes, Jim walked out into the hall and put a single round brown pretzel ring on that nail.

With Salt.

And went back into his room and went to sleep.

The next day we walked down the hill down 33rd Street in West Philly to class and he told me about it like it was a big deal. 

I suppose to such a “Nice Guy” like Jim, this little act of defiance was a big deal.  Telling the story, I had to laugh and said “It would be such a TERRIBLE shame if it happened again!”.

You know where this is going don’t you… Jim continued to do this day after day for the rest of that term and into the next.

Mark would come home, drunk, probably on other drugs as well, high as a kite and collapse on that cot of a bed and sleep through his classes.  His grades suffered predictably.

Just as predictably, Mark had a fresh pretzel on his door.

We got wind that he was failing out of Drexel.  It was for the best, the partiers never do all that well.

The final straw was when he did his partying a bit too hearty on finals week and slept through not one, but two exams. 

The screaming that came down the hall and up the stair tower was epic.  Mark was cursing out a blue streak.  He said that he didn’t know if he would ever make it through another term of academic probation and was livid.  This was the proverbial Hitting Bottom scene we all have heard of.

It was at that point when he turned back to the door and there, sitting on the nail was a round pretzel.

He literally went ballistic.  It was as if every bit of rage he had came out at the one same second.  He was angry at the world, angry at the school, angry at the music that was skipping on the turntable.  That little ring of pretzel became the symbol for everything that was wrong in his life.

He opened the door, leaving the pretzel there, stepped inside and closed the door.   At that point the music fell silent.

The next day he was telling the story to me and Jim and the rest there and saying that he was going to kill the person who kept putting the pretzels on his door.  But there was something missing in his voice.  It was at that time Jim said “You know Mark, it was me”.  Gentle Jim was the person who did the deed as a long running joke, owned up to it.

Mark looked crushed.  He said “If it were anyone else I’d strangle them, but Jim, you?”

It was that point Mark changed.  He begun to laugh, loudly and longly at all of us assembled.  Said thank you for the joke and went back inside.

The term ended, and the partying wasn’t quite so hearty.  Animal Dorm wasn’t the same.  Jim moved to another room then back to his family later in Medford NJ for the rest of his schooling.  I went to what was then called the New Dorms across the walkway.

Mark was never the same.  The Power of the Pretzel seemed to help him along.  He eventually graduated from Drexel University.  He wasn’t at the top of the class but he did get a degree. 

The meek may never inherit the Earth, but sometimes they will hand you that last Pretzel you need to get along in life.  I may have moved away, but I will never forget the grace that Jim had when handling difficult situations.  I can hope that those who know him still appreciate that as I do.

A Single Ponderosa Flower is Pollinated

I can stand snakes.
I can stand spiders.
I can stand most creepy crawlies.

I can not stand bees.

They make me run and scream like a little girl.  I have always been afraid of the little blighters.  So while for you this picture may not be a big deal, it took a lot of mental preparation for me to get it.

What you have is one small blossom being pollinated in the back yard.  We have a Ponderosa Lemon in a prison, er pot.  It seems to like it there just like the nearby Meyer Lemon does.  There are dozens of flowers on the plant, petals about as long as your thumbnail.  Not a whole lot of scent to them, the Meyers are magnificent in bloom and our Meyer is in bud again.

But to get the lemons you have to have bees.

(I’ll shudder here and save you the effort.)

The Meyer Lemon we have has given fruit, and it was wonderful, but they are seedy lemons.  I saved off quite a few of these lemon seeds and planted one pot with them.  I now have seven seedlings and if any get past the baby plant stage, I’ll be passing them out.  For now, the seedlings are too small to count on and probably are getting overwatered so I don’t expect much…

But we’re still here making the bees happy.  They’re not my Monarchs, but they’ll do.   Once the blossoms are done, I’ll be safe again in the back yard.

Anyone have a can of bug spray?

Subject: Christmas dinner gone wild! – Humor

Lately people who have liked my posting jokes, have been sending me jokes that they get in email.  They hope that I will like it and share it with the 100 or so folks who read my blog in the course of a day.  Well, this one is from Kevin, my partner in crime. 

Since there aren’t any bad words but some great imagery, I couldn’t resist. The funny thing is that I know someone who tried this to get onto the carpool lanes.  It didn’t work forever.  I guess the Vinyl seam down the side of the neck didn’t look right to the Trooper that pulled him over.

Subject: Christmas dinner gone wild!

As a joke, my brother Jay used to hang a pair of panty hose over his fireplace before Christmas. He said all he wanted was for Santa to fill them.

What they say about Santa checking the list twice must be true because every Christmas morning, although Jay’s kids’ stockings overflowed, his poor pantyhose hung sadly empty.

One year I decided to make his dream come true. I put on sunglasses and went in search of an inflatable love doll. They don’t sell those things at Wal-Mart. I had to go to an adult bookstore downtown.

If you’ve never been in an X-rated store, don’t go, you’ll only confuse yourself. I was there an hour saying things like, ‘What does this do?’ ‘You’re kidding me!’ ‘Who would buy that?’ Finally, I made it to the inflatable doll section.

I wanted to buy a standard, uncomplicated doll that could also substitute as a passenger in my truck so I could use the car pool lane during rush hour.

Finding what I wanted was difficult. ‘Love Dolls’ come in many different models. The top of the line, according to the side of the box, could do things I’d only seen in a book on animal husbandry. I settled for ‘Lovable Louise.’ She was at the bottom of the price scale. To call Louise a ‘doll’ took a huge leap of imagination.

On Christmas Eve and with the help of an old bicycle pump, Louise came to life.

My sister-in-law was in on the plan and let me in during the wee morning hours. Long after Santa had come and gone, I filled the dangling pantyhose with Louise’s pliant legs and bottom. I also ate some cookies and drank what remained of a glass of milk on a nearby tray. I went home, and giggled for a couple of hours.

The next morning my brother called to say that Santa had been to his house and left a present that had made him VERY happy, but had left the dog confused. She would bark, start to walk away, then come back and bark some more.

We all agreed that Louise should remain in her pantyhose so the rest of the family could admire her when they came over for the traditional Christmas dinner.

My grandmother noticed Louise the moment she walked in the door. ‘What the hell is that?’ she asked.

My brother quickly explained, ‘It’s a doll.’

‘Who would play with something like that?’ Granny snapped.

I kept my mouth shut.

‘Where are her clothes?’ Granny continued.

‘Boy, that turkey sure smells nice, Gran,’ Jay said, to steer her into the dining room.

But Granny was relentless. ‘Why doesn’t she have any teeth?’

Again, I could have answered, but why would I? It was Christmas and no one wanted to ride in the back of the ambulance saying, ‘Hang on Granny, hang on!’

My grandfather, a delightful old man with poor eyesight, sidled up to me and said, ‘Hey, who’s the naked gal by the fireplace?’ I told him she was Jay’s friend.

A few minutes later I noticed Grandpa by the mantel, talking to Louise. Not just talking, but actually flirting. It was then that we realized this might be Grandpa’s last Christmas at home.

The dinner went well. We made the usual small talk about who had died, who was dying, and who should be killed, when suddenly Louise made a noise like my father in the bathroom in the morning. Then she lurched from the mantel, flew around the room twice, and fell in a heap in front of the sofa. The cat screamed. I passed cranberry sauce through my nose, and Grandpa ran across the room, fell to his knees, and began administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

My brother fell back over his chair and wet his pants.

Granny threw down her napkin, stomped out of the room, and sat in the car.

It was indeed a Christmas to treasure and remember. Later in my brother’s garage, we conducted a thorough examination to decide the cause of Louise’s collapse. We discovered that Louise had suffered from a hot ember to the back of her right thigh.

Fortunately, thanks to a wonder drug called duct tape, we restored her to perfect health..

I can’t wait until next Christmas…