Saturday, August 27, 2011

Red Velvet Cake

Per Emily's request, here is the recipe I used for the cake

It is the weirdest frosting recipe I have ever seen, but I loved it.  Make sure you cook the flour and milk until it is very thick, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.  Also, don't let the finished frosting get too warm when you are working with it.  The butter will start to separate out and ruin the creamy texture.  I think I got mine into the fridge just in time to save it. It's a little finicky, but give it a try!

For the cake I added a tablespoon more cocoa and used a lot less food coloring.  It was more red than it looks in this picture.  Clearly a red velvet cake when you saw it in real life.  I wasn't going to buy a whole bottle of red food coloring just to use on this cake.  Besides, I don't know if my grocery store even sells anything but the .3 oz bottles that come in 4 packs.

I can't give an exact recipe for the cake balls.  I did it by sight and taste.  Crumble about 1/2 of the cake recipe (cooked and cooled).  Then add 4 oz of cream cheese and enough of the frosting to make them the right consistency (shapeable and moist, but not too gooey).   Roll into balls, freeze, dip in chocolate.

They were both well worth the work, but maybe only for special occasions given the mess it made!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Summer Recap or "The next weekend" Part 2

The next weekend we went “up north” for my baby shower.  My friend Sarah threw a wonderful party!  Cute decorations and great snacks.  I'm sad I didn't remember to take any pictures.  I felt so special with old friends bringing gifts to help me get ready for baby.  I loved seeing everyone!

Eric also put on a chocolate tasting party that weekend.  I miss the food nights we used to have.  I also miss having stores that sell more than Andes Mints and Cadbury bars in their chocolate section. Nothing fancy shmancy here, not even a Ritter Sport or Lindt.

The next week I went with Marty to an air show that his company was sponsoring a booth at. On the way there we stopped in Durango.  If you come to visit, chances are we will take you to Durango. It's a quaint Colorado town with a beautiful river and great restaurants.  Eating good food in Durango is always something of a highlight for me.  Not to mention grocery store that sell Ritter Sport and Lindt (not that I bought any...I just like the options available at large stores).

At the air show I helped sell snow cones, which as far as I'm concerned is not too bad a fate.  I have wanted a snow cone nearly every day since the weather got hot.  Marty complains when I get a snow cone, but he doesn't realize how often I've actually used self control. 

The next weekend Monticello had its pioneer day fair and parade.  I only bring it up because I thought the mini ponies with mini carriages were dang cute!  I'll blame my overreaction on pregnancy.

Miniature pony and cart at parade - I've seen dogs bigger than that!
The next week Marty performed in the San Juan pageant.  He played Ammon.  Unfortunately, he didn't get to chop off any robbers' arms on stage.  Though one night his captor almost fell off a cliff (this was outdoors on a real cliff).  Hopefully, it wasn't noticeable when Marty helped him catch his balance. 

The Guys Hiking to Hovenweep Ruins
Four of Marty's college friends came that weekend too.  It was really fun to have them.   Being 8 months pregnant by that point, I didn't go on any of the long hikes (long=more than 1 mile) or kayak the Colorado with them.  I did go to Arches with them and I realized just how pregnant I was.  That is to say, only slightly less pregnant than I am right now at 39 weeks.  
Hovenweep Ruins

The Guys After Kayaking
For the record's sake, in case I forget years from now, the friends that came were Mike H. (who had to leave early), Eric D., Dan C., and Jason H.

Taking a Break at Base of an Arch
The next weekend I spent Thursday and Friday on a business trip with Marty. I'm trying to remember what else we did.  I'm sure it was something fun.  But at this point (in pregnancy and towards the end of summer) fun could have been watching a movie under the ceiling fan. 

The next weekend Sloane, a friend here in Blanding, threw Marty and I a little baby celebration brunch.  She made quiche, blintzes, and cupcakes with Nutella frosting.  She's woman after my own heart.

The next weekend Marty and I had our 5th anniversary!  We decided to keep the celebration on a small scale so we can go to a nice restaurant next time we are someplace that the restaurants' specialties are not pulled pork and steak.  We did eat out, but just got sandwiches.

I was very proud of myself for what I did for Marty at home.  Previously I had declared that dishes are Marty's job until after the baby is born.  I think until our anniversary I had only done one load in three weeks.  As you can guess, that means there has been a bit of a pile up.  On Friday I washed every single dirty dish.  I did that after I had made Marty red velvet cake and red velvet cake balls, which were amazing.  No wonder I've gained so much weight with this baby.  But the point is I did dishes even after I made a mess on top of a mess.

Shh.  Don't tell Marty about my half finished project when he comes home for lunch 

Finished Products - Cake and Cake balls  

Notice how the cake is not decorated and not perfect?  That's because I put the time into making everything from scratch so it would be delicious, per my personal cake preferences.  I didn't have time to make decorators frosting or add embellishments.  And I'm ok with that.

That actually brings me up to this weekend.  What's in store for this weekend?  Marty kept saying we'd be have our baby the week before the due date, but there's no sign of that.  I'm still putting my money on an inducement September 6th.  Any other guesses on little Will's arrival date?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Summer Recap or "The next weekend" Part 1

This summer has been a continuous stream of friends visiting or weekend trips.  Is every summer that way and I just forgot? Or perhaps it only seems different because there is more driving involved now.
At the end of April we met up with Alisa and some of her friends in Moab to go hiking then out for dinner.   Beautiful arches and I love having more than 3 restaurants to choose from. 

Summer really started though, a month later when Alisa (my sister) and Eric Dowdle came to visit.  We got lots of site seeing in Blanding style… Natural Bridges, Valley of the Gods, Gooseneck Canyon, and a drive through Monument Valley.

Out Hiking
Gooseneck Canyon

Natural Bridges

And no… Alisa and Eric are not holding hands.

The next weekend (first weekend in June) we headed to CA for the Pulido family reunion.  Man, I love California.  We hit the San Diego Zoo, some amazing restaurants, Balboa Park, the appropriately named Extraordinary Desserts, and a walk on the beach. 

My question is how often does that lion hit somebody?
With the fam at the zoo (my presence is implied as someone has to take the picture).
Martin finds a like-minded friend.

Balboa Park

Dad Pulido contemplating life, the universe, and everything.


We will down play the fact that several thousand dollars worth of electronics and computers were stolen out of the car while we were in the zoo (the doors were locked), including Marty's snazzy Alienware laptop he got for Christmas. 
Happy-ish ending to that story though, insurance covered replacement costs for the stolen computers.  Marty is enjoying a high resolution game of Dragon Age 2 on a new laptop as we speak. Also, an amusing side note… Marty and I have a policy of keeping internet monitoring software on all our computers.  For several months we got occasional reports of the dirty sites the thief was looking at including the IP the report was sent from.  Too bad the San Diego police don't have as much time as the Blanding police or they might have been able to do something with those IPs.

The next weekend my good friend Kat, who is also expecting a boy (yay!), came to visit.  We had a really relaxed weekend and caught up on each other's lives. 

Kat and I on a nature walk

The next weekend   Leah was supposed to come with her kids, but pushed back her arrival until midweek so she could meet up with Mom.  I don't remember how long they stayed, a while though.  It was so much fun it will get its own post.

My family!  Part of it anyway. 

The next weekend was the fourth of July, which is a HUGE deal here in Blanding.  You can start it off at the mayor's breakfast if you want, complete with politically rousing, very conservative speech.  We opted for a friend's pancake breakfast instead and got the synopsis of the speech from friends during the parade.  
Crowds waiting for the parade.  The whole town plus some had to be out to get this many people.

Seth, Dustin, Sloane, and me staying cool in the shade.
Pedaled all the way to the park where this converted into a root beer float stand.

After the parade you can head to the park for carnival type food and sales booths.  There are all sorts of other things to go to if the heat hasn't wiped you out by then. I opted for the air conditioned quilt show and skipped the boxing, rodeo, and who knows what else.  With a BBQ and fireworks, we didn't make it to the annual melodrama until Tuesday.  Turns out the fourth of July actually is a huge deal.  Great time to visit and see small town atmosphere at it's best (hint)! 

I forgot to mention something I found amusing.  In preparation for the big weekend there was an insert sent out in everyone's utility bills reminding them of the laws governing ATV use during the parade and holiday festivities. Yes, it was needed. No, I don't think anyone actually heeded the reminder. 

To be continued...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Solution to Decorating Dilemma

As explained in the previous post, there is this dilemma that the cakes with the fanciest decorations are often not very tasty. A beautiful cake that tastes just ok defeats the purpose of a cake.  When I do decorate, I like pre-made decorations or things like strawberries and chocolate shavings.
As I was finishing that post, it popped into my head what I should learn so that my confections are equally delicious and eye catching--

Chocolate sculpting. That is the answer.  Instead of shaping petals out of plastic tasting sugar dough, I need to learn how to do it out of chocolate.  Truffle filled chocolate roses anyone?

In reality, it's not a solution.  I would never use it because it takes way too much time.  I like things that get a lot of bang for your buck.  Chocolate drizzled in diagonal lines instantly makes something fancy and difficult.  And it takes all of 2 minutes (this theory is solidly supported by the reactions to the cake I made for a cookout on Saturday).
It's possible that I'll give it a try sometime just for the heck of it.  That's the sort of thing I do when I get bored, try new crafts. Once I know how, I have the option of making it, even though I never do.

Easter Cake

Flowers Kari Brought Over for Easter from her Garden

Backing up a bit… Here is the Easter cake I made.  A poppy seed cake with fluffy lemon curd filling and whipped cream frosting – delicious.  If it doesn't sound good to you, it ought to.  Liz decorated the cake with flowers I made some time ago.  She did a lovely job.  Royal icing flowers are so convenient to have on hand.


WARNING: Rambling, pointless reflections begin now.

When I was learning to decorate cakes and for some time afterward I struggled with my “cake identity and preferences.”  You can spend hours making fondant decorations or frosting flowers and it is striking.  Fondant is particularly popular for its great looks.  People are always very impressed with intricately decorated cakes (I, of course, like to impress people), but fondant and decorator's frosting can taste downright bad.  When so much time and mess is put towards the appearance of the cake, the cake itself often ends up being a plain boxed mix due to time constraints.   It's a huge letdown to put so much effort into something (even if it is beautiful) and have it taste mediocre.
After experimentation and deep contemplation of my personal values I decided that taste always come first.  That means I often won't be using my sweet decorating skills.  After spending exorbitant amounts of time learning how to make gum paste lattices, lilies, etc… I had to come to terms with the fact that I won't be using that skill very often.
I suppose I can compare it to vests—the type that middle aged ladies make after learning how to do some adorable new kitty cat appliqué.  After learning a cool new skill that is so adorable they're just dying for a place to use it.  I know the feeling.  The enthusiasm makes us forget the purpose of what we're making.  Clothes are there to show off the person, not the person to show off the clothes (according to the book of Lindsay).  Don't get me wrong.  There is nothing necessarily wrong with kitty cat vests.  But be warned that you might look closer to 75 than 55 when wearing it.  Chances are it's not doing much for your figure either.  Parallel to that, the number one purpose of my cakes is to make mouths happy, not hold pretty, only technically edible, flowers.  Once I learned decorating with fondant, gum paste, royal icing, and butter cream, I had to decide that was really what I valued.  I needed to choose and remember the purpose of my cakes.

The Easter cake was a nice blend.  I made a wonderful cake and used the efficiency of pre-made flowers to decorate.  Best of both worlds and royal icing flowers have become my favorite decoration.

You can tell that I let my mind wander to very serious things when life is a little slow.  It's a nice contrast to Martin.  He writes papers that are published by academic journals based on what he contemplates during down time.  I think over cakes and flowers.  If one of us has to ponder things worth writing papers about, please let it be Martin. 

After months of non-activity, a new post.

It's been a while since I posted, a long while.  I suppose one reason is summer is a busier season (especially in Blanding, there is more to do).  In between vacations, exploring the area, visits from friends, and summer cookouts, it's been a good time.  I want to at least summarize those things because at the moment this blog is my only journal.  So I hope to get in a couple catch up posts on this summer's activities before the baby comes.   Speaking of journals, last time I was talking to my dad he asked if I was keeping a journal about my pregnancy experiences.  The answer is no.  So I might do a post with all my pregnancy gripes and the good luck that I've had over all.   He is right when he says that I will want to remember.  It may not be the most entertaining read, but it serves my purpose.  Maybe my mom will like hearing about it.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Blanding Oddity #11

True story.  Many people leave their cars unlocked.  Certain people leave their cars unlocked and the keys in the ignition.  Only some of these park in their garages.