Friday, December 19, 2014

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

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If you have a holiday party that you want to "WOW" everyone at, I suggest this tasty dessert from America's Test Kitchen (I've never been disappointed with one of their recipes).  Warning, while the dessert is not super challenging, it does take all morning to get it prepped and then it will need to refrigerate the rest of the day (or overnight).



Bottom Layer
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter , cut into 6 pieces, plus extra for greasing pan
  • 7 ounces bittersweet chocolate , chopped fine
  • 3/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder (I didn't use this)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs , separated
  • Pinch table salt
  • 1/3 cup packed (about 2 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar , crumbled with fingers to remove lumps 

  • Middle Layer

  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder , preferably Dutch-processed
  • 5 tablespoons hot water
  • 7 ounces bittersweet chocolate , chopped fine
  • 1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon table salt

  • Top Layer

  • 3/4 teaspoon powdered gelatin
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 6 ounces white chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
  • Shaved chocolate or cocoa powder for serving, optional

  • Directions

    1. FOR THE BOTTOM LAYER: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter bottom and sides of 9 1/2-inch springform pan. Melt butter, chocolate, and espresso powder in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and cool mixture slightly, about 5 minutes. Whisk in vanilla and egg yolks; set aside.

    2. In stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg whites and salt at medium speed until frothy, about 30 seconds. Add half of brown sugar and beat until combined, about 15 seconds. Add remaining brown sugar and beat at high speed until soft peaks form when whisk is lifted, about 1 minute longer, scraping down sides halfway through. Using whisk, fold one-third of beaten egg whites into chocolate mixture to lighten. Using rubber spatula, fold in remaining egg whites until no white streaks remain. Carefully transfer batter to prepared springform pan, gently smoothing top with offset spatula

    3. Bake until cake has risen, is firm around edges, and center has just set but is still soft (center of cake will spring back after pressing gently with finger), 13 to 18 minutes. Transfer cake to wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour. (Cake will collapse as it cools.) Do not remove cake from pan.


    4. FOR THE MIDDLE LAYER: Combine cocoa powder and hot water in small bowl; set aside. Melt chocolate in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and cool slightly, 2 to 5 minutes.

    5. In clean bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip cream, granulated sugar, and salt at medium speed until mixture begins to thicken, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when whisk is lifted, 15 to 60 seconds.
    6. Whisk cocoa powder mixture into melted chocolate until smooth. Using whisk, fold one-third of whipped cream into chocolate mixture to lighten. Using rubber spatula, fold in remaining whipped cream until no white streaks remain. Spoon mousse into springform pan over cooled cake and gently tap pan on counter 3 times to remove any large air bubbles; gently smooth top with offset spatula. Wipe inside edge of pan with damp cloth to remove any drips. Refrigerate cake at least 15 minutes while preparing top layer.
    7. FOR THE TOP LAYER: In small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over water; let stand at least 5 minutes. Place white chocolate in medium bowl. Bring 1/2 cup cream to simmer in small saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove from heat; add gelatin mixture and stir until fully dissolved. Pour cream mixture over white chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth, about 30 seconds. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, 5 to 8 minutes (mixture will thicken slightly).
    8. In clean bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip remaining cup cream at medium speed until it begins to thicken, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when whisk is lifted, 15 to 60 seconds. Using whisk, fold one-third of whipped cream into white chocolate mixture to lighten. Using rubber spatula, fold remaining whipped cream into white chocolate mixture until no white streaks remain. Spoon white chocolate mousse into pan over middle layer. Smooth top with offset spatula. Return cake to refrigerator and chill until set, at least 2 1/2 hours.


    9. TO SERVE: If using, garnish top of cake with chocolate curls or dust with cocoa. Run thin knife between cake and side of springform pan; remove side of pan. Run cleaned knife along outside of cake to smooth sides. Cut into slices and serve.

    Tuesday, November 25, 2014

    Christmas Water Bottle Labels

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    I enjoy singing, especially with a choir and especially at Christmastime.  I like to give a little something to the ladies I sing with, but none of us really NEED anything, and even small items can get expensive when you buy 50 of them.  So, this year I thought why not a bottle of water?  We're singers, so we are always needing a swig of water during rehearsal.  I made some cute labels, bought a flat of water from Costco and included a note that I made and printed on the computer to go along with the water.  I've seen the labels go around other containers too (salsa, candy etc...) might make for a nice neighbor or teacher gift.  They are sized to print on a regular 8.5 x 11 piece of paper.  Just print, cut the strips and tape them around the bottle.

    You can download the labels on my site, just look for the files called "bottle" in the list.

    Wednesday, November 12, 2014

    Cleaning Out

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    Do you ever walk into a room in your house and just wonder "where did all this stuff come from?"  I do.  I know I'm supposed to get rid of something in my closet if I bring something new home, but I don't (or I plan to and forget).  So I've got way more stuff than I need and I'm not waiting until the New Year or Spring to get started on getting rid of it.  I saw several other blog posts on keeping your de-cluttering process small and manageable.  I'm not even planning at organizing stuff--just getting rid of stuff.  I suspect the organization will happen pretty much by itself when I don't have items towering or falling out of the closet. 

    So, I sat down and made a list of places in my house that could probably use a de-junking.  The list is LONG.  But that is ok.  I'm not going to make myself do a space every day, but I did make the spaces small enough that I can do one in a reasonable amount of time.

    Supplies I'll need:
    Lots of old grocery bags or trash bags
    Camera/paper pencil to document items I'm donating for tax purposes

    Anybody else want to try it?

    Saturday, September 20, 2014

    No Slip Running Headband

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    I have a few weaknesses-that it doesn't seem to matter if I need any more or not (and believe me, I don't NEED any more stuff) lip gloss, black yoga pants, boots and cute exercise accessories.  I suppose I figure that if I can't be the fastest or the most coordinated person out there, at least I can look cute while I'm at it.

    I was volunteering at a race expo before a marathon last week (I didn't run this one, but maybe next year)--so I wandered around the booths to see what was out there and there was a booth full of headbands.  They were cute, but I knew I had most of the supplies at home, so I decided to try making my own.

    16 inches of pattern ribbon (1" width)
    16 inches of velvet ribbon (1" width)
    7-8 inches of braided elastic

    (FYI, velvet ribbon is expensive, so use your Hobby Lobby or Joanne's coupon)

    1.  Cut each of your ribbons and place them together, wrong sides together.
    2.  Fold the ends of the ribbons under and place under the presser foot of the sewing machine.  This is the trickiest part.
    3. Sew along the edge of the ribbon as close to the edge as possible (I adjusted the needle on my machine to the far right).

    4. When you get about 2 inches from the end, fold those edges under like you did at the other end and sew to the edge.  Do the same thing on the other long side.

    5. Slide the elastic into one end of the headband about 1/2" and sew across 3-4 times to secure.  Repeat on the other end (make sure that the elastic is not twisted).

    You might want to use another headband or measure your head before you start to make any changes to the length.

    Now I'm ready for running...and for an upcoming trip!  

    Saturday, August 16, 2014

    Garlic Shrimp with Lime Cilantro Butter Sauce

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    My mom made us this dinner and it was a perfect summer meal.  So quick and tasty.  I've made it several times since.  The recipe was modified from this recipe.  Since mom has a great crop of cilantro growing in the backyard, it made sense to use it (plus, we love the stuff).

    You need about 10 minutes from start to finish if you use some ready made ingredients like the peeled shrimp from Costco and the jar of minced garlic.

    Ingredients (serves 4)

    1 pound raw shrimp (shelled and tails off)
    1 teaspoon of minced garlic (about 2-3 cloves)
    1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 cup real butter
    3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
    1/4 cup chopped cilantro

    8 oz spaghetti noodles

    Boil the water and get the pasta cooking.  Once the pasta is boiling away, heat up a large saute pan. Add the butter, garlic, cayenne, salt and shrimp.  Cook on medium heat until shrimp turn pink (about 2 minutes per side).  Remove pan from heat and just before serving, add the fresh lime juice and cilantro and stir. Drain the noodles and add them to the butter and shrimp and toss.  Serve with some tasty bread and possibly a caprese salad.

    Monday, July 28, 2014

    Apricot Habanero Jam

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    Saturday I was headed to the Big Orange Box store for the 3rd time for a yard project when I drove past a house at the end of the street with a sign that said "Free apricots" with a ladder all ready to go in the yard-sweet!  I stopped by and knocked on the door and the gentleman who lived there was happy to have the fruit go to a good home.   It was great to chat with him while I picked about 2 grocery bags of apricots.

    I knew I was going to make some jam, but I wanted something more interesting than usual.  Some searching around the internet and I saw that adding in peppers was popular.  That sounded great.  I've done jalapeno jelly before and it was tasty.  I pulled out my Ball Canning book (the blue one) and saw that the recipe for regular apricot jam didn't call for pectin. Hmmm, I haven't done that before, so I hedged my bets and used 1 package of liquid pectin during the last 1 minute of cooking. Just in case.

    8 cups apricot puree (about 12 cups of whole fruit...maybe 5 pounds?)
    6 cups sugar
    3 habanero peppers
    1 teaspoon butter
    1 pouch liquid pectin (optional...the recipe didn't call for it)

    I washed the apricots in the sink and then used my fingers to split them in 1/2 and pull out the pits.  I then pureed (chunky) the fruit in my food processor.

    I removed the seeds from the peppers and tossed them in the processor along with about 1 cup of the fruit puree.

    Mix the fruit and sugar in  a large pot (I used my 8 quart dutch oven) and bring to a boil on medium heat.  Stir occasionally and cook until reduced about half (took about 25 minutes for me).  The color goes from the light, bright color to a dark caramel-ly color.  I also used a  thermometer to check when it got to about 220 degrees.  For the last minute of cooking, I added 1 pouch of liquid pectin and boiled for one minute, then filled my sterilized jars (makes about 5 pints) and processed in a water bath for 15 minutes.

    Tastes great.  It does have a kick, but the cooking tones it down from when I tasted the raw puree.  Serve with cream cheese on crackers or as a side for pork or chicken.  Could be a tasty replacement for cranberry sauce on a sandwich. My mom suggested it as a dipping sauce for fried cream cheese wontons.  Hmmm, a trip to the store for won ton wrappers may be in order tonight.

    Sunday, July 27, 2014

    Harry Potter Day of Fun

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    Each summer I do a day of fun with my brothers' kids.  I used to take the kids somewhere fun/educational--but as the number of kids has grown-I've simplified.  The kids don't care about fancy or expensive stuff, so I don't stress myself over minutia. For one brother's kids, it was a day of games,  for another brother, it was a trip to the park with his kids.

     After lunch out and a stop at the grocery store we headed home for games, movie and snacks.  This year's theme was Harry Potter.  Our games included Pin the Scar on Harry Potter, Bingo and a Table Quidditch.  I also have Scene It Harry Potter and we made a "Who Am I?" game where the kids drew a name out of a hat and had to describe/impersonate the character (Kinda a mix of charades/20 questions).

    For Pin the Scar on Harry Potter I did a search for a simple Harry Potter outline (less ink for my computer).  I saved the image and inserted it into an Excel document.  I stretched the image to make it 2 pages across and 2 pages long.  When you print, it will print out on 4 pieces of paper, which you'll need to trim and tape together.  I found my image here

    For the lightning bolt scar, I used a sheet of return address labels.  Click the image to download the PDF if you want to use them (you could probably just draw some on masking tape or other stickers).  Look for the Harry Potter files after you click.

    Table Quidditch was fun.  I made the ring stands with dowels, plastic tubing and duct tape.  If you poke around Google images you'll see much fancier versions (I rummaged through my garden shed and found all the stuff, you could also use a hanger, or pipe cleaners).  Click the image below to download the PDF of the rules/instructions (look for the Harry Potter files). Note:  I made the instructions before we played--with kids, it was better to play only to 50 points.  We also taped the cups to the table.  We played as teams (one match we were Slytherin vs. Griffindor).

    For the movie, I picked up snacks and made some really simple labels.  Magic Wands (licorice), Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, Gummy Frogs and Potter Popcorn.  We enjoyed the first Harry Potter movie together.  You can use the labels I made here.  For the soda, I used the cute 2 liter bottle labels that I found here (loved the site, but her food labels didn't line up with what I wanted to serve).

    We had a great time together.  During the movie we all had our magic wands out and did all the spells along with Harry et al :)

    Saturday, June 7, 2014

    Taste of Mexico

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    I like Mexican food.  I like easy dinners.  So when BzzAgent sent me some new products to try that combined both of those things I was game.  Smith's Marketplace is having a Taste of Mexico festival for the month of June.  I decided to give the ready-made Barbacoa a try.

    The meat is already cooked, all I had to do was microwave it for about 3 minutes, then open and shred it with a couple of forks.  The meat was not spicy-hot, but had lots of flavor and was moist. I added my own tortillas, cilantro and lime juice and served up corn on the cob on the side. 

    Speaking of lime juice, I used this nifty Everyday Living citrus squeezer.  Cut the lime in half and put it in and squeeze out all the limey goodness.  Easy!  The squeezer would work with lemons or maybe even some small oranges.

    Dinner prep took me less than 10 minutes from the time I opened the package until it was on the table.  Not bad for a weeknight dinner.  It made 6 servings, which I'd say is enough for two adults and two small kids or two hungry adults (I ate two and that was about right for me).

    There are pork and chicken varieties too that are already cooked and look for the pre-seasoned fajita meat that you cook yourself. 

    *I received Kroger products to try at no cost from BzzAgent, but was not paid for my review.  My opinions are all my own.

    Thursday, May 22, 2014

    Fish Tacos with mango salsa and cilantro dressing

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    I love the Hispanic grocery store near my house!  It always has great deals on produce to make tasty dishes, such as last night's tacos.  I forgot to take any pretty pictures of along the way, so you get a picture of my lunchtime leftovers (which were the envy of the breakroom).

    Fish tacos are like regular tacos, you put whatever YOU want on them--but I think last night's combo was a winner. Makes enough salsa/dressing for about 8-9 tacos.


    Fish, any type you like, cooked the way you like it (tilapia, halibut, broiled, deep fried...whatever)
    Tortillas (I used flour)
    Shredded cabbage
    Lime wedges
    Mango salsa
    Cilantro dressing

    Mango Salsa
    1 ripe mango, diced (about 1 c.)
    1/4 of a red onion, diced finely (about 1/4 c.)
    1/2 jalapeno without the seeds, diced finely
    juice of 1 lime
    Cilantro, chopped (I probably had about 1/4 c.)

    Mix it all together--add more or less of any of the ingredients that you like.

    Cilantro Dressing (kinda like Cafe Rio)
    Warning...I just added stuff as I went and eyeballed everything, next batch may vary a bit, but it was TASTY

    1/4 c. mayonnaise
    1/4 c. sour cream
    1/3 bunch of cilantro, washed...stems and all
    1 T. of diced red onion
    1/2 jalapeno without the seeds
    2-3 Tbs. milk
    1 tsp. ranch dressing mix (powdered)
    juice of 1 lime
    dash of cumin
    dash of garlic powder

    Puree everything until smooth (my Magic Bullet is great for this).  I added milk until the dressing was the consistency I wanted.  I used less ranch mix to begin with and added a bit more as I went (I didn't want it too "ranchy").  For the "dash" I just did a small shake from the spice jar...again, less at first, more later if you want more. 

    Now to the good part...

    Assemble your tacos with fish, shredded cabbage, cilantro, salsa and dressing.  Squeeze some fresh lime on it.  Keep eating until it is GONE (which won't take too long).

    Saturday, May 3, 2014

    Star Wars: May the 4th Printable

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    Just a quick one today...I've been out doing yard work today with many of my awesome neighbors who came to help.  Tomorrow is May the 4th, and in case you didn't know, that is Star Wars day (you know, May the Fourth be with you...)  Anyway, I found some great images here, and I added a quick greeting and I'm done.  I think I'll put them with some cookies and take them to some of those awesome neighbors.

    Look for the file called May the 4th and download it here:

    Tuesday, April 29, 2014

    Running Inspiration Printables

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    I've taken on a big challenge...running a full marathon.  That is 26.2 miles.  A very long way.  A few years ago I started running when I participated in a 5K benefit run, Fill the Ark.  I had very few excuses since that race set up its finish line pretty much at the end of my driveway.  After completing a couple 5Ks I started to think I could do a 10K.  I signed up, I trained and I worked...and then I got hurt.  I did nothing more than lean over to pick something up, and I was injured and in physical therapy for 6 months.  It was so frustrating.  About a year later, I decided it was time to try again--and I did it with the help of a kind friend who agreed to run super slow on my behalf and coached me along.

    Many folks told me that running gets addictive, and it does...sort of.  I still don't love it.  I don't look forward to it, but I have learned a lot about myself and the power of setting goals.  I did my first 1/2 marathon last September in Disneyland.  I figured that if I was going to run 13.1 miles, I should do it somewhere I truly love.  It was quite the experience.  I trained and my body felt strong, but I was unprepared for the sheer size of this race...somewhere near 17,000 runners.  In my head I had planned to be back at the hotel resting within 3 hours of the start of the race.  Nope.  I didn't even cross the starting line until about an hour after the starting pistol went off.  Between the crowds, the heat (I thought I'd be done by the time the temperature became a factor) and a headache that just didn't want to let go, it took me MUCH longer than I had planned.  I was thrilled to finish, but felt discouraged that things didn't go well.

    I decided to try another 1/2 marathon--I picked one in St. George, in January, which would be smaller and cooler.  My good friend agreed to go with me.  I continued training (including the run that ripped my favorite running tights in my last post) and managed to cut almost 40 minutes off my finish time.  I felt great at the end of the race--no real down time--which got me thinking.  And thinking.  And some more thinking, that MAYBE I could do a full marathon.

    I spent another month really considering it...and I decided to sign up for a local race.  I've been training.  Saturdays are pretty much spent doing the long training runs.  This past weekend was my last long training run, 23 miles.  But I didn't make it.  At mile 15 my body was screaming at me and my back was tight and angry-and a migraine was threatening to get out of control.  I stopped.  I waited.  I waited some more.  And I knew I had to try.  I made it another 6.5 miles and I was done for the day.  So--now I have the taper...fewer miles, just maintaining my fitness and letting my body get ready for the real deal in a couple weeks. 

    I decided I needed a few more inspirational quotes to hang around my house, in my car, in my gym bag.  Anywhere and everywhere.  Everyone tells me that the marathon distance is a mental game. I was singing in choir on Sunday after my not-quite-23 mile run and we sang the words from Isaiah 40:31 "they shall run and not be weary and they shall walk and not faint"...seemed like that was a good place to start my inspirational quotes.  Wish me luck (and good weather!)

    If you'd like to print these quotes, click the link and look for the Run Inspiration file. Its sized to print on an 8.5x11 sheet of paper.  I'm even thinking of printing some on tattoo paper to put on my arm for race day.

    UPDATE:  I did it!  I finished the Ogden Marathon.  It was exactly as hard as I thought it would be.  Miles 22-26.2 were SO long and so hard.  I appreciated all the wonderful people who cheered on total strangers along the route and the great volunteers who offered up water and encouragement.