Thursday, April 28, 2011

Family Dessert Night

So, on Easter I invited a lot of my extended family over for dessert. It seemed like a good idea. I still maintain that it was a good idea. But, oh, the temporary insanity it caused. Oh, my.

For the following story to be as funny to you as it was to me, I must make several things clear from the outset. First of all, I have a very large extended family. I knew people in high school who complained about how much they disliked attending family reunions because "I have like 10 cousins and I don't know any of them." I marvelled at such statements, partly because I love family reunions, but mostly because I know and love most of my approximately 100 first cousins (about 50 on each side of my family). Not very many of them live here in Utah, but since we are all getting older and having our own children, family gatherings can get pretty large very quickly. I knew that I would be feeding about 30 people - give or take a few. The second thing that made my adventure so adventurous is that I don't go shopping on Sundays unless someone becomes suddenly ill and needs medicine. I just don't. It is part of my personal committment to keep the Sabbath Day holy. The final crazy-maker may sound like a nonsensical thing, but it is almost the crux of the whole story: I went on vacation to Washington for spring break and spent a week at my mother's house. We returned from this trip just one week before our story opens . . .

So, on Easter Sunday I invited a lot of my extended family over for dessert. I told everyone that I would be making strawberry pizza (mmmmmm) and something else. Most people volunteered to bring something to share as well, but I was going to be the main dessert maker. This was not going to be a big deal. I like baking and making desserts, and I always have all sorts of dessert-type ingredients on hand. I am one of the few people I know who generally has 5 or 6 boxes of cream cheese in the fridge just in case I get an uncontrollable urge to make cheesecake or something equally as yummy. To make a 13 x 18 pan of Strawberry Pizza, for example, I knew that I would need 3 boxes of cream cheese - one for the crust and 2 for the sweet cream cheese layer betweeen the crust and the berries. This was not a big deal. I knew that I had purchased 3 boxes of cream cheese on a recent shopping trip, had used a couple and had then gone back and purchased 3 more. I was set. In fact I knew that I had enough cream cheese in my fridge to make a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting as well, so that became our "other dessert."

Well, I got my children working on the parts of the desserts that they were capable of helping me with. Three of them began cutting up strawberries and the oldest began putting together the carrot cake. (It's a wonderful carrot cake. My father's sister (who doesn't eat gluten free) says it is the best carrot cake she has ever had.) I helped my 12 year old grind up the carrots, then let her go to town mixing together the rest of the ingredients. Meanwhile, I went to the fridge to pull out the cream cheese.

This is where our troubles began. You remember how I told you that I knew I had purchased lots of cream cheese? You also remember how I told you that I had been visiting my mother in Washington state? Yeah. All the cream cheese that I distinctly remembered purchasing was (and still is, for all I know) in my mother's refrigerator. I had 2 boxes of cream cheese in the fridge, but this was not enough to make the strawberry pizza, let alone the frosting for a 13 x 18 carrot cake. Aaaaand this was Sunday (when I don't go shopping), and Easter (when most of my baking neighbors were gone visiting their own families). *Sigh*

So I got on the phone and managed to find one friend who had one package of cream cheese that I could borrow. (If she had wanted, I would now be obligated to give her my next born child. Fortunately she has several of her own and is uninterested in obtaining more at this time.) Now I had 3 packages of cream cheese . . . but I needed 5. So I decided to improvise. If I just frosted the cake very lightly, I could get away with only using one package of cream cheese in the frosting, so then I would only need 4 boxes total. I decided that I would try to make the crust for the pizza just using butter (omitting the cream cheese). Okay. We would be fine. Except that I got the proportions wrong somehow, and the crust (containing a full pound of butter) turned into a bubbling mess that was nothing like a crust. *Sigh*

Okay. I'd have to make another crust and just do a really thin cream cheese layer. First though (as it was getting rather late) I'd have to make the glaze for the strawberries. This was when I discovered that I had less than one cup of sugar left in the house. Don't ask me how this happened, because I really don't know. I buy sugar 25 lbs. at a time. I keep extra bags in my basement. Just one day earlier I had asked Troy to double check on the amount of sugar we had left. And I was still out of sugar. With 30 people coming over for dessert. *Sigh*

Do you know how hard it is to make a dessert when you have no sugar?!? I did a frantic mental search of my recipes, trying to come up with something sweet that didn't require sugar or too much cream cheese. The only thing I could come up with was Cocoa Pebbles treats. That was okay, though. I like Cocoa Pebbles treats, and I had recently purchased 2 boxes of Pebbles, too. So I got started on them (using my gigantic Campfire marshmallows because I didn't have any smaller ones), only to find (when I sent children downstairs to fetch the cereal) that my Cocoa Pebbles were chillin' with my cream cheese. At my mother's house. In Washington. *Sigh*

So I added some peanut butter to my melted marshmallow goop, hoping to make something similar to Chocolate Scotcharoos. FYI: That doesn't work very well. *Sigh*

So I made the frosting for the carrot cake (which turned out beautifully), and frosted the cake. Then, with about 15 minutes left before everyone was supposed to be showing up, I remembered that my microwave caramel corn recipe only needs brown sugar, which I had in abundance. Okay. Here we go! Microwave caramel corn! Yeah. Scorched it. Not irreparably, but STILL! Like the first 18 disasters weren't enough! *Sigh*

So I took the remaining cream cheese and combined it with some marshmallow creme that I had sitting in the pantry (past its "Best By" date, but still as fluffy and fresh as that stuff ever is) and made fruit dip for the 2 lbs. of sliced strawberries that were sitting on the table. And then my daughter asked if the microwave popcorn were done and I said "Yes, get it out," and she got it out, and the heavy glass carousel tray came out, too, and fortunately missed her foot on its way to shattering. *Sigh*

And just about then my family arrived, and a good time was had by all, probably due to the fabulousness of the carrot cake. The end.

So here's the recipe for the carrot cake. Enjoy!

Carrot Cake

2 c. EGF all-purpose flour mix
3/4 tsp. xanthan gum
2 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
3 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
3 c. finely shredded carrots*
1 c. vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 recipe cream cheese frosting

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9x13 pan.

Combine dry ingredients. Add carrots, oil, and eggs. Beat on low until well combined. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake 35-40 minutes, until the edges of the cake start to pull away from the pan and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool.

Frost with cream cheese frosting.

*You'll need 5 or 6 large carrots. Peel them first. Then either shred them finely or chop them to tiny bits in a food processor. I always use the food processor, as I am always in a hurry.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Banana Muffins

Did you miss me last week? I am currently recovering from the aftereffects of a Spring Break jaunt to Washington State. It was a lovely trip, but bookended by 12 hour drives with 5 young girls (which inevitably means a bajillion potty breaks). There are still a couple of unpacked suitcases scattered around the house because the older girls are supposed to unpack their own clothes and I haven't yet begun to breathe down their necks about it. Tonight, my pretties! The end of suitcase procrastination is nigh!

Speaking of procrastination . . . I didn't post a recipe during Spring Break (which I feel was practically justifiable), and here it is Wednesday and I still haven't posted one for this week either. I feel (almost) guilty, and will repair the omission at once. This recipe was modified by my brother-in-law, then my mother-in-law, then myself. (I love hand-me-down recipes!) They are my absolute favorite banana muffins, and (thanks to Spring Break) I have some overripe bananas sitting on the counter just waiting to be muffinized. (Also some not-quite-bad milk that needs to be used in frozen waffles.) Baking time today!

Banana Muffins

1 c. butter
2 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 c. mashed bananas
2 tsp. baking soda
3 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. salt
4 c. EGF All-Purpose Flour Mix
2 tsp. xanthan gum

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease (or line with paper liners) 2 muffin pans.

Cream butter and sugar; add eggs and blend well. Mix in mashed bananas.

In another bowl combine the dry ingredients, then add them to the banana mixture. Mix until well blended.

Fill muffin cups ½ - ⅔ full. Bake for 25 -30 minutes.*

*Mini-muffins will only need to bake for about 15 minutes.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Chocolate Scotcharoos

When I was in the second grade (Mrs. Hanratty's class, and she was the best teacher ever!), we made a class cookbook. One of the boys (I think his name was Jimmy) submitted a recipe called "Chocolate Scotcharoos." I never tried it because 1.) it was submitted by a boy (ewwww), and 2.) I didn't think it sounded very good. It wasn't until I had been married for several years that I learned my mistake.

I'm not positive where or when I acquired this recipe. It's on an 8.5 by 1.5" piece of paper. It's folded and oil/water/mystery ingredient spattered, and has been written on with blue ball point. It has been well used, 'cause it's delicious. I made some about a week ago, and my sister (as she reached for more) said: "This was a bad idea." My 6th grader took one to school in her lunch and shared it with her friends. Now I have been requested to supply 8 or 9 copies of the recipe! I've had people tell me: "I've been looking for this recipe for years!" And if you weren't looking for this recipe . . . well, maybe you should have been!

Chocolate Scotcharoos

1 c. sugar
1 c. light corn syrup
1 c. peanut butter
8 c. corn or rice chex
1 c. milk chocolate chips
1 c. butterscotch chips*

Combine sugar and corn syrup in a medium saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Let it boil for about 20 seconds, then remove it from the heat. Stir in the peanut butter.

Place the cereal in a large bowl. Pour the peanut butter syrup mixture over the cereal and stir well. Press lightly onto a buttered (or parchment paper lined) pan. (I generally spread mine in a 13x18" cookie sheet.)

Combine chocolate and butterscotch chips in a microwaveable bowl. Heat the chips in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring gently after each time, just until melted. (This usually takes about 1.5 minutes.) Spread chocolate mixture over the cereal. Cool until chocolate is set. Cut into bars and serve.

*Hershey's are currently gluten free. Nestle's, however, contain barley, so don't use them!