Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Coffee cake

And I do mean coffee cake, as in there's coffee in both the cake and the glaze. This is an easy recipe for a great snack cake for a mid-afternoon pick up.

Coffee Cake

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup instant coffee dissolved in 2/3 cup water
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Coffee Glaze: Dissolve 3 tablespoons instant coffee in 3 tablespoons of milk. Add 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and stir until smooth.

In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar, and eggs with a mixer until fluffy. Mix together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda; add to butter mixture and beat until well blended. Add coffee and stir until well blended. Spread batter evenly in a greased 9x13 inch baking pan. Bake in a 350 degree oven until center springs back when lightly pressed, about 50 minutes (but check after 30 minutes). While hot, sprinkle 1/2 cup of chocolate chips on top of cake and spread the chocolate evenly when the chips have melted. Pour the glaze on top of melted chocolate. Glaze will harden if left to set for a couple of hours, which gives the cake a nice crunchy top. Glaze will soften if stored airtight, making the cake very moist, but this doesn't detract from the cake in anyway. Assuming you had any leftover cake to store.

Who says you can't drink your coffee and eat it, too?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dirt Therapy

Most people who know me understand that I'm a gardener. They might suspect I really enjoy gardening, but they probably don't fully understand how addicted I am to playing in the dirt.  There is something intensely therapeutic for me to dig a hole, baby a plant, and watch it flower and fruit.  It kills me to go on vacation during the middle of the summer because I might miss a the bloom on a particular plant, or I fret over whether my tomatoes will die from lack of water in my absence.  

Like many gardeners, I didn't plan to become a crazy plant person.    

While I was deep in the midst of my doctoral research (circa 2003), I came to the conclusion that either I find some form of stress relief or I was going to go stark raving mad. And it looked very likely that I would take people with me to this side of crazy during the process.  Seemingly overnight I decided that gardening would be a good idea.  (Maybe because I couldn't imagine some inoffensive shasta daisies demanding that I reorganize the tables in Chapter 4 of my dissertation again, or the basil asking me for the upteenth time if I had run the analysis on the field data yet.)  Steve, who was my boyfriend at the time, graciously let me plow up a strip of his backyard along the side fence. And he even volunteered to run the ancient workhorse tiller we borrowed from his neighbor to break up all that old sod and hardpacked soil.  By August that year I had enormous Rudbeckia, staggeringly tall lion's ears, and some very tasty tomatoes.  Did playing in the dirt work as stress relief for me? Yes, gardening was an enormously helpful distraction from my PhD.  Does Steve regret giving me free rein in his yard? Years later I have greatly expanded that first little strip of a garden to a large percentage of the backyard, but I have my degree, I have not committed homicide, and Steve and I are happily married.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Ooooo, welcome back!

Oh my, it's been a while since I posted to my blog.  Rest assured, I did make it back from San Francisco and we had a lovely trip.  Then the whole holiday season arrived, interspersed with various bouts of ear infections and stomach flu, followed by a desperate need to catch up on house cleaning and actual work at work.  Now it's mid-January and I can focus on more important things, like posting to a blog that no one actually reads.  

I suppose some people would read this if I actually told anyone about it, but I don't think I can take that kind of pressure right now.  I worry that my blog is inadequate.  It isn't ripe yet, it needs more time to rise, and it might fall if I take it out of the oven too soon.  (Why all the cooking metaphors???  It's a blog, not a souffle!).  But mostly I haven't told anyone about my blog because I don't know how interested anyone would be in reading about my vain attempts to clean up the disaster zone of the basement, how I've already ordered seeds for my garden even though it's only mid-January and it's 2 degrees outside today, or I'm going to go insane if Ally asks me to read "The Icky Sticky Anteater" one more time.

I know....I'll start posting pictures.  That'll capture their attention and keep them slavishly returning for more.  (ha!)