August 8, 2013

Everything But the Hummingbird

My friend Jonna got me this fun cookbook called "sugar, sugar" where every recipe has a story.

They are all old fashioned recipes - things your grandma would make to take to a church picnic or fix when company was coming.

I haven't made many things from it yet, but there is one cake I've made twice - and will likely keep making given the response I've received from it.

It's called Hummingbird Cake.  Nobody seems to know how it came to be called that, but the Joy of Baking online speculates, "it does seem plausible that it may have something to do with how sugary rich this cake is - just like the nectar that Hummingbirds love to feed on."

Sugary rich is the best way to describe it.  It's too much for me to have more than a bite, but it has received rave reviews from others who have eaten one or more large slices.  My friend Linda all but cussed me out at church once after I gave her family half of the cake, of which she swears she ate most of and accused me of ruining her diet. haha!  On top of that, I just recently had a total stranger at a BB-Q tell me it was the best cake he's ever had!

This is what's left after the BB-Q.  It makes one three-layer cake.  It's quite the looker (though not quite so much anymore after being hacked into at a BB-Q)!

CAKE (ingredients only slightly altered to reflect Bakerella's recipe)
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
8 oz. can of crushed pineapple, liquid included
2 cups chopped ripe bananas
2 cups  pecans, chopped and toasted (I omit these because I don't like nuts in sweet things.)

16 oz cream cheese
1 cup butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
32 oz.  confectioner's sugar

To make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour 3 9-inch cake pans.

If using nuts: Prepare toasted pecans. Chop pecans in small pieces and place on a parchment covered baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes and keeping your eye on them so they don't burn. Set aside and let cool.

Whisk together flour, soda, salt, sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl.

Place the sugar and oil in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low speed for about 1 minute, until blended.

Add eggs, one at a time, on low speed, blending well before the next egg.

Add the vanilla and blend.

Add the flour mixture one half at a time, mixing on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened.

Add the pineapple, nuts (optional), and the bananas and stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until just combined.

Spread batter evenly among cake pans and bake for 22-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove and let cool.

For the frosting: In a mixer, beat butter and cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Add vanilla and beat until incorporated. Add confectioner's sugar. Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl often.

To assemble: Place first layer rounded-side down and spread frosting on top with an offset spatula. Continue with the remaining two layers and then frost the sides. Store in fridge.

August 7, 2013

Hidden horrors exposed

Before I was a mom, I used to look at the highchairs of friends' children in bewilderment.

It looked mostly clean, but there were always dried bits of food clinging to the pad and crumbs jammed in the nooks and crannies.  It looked like a slightly less than appetizing, let alone healthy, place to eat.  

"I don't understand!" I would cry internally.  "These are clean people!  How is that chair not clean??"    

Now that I have my own little solid-food eater, I get it. 

It is just not possible - or reasonable - to wash that pad after each feeding.  What it is, is inevitable that the pad is going to get dirty.  Really dirty.

We wash her tray clean after each meal and that's what really counts.  That's what food meant for her mouth is going to touch before going in, so I take care to wash it well.  

The crumbs on the seat will get brushed off, but likely not until the end of the day.  This means I only have to do that activity once versus three times a day.  

My old before-motherhood self would ask, how hard is it to brush crumbs off after each meal?  You wouldn't think too difficult, right?  But consider: Rosie eats, then gets cleaned up in the chair, then gets picked up out of the chair (which means my hands are full) and taken to play or many times to go down for a nap.  At that point I get back to my full-time job, or if it's the weekend, to the 1.1 million things I have on my to do list.  

Brushing off crumbs is low on the totem pole until the end of the day when I'm finishing tidying up.

So, I get it now.  And I apologize to all my friend and family moms who I silently judged for not having a sparkling place for their kids to eat.  


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