Thursday, January 30, 2014

My Favorite Time of Year: When the Office is Signed up for Staff Room Duty


As I pull into Newcastle Elementary, on early Friday mornings, I am eager for the day ahead.  I look forward to the smiling childrens' faces, the moment I get to examine the development of the salmon which we are now raising, and the "light bulb" that clicks on when a kiddo masters a hard problem.  But on Fridays when I am worn out from the week,  what I also really look forward to is seeing the buffet that is laid out in the staff loung; especially when I notice that "office" is signed up for the week.

Typically, the Friday buffets are a wonderful array of food.  A teacher could find all the Cheetos his or her heart desired, some veggie trays, meats and crackers, a baked item or two and perhaps some chips and salsa or donuts.  These are all wonderful things to eat after you have reached your breaking point for the week and cannot take another girl drama dispute about Rainbow Loom bracelets or yet another round of "who stole the pencil sharpener?"

The buffet is an extra special treat when the office staff and Laurie Holmes are in charge of the smorgasbord because they take treat day to a whole new level. Laurie is an expert baker.  Her cakes are beautiful.  They are so picture perfect, I wince a little when I cut into one because I don't want to mess it up.  They are truly decadent, lovely, and delicious at the same time. 

Laurie says baking is a stress reliever and therapeutic. I say eating her baked goods is a stress relief. 
 Read below to hear real live testimonials the deliciousness of the cake!

"Chocolate bliss!"-Jill

"So rich and creamy! Not your typical chocolate cake for sure."-Mariel

"Oh my! Oh my! Oh my!"-Rita
"Yumo chocolately goodness!"-Priscilla

"Simply delicious!"-Claudine


"Mmm mmm good! It's chocolicious!"-Valerie

"Absolute heaven." -Ann

Going, going, gone!!!

For the cake:

·         1 cup cocoa powder, sifted, plus more for dusting pan

·         7 1/2 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

·         1 cup boiling water

·         2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

·         1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

·         1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt

·         20 Tbsp. (2 1/2 sticks) butter

·         2 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar

·         5 eggs

·         4 tsp. vanilla extract

·         1 1/2 cups sour cream

·         1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

For the ganache:

·         6 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

·         2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

·         1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat an oven to 325 degrees F. Grease Bundt Cake Pan and dust with cocoa powder; tap out the excess.

To make the cake, in a bowl, combine the 1 cup cocoa powder and the chocolate. Add the boiling water and whisk until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth and blended. Set aside.

Mix together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the brown sugar and beat until blended. Add the eggs. Beat in the vanilla.

Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the sour cream. Slowly pour in the chocolate-cocoa mixture and beat until no white streaks are visible. Gently fold in the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached to it, 60 to 65 minutes. Invert the pan onto the rack and lift off the pan. Let the cake cool completely, at least 1 hour.

Ganache: In a heatproof bowl, combine the chocolate and butter. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the cream just to a boil. Immediately pour the cream over the chocolate and butter. Whisk until the melt and the mixture is smooth.

Pour the ganache over the top of the cake.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Chicken Soup Mexican Style for the Mother's Soul

My husband and son like to put ice in their soup.

Growing up, I never really learned how to cook.  When I was in high school, I was in love with teriyaki chicken and rice, so I managed to pull out a Costco chicken breast from a plastic bag and bake it in the oven for 30 minutes while I threw a pot of rice on the stove.  Well, it was either that or french toast with peanut butter on it.  (I can make a mean french toast by the way.) But, regardless, I was not much of a cook besides those wonderful go-to dishes.

After I was married and had kids, I figured I better learn to cook.  So, to be honest, most of what I know how to make has been taught to me by my mother in law, Patricia and my sister-in-law, Blanca.  They are both really good cooks who can whip up a batch of savory enchiladas or fancy chile reyenos faster than I can eat them.  Through the years I have learned a trick or two from them and one of them is this amazing chicken soup, which I managed to create thanks to my genius furniture rearranging this week.

Notice how the furniture had now been moved to block all of the doorways in and out of the family room.  He will no longer climb Mt. Stairway in my house five times while I am cooking.  Eli may have won the war earlier this week, but mom won the battle. 

Little man can play, and I can cook. 
It is not my best decor layout by any means, but perhaps it is the most functional layout I have ever had.

Check it out below, if you want a quick and easy recipe. Let's face it, with the boys that is all I can do.

Yes, that is an ice cube in Carlo's soup. 

1/2 onion minced
5 carrots
caldo de tomatate bouillon cubes (in the Mexican aisle at Safeway)
8 chicken legs
4 limes
1/2 bag of potatoes

1.) Boil half of a pot of water
2.) Stick chicken and bouillon cubes in water for 1/2 hr
3.) While chicken is cooking in boiling water, slice carrots and potatoes into thin sections
4.) After the chicken had been boiling for 1/2 hour, dumb carrots and potatoes in the pot with chicken
5.) Mince the onion and chop up cilantro into small pieces and place on the table with lime wedges
6.)  (Optional) Pull chicken legs out of the pot and throw away the bones after they are cooked about 45 minutes to an hour
7.) Add salt to taste to the pot
8.) Squeeze two limes into the pot
9.) Pour soup in the bowls and add onions, cilantro, and lime after
10.) Enjoy! :)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Baking Bread With Jill Bink's Recipe

This morning Jill sent me her mother-in-law's wonderful zucchini bread chocolate chip recipe.  I knew it sounded fantastic and that I needed to feature it in this blog.  I decided at once that I would have a mission when got home from work.

My Mission: Make Zucchini Bread. 

I was excited all day at work, and I was very eager for my baking expedition to embark after class ended.  In fact, as soon as my sons arrived at school, the first thing I told Carlo was that we were going to be making a special bread together.  I had it all planned out in my mind.  We were going to have an easy and fun baking party that started with some grocery shopping. 

Read below for an outline of how my baking turned out.

5:02 Arrive at Safeway to pick up ingredients.
5:07 Starring at the milk section looking for "Butter cream" instead of "buttermilk."
5:08 Ask random lady with bleach blond hair who looks about my mom's age if she knows what "butter cream" is.
5:15 We are both still looking for "butter cream."
5:16 Store guy overhears our conversation and points me in the right direction for "buttermilk."
5:20-5:30 Pick up other baking supplies and find zucchini which appear to be irregularly small.

5:30 Get in line at the checkout stand.
5:31 When it is our turn to pay Carlo has to go to the bathroom and does the potty dance.

5:32 Proceed to the dirty bathroom and use the potty.
5:40 Go back to the checkout stand and pay.
5:41 Carlo sits on the scale of the "check yourself out line" while someone else is paying.
5:42 Guy checking out says that Carlo is not registering and he may have to return him to the store.
5:43 I decide to buy Carlo and take him home.
6:10 Arrive at home and feed boys dinner.  Eli gets bananas all over himself and his clothes, so I have to throw them in the wash. Eli is naked now.
6:15 Commence baking zucchini break.  I am super excited.
6:20 Carlo helps me put said ingredients into the bowl.

6:23 Eli decides to leave the toys in the family room and join us in the kitchen.
6:24 Eli tries to book it up the stairs while I am mixing the ingredients.

6:25 I accidentally put the flour in the wrong bowl because I was chasing Eli out of the dishwasher.

6:27 Eli tries to go up the stairs again.

6:32 Add final ingredients and block the doorway with a chair so Eli cannot get out.  Mom:1 Eli: 0.

6:35 Eli pushes the chair out of the way and races to the staircase for the 3rd time Mom:-1 Eli: 3.

6:36 Mix the ingredients in the bowl and place Eli in his high chair with a monster truck.

6:38 Cleaning.
6:45 Gerardo comes home and puts Eli to bed. I make a bottle.

6:47 Bread gets in the oven.
7:15 Call my mom because bread is "jiggly" in bread pan and I am not sure how long to bake.  My mom says banana bread takes about 55  minutes, and that I should have used a 9" square pan.
7:47 Bread comes out of oven and appears done and it smells fantastic.

Mission Accomplished!!!


1 cup brown sugar
½ cup sugar
½ cup butter
½ cup oil
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
½ cup buttermilk
2 ½ cups flour
¼ cup cocoa
2 tsp baking soda
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups grated zucchini
1 cup chocolate chips

Heat oven to 325 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, cream together the sugars, butter, and oil. Add the eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk, and stir well to mix.

In a separate bowl, mix together flour, cocoa, baking soda, allspice, cinnamon, and salt.

Stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture until well combined. Fold in the grated zucchini and chocolate chips. Turn the batter into two greased and floured 9” baking pans (or a 9 x 13 pan). Bake 25-30 minutes or until done. Let cool and frost with your favorite frosting (I like a buttercream on it). Serves 12.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Quick Update: Change Out the Hardware on a Cabinet

Here are some awesome knobs that I found on and I put the collection together.  There were so many to chose from, I couldn't decide what I liked best.

I am a girl with many ideas about home decor and how to reorganize a space;  many, many ideas, but probably too many, if you ask my husband.  I can reorganize and redecorate a room in my mind in about ten minutes.  These spaces contain grand pieces of furniture, quirky sculptures, lively art, and beautiful flooring and trim. (Mind you, this is all in my imagination.)

However, in all reality, my creative ideas are well and great, but the truth is, I have a very hard time executing them.  I cannot build very well.   That is an understatement.  I cannot build at all.  For example, in my classroom, I ordered a cool book organizer shelf that only requires the screwing in of about four screws.  I struggled with it for about half an hour, cut my finger, and then shoved the rack in my Civic trunk for Gerardo to put together later that night.  It took him about five minutes. 

Maybe that is why we are meant for each other.  I can think of grand ideas, and he executes them to perfection.  He is so detailed that I know the finished product will be perfect everytime. 

But I have come up with a project that even I can execute:  For a newer look on cabinetry, all you have to do is change out the hardware.  It is that simple.  Check out the desk area that Gerardo is building in our guestroom.  He installed used cabinets with older hardware, and then I, who am I kidding-Gerardo, installed them. (But I could have if I wanted to!)  The old used cabinets were brought back to life after a coat of paint and a new knob or two.

Check out the pictures below:

Check out the plain silver knobs on the desk now. Please ignore the mess, because it's under construction.

I like shiney things, I swear I am like a pack rat, so I collect them.  Thus, I chose the glittery glass knobs as the new knob selection to the desk. 


Here is Carlo photo-bombing my knob picture. Sigh. Stephen Brousseau, I need you now.:)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Art of the Photo Finish: Kim and Stephen Brousseau


I am one of those girls who looks at the fantastic new baby and belly pictures and oohs and awws every time.  I never got professional shots of my belly or my boys upon arrival, and it is one of those things that I regret.  I mean, as I get older and watch the boys grow, I realize that time slips by so fast that unless you take a second to breathe and freeze frame, it's gone. 

I was flipping through friends' pictures online and came across Kelly's adorable baby belly, full of twins, out there in full glory.  It truly was beautiful to see.  Kelly is just gorgeous and the photos that Stephen Brousseau took accentuated her beauty. I love the natural poses he uses, thanks to Kim's research assistance, and the adorable props. What woman does not sigh at the sight of tiny baby shoes?

Stephen also captured wonderful family phots this year at the pumpkin patch.  It's such a wonderful way to remember some fun family time.  He really does a nice job capturing the small moments and editing them to perfection. 

Check out the sun behind Blake.  The lighting and angle of this shot is truly creative and unique.  I have tried to capture Eli and Carlo like this and I typically get goofy faces or photo bombs from Carlo.  And yes, he does photo-bomb at the age of three and a half.
I am in love with the props in this one. I am a sucker for symmetry.  Hey, what teacher isn't obsessed with order and organization?  I also think Blake looks like the heavens are smiling down on him.
New plan for me: get some adorable pics of the boys for this momma before they are already big boys! Shoot, Eli is already biting Carlo and they are fighting over the Lightning McQueen cars. I guess I better get on this!

Look at Stephen's website below to see the wonders of his work.  He also does fabulous landscapes, wildlife (who wouldn't want cute pics of their dog as well?) and other works.