Friday, June 22, 2012

Finally, I baked!

Guess what?

I’ve been baking.

Not one thing, not two…three things lately!

First, I went home last weekend for Colin’s graduation party. He’s getting old too fast. Or wait, that’s what he said about me. But he really is! I was so glad I got to go home and spend some time celebrating with him and the rest of my family.

The day before the party, my mom panicked a little (of course) that she wouldn’t have enough food. That’s happened to her exactly once in my recollection, but now I think it’s always in her head and she can’t relax until she knows she’ll have more than enough (or in the case of this party, way more than enough). Anyway, she asked if I would make some cookies to go along with the huge cake, so I made a batch of oatmeal peanut butter cookies. The result: super moist and super delicious.

When I returned to the city, I knew there was much more baking in store for me, since last week was birthday week! My roommate and two of my coworkers were celebrating, and I had promised baked goods all around.

First, Snicker’s inspired cheesecake for my roommate:

The cheesecake had a graham cracker crust (which admittedly I slacked on and bought instead of making—but you know I usually do!), and then a lightly caramel-flavored and very creamy cake. I topped it off with a layer of walnuts covered in chocolate fudge. Seeing as it’s almost gone, I think she liked it!

My third creation was also by request, chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting:

I jump at the chance to make chocolate cake whenever anyone asks me, which is funny because I don’t really love chocolate cake. You can find my recipe (or at least the one I use as my base, usually with minor adjustments depending on my mood) here. But what I was really excited for was the frosting on these puppies. And it turned out deeeeelicious. Too delicious. I ate way too much of it whilst baking (and I’ve been so good lately!).

Here’s how I made that:
½ c. butter, just barely softened
4(ish) c. powdered sugar
1 c. creamy peanut butter (but even as I type this I think crunchy may have been an interesting texture idea)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. milk (I used almond, because that’s what I keep on hand, but any kind will do)
Cream together, and voila! Tastes just like peanut butter…but so. much. naughtier.

The Shack

For the longest time, The Shack has been sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read. Practically begging to be read, in fact.

My mom read this book a couple of years ago and strongly recommended it to me (no better way to put me off reading it, a trait I have in common with an amazing professor I once had). She’s even asked me a few times what I thought of it. My brother read it, too, and I’m pretty sure he got a lot out of it as well.

Finally, a couple of weeks ago, I picked up The Shack and read it. It was a quick read, just a couple of days of subway rides.

If you haven’t heard of The Shack…well, I’m not sure where you’ve been for much of the early two thousands. No, I’m totally kidding.  But really, here’s just a short snipit of background: After his young daughter is brutally murdered on a family camping trip (it’s a true story, and it’s my worst fear in so many ways. Needless to say, I didn’t handle this part of the book so well). Some time later, Mack receives a note in his mailbox summoning him back to the shack near the scene of the crime, and he returns, unsure of his exact intentions. While he is there, he meets God.  Most of the book commences from here, as do my thoughts on it:

Unfortunately, I’m not sure how much I actually got out of the book, which surprised me given how many hold it in such high regard. I don’t know—something about reading about others’ reflections on their lives (like Mack’s, in the book) makes it tough for me to reflect on my own, or something like that. I guess I tend to get more out of books that don’t almost beg a personal reflection, as I felt this one did. For some reason, I felt like I was better able to connect with myself and my own beliefs and personal thoughts and things when reading a fictional piece than I was during my reading of this book. Weird? You decide.

Mack’s story was, however, touching. One thing I cannot say is whether I did or did not believe it. I can say with great certainty that whether or not the events within it are completely factual is in no way the point. Strangely, though, I also cannot say with any certainty whether I want the story to be factual. Of course, without question, I would want this story to be true for the sake of Mack and his emotional growth and well-being, and it obviously was true for him within his mind. But at least for me, stories giving any clear indication of what God is, or looks like, or feels like, or sounds like, or anything else, make me all the more uncertain of what might actually be true. I know, I know—the God in Mack’s story took several different shapes and felt several different ways, etc. etc. depending on what was being conveyed at any given moment.  Essentially, though, I suppose, I want my own story. One day, I have to believe that I’ll know what’s true one way or another (even if that something is, well, nothing). It’s not that I don’t think this story comes close, or is false, or anything at all about it actually. It’s just that it’s not mine—and until it is, I’m not sure how much I can take from it. Until then, I’ll continue questioning my own faith through the characters I often connect with best—the fictional ones.

Apologies for the ramble! 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

2-Minute Cake

Consider this what I plan to live on for the next several months. I have found it--the perfect summer dessert. Or snack. Tomato, tom-ah-toe. This mug cake is by far the most delicious thing I've eaten this past week, and it's not for lack of other yummy treats. It is also by far the easiest--and almost definitely the healthiest--thing I have baked in quite some time.  Oh, took me less than two minutes to make this. Literally.

Curious yet? I sprayed a mug with nonstick spray, then measured in 1/4 cup boxed angel food cake mix. Added 3 tablespoons of water, stirred, and popped this in the microwave for about a minute till my kitchen smelled of angel foody goodness.

That's it--really! Two minute cake. I added some Cool Whip Free (my other new favorite discovery of late), and some blueberries, and my gosh--delicious. Best of all, I used blueberries this time, but you can bet I'll be eating it with strawberries, blackberries, cherries...etc. for the rest of the summer.

I've made several other versions of mug cake in the past--coffee cake, chocolate and mocha cakes, vanilla pound cake, and more, but this one takes the cake (ha!) on ease, and quite possibly on deliciousness...although I can't say that with complete certainty (that pesky coffee cake memory just won't go away...).

In other news, I also got this adorable new print for over my stove, with this very fitting quote:

"You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." 
--C.S. Lewis


Even though, as I mentioned in a previous post, I missed the signing, I did get my hand on the follow up to Delirium, and finished it last weekend. 

I actually don't have a ton to say about this book. What was most interesting is that while the concept for the first book--love treated as a disease--was still semi-present in this novel, it was not nearly focused on as much. Moreover, I'm not entirely sure what I'd say was focused on in its place. In fact, not much happened in this book at all, despite the clear dramatic tone. I had my ups and downs with this book.

Some of the downs:
- The [at times] turtle's pace
- The protagonist's whininess (although sometimes I suppose that's somewhat necessary if YA is striving for any sense of realism)
- The inconsistency of section lengths. While I didn't realize this till I was dont reading, the last section or two was really long in comparison to the first sections, which made it tough to hold my attention

A few ups:
- The depictions of certain scenes. One scene in particular threatened to give me nightmares.
- Foreshadowing of key points

Nevertheless, the last page left me wanting more...but I suppose the whole book left me wanting just that...a little more.