Monday, February 22, 2010

February Birthdays...and Getting Ready

I'm still here, guys....though we are currently disappearing under a drift of white. It's so cold that the boys rush outside to do their business, then insist on coming in posthaste. They're sleeping now, curlicued next to each other. I don't blame them...it's cold in here, too. We keep the house at somewhere between 62-65 degrees. (Any higher, and I have trouble staying awake.) Looked at the fuel bill this past month, and was discouraged it was so much more than last year -- until I looked at our usage, and realized it was much less. Ye Olde Excel just raised their rates, that's all!

It's been a busy weekend. Husband's 55th birthday was Saturday. Even with more years under his belt, he is still the cute Young Buck he used to be when we met in 1981. I found a photo of him taken in 1984, a summer we spent traveling across the U.S. via motorcycle. And he really hasn't changed that much at all -- just a little more gray around the beard. His family is famous for not going gray -- his mom kept her dark hair into her 70s.

I, on the other hand, come from stock who gray quickly. The Mama was completely white-haired by 60, and I have a big drift of white out front already. It's coming -- maybe I'll look more like the white-streaked blond I used to be!

We took clam chowder, shrimp and pizza to Daughter #1's place, along with a chocolate torte. (Recipe in a bit.) Along with the boys. Imagine a studio apartment with Daughter's dog Jack (a Great Dane mix, and no small puppy himself), as well as two large Weimaraners rushing up and down. Music playing, cooking smells and lots of talking, with Daughters #1 and #2 fussing over their dad. Total, cheerful chaos! Husband enjoyed it...until we had to schlep both Daughters to the bus station, and the apartment keys could not be found. Nowhere. Nohow. (They finally emerged hours later, underneath the bikes in the corner.) 

Add to this our missionary houseguests, and a stint at doing music for the church service that night. What a day. At least Husband, a quiet and modest man, knew his women loved him. And we do.

Husband asked for a chocolate birthday cake -- "the chocolatey-er, the better." This recipe, from Marian Burros' cookbook You've Got It Made, fits the bill. She says she got it from Ventana, a lodge in Big Sur. All I know is that it's deeply fudgy, amazingly fast (less than 10 min.), and looks quite sophisticated. One recipe makes the equivalent of a single layer -- but so rich that it easily makes 16 servings.

VENTANA CHOCOLATE TORTE

5 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup melted butter
3 oz semisweet chocolate chips (about two handfuls)
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate (Substitute 6 tablespoons cocoa, plus 2 tablespoons oil. Or more choc chips)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons orange liqueur (I may put this in -- or not)

Glaze: 
3 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup cream
2 tablespoons butter (fine without this, too)

Turn oven on to 325 degrees, and grease/flour a springform (removable sides) pan. Heat eggs and sugar in a double boiler; beat them until the mixture is lemon-colored and somewhat foamy. (About 5 min.) In the meantime, melt butter and chocolates in the microwave -- about 1 min. Add the cornstarch and flavorings. Stir in the egg mixture, then spoon into the pan. Bake 20-25 min., or until the torte pulls away from the sides. (A toothpick inserted in the center will not come out clean.) Don't overbake. Let cool in pan, then remove the ring.

Melt glaze ingredients in microwave (approx. 1 min), then spread evenly over torte. (A spatula dipped in hot water will give you a smooth finish.) Decorate with chopped nuts, fresh flowers or icing letters.


I've made this so often that the cookbook page is spattered and smeary. YUM.

The sun is struggling to shine through. I have miles to go before I sleep -- had better get to it. Leaving shortly to teach and judge at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival for the rest of the week. There are still a few spots in my classes (plus a lecture that might surprise you -- "Quilts with Secrets") if you're interested! (Go here to find out more information.) I'll be around...have a good week yourself.

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Getting Through Life (And This Week)

In a few days, it will be better. Really.