Chocolate Soggy Devil’s Food Cake with Brown Sugar Candy Icing

February is birthday month for both my brother and I. Which meant that Mom made two birthday cakes. And they were always the same. So was Dad’s, but she waited until June to make that one. Not only did Grandma Endres provide the recipe for our favorite cookies (both the sugar and the double chocolate drop), she also passed down the recipe for the best cake ever. I vaguely remember having a DQ cake at a party or two, but inside the family, it was always the chocolate cake with the caramel icing.

I’m not sure what culture this cake would trace back to, other than the Endres household. But, as far as we know, there is a piece of it that may still be wandering the world. Daddy was eating a piece of birthday cake as he signed the card he and Mom sent the year I was in Spain. A crumb fell on the card and left a nice smudge, but I never saw it. That is the only piece of mail that didn’t make it to the house on calle Octavio Paz.

As I was recently reminded, the cake does not require a mixer, just a whisk. It also does not require any perishable ingredients. Because of this, you could make the cake on a camping trip, but I don’t think we ever did. The icing, on the other hand, boils milk and butter with the brown sugar. Add in the vanilla and the baking powder, and you have the same ingredients as caramel, just in different proportions. This caramel-like quality is what made our cake the ugliest one at the Girl Scout bake sale every year. After taking it home year after year, we let other people sample it one year. It was one of the highest priced cakes after that.

Attempt #2

Why’s it so hard? Too little patience, and it runs off the cake onto the plate, or into the edges of the pan. Too much time sitting in the cold windowsill, and wherever the glop falls onto the cake, that’s where it’ll stay, because you won’t be able to spread it. And, if you don’t remember that ‘bring it to a boil’ means a roiling, almost-out-of-the-pan boil, then, well, the icing will never thicken, and it will just soak right into the cake. That’s the lesson I learned the first time I tried to make my cake up here in Alaska, without Mom. But, other than the sticky mess, no one who ate it complained about the taste of a caramel infused chocolate cake.

My third attempt up here was better. Other than my oops doubling the measure for the baking soda when measuring the salt, thus causing me to quadruple the whole recipe. I used the snow and cold air outside to cool my pan as I stirred the icing, and it may have actually been thick enough. But I’d forgotten to cool my cakes. So, the icing melted again when it hit the hot chocolate, and while it didn’t soak in completely like the first time, it definitely slipped in around the edges of each pan. The cakes barely looked iced.

Attempt #3

And, yes, last week I flipped a decade and put a zero in my age.

Chocolate Soggy Devils Food Cake

1 ½ c flour
1 c sugar
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
3 Tbl cocoa
5 Tbl melted shortening or veg. oil
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1 c cold water

Mix the dry ingredients
Whisk in the liquid ingredients
Bake in an 8” round pan at 350° for 20-25 mins

Brown Sugar Icing

1 c brown sugar
4 Tbl cream or milk (1/4 cup)
1 tsp butter

Bring to a roiling-out-of-the-pan boil, turn off heat
Add 1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla

Beat/cool until thick enough to spread over cooled cake(s)

Double both recipes for a 9×13 pan

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An Unexpected Arrival

The first time I traveled internationally (other than to the neighboring state of Canada 🙂 ) was my year in Spain. Now, I could tell you about how I chose to travel as an exchange student, rather than one of the other opportunities that presented themselves, or about the stages of my trip as I went from Minnesota to Ohio to DC and on to Madrid. But, really, the best part of the story is the trip from Madrid to Sevilla, where I finally met my host family.
I think most exchange students receive information about their host families at least a month before they arrive in country. But not me. I left Minnesota still not knowing even what part of Spain I’d be living in. (That might be why I forgot to pack any type of jacket….) Finally, when I arrived at Grandma’s house, there was a message on the machine from AFS, telling me about the Martinez Borrás family. I’d be living just outside of Sevilla, and would have two little sisters, ages 10 and 4. That was Monday, August 30th. I met them on Monday, September 3rd.
One night/day of orientation in DC, a short layover at Heathrow, then three days of orientation at a monastery-type place in Madrid. Monday afternoon arrived, and of all the students taking trains out of La Puerta de Atocha,

Puerta de Atocha

In case this scene looks familiar - it’s in the front of the Level 2 book in a popular series of HS Spanish texts. Not my photo, but one that looks very similar.

I was the only one going to Sevilla. I hung out with the others in the tropical-forest-area in the lobby, not realizing that was the most humidity I’d experience for quite a while. Eventually, the lady from AFS Spain walked me down to the trains, but the ticket man said we were at the wrong platform. There were two trains leaving south from Madrid around two o’clock, and my ticket was for the one at the other end of the row. Thankfully, we were there early.
On the train, a nice man helped me put my bags up on the rack (both weighed roughly 70 lbs) and I settled down with my stitching. Or, at least, that’s what I was doing at 6:30, at which time, I had decided beforehand, I packed up my stuff to find a restroom so that I would be nice and refreshed when we pulled into Sevilla at 7:20. My first long train trip had been an interesting one. A boy up the aisle smiled at me when I pulled Cappuccino out of my bag and sat him next to me on the seat. (Cap is a stuffed monkey who goes with me everywhere, and has since I was a baby. Other than his cataracts, he’s in very good condition.) The old lady across from me may have been commenting on my stitching, or not. It truly sounded like gibberish to me, and not anything like the Spanish I’d been studying in school.
She got off at the last stop before 6:30, so she wasn’t there to react to me repacking my daypack. I had just put the last item in when the conductor announced the next stop: Sevilla.
What?
Yes. I heard correctly, and the signs on the platform also said Sevilla. But, the AFS people had clearly told me my train would arrive at 7:20. How did we get there 50 minutes early? I’d have to worry about that later. Everyone was getting off the train. I think the same nice man reached for my bags again. (A disadvantage of being short, or is it an advantage?) Zip the daypack onto the big backpack, lift, roll and get off the train.
I had arrived at Santa Justa station. Now I needed to find my host family.

Next time: How long it took to find my family at the train station.

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Spanish Chorizo & Chicken Chili

In my saga of changing jobs, I’ve had a few instances of unemployment. Or, at least, minimal employment, with a tutoring student or two. And, when under-employed, one tends to have time on her hands, often wasted by browsing the internet and watching TV.

January 2008 was such a time. I’d been unexpectedly dismissed from one school, and by the last week of the month, had not yet heard back from any other schools. Monday the 28th, my TV landed on the Rachael Ray show, and the recipe sounded interesting, so I stuck around for it. I’m not much of a chili fan, but next Sunday was Super Bowl Sunday, and the young adults group at church had a chili cook-off planned. Also, anyone who knows me knows I’m a sucker for Spanish food. (For those who don’t know me, Spanish means from Spain, not Mexico or South America. Especially when it comes to food.)

I had an interesting recipe, and a place to take it. Now I just needed to get the ingredients, and a pot to make/take it in. A quick trip to my parents’ house to borrow the cumin and Mom’s crock-pot, and a stop at Byerly’s on the way home. The only hard part in that, really, was the price of the more specialty ingredients.

Spanish chorizo is not the same as Mexican chorizo. The paprika makes it red, and it’s often imported. One loop would not be enough, but two was too much. Ok, I’ll just one-and-a-half the recipe. Easy enough. Now to the other side of the meat cases for the ground chicken. Good thing I’m at Byerly’s. I think the peppers and the hot sauce were in the same aisle. Pretty sure I found some true piquillos. Again, not a hot sauce fan. Two dollars for the huge jar that will go unused, or five dollars for the small jar whose flavor I trust, and will get completely used up? Cholula. The rest were easy. Quick stop next door for the Rioja, and I’m on my way home. (I wasn’t ‘serving’ it, and I didn’t have any Manchego at the time, so I skipped the garnishes.)

Note to other infrequent cooks: a crock-pot keeps things warm, but chili needs to boil if it’s going to cook down and get thicker. Borrow Mom’s stew pot, too. I plugged in the crock before service on Sunday morning, but at game time it was still more a soup than a chili. Oh well. It disappeared, and I got a Target gift card in addition to the certificates for spiciest and best.

This just goes to show that even those of us who don’t cook, still can if we so choose.

On the unemployment side of things… That week I worked a few days in the nursery during morning Bible study and MOPS, and had an interview with Minneapolis Public Schools. After a weekend of cooking and being social, Monday morning I started my new job as an Associate Educator in the math classrooms at Andersen Open MS. With 70-80% of the population Hispanic, my language abilities were an extra asset as we went into the testing season. Not to mention my ability to troubleshoot the online testing programs. Pity, the position was only through the end of the school year, and those tests resulted in the school being ‘reorganized’ the next year. But, God found other ways to take care of me.

Let me know if you enjoy the recipe!

Spanish Chorizo & Chicken Chili

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 jars piquillo peppers
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 2 pounds ground chicken breast
  • 3/4 pound chorizo, cut into medium dice
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, chopped or grated
  • 2 rounded tablespoons (about 2 palmfuls) smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon cumin (about a palmful)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup sherry or 1/2 cup dry Spanish wine such as Rioja
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce
  • 2 cups vegetable juice, such as V8 brand
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • Grated Manchego cheese
  • Tortilla chips
  • 1/4 cup parsley, roughly chopped
  • Spanish olives with pimentos, halved
Serves 6

PREPARATION

Pre-heat a large skillet over medium high heat with 1 turn of the pan of EVOO. Once the oil is hot, add the ground chicken and cook about 7-8 minutes, until it is light golden brown.

Once the chicken is brown add the chorizo and cook about 5 minutes. Add in the onion and garlic, and cook until onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Pour in the sherry or wine, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan, then add the hot sauce, vegetable juice and chicken stock. Add the smoked paprika, cumin, salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Grind up the peppers in a food processor. Add the puree to the pot and stir to combine. Let simmer 10-15 minutes to let the flavors combine.

Serve chili in a shallow bowl topped with Manchego cheese, tortilla chips, parsley and Spanish olives

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What’s in a name?

Writing a novel requires creativity in the writing, but also in the tedious stuff, like naming all those characters who do all those really great/terrible things. And, giving some depth to those characters is a good thing too. (I’ve been reading a lot about that recently in both Jeff Gerke’s book and his blog.)

So, where did my story names come from?

Well, Katrina, if you haven’t figured it out, is based on my own name. I mean, what’s a 12-year-old to do but name her main character after herself? The adaptation is probably because my first Spanish class was also in sixth grade, and though Catalina is actually the Spanish version of my name, Katrina is closer to what most people think first.

Then, I needed Katrina to have a really good friend. Growing up, one of my favorite Bible stories was David and Jonathan, and Jonathan was a really good friend to David. So, my boy got his name. Not sure where Renée or DaRelle came from, but Nathaniel was suggested by my friend Michelle, and Wendy gave me Callawilder-before we looked in the baby name book and found the name Cadwallader. Add in Jacaab and Dianne, and I’ve listed the four main couples in the Journals of Ingrelan.

My fantasy world is not extremely different from this world, but it is not this world. Therefore, it didn’t seem right to give God the same names. So, I created my own. Yav, Yasu, and Yaruach make up Yavim. Yav comes from Yahveh, ruach is the Hebrew word for ‘spirit,’ and -im is the Hebrew plural.

Yahveh, or Yahweh, is translated in your Bibles as LORD, and is related to the use of I AM. In the Hebrew culture, it was only ever written, not spoken, out of reverence. Eventually, Jehovah became the oral version. You can see the plural use of -im in the other name for God used in Genesis, Elohim, translated as Lord. Since El = God and -im = plural, Elohim is the plural God, and often used to refer to His majesty, like the royal ‘we.’

I like how that use of -im can adapt or expand the meaning of another of our names for God: Immanuel. Literally, ‘with us God’ (Im = with, nu = us, and El = God), grammarians flip it around to ‘God with us’ so it makes more sense in English. Now, if you go with the other meaning for -im, the plural, then Immanuel becomes ‘plural, us, God.’ I’d like to think of this as ‘God, us, together as one,’ and take that to mean God is not only with us, but also in us, around us, truly a part of us.

No. We’re not God. There is only one God. But, that one God is a loving God who stitched each one of us together before we were born. The Father (Yav) knows us more intimately than we can imagine, yet still desires our company. The Son (Yasu) is the friend that sticks closer than a brother, never abandoning us, even if we abandon Him. And the Spirit (Yaruach) will dwell in us, giving guidance and special gifts, such as service, teaching and, sometimes, prophecy.

Did I just state a contradiction? One God, but three Gods? I agree that the Trinity is one of the hardest concepts to grasp. I once explained it to some curious students this way: to them, I was Kate the teacher, but I am also Kate the daughter, and Kate the friend. There are a lot of other models out there, and many are probably better than that. But, on the spot, with teenagers, I think I did pretty well. 🙂

And with those thoughts, Kate the writer is going to sign off, until next week.

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The Plan

The plan was/is to post about some Wandering Feet on the first Friday, a Wandering Mind on the second, review a Wandering Book on the third, and take you to a Wandering Kitchen on the fourth Friday of each month. I’ll figure out something fun for the four fifth Fridays as well.

Obviously, I’ve already fallen behind. I’m not too worried about it, because there aren’t a ton of people expecting a post at a certain time just yet, but I still want to get back to that schedule. If I don’t get the book review finished by Monday, then I’ll skip that one for January, because the post for next Friday was ready the day I created the blog.

Up Next: What’s in a Name? will be posting later this morning.

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Journey to Alaska

Four trips in four years; fourteen months living/traveling in Europe and one in Mexico. Then stuck stateside, barely leaving Minnesota. The six year marked passed during my student teaching semester in the spring of 2009. My feet itched to go somewhere. Perhaps that’s what drew me to the presentation by the Alaska schools at the job fair. The bush schools offered moving stipends, but I wasn’t ready for that big of a change, so I only gave my contact info to the Anchorage School District.
They called sometime in May and we set the interview for Monday, June 14th, the day after the MS150 (bike ride from Duluth to MSP – 150 miles in two days). Thankfully, the time difference put the interview at 2pm in Alaska, but 5pm in MN, so I was able to fully recover from the ride. Oh, yeah, it might be nice to note the wonders of technology: the interview was through Skype. That first interview went well, and by the end of the month, I received notice that I was ‘eligible for further consideration.’
I had two interviews for specific positions, one in July and one in early August. Not only were they at different schools, but the positions were as different as you could get. Teaching Algebra I, II and Geometry to eighth graders versus teaching remedial Algebra and modified Geometry to tenth and eleventh graders. I wonder how different the year might have gone if I’d gotten the MS position….
Classes started mid-August, and by the middle of September, I hadn’t heard back from either school. I’d given up on getting a job in Alaska, and was tired of going grocery shopping every week, so I spent $90 and filled my freezer and cupboards. I got the call that Wednesday, the 16th. Reluctantly, the principal gave me until Friday to make a decision. Between Dad’s and my prayers, and some ‘seize the day’ type Proverbs, everything seemed to say ‘yes,’ so that’s the answer I gave.
Mom immediately googled Anchorage churches and found First Baptist at the top of the list. The time change was again in her favor, and contact was made. Multiple emails later, I had a temporary place to stay, a car to drive and someone to pick me up at the airport, all thanks to the pastor’s wife.
Once HR officially offered me the position, I booked my plane ticket for September 29th. I don’t know about you, but there was no way I could make all the arrangements I needed to and pack up my apartment in 13 days. I did my best, but Mom did a lot of work after I left. (Thanks!)
To make a long story slightly shorter, with my arrival in Anchorage, my saga of short-term jobs continued, and my short-term housing saga began. (Since college, the only jobs I’ve been at for more than twelve months involve tutoring, and since coming to AK, I have moved—taken all my stuff and not known where or when I was moving next—seven times, staying at most eight months in each place.) The circumstances and issues I found at school are not something to discuss on a public blog, but it was clear by May that God used that job to bring me to Alaska, and had something else in mind for me to do. I’m still waiting for Him to tell/show me what that is.
It didn’t take me long to pick up on some differences between MN and AK, especially once the snow arrived.
However, most of these differences come with pictures, and for whatever reason, wordpress is only giving me the html format of my edit screen, and that is not one of the languages I speak. So, once I figure something out, I’ll add them.

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Fever Delay

Question: What do I get for telling a student that I never get sick, other than one bad cold a year?

Answer: A fever.

Most people still wouldn’t consider it much, as it only lasted one night, but that was one warm cocoon I wrapped up in after choir. And it certainly wasted my Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Oh, and those overnight hours happen to be my most productive, generally.

So, while I hoped to have the first regular post up today, it will probably wait until Monday.

At least I sent my short story to the editor on Tuesday, rather than waiting until the last minute on Thursday.

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