Sufficiently Decaffeinated

Life has been crazy busy lately so a few months back I started dosing my morning java with a triple shot every day.

What’s that? You want the recipe for a quick and easy homemade triple? Okay – since one cup of instant coffee is a rounded teaspoon, you make a triple by dumping a heaping tablespoon of instant coffee into your cup before adding your usual amount of brewed very hot coffee (I use the largest cup setting on the Keurig) and follow up with any additives. I add almond milk and a dollop or two of sweetener. Ice if desired. Voila! Better than Starbucks! Well, at least cheaper and just as effective 😁.

Anyway – today I decided might be getting mildly(?) addicted to all the caffeine so should maybe cut back, and actually used a decaf pod to make my coffee! Aren’t you proud?

Of course, I still added the full caffeine triple shot. I’m not an idiot.

My (Lamp) Lit Pixar Diet

My daughter Maggie is fascinated by Pixar movies. One day each month we have Pixar Movie Food Day (PMFD), a concept she created and convinced us all to participate in. Maggie creates a day of menus based on a Pixar film and we all indulge, throwing dietary restrictions out the window for the day. To achieve the ultimate event of movie-based munching, Maggie reviews her movie choice of the month, researches possible food options, emails me recipe links and a grocery list, shops with me, and takes the lead on food prep. Unless it gets crazy, I am merely her sous chef. So, if you are interested in creating a fun day like this for your family – here you go! You’re welcome!

In August, we soared to infinity and beyond with gastronomical delights inspired by the world of Toy Story! How, you ask, did we accomplish this feat? Well! With photos ripped directly from my daughter’s Instagram page, here are the details –

BREAKFAST: Apparently, an acknowledgment of Poultry Palace from the Toy Story short film Small Fry was the best choice for breakfast. The photo says it all – chicken patties in biscuits, fries, coleslaw, chocolate milk, and pineapple juice drink (the only thing not Toy Story-ish).

LUNCH: Pizza Planet, from TS1 (Toy Story 1) is the only choice, of course! Is that two small pizzas with a hamburger patty between? Yes. Yes, it is. Along with bread sticks and alien slime (lemon-lime soda with lime gelatin powder). Dessert is a yummy LGM (Little Green Men) parfait – a layer of pound cake pieces and a layer of blueberries topped with yogurt (vanilla yogurt, green food dye), decorated with black icing and edible candy eyes.

NOTE TO ALL AREA 51 RAIDERS: NO ACTUAL ALIENS WERE HARMED IN THE MAKING OF THIS LUNCH!

AFTERNOON SNACK: Cheetos (TS2), cotton candy (TS4), and popcorn (TS3).

DINNER: Celebrating Mr. Potato Head – of course! – we had a Chili Baked Potato. This was an easy item to choose since it is a long-time favorite at our house. The potato is baked, sliced open while hot, covered in chili, topped with cheese (bacon bits, optional), and reheated to warm the chili and melt the cheese. That cute little 6″ cake with pink frosting was decorated by Maggie and inspired by Molly’s 2nd birthday in Toy Story 3. Under that frosting, the cake is gluten-free chocolate – not that anyone cared at this point since the GF goals were blown for the day, but GF flour is all we have in the house.

Aaaand – SEPTEMBER: I must admit that when Maggie said we would be eating A Bug’s Life meals in September, my response was, “Bugs? Uh – wait – maybe not – y’know . . .” so I was very relieved to see that NO ACTUAL BUGS were included in her menu choices. Whew! Bullet dodged!

BREAKFAST: Ants on a Log, each log made from two canned cinnamon rolls (regular size), unrolled, twisted together, baked, iced, and sprinkled with cocoa crispy rice cereal. And our own lovely, healthy version of The Ants Offering to the Grasshoppers, made from oat granola, assorted nuts, dried fruit, sunflower seeds, and fresh blackberries (boysenberries were used in the movie, but we adapt with what we have!).

LUNCH: Inspired by P.T. Flea’s Circus – good times! Spinach salad, banana bug, popcorn, not-boysenberry pie (we cheated and used Marie Callender’s Razzleberry Pie – my favorite!), and candy corn. No carbs at all, as you see . . .

DINNER: Pu-Pu Platter, an assortment of Chinese and Korean appetizers (a bit different from how the movie defined pu-pu platter and we are so NOT going there!). Orange chicken, pork dumplings, two kinds of egg rolls, mini broccoli-beef skewers, and chicken fried rice. I would really like to tell you that we made all this from scratch! Really! That is what I would LIKE to tell you! Truth is these are all yummy prepared foods from the grocery freezer (mostly PF Chang’s), but Maggie and I DID totally rock keeping the little bags of sauces sorted to the right hors d’oeuvre!

For dessert, we made raindrop cake with caramel sauce. The sauce was great because – Smuckers. The raindrop – not so much. We tried it the traditional way with agar agar, but next time we’re going modern and just using gelatin. Pretty sure we overcooked it. Blech (and I mean that sincerely). We had the rest of the Razzleberry pie for dessert. Maggie is determined to try raindrop cake again. I’ll keep you posted.

Root beer was the only choice for beverage, specifically Mug Root Beer. Not sure why. Maggie just left to hang with her sister so I can’t ask. Speaking of my ignorance . . .

I am frequently unclear on the why and wherefore for several menu items, which means I definitely need to give Maggie credit as co-author on this and future PMFD articles. In spite of the fact that I have seen these movies, I do not have the retention level of my amazing autistic daughter. As I typed up the rough draft for this blog earlier, our conversation ran something like this:

Me: Maggie, why did we eat Cheetos?
Maggie: Toy Story 2
Me: What about the cotton candy?
Maggie: Toy Story 4.
Me: Huh. And the popcorn was just for fun?
Maggie: Toy Story 3.
Me: Okaaay . . . So Poultry Palace was from Toy Story 1, then?
Maggie: Poultry Palace was from the Toy Story short called Small Fry.
Me: Of course it was.

If you decide to try a movie food day of your own, just let your kids run with the creativity – so fun! Next month is spooky October, so guess what movie? Yup, you called it! Monsters, Inc. Stay tuned.

Why Should You Read This? Because – Chocolate!

My son requested chocolate cake for his birthday so I trotted to one of my two favorite markets for the awesomely delicious gluten-free store brand cake mix we usually use (because one member of our family can’t have gluten, and three others probably shouldn’t) only to discover – gasp! – that it had apparently been discontinued. (So disappointed in you, HEB!)

I could have made it from scratch but – oops! – out of cocoa, so decided that I was officially in the mood to experiment. Yay! (Sarcasm.) I grabbed a box of Aldi’s Live G Free Chocolate baking mix (from my other favorite grocery store) which inconveniently had NO recipe for chocolate cake using the mix on either the box or the website. Seriously, Aldi?

Soooooo – I went to Aldi’s Facebook page where several ladies had posted recipes that sounded great but were still not quite what I was seeking. So I whipped out the baking corner of my brain and forced it into creative submission with the promise of chocolate. Because, like most estrogen-based life forms, I can force my brain into almost any (mostly) non-violent behavior with the promise of chocolate.

I threw together a variety of mystery ingredients and confidently slid my first attempt into the oven and sat down to type out the recipe so I would have it for the future. But as the Good Book does say, pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. Speaking of falls . . .

Time for Intermission

Let’s a take a minute to ponder famous falls. The dictionary defines “fall” as “moving from a higher to a lower level, typically rapidly and without control” – such as The Fall of the Roman Empire, Niagara Falls, Custer’s Fall, The Fall of the Third Reich, and some of the more dramatic falls of Evil Knievel. Anything, really, that could be considered an Ultimate Fall. Getting my drift here? Have you pondered enough? I certainly have.

Intermission Ends

The fallen cake tasted delicious, though, so I am freezing the remains for a future chocolate trifle (another family favorite) since fluffy oomph is not really a requirement for trifle – just cut up cake bits.

I tried again with the following combination of ingredients and titled the result:

Karen’s Chocolate Cake To Remedy Aldi’s and HEB’s Fails
(Am I calling out Aldi and HEB? Yes. Yes, I am.)

1 Aldi’s Live G Free Chocolate Baking Mix
3/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten Free Flour (or any 1-to-1 GF flour)
1/2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt

3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 to 2 tsp almond extract (Optional, but adds a light fruity flavor.)
½ cup softened butter (Or, in my case, melted butter – because I hadn’t softened any ahead of time.)

3/4 mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (Because, hello? Have you met me? More chocolate is a GOOD thing!)

Preheat oven to 350. Using electric mixer on medium speed:

  1. Mix liquid ingredients until just slightly foamy.
  2. Add in dry ingredients.
  3. Add chips.
  4. Mix until everything is combined and batter tastes yummy.
  5. Pour into two 8″ round cake pans to make a low-profile layer cake, and bake for give-or-take 30 minutes (you could probably also make a 9×13).
  6. Against the advice of every nutritionist on the planet, give bowl and beaters to children to enjoy. Keep the spatula for yourself because you certainly don’t want to miss out on the batter.

I frosted the cake with gluten-free frosting and added a nice, thick coating of berry preserves on top of the frosting in between the layers, then decorated it as you see in the photo. The cake was low profile but quite good, if slightly dense (as some of us just are, so don’t judge . . .).

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must tell you that the first cake, presently known as The Ultimate Fall, actually tasted richer, moister, and more chocolate-y. When I figure out how to make it taste that way and remain among the unfallen, I’ll post the recipe here 🙂