Wednesday, May 27, 2015

May 2015 Daring Bakers' Challenge: Lamingtons

I'd just like to start out this blog post with an apology to all Australians everywhere ... of all time. When I set forth on this baking challenge, I promise that it was not my goal to completely destroy what is a fan favorite for you Down Under. It was just one of those days... :)

This month, we were challenged to make Lamingtons, which are basically single-servings of sponge cake that are dipped in chocolate and then rolled in dried coconut. One problem... I don't like dried coconut. To me, eating it provides the same experience as chewing on styrofoam offers. It just give me a bad chill down my spine. Fortunately, the challenge's host said we could be creative and weren't required to use the traditional coconut. Woo hoo!!

Without any issues, I whipped up my beautiful sponge batter. It was airy. It was frothy. It was the perfect color. I carefully poured it into my prepared baking pan and ushered it into the hot oven. So far, so good!

The recipe said to immediately invert the cake (once completely baked, of course) onto a wire rack, remove the pan, and then re-invert the cake so it is right-side-up on a cooling rack. "NO PROBLEM," said I. "HAHAHA! That's what YOU think," said the baking gods. As I inverted the cake (using pot holders because the pan just came out of a 350 degree oven), all hell broke lose. Actually, hell didn't break lose, but the pan sure did. The entire thing went flying out of my hand and landed on the stove ... the cast iron pan ... and the Dutch oven. Lovely. Ruined. I risked my fingers and plunged in to upright the cake and find out how much damage had been done. How much? This much:

Knowing the cake was going to be cut into bite-size pieces, I decided to carry on and make the best of a less-than-ideal situation. After the cake cooled, I whipped up the chocolate dipping sauce (yum) and then opted to roll my ugly cake pieces in brightly colored sprinkles for two reasons: (1) they aren't coconut and (2) the bright colors will (hopefully) keep people from noticing the fact that the cake went on a bit of a joy ride and got mangled in the process.

All in all, it could have been worse, but could have been MUCH better. Fortunately, the cake's taste wasn't impacted by its flight and is quite yummy!

For the May challenge Marcellina from Marcellina in Cucina dared us to make Lamingtons. An Australian delicacy that is as tasty as it is elegant

Friday, May 22, 2015

Mother's Day Hike 2015: Llandover Woods

We had an absolutely gorgeous Mother's Day this year. The sky was blue, the sun was out, and not a drop of rain fell.

To celebrate the day, we opted to lace up our hiking shoes and explore Llandover Woods, which is a hop, skip, and a jump from our house. Embarrassingly, we'd never taken the time to go there before now; in fact, I didn't even realize it was a good place to tromp around with kids until I read a "secret places to hike with kids in/near Seattle" article online.

The loop that we hiked was just over a half mile long and provided plenty of lush landscape to look at along the way. Even with the ups and downs of the trail, our kids did great!! No one complained about tired feet nor asked to be carried. Woo hoo!!

Along the way, Eric and I pointed out things we noticed, like sprouting ferns, woodpecker holes in trees, thorny plants to avoid touching, etc. The kids soaked it up and created their own backstory for much of what we saw, including a fairy family lived below a large tree with partially exposed roots.

Our hike didn't take too, too long, which was good because the kids had swim lessons later on in the day and we didn't want exhaust them. That said, it was a perfect first-of-the-season hike and an ideal way to spend Mother's Day.

Let's hike!!
Annika and Eric heading off into the woods
Annika just hanging around
Mama and her munchkins
Annika, queen of the woods
Conon, king of silly log standers
Conor found a flower and gave it to me as a Mother's Day gift...
So, Annika found a flower, too!
My little sweeties 
Eric and the kids blazing a trail
Wuv.... twue wuv!
The kids loved the natural benches we found along the way
and had to try out each and every one of them
Conor securing his role as hike leader

We found a few rock/shel piles in a certain area of the woods; it took us a couple of minutes to realize it was probably someone's pet cemetery. Of course, the kids wanted to bring the cool rocks home (especially the heart-shaped stone). After much convincing (without going into too much details about exactly why it was important not to take the pretty items), they agreed to leave the shrines intact. Rest in peace, little fishies and birds who may (or many not) have been buried there
The Olson Four in Llandover Woods