Monday, March 25, 2013

A Not Too Sweet Chocolate Treat

Starbucks.  I have to admit, I don't get it.  Not being a coffee drinker, I have no real way to understand the whole phenomenon.  Not that I begrudge people their addictions.  I have a well established problem with Diet Coke.  It started in the early 1980s with Tab and progressed from there.  The difference is: on a car trip, I am perfectly happy with a $1.00 medium Diet Coke from McDonald's.  I don't need to find a Starbucks and invest in a grande dolce latte whatever.  

On a recent trip to Tennessee, I stopped to pick up my daughter from her apartment about three hours south of where I live.  Like many young people, she discovered coffee drinks in high school and college.  "Can we stop for coffee and breakfast?" she asked.  My bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats with almonds was wearing off by then, so I said sure.  She directed me to the Starbucks around the corner.  Since I had no idea what kind of breakfast I would find there, we had to go in.  She knew exactly what she wanted -- a slice of banana bread and some drink name that made no sense to me.  I couldn't decide what to get.  The lemon cake looked good -- except for the icing.  The chocolate bread looked good -- except for the cinnamon.  I finally chose a cookie, which was okay, but not something that would induce me to return.  The look of that chocolate bread, though, stuck with me.

When I got home last week, I must have still had the vision of Starbucks' chocolate bread lingering in my brain because when I looked in the pantry at the cookbooks, my hand went to the Hershey's 1934 Cookbook (which is actually a 1993 updated and expanded version of the cookbook), where I found a recipe for Chocolate Tea Bread.  It's a simple recipe that results in a nice chocolate loaf that is nutty, a little chewy, and not very sweet.  Mmmm.  I'm not sure how well my cake would go with a caramel macchiato, since Starbucks' chocolate cinnamon bread has 40 grams of sugar in a single slice whereas mine has about 134 grams in the whole loaf and no cinnamon, but it goes perfectly with milk or even Diet Coke!

Chocolate Tea Bread
slightly adapted from Hershey's 1934 Cookbook

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cocoa
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and lightly flour an 8 x 4 x 2 inch loaf pan.

In large mixing bowl, beat butter until creamy.  Gradually add sugar, beating until well blended.  Add egg; beat well.  Sift together flour, baking soda and salt; add cocoa to dry ingredients and whisk together.  Add flour mixture to butter mixture in three parts, alternately with buttermilk.  Stir in sour cream.  Add nuts and mix just until blended.  Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake approximately 1 hour and 15-20 minutes or until wooden pick comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes in pan and then remove to wire rack.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Luna Shawl aka The Eyepopper

Another shawl, ya'll!  I'm on a shawl kick lately.  The Southernism "ya'll" is because I just returned from a visit to Tennessee where a waitress at O'Charley's about darlin'-ed us to death.  I definitely said "ya'll" when I was growing up in the South, but I never called anybody "darlin'" or "sugar."  Still, I think it beats having a waiter or waitress address your group as "you guys" when at least half the group is female!

In February I wrote about my first shawl, made with the "Ruby" pattern by Anastasia Roberts, which you can purchase on Ravelry.  I liked it so much, I made another.  This time, however, I used three skeins of Cascade Luna Paints yarn in Solar Flare.  It is a wonderfully soft and cozy worsted weight Peruvian cotton, much thicker than the microfiber I used in the first shawl.  I thought three skeins, which I already had on hand, would be enough, but I had to cut short the ruffle. It's really, really bright, but I think it will be fun with a simple t-shirt and plain cardigan.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Something Fishy

I am back among the living, having come out of the weeds and the zombie state of an imminent deadline.  After a weekend spent celebrating the baby's twenty-first birthday, I have now settled back into my usual routine.

It is still winter here, despite the occasional robin sighting, so last night I decided on a warming meal of seafood chowder.  I had eaten clam chowder lots of times, but didn't discover seafood chowder until a trip to Ireland in 2009.  Our daughter went to the University of Limerick for a semester, and she and I spent about ten days driving along the west coast of Ireland before school started.  Being cheap, I soon learned that a bowl of chowder, served with that wonderful Irish brown bread, made a fabulous, inexpensive meal.  It was available almost everywhere, and I never had a bad bowl.

I recently watched Ina Garten make seafood chowder on Food Network, so when I saw wild-caught shrimp at the grocery store, I decided to try it.  I followed her recipe as closely as I could, only substituting cod for monkfish, which was not available.  This is a hearty, fishy soup, loaded with fish, shrimp, scallops, and crab meat.

A pound of shrimp, half pound of scallops, a little more
than a half pound of cod, and  six ounces of crab meat

There are vegetables, too: carrots, potatoes, celery, corn, and onion, but seafood is definitely the star of this chowder. The husband actually said he would like more potatoes, and I think I agree with him.

The vegetables simmering before the stock and seafood are added.

I would also add more flavoring I think.  Some recipe reviewers said they added a touch of cayenne.  That might help.  It was very good overall, but a little mild.  The stock was flavored with thyme, onion, and garlic, but it just needed more ooomph.  Maybe I didn't add enough salt and pepper.  For the recipe, you can click the Food Network link, here.