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Today, I woke up determined to feel sorry for myself.  Today was one of those days that have become more common than not, since I left my career three years ago to become a homemaker.  Today is not the day I want to talk of that struggle, but to share instead how my day was turned around by my awesome friend, Marina, who is one of the most giving persons I know. 
Today is one of my two days of the week where I take the girls to be cared for by Marina, so that I can have 4-5 hours of "me" time. It is a gift to me from my loving husband. Today, I had plans to take my eldest daughter shopping and have a nice lunch with her. Yet, in between the day,  while being positive and peppy, girly and whimsical, I would think how I should be doing something more worthwhile, like presenting some new innovative technology, helping to bring humanity into science, being involved with community service, and making my mark on corporate America. That is what the plan was at one time. Now, I am a homemaker. Have been for three years. I am often overwhelmed by the demands of the household and two babies.  I know, poor me.
It is easy to feel sorry for yourself, even when you live in a nice neighborhood with a great husband, healthy and happy kids, and a dumb dog. 
Then, today, happened. I took the girls to meet with Marina and the playgroup at McDonald's. While I said hello and settled the kids in, she was making phone calls, phone calls that I learned were to help her friend who needed someone to send emails and faxes to the mortgage company in order to help save her home. I had just met Marina's friend this past Tuesday. She was showing us her three week-old baby, full of pride, smiles, and laughter. I would have never known that her light was going to be cut off today,  that her husband makes a meager living, that she works at the flea market when she can to make ends meet, that she too has five kids, and that she is about to lose her house. 
I would not have known if her friend and my friend, this amazing angel disguised as a human being here on Earth, Marina, did not share her story with me. 
Now I know. I know more than her story. I know mine:
I have 5 amazing kids, an awesome husband, a good life, and an afternoon to myself. 
An afternoon I almost used to feel sorry for myself, because I have so much and wanted more.  Now, I will use it to do good. And it will be better because today my daughter and I are going shopping for my friend's, friend. 
And over lunch, I will remind my daughter that He watches over the sparrow like my grandma always said He did. 
If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
The Dalai Lama
Tibetan Buddhist religious leader (1935 – )


Carolina R. Little
gabesbabymomma.blogspot.com

Last month, my good friend and guardian angel on earth, Marina, fell in love with the cake I made for my daughter's 2nd birthday party. She was excited to see it had a rainbow of colors inside when you cut into it. She asked me to make cupcakes for her grandson's, AJ, birthday party in August. My kind of request. I love making birthday cakes and cupcakes for kids! 

The tie-dye effect is so easy. Since I did not take step-by-step pictures, here is demo on the site I used. 

I chose this method, because you could go crazier with it than your typical rainbow cake with even layers. Plus, you can scrape all your batter and just dump it in in all kinds of ways and it would look extra funky! I try to use all my batter without wasting a drop. Scrape, scrape, scrap it all in. If you are using a box, which I do for kids' parties unless there is a special request, I highly recommend Duncan Hines. It delivers a generous 5 cups of batter, unlike its other counter parts, which deliver between 3-4 cups. I also use store bought frosting when I am in a pinch. I recommend buying white. Flavor it with  your favorite extract (I often use butter flavor). Then, dye it. Be sure to buy extra frosting to decorate your cupcakes. One container is usually not enough if you are going to frost your cupcakes with a pastry bag.  

For AJ.'s cupcakes, I colored my frosting and added sprinkles on top for extra cupcake confetti. 

It is really pretty easy. Just dump the colored batter in as you like until it is a little over the half way mark in the muffin tin. Lightly tap the pan on a hard surface a few times to break up bubbles in the batter and to even the batter out. Bake cupcakes according to directions. Then, completely cool them. Frost and decorate. Finally, they are good to go. 

Let the party begin!

No one appreciates a cupcake more than my 2-year old, Gabby.

Have fun creating these quirky cupcakes! 

What do you give your man who is hard to buy for on Father's Day? Well, like with all occasions around here, I give him food. One of my go to desserts for him is his favorite, Tres Leches, which I included on this occasion with Arepas and freshly made guacamole. Arepas are a South American comfort food easily found in Houston, but which I did not try until we were married and honeymooned in Cape Town, South Africa. A Colombian friend of my husband's that lived there introduced us to the dish. It was one of those foods that you never forget. 

Arepas are warm corncakes that you can eat as is or split in the middle and fill with meat, cheese, grilled veggies or whatever your heart desires. Arepa recipes vary from region to region. While we were treated to our friend's Colombian version that is made with cheese and eaten as a side dish, I made mine using a Venezuelan recipe from the website Whast4eats.com that calls for the Arepas to be filled. After all, I had made my husband's favorite slow-cooked pork tenderloin and shredded it to use as a filling. I also had guacamole and salsa verde that wanted in on the action. 

The recipe I chose was easy and similar to the many other versions I found on the web. The main ingredient, Harina Pan, can be found using an online locator or ordered online IF you can not readily find it at a local grocery store. This was not a problem for me as my local Fiesta and Food Town both sell it here in my neck of the woods. 

Arepas adapted from What4eats.com
Life is crazy sometimes. Okay, a lot of times. These past weeks were no exception.

When I can, I try my best to kick out baked goodies with my TWD baking group. And while every week is not always a good week to fit that one more thing in, this week, I managed to participate with the bakers and do my thing. 

This recipe was very simple. Very easy. It was basically in three stages: prepare cake, fill cake, and dress cake. Of course, I thought my cake needed some accessories. Therefore, the chocolate chips.

You see her flaunting her stuff?

But as we all know, beauty comes from within. 

I had to substitute Greek yogurt for the sour cream called for in this recipe. I was all out of sour cream, but I was pretty confident that this recipe could handle the rich yogurt. And it did!

The filling was slightly detectable among the strong chocolate cake and tangy frosting flavors. I used strawberry preserves instead of the recommended raspberry. 
Hey, if a real strawberry is good enough for chocolate, why not its preserves on a cake?

Since I can not stand a bare looking cake, and this cake after all is supposed to be dressy, I adorned her with kisses. Black and white for effect. 

Things I would do differently next time I make this cake:
  • Make triple the filling (I doubled it and it still does not seem like enough)
  • Make double the frosting (I just barely had enough)
  • Fill with ganache instead of preserves like some other TWD'ers did. 
  • Sprinkle with chocolate shavings or chocolate covered strawberries.
Even though I LOVE chocolate, this was not my favorite TWD recipe. I would probably make it again as a welcoming gift or potluck dessert, but not for my sweet tooth. This just did not do it for me.
 
But for a crazy week that got even crazier, it was nice to have such an easy recipe to throw together that looked elegant without all the effort! 
Thanks to Amy of Amy Ruth Bakes. Go take a peek at her site. She did an amazing job dressing up her chocolate loaf cake! As did many of the other TWD'ers!

Posting this to make the TWD Tuesday Deadline. Will post more pictures with review tomorrow…

I was not able to do this week's TWD. I wanted to, but simply could not find enough people who liked raisins in my house in order to make Raisin Swirl Bread. Normally, I would give my baked goods away in a case like this. But alas, I did not ask any of my awesome neighbors if they liked raisins. So, no TWD this week. However, I do want to make Dorie's Raisin Swirl Bread, but just not for me to enjoy, because I LOVE raisin bread. I will just have to wait for the PERFECT occasion. You know, when others can help me intake the calories!

Here is something I made while my sister was visiting. 

Aren't they beautiful?

I craved these brownies so badly that I waited for company (i.e. my sister) to visit so that I could eat some and share the rest! 

There is a story behind these brownies. Not these brownies, but the recipe. 

After I came home from birthing my baby, Lilah, many of my AWESOME neighbors took turns making me and my family dinner. It was the best present anyone could have given us. It was like getting a surprise everyday, but an edible one. 

Well, my neighbor and friend, Cissy, brought over a great meal of ravioli and fixin's. But, the star of the show was definitely these brownies! I will never forget the moans of ecstasy that filled the house as these babies were bitten into. I must confess that we ate the whole pan in one night. Yes, we did. All of us. Well, except for the baby. 

After much persistence, I finally got the recipe from Cissy (Thanks, Cissy!). I could not believe how easy it is to make these babies. 

Symphony Brownies Recipes
 adapted from Cissy H.
  • prepare your favorite brownie recipe (I used Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix)
  • buy 2-3 Symphony bars with toffee (depending on what size you use. I used Theater Sized)
For thicker brownies:

Fill an 8X8 baking pan half way with prepared brownie batter. Then, lay Symphony Bars vertically along pan. Finally, cover bars with remaining batter. 
Bake according to directions. Cool completely! Then, cut. 

For thinner brownies:

Fill an 13X9 (or so) pan a little less than half with batter. Then, add Symphony bars to middle. Finally, cover bars with remaining batter. Do not worry if the mix does not completely cover bars. The batter will rise and cover them. Also, you will get a cool grid made from the  bars that will show on the surface of the brownies. Makes the brownies look artsy and easier to cut! This is what I inadvertently did. Bake according to directions (baking time should be less). Cool completely! Then, cut.

I warn you; these brownies will go quickly. They are as addictive as crack. Seriously. 

Everyone seems to know about these brownies around our Sub-D. Apparently, they have made the rounds at PTO functions and suppers! 

Have fun making these and enjoying them with your loved ones!

I freely admit that I am a certified chocolate lover. It is no secret. I don’t try to hide it. If you want a favor from me, bring me some chocolate. I am so far gone, it does not even have to be expensive. Just chocolate. Seriously, hand it over.

You can imagine how thrilled I was that I found a good chocolate cake recipe in my Taste of Home Comfort Food Diet Cookbook. I LOVE this book. I am trying to cook out of it a lot. When, my hubby comes home, it will have a standing gig on my kitchen island. We are both determined to drop our pregnancy weight. Since he hates vegetables, it is so hard to cook light fare. I do believe this book will revolutionize my evening dinners and help us all out!
I made this cake for my bestie, Linda. She has been with me through thick and thin, literally! We both try to watch our calories. When I went to visit her the other day for lunch, I took this for our dessert.

It looks luscious, doesn’t it? It was rich and decadent and low in fat and calories.
Here is the recipe:
Yummy Chocolate Cake
La Donna Reed
adapted from ToH Comfort Food Diet Cookbook
1 package (18-1/4 oz.) chocolate cake mix
1 package (2.1 oz.) sugar-free instant chocolate pudding mix
1-3/4 cups water
3 egg whites (I used meringue powder)
Frosting:
1-1/4 cups cold fat-free milk
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 package (1.4 oz.) sugar-free instant chocolate pudding mix
1 carton (8 oz.) frozen reduced-fat whipped topping, thawed
Chocolate curls, optional (yeah, right!)
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, pudding mix, water, and egg whites.  Beat on low speed for one minute; beat on medium for 2 minutes.
  • Pour into a 15 in. x 10 in. x 1-in. baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350F for 12-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
  • For frosting, place milk and extract in a large bowl. Sprinkle with a third of the pudding mix; let stand for 1 minute. Whisk pudding mix; let stand for 1 minute. Whisk pudding into milk. Repeat twice with remaining pudding mix. Whisk pudding 2 minutes longer. Let stand for 15 minutes. Fold in whipped topping. Frost cake. Garnish with chocolate curls if desired. (uh, duh!)
My eldest daughter frosted and decorated the cake. She did a great job! I placed in the fridge to give it an ice box taste. It seemed appropriate for the summer.
This cake is seriously good and pretty much guilt-free. Here is the nutritional values calculated without the chocolate curls (those you will have to do for yourself. I made them 0 calories, haha).
Nutrition Facts: 1 piece (calculated without chocolate curls) equals 197 calories, 5 g fat (3 g saturated fat), trace cholesterol, 409 mg sodium, 35 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 3 g protein.
Diabetic exchanges: 2 starch, 1/2 fat.
After all, nothing says love like somethin’ from the oven, especially if is chocolate and low in fat and calories!
Enjoy!