Thursday, July 23, 2009

No Trip to the Store One Bowl Pumpkin Chocolate Cake

Okay, so my husband and son are out of town, and life is a lot simpler this weekend. It's just me and the 3 1/2 year old, who still takes naps. Today, we had no external agenda. I got to decide what to do with my day. After having coffee and a little orange juice for breakfast, doing yard work, and having a super-healthy lunch, I decided it was time for chocolate. But by that time, O was yawning for a nap, and a trip to the store would have ended up being punishment for me. So I started to consider what I already had in the house that was made out of chocolate. There had to be something! Was there anything hidden in the back of the freezer? No. Behind the spices? No. Sugar-free Jello Pudding, yes, but that wasn't going to cut it today. I should have known right away I wouldn't have any chocolate. If I keep chocolate too handy, I just eat all of it anyway, so there is never any around.

But I did have cocoa powder. I thought about making those brownies that my old college roomie used to make us. Those used cocoa, and those were good. Very good, and definitely chocolate. But then I realized how gross I would feel eating all of that, because I very well know I will eat at least 1/4 of the recipe as soon as they cool enough. At this point I realized I still had about six frozen bags of cooked pumpkin in the freezer. And pumpkin is healthy. What could I make with pumpkin and chocolate? A cake? I scoured the internet for cake recipes, and found one that looked good. I printed it, salivating already. I went to make it, though, and found that I only had two eggs, and the recipe called for five eggs. Rgh.

Once I made chocolate pumpkin muffins, which only needed one egg... so I went to get my old buddy, the red and white checked cookbook. To find the muffin recipe that I bastardize every time I use it. The muffin recipe that only uses one egg. I have pushed the limits of that recipe for years, adding extra blueberries, oat bran, dried apricots, cutting the fat out. I flipped the book open to a page marked by an index card which bears a handwritten copy of my Grandma Hinton's boiled custard recipe, and assumed it was stuck into the "Bread" section, because that's where the pancake and muffin recipes are, and that's what I'm usually making for me and the kids. So I started flipping page by page, but as luck would have it, I was in the "Cake" section, and came across an "Easy" One Layer Chocolate Cake recipe. Which would probably work, but as I was figuring out how I would have to adjust the moisture to include the pumpkin, I noticed the Banana Cake recipe. Now we were in business... I had a recipe to mangle. And it only took two eggs.

So here is how I made my chocolate-craving inspired cake, complete with fudge sauce since I didn't make brownies and I didn't have any chocolate chips to add to the cake. I guess it would have been easier in the end to just make the brownies. But then I wouldn't have used up any pumpkin.

No Trip to the Store One Bowl Pumpkin Chocolate Cake
With Thanks to Deva Chan, who Taught Me How to Cook and Freeze Pumpkin.
And Thanks to Mrs. Wilson, who Sent Us Home With Seven Pumpkins Last October From Her Garden in Willcox!

1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. cocoa, sifted
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. pureed cooked pumpkin w/ juice (I used a hand-blender to puree it nice & smooth)
1-2 tsp. honey (totally optional-- I threw it in b/c I thought I might need to make up for the fact that bananas are sweet and pumpkin is not.)
1/2 c. lowfat plain yogurt (because I didn't have buttermilk and the red and white checked cookbook said I could substitute-- it tasted great!)
1/2 c. butter, soft (original called for shortening)
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a bowl, combine flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add pumpkin, yogurt, butter, eggs and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed till combined. Beat on medium speed for three minutes.
Pour batter into a greased and floured 9x13 pan and spread evenly. Lick the beaters and the bowl. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes or till a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on rack as long as you can stand it while you make the fudge sauce, then dig in even though the piece you cut will fall apart if the cake is still warm.

Stupid Fudge Sauce
So, once you figured out you were making something out of chocolate, even though the cake might have been a smarter choice than making brownies, you lost your mind and wanted something richer. You can make this sauce to serve with your cake:

1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1-2 tsp. dark or regular corn syrup
pinch salt
1/4-1/3 c. of cocoa powder (I didn't really measure, but that's what it looked like)
2 T. of butter
1 tsp. of vanilla (eyeball)

Put everything except the butter and the vanilla in a small saucepan and whisk to get the cocoa incorporated. Heat to a slow boil and boil for two minutes. Remove from heat and add the butter and vanilla, stirring to incorporate. Way too easy.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Fallout-- A Ramble

Well, there are four weeks of summer left; the end of summer is a point of reference claimed by students, parents and educators. The rest of the world continues on through its perpetual twelve month cycle. They are oblivious to the cycle that teachers sometimes take for granted, the cycle of reading & long-term planning over the summer, envisioning who our students might be, what the challenges might be this year, literally and figuratively plotting our courses; envisioning our classroom, ordering posters, shopping for professional attire; plunging in, discovering the realities that our visions lacked, furiously memorizing names, faces, bell schedules, details that will help us connect with our students; assigning, collecting, assessing, providing feedback, re-envisioning constantly; making thousands of decisions a day until sometime around February we sort of cave in, assign long-term projects and hand the responsibility for our students' success back to them, to often thrilling results. They have grown. We continue to push until we are exhausted. And by then, it is May, and we're just trying to keep everyone hooked until summer, when we pile the extra stacks of papers into a cardboard box marked "To File," wipe down the cabinetry, and surrender to summer.

Except that this summer was different. This summer, I had a pink slip, a RIF slip. This summer, I collected unemployment and prayed, hoped, affirmed, envisioned, clung to the notion that I might get rehired by my old district (TUSD). My husband had lost his job in November, and we had to short-sell our home because of it. We had not anticipated that, and never did we anticipate that my teaching jobs would be so unsure, either. This summer, we moved into a family-friendly rental. I spent the first few weeks unpacking, organizing, arranging. It would have gone a lot faster without actual daily life continuing on. Oh, that, and the full schedule of parks and recreation classes I had scheduled for the kids. (Side note: Tucson Parks and Rec. has an amazing variety of offerings. Check it out! We qualified for a discount!)

By the time I came up for air and went back to my job search in earnest, almost half of summer had passed. And by then I was in the middle of real estate school. My husband has been a Realtor for 6 years, and we figured, why not? It might be the key to our financial recovery. And I really think we are going to enjoy working together.

So I was in the middle of real estate school, in the middle of a fervent job search, and the state legislature had passed the budget, a budget which doesn't completely eliminate public education in Arizona. But it was/is really difficult to know what that budget really means for those teachers who have lost their jobs, or for those of us with first graders thinking about the first days of school.

So, tomorrow I finish my real estate salesperson's class at Hogan, and I am beginning to reflect on this whole experience. I'm still awaiting word from TUSD (what word we get is often fairly vague and unhelpful. I guess "word" will either be a callback or the public notice that they are finished calling back RIFfed teachers.) I'm still sending out sincere applications for other positions; maybe I will find something better, something that opens new professional doors. I am really trying to remain open, although it is difficult to give up the idea of that cycle of the school year in which summer is normally a delicious limbo, a time for professional development and personal recharging.

I'm not exactly sure what kinds of reflections will be coming here in this blog, but I thought I should transition away from the pleading rhetoric from the pre-budget weeks, and forward to what will come next, for our family, for my son, for my career, and for all of Arizona, especially those families with school age children. We will see!