Monday, April 12, 2010

Lasagna for sharing

Albion is not only the home of the Old Rugged Cross and Albion College.  It is also home to some nice old Victorian houses,
 some sad urban decay,
and some great food.

Last Friday, we decided to go for a nice quiet dinner with just the two of us. We've been to Cascarelli's in Homer a couple of times, but never to Cascarelli's in Albion. Cascarelli's in Albion is over 100 years old. We really enjoy Cascarelli's in Homer and were hoping it would be as good or better in Albion.

The menu was pretty standard fare and pretty reasonably priced.  In Homer, they have this Annie's bread that is a buttery mess and tasty.  So we tried the bread sticks.  Unlike the Homer version, they were fried.  They were lightly sweetened and garlicly.  They have us a butter sauce and some Ranch.  I often measure a restaurant by their Ranch.  Cascarelli's of Albion knows their ranch.  It was a sign of good things to come. While we were enjoying our salad and bread and waiting for our food, we also enjoyed some live music.

The music was a man playing his acoustic guitar and singing. We were treated to some Bob Dillan, Gordan Lightfoot -- naturally, there was some Edmund Fitzgerald -- Johnny Cash, and some other good classic songs.

We shared the lasagna plate in part because we always fill up on bread and in part because I was feeling cheap. There was definitely enough for both us. I know it doesn't look like much but there two good sized portions in there.  There were also 5 or so meatballs.  The meatballs were great! The lasagna was okay.  I prefer less ricotta and more mozzarella. But there was plenty of sauce so that more than made up for the cheese issues.

We didn't leave room for dessert. Hopefully next time we will remember to leave room for dessert.  I think we will try to head over to Albion for dinner again sometime soon.  The service was great, the food was good, and the atmosphere was terrific.  Worth the drive!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Did someone clean the shower?

This morning, I asked the family if someone had cleaned the shower. I had been doing an experiment with my new Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner and was worried someone had ruined it! I set up my Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner when it came from on Tuesday. (I love free stuff!)

No one had cleaned the shower! My shower is so clean! I'm not just saying that because it was free.  I've been sent other free stuff that I didn't like and didn't blog about. So, (1) go get your self one of these and you can thank me later and (2) go to to become a bzzagent and get your own free stuff.  In addition to the automatic shower cleaner, I also have $3 coupons to pass on to friends.  I have already given out 2.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Sour Cream Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting & Chocolate Glaze

Sour Cream Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting & Chocolate Glaze
(Printable Version)

I have been eying this recipe on Smitten Kitchen for a while now. I have been needing a reason to make this cake (I know, you never really need a reason.) Easter was a co-worker's birthday and her favorite sweet treats are chocolate and peanut butter. What better reason to make such a delicious cake!

Smitten Kitchen's directions were great.  You should definitely freeze the layers before frosting.  Not only will they frost better, but they will be easier to handle for the stacking. It was definitely worth the time spent baking and frosting! Enjoy!

Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze

Adapted, only barely, from Sky High: Irresistable Triple-Layer Cakes - with thanks for Smitten Kitchen!

Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake; serves 12 to 16 (SK and I agree, it will serve quite a bit more. At work, we got 9 pieces out of half.)

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup coarsely chopped peanut brittle (I skipped this)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans. (AG Note: I measured it out, I put about 2 1/4 cups of batter in cake pan - I only have 2 round pans so I had to be careful to make sure that all three were the same amount of batter.)

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. (Deb @ Smitten Kitchen note: These cakes are very, very soft. I found them a lot easier to work with after firming them up in the freezer for 30 minutes. They’ll defrost quickly once assembled. You’ll be glad you did this, trust me.)

4. To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup cup of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. (Deb note 1: Making a crumb coat of frosting–a thin layer that binds the dark crumbs to the cake so they don’t show up in the final outer frosting layer–is a great idea for this cake, or any with a dark cake and lighter-colored frosting. Once you “mask” your cake, let it chill for 15 to 30 minutes until firm, then use the remainder of the frosting to create a smooth final coating. Deb note 2: Once the cake is fully frosting, it helps to chill it again and let it firm up. The cooler and more set the peanut butter frosting is, the better drip effect you’ll get from the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze.)

5. To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Simply pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving. Decorate the top with chopped peanut brittle.

Peanut Butter Frosting
Makes about 5 cups
10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (because oil doesn’t separate out)

1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.
2. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
8 ounces seimsweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half

1. In the top of d double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Love, Brotherhood, and Slow Motion

I suppose a more accurate title to this post would have been Sherlock Holmes and Man Vintets Sauvignon Blanc. I strongly recommend both the latest Sherlock Holmes starring the delectable Robert Downing, Jr. and the 2008 Man Vintets Sauvignon Blanc.

First the movie. I love a mystery, love it! In this movie, we know the villain the entire time. But that isn't the point of the movie, here we get to know Sherlock in a new way. He isn't some genius who smugly lives among us. He is a troubled man who cannot help but be flooded by every sight, sound, smell, and sensation in his proximity.  He doesn't enjoy it, he doesn't seek it out.  In fact, he would prefer to dull it. 

The other thing I loved about the movie were the unexpectedly deep emotional moments, like the moment when we believed Watson to be dead, or the moment when Watson's beloved confronts Holmes. I loved Holmes' love as well.  She was great.  It was another example of his imperfection. In some ways, it reminded me of Iron Man, not just because they shared a a leading man (and isn't he something), but also because the lead character is flawed.  In some ways, deeply flawed and yet, his flaws are a part of his charm, his power, and his strength.  In many ways, we are like Stark and Sherlock, our flaws are also are our strengths.  Sherlock's strengths are his need for a challenge and his inability to turn off his powers of observation and his need to share his observations.

I also loved the soundtrack and will be checking it out very soon.

Now for the part of my post you have been waiting for, Man Vintets Sauvignon Blanc 2008.  Excellent wine, it was part of a Christmas gift so I can't speak to price but I can't imagine it was much. Not much of an after-taste, nice and smooth.

I loved the way they left it open for a sequel. I am really looking forward to seeing the sequel.

By the way, if you haven't discovered Roger Ebert on Twitter, you really should follow him at @ebertchicago.  Brilliant and funny.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Baby Bzzzz

I've mentioned before that I am a bzzagent. I get great stuff free from and all I have to do is tell you about it - so far, I've liked everything I've been sent. Right now, I am participating in a promotion for the movie Babies. I am under no delusions that I will win the traffic contest. (although, maybe with all the foodies from my listing on the Foodies Blogroll can help . . .).

Everybody loves... BABIES. Coming to theatres this Mother's Day Weekend (May 7th), this visually stunning new movie simultaneously follows four babies around the world - from first breath to first steps. From Mongolia to Namibia to San Francisco to Tokyo, BABIES joyfully captures on film the earliest stages of the journey of humanity that are at once unique and universal to us all. Check out the trailer!