Saturday, February 4, 2012

I Like to Bake for The Birthday of the Trees

I like to bake.

Never a huge fan of chocolate cake, I bake the tastiest recipe for chocolate cake.  I have made it for numerous potluck luches.  It is a crowd pleaser.  The recipe is from the back of the Hershey's can of cocoa, but I use Nestle's. It has a better flavor.  I also keep it dairy-free, changing the cow's milk to either almond or coconut.

Rachel's Potluck Chocolate Cake
inspired by Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake

2 Cups sugar
1 3/4 C flour
3/4 C cocoa (preferably Nestle's)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 C almond or coconut milk
1 tsp salt
 1/2 C canola oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 C boiling water

preheat oven 350
spray two  9-inch pans with canola cooking spray
place 1st 6 dry ingredients into a mixing bowl; mix
add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla.
mix at medium 2 minutes
gently stir in boiling water  (batter will be thin...not to worry!)

pour into prepared pans
bake 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean

As mentioned, I use Nestle's.  I have swallowed my pride despite that I have issues with that company since they are a huge lobby group for formula in Washington, and I am a breastfeeding supporter.  Still, they are better tasting than Hershey's.  For supermarket cocoa, that is.  I guess Droste is available some places, and it has a good taste but it is simply too expensive for me.  I always loved the Nestle's cocoa tin.  It was shaped like a Toll House.  Then they switched it to plastic, which I saved.  And now they are getting rid of their traditional design and are using a more generic container.

Old Nestle's cocoa on the right, new container on left.

The Jewish New year of the trees, Tu B'Shvat, is coming up.
To be festive, we made a tree-shaped Chocolate cake.
Frosting recipe is from the side of the confectioner's sugar box.
I used coconut oil and non-hydrogenated Palm oil as the shortening.

Yes, those are mixed lettuce greens on the bottom.

We later replaced them with sour straws.

The Wolfman wouldn't have it any other way.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Ayelet Galena zichron l'vracha

The passing of 2 year old Ayelet Galena z'l is so sad. May her parents, Hindy and Seth Galena, find great comfort among the mourners of Zion.

 Here is a link to a beautiful reflection on Ayelet.

 Here is the link to her funeral audio recording.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Rage is Outrageous: It Just Depends On Your Perspective

Like so many things in life, the way you approach it makes all the difference.

Take the word "rage."  In the jam band music scene, the word rage over the past few years has emerged as a positive description of a way to enjoy the live tunes.  As in:  "We're gonna rage tonight."  Meaning, "we're gonna groove to the awesome music and have lots of fun with good friends in a safe environment."  It is 100%  positive.  The first name of the keyboardist in my favorite band is Page.  It is typical to refer in a congenial way to the side of the stage where he performs as "Page Side Rage Side."  Some folks are taking this word and using it in a positive way in the music scene.  My friend Karen, The Tiny Rager, maintains a thorough, meticulously-cataloged list of current music happenings in New York City as well as detailed music reviews of various shows.  Where she finds the time, I do not know!   Another person takes wonderful professional photographs of various music shows at Rage It Proper.  Nifty stuff.

Speaking of being proper, Derek Blasberg, the fashion writer, is a champion of proper behavior for women, as I have mentioned recently.  His books are funny but true.

My grandmother, Martha Miller Loonin, may her memory be a blessing, was a proper, elegant lady.  She helped me keep up with current trends.  One summer in camp she sent me a package that contained "crazy ET headgear" that was "all the rage."  Here is her letter to me:

Letter to me in camp by my Grandma Martha Loonin z'l .  Note the 3rd paragraph "it is all the rage around town"

Here is the type of headgear she sent:

Wouldn't it be fun to bring back this early 80s rage inspired by the movie E.T.:  The Extra-Terrestrial.  Where, you ask, would a mother of 3 school-aged children don such headgear seriously?  No, not when I visit the Nordstrom shoe department.  Not at my friends' 40th birthday parties, which seem to be endless at the moment.   Not when I am waiting at the ice rink for lessons to end.  Perhaps at a raging music venue where folks know how to let loose and have fun.  Or maybe on Purim.  Or maybe both.  The headbands that Grandma Martha sent had much longer, boingier springs.   

Boingier.  That is a good thing.  We should all have more boing in our lives.

And now, the negative rage.

Of course, we all know about road rage.  Not good, not good.  Los Angeles, where this term originated, is a frustrating place to drive, but folks gotta find more ohm and calm when behind the wheel.

At a local gas station-mini mart, I noticed their store-brand slushy-type food coloring-laden junky drink.  Here is one of them, called Red Rage:

Cumberland Farms is absolutely correct that ingestion of a Red #40 drink will create great rage, despite efforts last year to dispel this theory.  The science exists to prove that.

And this makes me very sad.

Parents buy this garbage for their children, and then they start yelling at them 10 minutes later when they start  bouncing off the walls.  Couple it with a game on the DS of some birds that also have an angry rage face like this image, and you've got a lot of negative vibes.

Of course I realize that it is intended to appeal to children.  My boys love that image.  And the taste of the drink.  And they love to play Angry Birds.  They aren't stupid.  The stupid one would be me who allows it even as a special treat.  And I don't like the word stupid.  It is a very poor word choice.

Why can't we turn that negative rage into a positive rage of a good time?  Usually we drink water and minimize our food coloring and high fructose corn syrup intake.  We listen to good tunes and have fun.

I guess it just depends on where you are coming from.

I'm gonna put on my purple glitter alien headband and help the children to bed.

Boing, boing, boing...

All this rage stuff makes me want to just get positive.

Here is some George Harrison playing "Here Comes The Sun."  Rage it in the most outrageous way.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Kombucha, The Mother Of All Beverages

I Am A Mother, Too, And Haven't Yet Gotten To Making You!

So many people around me don't like the taste and smell of kombucha.  Let me correct that statement:  so many people in my sphere have never even heard of kombucha.  I brought a bottle of it recently to a community dinner and the husbands all drew a blank, although they were interested to learn about my unusual drink.  Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage from certain yeasts and bacteria known commonly as "the mother."  It tastes like a very mild version of beer.  It is not alcoholic like beer, though, despite that it was taken off the shelves a couple of years ago for fear that it actually was high in alcohol content.  I like the taste, and it has taken me all too long to start brewing it on my own.

I buy the popular brand by G.T. Dave, who started brewing it in his parents' home in Beverly Hills.

I imagine if I lived in Berkeley or Portland, I would be a huge dinosaur, since everyone and their mothers there are brewing the stuff.

I buy this at Whole Foods, or when I am in the New York area, Fairway

photo from

Here is one instructional video about how to make it:

Maybe I should go to Kombucha Kamp.  That site looks like a good place for me.

Barbra Streisand by Duck Sauce Went Viral Last Fall...Where Was I???

(Disclaimer, my daughter Concealed Light peeked her head in just now as I am watching the video below and said, "Inappropriate.")

Certainly not at spin class, otherwise I would have been enlightened much earlier...

For my Mah Jongg ladies (that would be you, mom)...

For my gay friends (that would be you, Tim, my coworker at HBO who was from the South and wore silver spandex glitter pants to our annual party at Tavern on the Green...actually I am sorry for being so stereotypical, I only partially recall that you loved Barbra.)...

For guys named Elliot  (as in her first husband)...

For anyone who appreciates the date April 24th (meaning, you are a true Barbra Streisand fan.  That would be my mother, not me.)...

Click this caption below this photo to get to the video of the Barbra Streisand song, by Duck Sauce (DJs Armand Van Helden and A-Trak, Alain Macklovitch a Jewish guy from Montreal), that went viral last fall  (yea, currently over 60 MM views on YouTube... that would be millions for those of you who are unaware of Wall Street abbreviations):

no, I do not own this image.  I copied it from some web site.  Not worth suing me.  Would rather just embed the YouTube video, but Spinnin' Records doesn't want to allow that, which I think is utterly ridiculous.  Come on, my Dutch friends, you will be doing the world a complete service if you allow embedding on folks' websites.  Oh well, I still love Holland.  You do bikes, mass transit, congeniality, tulips, world peace and coffee shops very well.  Apparantly food, too.  Did you see the recent NY Times article about the improvement of Dutch food'?  No hard feelings, 'kay?   click that link   will get you there, too.

Did you see Philadelphian DJ ?uestlove in there?
Kanye West, also
Ezra Koenig
and more current musicians whose work I really don't know!

Thank you Katie, my most awesome spin instructor for the most excellent new tunes!  As a full-time mom who doesn't get to a single dance club these days (did I ever?), I rely so much on Spin Class for the good new tunes!

And here is Why I Know The Significance of the Date April 24th.  Again, Thank You Mother!
(start at around 3:00, and then Barbra gets to the punchline, which she CHANGED in the TV version of "I'm Five" to April 29th!  Oh, Barbra, you are too much!)

Finally, here is NPR's coverage by Guy Raz, a star reporter at NPR and a few years younger than me at Brandeis, about "Why Club DJs Love Barbra Streisand."

Here is some Vampire Weekend, with Ezra Koenig, in case you had no clue who that was...