Killer Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

4 eggs
1 1/4 cups (300ml) vegetable oil
2 cups (420g) white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups (276g) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 cups (720ml) grated carrots
1 cup (240ml) chopped pecans
1/2 cup (105g) butter, softened
8 ounces (227g) cream cheese, softened
4 cups (600g or less) confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two 9 inch rounds or a 9×13 inch pan.

2. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, white sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir in carrots. Fold in pecans. Pour into prepared pan.

3. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

4. In a medium bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Stir in chopped pecans. Frost the cooled cake.

Frosting variation:
Cliff isn’t a huge fan of frostings. The amount of powdered sugar it takes to make a buttercream that will have that dry-to-the-touch, crisp-outside-creamy-inside texture makes him a little ill. And every time I made this frosting, I had way to much of it, as I always make it in a 9×13. Here’s a less sugar-intensive frosting. It will be harder to transport, as the frosting remains somewhat flowier. But I think the flavor makes up for the extra mess. And I skip the nuts, due to laziness.

85 g butter, softened
175 g cream cheese, softened
2 t vanilla extract
250-300 g powdered sugar

Blend all ingredients on medium until combined, then whip on high until completely smooth. Frost cooled cake immediately.

more celebrity sound-alikes

Last night, a muse whispered in my ear again while Let’s Dance by David Bowie was playing on iTunes. She told me that while singing that song, he was channeling Katherine Hepburn. Listen closely on the refrains, where s/he sings

If you say run, I’ll run with you
If you say hide, we’ll hide
Because my love for you
Would break my heart in two
If you should fall
Into my arms
And tremble like a flower

Go ahead, take a listen, and tell me I’m wrong.

Susie’s Meatloaf

A classic — with slight modifications by Cliff and Sarah

Fresh breadcrumbs (2-3 slices bread)
1 carrot, finely shredded (use a food processor)
2 ribs celery, also finely shredded (use a food processor)
2 Tbsp. minced dried onion
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. basil
1 Tbsp. parsley
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce or Kitchen Bouquet
1 tsp. celery seed
11/2 lbs. ground beef (the leaner, the better)
1 egg, lightly beaten
splash milk
salt and pepper to taste
ketchup or barbecue sauce (we recommend Smokestack)

1. Mix all ingredients except barbecue sauce in large bowl until well-integrated. Note from Cliff — make sure to remove the paper from the bottom of the ground meat. Get your fiber elsewhere.

2. Place meat mixture into a 9×13 pan. Form into a loaf shape in the middle of the pan. Brush entire surface of meatloaf with ketchup or barbecue sauce.

3. Bake at 350°F for 1-11/2 hours. Brush with more ketchup or barbecue sauce half-way through cooking time.

we joined a gym!

Partly due to some New Year’s resolutions, and partly due to some personal goals related to our upcoming travels, and partly just because it’s good for us, we joined a gym today. Our pals Tammy and Matthias have been members there for a while and they gave us a much better orientation at Fitness Company than the staff there did (thanks guys!). It reminds a heckuva lot of Lifetime Fitness in Troy/Macomb Twp. We figure that, combined with our weekly yoga classes, might actually yield some visible results sometime…if not in time for our big Easter trip, then maybe our formalwear sizes in October will have dropped a number or two.

There are some things here at Fitness Company that differ greatly from my experiences at Lifetime Fitness, though:

  1. The sauna. I don’t have a lot of sauna experience under my belt (for various reasons, not the least of which is that you don’t wear clothes in the sauna), so it was hard for me to judge objectively. But doesn’t 90° C (yes, that’s Celsius, people!) seem a little close to the boiling point of the substance that comprises about 70% of my body by mass?
  2. I figure even in the U.S. most sauna-users take a shower afterwards. But is there a big ol’ waterfall of cold water in which to do it, too? Nothing like that following a session under the conditions mentioned above to shock the system.
  3. Nudity. Even in the somewhat limited envelope of cultural privacy in the U.S., I was pretty much OK with same-sex lockerroom nudity. Having been through a gym class or two in the Michigan public school system and then my membership at Lifetime Fitness prepared me for that. But I’ve never taken a shower with my friends before, especially after spending 15 minutes purging my pores with them as described in point #1 above. Maybe it just worked out alright because they’re from California. Either way, not as big a deal as I’d imagined it.
  4. After all the physical (and for me, somewhat emotional) tension of the above points, Fitness Company offers a Ruheraum — a sort of an indoor deck where you just chill out after that ice water cascade. I gotta remember to bring a book with me tomorrow when we head back.

I can see how you can easily spend a couple hours there every day — circuit training on the weights machines, elliptical/treadmill/recumbent bike cardio stuff, and then a sauna/chill-out session or two can add up quickly. The real bummer versus Lifetime Fitness that I can see immediately is that they’re not open 24 hours, making it harder for us to work a gym date into our schedules. They open at 7:00 a.m. three days a week, but I used to love arriving at Lifetime at 5:15 (both of those times).

Chicken Soup

I’m not really sure how to define this. It started out with a disappointing chicken and dumplings recipe I found online. Then I thought, ‘I can come up with something better.’ I ended up thickening the soupy brothy part with some cornstarch and throwing in some instant German Semmelknödel (like a big dumpling make of StoveTop stuffing – better than it sounds). The recipe that follows is a basic, improvised chicken soup that probably improves with adaptation.

Chicken Stock
1 whole chicken (2.5-3 lbs.)
4 ribs celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled & sliced
1 onion, quartered
2 cloves garlic, coarsely sliced
1/2 tsp. parsley
1/2 tsp. thyme
11/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 bay leaf

2 T. butter
1 onion, chopped
4-6 ribs celery, chopped
1/2 tsp. rosemary
1/2 tsp. parsley
1/2 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. sage
1 tsp. seasoned salt
1 tsp. black pepper
4-8 cups chicken stock
4-6 carrots, peeled and sliced
chopped cooked chicken

Chicken Stock Prep

1. Put all ingredients in large deep pot and fill with water until completely covered. Bring to a boil, turn down heat to medium simmer and cook for 40-50 minutes.

2. Carefully remove chicken from stock (it should be falling-apart tender) and set aside in a large bowl, covering with a paper towel. Allow to sit for about 45 minutes-1 hour.

3. After allowing it to cool at least 30 minutes, slowly pour stock through cheesecloth-lined mesh strainer into a large bowl. Don’t keep the vegetables! They’ve given up all their flavor to the stock and turned to mush. Allow stock to cool more before skimming fat from top.

4. Remove meat from the chicken, discarding skin and bones. You can shred it or chop it into pieces – whichever you prefer, texturewise.

Still with me? Good!

Soup Prep

1. Melt butter in deep soup pot over medium high heat. Sauté onions in butter for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

2. Add celery to pan and sauté for another 3 minutes. Add rosemary, parsley, thyme and sage to onion and celery and stir until just distributed.

3. Pour stock into pot. For two of us, I use 4 cups – and that makes a lot. Add seasoned salt, pepper and carrots. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes or until carrots are tender. Turn heat to low and add chicken meat. Heat through.

booked for Michigan in October!

So, after the boss man approved my trip request, Sarah and I met up at the Regensburg VHS to get our weekly dose of physical and emotional stretching and relaxation in and then came home to purchase a flight. Sarah and I are pretty happy with the price we found — just over a thousand Euros for the two of us including all airport fees and taxes. Our flight leaves so early that taking a train and bus down to the airport like we usually do will be out of the question. We’re going to have to take the AirportLiner for an additional cost of around €50 total, but that’s cheaper than getting a hotel in Munich somewhere!

So if you live in, or plan to be near Detroit between October 15 and October 25, 2006, pencil us in (McNeely-Pendletons get first dibs, since they missed out last time).

Long-term Planning

We’re going to be purchasing our tickets to come to Detroit in October today, so if anyone has anything they want to discuss with us about the trip, please e-mail us. That way we can get everything squared away before we actually purchase.

We also need some help from any potential visitors. Cliff’s work has thrown down the gauntlet and asked all of the people in his office to submit time-off requests for the rest of the year by February 10. I really did think we were the only ones that planned things that far in advance. We just need some input from anyone that is considering a trip to see us in order to budget Cliff’s days off as efficiently as possible.

We look forward to hearing from you!!