Cocoa-carrot cake, and scary movie round-up

I should have taken a picture. After winding up with too many grated carrots (a small handful of which went into some carrot cake gingerbread muffins from the Practical Paleo cookbook, a tome that continues to inspire and delight), I was looking for a way to use up the remaining 2ish cups of the orange fluff in my food processor. I came across a layered cake with caramel and apples, which I might make one day when I’m motivated. But last night, I wasn’t; instead, I adapted the recipe based on what I had lying around and a little dose of experimentation. This cake, with Halloween colors to boot, was a hit at work and deserves a repeat performance.

 

Cocoa-carrot cake loaf (adapted from this recipe)

  • 1 cup flour (I used a half cup each of rice flour and all-purpose white flour)
  • 3/4 tsp. guar gum (optional, but useful if you’re using rice flour)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup sugar (caster for the Brits, granulated white for the ‘mericans)
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil (make it a good-tasting one. Quality is important here!)
  • 6 tablespoons milk (I used soy because I was out of regular)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups grated carrots (I used my food processor)
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup coconut powder (I get it at the Middle Eastern grocery store nearby, but desiccated coconut would work as well)

Preheat oven to 350 F and grease an 8 x 4 inch loaf pan (no need if you’re using a silicone one like the one I found at IKEA)

In a large bowl, stir together the flour (and optional guar gum), spices, salt, baking soda and baking powder.

In a separate bowl, mix sugar, oil, milk, eggs and vanilla until you wind up with a smooth, almost caramel-like texture. 

Add wet ingredients into dry, with a rubber spatula, to incorporate. Fold in the carrots and coconut powder.

Pour half of the batter into your loaf pan. Sift the cocoa powder into your remaining batter. Pour that batter on top, and then swirl a knife through the pan to create a marbled pattern.

Bake on middle rack of oven for 35 minutes, or until the top develops a golden brown crust, and when you stab it with a knife (still going for the Halloween theme here), it’s not gooey anymore).

Let cake rest in pan for about 15 minutes, then invert and loosen onto a cutting board. Let cool completely before slicing.

Enjoy!

 

Scary Movie Review Time!

So, I only made it through 3 movies. I’m still in the middle of the third, but can effectively rate them in order from least terrible to nearly unwatchable. These are all on Netflix Instant for your viewing pleasure.

1. Splinter 

A geeky guy and tomboyish girl couple gets held hostage by some meth-loving hillbillies. A parasite infects the hillbillies, and surprisingly decent special effects abound. This movie actually had some heart, in addition to a a good dose of suspense and not-over-the-top gore. Not one for the squeamish, but then again, none of these are.

2. V/H/S

Who doesn’t love a movie with gratuitous forward slashes in its title? This is more or less a collection of shorts, wrapped into a mediocre plot (a group of guys break into a house and steal some tapes; we see snippets of the tapes for most of the movie). The format reminds me of those Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books, which I loved, like I love all things 90s. The short “stories” are nothing spectacular, but definitely made me jump, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to sleep tonight with the lights off.

3. Sinister

I thought I’d like this one, because it’s about a writer and a haunted house (sounds promising so far, right?) Spoiler alert: Ethan Hawke’s daughter turns out to be a demon-child or something to that effect, and there are various plot components that never come together: hangings and something to do with family members moving across the country, thereby creating more “haunted houses” (so nonsensical I can’t even explain it here), Ethan’s teenage son who has night terrors, and his wife threatening to leave him over something he did in the past that isn’t really explained, or maybe I just fell asleep). See, I’m getting frustrated even trying to sell you on this movie, because it really isn’t worth mentioning at all. Let’s pretend I never watched it.

To leave you with one last link, here’s something I just found on Jezebel (which I never read anymore). Real stories are always the scariest. I don’t really believe any of them. (Kidding, I totally do, because I’m gullible and do believe in spooks, I do I do I do believe in spooks).

 

The inevitable Halloween post

I’m back in Oxford after a quick and unexpected trip to the states. I almost wrote home, but it doesn’t feel like home anymore. Then again, neither does being here without John. The cats are driving me crazy. Well, just Icarus. He won’t stop whining. I think he misses John. That, or he wants me to give in to his pleas for endless amounts of wet food. Maybe a little of both. Zora is getting fat, and was reported to be trotting around with a tail hanging out of her mouth, sometime last week, by our neighbor. I think she’s been getting mice across the street. That’s enough about the cats, though.

I don’t want to write about the other obvious thing on my mind, because I’m afraid it will sound cheap, sentimental, not good enough. I guess I’ll just say that I’m angry and sad to lose my mother-in-law so soon. And very lucky to have my parents alive and well. It was nice seeing them again, though briefly. I hate when people make promises of changing their lives after someone dies. Like, “I’m going to be super healthy and do everything I can to avoid disease.” Or, “I’m going to call my friends/family more often, because one day they’ll be gone.” So I’m not going to do that. Instead, I will keep doing what I always try to do, in the back of my mind– enjoy life, and continue learning how to deal with everything it brings.

So, on to the title of this post. Halloween was my favorite holiday growing up. I think it had something to do with candy, the thrill of being scared, and the opportunity to be someone else for a while. My most common costume was probably a vampire or witch, though I made a mean Cinderella one year (and won a costume contest thanks to this amazing dress my mom sewed).

One of our last, and best, parties in Philadelphia was for Halloween. I think we held it in November, so that attests to my desire to stretch the holiday out longer. I was a German zombie in my dirndl, and John was just…a German person, because I forgot to do his makeup. I loved seeing my friends dressed up and having a good time.

This year will be a lazier, low-key celebration, probably involving lots of terrible horror movies on Netflix and hoping for no trick-or-treaters because I don’t feel like buying candy. That might sound boring, but to me, holidays are more about reminiscing about how you spent every previous holiday than making the current one bigger and better.

I’ll report back with the movies I watched on this quest, and a rating. First up is (was) Sinister, which (spoiler alert) was pretty terrible.

 

 

Full-on Fall

I could sit here for thirty minutes trying to organize my thoughts, but am trying to minimize the time I spend in front of a screen when I get home. I’ve been taking breaks at work just to sit outside for a few minutes– luckily the weather is still nice enough for that. I just thought about this in relation to my previous job, because I was just as busy but didn’t need that “nature break.” Probably because it involved lots of paperwork, and this job has none of that. I almost miss that feeling of rustling through program commitment and trip reservation forms. Actually, I do miss it.

We are still settling in here in Oxford. 2 weeks ago, we finally got a real dresser for our clothes. Two, actually. It’s nice knowing where to find socks, and t-shirts, and it’s also a good feeling when your clothes have a home. It means this is home now, and I’m enjoying every minute of it. Except maybe the minutes spent vacuuming cat hair.

In cat-related news, we’ve reluctantly allowed them to become indoor/outdoor creatures. Ikky would whine all the time in this little flat, and Zora would sneak outside any chance she got. As of today, they now have collars with bells, so we feel a little better letting them roam free. If they get hit by a car, at least they’ll die happy, right? That’s a morbid thought, but I’m okay with it.

Yesterday I was insulted with just about the worst remark I could imagine. Poor grammar. Even criticizing my appearance doesn’t cut as deeply as that. I’m chalking it up to American vs. British English, but the wound stings and I worry that I’m not actually the strong writer that I think I am. I’m debating the grammar in that last sentence. And now I’m convincing myself to get over it, embrace my flawed sentence structure, and take comfort in being a linguistic outsider, a foreigner, in any language I speak. Being a foreigner isn’t a bad thing. It means I have many homes, and an interesting, traveled life.

An interesting, traveled, married life. Today marks 1 month since becoming a Mrs., and it feels pretty awesome. I still think it’s weird to be congratulated for it, because it’s different from the usual things that call for congratulations. Degrees, promotions, that sort of thing. Congratulations for a relationship? I’ll interpret these well wishes to simply mean others are happy for me, and in that case, I’ll take it. Or maybe people are congratulating me for landing the best husband ever, in which case I’ll also take it, because it’s true.

P.S. we had these for dinner, and they were amazing. Skip the oven part and use two pans, one for the pork and one for the apples. Use butter, not this “vegetable oil” nonsense. Up the cinnamon. Serve with rocket salad, and a lovely miso-tahini-apple cider vinaigrette. Eat the fat off your picky husband’s plate. Enjoy.