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May 23rd, 2008 · 3 Comments

Dan’s birthday was earlier this week, and I did a lot of cooking.  (What I have a lot of right now is time.  And I like to cook, and Dan likes to eat, so it works out.  The mountain of dishes was a little alarming, but I got through it.)  I’m wishing now that I had taken some pictures, but my cooking time tends to be more than a little hectic without the introduction of a camera.  Maybe next time I’ll enlist a kid for that.
So: Dinner was Beef-Broccoli Lo Mein.  Although the beef was more done than I wanted it to me (thus not super-tender), the flavors here were pretty great: lots of ginger and garlic, and the broccoli sauteed with the fresh ginger was fantastic.  That recipe suggests serving purchased egg rolls on the side, but we had leftover egg roll wrappers from a Scramble recipe, so I made them from scratch for the first time and baked them instead of frying.  It was easy (though a little involved) and fun, and the kids liked them much better than the frozen egg rolls we’ve bought before.*  We’ll definitely do that again.
I had some specific needs in terms of birthday cake.  A couple of months ago, Smitten Kitchen ran a recipe for butterscotch ice cream, and I immediately thought of making it for Dan’s birthday.  So I needed a simple cake that would go with butterscotch and not leave us with two-thirds of the pan left over.  The answer turned out to be Black and White Cake (for the Cooking Light trifecta): a one-bowl chocolate and vanilla cake that has a nice texture and excellent flavor.  We did still have two-thirds of the pan left, but it was an 8-inch pan rather than a 9×13-inch pan, so it’s quite a bit more manageable.  Dan said yesterday that we may have to ban cake mixes from our house, as we’ve had really good luck with scratch cakes lately.  I don’t know about that; I am leery of scratch cakes, as there is so much potential for them to turn out weird.  But I can’t deny that this cake was pretty wonderful, and fun for the kids to help make.  I am also making another not-from-mix cake on Saturday for the larger family birthday gathering.  The ice cream, by the way, was spectacularly delicious.  I am not kidding about that.

* Some of my childhood neighbors/family friends were recent-ish immigrants from Vietnam.  They would bring huge tins of freshly fried homemade egg rolls to my mother for Christmas and New Year’s and just-because, and those egg rolls disappeared FAST in my house.  I am frequently disappointed by the flavors of egg rolls that I buy out in the world, even in restaurants, because there just aren’t many venues that replicate that taste very well.  These ones that I made didn’t replicate it either, but I didn’t expect them to because they weren’t fried.  Just the same, it conjured up some nice memories to cook and eat them.

Tags: daily · food

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Cat // May 23, 2008 at 11:18 am

    Happy Birthday Dan!

    The ladies at St Martha’s church, which is where Fr. Peter Do Quang Chou (Ithink) is now, make those same eggrolls at the annual fundraiser dinner. They are exactly the same, and they are definitely Vietnamese. And they are fabulous! I have thought about checking out Vietnamese restaurants to see if we could get them there, but have not followed through. Let me know if you ever do. Otherwise, you will have to get down here sometime in the fall and go to St Martha’s with me.

  • 2 Dan N. // May 23, 2008 at 11:28 am

    On cake mix:

    We cut an 8×8 cake into 12 pieces, and nobody who ate a whole (2×2.5) piece was thinking about having another piece. It was satisfyingly dense; moist, but not sticky. It had the right crisp in the edges. It tasted like something.

    Our last three cake mix cakes have been gigantic, fluffy, and haven’t stood up to frosting. I did our last one in a Bundt pan because I wanted more crust and less blah - still a little insubstantial. Crust was kind of tough, not crispy.

    My point, really, is that cake is not super hard to make, and when it comes from real ingredients, it tastes like it.

  • 3 Melissa // May 23, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    Happy birthday Dan!

    We like this made from scratch cake: Applesauce Spice Cake. Also insanely easy, and easy to change subtly with different ‘applesauce’ flavors (mango applesauce worked reeeeally well).

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