He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress and for his children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

Thursday, January 28, 2010


I guess since I am currently on a diet, I'm feeling the need to talk about chocolate since I can't eat it.  Wanted to share two excellent recipes for all you chocolate lovers.  We got some Andes baking chips recently in a package and I went online and found this wonderful recipe for a mint chocolate cheesecake- SO GOOD!  Here's the link to this recipe and several others if you're interested:  http://www.tootsie.com/rec_cheesecake.php

 This next recipe is an oldie but goodie in our house as it's been Jason's birthday cake every year for about 10 years now.  It's a recipe from "Heart and Soul" a Memphis cookbook put out by the Junior League- it has a ton of great recipes.    I must say that this year was one of the best chocolate cakes yet.  I changed it a little in that instead of two 9 inch layers, I did three 8 inch layers and instead of just putting the rasberry jelly between the layers, I mixed about 2/3 cup rasberry jelly with some of the chocolate icing and used that to go between the layers.  Then I put the rest of the icing on the cake.  Also, I used every bit of the icing that the recipe made.  It's a lot but so worth it on this cake.   The recipe for this one follows the picture below.

Jason's Chocolate Raspberry Cake

2 cups sifted cake flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter or margarine
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1 cup strong coffee
1/4 cup kahlua
1/2 cup red raspberry preserves
 Chocolate Butter Frosting (see below)

Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease and lightly flour two 9 inch round baking pans.  In a small bowl, stir together cake flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set flour mixture aside.  In a large bowl, beat butter or margarine and melted chocolate with an electric mixer until fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time beating until combined.  Beat in sour cream.  Alternately add flour mixture with strong coffe and kahlua, beating on low to medium speed after each addition just until combined.  Pour batter into prepared pans.  Bake about 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool cake pans on wire racks 10 minutes.  Remove from pans, cool thoroughly.  Spread rasberry preserves between layers (will need more if more than two layers).  Spread sides and top with chocolate butter frosting. 

Chocolate Butter Frosting

1/2 cup butter
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
4 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/3 cup evaporated milk
2 tsp vanilla

In large bowl, beat together butter or margarine with chocolate on medium speed until smooth.   Gradually add 2 cups powdered sugar, beating on low to medium speed.  Slowly beat in evaporated milk and vanilla.    Gradually beat in remaining 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar.  If necessary beat in additional evaporated milk ( I beat in a good bit more) to make frosting of spreading consistency. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sometimes they'll surprise you

Last week was a REALLY long week as far as being home bound.  It poured down rain every day which in this city severely limits the amount of activities that kids can do outside the house.  In their defense, the girls were great overall.   We had fun in the house and didn't go too stir crazy. 

I'll be the first to admit that somehow I ended up with three VERY girly girls.  Those of you who knew me as a child, feel free to disagree, but I don't think I was a really girly girl.  I much preferred being outside, playing sports etc. to playing Barbies, dolls or dress up.   Anyway, my girls- not so much.  They love Barbies, polly pocket, fashion designing, playing dress up, you name it. 

So imagine my surprise the other day at the end of one of our home bound days, when I walked into the living room and found this....

They had gotten out the Risk game and set up a full blown battle scene.  Granted, it's color coordinated and somewhat organized neatly on the table, but still I was surprised by the change of pace! And, yes, in the middle of the battle, Naomi is wearing her pink princess dress.   Oh how a boy would turn our world upside down!!

Chef boy R Maddie

Maddie was so excited about her Paula Deen cookbook for kids that she got for Christmas from Nana.  We've tried a few of the dessert and snack recipes but it wasn't until last week that we had time to let her do the full meal.   She had immediately picked out what recipe she wanted to do upon opening it at Christmas- Hawaiin beef teriyake kababs with grilled pineapple.  

Here she is getting the pineapple ready to go on the grill.

Next she put the meat on the skewers.   The meat had marinated overnight (which was very upsetting to Maddie at first because she had wanted to make this on Sunday night but on Sunday afternoon I looked at the recipe and realized that a 24 hour marinade was involved so we had to put it off a little...)

Next step was grilling the pineapples and the meat.

And finally, the finished product and it was delicious!

And was she ever proud!!

One last comment in case anyone wondered, I do not usually cook in an apron with a bandana tied around my head but this has been the outfit of choice lately anytime the girls decide to help in the kitchen.  Not sure where it's coming from, but it's pretty cute.   Here's our other Aunt Jemimah...

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Ever since our sweet little Mia puppy graduated from puppy chow to big dog food we've had a hard time coming up with food for her that works.  The selection here is not that great since not all that many people have dogs.  And strangely, there's seems to be a large amount of very large dogs (huskies, labs, golden retrievers, german shepherds) in spite of the fact that the majority of housing is fairly small apartments.  Therefore, the selection of dog food seems to be somewhat limited to "large dog" food.  Anyway, all that to say, she seems to be somewhat of a picky, or finicky eater.  Dog foods (at least what we have found) usually have a variety of shapes and colors (different flavors) all within one bag.  Most of what we have bought ends up having some pretty large pieces in it that Mia just really can't seem to get her little mouth around ( at least that's what I used to think).  She would pick through the bowl of food, eating the little pieces and leaving the big chunks behind. 

So I was very excited when I found a dog food that had all little bitty Mia sized pieces.  Still different shapes and I'm assuming different flavors (no, I haven't tried it to find out nor do I plan to).  Imagine my surprise when I checked on her food bowl a day or so after buying the new food and found that she had still managed to pick through the entire bowl of food picking out what she didn't want to eat and putting it in a neat little pile beside her bowl. 

Apparently Mia is not a fan of the dark brown square pieces.  It's hard to tell in the picture, but those dark brown square ones that are still in the bowl are actually a slightly different brown and apparently still acceptable to our finicky little puppies taste buds.   


One of our favorite places to escape to when we need a break from city life is Byblos.  It's 45 min- 2 hours north along the Mediterranean from Beirut (totally depending on traffic).  Claimed by the Lebanese to be the oldest continually inhabited city in the world, Byblos (jbeil in Arabic) has a character all it's own.  When the tide is low enough, we love climbing out on the rocks.  There is also an old crusader castle to tour and climb around on.  The souks (shopping area) have numerous bargains (especially things that tempt the girls to spend their allowances like little jeweled boxes and dress up outfits).  Mostly it's just a beautiful place to escape to especially on a clear day with the beautiful Mediterranean coastline.  Here are some pics from our most recent trip.

Climbing the rocks