Friday, November 9, 2012

Chocolate Butterscotch Trifle

During the days that we were without power last week, I occupied myself by reading through some of my cookbooks. I love learning about new ways to combine foods and create new dishes with favorite ingredients. All too often, I find myself making the same meals over and over again. So my resolution this week was to try at least one new recipe.

Over the weekend, Ryan was in the mood for some chocolate cupcakes which I decided to make for him while we was studying in the library. I brought Avery's bumbo seat into the kitchen and she talked and kept me company while I baked. I had a chocolate cake mix in the cupboard, but I remembered a cake I had baked from scratch in Grenada that was just about as easy as using a mix. Plus, it has coffee in it, and nothing is better than chocolate and coffee.

I mixed the cake, poured it into my favorite purple polka-dot cupcake wrappers and waited for them to bake. When I took them out of the oven, I was very disappointed to see that instead of rising to a nice round shape, they were spread out and flat. As I attempted to take them out of the cupcake pan, I noticed they were extremely soft (although they were fully baked) and did not hold their shape well. I knew I couldn't frost them and eat them as regular cupcakes. Since they still tasted fine, I thought I would break the cupcakes up into pieces and use them in a trifle dessert.

The next step was to think of what else to add to the cake. I had made a trifle a couple years ago with chocolate pudding, but I didn't want to go overboard on the chocolate (for Ryan's sake). I do love puddings, though, so I found a recipe for a homemade butterscotch pudding and decided to give that a try. It was a little time-consuming, but the result was so worth it! As the final layer, I beat heavy whipping cream with a little powdered sugar, cinnamon, and coffee. I topped the dessert with a few extra cake crumbs and caramelized walnuts. This might be one of my new go-to recipes during the fall. It was rich in flavor, but suprisingly light. And it tastes just as good a few days later. Excuse me while I go get a spoon . . .

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

After living in Grenada for 2 1/2 years without experiencing even a tropical storm, we were quite surprised to learn that Hurricane Sandy was heading our way up here in New Jersey. The weekend before the storm came, we stocked up on bottled water, canned goods, and other non-perishables from the grocery store. We weren't quite sure what to expect, but we decided to stick it out here at home and hope for the best. Ryan found out on Sunday evening that he did not have to go in to the hospital on Monday or Tuesday. I think if we had known that sooner, we would have driven down to Greenville for the week.

But Monday morning arrived gray and windy with a little rain off and on. We had no idea how long our power would last, so we tried to do everything that required power as early as possible in the day. Avery loved having her daddy home all day, and he kept her occupied while I cleaned the house, did laundry, and cooked some food we had in the fridge. No play date with daddy is complete without a little photo shoot!

Throughout the day, the wind continued to pick up and we watched the latest predictions on the news, praying it wouldn't be as bad as they said it would be. Around 7:30, I was finishing feeding Avery and putting her to bed when our power went out. We lit a few candles, watched a movie on the computer, and went to bed around 10:00 pm. Since there were some pretty tall trees outside of Avery's room, she slept in the Pack 'n Play in our room that night. I remember waking up around 2:00 am and realizing the wind had stopped.

The next morning, we looked outside and saw only a few branches and shingles scattered on the grass. Later in the day, we saw a small tree had fallen over outside our building, but did not hit or damage any of the apartments nearby. We kept ourselves occupied by playing with Avery, playing games, and watching another movie. I started a new knitting project and enjoyed having several hours to work on it.

Ryan had to go back to work on Wednesday, and by this time our apartment was beginning to feel a little colder. Avery was well-dressed  and I continually was checking her, but she always felt warm to me so I knew she was fine. In fact, I don't think she knew anything was different. She slept just as great as she always does and was happy and content during the day. We heard from the assistant pastor's wife that evening to let us know church was cancelled because the church did not have power. I don't think we would have made it anyway since we hadn't showered since Monday morning.

Thankfully, we still had water (although it wasn't hot) and we had a gas stove, so we were able to heat up water to wash up in the mornings and I had hot bowls of soup for lunch everyday. Ryan gets a discount at the hospital cafeteria (which has delicious food) so he brought home dinner each night. He heard that we would not be getting our power back until the following Monday, so we started to make plans to stay with friends in PA for the weekend.

On Thursday, Ryan came home during his lunch hour so Avery and I could sit in the warm car for an hour (while we ran a few errands). Since we hadn't been able to get on the internet or watch the news the past few days, we had no idea how bad the situation around us really was. What we could see, though, was that there was some sort of gas shortage in the area. The gas station at the corner of our street had cars lined up for miles, and Ryan had to find another way home from work.

By this time, we heard that the power may not be back on until Thursday or Friday of the following week. I didn't think I could stand sitting in a cold dark house for another week, so we started exploring other options. My favorite option was the one where we would fly home to Greenville Friday afternoon. Spending a week with my family and being with our church family again was a very exciting prospect. We talked to my parents that evening, and Dad said he would begin looking up plane tickets for us when we arrived home. I had prayed with Avery every morning that the power would come back on soon, but I have to admit that with each new prediction, I began to lose faith.

As Ryan and I sat there Thursday evening discussing our options, we heard a "beep" and the lights came on! We were completely surprised and I almost had tears in my eyes I was so happy. The apartment gradually began to get warm and we sat there in overwhelming thankfulness. I was disappointed, however, when I had to let my family know we weren't going to see them that weekend. But they will be here for Thanksgiving in just a couple weeks! This past weekend I have actually enjoyed cleaning and putting our house back together again. Plus, I read a lot of cookbooks this past week and I was inspired to try a few new recipes (blog posts coming soon).

But as we watched the news reports and began to understand the devastation in our area, we were even more thankful for the protection the Lord gave us. Our hearts go out to those who lost not only their power, but also their homes, possessions, and in some cases, their loved ones.
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