Monday, January 28, 2013

Chocolate-Coconut Sheet Cake

I love chocolate just as much as the next girl, or more, so when I saw this recipe for an easy chocolate sheet cake that also had coconut in it?  I had to try it.  Even though I really do love the chocolate cake I made for the boys' birthday.

This cake is super easy to make, you don't even need a mixer!  There is also no struggle to decorate it beautifully because the icing is really more of a "topping" that you just pour over the cake and smooth out with a spatula while the cake is still in the pan.

Not only easy but the gooey melty topping seems to ensure that this cake is going to be really moist along with chocolatey and delicious.  Hmm, I don't think melty and chocolatey are actual words....oh well.  This cake is good.

Chocolate-Coconut Sheet Cake, found and adapted from in the February issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (plus some for the pan)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
3/4 cup warm, strong, brewed coffee
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups confectioners' sugar
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups finely shredded, dried, unsweetened coconut
2/3 cup warm, strong, brewed coffee
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

To begin the cake, preheat the oven to 350 F.  Butter a 9 x 13 cake pan.  Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and leave an overhang on each side if you intend to remove the cake from the pan before serving.  ( I served this to my family straight from the pan and no one seemed to mind. :))  Butter the parchment paper and dust with cocoa powder.

Whisk together the dry cake ingredients in a large bowl.  Pour in all the wet ingredients before whisking it all together until smooth.  (I told you it was easy!)

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and then bake it for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

While the cake is baking prepare the topping.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan and then add the coffee and extract.  Combine the confectioners' sugar, cocoa powder, and coconut in a large bowl.  Pour over the melted butter mixture and stir to combine.

When the cake comes out of the oven pour the topping over the cake and allow the whole thing to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Serve and Enjoy!  This cake stores well in the refrigerator.  I know because I just ate another slice while typing this post! :)

This post is linked to:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

what's up?

As I've mentioned before, this is such a busy month for us here at the 4 Pear's household. Lots of fun visitors and two trips to Disneyland have made it hard for me to post as often as I' d like.

tea cups...


On top of visitors and trips a few other things have been taking up my free time.  I'm working on this cute "lapghan".

I've actually never crocheted an afghan  before, and I've never changed colors within my work before either. I think this is a great pattern if you are a newbie to crocheting like I am and want a project to give you lots of practice on stitching evenly and changing colors of yarn.  The stitches are all basic and repetitive but add up to pretty looking "waves".  You can find the pattern here.

I've also discovered a new author that I really like.  I first read The Passage by Justin Cronin and while on the library e-waiting list for the sequel, I read his other novel Mary and O' Neil.  Two very different books (vampire apocalypse vs a novel about two normal people) but I just love Cronin's writing style. Really great reading.  I'm onto that sequel now (The Twelve) so that makes me less productive in other areas, sorry!

As far as cooking, I've made two soups from this month's Food Network magazine (well actually my MIL made one of them) and both were great.  The Tortilla-Chipolte soup is quick and yummy but a bit spicy!  I stirred in a half cup of cream at the end to mellow the spice a bit.  The Chicken and Quinoa soup was really tasty too and it has a surprisingly huge amount of flavor for a chicken and vegetable soup.

image from

And, lastly, instead of eating breakfast or lunch like I should, most days I've been chowing down on these oatmeal cookies.  No need to refrigerate these or flatten them, just scoop them onto sheets and bake at 350 F for about 10 minutes.  Delicious.  My second batch I tossed in some Reese's Pieces...whoa yum.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix

I realized I was remiss in sharing a recipe for marshmallows but not one for hot cocoa!  Sorry to leave you hanging ;)

Making your own cocoa mix is easy to do and it makes it very easy for anyone in the house to just whip up a cup without heating the milk on the stove (or resorting to those little packets!).

Click here for Alton Brown's Hot Cocoa Mix recipe

This cocoa mix has dry milk in it so you just need to put a spoonful or so in the bottom of your mug and then pour over some hot water and stir!  Oh and don't forget to add the marshmallows.  :)

You can store it "indefinitely" in your pantry so you'll have plenty of cocoa all winter long.  Enjoy!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Homemade Marshmallows

ohmygosh it is soooo cold here today.   Temperatures in the 50' s are normal for Las Vegas in January, today the high is 37....yikes!

But since I always try to look on the bright side of things, I will say that this is a perfect day to drink a cup of cocoa and work on the 2000 piece puzzle we (along with our in- laws) started yesterday.  PS: 2000 pieces is a LOT of pieces. What were we thinking?!

Back to the cocoa, you have to have marshmallows in your cocoa right?  And I am not talking about those little powdery things in the packets.  Those are just weird.

I decided to try my hand at homemade marshmallows a while back but finally got to it for the first time in December.  And now I' m a convert.  No more puffed air in a package for us.  Homemade marshmallows are so delicious!  They aren't hard to make and I love that they keep in closed container for up to 3 weeks. Because as much as I like these, I don't drink hot cocoa everyday and this recipe makes a lot of marshmallows.

I made these using Alton Brown's recipe and since I followed it to a "T" (for regular sized marshmallows), I'll just link the recipe for you to follow through to.

Here are some pics of my fluffly goodness from start to finish.

getting set up

You have to cook the sugar and syrup mixture until it reaches 240 F, mine took a bit longer to reach temperature than was stated in the recipe...about 15 minutes or so.

Whipping!  Use your whisk attachment if you have one.

 Prepare the pan and don't skimp on coating it!  This stuff is sticky and you are going to flip it out of the pan after it has set.

Sticky gooey fluff.

 Spray a rubber or metal spatula to smooth the sticky fluff into the pan.

After the marshmallows have sat at least 4 hours (or overnight), flip them out onto a cutting board

 I used a pizza cutter (dusted with powdered sugar) to cut mine into squares

 But you could use cookie cutters to make some cute little hearts for your sweeties on Valentine's Day!

 Store in a closed container for up to 3 weeks!


This post is linked to:

Monday, January 7, 2013

A Different Kind of Recipe: Wood Cleaner

Like a lot of people I definitely have the itch to clean and organize my house top to bottom right now. Unfortunately for that urge though, we have a January filled with visitors and a trip to Disneyland this week!  Rough life, I know. Hopefully, come February that urge will still be around and I'll have some time to declutter and reorganize.

In the mean time I wanted to share a recipe for a wood cleaner that I've been using for a couple of months now. Back in November we bought a new kitchen table.  Our old table was round with a glass top and only 4 chairs.  I hated the constant finger prints (on both sides!) on the table and I felt like I was cleaning it constantly.  It was also a little cramped.  Mr. Pears' parents are living with us right now and we wanted to be able to eat dinner comfortably together without resorting to the dining room.  (I only let my twin toddlers in the dining room when I absolutely have to!) And even when the inlaws aren't living here anymore I hope they'll still come over for dinner sometimes.  A wood table with 6 chairs seemed to be the best option for our situation/budget.

But once the table arrived I didn't know what to clean it with!  On our glass table I had been using my glass cleaner/degreaser, which worked great (but unfortunately couldn't keep the kids from constantly touching the table after I cleaned it, ahhhh.)  For the other wood furniture in my house I almost always just use a dry microfiber cloth for dusting.  I used a light spritz of all-purpose cleaner if necessary but usually it wasn't.

Obviously a dry dust cloth was not going to be any kind of match for spilled milk and dried on ketchup so I did a bit of research.  I found out that, yes, vinegar is ok to use on wood furniture (I wasn't sure!).  I also found out that wood furniture should be conditioned (moisturized) as well.  So after looking over some DIY wood cleaning solutions, I decided to just sort of alter my glass cleaner recipe to suit.  What I came up with once a simple one step cleaner that works great to get the food grime off the table and doesn't streak or leave a film.  I love this stuff and I hope you do too!

Wood Cleaner
you'll need a clean 32 oz spray bottle
2 cups distilled white vinegar
2 teaspoons Dawn dish soap (original blue kind)
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups +/- filtered water

Pour the first three ingredients into the spray bottle in the order listed.  Top the bottle off with the water.  Shake gently to mix.

That's it!  Since oil and water don't mix you'll need to gently shake the spray bottle before you use it each time. Like I said before, this stuff works great, and it only takes a little so this 32 oz bottle is going to last you a long time.  The olive oil does not leave the table feeling oily at all.  The table just looks nice and soft and shiny. For best results I recommend using a microfiber cloth to wipe the table down with but keep in mind that your cloth needs to be cleaned too!  When your table starts getting streaky you know it is time for the cloth to hit the washing machine.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Top 10 posts of 2012

Before we get too far into 2013 I thought I'd do a little recap of my most popular posts from 2012.

1.  DIY Dishwasher Detergent - We are still using this and love it!  Though, as a word of caution, when our water softener died (we have very hard water here) we had to use Cascade Complete for a week or so.  The homemade stuff just couldn't fight the cloudiness from the hard water.  Not sure if I could change up the formula to fix this since the softener is back up and running and the detergent is working great again.

2. Pink Lemonade Cake - Yummy!  I need to make this again as soon as Spring comes back around.

3. DIY All-Purpose Cleaner - love this stuff.  I use it for just about everything now.  No more Clorox, 409 or whatever chemically yuckiness around here anymore!

4. DIY Desk Skirt - simple and pretty, I love how this easy desk skirt hides all the ugly computer cords.

5. Scrapbook Paper Flower Wall Art - this was so simple to do...I really need to work on some more DIY art in 2013

6. DIY Advent Calendar - This was a huge hit with the kiddos this year and I though it come out so pretty.  I'll be using it again next year for sure.

7.  Easy Homemade Lollipops - I'm still coming down from my Christmas cookie high so I'm not sure when lollipops will make it on to my to do list again but these sure are good.

8.  Crocheted Monster Hats - these hats are adorable.  Whenever the boys wear them out we get tons of compliments on my cutie pies!

9. Salted Caramel Brownies - Brownies, caramel, I really need to say anything else?

10.  Homemade Fabric Softener - In all honesty, I don't use this all that often.  I think the laundry detergent does a good enough job on it's own!  But, this stuff does work and I won't be buying softener again.

I had a great time in 2012 exploring lots of DIY and I plan to do more of that this year too.  One of my 2013  resolutions is definitely to "make it not buy it" if I can.  Should be fun!