Attitude Adjustment

I just returned from visiting my mother for her birthday. We had a great time together going shopping, to the beach and just relaxing. For me, the beach and the relaxing part were much needed.

Every morning as we were having coffee, my mother asked me what I wanted to do. We’d talk about options and then head out. When we’d return to the house, we’d have an early dinner and then go into the living room and relax. We’d read, watch a movie, or watch one of our favorite shows. Because we both like most of the same TV shows, it was easy to pick one to watch.

After the year I’ve had, this was a much needed and welcomed respite. Now that I’m back home with a more clear outlook and plan for my future, I can focus on the task at hand to make my plans come true.

This mini-vacation gave me a complete attitude adjustment. Instead of being happy to get five hours of sleep and being tired each day, I’m sleeping as much as seven hours and I’m waking up feeling refreshed. Instead of going to sleep dreading the next day, I go to sleep excited about the possibilities of the next day.

The events of the last few weeks have given me a new lease on life and my future. It’s a little daunting, but exciting as well. Because of the events and the changes it’s brought to my life, I find that I’m smiling and laughing more, sleeping and eating better as well as more focused.

We get so bogged down on the daily grind of working to earn a living, we’re forgetting to live. Life is about more than just working 12 hour days just to pay bills. It’s also about enjoying all that is around you; friends, family, pets and nature. Things like hiking in the woods and admiring the changing of the colors, going to the beach and finding interesting shells, eating a simple dessert such as the one my mother wanted for her birthday; these are important things in life, and should not be put on the back burner.

For my mother’s birthday, she wanted a simple chocolate pudding pie made with Jell-O chocolate pudding. So, in honor of my mother’s birthday and my attitude adjustment, here it is:

1 pre-made graham cracker pie shell (I like the Oreo crust)
1  box of Jell-O chocolate instant pudding (3.9 oz)
1 1/2 cups of cold milk (I use whole milk)
Whipped cream (you can use Reddi-whip or make your own)

In a mixing bowl, mix together the milk and the pudding mix until completely mixed and creamy.
Spoon into the pie crust
Top with whipped cream
Let chill in the refrigerator about 2-3 hours

OPTIONAL: I add shaved chocolate to the top of the whipped cream for more chocolatey goodness.

Chocolate pudding pie

Absent for a while

I realize that I’ve been absent in posting to this blog. Somehow life got in the way. 

I’d been so immersed with something that should not have taken so much of my energy. How I let that happen is beyond me, but it’s not going to happen again.

What would have been Jeffrey’s 60th birthday happened on August 30th and what was Nana’s second anniversary happened on September 18th. Both of these milestones were met with sadness and gratitude at the same time. 

On October 18th my mother will be 81 years young and I’m heading to St. Thomas to celebrate with her.  I know Nana and Jeffrey will be with us in spirit.

To properly celebrate a birthday, in addition to having loved-ones there, you need a good birthday cake. Not one of those factory-made ones that can be purchased in a grocery store; no, you need a real Italian cake.

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ITALIAN CANNOLI CAKE

INGREDIENTS: CAKE

  • 6 large eggs, separated into two separate bowls
    1 cup sugar divided into two separate bowls (1/2 cup in each bowl)
    3/4 cup all-purpose flour
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    2 tablespoons water
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

RICOTTA FILLING

  • 1-32 ounce container whole-milk ricotta cheese
    1-8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 cup confectioners’ sugar
    1/4 cup small semisweet chocolate chips (Nestles or Toll House)
    1/3 cup semisweet chocolate shavings for on top of the cake

CAKE FROSTING

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
    3 tablespoons whole milk
    1 and 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar – sifted
    3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    2 cups heavy or whipping cream (I prefer whipping cream)

PREPARATION: CAKE

  • Preheat oven to 375°F
  • In small bowl, with mixer at high speed, beat egg whites until soft peaks form
  • Gradually sprinkle in 1/2 cup sugar- continue beating until sugar completely dissolves and whites form peaks.
    In a separate large bowl, now at low speed, beat egg yolks, flour, baking powder, salt, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
  • Now add 2 Tablespoons water until blended.
  • With rubber spatula, gently fold beaten egg whites into egg-yolk mixture, one-third at a time.
    Spoon batter into UNGREASED 10 inch by 3 inch spring-form pan.
  • Bake 30 to 35 minutes until cake is golden and top springs back when lightly touched.
    Invert cake in pan on wire rack; cool completely in pan.

CAKE LAYERS

  • Brush the cakes with orange liqueur or light rum.

FILLING

  • In large bowl, with mixer at low speed, beat ricotta, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract until smooth.
  • Stir in 1/4 cup semisweet-chocolate chips.

FROSTING

  • In small bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat 3 tablespoons of softened butter, 3 tablespoons whole milk, 1 3/4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar, and 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract until smooth.
  • If needed, add a little more milk (1 teaspoon at a time) until mixture has an easy spreading consistency.
  • In large bowl, now at medium speed, beat 2 cups heavy or whipping cream until stiff peaks form; fold confectioners’-sugar mixture into whipped cream.

ASSEMBLY

  • Once cooled – loosen cake from edge of pan; remove pan side. Loosen cake from pan bottom; remove pan bottom.
  • With serrated knife, cut cake horizontally into 2 layers.
    Place bottom cake layer, cut-side up, on cake plate.
  • Brush orange-liqueur or rum on the bottom cut cake layer.
  • Spoon ricotta-cheese filling on center of cake layer.
  • Spread evenly filling out to edge of the cake.
  • Brush orange-liqueur or rum on the top cut cake layer.
  • Place top cake layer on top of the filling cut-side down.
  • Spread frosting over top and down side of cake.
  • Sprinkle shaved chocolate on top of the cake.
  • Refrigerate 2- 3 hours until cake is set.