The fourth-quarter time-crunch is making itself known early this year.
Somewhere in my heart, I love fall and the winter holidays that follow. But for the last several years, the final months on the calendar have felt overstuffed with commitments I've been less than eager to agree to. This one is no different.
Maybe it's the fault of the airlines that make it impossible to enjoy a brief trip for Thanksgiving with our extended family -- an itinerary for a long weekend has now stretched to nine days in a very non-baby-proof house because tickets at a better price couldn't be had for a shorter stay. And maybe it's my giving in yet again to D.'s ambitious plans to transform our front porch into a spook alley of sorts for Halloween, requiring trips to Home Depot and Radio Shack for staging supplies and subsequent test runs with the setup. Add to this that dead fridge we've been working around since the middle of September; a work trip D. took earlier this month, leaving me on complete baby duty for a week; and the head cold* and food poisoning D. managed to get (the latter not because of our dead fridge but from some baaaaaaad catering), extending my round-the-clock call shift to cover not just O.'s usual demands but also D.'s sorry state of affairs.
I guess I shouldn't be surprised that I'm out of enthusiasm for the remainder of 2013, but I feel like a curmudgeon. Isn't this when I'm supposed to be getting excited? Baby's first Halloween? Turkey Day? Christmas?
I'll get there. The fridge is finally working as of this morning, after six weeks' hiatus. Hooray for no longer living out of a cooler and being done with twice-daily ice pack changes, no thanks to the repair service's obscenely backed up bookings. As if there wasn't enough changing going on in this house ...
What holds stress at bay for me is carving out time to (1) read, (2) write, (3) knit, and (4) bake. Given the demands of most of October, (1) has been occurring in the middle of the night after O.'s 1 a.m. feeding -- fifteen minutes before I make myself get back in bed -- and (3) has been an intermittent affair where, if O.'s playing happily by himself, I steal ten minutes to knit one row of a sweater I'm making for D. while keeping an eye on our busy little man from the couch. Obviously, (2) has received short shrift, though I've gathered plenty of ideas during the morning walks D. and I have been taking with O. -- that half-hour before D. leaves for work is essential check-in time for us and a built-in brainstorming window. Maybe, just maybe, now that our fridge insanity is over, I will get a few precious minutes back in my day to put text on the page.
As for (4)? Well ... it's hard to bake much when you can't store large quantities of milk (alternative or otherwise) and eggs or their substitutes. What's a girl with cake-lust to do?
Leverage the power of the microwave.
Several months ago, I stumbled upon a recipe for single-serving mug cake on the internet. You put the ingredients in a mug, stir, zap, and voila! Dessert for one. The version online used the aforementioned refrigeration-required ingredients, but I figured out how to tweak the concoction and get rid of some fruit that was going to go bad without a good chill. Double bonus! It's the small victories, no?
I'm sharing because this little five-minute treat got me through the last month and a half. If you like your chocolate dark and rich, this is all kinds of molten goodness. And if you prefer your cake on the vanilla side (or apple-walnut, carrot-coconut, ginger-peach, cardamom-pear, blueberry-cinnamon ... I could go on), I have adjustments. Just ask.
Gluten-free Chocolate Mug Cake
Serves 1 frantically fridge-less curmudgeon, with or without germ-laden husband and teething 8-month-old
1/2 very ripe pear, skin removed, or 2-3 tbsp applesauce or leftover baby food puree, any vegetable
1/8 c garbanzo flour or brown rice flour
1/8 c baking cocoa
3 tbsp water
2 tbsp chocolate chips
1 tbsp sucanat or brown sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Several generous dashes of cinnamon
1. If using pear, cut into chunks and heat in mug in microwave with olive oil for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Stir to mush. Otherwise, place applesauce or baby food puree in mug and proceed to step 2, no heating required. Seriously, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, green beans -- I've used them all. No fridge, remember? I couldn't let that stuff go to waste.
2. Add all dry ingredients with exception of chocolate chips. Add water and, if not already used when heating pear, olive oil. Stir well, then add half the chocolate chips to the batter and distribute throughout. Sprinkle remaining chocolate chips over surface.
3. Heat in microwave for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 minutes, depending on the wattage of your machine (ours is pretty weak). If you like your cake really molten, err on the lesser side.
4. Dust with additional sweetener if desired (I found the chocolate chips were enough to carry the rest of the cake). Enjoy, preferably in a location where neither husband or baby can distract you for five blissful minutes. It's worth every second.
* Despite all the complaining, I am enormously grateful that by some miracle, neither O. nor I caught whatever D. got. It really is the small victories.
1 day ago