HERSHEY’S “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake

Last week I heard a story on National Public Radio (NPR) about cocoa (the main ingredient in chocolate) and its impact on Ecuador and the world. This story is about 6 minutes and it’s worth listening to.  Today, I decided to bake a chocolate cake.  As you know, I’ve been baking healthy recipes, but, I decided to bake a chocolate cake from HERSHEY’S chocolate company. In a few weeks, I’m going to try and substitute whole wheat flour and organic ingredients into this recipe and see how a more healthy cake tastes!

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Ingredients:
2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
“Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Frosting

Directions:
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and flour two 9 inch round baking pans.

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Combine dry ingredients in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour in pans.

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Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Frosting. 10 to 12 servings.

“Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Frosting

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Ingredients:
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or margarine
2/3 cup HERSHEY’s Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:
Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating on medium speed to spreading consistency. Add more milk, if needed.  Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups.

Trust Yourself

Today, as we do on most Saturday mornings, my mom drove me to the dance studio for my private lesson.  I love to dance, but lately I have been disappointed in my performance.  I was moved up mid-way through the year to the next division, which was great.  I am dancing more – more classes and longer classes.  Classical ballet has been a big change for me.  It is extremely hard on your body.  It requires focus and discipline that is different from my last six years of recreational dance.  I took ballet, jazz, tap, hip-hop, lyrical, and musical theater – but the focus was less on technique and more on choreography.  Classical ballet is all about building strength through small movements and artistry through technique.  It is very challenging and makes me doubt myself.  My Friday night class is the same way.  My teacher is really strict and serious.  She gives out a lot of corrections and I get way more than my share.  My mom says this is good because it means that I am learning, but it messes with my confidence and then I blank out and lose focus.  I end up messing up, and forgetting combinations, and losing my form.

trust

 

After today’s lesson, my private instructor told my mom that I had improved a great deal, but it doesn’t seem like it to me.  She told my mom that I am too hard on myself.  In the car on the way home, my mom said that my biggest problem is that I don’t trust myself – not my mind, not my gut, not my body.  She said that I doubt myself and second guess myself and that a lot of my mistakes come from that.  She also said that power and success come from trusting yourself.  I have been told that I overthink things.  My teachers at school even say it.  At parent teacher conference last week, my teachers pointed out to my parents how I will answer a question correctly on a test the first time; then I doubt myself or overthink the question and end up choosing another answer.  I end up choosing the wrong answer the second time around and if I’d only trusted myself, I would have gotten it right.  It happens all the time!  My mom said that her granny used to tell her to “go with what your first mind tells you.”  She said that once she started to do that, she had less regret.  It happens to me in dance too.  I get nervous and scared and it causes me to mess up.  I have to learn to trust myself enough to know what my mind knows and what my body can do.  Once I am able to do that, I can let go and dance without thinking about it.  No overthinking.  No fear.  No disappointment.  No regrets.  I promised my mom that this was something that I am going to work on.  I promised myself too.  Trust yourself, Ainsley.  Trust yourself!

Still I Rise

I love this poem and it is quite fitting for Black History Month.

Still I Rise
by Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history 
With your bitter, twisted lies, 
You may tread me in the very dirt 
But still, like dust, I’ll rise. 

Does my sassiness upset you? 
Why are you beset with gloom? 
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells 
Pumping in my living room. 

Just like moons and like suns, 
With the certainty of tides, 
Just like hopes springing high, 
Still I’ll rise. 

Did you want to see me broken? 
Bowed head and lowered eyes? 
Shoulders falling down like teardrops. 
Weakened by my soulful cries. 

Does my haughtiness offend you? 
Don’t you take it awful hard 
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines 
Diggin’ in my own back yard. 

You may shoot me with your words, 
You may cut me with your eyes, 
You may kill me with your hatefulness, 
But still, like air, I’ll rise. 

Does my sexiness upset you? 
Does it come as a surprise 
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds 
At the meeting of my thighs? 

Out of the huts of history’s shame 
I rise 
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain 
I rise 
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide, 
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide. 
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear 
I rise 
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear 
I rise 
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, 
I am the dream and the hope of the slave. 
I rise 
I rise 
I rise.

Time Flies – Black History Month

Time flies when you’re having fun!  Or maybe time flies when you have a million things going on – even when you’re 12.  February is half way over and, boy oh boy, has it been busy.  Super Bowl Sunday, Groundhog’s Day (he saw his shadow, by the way), my dad’s birthday, Valentine’s Day – a lot’s been going on!  I’ve been busy at school (science sucks, by the way, but pre-algebra is getting better), dancing four days a week (oh my aching hips and knees), and making healthy recipes from my new “100 Days of Real Food” cookbook (a dancer’s gotta eat healthy).  February is almost over and I haven’t even written a blog post about a very important subject, Black History Month.

Black History Month

According to www.history.com, Black History Month, or National African American History Month, is an annual celebration of achievements by black Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S. history.  The event grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans.  Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month.  Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating black history.

The story of Black History Month begins in 1915, half a century after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in the United States.  That September, the Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson and the prominent minister Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), an organization dedicated to researching and promoting achievements by black Americans and other peoples of African descent.  Known today as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), the group sponsored a national Negro History week in 1926, choosing the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.  The event inspired schools and communities nationwide to organize local celebrations, establish history clubs and host performances and lectures.

In the decades the followed, mayors of cities across the country began issuing yearly proclamations recognizing Negro History Week.  By the late 1960s, thanks in part to the Civil Rights Movement and a growing awareness of black identity, Negro History Week had evolved into Black History Month on many college campuses.  President Gerald R. Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976, calling upon the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”  Since then, every American president has designated February as Black History Month.

Black History Month 2

I am proud to be a black American.  I think that Black History Month is very important.  In school, we do learn about famous African-Americans and events involving blacks in American history like slavery and the Civil Rights Movement, Crispus Attucks, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr., and Barack Obama.  But, I do think it’s true that we don’t learn enough about the accomplishments of African-Americans.  I know a lot about famous black Americans because of my parents.  My mom studied history in college and she has a ton of books on the shelves about all kinds of topics in history – a lot of political books and black history books.  This isn’t true for most other kids – black or white – at least not the kids I have gone to school with over the years.  I would like for us to get to the point where there is no need for Black History Month.  The contributions of black Americans are just as important as those of white Americans.  No one race of people should be talked about just during a single month of the year.  History is history and we should learn about people of all races throughout the year.    After all, black history is American history.

Valentine’s Day Carnation Cookies

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When I was in elementary, I used to make valentines for my family members. This year, I thought I’d do something different. So I got the idea to make some cookies. My favorite are chocolate chip, but those wouldn’t really be Valentine’s Day oriented.  I thought about making chocolate chip heart shaped cookies, then I came across a really interesting cookie recipe that would be perfect for Valentine’s Day.  Did you know that there is an American Girl Magazine? The January/February issue had an interesting recipe for cookies. The recipe is pretty easy. Before I share the recipe, I thought I’d share the origin of Valentine’s Day I found on History.com. “The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom martyred.  One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who married single Roman soldiers in defiance of Roman Emperor Claudius II, who thought that single men made better soldiers. Claudius II found out about Valentine and put him to death.

Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape Roman prisons. According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl–possibly his jailor’s daughter–who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and–most importantly–romantic figure. By the Middle Ages, perhaps thanks to this reputation, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.

Others claim that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated at the ides of February, or February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.”  Modern day valentine greetings date back to the Middle Ages. That’s a long time ago and a lot of valentines!

The ingredients….

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1/3 cup butter
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
Pink or red liquid food coloring
Pink sugar
Chocolate striped candies (unwrapped and chilled in freezer)

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1. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bow. Add the egg, and beat again.

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2. Add the baking soda, baking powder, and vanilla, and stir until combined. Then stir in the flour, a little at a time, until the cookie dough is smooth.

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3. Mix in food coloring (a few drops at a time) until the dough is dark pink.  Use clean hands to knead the food coloring into the dough. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

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4. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls, and roll in pink sugar. Place the dough balls 2 inches apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

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5. Bake the cookies in a preheated 350-degree oven for 7-9 minutes.  Remove the cookies from the oven, and immediately press a chocolate candy in the center of each cookie.  Let cool completely.
Happy Valentine’s Day!