Earlier last week when Irma had not chosen her course there was uncertainty abound and lots of folks making decisions before having all the information. While I am not a Lowcountry native, the last 13 years have taught me a great deal about tropical storms and hurricanes. For us, since we do not have kids and we are not sickly or elderly, we have options based on storm severity. For others, they got out of dodge before the storm turned north making Charleston a ghost town for the weekend.
One of the things that we learned last year with Hurricane Matthew is that “it takes a village.” My sisters, Gary and I decided then that we had to plan so that we could help each other get ready.
Making a Plan
Since Thursday was pick up day for both of their dogs, my sisters timed their arrivals so we could all be together. We can then make our plan based on the severity of Irma in our area. I had already bought 2 cases of bottled water for each of us as well as a set of the Lyfe Lite; emergency LED light bulbs. (that arrived on Saturday). These 5w/40w light bulbs have built-in rechargeable batteries that will power the bulb for 4-5 hours in a power outage. I had meant to buy for a while since we have power outages several times a year. They come is 450 lumens (40-watt equiv.) & 800 lumens (60 watt equiv.)
When there is so much uncertainty, you have to watch The Weather Channel a lot. Much more than I prefer because it incites anxiety in me and can freak me out. Fortunately, our local network affiliates have great weather departments as well, so we check in every few hours to check her path. Decisions, decisions Irma, what is your path? This time she went west. Thankful. After Hurricane Matthew last year with the roof and tree damage we sustained, we really hoped this would not to happen again and so soon.
As Irma moved west, we knew that we were going to be okay. However, because the storm is so massive, we would still have to deal with wind gusts and soaking rain. Charleston would inevitably flood where it always does during super high tides combined with lots of rain. In the planning process, we did learn that our house is one of the highest elevation points on the island, so that gave us additional comfort. The only thing left was to get gasoline for the generator in case we lose power for an extended period. Oh, and hope that our friends and family in Florida are spared significant damage.
When Gary and I moved here, we were very aware of the threat of hurricanes. What I did not realize was the toll that watching and waiting would take out of me. So far we dodged a bullet, but we still have 2 1/2 more months of the hurricane season. We are crossing our fingers, but we are ready and have a plan. Although, a glass of wine might just take the edge off.
You Want Me To Cook?
One of the side effects of the potential approach of a hurricane is what I call “waiting exhaustion.” The uncertainty, anxiety and the waiting combined can really wear you down. I had a plan to cook a few new items to share with you, but that went out the window as I ran storm errands, fielded calls from worried friends and family and the “waiting exhaustion” set in. So when Gary requested Chicken Cordon Bleu on Saturday, I thought he had lost his mind, and I told him so. But then he said, “No use the breaded chicken we have in the freezer.” Ah, good plan.
So a freezer dinner it was: Breaded Chicken Breasts baked until crispy with a slice of deli ham and melted Provolone cheese on top (we did not have Swiss). The side was canned creamed corn mixed with a can of regular corn to give it substance along with frozen dinner rolls. Fast and delicious. I chose to top my chicken with the Roasted Tomatoes Appetizer. It ended up being quick and quite tasty. Obviously not recipe worthy but think of this as more of a food hack that is easy in a pinch.
Late Night Binge
Last Tuesday, I had drinks with my friend Liz, about her book that I had read while on vacation. She mentioned that she watched the Netflix miniseries, Thirteen Reasons Why and thought that I would like it. I did not believe I could watch a show about a teen suicide. But after episode 1, I was hooked and could not get to the next episode fast enough. I binged and watched all thirteen episodes over the course of three very late nights. While set in modern-day, I feel that this miniseries could be any high school anytime. High school is a troubled time for many maybe most kids.
Before I watched it, I assumed it would gratuitously glorify and graphically portray the subject. I was wrong. There was one scene that I did not feel was needed and I covered my eyes and cried. Overall they did an excellent job of dealing with the complex challenges of high school life and the effects of bullying and what elevating the status of students who play sports can do to create a dangerous machismo. Sometimes it was quite painful to watch, and I could feel my anger building. But now I am glad that I did.
On Sunday the family converged at my older sister’s house since she could have the greatest impact once the outer bands of Irma arrived here. She could use our help moving some stuff, so we planned to head out, do what was needed, have dinner together and then come home in anticipation of a wet and windy Monday.
Dinner was fantastic as Gary grilled an excellent chicken dish that we had had before. But the pièce de résistance was the dessert my youngest sister brought. We all now know that my baking skills are undisciplined. Given that, please indulge me as I share her version of the best chocolate cupcake I have ever had. She is gluten sensitive, so she modified version of an Ina Garten recipe. If I were you, I would make it this way no matter what. This gluten free version made the perfect cake, moist, yet a nice crumb.
Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes
with Peanut Butter Icing
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 tablespoons water
1 3/4 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour
1 cup good cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Kathleen’s Peanut Butter Icing, recipe follows
Chopped salted peanuts, to decorate, optional
Kathleen’s Peanut Butter Icing:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. On low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix until just blended. Fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it’s completely blended.
Divide the batter among the cupcake pans (1 rounded standard ice cream scoop per cup is the right amount). Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans and allow to cool completely before frosting.
Frost each cupcake with Peanut Butter Icing and sprinkle with chopped peanuts, if desired.
Kathleen’s Peanut Butter Icing:
Place the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.
Download Recipe Here: Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Icing
Modified to be Gluten and Coffee Free from Barefoot Contessa at Home
Plan ahead, Stay dry, and Safe.
That is all for now.