It’s March, the month that promises spring while reminding us that winter is not yet done. Here in Colorado, the meteorologists are fond of asserting that March is typically our snowiest month. We actually wouldn’t mind if they didn’t repeat this fact every March, but they do. Then in April, they like to state for the record that April is typically Colorado’s second-snowiest month.
I opened the kitchen blinds yesterday morning and gasped at the beauty outside. Ever twig, every blade of grass and every branch had been frosted with snow, the sky was pure blue, and the morning sun was just hitting the trees.
Admittedly, I hadn’t been thrilled to see the snow start Tuesday night—but who could remain cranky about a spring snow that created such a gorgeous spectacle?
By afternoon, the snow was gone. Today, the high temperature is supposed to be 65 degrees.
Tomorrow, though, the forecast calls for more snow.
Because—lest we forget—March is typically our snowiest month.
We celebrated my son’s birthday recently, and one of the boys attending his party is allergic to eggs. I’d been planning to make a chocolate cake, and I remembered a recipe we used to make years ago from Peg Bracken’s hilarious I Hate to Cook Book. She called it “Cockeyed Cake,” and the recipe relies on a combination of vinegar and baking soda for leavening instead of eggs. Sounds weird, I know, but the resulting cake is moist and chocolatey, with absolutely no hint of the odd ingredients. It’s also super easy to make.
When we brought the cake out and I whispered to my son’s friend that the cake didn’t include eggs, his face brightened and he said, “This is a first!”
Fudgy, Moist, Eggless Chocolate Cake with Milk Chocolate Ganache Glaze
Rich, Fudgy Chocolate Cake Recipe with No Eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups cold water
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and lightly grease a 9- by 13-inch cake pan. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Use a spoon to make three wells in the flour mixture. Pour oil into one well, vinegar into second, and vanilla into third well. Pour the cold water over all, and stir well until the batter is smooth. I use a small silicone spatula to scrape and stir the bowl.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. (This cake sometimes dips a little in the middle when it cools. If that happens, you can either use a sharp knife to carve off some of the top of the cake to even things up, or fill the indentation with frosting, or just not worry about it.) Makes 12 to 15 servings.
Since this was a kids’ chocolate cake, I made a simple chocolate ganache glaze from milk chocolate chips, cream and butter. You can use semisweet or dark chocolate chips for an adult dessert, and you can can also substitute brandy or liqueur for the vanilla.
Simple Milk Chocolate Ganache Frosting Recipe
1 cup heavy cream
1 12-ounce package milk or semisweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pour the cream in a small saucepan, and heat over medium until it comes to a simmer. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate chips. Let sit for a minute or two, and then stir until the chips are melted. Add the butter and stir until melted. Add the vanilla and stir. Allow the ganache to sit for about two hours, stirring occasionally, until thickened. Pour over the cake and let it sit, undisturbed, until it sets.
I topped the cake with Talenti Peppermint Bark Gelato (slogan: “Better ingredients make happy spoons”), which happens to be egg-free as well.
Photo: James Thompson
“We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Nature’s inexhaustible sources of energy—sun, wind and tide. … I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”
Can you guess who said the quote above? It wasn’t Al Gore, Mother Jones or the president of the Sierra Club. Those words were spoken by Thomas Edison, the brilliant inventor who brought us the electric light bulb and lived from 1847 to 1931.
Here in Colorado we’ve had a bout of mild weather, and yesterday I sat on the patio, soaking in the sunshine and thinking about a news story I’d recently read. Consumers are protesting because our power company Xcel Energy wants to restrict the rooftop solar program incentives we so recently put into force. It’s frustrating, and sometimes I wish ole’ Thomas could sit down with those regulators and share his forward-thinking views.
Meanwhile, nearly every day brings extreme weather events around the globe, our president is considering whether to approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, and glaciers are dissolving before our eyes.
Do you think we’ll see widespread solar energy use in our lifetimes? Or will humanity simply submit to the powerful money interests of the oil and coal industries, and let them chop down our fence in the name of jobs and economy? Let me know what you think.
“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so.” ~ Mary Jean Irion
Wishing you simple joys on this rare and perfect Monday.
P.S. I first read this quote on one of my favorite gardening blogs, African Aussie. Love and hugs to our friends Down Under!
Photo: USFS Region 5
“Thanks for a great month! Instead of wanting to go buy new items, now I want to reuse and make what I need with the materials that I have on hand! I’m feeling very creative. I’m looking forward to continuing this challenge throughout the year.” – Mariah, 2013 January Money Diet participant
Congratulations to all of you who have reduced or eliminated nonessential spending during the month of January. Many of you generously shared your comments about the different ways you participated in the challenge, and I hope it’s been a positive and worthwhile experience for you.
This is my fifth January Money Diet, and I am so grateful to each and every one of you for undertaking this journey and inspiring both me and our merry band of dieters to stay on course.
Each January, I rediscover this wonderful truth: when we control our money rather than letting our financial situation control and restrict us, we can be much more deliberate and thoughtful about how we spend, contribute and invest. Once we stop frittering our money away on little stuff, we have money for the bigger things that really matter!
As our challenge draws to an end, I’d love to hear about your experiences, savings results, and plans for the future. May your participation in this 31-day challenge mark the beginning of your most abundant year ever – both financially and personally.
Photo: Robert Couse-Baker
“Pay attention, not interest,” the saying goes. The January Money Diet is winding down, but we still need to check a few important details related to our finances. These are some suggestions:
Set Up an Automatic Deduction for Saving. This is the easiest, most painless way to save. The first year I set up an automatic deduction into my savings account, I could only afford $25 a month. The following year I upped it to $50, and I had almost $1000 in my account at the end of two years. If you can start now and gradually increase the amount as your income increases, you’ll be amazed at how much you can save.
Rebalance the Investment Mix in Your Retirement Accounts to match your age and expected retirement age. Most financial experts suggest checking your targets at the beginning of every year, and rebalancing your investments when your balances veer more than five percentage points from the targets.
Lock Everything Down, literally and figuratively. Do you have super duper passwords on each and every one of your financial accounts? Is your file cabinet locked? Do you have copies of your important papers scanned and online, or in a safety deposit box?
Do You Have a Fabulous Financial Advisor? Do you feel confident that this person is doing a great job with your money, and has your best interests at heart? If not, it’s time to have a conversation about your goals and expectations. Or perhaps it’s time to make a change and find just the right person to help you achieve your objectives.
Make Sure You’re Adequately Insured. When my roof was damaged in a hail storm, I discovered my policy covered the actual value of the roof, not the replacement value. The result was that I had to pay nearly $4000 out of pocket toward the roof. Check your homeowners’ policy and other insurance policies and make sure you aren’t similarly under-insured. Another lesson I learned the hard way: if you have a 16-year-old driver hitting the roads this year, purchase an auto insurance policy with the lowest deductible amount you can get. Trust me on this.
The January Money Diet ends tomorrow, and I can’t believe how quickly the month has passed. Are you ready to end the diet, or do you plan to continue some of the ideas we’ve tried this month? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Photo: Bhaskar Peddhapati Photography
It’s easy to get in a rut with some of the companies and people we spend the most money with – insurance companies, our financial advisors, our tax preparers, internet, cable and phone providers, trash removal service, and so on. Being in the rut could waste hundreds of dollars of potential savings each year, though, which is why it’s a good idea to routinely review major expenses.
When was the last time you compared prices? Call your phone or cable providers and ask about bundling discounts. If your employer offers several health insurance plans, spend thirty minutes reviewing the options to see if you’re getting the best deal. I pay out of pocket for my health insurance, and I use eHealthInsurance to compare plans and rates each year.
If you’ve had the same homeowners’ and auto insurance policies in place for years, you might find a better deal by using an insurance broker who represents many different companies. Maybe your cable company offers a better deal on a land line, or maybe your traditional phone company offers a deal on satellite TV. Companies will often match their competitors’ rates if you ask. (Could you flat-out cancel your cable television?)
Think about it: if you can reduce even one major expense by doing this exercise, you’ll have more money to invest or pay down debt. Check out the latest deals and see if you can save some money on recurring expenses, and you’ll be way ahead in the year to come.
Today’s Homework Assignment: In the next three days, research alternatives to your major expenses and make sure you’re getting the best deal in those big bills you pay month after month, and year after year. It never hurts to try, right?