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Foodie Review: Chocolate Cherry Cake Bars

As most of you know, I make custom cakes, cupcakes, brownies, cookies, and other sweet goodies as my part-time home business. It all started at home with hubby and lil man as my only clients and grew from there. I still like to bake new stuff for them whenever I don’t have any orders. Lately, I’ve been browsing foodie blogs for new and interesting recipes, and thought it would be nice to blog about my experiences.

I will begin with the one that started it all: Chocolate Cherry Cake Bars with Dark Chocolate Ganache from Mini-Baker. When I first saw this recipe and noticed that it was made with boxed cake mix, I decided it was simple enough for a weeknight dessert, but would never ever tell anyone about it – after all, I make chocolate cake from scratch, so why should I brag about this one?

Turns out I was being extremely prejudiced. When I first tasted it, I almost passed out from the cherry-chocolatey goodness! And to think I didn’t have to measure sugar or flour! It was awesomeness at its best.

The true test came when my hubby tasted it. I didn’t tell him how I made it (I was still a bit embarrased about having made a cake from a box). He was all over it! When he started asking me where I had gotten the recipe from, I was tempted to lie, but eventually caved in and told him the truth. He mumbled something while chewing, and the cake was gone by the end of the day.

Chocolate Cherry Cake Bars

I used a 8x8 pan, so they look more like cubes!

Here’s the recipe so you can try it out for yourself. You can also find the original blog post and pic here.

Chocolate Cherry Cake Bars with Dark Chocolate Ganache

CAKE:

Ingredients
1 box of your favorite Dark Chocolate Cake Mix
1 15 oz. can cherry pie filling (the one I found at the grocery store was 21 oz, so you can imagine how moister and goo-ier it was!)
2 eggs (make sure to use large eggs)
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (eye-ball it, that’s the best part!)

Directions
1. Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pan). Grease and flour 13×9-inch pan.
2. In large bowl, gently mix dry cake mix, pie filling, eggs and chocolate chips with rubber scraper; break up any undissolved cake mix by pressing with scraper. Carefully spread in pan.
3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
4. Prepare the ganache while the cake is cooling

GANACHE:

Ingredients
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups dark chocolate chips (if using from a bar, make sure to chop it into small pieces for best results)

Directions
1. Melt butter in a medium-sized pot over low heat.
2. Stir in cream and vanilla into the butter and bring to a boil.
3. Continue stirring for 2 minutes.
4. Remove the pot from heat and stir in chocolate chips until melted.
5. Pour the warm ganache over the top of the slightly-cooled bars. Let the bars set for 1 1/2 hours until the ganache is firm. Use a non-serrated knife to cut the bars and EAT UP!

Many thanks to Christa at Mini-Baker for the great recipe!

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Mini-vacation in paradise!

Many people think that because I live in a tropical island, I *must* go to the beach all the time… I wish! Yeah sure, when I was in high school and college, I spent many days & weekends at the beach, or on my parents’ beach house or boat. There was a time when I truly lived a caribbean beach life.

Then I became an adult.

It wasn’t on purpose, and it didn’t happen overnight – it just happened. I graduated, got a job, got married, had a kid… and now, just like many working moms, I need to schedule my pool/beach time. The upside to this, is that I don’t need to get on a plane or drive hours to get to one, they’re right here! All I need is to set some time aside to go. Also, since Puerto Rico is such a big tourist destination, there are many, many wonderful resorts just minutes away!

So when lil man had exactly one week between his classes ended and his soccer camp started, I decided we HAD to get away, at least for a few days!

We drove to Dorado, a popular resort destination on the north coast of the island, facing the Atlantic Ocean. It was really about a 40-minute drive from my house, but we felt as if we had traveled to another place! We stayed at the Embassy Suites Dorado del Mar Beach & Golf Resort (long name, I know). The best part was that since it’s an all-suite resort (as all Embassy Suites are), we were able to get super comfortable – lil man had his own room with a sofa bed and TV, and we could even heat up some food in the kitchenette! Great for vacationing with kids. The resort itself was beautiful with a quiet, secluded beach and an amazing pool area that consisted of 4 pools, some with waterfalls! Lil man had a blast “visiting” all the pools (I got dizzy following him around) and playing with the waterfalls.

Yes, I do realize how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful island, and I *have* to make time to go to the beach more, especially for lil man to get used to it like I was when I was little. But for now, we had a great vacation right at “home”!

View from my suite

View from my suite

View from my pool chair

View from my pool chair

Playing at the pool with lil man

Playing at the pool with lil man

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The Mommy in me

For those of you who read my first post, you already know that I have many sides to me (if you haven’t read it, check it out here). However, my #1 job has *got* to be “mommy”. Now you must be thinking, “isn’t that what all moms say?” Yep, you’re right, and before lil man, I used to think it was ridiculous. How is it possible that someone simply chose to stop working, or all of a sudden stop hanging out at their favorite places or change friends, just like that? I used to think all moms were just show-offs – “oh, I’m soooo tired, my daughter didn’t let me do anything today!”, or “oh, check out my kids’ latest pics: here he has a funny smile, and here she blinked!” – who cares???

Well, my thousands of pics in Facebook (yes, I said thousands!) tell another story. About 95% of them are of lil man – smiling, running, playing, posing, swimming, standing up, sitting down, blue shirt, green shirt, no shirt… you get the idea.

Yep, I’m a convert. That little 20-inch, 7-pound 7-ounce person changed this strong, independent, career woman into a giddy, nervous, vulnerable mess! If I weren’t so in love with that “thing” that came out of me, I would definitely blame him for breaking me – I was fine!! Well, turns out, now I’m even better – who would’ve thunk it?

OK, so I don’t wear suits anymore, and don’t really care about my daytime job as much as I should. But I’ll tell you what I did yesterday afternoon, that I’ve *never* done before: gardening!!

Lil man is 3 1/2 years old now and in preschool, they’re teaching him about how plants grow. He had an assignment where they had to put some beans or orange seeds in an egg carton and watch them grow. The perfectionist in me (or what little there’s left…) said “the heck with that, we’re taking it up a notch!” So even though my hands had never touched soil before, we went to Home Depot and bought some small pots, and even a mini-greenhouse! In the small pots we planted some Schefflera cuttings from my front yard (planted by the gardener, not me!), and in the greenhouse we planted some sunny wildflower seeds. I have no idea if they’ll survive, or what I’m going to do with them if/when they do, but I do know that we had the bestest time ever!

If my old friends and co-workers saw me now, they’d say: “who the heck are you, and what have you done with Zelma??”

Go figure🙂

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Redefining Zelma

So I’ve been using Twitter a lot more lately now that I found so many Disney lovers, “mom-preneurs” & foodies that post very interesting tweets. As my friend & followers lists grow, I’ve noticed how their “descriptions” are so interesting & really define who they are. So I decided to rewrite mine. After many drafts, edits, & reorganizing, this is what I came up with:

Mom, wife, IT consultant, social media rookie, Disney lover, part-time choir singer & part-time baker (custom cakes, cupcakes, brownies, cookies, etc)

OK, so mom to my 3 1/2-yr old son & wife for almost 10 yrs are my 2 main “titles” right now – it’s who I am & who I never thought I’d be.

IT consultant is my full-time job which pretty much pays the bills but nothing more – it doesn’t fill me the way it used to.

Social media is a new area that I kinda stumbled upon due to the fact that I like to meet new people. I still don’t know exactly what it means & how it fits into my life, which is why I specified “rookie”.

Disney is one of my passions. I was a cast member for the Puerto Rico store when it first opened in 1992 & was hooked on their philosophy & traditions.

Choir singer is another passion of mine. I have been studying music & singing in classical, professional choirs since I was 6. Kinda retired now due to my new “mom” duties, but still sing in weddings (the ceremonies, the classical parts).

Baker is my new venture. I started taking classes with my lil one in mind, you know, for teacher gifts, school activities, etc., but some people actually wanted to pay me to do more stuff, so it’s now my part-time job. I love it but I’m still starting out with only a handful of clients & a growing amount of materials, so let’s just say that my numbers are still on the red side.

So that’s me in the longest version of a nutshell that I’ve ever seen! Can someone balance so many different “sides” to them & still be sane? That remains to be seen. Stay tuned, I can’t wait to find out!