Sunday, January 20, 2008

One Last Review...Seeing Red

Hmm.... there is a whole lot of red going on in my life lately!

First, it was the adoption of Isabelle.

Then it was the sassy red sweater I got at Christmas from my mom.

Now it is a brand new red car!!

Yup, the "Rolling Pigsty", as W called my car,

finally died while driving to work last week.

I had been in the market for a new car for about four months so I had done my research and narrowed down my choice of cars to four, Honda Accord Hybrid, Ford Focus, Toyota Camry, and Dodge Caliber. OK, there was a fifth car that I wanted too, a Sebring Convertible, my "midlife crisis" car. But it was only a passing thought because well, north of the Mason Dixon line they just aren't that practical of a car, especially if you want to haul a kayak on top!

I had purposely rented my finalist cars on business and pleasure trips to take them on extended test drives and had eliminated the Ford Focus and Toyota Camry due to poor handling and noise on the road (the Camry was worse than the Focus surprisingly!). So, I was down to the Accord and Caliber. I liked the idea of a hybrid car but fell in love with the performance and funky design of the Caliber. In fact, I was leaning heavily towards the Caliber because it also got really good gas milage (only 4 mph less in the city than the Accord Hybrid and exactly the same as the normal Accord) and I admit it, I'm a Michigan girl and I have a soft spot in my heart for Detroit cars. So, I had told a dealer I was working with to find me a Caliber. Then a trip to my parents house changed everything.

I was given a 2007 Sebring sedan with a fully loaded package as my rental car when I went home to Michigan for Thanksgiving. This car was fantastic. It drove wonderfully, was quiet and powerful. It handled well on all types of pavement, including the two track my folks live down. Best of all, it drove through two snow storms in Michigan like a champ, including a pretty nasty lake effect gale between Traverse City and the UP up the west coast along the Lake Michigan shoreline. It handled better than my mom's jeep in this weather. I loved the head room, the comfort of the seat (hard to find for long legged women, the seats in most cars are designed for men and hit me upper thigh making sitting for a long drive a bit uncomfortable), and best of all I love the sound system complete with Sirius Satellite radio. Between all the comfort features there was the gas mileage and the standard safety features. This car gets great gas mileage and comes with side curtain, head, front and knee airbags standard. The car gets good to excellent crash ratings and good reliability according to Edmunds and a few other car sites. I had found the car I wanted to buy.

When I got home, I told the dealer I was working with find me a used 2007 Sebring with low mileage. It was off to the bargaining races. You know that game of here is the payment you can afford, the guy writes it down and takes it back to some other guy who writes a different number down and you counter with another number. This goes on a for about a week. Except this time, I think I won this game! While the guy was searching for my used car for me the economy took a nose dive and car sales plummeted, especially for American cars. As it happened, he had a brand new red 2007 Sebring with the fully loaded touring package (it even has the remote start!!) on his lot. It only had 13 miles on it and he also had eight 2008s of the exact same model on his lot; not to mention a packed lot of Jeeps, trucks, and other cars. Basically he wanted it off his lot and he was willing to give it to me for the same price we had negotiated for my used one. Um, no brainer....

This is the first brand new, new car I've ever owned and I have to admit, I do like the new car smell.

To celebrate my new purchase, I decided to have a little Red Velvet Cake with my dinner last night. Since I didn't want to make a whole cake, I reached for a cookbook that I turn to time and time again when I want a baked treat without having to have a whole cake or batch of cookies in my house to tempt me, Debby Maugans Nakos Small-Batch Baking and made the Red Velvet Cake.

When it came out of the oven, was frosted and ready to eat, I hit the remote start on my car, poured a glass of red wine into a travel mug, and went out and sat in my shiny new red car listening to Sirus Radio while had my dessert...

Tiny Red Velvet Cakes
Adapted from Debby Maugans Nakos Small Batch Baking

Makes 2 small cakes.

Note about baking small batches, I have found that purchasing a kit of children's baking tins is helpful for this cookbook. Ms. Nakos also has suggestions for using things like washed out tin cans as baking pans.

1/2 cup AP flour plus more for preparing cans or baking tins.
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp buttermilk (I use regular milk with no ill effects)
yolk of 1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 1/2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp red food coloring

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Prepare the pans or the cans by greasing them and lightly dusting them with flour, tapping out the excess flour. Place the small pans or cans on a baking sheet for easier handling and set them aside.

Combine water, egg yolk, buttermilk, and vanilla and whisk to mix. Gradually pour the melted butter into the buttermilk mixture, whisking constantly. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into a medium sized mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Add the buttermilk mixture and whisk just until the dry ingredients are moistened.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pans or cans, dividing it evenly between them. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean, 25 - 30 minutes.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the pans or cans to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans or cans by running a thin and sharp knife around the edge of each pan/can and invert them to release the cakes. Let cool completely.

Frost with cream cheese frosting and sprinkle sides with walnuts.