Monday, February 15, 2016

Molten Lava Chocolate Cake

I know, I know. Everyone has a molten lava chocolate cake recipe. It's getting a little overdone.

Eh, who am I kidding? What could possibly be overdone about rich, gooey, chocolately goodness?!


I'm not sure where I originally got this recipe, but I've been using it for years and it's my favorite for two reasons: 1. It uses only a few ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry, and 2. It is so easy!!!

Just wait till you see how simple this recipe is.


This is all you need.

Start by microwaving half a stick of butter with 2 ounces bitter or semisweet baking chocolate for about one minute.


The butter will be melted and the chocolate starting to get soft. Whisk them together until the chocolate is fully melted and the mixture is smooth.

Add all the remaining ingredients (sugar, egg, flour) one at a time, whisking after each ingredient.

Pour the batter into greased 1 cup ramekins and bake at 425 for 12-14 minutes, depending on how "molten" you want it. :)


Fresh from the oven. Yum!

Allow to cool for a minute, then run a knife around the edge and turn onto a plate. I love mine topped with some whipped cream.


And that is all there is to it! I love whipping these up for a relaxing night with my husband. 20 minutes (including baking time) and we have a rich dessert to indulge in! I decided to make them this weekend to complete our Surf and Turf Valentine's.

One of the other great things about this recipe is that, instead of using 1 cup ramekins, you can use muffin tins and make "mini" cakes. Bake them about 7-8 minutes and they're great for a double date!



Molten Lava Chocolate Cake


Makes: 2 large cakes (or 4 mini cakes, see below)
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz bittersweet or semisweet baking chocolate
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg and 1 egg yolk
  • 3 Tbsp flour

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease well two 1 cup ramekins.
  2. Melt chocolate and butter in microwave for 1 minute. Whisk until chocolate is fully melted and smooth.
  3. Add remaining ingredients, whisking after each addition.
  4. Pour batter into ramekins and bake 12-14 minutes, until center is barely set. (Can cook longer if more "brownie" texture is desired.)
  5. Allow to cool a minute or two, run knife around edge and turn onto plate. May be served with whipped cream, ice cream, or fresh fruit.


*To make "mini" cakes: use muffin tin instead of ramekins and bake 6-8 minutes. Will make 4 mini cakes.

I'll be joining these link parties: Link Party List

Surf and Turf Valentine's Day

I decided to be adventurous this Valentine's Day.


You see, my husband and I went to Disney World last week, and even though a lot of it was paid for, our wallets were feeling a little thin. Also, we were exhausted. (I hope to do a full post on the trip later, but let me just say that a toddler with the stomach flu put a damper on the whole experience.) We really weren't up to a big night out complete with finding and paying a babysitter. Plus, we had a church conference Saturday night and Sunday morning, so going out again just seemed too much.

Enter lobster.

A coworker of mine said that he and his wife would do lobster at home for Valentine's, and I thought it sounded like a great idea. And how hard could it be? I did a little internet reading and said, I can do that!


Since the lobsters were pretty pricey, I decided to go surf and turf and picked up a couple steaks. I made up a quick marinade of soy sauce, garlic, and oil and got them ready for the grill.

In actuality, cooking a lobster is really easy. You bring a large pot of salt water to boil, put in the live lobster, and allow it to cook for about 15 minutes, depending on how big it is.


I must admit, it was odd to bring home a crustacean and plan on boiling it alive!


I was kind of afraid it was going to escape! But, it was fairly docile and didn't put up much fuss. :) I tell you what, though, it was heavier and more slippery than I imagined! I thought I might drop it!


Here he goes, into the pot!

We did have one ... issue, I guess you could call it. No one said anything about how bubbly that pot was going to get.


The gas burner was going nuts as salty, fishy water escaped the pot and splashed everywhere. It made a huge mess!


Does anyone who's done lobster before know what I did wrong? Or is this normal?

Either way, the lobster came out looking nice bright red and yummy! Though, at first glance, you do wonder how people learned to eat these things. As my husband says, "whoever first decided to eat one of these must have been really hungry!"


Add some fresh green beans and rice pilaf and we had ourselves a meal!


I wish I had more pictures of us eating the lobster, but I was having too much fun! (Oh yeah, and my toddler stole my phone to play some games.)



This is the best I have, and it's really not a great picture of me, but at least I can prove that we did tear into that lobster and eat everything that we could.

I feel a tradition in the making! What Valentine's traditions do you have?



I like to join these Link Parties

Monday, February 8, 2016

January 2016 Blog Report


If you actually came to visit this page, you are either very kind or perhaps looking for a laugh. Or maybe you just didn't actually believe that someone would post a blog report with such pathetic numbers.

I'm really writing this for me. I'm hoping that starting a habit of writing blog reports will help to motivate me and give me measurable goals and progress.

I started my blog three months ago, so honestly, I feel like I'm doing pretty well. I've already learned a ton about what kinds of things bring visitors besides perfect pictures and headlines. You have to get your name out there, and have content that people are interested in. Still, some of my most popular posts have surprised me.

My original goal for January was to get 2,000 page views, but sickness in the house caused a speed bump and I basically took an unscheduled week off. I'm sure this is why I didn't hit my goal.

My favorite social media sites are Pinterest and Bloglovin', so that's all I'm showing in this report.

Google Analytics

Obviously, Google is the best place to check my pageviews. You can see clearly the spike on January 15, which is oddly from my third most popular post: Home Reorganization Stage 1.1. But that's one that I posted on my personal Facebook page, so I'm sure I just had lots of friends check that day.

Overall, I'm happy with the fact that views have remained fairly steady despite the fact that I didn't link to nearly as many parties this month.

Pinterest Analytics

Followers: 25


25 followers might be kind of sad, but I think it's a good start. I'm actually more thrilled by those few Likes and Repins on my Sticky Toffee Pudding and Link Party Tracking Sheet.

Bloglovin'

Followers: 4

So if 25 Pinterest followers is sad, I don't know what 4 Bloglovin' followers is. But again, as I'm just starting out, it seems like a lot to me.


Top Posts for January

  • Link Party Tracking Sheet - 550 Page views
    • I was very proud of this one. I had been planning it for weeks before finally posting it, and still hope it's being passed around among bloggers to be used. I got three features on link parties which really boosted my view count.
  • Sticky Toffee Pudding - 350 Page views
    • This one still surprises me. It was a last minute post based on a recipe I'd been meaning to try, but with a couple party features, apparently people have liked it!
  • Home Reorganization Stage 1.1 - 200 Page views
    • This is another surprise, and I think it's on the list because it's new. But as I hope to make it a series, perhaps it will continue to be popular
Total posts in January: 5


Goals for February

I'm struggling with this part a little, because while I want to push myself, I'm still learning what I'm actually capable of. I don't want to set a bunch of goals and not make any of them.

I'm also learning that I have two types of posts that I write: those that are just fun and those that have some substance. I like to think of the former as "fluff." They're easy, and sometimes get me some views, like my recipes, but mostly they're filler. Because what my blog is really about is helping people learn Excel and providing specific spreadsheets for them to use. But my spreadsheet and tutorial posts take a lot more work. That's a good thing, since they're the substance of my blog, but that just means they take time and effort.

So with that, here is what I want to accomplish in February:
  1. Publish at least 3 fun and 2 Excel posts.
  2. Be better at visiting new blogs and commenting on their posts.
  3. Increase traffic to 2,500 views.
Eventually I'd really like to work on creating custom spreadsheets upon request and perhaps host Excel trainings, but I don't think I'm ready for that yet. If anyone reading this has interest in that at all, please let me know so I can get working on it sooner rather than later.

Conclusion

Basically, I have a lot of work to do. I knew when I started my blog that if I actually wanted to turn it into a business and make money, it would take a lot of time. I'm still learning the best ways to apply that time, but think and hope that I'm off to a good start.

Here goes nothing for February!

These are my current favorite link parties:

Monday, February 1, 2016

Basic Excel Number Formats

Excel is all about numbers, right? Well, sort of. Certainly it makes calculating things much easier, but I also love how nice and organized the grid is.

But that isn't the point of this blog post. Today I want to talk about number formatting.

Have you ever seen a table that looks like this?




Ugh! What a mess! First, it's hard to read. Second, you have no idea what you're looking at. Money? Counts? Percentages?

One of the most essential skills in Excel is knowing how to format your numbers for easier reading. Like anything in Excel, there are several ways to do this. I'll start with the simplest and most straight-forward.

In the Ribbon

In the Home tab of the Ribbon are several number formatting options ready to go. See the Number section of the Home tab.



One Click Formatting

There are a few formats that you can choose with one click. These are the buttons directly above where it says Number in the Ribbon.

Currency - Noted by a dollar sign

  • A dollar sign will be added to the front of the number (Note that you can select other world currencies as well)
  • Thousands will be separated by a comma
  • Decimals will be rounded to two decimal places
  • Negatives will have a dash in front

Percentage - Noted by a percent sign

  • The number will automatically be multiplied by 100 to denote a percent
  • A percent sign will be added to the end of the number
  • No decimal places will be displayed

Accounting - Noted by a comma

  • Thousands will be separated by a comma
  • Decimals will be rounded to two decimal places
  • Negatives will have a dash in front

Increase/Decrease Decimal

  • See those two buttons with all the zeros? If you look carefully, you'll see that one shows one zero turning into two, and the other has two zeros turning into 0. That means that one button will increase the number of decimals shown and the other will decrease the number of decimals shown.

Drop Down Formatting

Above the one click format buttons, there is a drop down with a few additional options.




General

No specific formatting. This will display your number with no formatting and all the decimals.

Number

This will display the number with no symbols or commas, but will default to two decimal places.

Currency

Same as above, currency will add a dollar sign, a comma to denote thousands, and two decimal places.

Accounting

Very similar to currency except that negatives are denoted by parentheses () rather than a negative (-). Also, the alignment will shift so that decimals and thousands will line up with other numbers in the column.

(Note that for the following three formats, you'll want to make sure you've entered a date or time, otherwise you'll end up with gobbeldy gook.)

Short Date

Will display the date as M/D/Y.

Long Date

Will display the date as Day, Month Day, Year.

Time

Will display the time as Hour:Minute:Second AM/PM

Percentage

Similar to above, percentage will multiply the number by 100, add a % sign, but will now include two decimals.

Fraction

Excel will round any decimals to a fraction with a single digit denominator.

Scientific

Remember that old 4.24 x 10^4 format you learned in school? That's that this is, though is uses E to denote the 10x.

Text

You have to be careful with text. Excel will start treating your number like it isn't a number anymore. I would only use this if you really know it's what you want.


More Number Formats

If you haven't found a format at this point that fits your exact needs, you can find more options in the drop down under More Number Formats. A pop up window will open.


Notice that all of the drop down formats are listed, but if you click one, there are several more options listed. Excel will even show you exactly what the number will look like under Sample.

There are two new formats listed here: Special and Custom. The purpose of this post is to do the basics, so I'm going to talk about those in a separate post where we can go into the details.


For now, you should have enough to get you started in building your tables and spreadsheets and making them easier to use.

As always, don't be afraid to try some things out, and feel free to email me at excealathome.blogspot@gmail.com.

Good luck!