Thursday, August 14, 2014

In Which We Pretend We Live On a Farm

This is Fern. Now that we have a certified farm dog, our dream to pretend we live on a very romanticized version of a farm is complete. Yay. That's why this puppy was named after the greatest farm girl ever, Fern Arable.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Blitz Torte Cake And Finding A New Park

I made a new cake!

It was...ok. It looks oh so beautiful but there were a couple of changes I'd made if I was doing it again.

It's an old German recipe although I got the "revised" version from Vintage Cakes. Ze Blitz Torte Cake. A dark, cinnamony cake with a creamy custard topped with tangy berries.

So here is the recipe:

In other news...we discovered a new park beside my husband's work. There we were, thinking the parking lot was "the park," then walking along a small dirt path, and bam! Huge field, huge pond, right in the middle of a huge town.

My daughter picked wildflowers and found a tree branch with a hole to hold them while we ate.

I think my finger is in the way. Yeah, yeah it is.

Cutie pie.

What a wonderful surprise!

Children's Birthday Cakes for Everyone

I like making things myself. 
I can get pretty ambitious about baking, decorating, sewing, whatever.
But I really have no desire to learn to make the decadent fondant cakes that are so popular right now.
Want to know why?

Because fondant tastes so nasty.
Its like candy corn melted on top of your cake. I'm sure some people like it. I can do without. I can also do without those sheet cakes with dyed sickly sweet frosting. To be honest, I can really do without buying cake at all because, in case you hadn't noticed, I like baking.

So how then do we make a yummy cake for oh so picky children?

Simple. Let them choose. Not what "theme" they want, but flavors, toppings, style. 

Every year my daughter gets a strawberry cake but every year we switch it up. We've made cupcakes, strawberry shortcakes, neopolitan hi-hat cake, and strawberry chocolate cake.

But there are children who insist on a theme. Harry Potter, Legos, or in our case, baseball.

So this is when a bit of creativity can come into play. We started with an orange cake, topped it with whipped cream, and used strawberries as the baseball laces. There are so many other choices to make a fun birthday cake without sacrificing the cake itself. Start with your favorite cake and favorite icing, add marzipan, candy, candy characters, or make the cake fun or icing fun

This cake is via and it looks so perfect for a fairy birthday girl!

I know this is a terrible picture. My mom make this cake for my son's first birthday. The carrots are make from rolled starburst with twizzlers in the top.

One of our favorites. Lemon and orange layered cake with ombre frosting.
Ombre layered cakes or frosting are so easy to do and look charming. 

Image via

and throwing a couple of toys on top in a clever way is a super easy way to make a cake "kid friendly."

Image via

I am dying to make this planet (with cores) cake! It will be making an appearance for someone's birthday. When I'm feeling ambitious that is.

Rainbows? Pretty please
Image via

After all, as long as it's sweet, what child wont be happy, no matter what a cake looks like?

Thursday, May 8, 2014

HoneyBee Cake With Candied Violets And A Story

I'm just going to say it. This is hands down one of the best cakes I've ever had. It's sweetened with honey and dark brown sugar, giving it this rich slightly nutty taste. The crumb is soft and moist. It should be re-named the ambrosia cake because that's basically what it is.

Nothing more delightful than a couple of candied violets. Just brush violets with whipped egg white and sprinkle with sugar. Then let them dry for ten minutes or so. They become sweet and crunchy with just a hint of floral. 

There's something so amazing to me about eating flowers, especially when they've been candied and are sweet. It's like eating a lovely thought.

Just look at those lines of honey sugar goodness sliding down into the cake.

Here's the recipe for yous...

I got this recipe from Vintage Cakes, which is a fantastic book, filled with wonderful cakes that are sweet without using crunched up oreos or that disgusting stuff many people call frosting (yes, I am a cake purist.) I adapted it a touch, so if you don't like this cake you can always try the original recipe. Either way, I definitely think you should check out the book.

While we were picking violets for the cake we also bundled up some with twine to take to my grandma's nursing home center. As my daughter was handing out the violets all of the old ladies got a blissful smile on their face and began talking about picking violets when they were little, braiding them together, or weaving them into May baskets. It always nice to think about those things that connect generations together, the little things like picking wild violets in the spring. Wild flowers are so much more wonderful than produced flowers, like tulips or hyacinthias, because you can only really experience them outside. They are laced with the feeling of grass underfoot and the blustery wind tangling your hair and the sunshine bringing out your freckles. One of the ladies we visit, Louise, is confined to her room (she's 99) and she asked me to tell her all of the other things that were blooming now, "What about the dandelions? Have those come up yet? And the honeysuckle? Are the fruit trees in bloom?" 
We spend a lot of time outdoors and the children and I take great joy in marking the progression of spring by blooms, just as people have for innumerable generations. I don't know what I would do if even this primal sense of time was gone from my life. To be honest, I left with a very bittersweet feeling. It was nice to be able to bring spring in to people but I hope I never have to rely on just my memories and flowers in a vase to experience spring when I'm old. 

I think we may have to plan a jail break for Louise. Everyone needs a least one taste of spring air.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Happy Earth Day! Here Are Some Ways To Reduce Your Garbage!

I have tried so many ways so many times to reduce how much garbage we create but I realize now it really comes down to just one factor: Convenience.

If you can easily throw something where it should go, you're more likely to put it there rather than the garbage can.

For example, we have two trash cans sitting out in the kitchen. One for regular garbage, one for recycling. If I had to go all the way out to the outside bin everything I wanted to throw a recyclable away I wouldn't. Also, things like removing labels from glass jars and rinsing and drying cans are more of a nice thing for you to do. Most large recycling centers will do that themselves.

Every day I put out a small bowl for compost scraps. You can even put paper products or cardboard in your compost too but again, the point is to have a compost bucket convenient in your kitchen so that it's more likely to  make it outside instead of thrown in the garbage.

Our compost pile is not pretty. It's just a couple of boards nailed together. But it get the job done.

I also keep out a bowl for leftover cooking liquid. When I cook veggies in water or steam them I always save the water, let it cool, and give it to my plants. It's kind of creepy to think about giving broccoli water to my baby broccoli plants but this stuff is seriously liquid gold. Never throw it out.

And finally, my favorite way to reduce garbage is to reduce my consumption!
  • Specifically look for products with less packaging
  • Be sure to take your reusable grocery bags and produce bags
  • Never buy things on the spot. Go home, think about it, and come back. Impulse buying is a great waste of both product and money.
  • Find a way to reuse old wood, windows, bricks, that broken lamp, whatever. Pinterest is full of people who, instead of throwing something away, looked and wondered what they could make of this junk. And they make a lot of really wonderful things.
  • Don't assume it's garbage just because you didn't want it. When my parents re-did their bathroom they sold their jacuzzi tub online for about what it would've cost them to have the garbage guys come and haul it away. They made some money, someone got a new tub, and nothing was thrown away.
  • Don't underestimate what donation centers will take. Just because fabric scraps or your holey t-shirt doesn't look like something anyone would want, many donation centers sell those things to be recycled. And often, even if you don't want something, it doesn't mean it isn't exactly what someone else was looking for.
  • Really take note of how much you use. Many people like to buy in bulk because it saves money per item, but if you have to throw out half of those tomatoes because they went bad before you could use them, you aren't saving any money at all. My MIL once told me she stopped buying food in bulk because she realized if it was in the house her boys would eat it! It wasn't that they NEEDED to eat that twelfth pudding was just there, so why not? 
  • Remember even yard waste can be reused. Many people with wood stoves would love that big limp you lobbed off your tree, and those bushes you didn't like and dug up may be perfect for someone else. Always list things on craigslist, for free or for a fee, and you'd be surprised at how much stuff you can get rid of. Yard clippings and small sticks, even weeds, can and should be put in your compost.
  • Before you buy new, check out used. Almost anytime I want to buy something I find a product, grimace at the price, and check at thrift stores, antique stores, and on craigslist. Just the other day I was at World Market and saw tons of cute things, but they were so expensive, especially when I knew I had seen something really similar, for much less, at the antique store before. Just because it isn't your "garbage" doesn't mean that you can't help prevent it from going to the dump!
  • And remember the alliterative moto: Rethink, reduce, reuse, that order!
Now go plant a tree!

Tip! How To Fry An Egg

Frying an egg is one of those things that seems so easy...they do it in waffle house all the time and those guys certainly aren't the world's most skilled chef
But, like lots of other breakfast food, a fried egg is actually kinda hard to get right. At least it's hard to not crack the yolk everywhere. So lets do a run down of how to fry an egg:

Butter your skillet with approx. 1/16th a tablespoon of butter. Seriously, not a lot. You want enough that the egg can slide around in the pan but you don't want it to get soggy.

For a first egg keep the heat on high, second egg low, and all other eggs medium. I don't know why that works best, you'd think just medium the entire time would be fine, but the first egg never comes out right on medium heat.

So crack that puppy into there once the skillet is hot. You can see the outside and inside whites. The outside white will be runny and the inside will be jelly like.

Continue cooking until the outside edges get just a touch of brown and the outside white solidifies and isn't runny anymore. There will be a clear line between the outside and inside white.

Loosen the egg lightly with your spatula, then slide the egg onto the spatula and using the edge of the pan, flip. The top only takes half a minute or so to cook. Don't let it sit there for longer or the yolk will cook.

And slide (don't pick up!) your egg onto a plate. Done. Easy Peasy.

Tip! The Easiest Pasta Sauce Ever

This is so so so easy and so so so yummy

When your pasta is done take a ladle or two and put in it a pan.

Add about 4 tablespoons of butter

Simmer 2-3 mins

Add about 1/4 cup cream

Put it on your pasta. Perfect!