Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My 31st birthday, a cake, and two frosting recipes

July 16, 2012 was my 31st birthday. Time marches on. So I might as well make my cake and eat it too!

I wanted to do something sourdough because, well... I love my sourdough.

I settled on this recipe from the GNOWFGLINS blog for Sourdough Spice Cake. I mostly followed the instructions. Can't help myself... must. alter. directions.

Instead of 1 cup of Rapadura/Sucanat (a "healthier" granulated sugar), I used about 2/3 - 3/4 cup of honey.

I love making layer cakes, so that's how I wanted to make this one. I have two 9-inch round cake pans, instead of the suggested 8-inch rounds for making a layered cake. It didn't make that much of a difference, thankfully.

I didn't make the suggested frosting, since I didn't have any coconut butter. Instead, I used a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, "Healthy Choices" put out by Keepers at Home. It was a nice frosting that presented well, but only for short term. It didn't have any real staying power.

Honey Frosting
  • 1/3 c. honey
  • 2-4 egg whites
  • dash of cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp. flavoring (vanilla, almond, anise or lemon)
  • salt to taste
  1. Beat egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form.
  2. Gradually add honey and flavoring.
  3. Use to frost 9x13 cake or 2 layer cake.
A frosting that I would use if I made this cake again, is a cream cheese frosting from the same cookbook. I didn't take the initiative and drain the whey off of some yogurt, so I didn't have any cream cheese on hand. You could also use cream cheese from the store.

Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • cinnamon
  • honey
  1. Soften cream cheese.
  2. Beat with potato masher until smooth.
  3. Add enough honey to make creamy and add cinnamon to taste. Use food processor if you have one.
  4. Spread on cooled cake.
It was a tasty cake, one that I will probably make in the future. I'd maybe try making it in a bundt pan next time, just to make it a little fancier than in a 9x13.

Here I am with Andrew and Judah. Enoch was too tired to make it for the picture.

Boys are excited at prospect of eating birthday cake.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Beets in the Slow Cooker

We've been experiencing heat like I've never experienced before.... many consecutive days of 100+ degree temps. So, in an effort to keep our house cooler, I've been trying to contrive many ways to NOT cook in the kitchen.

One item that we've been able to grow in spades in our garden is beets. Normally I would boil beets for 45-60 minutes, depending on how big the beets are. I wondered if I could try using my slow cooker to cook the beets, instead. I put the slow cooker out in my laundry room, which is in a building a few steps away from my house.

All the recipes I discovered online for doing beets in a crock pot said to individually wrap each beet in aluminum foil. I decided to try not using the aluminum foil and just putting about 1-2 cups of water in the bottom instead.

I scrubbed the beets, and jammed as many as would fit comfortably inside my slow cooker. I turned it on high, and about four hours later, there were cooked beets. The skins will slide right off when done. I usually put the beets in some cooler water to help get the skins off, and not scald my hands.

A cooler way to prepare beets, if I do say so myself!

Friday, July 6, 2012

An Anniversary Dessert: Floating Island

July 5, 2012 marked our 10 year anniversary. Wow. I didn't know what our first ten years together would hold.

We've lived in eight different living quarters as of this writing. Never knew my husband would go to the seminary. Never dreamed I'd become a pastor's wife. Never knew I'd become so obsessed with health and nutrition and real food. Never thought I'd get as excited about gardening, and chickens, and homesteading as I do. Never knew I could love my children so much. But I couldn't imagine a better way to spend the past ten years than growing and changing with my best friend. It's been a great journey, and I look forward to the future.

To commemorate this anniversary, I was inspired by the movie "Julie & Julia", which we watched earlier this week. In the movie, she talked about making a floating island, so I looked it up in my Julia Child cookbook called "Julia's Kitchen Wisdom: Essential Techniques and Recipes from a Lifetime of Cooking". And made it. With a few slight modifications, of course. You see, I just can't help myself. I am not sure if I'm capable of following recipes exactly. Especially when they contain any amount of white sugar.

Here it is (with my adaptations in parentheses).

Floating Island
Serves 6-8
  • Butter a 4-quart straight-sided baking dish and dust with confectioners' sugar. (Okay, I probably should've dusted with the conf. sugar, but didn't. Especially since the meringue didn't come out of the dish very well...) Set rack in lower-middle level of oven and preheat to 250 degrees Farenhait.
  • Beat 2/3 cup egg whites (which took me only 6 or 7 eggs to get there, she said 12) into soft peaks and continue beating to stiff, shining peaks while adding 1.5 cups sugar by big spoonfuls. (I added what was left of the honey in my jar... it was probably about 3/4 c. at most... it tasted sweet enough to me, so I didn't add any more.)
  • Turn this meringue into the baking dish. Bake 30-40 minutes, (took me more like 45) until the meringue has risen 3-4 inches and a skewer plunged down into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool--it will sink down.
  • To serve, pour 2 cups of creme anglaise (see recipe below) into a round serving dish. Unmold the meringue onto a baking sheet, cut into 6-8 big chunks, and arrange over the sauce. (Since we were going to be eating it right away and I am not a stickler for presentation, I pour the sauce into bowls, as in the picture, and place a piece of meringue upon the sauce.)
  • Boil 1 cup of sugar and 1/3 cup water to the caramel stage and when cooled slightly into a heavy syrup, weave decorative strands of caramel over the meringue, using the tines of a fork. (I didn't do this at all, but opted to sprinkle some nutmeg on top. It was already waaaay too sweet for me.)
Creme Anglaise--Classic Custard Sauce
For about 2 cups.
  • Whisk 6 egg yolks in a 2-quart stainless-steel saucepan, adding 1/2 cup sugar by spoonfuls. (I used one huge spoonful of honey that was probably not quite 1/2 cup. Pretty sure I could've gotten by with 1/4 cup or less.) Continue whisking for 2-3 minutes, until the yolks are thick and pale yellow and "form the ribbon".
  • By dribbles at first, stir in the 1.5 cups hot milk. Set over moderate heat, stirring slowly and continuously with a wooden spoon, reaching all over the bottom of the pan as the custard gradually heats and thickens--do not let it come near the boil If it seems to be getting too hot, lift pan up, then continue as the sauce thickens. You are almost there when surface bubbles begin to disappear and you may see a whiff of steam arise. When is it done? It coats the spoon in a light, creamy layer.
  • Beat in the optional 3 Tbls. butter (uh, duh, of course I added this), 1 Tbls. pure vanilla extract, and the optional 2 Tbls. dark rum, cognac, or other liqueur (I didn't have this, so didn't add). That's it!
It's funny because in the movie, after both Julia and her husband Paul eat this dessert, as well as after Julie and her husband Eric eat it, it shows all four of them popping Tums before going to bed.

It is a rather rich dessert, but I don't think it needs to be. I think honey is somewhat sweeter than white sugar, but I think you could probably get by with less sugar than called for in Julia's recipe, as I attempted to do here.

All in all, a tasty treat for a celebratory meal. (By the way, we had hamburgers with homemade english muffins as buns, homemade potato salad, and stir fried zucchini and onions from our garden.)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

How I finally liked to exercise

Exercising... it's never been something that I get excited about. I read about people doing marathons and never desire to join them.

I like walking. But the thing about walking is... I never feel like I really accomplish anything, body-wise. I never notice any positive results, unless over an extended period of time, and even then the results are miniscule.

And I want to get stronger, since I feel quite wimpy. But I don't necessarily want to lift weights and get a body-builder physique.

Plus... I just plain wanted to stop feeling so dumpy with post-baby weight. (Yeah... maybe that's a bit superficial.)

But the usual stuff I was doing like walking and pilates just wasn't seeming to cut the mustard. And I didn't want to cut calories as I'm still nursing my baby. (I'm not afraid to eat good-for-you fat, by the way, but that's for another post...)

So that's why I got excited about this way of exercising. (No, this is not an infomercial, and no, I'm not getting paid to endorse!)

Have you ever heard of T-Tapp? I love it! I happened to hear about it from a random blog I subscribe to, and the blogger is a T-Tapp trainer. I had never heard about it, so I ILL'd a book from the library called "Fit and Fabulous in 15 Minutes" by Teresa Tapp.

Reading that got me really interested, so I ordered. Why would I do that when there's so many other videos and exercises out there?! I was really impressed with what this method promised, and reading all the testimonials in the book spoke to me as well. There is a 15 minute video called the Basic Workout Plus that I especially love because I can usually sneak in 15 minutes somewhere in my day, and it makes me feel awesome! It's not too hard, either. (I haven't even been doing it every day. After an initial brief "boot camp" period, it's actually recommended to NOT do it every day.) If you've never heard of it, at least check out the book from your library, and/or try out some of the videos on the "Try before you buy" tab on her website.

A few bits of info: You don't need weights, and you only need about 3 sq. ft. of floor space. These exercises are for any age and fitness level, and designed to specifically target your lymphatic system to help move out toxins. She's worked with cancer patients, as well as models. (I'm just thinking of snippets from the book, so not really doing this justice. You really should just go check it out to get the full information. )

The book describes the exercises, but I will say it is easier to watch a video... too hard for me to try and follow the book.

If you are curious about inch loss, I've had some decent inch loss over the last month. I'm down 7.25 inches! This is measuring 14 spots on the body. And that was with a very inconsistent exercise regime, no food restriction, and lots of car time.
Bust: -.25
Pecs: -.5
Ribs: -2.5! (I had to double check this one. It's possible my initial measurement was off.... although I did remeasure my initial measurements, as well.)
Waist: -.5
Abs: -2!
Hips: -.5
Upper Thigh Right: -.25
Upper Thigh Left: 0
Lower Thigh Right: +.25
Lower Thigh Left: 0
Calves Right: -.5
Calves Left: -.25
Right arm: -.5
Left arm:+.25

I tried to be as exacting as I could with the measurements, re-measuring several times to try and be as correct as possible. I haven't weighed myself in a long time... just not as concerned with what the scale tells me. Inch loss is where it's at.

Now, I realize I haven't been doing this for very long, but this is an exercise program I can see myself continuing. There is a lady on one of the videos who is 72 that got rid of her humped back and significantly increased her bone density. I'm pretty sure that's something that just walking or running alone cannot do. No offense to the walkers/runners out there. But I just cannot ignore the results!

I really wanted to share this information with everyone, so if you're looking for help in the exercise department, maybe this will help you.