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Gladys and her maiden voyage

Meet Gladys, the newest member of our family.   Her full name is Gladys Cocoa Day. dsc01066

She’s a 7qt Kitchenaid pro.  Not the most expensive or fancy stand mixer out there, but I’m confident in her ability to get the job done.

Yesterday I had time to get down to business and taker her on her first mixing adventure.  What did Gladys help me make?   Well, Chocolate chip cookies, of course.  There may not be a recipe I make more often than this one…

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She whipped up the dough like a champ.

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And of course, Gladys has brought much excitement to my kitchen, so I had many offers of help.  My buddy loves helping with cookies!

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But he does have ulterior motives!  He is well acquainted with the benefits…

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(you can see what week two’s cake was there on my board, eh?  more to come on that later…)

The cookies turned out soft and gooey in the middle and just a little crispy on the bottom! Perfection.

What more can a girl ask for on a cool January evening than a satisfying, warm, chewy cookie?

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Cake #2 Banana Cake with Brown Butter Frosting

Cake #2

Banana Cake with Brown Butter Frosting

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First, a few thoughts: I was able to take my cake to a meeting and share it with friends.  I could see first hand that I had made a few errors – I mixed just a bit too much and over baked by a hair.  The cake was not as soft and moist as I wanted – but, it was still yummy.  Also, in impatient fashion, I did not mix my frosting enough, so it was more lumpy than I wanted.  But, this is why I’m practicing, right?  To learn and make a better bundt cake- that is my goal!

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So, the recipe I’m sharing with you here is based on what I would do differently to make the cake just right!  It is taken and edited from my recipe for Monkey Squares.

Ingredients:
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup sour cream
½ cup butter, softened
2 eggs
4 small ripe bananas, mashed
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour, I used super fine cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup chopped walnuts

Instructions:Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour the bundt pan. Beat first three ingredients until creamy. Add eggs one at a time until incorporated. Blend in bananas and vanilla.  Add dry ingredients gently until mixture is blended well – do not over mix.  Pour into prepared pan.  Bake at 350 for approximately 55 minutes.  When done baking, let the cake rest for a bout 15-20 minutes, then dump it from the pan.  Once the cake is out of the pan, begin making the Frosting.  (recipe below).  Pour/spread the frosting over the cake as soon as it is prepared.
Browned Butter Frosting

½ cup butter
3 cups powdered sugar (I think this varies a bit depending on humidity and what butter you use.)
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
about 3 tablespoons milk or half and half

Heat butter in saucepan over medium heat past the melting point until it is boiling, and a delicate brown.  It should have a nutty aroma when it is browned. Remove from the heat and immediately add the remaining ingredients.  Stir with a whisk or fork until smooth (do this quickly before your frosting cools and becomes stiff) and pour over the slightly cooled cake.
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Uncategorized

trust more, do less

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While I was in Homegoods, in the home decor section at the front of the store, looking at throw pillows it happened.     On one of  the days between Christmas and New years,  I found a new calm.  Actually, I found the space to be quiet and listen without the general craziness of my people around…

It so happens, (and I take comfort knowing I may not be alone here,) that the holidays twist me up.  This year was no exception; the holiday season ended with a great deal of self-talk.    Specifically, it was self-talk that didn’t  involve much needed conversation with the Holy Spirit, where I ended up believing things that aren’t true.  The brokeness of my own heart,   complicated relationships,  situations I can’t control – they all piled on and wound me tightly into a never-ending tail-spin.

What I find when the “after holiday blues” show up is, I begin trying to fix everything.  I want to correct it all.  More spinning and spinning.  That’s just the position I found myself in while I was looking for some throw pillows:  “Oh this pillow looks perfect… Maybe I should call up ‘so and so’ and have a conversation about ‘such and such’…This pillow is super soft…  Then I’d say this or that to them, I mean surely that would make things better… ”  And on and on it goes, you get the idea.

So, as I was trying to decide between a few different oversized, faux fur, off-white pillows for my bed, I also discovered the quiet moment I needed. The spinning in my head slowed just enough for me to hear Him loud and clear –

Stop trying so hard.  Trust Me. This is not your responsibility.”

“But, if I just… I mean, don’t you want me to…”

No.  You need to trust Me more and do less. I have everything under control.”

“Are you sure I’m not supposed to…”

I’m positive.  Really.  You have no idea just how much I’m taking care of you – and all these things. I promise.

Just like that, my Heavenly Father and Healer, provided the anecdote for my heart and mind.  In a moment, the turmoil was over, my heart and mind slowed to a stand-still.  For me- as a mama, wife, sister, friend who wants to take care of everyone and everything in her sphere of life –  this is probably the most happy, calming, and peaceful instruction I’ve ever been given.

Trust more.  Do less.

**Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge  Him and He will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6**

 

 

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Cake #1 Fudgy Dark Chocolate Bundt

Friends – you’ve already seen this recipe!  This is the first cake from cake-a week.  Due to how my cake-a-week page is going to function – I will only keep a few recipes on the page at a time and then move each cake recipe to the archives.  So, I apologize if this clogs up your inbox!  

Cake #1:  Fudgy Dark Chocolate Bundt
(The original recipe is called “Brick Street Chocolate Cake” from the site: “throughherlookingglass.com” – I changed the recipe up just a bit for my purposes.)

This cake is just as I titled it: it has a thick, fudg-y texture and it is very chocolate-y.  But, I’m going to pursue a different icing – not sure this one was quite right.  Once enough powdered sugar was added, I don’t think the flavor was balanced.    However, it was very delicious and decadent – a small piece was more than enough to satisfy my sweet tooth!

Cake Ingredients:
2 cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 cup Ghiradelli dark cocoa, sifted
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 small box of instant chocolate pudding mix
2 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Chocolate Icing:
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup baking cocoa, sifted
3 1/2 -6 cups powdered sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons heavy cream (more or less for consistency)

Cake Instructions:    Preheat regular, conventional oven to 350°. Beat sugar, butter & vanilla in large bowl. Beat in eggs. Mix in cake flour, baking cocoa, soda, salt, chocolate pudding and buttermilk. Stir in semi-sweet chocolate chips. Pour into greased tube pan. Bake in regular, conventional oven at 350° for 30 minutes. Adjust baking temperature down to 325° and continue baking 40 minutes more, until cake tester comes out clean.(Check with cake tester at the one hour mark.) Cool cake completely before icing.

Chocolate Icing Instructions:  Heat water, butter and vanilla together in microwave safe bowl, in microwave until melted. Remove from heat. Stir in one cup cocoa. Stir in powdered sugar, sifted.  Stir in heavy cream, up to 3 tablespoons (or more) until you get the desired consistency.   This much liquid required actually close to 6 cups of powdered sugar.  Ice the cake by filling the hole in the middle of the cake first, then slowly pour icing over cake top and pour over the sides. Icing will harden as it cools.
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in my kitchen

a sweet announcement

 

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Friends, you may know I like to bake.  I mean, outside of making music, it is probably my favorite hobby.   Over the holidays my hubs decided it was time to consider purchasing a new countertop stand mixer for my kitchen.

The old mixer is just that : old.  A Kitchenaid in name, it has been a truly reliable companion over the last 17 years here in my kitchen.    But, she rattles and vibrates – and sometimes I think her mixing paddle  is going to fly right out of the bowl, which is a bit concerning.     As hard as it might be to say goodbye to my friend, it is time for a new appliance.

Its not just age, it is size.  My girl has a 4 quart bowl, which at best can only hold 1 batch of batter or dough at a time.  Do you know, that I baked more than 10 coconut rum cakes this past Christmas season?  Mixing up one round of cake batter  at a time really eats away my time.   I am about to get a new stand mixer that will hold roughly 2- 3 batches at a time!

For a while now folks have asked if they can buy my baked goods.  And up until now, I’ve only sold my treats once in a long while, largely in part because of the nature of my mixer. Which leads me to the really important thing…

This year I’m going to be practicing baking all kinds of bundt cakes – many shapes and sizes and flavors.  I’m hoping to practice a bundt cake each week.  52 cakes.  2017 will be the year of the bundt cake.  (By the way, I’m just a little nervous about such  big number -52 cakes!  You’ll have to forgive me if I miss a week!) And I’m hoping that after I’ve practiced and practiced I’ll be prepared to actually sell a cake or two.   But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Guess what?  My little family is not going to eat 52 cakes this year.  No way.  I’m hoping friends and family will be willing taste testers!   Be ready if you come to my house – I will probably need you to try out the latest cake!  And, if you let me know your favorite flavor, a cake might just arrive at your doorstep.  (Sorry my lovely Canadian friends and family- I won’t be shipping over the border)

Aside from sharing cake, each week I will post the new cake recipe here to share with you.  And maybe a photo or two.  Some weeks maybe repeat recipes that are tweaked for a better product.  I really hope you’ll enjoy this tasty adventure with me one way or the other!

 

a bit of history · Uncategorized

Merry Christmas, Darling

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A few days ago, I had the opportunity to play the piano at a Christmas party.  The setting was a large hall at the Fairyland Club on Lookout Mountain.  My task: to play Christmas music quietly in the background for a dinner.

It was delightful work, in a festive setting.  I play a lot at holiday time, but typically not alone or in such a beautiful spot.  Playing solo, the music I love, at the piano, in this setting was magical and refreshing!   it was just what I needed in the middle of a week filled with Christmas preparations and busyness.

One of the best things about a solo gig, is you get to choose the music – and I chose a few favorites.  In particular, I selected one sentimental song from an old Carpenter’s Christmas album “Merry Christmas, Darling.”  I’ve listened to it many times over the years – and it has always warmed my heart.  It brings back memories…

At Christmas time, 1979, I was a 4 year old flower girl in a very special wedding.  Two people who have meant the world to me  were married – My Uncle Harvey and my Aunt Sharon.  These two gave me many many gifts, that began that day when they were married.  My love of music and all things piano (from my Aunt Sharon), and a good sense of humor and laughter (from my Uncle Harvey).  Not to mention, I heard “Merry Christmas, Darling” for the first time on an old record player at their house.

But, on that day, at that wedding – I had no idea they would give such gifts to me that would make me who I am now.  No. Back then, I only knew I got to dress up in a very special dress and throw a few flower petals down the aisle. At the reception, I sat on Aunt Mary’s lap and giggled a lot.   I recall great disappointment when I discovered that Canadian wedding cake was a little rectangle of fruit cake with almond icing on top.

As I sat at the  Fairyland Club’s Steinway last week and began to play that favorite Christmas song, I was struck by how much that hall resembled the place where my Uncle Harvey and Aunt Sharon celebrated their wedding reception.  At least, it did in my 4 yr old mind’s eye.  The warmth of a large stone fireplace, and the ambience of love and laughter… My eyes misted over at the fond and loving memories that I have of them and the life and love they shared.

There is no better gift at Christmas time, or any other time, than the gift of love.  How could I know all of those years ago, that my Aunt and Uncle would give me such a gift in their example of loving Jesus,  loving each other,  their family, good music and hearty laughter! Those gifts remain a very distinct part of the fabric of who I am as a wife, mother and musician.

Yes, that night last week I was grateful to hide in the corner, where people could hear me, but not see my tears as I played.  (I was so thankful for the beverage napkin sitting under my water glass, which I used to dab up a streak or two of mascara)  I miss my family a lot at holiday times because we live so far from many of them.  But, this year I especially miss my dear Uncle Harvey who is spending his first Christmas in Heaven; however  I’m pretty sure he’s enjoying Heaven, playing his trumpet and worshiping our Savior.

That night, I played a few songs, thinking of my Aunt Sharon as I reminisced.  How I wish you could have celebrated Christmas with Uncle Harvey this year!  But we know- you won’t be separated forever!  Jesus came as a babe, gave His life and lives so that we can live confidently in this truth!  And that is the greatest, most hopeful and loving gift of all!

 

friends and loved ones · who knows?

December tornado

img_5102It’s been a little busy around here.  Okay, truthfully, its been frantic.  There’s not a lot of room for quietness or serenity on the holiday musician’s calendar.  Add to it Emily’s exam schedule and end of semester home schooling activities, a husband’s high work demands, some baking and gift lists to fulfill, and, well you get the picture…  The stress is enough to make this mama’s heart crack into a million pieces.

It isn’t just that busyness for me.  Recently I finished another round of treatment.  Listen, it isn’t that big of a deal, really.  It isn’t.  There is so much worse that could be happening in my little family’s life.  Except that at the end of 16 weeks, I do feel like I’m an emotional disaster, loosing my mind at the busiest time of year.  (It is certainly why you don’t hear much from me here, on the blog.)   Definitely not what I imagine when I plan our Advent season.

So, the other day, as I was standing in my kitchen, making lists for baking supplies and outlining what I would bake when, I had a moment.  It isn’t that kind of thing you want anyone to see – it could also be described as a meltdown, involving lots of tears and tissues.  It all started because I couldn’t find a recipe…   then, everything (and I do mean every possible emotion) came swirling around me.  All of the emotion and stress of the past weeks just came loose like a tornado.

Am I the only experiencing a wild, unexpected storm in December? 

Then, like an angel of mercy, this music played on my speakers.  A sweet piano student had given me the Christmas record by Fernando Ortega.  At just the right moment, I heard these words, that slowed the raging storm in my heart and mind to a peaceful calm that only HE can give:

Jesus, King of angels, Heaven’s light
Shine Your face upon this house tonight
Let no evil come into my dreams
Light of Heaven keep me in Your peace

Remind me how You made dark spirits flee
And spoke Your power to the raging sea
And spoke Your mercy to a sinful man
Remind me Jesus, this is what I am

The universe is vast beyond the stars
But You are mindful when the sparrow falls
And mindful of the anxious thoughts
That find me, surround me and bind me

With all my heart I love You, Sovereign Lord
Tomorrow let me love You even more
And rise to speak the goodness of Your name
Until I close my eyes and sleep again

Jesus, King of angels, Heaven’s light
Hold my hand and keep me through this night

In a strange sort of way, I’ve come to believe that Advent is the most wonderful time of year to experience an anxious heart and stress.  Because, it is right now in the middle of all the holiday ridiculousness, my heart can bring into focus the truest story of Christmas!  The Prince of Peace, Jesus, was born as a tiny baby and came to earth to bring the very peace I need.

From the beginning of time He knew that He was coming to bring peace, even to me, standing in my “December-baking-decorating – list making -holiday-busy- kitchen.”  While I can’t fathom it, my heart is settled and quiet, resting in the very peace He has given to me.  I pray you will find that same rest and peace for your heart this Advent season.