Everyday Cake

Yesterday when Luke asked (using the power of his magical dimples) if we could make a cake together, how could I say no? It was a sweet afternoon; we walked to the store in the sunshine for eggs and buttermilk and then got to making a mess in the kitchen, just the two of us.

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We had such a good time. Sometimes I struggle to let go and let my kids REALLY help me with baking or cooking projects. The mess and energy and just overall chaos of little kids with spatulas and measuring cups (yelling ‘I can do it!!!!’ at the top of their lungs) can be overwhelming not to mention I might be a tad bit over-controlling when it comes to how I want things done.

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But yesterday we got it right. Lu was helpful and listened and followed instructions and I was calm and patient and took a deep breath and LET him do it on his own.

And the best part? We made a cake. And it was delicious. One layer of buttermilk vanilla cake with a lemon cream cheese frosting and strawberries. It tasted like spring.

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Buttermilk Cake:

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Generously spray a ten inch round cake pan with cooking spray or butter and lightly flour it. You could also use a 9×9 square cake pan.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside. In a mixer cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Mix in vanilla. Mix in flour mixture in three parts alternating with the buttermilk. Mix together until well-combined. Pour batter into pan and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes, then turn it upside down on a cooling rack and pop it out of the pan to finish cooling.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 8 ounces of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • splash of milk
  • the zest of one lemon
  • pinch of salt

In a mixer, mix the butter and cream cheese until they are well-combined. Add the vanilla, salt and lemon zest and continue to mix. Slowly add in the powdered sugar. If the frosting is too thick, add a splash of milk to get to desired texture.

When the cake is cool, liberally frost the top of the cake. Garnish with fresh strawberries.

Lentil Soup

I was looking through my Kitchen Captivated column archives over the weekend realizing just how much soup I make. It’s for sure my go-to meal. Soup accomplishes several important tasks: generally healthy (as long as its not cream or cheese based), lots of vegetables, one-pot meal and most importantly, its something tasty, comforting and typically the entire family will eat it.

So all that to say, whether it’s vegetable, tomato or chicken noodle, I would say my big orange pot gets put to pretty good use each week.

This winter I’ve been making a ton of lentil soup. I wasn’t sure if the kids would like it but they gobble it up. It’s not much to look at, but it is so delicious and hearty and a great meal to help combat the winter blues.

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Easy Lentil Soup with Ham

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 2 red potatoes, diced
  • 1 28 ounce can of organic diced tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup red lentils (rinsed)
  • 1 pound ham hock
  • 2 boxes organic chicken stock
  • 1/2 bag (2 big handfuls baby spinach)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • splash of balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper

In a large pot, heat oil and butter over medium heat. Sauté onion, carrot and celery for 5 minutes until onions are translucent and the veggies start to soften. Salt and pepper. Add garlic and sauté for another minute. Add tomatoes and potatoes. Sauté for an additional five minutes. Add the ham hock, chicken stock, lentils and spices. Salt and pepper. Cover the pot and cook on low for several hours or put into a 300 degree oven for several hours. Stir occasionally. When the ham begins to fall off the bone, your soup is ready. Remove the bone and any fatty pieces of meat. Stir in spinach and cook for an additional 15-20 minutes while spinach wilts a bit. Before serving, remove bay leaves.

You can also use a ham steak in place of a ham hock. Just dice it into bite size pieces.

Chocolate Chocolate White Chocolate Cookies

It’s officially February. January is gone for another year (oh thank goodness) and I need a break from green smoothies, salad and constantly feeling hungry.

Besides, February is the month of love and all that mushy stuff and what goes better with romance than a big plate of chocolate goodness? Nothing, I tell you.

Make a double batch of these treats. Trust me. Put some in the freezer. You’ll be so glad you did the next time your husband comes home grumpy from work, or you need a treat to take to a friend or your day just blows up in your face. Not that I would know anything about any of that…

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This recipe is a bit of a mash-up between a cookie recipe from The Pioneer Woman and The Farm Chicks.

Triple Chocolate Cookies:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. In a mixer, cream the butter for 1 minute. Add the sugars and vanilla until creamy and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Lower the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. With a spatula mix in the chips until well-combined. Bake for about 8 minutes. It’s easy to over-cook the cookies because its hard to tell how brown they are getting. Err on the side of undercooked. Allow to cook on a wire rack and try not to eat a dozen in the first hour you bake them.

Enjoy!

Taking Stock

I’ve been fighting the winter blues for weeks. January is notoriously hard but this year probably takes the cake. Lots of looming questions about the future, short days, cutting out sugar; it can make everything feel terrible so quickly. The fog and damp cold gray days feel like a wet blanket clinging to everything and my tendency to brood has obviously gone into overdrive. After yelling at EVERYONE this morning, even the poor dogs didn’t escape my fury, I realized I need a new perspective. As soon as possible.

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So I cleaned my carpet and washed my windows. Two things I really didn’t want to do, but when I finished it felt like I’d scrubbed away a little of my bad attitude.

I went to bible study. I didn’t really want to go. But I went and I was encouraged and listened to and I noticed I felt a little better.

We talked about being grateful. About saying thank you and making that the focus of life…not all the stuff that makes us feel bad or consumes us with worry or draws us away from the truth. And the truth is that God is love and He never changes that way.

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So I’m wrestling with that, wondering how to change the way I think and drinking a cup of tea and listening to Mumford and Sons. Little by little my life is coming back into perspective. Just a little.

Today I’m grateful for a clean slate to start over. For random phone calls from my husband and texts from friends. For the peace lily on my kitchen counter and the sweet toddlers sleeping cozy in their beds.

When I take stock in my life, I am overwhelmed by its goodness. And I feel sheepish for being so cranky. Here’s to holding onto a simple truth: gratitude beats out brooding every time.

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Lemon Vinaigrette

I’ve been making salads like crazy the last couple of weeks. Maybe because its January or because its gray and foggy almost constantly where I live and a big plate of crunchy veggies somehow makes me think of spring. Ok, let’s be real, it’s January and I could use a few more salads and a whole lot less of just about everything else.

I discovered caramelizing sweet onions ahead of time, saving them in the fridge to use throughout the week, after reading Shauna Niequist’s, Bread and Wine and now I can’t get enough.  They are so good in a salad, and now I feel like I HAVE to have them all the time.

Anyway, this blog isn’t really about onions, it’s actually about the salad dressing. My friend gave me the recipe to a lovely lemon vinaigrette that is bright and acidic, a tiny bit sweet and perfect over greens, veggies and a little goat cheese or feta  (and don’t forget the onions)!

I think the original recipe is from Betty Crocker and as I almost always do, I improvised a little based on what I had. It’s hands down my favorite dressing right now.

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Lemon Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • the juice of one lemon (between 1/4-1/3 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • a splash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped

Combine all the ingredients in a jar with a lid. Shake it up until well combined and store in the fridge for a couple of days.

My favorite salad:

  • baby spinach
  • carrots
  • English cucumber
  • red pepper
  • goat cheese
  • sunflower seeds
  • garlic croutons
  • caramelized onions
  • grilled chicken or turkey deli meat

To make the onions, slice up two large walla walla sweet onions. Heat a cast iron pan over medium heat with 1/2 tablespoon butter and a tiny splash of olive oil. The key with onions is low and slow. As they begin to soften and change color, lower the heat a little and stir often. Salt them halfway through. When they are a nice caramel color, take them off the heat and let them cool. Store in the refrigerator to use all week-long.

Birthday Post Number Two

Jack is SIX!

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It seems impossible that this boy could be six, but all signs point towards him being a full-fledged kid. He is doing great in kindergarten, learning new things every day and treating recess like a boss. He’s playing on two soccer teams and loving every second of it. He can often be found in the backyard or driveway kicking a soccer ball around, begging anyone who is willing to play with him for a few minutes.

He loves legos, movies, riding bikes, football, drawing and being read to.

He is so smart, physical, determined, generous, silly, intense, sensitive and thoughtful.

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Happy birthday Jackson. You made all our dreams come true six years ago. You made your dad and I a real-live family and we thank God every single day that He chose us to be your parents. We love you so very much and can’t wait to see what the next six years and the six years after that bring. Because so far every day with you has been awesome. Even the hard days.

You are a boy so full of potential and giftedness. God is going to use you for mighty things in life. My prayer is that you grow up knowing and trusting in a God who loves you and walks alongside you.

You make us proud every day because you are you. Sometimes being the oldest isn’t easy, case in point, your birthday party just got rescheduled because your brother is sick as a dog, but you, and only you, could be the biggest brother in this family. You were made for it and do it so well. Your brother and sister are lucky to have you and they know it.

Love you so much.

A Couple of Birthday Posts

Scarlet turned two a month ago. We had a quiet day at home celebrating our girl and enjoyed a family party the following weekend. The weather has been downright glorious this fall so we played in the backyard basically the whole day doing a couple of her favorite things: swinging, changing her shoes 17 times, pushing the lawnmower and yelling at the dogs.

All in all a great time of celebration for our girl.

Oh. And pink cake, because I may not be the ‘girliest’ of moms, but turning two definitely requires pink cake and sprinkles.

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Oh this girl. She brings so much joy to our family. I wish I could accurately capture this little nymph. Funny, sweet, stubborn, a shrieker, shy, loving, gentle but spunky all at the same time. She is going to move mountains one day.

She loves to hold hands walking along the curb on our way home from dropping Jack off at school. She carries pictures of the family around, constantly pointing out who is who. She dresses and undresses her babies 100 times per day. She wrestles, runs, jumps and climbs right alongside her brothers. She gets her feelings hurt easily and at the same time is resilient and determined when it comes to accomplishing what she wants. She is a lover; she loves to be held, kissed, hugged and to hold hands.

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Happiest of belated birthdays my sweet sweet Scarlet. I hope you read this someday and feel the love we have for you coming off this page. You might be the youngest, and with that sometimes comes hardships or sacrifices, but you are loved beyond reason. And greater than our love is the love of your Heavenly Father. A God who made you, loves you and protects you. He walks with you now and will every day of your life.

We love you darling.


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