Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Today is one of those rare days when I don't have a schedule so I decided to make bread. I am not a very good or a very consistent bread maker. I have not yet found 'my' recipe - probably due to the fact that I don't make it enough to perfect it. So I usually try different recipes which sometimes turn out and sometimes don't. I have tried to make more bread recently and, thanks to my dear Husband, don't have many excuses. Kirk gave me a new Bosch mixer for Christmas and it makes making bread soooooo much easier.
Tonight we are having fresh bread and my favorite soup for dinner. This morning I pulled the ham bone from our Easter dinner out of the freezer and started this soup...
Ham and Bean Soup
1 c. dry navy beans 1 to 1 ½ pounds meaty smoked pork hocks or ham bone
1 T. butter 1 ½ c. celery, sliced 1 ½ c. onion, chopped ¾ t. dried thyme, crushed ¼ to ½ t. salt ¼ t. pepper 1 bay leaf 2 c. carrots, sliced
Rinse beans. Combine with 4 cups water, bring to a boil and let sit for 1 hour. Or cover with water and let soak overnight. Drain and rinse beans. In a 4-quart Dutch oven brown pork hocks in hot butter over medium heat. Add the celery and onion. Cook and stir until softened. Stir in beans, thyme, salt, pepper, bay leaf, and 4 cups fresh water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered for 1 to 1 ½ hours or until beans are tender. Remove pork hocks. When cool enough to handle, cut meat off bones; coarsely chop meat. Discard bones and bay leaf. Slightly mash beans in dutch oven. Stir in carrots and parsnips. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, about 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in meat and heat through. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.
If using a crock pot, cook beans (covered with water) on low overnight. In the morning add ham hocks, thyme, salt, pepper, bay leaf, 4 cups fresh water and carrots. Cook on low 8 - 10 hours. Remove pork hocks. When cool enough to handle, cut meat off bones; coarsely chop meat. Discard bones and bay leaf. Slightly mash beans. Stir in meat and heat through. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.
I said that I like to make bread, not that I'm very good at it (notice the uneven loaves!). This batch actually turned out really tasty!
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Now that the snow is gone, Spring fever is in the air. The grass is green. Tulips, daffodils and crocus are popping up and the trees are beginning to bud. But we still live in North Idaho and that means that anything can happen in the Spring. For example, last Tuesday the temperature was a balmy 70F! We had all the windows open and were wearing shorts. The girls came home from school begging to run through the sprinklers.You just never know what to expect in Sandpoint during Spring.
Then, two days later, we watched out the window as the weather alternated between rain, hail and snow.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Monday, April 20, 2009
Tonight we had the official closing ceremonies for Birthday Month. Whew! I feel like I just completed an olympic event. It's been quite an action packed few weeks...
Isabelle got us rolling on April 1st with her very first birthday. Yipee! She didn't know what to do with presents or cake, but was very excited to have everyone cheering and singing to her. No cake in the face for this baby - it was all about picking off the candy.
Hannah continued the birthday celebrations on the 14th with a horse themed birthday - complete with horse cake and a gift certificate for horse riding lessons. She can't wait to meet Puddin' and her teacher, Jessica. Now she can put those cowboy boots she got for Christmas to some good use!
Kirk made me promise months ago not to throw him a party for his big 40. He wouldn't even let me invite a few friends over. So he celebrated the milestone on April 16th with his girls and some Rhubarb-Strawberry Pie (thanks Mom!).
Paige had her very first 'friends' birthday party on Saturday - Tinkerbell style. Tonight we had a little family celebration for her actual birthday. She was thrilled to open presents filled with craft and office supplies. She is always making or creating something. Hopefully, she will stop borrowing my stapler and tape now that she has her own.
As for me - I think I'll be able to do without cake and ice cream (or any other form of desert) for quite a while. I had better avoid looking at the scale for a few weeks until I can exercise the birthday calories off. Now that everyone's birthdays have been celebrated I can relax and enjoy the rest of the year.
Happy Birthday Isabelle! I can hardly believe that a whole year has already gone by. When I look back, it's amazing to me how much you have learned in your short little life. What's more amazing to me is how much personality can be packed into such a little body. I love your cheesy smile, your teasing look, the way you kick and smile when your Dad walks in the room. I'm in love with the way you walk like a high stepper, squeal and belly laugh. I looked forward to this time when you would be more independent, could eat real food, call my name and get around on your own. But I miss those precious days when you were a newborn cooing and smiling for the first time. Although I appreciate a full night's sleep, I will treasure those nights when it was just you and me in a dark and quiet house snuggling in the rocking chair. You are my last baby and I have enjoyed every moment of your infancy. You are surrounded by three sisters who can't keep their hands off you. They will compete for your attention and are thrilled when you let them hold or entertain you. I couldn't imagine our family without you. You complete us in a way I would have never thought possible. I can't wait to see how you grow and progress from here. I love you, Isabelle.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Tomorrow is Paige's birthday. It will round out birthday month in our house. We've decided to let our kids have 'friend' birthday parties at certain ages. This year Paige turns seven, so on Saturday she had her first birthday party with friends. The theme was Tinkerbell and she asked for coconut cupcakes. I turned to one of my favorite recipe books 'The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook'
12 T. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 12 pieces
and found the most delicious recipe I've ever tried for coconut cake...
Coconut Layer Cake
5 large egg whites, room temperature
3/4 c. cream of coconut
1/4 c. water
1 large egg, room temperature
1 tsp. coconut extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/4 c. cake flour
1 c. sugar
1 T. baking powder
3/4 t. salt
Preheat oven to 325F. Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans, then line the bottoms with parchment paper. Whisk the egg whites, cream of coconut, water, whole egg, and extracts together in a large bowl until combined and set aside.
Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Beat in the butter, one piece at a time, with an electric mixer on low speed until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, 2-5 min.
Add 1 cup of the egg mixture, increasing speed to medium-high, and beat until light and fluffy, about 45 seconds. Add the remaining egg mixture in a steady stream and continue to beat until the batter is combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl and beaters as needed.
Divide batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake 30-35 minutes.
Frost with coconut frosting and top with 2 c. toasted coconut.
2 T. heavy cream
1 t. coconut extract
1 t. vanilla extract
16 T. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 c. cream of coconut
3 c. powdered sugar
Stir the cream, extracts, and salt together. Beat the butter and cream of coconut until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in the cream mixture and mix until light and fluffy.