Wednesday, October 26, 2011

#51 - Make a Two-Tier Cake + Frosting From Scratch

OK. I have a confession. I am approaching 40 years old (rather quickly!) and I have never made a cake from scratch. Don't get me wrong, I've made cakes before, but was always helped by my good friends Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines. So, when I was putting my life list together last year, one of the things I added was making a two-tier chocolate cake and frosting from scratch. See, life lists are not just all about sky diving and wrestling bears and stuff like that.

This past weekend I decided it was time to roll up the sleeves and give it a whirl. I figured I would start with a classic recipe for cake, so I went with this Hershey's recipe at this link. The only substitution I made was using Ghirardelli cocoa powder instead of Hershey's.

Directions were easy and the batter came together just fine.The two-tier aspect of it was a little stressful, as there was some sticking to the pans when the cakes came out of the oven. Fortunately, it was not anything that the frosting could not cover up. Yes, frosting covers a multitude of sins. The finished product was a little "rustic" in appearance, but tasted great.

With that, I am checking this off the list!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Still Loving the CSA

This is year two of participating in the local Community Supported Agriculture program from OZ Farm. I wrote last year about our CSA and shared some photos of the bounty.

When I went to pick up our CSA box yesterday, I was overcome by a sense of gratitude when I opened the box. It was packed full of so many wonderful things. I was feeling thankful for the farmers who worked to produce the veggies and for the right natural balance that needs to happen for the productivity to occur: rich soil, sun, and rain.

It's too easy to be disconnected from our food. I love knowing I can go to the Farmers' Market and talk to the actual people that are growing, picking and prepping my weekly CSA box. Dirt under their nails, sun-glow skin and all.

This week we got a spaghetti squash, Brussels sprouts, fingerling potatoes, herbs, braising greens, kale, chard, salad mix and cinnamon heirloom apples.

I roasted the potatoes with some garlic salt, pepper, and Italian spice blend with olive oil.  Brussels sprouts just get a little olive oil and salt/pepper. The chard went into our morning eggs and I will probably do stir fry dishes with the kale and braising greens.  The spaghetti squash is also roasted and I will probably incorporate it into a few dishes. It's fun to try new recipes or tweak the old ones to incorporate the weekly CSA goodies.

Potatoes and sprouts waiting to go in the oven.

Spaghetti squash out of the oven. Sweet goodness!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Soup for When It's Sweater Weather

We are getting into sweater weather here on the Northern California coast, which means it is also the perfect time for hearty soups. Earlier this week I pulled together a vegetable + cheese tortellini soup. This will make a big pot and, depending on your family size, plenty of leftovers for lunches.

Here is the general recipe I followed.

  • one medium-sized onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 10 leaves chard, chopped
  • 1 15-ounce can white kidney beans, rinsed
  • 1 15-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 6 cups vegetarian broth
  • 2 cups dry cheese tortellini (I used the ones from Trader Joe's)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Shredded Parmesan for garnish

1. Drizzle some olive oil in the bottom of  a large pot. When oil is headed, add onions and cook for 3 minutes.
2. Add the carrots and celery to the pot. Continue to saute for a couple more minute. You are wanting the veggies to soften up a little bit.
3. Add the chopped chard to the pot and cook a little to wilt it down.
4. Add the can of rinsed beans, and the fire-roasted tomatoes, and 5 cups of broth.
5. Bring everything to a boil and then turn fire down and let simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes.
6. Add the dry tortellini and the final cup of broth.
7. Let simmer for about 10 more minutes or until tortellini plump up. Don't overcook, or the tortellini will fall apart.
8. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve in a bowl and garnish with Parmesan. Enjoy!

If you have fresh tortellini, you could drop those in at the end ans just cook less. You could substitute spinach or kale for the chard. Regular kidney beans or black beans would also work in this recipe.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Hello Husqvarna

Yesterday, we earned a new "rural skills" badge ... we used chain saws! Sometimes I feel like such a city girl when I write about these new things we are getting to experience while living "in the country". Folks, if you have never used a chainsaw, it's pretty damn fun, and only a tiny bit scary.

My Rotary friend, Howard, had a dead tree that needed to come down. He invited us up to help, with the promise of some firewood. So getting tree down involved many yards of rope, one diesel Dodge pick up and two chain saws. It started with Howard pitching a rope up into the tree and tying it around. Bob and Howard then cut through most of the tree and made a notch. The rope was then tied to the truck hitch. I was in the truck driving slowly forward while Bob did the final cut on the tree.

The tree came down, but lodged in another tree.

It took a few more rope maneuvers and truck tricks, but it finally fell all the way down. I think I even let out a little hoop and holler when it was finally all the way down. Afterwards we sawed off all the side branches and then cut into large sections. These would later be split for fire wood.


So, now Bob has chainsaw envy and I think he wants one of his own. For me, it felt good to do some physical labor and have something to show for my work. Often times my work is phone calls and writing and I don't often have something tangible for weeks. After just a few hours, we nearly had firewood! What a nice feeling.