Saturday, October 30, 2010

Red Velvet Story

January to March 2009 was a stressful yet super duper exciting time!  I was working full time, going to school part time, and planning our wedding...and this particular period of time was full of bridal showers.  I was blessed with a Western, an Eastern, AND a Southern Washington shower!  

Western Washington Shower:  One of the games for me was to bake a Red Velvet cake from scratch...with no recipe. All of the ingredients I needed were placed on the counter and I had to do my best at guessing how to put it all together. Let's just say it was edible...barely.  I like to cook, but baking is another story.  Having never ever made Red Velvet Cake before, it made for some funny entertainment for the shower guests!

Baking the cake (more like having no idea what I was doing).

Trying the finished product.

Best word to describe the cake:  DENSE
"Are you sure you don't want to try it?!"

Southern Washington Shower:  Rachel's close friend was so gracious and hosted a "cooking" shower in their town.  Everyone was to bring a recipe that correlated with their gift, and guess what one of the recipes was?... yep, Red Velvet Cake!  Keep reading for the recipe...

Rachel, Me, my mom Linda at the shower.

Eastern Washington Shower:  You might want to wear an apron for this one, beause when an entire bottle of red food coloring and an electric mixer is involved you never know what could happen.  It just so happens that my sister Natalie gave me the pattern and material for an apron at the Eastern Washington shower, which I later made during a "sewing party" with Elizabeth and Rachel (my mom-in-law and sis-in-law).

With my sisters Julie and Natalie at the Eastern Washington Shower.

Matt and I also chose Red Velvet as one of our three cupcake flavors at our wedding reception...

This week we had a potluck at work and I made these red, moist, unhealthy treats...just don't make them every weekend and you'll be ok.  It's been 1.5 years since I've made them;  it's ok to indulge every once in a while!!  So, here's the recipe...

The aforementioned apron.

What you need:  CAKE/CUPCAKES
  • 3 eggs (let stand 30 minutes)
  • 3/4 cup butter (let stand 30 minutes)
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 (1 oz) bottle red food coloring
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp vinegar
How to make the CAKE/CUPCAKES:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Grease and flour 3, 8 inch cake pans (or 2 cupcake pans, or just use cupcake papers)
  • In a medium bowl combine flour, cocoa powder, salt.  Set aside
  • In a large bowl beat butter on high 30 seconds.  Add sugar, vanilla, add eggs one at a time beating on medium speed after each egg. 
  • Beat in food coloring on low.
  • Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk to egg mixture.  Beat on low-medium after each just until combined.
  • Stir together baking soda and vinegar.  Add to batter.  Beat until just combined.
  • Spread into prepared pans.  Bake 25-30 minutes (15-20 min for cupcakes, 10-15 minutes for mini cupcakes).  Cool pans on wire racks 10 minutes.  Remove from pans, cool, and frost...
What you need:  FROSTING
  • One 8-oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 lb powdered suger (I know it sounds crazy, ONE POUND?!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
How to make the FROSTING:
  • Cream together cream cheese and butter
  • Add sugar and vanilla, mix well.

And that's my Red Velvet Story!


Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Light of Life

Last Wednesday I had a some free time in the middle of the day to eat some lunch, read, and even nap while enjoying the beautiful early Fall weather and my alone time in the sun.  The above picture was my view of Lake Washington as I sat in Coulon Park.  (I napped in my car, not on a park bench, btw :)  I've been volunteering at 2:00 on Wednesdays and had a bit of time before then, but not quite enough time to go all the way back the park it was!

I love the colorful landscape of Fall (God is the most talented artist!!), the combination of a crisp breeze mixed with the warm sun, the smell of pumpkin spice lattes, the way a hot cup of tea warms my hands and relaxes me before bed, soups and stews, the soft glow and flicker of the start of "candle season", and I love watching my amazing and talented hubby do something he enjoys...flag football every Saturday.  I am focusing on these wonderful things to help me not dwell on the one thing I really do not like about Fall...the darkness creeping in.  Literally.  The days are getting shorter and shorter and before long it will be dark when I get to work and dark when I leave work.  Major sad face there :( 

This is just like life.  Full of amazingly wonderful things that bring joy to my soul, but it's so easy to loose focus on these things by allowing negativity to take over.  "Darkness" can take many shapes in life such as a stressful work situation, a family/friend feud, fatigue/burnout, etc...but keep your attention on the positive (that's what I tell myself)!  A job to complain about is most likely better than no job in this economy, God can use a feud to strengthen relationships and build character, forcing personal time to rest is NOT being selfish but rather necessary for renewed strength for body and mind.
This was the scene as I was leaving the park (the picture from my cell phone doesn't do it justice, either).  It's probably not the safest thing to drive and snap a picture, but there were no other cars around so I slowed down to like 5mph, haha!  It was just so beautiful and inspiring, I couldn't resist.  I felt as though God was giving me a hug as these colorful trees bordered my exit and the warm sunlight danced on my face.  It's so comforting to know that God is always surrounding me with light, and I'm taking that with me into the darkness as Winter draws near.  There will always be something negative that can take over my thoughts if I allow it, but where's the joy in that?! There is none! 

The earth is filled with the Lord's glory.
- Habakkuk 2:14
For You will light my lamp; The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness. 
- Psalm 18:28
Then Jesus spoke to them again saying, "I am the light of the world.  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."
- John 8:12

I pray you too will be able to keep your focus on the comforting light of life that is surrounding you always in a world where darkness is bound to happen. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tarragon Flounder (aka Mystery Fish) and Smashed Yams

Why "aka Mystery Fish" you ask?  Because I can't even be certain what type of fish it was we ate. Weird, I know.  Last month, a guy Matt works with gave us a box full of produce from his garden: tomatoes, zucchini, onion, jalepenos, awesome!. He is also apparently quite the hunter/fisher because we were also given salmon, ground elk, antelope steaks, and a white fish we guessed was possibly cod by the looks of it.  I don't have much of an issue eating happy, hormone/atibiotic-free, roaming wild in nature meat every once in a while (and the acupuncturist I've been seeing recommended I get more "animal products"). 

I defrosted the "cod" the other day and while at work I was thinking about what I could do with it for dinner that night. I had made lemon pepper cod the week prior, so I wanted to do something else. Having not come to a conclusion by the time I got home from work, I began flipping through my cookbooks in search of a recipe for in which I had all the ingredients. I was not feeling a trip to the grocery store. Alas! I found a solution to my predicament on page 192 of The Taste of Home Cookbook (thank you Donna Smith of Fairport, New York)!  So simple!

What You Need:
  • 2 flounder fillets (4 ounces each)...or your own special mystery fish of the evening
  • 1/2 C chicken broth (I used vegetable broth)
  • 2 Tbl melted butter
  • 1 Tbl minced fresh tarragon or 1 tsp dried tarragon (I used dried)
  • 1 tsp ground mustard
What You Do:
  • Place fillets in a greased 11x7x2 in baking dish (I used 8x8).  Combine remaining ingredients in a separate dish and pour over fish.
  • Bake uncovered at 350 degress for 20-25 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.  Remove with slotted spatula.  Serve immediately. 
I served this up with some grilled asparagus and a new favorite of Matt's that is super simple...Smashed Yams:
  • I peel about 3-4 good sized yams (so we have some left over).
  • Dice up into about 1-inch cubes.
  • Place in pot and cover with cold water.
  • Cover, and bring to boil.  Keep at low boil for 8-10 minutes or until fork tender.
  • Drain, return to pot.
  • Mix with hand mixer until consistency you prefer.
That's it!  I do not add milk, butter, salt, pepper, NADA!  They have a creamy texture and sweet flavor and we think they are fabulous just the way they are :)  Go get your yummy does of Vitamin C, fiber, and potassium and smash up some yams!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

"I don't live in a fairytale, and birds don't help me with housework."

I guess we can call it "the blues", although I don't like giving it a name.  "It" began to creep its ugly venom into my head, oh, maybe a couple weeks ago.  I began to realize that I was constantly complaining.  Although not always vocalizing my complaints, they were taking up home inside me.  I was also feeling very "ho-hum", lazy, tired, frustrated...NOT the person I am or want to be.   I married a man who isn't the first to volunteer for let's-talk-about-our-feelings time, but for some reason he encourages me to do so.  God knew exactly what I needed in a spouse in this regard.  So we began to talk about different areas of life that may be contributing to this situation...and I cried like a little girl :)

This is one of those things that, once I start talking about it, makes me feel silly for getting so worked up and emotional.  Without going into too much detail, circumstances at work, situations/concerns with family and friends, my health, being a wife, being productive with my time, etc. began to overwhelm me.  Maybe those of you reading this are better at this than I am, but we can't let Satan lead us to believe that our feelings are not valid; but more importantly, we need to recognize when we are allowing Satan to take over our feelings and use them against us. He wants us to feel weak, depressed, unmotivated, and to wallow in a murky existence of self-pity; the exact opposite of who God created us to be!  I turned to the Bible and the promises of God to remind myself that I can overcome anything life throws at me, big or small, and grow and become stronger as a result of the situation.

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."
2 Corinthians 12:9

"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the LORD, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'"
Psalm 91:1-2

Matt and I were able to use this as an opportunity to grow as husband and wife. He was there to encourage me to speak about what I was feeling, to understand without judging, and to pray for me.  Hubby really stepped up to the plate on this one, and I am so grateful that he is mine. 

As I was looking back through my notepad from church, I came across my notes from the women's conference with Nicole Johnson.  It wasn't really relevant at the time of the conference, but as I read through my notes, I absorbed the message like I had never heard it before.  One portion of my notes read: "We don't live in a fairytale; birds don't help with housework" and another portion read "Keep our princess hearts, as daughter of The King.  Our glass slipper is the Bible, the promise of God."  Exactly what I needed to hear during this time of my life!  By going to that conference back in Spring, I am now able to draw upon it as encouragement.  Here is a clip of a skit Nicole performed at the conference.  I am not even a mother yet, and can only imagine how much more I will need to draw from this then!

God sees us, we are not invisible, and I pray that the work we are completing at home, at school, in personal relationships, and in business will stand to represent not ourselves...but our great God. 

Much encouragement from one woman to another,
no matter your current struggles or walk of life!