Monthly Archives: January 2012

Photos of the Week {4}

I owe one week’s pictures for my photo of the week 2012 project

It’s not too often that our back yard calls me out to take a picture or two, but this afternoon the sun was casting some really nice cool light on the yard and on all of last week’s snow on the ground.  And the sky was blue, finally!

I was surprised at how the pictures came right out of the camera with such a deep blue sky.  I touched them up on the computer just a bit, but didn’t even saturate or darken the sky.  I loved the blue with the browns and reds in our maple tree.

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Photos of the Week {3}

This last weekend we loaded up Jackson and his sister Ava in the car and met up with some friends at a nearby sledding hill.  All of our furry friends were having fun running all over the place…

We were doggy sitting Jackson’s sister, Ava, over the weekend and she is a little sweetie.  I totally got attached to her after just one day…

They got to run and play with our friend’s doggies…

There was a campfire to keep our hands warm…

There were s’mores for the kids…

And there was a great time had by all the kids…

The girls were getting creative and coming up with their own ideas of what to do for pictures.  It’s good to be around a group of kids at such a fun age, no real big worries in life, just family, friendships, and fun.  You can just see pure joy in all their faces.

An Award!

Nichole over at Born in the Wrong Century recently gave me the Liebster Award!

Nichole is my cousin who also loves good food, cooking, gardening, and canning, and we both started our blogs at the same time.  After she was tagged with the award, she chose three of her favorite smaller blogs to pass it on to.  I’m happy to be one of her favorites, and she said not just because I am her cousin. =)

Here are the rules to the Liebster Blog Award:

  1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog.
  2. Link back to the blogger that present said award to you.
  3. Copy and paste the blog award on your blog.
  4. Present this award to 3 to 5 blogs with under 200 followers that are beautiful, funny, good, and or sparkly.
  5. Let them know they have won by commenting on their blogs.

There are several blogs that I follow and enjoy reading, I have most of them listed on my Inspiration page.

Here are a few of my favorites that I wanted to pass on the blogging award to and share with you, as they fall under the categories of being fun and entertaining, inspiring, educational and informative, and/or my place for a good dose of eye candy:

  • Beauties and the Feast– This is a group of six girls that are friends and love good food, drinks, trying new recipes, gaining a lot of good cooking experiences, and have fun sharing it all on their blog.  There are always new ingredients/themes, recipes, and cooking stories between the six girls.  I went to high school with one of them, so its fun to re-connect several years later through blogging and good ol’ social networking.
  • Lindsey Jane Photography– This one might be pushing it for the award rule of being under 200 followers, she’s got over 900 fans on facebook, and just a lot of fans, friends, and clients from all over.  But this is one photography blog that I enjoy and go to regularly for a good dose of eye candy and inspiration.  Lindsey is a very talented and creative local photographer, and posts regularly on recent photo shoots that she does of engagements, weddings, maternity, babies, and families.  And she did a lovely engagement photo session with my hubby and I!
  • Knitted Bliss–  (Hmm, not sure if there’s less than 200 followers or not on her blog either).  I recently found this fiber arts/knitting blog and now it’s another one I go to for a regular dose of eye candy and inspiration.  Julie is a talented and creative knitter and designer and I love to see what she’s working on and swoon over her beautiful finished knits.

There you have it.  Three great blogs on three of my favorite things: cooking, photography, and knitting.  I hope you enjoy checking them out!  =)

Finished Knits

The last of my Christmas gift knits was just finished over the weekend.  What, did you expect me to have them all done by Christmas Day??  😉  It’s just like me to have one or two lingering gifts to finish up after the holidays.

My mom’s mitts were actually finished just in the nick of time, so she did get to open them on Christmas Day.  I made her a pair of Grammy’s Mitts to go with her Grammy’s Hat that I made for her Birthday.  She loves them!  They fit just right, not too big and bulky, but perfectly snug and warm.

I obviously love TFA‘s Grammy’s Hat pattern, as I ended up making nine of them.  Kind of crazy, but hey I always say, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it!  The pattern makes a great hat, and is just a simple and kind of a mindless knit to hurry up and do for all the family.

Soon after the holidays I finished two more Grammy’s Hats, one for my husband…

He loves it!  It’s soft, warm, comfortable, and the fit is just right.  This was made with Cascade Eco Cloud, on Ravelry here.

And one for my brother, made in Cascade Cloud but I chose colors that coordinate with his ski coat.  (Modeled by my hubby, on Ravelry here)…

I’m sure glad I’m done with all those projects.  Now, onto some cute accessories and such for moi!  =)

Photo(s) of the Week {2}

Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park.  A gray, foggy day in January…

Chocolate {Birthday} Cake with Italian Cocoa-Kahlua Buttercream and Ganache

It is not too often a Chocolate Cake comes around that has me describing it as perfect.  And ever since I started making desserts in some of the local restaurants, Chocolate Cake comes around a lot.  This Chocolate Birthday Cake does have me using the word perfect so many times.  It is made with hot coffee and Kahlua, what girl or chocolate-lover wouldn’t call this perfect?

My husband’s birthday was last weekend, and this was his fifth annual Birthday Cake.  I have made it for him every year since we met, and it’s a tradition that will definitely keep on going.  He loves it and really looks forward to it every year.

Chocolate and coffee are so lovely together.  Coffee enhances the flavor of chocolate, and chocolate compliments coffee perfectly, in my opinion.  That combination makes this cake wonderful.  Not to mention that the recipe and method is so easy and simple.  A mixer is not even needed, as all you really use is two large mixing bowls and a whisk.

This cake has rich chocolate flavor, a lovely velvety texture, and the crumb and consistency is just right, as it’s not too dense and not too light and crumbly.  It is perfect for layering, shaping, sculpting, and slicing, which means it would be perfect for a wedding cake with a lot of layers and tiers.

…Notice how many times I use the word perfect?  I really can’t help it!  You’d think I was trying to sell something here.  Well, although I’m not selling anything and getting any richer with this, I hope you print this recipe and give it a try.  And I know I talked it up a lot, so you’ll have to let me know your review once you enjoy a slice of this chocolate heaven.  =)


::Chocolate (Birthday) Cake::
{from Colette Peters book, Cakes to Dream On, modified slightly}

2 c. AP flour
1 t baking soda
pinch of salt

1 3/4 c. hot coffee
1/4 c. Kahlua
5 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped into small pieces
8 oz unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, then to room temp

1 3/4 c. sugar
2 eggs, at room temp
2 t vanilla

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.  Coat two 8″ round cake pans with butter and line the bottoms with parchment paper.  (Cut parchment in a round to fit inside the bottom of the cake pan.)

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, add in the chopped chocolate, Kahlua, and softened butter.  Pour in the hot coffee, make sure it’s very hot.  Give it a little stir, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let set for about ten minutes until all the mixture is melted.  Stir around until smooth.  (If you still end up with it not all melted you can set your bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water and stir the chocolate coffee mixture until it’s all smooth.)

Whisk in the sugar, let the mixture cool completely.  Whisk in the dry mix in two batches.  Then whisk in the eggs and vanilla.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a tester comes out of the center clean.  Rotate the cake pans after 30 minutes if necessary.

Let the cakes cool completely in their pans, set on a wire rack.  After cooling completely, and even letting them refrigerate for a while, you can remove the cakes from the pans.  Run a butter knife along the inside edge of the pan, then set a flat plate or small cutting board over the cake pan, invert, and tap gently upside down.  When you feel the cake fall down, lift up the pan.  Chill the cake layers completely before icing and decorating.

::Cocoa-Kahlua Buttercream::

My basic ratio for Simple Buttercream is 1 lb softened butter for every 2 lbs (about 8 cups) powdered sugar and 1 T vanilla.  I use that basic ratio and just go by it’s creamy, fluffy consistency as I make it.  Buttercream is often made with an egg, but I do not use any.

1 lb butter, softened/room temp
1 lb, 12 oz powdered sugar (or 7 c.)
1/2 c. cocoa
1 or 1 1/2 T Kahlua

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, cream the softened butter until it’s light and fluffy.  Gradually add in the sugar and the cocoa, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go.  Add in the Kahlua and continue beating until it is light and smooth.  Do not chill before using.

To ice the cake, it is good to do a crumb coat on the chilled cake first.  Spread icing on the top of one layer, set the other layer on top.  Then simply spread on a thin layer of buttercream on the whole stacked cake, not worrying if the icing picks up some crumbs or not.  Refrigerate that for a bit, then gently spread on your Cocoa Kahlua Buttercream.

For this buttercream, I got to use some Italian Cocoa that my cousin sent me for Christmas.  =)


::Simple Chocolate Ganache::

1 c. chocolate chips (at home I use ghirardelli 60% bittersweet)
1 c. heavy cream

Set the cream in a small saucepan over med-high heat.  Set your chocolate in a medium bowl.  Once the cream reaches a simmer/light boil, pour it over the chocolate and let set a few minutes.  Stir until it’s all melted and smooth.  Use as desired in decorating, or pour in a squeeze bottle to drizzle over the cake as you serve it.

I still want to try making this cake with some Grand Marnier in place of the Kahlua.  Then layer it with Orange Buttercream, using fresh, concentrated orange juice in the place of vanilla, and adding in some orange zest.  I love dark chocolate and orange together.

Cheers and happy baking. =)

Oh Weekend, How I Love Thee

This last weekend I enjoyed a relaxing but semi-productive couple of days full of some baking, cooking, going walking with the dog, a little knitting, and celebrating my husband’s birthday with some friends and family.  (And him too, of course.)

While my man was out snowmobiling for his day I was in my comfy lounge pants making his favorite, fifth annual, Chocolate Birthday Cake.

He loves this cake.  Like REALLY loves it.  So do I of course.  I have made this amazing and oh so perfect Chocolate Cake every year for his birthday since we met, and he always makes sure to hint around the week or two prior to his day to make sure I’ll be making it.  =)  I’m kinda proud that he likes loves it so much and I’ve made it for him every year so far.

I can’t begin to try and tell you how perfect this cake is through my writing, but can just tell you that it is not your ordinary chocolate cake.  It is made with hot coffee and Kahlua, has just the perfect rich chocolate flavor, is perfectly moist, and has just the perfect crumb, structure, and density to hold up to shaping and sculpting (if you want to get that fancy), and velvety texture.  It’s not too heavy or dense, and it is not too light.  This Chocolate Cake is covered in Ganache and Italian Cocoa-Kahlua Buttercream.  The oh-so-wonderful recipe will be up and shared soon.

I also made a pot of my Potato Leek Soup.  This time just simplified it by not roasting the potatoes and leeks.  I really have a thing for soups and stews in the winter.

Also have a thing for knitted hats.  So my brother’s (late) Christmas gift was worked on a little bit…

This is my last of the hats for gifts.  After this is finished, there is a super cute one I’ve found and must make for myself before I’m done with my hat kick.  The Off Piste, pattern and design from the owner of my LYS (local yarn shop), is so cute with the cables and brim.

I thought that for my 2012 knitting goals I would plan and share my next two to three monthly projects ahead of time.  So January’s project is the Off Piste hat for me.

February is going to be the Annie’s Woolens Christmas Stocking.  For the last two years now I have really wanted to make Christmas Stockings for hubby and I, but it keeps getting bumped down the to-do list.  So I’m finally going to make one for myself in February, then make Will’s stocking.  I’m excited about these two projects and about the knitting goal I made for the year.  =)

Also got to enjoy a nice long walk with my two guys over the weekend…

Oh how I love weekends.  =)