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Friday, October 17, 2008

A Momentous Occasion: The Barbershop with Great Grandpa

Today Sam went for his first "Man" cut at Sheridan's Barbershop, after our weekly family date at Starbucks this morning.  We've been waving and walking by these barbers since Sam was born, seeing as they're located right beside the local Starbucks.  

Great Grandpa also needed a haircut, so we decided to have a four generation span in the two chairs.  Unfortunately my dad missed out, needing to be at work in the city.

Sam helps Barber Mark with the brush, maintaining a mouthful of fruit snacks all the while.

Immediately after the flash went off in this picture, Sam burst into a glorious smile.  Thanks a lot Buddy.
How blessed and happy we are to have our precious family so close by for memories like these!  A perfect Friday morning.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Happy Fall from Sonny Acres!

Our family had a fun outing last weekend amongst the pumpkins, ponies, chickens, and caramel apples at Sonny Acres Farm.  It was a sweltering day though, much to my disgust.  You can almost make out the beads of sweat on Sam's glistening forehead.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Worth-the-Hassle, Wow-Your-Friends, German Chocolate Cake

This, my friends, is a serious cake for people who are serious about their desserts.   Fortunately enough, it is not seriously hard to make, just requiring one extra step beyond a normal scratch cake.  I and my entire family can vouch that it is worth your time.

Mindblowingly Good German Chocolate Cake (From Kathleen King's must-have cookbook, Tate's Bake Shop) yields either two 10 inch layers or three 9 inch layers

4 oz. Baker's German Sweet Chocolate
1/2 cup canned cream of coconut (Coco Lopez is the brand)
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup salted butter, softened to room temp
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, separated
2 tsp. good vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour three 9 inch rounds or two 10 inch rounds.  Microwave chopped chocolate and cream of coconut until melted and smooth, about a minute or two.  Stir well to combine.  Set aside to cool.

Mix together flour, salt and baking soda in a small bowl, set aside.

In a mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often.  Beat in the vanilla.  Stir in melted chocolate mixture and mix until combined.

Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk to the chocolate mixture, ending with the dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites to a soft peak.  Do this right before you are ready to use them.  Fold 1/4 of the egg whites into the cake mixture.  Fold in the remaining egg whites.

Divide the batter among the prepared pans.  Bake for 25 minutes, or until the edges start to pull away from the sides and the center feels springy to the touch.

Cool for 10 minutes in the pan and turn it out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.  Spread the frosting evenly between layers, the sides do not get iced.

German Chocolate Cake Frosting 
1 cup butter
2 cups evaporated milk (About a can and a half)
6 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
1 cup pecans (I buy the salted and toasted ones from Trader Joe's)

In a small saucepan stir together the butter, milk, egg yolks and sugar.  Cook the ingredients over low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and is golden brown, about 15 minutes.  Add vanilla.  Remove from heat.  Cool it completely.  Taste for salt and add a bit if you need to.
Stir in pecans and coconut.
If you make this icing in advance, store it in a plastic container with a lid and bring it to room temp before icing the cake.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Sam wins friends, influences people with new helmet

"Hey guys, what's up?  Do you like my cool hat?"
"Wait, what do you mean 'it's not a hat'?"
"So you're saying I don't look cool?"
Awwwww man.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Squirrel Deterrent for your Pumpkins

Are you being driven NUTS (no joke intended) by little furry friends who are nibbling away at your hard won gourds and pumpkins?  Then listen up my friend, for I have an answer for you.

Spray Lacquer.  Yep.  That's it.  I buy my pumpkins, wash them off well, dry them in the sun and then spray them from top to bottom with Liquid/Spray Shellac or Laquer from your local hardware store.

I'm not sure why, but it seems to work like a charm.  Last year I'd get the odd bite here or there, but for the most part squirrels seemed to detest the taste of it.

If, however, you're trying to salvage indian corn outside, you're on your own.  There's no hope for the likes of you.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Chicken Stock Overload

I don't really know how or why this happened, but somehow I ended up with EIGHT quarts of homemade chicken stock in my deep freeze out in the garage.  I can feel a serious bout of soups coming on: white chicken chili, butternut squash apple, beef chili....

My Chicken Stock (a compilation of several recipes, based off Ina Garten's)

3 carcasses of roasting chickens, and any other chicken parts you want to throw in (breasts on the bone, necks, whatever.  You can freeze the chicken carcasses after you've eaten the meat, then just defrost them all when you're ready to make the stock.)
2 large onions, unpeeled and quartered
1 leek, top and bottom trimmed, cut in half and washed out well, quartered
4 stalks celery with leaves, cut into thirds
6 carrots, washed, unpeeled, cut in half
20 sprigs of fresh parsley
1 TB. whole black peppercorns
15 sprigs fresh thyme
1 head of garlic, unpeeled and cut in 1/2 crosswise
1 TB. kosher salt
3 quarts of your favorite store-bought chicken stock (I like Trader Joe's)
4 quarts of water

Place the chickens, onions, leeks, celery, carrots, parsley, garlic and salt into a 16 to 20 quart stockpot.  Place the peppercorns and thyme sprigs into a tea ball or cheesecloth pouch and add to the pot.  (It keeps the peppercorns from floating at the top and thereby getting skimmed off.)  Add the 3 quarts of chicken stock to the pot, then the water...enough water that it covers the ingredients, could be a little more or less then 4 quarts.  Bring to a boil, once boiling, turn heat down to a simmer.  Skim off the gray foam that comes to the top in the first 30 minutes, the more you skim the junk off, the clearer your stock will be at the end.  Simmer uncovered for 4 hours.

Strain the entire contents of the pot through a colander and discard the solids.  Chill the stock overnight.  The next day, remove the surface fat.  Use within a day or two, or pack into containers or ziplock bags and freeze for up to 3 months.  

Thursday, October 02, 2008


I just discovered that popcorn works magic.  

Sam is finally at the age where he can eat it without choking himself.  I popped one of the 100 calorie bags and stuck it all in a ziplock bag to bring with to Costco.

60 glorious minutes later...Sam was sitting happily in the cart, reaching into the bag, eating his popcorn kernel by kernel while I strolled the isles, lazily shopping through the clothes and even getting a head start on Christmas shopping.

Thank you dear Jesus for popcorn.

Anyone need a knife block?

Random, I know, but I just bought a bigger one that finally fits all my knives.  If anyone has a good home for an 8 slot beechwood knife block, let me know.