Sunday, February 12, 2012

Annabelle's Friend

A few great things about living in a small town is the slower pace, less traffic, lower cost of living, and the sound of trains passing through town. One thing that's harder is finding friends for Annabelle. 

So, almost two years ago we were shopping at the Children's Place, and Annabelle started chatting up a cute little girl. Her mom was buying clothes, and we were buying clothes, so we just let them talk and play with each other in the store. At this time we'd been in Waco over six months and we'd made zero friends for Annabelle. It didn't help that we don't get out much, and it didn't help that Annabelle is "shy" when it comes to meeting new people. Well, Annabelle just gravitated towards this girl like we'd never seen. Being the sane individuals that we are, we just told the woman (Barbara) that we were new in town, didn't know anyone and if she ever wanted to get the girls together that we would love to do so. Luckily she didn't think we were crazy, and we met up soon after, and we've since become very dear friends. Her youngest daughter and I even share a birthday!

Last weekend we were so glad Barbara and the girls (we missed you Sean) ventured out to visit us. We had a fun afternoon of cake and cupcake decorating, Derek took the girls to the park while Barbara and I stayed back with the babies, and LOTS of dress-up and music playing. This year we will get Caitlin a harmonica for sure. She loved it! Even little Emily got in on the dress-up fun. 

It's hard for little kids to realize that we can't just drop everything, and drive a half hour for them to play with friends. It's harder for me to have to say, "maybe next weekend", when Annabelle wakes up so many times asking, "Are we going to the zoo with Cait and her family? So it's very nice to have wonderful friends that we can see...even if we have to arrange it 3 weeks in advance! 

The sweetest little princess, Emily

Annabelle & Cait at the park

Annabelle & Cait are little pastry chefs

Cait the harmonica playing cowgirl & Annabelle the princess

Playing in the tunnel

Saturday, February 11, 2012

St. Valentine's Day Massacre

So, remember when I said I would share our cooking successes and failures? Well, we had a failure this week.

Red velvet cake is my absolute favorite cake, hands down; period. I've made dozens of them from scratch, literally dozens. Recently I had a hankering for red velvet, and thought it would be fun to do it this week, before my least favorite "holiday" Valentine's Day, when red velvet cakes are running rampant at all grocery stores and bakeries. I thought, I'll make this cake, take some gorgeous pictures and share a little anecdote about the recipe. I'm learning to be a cook, but I am already a baker for sure. Nope, I was wrong, and this cake humbled me.

Mistake #1- I turned a recipe for a three layer cake into a two layer cake. Wouldn't you know the edges turned brown before the middle of the cake was cooked?

Mistake #2- I trimmed the brown edges in a hurry and took a little too much off the top of the cake. No matter; I thought I would add a little extra icing to make up for it, and the cake would still be level. Fooled again, the damage was done and the cake began to mimic an unstoppable mudslide.

Mistake #3- The previous cuts made the cake crumble, and as I was icing it the crumbs began to stick to the icing. What I really mean is you couldn't differentiate the cake from the icing as evidenced below.

Mistake #4- I tried a new icing. Instead of adding a little milk, I added some left over heavy whipping cream. I'm not sure, but I think that made the icing too thick and sticky when it came time to ice the cake. It sure tasted good though.

 Mistake #5- I lost all patience and gave up. I placed the cake in the fridge to prevent further mudslide damage, but my efforts were futile.

Notice the left side is drooping/sliding. Also, notice all the crumbs on the plate and in the icing, and...oh forget it. I could critique this photo forever. 

 Maybe it will be okay once I cut into it. No, a disaster there as well. 

 Maybe I can salvage one piece. Alas, a definitive no was the answer again. 

To boost my spirits/ego, I added this picture of a previous red velvet cake I baked. 

I wish I could blame this cake's outcomes on a bad recipe, low quality ingredients or poor assistant (Baby D), but I cannot. This cake was all on me. I've used this recipe before with the same ingredients, but try as I might, I couldn't make it work. My ego when it comes to baked goods is a tad deflated I will admit. Once I cut into it though, it tasted great. The cake was moist and not too sweet, and the icing was thick and creamy. It looked like a hot mess, but tasted like the same old red velvet cake I love. This could be a metaphor for life, and I'll let you think on that one. I know one person for sure enjoyed it, and she didn't even complain that it was horribly disfigured. One of the many things I love about her; she can have her cake and eat it too.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Opening the S Den Ristorante

This year we made a commitment to cook more often at home. Living in a small town makes it easy to not eat out at restaurants, but we still found/find ourselves wanting to just eat a sandwich or make pancakes for dinner. Sad, but true. Adding a second child to the mix, we anticipated this tendency to build exponentially unless we remedied it. That's just what we plan to do in 2012. 

I believe food is something to marveled at, or at least enjoy. I don't quite enjoy cold sandwiches for dinner, and much prefer anything homemade as to store bought. Especially after Annabelle started eating solid foods, I found/find myself always worrying about what she's putting into her body. I figure the more things we make from scratch, I can more easily limit the bad stuff. So, as we try some of these new recipes, I will include you on the successes, but also the failures. Hopefully one outweighs the other by the end of the year, and I don't mean the failures. :-)

I happened upon this blog via pinterest. She's has tons of recipes, with pictures, and has them broken down with cost per serving. Nice, right?

I saw the picture of the Pesto Focaccia Pizza, and I was in the car on the way to the store. Basically, homemade dough, it's easy I promise, jar of pesto sauce, cheese, and Roma tomatoes. Put it on a cookie sheet, bake and let me tell you Derek rated it 10/10 - I agree. The great thing about this recipe; endless possibilities. We can't have Austin's Pizza here, but maybe we can make our own version of their Stubb's BBQ Chick; more on that later. 

So, below is a picture of the pizza, and I've posted the link to the recipe if you would like to try it. You totally should, by the way. Next pizza, "Meat!" says Annabelle. 

Pesto Focaccia Pizza