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A Fresh Start

29 Jul

A lot has changed since my last post! James an I welcomed a baby boy on May 20. I am now chronicling our adventures at I hope to see you there!


Homemade Rainbow Wedding Cake

20 May

When James and I got married last summer I knew I wanted to make my own cake. We had a smallish backyard wedding, and I love to bake, so I knew I could handle it! I’m not sure what made me decide to have a rainbow cake, other than that it’s so pretty! I thought it would be helpful to write down the details in case anyone else wants to do something similar.

I first saw Martha Stewart’s Rainbow Layer Cake Recipe, but knew I would have to modify it to make a large enough cake. I did a lot of research, including poring over Smitten Kitchen’s wedding cake posts, and ultimately decided to use the Butter Cake recipe from the Wilton Cake website. (Their website and forums are a treasure trove of great cake information!) I used their Wedding Cake Data Chart to figure out what size pan to use and how much cake batter to make so I would end up with a 50-serving, 6-layer cake. It was a lot of math! I used two 10″ square cake pans (Wilton brand, bought at Joann’s), and used 3 cups of batter per layer.

I didn’t have my stand mixer in California so I did two batches of 1.2 times the recipe. I told you it was a lot of math! And a lot of butter and eggs.

This batter was beautiful! And delicious too. I love that the recipe uses almond extract. It makes a very moist, dense cake that was perfect for making sturdy layers. It was almost as rich and dense as a pound cake.

I used Wilton brand gel food coloring, which I also bought at Joann’s. I hoarded coupons for weeks to save money! It is described as icing color, but it worked beautifully in the cake batter. For each layer I measured 3 cups of batter into a smaller bowl and then colored it.

The first batch is cooked!

My mom was there for moral support. Thanks, Mom!

All  baked and ready. I made the cake layers about a week before the wedding.

For frosting I decided to use Smitten Kitchen’s Swiss Buttercream recipe. This is a beautiful frosting with a lovely shimmer, and it tastes delicious too. It has all the buttery flavor of a buttercream without the heaviness. It apparently also holds up better in the heat, which was important for an outdoor wedding in July in central California! This is definitely my new go-to frosting recipe. It is a little tricky, like the recipe describes. I made it with a hand mixer and it would be much easier with a stand mixer. There is a point where it looks like a soupy mess, but you just keep adding butter and it finally comes together.

I made the frosting the day before. It got hard in the fridge so I just let it sit out for a bit.I can’t find my notes for it, but I think I made twice the recipe for a 9″ cake. I do know I ran out when frosting the cake the morning of the wedding, and had to frantically make more. The layers weren’t completely flat, which became obvious once I stacked the layers. Oh, well. (Here is my sister-in-law, Paige!)

It’s finally time to cut the cake! Here is James’ mom, Sally, and her friend Carol looking on. Plus my Dad/videographer’s hand.

Not bad! (I made my wedding dress too.)

Beautiful! This was really one of the most delicious cakes I have ever eaten, though I say it myself.

Burgers with feta mint sauce

22 May

I didn’t take a picture of these burgers, but they were so tasty I want to remember the recipe!

I took this recipe for lamb burgers and modified it a bit.

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
3 green onions
Greek seasoning
salt and pepper

Feta sauce
4 ounces crumbled feta
3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
Leaves from 3 stalks fresh mint, chopped

I think I would double the feta sauce recipe, because we ended up using almost all of it on two burgers. This was super fast and easy, and very delicious.

A new dress

20 May

I actually made this a while ago, but haven’t had a chance to post about it until now.

James’ department party was a couple of weeks ago, and I really wanted a new dress to wear. I was in Baltimore and went to Anthropologie with some friends looking for one, and realized that I could just make a cute summery party dress and not spend $100+. With two weeks to go before the party, I had to work fast. Luckily I stopped in Ikea and found this crazy bird fabric. Crazy in a good way, right?

I decided to use a pattern for a dress that I have already made before, with a view slight modifications. I made the straps long so they could be tied, instead of attached. I also didn’t use the skirt pattern, I just used the rest of the fabric to make it as long and full as possible. I used a self-fabric lining, which was actually kind of cute because the birds peeked out from the under layer. This fabric is pretty thin, and I think I will make a lining for the skirt. I made most of it in one evening, and then finished it the next morning. I love this pattern because it’s so fast and easy, and the result is so cute and comfortable.

The dress was a hit and I got a lot of compliments! The woman working the bar at the party asked if I made it, and said she knew because she recognized the fabric from Ikea!

I wore it with a black camisole underneath, and a grey short-sleeved cardigan. A perfect summer party outfit!

Earl Grey Tea Latte

19 May

This has been a drab, gray and drizzly day. It started raining yesterday afternoon and hasn’t let up since. It was the perfect day for staying in and knitting. I have to cook up a blog post on the knitting projects I have been doing, but until then here is one about the delicious drink I whipped up this afternoon. I wanted a bit of a treat, and decided to try to re-create the tea latte I have had a couple of times from Starbucks.

Earl Grey Tea Latte
Serves 2

1 cup boiling water
2 Earl Grey tea bags
1-2 tablespoons sugar

2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Boil the water, and pour over the two teabags. I did this in a 4-cup pyrex measuring cup. Let steep for at least 5 minutes, or while you are heating up the milk.

Pour the milk into a saucepan and heat until it foams up. Remove from heat. Add vanilla to milk.

Remove teabags from water, pressing to get all the tasty tea goodness out. Add the sugar. I used 2 tablespoons, which was yummy but super sweet.

Add milk to the tea and stir, then divide into two cups. Enjoy with your sweetheart.

English Muffins

17 May

I like having a toasted English muffin with some peanut butter and a glass of milk for breakfast. When shopping the other day I checked the ingredients list before tossing that familiar cardboard and plastic sleeve in my cart. I was appalled by the list of chemicals and artificial ingredients in those simple little muffins. I had been thinking about baking my own for a while, but that settled it. This recipe was pretty time consuming, but the muffins are so tasty that it’s definitely worth it.

I found a recipe on the Life in Recipes blog and modified it slightly. I bought some graham flour a few weeks ago, and was looking for something to use it in so I used that too. I didn’t notice a different flavor, so next time think I’ll use a full cup and see that that does.

Whole Wheat English Muffins
1/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups white whole wheat flour

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cups graham flour
2 tablespoons cornmeal – or enough to scatter on pan

First you make the sponge. Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup water. It’s easy to do this in a glass measuring cup. In a large bowl, combine the 1 cup of warm water, the honey, the milk and the salt. Add yeast mixture and 2 cups of flour. Stir to combine, cover and leave in a warm place for at least an hour. It will puff up and become very bubble. This is what mine looked like after an hour.

Add the oil and mix in the rest of the flour, bit by bit. I had to switch to my hands towards the end. Eventually I had a smooth but slightly sticky dough.

Dust a cookie sheet with cornmeal. Roll the dough out to about 1/2 an inch, then cut with a round cutter. I’m not sure how big mine was. I have a set and I picked the one that looked English muffin-sized! Place the rounds onto the cookie sheet and allow to rise again until puffy and almost doubled in volume. Mine took a while to rise, and I ended up turning the oven on for a few minutes and setting them in there. I think my kitchen was too cold! Here they are nice and puffy. I ended up with 20 muffins, but some of them were too thin, I think.

Next you cook them on a griddle or in a skillet. I used a non-stick skillet. I had a hard time transferring the muffins from the cookie sheet to pan, and they ended up deflating quite a bit. I think this is why they didn’t really have the nooks and crannies that an English muffin is supposed to have. They do puff back up while they are cooking, which is fun to watch! Let them brown on the first side before flipping them over. This takes a few minutes.

After the muffins have been “griddled” they will need to finish cooking in an oven. As you take them off the stove, put them on a different cookie sheet and then bake in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Here they are ready for the oven.

My friend Monet, who just made some English muffins of her own, which she describes on her blog Anecdotes and Applecores, says they should cool for 30-60 minutes. I couldn’t wait and ate them straight out of the oven!

I made these a few days ago and we have been enjoying them at least twice a day since then. We’ve had them toasted with butter and local honey, had them with some chicken barley soup last night, and today James used them to make delicious egg, bacon and cheese breakfast sandwiches. They are hearty and wonderful. I’ll never buy packaged ones again!

Butternut and Purple Potato Gratin

15 Mar

I haven’t been cooking much since James went back to Baltimore in January! He is here for spring break though, so I have been cooking. I have a sweet potato and swiss chard gratin in the oven right now. I love gratins. They are such a great way to turn veggies into healthy comfort food, as long as I restrain my cheese-grating!

With James gone I have been eating a lot of sweet potatoes and scrambled eggs. Luckily I have local sources for both.

Diemand Farm eggs are widely available around here, even in regular grocery stores. They are so delicious! Their shells are thick and brown, and their yolks are such a beautiful golden color.

My new farm discovery is Swartz Farm in Amherst. It is right down the street from the Renaissance Center, which is so convenient for me. They have CSA shares, but you can also order whatever produce you want online, and pick it up on either Friday or Monday afternoon. Their food is wonderful! I made a potato, leek and carrot soup using their potatoes and carrots, which was so delicious!

This gratin is the last meal I made for James before he left. I got the purple potatoes and the butternut squash at the Enterprise Farm Food Shed. They were so pretty! I don’t remember where I got the recipe for this. I think I cobbled it together from a few I found online. It was good but ended up far too watery. Maybe I used too much milk? I put the leftovers in the freezer, and they re-heat well.


Ready to eat.