Thursday, April 19, 2012

8 days....

...and counting down to my son's wedding!  I was told today that our family was trying to win Wedding Family of the Year or something...and the guy might just have a point....

What can I say?  Love is in the air!

Along with pollen and other spring time favorites.  As I sit here typing this, my husband, G, and my younger son, D, are both out working in the back yard pulling out old brush and weeds...and coughing and sneezing with regularity.  Poor gents. 

G has sprayed the yard at least 53 times with Round Up and some farm strength weed killer, but the weeds are not giving in.  He may be the new sheriff in town, but they are saying that they were here first, they've been here 30 years, and they are not going down without a fight!  Little do they realize the doom that they face!  Dun-dun-du!!!!

But I'm getting off track.  I'm here to talk about giving you an update on the wedding from the MOTG's viewpoint.  The top tier is now baked and in the freezer, but I didn't take pics.  The only exciting pic would have been the cutting of the cake scraps since I am going for such tall layers.  Oh, and I made 12 cupcakes with the extra batter.  Here's a pic of the remaining 3...
Amaretto cupcake batter with a strawberry marshmallow fluff icing.  What can I say?  It's what I had on hand.  But it's actually pretty good.  I had some of the scraps with the amaretto soaking syrup and icing for my breakfast this morning.  I know, breakfast of champs and all that.  I'm a wild woman like that.

While the wedding (and cake) are 8 days away, the rehearsal is 7 days away.  We are having a BBQ picnic so we're making all of the food.  My future daughter-in-law has been working OT for me to get as many RSVP's back as she could.  I told her today to give herself a pass and check this one off of the list as done.  No matter how the count changes between now and then, it won't change the amount of food I prepare.  Besides Jesus still feeds the 5,000 today; He just doesn't always get top billing for it these days.

And speaking of food, (I know!  when am I NOT talking about food?!) one of our little friends coming to the rehearsal has some special dietary needs, so I let his mama know the menu about a week ago and thought I'd share it here, too. 

G is in charge of the grill.  He'll be grilling pork steaks, chicken, burgers and dogs.  The park has 2 grills available at the pavilion, so he'll be grilling those on the hot fire while I'm "baking" onions on the other grill with a low fire. 

Have you ever had my maple baked onions?  So stinkin' simple, but so stinkin' yummy all at the same time - as long as you don't burn them.  It's sliced onions, butter and maple syrup baked togther until the onions are all sweet and soft.  They are wonderful over burgers and dogs, and they get scarfed pretty much any time I have ever served them.  Let's hope I don't burn them next Thursday!  Don't need to bother asking me for the recipe...slice some onions and pour melted butter and maple syrup over to taste.  I mean really, how bad can it be?  Can we get this one wrong, folks?  I don't think so.

Along with those hot things, we'll be having some marinated vegetables.  I'll pre-roast them just a bit and then marinate in a dressing that I haven't fully developed in my own mind yet.  I plan to cut some of them in a waffle cut using the new cutting gadget G & I picked up at the home show last month.  We'll see how that turns out.  I'll post pics here of my "success" in the waffle cutting department.

Next we'll serve my mama's Mexican salad.  My mama took that salad to more church potlucks and Bible studies than anyone can possibly count, and almost never brought any of it back home with her.  It's uber simple, and very potluck friendly.  The original recipe calls for creamy Italian dressing.  Do you remember creamy Italian dressing?  (I know, it's a Mexican salad with an Italian dressing, but trust me, it works.)  But last time I looked, I couldn't find any creamy Italian, so I used Caesar.  It could be an old-fashioned salad dressing that marketing departments decided we didn't want to buy any more once Ranch became all the rage.  Yep, I bet that's it.

Then we have a watermelon basket full of fresh fruit.  G & I plan to hit Soulard on Wednesday next week to pick up the fresh veggies and fruits.  We like Soulard.  We like Soulard a lot.  We plan to take my sis, J, and her husband, G, to Soulard Saturday morning after the wedding just so they can bask in the glory that is the Soulard market culture.

Finally we will have deviled eggs.  My friend, J, (I made a cake for her husband's 50th anniversary as a pharmacist a week or so before S&K's wedding last September that you can read about here... anyway, J, collected all of her daughter's and daughter-in-law's Tupperware deviled egg containers for me to borrow to make transporting them as easy as pie.  Which, come to think of it, isn't always that easy to trasnport, but that's for another day.

Dessert is going to be sundaes.  We'll send my son, D, to Dierbergs down the street from the picnic (hey, nobody said we were roughing it here!) to get the ice cream.  At first I was planning to make brownies, but then I decided that I want to make Texas sheet cake instead.  It's been YEARS since I had a Texas sheet cake.  That is one of those super simple, homey cakes that just calls my name whenever it's around.  And I don't know about you, but it simply MUST be cut in straight lines!  If it's not, then that has to be fixed.  And everyone knows that the parts that you cut off to keep the lines straight don't have any fat, sugar or calories as you're just answering the OCD anal call of keeping the lines straight.

Makes perfect sense to me.  Duh.

Anyway, that's the rehearsal picnic.  I'm looking forward to it!  It should be low key and fun, which is what S&A asked for to begin with.  There is a playground and plenty of space to play frisbee and baseball and hang out. There might even be a guitar or two around for musical entertainment.  At least I hope so!

Talk to ya again soon!!!  Happy Wedding Family of the Year to everyone!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A really good weekend

7 really good things happened this weekend:
  1. We bought a cherry tree - a bing cherry tree
  2. We bought a peach tree - an elberta
  3. We bought another peach tree - a hale haven
  4. We worked on the routing table to use on the wedding cake base
  5. We picked out the finishing paint for the wedding cake base (more to follow on the base in days to come - only 12 more days to go!)
  6. We bought fruit trees!  (Me!  I've never owned a fruit tree in my life, much less ever thought that I could!  And now we're planting three of them!  I feel like one of the cool kids...)
  7. We baked cake!
There are finally layers of wedding cake in the freezer.  Chocolate stout cake for the bottom tier. 

This is the recipe we're using along with a few pics of what it looks like to make it around our house.  Hope you enjoy!  (And yes, I am a serious King Arthur Flour fan!)

We're doing 4 recipes.  It uses lots of cocoa...
...and lots of sour cream - at least by the time you make it 4 times.

You start by mixing guiness...

...with some butter. 

Ok, maybe lots of butter.  A pound of butter per recipe.  But don't worry.  Everyone knows that the fat goes away when the cake is baked for a wedding.  It's true.  Period.

Then you whisk in some cocoa.  It looks like it's going to just lump at first...
...but keep whisking.  It will eventually look like this - smooth and gorgeous.  And if you taste it, you will distinctly taste the stout and the butter and the cocoa, which is not the same thing as saying it tastes good at this point.  (Take note:  no sugar yet...that makes a difference...)

While that is cooling to room temperature, measure out the flour and sugar - 4 cups of each.  Although the pic looks like it's only sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl, the flour is hiding under all that sugar.

Whisk a bit, and you start to see the flour...

...until they are fully mixed together as one homogenous whole.  (I do like me the word "homogenous."  Such a good wordsmithing type word.)

In your wonderful Kitchen Aid mixer that your mother had the wisdom to tell you to buy almost 20 years ago after the kichen fire blend together 4 eggs and sour cream.  (Your sour cream won't have streaks of cocoa in it like mine unless you use the same yellow 3/4 cup Tupperware measuring cup like me.)  Oh, and one more thing.  I add a splash of vanilla (not called for in the recipe) because I believe vanilla makes things taste more like themselves.  Don't ask me how much a splash is.  I don't measure vanilla.  Not worth getting another measuring spoon dirty.
Add the cooled guiness and cocoa mixture and then the flour and sugar.
It will need to be scraped down and this is what it starts out looking like.

Give it another minute, and it turns out beautiful and glistening and smooth.  (And a lick of the beater now is delightful!)

Split the mixture between your pans.  They look very full, because I want lovely, full layers to hold all of that ganache filling.

While the cakes are baking, clean up the mixing bowls and pan, wish for your new friend, R, the one man cleaning machine, to show up suddenly at your front door, start a load of towels, take out the trash, thankful that your husband is spraying the back yard so the garage door is open, pick up another roll of paper towels from the basement on your way back in, get giddy about your new fruit trees, switch the pans around in the oven, form patties for the grill, turn on the DVR to record 2 hours of the Waltons, swear you won't admit that to anyone else, remember about the bacon tasting you did earlier at Shop-N-Save and feel bad about the less than glowing review you gave to the cute young men taping your response since you're a bacon snob, wish for your new friend, R, again to do more of the dishes, and then before you know it, you have cake baked!

And yes...after 15 have the famous...the proof of cake snobbery...cake scraps!

Share them with your new husband, but not your youngest daughter, B.  This cake is not for the chocolate faint of heart.  B admits that she is the chocolate faint of heart.  She plans on eating the cinnamon tier at the wedding.

1 recipe down. 

 Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.  (As of this typing, we are 3 times down, which is a very good feeling).  Oh, and don't forget to sweet talk your good friend/sister, W, into letting you use her freezer, cause you don't have quite enough space in your own freezer this time around either...

Have I mentioned that I now have 2 peach trees and 1 cherry?  Everyone is invited over when we get our first harvest!  (Did I just use the word "harvest"?  I may be one of the cool kids after all.)

Or not.  But I don't care!  I'm looking forward to cherries and peaches!  Yea!!!

Hope yours was a really good weekend, too! 

12 days and counting!!!!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Green thumb...

I thought I'd give you a little tour of our landscape boxes.  I like to pretend that I'm going to grow up and have a green thumb someday.  But so far, not so much. 

But I did better.  I married a man with a green thumb!  He knows names of things and where to plant them and what they need.  He does a great job of getting his hands good and dirty.  He picked out the Dwarf Alberta Spruce above to replace the dead Arborvitae that we (me, and my two planting consultants from last year, D & W, that is) tried to plant last year.  See the Arborvitae was smarter than I suspected.  It was on to my game.  It knew I was a green thumb wannabe, and said "no dice...not playing."  It would rather die quickly than prolong the suffering.  But this spruce knows it was planted by hands that know what they're doing.  I have every confidence it will live and sport Christmas lights in the years to come.

Did you notice the blooms in the back of that pic?  Here's what they look like up close...
That there, folks, is a blooming azalea!  My ex-husband's mother planted them years ago.  I'm sure she told me about them, but I'm also fairly certain I let that info go in one ear and out the other.  (I haven't always been a green thumb wannabe.  I've been a black thumb resignee.)  But last year my consultants told me to feed the azaleas with acidic food.  Azaleas need food?  Who knew?  But turns out they were right!  Pretty sure these azaleas haven't bloomed in years, much less like this!  Fun, huh?
Our next stop are the herbs.  G and I purchased all of these lovelies from Soulard Farmer's Market.  We are becoming regulars down there.  We bought basil and sage and thyme and garlic chives, two kinds of oregano, rosemary and chocolate mint.  I still want to plant parsley.  We put the chocolate mint here along with remants of last year's mint.  G says that mint takes over everything (and I think I have to admit that he's right about that) so we put it in its own container.
Look at me!  I almost sound like I know what I'm talking about!
G likes pansies, so we picked these up at Soulard, too.  Yellows and purples and smiles.
They're just starting to peak over the top of the landscaping boxes.  It's pretty fun to watch as we pull in the driveway.  The hosta we (consultants and me) planted last year has come back, which is really just sorta surprising and fun to me!  This is happening in my landscape boxes!  Is that crazy or what?
Ok, so maybe it's not so crazy.  I told a friend recently that G and I are building a life - a regular, boring, domesticated, married life, and I guess this little tour of the front of our house may prove it out.  But wait till I tell you about the back yard!  Now that's exciting stuff!  It will include before and after shots even!

I know you're on the edge of your seat...but that post could be two years in the making....

Oh, and happy Easter!  (a little late, but it's the thought that counts, right?)

Monday, April 2, 2012

More on the cake

This won't be a long post - at least I don't think it will, but I call this blog Deb's Dissertations for a reason so who knows for sure how long this will be...???

I didn't describe the decorations for the cake.  It will be relatively simple, somewhat playfully elegant, if you will.  Their wedding invitation includes a back ground of some open circles, so they've asked me to repeat those on the sides and tops of each tier.  The cake will be buttercream covered, but the circles will be made from fondant.  Thankfully I have this wonderful set of concentric circle cutters to use.  If you don't have a set, how do you manage to do anything in your kitchen?!  Have I mentioned that I love pastry?

Oh, and we'll be eating all tiers at the wedding.  I'm not a huge fan of the cake kept in the freezer for a year tradition.  It just never tastes as good as a fresh baked cake. 

"Hello, my name is Deb, and I'm a cake snob."  I've been practicing for that 12-step group I'm supposed to go to. 

We did the same thing for S&K's wedding in September.  I'll just bake each of them a small cake for their 1st anniversary.  They just have to tell me which flavor from the original that they want duplicated, and I'm there.

S&A designed their cake topper.  Here it is.  They will bring it Sunday for Easter ready for me to use.
Pretty cool, huh?  Their theme is Beauty from Junk, and they have been creating all sorts of beauty from a variety of things for a few months now.  I loved the theme as soon as I heard it.  It made me think of how God is still in the business of creating beauty- taking our junk and making beauty out of it.  I don't know about you, but I am very aware of junk in my life - and that junk carrying over to my kids' lives.  But that is not the end of the story!  God is still writing our stories and still creating beauty out of anything we give Him.

I can't help but love the idea.  It is similar to one of the ideas G and I wanted presented at our own wedding - that God is still in the business of redeeming lives.  That's why we asked S&A to play and sing "I Know My Redeemer Lives." Cause He's still redeeming us.  And making us beautiful on the inside.

25 days...