Saturday, October 08, 2011

Too Long Gone

So what have I been doin' since April? Way too much. Finishing my Masters. Finishing a school year. Going abroad. Trying to cram summer into 2 1/2 weeks. And now, being way too busy with another school year, once again teaching languages I don't always understand well myself, but having fun in the process.

Stuff I've done lately that's worth sharing?

  • Well, I've been here. And here. :)

  • Made preserves from this book that I picked up at the Charleston Farmer's Market. Awesome. The ginger-pear preserves, peach salsa, and regular salsa is what I've made so far. I bought some chutney in Charleston, and it's some of the best I've ever tasted. The recipe is in the book, so I'll have to try it some time.

  • Started to make lots of soup. I love it when soups are back from summer's heat!

  • Found an amazing recipe for roasted tomatoes. And an amazing tart to use them in, when you're not making roasted tomato soup!

  • Another tomato recipe: a knock-off version of Panera's tomato bisque. I've done some things to the recipe, so it might be worthy of a blog post by itself.

  • Been to some amazing services. I've been blessed, and I'm looking forward to future blessings. Because my Lord is so good.


Friday, April 22, 2011


I have this week off-- a week away from students and (some) stress-- a week to gain back what has been lost in the times when I've been too busy.

The first couple of days were spent between battle and rest. Rest for the body; battle for the mind.

The battle was over things I want from life-- things I've prayed for. Things I believe for. Things I'm learning patience for. And sometimes, I want them now. Sometimes I hurt, because I feel the holes where those wishes belong. And sometimes, if I'm not careful, the wishing can lead to the mire of self-pity. Especially when I feel the weight of a thousand things unfinished at work and at school, much less at home.

Enter Wednesday night. Torn and wounded in spirit, I make my way to church. And then I hear the Lord speak to my heart: I hear you--I've already heard your cry. I'm already working; be patient. Broken before Him, I find the empty places filled. What does a man profit if he gain the whole world and loose his soul?

It reminds me of a quote I recently heard:

135 Don't despise where God has got you. But, serve your
purpose. There's coming a great victory day, one of these days, where the battle
is over.

It seems like, the Christian life, if the fellow is not absolutely centered on
Christ, the Christian life, seems like, holds so many disappointments. But those
disappointments are--are God's Divine will happening for us. Now, it don't seem
like it would be that, but it's God's way of doing things. He lets us hit the
river, to see what we'll do.

150 God lets disappointments happen, to show
victory. Oh, if we could only see that! See? You'd only see that these things
that seems to be so burring you, and upsetting you, they are trials. They are
things, to stand still, focus your glasses on the Word of God. And speak the
Word, and then just walk forward. That's all there is to do
it.151 We get to a time, we say, "God, I don't know what to
do. I'm up against it."152 Speak the word, "Lord, I believe."
And just start walking forward. God does the opening up of the sea. You just
keep walking. See?

And I begin again-- focusing on Christ, who is my life, and believing for the future.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

*That* Strawberry Cake...

Most people like a good strawberry cake, but getting a good one isn't always easy. When my nephew requested strawberry cake with strawberry icing for his last birthday, I went searching for a recipe. Most called for strawberry jello or jam, neither of which are favorites of mine.

Then I found a recipe online. Real strawberries, based on Paula Deen's hummingbird cake. I don't know this blogger, but I'm so grateful for her posting this recipe! It's perfect: Lots of strawberry flavor, without all the fake stuff, and an easy recipe to boot. She added food coloring, but I didn't even worry with that. After all, who cares what color your cake is, as long as it tastes right?

My biggest adjustment for this recipe was to adjust it to whole wheat flour--which means adding baking powder and salt as well. I've baked this recipe in a sheet cake, three eight-inch pans, and two nine-inch pans, and other than the time adjustments in the oven, it's always turned out great.

Homemade Strawberry Cake from
Adapted from Paula Deen's Hummingbird Cake

3 cups self-rising flour
0r:1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 t. salt
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup pureed and strained strawberries (puree and strain, then measure)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
4 large eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray and flour three 8-inch round, two 9-inch round, or one 9x13 rectangular cake pan, tapping out excess flour; set aside.

Prepare the cake batter: in a large bowl, stir to combine flours, baking powder, salt, and sugar. In another bowl, mix together oil, pureed strawberries, vanilla, lemon zest, and eggs. Pour liquid into flour mix, combining as thorougly as possible without over-beating. (I like to use a whisk and a rubber spatula.) Divide batter evenly between prepared pans, smoothing with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until the tops spring back when gently pressed with your fingertips. (26-28 minutes for 8-inch pans, 35-40 minutes for 9-inch, and 28-30 minutes for a 9x13 rectangle.)

Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto wire rack. Re-invert cakes and let them cool completely, top sides up. (Or, you can rush the process by placing the cakes in the freezer.

Ah yes-- but this is a strawberry cake with strawberry icing. Not cream cheese. Not that cream cheese is a bad thing... it's a very good thing. But cream cheese with strawberries? Yum. I didn't change anything, except to add a little lemon zest when I felt like the frosting wasn't firm enough. Other than that, this recipe stands on its own... we eat the leftover icing like desert, and around here, icing is usually a path to cake.

Fresh Strawberry Buttercream from

3/4 c. unsalted butter, softened (1 1/2 sticks)
4 oz. cream cheese, softened (1/2 pkg)
2 tsp. vanilla
4 1/2 c. confectioners sugar (about 3/4 of a bag)
3/4 c. fresh crushed and drained strawberries

Prepare strawberries: place in sieve to drain out the juices. In large bowl, cream butter, whipping until fluffy. Beat in cream cheese and vanilla. Gradually add confectioners sugar, beating well (mixture will be quite stiff). Add strawberries, beat in gently. Mixture will immediately soften. You can chill slightly to firm it up if you wish to frost the sides of a cake or to pipe the frosting, otherwise spread immediately on cooled cake. Try not to lick the spatula constantly. (Heheh-- I think this might be my favorite direction for a recipe ever.) Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. Yields enough to frost a 2 layer cake, a sheet cake, or 2 dozen cupcakes.

The only thing wrong with this icing is that I always seem to catch it at the "too limp" or "too crusty" stages. I'm sure it has a perfect stage, but I just never catch it there--perhaps I just need to chill it longer before I start applying it. It' s wonderful as one of those frostings you pile in the middle, and just let hang out, like shown in the original blog post. If I'd made my strawberry cake pink from fake food coloring, this probably wouldn't be such a big deal-- but since I didn't, I used this icing as a filling. After all, this time, it was supposed to be a celebration cake.

So that means I need to give you the recipe for my most favorite cream cheese frosting... the one my family always uses. It doesn't make a lot, and it's pretty soft, but that's part of its charm. We've been using this since we discovered it in the '97 Joy of Cooking, along with its most-perfect carrot cake. I think it's better because it's just not as sweet as all the other cream cheese frosting out there, so the flavors really balance well.

Cream Cheese Icing

8 oz. cream cheese, cold
5 Tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
2-2 1/2 c. powdered sugar

Food processor method: Combine all ingredients in food processor and pulse until smooth and creamy. Do not overprocess. If desired, stir in addtional flavorings, such as grated lemon or orange zest, or ground cinnamon.

Electric mixer method: in a medium bowl, beat together cream cheese, butter, and vanilla. Add the powdered sugar in three batches, and beat just until smooth. If desired, stir in addtional flavorings, such as grated lemon or orange zest, or ground cinnamon.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Centrifugal Force in Action

It was a pretty tasty mess, after all...

Friday, April 08, 2011

Growing Pains

This year has been a growing one.

Some years are like that--pains deep into the muscles of the mind, shooting wide.

And then, you realize you've reached a milestone. Some people think you're at the top of your game. (You still don't.) All you can see are the mountains ahead, and you're afraid to look at the view below, because you might fall flat on your face.

That's where I am now. I'm sitting on go, waiting for the next inhale of challenge or the exhale of relief. It's leaving me breathless.

And then I remember:

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ --Phillipians 1:6

And I remember my earlier conversation with my sister, and how we talked about everything--not just the good, but also the bad-- working in your life for the glory of God.

And I can breathe again.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

You (Probably) are from the South if...

  • You still believe cast iron skillets are the greatest cooking medium on earth.
    (You use one daily, and it probably came from your grandmother.)
  • You know that "bless his/her heart" is not necessarily a compliment.
  • You believe in hospitality, but know not to expect it when you're driving.
  • Your daffodils start blooming in the middle of February.
  • You actually like a little humidity, and can't stand that stuff they call "dry heat" out West.
  • "Y'all" is standard vocabulary. It slips out pretty often.
  • You don't mind talking to strangers, as long as what they are doing interests you enough. You've probably made some friends that way.
  • You can tell what part of the South your friend is from by their accent.
  • You believe in the social graces that make men "gentlemen" and women "ladies."
  • You think winters without snow are beautiful, but you love your snow days, where everyone's afraid to drive and the grocery stores are empty where their milk and bread used to be. (Not because of the snow... oh no. It's the ICE.)
  • You expect at least one day of flip-flop weather in January.
  • Iced tea is sweet. It's the law.
  • You know what the Bible Belt is, and where it's located.
  • You know all about health food, but you know not to skimp on the fat in food.
    (It's where the flavor is, sister.)
  • You have strong opinions about barbecue, and where to get the best near you.
  • Schools still don't have things going on on Wednesday nights, 'cause that's "church night."
  • Bluegrass isn't just a bunch of noise to your ears. You like the banjo.
  • You know that summer is at your door when you hear the katydids at night.
  • You don't think a house is really a home unless it has a porch. It's even better if there's a swing.
  • No matter where you are in the world and how much you "loose your accent," when you start talking about home, it returns.