Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My take on frosting

Lots of my friends blog about all different kinds of things.  I tend to blog about whatever comes to mind and for some reason frosting is coming to my mind today. I have real opinions about frostings.  I can think of 3 types of frosting I would be satisfied to never see on a cake or cupcake again.

1.  German Chocolate Frosting/Praline Frosting- whatever you call it, I cannot stand the stringy coconut, toasted nuts, and thin and goopy "caramel" together.  Separately I think I like all of the elements.  But together it makes me want to gag.

2.  Fluffy or "whipped" frosting- some people think that Duncan Hines was a genius for putting this stuff in the frosting aisle.  I think he was ridiculous.  I do NOT (I repeat) do NOT want to eat shortening that's been fluffed and fluffed until it fills an enormous can.  It never firms up enough of the cake and makes my mouth feel like I just ate a stick of butter.  No thanks.

3.  Whipped cream frosting- this is the frosting they put on a lot of cakes at bakeries found in grocery stores.  I would take a guess that it's probably very cheap and has a fairly similar effect as the frosting listed above.

As much as I hate some frosting types I LOVE others.  My faves? (in no particular order)
1.  Cream Cheese Frosting- I don't know what it is about this classic, rich and creamy frosting but I love it!  It's best on Red Velvet cake, or cinnamon rolls!

2.  Buttercream- Now I know several people that don't care for buttercream but I think it's delicious.  I like the slightly crisp "shell" it gets on the outside when it's been setting out on a wedding cake or something of that nature and think it's good on everything from sugar cookies to classic white cake.

3.  Chocolate frosting- I like the canned stuff just fine  but especially love the kind typically made for Texas sheet cake.  It's about as simple as it gets: butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, maybe some nuts if you're into that sort of thing, but the flavor is simple and delicious.

4. Caramel frosting- I never knew the goodness of caramel frosting until I ran across a recipe for the best zucchini cupcakes I've ever had.  This frosting can be eaten straight out of the pan with a big fat spoon.  You could drink it with a straw if you wanted.  I suppose you could also put it on the cupcakes (which is quite good) but I prefer mine with a spoon.

Since I think everyone should know of the goodness of this frosting, here's the recipe:

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup butter

  • 1/4 cup 2% milk

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups confectioners' sugar

  • Combine the brown sugar, butter and milk in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla. Cool to lukewarm.  Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar until frosting reaches spreading consistency.

    Tuesday, March 22, 2011

    Falling Down

    Have you ever watched a toddler as he/she learns how to walk.  They hang on to the edge of a piece of furniture for dear life.  When they eventually decide they can do it they let go.  They take one wobbly step and then...

                      ... then they fall flat on their butts.

    That's the kind of day I've had.

    Monday, March 7, 2011

    Beef Stew with a side of Compliments

    Want a killer meal that's easy to make and comes with lots and lots of compliments?

    It has started to snow again here in the big O.  Can't figure it out.  It's March!  Stop snowing already for goodness' sake!

    Two weeks ago I invited all of the Children's Ministry volunteers to a meal in their honor.  The whole point was to just get together and enjoy each others' company.  I made a homemade meal... an easy meal.  A PW meal and have NEVER received so many compliments on anything I've ever made.

    The menu: Beef Stew w/ Beer and Paprika, Chile Corn Chowder, Corn Bread, Rolls, and Texas Sheet Cake.

    I had seen the recipe for the stew on PW a few weeks back and made it at home.  Even my non-soup loving husband enjoyed the stew.  You should make it.  You'll get compliments too.  It'll be good for your self-esteem.  Trust me, I know.

    Beef Stew w/ Beer and Paprika

    • 3T EVOO
    • 1T butter
    • 2# stew meat (I have only used 1 1/2 #)
    • 1 whole md onion
    • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 1- 12oz can of beer (don't buy light beer- it doesn't have the same flavor.  Look for plain 'ol Bud or Coors or something of that nature)
    • 4 c. beef stock
    • 2 c. water
    • 1T Worcestershire Sauce
    • 2T tomato paste
    • 1/2t paprika
    • 1/2t salt
    • black pepper
    • 1 1/2t sugar
    • 4 whole carrots, washed, unpeeled, roughly chopped
    • 4 red potatoes, washed, unpeeled, roughly chopped
    1. Heat oil and butter in a large skillet (I use a Dutch oven) over medium heat.  Brown meat in two batches.  Cut pieces in half and set aside.
    2. Add diced onions to the pot and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Then add in the garlic.  Cook down until the onion is translucent.  
    3. Pour in beer and beef stock.  Then add Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, salt, black pepper, and paprika.  Stir all together.  Add beef back to the pot and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
    4. Add carrots and potatoes.  Cover and cook for an additional 30 minutes.  Taste to adjust seasonings.
    5. Scoop into the biggest bowl you have and eat it with a big fat spoon. (OK PW didn't actually say that part... I did, but it's Just. So. Good.
    Moral of the Story:  Make this.  You can thank me later for the good idea.

    Saturday, February 26, 2011

    Blessings Overflowing

    As all of you in blog world know- Spencer lost his job back at the beginning of January and we've been a single-income household ever since (we're completing 2 months of living this way).  It's been challenging, frustrating, embarrassing, and emotional.  We've learned where we can cut back and we've learned things we can do ourselves.

    We have prayed (a lot), we've shared our burden with others (thanks small group), and we've continued to rely on God.  Several years back Spencer and I were attending Calvary Christian Church and the pastor did a series on tithing.  I distinctly remember him interviewing a guy that was about my age now.  This guy talked about how early in his marriage he had lost his job.  He and his wife made a commitment to continue to tithe even when they weren't sure if they'd actually be able to pay all of their bills.  He referenced Micah 3:10 which says: Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.

    Ever since then I've done all I could to tithe.  So when Spencer lost his job, we continued to tithe.  And there have been times that we weren't sure how we were going to pay our bills.  And specific people have been gracious to provide for us.

    This last week we were blessed beyond belief by a series of different events.  First of all we received a tax refund check.  Get this- it wasn't from the 2010 tax year, it was from the 2009 tax year.  Apparently we'd overpaid them by a significant chunk of change and we're just now getting reimbursed for it.  Spencer also has a STRONG lead on a job offered by a gentleman from church.  We're in the process of selling some things we've had in our garage FOREVER, and my family was so kind to send some gift cards for us to use for Valentine's day so we were able to treat ourselves to a date.

    I suppose not everyone would view this the same way I do, but I can't help but to see God's fingerprints all over this.  I truly believe that these blessings are a testimony to tithing even in difficult times.  I believe God has honored us by following his command to tithe.

    Praising God for many blessings this week!

    Saturday, February 12, 2011

    Hotel Obsession

    Ok, I know that the title sounds like a naughty hotel somewhere in the slums of L.A. but really... it's how I feel about hotels.  I seem to have a small obsession with them.  Anytime I travel anywhere I look forward to staying at a hotel.

    I really wish I did have the money to stay at some nice four or five star hotel- the kind that's been in some famous movie or something like that.  I don't know what it is.  I've loved staying in hotels ever since I can remember.  And I (strangely) have distinct memories of some hotels.

    So when it comes to vacations, even though I try to pinch pennies so we can get the most out of every trip, there's a part of me that really wants to throw it all out the window just for the sake of staying in the kind of hotel you see in magazines.

    This is dumb.  I know.  Anyway... for now I'll live vicariously through PW and her hotel room tours.  At least I get to see what it looks like inside of the nice hotels that are pictured in magazines and seen in movies.

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011

    A bit of my Brittish heritage

    Many of you know that my dad was born and raised in the good ol' UK.  He came to the US to attend Nebraska Christian College, met my mom, married her, and stayed.  It really is quite a romantic story for another day.

    Growing up with a Nebraska-raised mom and an English dad was probably not as unusual as growing up in other multi-cultural families.  My dad obviously speaks English (the real kind he'll tell you) and has a charming accent.  My sisters and I grew up making fun of the way Dad pronounced many words.  We still make fun of the way he pronounces many words.  I think he likes it.  Dad says vitamin (vitt-a-min), aluminum is (al-you-min-ee-um), garage is (gare-uj) and so on.  I distinctly remember when we were learning that "ee" makes the long E sound in first grade.  Our teacher pointed out that this is true except in a few words like been which is pronounced with a short E sound.  I argued until I was blue in the face that it was pronounced with a long E sound.  See what living with a Brittish father did to me?  It screwed up my American English!  :)

    Another thing that we experienced growing up were some traditional English/Scottish dishes.  My mom often made roast beef with yorkshire pudding on Sundays.  Marah and I actually loved steak and kidney pie when we were younger, scones are a family FAVE (when done the right way), and shortbread has always been a delicious treat.

    My parents have always allowed us to travel as well- another perk to having an immigrant dad.  When we asked to go on overnight or week-long trips, my parents were always game.  The summer after my senior year of high school, my sister Marah and I traveled to Romania without our parents.  Someone asked my mom if she was scared for us to be alone and she told them that Dad had come halfway around the world and it worked out- she was just letting us do the same thing.

    So even though my dad has been Americanized some, I still inherited some of his culture- and I'm proud of it!
    I drink several cups of tea a day- black, not flavored.  Shortbread is one of the world's most delicious treats to me!  I love to travel and have never had any fear visiting any other country or city.  I think scones came straight from God himself, and I LOVE meat pies (think steak, brown gravy, onion, and mushrooms)  YUM!

    Saturday, January 29, 2011

    FREE and fun!

    Just recently my husband lost his job.  Besides the obvious cuts to budget, the thing that we've found the most hard about this change in lifestyle is the fact that we have nothing to do!  It seems that everything costs money- money we don't have.

    So yesterday (in a fit of boredom) we went to Borders to sit and read for free.  I came across a book called Frommer's Chicago Free and Dirt Cheap.  I enjoyed flipping through the pages and discovering all of the free things you can do in Chicago.  That led me to wonder what kinds of free and dirt cheap things we could do for entertainment in Omaha.

    I'm excited about re-discovering our city and doing things we may never have done before.  So I've been "googling" and have been finding several things to do.  Since most of my "Readers" are also from Omaha, I figured maybe you'd enjoy knowing what you can do for FREE too.

    1.  Visit Boys' Town- Boys' Town has it's own museum and a bunch of great buildings.  The campus is beautiful and you can even walk around the lake.

    2.  Joselyn Art Museum- Usually you have to pay for admission into the museum but on Saturdays from 10-noon, it's FREE!

    3.  Bemis Center for the Contemporary Arts is another free "museum" of sorts.  It's really an exhibition hall for contemporary artists and is free with a donation request.

    4.  Cabela's- stop laughing!  Walking around Cabela's can be entertaining.  It's like a taxidermy zoo!

    5.  Hang outdoors- Omaha has loads of outdoor parks (Memorial Park, Gene Leahy Mall, Heartland of America Park)  It may be cold outside but exercise does the body good... and it's free!

    6.  Old Market Window Shopping- In Omaha we often forget the treasure that the Old Market really is.  You can enjoy hours of window shopping fun in all sorts of knick knack stores.

    7.  Visit the local bookstore.  Spencer and I had fun spending an hour at Borders.  I'd do it again!

    8.  This is something you can do anywhere: redecorate a room in your house.  Use only items you already have on hand like leftover paint or woodscraps from another project.  See how creative you can get!

    CHEAP Things to Do
    1.  Go ice skating @ Moyan IcePlex.  The cost is $6/ person to skate and the skate rental= free!
    2.  Durham Museum- adult admission= $7
    3.  Enjoy the Tuesday movie deals at area Marcus theaters.

    What things can you think of to do that are cheap or less than $8 per person?