The Amazingly Rich Pots de Creme!

There’s no doubt I’ve been pretty absent on here for several months.  There have been plenty of times that I have wanted to bake and test and type all about it, but life just seems to get in the way these days!  Summer came and went.  Another year of school is well underway.  Fall has begun and the weather has turned cold and crisp.  Aaron and I are currently expecting our second little girl, due in March!

Life just seems to get in the way sometimes…in a good way.

Two years ago we started what we affectionately call “Family Dinner” with two of our dearest friends.  We gather together every Monday night for dinner, coffee, dessert, and fellowship, and it is many times the very best part of my week.  We very seldom cancel our lovely little get together.  The week we were moving into our new home we ate take out food on torn up wood floors at a table made from saw horses and a large piece of plywood.  When I had my first little one we all gathered around the couch where I was recuperating and devoured burritos and enchiladas from our favorite hole in the wall Mexican restaurant.  This last week marked our two year anniversary of our weekly dinners, and we celebrated by going out for dinner.  It was delightful!

For dessert I tried out The Pioneer Woman’s Pots de Creme and it was absolutely heavenly.  At first glance I was super selfish and wished that there was more to split between all of us, but once we started eating it and realized how incredibly rich it was, I couldn’t even finish what I had!

If you’re looking for an easy but fancy looking dessert to try out, this is the one for you!  I almost always have these few ingredients on hand, so it’s a great dessert to pull out of your hat the day of.

I’m so thankful that even when life seems to fly by with the seasons, some things are certain.

Pots de Creme

Serves 4

The Pioneer Woman

  • 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 4 whole eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract ( or liqueur)
  • pinch of salt
  • 8 fluid ounces of strong hot coffee

First thing to do is to take your eggs out of the refrigerator ahead of time and let them come to room temperature before starting.

When eggs are at room temperature you can begin by placing the chocolate chips into a blender. Follow this with the eggs and the vanilla (or liqueur). Add a pinch of salt. Turn on the blender.

While it is blending, remove the circular disk from the blender lid and very slowly pour in 8 ounces of strong, VERY HOT coffee. It is essential that your coffee be extremely hot in order for the final product to be the right consistency and texture.

Blend for a minute or so until mixture is smooth and fairly free of visible bits of chocolate.

Pour the mixture into your serving glasses or little demitasse cups, leaving plenty of room to add a heap of whipped cream later.

Place in the refrigerator for at least 3 to 4 hours so the mixture has a chance to set.

Garnish with whipped cream and maybe a chocolate curl or two and you have an easy, delicious and yes, elegant, dessert!

Peach Cupcakes with Peach Buttercream

I really love planning a party!  I can find any excuse necessary to create a menu, pull out decorations, and make everything on my table match.  Don’t believe me?  Just last night I spent at least an hour considering throwing a FRIENDS party.  It’s only my all-time favorite tv show ever!

There is no good reason to throw a FRIENDS party.

There is no tv reunion happening.

The show has been in reruns for over a decade.

But I have friends!  And they’re great!  And I can’t think of any better reason to make Phoebe’s chocolate chip cookies, or Rachel’s Thanksgiving trifle (minus the beef sauteed with peas and onions).

But I digress…

I started planning Ivy’s first birthday party when she was 6 months old.  I couldn’t wait to throw her the sweetest, most beautiful, peachy party!  I spent months on Pinterest finding every peach idea possible and pinning every cute first birthday party photo idea I could find.  It was so much fun and worth every minute hour I spent. :)

I finally settled on these delicious peach cupcakes with peach buttercream, and I couldn’t have been more pleased!

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Is it too early to start planning for her second birthday party? ;)

Peach Cupcakes with Peach Buttercream

(www.cathlincooks.blogspot.com)

Cupcakes
2-2 ½ cups unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup sugar
1 cup fresh peach puree
½ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup water
2 tablespoons vinegar

Buttercream
¾ cup butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
¼ cup peach puree
Vanilla, to taste

Cake
Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a muffin tin, or lightly grease and flour a 9-inch round or 8-inch square cake pan. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar into a bowl. In a measuring cup, mix together the peach puree, oil and vanilla. Add the peach mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk together until combined. At this point, you may want to add some yellow and food colouring to achieve a peachier colour. When the batter is smooth, add the vinegar and stir quickly. The batter will foam slightly where the baking soda and vinegar are reacting. Stir just until the vinegar is evenly distributed throughout the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 20 minutes if making cupcakes, or 25 to 30 minutes it making cake. Allow to cool before glazing or frosting.

Peach Buttercream
Whip the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat until well combined. Add peach puree and vanilla and beat again until smooth. You may want to add some yellow and red food colouring to achieve a peachier colour.
Can be piped or spread onto cakes.

Ivy Turns 1!

Life moves incredibly fast.  And when you measure time in months, it seems to fly by before you have the chance to think twice.  A year ago this sweet little gem entered our world.

IMG_0651Life has been sweeter, more lovely, filled with much more laughter, and better than we could have ever imagined.  She’s fiesty, observant, and seriously on the move!  Try to stop her and you’ll be greeted with leg kicking and squeals, both of which we are working hard at getting a handle on. ;)

There are so many things we don’t know about her yet, and we are so excited to find out who she will be!  Here are the things we do know about her.

  • She loves her stuffed zebra, swinging, bath time, her dog, and any music she can dance to.
  • She loves olives, eggs, and eats cheese by the massive handfuls.
  • She has so many fun, colorful, noise-making toys, but still chooses the stairs, DVD shelf, and tupperware drawer every time.
  • She shrieks in excitement every time her daddy comes home from work.

This past weekend we celebrated her first birthday with those she loves most!

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It was perfect.  It was full of middle of May sunshine, bubbles, balloons, peaches, cake smashed between fingers, and loads of gifts.  Love this little girl and all she has brought into our lives!

*All photo credit goes to my amazing dad who shot pictures endlessly, capturing this day and her excitement beautifully.

Adoption Auction!

You guys!

Some things are worth sharing with everyone you know, and this just happens to be one of them.  Our dear friends, Cody & Kristen adopted a beautiful little girl, Mae, from China a couple of years ago, and now they are getting ready to bring home two more precious ones!  You can read about their story here!

As you can imagine, the expense is great and they have been coming up with some very creative ways to fundraise!  Check out their auction that they have going on!

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They have some super cute items up for auction that you DO NOT want to miss out on!  Take a stroll on over to their site and place a bid for a cute gift and a good cause!

Happy Friday!

Dark Chocolate Sea Salted Toffee

If you missed my book review of Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist, turn around and read it.  It’s an excellent book full of encouragement to share life around the table with those you love!

When I read the recipe for the Dark Chocolate Sea Salted Toffee I knew it would be one of the first ones I would try.  I’m a sucker for anything that melts butter and sugar and calls it good enough to eat!

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Don’t be fooled by how fancy this toffee looks.  Shauna’s recipe goes against all rules of candy-making by skipping the candy thermometer all together, making it super easy to make!  I’m a rule follower, and when it comes to candy-making I like to be very precise so it was a stretch for me to make this with only my visual instincts to tell me when it was done.  But it worked!  And it is every bit as delicious as it looks!

Make it.  Enjoy it.  Try not to eat it all in one sitting.

Dark Chocolate Sea Salted Toffee

Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine

1 cup butter (2 sticks)

2 cups sugar

1 cup dark chocolate chips

1 tsp coarse sea salt

  • In a saucepan, combine butter and sugar, and bring to a boil.  Over medium-high heat, keep stirring until it turns a deep amber color.
  • Remove from heat and pour onto a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or until cool and solid to the touch.
  • Melt chocolate chips in a glass bowl over a pot of gently boiling water.  When the chocolate is smooth, pour it over the toffee and spread with a spatula.  Sprinkle sea salt, and then refrigerate until cooled and solid.  Break into irregular pieces.

Bread & Wine Book Review

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“It’s about what happens when we come together, slow down, open our homes, look into one another’s faces, listen to one another’s faces, listen to one another’s stories.  It happens when we leave the office and get a sitter and skip our workouts every so often to celebrate a birthday or an accomplishment or a wedding or a birth, when we break out of the normal clockwork of daily life and pop the champagne on a cold, gray Wednesday for no other reason than the fact that the faces we love are gathered around our table.  It happens when we enter the joy and the sorrow of the people we love, and we join together at the table to feed one another and be fed, and while it’s not strictly about food, it doesn’t happen without it.  Food is the starting point, the common ground, the thing to hold and handle, the currency we offer to one another.” ~ Bread & Wine, by Shauna Niequist

Aaron and I love having people in our home.  We love lots of laughter, loud voices, and numerous stories being told at once.  We have a small home with rarely enough room to entertain our many times large groups of people, and yet we do it anyway.  We gather together to laugh, celebrate, pass time, reminisce, make new memories, sometimes cry, and always eat.  Sometimes it’s dinner, and sometimes it’s dessert.  Sometimes it’s hot coffee with slightly sweet, freshly whipped cream.  Sometimes it’s right out of the oven chocolate chip cookies.  During Christmas it’s plain sugar cookies that everyone decorates themselves.  In the summer it’s a tropical mixed drink and Mekenzie’s delicious guacamole with Juanita’s tortilla chips.  No matter the time of year, or time of day, we love to open our home to those we love!

I have been a huge fan of Shauna Niequist for the past couple of years, and her newest book, Bread & Wine, does not disappoint.  It is exactly what the title states: “a love letter to life around the table.”  It brings simplicity to an act that has become obsolete in our society today.  Inviting people into our homes carries with it a vulnerability that can be difficult to overcome.  Fear of what others may think of our messy home, or our lack of skill in the kitchen keeps us from experiencing deep relationship with one another.  The kind that happens when we pause for the day, look at each other around the table, share about the good and the bad, and nourish ourselves with food.

Throughout this gem of a book Shauna shares her own experiences, giving us hope to share life with others around our own tables.  Her stories touch the heart and have you feeling like you are sitting across from her dipping a crusty piece of bread in oil and vinegar, while sipping on a glass of red wine.  It’s delightful, full of soul, and filled with recipes that will make your mouth water!

For my very own “Bread & Wine” experiment I invited our dear friends Corey & Whitney and their sweet as pie little boy, Greyson, to be our guinea pigs for a full meal of new recipes from the book.  We dined on a pan of Annette’s Enchiladas, Esquites, black beans warmed with a couple of tablespoons of barbecue sauce and finished the evening with Dark Chocolate Sea Salted Toffee with vanilla ice cream.  And as we dined we shared about our day, smiled over our sweet little ones as they munched on crackers together, and laughed our way through stories told.  The food was easy to make and delicious!

This book is worth purchasing and reading cover to cover as soon as you can get your hands on it. :)  Curl up with it, get lost in the stories, and then invite those that you love to sit around your own table and share life.  You won’t regret it!

Dreaming of Summer…

I find myself aching for summer these days.

For iced coffees, long days, windows down, doors open, Aaron home, lunch on the back deck, grilled burgers, walks that don’t require big coats and blankets, days at the lake, deeply red Oregon strawberries, gallons of iced tea, bright flowers hanging on my front porch, corn on the cob, BLTs with thick cut bacon and juicy plump garden tomatoes, and days where you never actually wear a real outfit because you go from pajamas to swimsuit to yoga pants and a tank top because it’s just that hot.

This week has been filled with days hitting 60 degrees, making me think summer will soon be here.  So I decided to get some blueberries out of the freezer and make some Banana-Berry Muffins while pretending it was a warm enough morning to enjoy one out on the back deck.

It worked.

Yesterday felt like a long-awaited pre-summer day and the smell of banana-blueberry muffins floating through our house was enough to keep me daydreaming for several hours.  Do you have a favorite summer drink, food, tradition or memory?

Banana-Berry Muffins

(Hay Day Country Market Cookbook, by Kim Rizk)

Makes 18 muffins (or 10 jumbo muffins)

8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 large bananas)

1 tsp vanilla

3 cups flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup plain yogurt

1 heaping cup fresh raspberries, stemmed blueberries, or blackberries, gently rinsed and drained (I used some that I froze)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly butter muffin cups.

2. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl.  Add the eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Add the mashed banana and vanilla, and blend in.  (The mixture will look slightly curdled, but it will pull together once the dry ingredients are added.)

3. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture in batches, alternating with the yogurt.  Mix until all the dry ingredients are moistened.  Stir in the berries.

4. Fill the prepared muffin cups two-thirds full, and bake until the muffins have risen and are nicely colored (a tooth-pick inserted in the center should come out clean), 20 to 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool in the muffin cups for about 2 minutes.  Then turn the muffins out onto a wire rack so they’re bottom side up, and allow them to cool for a few minutes more before serving.

*These muffins are very moist and keep well in an airtight container for two to three days.  The batter itself keeps well in the refrigerator for a couple of days, which means you can scoop out enough for a few fresh muffins each morning.