Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Delicious! Chocolate Birthday Cake filled with Fluffy Marshmallow Frosting


Hello again!  We celebrated another child's birthday over the weekend! We threw our son a fun all-boy birthday party to celebrate 6 whole years of wonderful life! 


He invited some of his best buddies over for grilled hot dogs, cake and ice cream, and lots of playing!  This originally was going to be an outside campfire type party, and we were going to have a tent set up for the boys to play in. I had big ideas to be roast the hot dogs over the fire, have all the eating and playing outside the whole time, but it rained the night and morning of the party and a cold snap had come through... so we brought the party inside. 

Moms learn to roll with the punches, am I not right?!!!

That being said I simply decorated in colorful bandanas and my favorite birthday d├ęcor--balloons!  It was fun and just right for boys who honestly probably didn't care as much as I did.  I found some boxes of Avengers stickers and scattered them on the table along with chocolates.  No party bags to take home here, but the boys could have what they wanted of those fun little table tokens!


Our son requested a chocolate cake (his favorite), like he does every year, and I decided to make it myself instead of ordering a cute character cake this year.  It saved us a lot of money which made up for the time of making it, but really it just took me about 3 hours from start to finish. 


This may surprise you but I don't consider myself a super cake baker or decorator! So listen up Moms and Dads out there, give yourself a break and a little grace in the kitchen! 

Don't be intimidated by baking cakes!  If you want to make a birthday cake yourself, you can do it, and it doesn't have to look Pinterest perfect for it to be incredibly delicious!! I'm cheering you on!  It's easier to make a sheet cake, so if that's what you do--awesome!! The love that goes into a homemade cake goes a long way.

Since I enjoy baking and being creative in the kitchen, I decided to give his birthday cake a little twist by adding a delicious marshmallow frosting on the inside. That marshmallow frosting really made it special! The cake is semi-homemade as I used a box mix to help me out. Instead of going by the box recipe exactly I substituted melted butter for oil and used extra large eggs.  Extra large eggs are key when baking cake. 



I made our very favorite homemade fluffy chocolate buttercream and topped it with a mound of cheerful M&Ms!  What's not to love about a candy topped cake filled with marshmallow frosting?  I made it the day before frosting and all, and I wrapped and stored in the fridge for the day of the party.  I got it out about 2 hours prior to the party beginning so it could come to room temperature again.  Needless to say, it was a hit!!!  A couple moms wanted the recipe, because it came out so moist and the taste was outstanding! I will definitely be making this very cake again, so I thought I had to share the easy recipe with you!

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Butter cream Icing and Marshmallow Filling
This makes a 3 layer cake. Serves 15-20 people.

For the Cake:

2 boxes of Chocolate-Fudge cake mix (I think I used Duncan Hines)

Follow the box's directions in making these with just a couple alterations.  Use extra large eggs and substitute melted real butter for oil. The proportions will be the exact same of butter for oil.  This will make the cake taste incredible. 

Carefully pour the batter evenly into 3- 8 in. round pans.  (You may have extra batter, and if you do simply make a few cupcakes!) Bake according to the box directions until a toothpick comes out almost entirely clean. Cool a few minutes before turning the cakes out carefully.  Allow them to cool completely!

At this point, if they look a little lopsided and you want a professionally even looking cake, use a bread knife and gingerly cut off the tops to make them more flat and even. They don't have to be perfect because the filling and icing covers a multitude of cake sins! Once this is done, you're ready to add the marshmallow filling evenly between the layers and then frost the cake.  When frosting I usually work from the top of the cake down.

For the Marshmallow Frosting (filling):

1 jar Marshmallow fluff
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, softened
2-3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 c. heavy cream (you may not need all that)
1/2 tsp. real vanilla extract

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and marshmallow fluff together well.  Add the vanilla extract and then begin adding the cream and sugar alternately ending with the powdered sugar. Only use as much cream to keep it creamy but not too thin.  This is a filling so we don't want it to be runny or oozing out the sides too much, but don't over think it!  Beat it all well and set aside until you're ready to frost.



Me and the birthday boy!!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Life!


Friends, it has been way too long.  It's been a very busy year this far!  "All good things, all good things!", as Olaf would say, but I really haven't had any spare time to sit, upload photos and write what's been on my heart or in my kitchen.  I've recently received a few kind notes from some of you since I haven't written in a while, so thank you for your concern! You know I don't often think of my blog as having too much of a following, but I do think I have meaningful followers.  For that I appreciate YOU!:)  Your reading keeps me writing even when life calls!  Speaking of my life...
 
Let's go back the beginning in those winter January days and let me bring you up to speed.  I thought I would share through pictures more than words, because they say a picture speaks 1,000 of them.

First let me say this:  

This winter has been one the best winters I've had since my childhood! 

It's been full of good memories and blessings for my husband and I and for our family.  We have a lot to be thankful to God for in the big and small.

So here we go...


Soups!  I made lots of them.  Cozy white bean and spinach soup here.


And these incredible Cuban black beans.  Oh, my goodness. I took these to a Latin themed dinner that our friends had with succulent Cuban pork with chimichurri sauce and plantains!  Sigh...it was comfort food good for the soul! The next day I added chicken broth to make a soup with the leftovers... and that was delicious.

Did I say that I love soup!?


I also love snow!  This picture was the biggest snowfall we got this season.  It came about the 3rd week of January and brought around 6 beautiful, fluffy inches.  That may not sound like much to you Northerners, but it's a good amount for the South.


We really enjoyed snow days cozy in our new home!  The property was gorgeous and serene like I hoped it would be.


We even have a little hill just big enough for a little sledding and snow boarding!  Yes, I snowboarded for the first time, and it was awesome!! Here's our smallest snow bunny doing her sweet thing!



Mr. Cozy and I were able to visit a favorite coffee shop of ours! It's in Louisville and it's called Quills. Please go there if you live near there or just passing through. You'll probably find a lot of students inside studying, but there is a quaint spot of a patio outside between the buildings that is really nice to sit and relax. They have superb coffee and a really friendly staff.  We brought our friends there to experience the perfect warm sipper, the Alchemist.  It's sweet and spicy and frothy and wonderful in a gulp! We all agreed it's one of the best coffee drinks there is, and beautiful too!


Here I am with the kids relaxing a little in the sun room on a snowy morning.  This was a sweet moment.

I love those two amazing kids more than words!

They really bring charisma into our house, but sometimes they're the ones who also bring...depth.  They see life up close and are so good about sharing that experience with us big people.



Cappuccino muffins with espresso glaze! Our favorite muffin on a snow day, or any day!!!



Snow day activities.


This is a special memory!

Here we are now in February, and our baby girl turned 5 years old!  She had the quintessential girly-girl birthday!   We threw our daughter a "flower" party!!


It was precious in every way. 

For the little girls I got out my different floral dishes and my butterfly napkins.  Jars filled with silk flowers and Spanish moss, antique plates, candles, silver and burlap!

I wanted it to really feel like a young ladies garden party for her and her friends.  The girl in me really came out while I decorated for it, and it was so much fun!  Flowers, fresh and silk, were arranged all around the house.


She couldn't have been happier. Or more beautiful!!!


Strawberry cake from the best place in town.


She wore her sweet birthday hat she's worn at every party for the past 3 years when she blew out her candles!  Some things don't need to change.


Y'all, here is a special photo!  From the left to right is my Granny (mom's mom), yours truly, my sister Faith, and my mom.

I am so proud of these women I call family!!!  My Godly, good cookin and good lookin heritage all together in my kitchen!  What a precious moment, and I'm so glad we got a picture of it.


A couple days after the party and the lemonade jar is clean but still out along with some March flowers.


It's smoothie time! I make a fruit smoothiealmost every day for me and whatever child is home, because they love them. 


I had little helpers at Kroger recently, even baby Lula came along! Hehe.  This was the first time I've gone to the grocery and have been brave enough to let both kids have their own carts!! I prepared them before hand to make sure no sweet elderly lady would be plowed down, and sure enough they did a wonderful job! They were a help, but the sweetest thing was to see how proud of themselves they were.


A beautiful morning to behold.


We have caught up to just last week. We had monsoon rain for 3 day straight.  It was one of those stretches of gloomy days that I'm not a big fan of, but I made the best of them.  I decided to snap some pictures of my kitchen without any frill or seasonal decor at all. This is the only time of year you will see that, because you know I love nesting. My house isn't decorated for anything right now, but I'm about to put out my spring this week!



Vintage towels that were a birthday gift from my Grandmother, who also gave me this antique wash stand that was passed down to me. It's really a lovely piece in the kitchen, and it adds a great sense of nostalgia and soul to the room itself.







One of my favorite things, and we have enormous amounts of them! March flowers are blooming all around here!  They're such a happy flower, and a symbol that indeed spring is very near again!  This house was build on an old farm, and I can tell by all the old fashioned March flowers and irises coming up all over the yard!


The Noah's Ark week we had last week has paid off....
God surely knows what He is doing, because the everything is prettier than ever and the green has finally arrived!!


Yesterday I walked down the driveway and snapped these (unfiltered) pictures nearing sunset.  I was almost overwhelmed by the natural beauty!  The grass and moss on the ground is vibrant.



Huge puddles of rain is all that remains. 

What a good reminder that it's usually the rains of life  that can bring the most beauty and growth once the storm has passed.  God has a purpose for everything!






Kitty needed to play in the stream like a child needs to splash in a puddle! He really enjoys when we're outside as a family, and I'm sure he is also thankful to be dried out and fluffy again!  We've had several cats over the past 10 years, but he is the very best one we've had.


Home sweet home in our very own Kentucky "shire".


Smiles all around!


So here as I sit and write, it's a warm, beautiful spring like day outside and winter has passed. At least here in my little place in the world.  My daughter turned 5 last month and my son is turning 6 this month! We've been on 2 retreat weekends as a couple and we've had friends and family in our homes for suppers, parties, snow days, Sunday afternoon visits, campfires and the like. I have painted and finished a few more projects around the house. Our son has played basket ball as a Little Dribbler for the first time this season. We are back in ministry at our church and it had been such an answer to prayer to be on the worship team leading and serving once again! He has brought the dearest of golden friends back into our lives that we do life together, and given us new and wonderful friends that feel like old ones already.  He has given our children so many precious little friends that warms my heart.  My family lives all around, and we're almost always celebrating something. No family loves celebrating joys in life together more than mine.  That's where my zest for life must come from!


I'm not sure what exactly God has in store this year, but I'm sure it will include more muffins, more puddles to splash.

More flowers to pick and more weeds to pull.

More scrapes to aide and more stories to read. 

More mundane rainy days and more dates with my groom.

More candles to blow and more crumbs to clean.

More homework to teach and more chores to remind.

More songs to sing and more people to pray for.

More answers to prayer and more reasons to praise!

Because no matter what "it" is that keeps me busy it will primarily involve my people.

Those ones that are placed in my care, because it's what we do every single day that really makes, Life.



I hope it won't be so long this next time!  How is your year going so far?  What have I missed?  I would love to hear. :)







Thursday, January 14, 2016

Cozy Peanut Butter Bread on a Chilly Winter's Morn


Well hello there, new year! 

The strangely warm December weather has finally gone and Jack Frost has found his way back to winter in the bluegrass state, and I'm not the least bit disappointed!  Winter should be cold, but especially when there are new sweaters and scarves to be worn!  Am I right?

Today is a school morning for the children which leaves me a little time to either be productive around the house or indulge in a little "refreshing" time to myself.  I ere on the side of introvert so I tend to refuel by myself.  (Although I love being with my family and friends more than anything on earth!)  There is something almost healing to me about after a hectic morning getting the kids ready, myself and running to schools, to  just unwind in the peace and quiet of my home. To me, a cold morning needs a hot sipper to drink, some favorite music in the background and a good book to read!

This was one of those morning I decided a wintery style respite was in order!


Let me reflect for a moment, as the past weekend was a magical one!  It was our first snow in the new house and it was beautiful!!! There is nothing like snow to make this family's heart skip a beat for joy as we snug in with an extra pot of coffee.  The kids were relieved it wouldn't be a "spring-winter" after all when they woke up to a fresh blanket of snow on the ground.  Apparently God answered their little prayers! 


We also had a wonderful time spending with some of our dearest friends over amazing food and company that feels more like family!  I know without a doubt I couldn't be any richer if I had all the world's money, because I have what money can't buy in my treasure box of family and friends!!  God has blessed me with an overflowing cup of loving people in my life, but this man right here is as good as they come!


I just pulled a beautiful, warm loaf of peanut butter bread out of the oven and it....  Oh my! It smells absolutely divine in here!!  I just had to share this easy Paula Deen recipe with you.  It's the perfect snack with your favorite jam, especially when the air is cold outside and the fireplace is warm in your house!  Grab a few ingredients and make this delicious bread today!



This recipe couldn't be more simple yet anymore wonderful!

Peanut Butter Bread
Paula Deen

2 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
4 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 c. milk
Splash of vanilla (I added this.)
1/2 c. peanut butter


Preheat oven to 375 F.
Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Add the milk, vanilla and peanut butter and stir until well mixed.  Pour into a greased 8x4x3 in. loaf pan.  Bake for approximately 50 minutes.  Serve warm with jam or butter.




Friday, December 18, 2015

Christmas in my Kitchen and A Delicious Sugar Cookie Icing Recipe


Today is finally cold again, beautiful outside, and I am definitely in the Christmas spirit and full of cheer!  I spent the afternoon in the kitchen making sugar cookies with delicious creamy icing for our son's Christmas party at school tomorrow.  As I was bustling around the kitchen with the sun streaming in and my Christmas music playing I had a cup of afternoon coffee to sip on and I really, really felt the joy of the Lord! 


The mixer whirred with icing and the aroma of warm sugar cookies fresh from the oven wafted around, when it hit me.....



I am baking Christmas cookies in my "dream" kitchen and back in the old stomping grounds of my hometown! 

The kitchen I've always wanted with plenty of cabinets, an island, subway tile backsplash, a well working oven, a French door fridge that I put to good use.

The kitchen with pretty paned windows of panoramic views that soar past our property.

The kitchen my family will make some of their most cherished memories in over the years!



I've always liked my cozy little bitty kitchens (some much smaller than others) but I've dreamed of one big enough to dance around in and share with my family.  


Here at Christmastime I have some of my favorite things--gingerbread, cookies, and even candies--adorning the counters, windows and sitting on the window seals all around.  I don't even have the time right now to snap pictures of nearly everything, but it feels magical!


Here's my "Cozy drink station" on the antique dry sink!  It's one of my favorite spots in the kitchen right now! 


Chai tea, hot chocolate, French press coffee anyone?


Now let me share something special with you.

See that picture below?  It's a very iconic one of my childhood!  It's me as a little bitty girl baking gingerbread boy cookies at my Grandmother's house.  I was proudly holding up a big dough ball while wearing pjs, an apron and my cabbage patch slippers!  At the time we were living out West and that very morning we were going to fly back after spending the holiday here.  My Grandmother ran around to get everything out for me and her to make gingerbread boys together before I left with my parents for the airport... What a memory I hold dear!!!


 
I've always liked this sweet kitchen tree I put up on the counter every Christmas.  I have some of my favorite ornaments hung on here.  The gingerbread house one is one of the oldest  ornaments I must have bought in our first year of marriage and the copper pot is the newest addition this year from Cracker Barrel.  It's a treat looking for ornaments for this tree, but it looks like in a couple years I'll need to get a bigger tree, because this little one is packed!  :)




As you can tell I'm not a conservative Christmas decorator, especially in the kitchen.  My counters are full (!) but it's cheery and fun to have such whimsical things placed around.  I love it as much as the kids do, but I consider myself a kid at heart. 

Now onto the cookies... Let me tell you about this yummy sugar cookie frosting I'm making!  It's made with butter and cream cheese which lends itself to the best of both worlds of flavor and consistency.  The original recipe calls for vanilla extract, but I added both vanilla and almond because I've always thought the almond flavor in particular is delicious in frosting.  It reminds me of a really good wedding cake!  One of the best parts of this icing is that it comes together quickly and easily!




I just used a bag of Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix for the cookies and refrigerated the dough for about 2 hours before rolling it out.  It made the whole process faster, and as a mom of littles that counts for a lot. 


I surprised the kids after they woke up with freshly cooled cookies, frosting and sprinkles to decorate a few cookies for our family.  They were thrilled and had a ball making them over the top full with everything!!  (And of course sneaking in several licks:)  It was really a precious moment and a tradition that I'm passing down from my childhood.


These cookies are scrumptious with a frosty glass of milk and taste better when reading a favorite Christmas book, of course!  Can you tell which cookies the kiddos made?? :)


I just had to pop in and let you in on my little magical moment before it all too quickly passing on to a memory.  I'm all about cherishing the moments that matter!

Happy Baking!!

Creamy Sugar Cookie Icing

1/4 c. butter, softened
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 tsp. real vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
2 c. powdered sugar
2 tbsp. milk or cream

In a large bowl, mix together the butter and cream cheese until creamed and smooth.  Add the extracts until combined.  Next, put the mixer on low and in intervals add the powdered sugar and milk, ending in the sugar until you get the right consistency.  I wanted mine on the thicker side since I was using it to frost cookies.  Once it's mixed turn up the mixer to med-high and beat it for about a minute to fluff it up! Frost cookies after they are completely cool and let the icing slightly harden before covering cookies or eat them right away!  This will frost about 3 dozen cookies.  Store leftover frosting in a well sealed bag in the fridge for 3 days.

This recipe is one of Santa's favorites!! *wink