Monday, August 22, 2011

Gainesville Trip

Wednesday will be a busy day.  Sam has a CT scan and Jack has his 6 month checkup.  We'll let you all know how everything goes.  Until then, here are a few pictures from our Gainesville trip this past weekend.  It was a quick trip, and we knew we wouldn't get to see everyone so we prioritized our visits by age.  Jack did very well, though I can't say I'm looking forward to another road trip any time soon.  Traveling with an infant is exhausting.

In Alachua with CB Freeman

 Lunch with Roger and Ellen West

A quick stop by AGR

Dinner with the Burgs and Feinbergs

And the jello mold I was convinced would travel well (it didn't)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Back to Work

Today is Sam's first day back to work.  It's so strange not having him around the house.  One of the hidden blessings in Sam getting sick was all of the extra time he got to spend with Jack.  We miss him, but it's nice to have things returning to normal.  It's also nice to workout in the morning without someone standing behind me saying "ooww!" and "git it girl!"

And a big congratulations to Rob and Tiffany!  We just found out we will have a new little niece in January!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Easy Caramel Cake

I've been daydreaming of Caramel Cake for weeks now since I've finished reading The Help.  (I find it a little strange that all of my food magazines have featured recipes for Minnie's Chocolate Pie.  Really?  If by the end of the book you have a hankering for a big slab of Minnie's Chocolate Pie there is really something wrong with you. )  My usual recipe for Caramel Cake is far too tedious and tempermental for me to attempt right now, so I turned to this one from Cooks Illustrated.  It's very good.  Be sure to pay attention to the method for making the cake- it's probably not what you're used to.  Or make your own favorite white cake and just use the recipe for frosting.

Oh, and Jack and Sam are doing great! 

Easy Caramel Cake

The Cake:
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces and softened

The Frosting:
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

For the cake layers:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans.
  2. Whisk together buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla in large measuring cup.  With electric mixer on low speed, mix flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until combined.  Beat in butter, 1 piece at a time, until only pea-sized pieces remain.  Pour in half of buttermilk mixture and beat over medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.  Slowly add remaining buttermilk mixture to bowl and beat until incorporated, about 15 seconds.
  3. Pour equal amounts of batter into prepared pans and bake until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.
  4. Cool cakes in pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire racks.  Cool completely, at least 1 hour.
For the frosting:
  1. Heat 8 tablespoons butter, brown sugar, and salt in large saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles appear around perimeter of pan, 4 to 8 minutes.  Whisk in cream and cook until ring of bubbles reappears, about 1 more minute.  Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla.
  2. Transfer hot frosting mixture to bowl and, with electric mixer on low speed, gradually mix in confectioners' sugar until incorporated.  Increase speed to medium and beat until frosting is pale brown and just warm, about 5 minutes.  Add remaining butter, 1 piece at a time, and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Begin frosting the cake.
To assemble cake:
  1. Place one cake layer on serving platter.  Spread 3/4 cup frosting over cake, then top with second cake layer.
  2. Quickly spread remaining frosting evenly over top and sides of cake.  You have a short window of oppurtunity to do this.  If you pour the piping hot frosting over the cake it's going to run right off.  If you wait too long for it to cool it will turn dull and grainy and begin to harden as you try to spread it.  Good luck.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

New Beginnings

Sam has finished his last treatment and is feeling great!  Thank you to all of our friends and family for your kind words, cards, emails and phone calls.  And an extra special big thank you to Dr. McGarry and all of the wonderful doctors, nurses and staff at Michaela Scott & Associates.  I can't believe how far we've come since our first visit.  You have become our extended family during all of this and we are truly going to miss you. 

Here are a few pictures of Sam getting his final pump taken off along with some layer cakes we baked up for the office. 

Oh, and we've decided to keep the blog going with updates on Jack, Sam's home improvement projects and, of course, more recipes!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Back to Work and Blueberry Pie

Last week we met with Sam's oncologist, and it's official- his last treatment is scheduled for August 9 and he's set to go back to work on August 15.  He has a CT scan slated for later this month, though his oncologist said he'd be shocked to find any remaining tumors (!!!).  Sam is definitely ready to get back to work- sitting around has never really been his thing.  And while we are aware that life will never quite be the same again, because how could it possibly, we are excited to return to a more normal daily rhythm.  Though, I do believe, Jack may have other plans.

If you have an abundance of blueberries and a little bit of free time you've got to try this pie.  A bit unconventional, with vodka in the crust and a grated apple in the filling, but trust me, it works.  Not too sweet and perfect with a scoop (or two) of vanilla ice cream.

  • Pie Dough
  • 2 1/2cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces), plus more for rolling
  • 1teaspoon table salt
  • 2tablespoons sugar
  • 12tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into slices
  • 1/2cup vegetable shortening, cold, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1/4cup vodka, cold
  • 1/4cup cold water
  • Blueberry Filling
  • 6cups fresh blueberries
  • 1Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated on large holes of box grater
  • 2teaspoons grated zest and 2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
  • 3/4cup sugar
  • 2tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
  • pinch table salt
              1     teaspoon vanilla
  • 2tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1large egg, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water

  1. 1. For The Pie Dough: Process flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined. Add butter and shortening and process until dough just starts to come together in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds. Empty mixture into medium bowl.
  2. 2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. Fold in the liquid, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into 2 even disks. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
  3. 3. Remove 1 disk of dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Transfer to pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Refrigerate while preparing filling until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.
  4. 4. For The Filling: Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 425 degrees. Don't skip this step or your bottom crust won't cook properly.  Place 3 cups berries in medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Using potato masher, mash berries several times to release juices. Continue to cook, stirring frequently and mashing occasionally, until about half of berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 8 minutes. Let cool slightly.
  5. 5. Place grated apple in clean kitchen towel and wring dry. Transfer apple to large bowl. Add cooked berries, remaining 3 cups uncooked berries, lemon zest, juice, sugar, tapioca, vanilla and salt; toss to combine. Transfer mixture to dough-lined pie plate and scatter butter pieces over filling.
  6. 6. Roll out second disk of dough on generously floured work surface. I chose to make a lattice top pie since the filling is such a pretty color, but you can certainly just transfer the top crust to the pie plate and cut a few slits on top.
  7. 7. Flute edges using thumb and forefinger or press with tines of fork to seal. Brush the top and edges of pie with the egg mixture. Chill in freezer for 10 minutes or refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  8. 8. Place pie on heated baking sheet, reduce the oven temp to 400 degrees and bake 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature again to 350 degrees and continue to bake until juices bubble and crust is deep golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack and cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.

    Recipe source:  Cooks Illustrated