Thursday, April 29, 2010

Almost as good as ice cream

We are big dessert people around here. Rarely does a night go by when Danny and I don't enjoy a scoop (or three his case) of Mint Chip or Coffee Heath Bar Crunch. But ice cream alone doesn't really pass as dessert for company. It's okay for a kids party, or as an accompaniment. When we're entertaining, I usually resort to what Danny calls my "signature desserts" - an undercooked chocolate sour cream cake (stolen from my sister, who I think borrowed it from her MIL), or a nut-less carrot cake (taken from his aunt's faceless friend "Barb," according to my sad, butter-stained, folded recipe card). He's named them, I believe, in an effort to coerce me to make his favorites more often. Now he has a new one to add to the list. This rightfully belongs to my mom, who somehow manages to make it perfectly every time. Truthfully, I mess it up almost as often I get it right, but when it's good, it is really good (if I do say so myself). Last week I made it for a group of girls from our Bible Study for the precise reason that I'd already served them my other two staples on other recent occasions. They happened to like it too, or at least were very gracious about eating it anyway! A few requested the recipe, so here it is, along with (hopefully) a few hints for avoiding my frequent mistakes.
Pastry (this is the "puff" part of what would be a cream puff without the chocolate topping):
In a small sauce pan bring 1 cup of WATER and 1 stick of BUTTER to a boil.
Add one cup of FLOUR all at once. Mix fast until it clumps.
Remove from heat and allow to cool. (It doesn't have to get cold, but it will rise better if you can be patient before the next step).
In Kitchen Aid, beat in 4 EGGS, one at a time. (I've recently learned that using room temp eggs can also help pastries rise better - can you tell I've occasionally had trouble getting it to rise?!).
Spoon onto a cookie sheet in a ring about 10 inches in diameter. (Last time I made it a little too big. It still turned out okay, but it wasn't quite as puffy and didn't fit well onto my pretty plate).
Bake for 15 minutes at 425, then for at least 20 minutes at 375, until brown.
Make 1 LARGE PACKAGE OF INSTANT FRENCH VANILLA PUDDING with the "pie filling" amount of milk (about 1/4 cup less than for the regular directions).
Allow the pudding to set up and cool.
Melt 2 squares of SEMI-SWEET CHOCOLATE (or a little less than 1/2 cup of chocolate chips).
Mix in 2 Tbsp BUTTER, 2 Tbsp MILK, 1 tsp VANILLA, 1 cup POWDERED SUGAR.
(If it doesn't turn out to be a spreadable consistency, add a little more milk. If it seems too runny, add a little more powdered sugar).
Once the pastry has cooled, carefully slice it in two and flip the top onto another plate. Spoon in the filling. Replace the top. Top with frosting. Serve or refrigerate. (The pastry will get a little soggy if you leave it overnight). It should serve 10-12 normal people, or 2-3 Dannys.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Saturday we got to spend the days with friends in the collegiate ministry at church, and I think would have been happy to spend the week. There were abundant trees to climb, kids to play with, and students to dote on them all. Of course, mama and daddy didn't mind hundreds of extra helping hands, great fellowship, and the opportunity to raise money for missions either.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Our diemma

I'm not an animal person. Growing up I loved our cat, and my bird, Kitty (who obviously predated the much-pleaded-for feline) but now that I'm the one principally responsible for all matters of nutrition and hygiene, pets aren't quite so appealing. We recently waved an unceremonious good-bye to Tinkerbell Boy, the beta fish who occupied a bowl on our kitchen counter for the past year. We're also fostering the cockatiel we were sure my mom wanted for Christmas last year. The cage is beautiful and the bird is sweet, so we don't mind taking care of him until she decides she wants him back. But above is a photo of our dilemma.

His name is Jiminy Frog (though we're pretty sure he's a toad). Alyssa and Parker brought him home from a camping trip with their grandparents last summer. I didn't have the heart to make them say good-bye right away, but I wasn't exactly prepared for how long he would be staying. By the time we realized the aphids from our garden weren't going to prevent him from starving to death, it was wintertime. I don't know a lot about toads, but I feared that sending him outdoors in inclement weather might be an immediate death sentence. So stay he did. And I started making weekly trips to the pet store to purchase live crickets. Now this non-animal-lover was left to care for a fish, a bird, a toad, and varying numbers of insects (albeit briefly!). As the weather has improved, my desire to see Jiminy fend for himself has increased. Yesterday we decided to give him a little test run outside to see how well he could still hop, or ideally, hunt. He wasn't too sure what to think of his new found freedom, and his hops were a little more tentative than I would have hoped for. Sadly, I think that something might be wrong with his front legs. They just don't seem to fold up the way they should. So, dear readers, this is where you come in. There has to be at least one animal lover or two out there among you. What should I do with this silly toad? Is it more compassionate to release him, or to continue with the hand-delivered insects? Mr. Google says he could live up to 9 years! Am I really in for another 468 weeks of cricket deliveries? Please help!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

He is Risen!

My Savior proved He can save by conquering death and sin. He lived the life I never could, died the death that was mine to die, then rose to seal God's pardon and grace for me. It just doesn't get any better than that! But perhaps equally remarkable is that Jesus' sacrifice didn't just make it possible for me to enjoy eternal life with Him. He also gives me immeasurable blessings here, now, to both bring me joy and bring Himself glory.

So today (a little late!), I'll praise Him for Easter lilies. Exquisitely beautiful, a feat of incredible horticultural engineering (you know the date of Easter varies by weeks from year to year, and yet they're expected - and do! - bloom exactly on time), and wonderfully fragrant. Fragrant enough even to cover the Smell Of Unknown Origins that has periodically plagued our kitchen. That is, until today when I discovered the rotting bag of potatoes in the back of the pantry. Fun stuff. Now if only I could figure out where the Odd Garage Smell is coming from. No lilies to mask the scent in there.

And, naturally, I'll praise Him for these kids who bring me great joy even on the most trying of days. Even when Eldest Child is perpetually in one of her Glamour Shot poses, when Only Son won't stop making monkey faces, and when Little Munchkin can't seem to figure out where the camera is. Needless to say, the lilies were much more cooperative.