Mission accomplished

Well, I did not mean to be away from this blog for so long! We’ve been working on finishing up the (currently occupied) bedrooms, plus I’ve been going into the office more, which equals less blog time for me. Also, does anyone else follow “The Wonder Weeks” with their baby/toddler? Feisty is on Leap 9 of 10 (almost done with the leaps, thank God, thank GOD) and therefore deigns to sleep alone for like 20 minutes a night.

Speaking of Feisty, her nursery is complete! Here she will stay until she’s old enough to move into the Big Girl Room. The finishing touches included a birch tree mural on one wall, plus a “metal” letter. I do want to re-upholster the ugly wing chair in that room at some point, but I’m still calling it done!

Photographic evidence:


The tree mural wasn’t quite as difficult as I’d thought – once I scrapped the idea in which I actually would draw a decent looking tree. I used this tutorial and stenciled some birds onto the finished trees.

I had planned to buy a metal letter from Anthropologie – they aren’t out of sight expensive – but came across a tutorial to make faux-metal letters on the extreme cheap, so, of course, I did that.

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They turned out pretty well! Trotting horses will never notice. I even made an extra one for over the fireplace, as we’re finally going to start painting the downstairs soon and will be able to then hang up stuff.

In food news, I’ve been hard at work with the usual granola, muffins, random weeknight dinners. Lent is starting tomorrow, so I’m getting ready to simmer a big pot of red lentil (haha LENTil) soup. The meatlessness of Lent is actually a boon to my organization because it forces me to think ahead and have veggie options available.

I also attempted a king cake in the spirit of Mardi Gras! I’d never actually had king cake prior to making it, mostly because the store versions look really cloying and too rich. It was pretty time consuming, plus the dough took foreverrrr to rise in our chilly house, but the results were delicious! I used Sara Bonisteel’s recipe from The New York Times Cooking. Well, a modified version. I replaced the almond extract with lemon, filled it with cream cheese filling and used regular whole milk in place of the sweetened condensed milk in the icing. No offense to John Besh (haha), but mixing sugar with SC milk just sounds like tooth-decaying overkill.

The dusting sugars, though. The green and yellow were beautiful, but I discovered when I attempted to make purple that we are out of blue food coloring. Thus, the jankified purple I mustered up with a bit of green and a lot of red. And I didn’t quite sub the regular milk in a proper ratio, so the icing was super runny. Still tasty, though!

Wacky Cake

When I was a kid, my mom used to make this cake we called “wacky cake.” The wackiness? It doesn’t follow the usual rules of cake making. I’m sure there’s a technical term for this type of cake, but I have no idea what it is (leave me a comment if you do!). Regardless, it’ll always be wacky cake to me.

Yesterday, I wanted cake, but we have barely any butter, one egg, and no milk. (The freezer is barren, too, but that’s neither here nor there. Time to hit the grocery…) So, ingredient-less, I remembered WC and dug out the recipe for it. Its leavening comes from a baking soda-vinegar reaction, and it was at this point I realized I had poured all the white vinegar down the basement floor drain trying to clear it.

We still had balsamic vinegar, though, and a quick Google search confirmed that chocolate/balsamic flavor mashup is actually a thing. Figuring it would be either good or horrible, I threw it in. It was good.

My mom always made the straight-up, as-written WC recipe, but it occurred to me that this would take well to changes: nut oils, coffee instead of water, infused vinegars, different extracts. I may be off on an experimental WC binge this week. Mom always served it dusted with confectioners sugar, but I was craving a little extra chocolatiness and made a quick frosting out of roughly 1/4 c. semisweet chocolate chips and 2 T. of heavy whipping cream, microwaved for a minute and stirred together until well blended. Buttercream, a drizzle of royal icing, or some fresh fruit (or fruit syrup) would all work wonders, too. I feel like we used to have some kind of chocolate/royal icing snack cake as kids and now I’m totally nostalgic for it.

Before I get to the recipe, I will say that this is a tasty bit of nostalgia for a snack/weeknight dessert, but not some earth-shattering cake I’d serve at a dinner party. Also, this cake DOES NOT invert well, so just serve it from the pan.

Wacky Cake

Serves 8-9

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1 c. sugar

3 T. cocoa powder

1 t. baking soda

1/2 t. salt

6 T. neutral oil

1 T. white or apple cider (or balsamic!) vinegar

1/2 t. vanilla extract

1 c. cold water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8×8 square or 8-inch round cake pan. Use a fork to mix dry ingredients right in the pan. Make a large, a medium, and a small well in the center.

Add oil to the largest well, vinegar to the medium well, and vanilla to the small well. Pour cold water over entire thing. Blend thoroughly to combine.

Bake 35 mins or until tester comes out clean. Frost or dust with confectioners sugar as desired. Enjoy the wackiness!

*Sugar amount seemed excessive to me, but I went ahead with it. Results weren’t overly sweet, but I might play with this in WC experiments.

Lazy Sunday

So we didn’t end up winterizing the spa, as it poured down rain during The Flyer’s lunch hour (well, during the part of his lunch hour where I convinced him to stop obsessing over weatherstripping the front door). The drain was also a no-go (thanks, Feisty).

But that’s okay, we’ll get to it this week. For today, I stuck a huge pork shoulder in my slow cooker, and the house is just stating to smell like delicious braised pork. It was supposed to be beef stew, but the local market where we buy our meat has been consistently out of stew beef. I’m pretty excited about eating this pork shoulder, though. I’ve been wanting to make one and freeze leftovers for ages. If it tastes as good as it smells, this will be a damn good evening. I’m also kinda tempted to throw this cake together, maybe dotted with lavender flowers, and make a batch of granola because food>unpacking boxes.

Braised Pork Shoulder

1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
Half a bag of baby carrots
Small package of fresh mini portobello mushrooms, quartered
4 cloves crushed garlic or generous measure of garlic powder
3 lb. bone-in pork shoulder
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fennel and coriander seeds, to taste
1 c. chicken stock
1/4 c. dry sherry
3 T. olive oil, divided

Season meat on both sides generously with salt and pepper. Let it rest at room temperature while you prepare the vegetables.

In a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, warm 2 T of the olive oil, then add carrots and onions, sauté until just translucent, then add garlic, cooking for about 2 mins before adding mushrooms. Lower heat slightly and cook about 5 mins more, then transfer everything to a plate.

Heat remaining 1 T of oil in skillet, then add meat, searing on each side until a golden crust begins to form. Add seared meat to slow cooker, followed by vegetables.

Toast fennel and coriander in hot skillet, add to slow cooker.

Pour chicken stock and sherry over spices, meat and vegetables. Cook on high for 5-6 hours. Shred pork with two forks. Serve over thick noodles, polenta or boiled potatoes.* Invite me over.

*Update: I ended up serving this over white beans simmered with a drizzle of blood orange-infused olive oil, some smashed garlic and cracked black pepper. It was amazing – we all loved it, although Feisty ended up flinging it all over the hardwood floor.