Brown Sugar Mini Cakes

Do you ever just want to eat cake?  It is so delicious.  But then there’s that annoying problem of having a whole cake laying around for a week and snagging a bit off it every time you go into the kitchen.  Before you know it, you’re three pounds heavier.

This is where my solution comes in, and I think it is brilliant.  Insert the mini cakes! I love these.  They are really sophisticated and adorable, but you can control how much cake is actually made.  When you make mini cakes, you can have your cake, eat it too, and then not have to worry about it the next day. It’s perfect!

I have this current obsession with brown sugar cake.  It’s so delicious.  It’s very heavy and dense, more like a pound cake, but it has this beautiful carmel flavor.  By no means do I recommend this to people on a diet.  Which brings me to my next point…

I have recently been diagnosed with gestational diabetes.  This was pretty difficult for me to imagine because, as a food-lover, I hate carb moderation of all kinds.  My meal of preference is a giant bowl of pasta…yummmmmy.

But this is one of the things I’m learning about motherhood.  You have to make sacrifices for the health of your baby, and when I think about little Piper getting sick or having diabetes because I wouldn’t moderate my diet, it’s a terrifying thought.  So onto the paleo lifestyle for the next six weeks!

I’m actually really excited about it because I’ve been reading a lot about nutrition, and I think this is going to be really educational for Drew and me.  Basically, the next phase of the blog is going to be savory dishes and probably all low-carb.  Maybe that will be helpful for you all too!

But we couldn’t go low-carb without one final homage to sweets.  Thus the brown sugar cakes.  I made these a few weeks ago, and they’ve been just dying to hit the media.

I took the Brown Sugar Cupcake recipe from How Sweet It Is (I seriously love love love that blog), and adapted it to a cake format.

Disclaimer: I was really, really sloppy on the pictures. No judgment! I still can’t frost a cake. It’s pretty much the bane of my existence.  Tips, anyone?

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YUM!!!! This cake is so delicious.  And who doesn’t love their own personal cake?  I simply made the cupcake batter version and divided into four ramekins.

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Then I baked those off for about twenty minutes at 350 degrees.  They cooled on a rack and then I sliced them in half.  I iced between each layer using a vanilla buttercream, and voila! Magnificent little towers of goodness!

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Please trust me when I tell you to make these cakes.  They take no time at all, they are so delicious, and they’re a super fun way to change up dessert.

Brown Sugar Cupcakes (Adapted from How Sweet It Is)

1 cup loosely packed brown sugar

1 large egg

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Then combine the wet ingredients and mix.  In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients together (yes, do sift your flour! I think it makes a big difference). Mix the dry ingredients into the wet by hand (I think it keeps the batter light).

Divide batter evenly among four prepared ramekins.  Line the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for about twenty minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Allow them to rest in the ramekins on a wire cooling sheet (not the pan) for about ten minutes, then remove them and let them cool on the wire rack.

Slice in half and layer to make little individual cakes (how many layers you decide to do is up to you! I did three little cakes with three layers each).  Cool the layers in the fridge before frosting (it helps with the crumbs!)

Vanilla Buttercream

2 sticks of unsalted butter (room temp, please!)

4 cups (may need more depending on thickness) of powdered sugar

2 tablespoons of milk (use sparingly, judge by consistency)

1 tsp of vanilla

Whip together at high speed so the frosting is fluffy and light.  Frost the layers and have your cake!

Going Home and the New World Symphony

Do you have a piece of music that makes you want to weep?

I’m not talking some fru-fru melody that makes you feel happy or sad.  I’m talking gut-wrenchingly beautiful music that fills you with so much longing that you’re crawling out of your skin, and the only visceral reaction you can afford to express is tears.

For me, that music is Antonin Dvorak’s New World Symphony, or Symphony No. 9.  Specifically, I mean the second movement, the largo movement.  It is without a doubt one of the most beautiful and fascinating pieces of music I have ever heard.  In high school I had a very beloved teacher who began every single history class with music.  It was mostly classical, although he was known to throw an occasional pop or country song in there.

For him, classical music expressed inward longings of the soul toward God.  It is evidence, data-gathering, of our need for God, or rather our craving of Him.

Dvorak wrote this symphony based on Native American and African American spirituals.  He wrote it because America inspired him.  I was thinking about this country, specifically after the observance of 9/11 yesterday, and I was thinking about all the love and passion and freedom we have here.  And so this symphony makes sense when you listen to it and think of America.

This movement is called the “Going home” song, and it is often played for funerals and memorials.  Both my grandparents requested this song to be played at their funerals.  And it is achingly perfect for a home-going.  It reminds the listener both that this world is not home and that home awaits us.  Thus the longing in it…

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins and Gift-Giving

Before I moved to Michigan and became a real, bill-paying adult, I didn’t care at all about the weather.  I mean not at all!  It is what is is.  Since the Snowpocalypse of 2013-2014 and then being pregnant this summer, I have decide the weather actually means quite a lot to me.  Which is why I have religiously been checking weather.com every day to see when it will turn cold.

Which happens to be this week.  And I don’t know about you, but the first sign of cooler weather means busting out the fall recipes.  Which of course means…PUMPKIN!!!!!! Pumpkin everything, here we come!

This brings me to the one of the sweetest gifts I’ve ever gotten: a cookbook.

This is no ordinary cookbook.  A few Christmases ago, my two sisters and I opened similar-looking packages.  Usually, that’s a pretty fair indicator we are all getting variations of the same thing.  This used to trouble me a great deal as a child, but one of the perks of growing up means that matching things get way cooler, such as the Alex and Ani bracelets we got last Christmas (definitely check these beautiful charm bracelets out they’re awesome).

But this time, the packages revealed something which has become very precious to me: a family cookbook.  My mom had spent hours and hours finding our favorite recipes, as well as those from our grandmothers and aunts, to put in a “Weiland Family Cookbook.”  All the things I remember loving as a kid, from cheesy potatoes to Weiland Family Secret Chocolate Chip Cookies (those have yet to make an appearance on here…) were all lovingly typed out and categorized into one book.

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From the depths of this amazing treasure, I am bringing you one of my all-time fall favorites: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins.

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Hands down, my mom makes the best pumpkin chocolate chip muffins in the ENTIRE world.  They are somehow so soft and gooey yet filling and delicious.  I have made them not once but twice this week alone (yes, I know it’s only Wednesday).  The shocking thing to me is it takes me less than ten minutes to assemble these heavenly muffins and get them in the oven.  Plus 18 minutes on the dot of baking means you can have insanely wonderful pumpkiny goodness in your mouth in under half an hour. So strap on your seatbelts and prepare to be blown away.

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Recipe makes 12 delicious muffins

Ingredients

1/2 can of pumpkin

1 egg

1/4 cup of melted butter

1 cup of milk

1/2 cup of white sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp of cinnamon (you can add 1 tsp if you love cinnamon)

2 tsp of baking powder

1 1/2 cups AP flour

1 cup (approx.) of chocolate chips (I use semi-sweet)

Instructions

1. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees F

2. Combine all the dry ingredients in the bowl of your mixer

3. In a separate bowl, combine the pumpkin, butter, egg, and milk and stir to combine

4. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until just combined

5. Pour in cup of chocolate chips (I never measure…) and hand mix with a whisk (I find this keeps the muffins from being over-beaten)

6. Using a cookie scoop, drop two scoops of muffin batter into a prepared muffin tray

7. Bake for 18 minutes.  The muffins may feel a bit soft when you take them out, but take them out anyway let them cool in the pan on the stove.

8. Consume immediately!!!

 

Wonder and Lordship

Welcome home!!!! I feel like I have been gone for years. A lot has changed in the last four weeks.  Not the least of which is my appearance! I am thirty-one weeks pregnant now 🙂  Baby Piper is growing and growing!

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Drew and I were gone for three weeks attending a missions training conference. It was an extremely important conference for me because I have been very on the fence about moving away and doing missions. I have never been on a missions trip before or had any formal training, and I was scared to death!  We spent seven hours every day in classes and training, and the evenings were spent in the streets outreaching or in the homes of new friends having lots of conversation.

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God did a lot of work in my heart those three weeks, softening me to Him and to His lordship. I have been so afraid of anything outside my comfort zone, and this was probably one of the limits of that.  For three weeks, we lived in less than ideal living conditions and learned about Islam and were continually challenged in our faith.

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 I realized while there that for the longest time I’ve accepted Jesus as my Savior, but I often refuse to acknowledge Him as Lord, meaning giving Him complete control of my life.  Jesus tells His disciples they have to leave everything to follow Him.  They have to be willing to lose anything they have.

I “give” Jesus my life, but I hold back all the parts I don’t want Him to have.  I am ok with following Him so long as He doesn’t call me anywhere I don’t want to go. But that isn’t what discipleship means. Discipleship means reckless abandon into Jesus.  He may never call you to missions in Africa or to sell your house and move to a smaller one, but reckless abandon means He becomes so valuable and beautiful to you that you would do anything He asked, and we strive to do this on a daily basis.

Sometimes this may look strange to us or to our families, but it’s what Jesus asks.  When Paul tells the Colossian church that Christ is now their life (Col. 3:3-4), it means He is the lifeblood and sustenance.  We don’t gain our lives and live them the old way, the way where I dictate everything.  Instead we give them up to Jesus and gain our truest self.

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While at this conference, I learned so much about the sovereignty of God. Over and over, I had to ask myself the question, is He really worth this? Until I decided that, discipleship really just meant bekkaship. My tongue would say Jesus has my whole life, but my heart and actions would contradict it.  I recently read this article by Pastor John Piper, and it really showed me how incorrect my thinking has been.

Anyway, all that to say, I’m very excited to be thinking and praying more about missions with Drew, and we are taking steps to make this calling a reality! I will keep you all posted. The pictures in this post are recent ones I’ve taken on all our travels this summer that have made me wonder at what God has done.  Wonder is one of the keys to seeing and savoring God, or so Piper says, and I believe him.  The more we wonder, the more likely we are to dwell under His lordship.  Jon Bloom calls wonder the antidepressant of life. When I look back on these photos, I think he is right.

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Piper Mae and Ricotta, Brown Sugar Peaches

Since becoming pregnant, it seems like the world is speeding up.  This summer has been so fast-paced.  By the first week of september, I will have been gone for about 6 weeks of the summer traveling.  Really, this is all just an excuse to say why I’m posting three posts at a time…

I’ve spent a lot of this summer reading reviews on car seats, strollers, pacifiers, and cribs.  For a little baby, she sure has a lot of gear!  By the way, anyone have a favorite stroller or car seat?  That’s the last item I need to register for!  It’s so much fun to pick out all these things she’ll get to use when she gets here.  And I feel like I should get a whole degree for this research!  I’m learning everything from breastfeeding to babywise sleep methods to making my own baby food!

Her nursery is coming along – can’t wait to post pictures for you all!  Our apartment feels like it’s getting smaller as we shuffle furniture around to try to make more space for her.

By the way, if you haven’t heard already, we have a name!  Our baby girl is Piper Mae French.

We chose Piper because of Pastor John Piper.  He was a strong influence on both mine and Drew’s conversions, and we felt that each time we explain her name, because of his work, we also have an opportunity to share the Gospel.  Plus, she seems like a pretty feisty baby, and we wanted a spunky name.  She is continually kicking and rolling around.

When we had our ultrasound to find out the gender, it took the tech two hours to get all her pictures.  She said our baby was one of the most active she’d ever seen.  That’s Drew’s baby for you!  She has all his energy.

Because of all the craziness, cooking has taken a different direction for me.  I haven’t been able to put all the hours into it that I normally like, researching and cooking slowly, so these next few posts will be quick and easy meals.

One thing I’ve made all the time this summer is ricotta.   I am extremely passionate about all the things you can do with it.  This is a quick and fun summer dessert, and it’s also an ode to my dad, Jeff, who is always looking to get away from chocolate in desserts (which is basically all I make…).

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Tips on making your own ricotta:

1. Don’t be afraid! It sounds daunting, but it’s so incredibly easy!

2. Don’t skimp on buying cheesecloth – use it!  It’s worth the result.

3. Stir the milk constantly to avoid scalding and burning.

 

Ingredients  (Makes two dessert portions)

1. 2 fresh peaches, halved with pitt removed  (I use a whole peach per person so figure accordingly)

2. 1 cup fresh ricotta (recipe below)

3. 1 1/2 tbsp honey

4. Balsamic vinegar (to drizzle on top at the end)

5. 1/2 cup brown sugar

6. 4 tbsp unsalted butter (plus 2 tbsp at room temp for rubbing the peaches)

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Recipe for peaches:

1. Melt 4 tbsp of butter into a medium-sized skillet over medium-low heat.

2. Rub the peaches down all over with the room temp butter

3. Coat the top of the peaches with brown sugar to create a firm layer

4. Place peaches face down in pan so brown sugar side is down

5. Leave the peaches for about 1 1/2 minutes, then carefully check one.  The brown sugar should be caramelizing.

6. Once skin is caramelize, flip peaches to let the bottom cook in the pan

7. Tilt the pan toward you and, using a spoon, baste the top of the peaches in the excess butter.  Repeat till browned.

8. Remove from the pan and top with honey ricotta and balsamic vinegar.

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Honey Ricotta Ingriedients:

1. 4 cups whole milk

2. 1 cup heavy whipping cream

3. 1 tsp of salt

4. 2 tablespoons of lemon (for a more lemony flavor, you can increase to 3 or 4 tbsp)

*5. 2 tbsp of honey (this is for the honey part of the honey ricotta peaches recipe)

*Cheesecloth, strainer, and medium-sized bowl

Recipe:

1. Heat milk and heavy cream in a heavy sauce pan over medium-low heat.  Add salt when the milk begins to steam.

2. Stir continually to avoid scalding.

3. When the milk mixture begins to boil (a low boil), remove from heat and add the lemon juice

4. Allow the mixture to sit off the heat for ten minutes.

5. Pour the mixture into your cheesecloth strainer and allow to sit for 1 hour

6. Move to air-tight container and refrigerate.

*The ricotta will keep for up to a week.

 

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Welcome, Baby Frenchie!

So I’ve been gone from my new blog for a while…pretty much like 9 months.  A lot has happened in that time…worked a new job and quit the job…traveled a bit…started my master’s program…got pregnant…

Wait…

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Yep, it’s all true!  Drew and I are so excited to be a little over four months pregnant.  Baby Frenchie will be making an appearance come November 10 (approximately…)

We can hardly wait to meet Frenchie.  In two weeks, we will hopefully find out the gender.  It’s been an incredible 18 weeks so far.  God is teaching us so much about selflessness and faith.  We feel so in awe of the little one we have made…At first we were absolutely terrified, but the Lord has given us so much rest in Him, and we know that He planned this exactly the way it should be.

We have been getting more and more excited, especially thanks to so much of the excitement from our families and those around us.

Last week I felt Frenchie kick for the first time.  It is one of the coolest and weirdest feelings I have ever felt.  I still cannot fathom a little baby moving around inside of me.  The baby is much much bigger than the above ultrasound.  That was taken about six weeks ago.

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And all the little things that come with them!  These are some sweet booties my dear friend Jess made for me.

Baby Frenchie is part of the reason I came back to the blog.  I had almost decided to give it up since my posts were few and far between, but with the baby coming and us moving to the Middle East in a little over a year, I still think it will be such a fun way to keep people in touch with our lives and culinary adventures! And now Baby Frenchie too!

And in case you were wondering, I did not stop cooking.  Although, it’s true what they say- first semester of pregnancy is a total beast! I stopped cooking for a very long time, and it was miserable.  It was like parts of my personality were gone.  Thankfully, Frenchie and I are well into the 2nd trimester, and we both feel great!  Food is such an important part of our life- it is hospitality and a way to bring people together.

Here are some photos of our adventures in the kitchen the past few months!

Brown sugar cupcakes with a vanilla buttercream and salted caramel drizzle

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Pork chops with smoked corn sauté and truffle mashed potatoes

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Lemon curd tart with a blueberry compote

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“She put in all she had”: Lessons in Giving

I’ve never paid much attention to the story of the Widow’s Mite from the Gospel of Mark.  It seems fairly simple and self-explanatory…she gave all she had to the temple offering, etc.  But in the last two days, God has brought this story to my attention through a modern re-enactment in my community.

We’ve been living in Hillsdale for over a month now, and I have dominated much of that time by job hunting and stressing about money.  It’s been an up-hill battle to trust God to provide for our needs.  Do we ever think about God as who He says He is?  I certainly don’t…I put Him in my own little box where I can make Him act just the way I want Him too.

But He isn’t like that.  God is big.  Really big.

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Drew told me once that God reveals Himself today through people…through the body of His people.  And we are the outward expression of Him to the world.   You can see Christ in your community, if your neighbors are actively loving and following Him.  You can see Him everywhere.

Our town is very small and rural.  People don’t have a lot, but what they do have, they share.  This was hard for me to accept at first because I hate asking for help or favors.  This is where the Widow’s Mite comes into play.  I’ve been seeing this in the last month we’ve been here, especially yesterday and today.

Yesterday was a particularly busy day, and I was feeling a little overwhelmed.  A knock on the door brought a dear friend and neighbor with a bucket of beautiful apples from their orchard they wanted us to have. I was so touched by the warmth and sincerity she offered, giving us fruit from their trees and driving all the way to town to do it.

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After she left, Drew and I met our friends at the fair.  They were so kind and bought our tickets and showered us in blessings while we were there.  Drew and I are continually amazed at this community that those who have little to give still give it with all their hearts.  We’ve been invited to dinner, given fresh eggs, warmly encouraged and prayed for, mentored, and welcomed into families.

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The generosity of God is unfathomable.  He loves to give His children good gifts.  He loves to remind us that His love is an overflow-endlessly pouring into us that we might abide in Him and in turn overflow in our communities.  Though we give all we have, we may be sure that our Great Provider will always meet our needs.

Drew and I were expecting to have our needs met through me finding a job, and yet God decided to humble us and love us through our new community.  He revealed how my inward focus made Him so small.  When I turned outward, I could see Him, and I could see His sovereignty.

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“Every good and perfect gift is from above, raining down from the Father of Lights, with whom there is no shadow or variation due to change.”