Fresh Coconut Cake

Fresh Coconut Cake - A Step by Step to make the best!

Fresh Coconut Cake – Step by Step to deliciousness!

When someone special gives you a very special gift, a cherished item, glimpse of knowledge or in this case a very special recipe, the recipient does what they can to preserve it. This special recipe was given to my husbands mother years ago from a lady they went to church with. Written out on two small sheets of paper were “Fresh Coconut Cake” and the ingredients and amounts to be used and some directions. So, in an effort to retain this wonderfully delicious recipe and to aid bakers both new and old, I am adding notes and tips that I have utilized to make this cake. It is important to know that I am putting her original ingredients first and if I have chosen to use a different one, I will note it accordingly. The last time I made this cake was about a month ago for my husbands birthday. I continually get requests for how it is done, so without further adieu, here are the steps to making a “Fresh Coconut Cake.”

Step 1. Prepare the coconut

When purchasing a coconut, I prefer a large one and I shake it to ensure lots of liquid in it. If you hear none, it is old and dried out. It should sound “sloshy.” As you prepare your coconut, use eye wear and wise judgement when doing this as it requires good strength and mindfulness of how tools are held so just BE SAFE! (I sound like a mother don’t I?  ;)  )

1.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Fresh Coconut Cake - Step by Step to deliciousness! Get the milk out.

Fresh Coconut Cake – Step by Step to deliciousness: Get the milk out.

2. Using a pointy tool (like a candy thermometer), poke holes in the “eyes of the coconut.” There are three. I like to use all three if they are soft enough to puncture. You need to puncture at least two of them. The bigger they are the quicker the milk comes out of the coconut. I recommend putting a strainer at the top of your collection bowl to catch any of the outer layer of the coconut. Ideally I hope to obtain 1 cup of liquid but less is okay, as I would just add whole milk to bring it up to a cup. Usually, I don’t have to do that though.

Fresh Coconut Cake - Step by Step Directions to Deliciousness! Busting open the coconut!

Fresh Coconut Cake – Step by Step Directions to Deliciousness: Busting open the coconut!

3. With a hammer in hand and the coconut wrapped in a plastic bag set on a cutting board, bust open the coconut by hitting it at the natural ring around the center of the coconut. Then put the two haves flat in the bag and bust a little more into some chunks. Take the chunks of coconut with the shell on and place on a sheet pan and bake in oven for 10 to 15 minutes to help the coconut come away from the shell.

Fresh Coconut Cake - Step by Step to Deliciousness: Busted!

Fresh Coconut Cake – Step by Step to Deliciousness: Busted!

Fresh Coconut Cake - Step by Step to Deliciousness: Bust some more!

Fresh Coconut Cake – Step by Step to Deliciousness: Bust some more!

4. Once out of the oven, allow to cool briefly and then begin CAREFULLY!!! removing the shell from the coconut. I use a knife to gently get the coconut and whittle it slowly under the coconut slightly turning the knife, rocking it like to lift it off.

Fresh Coconut Cake - Step by Step to Deliciousness: Get that Coconut!

Fresh Coconut Cake – Step by Step to Deliciousness: Get that Coconut!

Fresh Coconut Cake - Step by Step to Deliciousness: Got the Coconut!

Fresh Coconut Cake – Step by Step to Deliciousness: Got the Coconut!

5. Next, peel the brown layer of skin off the back of the coconut meat. You need a hardy peeler for this!

Fresh Coconut Cake - Step by Step to Deliciousness: Peel the brown skin off!

Fresh Coconut Cake – Step by Step to Deliciousness: Peel the brown skin off!

6. Rinse the coconut briefly under cool water (not hot – don’t want to loose any oils!) and get any tiny pieces of brown off. Shred the coconut. I use a food process for this. It goes MUCH quicker this way!

Fresh Coconut Cake - Step by Step to Deliciousness: Shred the Coconut.

Fresh Coconut Cake – Step by Step to Deliciousness: Shred the Coconut.

Fresh Coconut Cake - Step by Step to Deliciousness: Shredded Coconut.

Fresh Coconut Cake – Step by Step to Deliciousness: Shredded Coconut.

7. In a blender, put in one cup of the shredded coconut and add it to the reserved coconut liquid and turn on high for about 2 minutes to start making the coconut milk. Then strain off the coconut from the milk. Reserve the strained coconut. Put the milk in a sauce pot and over medium low heat, reduce to one cup. If you don’t have a cup full amount reduce for about 5-8 minutes. Set aside.

Fresh Coconut Cake - Step by Step to Deliciousness: Making the milk...

Fresh Coconut Cake – Step by Step to Deliciousness: Making the milk…

Fresh Coconut Cake - Step by Step to Deliciousness: Milk Makin'

Fresh Coconut Cake – Step by Step to Deliciousness: Milk Makin’

Fresh Coconut Cake - Step by Step to Deliciousness: Straining the coconut from the milk.

Fresh Coconut Cake – Step by Step to Deliciousness: Straining the coconut from the milk.

Fresh Coconut Cake - Step by Step to Deliciousness: Squeeze all the milk out.

Fresh Coconut Cake – Step by Step to Deliciousness: Squeeze all the milk out.

Fresh Coconut Cake - Step by Step to Deliciousness: Reduce

Fresh Coconut Cake – Step by Step to Deliciousness: Reduce

Fresh Coconut Cake - Step by Step to Deliciousness: Down to a cup.

Fresh Coconut Cake – Step by Step to Deliciousness: Down to a cup.

Now you have completed step one of preparing the coconut. You have 1 cup of homemade coconut milk, finely granulated coconut and the remaining shredded coconut. All three components you will reuse in this cake, so set them aside for now and we will begin making the layers.

Step 2. Make the cake layers.

These cake layers are simple components of a standard yellow cake. If you’ve baked before, this is a no brainer.

Here are her ingredients for the cake layers. She didn’t have directions on how to make the layers, so I’ve added what I do below:

3/4 C  shortening (I prefer to use softened unsalted butter)
1 1/2 C  sugar
3 eggs (divided)
2 1/4 C  sifted cake flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 C milk (Whole)
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Divide the egg whites from the yolks and whip egg whites on high to almost stiff and set aside.

Fresh Coconut Cake - Step by Step to Deliciousness: Separate the eggs.

Fresh Coconut Cake – Step by Step to Deliciousness: Separate the eggs.

Fresh Coconut Cake - Step by Step to Deliciousness: Whip Whites

Fresh Coconut Cake – Step by Step to Deliciousness: Whip Whites

Fresh Coconut Cake - Step by Step to Deliciousness: Whipped Whites

Fresh Coconut Cake – Step by Step to Deliciousness: Whipped Whites

3. Beat shortening/butter into sugar thoroughly, then add the eggs and vanilla extract. In a sifter, add the flour, baking powder and salt. Alternate adding the flour, baking soda and salt into the batter along with the milk to finish the batter. Lastly, remove from the stand mixer and incorporate the egg whites into the batter by hand. This helps the cake be even more fluffy! Pour the cake batter, dividing evenly, into three greased and lined cake pans and bake until lightly browned and begins to pull away from the edges. I grease mine by putting coconut oil on the pan bottom and up the sides using paper towel and then put in a liner of cut out circular wax paper and grease the top of it. Makes for it coming out much easier. As soon as you get them out of the oven, flip onto a cooling rack and then slowly and carefully pull the wax paper off and allow them to cool. Set aside while you continue on building your elements of deliciousness!

Fresh Coconut Cake - Step by Step to Deliciousness: Incorporate the whites

Fresh Coconut Cake – Step by Step to Deliciousness: Incorporate the whites

Fresh Coconut Cake - Step by Step to Deliciousness: The Yummy Layers.

Fresh Coconut Cake – Step by Step to Deliciousness: The Yummy Layers.

Fresh Coconut Cake - Step by Step to Deliciousness: remove the wax paper ssslllllllowly.

Fresh Coconut Cake – Step by Step to Deliciousness: remove the wax paper ssslllllllowly.

Fresh Coconut Cake - Step by Step to Deliciousness: Three Cooling Layers

Fresh Coconut Cake – Step by Step to Deliciousness: Three Cooling Layers

Step 3: Make the Filling.

My husband contents this key component is what sets this cake apart from all the rest! This filling is wonderfully awesome and really balances out the sweetness in this cake. You will want to do a taste test on it I’m sure ;)

Here are her ingredients and directions for the “Filling.”

1 C milk from coconut
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 C sugar
1 egg white
coconut grated 
(I use the tiny grated coconut that was used in the milk making process, it is just under a cup)

Mix sugar, flour and milk. Cook over low heat until thickened. Remove from heat. Beat in egg white, then coconut. Cool. Put between layers. She said it well, no use to rehash. Here’s how it looks visually:

Fresh Coconut Cake - Step by Step to Deliciousness: Make the AWESOME Filling!

Fresh Coconut Cake – Step by Step to Deliciousness: Make the AWESOME Filling!

Fresh Coconut Cake - Step by Step to Deliciousness: heat up filling to thicken it up.

Fresh Coconut Cake – Step by Step to Deliciousness: heat up filling to thicken it up.

So, you’ve prepped the coconut, made layers, made an awesome filling with two components of the coconut and now it is time to make the icing.

4. Make the icing

Here is her Recipe and Directions for making the icing. My notes are in the non-bolded font.

1/3 C water
2 C sugar
1/4 C white Karo Syrup
(I make my own for this lil batch. See here to getcha’ started. For me to make the amount I need, simply use the directions from food.com with this amount of ingredients: 1/4C sugar; 1/2 T water; pinch salt; pinch cream of tarter.) 
pinch salt
1/2 tsp cream of tarter
1 scant cup confectioners sugar
3 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla

Cook together water, sugar, salt and karo, until it spins a thread. The “spins a thread” is a particular stage in the cooking process of the sugar and water. You will probably want to use a candy thermometer for it. About.com explains it well here Remove from heat and add cream of tarter. Pour gradually over beaten egg whites (almost stiff, not to point of meringue-yet). Beat until smooth. Add sifted confectioners sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth and thick enough to spread. (Beat a lot! Until thick almost like marshmallow cream.) if you’ve seen Alton Brown on Food Network’s Good Eats show, you may have seen him make homemade marshmallows. That’s what this looks like.  It gets all sticky and gooey and oh so tasty! Here’s more pics!

Fresh Coconut Cake - Step by Step to Deliciousness: Making the  icing.

Fresh Coconut Cake – Step by Step to Deliciousness: Making the icing.

Fresh Coconut Cake - Step by Step to Deliciousness: whip whites

Fresh Coconut Cake – Step by Step to Deliciousness: whip whites

Fresh Coconut Cake - Step by Step to Deliciousness: Syrup added to whipped whites and has been whipped and whipped to similar to marshmallow stage.

Fresh Coconut Cake – Step by Step to Deliciousness: Syrup added to whipped whites and has been whipped and whipped and now resembles the beginning makings of marshmallow creme.

Fresh Coconut Cake - Step by Step to Deliciousness: This DOES look like some kind of sweet candy doesn't it???

Fresh Coconut Cake – Step by Step to Deliciousness: This DOES look like some kind of sweet candy doesn’t it???

You have now completed making your cake components. Now, let’s assemble!

Step 5. Assemble the cake!

On your cake plate down pieces of parchment paper around the edges of the cake plate. Then, put on one layer, then add half of the coconut creme filling, then another cake layer then the other half of the filling then top with final cake layer. Frost the entire cake, top and sides, with the icing. Cover densely with shredded coconut. (Any remaining coconut can be stored in the freezer for several months if airtight and recommended freezer bag.) Pull out the parchment paper, cover with cake plate topper and allow to set up for a few hours and “get happy,” but is best the next day at room temp. AWESOMENESS!!!

More pics of the process…

Fresh Coconut Cake - Step by Step to Deliciousness: Assemble

Fresh Coconut Cake – Step by Step to Deliciousness: Assemble

Fresh Coconut Cake - Step by Step to Deliciousness: The Assembly Line

Fresh Coconut Cake – Step by Step to Deliciousness: The Assembly Line

Fresh Coconut Cake - Step by Step to Deliciousness: Coat the Cake in Icing, A nice thick coating!!!! (You will likely have a little bit left.)

Fresh Coconut Cake – Step by Step to Deliciousness: Coat the Cake in Icing, A nice thick coating!!!! (You will likely have a little bit left.)

Fresh Coconut Cake - Step by Step to Deliciousness: A Masterpiece for the Tastebuds!!!

Fresh Coconut Cake – Step by Step to Deliciousness: A Masterpiece for the Tastebuds!!!

So there you have it. A delicious cake for a simple meal to a fancy occasion. It is so worth the time and effort to use the freshest coconut. You will not be disappointed.

Happy baking y’all!
Ms. S

My Recipe for Roasted Brussels Sprouts

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Now, please don’t quit readin’ just because you THINK you know you don’t like them. Give them a chance to shine! All they need is some serious flavor to make them go from hum to yum! Here is my recipe for Roasted Brussel Sprouts.

Roasted Brussells Sprouts Recipe

Roasted Brussells Sprouts Recipe

This yumminess is very simple to prepare and once you do the prep, besides watching it and a stir or two while it is in the oven this side is easy to add to a weeknight meal.

The makings of Roasted Brussell Sprouts

The makings of Roasted Brussel Sprouts

1. Preset oven to 375. In an oven proof skillet, like a cast iron skillet, set over a medium low heat, add 1/2 cup diced onion. Then, take 2 slices of bacon and cut it with your cooking scissors into narrow strips into the skillet. Stir as necessary to help cook them evenly, about 5 minutes.

2. Next, pull out a frozen bag of Brussel sprouts (around 24 sprouts or serving for 4) and nuke for 2 minutes to do an initial unthaw. OR if you have fresh, you need around 2 dozen sprouts.  After you nuke the frozen or if you have fresh, in either case, cut each sprout in half and toss in the pan with the bacon and onion. 

Brussel Sprouts Recipe before it goes in the oven.

Brussel Sprouts Recipe before it goes in the oven.

3. Saute all ingredients together, add salt and pepper to taste and stir the bacon fat around on the green sprouts and put in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes depending on whether they are fresh (that takes a bit longer) and their size and the doneness you prefer. For me, I average 25 minutes on the frozen and about 30 on the fresh, as I don’t mind a tiny bit of roasted goodness on the veggies. I also stir them in that oven safe skillet a couple times to help distribute the doneness as well.

4. Pull from the oven and top with 1/4-1/2 cup grated Parmesan and cover with folil or pot lid to help melt the cheese. Allow to sit about 5 minutes. Serve and enjoy! Tonight I served this up with mashed potatoes and roasted chicken.

The ingredient list recap:
2 dozen fresh or frozen Brussel sprouts (if frozen nuke for 2 minutes), cut in half
2 slices of bacon (I prefer/buy the no nitrate kind)
1/2 onion (apx 1/2 cup) diced
1/4 to 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (mozzarella will also work too)
salt and pepper to taste

Thanks for reading! Happy delicious eating y’all!
Ms. S

Why I Quit No-Poo, for now anyway

“Well, I am going to tell you a secret.” Ha. Ha. Ha. Right!

That’s how all those blog posts start isn’t it??? How people quit using regular old shampoo and conditioner and start using baking soda and apple cider vinegar to wash their hair. Blah. Blah. Blah. It is the same old dog and pony show with slight variations on each site of how people make it work for them.

Though I never blogged about it, I was one of those same people who had quit using shampoo and conditioner and started doing the infamous crunchy way of ‘no-poo.’

I did the method for over two years. I had the ‘getting used to it’ phase where oils go out of control and then all was good. Hit a period about 4 months in where I finally figured out I was using too much because my hair was a wreck and dry and awful. You can’t say I wasn’t consistent with it. I really tried. I tried hard. I supported it and recommended.

If you know me, you know I am not prone to dropping what I do and changing at a whim. I am a researcher and I tend to be on the practical side too. I hate to spend a ton of money for something that is literally going to go down the drain. With makeup, I am more on the homely side of the spectrum than the Hollywood glam side. Regardless though, I can appreciate any beauty, cooking, cleaning, etc routine that is simple, and easy to do. No poo met those in criteria for me. So, what happened?

Someone asked me if I no-pooed.  I delightfully shared yes and all the tips and tricks that worked for me. I got the email in the middle of the day and just replied.

Then, a day or so later I thought to myself, well, what IS new with no-poo. What is online out there that got her interested in the no-poo bandwagon? What is the fuss people are saying now since I started the whole deal with it over two years ago? What I found actually led me to deep down evaluate if it was really working. Or not. And I discovered it wasn’t.

I emailed back the person who had asked me about it. The key statement in my email was this:

I found out that no-poo is bad on the hair. That the potential for the extreme alkalinity of the baking soda on the hair opens up the shafts and then pulling it back via the acidity of the ACV closes it back but the extremes of this is comparable to giving your hair a perm. every. time. you do this method of washing. 

It was a killer to me. Of course, yeah, yeah, I know that I can’t believe everything I read on the internet. But the proof is in the puddin’ huh?! So on I went with my research and here is what I found (on the internet, haha).

Number 1: If, based on this comment that I shared above by a hair care pro on some blog is real, then what should our scalp ph be? Well, according www.healingherbsbyrene.weebly.com our scalp pH should fall somewhere between 4.5 to 5.5 to keep it healthy. Also, note that www.health24.com puts skin at a 5.5 pH.

So, number 2: So, our healthy pH range of our scalp should be around 4.5 to 5.5, then where baking soda and vinegar rate? According to www.chemistry.about.com, vinegar rates down there in the acidic range at a 2.2 and baking soda ranks up there as an alkaline at an 8.3.

So I chew on that for a minute and I realize that hey, yes we dilute baking soda and apple cider vinegar, and yes, I leave it on for just a couple minutes, but do I really want to continue to chance my ratios of water to baking soda and water to ACV to be in the appropriate pH range to not damage my hair and further, if I did get it in range, will it even be effective. Who knows?

So, I hit my favorite online shopping store, www.amazon.com for litmus paper to test and check into maybe buying some so litmus paper I could check if it really was within the recommended range of a balanced ‘no-poo’ and ‘no-con’.

But, I decided not to try that out right now. My number 3, proof in the puddin’ moment was this: I stood at my bathroom mirror and actually took the time and really evaluated my hair. I had just done my favorite all time henna hair coloring on it just a week before. Henna is known for its conditioning properties, but on my head, not so much. Honestly the conditioning treatments on it have gotten harder to achieve and I couldn’t help but begin to wonder if it was because of the no-poo method. The grays that I cover with that wonderful henna are still so wirey and not the easiest to manage. After over two years of doing no-poo I still couldn’t go without washing it over 2-3 days because it looked like a wreck after the 2nd or 3rd day unless I did intense styling on it. I put a lot of my frustration on the fact that I have naturally thick, curly, wavy hair. But I began to wonder that night, if perhaps my frustration was my no-poo method and not must my hair. So, I googled new ways to wash my hair. I tried homemade honey shampoo, washing with a mix of aloe vera and milk, etc. Two weeks later after quitting no-poo I took 5 jumps back and decided to give my scalp a break. (I know you are thinking from those infamous Friends episodes, “WE WERE ON A BREAK!!!).

Well, for me, this break is un-known how long or if I will ever return to the no-poo method. If I do return, I’ll let you know. I finally broke down today and washed with my husbands commercial brand of a two in one shampoo out of desperation to look nice for an outing with the kids. And you know, that pH balanced shampoo he buys apparently did the trick in one wash.

MY CLOSING POINT is this. If you do no-poo, or if you are considering doing the no-poo method, I hope that you will consider evaluating whether or not you can risk damaging your hair and scalp if your no-poo ratios are not balanced. Further, I hope you will consider buying some test strips to check your ratios because all water is supposed to be relatively neutral, but not all are exactly the same. Do your research and determine your exact ratios so you don’t damage your hair doing no-poo.

AND FINALLY, what am I going to do? For now, I am going to try an organic product by Dr. Bronners .I read about it on LisaBronner’s blog.  It is due to arrive from Amazon tomorrow. I will give it a whirl for awhile and let you know if it sticks or if I end up ordering that litmus paper and doing some testing and studying ratios myself.

Thanks y’all for listening. We have one body and one earth. I am glad so many of us are trying to better care for it and also help be greener and crunchier while doing it, but you know, we all need to be safe and smart with it too.

Happy and healthy crunching!
Ms. S.

Creamy Potato Soup Recipe

My dear husband. He eats my cookin’. Usually, it falls in a range of get-by-able to good to yummy. Once in a blue moon it is exceptional and a times it is honestly horrible. Thankful he doesn’t remind me of the horribles. But he talks about the yummies :) This makes me glad as I like to cook!
This soup falls in the “yummy” category for us. So, at work this week my husband was telling a co-worker about this potato soup recipe I was going to make for a church social (a hint that my hub’s likes it-YEAH) and the co-worker asked for the recipe and I thought since I’d be writing it out anyway, I’d share it here. I think it is wonderful when hub’s talks about my food. I like knowing what he enjoys!
Happy Soup Making y’all!
Here’s what you’ll need to make this POTATO SOUP deliciousness:
1 stick butter (8 TBSP), divided (2 Tbsp plus 6 Tbsp)
1 large onion
2 medium – large carrots
5 lb bag potatoes
5-6 cups water
8oz pkg cream cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 cups milk (I use 2% or whole)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
Now, lets get started!
Potato Soup - Getting Started

Potato Soup – Getting Started

In a large stock pot, melt 2 Tablespoons of butter over medium low heat while you dice 1 large onion then add it to the pot to get translucent.

Potato Soup - Add Carrots

Potato Soup – Add Carrots

Now, while the onions are getting happy, peel and dice 2 medium to large carrots and add them to the pot. Keep an eye on the onions and stir them so they don’t get too overdone. Aim for translucent, not browned onions. Turn heat to low.

Potato Soup - Potatoes

Potato Soup – Potatoes

Next, pull out a 5 lb bag of potatoes and peel and dice them. Mine are about 1 1/2″ +/- cubes(ish). Keep checking the onions and carrots as  you go, stirring for even cooking.

When you are about 4 pounds pealed and diced, add 5-6 cups of water to the pot and turn to high to bring to a boil.

Washed taters - pretty and clean

Washed taters – pretty and clean

Finish peeling and dicing and give the potatoes a rinse at the sink.

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Potatoes added

Next, once you’re finished with the peeling and dicing, CAREFULLY pour the diced potatoes to the pot.

Give everything a big welcoming stir and add some salt and pepper to taste. Make sure the water is covering the potatoes plus a hair.

Add the lid and bring the water to a boil again with everything in the pot. Keep a watchful eye on it. If you happen to have it too full the starches will come to the top and want to overflow the pot. If it is about like mine and halfway up, you’re likely to limit your spillage factor. :) You’ll be thankful you did!

A Steaming Pot

A Steaming Pot

Now, after the taters come to a boil, cook them on high with the lid on for about 10-12 minutes til that point they are really tender. I like my soup really soupy not, clumpy and firm potatoes. You’ll want to give them a stir a few times to make sure they don’t stick.

Yumminess for the Potato Soup: Butter and Cream Cheese

Yumminess for the Potato Soup: Butter and Cream Cheese

Now…while it cooks….the waiting part…pull out the rest of that stick of butter and the package of cream cheese and set aside for later.  You can nuke or warm the butter and cream cheese to soften it a bit if you’d prefer. It makes it easier for incorporation into the soup later. Oh, and also while you wait this is a good time to put on some cornbread too. (That is another post.)

IMG_0939

After the taters are tender, simply turn the heat off and add the butter and cream cheese and use a handy tater masher to mash SSSSOOOOMMMMEEE of the taters. You don’t want mashed potato soup. JUST mash SOME.

Potato Soup in the Crock Pot

Potato Soup in the Crock Pot

Ahhh…now, we are in the home stretch. I transferred this batch to my slow cooker at this point because it was going to make its way to the Church for a Social and Business Meeting. Otherwise, I’d leave it in the pot.

Now, you have all but the milk added to the pot. I recommend starting by adding 1 cup milk and then add more if you want it thinner. I think for this batch I ended up using about 1 1/2 cups. Be sure and do a taste test too and adjust the salt and pepper accordingly. Keep in mind that if you do add the shredded cheddar on the next step that that will add salt too, so don’t add too much.

Let simmer and warm through, add about 1/4 cup shredded cheddar and serve. Top with a sprinkling of shredded cheddar.

IMG_0941

Potato Soup plus a side of corn bread. Winter comfort food for sure!

Icelandic Chickens – Historical Quote

Standard bred poultry are man’s creations. Icelandics are God’s creations. Icelandic ancestors were gathered by the Vikings, brought to Iceland and then allowed to be what God intended; free-ranging, diverse, unique, beautiful. Man is never satisfied with what God has done. He feels the need to try to improve on it, to strive for the “Standard of Perfection,” to show how great a “creator” he is. – Author Unknown

The Makings of a Perfect Grilled Cheese Sandwich

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Ohhhh, the makings of a perfectly ooey gooey melted grilled cheese sandwich just melts my taste buds as carbs wrap carbs into simple foodie wonderfulness!

I have been a long time lover of the classic grilled cheese sandwich. It wasn’t until I became a stay at home Mom and eating lunch at home become a much more recurring event did I perfect my recipe for this deliciousness.

Oh, yes, I know, this isn’t gluten free. Yes, I ideally GF can help with all sorts of ailments and Wheat Belly author William Davis, MD is my latest foodie hero, but, I digress and enjoy a bite of one of these sandwiches from time to time. So, without further ado is my makings of the Perfect Grilled Cheese Sandwich. I made this today for my littlest one. This was her second helping of this deliciousness!

The Perfect Grilled Cheese: Step 1. Set heat on 4 (medium low) and add 1/2 tablespoon butter and allow to melt.

The Perfect Grilled Cheese: Step 1. Set heat on 4 (medium low) and add 1/2- 3/4 tablespoon butter and allow to melt.

The Perfect Grilled Cheese: Step 2: Plop the bread in the butter one slice at a time. Get all of it in the bread because any remaining it prone to burn.

The Perfect Grilled Cheese: Step 2: Plop the bread in the butter one slice at a time. Get all of the butter on the bread because any remaining is prone to burn.

 

The Perfect Grilled Cheese: Step 3: Turn bread butter side up in the pan and allow to warm for 1-2 minutes.

The Perfect Grilled Cheese: Step 3: Turn the bread butter side up in the pan and allow the ‘inside’ to warm for 1-2 minutes. This step is critical for proper cheese ooeyness to develop!

The Perfect Grilled Cheese: Step 4: Choose the Cheeses! In our home, I use one slice of Provolone and one slice of Colby Jack. These are wonderful together! Two slices of cheese are a must or I think I'm just eating buttered bread and that is not what I'm going for here :)

The Perfect Grilled Cheese: Step 4: Choose the Cheeses! In our home, I use one slice of Provolone and one slice of Colby Jack. These are wonderful together! Two slices of cheese are a must or I think I’m just eating buttered bread and that is not what I’m going for here :)

 

The Perfect Grilled Cheese: Step 5: Flip the bread over and immediately place the cheeses on the hot warmed bread.

The Perfect Grilled Cheese: Step 5: Flip the bread over and IMMEDIATELY place the cheeses on the warmed bread.

 

The Perfect Grilled Cheese: Step 6: IMMEDIATELY!!! Flip one on top of the other and keep the heat in the middle of the sandwich and continue the makings of ooeyiness!!!

The Perfect Grilled Cheese: Step 6: IMMEDIATELY!!! Flip one on top of the other to keep the heat in the middle of the sandwich and continue the makings of ooeyiness!!!

The Perfect Grilled Cheese: Step 6: Lightly Brown on both sides. This can go quick now! Watch it!

The Perfect Grilled Cheese: Step 7: Lightly Brown on both sides. This can go quick now! Watch it!

The Perfect Grilled Cheese: Step 8: If it is for an adult, cut in half diagonally and serve. If for a kid-O, place the hot sandwich on a cutting board and cut off the crusts.

The Perfect Grilled Cheese: Step 8: If it is for an adult, cut in half diagonally and serve. If for a kid-O, place the hot sandwich on a cutting board and cut off the crusts…

...cut diagnonally both ways ...

… cut diagnonally both ways …

... and serve that ooeyness to your thankful youngin'.

… and serve that ooeyness to your thankful youngin’.

Happy Cooking Y’all!
Sherra

Our 3rd Calf!!!

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Yeah!!!! Our 3rd calf is here! Its mother, Mandy, one of our beloved “reds,” calved yesterday as the sun was setting. It is a lighter faced calf and we are excited again to receive another one of God’s blessings on our little farm! So, without further ado, here are pictures of the precious one.

Mitch discovered her in labor when he was feeding last night.

Mitch discovered her in labor when he was feeding last night.

I got to see the calf immediately when Mandy stood. I was on the phone with Mary at the time, watching her and it was getting so dark I didn't even see it come out initially. She was first to know! :) This picture was taken just a couple minutes after birth.

I got to see the calf immediately when Mandy stood. I was on the phone with Mary at the time, watching her and it was getting so dark I didn’t even see it come out initially. She was first to know! :) This picture was taken just a couple minutes after birth.

Fresh pics today. It is a beautiful calf!

Fresh pictures today. It is a beautiful calf!

So precious!

So precious!

Another cutie!

Another cutie!

Mandy is being a good momma and looking good too. We are thankful!

Mandy is being a good momma and looking good too. We are thankful!

Andy & Duke growing nicely! They play and run together a lot. I love the playfulness of young calves! It is so funny when I see the Mommas chasing after them. I know how they feel LOL :D

Andy & Duke growing nicely! (Sorry for the blurriness.) They play and run together a lot. I love the playfulness of young calves! It is so funny when I see the Mommas chasing after them. I know how they feel LOL :D

PS – We are thankful to have received 3 wonderful calves recently. Just in case you’re wondering, we don’t have any heifers due to calve anytime soon.

 

 

Learning from Others

Recently I had the opportunity to visit other homes of families who homeschool on a house tour, seeing glimpses into how each interpreted and implemented various methods of homeschooling.

The first home we visited utilized the methods of Charlotte Mason. The main floor of their home sits high among the trees and when looking out most windows, you can see lots of soothing green. She showed us all around her home. The children did some studies in their rooms and some studies were done as a group in other areas of the house. The highly energetic teaching Mom said she got her kids outside as much as possible, usually in the mornings, taking them to different parks around our community. Her purpose was two fold: she used it for exercise and for nature walks, something Charlotte Mason highly endorsed. She frequently used nature / field guides to help them learn what was growing and living around them on their various journeys. She said by adding this to their daily routine it was seeming to help all feel better and have a more focused and efficient school day. Their large ranch home contained various locations of learning and exploration, including loaded bookshelves of a wide range of various topics. She showed us specific art studies she used from Simply Charlotte Mason. She said her favorite store was McKays for all those wonderful used books. My personal favorites in her home was a spot near the front door where I saw nature treasures laying casually on a side table; an art easel set up in the kitchen for her wonderfully artistic student and the mindful converting of a large closet into a quiet and focused learning area that over looked the woods behind their home.

The second home we visited was outside of town on a quiet country road. She said she did science experiments and cooking projects at her large kitchen island. She had some large comfy couches in the den for reading and family time together. At the end of the den is a large nook/seating area where she did a lot of the desk type work at a table her father built for them. Beside it, she had a large tri-fold board that she had covered and decorated to coordinate with the lessons she was teaching, and near that, a bookshelf that held their work boxes and her teaching curriculum that she used in that room. She said her kids learn all around their home. Her boys build things frequently out of various toys, reenacting things they’ve experienced as a family.  She said she has curriculum stored and books placed around the home and she too, doesn’t do all her homeschooling in one specific room.

Not far from the second home, we went on to our third home, a mother of a middles schooler and high schooler.  She Shared with us that in her early years, she “set-up school” at the end of her dining room only to take it down 6 months later. (Ironically, I had done that too.) Her kids did most of their schooling in their rooms. The remaining part was primarily done at the kitchen table. Her oldest is doing dual enrollment. In her basement, she has several bookshelves full of wonderful resources for her kids to use, especially for doing book reports and research papers. She had a lot of support to offer to the Moms of older children. Even as a mom of two young children, hearing her experiences reminded me to keep the end in sight and make a focus for the “big picture” one hopes to accomplish by homeschooling.

At our fourth home, one that I was especially curious to see, was an unschooling family. Let me say, I was totally un-informed in what that term meant! Their interpretation of homeschooling the unschooling way was very refreshing and brought a different twist on classic school learning. Unschooling in their home was more viable than I had heard of or understood. Her home gave me more ideas of how to diversify my kids learning. It showed lots of creativity on the part of the parents! The parents said their aim wasn’t to copy a public school model that had shown itself unsuccessful, but rather they showed various ways they “teach their children at home.” The Mom said she cooked with her kids frequently in the kitchen; they had some indoor and outdoor pets to help teach responsibility; they did some gardening too. They did reading lessons (using Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons) on the couch; she has begun teaching some of them sewing; and my favorite item she displayed was the marker board in the kitchen where she simply stated the weeks goal or gave a focus for the week. The theme that week was displaying how they learn around the home and preparing their home for the Tour of Homes. They had a nice size work table for creating beautiful craft projects; their daughter had done some awesome writing activities in a notebook that she kept her writing treasures in. The kids rooms had a large closet full of lots of games for learning and play. I was quite impressed with the overall comfortable feel of the home. That she didn’t have a formal area for learning, but as Charlotte Mason would say, it had become their way of life. I loved that!

There was opportunity to go to a fifth home, but I had to head back to my house as my youngest was with me and she was almost asleep when we approached the fourth. I know the Mom of the fifth has numbers of children and she practices classical education with Classical Conversations. I am sure I would have gleaned from her as well!

The overall consensus of the visiting these homes was very impactful! I learned to RELAX: Schooling doesn’t have to be a formal affair. I don’t have to have one specific dedicated area to do “School.” HAVE FUN: Make learning fun by doing what your family enjoys-whether it be getting outside, learning on the couch, cooking in the kitchen, or working all over your home, which ties in my third point: MAKE IT RELEVANT: By looking at the big picture of what you want to accomplish in your homeschooling adventure, you can set reasonable goals. This is very important to me to let this point sink in. I don’t have to set up a “classroom” in my small home. By setting up simple areas of learning, my kids can glean a lot on their own through play and imagination which is very important at these young ages.

Before this tour of homes, I had taken down my “School at Home” and simply have an area for arts and crafts in its place. Since the tour, I am getting the kids more involved in cooking and am trying to think of ways to help them become even more independent learners. It is all a slow process for me. One that I am having to learn as I go. I love being with my kids on this journey! I am curious to see where it may lead! My the Lord continue to bless us on this journey!

Our 2nd Calf

WOW! We just got to experience the birth of our second calf! Mitchell found Annie in labor at 1:45 and about 2:20, our second calf was born. Dulcie was nearby in the experience, too. This calf features a darker coloring over all, to which we credit the mother and father’s darker coloring to that. He is beautiful. Annie did well with the labor best we can tell and she was bathing it and loving it immediately and helping it learn to stand. About 45 minutes after being born, he stood and walked many, many steps before resting again. We are so blessed!!!! God is so good!!! Here are some pictures again.

Waiting from afar while she labors.

Waiting from afar while she labors.

It's here!!! Annie, new calf and Dulcie (left to right)

It’s here!!! Annie, new calf and Dulcie (left to right)

Annie with her calf!

Annie with her calf!

 

Our 2nd calf

Our 2nd calf

Standing for the first time, just 45 minutes after birth.

Standing for the first time, just 45 minutes after birth.

 

 

Annie & Baby together. Beautiful!

Annie & Baby together. Beautiful!

 

Dulice and Duke doing well. Nearby during the whole thing, too.

Dulice and Duke doing well. Nearby during the whole thing, too.

 

 

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