Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Mini Cakes


I mentioned in my previous post that I was using cooking and baking to cope with the loss of my beloved dog. I made a venison pot roast for dinner and mentioned making dessert but never got around to talking about said dessert.
I made mini-cakes with lemon buttercream frosting. It was one of those things where I simply used what I had on hand. And then I had to run to the store for powdered sugar because I was completely unaware I depleted my stock over Christmas. Lordy, that’s a lot of powdered sugar.
To make the mini-cakes you don’t need a special recipe, a box cake or your favorite cake recipe is all you need. Pinterest is your friend for a good buttercream recipe! I try a new one each time, so I don’t have a set recipe at this time.
The only thing you would need to seek out, if you don’t have one, is a muffin top pan. I am unsure if you can find them in a local store, like Walmart or Target, I ordered mine online a few years ago. [Muffin top pans make amazing cookies… I mean, they don’t make them, just the size and thickness is amazing. Sorry if I got your hopes of there for a moment.]
I stacked mine but I think they would be perfect served single layer for a party or dinner. I just needed comfort food, I could still use more comfort food.







Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Venison Pot Roast


Pot Roast. It’s easier than you think, I promise. When my husband and I were newlywed, I was afraid of it and meats in general. I didn’t know how to cook and would normally throw it into an extremely hot oven for much to long so that it came out dry and crumbly. I was afraid of undercooked meat and ended up ruining many a roast. But as time has gone on, I have done my research on how to prep and cook. I’ve tried it in the crock pot and the oven. And I’ve learned to prepare my meats in advance to make them tender and flavorful. 
Bonus today, I felt like taking extra pictures!
Cooking friday was mostly a distraction for me, I even ended up making dessert. We lost our beloved dog Thursday evening, according to the Veterinarian she had a tumor in her brain. She suffered a large seizure that left her completely paralyzed Thursday afternoon and left us that evening. It tore my heart to shreds because she had been staying at my parents house, so I didn’t even get to be with her in the last moments. But hearing how my brother cared for her, wrapping her up in his scarf waiting for her to come out of it will always be a little bit of comfort. She loved my brother, very much, as all my pets have. But I will never get to pet her or hug her again, never have my 80lb. baby in my lap again. Sigh. It’s getting easier, but she was my first baby and my son’s buddy. Emery will be greatly missed and I just can’t even fathom having another dog right now. I’ve been asked and already had shelters suggested to me, but she was more than just a dog to us, she was family. We’ll have another dog someday, but that part of my heart will forever be hers.
So I used cooking and baking to busy my mind on Friday, with a long walk in between. Which is probably why I have so many photos, anything to draw out the process and keep me busy.
Let’s get to the food talk, food talk makes me happy.
To prep my pot roast I thawed it in advance so I could put it in a salt brine for 24 hours before cooking. A salt brine helps tenderize the meat and, in my opinion, brings out flavor. I had a 2.5 pound venison roast from deer season and lordy was he delicious. Sorry, I’m a carnivore by nature. 
I decided to cook veggies with my roast instead of preparing sides later. It’s really the best way, all the flavors meld together and there is this wonderful juice left behind in the pan that you can sop up with a piece of bread. Just trust me, cook the veggies with the roast!
Always the first step, preheat oven to 275. 
Dice the veggies and heat a skillet with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. I plan to do a slow roast, so I want to give the vegetables a head start on getting brown and cooked. I have a small pan, so I cooked each separately, but if you want you could cook them all together. Give each about 5 minutes and then get them out of the pan, you don’t want to over cook them. Extra points if you brown them a little, mine just didn’t brown this time around… life goes on.
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My handsome helper was in the kitchen with me, technically we’re in the dining room because the lighting is better for photos. Being four, he took the news pretty well about his dog, but at the same time I could tell he was much more mellow. Makes a momma sad.
While the veggies are cooking, I prepped my roast. Be careful when you unwrap it from the salt brine, there will be excess blood drippings. I rub all my seasoning onto the roast before I sear it, my go to seasons are: Paprika, garlic and onion, as well as some basil and a tad bit of sage. I also prep my pan by putting a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom along with all my seasonings so the roast can set on top of it. I do it this way because I do not have a roast pan, if you have a roast pan this step won’t matter. Top the roast with all the seasonings and spread some extra on the cutting board. Just rub it all over, into every nook and cranny you can find. 
I took care of my meat while my vegetables were cooking, so they’ve been sizzling up and getting precooked this entire time. A little tip, I feel it is obvious but that isn’t always the case, make sure you are washing your hands each time you’re done handling the meat. You don’t want to get sick or cross contaminate anything while you’re cooking. Which is why I don’t have a photo after I rubbed the meat, my hands were icky and then I had to get to those veggies.
Vegetables! When they come out of the pan, just place them into a bowl for now. We want to add them to the pan after the roast. You’ll see.
I have carrots too, they just were not invited to the photo for whatever reason.
Using the same pan you use for the veggies, sear your roast on each side. With venison, you will want to add a little oil to the pan, I use olive oil, because it’s a very lean meat. If you’re using beef, it will probably have enough natural fat to take care of itself. Let it get a good “cooked” look on each side, a little browning is okay. It should be in the pan for only a few minutes while you’re getting each side. We’re searing, not cooking. 
Once the roast is seared take it straight to your roasting pan!
Once my roast is in the pan, I toss a little more seasoning on top, including the basil and sage. I want my roast to have flavor, so I keep it seasoned. Next I add my vegetables, putting them in around the roast and I had enough they almost covered it. And now proof that I actually had carrots in there. 
Now you just place the lid on top and place it into the oven. I have a 2.5 pound roast, I would cook it for about 2 hours for a very, bloody, bleating rare roast [Get it, Deer bleat! My husband wasn’t amused either…]. I wasn’t paying attention and went 3 hours and got a well done roast. I would have preferred a medium roast, but you get what you get somedays. 
What I have read as the key for cooking roast is a hour per pound, which really would have worked in my case. With roast, you don’t want to be pulling it in and out checking it every hour. I suggest you take the weight of your roast, mine was 2.5 pounds so two hours thirty minutes, let it cook that entire time undisturbed. When time is up, pull it out and stick a meat thermometer in the thickest part and determine from there if you need to cook it longer. A medium roast really is perfect, if it gets too done it will dry out. I got lucky and mine didn’t dry out but I do wish I didn’t cook it so long. On another note, I would not cook vegetables longer than three hours, so if you have a larger roast I would plan on adding them later or cooking them separate.
If you’re lucky, you’ll get it good on the first try. But cooking is something that comes with trial and error, don’t cry if it’s not right… I mean, I cry… but I’m an emotionally ruined woman. Having a baby will do that to you. 
When your roast is “done”, out of the oven, let it rest for 30 minutes before cutting it. This gives it time to pull the natural juices back in, giving it….. you guessed it, FLAVOR. And then you just slice it and serve it up. Since you cooked the vegetables with the roast, you simply scoop them out and place them on the plate. 
[Venison] Pot Roast with Vegetables
  • 2-3 Pound Venison Roast [Or Beef roast]
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Celery
  • Paprika
  • Onion Granules
  • Garlic Granules
  • Sage
  • Basil
  • Olive Oil
[See below for information on brining]
  1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
  2. Dice Vegetables and cook for five minutes in a lightly oiled frying pan. Remove and set aside.
  3. Rub Paprika, Onion, Garlic, Sage and Basil onto roast. Sear roast in frying pan on each side, remove.
  4. Prep roasting pan with olive oil and seasonings on the bottom. 
  5. Add roast into the roasting pan, add seasoning on top.
  6. Add vegetables to roasting pan, surrounding the roast.
  7. Cover and place pan in the oven. Cook one hour for each pound, leaving roast in the entire time, do not keeping opening it and checking it. 
  8. When time is up, remove roast from oven and check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer. If you desire it to be well done, you may place it back in, uncovered for 30 more minutes. Be careful not to leave it to long or it may dry out inside.
  9. When roast is done cooking, let is rest in the pan, covered, for thirty more minutes.
  10. Slice and serve with the vegetables you cooked with it. 
Brining
Brining is typically done a day in advance and there a many ways to do it. For roast I do a simple salt brine. For my 2.5 pound roast, I used three tablespoons of salt. You simply rub the meat in the salt, all around. Place it in plastic wrap and wrap tightly, place that into a bowl and refrigerate for 24 hours. If you don’t have time to brine over night, just wrap it up for at least one hour before cooking. It still helps even if it can’t sit as long.
My Stoneware Pan 
I have a pretty little red stoneware pan, don’t I? I get compliments on it all the time and YES, you can get one too. It’s a Rachael Ray Stoneware Casserole I got for Christmas a few years ago. I love this pan! It’s the ideal pan for my roast and I love that it looks beautiful enough to display when not in use. You need one, you do. Really.
You can find them on amazon: 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Imagination.


My son has reached the wonderful age where everything is running off his imagination. He creates characters for his father and I to play in scenarios he creates. I’m currently in love with his mash up of Backyardigans and Peter Pan [Jake and the Neverland Pirates, to be exact]. He’s the good guy, based off of Uniqua’s “Masked Retriever” character which is pretty much Zorro and I get to be Captain Hook; his father is Smee. I love that I got picked to be the cool bad guy. 
He keeps coming up with little ideas everyday and it’s so much fun seeing what he will come up with. This cold day in particular he was bummed because his father is back at work now that the holidays are over and I declared it much too cold to be going out [20 degrees!]. So he lined up his little chairs, turned on Netflix’s Turbo series and brought a few friends in to watch with him. He shared his sandwich and drink with them, giggled and kept swapping seats. Mikey was an immediate favorite and Bear has been a more recent addition to the necessary friends for travel and bedtime. 
Being a part of a child growing and discovering is such a magical thing.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Welcome to 2014, I'm Late, As Usual

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Happy 2014! I’m still going through photos from last year, namely my son’s birthday, excellent! I’m late, as usual, to getting to posting. I mean, the holidays kept me busy and I just did not make any time to sit down and blog. Of course, I didn’t have a ton to write at the time and really, no inspiration. Now we’ve embarked into a new year and I’ve gone into a time of reflection and prayer for my coming year.
I have nothing but good feelings towards 2014, it has certainly began better. January 2013 started with news of serious illness in my family, I had no idea at the time if I would still have my cousin in my family come this time. We found out at the same time that the house we were renting at the time was going up for sale, we weren’t angry by any means but it was just something stressful to start the year. Mainly because we had amazing rent and amazing landlords, things you hate to lose. Not to mention a few other situations that were in the middle of crumbling, making me tense and tired, a feeling that followed me most of the year. In the spring there was the awesome tornado to boot!
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But many great things came about, the impending loss of our rental home led us to purchasing a home of our own. A home that is truly a blessing, spacious and comfortable for my little family in a safe neighborhood. My husband was able to finally go to a daytime schedule after working nights for three years. Things were removed from our lives that were toxic and good old friends came back. We found a home church, a place we feel comfortable and feel like we are actually growing, plus Izzy loves going. I even managed to overcome obstacles in my own life that have held me for a long time, learned to love more and let things go, making me a happier person.
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I have high hopes for 2014 and an overwhelming amount of peace as we come into the new year. I feel really happy, despite some things that should make me down and I’m really feeling the draw of something new. As last year was coming to a close, we had a lot of time to spend together, my husband and I, and talk about our dreams for our future. It’s wonderful to be able to unload your heart to your spouse and listen to his dreams in return. We see the people we were and how we have changed and matured in our way of thinking. I hope to see these changes begin this year as we continue to pray for our paths in life. 
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Things I am readily open about saying I plan for 2014:
  • I plan to write more, on here, about the things on my heart. 
  • I’ll be working more on the creative side of my photographs, less photos but more creative and visually appealing ones. No clue who or what the subject matter will be. 
  • I have a few sewing projects I plan on undertaking with the possibility of sales being involved, it’s still under consideration.
  • Get artsy! I have so many paints, canvases, special papers, etc stored up from the days I felt like doing something. But by time I acquired the means, I didn’t feel like “doing it” anymore. Time to let the expression out!
  • Being healthier! I shed over 10 pounds last year and I kept them off, even over the holidays. It wasn’t through a strict diet but changing my overall lifestyle and how I viewed food. I want to incorporate healthier habits this year into my life. And tone up, could use some more toning up!
  • Be a better person! I’ve always felt I was a good person, but I’ve had rough patches in my life where I didn’t behave well with others. This is the year for me to be nicer, kinder, forgiving and overall, giving. This is all a root for me to be a happier person all around. 
  • Simplify. I often feel like we have too much “stuff” in our home, even when I know we haven’t accumulated half the junk most people have. I’m no longer worried about the haves and have nots, but I am thankful I can park my car in the garage. The new motto for this year, if it can’t be easily stored within my home, we don’t need it. Or something else needs to go. I don’t want a bunch of meaningless stuff filling my home anymore. This goes for my closet as well!
  • Renovate things around the house! It’s last on my list, but it requires more than just myself to pull this off. And I know it’s on my husband’s list of things to do as well. Removing wall paper and painting will happen for sure! If things go as planned, maybe we’ll get the kitchen done.
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I don’t make resolutions, but if you want to call it that then I suppose I did. I want to make real changes in my life and really pursue happiness this year. I know taking steps towards the things that make me happy is the way to go. 
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Ah, and now it’s all out. I’ve been sharing photos I took from my son’s fourth birthday as the post went by. It was the last event I photographed last year, I never take pictures at Christmas! I should probably remedy that for 2014. I never took the time to post about it and since I didn’t throw a party this year, there really wasn’t much to say. We spent it at home without a theme and no major money spent, with his Grandparents and family. Israel was as happy as can be with a cake and candles and a couple of presents. Bonus: We didn’t have to find a place for 50 million new toys this year! And the stress of party planning was not missed, never realized how much it stressed me. 
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Here’s wishing all of you a happy 2014, friends! I pray it’s a wonderful year for you and better than the last. We’re all in this journey together!
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[Made rainbow swirl cake! Never again! Okay, probably again.]