On the Move

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Last weekend was a busy one for us as we moved from our former apartment with only 2 bedrooms to a larger 3 bedroom apartment in anticipation of the twins that should be arriving sometime in January or early February. My due date is actually on February 14th, Valentine’s Day of next year, but twins often come early, so I’ve heard from many sources, as much as 4-6 weeks early so we’re getting prepared for them to arrive anytime at the beginning of next year. We’ll need a larger space to live in and an extra bedroom once they come so we decided to move now rather than after they’re born to reduce our stress. And boy was this move stressful! One week to the day after Anna’s birthday, on a Friday, and on Halloween no less!

Thomas moved our stuff to the new apartment all day long last Friday, with the help of two moving men and a large truck and it still took us over 10 hours to move everything out of our 78 sq. meter apartment! I mostly just packed light things into boxes and entertained Anna all day as I can’t lift heavy things right now but being in between homes for a day was stressful enough. We were finally in our new apartment, only a few miles away from our old one incidentally, by 8pm and were surrounded by piles of moving boxes and lots of semi-assembled furniture stacked up in all the wrong places. Slowly we’ve been putting everything back in its place but it’s still pretty unorganized here.

We had such lovely and unseasonably warm weather last weekend that we had to take a break from unpacking and go for a walk in the countryside on Sunday near Thomashof, a family run dairy farm where we like to buy their locally produced milk, yogurt and cheeses. It turned to cold and rainy weather here this past week though and I’ve been making lots of soups to compensate not just for the bad weather but also for a nasty cold that has had me out of sorts for most of the week. This soup is more of a stew but is filled with hearty beans and vegetables and can be made vegetarian if you omit the chicken. This is best made with dried beans that have been soaked the night before but can also successfully be made with canned beans. So stay warm this November and put a pot of this bean soup on the stove for a real “housewarming”.   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
*Anna took the first two distant pictures of me and the last picture shown here from our walk on Sunday.
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White Bean and Escarole Soup (with chicken)

1 small package of dried white beans (about 1 1/2 cups before soaking)
or canned beans can be substituted
1 large Onion or 2-3 small/medium onions
1 large bunch of leafy Escarole
3 stalks of Celery
3 Carrots
3 Garlic Cloves
1 1/2 – 2 liters of Vegetable Broth, Chicken Broth or water plus bouillon can be used
1 pound of cut up Chicken Breast *optional
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Soak the beans overnight or use the quick soak method to soak the beans before making the soup. Chop the onions and garlic into small pieces. Clean and cut the carrots and celery into bite sized pieces. Saute the chopped onions in enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a large dutch oven or soup pot and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and saute briefly until fragrant. Add the carrots and celery and saute stirring often for another minute or two. Add the broth and beans to the pot and set to a low simmer with a cover on but tilted, stirring occasionally for at least an hour or until the beans are tender. In the meantime clean and chop the escarole into pieces then add the chopped chicken if using and the escarole to the soup and simmer until the chicken is cooked through and just until the escarole has wilted and is tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Anna Is 5!

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Anna turned 5 yesterday! I just can’t believe what a big girl she’s getting to be now. We had a party for her with her friends on Friday afternoon and made stick-bread upon her request over a wood fire in our barbeque grill outside. We got lucky that the weather was actually quite nice for this time of year and we were able to spend most of the birthday party with the kids and their parents outdoors. I served cut up Elstar apples from a local apple orchard and homemade caramel sauce for dipping. Anna and I made chocolate cake pops for the kids the night before and kept them in the freezer until just before the party and at Anna’s request we served her favorite salad: cut up cucumbers and cherry tomatoes with feta cheese served with olive oil, salt and pepper. It was a pretty basic party but we had fun grilling our own bread on an open fire and spending the afternoon outside with family and friends on a lovely fall day.

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Today we had a quiet day at home, as the weather was not as nice. And this afternoon we had a small family party, just Thomas, Anna and me, with a surprise birthday cake that I made for Anna while she was at Kindergarten yesterday morning. We gave her our few gifts that we had for her today and the big gift (Fluttershy from My Little Pony, as seen in the first picture above) she got from us on her birthday last night. She was very excited to turn 5 this year and I think her birthday weekend has been pretty full so far with family, friends and fun. She even told us last night after everyone went home after the party and we cleaned up and were getting ready for bed that she loved her birthday day but it was almost “too much birthday”! Oh I love my little, big girl!

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Strawberries & Cream Layer Cake

Cake recipe adapted from Kristina’s Raspberry Cake via Sugar and Cloth
Frosting recipe adapted from Posie Gets Cozy’s Cloudburst Frosting

For the Cakes

  • 1 3/4 cups granulated Sugar
  • 2 sticks of unsalted Butter
  • 3 cups Cake Flour, sifted
  • 2 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 3 Eggs, room temperature
  • 3 Egg Yolks, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups whole Milk
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • Red Food Coloring (All natural if possible) *optional

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare 3 nine inch cake pans with butter and flour. Sift the flour into a medium sized bowl. Add the baking powder and salt and whisk together. In a larger bowl cream the butter and sugar with an electric hand mixer or in a standing mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs to the butter/sugar mixture one at a time and beat in well between additions to incorporate. Add the three yolks all together and beat until everything is well combined. Blend in the vanilla extract. Then alternating between dry and wet ingredients add the flour mixture and the milk (in thirds) into the batter, beating well between additions. Add food coloring at this point, if using, and blend in well. Divide the batter evenly between the three nine inch pans and bake for 20-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted. If you bake the cakes on more than one level in your oven you’ll need to rotate them half way through the projected baking time. Let the cakes cool slightly and then remove them from their pans to cool on a rack.

For the Frosting

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose Flour
  • 1 cup of whole Milk
  • 2 sticks of softened Butter
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract or 1 packet of Dr. Oetker’s Bourbon Vanilla Extract
  • 2 cups sifted Powdered Sugar
  • Red Food Coloring (All natural if possible)

In a saucepan over medium heat combine the flour with the milk, whisking in the milk very slowly to avoid clumps. Whisk constantly until the mixture begins to thicken and is the consistency of pudding. Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap and allow to sit at room temperature until it has completely cooled. This may take a couple of hours. I left mine to cool for three hours so plan accordingly. In a large bowl cream the butter with the vanilla extract and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Add the roux to the frosting and continue to beat until well incorporated and becomes fluffy again. Add the desired amount of food coloring, if using, and blend in well.

To Assemble

  • 1-2 jars of high fruit content Strawberry Jam (I used 75% fruit jam)
  • 1 pint (about 400-500 ml) of Heavy Whipping Cream, whipped firmly
  • 1-2 packages each of fresh Strawberries/Raspberries

Place a cooled cake on your serving platter. Spread evenly almost to the edges, but not quite with a layer of strawberry jam. Cover the jam layer with a generous layer of whipped cream. Lay a second cake on top of the cream layer and press down gently until the filling comes out to the edge and the top of the cake is even. Repeat with a layer of jam and whipped cream. Place the third cake on top pressing down gently again until level on top and the filling just comes to the edges. Cover the entire cake with frosting and smooth it out as best you can. Let the cake chill for at least 3 hours before serving and up to one day. Smooth the frosting out again if needed, it will be easier once it has chilled thoroughly. Add whole strawberries to the top and raspberries along the bottom before serving. Enjoy!

 

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