Birthday Boy

It was Ezra’s Birthday! He’s a big 5 years old now.

DSCN5466I asked him the other day if there was anything he’d like to do for his birthday. He replied “umm make a cake, party decorations…. and masks”. How sweet and doable is that?!

So we started the day making felt masks, because you have to be able to wear them all day, especially on your birthday!

No birthday is complete without a bowl of chocolate (right?) for dipping strawberries to top the birthday cake, of course. And pretzels, and maybe a few fingers, so no chocolate goes to waste. Chefs Ezra and Ishi assisted mixing up the chocolate birthday cake between fielding birthday phone calls and preparing Ezra’s requested birthday dinner: roasted chicken, rice pilaf, veggies and applesauce.

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The day was rounded out with homeschooling, setting up the birthday decor and racing their wind up robots.

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I, and several other relatives/friends who sew, put together the birthday banner years ago when Noah was maybe 3 or so. Each letter is about 8×11. I did the first P in happy and the last Y in day. We’ve been using it every birthday ever since.

DSCN5489DSCN5490Finally, it was time for a candle lit birthday dinner. Ezra choose his birthday to light the beeswax candle he made when we dipped candles earlier this year. It burnt down very quickly and led to wax “experiments” which would have gone on all night if not for the….

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 birthday guitar.

Between all three brothers the guitar has barely been put down. Ishi is super cute and sings “my guitar, my guitar” while he strums.

DSCN5431 DSCN5477 DSCN5478And, of course, there’s Molly. I know, all her photos show her sleeping. It just happens that when she is not in my arms (or in the wrap) and I have the camera out she’s sleeping. Maybe that’s not such a coincidence after all…

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Celebrating

For us February is a month of celebrations. Perfect- as winter has grown old and this season’s mildness has only served to fuel our spring fever  to get out there and DO stuff. And if you can’t get out there and work well you might as well have some fun (and that means cake, of course).

First Ezra’s birthday. An amazing 3 years old! He requested blueberry cake. Luckily I had some frozen blueberries still left from last summer. So we cooked them into a sauce/filling. I recently went gluten/wheat-free so we decided to try one of those packaged GF cake mixes. Let’s just say I’m not too impressed. I mean it looks great, and the texture is right but it just tastes……. not quite right.

Then for Valentine’s Day we transplanted some apple tree seedlings. The boys have been planting the seeds from their apples in my rosemary pots. A whole bunch came up so we moved them to their own separate containers.  Of course all this enthusiastic handling by little kids and a dog who has to sit on everything means that we only have a few survivors. Still it was fun and the boys got to check out the various stages of seed sprouting and root growth.

Even Ishmael LOVED it. This boy gravitates to dirt. He can find it, scoot over and get his hands it in 5 seconds flat. That’s my boy!

photo by Noah

Then it’s Noah’s birthday. What?! 5 years old already!

He received a pirate boat kit which he studiously put together- by himself by looking at the picture on the box. Once the glue dried we had some fun painting. He painted his boat and I borrowed a little paint to make him a Batman and Robin peg clothing pin figure.

photo by struggling_along

photo by Noah

Of course another birthday requires more cake! We went more traditional this time with a Chocolate Surprise Cake. It’s an old recipe and doesn’t really give any instructions- just a list of ingredients so here’s my one layer version:

The surprise is a whipped cream filling. It’s really good. It’s like having a HUGE really good whoopee pie.

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linking to Seasonal Celebration Sunday @ the natural mothers network

Homemade Chocolate Covered Coconut Bars

Maybe walking pass the aisle of heart shaped boxes is getting to me.

I had to make some candy. I’ve been intending to make some homemade peanut butter cups but I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand. I did have some chocolate chips and coconut tho,- and you can’t go wrong with chocolate and coconut.These use white sugar (could be replaced with honey perhaps) so they’re no so much a real food but at least they are HF corn syrup and preservative free.

The first step to making chocolate covered bars is to assemble the coconut bar filling and baked them. Press in almonds (use soaked and dehydrated nuts if possible) and let cool. I really like the almonds as the chocolate is so sweet but I left some plain for the not-so-much-of-a-nut-fan folks. I’d also make them smaller- like half the size.

Coat the cooled bars in melted chocolate and cool at least 4 hours to allow the chocolate to re-harden.

Or dig in….

Chocolate Covered Coconut Bars

1 (14 oz) package shredded coconut, sweetened preferred

1 jumbo egg white or 2 small egg whites                        2 cups chocolate chips

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract                                                       Almonds

1/3 c (or use up to 1/2c) sugar

1/2 tsp salt

Combine all but chocolate chips. Form bars and bake till golden around the edges. Press in almonds, if using. Let cool. Coat in melted chocolate (use 2 forks). Let sit till firm to touch-least 4 hours.

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In the Kitchen :: Baking

During the past week there has been a lot of baking going on in my kitchen. First: Stuffed Pretzels. Farmama shared Brooke’s Stuffed Pretzels recipe a while back. She stuffed theirs with provolone and pesto with caramelized onions. Not having any pesto nor enough fresh basil on hand to make some I came up with my own variations for the stuffing.

Cinnamon and Raisin

(with sucanat)

The other half I made savory. I started with brushing on some mustard then I layered provolone cheese, caramelized onions, spinach and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

Other changes I made: I did not do the baking soda dip on the cinnamon raisin nor did I salt or brush them with oil. They baked up beautifully- more of a cinnamon roll than a pretzel. I have noticed that the sucanat starts getting hard and burnt fairly easily so it’s important to take them out of the oven as soon as the dough is baked. I baked the cinnamon raisin ones first which might be why I only have a photo of the savory ones after being baked.

The savory pretzels got the full treatment- a dip in baking soda water, brushed with oil, sprinkled with salt (coarser grained salt works best- I used flakes). Baked til golden brown.

Delicious! I like reheating them in the toaster oven.

Also fresh from the oven this past week: gingerbread cookies,

and yet another pumpkin pie….to go with my gingered whipped cream.  I blended several pieces of crystallized ginger in with the heavy cream. Wow is that stuff good! If you’re culturing and making your own sour cream don’t forget to add a bit in with the heavy cream and make the whipped cream probiotic.

Also baked but no photos tho, chocolate pancakes with almond extract and…. chocolate cake!

For your convenience (from the link above @ farmama’s) here’s……

  Brookespretzels

You will need:

5 Cups All Purpose Flour (I’m sure you can substitute with some wheat, rye or spelt or…..)

4 tsp. Yeast (or one packet)

1 tsp. sugar

1 1/4 Cup. Warm water

1/4 Cup Sugar

1 1/2 tsp. Salt

A bit of Olive Oil

1/2 Cup Baking Soda

For the Filling:

2 TBSP. Butter

1 Onion sliced

Salt & Pepper

Pesto

Your favorite cheese (Brooke used Provolone)

Instructions:

1) Dissolve the 4 tsp. (or 1 packet) of yeast in 1 1/4 cup of water with 1 tsp. sugar. Let stand about 10 minutes.

2) Mix 5 cups flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and a pinch of salt. Make a well in the middle and add about a Tablespoon of olive oil and the water/yeast mixture. If it is too dry add about one tablespoon of water at a time. Knead until the dough is smooth (about 7-8 minutes).

3) Cover and place in a warm spot for 1-2 hours or until doubled in size.

4)Make the filling by carmelizing the onion in the butter. To do this put the sliced onion in a pot with the butter. Cook low and slow on top of the stove until the onion is golden brown and sweet.

5) Preheat oven to 450F.

6) When dough has doubled in size, roll it into a rectangular-ish shape, about 1/4 inch thick and spread the filling evenly over the surface. Brooke also put basil pesto from our freezer and some provolone cheese in the pretzels she made us. You could use just about anything to stuff these pretzels. Lots of room to be creative! Roll up the rectangle and slice it into 12 equally sized pieces. (Brooke suggests using a serrated knife for this.) Put each slice onto a sheet tray and let the (now stuffed) pretzels rise again until about doubled.

The Dunk:

A baking soda bath is what gives pretzels their distinct flavor.

7) Mix together 1/2 cup of baking soda and 4 cups of hot water. When the baking soda has dissolved, dunk the proofed pretzels one at a time, and set them back onto the sheet tray. Brush each pretzel with some olive oil and a tiny bit of mustard, and lightly dust each pretzel with some salt (Brooke recommends Cyprus flake salt.)

8) Bake at 450F until the pretzels are golden brown.

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Let us know if you decide to make them, or if I’ve forgotten any important details. They really are as good as they look!

Thanks for sharing Brookie!

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this post is part of traditional tuesday, real food wednesday, frugal days sustainable ways, simple lives thursday, fight back friday, sunday school