Monday, June 23, 2014

Our flock has grown!

Aren't they gorgeous? This is our second flock, and it's grown since last you saw it. On the Memorial Day weekend we acquired 4 more chicks, Marans, a month old, bringing flock #2 to ten birds.

So now Things 1 & 2 (Tetra Tints) are 13 weeks old; Lucy, Edith & Marco Pollo (Sex Links) & Agnes (Buff Orpington) are 12 weeks old, and the newest four* (Marans) are 7 weeks old.

*I should have learned, this second year into chicken-keeping, not to name the chickens before they mature (I think it is akin to not counting them before they hatch) ... anyways, the three Black Copper Marans have been re-named, as they are not the pullets we hoped for, but cockerels ... that is ROOSTERS.

So, per the photo collage at the top,  Margot is now Gru the Roo, Henrietta is now Henry, and Abby is now Abbott. Thankfully Jazzie (a Blue Copper Maran) is pullet and we can't wait for her burgundy brown eggs. (Google Maran Eggs if you want to see!)

So the count is 6 pullets (aka girls) and 4 cockerels (boys). Maybe another 3 dozen eggs per week when the girls become hens. Maybe. I think I figured we'd need a flock of 50 layers to meet the interest expressed by our friends for organic eggs!! But this is where we start.

And this is where they live for the time being ... "Coop De Wheels" an 8'x10'x6' chicken tractor. Moved weekly for fresh pasture until they are all mature enough to free range.

pre-wheels, front side

post-wheels, backside

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A decadent & delicious (& easy) chocolate cake!

My daughter's ninth birthday menu has been a couple months in the planning ... birthday dessert choices were revisited almost daily ... and it finally settled on: chocolate layer cake with strawberries. Not too difficult. 

I like to make cakes from scratch — that way I know what goes into them. My Mum has a great chocolate cake recipe, but it calls for self-rising flour which is not the same quality here in the USA ... and before you suggest it — yes, I did look on the internet and there are dozens of make-your-own self-rising flour recipes out there ... but I am still experimenting with these, and this occasion was not experiment time. I needed a good, reliable recipe, fast. 

My go-to recipe book is the good ol' "Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook" and it just so happens that their recipe is almost identical to my Mum's, but uses all-purpose flour+baking soda+baking powder+salt :) Chocolate Cake recipe (link).

NOTE: I made a couple substitutions ... I used dark chocolate cocoa powder for extra richness, and I substituted 1/4 c of berry flavored applesauce (one of those squeezy pouches) for 1/4 c of the (3/4 c) butter, which infused a subtle but delicious berry flavor in the chocolate cake, and made it beautifully moist. I also made the cake the night before and froze it.

Now, for the frosting ... I am not very good at making frosting and my daughter doesn't like creamy or buttery frostings (which I prefer.) It just so happens that my friend and awesome foodie blogger Rebecca has this fantastic and fool-proof ganache recipe (link) and I decided to try it for the first time ... all I can say (and my family too) is WOW!! If I can do it, anyone can!

NOTE: For my ganache, I used a 10oz packet of Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate chips, and a half-pint (8oz) of heavy whipping cream.

I had two layers of cake (still defrosting), with homemade strawberry jam and sliced strawberries in between, and then I slathered the whole thing in the slightly-cooled-but-still-liquid ganache ... I should have let the ganache cool just a little longer, but it was okay.

NOTE: Let the ganache cool/set a little before placing anything on top! The strawberries slid right off while it was slick!

Whole strawberries (de-leaved!) on top, sliced in between layers, and halved around bottom edge. I used 32oz (nearly 1kg) of strawberries by the time it was all done! 

Did I mention I had an apprentice baker helping me?

To my delight, it was thoroughly enjoyed by the birthday girl and family members who said it might be my best dessert offering yet!! YUM!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Our baby is nine!

Our precious Princesita turned 9 today! She grows more beautiful each day, inside and out. She likes swimming, rubber band crafts, spending time with her best-est friend H, cuddling chickens, family movie nights, cooking, riding her bike, and bouncing on the trampoline ... to name a few things. Pink & purple remain her favorite colors. Berries top her list of favorite foods. She has a great laugh — one of those deep belly laughs — and a gorgeous smile. She is sensitive, caring, hard working, and something of a perfectionist! And I am truly blessed to be her Mama. 

I first laid eyes on this Guatemalan Treasure when she was just days old ... look at those beautiful chubby cheeks and all that hair!! It would be 3 more months until I met her face to face, and she became our "forever daughter" just prior to turning 5 months old! Praise God for such a special blessing!

Her Birthday Menu was months in the planning, and this is what she finally settled on ...

Birthday gifts galore!

I can't believe how quickly my children are growing! I am so blessed for the opportunity to work a very flexible part-time job that allows me to spend so much time with them in these formative years. I view it as an investment.

So, I now have two nine-year olds ... "like twins" as they are called ... though the other one will turn ten next month! WHAT??!! B.R.E.A.T.H.E.