serendipitous reflections

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Coconut Cake

A couple of weeks ago we had Dr. Jones and Barbara over for her birthday dinner. Instead of getting a bakery cake, I made this cake. It's a Martha Stewart recipe that I've had for years. It's one of my step-mom and dad's favorites. Come to think of it, it's probably one of my favorites too. I've never made this cake where people just don't fall in love with it. It's a little time consuming, but worth every minute, I promise. Please make sure to read through the whole recipe before making it.

Coconut Cake
makes three 6" layers*

2 C sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 C (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp, plus more for pans
1 C superfine sugar
4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten (reserve 2-3 eggs whites for frosting)
2/3 C sour cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Coconut-Cream Filling (recipe follows)
11 ozs sweetened angel flake coconut
Seven-Minute Frosting (recipe follows)

Heat the oven to 350. Arrange two racks in the center of the oven. Line the bottom of three 6"x2" buttered cake pans with parchment paper.** Dust the bottom and the sides of the cake pans with flour and tap out any excess. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Cream the butter on medium-low speed until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add the sugar, and keep beating until the mixture is fluffy and light in color, about 3 minutes. Gradually drizzle in the egg yolks, beating on medium-low speed between each addition until the batter is no longer slick. Beat until mixture is fluffy again, about other 3 minutes.

Alternate adding the flour mixture and sour cream to the batter, a little of each at a time, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Beat in the vanilla. Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, rotating the pans in the oven, if needed, for even browning, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer cake pans to wire racks to cool, about 15 minutes. Remove cakes from the pans, and let cool completely on racks with tops up.

To assemble, remove the parchment paper from the bottoms of the cakes. Split each layer in half horizontally with a serrated knife. Set aside the prettiest dome; it will be used for the final layer. Place another domed layer, dome side down, on a serving platter. Sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of coconut over the cake. Spread a generous 1/2 C of coconut-cream filling over the coconut flakes. Repeat sprinkling and spreading process on the remaining layers are used. Top the cake with the reserved domed layer. Transfer the cake to the refrigerator to firm, 1-2 hours. Remove from the refrigerator, and frost the outside of the cake with seven-minute frosting. Sprinkle the remaining coconut flakes all over the cake while the frosting is soft; do not refrigerate. Cake can be left out at room temperature for several days. (I toasted the coconut for the outside. It is not necessary to toast it.)

Coconut-Cream Filling
makes 4 cups

6 large egg yolks
3/4 C sugar
6 Tbl cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
3 C milk
4 ozs (1 1/2 C) sweetened angel flake coconut
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp unsalted butter for coating plastic wrap

Place egg yolks in a large bowl; whisk to combine; set bowl aside. Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan. Gradually add milk, whisking constantly. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until mixture thickens and just begins to bubble, 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat.

Whisk 1/2 C hot sugar mixture into reserved yolks to temper.*** Slowly pour warmed yolks into saucepan, stirring constantly. Cook, while continuing to stir, over medium heat until mixture just begins to bubble, 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in coconut and vanilla.

Transfer the filling to a medium mixing bowl. Lightly butter a piece of plastic wrap, and place it directly on top of the filling to prevent a skin from forming. Transfer the filling to the refrigerator until firm and chilled, at least one hour.**** The filling may be made a day ahead.

Seven-Minute Frosting
makes 3 cups

2-3 large egg whites
1 1/2 C sugar
2 tsp light corn syrup
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Combine egg whites, sugar, corn syrup, and cream of tartar with 5 tablespoons of cold water in top of a double boiler. Fill bottom of double boiler with 2"-3"of water; top pan should not touch water. With water boiling vigorously, beat egg mixture using a hand mixer on medium-low for 4 minutes, then on high for 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat. Add vanilla; continue to beat on high until icing holds its peaks, 3-5 minutes more; do not overmix or icing can get grainy.*****

* The recipe calls for 6" pans, but I used 8" pans because that's what I have. I generally just add little more of each ingredient in the cake recipe. Or I just follow the recipe and have thinner layers, but I reduce the baking time.
**I also butter my parchment paper, then flour it.
*** Tempering the egg yolks is a must. You must constantly stir when pour in the hot liquid or you will have scrambled eggs.
****I have made this recipe a dozen or more times and you really need to refrigerate this filling overnight. If you don't have that kind of time, then at least 3 hours. It helps the cake set up better when you are building it.
*****If the weather is humid, beat the icing for an additional minute in each step to help stiffen it.
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Sunday, November 27, 2005

You're the strangest person I ever met, she said & I said you too & we decided we'd know each other a long time.

It's funny to say that Dean and I have been married ten years. We celebrated our anniversary on Friday. It's also funny to go back and look at our wedding pictures because in my mind we have not aged a bit, but looking at the above picture will definitely prove otherwise. These last ten years have been the ride of my life and I wouldn't change a thing. Dean gave me one the most thoughtful gifts I've ever been given. It wasn't the most expensive or lavish gift, but that's what makes it the best. It was a print from the Story People named Kindred Spirits and it sums up our relationship. I love you Dean! Thanks for being my husband and best friend.

Dean and I would also like to thank Lisa and Brian for the beautiful anniversary card. And thanks to Tracey and Clay for the funniest.

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Oh Christmas tree, oh kitten's tree

We put up our little 6' tree this year with the non-breakable ornaments on it. Maggie has already climbed it...Kittens! I spent the better part of yesterday wrapping all the Christmas presents. Now all we have to do it get them to their respective owners.Posted by Picasa

Saturday, November 26, 2005

School Dance picture

This is the "school dance" picture Dean showed at Old Navy to get the $2 off coupon. Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 25, 2005

Shopping on Black Friday

We did our part to contribute to the Friday after Thanksgiving shopping madness, but we don't shop for anything popular or exciting, so we escape mostly unscathed. Here's a rundown of our morning with the stores, approximate time we hit them, and a grade and analysis of how the experience was.

Best Buy (A for us, B overall): We started with Best Buy, having learned from last year when we spent an hour and 45 minutes in line to spend $20. We got to Best Buy around 4:15 a.m. and the line was already starting to loop back onto itself and into the parking lot. We decided it wasn't worth waiting in the cold, so we waited in the car until the doors opened at 5 a.m., and then joined the line. Even though we weren't the first ones in, we did manage to be one of the first ones out. We went straight to what we wanted, found the beginning of the line (Best Buy winds you through their appliance section like an amusement park -- really the best organization of the whole day) and were out of the parking lot by 5:18 a.m. The only reason they get a B overall is because they were already sold out of items before the doors even opened. Next stop ...

Office Depot (C): We stopped at Office Depot and waited about 20 minutes or so before the doors opened at 6 a.m. We stopped here to look into the Kodak EasyShare camera they advertised with the printer and free accessory kit. We were going to pick this up for Tiffany since she wasn't able to make it out this morning because she is visiting family. Once the doors opened, everyone flooded inside. We went straight to the camera section ... no EasyShare as advertised. They had a more expensive version. They were extremely understaffed, and they were all helping people order computers online. The one person we found who was available to field a question could only point us to the aisle we came from. This reeked of Black Friday inexperience. So we cut our losses and went to ...

Circuit City (F): Now, I had high expectations for Circuit City, having had very good experiences with them in the past. We get a parking space two spaces back at about 6:15. We felt confident, and knew that although the Kodak EasyShare they advertised wasn't exactly like the one from Office Depot, at least they should have their act together. As we walked in, they had yellow poster board signs hand drawn over different registers saying things like "Cameras redeem vouchers here." So I ask someone who looked like a manager, "What's with the vouchers?" And he replied, "If you don't have one, then don't worry about it" so I proceed to the camera line while Jeni looks for phones for us. No luck with the phones. In the meantime, I'm standing in a line to get to the camera counter to find out if they even have the camera in the first place. After about 20 minutes, the line has yet to move. 10 more minutes and we're starting to questions what we're doing there. There are two guys behind the counter, but only one ringing people up. The other is trying to hauk AOL memberships. So I go and ask him about the camera and the vouchers. He says, "If you don't have a voucher, you can buy a camera at 9:00 if any are left." I ask, "Even though your advertisement didn't say I would need a voucher and I can see the cameras sitting right there? You still won't sell me one?" And he said, "Not until 9 without a voucher." So at that point, we realized they had totally bungled this whole thing. I guess if you weren't in line this morning before they opened, you couldn't buy anything on sale. So again, we cut our losses and headed over to ...

Office Max (B): Office Max didn't open until 7 a.m., but Micheals next door was, so while I waited in line, Jeni went to ...

Michaels (A+): Jeni went straight in, coupon in hand, at about 6:45. Although the store was packed (Jeni's cashier said even they had a line this morning), Jeni managed to easily get everything she wanted, walk straight to a checkout, make her purchases and join me at ...

Office Max (B): As soon as the doors opened, I walked in and went to the camera counter, still determined to get this camera. Strange thing, there was no one behind the camera counter. After about a minute, an employee came over, and after two trips to the back room, brought me a camera. (On my was to the register, I saw them on an endcap ...) The lines could have been managed better ... they only had two registers open, but otherwise, all went well. Finally, we headed to the mall and ...

Old Navy (A): At Old Navy, we got breakfast bars and scratch-off savings. They had 2-fer offers all over the store. They did have long lines, but hey, every register was opened, so they were doing what they could. They were even playing "Getting Lucky in Line," giving out prizes in a Let's Make a Deal kind of game. (I won a $2 off coupon for having a picture of a high school dance -- Jeni's Birthday Prom). Done at Old Navy, we walked down to ...

KB Toys (B): They had what we wanted, and good deals, too. They only get a B because one employee was being a little too "let me help you ... let me help you" to the point of annoying and the store is sooo small and tight that it was pretty hot and crowded.

Now we are beat, ready to eat some leftovers and go back to bed. Happy Day-after Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Nikki's new blog

Nikki just set up a blog! Check it out...

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

News you must read

I stumbled across this news piece ... you just have to read it. Two escaped convicts hid as fraternity members at a University of Tennessee fraternity. The picture of them is just too funny.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Su Doku

A patient brought in a Su Doku puzzle for me the other day ... it's like a crossword puzzle, but uses numbers and, well, it's hard to explain without seeing, so go here and check it out. (Click on how to solve and it really explains it well...) Looks fun if you like brain teasers.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Artichoke-stuffed mushrooms

I made these mushrooms about month ago for Tish's birthday dinner. They were a hit. I suggest doubling the recipe if you are having more that 8 people. They are super easy and super yummy. The recipe came from Southern Living (Dec 96, I believe).

Artichoke-Stuffed Mushrooms

1 1/2 lbs large fresh mushroom, button or baby portobellas
1/4 C finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 Tbl olive oil
1/4 C dry white wine
1/4 - 1/2 C soft breadcrumbs
1 (14 oz) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 C mayonnaise
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

With a damp cloth, gently wipe the dirt off the mushrooms. (Rinsing them water will make them tough.) Remove stems, and chop; reserve mushroom caps.

Saute mushroom stems, onions, and garlic in hot oil in a large skillet over medium heat 5 minutes or until onion is tender.

Add wine, and cook 2 minutes or until liquid evaporates. Stir in breadcrumbs. Remove from heat and let cool.

Combine onion mixture, artichoke, and next 5 ingredients. Spoon 1 teaspoonful into each cap. Place on a lightly greased rack in a roasting pan. *

Bake at 350 for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden.

*You can make these up ahead of time, just cover and refrigerate them uncooked, pull them out right before guest are to arrive and bake them.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

One of my new kitchen toys

On Sunday, Dean and I did a little shopping and I bought a couple of new kitchen toys. I have been wanting an immersion blender for a couple of years, and with winter/soup season coming I'm very excited about it. The other things I bought were a 5" Santoku knife and a microplane for zesting. Posted by Picasa

Summer clothes

Well yesterday was spent cleaning out my closet doing the seasonal clothes switch out. Here is a picture of most of my summer clothes ready for the 3 month winter storage. Now I know I don't nearly have the same amount of summer clothes as Lisa, but man it really gave me a lot of room in my closet. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


I know it's a little late to post a Halloween picture but it's too cute. Tracey's mom made this little skunk costume for Garrett, and he's about the cutest little skunk I've every seen. Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 11, 2005

Arrested Development

Say it isn't so! Arrested Development has been canned by FOX. Hopefully we can get a grass-roots movement to keep it on the air, or maybe HBO or Showtime will pick it up. This show is just too good to let it go.

I'm Oscar.com
Never Nude.com
Free Annyong
Fan Club Shop

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Balsamic-Glazed Chicken Sandwiches with Red Onions and Goat Cheese

I made these chicken sandwiches on Saturday night and they were wonderful. Honestly they were some of the simplest sandwiches to make and so full of flavor, and in the grand scheme of things pretty healthy. (calories 424, fat 11.6g - 4.2g sat and 4.4g mono, protein 30.1g, carbs 43.9g--the bun) I've had this recipe for a year, and this is the first time I've made it. It was in Cooking Light magazine November 2004.

Balsamic Glazed Chicken Sandwiches with Red Onions and Goat Cheese

3/4 C balsamic vinegar
1/2 C dry red wine
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp soy sauce
2 (6 oz) chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
cooking spray (Pam)
1 Tbl olive oil
1 1/2 C thinly vertically sliced red onion
1 (3 oz) package goat cheese
4 hoagie or Kaiser rolls
1 C trimmed arugula or baby spinach

Combine the first 4 ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cook until reduced to 1/3 cup (about 12 minutes). Remove from heat; cool slightly.

While vinegar mixture cooks, heat a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chicken to pan; cook for 6-8 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken from pan and thinly slice. Cover and keep warm.
(Please note my changes at the bottom)
Add oil to pan, reduce temperature to medium low. Add onion; cook 5 minutes or until onion is soft and beginning to brown, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.

Spread about 1 1/2 TBL goat cheese evenly over the bottom half of the roll; divide sliced chicken and onion evenly over rolls. Drizzle each serving with about 1 TBL balsamic mixture, and top with 1/4 C arugula or baby spinach. Serve immediately.

My changes:
Instead of cooking the onions after the chicken was cooked, I used another pan and cooked them at the same time so everything was hot when the sandwiches were served. The other change I made was to add the sliced chicken back into the skillet and pour the balsamic mixture over the chicken so all the chicken was coated with the mixture. Then I put the sandwiches together.

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Sunday, November 06, 2005

Story People

If you watched Extreme Makeover: Home Edition with the Tom Family Sunday night, you saw the mother's angels sculptures. They had the artist Brian Andreas visit, but did not say much about him, but Jeni and I recognized the artist and his work. We had seen some of the sculptures and prints when we lived in Iowa. The main art gallery is located in a town in the middle of Iowa, although the primary artist is now in California. They are Story People and are just amazing, original and imaginitive pieces. You can even get a Story of the Day emailed to you. Check them out...

SSX on Tour

If you have a Playstation 2 and have not bought SSX on Tour yet, why not? This snowboarding series of games just keeps getting better and better! I signed up for the EA Sports newsletter and they sent me a $15 gift certificate for a game ordered online ... comes out to be about 40 percent off, so not a bad deal.


Jeni and I were doing our grocery shopping the other night and we overheard this older Southern lady talking to these two young boys who worked at Publix and were helping her find an ingredient for a recipe. It was so funny, because she had about given up on the ingredient when they found it, so she started describing this recipe to these two late-teens and at the end, she said, "Oh, it's so good it will make you slap your momma." Now that's a new expression for me...

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Ikea stool

We picked up this step stool at Ikea and Jeni put it together today. Now with this stool she can reach the top shelf -- my job security in this relationship just decreased. If we get a self-cleaning litter box, she might just trade me in. :) Posted by Picasa

New lamps

Jeni is so excited about our new lamps. She's wanted new lamps for a long time and found these great lamps on sale at Target. Don't they look good? Posted by Picasa

Free stamps!

We had to buy a couple of stamps tonight, which is a rarity anymore. Since the post office was closed, we used the machine (it actually takes pennies!) and after we bought the first stamp, I got my change and someone had left their change in there, so we ened up with two stamps and a penny extra! OK ... so free stamps might not be the biggest prize in the world, but it is a little ray of sunshine, right?

Gone so long...

Wow! Has it really been 10 days since we last blogged? It has been a busy last couple of weeks. Work has kept me frantic, in the right way, and Jeni went to help Tiff move in with her mom. Jeni ended up staying an additional day and Tiff brought her back on Wednesday. I'm not sure who missed her the most, me or the cats. Since she's been back, they won't leave her alone. It's like they're keeping an eye on her just to make sure she doesn't go anywhere again anytime soon.

Anyhow... we're back and we'll have more to post about soon.