Friday, November 20, 2015

Frosting Friday: Rustic Vanilla


Hello friends!  My blog is not really a cooking blog.  It is really has no theme at all, actually!  But since I enjoy writing about things I love, I thought I should post about my favorite food: Frosting!

Now before I begin, I am going to talk a little about my ingredients and why I use what I do, and one ingredient you will never find in my recipes.

FIRST  Butter.  Never the fake stuff.  I use Kerrygold because it is the healthiest you can get while also being the most readily available, yet cheaper than organic.  More on butter here.  And also, because, you know - Ireland.

SECOND  Homemade vanilla extract.  Yes, the store bought stuff is stronger so you don't have to use as much, but the store vanilla also has a strong alcohol taste and smell that can alter the final product if it is not cooked.  I use the store stuff too, from time to time, but prefer my own.

THIRD  I am going to insist on C&H powdered sugar.  Powdered sugar has an aftertaste I do not care for, but when used properly, this brand's aftertaste is almost undetectable.

FOURTH  Heavy whipping cream instead of milk.  The heavy whipping cream has a creamy taste which helps tone down any other aftertastes you may get from my frostings.  My husband finds it rather amusing that I whip the frosting so much the butter loses its buttery texture yet beat it so much that the whipping cream turns to butter.  Yeah - I see his point but when you feel the texture (if done right) you will understand.  It is a well coordinated dance.

FIFTH  Pink Himalayan salt instead of regular salt.  Pink Himalayan salt does not dissolve the same way as regular salt, and with so much sugar and the fact that you will be eating these frostings straight out of the bowl, it is kind of nice to get a subtle 'zap' of salt every once and awhile.  Besides, apparently this salt is super healthy for you.  I am told is so healthy, in fact, that it practically negates anything unhealthy that may find its way into my recipes.  Really.

SIXTH  Corn syrup.  Just no.  Never.  Ever.  And while some swear by the 'wonderful' things it does to frosting, there will never be enough pink Himalayan salt you have to add to your frosting to counteract the harmful effects of that nasty goop.

1/2 C softened butter
2 C powdered sugar
1 vanilla bean
1tsp vanilla plus more if needed
4 T heavy whipping cream
3/4 tsp pink Himalayan salt

The jar on the left is my homemade vanilla extract.  Remember - mine has a little weaker vanilla taste so I have to use more.  My recipes assume you do not have homemade extract.

 Cut the vanilla bean into quarters, then slice the quarters lengthwise.
 Use a knife to scrape out the vanilla pulp

 and measure out 1 tsp vanilla extract.
 Combine softened butter, 1 C powdered sugar and vanillas and 1 T heavy whipping cream.  Beat until fairly combined, then add the second cup of sugar and 2 T heavy whipping cream.  Beat for 3 minutes.  Add last T whipping cream

 and the pink salt.

Beat on medium for at least 10 minutes.  I am not kidding.  AT LEAST!  Minimum.  No less.  You will be amazed at the final product - trust me. 
The final look you are shooting for is a pearlized sheen which is hard to photograph but as you get used to my frostings and have achieved it, you will know what to look for.  Add more vanilla extract if it is not strong enough. And beat again.
Please be patient with my frostings.  They usually require a lot of beating but the final texture should be no texture at all.  This frosting, when put on the tongue, will feel cool and taste sweet.  It will melt quickly but feel so silky smooth it is almost like eating nothing at all.  A sweet, vanilla-y, high caloric spoonful of nothing!  (As always, first day freshness is the yummiest - store in the refrigerator, rewhip and add a touch of fresh vanilla extract if you have to use it a day after you make it)
Now I have heard people say they like frosting on cupcakes as pictured above, and while I am always ready to try something new, I prefer to eat my frosting with a spoon!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Why Must We Continually Keep Our Heads in the Sand?


Our world, in many ways, has begun to crumble.  Even the most level headed of my friends are beginning to question the sort of future our children may have.  ISIS is on everyone’s mind these days, as are their numerous atrocities.  Confusion among matters of the faith among Catholics. Escalating number of natural disasters.  Trouble in our own government.  And sometimes people closest to us seem to be turning on each other like vicious dogs, ready to devour anyone who dares express different opinions.

Unfortunately, with all of this happening in the outside world, it is hard to keep the stress of it all from seeping into our own hearts and homes. “I wake up in the morning, and all I can think about is ‘What will happen today?” one friend confided in me. “It is enough to make one want to hide one’s head in the sand.”

Which is exactly what we as Catholic mothers must do.

For quite some time, the ostrich has gotten a rather bad reputation for sticking its head in the sand as trouble looms.  And on the surface, that seems like a bad thing to do.  It reeks of denial and purposeful ignorance and to be accused of such behavior has always been viewed as a sign of stupidity or weakness.  But do you know why the ostrich does what she does?  Let’s take a closer look.

An ostrich nest is actually built just beneath the ground’s surface.  Her eggs are safely nestled below ground level, and require frequent turning with her beak to keep the eggs viable.  Her nest, full of her most priceless treasures, is almost impossible for predators to see from afar.  But should a predator start sniffing around, the mother ostrich lowers her head and quickly buries her precious eggs beneath the sand before running away, distracting the predator and leading it away from her home.

I can’t help but think God has been trying to teach us a lesson through these magnificent birds.  But we have been too proud or too blind to hear Him.  You see, while most seem to think that being up to date and fully informed of the terrifying events taking place in our world is a good thing, it is not necessarily our role to do so.  In fact it may be harmful.  Horrific images come to our minds throughout the day.  Fear, worry and undo stresses fill our hearts, distracting us from what really matters: home. 

We cannot properly tend to our God given duties when we are trying to solve the world’s problems by debating others online.  Or shushing a 4-year-old’s joy over a newly painted picture because we are engrossed in a news article.  As we fill our time with researching these disturbing world events, anxiety crowds out faith, hope and charity at an alarming rate.  We grow tense, short tempered and depressed.  We suddenly realize how out of control we really are.  And how vulnerable.  We get scared.  And our family suffers.

But I now ask you - could it be that for all the terrible things that seem to be unfolding, much grace is also given?  Could it be that Our Lord is trying to tell us something through these natural and man made disasters?  What is He asking of us today?  To worry?  To involve ourselves in heated debates about matters of which we have no control?  To exercise our 'right to be right' at all costs?  Or are we simply called to trust in Him and know that our ultimate sanctification is what He desires above all things?  And pass our love and trust of God along to our children?

"In our ignorance of what the future holds, how can we be so bold as to question what comes about by God's permission? Surely it is reasonable to think that our complaints are groundless and that instead of complaining we ought to be thanking Providence."
St. Claude de la Colombiere

Yes, there are many scary things out there in the world.  But they are not for us to worry about.  In fact, the scarier things get, the more important it is that we keep our heads in the sand.  Not to deny the harsh realities of life.  But to tenderly care for our loved ones as Our Lord wishes.  Surround them with love.  Shield them from as much harm as possible.  And when it feels as though the predators are at your door, draw the negative influences far from your nest, that your children may continue to look to your home as a safe harbor to continue to grow in their faith, unhindered by fear and distrust of God.

As mothers, we are truly the heart of the home.  And as such, we have been blessed with this loving, nurturing ability to keep our homes a happy and safe refuge from the rest of the world.  Bring your children up in the love of God through your example.  Teach your children to trust in Him in all things by remaining unruffled and unworried.  And no matter how terrifying the world may become, may your children rest easy knowing that you, without fail and for their sakes, will always have your head deep in the sand.