Sunday, August 30, 2009

Can you feel fall around the corner??

Pictures from our Virginia Creeper outing 2007

I've neglected posting recently... So sorry for ALL those loyal followers, the 5 of you. ;-) I am enjoying a relaxing Sunday afternoon at home checkin' out my favorite blogs. I really enjoy Bower Power blog, Katie has a great sense of humor and I love the way she writes! She just did a list for "Autumn Goals" and I loved the idea of some fun things on the to-do list for the next few months. So here goes...

1. Carve a pumpkin

2. Make some kind of autumn inspired wreath for the front door

3. Go camping

4. Use nature for some indoor decorating (I *heart* bowls of colorful leaves)

5. Take a Sunday afternoon hike to enjoy the fall folliage

6. Eat some yummy pumpkin pie
7. Make and share some Russian tea mix - my favorite fall drink!

Thanks to Katie for some good ideas!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sweet Sunday

We had an awesome Sweet Sunday this week! Joe's birthday was Saturday and I surprised him with tickets to his favorite: Dave Matthews Band. The concert was in Bristow, VA; so we had a nice long trip to get there but took advantage of a getaway!

Here we are on our way into the concert...

We went to Luray Caverns on our way home. That was amazing!! After looking at all the stalagmite and stalactites we were hungry! So we headed to the sweet little restaurant in the middle of pretty much no where.

It's called The Homeplace, and it's an old farm house that's open Thursday through Sunday for very specific hours. It's family style buffet; so they bring out all the goodies right to your table and when you've finished that they just bring more! It was absolutely delicious!!

And that was our getaway birthday celebration. We drove over 800 miles round trip but with good company in the car it was totally worth it!!


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sweet Sunday

We just got back from an amazing long weekend with my brother's family. We love being with all of them! I am so blessed with my sister-n-law, we have such a great time together. And their sweet baby girls just make our hearts sing! Caroline is 4 now and Charlotte will be 2 at the end of this month. We had a great time hanging out at the beach, on the pier, and at the house. Thank you guys so much for an awesome time!!! Love you all so much!

The Ultimate *easy* Chocolate Cake

I love this cookbook! There are so many great ways to tweak a box cake mix and make everyone think you have made a cake completely from scratch! I highly recommend this cookbook - I have made multiple cakes and bars from the recipes and haven't found one that wasn't good!

So when I was looking for a chocolate cake recipe to make for a co-worker, I went straight to my cake "bible". As mentioned in previous post Joe requested a chocolate chocolate cake for our birthday celebration, I knew I wanted to make this one again. The cake is so moist and I LOVE cream cheese frosting and add chocolate to it and - hello you just make it better!

Gathering all my ingredients... Not very many for such a delicious cake!

(I love the vanilla I got in Honduras!!

The whole container of yummy vanilla extract was $1.00!!!)

I did not do the best job of getting my layers evenly distributed. I'd put too much in one and try and dollop more over to the next but just didn't seem to equal out. My mom has a good trick - she uses her scale to make sure they're the same by making the weights match in each pan. Unfortunately I don't have a scale, so they ended up a little different so I had to take them out of the oven at different times but thankfully both layers turned out nice and moist!

Now for the silky sweet chocolate cream cheese frosting. I need a trick on how to figure out how much icing to put in between the 2 layers. You don't want to use too much and not have enough for the rest of the cake but then when I was finished I had left over frosting that I wanted to somehow get back in there... So just know you don't have to skimp when icing the first layer!

I like to put this in the fridge so the icing sets up nicely. Do you do this little tricks to keep your cake plate clean?? Put pieces of parchment under the bottom layer and ice away. Let the frosting set before removing them and you'll have a perfectly pretty cake plate! Also if you'll put a little dab of frosting down on the cake plate to act as "glue" for the bottom layer, your cake won't slide around on the cake plate.

I was so excited about eating the cake I neglected to take a picture of the finished product... But you can see we enjoyed it!!!

So finally the recipe...

1 pkg devil's food cake mix

3 tbsp cocoa powder

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease two 9" round pans. Then dust pans with flour. (I just used Pam's Baking Spray).

Place cake mix, cocoa powder, buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Blend with electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and beat 2 more minutes. The batter should look well blended. Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Place pans in oven side by side.

Bake the cakes until they spring back and just start to pull away from the sides of the pan, 28 - 30 minutes. Remove from oven and place on wire racks to cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge, then invert cakes on wire rack. Cool completely, 30 minutes.

Meanwhile prepare your frosting.

1 pkg cream cheese (at room temperature)

8 tbsp butter, at room temp

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 tsp almond extract or pure vanilla

4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

Place cream cheese and butter in mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on slow speed until combined, 30 seconds. Stop the machine. Add the cocoa powder, extract and confectioners' sugar and blend with the mixer on low until the ingredients are moistened. Increase the speed to medium and beat until fluffy, 2 more minutes.

Use at once to frost cake. I like to then put the cake in the fridge to let the frosting set. Let me know if you try it out!! I promise it will be a hit!!