Go teams!

That’s pretty much how I feel about the Super Bowl. I probably would not have known it was happening this weekend except that the church service we usually attend in the evening was cancelled today, so we had to go in the morning.

But, I do love a good theme and snack food– so, it didn’t take much convincing to get me to a watch party.

After the heart attack I created last weekend, I wanted to make a less deadly sweet. I settled on whole grain cookies with walnuts, dried cranberries, and dark chocolate. Not necessarily a “health” food, but this one didn’t involve 12 sticks of butter, either 😉

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Brian, on the other hand, went back to Garden & Gun, the infamous magazine that inspired the epic cake. He settled on bacon crackers– bacon wrapped around Club crackers, cooked on low heat for a long time. It’s buttery, bacon goodness– what’s not to love?

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We took our treats to a party with our old missional community group. It was wonderful to see everyone and get a chance to catch up. I miss them.

There were also three different snacks wrapped in bacon. Three. Bless the Lord.

Invasion

I’ve mentioned my Missional Community through the Women’s Development Program before. They are dedicated, intelligent, beautiful, loving, and crazy. And they have invaded my life in the best way possible.

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We group text a lot. We’ve had some group texts that I’ve had to edit on my phone because other eyes should never see them. We share our trial and triumphs, our needs and nuttiness.

Yesterday, we had another epic group text fest. I was home taking my temperature every half hour, so I got to participate at a level that I am not able to while teaching. What I loved most about it was that we went from the girls praying about my health, to dessert recipes, to hair stylists, to Super Bowl parties. It was wonderful and random and perfect– a lot like our group 🙂

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These pictures are from our Winter Retreat in December. The second one speaks for itself.

These women invaded my life, but most importantly, they invaded my heart.

An epic cake

On Sunday, I set out on an adventure. Scratch that. I set out on it last Thursday watching countless YouTube and eHow videos. You see, folks– I did something that many young brides do. It’s called biting off more than chew.

But… I’m not most young brides.

I’m stubborn. I’m stubborn like my Gran– and if you know my Gran, you know that’s some serious stubborn. It’s also called “stick-to-it-tive-ness” in kinder circles– but I don’t run in those 😉

I learned lots of things from the videos and other things from trial and error. My husband also learned a few things: 1. a chef needs to eat or else she gets cranky, 2. a pep talk goes a long way, and 3. to keep thanking the chef for the tasty creation profusely so that even though on Sunday she swore she’d never make it again, she might. Maybe.

This thing took 7-8 hours total. I took a break to go to church. Brian didn’t get to taste it until 10:30pm, but he assures me that it was worth it.

I took photos along to way, so you get to share in the adventure…

The icing was Ginger Buttercream Icing. I had to peel ginger root, which really looks like something used in voodoo, and then grate it. Both of these steps required research.

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Then, the recipe called for 10 egg whites (research) and 8 sticks of butter. It’s a lot of butter…

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I, then, had to cook the egg whites and sugar to a specific temperature over a double boiler (thank you, Brian),  before about 20 minutes in the Kitchenaid mixer.

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The icing took about an hour and a half from start to finish. I was exhausted, but at that point, I only had icing. Must keep going…

There were some interesting steps for the cake batter as well. I had to core and grate 10 pears, and then squeeze them through cheesecloth…

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…toast and chop pistachios…

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…burn– I mean brown– butter…

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…and then bake it in three pans.

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And then there were the pear chips. It was a lot of work for a topping– but man, those chips were delicious!

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And several hours later, I got to show off my final product.

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I felt pretty accomplished, until we realized there were some unforeseen issues: 1. the cake is so rich and dense that one can’t eat more than a couple of bites at a time, and 2. two people cannot eat this entire cake!

Solution: share. That’s been fun 🙂

Recipe from Garden & Gun: 

Brown Sugar, Pear & Pistachio Cake with 
Ginger Buttercream Frosting and Oven-Dried Pear Chips

Ingredients (Serves 12)
CAKE:
4 sticks butter
2 lbs. (6–8) winter pears, or unripe Bosc or Bartlett pears, scrubbed clean
6 large eggs
3 cups brown sugar
3 tsp. baking soda
1½ tsp. baking powder
1½ tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
3 tsp. vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 lb. (3 cups) toasted pistachios, roughly chopped

GINGER BUTTERCREAM FROSTING: 
1 cup egg whites, about 10 large eggs, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
½ tsp. kosher salt
8 sticks unsalted butter, softened and cut into 2-inch chunks
4 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. freshly grated ginger
2 tbsp. powdered ginger

OVEN-DRIED PEAR CHIPS:
¾ cup pear juice (or water)
¾ cup sugar
Juice from half a lemon
3 very pretty, symmetrical winter 
(or Bosc or Bartlett) pears

Preparation
CAKE: Adjust oven rack to center. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line three 8-inch round cake pans with parchment, then lightly butter and flour.

In a small lightly colored saucepan, melt butter over low heat. When it has completely liquefied, turn heat to medium to brown the butter. It will bubble, and brown bits will form on the bottom of the pan. When the sputtering stops, strain butter through cheesecloth, and set aside to cool. You should have 1½ cups.

Core the pears, leaving the peel on, and shred using the large side of a box grater or the medium-size grating attachment on a food processor. Gather shredded fruit into a triple thickness of cheesecloth or a thin cotton dish towel, and squeeze the liquid from the pears, capturing ¾ cup of pear juice (for the pear chip recipe).

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg at medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy. Then drizzle in brown butter and add vanilla. Add flour, and stir until just incorporated. Stir in shredded pear and pistachios gently. Divide the batter evenly among the three pans.

Bake for 25–30 minutes, or until the cakes have puffed and are lightly browned. Remove to a rack and let cool entirely before peeling away the parchment paper.

To assemble the cake, generously spread buttercream frosting between layers before stacking. Frost the sides and top once with a thin “crumb coat.” Chill cake for 30 minutes, then frost sides and top again with a thick layer. Chill well. Decorate with pear chips.

Make Ahead:
GINGER BUTTERCREAM FROSTING: Combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in a medium-size mixing bowl. Set it over a pan of barely simmering water. Whisk the mixture gently until it warms to between 145 and 150 degrees. Remove from heat. Using a mixer, beat on medium-high speed until the egg whites double in volume and turn snowy white and the bowl is completely cool, about 10–15 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low and add in butter, one chunk at a time, giving each addition several seconds to incorporate. (You’ll see the meringue deflate during the first few additions.) Add in vanilla and both gingers, and continue whipping until evenly incorporated. Store in the refrigerator up to one week. Whip again before frosting.

OVEN-DRIED PEAR CHIPS: Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside. Combine pear juice (or water) and sugar in a small saucepan, and cook over medium heat until sugar has dissolved. Stir in lemon juice. With a sharp knife or a mandoline, slice both sides of the pears vertically into ¹⁄8-inch-thick chips, placing each slice into the syrup as soon as it’s cut. Let slices stand for ten minutes. Remove each slice, letting the excess syrup drip back into the pot, and transfer to the baking sheet. Bake until the slices feel very dry, about 1½ hours, turning them over midway.

Happy Birthday, Brian!

What. A. Day.

It all began early this morning, when I got up to make breakfast. It had to be early– we both had an all day retreat to get to and a friend to pick up on the way. The Pioneer Woman taught me to make biscuits and gravy— Brian’s favorite. While I was whipping that up, I put out Brian’s birthday basket and cedar shoe valet. I also got my phone ready to play The Beatles “Birthday” when Brian came downstairs. I was having a blast jumping from the oven to the stove to the french press to setting the table. I was giddy for him to come downstairs and enjoy the fun.

Brian's birthday basket included homemade blueberry infused bourbon, simple syrup, a shoe shine kit, a monogrammed mint julep cup, and specialty beard oil-- I thought it had a "southern gentleman" feel :)

Brian’s birthday basket included homemade blueberry infused bourbon, simple syrup, a shoe shine kit, a monogrammed mint julep cup, and specialty beard oil– I thought it had a “southern gentleman” feel 🙂

Breakfast was fun, but fast! Brian enjoyed the food and coffee (my first gravy ever!), and we laughed and chatted as we got ready to leave.

Today’s retreat was all about Gospel Fluency and living that out. It was incredible. During the morning session breaks, I would run up to Brian and word vomit everything I was connecting with and convicted of from the first session. We both planned on napping when we got home, but the conversation that started in the car as we processed what we learned kept going when we entered the house. We talked for a couple of hours– confessing and sharing and marveling. During this, we did make mint juleps with the infused bourbon in Brian’s birthday gift and sipped as we talked– yum!

This is the bourbon I infused and a peek at the process

This is the bourbon I infused and a peek at the process

Brian wouldn’t let me do any housework on his birthday, so we read our novels together until it was time to leave for the movie. We saw ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ at Alamo. It was a looooooong movie, but very good. Brian liked it more than I did, but I was also freezing cold in the theater and nodding off during the very long, slow middle of the movie. In my defense, we went to a 9:40pm showing.

It was an awesome day– the first time I’ve been able to spoil my husband on his special day. I look forward to spoiling him over and over for the rest of our lives. Today was great– and I’m sure we’ll be sharing more of what we learned about at the retreat in an upcoming post.

Happy Birthday, Brian!!! I love you!!!

Began the year with a win

IMG_3254[1]Brian and I began 2013 at The Heart of Texas Bowl in the old Cotton Bowl Stadium. My husband is a proud graduate of Oklahoma State University and a huge fan of his Cowboys. And though I wore a different shade of orange in college, I make a decent Cowboys fan myself 🙂

We went to the game with some of Brian’s closest friends, Justin and Monica. Justin was the best man at our wedding and he and Brian have a unique relationship. I love these friends and spending the day with them was cold, but great.

The Cowboys creamed Purdue, so we began the year with a win. Then, we drove home to Austin. Well, Brian drove. I napped.

And that’s how 2013 began. Happy New Year and Go Pokes!!!

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Look at my handsome husband and his sexy beard! Woohoo– I’m a blessed woman!

Gifts made easy

One of the (many) awesome parts of this whole engagement and marriage thing is the photos. We were so blessed to have two incredible photographers do these shoots for us. It’s been great– I finally have some pictures of myself that I love, and the best part during this season– we have instant gifts!

Last year, we had the engagement photos to use. We printed and framed them for parents and grandparents. It was so simple, and they were a hit! The last time there were professional photographs of either of us was in high school (and that was SO long ago for my husband)– so there was some updating to do 🙂

We used these photos last year for gifts– I still love all of them…webready_BrianLindsey111211_026 webready_BrianLindsey111211_054

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This year, of course, we had the wedding photos. We also had the bridals and our “day after” shoot. Though we love our candid wedding photos best, we printed a lot of the posed photos for family. We also printed a large bridal for my mom. Here are a couple of them…

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Our “day after” shoot made our Christmas cards simple, too. The toughest part was deciding which photos to include– they were so beautiful!

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But unfortunately, we can’t keep this up. Our family will run out of room for framed photos and will probably get sick of looking at us. What in the world are we going to do for gifts next year?! I think we’re going to have to actually use our brains… oh bother…

For unto us a child is born

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For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
Isaiah 9:6-7