Sunday, August 5, 2012

Miss Lily Moves In

In my family, we have a strange tradition.

Said tradition involves an atrociously green, seductively posed, ceramic pregnant frog with lily pads covering her lady parts. Miss Lily has been with the Ross family for several generations, and she travels in her own special globe-trotting case. Her case includes her history, her manifest, and a family tree of my Mom's side of the fam.

So how does one become graced with Miss Lily's presence, you ask?

Well, Miss Lily is passed along to expecting females in the Ross family tree. Her manifest requires that she be presented in an over-the-top manner, the more obnoxious the better. Her manifest also requires that Miss Lily remain on prominent display in the caretaker's home until it's time to pass her along to her next stop.

We pass along my grandmother's lingerie to brides-to-be, so why wouldn't we pass a long a pregnant chartreuse ceramic frog to moms-to-be?

Miss Lily lived with my aunt when she was pregnant with each of my cousins, and she lived with my parents while my sisters & I were on the way.

[my mom co-presenting Miss Lily at the Ross Reunion in 2008]

Miss Lily was confined to her traveling case for many years until about four years ago, when she was presented to my cousin at our family reunion. I think everyone had forgotten about the poor chartreuse frog until then. She's lived in Texas for the past four years, and I had to secretly extricate her from Houston to Atlanta with the help of my mom & cousin. I think the timing was just about right because my cousin's 4-year old had become very interested in getting a Miss Lily of her own! Yikes!!
[Uncle John presenting Miss Lily to my cousin, mom-to-be Erin]

[hot mama-to-be Erin in July 2008. the first keeper of Miss Lily of the new generation.]

Miss Lily seems to be acclimating well to her new abode. And Lula likes her, if a little too much.

[Lula getting to know our new roommate.]

As much as she clashes with our interior decor, we're more than thrilled to have her in our home. Mostly, because of what she represents for the start of our family.

That's right, the newest member of Team V will be making his or her debut in a few months, around February 9th, give or take. Mom & Dad are blessed to feeling great & starting this new chapter. We're especially blessed that our Baby V will have a Cousin V on the west coast very close in age. Cousin V is expected to make her arrival in late September & was celebrated by lots of friends yesterday. We can't wait to see what traditions we concoct for the next generation of the V side of the fam...especially since the chartreuse preggers frog bit is already taken.

You're bound to see a baby-related project or two over the coming months, and definitely more pictures of Lula & bacon recipes. Stay tuned to see where the adventure leads...

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Easy German Chocolate Cake

For my mom's birthday, I decided to make her a German Chocolate Cake--her favorite.

Cricket gave me specific instructions that it couldn't be a big cake--he didn't want the tempting leftovers around for a week. Pretty sure he now regrets that requirement. Nonetheless, I picked up two of these 6" cake pans. I figured they'd be a good size to have on-hand if I ever attempt to make a tiered cake.

After scouring the web, I derived the following recipe. I was happily impressed that, as a German Chocolate Cake should, it gets more moist as the days go by. The sweet coconut filling seeping into the layers of scrumptiousness.

I kinda cheated by using (gasp!) a boxed mix. I kicked up the chocolate factor by adding instant pudding mix, and used sour cream to up the moisture quotient.

The filling is based on the ever-popular Dabid Leibovitz recipe. I simplified it and didn't frost the exterior with chocolate. Instead, I doubled the coconut-praline mixture to have enough for the layers and exterior. YUM!

Cake Ingredients:
1 (18 1/4 ounce) package Betty Crocker Super Moist cake mix - German Chocolate flavor.
1 (4 ounce) box instant chocolate pudding mix - double fudge flavor
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs

Cake Instructions:
1. Preheat to 350 degrees. Line your pans with parchment paper. I used two 6" x 2" pans to keep the size petite, per Cricket's request.

2. Mix all ingredients with electric mixer until smooth.

3. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. The pudding and sour cream increase the cook time than stated on the box, so you may want to check after about 25 min.

4. Let cool on wire rack until completely cooled. I let them cool overnight before frosting them, leaving them in the off oven to avoid Lula's reach.

5. Once cool, use a sharp bread knife to split each layer horizontally & level the tops.

Filling Ingredients: (Double the quantities below to have enough for the exterior.)
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
6 Tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
1 1/3 cups sweetened flake coconut, toasted

To toast the pecans and coconut, I used foil to split a baking sheet into two sections. The coconut took about 15 minutes, and the pecans about 10 on 350.

 Filling Instructions:

1. Mix the cream, sugar, and egg yolks in a medium saucepan. Put the butter pieces, toasted coconut, and pecan pieces in a large heat-safe mixing bowl.
2. Heat the cream mixture and cook, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom as you stir) until the mixture begins to thicken and coats the spoon (an instant-read thermometer will read 170°.)

3. Pour the hot custard immediately into the pecan-coconut mixture and stir until the butter is melted. Cool completely to room temperature. (It will thicken.)

Assembly Instructions:
1. Use a serrated bread knife to cut your layer cakes horizontally, making the layers as even as possible. For a 2-inch deep cake pan, you'll end up with two layers. Cut off the rounded top so that the layers will rest flat on top of each other.

2. Place a layer of cake on your cake plate and spread the cooled filling on top. Add another layer, and repeat until all layers are in place with filling in between them.

3. Use the remaining filling to coat the top of the cake and sides. The filling will likely run down the edges of the sides onto your cake plate -- but that's okay. It turns out really pretty!

4. It's ready to serve!

[you can see we were too eager to get at it to take a pic]