Monday, April 30, 2012

Tapioca Pudding

Tapioca. What is it? It is the starchy root of the cassava plant, dried and formed into small pearls. Quick tapioca has been ground down to small chunks and works best for thickening fruit pies. Small Pearl Tapioca is ideal for tapioca pudding because they are the perfect size. Large pearl tapioca is what is used in making bubble tea.
First off, I really enjoy tapioca pudding! Not too sweet or heavy, just the right creamy and textured treat! It's so hard to find a good recipe, so today I finally just created one to my liking... Here is my recipe:

Tapioca Pudding

2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
4 cups milk
1 cup  Small Pearl Tapioca
Pinch of nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon butter (optional)

Combine the eggs and sugar, beat until smooth. Whisk in milk, then stir in tapioca and nutmeg. Allow to soak under refrigeration for at least 30 minutes, I find an hour or two makes the pearls more tender.
After soaking, cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Boil for about a minute, until pudding has thickened. It will thicken more on cooling. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and butter. May be enjoyed warm or chilled.

This version beats the store-bought version hands down in texture and flavor! And another perk: it's gluten free! This does get fairly thick, so if you prefer it less thick, simply cut back the tapioca by as much as half. Enjoy!

Beautiful Tapioca Pudding made with fresh farm eggs

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Wedding Cake

Well, once again, life has taken over and prevented me from having extra time to post. We've survived a wedding, my little one with the stomach flu, and the birth of my new niece Lily. I seem to have injured my back and my husband strained a muscle in his leg last night and is currently on crutches. Life sure doesn't slow down...
On the bright side, I'm getting ready to start my gardening season. I am so excited to cook some great meals with what I harvest from my garden!
I know many of you asked about how the cake turned out, so I wanted to post a picture of the final product. Being the perfectionist that I am, I could see many flaws in the executions, but all in all, I believe it turned out pretty well! The flowers are shaped from gum paste, which is similar to fondant, but does not absorb moisture from the air. Each flower took 2 1/2 hours to make. I formed the centers and shaped the stamens, putting a small piece of wire into each, so I could attach it to the center. The wire is the only non-edible part of the flower as I couldn't find anything thin, strong, and flexible to use. I then had to roll, shape, and cut each petal, then form them and allow them to dry. Once dry, I laid out my petals and painted them with a mixture of vodka and food color gel. This allowed the flowers to dry, versus re-hydrating by using water. Once the 2 coats of "paint" dried, I was able to assemble the tulips using meringue powder and water as glue. They were propped up to dry, then the glue was touched up for pieces that didn't adhere.The cake was a devil's food cake, filled with a cherry-marshmallow filling, iced with a lactose free icing and topped with fondant.   I baked the cakes one day, then filled them the next. Day three, I was able to apply 2 coats of icing, chilling between each coat. Then came the fondant. It is a challenge to work with! The fondant had to be tinted ivory, since it was white. That was a workout! The fondant must be rolled to the right thickness - too thick, it would crack. Too thin, it would tear and everything underneath would show through. Once the fondant is on the cake itself, you have to work quickly so it doesn't dry out while you are stretching and smoothing the fondant over the icing. The heat of my hands was melting the icing underneath, making it very difficult to have a smooth finish. Once the fondant is on the cake, you cannot refrigerate it or the water within the fondant will bead up on the surface. After the fondant was on, I used a navy ribbon around the base (covers up many mistakes!) and secured it using small pins. The flowers were not actually attached to the cake, but just laid on there in a composed way.

I hope it was both visibly and tastefully appreciated!

The cake!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Spring IS Coming!

Hi everyone! I apologize for the scarcity of my posts lately... Life has been so hectic! And upcoming wedding in the family has taken some time away, as I am making the cake. I will post pictures on here of the final product. I hope it turns out!
On the AWESOME side, my husband is finished with his chemo and appears to be gaining back some strength. 2012 started off a little rough for us, but we are hopeful for the future and that the cancer stays away! Thank you all for your support and prayers, we really appreciated them!

I don't know how the weather has been in your area, but our weather in the Pacific Northwest has been wet and cold! This presents a problem with my gardening... you can't cultivate mud! At least now easily... Sunshine has been hard to come by, but we are looking forward to some nicer weather soon!

So far, I am only perusing my seed catalogs to choose what I will be planting for this year. I love organic heirloom varieties for many things, as I can save seeds (and money) for next seasons plantings. Sometimes I feel like I had a great green thumb, but after last year's terrible crop, I am afraid it might be withering a little. I am researching everything I am planning to plant to find out what the best methods of planting are and how to get the highest yield from each plant. And, I hope to beat the slugs to my harvest this year!

I would love to hear - what are your favorite foods to grow and do you have any tips and tricks to make the most of the gardening season?

Last year's lettuce... this was as big as it got...

I am being optimistic... Spring IS coming. And I will be ready, with my gardening gloves and my seeds in hand!