It’s Texas Sheet Cake, Y’all!

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Well howdy!

After reading the book That’s Not Hay in My Hair this month, I’ve been so inspired by the great state of Texas. Coincidently, I’ve also been missing one of my sisters who lives in Texas, so reading that particular book gave me a feeling of visiting her homestead, so to speak.

Over the years that she and her family have lived in Texas, I have detected the faintest of Texan accents emerging from my sister, and I love it! I love hearing her sweet voice exclaim, “Hey!”, “Howdy!” or “y’all!” as if she were a Texas native. It makes me smile!

So, hey howdy! I’m in the mood for baking up a Texas Sheet Cake for y’all  — which fits very nicely into our patriotic desserts leading up to the 4th of July! Barbecue, Texas Sheet Cake, sparklers and fireworks — sounds like a great 4th to me!

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Texas Sheet Cake

*I prefer to use all organic ingredients

for the cake:

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup coconut oil

1 cup water

4 Tablespoons cocoa powder

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1 3/4 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup coconut sugar

1/2 cup raw cane sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

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1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup milk with 1 teaspoon lemon juice)

2 eggs

1 Tablespoon vanilla

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-preheat oven to 350 degrees

-In medium-sized saucepan, bring butter, coconut oil, water and cocoa to a boil; remove from heat.

-In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda and sugars. Add the butter/cocoa mixture and stir with a wooden spoon.

-Add in beaten eggs, buttermilk and vanilla.

-Pour into a greased 13″ x 18″ sheet cake pan (or jelly roll pan).

-Bake for 13-14 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

for the frosting:

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 Tablespoons pure maple syrup

2 Tablespoons milk (or vanilla almond milk)

1 cup pecans, crushed

extra crushed pecans for garnishing

-With a stand mixer or hand mixer, combine butter, powdered sugar and vanilla until well blended. Add maple syrup and milk — mix until light and fluffy. Gently stir in pecans by hand.

-Immediately spread frosting over the warm cake — the frosting will melt and spread easily. Allow to cool, and top with additional crushed pecans, if desired.

This cake is incredibly moist and flavorful — the chocolate/pecan frosting gives it an extra measure of deliciousness with a subtle hint of maple.

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Enjoy and Happy 4th!

That’s Not Hay in My Hair – Book Review

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Written by the talented young author, Juliette Turner, That’s Not Hay in My Hair is the endearing true story of a young girl and her mom who move from the hustle and bustle of New York City to the wide-open spaces of a 300-acre ranch in Texas.

Together, this delightful mom and daughter team experience the joys and adventures of ranch life — along with Longhorn cattle, horses, dogs and a cat! Beautifully-written, Ms. Turner draws you in from the very first page, weaving together a combination of laughter, tears and inspiration to the very last page. I had a difficult time putting this book down, and actually wished I could continue reading more about their life on the ranch. Her writing has me longing to take my family on a Texas vacation!

From kindly neighbors who live several miles away to visits from the author’s grandparents, I felt as though I had met them all and was visiting the great state of Texas with all its charm and hospitality!

The recommended age for readers is age 8-12, but I completely disagree — I believe readers of all ages, especially those who have a heart for animals, will thoroughly enjoy this book!

*In exchange for my honest review, I was given a free copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

*Photos courtesy of Google images

The author, Juliette, with her mom, Janine

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Idaho Cherry Pie

 We are currently in the middle of a heat wave with temperatures reaching the triple digits. Summer has indeed arrived, and one of my favorite summer celebrations is the 4th of July!

During the month of June, I would like to share some of my favorite star-spangled desserts to celebrate America’s birthday with a bang!

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The girls and I have thoroughly been enjoying cherry season — my parents’ cherry tree is filled with ripened cherries! We’ve literally picked bags full, and it is still bursting with color! The robins who built their nests nearby are also extremely delighted and have become quite tame as we pick cherries together!

I was inspired to bake a patriotic pie for my first dessert — which would also be a great addition to any summer picnic or party!

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Idaho Cherry Pie

Pie Crust Recipe from King Arthur Flour

*I prefer to use all organic ingredients

*I substituted 1/4 cup Palm Fruit Shortening for the Vegetable Shortening

Cherry Filling

5 cups tart cherries, pitted

1/2 cup raw cane sugar

1/4 cup coconut sugar

1/4 cup raw honey

1 Tablespoon vanilla

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/8 teaspoon salt

***

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-While preparing your pie crust, combine cherries, sugar, coconut sugar, honey and vanilla in a medium-sized bowl. Stir well, allowing flavors to combine.

-When crust is ready, add lemon juice, cornstarch and salt to cherries and stir well.

-Pour cherry filling into prepared crust and top with stars and stripes crust décor.

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-For the stars, I used a star template, but a star cookie cutter would be ideal. For the stripes, simply cut into 1″ strips to lay across the pie, sealing ends to the edges of the crust.

-Brush stars and stripes with egg white and sprinkle with raw cane sugar.

-Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 35-40 minutes or until crust is a deep golden brown and filling begins to bubble.

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Serve warm or cool. This pie pairs extremely well with a scoop (or two) of vanilla  ice cream! It’s as American as apple … er, cherry pie!

Enjoy!

The Joy of Chickens

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It’s been almost two years since we came home with seven fluffy bundles in a small cardboard box. Little did we know what a wonderful experience it would be to welcome Chickaletta, Henrietta, Apple Bloom, Cinnamon, Ariel, Midge and Rosa to our family! We were excited, for sure, but little did we know how sweet and endearing chickens could be!

Naturally, I could start by saying that we love our chickens for the wonderful bounty of eggs they supply us with, and that would be 100% true! It’s still a delight to check the nesting box each day and find a beautiful arrangement of tan and brown-hued eggs.

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But the love doesn’t stop there — the girls, as we call them, bring so much joy! Their almost-animated expressions, whimsical antics and inquisitive nature make us smile and laugh each and every day! As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, the hens might have their squabbles, but they always remain extremely loyal. If one gets separated while out foraging, she will call for her sisters, with growing intensity, until they are re-united.

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The hens greet us cheerfully each morning  — unless, of course, the weather is exceptionally cold and snowy, and with that I can completely sympathize. I love how they  answer and immediately come running to, “here, girls!”, “here, honey”, “here, chick chicks, and even “here, kitty kitty” when I’m calling our cat. When any one of us are outside, the chickens will gather around — content to spend time with us, sit next to us on a picnic blanket or follow us through the yard. They are especially delighted if we’ve brought them one of their favorite treats — oatmeal, fresh fruit or maybe a side dish of pasta.

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I love watching the chickens forage out in the yard free-range and seeing their excitement when they find something particularly wonderful! Like clock work, they will come waddling back as the sun begins to set — perhaps after spending time in the grape vines  or near the fruit trees. They are undoubtedly very full and content as they walk back to the coop like best friends, hopping onto their perch as they settle down with their soft murmurs and whistles.

And seeing their contentment, their joy in the simplicity of a warm spring day or a cool summer evening, their delight in a cluster of grapes or a bowl of oatmeal with sliced banana in turn brings me much joy!

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Signs of Spring

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From blossoming fruit trees to buzzing honey bees, the signs of spring are everywhere …

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The beauty of God’s creation abounds … what a wonderful season to experience, enjoy and explore!

Rainbow Sky

We have been enjoying refreshing rain showers today — as it was getting close to sunset, the rain gracefully stopped, the birds came out to sing and a full rainbow appeared in the sky.

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Meet Marcie – Part Two

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Slowly but surely, our remodel started taking shape, and we were able to make the move into our first house. The long hours finally paid off, and Marcie was always there to greet us, keep us company while we worked and put a smile on my face.

Time went by, and a little over three years later, we were over the moon with joy to welcome our first daughter! Marcie loved sitting next to Aviah in her stroller, curling up on the couch by her and watching her as we sat out in the yard and played.

I often took Aviah for walks in her stroller — we loved going for walks together, and as the post office was only one block away, we could easily walk there two or three times during the week. Marcie always wanted to go with us, but I was apprehensive of her crossing the street. If I didn’t take her back home, she somehow knew how to hide and swiftly catch up to us.

One beautiful, sunny afternoon while waiting in line at the post office, I could hear soft meows and as the door would open, the meows became louder and more urgent. Marcie seemed to be calling us, and as I turned my head around and smiled, customers would inquire if that was my cat. Why yes it is! When we returned outdoors, Marcie had a mixed expression of relief to see us and pure delight at all the attention she was receiving from most everyone who passed by her.

Time went by and again, we were over the moon with joy to welcome our second daughter. Marcie has always loved the girls, and her desire to join us on family walks continued as we made our move to the country. With the exception of cold winter days, if the girls are headed outdoors to play, Marcie will watch them from the window, then head straight to the door to go out with them.

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Although I wondered how Marcie would react to seven chickens and numerous rabbits joining the family, I had the feeling she would do fine. She has always had a very calm, loving disposition and only seems irritated if another cat roams through the yard. She would watch the young chicks in their brooder like a mother hen, and enjoys the company of a bunny as long as the he/she doesn’t become too rambunctious. In the photo below, Marcie reached her paw out to Cashmere, and the two of them sat contentedly for over an hour.

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In two months, our sweet little Marcie will be turning 15 years old. We’re overjoyed that she is still extremely healthy at her age and enjoying country life with us. These days she moves around a little slower, and it takes some time for her to climb up in her favorite apple tree, but she can still be as playful as the little kitten we once found so long ago.

A Winter Walk

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Last week, we welcomed another snow storm which left us with several inches of fresh white powder. The girls were delighted, immediately grabbing their gear to build a snow man and take in an afternoon of sledding.

The chickens on the other hand — well, if you’ve been reading this blog recently, you’re well aware of how our chickens react to the snow. However, they did seem a little braver after this last storm and welcomed the straw that we scattered on the ground for them!

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, our eldest daughter loves photography.

I smiled as she grabbed her camera and headed out the door to capture the essence of a winter day.

I thought you might enjoy a few of her photos …

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Evening Skies

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I love watching the sky. It’s a magnificent canvas for God to show His splendor in a variety of beautifully-shaded hues and ethereal details.

My eldest daughter also loves to watch the sky. I often see her dash out the door with her camera in hand. She might return in a few minutes or she might be out there much longer while she works at capturing the ever-changing views.

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When she bursts through the door, cheeks rosy-pink from the cold, there is pure delight in her expression, and she eagerly comes to share.

I thought you might enjoy some of her photos from this week.

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