The Perfect Red Velvet Cupcake

Now that I feel I have mastered the Old Fashioned Vanilla Birthday Cake (more on that soon), I am ready to move on to finding the Perfect Red Velvet Cupcake recipe.  This weekend was my partners birthday party so I tried out this Smitten Kitchen Red Velvet Cake as cupcakes.  It was a hit–everyone at the party raved about how moist they were–like really raved, I have not heard the word moist uttered so many times in my life.  This one is an excellent choice, but its a bit complicated, so I am going to try out some other recipes to see if I can find one that is just as good but simpler to carry out.

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How to Make Homemade Lavender Ice Cream

Lately we’ve had a ton of eggs, lemons and lavender, so I decided to make lavender ice cream.

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My wife got me an ice cream maker for Christmas.  I can’t believe how much time has gone by without me trying it out yet.  The ice cream maker is an attachment for our KitchenAid Mixer–a gift from her old boss. To make ice cream you have to freeze the attachment.  Well, our freezer is always jam packed with food, so in order to make ice cream I first had to eat some of the food from the freezer to make room.

I am loosely following this Martha Stewart recipe.  Assuming your starting with an ice cream maker that’s ready to go (aka has been in the freezer at least overnight) it will take about 10 hours for you to go from raw ingredients to deliciously-worth-the-wait ice cream.  It’s a pretty active process for about 15 minutes, and then its a lot of waiting.

Here are the ingredients:

Whole Milk

Heavy Cream

Sugar

Lavender

Honey

Egg Yolks

Begin by warming 2 cups of whole milk, 1 cup of heavy cream, 2 Tablespoons of Lavender and 1/2 Cup of Honey over medium heat. Don’t heat it too fast and don’t let it boil.  Stir in the lavender and heat until the honey is well mixed with the cream.  Just before it boils remove from heat and let it steep for 30 minutes.

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Of course in the midst of making this I was interrupted by a very clingy baby–so the lavender got to steep for over two hours.

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Once the lavender has sufficiently steeped in the cream you’ll want to remove most of the lavender from the batter, I like to leave a few pieces to add color and to remind us that its lavender.  Once you remove the lavender place it back on the stove and heat it on low heat, taking care not to let it boil.

Now its time to add the eggs.  Do this by first beating the eggs in a mixing bowl with a dash of salt.  To the egg mixture slowly add one cup of the lavender steeped cream, whisking the eggs as you SLOWLY pour the hot cream in to temper it.  Once its all in, slowly pour the egg mixture back into the rest of the warm milk.  Again whisking the whole time you slowly add the cream.  Once its fully mixed pour the mixture into another mixing bowl.  Let this cool covered for three hours.

Once three hours have passed its finally time to use the ice cream maker.  Add the batter to the bowl, assemble to the mixer and let it whirl on “Stir” for 20-30 mins, or until the machine is struggling to keep mixing.

And now the final step.  (Feel free to taste test at this point).  Scoop the ice cream out of the ice cream maker and into a container with a lid.  Keep this in the freezer for at least 3 hours.  Wait patiently.  Enjoy!

4th of July Burgers 


Growing up in Wisconsin our 4th of July celebrations almost always meant grilling out at the park or in our back yard. The smell of grill smoke is part of my memories of summer days with family and friends. 

As a kid I never really liked the burgers my parents made. My dad made a meatloaf style burger and likes his burgers very thick. He would add onion, egg, and crackers to the meat and roll up a thick 1/3 lb burger.  I would often choose a hotdog over a burger. 

A few years ago I discovered this homemade Umami burger recipe and ever since then I have loved grilling my own burgers. Here’s our adaptation for four 1/4 lb burgers:

1lb lean ground beef

1 Tablespoons Fish Sauce

2 cloves Crushed garlic 

1 teaspoon Sugar

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

Mix it all together by hand, let sit at least 30 mins. Shape into four patties. Grill at 400 degrees for about five mins on each side depending on the thickness and desired doneness. 

Compost and Food Waste

Composting is an essential part of urban gardening and homesteading.  Because our urban soils do not benefit from the nutrients of animal manure and traction or formal practices of crop rotation, it is critical to replenish soil nutrients each growing season.  Food and yard waste compost is the best way to do that.

I have attempted various systems for composting, this final elevated tumbler has proven to be the best for us. Previously I had a standing plastic bin with four sides and a lid–this was both difficult to get the completed compost out of and it attracted rats.  The tumbler does not seem to attract rats, but unfortunately requires that I dig the compost out with my hands.  If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, this is a really good option for urban settings.

If you are composting food scraps, be sure to keep out any meat, or cooked foods, and try to ensure a balance of leaves, sticks and other brown matter to balance the green matter.  Otherwise you may end up with Soldier Fly Grubs, a discussion I will save for another post.

Backyard Chickens

Ever since we moved to this property and our lovely 85 year old neighbor had free range hens and a rooster, it has been on in the back of my mind that I wanted to get our own chickens.  Our area allows for chickens so long as they are kept a certain distance from each neighbor’s dwelling.  By keeping them in our front yard we will be within regulations.   I began our process of getting chickens with the coop.  I had seen various plans to build your own DIY coop.  I spoke with the lovely folks at our local urban homesteading shop Kings Roost, and decided it would be better to buy a prefab coop and reinforce it myself with extra chicken wire to keep the critters out.  Here’s the coop we decided on: