Monday, February 14, 2011
Although most people will be celebrating Valentine's Day today, around our house we have a much more important occasion to celebrate - Kayla's birthday!
I really can't believe it has already been a year since our sweet baby girl arrived and turned our world upside down - in the best of ways. At the beginning of our journey with Kayla everyone kept telling us what a blessing she would be in our lives. I didn't doubt them, but I sure didn't know how it was all going to work out. Most days I still don't, but I do know that all I have to do is hold her and a whole world of stress can flow away. She is an absolute joy and the light of our entire family. She is a total Daddy's girl and her brothers absolutely adore her. She couldn't be more loved if we tried and she certainly makes it easy to love her.
I've shared more of Kayla's story over on my other (neglected) blog, but I have to take today to celebrate this last year with my darling girl. Admittedly, this picture of her is a bit old, but it is one of few where you can see all of her cute face... and honestly, she hasn't changed all that much. Once I get to take some updated pictures this week I will show the birthday girl off some more.
Choosing how to celebrate Kayla's birthday has been a little bit of a struggle because of where we are at developmentally still (she is much more in line with a 6 month old than a 12 month old at this point). There will be no cake smashing because she hasn't been able to have any solids yet, so we will cross that milestone when we come to it - whenever it may be. We have to balance that with what her brothers expect for celebrating a birthday though so there will be a celebration, even though the birthday girl won't really know - but someday she'll care, so it is a good thing she has her brother's to watch out for her. I mean really, just look at how they are celebrating with her already! (Because, after all, she is our princess!)
I'm choosing to celebrate the day in small, quiet ways. Like having a cup of really good hot chocolate and taking the time to sit, relax and reflect on the past year and everything that we have grown through together as a family.
I also want to take the time to think about where we are headed in our crazy life in the near future and stop to breathe and enjoy my family more. It is very easy to become wrapped up in the go-go-go attitude of a busy life and end up missing the small, important moments. I want to embrace those more so that when hard times come (which they inevitably always do) I can pull those out and hold them close to help get through it. I don't do that enough.
My boys are very funny. They absolutely love having little parties with me - whether we are having a carpet picnic in the family room with a funny movie, or whether we are having a little 'tea' (aka hot chocolate) party in the kitchen while they get to help make a treat.
One we really love to celebrate with is doughnuts. We are absolute doughnut fanatics - can't get enough of them... which is why I don't make them too often. It would be a very dangerous habit to cultivate.
Aside from the fact that doughnuts are dangerous, more often then not I don't have the forethought to actually plan ahead for them - only on special occasions really.
That is the beauty of Buñuelos - they are basically a fritter or doughnut made with a quick, almost biscuit-like dough. This makes them dangerously quick to make, but so satisfying when nothing else will do.
The dough that I make is slightly spiced with a little nutmeg and cinnamon and once fried is dusted with confectioners' sugar. I love eating these warm, but if you can wait the flavors are actually more noticeable when they have cooled a bit.
These are fantastic to make with kids because everything is easily mixed in a bowl by hand and there is no real shaping that needs to happen - you just pinch off smallish pieces of dough, roll them a little or smash them, whichever you prefer and then fry them up. The boys loved helping with this and it makes this a great family activity.
Add in some amazing, homemade hot chocolate mix lightly spiced with cinnamon and a little chile powder and you'll feel like celebrating too.
I came up with this Mexican Hot Chocolate mix recipe not too long after I created the Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate Mix recipe for Mom It Forward. There is something I really just can't resist about having a jar of chocolate mix on the counter, ready to go, and knowing exactly what went into it and customizing it to our tastes. It really is so easy to make that I haven't bothered to buy any store-bought mixes of any kind for the past few years now.
Makes approximately 18 fritters
1/4 cup milk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
1 cup all-purpose flour + extra as needed
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
pinch of salt
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Vegetable oil for frying
Confectioners' sugar for sprinkling
In a small bowl whisk together the milk, egg and vanilla.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cream of tartar, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. Rub the shortening into the flour mixture using your fingertips.
Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and toss and stir together with a fork to create a slightly sticky dough. Add enough flour to get this consistency, without making the dough too dry.
In a large pot, add enough vegetable oil to have it at least two inches deep. Heat the oil over medium-high heat to about 350 degrees F. Use a frying thermometer if you have one, otherwise heat the oil for about 4-5 minutes, then use a small piece of dough to test it - it should sizzle and float immediately when added to the hot oil - if it doesn't, then the oil isn't hot enough.
Pinch off small pieces of dough and shape them into small balls or flatten a little with your hands - it should be about a rounded tablespoon's worth of dough. Add a few pieces to the hot oil at a time, but don't over crowd the pot. Fry the fritters on all sides, turning as needed, for about 1 minute total or until golden.
Remove the fritters from the oil and let them rest on a paper towel lined plate or baking sheet to cool. Sprinkle the slightly cooled fritters with confectioners' sugar and serve warm or at room temperature.
Mexican Hot Chocolate Mix
Makes 1 Cup of Mix (6 ounces by weight or 15 tablespoons) - enough for 4 to 6 servings
2 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or chocolate chips)
1 to 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ancho chile powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch processed
Combine everything in the bowl of your food processor and process the mixture until it is as fine a powder as you can get, without letting the machine heat too much or start melting the chocolate - it will take only about 4 to 5 minutes at the most, depending on the size of the chocolate pieces you started with.
To make a serving of the hot chocolate, combine 1 cup of hot milk for each 2-4 tablespoons of mix, depending on how rich you like your hot chocolate (pictured with about 3 tablespoons per cup of milk). For a little extra you can add a small splash of vanilla extract as well.
whipped cream - plain or with a little cinnamon
cinnamon or cocoa powder sprinkled on top of whipped cream
cinnamon sticks for stirring