This weekend marks two milestone birthdays around here. One year ago, I started this humble little blog. That weekend also happened to be my 39th birthday. I will leave it to you mathematicians to figure out how old that makes me today. From here on out I think I will start counting my age in blog-years instead of actual years since my birth.
Since I started blogging a year ago, there are 2 questions that I get asked a lot. Why did I decide to start a blog? and Why did I name my blog “No Empty Chairs”?
With a growing family of 7 competing for computer time on one home computer, I don’t usually get much time to just “surf the net”. I usually have a specific purpose for using the computer. One day several years ago, I was looking for a recipe for a specific dish. And I came across my very first food blog (Kalyn’s Kitchen). A whole new world opened up to me that day! I had no idea there were so many people out there writing about food. I was instantly hooked. I followed links to find other great food blogs. I set up an iGoogle home page so that I could follow RSS feeds, and know when my favorite bloggers posted new recipes. I rarely commented, but loved the wealth of information and new recipes to try. I bookmarked (and cooked) tons of new recipes.
Until last year, starting my own blog was something that I thought about, but only as a far off dream. After all-I have no photographic skills or equipment; no real culinary training; I’m a math geek not a creative writer; and I felt like I had no time to really call my own, especially with little kids still home all day, big kids with their own schedules later in the day, and a full-time responsibility at church. But I did love to cook; still love to cook.
Cooking and mealtimes have always meant so much more to me than just filling a physical need for nourishment. Food and meals (and of course treats!) are a way of connecting as family and friends, a way to share both happiness and tragedy, and a vehicle for showing love and gratitude. Family mealtime, dinner in particular, is one family tradition that I have always been adamant about. I learn more about my children at family meals than at any other time during the day. And what better way to entice your children to sit and talk than to provide them with foods they love (okay-they rarely ALL love every item in every meal, but it is getting a little better as they get a little older).
For years I have collected and organized in various ways our “Family Recipes”, the food that our family loves to eat. Some are new recipes found in cookbooks or magazines (or blogs!) and some are treasured favorites from family and friends. Some are things that I have created myself. I had always planned to find the “perfect” way to pass these on to my children as part of their connection to their past, something like a family cookbook. Blogging is my newest attempt at creating that lasting link for them. One that can continue to grow.
So about a year and a half ago, I started to find myself thinking about blogging more and more. Composing posts in my head as I cooked, or planned meals. Lying awake in bed at night wondering what I would call a blog. And then usually dismissing all of those thoughts with doubts and reasons why I would never really do it- lack of time, lack of skills: both photographically and computer/technology related.
Which brought me to my 39th birthday. A perfect time for reflection and self-analysis. And maybe just a little bit of panic! Our family was gathered around the TV in the family room watching the General Conference broadcast from our church. Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was speaking. His talk was on the perfect example of Jesus Christ, and ways that we should pattern our lives after Him. He talked about a gravestone near his home with the inscription, “Please, no empty chairs”. As he spoke about this woman’s desire for her family to be together throughout eternity, a great overwhelming feeling came to me that this is exactly what I want as well. I want no empty chairs at my eternal table. So I will start with No Empty Chairs at my kitchen table. I want my family (and friends and neighbors) to WANT to sit around my table. To share life, with all of its joys and trials, as we share the nourishment and joy of food.
And so I invite you to fill a chair at our table, as I share the food that feeds both the body and soul in our home and helps cement bonds of family unity and friendship. Welcome to No Empty Chairs. I’ve saved you a seat.
For those of you who have dragged yourselves through such a long-winded post, I share my favorite birthday cake:
Strawberries and Cream Sponge Cake Roll
5 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
5 egg whites
½ tsp cream of tartar
¼ tsp salt
¾ cup sifted powdered sugar
½ cup flour
1 quart strawberries, sliced
2 Tbs sugar
2 cups whipping/heavy cream
½ tsp vanilla
2-3 Tbs powdered sugar
Whole strawberries for garnish
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 15×10” jellyroll pan (or cookie sheet with sides) with wax paper and spray with cooking spray (Cooking spray w/flour in it for baking works great).
Beat egg yolks until light and lemon colored. Stir in vanilla. Beat egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and salt, beating until stiff. Fold in ¾ cup powdered sugar. Fold in egg yolk mixture. Fold in flour. Spread batter in pan. Bake at 350°F for 10-12 minutes (do not let cake brown).
Using a fine mesh strainer, sift a small amount of powdered sugar on a linen towel. Turn hot cake out onto towel. Carefully peel off waxed paper. Roll up cake in the towel. Cool on a wire rack.
Combine strawberries and 2 Tbs sugar; let sit for 5 minutes. Beat whipping cream until foamy. Add 2-3 Tbs powdered sugar and ½ tsp vanilla, beating until soft peaks form. Unroll cake. Spread cake with berries, then half of the whipped cream. Reroll cake. Place on a serving plate. Frost with remaining whipped cream. Garnish with whole strawberries. Chill until serving time.
Sugar Free/Whole Grain Alternative: Substitute Stevia, Splenda, or erythritol for the sugar (use Splenda or erythritol in the cake; stevia does not provide the bulk the cake needs, but is fine for sweetening the filling), and oat flour, rice flour or finely ground whole wheat flour (white wheat, preferably) for the white flour. The whole wheat flour obviously isn’t gluten free, but you can substitute most other gluten free flours, or a blend of flours for the white flour.
For detailed cake prep pictures and directions, see THIS POST