Saturday, February 20, 2010

Birthdays & Friendships

Happy 1st Birthday to Brody and thanks to my good friend, Michelle! 

I have known Michelle since I was a little girl.  She was my "best-est friend" in the whole world.  Michelle was a couple years older than I and she lived across the street from me.  I just thought she was fantastic!  She was a good friend to me.  And one day she and her family moved away.  I was devasted.  At a young age everything seems more dramatic, right?  I have often thought of her throughout the years and wondered how she was.  Wondered if she'd remember me if I ran into her.  Well, the years passed and I grew up, went to college, and got married.  Never knowing that I would one day "find" her on Facebook!

Joining Facebook has been a treat for me.  I have reconnected with friends that I had lost touch with through the years and have so enjoyed chatting with them.  So, imagine the excitement I felt when I was finally able to find someone that still kept in contact with Michelle!  Michelle had married and that was why I was unable to "find" her on Facebook.  I was finally able to send her a message and say hello after all these years!

It's kind of funny how time passes but friendships don't.  It is amazing how time spent with someone from a long time ago can make such an impact on you that you still can feel at ease in their presence and pick up like it was just yesterday that you saw them.

So, you wonder what does all this writing have to do with cake and cupcakes.  These were for her son's first birthday.  I felt very honored to be asked.  It was exciting also because it would be the first time since elementary school that I had seen Michelle.  She was still the same Michelle that I remembered.  Full of smiles, bubbly personality, and her red hair! :-)

So, here's to a first birthday and long friendships!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Cappucino Muffins

Coffee. Wonderful. Delicious.
I love the smell of coffee.  I am not a huge coffee drinker but I do love those frou frou coffee drinks.  The last two weeks my mother in law has been visiting and she is an avid book reader.  She has been reading a series called, "Coffeehouse Mysteries"  by Cleo Coyle and in the back of each book are recipes that were featured in the book.  I wrote down one that looked really good and decided that I would make it this afternoon.  I improvised a little because I was too lazy to go to the store twice in one day.  So, the sour cream that was supposed to be one cup became a spatula scoop.  I also did not put the icing on that it called for.  I sprinkled powdered sugar on top along with some miniature chocolate chips and sliced almonds. They turned out pretty tasty!

On a side note, I received my candle order today that consisted of Black Coffee and Gingerbread.  They were handmade by a friend of mine who owns Smelly Things Candle Co.  You are able to select your color and scent.  They are 100% soy.  They also come nicely packaged for gift giving if you'd like.  I can't wait to burn one tonight!

Here's the recipe:

Clare's Cappucino Muffins - Serves 12 jumbo or 18ish standard

2 c. sifted flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 c. powdered unsweetened cocoa
2 tbsp dark ground coffee beans
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 chocolate chips
1 c. ground hazelnut or almonds
1 tsp orange zest (I used dried orange zest.)
1/2 c. butter (I used butter flavor crisco.)
1/2 c brown sugar
1 c. sour cream
3/4 c. milk
2 eggs
1/4 c. double strength cooled coffee
*I added a tsp of vanilla, also.

Sift the dry ingredients together. Add the chocolate chips, nuts, and orange zest.  In another bowl, mix together the butter, sugar, milk, eggs, and cooled coffee.  Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined.  Pour into lined tins.  Bake 20-25 minutes for jumbo or about 15 minutes for standard at 375 degrees.

2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp milk
1/2 stick of butter, room temp.

Mix together and ice the muffins.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

You sometimes have to kiss a few frogs to find your prince!

This past Sunday was Valentine's Day.  A day that is not really celebrated in our house.  Don't get me wrong, I am not down on the whole holiday and if you enjoy it and celebrate it, please do!  We don't.  I spent a number of years as a floral designer and know the "pressures" that this holiday causes.  People stress over making sure they have the right flowers, chocolates, or other token of love to give to the significant other and I don't feel it's worth it.  I also know how much the cost of flowers are increased due to this holiday.  When Dave and I were married we, more me, decided that if he wanted to give me flowers to do it on a day or an occassion that it wasn't expected.  We felt that we did not need a specific day to express our love to each other.  You should show it every day!  Yes, I realize that sounds a bit schoompy. 

Anyway, since I had found these cute little frog cupcake picks and I decided to have a little get together on Valentine's Day for us non celebraters - is that a word??  We had a small group over for homemade pizza and salad.  Our mothers, my aunt, and a friend of ours from church joined us.  After lunch we made frog magnets.  I started finding little craft projects to do at gatherings and everyone seems to enjoy them.  So, I am continuing this little tradition.  It gets the creativity flowing and allows for some fun memories!  Plus some good wholehearted laughter!

These "frog" valentine cupcakes were a yellow butter cake and topped with maraschino buttercream icing.

Oh, by the way, if you would like to see my creative husband's magnet click here... 365strokepaintproject   and also read about his newest art project!

Superbowl Sunday 2010

The Saints won!  It was a good game between the Colts and the Saints!  I, personally, was rooting for the Colts but was happy that the Saints won.  My father hosted the Superbowl Party this year and we had lots of good eats.  Let's see there was: Spinach Artichoke Dip, veggies/cheese, chips and dip, little bbq smokies, salsa, and guacamole.  My brother made two type of chicken wings this year.  One was a chinese inspired flavor and the other had a peach bourbon sauce on it.  They were delicious!  We also had Cecil Whitaker's pizza.  I made the dessert, of course, right!?  I opted for cupcakes again due to the ease of serving.  These were white confetti cake filled with bavarian creme.  I topped them with a low sugar cream cheese frosting tinted in each teams relative colors.

My quest to make a good roast...

...did not fair so well this last time as I bought a bad cut of meat from the grocery store. Not my fault but the butcher!  The meat was stringy and tough.  No, I didn't overcook it!

 I love a good beef or pork roast with all of the fixings.  Roast dinners were usually centered aroung Sunday dinners with family as far back as I can remember.  My dad and mom both still make this dish on the occassional Sunday.  I think my favorite is when it is cooked in a cast iron roaster.  Nothing fancy just the meat and either onions and lots of black pepper or a dry onion soup mix sprinkled over it and cooked slow in a low temp oven.  You can place the potatoes, carrots, and mushrooms right into the roaster about halfway through to soak up the flavorful goodness of the onions and roast.  Or cook the roast alone and make a gravy with all of the drippings afterwards to go with your mashed potatoes.  Either way, it is delicious and my stomach is growling from the thought of it! ;-)  Ooh, and your house will smell fantastic!

Low Sugar Baked Treats

Low sugar.  This usually brings to my taste. Recently, Dave, my husband, received his blood test results from the doctor and it said that his blood sugar was on the high side.  We need to do a low sugar diet to get it down.  Me, being the supportive wife and all, decided that I should jump on board too!  I tend to eat sweets a bit too much!  It took some getting used to and the withdrawal from sugar was rough but we are doing well!  We have even lost some weight and hopefully, once the weather turns warmer we can get out and exercise a bit more!

I love to bake and thought I would try to adjust some of my recipes.  I have been trying unsweetened applesauce as  a substitute for sugar and shortening.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.  It is all just trial and error for the moment.  Having had a few flops trying this substitute I decided to just cut the sugar down and see how a recipe tasted.   I think these little loaves had a good flavor!   I used a sweet bread recipe from a friend and cut the sugar from 1 cup to 1/4 cup.  Drastic, yes and you do miss a little of the sweetness but you really can get the banana, butternut squash, or applesauce flavor to shine through.  In my quest to subsitute items in order to curb my sweet tooth I am finding that just cutting sugar in recipes isn't always such a big deal.  In fact, I have been doing it for awhile in cookies and no one knows the difference!

We have decided to not use a sugar substitute due to all of the side effects/warnings about them.  We decided to just watch the sweets and carbs we digest.  We try to eat fresh items when possible and incorporate healthier items into our diet.  It takes a little getting used to but I find it a challenge (and I like a challenge!) to make a healthy menu for us and those who dine with us! 

Take me out to the Ballgame!

I am so excited about baseball season starting soon!  Go Cards! 
My brother and I share a love of baseball so it only seemed fitting to make him baseball themed cupcakes for his birthday.  Granted, my brother is not a huge sweet eater like I am but I found these fun baseball picks so I had to make him these.  I made dark chocolate cupcakes in cardinal red liners and topped them with either a coffee buttercream or maraschino cherry buttercream.  I also made the lettering out of dark chocolate and placed it on top of the icing.  They smelled delicious!  It was hard not to eat them myself!  Enjoy!