High Heel Cupcake Fun

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A couple months ago I had the opportunity to share my love of cupcakes with a creative group of 3rd graders.  They were Brownie Troop 2304 and their fearless leader, Annie, asked me to come in and do a cupcake project with the girls.  I had seen these high heel cupcakes online but had never attempted them on my own.  I thought they would be the perfect cupcakes to make with the girls.  The one above is the demo I made to show the girls.  I also prepped the graham cracker "soles" ahead of time. 

While the girls handled a few Brownie Troop orders of business, I set up the spread of cupcakes, soles and heels along with any kind of sprinkle you could think of.  What happened next was amazing.  I sat back and watched the girls create every color of frosting under the sun and proceed to make some of the most fabulous high heels I've ever seen! 

Now I'm far from a type A personality but when it comes to cupcakes, I'm pretty precise.  I tend to go for the perfect swirl with symmetric looking sprinkles, trying to achieve perfection.  I could learn something from these girls.....sometimes you just need to let the creativity flow!  Get sticky with frosting and there is never "too much" frosting or "too many" sprinkles.

The best part, I was given a cupcake decorating badge.  That might not seem like a big deal to you, but I was never a Brownie or Girl Scout so I never had the opportunity to earn the badges.  I was always jealous of the sashes full of badges. 
This was such a fun night.  I'm excited to do it again with a Girl Scout group next month.  It will be just in time, to give me another little reminder to let go and have fun.  Let the frosting fly and get creative.  I can't wait to see what the next group comes up with.  

I love Pumpkin!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Hi, my name is Sara and I'm a pumpkin-aholic.  I may even be hoarding cans of pumpkin puree in case of shortage as everyone scrambles to make pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.  Oh, maybe not really....or am I?  Either way, I am loving all the recipes floating around pinterest and what not this time of year incorporating this fruit?  vegetable?  gourd?

I've made a few things lately using pumpkin and/or pumpkin flavor that I'd like to share with you.  First off, Pumpkin French Toast.
I wouldn't even really call this a "recipe" because I just kind of tossed things together until the flavor came out just right.  Adjust accordingly, this part of trial and error is fun....and tasty too!
Pumpkin French Toast
6 slices day old whole wheat french bread
3 eggs
3 Tbs. pumpkin puree
1 Tbs. milk
1/2 Tbs. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. vanilla
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of cloves
cool whip (optional)
maple syrup (optional)
Mix eggs, pumpkin puree, milk, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, and cloves in a shallow bowl.  Dip each slice of bread in mixture and coat both sides evenly.  Cook in pan coated with cooking spray on medium heat.  Turn once, cooking each side 2 -3 minutes or until golden brown.  Dress with maple syrup and cool whip or whatever your favorite pancake/french toast toppings may be.  I love this breakfast for cleaning up leftover bread or buying day old bread that the store for a discount (yeah, I'm cheap!).
Another great little treat I've been making is mini pumpkin "pies".  I first saw this on Instagram, posted by Brianne from Cupcakes and  Kale Chips.  She served it in a cup, I added it to a mini pre-made graham cracker crust.
Mini Pumpkin Pies

1 pre-packaged vanilla pudding cup
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 Tbs. honey (or to taste)
2 mini graham cracker crusts
cool whip
Mix pudding, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, nutmeg, and honey.  Divide evenly among pie crusts.  Top with cool whip.  Notice I don't put an amount of cool whip.  Add as much or as little as you want, go nuts! 
The last treat I saw posted by Aimee on her blog, Shugary Sweets.  I immediately pinned it and went grocery shopping that day in hopes of finding the seasonal pumpkin spice pudding mix needed for this recipe.  Again, I may be hoarding boxes of this also.  Maybe.
Pumpkin Krispie Treats!  Amazing.  You can find Aimee's recipe HERE.  I followed her recipe to the T and they turned out great.  Frosting a krispie treat?  Why didn't I think of that!
For the record, Izzy likes pumpkin too.  Just plain pumpkin puree.  According to the internet, pumpkin is good for dogs.  And you have to believe everything you read on the internet.  She is also very helpful when I'm taking photos of food.  She's willing to clean anything up that might spill.  She keeps a very watchful eye, so helpful of her.

And because I'm an addict, please share with me your favorite pumpkin recipes.  I'll pin away, hoarding recipes of delicious pumpkin treats!  If you are in the mood for a pumpkin cupcake, I posted a great recipe earlier this month.  As pictured, it is great served with pumpkin beer!  No, I'm not hoarding any seasonal beer....but I'm off to the grocery store, you never know when they'll run out!

Caramel Apple Crisp Cupcakes

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Oh friends, do I have special treat for you today.  The idea for some sort of apple cupcakes actually started in May when I found cute mini bushel baskets at a yard sale.  A dozen of them to be exact and I knew then they would be perfect to hold cupcakes to make a "wow" presentation. 

my new mini bushel baskets, man bait apple crisp, and little bits of heaven
So add the presentation idea to my love of apple crisp and the little bits of heaven I found in the grocery store by Kraft, Caramel Bits.  They are sold along with those annoying square caramels where you have to unwrap each one individually.  When I saw these bits, I knew they'd be perfect for adding some caramel-y goodness to some cupcakes.
This weekend was finally the time I got to put all of these together.  I like baking days like this too, where it all just seems to come together perfectly.  It may have helped that I had some great company in the kitchen too.  My Mom was there to offer her baking hints and a helping hand.  My sister Shari and her friend Karie were working on crafts at the kitchen table and made for great company. 
These cupcakes are just too good for me not to share the recipe with you.  The time and steps put into topping these cupcakes is what really makes them come together.  As a special bonus, this is a cheater recipe, starting with a box cake mix instead of working from scratch.  Yes, it is o.k. to do that from time to time.  If you recall, I did this once before while making my Blue Raspberry Beach Cupcakes.  Again, more time was needed for the toppings, so it was nice having a short cut in the recipe.
Caramel Apple Crisp Cupcakes
1 box spice cake mix
3 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk
3 apples (peeled, cored and chopped into small pieces)
1/2 recipe crisp topping, unbaked (see below)
To make cupcakes:
Pre-heat oven to 350.  Prepare baking cups (I made 16 jumbo cupcakes).  Blend cake mix, eggs, oil and milk until well combined, using hand mixer or in stand mixer.  Using spatula, fold in apple pieces. Divide batter evenly, filling cups about half full.  Sprinkle half of unbaked crisp topping mixture on each of the cups.  Bake approx. 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 
Caramel Buttercream (from Wilton)
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1/3 cup butter
2/3 cup caramel ice cream topping
1 tsp. vanilla
4 cups confectioner's sugar
To make buttercream:
Blend shortening and butter in stand mixer until creamy.  Add caramel ice cream topping and vanilla.  Gradually add confectioner's sugar until blended, scrape sides and bottom of bowl often.  Add milk (2-4 Tbs.) and mix until smooth.
Crisp Topping
1/2 cup butter, soft
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup oats
2 Tbs. flour
3/4 caramel bits
To make crisp topping:
With a fork, blend all ingredients in a small bowl.  Mix well while still leaving some large clumps.  Divide mixture in half.  Use half above, baking with the cupcake batter.  Spread the second half on parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake 10 to 15 minutes at 350.  Stir a couple times in between baking to redistribute ingredients.  Mixture may melt flat to one large piece.  Let cool.  When cool, break into smaller pieces.
Now it's time to assemble these beauties!  When cupcakes are cool, pipe the center of the cupcake with caramel buttercream.  Sprinkle each cupcakes with small pieces of crisp topping.  If you have left over caramel ice cream topping from the buttercream recipe, drizzle each cupcake with caramel. 
A few items to note about these cupcakes.  One:  I don't have a favorite apple I use while baking.  In fact I had a variety bag of 4 or 5 different kinds of apples from the orchard so I'm not even sure what kind I used while making these cupcakes.  Two:  I used jumbo cupcake papers because I knew that size would best fit the mini bushel baskets I wanted to serve them in.  If using regular size, baking time will need to be adjusted.  Three:  I questioned making the crisp topping.  It appears it isn't going to work and just be a melty mess.  Don't worry and don't skip this step, it is so yummy!  Four:  With these cupcakes being jumbo size and being so soft with the apples inside, they require a fork.  Not an eat right out of the wrapper kind of cupcake.
This may be one of my favorite cupcakes I have ever made.  Because they were so yummy, most of the batch was delivered promptly to some co-workers.  Out of sight, out of my belly!
It was the perfect desert to top a wonderful fall day.  It was beautiful outside, so nice we even had the patio door open with a crisp fall breeze coming in.  We also had a campfire going outside to make our dinner, getting in one last pudgie pie in for the season!  And by "we" I mean my Dad and brother-in-law, they were in charge of the fire and cooking dinner.  They were also my set/lighting crew while taking photos.  The best parts were the laughs shared over the afternoon.  Many laughs coming from my sister reading posts from The Bloggess out loud.  Hopefully Mom made note that Shari and I both have giant metal chickens on our Christmas lists!  If you don't know what I'm talking about, read this post, HERE.
Oh, Shari and Karie had a successful crafting day too.  I even modeled one of their masterpieces.  I may make this my Christmas card.  There may also be a shot of me waving with less fingers...but I was smiling the whole time!  No really, I found myself smiling for the photo....why?  I have no idea!  Later on, this picture reminded me of the Friends episode where Monica put the turkey on her head to cheer Chandler up.  Kind of like a giant metal chicken on your friend's porch could cheer them up.  (see Bloggess post if you haven't yet!)  Yeah, that's the kind of friend I am.      


DIY TV Stand

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Over a year ago I bought myself a new TV.  Prior to my fancy 32" (huge, I know!) flat TV, I had a beast of a box style TV bought years ago when I got my first apartment.  The TV worked just fine and I really hated getting rid of it.  My sensible (cheap) side didn't see the need to replace something that worked just fine.  My non-sensible side wanted a new TV.  I decided to put the beast box into my Mom's rummage sale.  If it sold, I'd buy and new TV and as a bonus I'd have some extra money from the rummage sale to help make that purchase.  It sold, I got a new TV.  but....

Ever since I brought the new flat TV home, I've been on the search for an equally sleek stand of sorts to put it on.  Again, another expense my frugal (cheap) side didn't want to have.  Everything I found and liked, was just out of my price range.  Fast forward to this last May and my Mom was once again having a rummage sale.  My friend Lori added some items to the sale including an old bookshelf with a mere $2 price tag.

The shape and size was perfect for a TV stand.  It just needed a little work.  I scooped it up on rummage sale day 2....and then let it sit in my Dad's garage for a few months.  I needed to think of the perfect plan to make it into just what I needed.  Last month my vision became a reality.  I (with my Dad's help) created the perfect TV stand and on my frugal (cheap) budget.
First step was to remove the shelf and cut a hole in the back, big enough to fit my components/cords.
Then came painting and creating a background.  The idea of doing something decorative on the back was so I wouldn't stack junk on the bottom shelf. 

 I even had my guard dog there to make sure DIY thieves didn't attempt to steal anything.  She was clinging and needed to be touching my foot most of the time while I was working.  Silly puppy.

The background was created with scrapbook paper from My Mind's Eye and Mod Podge.  The paint color I picked was Dutch Boy Colonial Cobblestone
I absolutely love the finished TV stand.  I just need to fix the cords so they are not in view from the front.  It fits my small room perfectly and you can't beat the price either!  New TV stand for under 20 bucks?  How many people can say that?  

Pumpkin Cupcakes

Friday, October 12, 2012

On Monday I shared my thoughts on long distance friendships.  Now here is the glue that holds that friendship together...cupcakes!  Not really but they do help.  Pumpkin flavored cupcakes was the request of my friend Kellie.  Now, most pumpkin cupcake recipes I found were topped with cream cheese frosting.  I knew Kellie would refuse to put her lips anywhere near anything topped with cream cheese so I searched and searched until I found a great recipe, minus the cream cheese frosting.  Oh, but this recipe called for espresso, they were actually pumpkin spice latte cupcakes, every one's favorite seasonal Starbucks treat!  We ended up making just pumpkin without the latte part but they were still very delicious.  The recipe had a link back to original pumpkin with a little more spice to replace the espresso.

yeah, we even paired them with some pumpkin beer!


Pumpkin Cupcakes (from Annie's Eats)

For the cupcakes:
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. salt
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
4 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 350.  Line cupcake pan with paper liners (makes 24).  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend together the pumpkin, both sugars and oil.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in two additions, mixing just until incorporated.

Fill the cupcake liners about 3/4 full.  Bake until the cupcakes are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 18-20 minutes.  Let cool before frosting.

For the frosting:
2 1/4 cups heavy cream, chilled
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar

Place the heavy cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whip on medium-low speed at first, gradually increasing to high speed.  Blend in confectioners' sugar gradually.  Whip until stiff peaks form, being careful not to over-beat.

For cream cheese frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
6 Tbs. unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups confectioners' sugar
2 1/4 tsp. vanilla

In an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter on medium speed until creamy.  Gradually add confectioners' sugar to butter/cream cheese mixture on low until it begins to incorporate.  Add vanilla and beat on medium to high speed until fully incorporated.

Pipe frosting onto cupcakes. In this case I was lacking my usual supplies so we used a Ziploc bag with the corner cut off. Work with what you have. We used this whipped cream frosting for only half of the cupcakes. The other half we frosted with cream cheese frosting, most everyone loves cream cheese frosting. We couldn't not do some with cream cheese frosting.  Sprinkle frosted cupcake with cinnamon and you are finished.  A great fall treat that everyone will enjoy, as long as you have frosting options to please all :)

I have a few more pumpkin treats I've been finding, pinning and making.  Look for those next week.  So if you don't like pumpkin, don't read my blog next week but you might miss out on cute pictures like this...

So I guess you better come back.  How could you not love that sad pitiful face?  She really isn't a fan of wearing clothes but I could not pass up this shirt at Target.  I'm a big football fan so this can work as her Halloween costume and her jersey for cheering on the Packers! 
Sharing this post at Heavenly Treats Sunday, Serenity Now, and Crumbs and Chaos.

My Thoughts On Friendship

Monday, October 8, 2012

What do you get when you combine cupcakes, beer, and fire?  An awesome weekend, that's what!

Back up 8 or so years ago when some dear friends (hi Chad and Kellie! this post is about you!) moved 200 miles away, leaving Wisconsin for the suburbs of Chicago.  I've always had local friends, no one lives too far away, so a long distance friendship was new to me.  I still remember one of the last weekends Kellie was in town, going to see "13 going on 30" in the theater.  I remember crying.  I remember thinking, "will we really keep in touch?".

We have!  If distance is a true test of friendship, we passed that test.

We text.  We call.  We plan visits when we can. 

Fast forward to present time (now if this was a movie, that last bit would have been a wonderful montage of photos and a really sappy song) and Kellie called to say she was having a s'mores party.  I was more than happy to drive 7 hours in just two days to spend time with them.  Our weekend visits tend to revolve around much laughter and that type of weekend was exactly what I was in need of, much needed!  I've also met some wonderful ladies through Kellie over the last few years and was excited to see them again too.  I also got to meet those ladies' better halves and some new friends too including a furry friend, Elinor!

So we got beverages.....
made some pumpkin cupcakes....
roasted marshmallows and wieners over the fire....

enjoyed said beverages around said fire....
Another all around awesome weekend with awesome friends.  I wish I had a photo of the left over hot dog breakfast but you get the idea.  I have awesome friends.  You are most likely jealous and you should be.  We ended with a quick trip to Ikea and I was on my way back home.  It's always hard to leave after such short visits but knowing we've stayed in touch after this long, I'm confident we will stay in touch for many more years to come.  Every March I look forward to Kellie's Birthday visit which may be the next visit if neither of us make the trip over winter.  This is where I wish my writing wasn't so sucky so I could more eloquently explain how much Chad and Kellie's friendship means to me no matter the distance.  "They served me hot dogs for breakfast" really doesn't do the friendship justice, right?  Love you guys!  Be on the lookout for zombies, they are everywhere this time of year ;)
This post ended up being longer than I thought, so I'll share the Pumpkin Cupcake recipe I used later this week. 
Who else loves a campfire in the fall?  Any long distance friendships you couldn't imagine your life without?

Surprise Ingredient Cupcakes

Thursday, October 4, 2012

I'm baaaaaack!  I got a bit behind on my posts but I have a few new things to share with you.  Today's recipe has a surprise ingredient.  You know, they make whole cookbooks dedicated to sneaking healthy ingredients into foods, especially for kids.  I'm not a mom so I can't say whether I would trick my kids into eating vegetables or not but it was fun presenting these cupcakes to people and then letting them know they contained a vegetable.  Not a tasty vegetable either.

This here is probably the last time I fully enjoyed this vegetable as a delicious meal.

Yep, that's me, "after a good meal of beets!", my Mom wrote on the picture.  I do look like I enjoyed them.  Beets, not hidden in anything just straight up beets. (On a side note can we discuss how my parents embraced the 70's with that wallpaper, wowza!)  Now don't get me wrong, I'm not a picky eater.  I eat all sorts of vegetables.  I just don't crave beets nor are they high up on my list of must haves. 
So when my Mom found a recipe for beet cupcakes, I wasn't jumping for joy but was curious to see how they would turn out.  Turns out, they are pretty tasty.  I made a batch and shared them with various people.  I couldn't not say anything so I did let each person know that the cupcakes had a mystery ingredient.  Not one person guessed beets.  So if you really want to sneak vegetables into cupcakes without anyone knowing, this is the recipe for you.

Chocolate Beet Cupcakes (originally published in the Chicago Tribune)
3 to 4 small red beets, trimmed
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
½ cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted
confectioners’ sugar

1.       Place the beets in a saucepan, add water to cover; heat to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to a simmer; cook until tender, about 35 minutes.  Drain; cool.  Grate on the large holes of a box grater.
2.       Heat the oven to 350.  Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners.
3.       Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl.  Beat the butter and sugar in a separate bowl until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla.  Add the beets; beat until smooth and an evenly bright magenta.  Beat in the melted chocolate.  Gradually add the flour mixture; mix until fully combined.  Spoon into muffin cups.
4.       Bake, 20-25 minutes; cool.  Dust the tops with confectioners’ sugar.
Nutrition information per serving:  144 calories, 7 g fat, 37 mg cholesterol, 19 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 154 mg sodium, 1 g fiber.

There you have it, vegetables hidden in your cupcakes.  These also don't have the normal tall swirl of frosting I like to put on my cupcakes, so that makes them a bit healthier for you too.  Bonus! 
Anyone a fan of beets?  Or would you prefer them hidden in chocolate cupcakes?  Do tell!


Apple Crisp (Sundays With Joy)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

This week's Sundays With Joy recipe could be used to snag yourself a mate......or do like I do and eat half the pan yourself.  Yep, I did.  I love apple crisp, it is one of my favorite things to make in fall. 

I'm not picky about apples either.  This time I used a mixture of gala and honey crisp, fresh from a local orchard.  Both delicious, mix with cinnamon and load up with a crunchy streusel....delicious to the max! 

Another successful recipe from the Joy The Baker Cookbook, 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes.

Oh, and see that cute owl mug in the picture, that was sent to me from Dana Rae as part of a mug swap hosted by A Cuppa Kim.  You can check out the recap and links of those participating HERE

My mug came with a great bag of coffee too!  I've used this mug several times already, I just love it!  And it makes a great prop for these photos :)
O.K. back to apple crisp.  Now I know what you are thinking, where is the ice cream on top?  Yes, warm apple crisp is best served with ice cream.  I skipped it this time, so sue me!  It was still fantastic.
I did attempt to serve it with a warm dulce de leche sauce....then I burnt it, so it was skipped too.  I think it was God's way of telling me to leave well enough alone.  Ever need those moments?  I do, just a gentle reminder to enjoy what you have and stop trying to make it perfect.  Message received! 
So I skipped the ice cream or any other topping choice and I skipped the man baiting, oh well.  Maybe next time.  I'll be making another trip to the same orchard for some pumpkins, I guess I'll HAVE to get some more apples too!
Check out other apple crisp posts from my Sundays With Joy group on Bakeaholic Mama

Happy Friday!

Friday, September 14, 2012

No real blog post today....just this picture....because it's true. 
I hope you all have a lovely weekend.  And if it involves a 4-legged furry friend, even better!

Oh, To Be A Kid Again!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Oh hey, just hangin' with my friend Mickey, no biggie.  Family trip to Disneyland in 1985, one of my favorite childhood memories.  My parents were crazy kind enough to drive from Wisconsin to California (and back!).  What an adventure!

Last week I had the honor of making cupcakes for two little girl's birthdays.  One had a Mickey and Minnie theme, the other was a Dorothy's Ruby Red Slipper theme. 

It got me thinking about the days of a cartoon character being the biggest star you could dream of meeting.  I was lucky enough to meet Mickey and many other characters at Disneyland.  Oh to be young, naive, and thinking this is the ONE and ONLY Mickey in the whole world!

I also remember watching The Wizard Of Oz for the first time.  It was probably around the same time of meeting Mickey.  I remember it being on TV every year.  It was magical each and every time.  Oh to be young, naive, and thinking you had to just click your heels to return everything back to normal. 

I'm fairly new to decorating cupcakes with any sort of theme or characters.  I just knew I wanted to create the magic I remember as a kid.  First up were Mickey and Minnie.

They each had a set of chocolate ears as the main topper.  For Mickey, I did smooth red frosting to look like Mickey's pants, complete with yellow buttons (sixlet candies!).  Minnie's frosting was pink and swirled to look more like a dress, complete with candy white polka dots and even a pink shimmering candy bow.
Next I had to make Dorothy's Ruby Red Slipper theme come to life. 

On half of the cupcakes I covered the frosting in red sugar and then topped them with a shoe made of candy clay.  I was lucky to find a small shoe cookie cutter, it made mass producing shoes much easier.  To make them sparkle I added a little pearl dust and disco dust.  The other half of the cupcakes had a sparkly Emerald City made from melted green Candy Melts,  a candy clay yellow brick road, and words written with melted white Candy Melts.  Together the cupcakes declared, "There Is No Place Like Home". 

All of these cupcakes were so much fun to make.  I was having so much fun that I really didn't take a lot of pictures.  I really just was so excited to get them delivered to each of the birthday girls. 

The night I was finishing up the Ruby Red Slipper cupcakes, I had myself a bit of an "Aha! Moment".  I had just finished a 12 hour shift at my "real" job and was up until 2 AM decorating cupcakes.  I should have been exhausted but I wasn't.  I was so in my zone, doing what I love that the thought of being tired never crossed my mind.  I really love making cupcakes!

Though the thought of one day owning my own cupcake shop would be amazing, I think I will enjoy the here and now.  Staying up late at night working in my own kitchen to bring smiles and sugar to my friends and family.  Working in small batches to add a personal touch to each and every one, that sounds perfect to me, magical even!  I feel absolutely blessed to be where I am and doing what I do. 

Grilled Chili Cheese Fries (Sundays With Joy)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Don't you just want to head face first into that plate of fries?  No?  Oh, it's not lady like?  My bad!

Once again I'm trying out a recipe from Joy Wilson's cookbook, Joy The Baker Cookbook 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes.  This recipe comes from Chapter 3 entitled "I need a hug or a brownie, maybe both".  In other words, comfort foods.  French fries wouldn't normally be my go to comfort food but enjoyed it just the same.

Joy's recipe calls for these to be baked but I decided to give the grill a try.  My Dad had been asking if I had any request for a meal from the grill before summer was over.  I've been craving steak for some reason.  I don't normally eat steak, it's not something I order when I go out, so this craving kind of came out of left field.  It did however make a wonderful partner for my plate of fries. 

These "chili" cheese fries don't actually have chili on them but a wonderful mix of spices that worked out perfect.  I made a few changes/additions to my liking though.  I added peppers, onions, garlic and bacon bits to the potatoes.  With the spices I used Mrs Dash steak grilling blend, a nice salt free option so I could control the amount of salt I added.  I also decided to try liquid smoke for the first time.  I love the smokey flavor it added, it definitely lives up to it's name!

It's always fun experimenting with something new on the grill.  We elevated a foiled covered cookie sheet to bake the fries on.  Because opening the grill to check on the fries caused the heat to drop every time, it took a little bit longer than baking would have.  I also forgot to spray the foil with any sort of cooking spray or oil so I did have a few stuck on fries.  The rest turned out just fine, I was just sad to  have lost a few to a silly mistake.  Oh well, you live and learn!  So a beer, a sunny evening, and a steak and fries dinner with my Dad. Turned out to be perfect!
Want to see some more versions of this recipe?  Check out Bakeaholic Mama's post HERE with a few others that link up too!  As luck would have it, Joy posted this recipe to her blog on Sunday too!  Check it out on Joy the Baker. 
I'd love to hear what comfort foods you all have?  It's hard to pick one but meatloaf and mashed potatoes is mine.  Oh but then there are cookies....or cupcakes?

Muffins or Cupcakes?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

This one day, I made muffins (gasp!).  I didn't mean to, please don't be mad at me.  I really wanted to make cupcakes but they just didn't taste like a cupcake.  Also, I felt guilty adding frosting to something providing bit healthier ingredients (double gasp!).  I really don't know what has gotten into me. 

Here's the thing, I decided to try my first gluten free cupcake recipe.  I received this book for Christmas last year and I just got around to giving one of the recipes a try.  I've been asked about making cupcakes to conform to specific diets before.  I really see it as a lot of pressure.  Depending on the reason of the dietary needs, I could really make someone sick.  Some people's bodies just don't process certain ingredients or in some cases with allergies, reject some ingredients all together.  Talk about pressure.  Still, I wanted to give gluten free baking a try.  If nothing else, I now had a reason to buy arrowroot powder.  I don't even know what arrowroot is but I guess I needed it's powder to bake these muffins.

I liked this cookbook because the author was first a cupcake lover.  When she learned she had celiac disease she didn't stop loving cupcakes, she just created her own cupcake recipes to work around her own dietary needs.  Cupcakes for the win!

I don't have any specific dietary needs (well other than coffee, a must have or I die!)  I do need to change a few things though.  I will never not indulge in a cupcake if put in front of me.  I have this idea that everyone probably thinks I eat cupcakes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  I don't.  I wish I could but I don't.  My biggest food trap is actually snacky type stuff like chips.  Add guacamole and I'm in trouble.  Now guacamole, that I have had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  I was in Mexico and it was fresh.  And it was delicious.  And I won't apologize for it.

So back to these cupcakes muffins.  They just had a taste and texture that reminded me of a breakfast muffin more than a frosting topped cupcake.  A suggestion from a friend after trying one was brilliant though.  She suggested adding a cream cheese frosting.  Now that might work.  That might be quite delicious.  For the time being, I'm enjoying the rest of this batch as a healthy breakfast option.  I froze them and can just pop one out as needed.  One little muffin defrosts quickly and it's just handy having stuff like that on hand.  Not chips.  Not guacamole.

I'm going to share the recipe with you but if you are a cupcake lover and are working with a gluten free diet, this is a great little cookbook!  The author, Elana, also has a blog that I've added to my ever growing list of blogs to follow.  Check out Elana's Pantry.  She just posted a paleo chocolate frosting that looks divine!

Strawberry Cupcakes from Gluten-Free Cupcakes by Elana Amsterdam

1/2 cup coconut flour
1 Tbs. arrowroot powder
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
4 large eggs
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 Tbs. vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh strawberries

Preheat oven to 350.  Line 8 muffin cups with paper liners.  In a large bowl, combine the coconut flour, arrowroot powder, salt, and baking soda.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, agave nectar, and vanilla.  Blend the wet ingredients into the coconut flour mixture with a handheld mixer until thoroughly combined, then fold in the strawberries.  Scoop 1/4 cup of batter into each prepared cup.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Elana says to let cool in the pan for 1 hour then frost and serve.  Frost if you want but these are good without.  Is that what makes a muffin a cupcake?  Frosting?  Are muffins jealous of cupcakes? 


Favorite Things Friday {#4}

Friday, August 24, 2012

It's been a while since I shared some of my favorite things, happenings, musings.....on a Friday....hence the name Favorite Things Friday!  Aren't I clever?  Yeah, I'm feeling a bit spunky today, maybe a little too much coffee this morning?  Whatever the source of the spunk, I'll take it!

#1 Forgotten Photos
O.K. so as a fairly new blogger, I've yet to really find my stride and plan ahead on blogging.  I don't save posts months ahead of time or stock up for when I'm in a blogging funk or in need of a post.  I did however find recently that I failed to share my first cupcake cake that I made back in APRIL...yes APRIL!  Oops!  So here is a look at a cross cake made out of cupcakes I did for a special First Communion.  Carlie picked the flavor and I just went from there.  It's not perfect by any means but it was fun to make.
#2 Funny Stuff
There has been no shortage as of late of funny pictures floating around the internet.  These eCards can pretty much make my whole day.  One of my favorites last month was during the Olympics.  I posted it on my facebook page but will share again here.  It pretty much summed up my days as I sat in front of the TV watching superior athletes perform all while dreaming up new cupcake ideas. 
And another, just because I'm excited for the new season of "How I Met Your Mother". 
Anyone else a Barney fan?
#3 Fall
I'm not wishing summer away or anything, I'm just going to welcome fall with open arms.  I very much enjoy that time of year when you are wearing jeans/sweatshirt but still can pull off flip flops.  And seeing the changing colors of the leaves, beautiful!  Oh and soups and apple picking.....I could go on and on.  I have plans to make some soup soon using some veggies from my family's garden.  Have you had the butternut squash soup at Atlanta Bread?  Yeah, I want to make that but I'm pretty sure they don't go around giving out their recipes, so I'm going to have to experiment a little.

A fall flashback from 15 to 20 years ago (oh hell now I feel old).  My Dad and I took this little puddle jumper to check out the fall colors in our area.

#4 Football
This could really fit into the fall  category but I think it deserves one all by itself.  Football is my favorite sport to watch.  As luck would have it, I live in an area where folks worship the Green Bay Packers.  I'm a fan, not a crazy, worship type fan but I have been known to make Packers cupcakes.
I've also been known to make Izzy wear my Clay Matthews jersey.  She didn't stand for it....no really, she refused to stand.  I've learned my lesson, don't dress the dog!
There you have it, some of my favorite things narrowed down to 4 simple things.  It's amazing how cupcakes can always fit into my favorites.  The really are my all time FAVORITE!   They are the reason I started this blog and they just make me happy!  Tell me your fall, football or food favorites as of late!  Also, if anyone has a good soup recipe, please share! 
If you missed previous Favorite Things Friday posts, here are #1, #2 and #3.  Enjoy!

Have Cupcakes Will Travel

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Last week I traveled to Dubuque, IA to surprise my friend Alicia for her birthday.  When we first decided to plan this surprise, I knew I wanted to bake cupcakes for this special occasion.  When I asked Alicia's husband what flavor I should make, he said something with Andes Mints.  I pages through a few cookbooks but didn't find anything that jumped out at me.  Then I remembered the Devil's Food Cupcake Vodka I had bought but have yet to really experiment with.  I knew the addition of this would be a great way to help a friend celebrate her {30th} birthday!  I decided to just head into the kitchen and experiment.  I was very happy that my first batch turned out tasty and perfect, I didn't have to change a thing.  The hardest part of this recipe was figuring out what to call these cupcakes.  My sister came up with, "The Devil Made Me Do It, Mint".  I loved that but wanted something just a tad shorter, I settled on Devil Mint Cupcakes. 

Devil Mint Cupcakes

¾ cup sugar
2 lg. eggs
6 oz.  bitter-sweet chocolate, chopped
½ cup butter
3 Tbs. heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbs. Devil’s Food Vodka
1 cup flour
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
½ package Andes Mints, chopped

In a small sauce pan, melt chocolate with butter and stir in cream.  Allow to cool.   Pre-heat oven to 350 and prepare pans with cupcake liners.  This recipe will make approx. 14 cupcakes.   In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Using a mixer, combine sugar and eggs.  Beat on medium for about 3 minutes.  With mixer on low, pour in melted chocolate mixture.  Stir in vanilla and vodka.   Add flour mixture and stir until well combined.  Pour into prepared cups. Top each cup with chopped Andes Mints.   Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Devil Mint Frosting

¾ cup butter
2 Tbs. heavy cream
1 Tbs. + 1 tsp.  Devil’s Food Vodka
5 cups powdered sugar
¼ tsp. peppermint extract
Green food coloring
2 oz. dark chocolate, melted
½ package Andes Mints, chopped

Using stand mixer, beat butter until smooth and creamy.  Add 1 cup of powdered sugar.  Blend until well combined.  Add heavy cream and 1Tbs. vodka.  Beat in additional powdered sugar ¼ cup at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Separate frosting into two batches, leaving half in stand mixer.  No need to be exact, just eyeball it J  To the half in the stand mixer, add 1 oz.  melted chocolate and 1 tsp. vodka.  To the other half, add 1 tsp. peppermint extract and a drop of green food coloring.  Combine the two frosting mixes side by side in a large pastry bag fitted with a star tip.  Pipe on cupcakes in a swirl pattern.  Top with chopped Andes Mints and drizzle with last 1 oz. melted chocolate.

Though these cupcakes contain booze, they can easily be made without IF you prefer.  The booze content in these cupcakes is far less than the drunken gummy bears and jello shots that a co-worker of Alicia's made her for her birthday!  You could also add the chopped mints in the batter but adding them to the top prevents them from sinking to the bottom of your cupcake.  I'm not really sure how you can go wrong with a chocolate and mint combo, so make any adjustments you need/want.  This was one of the first recipes I didn't use a base recipe to adapt from.  I like days like that in the kitchen, when I am feeling inspired and things work out my way. 

These ended up being the perfect cupcakes for a celebration and surprise visit.  As with any visit with far away friends, it just went by way too fast.  There were cupcakes, wine tasting, visiting with "old" friends, and walking along the mighty mississippi, what more could I ask for!

I made it home on another special birthday to celebrate!  Izzy turned 4 last week!  She had a nice Dentastix served on a Birthday plate and a new  s'more stuffed toy!  Maybe next time I'll bake some dog friendly cupcakes too.  
 I love a road trip, even if just for a couple days.  I just got back from another quick road trip to do some shopping with my cousin.....and of course sampled some new cupcakes!  I have a much longer road trip on my bucket list.  I wonder how many cupcake stops I could make driving cross country?!?

**Neither Cupcake Vodka or Andes Mints sponsored this post, just two products I love.**