Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Getting Nervous

June 17, 2010

I have a lot of baking to do in the next week and a half!

Monday is Iron Cupcake, so Sunday afternoon and evening will be spent baking and decorating 12 dozen mini cupcakes!

Tuesday evening I will be baking a few cupcakes to take to my friend when I go to visit her new baby on Wednesday.

Saturday I am baking 10 dozen (full size) cupcakes for the wedding of two friends. This will be started on Thursday evening. I’m nervous about this because, even though the flavors are going to be simple, I have no idea about the logistics of baking 10 dozen cupcakes! I feel like it won’t be that hard, but a couple of weeks ago I baked 5 dozen, and it took me well over 8 hours to do all the baking and decorating.

The decorating on those 5 dozen, however, was a little more complicated. But cute! Check these out:

Fortunately I just have to make these 10 dozen look pretty. Swirly frosting, maybe some sugar pearls, but nothing as intense as marzipan ladybugs!

Then, of course, after the cupcakes are done I have to find the energy to party at the wedding! I hope I can do that, because it is sure to be a fun tonight.

I’m nervous because this is a lot of baking! I was hoping to spend most of the week prepping. Cleaning my kitchen, getting all my supplies purchased and in order and ready to go. Now I’ll have to do that a little quicker than planned. I will post pictures when it’s all done. And maybe of the tornado that sweeps through my kitchen.

In other news, David and I are trying to plan our wedding. BUT we’re so confused by all the options! Right now we’re not even sure WHERE we want to get married- locally, or in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas sounds like FUN, and it would combine a honeymoon into one trip. We’d get married on a Friday night, and then spend the weekend in a nice suite. It wouldn’t be eloping, because we would still be inviting a lot of people to join us. But of course, some people won’t, because it is expensive.

That means the biggest pro of the in-town option is that all our family and friends could be there. We’d have a party back in town if we got married in Vegas, but it wouldn’t be the same. Sure, my parents and a few friends would join us in Vegas, but what about people like my grandparents? Vegas hold no particular appeal to them and the airfare would put a huge burden on them. So they wouldn’t be there. Can I handle that? I’m not sure. What about aunts and uncles that have watched me grow up? Will I just ditch them? What about friends who would LOVE to come, but really can’t afford it with their student loans and their rent payments? Is it fair to ask them to come, knowing that it will set them back, or they won’t be able to?

Just because Vegas is fun?

Baking 10 dozen cupcakes is going to be much easier than planning this wedding.


Calgon, Take Me Away

May 7, 2009

I wish I could go on vacation right now. I’d leave town tomorrow if I could afford it. But I can’t, so I’ll try to chill out by reliving the second half of my Vegas vacation. Live! Right now!! Right here on my blog!!! Can you tell I’m strung out?

We decided to sleep in for as long as we needed on Wednesday. We planned on staying up all night Thursday, until heading to the airport, so we figured it would be good to get the rest now. However, I didn’t really anticipate sleeping until 11:30! We had passed our magic “pay for a breakfast buffet 3 minutes before it turns into lunch” time. Oh well, we had bigger issues- like what to do that day! (Our 11:30 wakeup was made more amusing to us by the fact that Sandy and Jeff were with friends in NYC- where it was already 2:30 in the afternoon!)

We wanted to see some sort of burlesque show while in Vegas. I wasn’t really interested in an overpriced strip club. I (and David) wanted something a little more interesting and exotic. I was thinking something along the lines of Dita Von Teese, but David had found a crazy burlesque type show called “Bite.” I’d link it for you, but I’m at work and don’t quite trust it to be SFW, considering it’s a “topless revue.” We had it recommended to us, and at first I thought it sounded lame. Erotic vampires? Lord Vampire searching for the perfect female? But as we read more about it, it started to seem kind of cool. There are many ways to get 50% off each ticket, so we decided that this would be our nekkid Vegas show.

“Bite” is at the Stratosphere, so once we were dressed we decided that we’d walk there to get the tickets (you can’t order ahead of time with the coupon) and stop somewhere for food on the way. We ate at IHOP which was kind of lame and almost as expensive as the Circus-Circus breakfast buffet! But we wanted somewhere cheap because that night was our big fancy splurge meal.

Stratosphere is FAR. And it was hot! It’s true that things seem misleadingly close in Vegas. We took in some of the scenery, like empty lots, bilboards and the Sahara. And this:
Gosh, maybe we should have just taken the bus.

We got our “Bite” tickets and enjoyed the Strat’s air conditioned casino for a few minutes. Then we hopped on the bus (which I highly recommend. $15 for a three day pass.) and took it to The Mirage.

The Mirage is quite lovely and home to our second-place Cirque show “Love.” There are plenty of Beatles references, like the Revolution bar. This place looks pretty cool and we wanted to come back at night, but we never found the time. Add that to the list of things to do on our next trip!
That’s David sitting in the “U.”

We had a little luck at the casino here. I think we came out $10 or $20 ahead. We also visited Seigfried and Roy.

It was already getting close to the time we had to head back to our hotel to change for our dinner reservations at 7, so we rushed over to Caesar’s Palace and the Forum Shops. We didn’t have much time, so we didn’t get to see any of the living fountains, or stop in every store that drew me in. I limited it to drooling over the really BIG time stores that I’ve never seen or been to. One of the big ones for me was Agent Provocateur. I spent five breathless minutes in this incredible lingerie store. I guess there are several places in the US where you can buy their stuff now, but for a long time I think Vegas was the only store. Someday, when I am thinner and can fit into their skimpy items, I am definitely splurging on something. Also, I love their crazy marketing and advertising.

The only other store in here that was a MUST for us was Vosges. We had the hot chocolate in the SOHO store when we were in NYC many Novembers ago. In honor of the 80-90 degree weather we were experiencing, I wanted to try their ice cream.

OMGDELICIOUS. I had the Naga, one of their original and most famous flavor combinations. It was a sweet Indian curry custard with hints of coconut and other spices. It was rich and creamy and amazing. David had the Red Fire, another classic of their flavors. Dark chocolate, ancho and chipotle chilies, and cinnamon. YUM!! They were both amazing. We also bought some goodies to take home with us, including the Comfort Food tower and a mini chocolate bar set. We left the Forum Shops feeling alive and decadent!

We promptly rushed “home” to change for our evening plans. We hadn’t even been out that long, so we didn’t have to deal so much with the draw of the big comfy bed. We changed and headed out to our first stop of the night, the Sirens of TI. This is the free show at Treasure Island. I guess they revamped it recently, as it used to be more of a pirate battle. Now it’s trying really hard to be soft core porn. The special effects and sinking ship were cool, though the lighting and fireworks of course would’ve been better had we seen it at night.

After that we caught a cab to the Hard Rock Hotel. We had dinner reservations at Nobu!! We got there a little early and had time to wander around and play some slots, where we won $50! Perfect timing, as we were heading into the most expensive restaurant of our trip.

I almost wish I had taken pictures, but I let myself hang out and enjoy the experience. The food was incredible. It was very possibly the best meal I’ve ever had. We started with Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapenos and the Black Cod with Miso. WOW! The black cod was indescribable. Our server told us it was marinated in Miso for three days. It was served warm and it melted in my mouth. We also had an order eggplant with miso, because why not? It was good, but not as good as these “signature dishes.”

After that we moved on to some tempura, and got a couple pieces of asparagus and avocado tempura. The avocado was so interesting! We love avocado, but to taste it with a crispy outside and a hot creamy inside was certainly different.

We couldn’t eat at Nobu without eating sushi! I think our server was wondering how much we were going to eat, but we ordered anyway. We got an assortment of fish, like salmon and scallop, but the big momma of it all was the Toro. If you’ve ever had real Toro, you know what I’m talking about. This is the fattiest cut of the tuna; pink, tender, and melt-in-your-mouth. I think it was $18 per piece. It was worth it. It may have been the most amazing thing I have ever eaten.

We left in euphoria. How could we go home to Milwaukee after this?! I’m so glad we chose Nobu for our fancy dinner. Our bill was just under $200 after tip. Including that toro! I think we would’ve been well over $200 if we had splurged at one of the other restaurants we were considering, like Le Cirque or Aureole.


We floated off to a cab and let it whisk us away to the Stratosphere. Our night was only just beginning! We played penny slots and got a little tipsy on free alcohol before our show time. We had paid a little extra for up-front seats. They were right next to the stage!

So… “Bite.” You should see it, if you’re ever looking for that kind of entertainment in Vegas (with the 50% off coupon). It was cheesy, but it didn’t take itself to seriously. The dancing was acrobatic. It was like a cross between a strip club, a cheerleading competition, and Cirque du Soleil. With a classic rock soundtrack. It was long too! Props to those girls for dancing forever! The topless part wasn’t really that much more exciting, but whatever. The girls were athletic and fun and some of them had major kickass attitude. We had a good time!

After that spectacle we waited for a bus to take us to the “old downtown”/Freemont St. The buses are nice, but we had bad luck with them. Whichever way we WEREN’T going, we’d see several buses pass before having one come on our side. That was lame, and we ended up getting downtown after midnight. I think the giant light display must shut off then, so we didn’t get to see the crazy stuff there. We played some slots at some of the “classic” places like the Golden Nugget and Binions. It was kind of dead though, and we weren’t really winning much, so we went to catch the bus back after a couple hours.

I might have gotten us a big lost and we waited for the bus on a very deserted part of Las Vegas Boulevard. I was totally creeped out, even though we didn’t see anyone or anything scary. We probably only waited 15 minutes for a bus, but it felt much longer. It was a relief to get on that bus and head back to our hotel. We went right to bed, as we had a full day of plans. We were going to use our last day in Vegas to the max.

I’ll recap our final day in my next entry. I want to go back so badly!


April 13, 2009

Has it really been almost a month since I left for Las Vegas? It seems like just yesterday I was enjoying myself in the city of sin.

We left work a couple hours early on Monday and headed straight to the airport. I used to not care much about layovers on flights, but it’s starting to NOT be worth it. Fortunately our layover in Houston was quick. It was agonizing to be traveling all day when we were so excited to be in Las Vegas already!

We were staying at my aunt’s timeshare, and she had been there for a few days already with another aunt. They were leaving as we arrived and they met us in the airport with hilarious fanfare.

We got directions to the hotel, and with that we were off into the Vegas night. We took a cab to our hotel (which was at the far end of the strip, near the Riviera and Circus Circus) and made it there around 11:30. We were tired, but wanted to go out and explore a little bit. We got changed and wandered over to the Riviera and then Slots-A-Fun. We lost about $11, and ate a giant hotdog before deciding to head back for some sleep. As we were standing outside Slots-A-Fun, we saw the greatest thing. A hooker getting arrested. Now, I agreed with the S-A-F cocktail waitress who said “Let the poor girl make her living” but it was quite the welcome to Vegas. That’s nothing I’ve ever seen in Milwaukee!

It’s also weird that prostitution is not legal in Vegas. For a city that essentially sells sex along every street, they won’t let you actually consumate that deal? Legally, anyway.

Anyway, we got up kind of early on Tuesday and went to the Circus Circus buffet at about 10:45. We timed it out, because I like breakfast, and David likes lunch, and they switch to lunch food at 11. The food was pretty good and cost less than$25 for the two of us.
MMmmmmmm breakfast.

It was St. Patricks Day, and they had cream puffs with green filling! It was cool. We ate a lot, as we weren’t planning on eating until dinner. That’s the way to do it!

Our hotel was not on the strip, but it was close. Here’s our hotel, as seen from the strip. It’s the middle-height blue building in the middle of the picture. Royal Resort. It was very clean and comfortable and the staff was very nice.

We started at our end of the strip, and walked east (I think?), checking out hotels as we passed.

We also wandered the malls, as I was very curious to see shops that I don’t have access to. Fashion Show Mall had the most peculiar design, and made me think of the size and design of the malls in Bangkok. HUGE.
Outdoor escalators?! AWESOME!!

We gambled a bit in Treasure Island and I tried to take pictures of everything. But I was too busy having FUN! We played penny slots most of the time and I occasionally remembered to take cheesy tourist pictures like this:

We crossed the street and checked out the Venetian, which was just so beautiful! We put in a few bucks and won back some money on this awesome Star Wars slot machine:

We were wandering around the main casino floor, and I wanted to find the Canal Shoppes, so we started going up on an escalator. We were chatting, and I looked forward, and saw the shopping area, which took my breath away.

We probably spent half an hour wandering in this little courtyard, taking pictures and watching the gondolas. We realized that we had to get going if we wanted to get back to our hotel in time to change for our show that night- Penn & Teller live at the Rio!

First I was able to fondle the shoes at Barney’s, though I’m kicking myself for not trying any on. Why do those shoes and sales people intimidate me so? The window display was so cool- a shoe made out of clothes hangers!

We caught the end of the living fountain show on our way out. Another thing to check out on our next trip! The 30 seconds we saw was pretty cool.

We wandered through the Palazzo, Wynn and Encore on our way back to the hotel. I liked these places too! Very swanky. And we won some more money! I think at this point we were only down about $10. The penny slots were nice to us. We’d lose $10, then win $20, then lose $20, then win $30. That made this day even more fun!

I was loving the feeling of being in Vegas. We had saved up money, and sticking cash in slot machines wasn’t stressing me out. We had no responsibilities and were enjoying our time with each other SO MUCH!

As if it could get any better, we were seeing Penn & Teller that night. We changed and walked to Harrah’s to catch a shuttle to the Rio. We got there early (thanks to a super nice bus driver who decreed David as the last person in line allowed on that bus, but let me sit on his lap) and we wandered. We picked up our tickets, lost a few bucks at slots, ate at an overpriced and undertasty Chinese restaurant, and showed up at 7:00 for P&T’s 8:00 show.  (Bonus: While waiting to get into the theater, David got a call from the director of “Noises Off” back in Milwaukee. Someone had to drop out, and he was now IN!! Vegas is lucky!)

There’s a jazz duo (“secret:” Penn is the bass player) and some fun activities before the show. The jazz was great, but I couldn’t wait for the show to start. It was incredible! David loves Penn & Teller and he was not disappointed. I was constantly amused at how they would show us how a trick is done, and then somehow do it differently and blow us away! I was totally amazed. We had great seats and they put on a great show. What a night!

Oh, and there’s no way I’d forget to mention that they hang out in the lobby after their shows. They sign autographs and pose for pictures. They were super nice. David was in heaven.
I had to get in on the action too.

We were exhausted from our long, exciting day, and had planned to go to the “old downtown,” but we couldn’t. We went back to our hotel and SLEPT. In fact, we didn’t wake up until after 11 on Wednesday.

I’ll recap the rest of our trip in the next entry. I feel like this is way too long already 🙂

No Excuses

March 6, 2009

So there’s no point in trying to make up for lost time here. I haven’t had a real post in close to three months. That’s crazy. I miss my blog. I haven’t been as good at uploading pictures and whiny entries with no pictures are pretty booooring.

Okay, let’s recap a little bit:
I totally went off the South Beach way of life over the holidays. Like WAAAAYYYY off. Like, gained back a lot of weight. It was not happy, but all the delicious food I ate was happy. And all the wonderful baking that I did was really pretty awesome. But now I’m back on the wagon. I’ve been pretty good the last couple of weeks, even though I’ve been sick a lot. It’s hard to find the energy to eat healthy when you’re sick. But I’ve managed, and I’m getting close to the weight I was when I fell off the wagon. Once I get back to that weight (180-ish) I will be really happy and vow to make it much closer to my goal weight by the time Christmas comes this year.

Baking: My enemy and my love.
I love baking. I can’t get over it. I love trying out new recipes. I love when something comes out more perfect than anything you can buy in a store. I love the way it makes my house smell. I love everything about it. Except for the fact that I want to eat ALL OF IT. Not just in a “quality control” way before I send it off to coworkers. As in, I would like to put a cake in front of me and eat it for each meal of each day.

And so, on that cake note, I took a cake decorating class! It’s the Wilton Course, offered at Michael’s. This was Course 1. It was pretty cool! I’ve been wanting to learn about actual decorating and how to make certain designs. I had a really nice instructor and got to take it with my friend and her mom. We had a great time and we still actually learned some stuff.

The first class was easy. The teacher told us about the stuff we’d learn and gave us tips on cakes and icing. She showed us some basic stuff that we’d be learning in class 2. We had to bring a cake that was frosted for Class 2, the next week. An excuse to try out a new cake recipe? Yes please!! I will post my recipes soon.

We started by learning some basic maneuvers with a pastry bag. The Wilton method is very structured and the teacher did a good job of making it interesting. She did cheat a little bit by showing us the whole rose the first day. I was so happy with this. The Wilton book says you are supposed to learn a little bit each class, and then put it all together at the final class. I think that’s dumb. This way we got three classes (and three weeks) to practice the rose before the final cake.

I feel like my roses at my first class were the best. My frosting was a little stiff, and I overcompensated at the next classes, where it was a little thin.

One of my first roses:

At the end of class, we got time to decorate our cakes using the techniques we learned that day.

I used the zig-zag border, roses, writing, and stars.

For the second class, we could bring cupcakes instead of a cake. I opted to do that, so I could practice all the techniques, without the final product looking too crazy.

We learned more shapes and how to use more tips and worked more on our roses. We learned grapes!

And we practiced our roses some more.

We also learned shell borders and drop flowers. I tried to use all our techniques on my cupcakes. They looked bright and vibrant:

For our final class, I actually considered using a box mix because of time. But I decided to stress myself out and try out Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake. It was beautiful and delicious and made my kitchen smell amazing. And, including frosting and my variation to the filling, used 4.5 sticks of butter. Like I said, amazing.

This was my first time making a Swiss Meringue Buttercream, and I had zero problems! I was kind of surprised, but I’m not going to question it. It is my new favorite frosting.

Ready for class:

We learned leaves and sweet peas and vines and got a long time to decorate our final cakes in class. My frosting wasn’t perfect for roses, again, but I managed quite well.

My final cake:

I used roses, leaves, shells, sweet peas and vines. Here’s a good shot with the sides:

And a close up of my roses (and leaves). Not perfect, but I understand the theory:

And my luscious layers. Instead of just layering it with buttercream and raspberry jam, I made a lemon curd, and folded that into some of the buttercream to put between the cake layers.

While only 6 of my cupcakes got consumed at work, over half of this cake was devoured, so I think this is a winning recipe!

I can’t wait to start Course Two, though it will have to wait until April. I’d be missing a class due to Las Vegas (OMGINTENDAYS!!!!) so I had to skip out on March.

I love this stuff! I feel more determined than ever to some how, some way, some time, make a little money on the side from my baking adventures. If only to offset the cost of ingredients! In the meantime, I’m cutting back my baking. I’m going to try to bake only for certain occasions, and not JUST because I saw a super awesome recipe that I NEEEEEED to make right this moment. That should help my wallet and my waistline. Which is good, because just thinking about that last cake made me gain some weight.


November 20, 2008

David and I have been having stressful, rotten times at work lately. Yesterday his bad day outweighed mine, and so I took care of stuff and let him chill. I was productive and washed a ton of dirty dishes that had taken over our kitchen, and then I baked, which was so relaxing to me, even though it took a while. I’ll post more details if I remember to take pictures of the final product, but TRY THIS.

I wanted to try out this Vodka Pie Crust from Cooks Illustrated, but I didn’t want to make a whole pie. So I combined the crust with the recipe for the apple pocket pies. Pie crust seems kind of advanced and scary to me, but trust me, this was SO EASY. I had heard this crust could be kind of sticky, so I was worried when mine was on the dry and crumbly side. And when I rolled it out, I saw some huge chunks of butter that I didn’t see on Smitten’s blog entry, because I have a crappy pastry cutter. But I went with it, and hoped for the best. O.M.G. AWESOME! I don’t know if I can choose a favorite between this crust or the pastry from the original pocket-pie recipe, but I think this one was definitely flakier. It totally melts in your mouth. O.M.G.

I am thinking about making an apple pie to take to Thanksgiving, but I’ve been hesitant because my mom makes awesome pie crust (she totally goes for it and uses lard) and I sometimes wonder why I should try to perfect the already-perfected. So I tried this crust just to see which crust I would use if I made a whole pie. I was hoping for a clear winner, but I don’t know!!

I think I would like this vodka crust better for a whole pie, but the other crust is good for the mini pies? I don’t know! Maybe I’ll just have to make both again and have a side-by-side taste test. Any testing volunteers?

Sunday Food Wrap

November 9, 2008

I got a little out of hand with my baking, I know. Anyway, I’m back on the strict Phase One of the South Beach Diet, again. I know I’ll stick to it because in just a couple weeks I’ll have plenty of indulgences. Thanksgiving, my birthday, and Christmas are just around the corner!

David and I have started a little Sunday tradition. We try a new food or a new preparation and watch Iron Chef America and The Chef Jeff Project on the Food Network. It’s so much fun to cuddle up on the couch while eating and watching yummy food. It’s the best way to end a weekend.

A couple weeks ago I experimented with a soup. Soup is not something we make from scratch very often. Like, ever. We made this Zucchini and Yellow Squash Soup with Parmesan. It’s South Beach friendly, and it was delicious. It made a huge amount and we had it for lunch and dinner many times afterwards.

On the theme of soup, I made this Roasted Red Pepper and Red Lentil Souplast week. Also South Beach friendly, this had an amazing Southwestern and Mediterranean flavor. I will most certainly be making this one again. I made some changes from this recipe. I don’t have coriander, and didn’t want to spend $5 on it, so I used some black pepper and curry powder instead. Instead of onion, I used shallot. Instead of garnishing with cilantro, I used some Italian flat-leaf parsley and powdered Parmesan.


Today we went to a birthday/bon voyage party for our friend Marion who is leaving on a trip to France in a few days. (Jealous!!) I was asked to bring fruit. I went to Metro Market thinking I’d buy some berries and grapes and put together a fruit tray. Well, they didn’t have ANY berries! A fruit tray of apples and bananas didn’t seem that interesting. They had a big variety of tropical fruit, however, and much of it was on sale! So I decided a tropical fruit salad would be delicious.

And it was. I mixed it up with a Vanilla Dressingcourtesy of Alton Brown (instead of lemon juice, I used lime, and I didn’t use the mayo). I had the following: pineapple, papaya, kiwi, persimmon, Asian pear, mango, and pomegranate seeds. OMG YUM! And pretty…


Tonight was back to the South Beach approved food. David butterflied some chicken breasts and gave them a nice sear, and finished them in the oven. With a few minutes left to go, he smothered covered them in some dried herbs and cheese. YUM!

We apparently had a white theme going on, as we roasted cauliflower (our new ingredient for the night) for a side dish. I tossed it with a little olive oil, salt, garlic powder, pepper, and powdered Parmesan. I roasted at 400 degrees for about a half hour, stirring every 10 minutes or so, or until golden brown and delicious.

I never thought I’d look forward to a Sunday night!


November 6, 2008

There is no comparison to homemade frosting. I have bought, used, and eaten frosting in a can, but it’s not the same. I wouldn’t attempt frosting without an electric mixer, but a handheld mixer should work just as well as a stand mixer. Your arm might get tired, though. Frosting is also great because it is EASY. SOOO EASY! You can start with a recipe, but the amounts are all a little variable. It’s easy to add flavors or other ingredients, and still have a stable frosting. So, by “popular” demand (and my own memory)…

Nutella Cream Cheese Frosting
(Please note that when making this, we did not actually measure anything. We kept drizzling in Nutella until it tasted “Nutella-y” enough. It turned into frosting with a silky, slightly gooey, creamy, “soft peak” texture.
8 oz cream cheese (cold/cool)
4 TBSP (half stick) of butter (room temperature)
2-3 cups powdered sugar (sifted before adding would be nice)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4-1/2 cup Nutella
1-2 TBSP milk

Blend together cream cheese and butter on medium speed until creamy, scraping down sides of bowl. Mix in vanilla. Gradually add in powdered sugar. <You could stop here for a plain old cream cheese frosting.> Check texture after two cups. If frosting seems spreadable, gradually add in Nutella. Beat for about a minute to fluff it up. After Nutella is added you may need to add more powdered sugar and/or a little milk to reach a thick, creamy, frosting consistency. I added almost another cup of powdered sugar after the Nutella.

I didn’t do any of these, but it could be yummy!
-Before adding the powdered sugar, add about a half cup of unsweetened cocoa powder for a really chocolatey flavor.
-Instead of milk, add a couple tablespoons of Kahlua or other coffee liquor.
-Add finely chopped hazelnuts at the very end.
-Do they make hazelnut extract? If so, use that instead of vanilla. YUM.

I’ll be honest. I would make this frosting even if I had nothing to frost. One doesn’t need an excuse to consume anything when Nutella goodness is involved.

Here’s another Nutella frostingrecipe that I found online.

Here’s my favorite(so far) easy buttercream frosting. You can add different flavors or some cocoa powder and melted chocolate. You can usually fix a runny frosting by adding more powdered sugar, and fix a too-thick one with a little milk.

Cupcake Madness

November 5, 2008

So, now that politics is mostly done punching us all in the face like an attention-starved child, I will recap a cupcake baking spree I went on with some friends.

Cristina’s friend Jenny was getting married on October 31st. She must be a very laid back bride, because she just wanted some friends to make some cupcakes instead of having a wedding cake. Due to my baking obsession and access to an additional stand mixer, I got invited to help out. We were very disorganized, deciding on what cupcakes to bake on the night we were baking them, purchasing ingredients, not starting baking until after 7!! Sandy volunteered her kitchen for us all, and everything turned out great.

We decided on doing basic vanilla and chocolate cupcakes, and making a variety of frostings. We used this cupcake recipe, minus the apple pie filling, and this chocolate cupcake recipe, minus the filling. We also made this chocolate orange vegan recipe.

We split into two “teams” of two and went to work on the vanilla and chocolate. I had made the vanilla before, so I wanted to try the chocolate. I made a couple mistakes by not reading the recipe thoroughly enough, but everything turned out just fine!

The batter was kind of runny, which worried me a little, but wasn’t a problem. Also, this batter was not that tasty before being cooked. But the cupcakes tasted delicious!

The other team made some mistakes in mixing up the vanilla batter too, but nothing unfixable. In fact, it turned out great! And the batter was yummy enough that we all had to try it.

After making a huge mess in Sandy’s kitchen, all the cupcakes were in the oven or cooling on the counter top. We sampled one of each, you know, for quality control. I call this piece Relaxed, happy bride, with mess:

Then it was on to frosting. We decided on five flavors:
-Basic Cream Cheese
-Nutella Cream Cheese
-Peanut Butter
-Vegan “Buttercream”

We started with the basic cream cheese, from a recipe that Sandy found. It made a HUGE amount, so we split it in half and started scooping in Nutella to the other half. Well, and into our mouths.

Though there’s not much that can make Nutella much better than eating it straight out of the jar, this made a frosting worth offering to the gods.

And licking off every square centimeter of beater and bowl.

Then we got to my favorite. I don’t actually know how a frosting surpassed the Nutella frosting, but my peanut butter frosting did it. I was planning on using this recipe for the frosting, but we didn’t have any cream cheese left. So here’s about what I did:

Peanut Butter Buttercream:
–1 stick of butter (8 TBSP)
–1/4 cup-1/2 cup of peanut butter (I used a well mixed natural creamy peanut butter. I probably used just over 1/3 cup. You don’t want the texture to be sticky or runny, but you want a lot of peanut butter flavor)
–2 cups of powdered sugar (can add more if the frosting is too runny)
–1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
–1/8 teaspoon fine salt
–I added about 1 TBSP of heavy whipping cream while beating.

Beat butter in mixer until smooth. Add peanut butter. Slowly add powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat until smooth and fluffy, adjusting amounts if necessary.

SO easy, and so delicious!! I licked the bowl and beater, and kept going back to the pile of fluffy frosting for more. I gave myself such a stomach ache, but it was so tasty!

The colors are kind of off in my picture, but the finished chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting. And Cristina’s sprinkles.

The fourth frosting was a fuchsia butterscotch buttercream. Why pink? Why not! I made this using a regular vanilla buttercream frosting, but swapped out the vanilla extract with a concentrated butterscotch flavoring.

The vegan frosting DID NOT turn out. It just was a weird lumpy mess. Who wants to eat a frosting made with margarine anyway? Jenny’s vegan guest couldn’t make it anyway, so we frosted the vegan cupcakes with the basic cream cheese frosting. The vanilla cupcakes were frosted with the butterscotch or Nutella, and the chocolate cupcakes got Nutella or peanut butter.

Cupcakes were still being decorated when I finally had to leave after 10:30. I was exhausted but had a total sugar high. The cupcakes were nothing fancy, but I bet they tasted delicious and I hear the guests liked them. And… it was FUN!!

Halloween and Baking

October 29, 2008

Okay, here we go. Some pictures. These are from the last two weeks or so. I still have things to talk about from even further back, but that will have to wait again!

I have been baking like a madwoman. Why? Because this baby has been in my kitchen for the last two weeks:

My mom’s Kitchen Aid mixer. Sure, I can bake things without a mixer, but this puppy makes the impossible possible. Including creaming butter and sugar, because I do not have Popeye muscles. This is probably to me what pictures of sexy sportcars are to men:

So I have been baking up a storm. Since I borrowed the mixer, here is a list of what I have made, along with pictures, if I remembered to take them, and some comments.

For Bosses Day, I made Apple Pie Cupcakes (again) for my work and Peanut Butter Nutella Brownies for David’s work. They were all a big hit.

Then I attempted to make Slime Filled Cupcakes for Sandy’s Halloween Party. I had never made a lime curd, or even a lemon curd before, so I was really wandering into uncharted territory. At first, things seemed fine.

But as it cooled, it turned into this lumpy green jello stuff. And it tasted TERRIBLE. It was like lime x1000. It was just sick. So at the last minute, I had to switch my game plan. I had already made the cupcakes and the green buttercream frosting from that recipe, but I wanted it to be a little more special. So I filled them with chocolate buttercream frosting from this recipe. They were still a big hit. The cupcake batter was pretty easy and tasty. They were pretty light and fluffy. I would definitely use that batter again.

I made these Margarita Cupcakes for a party I had during the week. I know someone took pictures of them, so I’ll have to share later. Yeah, it uses a box mix, but it also uses real tequila. They were not your typical cupcake, but they were tasty.

I had a whole bunch of leftover chocolate and vanilla frosting, so I thought I’d try out another cupcake recipe to use it up. Later that week I made Vanilla Brown Butter Cupcakes. OMFG SO GOOD!! This might be my favorite recipe yet! The cakes were very dense and rich. And… they don’t even use the mixer! So I can still make cupcakes when I finally have to give it back. Surprisingly, they were totally amazing with the chocolate frosting. I had never browned butter before, and must have had beginners luck, because it was almost perfect. SO GOOD!

I made these Apple Hand Pies(or as I like to say, pocket pies) over the weekend. We had some friends over to carve pumpkins and eat them. These things are AWESOME. The dough was a lot of work, and I know I can do better, but it was worth it. The final result was so tender and flaky and warm and just.. MMMM!! It’s not a great way to use up my apples though, as I only used three for the recipe.

Also on Sunday I made Oatmeal Jumbos. They did not turn out very jumbo. I needed to use up some chocolate chips and some mini peanut butter cups. The cookies were good, but I think the batter got too warm, I over mixed it, or my baking soda is bad. Or all three. They were very flat. But they were still tasty. It made a HUGE amount of cookies. David and I both took a bunch to work, and they didn’t last long.

Monday night I made good old Chocolate Chip cookies. I’m pretty sure my baking soda has given out on me, because these again weren’t as thick as I had expected. They were still plenty chewy and delicious. Are they the best chocolate chip cookies ever? Quite possibly. I just bought more baking soda, so I will be trying these out again soon.

Also on Monday night I made up the dough for Shortbread Cameo cookies from my Sweet Miniatures book. The dough is in my fridge, just waiting to be cooked up.


Sandy’s  Halloween Party was super fun. I left a little early to finish up the night at a friend’s bachelorette party after I didn’t win the costume contest!! That’s okay, I was close. Being an election year, there were a number of political costumes. I went as Sarah Palin and David went as Joe the Plumber.

The “redneck” was wearing a wifebeater that said “GOD IZ REPUBLICAN” and the “clown” had a sticker that said “Votin’ for McPainin’.” Ohh, funny people.

There was also a hockey mom.

And Peanut Butter Jelly Time. And a Ceiling Fan.

And even the USA.

His costume was interactive. He has a real tattoo of Wisconsin on his back. So he brought markers and we all got to finish the US across his body. Hilarious.

The rest of my party pictures can be found HERE. And Cristina, apparently I stopped caring about taking pictures after I started mixing rum with my punch. So I missed a lot of action and a lot of people and a lot of costumes. 😛

Finally, check this out. It’s hilarious!!

Weekend Bits

October 20, 2008

I’ll have to do a crazy picture post soon, but in the meantime, there are two things I just had to get out.

I got an oil change and a headlight replaced for $28 on Friday night. I kind of hated to play into the dumb girl flirty thing at Scrub-a-Dub, but it just happened. Not only did this nice guy give me $6 off, even though I forgot my coupon, but he “forgot” to charge me for the headlight. When he noticed his mistake, I said he could ring it back up and I’d pay for it, but he decided not to. Well, I’m not going to argue with that!

However, this one dude gave me his number. Yes. For real. I was mortified. His name was Tommie. And it came with an explanation. He lives with his sister and he “doesn’t have a phone right now, and it’s her home number, so if a girl picks up, that’s who it is.” But I can just ask for him.

Can you even believe that I didn’t leap out of the car and jump his bones right then and there?!?!!! My willpower must be STRONG, because I was somehow able to resist.

You know what though, props to him for being brave and taking a chance. He did say something along the lines of “I’m just giving it to you in case… you don’t have to call. I won’t be hurt” so I don’t feel too guilty. But seriously dude, get your life together before you go trying to pick up chicks!

So even though I was embarrassed as all hell, I told David. And he in turn told his dad and his friend. Now they would like me to be in charge of getting their oil changed too. Good lord.

Also, David gave me a present!! We’re so bad at waiting to give each other gifts. I guess he bought this for my birthday or Christmas, but was itching to give it to me. It’s from a used bookstore, so I don’t feel too bad. Plus it’s awesome, and I can definitely use it well before the holidays.

It’s this cute cookbook called Sweet Miniatures.

I’ve been reading it since he gave it to me, and it looks awesome! I can’t wait to make one of the recipes. If my Pick N Save has rice flour, I’ll make the “Shortbread Cameos” this week! It’s all about tiny desserts. Tartlets, petit fours, mini cookies, and other “one bite” desserts. It’s awesome! Plus she has a great introduction about some of the logistics and science and techniques of baking. I’m fascinated. I’ve been cupcake crazy lately, so I can’t wait to dive in to some new recipes!