Friday, May 25, 2012

Mexican Sweetness

This just happened in my kitchen:
The Perfect Margarita Cupcake
Who wouldn't want to combine beverage of choice with a cupcake?!  So, after a pinterest search for a perfect recipe, I really didn't find one. I found lots of them. So I took a few, reviewed them, and opted to go for this recipe by Michelle at!

I had originally planned to "test" this recipe out last week and share with the neighbors, but Miriam came down with some yucky bumps, and I opted to wait until we were in the clear a few days before sharing the love ...however, I did go to the liquor store to purchase the tequila for the baking.  That, in itself, is one of the funniest moments in my life. Here I am, almost 30 years old, and getting all nervous as I walk into the ABC store looking like a ditzy fool looking for some kind of tequila to bake cupcakes with a blank look on my face.  mind you, I went to the store at 6:57 p.m. on a Saturday night (they close at 7 p.m. then until Monday).  So, there I was, clueless (also dressed in formal full black since I had just played at a wedding) with a bunch of other folks getting their last chance in to buy some hard liquor and all I need is 6 tablespoons of some kind of tequila...I'm sure that cashier belly laughed after I walked out.

But...the time came this week when we were invited to a neighborhood gathering for appetizers with a Mexican theme and it's perfect. So, in the kitchen I went and baked 12 of these yummies to share after my girls went to bed. (I actually just ate one at 11:25 p.m. to "test" because I won't be able to have one at the gathering tomorrow since I will still have to nurse L before bedtime and I don't want to give her a dose of it....)

I might have used too much lime - but I LOVE lime, especially when it's hot outside. So these will be perfect for the party tomorrow. Can't wait to share.  And if you have a fiesta and you need cupcakes - I'll gladly help you out with these babies. :)

¡Que rico! ¡OlĂ©!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Praying Hard

I've been praying hard for my friends (old, new, and unknown) who are in different seasons of life right now. Will you take a moment and pray for these folks too?
1. A college friend, Melanie, as she cares for her mother, Sue and the new stage of life they are all in as she watches her mother suffer from a stupid brain tumor.
2. For a lady who was super close to my mother when she was ill - her father has been diagnosed with the same stupid brain tumor that mom had and is only given a couple of months of life to live.
3. My new blogging friends, the Knolls, as they seek prayers on behalf of their few days old son Parker who has CDH and is at a critical point in treatment.
4. A college couple, Elizabeth and Grady who are living in week 7 or 8 with her daughter Lily in the hospital who is making speedy progress against CDH.
5. My dad's wife's daughter, Amy, who is scheduled to have some pretty intense surgery tomorrow. She's been preparing for this for quite some time, and has two teen daughters who will miss their on the go momma.
6. My grandmother as she is released today from a 48 hour stay in the hospital for a flare up with her diverticulitis.  She is still having a hard time adjusting to the absence of her husband who died 3 weeks ago.
7. My sweet niece Sarah, who seems to be perpetually ill, but the doctors find no evidence of cause.
8. For three dear girlfriends who are so precious to me, and long for godly men in their lives but the Lord has yet to introduce them and fulfill his promise...

And praising God for the joys in life:
1. For the speedy process thus far, for my friend Terri and her husband Tyler as they begin their adoption process.  Pray for them and their child that God has set apart to join their family already.
2. For Miriam's HFM has been relatively easy, now that she's recovering.  Continue to pray it doesn't spread to anyone else in the family.
3. For sleep at night - it's not overrated in our house and I'm sooo glad we get it.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
James 5:16

Monday, May 21, 2012

I'm on the edge...

of an emotional breakdown. and I really don't know why.  If I were to take a step back and evaluate what's happening, it would seem all is perfect: oldest daughter is taking a nap, youngest daughter is snuggled with me and knocked out, I actually have a "summer" to enjoy, I won't be required to shower every single day, I can pig out on the pantry whenever I wish, my husband is working hard and is home (for the most part) every night and now back to sleeping in the same bed on a regular basis (the complications of pregnancy and Lydia's first months in the bassinet in our room just wasn't appealing to him...), I don;t have any grocery shopping to do this week, I figured out how to pay the last two bills that I always write checks for online, I have the promise of depositing a pretty nice check from a wedding this weekend....and the list could go on. But for some reason, I feel like I could snap or bawl in any given moment for no reason. Do you ever feel that way?

I think I know why - it's either one thing or another. The first possibility
1. I can't bake and share right now.  If you haven't caught on by now, I've been baking like a fool and have been encouraged to start what may be my next career - cupcakes for a living. It sounds crazy - but it has been a blast learning new recipes and sharing them with my friends, and even making some $$ from them.  But M started off with a funky few spots on Friday night, and by Saturday and continuing on, we discovered that she has Hand Foot and Mouth disease. It sounds gross, and it is gross, and apparently she doesn't have the worst case of it. The bumps/rashes are EVERYWHERE, but not in her mouth (which typically characterizes a horrible bout of it).  But nonetheless, it still looks gross. Almost so gross that J and I don't want to touch her. So gross that we wash our hands EVERY time we touch her or something she's been touching. So gross that at the end of the morning or day, I pack up all of the toys she has been playing with and store them away for a DEEEEEEP detox cleaning that night with a powerful soak of "germ-be-gone." So gross, that I'm pretty sure that if someone offered me a cupcake from their house when they had been dealing with HFM, I wouldn't want to even have it near me. So, in an effort to save my friends from HFM and gaining a few more inches on their waist, no cupcakes.  By the weekend, however, we should be in total clearance (really, we're clear after today since she would have actually had the disease for a week now, but just to be safe, I'm calling off baking this week).
And, since this new found love of baking has been my defense mechanism and coping skill over the last month or so, I'm bummed.
But doubtful that no baking would actually cause me to turn into a sea of despair, I'm banking that this is the cause of my down and outs today:
2. People are hurting. Everywhere. And I can't do anything about it. Another friend of mine just experienced a miscarriage. One girl is experiencing the awful crap season of caring for her mother as she suffers from a GBM (what my mother died of).  There is a dear sweet family who trusted that the Lord would bring their adopted baby girl home to them by's almost June, and still no daughter.  Too many unexpected deaths from old folks, young children, and fathers/husbands who's time was just too short. I could go on and on, just about the hurts, and pains, and sufferings that people all around me are experiencing today, not to mention those who I have never met.  There it is - pain and suffering - staring at each one of them. And they feel and are hopeless and weak in the face of their thorn.  and I'm just so sad for them.  I don't know what to say, I don't know how to reach out, and sometimes I don't even know how to pray for them.
Perhaps I'm feeling a little overload of sadness for all of them today...

God doesn't hurt us on purpose, right? God loves us, right? So then why do we suffer like this, and why did he pick us to suffer in that particular way? Because God loves us.
I've been reminded of the truth of those answers over the last month in my study in the word of 1 & 2 Peter especially when we're reminded of our suffering and how it brings glory to God and how we, as believers, are called to suffer. For, through the suffering, we gain a knowledge of our Father that we wouldn't have otherwise.  We grow stronger and deeper in our faith.  We learn to call on Him to heal us and our wounds.  We become His children.  Such a transformation to go from bummed and depressed and doubtful, to filled with grace, overflowing with love, and perfected in our weakness.  Blessed to know the Living God today and to trust in those promises and to know that my "living on the edge" isn't the way I live in the light of joy -

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Powdered Sugar hangover

Wow - I just completed my first "official" order meaning: I worked hard, served well, and got paid for it!  When Miriam's preschool director asked me last week to help with her teacher's luncheon and the graduation reception, I was super excited - a chance to try out my skills, under pressure, for lots of folks.  Then, after the weekend, some changes were made and not only was I providing 30 jumbo cakes for Wednesday, but TEN DOZEN regular cakes for Thursday.  They turned out great, got rave reviews, and folks are wanting more!  Just a few thoughts from this week's cupcake adventures:
1. Don't ever buy cupcake liners from Michaels. They are too big for the pans and fold in with the batter to make the finished cake ugly.
2. Don't ever use more strawberries in the frosting than what it calls for just because you have them and you like that strawberry flavor.
3. Don't ever think you have the right amount of ingredients - you'll certainly run out of something when you realize at the last minute you still need "one more batch of...."
4. I'm somewhat disgusted when I think about the 4 pounds of butter, 3 bags of powdered sugar, and 1 can of cocoa, and 2 things of oreos that I went through in 48 hours.
5. Don't forget to eat a meal while baking, or else you'll find yourself eating cupcakes for your dinner.
6. Don't bake the cupcakes alone, or else you'll find yourself testing each flavor and consuming more than what you should.
7. Fresh fruit always makes a poorly frosted cupcake look quite tasty.
8. Don't attempt to bake/frost the cupcakes while your almost two year old can watch - she'll quickly demand "cuh-caaaaaake"
9. Always have 1-5 "duds" so that you can play with the artistic skill of icing - then enjoy them afterwards, or share them with someone.
10. Have a cookout milkshake before icing the cakes - it keeps you from eating the cakes (thanks Terri!)  then, have a glass of wine while icing the cakes - makes for a real steady hand. 
Jumbo cakes for the teacher's luncheon (Vanilla w/vanilla buttercream, Oreo, and Strawberry)
A sampling of all of the flavors for the Preschool graduation - I sent over 10 dozen to school today!!

I had a blast, enjoyed good conversation and company (thanks Erin!), and created that sweet smelling aroma of baked goodies.  And, I even made a few bucks.

I can't wait for another order! Until then, back to the experimenting lab for new recipes!

Monday, May 14, 2012

The oreo challenge

Oh wow - the part of my body that enjoys chocolate just did a happy dance.  On Sunday, I went for my next challenge - the Oreo cupcake. And although I'm pretty sure I succeeded, I've still got some things to improve.  The taste, however, not so much.
I used my go-to chocolate cake recipe from Hershey. Hands down THE BEST chocolate cake out there!! Then, I added an oreo to each cupcake liner - some I did the whole cookie, some I did crumbles. I'm not sure which way I like best - both seemed to be pleasing to everyone else.  I almost couldn't resist myself after I pulled them out of the oven....well, I actually didn't. I devoured a WHOLE JUMBO CUPCAKE hot and yummy. This is what they looked like out of the oven:
ones on left had whole cookie on bottom, ones on right have crumbles
Then, if that wasn't enough goody...the icing was even more amazing. My classic butter cream with crumbled oreos.  Miriam even helped me with the meat tenderizer to smash them. Unfortunately, I should have thought to food-process them, because when I piped the icing out, some of the larger crumbs got stuck and totally messed me up. I've learned from that mistake for sure.  I also didn't add as much sugar to this icing because folks said the last batch was too sweet. But, it made the icing really runny (maybe I added too much milk?).  Nonetheless, a perfect ending to the challenge...

I halved the recipe for the cake and it made 12 jumbo cupcakes.  I ate one out of the oven, J ate one, shared 3 with neighbors, then enlisted a few other tasters to try them out so they wouldn't be in my house tonight.  From what I hear, they already want another one! SCORE!

Update - Vanilla cupcake...

So I wrote this post over the weekend about the perfect vanilla cupcake. My preference on Friday night was the cupcake with butter from the Joy of Baking.
BUT WAIT...the next day, I went to have another cupcake, and had one of my so called favorites, and it was really dry - actually really dry.  It was way too crumbly.  My husband tasted one with the oil, and it was perfection.  So this is what I learned:
If you're making cupcakes the day that you need them - fine, use that originally recipe. But, if you make them the night before and have to let them sit awhile, use this recipe for a super duper moist cupcake.

Moist vanilla cupcakes - yields about 15 regular size cakes
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup oil (vegetable, canola or extra light olive oil)
1/2 cup buttermilk

* Preheat oven to 350*F.
* In a medium bowl, add cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Stir together with whisk, and set aside.
* In the bowl of an electric mixer, add eggs and beat 10-20 seconds.  Add sugar and continue to beat on medium speed about 30 seconds.  Add vanilla and oil, beat.
* Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add about half of the flour mixture.  Add half of the milk, then the rest of the flour and the rest of the milk.  Beat until just combined.  Scrap down the side of the bowl.  
* The batter will be thin.   Pour batter into a muffin pan prepared with paper liners.  Fill liners about 2/3 full. 
* Bake cupcakes in pre-heated oven for 12-14 minutes. 
* Cool in pan 1-2 minutes, then remove cupcakes from pan (carefully) and finish cooling on a wire rack.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Perfect Vanilla Cupcake

*note - I don't ever remember my mother baking anything from scratch (except maybe a carrot cake??).  It was more like "semi-homemade" Sandra Lee style. Hey mom, why didn't you teach me how to bake??

I am so excited (and super nervous) about a cupcake order for this upcoming week for Miriam's preschool. I was asked to do jumbo cupcakes for the end of the year teacher luncheon on Wednesday and regular cupcakes for the 4 yr preschool graduation on Thursday.  This means I will be making approximately 7 dozen cupcakes!! I have chosen to do strawberry, oreo, and vanilla for the jumbo teacher cupcakes and will do vanilla with buttercream for the graduation...thing is, I DIDN'T HAVE A VANILLA CAKE RECIPE!!! EEK!
So in desperation, I went on a search. I came across a few recipes that sounded good, and I compared them with the 1-2-3-4 cake that's pretty classic. I decided to test a few of them this weekend and the baking began today.  
The first recipe called for oil in the batter. Now since I've been doing from scratch cakes, I have yet to make one with oil (that's only for box cakes anyway, right?).  Well, this one reminded me A LOT of a box mix. It was ridiculously moist, like almost too moist that when you touched the top, it came off on your fingers. It also didn't bake well at all. The other thing I didn't like about the recipe is that it only made about 14 or 15 (if you stretched it) regular cupcakes...which would only be about 7 jumbo.  Although, they were quite yummy, especially out of the oven, I decided to go for another round.
1st recipe - these look awful, but actually taste decent.

again, they don't look pretty, but it's taste that matters, right?
 The second recipe was similar to most cake recipes I've been doing. Rather simple, just your average flour, sodas, eggs, and butter....and voila! Enough said - they were beautiful out of the oven! I halfed the recipe and it made 7 jumbo, which means the full recipe will yield about 28 regular cupcakes, or 14 jumbo - perfect for my needs for this week!
2nd recipe - definitely the winner in my book
 Then came the icing part. I had gotten a new tip, thanks to the encouragement from Glory and her blog on decorating and decided to try my hand at it. If I'm gonna do this, they at least have to look like I didn't smear it on with a knife, yeah?
My first attempt at decorating with a Wilton 1M tip
 So I went to decorating and practiced and practiced and practiced. I even made the not-so-good-looking cupcakes out of the oven look better than the better tasting cupcakes (see below).
the pretty ones on the left are the 1st recipe, the not so pretty ones
(but very tasty ones) are on the right
 And then, the last one - I was so proud of myself!!
The final product - beautiful and yummy if I say so myself!

I have such wonderful friends (I wonder if they think I'm wonderful too....) that they get to test both recipes.  It seems as of now, it's down the middle on which is the favorite.  There's no question that the icing knocks socks off, so at least we're good with that one. But as for me and the order for this week, I think I'll go with my personal favorite, recipe #2.  Yet again, The Joy of Baking comes through! with their vanilla cake recipe.

Next on the list - oreo :)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Whatcha got cookin'?

Since my latest installment of resources for yummy deliciousness, it's been well over a month. Clearly I've been busy. For the most part, busy learning how to be a full time SAHM, keeping the peace, remaining sane, and trying to shower 1-3 times (a week)....but, I also have been cooking and baking up a storm. My husband tells me he wants me to stop, that it wears me down, and that I'm often too tired to do anything else, but mention cooking and I'm game! So, what's been stirring in my kitchen these days:
1. For the italian lover in us all: Tuscan pasta with tomato basil cream with my fresh basil I've been growing.
2. For the "need-some-home-cooked-feel-good-just-wanna-eat-meal" of Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings
3. My take on this version of seafood pasta - kind of like a shrimp scampi, and I left out a lot of ingredients and made it super simple, but it's an awesome idea!
4. quick and easy biscuits (they taste like our church's communion bread!) - super yummy with only 3 ingredients!

And what would it be like if I weren't making any sweets?!
1. I made these yum-o muffins for a Bible study gathering the other week since I had some rotten bananas and fresh strawberries on hand.  (note to self, make sure, when doubling the recipe, that you not leave out the butter for both batches.  a double batch without 2 sticks of butter can make the batter worthless and develop into a spastic kitchen moment...not that I know about that or anything....)
2. Homemade Reese cups - but better. yep, they are as good as they sound and easier than you think to make.
3. Easy cherry cobbler for when I had a covered dish and remembered at the last minute to bake something.
4. Cream cheese lemon bars, a favorite recipe of mine growing up that my aunt fixed for many occasions

I've been trying my hand at cake recipes and jumbo cupcakes.  I have some random idea to go into business and charge pennies compared to the up and going cupcake stores. I get tired of paying $3 for a cupcake!! And I have a pretty good neighbor who seems to not mind taste testing my  creations.
Here's what I've got so far:

1. Strawberry with strawberry buttercream
2. Chocolate with chocolate cream icing
3. and my latest success, snickerdoodle!

My next experiments may include pink lemonade, margarita (virgin and real), candybar craze (mix of snikers, reese, twix)....
What flavor of cupcake or icing would you like for me to try? Do you think I could go into a side business baking? Would you like to be a taster??

And, look at my cute little assistants: they help me by taking naps, eating what's in front of them, and just looking cute!