Tuesday, June 20, 2017

New Flash: Boy turns 8, loses tooth, gets old way too fast.

One of my favorite things to do each year is to make birthday cakes or cupcakes for the little people in my life. Their creativity in requests always stretches my thinking and I love the hunt and planning to try to make something they like.

This year for Xander’s 8th birthday (8? How can he be 8 already?) he asked for Dale Earnhardt Jr. cupcakes. He wanted them in the shape of the car number 88. That was going to be quite a few cupcakes and since we’d be transporting them? Eek. That seemed iffy. We ended up deciding to do the car logo on a toothpick, like a sign. There was some confusion on my part as to what color those cupcakes should be, what logo to use, where the logo should go. Thankfully I was able to chat with Xander about a week before and lay out my plan, show him the logo, and get him excited about them. You see… it’s all in the presentation. I used plain old silver liners since the colors were blue and silver, piped on blue frosting and used some silver star sprinkles I had. They turned out way better than I had hoped. Xander wanted to keep all the 88 signs. He would hand out cupcakes, but make sure to take the sign first. I’m glad I was able to make something he really liked. Sometimes the designs I make require some imagination to figure out what they are – this time he knew right away. Thankful for this boy who is 8 and already lost a tooth! He’s growing up so fast.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Bad things happen when a dinger doesn't ding...

You know you've been to the vet too much lately when even the vet says you don't have to come back for required blood tests because you've been there so much recently.
Poor Rusty - it's hell getting old. Your people put boots on you to make you look ridiculous - or help you walk - one or the other. They think you need your teeth cleaned and one pulled. Then there were the 47 follow-up appointments for said pulled now infected hole where the tooth was. Then - the shots. How many shots does an old man need?
Before our last vet visit, I put together a coffee cake - a cinnamon coffee cake - oh it had such great potential. The batter tasted amazing, the filling gooey and great - it had the makings of a great coffee cake. Yes… had. You see, I cut my timing a tad too short. I tested the cake – it needed 5 more minutes. I set the egg timer, twisting that magical egg and telling Andy to please take it out when the dinger dinged. Also, I told Bronwyn to make sure Daddy took it out.
When I got home 45 minutes later - I could still smell that cake baking. Apparently, the dinger didn't ding and no one thought "hrm maybe I should check on that" - so over baked. Oh, my… was it ever over baked.
Oddly enough – Andy couldn’t get enough of that coffee cake the next day. Maybe he felt bad for it – sad and lonely over baked coffee cake. I feel like this recipe deserves another shot. Anyone willing to give it a shot? Maybe I will, but give myself LOTS of time for it to bake, but not too much.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Coffee Cake
For the crumb topping:
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened and cut into small pieces
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped pecans
pinch salt

For the cream cheese swirl:
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped pecans
For the cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 & 1/4 cups sour cream

To make the crumb topping:
Combine all the crumb ingredients in a small bowl. Mix with a fork until the mixture resembles crumbs.
To make the cream cheese swirl:
Beat the cream cheese and brown sugar until fluffy. Mix in the vanilla and cinnamon. Stir in the pecans.
To make the cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9” x 13” x 2″ baking pan.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating just until combined after each addition. Mix in the vanilla.
Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing just until combined. Stir in the sour cream and mix just until combined.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Top the batter with spoonfuls of the cream cheese swirl. Use an up and down motion with a knife to swirl. Sprinkle the crumb mixture evenly over the top of the cake.
Bake 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Cupcakes, Food Boxes, and Anniversaries

Baking cupcakes in the middle of the week and making homemade whipped chocolate buttercream isn’t really the easiest thing as far as time goes. But when celebrating two years at my job – it seemed like something I really wanted to do. Ever since I made the frosting for Nicholas’ birthday cake, I’ve wanted to try and make it again. Since my favorite cake is yellow with chocolate frosting – what better to make?
The week before my anniversary, I received an email asking for volunteers to go to Children’s Hungry Fund to help for the morning. It happened to fall on my 2nd anniversary. I asked if I could go, of course, so off I went.
I brought the cupcakes in first thing. What better treat to enjoy at 8 AM? I didn’t stick around long, I headed off to Children’s Hungry Fund. What a great morning – working alongside co-workers I don’t often have a chance to see or talk to. So great to get to know people better but also working for a cause. We packed food boxes that would feed multiple meals to families in need who live in the local area.
Back at the office – my department was enjoying the cupcakes I brought. Oh, the cupcakes were so fluffy and the frosting? Oh, it melted in your mouth – so good. Even my kids ate some at home! Even Andy ate them and raved about the frosting! Oh and Rusty? Well, he snuck a bit too. This is a keeper recipe people!
I’m thankful for good chocolate frosting, for being given the opportunity to volunteer, to work for a company that encourages you to take time out of your day and to help others, for two years that even on my worst day is better than my best day where I was working.

Whipped Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
1 1/2 cups (340g) butter, at room temperature
4 cups (500g) powdered sugar
3/4 cup (94g) cocoa powder
4 tablespoons (60ml) heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons (10ml) vanilla extract
pinch table salt

In a the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with whisk attachment whisk butter and sugar on medium-high speed until very pale and fluffy or about five minutes.
Be sure to stop at least once and scrape the bowl.
With the mixer off, add in cocoa powder, vanilla, and salt.
Turn mixer on low and blend for about 30 seconds.
One tablespoon at a time add in heavy cream.
Once all cream has been added and the mixture is mostly combined, turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Now turn the mixer onto medium-high to high and whisk for 3-5 minutes or until mixture is lighter and fluffier. The frosting will be shiny and seem to have many large air bubbles throughout and this is exactly what we are going for. (You can smooth those out on the cake if so desired.)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Baking up some pockets of awesome deliciousness.

Some days I forget that I changed my work hours. Once upon a time Andy and I both worked 8:00 AM-4:30 PM – which aren’t bad hours – really. The struggle was traffic at night, trying to pick up kids, make dinner, get bedtime routines done, have time to play, it all seemed so rushed. Last year we both changed our hours to 7:00 AM-3:30 PM and while it seems silly – that hour actually gives us MORE time. More time to make dinner, more time to eat, more time to play. The nights seem so much longer. Sometimes they seem too long. Sometimes I forget we have this extra time and I still make dinner the night before.
Our kids love ravioli – so one night I tossed a few things together, refrigerated it overnight, threw it in the oven when I got home with the kids the next day. Andy had a dentist appointment so it worked perfectly that he walked in as we took it out of the oven.
This Ravioli Bake was super easy to make the night before and helped make another evening a bit easier. Leftovers are pretty awesome too. You can easily add some sautéed veggies or a side salad to make it even more of a balanced meal. We figure our kids eat two meals at day at school – which are pretty well balanced – so if they eat not so great at home at night – they’ll even out. So far so good – right?

Ravioli Bake
Frozen Ravioli of choice
2 bottles of Pasta Sauce of choice
1 tsp Italian Seasoning
2 cups mozzarella cheese
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a sprayed 9 x 13 pan, layer sauce, ravioli, and cheese several times. Bake 35-45 minutes until edges are bubbly and the middle is hot.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Getting dumped for the great outdoors...

If there is one thing I know for certain about my girl is that she loves to bake. It’s kind of our thing. So when we decided to make Amish Sugar Cookies – it was a no brainer that she would help. As we put all the ingredients in the bowl, she noticed Andy was outside. Then she noticed Nicholas was outside… then as she scooped out the dough and saw even Rusty was outside – she then decided the outdoors was calling and she must answer. So I lost my helper.
I’m so thankful my kids love being outside so much. Sure makes things interesting when it rains endlessly for days upon days upon days. Also winter – winter mostly sucks in that regard. Anyway.
These cookies are pretty good little nuggets. I’m not sure what exactly makes them Amish or even sugar cookies – don’t most cookies have sugar in them? Regardless of their name – they taste pretty good. They aren’t overly sweet, almost like a scoopable shortbread. Might be why Andy ate so many – the kids too!

Amish Sugar Cookies Recipe
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1. In a large bowl, beat the butter, oil, and sugars. Beat in eggs until well blended. Beat in vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda and cream of tartar; gradually add to creamed mixture.
2. Drop by small teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375° for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool. Yield: about 5 dozen.
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