Thursday, February 27, 2014

Sugar & spice

I've thought of another thing that made January the pits: no baking. No baking! No wonder I was wallowing around in the dumps.

How I love to have a good reason to bake (beyond just the two of us stuffing ourselves silly), and within the last couple of weeks, excuses have been popping up all over.


I may have shared this recipe before, but it's so fantastic, it deserves a second appearance. Muffins are my favorites to bake (at least right now); they're such tidy little packages of comfort, they usually require only one bowl, and they freeze so well. I've used this recipe for ages, and I can't remember where I found it, although I do think it was originally meant for a loaf of bread.

Banana Cinnamon Swirl Muffins
3 over-ripe bananas
1/3 cup melted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
Dash salt
1 1/2 cups flour

Preheat to 350 and grease a muffin tin (that non-stick cooking spray with flour is great for muffins). Mix together the bananas, butter, sugar, egg & vanilla. Sprinkle soda & salt over banana mixture. Add flour & gently stir, being careful not to over-mix. Spoon a bit of batter into each cup & sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Top with more batter & more cinnamon sugar. Bake about 20 minutes (18 for me because our oven runs on the hot side.) 

*Add chopped walnuts for extra yum! Be generous with the cinnamon sugar!


And now prepare to have your socks knocked off. As far as I'm concerned, this is the Pioneer Woman's greatest culinary triumph. (Her recipe is intended as a layer cake, but I use it for cupcakes, and it makes a pile. Around 22, I think.)

Coffee Cream Cupcakes 
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 sticks butter
3 Tbsp instant coffee crystals
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 and line two muffins tins with cupcake papers. Mix together the flour, sugar & salt. Melt butter over medium-low heat. While melting, add coffee crystals to 1 cup boiling water; set aside. When butter has melted, add the coffee & let come to a boil about 10 seconds; set aside for just a minute. In a separate bowl, mix together buttermilk, eggs, soda & vanilla. Pour the butter/coffee mixture into the flour & stir gently. Add in the egg mixture & stir gently until combined. Fill papers 3/4 full. Bake about 18 minutes. 

I made these yesterday for a friend's birthday and you can see that I very thoughtfully ate one to make sure they weren't poisonous:

Coffee Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz cream cheese, at room temp
2 Tbsp milk or cream
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
2 cups powdered sugar
4 tsp instant coffee crystals

Beat cream cheese & milk until smooth. Beat in vanilla, salt, powdered sugar & coffee crystals.

*This isn't the Pioneer Woman's creation; I found it on the internet, but again, can't remember exactly where. The consistency ends up being fairly thin; the batch I made this morning was definitely much too runny for piping & actually seemed more like a glaze. Adding more cream cheese and powdered sugar would bulk it up enough for piping, I think. 


This has nothing to do with baking, but I've been awfully hard on winter, so here's some evidence that it hasn't been all gloom & doom:

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Color splash

Whew, January was tough. It was gray and gray and GRAY and totally stole my thunder in the be-happy-and-productive department. I felt like I was teetering on the edge of a serious problem, so in February I decided to make a concerted effort to snap myself out of the dumps.

First, I would feed my creative side, which had been lethargic for too long. And, if the outside world was one enormous iron curtain, I would fill the inside of our house with color - pink and red specifically, because what else in there in February? :) So...

I took 500 trips to craft store (pigs will fly before I can organize myself enough to get everything I need in one shot); this pile of goodies is now a sweet little pendant banner that hangs across the doors to our deck:
And this is just a piece of scrapbook paper in a picture frame-turned-tray that sits on the coffee table:
I woke up one morning in a fit of ridiculous & decided our candles were unacceptable and needed replacing right now. After running all over looking for new ones, I had a flash of common sense & decided to wrap the old ones in paper left over from the pendant project. The white tray is filled with clear gems from the dollar store; I punched out circles from different scrapbook paper I had lying around & modge-podge'd them to the bottoms. (Easy-peasy & cheap, yahoo!) 
More framed scrapbook paper:

I also sent out Valentines; doing something small for someone else is a wonderful way to cheer our own hearts, and I had great fun shopping for pink tea :)

And then the flowers! I love the grocery store on Valentine's Day; roses & tulips & carnations everywhere, just begging to be brought home:

Our juicer is getting a ton of use lately, and in keeping with the pink explosion, I used a Gala apple, an orange, a carrot, a little bit of pineapple & two beets to make this:
It's just as delicious as it looks, although if you're not a fan of beets to begin with, this may not be your favorite...but you should try it anyway; really, I mean it!

And that's the story of how I fought the big, bad winter blahs & won :) Now, COME ON spring!

Saturday, February 01, 2014