Monday, October 31, 2011

Cupcake Monday: Happy Halloween!

Halloween is too, too fun; I don't think I'll ever outgrow it.

OK, there's no time for messing around; let's cut to the chase!

(from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes)
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3/4 cup hot water
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp coarse salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 32 muffin cups with paper liners. Whisk together cocoa & hot water until smooth. In another bowl, whisk together flour - salt.

Melt butter with sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring to combine. Remove from heat & pour into a mixing bowl. With an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat until mixture is cooled, 4-5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add vanilla & then cocoa mixture; beat until combined. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with sour cream, and beating until just combined after each addition.

Fill each cup 3/4 full. Bake, rotating halfway through, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire rack to cool 15 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto racks & let cool completely. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months in airtight containers.

5 large egg whites
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
Pinch of salt
4 sticks unsalted butter, cut into small pieces & at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Combine egg whites, sugar & salt in the heatproof bowl of a standing mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly by hand until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved (the mixture should feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingertips).

Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Starting on low & gradually increasing to medium-high speed, whisk until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Continue mixing until the mixture is fluffy & glossy, and completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl), about 10 minutes.

With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter a few tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition. Once all butter has been added, whisk in vanilla. Switch to the paddle attachment, and continue beating on low speed until all air bubbles are eliminated, about 2 minutes. Scrape down side of bowl with a flexible spatula & continue beating until frosting is completely smooth. Keep buttercream at room temperature if using the same day, or transfer to an airtight container & refrigerate up to 3 days or free up to 1 month. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat with paddle attachment on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes.

And now for the fun! (Thank you for pretending these pictures do not represent the worst food photography you've ever seen.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In a nutshell

Our last 4 days went something like this:

- Lemon curd and blueberry french toast
- Queen Anne:
- the waterfront
- Pike Place
- the aquarium:
- the opera
- the total domination of girls over boys, Cranium style
- gingerbread & whipped cream (thank you, Bill & Sheryl!)
- Rock Band until the wee hours:
- more games
- fried rice & fortune cookies
- more & more games
- shopping for girly bath essentials, husbands excluded
- the Museum of Doll Art, no boys allowed
- 500 different kinds of Coke & Fanta, courtesty of Taco Time
- lots of laughing, a little less sleep

And the very, very best part - a dear friendship cemented for the ages:
Angela, we started missing you the minute you walked through the airport doors! We can't wait for next time! :)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


I've stolen this idea from Amanda. Thank you, friend!

Outside my window... The sun has set, but today was lovely - sunny and warm enough for mowing the lawn and wearing shorts. I did both!

I am thankful for... Time and opportunity. Mercy and patience. Quiet time. Jan Michael. (You know the list is endless, right?)

I am learning... a hundred different clever things, all courtesy of Pinterest.

From the kitchen... Earlier tonight I spilled a bottle of salad dressing all over the floor; such a waste of good balsamic vinaigrette! Yesterday I found hibiscus sorbet made with coconut water at the Grocery Outlet. I like it, I think, although I bet I would have liked the Ben & Jerry's Carrot Cake more :)

I am wearing... semi-sweaty exercise clothes.

I am creating... a tablescape for Thanksgiving. The creating is mostly in my mind, but I have decided that orange glitter spray paint is going to be invovled.

I am going... to run. Tomorrow. At the crack of dawn. I'm sticking my tongue out at plantar fasciitis, too.

I am reading... I just finished The Help by Kathryn Stockett. It was wonderful & awful all at the same time. I'm going to start (skimming, not really reading) The Dukan Diet. On the top of the cover it says 'The real reason the french stay thin.' We'll see about that.

I am hoping... that it doesn't rain cats and dogs on Friday. (I'm not holding my breath about this, though!) We have a super special VIP coming to stay with us for the weekend, and we're taking her to the city for the day.

I am hearing... It's very, very quiet just now. And I like it.

Around the house... This house is in for a good scrubbing; it won't know what hit it.

One of my favorite things... to drink after a workout is Twinings Cold Brewed Iced Tea, specifically their Green Tea with Mint. I have it stocked piled in the cupboard :)

A few plans for the rest of the week... Gospel meeting, cat sitting, sushi with our brother (maybe, hopefully, I'm crossing my fingers!), the opera, Rock Band, whipping my fantasty football lineup into shape

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cupcake Saturday

Raise your hand if you think fall is a delicious, dreamy season.

Now raise your hand if you're convinced a good part of the magic comes from pumpkins. (I'm raising two.)

I could go on and about the wonder of a pumpkin, but for today, it's rocking the vote because....

This week's cupcakes are the best yet. I say so, Jan Michael says so, the whole office crowd says so, and there you have it.

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted & cooled slightly
1 cup sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
3 large eggs
1/4 cup (about 1 1/4 ouces) crystallized ginger, cut into 1/8 - 1/4 inch pieces

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 - 1 tsp cinnamon
1 - 2 Tbsp whole milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 14 muffin cups with paper liners & coat with cooking spray. Sift flour - ginger into a medium bowl. In a large bowl on low speed, beat melted butter - pumpkin until smooth. Mix in the eggs & ginger. Add the flour mixture & mix until incorporated; batter will be thick. Fill each cup with a generous 1/4 cup batter. Bake about 25 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes in muffin tins before removing to wire racks to cool completely. For the frosting, beat butter - vanilla on low speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding whole milk to thin out the frosting if needed.
* The recipes for both the cakes & the frosting are from Elinor Klivans' Cupcake Deck.
** I didn't use the crystallized ginger; is it becoming clear that I have trouble following recipes? I also made two batches, and added chocolate chips the second time around.
*** I gave the frosting a little more pizzaz with my vanilla cinnamon sugar spice grinder; I'm not sure that it made a difference taste-wise, but it looked pretty :)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Gearing up & counting down

Halloween is 18 days away. We are gathering our costumes, spiffing up the bikes & generally working ourselves into a fever pitch by watching fine productions from Halloweens past, like this, circa 2009:

Monday, October 10, 2011


I'm home (sweet home!) again from my happy-birthday-to-Anne weekend at the seashore. It went off without a hitch, and I'm so glad she was able to have a proper celebration. A birthday just screams for a great, big to-do, no matter the number; I endorse this fact very enthusiastically.

I didn't take my customary 700 pictures, and I suspect this is because we spent 95% of our time either eating or shopping. It also occurs to me that I have spent two weekends at the Oregon Coast over the past several years, and neither of them have involved my husband. We will fix this egregious mistake sometime in 2012!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Cupcake Friday...

a day early this time! I'm flitting off to the ocean tomorrow to celebrate my friend Anne as she turns 35, so today it is.

Some of Jan Michael's (crazy!) co-workers very politely declined the Carrot, Orange & Golden Raisin cupcakes from two weeks ago when they caught wind of the raisins. I feel so sorry for people who don't like raisins. What kind of life is it when you can't have ants-on-a-log, or a gigantic oatmeal raisin cookie? Anyway, the point is that I very purposely chose a safe recipe this week, so as not to cause the raisin skeptics to faint.

These remind me of gingerbread, with a very heavy emphasis on the ginger. They also aren't overly sweet, but never fear - the frosting makes up for it! The recipe calls for whipped cream as frosting, which I'm sure would be lovely, but we decided to ignore that & use a 'real' frosting recipe instead.

3 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 c unsulfured molasses
2 large eggs
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup hot water
9 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and minced (1 cup)

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Line 26 standard muffin cups with papers. Whisk together flour, baking soda & salt. In another bowl, whisk sugar, molasses & eggs until smooth; whisk in melted butter & hot water. Stir in flour mixture until just incorporated; stir in ginger.

Divide batter evenly among cups, filling each 3/4 full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, about 20 minutes. (Cupcakes will not be domed.) Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes.

For the frosting, beat butter, cream cheese & brown sugar with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until smooth. Use immediately, or refrigerate up to 3 days in an airtight container. Before using, bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth.

This picture is awful and I know it:

Oops, I almost forgot: The cupcakes and frosting both came from Martha Stewart's CUPCAKES.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Beauty for cheapskates

The following fun is brought to you by Pinterest. I've decided the only way to justify the time I spend on there is to actually try some of the things I find.

2 cups brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup + 1 Tbsp oil - vegetable, sunflower or safflower

1. Mx the sugars and pumpkin pie spice until there are no lumps:
2. Add the oil and mix well. Put into clean, sealed jars and store for months out of direct sunlight, just like you would store oil:
3. Take a nice, long shower & scrub yourself down. (No picture of this, ha!) Skip your face, though - I think it's too abrasive. Then, if I were you, I'd follow up the scrub with a nice slathering of cocoa butter from the dollar store. But that's just me :)

2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg

1. Mix everything together. Apply the mask to your face & let sit for 30 minutes - maybe while you listen to Bryan Adams Radio on Pandora & mess around on Pinterest. (Before putting it on your face, you may want to test it on your wrist, just to be sure you don't have a bad reaction. I, of course, somehow missed this step, so we'll see in a few minutes if disaster has struck.)
2. Wash the mask off with warm water, rubbing in circular motions for (in my case) much needed exfoliation.

There now. An all-natural evening at your very own spa without breaking the bank!