Sunday, February 27, 2011

Faux Gourmet Cupcakes

Happy birthday Ryan!  Lucky for him he has two assistants to help him unwrap his presents...and play with all the packing peanuts.  Because of his birthday, I have been cooking and baking almost non-stop for two days!

Yesterday was pumpkin pie (his request) instead of birthday cake and chicken lettuce wraps for his birthday dinner. 

Today it's home-made bread and chocolate peanut butter cupcakes for the birthday party at his parent's house.  And get this, I'm not even going!  My youngest is sick sick sick.  So, as it's his birthday, I guess he gets to go to the festivities instead of me.  Fine.  Whatever.

I am going to give you a great tip.  Make these cupcakes the next time you need a birthday cake instead of whatever you were planning on making.  I can't tell you how many compliments I get on them and nobody believes it's a cake mix!  I mean, people tell me these are the best cupcakes they've ever had!!  It doesn't even matter what kind of cake mix you use.  Any flavor you want!  How sweet is that!  I typically make chocolate or yellow cake.  That's just me, I'm not a fan of white cake.  Lemon would be good though.

Faux Gourmet Cupcakes
1 box cake mix, any flavor you like
3 large eggs
1/2 C. melted butter (that's 1 stick)
1 C. water

Preheat oven 350 F
Add all ingredients to stand mixer.
Mix on low 2 minutes with wire whisk attachment. 
Scrape as needed.
Mix on high 1 minute.

Line 2 standard muffin tins with cupcake liners.  (Make sure to choose really stylish liners, it'll make you feel fancy).
Scoop batter 2/3 full in each cup.
Bake for 18 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.
Cool completely on wire rack
Frost as desired.

Fresh from the oven, and boy do they smell good.  Yes, that's the bread I made also cooling in the background.  I chose to make the bread first due to the oven temp needing to be much lower for the rising and felt after it was done, my oven would already be pre-heated and ready for cupcakes. 

Here's an example of me having over-filled my cupcakes.  This is where I struggle the most.  Try very hard to only fill the cups 2/3 full.  Not 3/4 or you will have spillage and then your cupcake tops will run into each other and they're not as pretty.  You should get 24 cupcakes from this recipe.  If you only have 22 or 23, you've over-filled so remedy it.  Please.

Here I got it right.  Nicely domed cupcakes, no over-spillage.  Just right!
And then on to the final not frosting as I forgot to put my butter out last night and so I'm trying really hard to get it to soften.

Volunteers?  Anyone?

2 hours later...

Mmmmmmmmmmmmm...peanut butter and milk chocolate frosting...I don't think I need to say more.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Inch by inch

Here is my hand quilting progress.  I have half of one row done.  Not so much because I have to keep hollering at the kids to stop smushing each others heads!!!  It's just one of those days.  I chose to quilt with a dark purple thread.  I was worried about the large amounts of white and wanted to really showcase the quilting.  We'll see how I like it in the end.

Don't mind my pedicure from Puerto's in a pretty sorry state.  I think I just need to plan another vacation so I have an excuse to get another one!  Although in the immortal words of Missy Elliott, "Get your nails done/ Get a pedicure/ Get your hair did"  I think I might need to put that into action more.  I can't even remember the last time I got a hair cut.  That's the blessing and the curse of long hair.  Throw it into a pony tail and you don't even know it's looking sorry.  I think I need to take time for myself a little bit more.  A little more pampering would definitely do me good!

Being good and not smushing heads for a minute.

But in the meantime, I am off for sushi dinner for my hubby's Birthday.  38.  Yikes!  The big 4-0 is looming and don't he know it.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Easiest, No Chill, Most Delicious Sugar Cookies

Are you looking for a last minute sugar cookie recipe that doesn't take forever and is guaranteed to be delicious and easy? Well here it is. I wasn't even going to make these, as my sister had volunteered to keep the luscious temptation away from me...but, she's sick today. Our conversation went something like this...

"I'm sick, so I'm not going to make the easiest, no chill, most delicious sugar cookies ever that have been our family tradition since...forever. Instead I am going to make store-bought sugar cookies. But don't worry, this will be better for your diet, because you won't even want to eat one."...Long pause..."NOOoooooooOOOOOOoooOOOO!!!!"

Suffice it to say I then volunteered to make the sugar cookies. I cannot have Valentines Day ruined by store-bought cookies when these are so easy and soo good. Luckily I happen to have all the necessary ingredients on hand, pretty much all the time. They're pantry basics for me. The best part about this recipe though is you don't have to chill the dough!  That's right, I said you don't have to chill the dough.  This is good because whenever the mood strikes, you can bake up a batch of these in no time. 

 I half'd this recipe because, I am on a diet, but it still made plenty. Oh, and get this, they are so easy that even though my KitchenAid is busted and I had to make them by took no time. So I have now decided that it is never worth it to get my KitchenAid dirty again. Here is the making it by hand recipe, but if you want to break out the mixer, go for it.  Just combine the dry ingredients.  Then mix in the shortening.  Then add the milk eggs and vanilla and mixed until just combined.

Preheat oven to 400 F.
Line cookie sheets with parchment paper

5 C. Flour (have more on hand for flouring your surface and I always need more to get my dough stiff enough)
2 C. Sugar
3 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt

Combine the above ingredients in a large bowl.

1 C. Shortening

Cut this into the above flour mix by hand. I just mushed the shortening around in the dry ingredients until there were no large chunks. Make a well in the middle of your dough mixture

3 Eggs, beaten
1 C. Milk
1 tsp. Vanilla

Combine the above ingredients together and then pour into the well in the dry ingredients

Gradually blend in flour mixture to the wet ingredients until all flour is incorporated. The dough is likely to be very sticky now, so this is the point where you have to make a judgement call and add additional flour until it is no longer sticky and won't stick to your floured surface when it is rolled out and cut.

Flour your kitchen counter liberally. Roll your dough to 1/8" - 1/4" Thick. I err on the thin side, as they do puff up. Test if it is sticking at this point. If so, grab it all back up and add more flour to the dough, re-flour your countertop and roll out again. If your dough sticks at all to your counter top, the shapes you've cut will not come off cleanly and will not be as beautiful...oh they'll be tasty, but we're after looks too with these cookies.

Use heart-shaped cookie cutters in all sizes. It was a tradition in my family growing up that everyone got a large cookie with their name on it. That was special and something I do for my family now. Plus dozens of little cookies just for munching. But the big cookie was a big deal, and it was savored.

Place on parchment-lined cookie sheets. Don't place too close, but don't worry either, these cookies don't really spread much. So you can get away with an inch between.

Bake for 8-10 minutes. I find that the first couple batches take 10 minutes and then the subsequent batches take around 9 minutes. They should not be brown at all, but remain lily white, but not be gooey in the center at the same time.

Allow to cool on papertowels completely.

Decorate with Frosting. YUM!

p.s.  Once you have cut out your shapes, grab up all the scraps that are left, mush them back together and roll it out again so you can cut out even more cookies.  This dough does not get tough. I cannot tell you how many times I have rolled and rolled again.  Use it all up!

3 C. Powder Sugar
3/4 C. Butter, softened

Combine the above ingredients in the mixer until well mixed

1 1/2 tsp Vanilla
1-2 Tbl. Milk

Add to sugar mixture and beat until smooth and spreadable. Add red food coloring and mix well. Pipe or spread this on your cooled sugar cookies.

Daddy is a big deal at our house.

Diet or not, Mama's gotta have a V-Day cookie!

This is what you get when Auntie makes the frosting, she includes toppings like candy and sprinkles and chocolate and marshmallows and all kinds of goodies.  I'm a traditionalist.  It's cookies and pink frosting.  Period.
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