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Archive for September, 2011

I know I promised a post yesterday. I am sorry I break promises. Life happens, yunno? But I am here today, even though I wish to be far from here. Not saying I don’t like it here. I do. I really do, but today is a special today. Today is my dad’s birthday. Even though I had hope he would live to see this day, I didn’t think he would. But he did. Barely. He is holding on by a thread. I wish I could be there today to celebrate, but with work and gas being the way it is… it is hard to go up there every week. I wish I could, but I was there last week… and it is getting close to the end of the month. But I hope he feels my love. I hope he understands that he is the most important person in the world to me. I celebrated (kind of) last week when I was up there with him. I baked him an apple pie that he slept through and never ate, but I talked to him. I told him all the things I had been dying to say. I told him how proud of him I am, for fighting and holding on for so long. I prayed for him and wished there was some way I could take his pain away. Why must he suffer? I hope today he found some relief on his birthday.  Not only has he survived another year, but it has almost been a year since he was first diagnosed with cancer. Has a year really almost gone by? In October, he first showed the symptoms. In the beginning of November, he was diagnosed.

A year. It flies by so fast.

Autumn is here and I know in a blink of an eye, it will be snowing. I know people will groan and sputter at that statement… but it is just the fact of life. But Fall is gorgeous. Trees have been starting to change since the end of August, but now it is becoming more frequent. More beautiful.

I also happen to be a huge fan of the flavors Fall brings with them. Apple. Maple. Pumpkin. Currently, I have made an Apple Pie. Caramel Apple Cupcakes (with homemade caramel that came out a lot harder than I wanted it too. Bad Caramel, but very tasty… just not for a frosting…). Pumpkin Cheesecake. And Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies.

I love Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies.

 

Oh and the pumpkin cheesecake.

But I forgot to get pictures of the pumpkin cheesecake.

For some reason, cheesecake just happens to get eaten before pictures can be taken. I just do not know what is up with that.

 

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies are pretty easy. And delicious. And something about them… it is like a cookie and a cake had a wonderful pumpkiny baby. And it was good.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

3 Cups Flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup (or about half of a 15oz can) of pumpkin puree

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350

2. Mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt on wax paper or in a medium bowl.

3. Beat butter until smooth, slowly add the granulated sugar. Push down the sides with a spatula. Add the brown sugar and mix thoroughly. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each egg. Add in the vanilla and pumpkin. Mix well.

4. Slowly add in the flour mixture while mixer is on low. Mix until altogether. Do not over beat.

5. Scoop the dough with a large spoon (about a tablespoon) and place on non-stick cookie sheets (spray your cookie sheets with cooking spray or line with parchment paper if you have to.

6. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until edges are golden brown.

7. Let cool on baking sheets for about 5-10 minutes before removing onto a cooling rack. If you handle sooner, they have a tendency to break!

8 Enjoy with a tall glass of milk.

Happy Birthday, Dad. I raise my glass of milk to you. I love you, and I hope you can someday soon escape the horrible pain you are in.

This one is for you.

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All my life I have been living in a box.

 

It was safe. It was comfortable. I got out of bed in the morning. I drank my coffee. Ate some breakfast. And normally did close to the same thing almost every day. It was routine. It was safe.

And then I fell in love.

With Baking. And it helped me break out of that comfort zone.

I have made cheesecake.

Homemade Apple Pie with a Double Crust.

And created a whoopie pie filling I love (finally!).

Baking has opened doors for me and helped me be more creative. It has given me passion and also a distraction during these uncertain times.

What inspires you?

What makes you feel alive?

A Beautiful Sunset right before a storm?

Nature’s majestic but mighty beauty?

Or… being surrounded by wonderful people who inspire and strengthen you?

Sorry, no recipe this time around! Just a little inspiration to start off your weekend. I am going to be baking for most of it. 2nd Monthly Taste Testing begins on6pm this Sunday! I am going to be creating Pumpkin Cheesecake Cupcakes, Caramel Apple Cupcakes, Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies, Apple Crisp Pie. Which recipe would you like to see first?

Have a wonderful weekend everyone! Next post… Monday! Promise it won’t be so late (Oh and all pictures above were taken by me or the fiance and taken in the beautiful landscape of Maine).

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I have a lot to be thankful for. I have two wonderful kitties who cuddle and snuggle and actually like us and not always just because we feed them. I have a horse who gives me unconditional love and lets me hug her when I need some silent comfort. I have a handsome fiance who supports my passions and helps me be more open minded. I have a KitchenAid mixer from my parents which makes baking so much easier. And because of said KitchenAid mixers, I was able to make delicious Portal cupcakes that won over my first wedding couple and help me launch forward towards my dreams. What are Portal cupcakes you ask? Well, you see it all started with a video game. And I think while you read this blog post you should also be listening to this. Ok, that’s better. So in this game there is a cake. Well maybe there isn’t a cake. You know I am not quite sure what the story is with the cake because I never played the game. And there is something about the cake being a lie? I am not quite sure. But anyway, I was approached by this couple that they wanted this cake at their wedding. 120 times. In cupcake form. I was about to turn that lie into truth. And on Sunday, they came to see the creation and by the mmm’s and ahh’s, I can only assume they liked it. And the fact that they were ready to hire me right then and there. That made me feel very happy. Oh you want to know what these lying cakes look like? Oh I suppose I can give you a visual.

Everything was completely homemade. And yes I made three different types. One with cherries on top and also a cherry frosting filling. One with just cherries on top. And then one with M&Ms, which gave the more authentic look that they wanted. They decided to go with a combination of the cherry filling and also the M&Ms. I am so excited to get to work on this. Can it be June yet? Just skip over winter. (though I am excited for all the baking possibilities this winter… oh darn it. I guess I will just have to be patient!).

Yes, I have a lot to be thankful for. Sushi. Cookies. Cupcakes. Friends. In 22 years, I feel like I have reached a good place, but it is in my nature for wanting something a little more. The hardest part about turning 22 was talking to my dad. And I wished with all my might for one single thing. For one thing. Not roller blades or a pink dolphin to keep in the bath tub. I did not wish for extreme wealth nor did I wish for a brand new car. No what I wished for on my birthday was a cure for cancer. Was for my dad to get better so I could celebrate more birthdays with him. So we could laugh again, and he could beat me at cards. I longed  for his birthday speech about being another year older and thinking about where I want to go with life. That’s all I want.

But when it comes to Birthdays, it isn’t just about the wishes we make. It also involves cake. And I decided to make my own cake this year. My favorite candy in the world is Reese Peanut Butter Cups. Oh man. You can make me walk to the end of the earth by just waving one of those bad boys in front of my face. Ok. It might take 5 to make me walk to the end of the earth. But I love them a lot. So I decided to make a cake to represent this tasty creation.

Not bad for never taking a cake decorating class… right?! Haha. Okay it wasn’t the most beautiful cake in the world. That is why I usually stick to cupcakes. But it is pretty darn tasty!

It is chocolate cake with a peanut butter frosting in between the layers, a chocolate glaze frosting, and peanut butter frosting accents and writing.

Chocolate Cake

1 Cup Strong Brewed Coffee

1 3/4 Cup Flour

1 1/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda

1 Teaspoon Baking Powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 Cup Cocoa Powder

1/2 Cup (1 stick) Butter, softened

1 Cup Sugar

1 Cup Brown Sugar

4 Eggs

1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1/2 Cup Milk

Ingredients

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 9in circular cake pans. Brew coffee.

2. Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt on wax paper or in a small bowl.

3. With the electric mixer, beat butter until smooth. Slowly add in the granulated sugar until butter and sugar is well mixed. Then beat in the brown sugar. Scrape bowl. Add eggs in one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add in the vanilla extract and milk.

4. Slowly add in the flour mixture and coffee, alternating between the 2. Be careful not to over beat.

5. Separate the batter equally between the two pans. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

6. Let the cakes cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before putting them on a cooling rack.

 

Peanut Butter Frosting

1/3 cup butter, softened

2 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 cup peanut butter

2-4 tablespoons of milk (depending on what consistency you want)

 

Chocolate Frosting Glaze

2/3 cup butter, softened

2 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar (feel free to add more to get the consistency you want)

1/2 cup cocoa powder

2/3 cup milk

Decorate as you please!

 

Then serve up and eat! Tastes just like a Reese Peanut Butter Cup. Enjoy!

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Life was a lot simpler back then. Back when the worst thing that happened that day was a scraped knee while pretending to be robotic dinosaurs. Or you got sand up your nose when you jumped off the swing and instead of having the graceful light of a feather landing you imagined, you end up doing a face-plant. Those were the simple days. Not much got me down then, and if I was a little bummed out, I just popped in The Lion King and all my worries were gone by the first note of the very first song of the movie. You know the song. Don’t look at me twiddling your thumbs and pretending you never tried to sing the beginning of “The Circle of Life.” We all have done it. But now, things always make me pause in the middle of the movie. Things like responsibilities. Doing a job that helps pay the bills. Making meals because I can no longer ask my mom to make me a PB&J. But sometimes you just have to give yourself permission to be a kid again. To  imagine the impossible. To slurp down that shake without worrying about your hips. Or in my case, make Shirley Temple Cupcakes.

I have a lot of fond memories of Shirley Temples in my childhood. If I wasn’t getting a Root Beer, I was getting a Shirley Temple. Since my parents went to the same restaurants frequently, they knew my order pretty well. They also knew I loved extra cherries in mine so I didn’t even have to ask for them. That was the best.  One of my favorite memories is when we were in a restaurant somewhere in Connecticut (I was like 6 or 7 at the time so excuse me for not remembering the name, the street, town, or even the exact State. I believe it was in Connecticut!) right before the dinner rush and they had a piano man. I was so captivated and my parents gave me money to put in his fish bowl (aka tip bowl). The piano man smiled at me and let me sit down next to him. He asked me what song he should play next. I was super excited! But I didn’t know any “adult” songs so I requested “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” He smiled at me, and to my surprise, he did play Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star but in the most classiest way I have ever heard. I sat there for awhile, watching him play, and he would ask me if I liked a certain song. It was a wonderful evening. And yes, that evening I had a Shirley Temple so it was not just a random blurb about my childhood. It had some relevancy.

But tomorrow is my birthday and I will be turning 22. I know I shouldn’t be yearning for the days of my “youth” quite yet, but I am at the point where I still feel stuck between adulthood and being a kid. And sometimes, I just want to be a kid. I am not good at this whole adult thing. I long for the mysterious, nice piano man and a Shirley Temple.

Well, I don’t have a mysterious piano man, but I did have cherries in my baking cabinet. So I decided to make Shirley Temple Cupcakes. I had seen a few other bloggers try it out, but I had a different idea in mind. Of course, it is more like a really cherry cupcake… but I put umbrellas in them to make the illusion even stronger! Smart, huh?

Sorry for the blurriness. My Fault! Just so excited for them!

 

So now you can feel like a kid too when you just need one of those moments.

Shirley Temple Cupcakes (adapted from The Curvy Carrot)

1 1/2 cups Flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup cherry-flavored 7-up

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

4 tablespoons of maraschino cherry juice

red food dye

Instructions

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 12 muffin cups (Sorry, this recipe only makes 12 so share wisely!)

2. Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl or on wax paper.

3. With an electric mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Slowly add in the sugar. Add in eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each one. Put in the extract and cherry juice.

4. Alternate adding in the flour mixture with the 7-up.

5. I added just a drop of red food dye because I wanted a pink tint to my cupcake.

6. Fill liners with batter about 3/4ths of the way.

7. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Very Cherry Frosting

6 maraschino cherries sliced into quarters

1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, softened

6 cups confectioner’s sugar

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

6 tablespoons maraschino cherry juice

Instructions

1. With an electric mixer, beat butter until smooth.

2. Add in 4 cups of confectioner’s sugar 1 cup at a time.. Beating well after each time.

3. Add in the cherry juice and almond extract. Beat in the rest of the confectioner’s sugar.

4. If you do not like the consistency of the frosting, add in a little bit of whole milk (like a teaspoon at a time). To me, this was fine.

5. Add in the cherry slices. Beat on low so they are well dispersed.

6. Frost to your liking!

Garnish with a whole cherry and a drink umbrella!

In other news, tomorrow is my birthday (just in case you missed that above!). Also, I won over my first wedding couple! I will be making Portal Cupcakes for their wedding! I will be writing more about that soon. I am super excited!

So celebrate with me and make your own Shirley Temple Cakes!

 

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Life is short. Life is precious. You plan and dream up this perfect life, way ahead of the game. way ahead of tomorrow… you think that there is enough time in the world. I can do that tomorrow. I can do that next summer. I can do that five years from now. Whatever it is, there is always something that we have put off. I know I am not the only one in the world who has felt this way. Who has said “Oh well. Tomorrow. I will do that tomorrow.” Some things are not that big deal (I just put off making a homemade pizza because I feel exhausted as my body adjusts to a new schedule). But other things, like telling someone you love them, cherish them… Doing that project that would totally make a loved one’s day… Why? Why do we wait? We just get so wrapped up in what is going on in our own mind that we believe we can deal with others tomorrow. The thing is… normally, you are not going to get any less busy. Something is always going to come up. If you think that way forever, something is always going to come between you and picking up the phone and calling your folks and saying “I love you.”

I’ve always tried not to have any regrets.  Believing everything happens for some sort of reason. Though you can imagine my complete shock with my dad was diagnosed with a terminal brain cancer back in November 2010. My dad. My hero. The guy that never missed a day of work even if he was up all night with a migraine. The man that did yard work after working a 60+ hour week.  Who even after he “retired,” was still working. Nothing seemed like it would keep him down. He was going to be healthy until he was a 101. And here he is at 66, with cancer. With a cancer, that has taken away most of his life. That has left him in a hospital bed with an IV in his neck and finding it hard some days to even open his eyes. It is hard not to have some sort of regrets in this situation. I was still in college when he was diagnosed. I went to school hours away from home. I was living in an apartment with my fiance. I wasn’t spending time with my folks. I wasn’t as concerned as I should have been when he first started complaining how a strange feeling in his left leg. He claimed he just strained something doing too much work in the garage. Knowing Dad, this did not seem unlikely. I should have offered to do something more that weekend. Who cares about my wisdom teeth… getting those out was not deadly. But that is the one thought in my mind. I should have done more. Should have visited more. Should have played more cards games. Should have… Should have. But right now, those should haves do nothing but make me sad. Right now, I need to be grateful for the times I did have. The times I did visit. The times we sat around the fire. The times we played cards. The time he and my mom stacked the deck so I would finally feel good about my card playing abilities. And I am grateful… and thankful… and so proud of having a father who loves me and supports me. Some people are not so lucky.

But sometimes, I just cannot be so optimistic. Sometimes, I feel like crawling in a corner and hiding under a blanket and wishing my life away. Sometimes I throw caution to the wind and eat an extremely bad but delicious brownie. I do not know what it is about chocolate, but for a brief moment, it helps me fight the darkness. It gives me a brief moment of calm. I created this brownie and I am going to enjoy it. Because life is meant to be enjoyed. Because life does not mean waiting for death. My dad would not want me sitting around feeling sorry for myself and everyone else.

So I baked. I baked because it helped clear my mind. I baked because I needed a pick-me-up. Because I needed to make something. Fix something. And know it would come out ok. Because I needed desperately something to go right. So I made these brownies. These delicious fudgy brownies. Perfect for brownie sundaes. Perfect for just munching on. Perfect for what I needed. And now when you are feeling like the world is against you, when you are feeling like you just cannot do anything right. Make these brownies. Let them help you clear your head and as you bite into the chocolatey bliss…let them give you a reason worth living.

Down-In-The-Dumps Brownie Bliss

1 Cup Butter, Melted

2 Cups Granulated Sugar

1 Cup Brown Sugar

2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

4 Eggs

1 1/2 Cup All Purpose Flour

3/4 Cup Cocoa Powder

1/2 teaspoon Salt

1 Cup Chocolate Chips

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13×9 pan.

2. In a small bowl or on wax paper, mix the flour, cocoa powder and salt.

3. In a medium bowl, mix the sugar and brown sugar with the melted butter. Beat with an electric mixer until well mixed. Slowly add in the vanilla extract.

4. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Mixing well after each egg.

5. Slowly add in the flour, cocoa powder and salt with the other ingredients. Have the mixer on low-speed.

6. Once mixed, add in the chocolate chips. Do not over-beat your batter.

7. Pour into pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Check with a toothpick to see if it is done. If no batter comes out with the toothpick, it is done.

Enjoy. Tastes delicious with Ice Cream. Just sayin’.

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