Friday, August 17, 2012

Bacon! How Do I Love Thee!

Bacon!  The smell makes my mouth water.  What is it that makes bacon so good?  Just the right amount of salt, mixed with a little fat, and tender pieces of pork that taste like nothing else.  I like mine just a little bit on the side of crispy.  Not too crispy, though.  My friend Toni told me how to make bacon without totally greasing up my stove.  I line a cookie sheet with foil and lay my bacon on top.  I cook it for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees.  It's perfect...  Once the pan cools down, I take the foil and toss it. 

For this cupcake, I cooked about 6 slices and made them crispy.  Once cooled, I chopped them up.  I used a vanilla cake base, but it had real maple syrup in the batter.  Oh My Goodness!  I could have eaten the cupcakes all by themselves.  The maple made the cake so moist and taste quite rich.  Yum! 

The cupcakes had blueberries and bacon in the batter.  Once I put the batter into the pan, I added a couple of blueberries to the top of each one.  They baked up wonderfully!  They also smelled divinely.

While they were cooking I made Cream Cheese Frosting with Maple Syrup.  It was sooooo good!  Believe me, I was skeptical about bacon and blueberries in a cupcake.  But I'm a convert! 

I used a piece of bacon and crumbled it on top of the cupcakes. 

THE VERDICT:  These were fantastic!  While Roger, Zane, Katie, and Sam were on their mission trip, Zack, Nate, and I flew up to Ohio to visit our friends and pick up a car.  I wanted to take them some cupcakes, so I got a pretty cupcake box from Hobby Lobby.  I held 6 cupcakes.  I was able to fly them all the way to Ohio.  I guess people take baked goods through security more than I realized.  We had no trouble.  We delivered them to our friends and they liked them...a lot!  I've already made these mini-cupcakes.  They're awesome.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Red, White, and Blue Cupcakes!

What a great 4th of July week.  It started off with a visit on Sunday evening from our BFFs.  They were visiting from Montana and we got one evening with them.  We went out to dinner at the Marketplace and got to catch up.  Just like old times :-)  Then, on Tuesday, our other dear friends and their 3 kids came to visit from Ohio.  They stayed 2 nights.  On Tuesday, we had pizza at Fratelli's and then rode the surrey bikes at The Dogwood Junction (which was hilarious). On Wednesday, we went to New Life Ranch to see their fireworks.  We hadn't seen their whole family at once since our trip to Germany 5 years ago.  It was a great visit!  Since I knew they'd be bringing the kids, I decided to make some cupcakes!  In honor of the holiday, I made Triple Berry Cupcakes. 
The berries in the cupcake are blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries.

I made vanilla cakes that used my homemade vanilla and a real vanilla bean...   So good!

Once the batter was made, I added all the berries.  It's only 1/4 cup of each kind of berry, so the batter isn't overwhelmed with berries.  You have to be careful with fresh berries because the juice can alter the batter.  Once again, the recipe says that it makes 12 standard cupcakes, but I was able to make 21 cupcakes.  I frosted them with a vanilla butter cream frosting and garnished with fresh blueberries and a raspberry...a little red, white, and blue!

Reviews from the Peanut Gallery:  These were really good.  When our friends arrived, I told them to help themselves...  They liked them a lot too!  I'm usually not a huge "fruit in a cupcake" person, but these were great.  There was a really nice amount of fruit without being too much.  I would definitely make these again.

Monday, July 9, 2012

I Made a Cheesecake!

That's right!  My youngest chose to have a cheesecake for his birthday this year.  To be specific...a chocolate chip cheesecake with a chocolate cookie crust.  I pulled my springform pan out of the back of the cabinet and got to work.  It was fabulous!  It said 10-12 slices...but we made it 14 slices because it was so rich.

More cupcakes coming soon!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Caramel Pudding? Yes, Caramel Pudding!!

I like pudding.  And, contrary to what most pudding instruction say, I'd rather not chill my pudding...  I like it warm.  I remember making "real" pudding when I was a little girl.  When I say "real", what I mean is that it came out of a box, but you still had to "cook & serve" it, as opposed to just mixing it with milk and putting it in the fridge.  My mother would put me in charge of making the pudding and I thought I was really suffering when the heat began to make my had warm while I waited for the chocolate liquid to begin to thicken.  When it was thickened, I would pour it into small Tupperware dishes.  After dinner, I'd dive into the slightly warm dessert, skin and all.  I loved it. 
When I was going through my new cupcake book, I was intrigued to see a homemade recipe for caramel pudding.  I had to try it.  This did NOT come from a box... It's the real deal friends. 
In this picture, you can sort of see the picture of the pudding in the book.  On the stove, I'm whisking the whole milk and the cream, preparing it to add to the egg/cornstarch/spices mixture that I have waiting in my Bosch. 
You have to pour the hot milk/cream into the egg mixture very slowly, whisking the whole time, so you don't end up cooking the eggs... Scrambled eggs in your pudding would be gross.
Once this is all combined, I poured everything back into the sauce pan and added the caramel and some butter.  I heated it for about 5 minutes till it was thickened and the caramel was mixed in completely. 

Then, I scooped the pudding with a ladle and put it into my ramekins.  The recipe says it makes eight 6oz servings.  I don't know exactly how much each of my ramekins holds (probably around 6 oz), but each one was filled and I was able to fill 3 more small bowls. 
The review from the Peanut Gallery:  These were delicious...  I used my homemade vanilla and real vanilla beans, so the flavor was a wonderful caramelly/vanilla and just delicious.  Everyone liked it.  The kids had theirs chilled.  Roger and I had ours warm...Oh My Word!!  It was good!  The only problem was that it was quite rich and no one, except me, could finish theirs.  I could have spread it out into about 12-14 dishes and that would have been fine. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

I'm Back...With Cupcakes!

     I know, I know...pick yourself up off your chair.  It's been a while.  Over a year.  Is it strange that I enjoy reading other people's blogs, but feel like it's silly to write about our life because no one will think it's worth reading?  Anyway, I've found myself on a little "kick" lately.  About 6 months ago, I was eating at a local restaurant that had a TV and there was a show on that had me, and my family, entranced.  It was "Cupcake Wars".  We sat there for an hour and watched the whole show.  It's on the Food Network, and unfortunately, we don't have that channel at our house.  So, I was on the search to find those episodes.  I found the episodes on YouTube and was so excited to see most of the first 5 seasons.  So, I made a little plan with myself...I only watch the show when I'm on my treadmill.  Each show is 42 minutes long and it's just the right amount of time for a decent workout.  I'm able to walk about 2.25-2.5 miles each episode.  I look forward to it every night! 
     Naturally, it's also inspired me to make some cupcakes.  I came across a cupcake cookbook a few weeks ago while at Barnes & Noble.  It's written by the gals that are on another Food Network show called DC Cupcakes.  I found a few of those episodes on YouTube as well.  Anyway, I've been baking ever since!

     So, I've decided to make all the cupcakes in this book and give you a little review of how it goes.

I got all the ingredients together.  The eggs, butter, and milk were at room temperature...  I used homemade Madagascar vanilla.  I sifted the flour and added it to the creamed butter and sugar.  It looked great.

Then, I gently folded in the coconuts. 

I immedately noticed that there was quite a bit of batter.  The recipe said that it made 12 standard cupcakes.  I planned to make 2 batches for a couple of events that were coming up...  As I began to fill the cups, I knew that there was going to be way more than 12.  I was able to make 21 cupcakes.  I filled them 2/3 full and put them in the oven. 
My oven has a bake setting as well as a convection bake setting.  I had put it on bake because sometimes the fan that spins during the convection setting can make baked goods cook faster on one side.  The recipe said 18 minutes, but I ended up leaving these in the oven for 25 minutes!  I checked them at 18 and they were still  liquid.  I put them in 2 more minutes at a time and pulled them out when they were perfect.  They looked great.  I had the ingredients for another batch so I went ahead and put those in the oven.  I switched it to convection oven and these were done in about 20 minutes.  They all looked awesome! 

I made the cream cheese frosting and then got to work on the fun part.  After I frosted each one, I covered it in sweetened coconut.  I think they turned out beautiful. 

Here's what they look like in the book... 
The Peanut Gallery's Review:  Several members of my family are not big fans of coconut.  I knew this and made a few of the cupcakes without the coconut on top...just cream cheese frosting. 
The cakes were wonderful.  There was a slight coconut flavor, but not overpowering.  They were wonderfully moist.  The frosting was wonderful.  I put a little extra on some of them, and was a little light on the others so the family could choose what they like.  Roger liked them with the light amount of frosting.  Zack liked them with the heavier amount of frosting.  I liked them all!  Yum!

Friday, May 20, 2011

The tastes of summer...

Here's what I harvested on Monday. I enjoyed a yummy strawberry salad.

With the left over strawberries, I made this:

Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake... My family was singing my praises!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Where'd April go?

It's May. It was a long April. First, this happened...

My oldest went to the prom. This is the beginning of his final month of high school. I can't really discuss this. I'm just a little bit of a wreck...

Then, this happened. Siloam Springs received about 14 inches of rain in 12 hours. Our lovely basement couldn't handle the water. We brought up every single thing that was in our basement. We put it here in the family room,

In the entry way by the front door,

and in the living room with the piano.

We also had stuff in our bedroom and in the garage. These pictures just don't do the mess justice. On top of all that, during the same week, I had a dogwood festival booth to take care of, as well as a home school reception to organize. It was a rough month. Ironically, the rooms I had planned to "simplify" for the month of April were the entry way and the living room. I'm giving myself the freedom to do those rooms in May instead.

The basement is now dry, and we're slowly getting everything put away. It's been a good excuse to clean the basement.

In other business... I am still "wearing what I have". I could probably go ahead and post some new pictures now that I'm wearing summer stuff. I was tempted to do a little shopping for my birthday, but I resisted.

The garden is going strong and I had my first harvest of lovely lettuce about 10 days ago. The strawberries have come back strong and we'll have a huge crop in about 2 weeks. We've spent the last 3 days outside trying to soak up the wonderful weather...we know what's coming in about 4 weeks.

As we head into May, we have our last day of home school on Friday. PTL!! Zack graduates on the 21st and there will be various receptions, luncheons, assemblies the day before and after. Zane continues school, and Katie continues band, till June 4. Once again, the school year has flown by. Just trying to soak up every moment...