Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cupcakes Galore!

Ok, so I may have taken this baking thing a wee bit too far… But I wanted to do something for the girls’ classes at school for Easter. I went to my handy dandy cookbook and discovered something I haven’t seen since my grandmother was alive and baking.

I have vivid memories of her back porch refrigerator always containing a jar of green colored coconut. And Bactine, but that’s a whole other story…

Today I’ve baked 8 dozen mini-cupcakes and one dozen regular sized ones… The regular ones were cooled and put into the freezer unfrosted to be ready for this weekend. The other 8 dozen?

Here’s their story…

cupcake papers

Using the Cake Dr.’s recipe that includes coconut flavoring, this morning I started baking. I found sweet little mini-cupcake papers at Sur La Table, then misted them with a bit of vegetable oil. My mister is from Pampered Chef, but you can find them all over the place now.

mister spray Do not use the propellant style spray oils (like Pam)… they will make your cakes too crispy on the outside.

Using a 1TBSP sized ice cream scoop, I loaded up each paper with one scoop of batter. This makes all of your cupcakes come out the same size… and keeps you from dripping batter all over the place while you are working with these tiny cups.

ice crm scoop pan of cakes

Look at how pretty and perfect those cakes came out! I baked them at 350 for 12 minutes. Test your ovens folks… I have to adjust my time down every time I try to make something.

When the cakes were completely cooled off… no kidding, you’ve GOT to let them get totally cool…  I whipped up the Cake Dr.’s butter cream frosting recipe. For 48 of these mini cupcakes, I needed 1 1/2 recipes of frosting. I could have just tripled the recipe, but my big mixing bowl isn’t big enough for that much powdered sugar. 

Tip: if you cream your butter on med. speed until it lightens up, your end frosting results will be lighter in color as well… watch…

butter        creamed butter

I found this decor kit at Sur La Table as well.  If you are adept enough with a spatula or frosting bag, be my guest and go that route… This girl needs help, so there.

decor kit

I started by using the star tip to swirl on enough frosting to cover the tops of the cakes. And this was pretty…


But THIS is fun… Take coconut flakes and shake them in  a jar/zipper bag with a few drops of food coloring… Voila’! Grass!…


Cute, huh? Pour your “grass” into a bowl and dunk that pretty little cupcake right into it….



Now that you’ve gotten your “grass” put on, top this with a few jelly beans. The thicker the frosting, the more you can smoosh your eggs on…

eggs better

Can I get a collective “Awe!” These are just so darn cute. They might be big enough for two bites each. Adorable!

Here’s the cakes for Jillian’s class… they each get two :-)

all 48

These have been such fun to make today! After tennis, I’ll finish up Abby’s cupcakes. In this warm weather, they need to be refrigerated to let the frosting set. Tomorrow I’ll deliver!

Now, what was Baby saying about Mommy not baking???  ;-)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Party supplies: Recycled

I thought I’d share a warm weather centerpiece that I recycled from Baby’s birthday party decorations… Super easy burlap with a net and a glass bowl filled with sparkly decor sand from Michaels… Sea shells scattered all around and some mercury glass votives placed randomly amongst the shells. My girls will be so excited!!! They love fancy things like centerpieces and napkins ;-)


Monday, March 29, 2010


We were able to put off Jillian’s 6th birthday party for a couple of weeks to give the weather a chance to warm up some. This weekend it was just beautiful here in Southeast Texas! We heated up the pool, invited way to many kids, and dove in!

Back Story:  I grew up in rural Louisiana in a home where money was not in abundance… And for my birthday parties, I don’t ever remember having a store bought cake.  I think Mom may have taken a decorating class or something, but all I remember are homemade cakes. And all I could dream of was a triple tier confection worthy of any Fancy Nancy tea party. So there is the reason I’ve always bought my girls “special” cakes for their birthdays…

One day Baby gave me this sad face and said that “Mommy NEVER made her a special cake for her birthday”… which is a total lie. She’s had plenty of cakes… I’ve just never made them myself… So after harassing a total stranger in the baking aisle at Hobby Lobby, here’s what I made…


Stranger lady suggested I go pick up the Cake Doctor cookbooks… I did, and she was right. This lady is brilliant. She adds all sorts of things to a box mix and they were FABULOUS cupcakes. I used the Darn Good Chocolate Cake recipe from the cake cookbook (she has a cupcake book, and one dedicated to chocolate recipes).  Dense chocolaty goodness.  On top of the smeared butter cream frosting I dusted the tops with crushed graham crackers (stranger lady’s suggestion) and topped it off with a chocolate shaped like a seashell. Voila!

I even put Baby’s on a special plate… cause I am so Martha Stewart like that… Notice I covered the baked on papers with cute ones… Why can’t the cute ones stay bright and pretty once baked on???

jillian's cupcake

The kids hardly left the pool… except for pizza or cupcakes… and even then I had to coax Baby out of the hot tub long enough to open some presents… Tell me… At your parties, do all of the kids huddle around and smother the kid opening the gifts? This always happens to us, and I never get decent pictures because of it… Just look… And the main culprit is usually Big Sister… right there in the middle of it all… Baby didn’t mind because she likes to do the same thing… I guess it’s a kid thing and I just don’t remember doing it… This pic only shows a few of the kids… there were in fact about 15 others crowded behind these… 


And after much eye rolling and huffing (on my part) over her not loving any other cake she’s had, Baby told her Mommy that this was the most special party she’s ever had. Now how can you EVER bring a Baby like that store bought cake again. Never. Ever. Again.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What a difference play makes…

Holy cow… I was just over at The Pioneer Woman’s blog… I promise I don’t stalk her… there’s just SO much information there! Anyway, I was poking around in her photography section. Really, if you haven’t been there, go. Now. I’ll wait for you to come back.

A guest contributor in Ree’s photography section is IvoryHut. For those of us without big fancy DSLR cameras, this gal shoots with a point and shoot. Her pictures and a little advice from Scott Bourne were a few of the reasons I went with a Canon G11 and not a Rebel. They were basically the same price… but like I’ve said before, stuff’s gotta fit in my purse… and my Vera Bradley Hipster when we are traveling.

This particular post explains IvoryHut’s checklist for when she is shooting a pic. Folks, she shoots in MANUAL… can you imagine the balls she has??? Can you imagine knowing your camera well enough to do that?

I got out my little G11 and tested some of her suggestions… I don’t even freakin believe the difference. I’m sitting here at my dining room table with one of my daughter’s dolls that was left out. I previously thought the low light setting on this camera was da bomb.  I have my blinds open so it’s lighter in here than say my living room… but it’s still somewhat dark. Here’s what I just learned…

Disclaimer: the following pictures have been pulled straight from my memory card… no touch ups, no sharpening, NOTHING…

Low light setting:


The dreaded AUTO setting:


Not much  difference, but the light is more evenly distributed on the dolls face… if you look close… this is actually the first instance where I like the Auto pic better than the low light one.

And here is the long feared MANUAL setting… or that M on your dial…


The color is much more true to life… the shadowing is more true to life… all in all a MUCH better picture.

It will for sure take more practice to be able to adjust my settings quickly… but BOY HOWDY! Look at the difference!!!!

Thank you IvoryHut for making me feel welcomed into the world of photography and more comfortable poking around in said world… even though I use a point and shoot.

Dinner update!


I thought you may be interested in knowing the reaction my family and picky 8 year old had to The Pioneer Woman’s Macaroni and Cheese recipe…


Silence…. then “Mmmmmm Mmmmmmm Mmmmmmm…. Now THAT’s what I’m talkin about!”

She ended up eating nearly two plates full… skipped her grilled chicken, but hey… one step at a time, right?

Monday, March 1, 2010

My 8 year old made me do it…

At the beginning of February, I decided to get some help with weight loss at my local med-spa.  I started an ultra restrictive HcG program.  It’s going great… but these 500 calorie days are SO boring to someone who likes to cook, eh, yeah… and likes to eat. My lunch and dinner are 3.5 oz of specific protein (grilled chicken & what not) and 3.5 oz of specific veggies… One veggie at a time… no mixed salads and that sort of b.s. This is what my painfully boring lunches and dinners have looked like for 2 1/2 weeks…

hcg meal

Now, I’m averaging a 1lb a day loss, so believe me… I’m happy… Just BORED.  The other day I decided to really torture myself and go through recipes over at The Pioneer Woman.  Now, if you haven’t heard of The Pioneer Woman… you’re either new to blogs or you’re living under a rock. Ree’s a rock star. She’s recently published a cookbook… her food and pictures are always fabulous.


I decided that since Sister and I both love tPW, I would order us both a copy of the cookbook. I was a dumbass and didn’t realize that she was in Houston for a signing, so ours aren’t signed… but they are still special.


The day it came in, I read the dang thing cover to cover.  A cookbook. The whole thing.


Unfortunately, so did my 8 year old.  Who then asked me why my food didn’t look as good as tPW’s… What a punk thing to say to your mother. I mean REALLY.  However, since we’ve been having farm loads of grilled chicken lately, I decided to throw the girl a bone… or elbow… whichever way you want to look at it.


For dinner tonight I’ve made Ree’s Macaroni and Cheese.  Simple. Basic. Beautiful.


Until I got home from the store and realized I forgot whole milk and dry mustard… So AFTER I went back to the grocery and picked up those things I got started.


Then I got totally skeeved out because the recipe called for an egg… and my dumb ass husband bought extra-large eggs instead of larges… (really, who DOES that?)…and then discovered my XL egg was a twin…


twin eggs

After I got my wits back about me I flicked that “extra” part out… GROSS… So after flicking, I figured I had something close to what a large egg would actually be like, so there. Problem solved.


Until I had two pots going… one that had to be whisked constantly and the other with the elbow noodles in it was overflowing… I tell ya… I must be easily excitable… and I should NEVER try to whisk with my left hand… Just sayin…


I also didn’t think my baking dish would hold all of the noodles, so I used 3 cups not 4.  After screwing up with the egg and noodle measurements, I figured Ree wouldn’t give a damn if I added the right amount of milk either… You see… we use 1% milk not whole. At the store I bought a pint of whole… and the recipe called for 2 1/2 cups… I SWEAR I used to be good at math… really I was!!!

Alas, all is well because now I have THIS mixture in my fancy dancy Le Creuset pot.

mixing in


At this point, I thought it was a little thick, so I added a splash of my 1% milk… improvise people, improvise…


I found this fancy dancy Le Creuset baking dish on clearance… so I thought it would be perfect for mac n cheese…


And I also found fancy dancy panko breadcrumbs at the grocery so I added them to the top of the dish… Ree’s a middle child too… she’ll understand that this is something we do. We can’t just let well enough alone. Even if the recipe is from a rock star.


Right now the dish is resting in my fridge, waiting to baked this evening after our dance classes. I’ll be having even MORE grilled chicken… probably with red peppers instead of mac n cheese… but hey, at least I feel like I’ve cooked something and I’ll get to smell it calorie-free.


And maybe next time my punk kid will say, HEY! My mom makes kickin mac n cheese!… Maybe…