Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Supporting a cause and giving tribute to a survivor!

I am extremely honored and excited for this post. It is honestly a very short blog this time, even if I have been absent lately.  I do promise for some new recipes soon.  And already have one in mind~ the fresh grapefruits on my tree are awaiting their purpose.

However, please go to Frosting for a Cause were I am being featured as a guest blogger on this wonderful site where as they say "Together we are Baking a Difference".  This is a cause near and dear to my heart and I feel so honored to join 365 other bloggers from across the US and Canada with hopes of bringing awareness and a cure to the fight against cancer. It is with efforts and talents of wonderful people and organizations like Frosting for a Cause that adds hope and light to our future.

My tribute was to a dear friend and even as I type this I know many others who deserve the same tributes, wonderful brave women who have faced cancer as a survivor or women who lost the battle to this horrendous disease. Families faced with the emotions of seeing loved ones battle or living with memories of loved ones lost.  We must not forget that together we can make a difference.   

A great quote: 
Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.  ~Edmund Burke

Every little bit adds up to the greater picture. And Frosting for a Cause is a wonderful example of what a difference can be made by being creative and doing what may seem little in the grand scheme of things-however it does have a mighty impact!

Please visit Frosting for a Cause to see my guest post and get the recipe for the delicious cookies pictured below:

Friday, March 4, 2011

Going Bananas

Have you ever had that moment (or moments) in your life where you just feel like you're quite possibly "going bananas"? I mean this in a relatively comical sense, as I will save going insane & crazy for another post. If anyone answers "NO" to this question, please send me a comment to explain how you keep such a calm existence. 

However,I still wouldn't be convinced, but that then could be misinterpreted to "jealousy". Ha!!

Now I believe I have a pretty good balance in my life, my children remind me daily of how lucky I am & also how quickly time goes by, for the most part my husband keeps me grounded & offers that strength I sometimes find I need & my parents have given me the many roots & values I've carried through my life. All of them including a handful of wonderful & true friends (you know who you are) have given encouragement & support for well just about everything. To all of the before mentioned I am forever thankful. So with all that said, one could ask "how could you be going bananas"? Remember, its used loosely, I'm not going crazy yet. . . Ask me in a week though!

I have felt rather busy, not overwhelmed, but out of my realm of every day comfort. I guess I could blame it on being at home for awhile & not having a job per-say however, it is not lazy. Cause believe me I was busy than. Being a mom, housewife, blogger, baker,writer really is a full time job. Yet the schedule is quite different. Now I'm a full time worker plus a full time mom, housewife & wishing I could find time to blog, bake and write. Maybe that's part of it "I'm going bananas" because I am missing my time to blog, bake and write. But as with everything new job, once I learn I will have that ease to add things into my time. Plus, when you're packing boxes to move one can go a little bananas... or maybe that will be the blog for "going crazy".

Whatever the day or reasoning for your funny and insane moments of going bananas I have a delicious recipe to share. I had originally wanted to share my mom's recipe for her banana bread, however it has disappeared. My mom is kind of a pinch here, dash there cook/baker, however she did write down here recipe the last time she made it, now just can't remember where she put it.  So the picture is of my mom's bread~ which I will share once it is found or she gets the measurements of each ingredient again.

The recipe is from this wonderful bed and breakfast in Arizona~ Aravaipa Farms Bed and Breakfast, one of my all time favorite places, a true escape from the crazy busy of everyday and just unwind and relax. The hostess is ultimately delightful and the meals are delicious. Upon your arrival you are welcomed with a picnic basket and the delights don't stop throughout your stay. Now, I have had a few bites of this bread and can say it is really amazing... but I am allergic to bananas so don't like to over do eating it, although I really have a hard time because it is so yummy. But my family loves it.  I believe it's been posted in a few magazines as I know the owner of the B&B has been included in different magazine articles and featured on Arizona Highways.  Her dishes, meals and B&B really are a true delight to the senses, hope you enjoy the bread.

Aravaipa Farms Morning Banana Cake


2 1/3  cups  all-purpose flour
1  cup  pecan or walnut halves
1  cup  dried cranberries
1  teaspoon  baking powder
1  teaspoon  baking soda
1/4  teaspoon  salt
2 1/2  cups  sugar
1  cup  mashed ripe banana
2  teaspoons  vanilla
2  large eggs
1  cup  (1/2 lb.) melted butter or margarine
1  cup  buttermilk


1. Mix flour, pecans, cranberries, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
2. In a large bowl, mix sugar, banana, vanilla, and eggs until well blended. Add butter and buttermilk; mix well.
3. Add flour mixture to bowl and stir until evenly moistened.
4. Butter and flour-dust a nonstick 10-inch decorative tube pan. Pour batter into pan.
5. Bake in a 350° oven until a long wood skewer, inserted in the thickest part, comes out clean, and cake pulls from pan sides, about 1 hour.
6. Cool cake in pan on a rack for 15 minutes. Lay a rack on top of pan. Holding pan and rack together, invert to release cake. Lift off pan. Serve cake warm or cool.

My mom's bread is equally hard to resist... it is just perfectly moist and she adds some delicious ingredients,  just have to resist~ one thing my family don't mind eating without sharing.  They love love banana bread.

So hopefully in a week or so I'm no longer going bananas and especially hoping to not have reason to blog about "going insane" and I can get some treats posted to share, I really do miss my blogs.  Hope everyone is doing good and not part of the "going bananas club".

It is the weekend you know, find some "you" time or what I like to say "baking time".

Monday, February 14, 2011

Key to My Heart Sugar Cookies

For spoken words are never as sweet as hearing a beating heart and knowing it loves you unconditionally.  How is it that a four letter word has so much power over how one can make you feel?  

 Some say it's just a silly day and so it may be~ but call me silly for I'm in love.
Here's wishing you a happy heart.

So I'll keep this short and sweet just because I'm exhausted, but wanted to post my sugar cookies I made.  I've made a few different cookies, but till now haven't shared the recipe.  This batch I covered with the chocolate I used for the cake pops, I thought "why not" and they really are pretty yummy this way.  Not an overly sweet cookie- but just right.  Many have said my sugar cookies are the best, hope you enjoy if you whip up a batch.
He holds the key to my heart & in my heart he'll always have a place.  ~ unknown

Simply Sugar Cookies

1  cup  butter, softened
1  cup  sugar
1  teaspoon  baking powder
1/4  teaspoon  salt
1    egg
1  teaspoon  vanilla
2-1/4  cups  all-purpose flour

1. Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping side of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour. Cover and chill dough in the refrigerator for at least 1 to 3 hours or until easy to handle.  Can be refrigerated overnight and brought out to room temp. Divide dough in 1/2.

2. Preheat oven to 375F. Roll each half of the dough to 1/8-inch thickness, on a lightly floured surface. Cut dough with your desired cookie cutter. Place cutouts 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. (I like to use parchment paper)

3. Bake in preheated oven about 8 minutes or until edges are set. Transfer cookies to wire racks and let cool.

4. To store: Place uniced cookies in layers separated by pieces of waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw cookies, if frozen. If desired, spread and/or pipe icing on cookies.

I really need to work on my lighting for pictures... but it was either fuss with pictures or get ready for date night.  Date night won and we had lots of fun- can't pass up Chinese food and a movie. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Legend of Saint Valentine

I think we sometimes just think of certain holidays as what I've heard some people refer to as "Hallmark holidays"- created by companies to sale cards or candy.  But in all truth there is a story behind the holiday, it's more than just flowers, cards, and candy.   And here it is: 

The Legend of Saint Valentine
Once upon a time, in ancient Rome, a healer welcomed patients to his home. 
His name was Valentine, and with his art, he ministered to body, mind, and heart.
One day, a jailer from the citadel said, "Can you make my little daughter well? 
Though sightless, she is all the world to me!  Dear Valentine, please help my daughter to see!"
With gentle herbs and, most of all, with prayer, the kindly Christian treated her with care.  
With faith and trust in God, between the two a sacred bond of heartfelt feeling grew.
The emperor of Rome became aware that many Christians lived and worshiped there.
Accusing them of evil with a lie, he sentenced every one of them to die.
So in prison, Valentine was thrown, to spend his final days on earth alone.
"Let's write to him," his little patient said. 
"To My Dear Valentine," her message read.
Her Christian friend departed to the Lord- 
yet on that day, her eyesight was restored.  
This miracle inspired the cherished sign of love and friendship called a "valentine."

Another story is:

 He was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that 
single men made better soldiers than those with wives, he outlawed marriage for young men. 
Valentine defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers.
When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered him to death. While imprisoned, he fell in love with the jailor's daughter and sent her the first "Valentine" greeting. He signed it, "From your Valentine."

Whatever be the true lore and beginning of Valentine's Day can probably be searched to many different stories and interpretations.  But I believe everything comes from some beginning, I mean obviously everything does start somewhere.  It's a nice thought of people doing good for others, people loving one another unconditionally and a day for things simply filled with love.  Honestly every day should be filled with love, there shouldn't be just one day devoted to such a powerful thing.  
So as we go into tomorrow, I wish you all a very Happy Valentine's Day. No matter how you celebrate it, 
or with whom~ may it be filled with happy things and that warm fuzzy feeling called LOVE!

Now I've been busy- but I couldn't pass up another opportunity to bake.  And honestly I'm not sure how I found the time- it was a pretty big weekend for our household.  My beautiful daughter, my baby girl turned
13 years old on Saturday~ so needless to say it was a busy day getting ready for a household full of teenage girls, a trip to the mall, some yummy punch & pizza & ice cream cake.  Guiltily I must confess I did not make the cake- she wanted an ice cream cake & that is one thing I have not attempted- but I did make the punch & it was loved by ALL.  But after a late night of girls and giggles, I did find the time to make up some cake pops.  The girls got to enjoy one while watching a movie & I packaged up a dozen for a bake sale at my work tomorrow, and yes I did set some aside for my loving family to enjoy.
They're pretty much the basic recipe for cakepops~ with my own color scheme and sprinkles.

I also made a batch of cookies~ but I will try to blog about those tomorrow.  Oh & the punch from the party.
Happy Valentines Day!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

National Don't Cry Over Spilled Milk Day & Yummy Cookies

Yes indeed February 11th is National Don't Cry Over Spilled Milk Day~ honestly there couldn't be a more perfect day for my blog, simply perfect and goes hand in hand with my thoughts and how I came upon my name.

Funny thing is I have been searching for some ideas and pictures to create a little button/logo for my blog and that is when I stumbled upon this date and national day.  Here is some information I was able to find on the meaning and origins of this day:

National Don't Cry over Spilled Milk Day is celebrated every February 11 in the United States. The origin of the holiday is unknown. It comes the day before Abraham Lincoln's birthday, which was a national holiday until it was combined with George Washington's to create President's Day.

The day represents a moment to regroup after recent hardship and push forward with a positive attitude. The phrase points to the idea that getting upset over every little problem will lead to nothing beneficial. A number of theories have emerged on the origin of the proverb itself, from fairy lore to dairy farmers during the Great Depression.

National Don't Cry Over Spilled Milk Day History
The origin of the holiday is unknown, however there are a number of theories on the origin of the phrase. "Don't cry over spilled milk" is an age-old proverb that is speculated to come from a number of sources. One is European fairy lore. The fairies would drink the spilled milk, as it was one of their favorite foods, and therefore its loss would be negligible. The other theory is that the phrase originated in America during the Great Depression in the 1930s. With an overabundance of crops and food produced by animals, farmers ended up with too much supply and not enough demand. Therefore, dairy farmers may have created the phrase because they had too much milk.

The depression origin is unlikely, as the phrase can be traced as far back as 1659, where it was used by British historian and writer James Howell in his literary work, Paramiography.
National Don't Cry Over Spilled Milk Day Celebration

National Don't Cry over Spilled Milk Day celebrates the ability to remain optimistic through any obstacles and failures in life. It dictates that life may throw complications at people, but realizing they are just passing events that may lead to positive experiences is incredibly important. The day is meant to serve as a reminder of this concept.

I think the phrase isn't used quite as often today as it once was, especially with the younger generation~ if we mentioned it to them we'd likely get a funny look followed by "what?".  But it is truly a concept, we as humans should not forget.  I believe in the hustle and bustle of our every day busy lives we often stress and fret about things which are beyond our control and must try to remember to be optimistic during the rough patches of life.  Sometimes life throws us that curve ball, but we must remember it's all about how we handle it and ultimately must enjoy and appreciate the game (aka LIFE).  I'm a big believer in the "simply things in life", but I have been known to not always be optimistic~ sometimes it does seems hard.  But I too must remember; Don't Cry Over Spilled Milk.

Now I couldn't pass up the opportunity to make something to celebrate this day and I had been sketching up some designs for cookies.  This presented the perfect time to premier those cookie designs.

 The pictures aren't the best... still working on the photography aspect, and also getting ready to invest in a new camera~ the one I have is pretty old school and tonight I was just too tired to retake.  But again, not going to cry over the spilled milk~ looking forward to my 1st paycheck from my new job & getting a new camera- Yippie!

Hoping you all can remember this positive quote when times seem a little tough and that its silliness and simplicity  can help to put a smile on your face & even better yet~ maybe you too could bake up a batch of your favorite cookies, what better goes with milk spilled (poured) into a glass.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tale of two meals- we just couldn't choose.

I've been a little busy since my last post & I had previously said I wouldn't let so much time go between them~ opps I guess that's what happens when life happens!  But I have had a wonderful day spending time with my mom, good talks, grocery shopping, present unwrapping, laughing lots of laughing & cooking!

First we started with some really good sandwiches today~ hey we went shopping when hungry so that just lead to tons of trouble, always does!  However, my mom had brought over a recipe for egg rolls- she didn't necessarily  bring it cause she wanted to make them (or maybe secretly she did) but for me to write down the recipe and blog it.  But than I was like- I take pictures, so we'd have to make them.  I also had some beautiful portobella mushrooms I had bought and was thinking of stuffing.  We went back & forth thinking of what to make for dinner, no one was making any decision so we ultimately decided to make both.

Yep~ Crab Stuffed Portobella Mushrooms and Shrimp & Veggie Egg rolls.  This is my first time making egg rolls, my mom has made them before and we have just never gotten around to making them together.  Now that I've made them I can honestly say - WOW what took me so long, they really were easy to make & absolutely delicious.  Now, I know it really isn't a balanced menu~ but it was simply delightful & well that's what happens when you can't decide.

Shrimp & Veggie Egg Rolls
Egg roll wrappers absorb very little of the fat they are fried in, so the egg rolls remain light.
You Can Substitute the shrimp for a different meat or minus the meat all together and add more veggies!
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
8 cups finely shredded green cabbage
2 cups coarsely grated carrots
2 to 3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 cloves garlic finely minced
1 tablespoons ginger- finely minced (can substitute ground ginger)
4 scallions cut into very thin slices
1/2 pound cooked shrimp (shelled & deveined) cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 C. finely fresh basil or mint ,cilantro
salt to taste
12 egg roll wrappers
1 egg lightly beaten
1 1/2 C veg. oil

1. In a large, heavy pot, heat the 2 tbl of oil. Add the cabbage and carrots; cook over med-high heat for 3-4 mins or until cabbage is wilted and bright green.  Stir in soy sauce.

2. Add the garlic and ginger; cook for 1 min. stirring.  Remove from heat and stir in scallions, shrimp, cilantro, basil & if desired salt.  Remove to a bowl and bring to room temperature.

3. When working with egg-roll wrappers, cover them with a damp kitchen towel so they don't dry out.  Stuff wrappers one at a time: place one tip facing you like a diamond shape on a flat work surface.  Place 1/3 cup of filling 1 inch from the bottom point and across the wrapper to within 1 inch of each side. 
Fold bottom tip up over filling and roll away from you halfway up. Brush egg over exposed edges with a pastry brush.  Fold in  1-inch side tips and finish rolling tightly.  Place on a plate seam-side down.  Repeat procedure with the rest of the wrappers.  Keep finished egg rolls covered with a damp towel.

4. Heat 1 1/2 cups of oil in a 101/2 inch skillet until it begins to bubble a bit on top.  (To test for temperature , drop a cube of white bread into oil; it should brown in 1 minute.)

5. Add 3 to 4 egg rolls at a time to the oil and fry for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes on each side or until golden brown.  Drain on a paper towel.  Serve immediately with soy sauce, chinese duck sauce and Chinese mustard for dipping.

Yield: 12 egg rolls.

Mixture while cooking.

Yum Egg Roll all cooked up & ready to eat.

Crab Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
Adapted from Recipe: Original Sicilian Pasta Co. Stuffed Portobellos

8 Medium Portobello Mushrooms — cleaned
8 Oz. shrimp — chopped fine (I used about 1/2 a pound of crab meat)1 C. mushrooms — chopped fine (I just chopped up the stems & some of the insides of the mushrooms I used)
1/2 C. onions — chopped fine
3 Oz. Butter
1 Oz. Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. Garlic — minced (I used about 4 cloves)
2 Medium eggs
2 Tbsp. Lobster Base  (didn't use)
2 C. Breadcrumbs
1 Tbsp. parsley  (I also added basil)
1 tsp. coarse ground black pepper
2 Oz. white wine (didn't have any white wine)
12 Oz. crabmeat — shredded
8 Oz. Mozzarella Cheese — shredded

Brush Portobellos with olive oil and grill until done approx 5-7 minutes. Meanwhile saute shrimp, mushrooms, and onions in butter, olive oil and garlic until shrimp turns pink. Remove from heat, add all other ingredients and mix well until mixture becomes firm. Add an additional egg or additional breadcrumbs until the mixture can easily be formed by hand into balls. Place approx 4-5 ounces into portobello mushroom, spreading so that it covers from edge to edge. Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella, and broil until cheese starts to brown. Serve.
Sauteing the onions, garlic & mushrooms...

Now just because we couldn't make a decision- hopefully you can, and well if not it really did make a good combination... but meal suggestions could be some nice soup to accompany the egg rolls, something like sweet & sour soup or egg drop.  A nice salad to accompany the mushrooms or a more filling meal could include something like pasta.  We were completely satisfied and full after a mushroom a piece and a couple egg rolls.  Not over full, but just enough room for dessert~ hmm wonder what that will be...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What the morning brings. Cinnamon Rolls

I guess morning means different things to different people.  And as many of us know~ not everyone is a morning person.  Me~ I'm a morning person.  I love the quite morning hours before everyone else in the house is awake, getting the pot of coffee on, the sounds and smells as it brews, that first sip.  Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy an occasional morning of sleeping in, but mostly I am a morning person.

The day of the week and the schedule ahead might play a big part in the morning routine.  I have to confess on most common week days I don't tend to make breakfast and the kids really aren't breakfast eaters, I know I know... breakfast is the most important meal of the day!  We just aren't typically hungry first thing in the morning, (maybe its that we're not big cereal or quick breakfast people) but on weekends it's a whole other story.  We love the weekend breakfast or should I say brunch (just because of the time) it can be anything from pancakes, biscuits & gravy, breakfast casserole the list goes on...

Another confession I have to make is I am notorious for eating non-breakfast food for that first meal of the day, leftovers is big on my list of breakfast foods.  I know I know... with so many wonderful options, but I've always been like this- what can I say!!

With a new week around the corner and  being pretty excited about new beginnings I'm about to venture into, I had to bake something.  I love baking!!  I didn't know what to bake, but than I remembered these delicious looking cinnamon rolls I had seen made on a t.v program a few nights ago.  So I went searching for the recipe, checked my frig and pantry to make sure I had all the ingredients and started the cinnamon rolls. 
This was a perfect recipe for today, while the dough sat to rise for 2 hours, I was able to do a few things around the house & also run a few errands. When I got home I was all excited to see my dough and start on the next steps.  Cinnamon rolls...

All baked up & ready to ice!!

Wow they really did smell good baking in the oven.  Here's a few more pictures:

dough in the mixer


rolling it out

sprinkling on the sugar & spice

let rise 2nd time

in the oven
icing the first time
All done.. yum look at the melted sugar & cinnamon
So what does the morning bring?  Well it's a brand new day!  I know sometimes we get in to a routine and it doesn't seem so... but if you're in one of those moods; I suggest baking up a batch of these delicious cinnamon rolls. (recipe below)  I'm excited for my week... I have a brand new adventure ahead of me and well now I have a batch of delicious cinnamon rolls waiting for me, my coffee pot is prepared to brew my coffee right before my alarm goes off... no left overs for me tomorrow & my whole family is excited for Monday morning & cinnamon rolls!  We only had a 1/4 of one each... we're waiting for morning!  What a great way to start a Monday.
Hope everyone has a wonderful week!!

Ultimate Cinnamon Buns
Recipe from Cook's Country

In step 2, if after mixing for 10 minutes the dough is still wet and sticky, add up to ¼ cup flour (a tablespoon at a time) until the dough releases from the bowl. For smaller cinnamon buns, cut the dough into 12 pieces in step 3.
Makes 8 Buns. 
3/4     cup whole milk , heated to 110 degrees
1     envelope (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant or rapid-rise yeast
3     large eggs , room temperature
4 1/4     cups all-purpose flour
1/2     cup cornstarch
1/2     cup granulated sugar
1 1/2     teaspoons salt
12     tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter , cut into 12 pieces and softened
1 1/2     cups packed light brown sugar
1 1/2     tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/4     teaspoon salt
4     tablespoons unsalted butter , softened
4     ounces cream cheese , softened
1     tablespoon whole milk
1     teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2     cups confectioners' sugar

      1. For the dough: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees. When oven reaches 200 degrees, shut off. Line 13- by 9-inch baking pan with foil, allowing excess foil to hang over pan edges. Grease foil and medium bowl.

      2. Whisk milk and yeast in liquid measuring cup until yeast dissolves, then whisk in eggs. In bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook, mix flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt until combined. With mixer on low, add warm milk mixture in steady stream and mix until dough comes together, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium and add butter, one piece at a time, until incorporated. Continue to mix until dough is smooth and comes away from sides of bowl, about 10 minutes. Turn dough out onto clean surface and knead to form a smooth, round ball. Transfer dough to prepared bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in warm oven. Let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
      3. For the filling: Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in small bowl. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Following photos 1 and 2 in the related step-by-step, roll dough into 18-inch square, spread with butter, and sprinkle evenly with filling. Starting with the edge nearest you, roll dough into tight cylinder, pinch lightly to seal seam, and, following photo 3, cut into 8 pieces. Transfer pieces, cut-side up, to prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
      4. For the glaze and to bake: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk cream cheese, milk, vanilla, and confectioners’ sugar in medium bowl until smooth. Discard plastic wrap and bake buns until deep golden brown and filling is melted, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and top buns with ½ cup glaze; cool 30 minutes. Using foil overhang, lift buns from pan and top with remaining glaze. Serve.
      Make Ahead: After transferring pieces to prepared pan in step 3, buns can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for 24 hours. When ready to bake, let sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Remove plastic wrap and continue with step 4 as directed.

My personnel suggestion after the 1/4 I had was maybe add a little more of the sugar & spice mixture to the dough before rolling... but that would have to depend on how sweet you like them.  I'll have to see after the morning what I think, I'll let you know.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bubble Gum Bubble Gum

Oh man I have been having some serious blogging withdrawals and baking withdrawals!!  My family really is on a sugar overload still coming off the holidays and the two huge batches of cupcakes we made for the contest.  But I did however bake up some sugar cookies.  I ran across this contest for decorated cookies and got a little excited.  The cookie has to contain a heart somewhere in the design of it.  So....

I started to think, hmm what can I design that will be cute, unique etc...  I ran a few ideas by my family, looked through my cookie cutters and really racked my brain for some creative ideas.

I looked over to the left of me in my living room & had a complete ah hay moment!!
A Bubblegum Machine

I goggled for a cookie cutter with no luck, so I broke out a pen and paper and started to sketch & may I add I am not the best at drawing.  But I came up with what I think is a cute idea.  Immediately I wanted to get to baking and hand cutting out the little cookies... but I waited because I wanted some baking supplies I didn't have.  Luckily I had a few errands to run last week that put me in the neighborhood of a baking supply store that has tons of fun things.  I was on a little of a time limit at the store due to having some other errands to run, but I could really spend all day in that store.  I picked up a few new cookie cutters, sprinkles, adorable bags and really wanted some red and pearl luster dust.  My creativity was ready to go... however the lady at the store was insisting that the luster dust wouldn't work on my icing (that it was only for fondant) and talked me into getting edible glitter.  I still got the pearl luster dust figuring I'd give it a try.
And really kicking myself in the bootie now because I really am not liking the way the red glitter looks on my cookie and loving the pearl luster dust that did indeed work beautifully just the way I had envisioned.  Man why did I listen??  Oh well~ trial and error right?  The more cookies I decorated the better they got.  But I know I want the red luster dust and will have to bake another batch before I submit pictures for a contest.
Plus, honestly I am still so novice to all this cookie decorating stuff~ some people are just absolutely artists.  Amazing!!  But with error and practice will come experience and beauty.  And in the meantime, they are still cute cookies & if I do say so myself delicious!!

I really do love my red bubble gum machine, I picked it up at an antique store a few years ago, funny thing is I've actually never filled it up with bubble gum.  I have put a few different candies in it for my nephew to put change in and get candy, he loves my bubblegum machine too.  I should really fill it up with some bubblegum for him... he would be in heaven~ my sis on the other hand probably wouldn't be so happy with me. ha!

Honestly who doesn't like bubblegum?  It's such a cheery thought.  Bubblegum ice cream is one of my all time favorites.  With this batch of cookies I also tried an experiment with putting in a little bubblegum flavoring in my icing in substitute of the vanilla~  it was pretty good.  Will work on perfecting that recipe and will share it with anyone else who is a bubblegum lover too!

And I got to use my bubblegum machine like a cookie jar :)

Remember the playground rhyme: 
Bubblegum Bubblegum in a dish how many pieces do you wish 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.... 
Wow just had a flash back to when I was young. 

And I have a few more ideas running in my head with the bubblegum machine design/concept.
So stay tuned!!  And I promise to not go so long again between posts... I have some fabulous pictures of some bread my mom baked~ just waiting on her recipe.  So come back & visit!

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Love Like That

This weekend I attended an absolutely beautiful wedding.  There's just something about weddings that makes you think about love- obviously~ two people are beginning their lives together.  Seeing a beautiful couple exchange vowels, dance their first dance, witnessing such love creates that warmth in your heart. 
Now I know a wedding evokes different emotions for different people.  During different parts of the ceremony I thought back to my wedding day and the love I share with my husband.  Words spoken during the ceremony spoke loudly to my heart. While other parts made me think of the future and hoping that my children will one day experience this kind of love.  I guess that's a big wish for any parent for their child~ to find happiness & love.

During a part of the reception the DJ called up all married, engaged, &/or dating couples to the dance floor to dance ~ the objective of this was to see who's been married the longest.  It was amazing to see so many people still remained past 10 years (me & my husband will celebrate 10 this year), 20 years, 30 years, the dance floor started to clear up a little after 30 but amazingly enough still quite a few.  Ultimately 2 couples continued to dance even after the music stopped & then ONE remained.  The grandparents of the bride... married 64 years (& 7 months the couple added).  64 years & 7 months!!  That is absolutely inspiring.
They shared the secret with us of what makes a marriage last so long while they still continued to dance.

I thought to myself "how old they must of been when they married" imagine all the things a couple living during those days had gone through together.  Honestly you can't think of anything else than, "I want a love like that".

I shared the story with my children;  my daughter thought "how cute" especially when I explained how they continued to dance even after the music stopped.  My son, who is a teenager, was amazed~ and said "that's the kind of love I want to find one day".  That really is an everlasting love~ and it spoke volumes at the wedding.  It was like the saying "all because two people fell in love".  I'm sure they've been through their share of ups & downs but through it all they've been together.  Knowing the family I can say I've seen how close they are- unconditional love of parents, support from family and lots of long time friends.  Wonderful people.  Again~ "all because two people fell in love".  The power of love, giving, sharing, caring for one another and imparting those values to your family.

Now as I sit here and type I think to the future again and my children. As a parent there really isn't any bigger accomplishment or joy in life than having raised loving, caring, polite and successful children.  To see them happy and share that happiness with them.  One day (in the future) I hope to share such a beautiful day with my children and also be celebrating a big anniversary!  Calculating in my head- we won't be near the 64 years like that couple~ but as long as its "a love like that"... it won't matter the years but just that we're together.
 Now with love in the air from a wedding and all the Valentines Days stuff out on display, I couldn't help but think of love, cute couples, hearts, candies & cookies!!  And I wondered what type of cookie should I make... what shape??  And I realized it was obvious the first recipe & the first cookie for me to share is one of my favorites and my families. (my friends know this as the signature cookie I bake for my holiday cookie exchange parties)

White Chocolate Cherry Cookies
(recipe adapted from Better Homes & Gardens) 

6-10 oz jar of maraschino cherries, drained and finely chopped
2-1/2  cups  all-purpose flour
1/2  cup  sugar
1  cup  cold butter
12  ounces  white chocolate baking chips, finely chopped
1/2  teaspoon  orange extract
2 -4 drops  red food coloring (optional & depending on the color you desire)
2  teaspoons  shortening (you can also use white chocolate candy to dip cookie in & eliminate need for shortening)
    White nonpareils and/or red edible glitter (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spread cherries on paper towels to drain well.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in drained cherries and 4 ounces (2/3 cup) of the chopped chocolate. Stir in orange extract and, if desired, food coloring. Knead mixture until it forms a smooth ball.

3. Shape dough into 3/4-inch balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Using the bottom of a drinking glass dipped in sugar, flatten balls to 1-1/2-inch rounds.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until centers are set. Cool for 1 minute on cookie sheet. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.

5. In a small saucepan or bowl, combine remaining 8 ounces white chocolate and the shortening. Cook and stir over low heat until melted. If you use white chocolate candy melts follow the directions to melt just enough in a microwavable bowl (about 1 1/2 cups).  Dip half of each cookie into chocolate, allowing excess to drip off. If desired, sprinkle edges in nonpareils and/or edible glitter. Place cookies on waxed paper until chocolate is set. Makes about 60.

6. To Store: Layer cookies between waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
And as I finish this post, as my husband sleeps on the couch snoring, I think to myself; years from now if it is just like this~ it will be
"A Love Like That".

Friday, January 7, 2011

Along the Way We'll Meet Some Friends

I often like to think of life as a journey~ sometimes we may not know which direction to go, but one thing we must always remember is that we're not alone.  You never know who you'll meet along the way.  
You should greet everyone like they're a potential friend~ a smile can brighten up anyone's day, a single word of kindness can mean more than a long talk  Be sincere, be kind ~ in these days we're often so rushed we forget that a simple act can make a huge impact.

For along the way we'll meet some friends.

With today's technology we have endless possibilities with communications & keeping in touch ~ even connecting with people we'd otherwise never have met ~ or touching base with an old friend. Infinite opportunities to share your passions and creativity~ perfect example~ my blog!  Which I am absolutely loving.  I have been thinking about so many ideas and things to share... this really is exciting!

My fridge is currently overflowing with sweets from the holidays & cupcakes from the contest~ so I'm currently trying to be good and holding off on baking anything else~ it's killing me~ but I've been pretty good at practicing patience lately so... I'll be good.  But I will be baking up something soon to share.  In the meantime...

I'd like to introduce you to another blog; Sweetapolita it really is a charming site ~ I love her blogs & I must say she's got some of the cutest little girls I've ever seen.  So again today I did a few clicks through my favs and came across Sweetapolita's new post including an exciting giveaway & a recipe I am dying to make.  And let me say the title absolutely caught my eye:  Country Vanilla Pie & IceMilk Apron Giveaway doesn't it sound delicious??  Mmm mmm Yum!! 

The aprons are simple yet elegant ~ reminds me of days passed when times were much simpler ~ days of our Grandmothers, mothers or maybe even your youth.  I can't say which one is on my wishlist...

images from IceMilk Aprons website
Sweetapolita is giving you a chance to win a beautiful apron from IceMilk Aprons.  I mean honestly a beautiful apron for the kitchen is like a necessity isn't it?  Plus, finding new & exciting ideas can be like making a new friend.  Enjoy & Good luck!  Thanks Sweetapolita for all your inspiration.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Pick Me Pick Me!!

Well if you've read my 2 previous posts, you'll recall how I've made mention of having a few favorite fabulous blogs I like to take a peek at for inspiration & ideas. (if you haven't read them- why not? Just kidding- glad you're here now) Well yeah honestly it may not be just a peek, cause that would mean I briefly take a glance & I'll confess it is like an addiction.  There are so many talented people sharing so many fun ideas & delicious recipes.  You never know what you can create when you let your imagination take control. But that's a whole other post, back to the point.

One of the blogs I've come across is called Sugar & Meringue it has some really cute ideas.  The whole blog is just cute- I love the design & little pictures.  It's saved as one of my favorites.  Anyhow, last night after I finished my post I decided to take a few peeks at my favs and visited Sugar & Meringue and saw  that she has a fun giveaway.  Honestly who doesn't like a chance to win something free??  Honestly!

I loved this for 3 reasons:  1: I love the chance to win something free.  2. I think the dress is beautiful.  3.  I have been looking for new websites with vintage inspired clothing especially dresses. And now I've found one: Shabby Apple  4.  I would love to win this dress.  OH wait, I said 3 reasons didn't I?  And I already mentioned... oh well! 

The fun thing is...
You could have a chance to win this dress too!!  Just click here if you haven't already clicked on one of the other links (I know you may have gotten excited) and read how you can enter for a chance to win. 
Again, honestly who doesn't like to be a winner?  And even if you don't win, you've discovered a cute blog Sugar & Meringue and a new store to shop at Shabby Apple.  Really I just love both those names don't you?  
And your already a winner in my book!
I love giveaways!!  Can't wait to have my own~ oh yeah, I'll be having some giveaways~ I love giving away gifts~ the package & bows.  So keep a look out for my first giveaway!!  But in the meantime, GOOD LUCK with Sugar & Meringue's Shabby Apple Dress Giveaway.  Sugar & Meringue PICK ME PICK ME!!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

An Adventure in Cupcakes

Have you ever seen Cupcake Wars on Food Network?  Well let's just say that's how my Sunday felt.  I love a good challenge and was already starting to feel nostalgic over the holidays ending and no more holiday baking, no more adorable snowman cookies, or gingerbread families.  So what did I do to ease that sad feeling of saying goodbye to holiday sweets baking and treats?  I sat down at my computer and started to look for some new inspirations.  Many of the blogs still had their holiday posts, however Bakerella had a post about this cupcake contest.
Yep- it caught my eye, so out of curiosity I clicked the link and read the details.  At first I think I was half kidding when I mentioned it to my husband, I mean honestly it was already after 10pm and the contest deadline was the next day by 11:59pm what could I be thinking?  However my husband went along with my
ideas.  Maybe he was just humoring me, but he got me excited & my wheels started to turn.
I dreamt of cupcakes that night & in the morning I was still unsure but oh so excited at the possibilities.  To be honest I had never created a cupcake recipe from scratch and especially using some very out of the ordinary ingredients.    So with a list in hand of the 14 adventure ingredients and yep no solid plan still, off to the store I went.  I wasn’t in a hurry I was with 2 preteen girls in a shopping center & I even peeked in Anthropologie.  But once I got home & unpacked the goodies, it all started to fall into place, it was now or never.  

The 14 Adventure Ingredients:
stout beer (oatmeal, chocolate, imperial or any other stout); ricotta; buttermilk; coconut butter, coconut milk or coconut cream; saffron; molasses (light, dark or blackstrap); adzuki bean; fresh beet; sweetened condensed milk; fresh or whole dried chili pepper; bee pollen; meyer lemon; almond flour; and Sumatra coffee bean

You were required to use at least one of the adventure ingredients.  So what did I choose??  I ended up with two cupcake ideas, I couldn’t resist- but would I have time?  After a few kitchen blunders, mind you I love to bake & cook when I have time & actually find it quite calming, but I was now on crunch time.  

My husband remained calm, collective & helpful- he does insist that I flinged icing at him- however I insist it got on him when I was tossing spoons in the sink.  I was moving quickly the clock was ticking.  I had to get these cupcakes baked/icing made & we had to taste them, there was no time for trial & error & I absolutely hate to waste food.  It just had to work!  And we made it, the second recipe was submitted without a minute to waste.  I  felt like I was starring in an episode of Cupcake Wars right here in my own house & honestly I LOVED it!!

So again what did I choose?  Well….

Cupcake #1

 Chili Daze  
(my husband came up with this name)

In this cupcake we used the Chili pepper & ricotta in the batter while the icing had the ricotta, meyer lemon & chili.  It isn't hot, but has a delightfully light bite with the ricotta and delicious Scharffen Berger Chocolate lightening up any bite or spice of chili.  While the icing isn't overly sweet but just simply refreshing.  It's a chocolate cupcake with a twist.

Cupcake #2
 With Every Beet of my Heart
(the first name I came up with when I read beets as an ingredient) 
  Yep one of the ingredients is in the name... beets!  Now I know what you're thinking, but honestly back during a time forgot, people use to grow sugar beets for well SUGAR.  Amazing huh?  But honestly if you tasted it you'd have absolutely NO idea that beets were an ingredient.  Actually the beautiful color added almost makes it appear to be like a Red Velvet cake and again the delicious chocolate makes this another delightful cupcake.  Because I know the fact that a beet is an ingredient, I didn't tell my teenage son before he ate it, while eating it I heard the sounds of a very pleased boy (m mm yum) he even told me "Mom these are delicious, these are the bees knees" (another cupcake name maybe?).  Once I knew it had his seal of approval, I disclosed the ingredient, he replied that he couldn't tell.  He's never had beets before now that I think of it, but I showed him the beet and he wasn't interested in eating that.  He's a teenage boy so believe me he has his opinions, he loves his momma's cooking, but there is certainly things he does not eat (ie: asparagus- however we have found a way to get him to eat it- I'll post that recipe one day when I can convince my hubby to make it).  Even my daughter loves the cupcakes, she likes beets actually but happens to not be a huge sweet tooth or cupcake eater.  She wanted to share one last nigt, but ended up eating it all.  I love it!
So  the ingredients in   'With Every Beet of my Heart' : mashed beets in the chocolate batter while the icing had Chocolate Stout beer and bee pollen added gently in the end.  I could just eat a bowl of icing- it's yummy.  Topped with a candy beet (however my picture doesn't show that, I dressed these today).

This is a competition and I was not going to enter something that didn't amaze me and believe me I was amazed. So I'll be waiting patiently to see if the creations made along side my wonderful husband amazes the judges.  They called for the use of adventure ingredients and a sense of adventure in the recipe, well it sure was an adventure.  I will forever remember that night, no matter the results..... BUT still wish me LUCK!!