Thursday, September 25, 2008

positively scrumptious!

So, I'm a wee bit stressed out.
I am so stressed out that the mere declaration of the sentiment above gets it's own paragraph. (Which I'm pretty sure is grammatically incorrect--don't you need at least two sentences to constitute a paragraph)? But I digress--I'm stressed, and I tend to do that when I'm stressed. I have two exams next week, accounting on Monday and economics on Tuesday. I'm behind on the reading and working the problems and the study guide I ordered that was supposed to be here yesterday is now not arriving until October 6th--a week and a day after my economics test. Fabulous. And for those of you not living in the southeast, might I suggest you thank God or whomever it is you thank for the ability to put gas in your car, because North Carolina is out. I have a quarter tank of gas and every station within five miles of my house, well, to be country about it, 'ain't got none'. Fantastic. And finally, as usual, my daughter refuses to take a nap. Absolutely refuses to go to sleep without a knock down, drag out fight that lasts at least an hour. Perfect. It is not the gym, or cooking meals, or cleaning house, or studying that is the most draining part of my day--no--it's putting a 16 month old down for a nap.

So yesterday, I'm sitting at the computer (stressed) during the 10 minutes that I allow my darling daughter to whine and cry in her crib before checking on her, soothing her, then leaving her again to (please, God!) take a nap, and I read this post on the blog, Culinary Concoctions by Peabody. It is about how 'craptastic' things happen to everybody, not just you, but it is our reaction to that crappy thing that renders us positive or just plain draining for everyone else to be around.

And so, in response to my stressors I say: thank God I am able to go to grad school and have a husband who, after a long day of working two jobs, will come home and put our daughter to bed so that I can do school work. I say, take time to be at home while gas is scarce. Play with your daughter, your dog, and watch reruns of Project Runway on Bravo. And to my daughter--enjoy the fact that she just can't get enough of me!

On another positive note, here is a cake I did for a birthday. They wanted something very simple but told me I could make any flavors I liked--so I did. This is a chocolate cake with cinnamon flavored whipped cream filling and chocolate mousse buttercream. Let me just tell you, this cake was fabulous, every last bit about it. I'll also made some tarts that were so uber sweet I could just feel my teeth rotting. My husband said they tasted like French vanilla ice cream--I'll let you be the judge.

White Chocolate Mousse Tarts
adapted from Keebler

-1 can (14oz) sweetened condensed milk
-6 squares (1 oz ea) white chocolate, chopped
-1/2 tsp almond extract
-2 cups whipping cream
-2 pkgs Keebler Ready Crust (mini graham cracker crust)

-Chill mixing bowl and beaters of a mixer in freezer for 10 minutes.
-Combine milk and chocolate--cook until chocolate melts
-Remove from heat and add almond extract. Cool to room temperature
-In chilled bowl beat cream on medium speed until soft peaks form. Fold into chocolate.
-Spoon into crust and refrigerate for at least four hours.

Friday, September 19, 2008

cookie cutter cookies

I love birthdays. Love, love, love them--and yes, my birthday is the one I love the most. Call me selfish, but it's the one day dedicated to just you--it's your day and I suggest you live it up! My daughter's birthday runs a close second as far as birthday rankings go because I'm a planner and she's at an age (1) that I can pretty much plan her little party in whatever girly way I choose. And trust me, at the tender age of 1, she is most definitely a girly girl. She already struts around the house carrying my handbags on her arm, loves combing her hair, and pretending to put lotion on her legs like mommy does. And so, when my mom asked if I would decorate some cookies for my little cousin's 7th birthday (she also happens to be as girly as they come) I was excited to play with purples, pinks, and of course, polka dots. (See recipe for cookies below).

A couple weekends ago, I was also asked to make a cake for a baby shower. They wanted a simple vanilla cake with lemon buttercream frosting--light and fresh tastes for summer, perfect. I was a bit nervous, however, because, ladies and gentlemen, I have never iced a cake. Not to the smoothness required for fondant accents, etc. but I was up for the challenge--and holy goodness was it a challenge! I cannot begin to explain how unhappy I was with icing this cake. Every stroke I made it just got worse and worse. Luckily, everyone at the shower loved it, but does anyone have any tips on icing a cake as smooth as possible. This soon to be birthday girl could really use your help...

The buttercream itself tasted fantastic and I have to say, I am now a firm believer in pure buttercream vs. buttercream made with a combination of butter and shortening. I found this recipe at another great blog Butter Cakes by Evan and added a bit of lemon juice and zest.

Cookie Cutter Cookies
(adapted from a coworker about 4 jobs ago and I don’t remember her name…)

-1 cup butter
-2 cups sugar
-4 eggs
-5 cups flour
-1/2 tsp salt
-3 tsp baking powder
-1 tsp lemon rind
-1 tsp lemon juice
Sift flour, salt, and baking powder together in small bowl. In a larger bowl, cream butter—add sugar and eggs. Add flour mixture then lemon rind and juice. Chill dough for 1 hour. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.

Monday, September 8, 2008


I think I might be the only one who still loves 'Holla Back Girl.' It might be the most ridiculous song about nothing, but as far as the nonsense music of summer goes, it still ranks pretty high with me. In any case, this post is not about Gwen Stefani--it's about bananas. Or, banana muffins. It's strange really how much I dislike bananas themselves. I have an issue with the consistency of certain foods like bread pudding, cream of wheat, and...bananas. It's just too mushy. However, a banana muffin with walnuts--I'll eat about 4 with breakfast and snack on them throughout the day. And so it was last Sunday......Every weekend I make a big breakfast (insert brunch) on either Saturday or Sunday. Last Sunday I was watching Food Network as I stood in the kitchen contemplating what carb to accompany bacon and scrambled eggs when a promo for Everyday Italian with Giada DeLauretiis came on and I remembered the fabulous banana muffin recipe with mascarpone frosting I had. Luckily, I had two very ripe bananas on hand and some left over walnuts from the batch of brownies I'd made a couple days before. Once these muffins were in the oven, I fried some bacon and scrambled eggs with onions in none other than--the bacon grease. There are only a few things on this earth worth carrying an extra (fill in the blank) pounds for and bacon and eggs scrambled in bacon grease are two of them. Sure, you'll need a triple bypass by the time you're 35, but still.

These muffins are surely to die for...and if you eat them with the bacon grease eggs, you probably will.

Banana Muffins with Mascarpone Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis


3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 ripe bananas, peeled and coarsely mashed

3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese, room temperature
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl to blend. Beat the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl to blend. Stir in the banana. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until blended.

Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups. Bake the muffins on the middle rack until the tops are golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out with no crumbs attached, about 25 minutes. Transfer the muffins to a rack and cool slightly. The muffins may be eaten warm or cooled completely and frosted.

To frost the cupcakes: Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the mascarpone cheese and then beat in the honey. Spread the frosting over the muffins. Sprinkle with the walnuts.