Monday, February 27, 2012

Tommy's Team

Hi Everyone!

For the past year, I've been trying to learn to like running. So far, it's a massive failure, but, I still try and do a few races a season. I'm extremely proud to announce that this year I'm going to be walking/running as a member of Tommy's Team in the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago's 5k at Montrose Harbor. Many of you out there know Tommy, and what an awesome little guy he his. His mom, my amazing friend Erin, has put together Tommy's Team to help raise money and awareness in hopes of finding a cure for epilepsy, a condition she has had to become familiar with over the past year.

Allow me to put in the compulsory bragging photos of the cuteness that is Tommy:

Tommy and I get to have lunch whenever he sees his neurologist, who's office is conveniently located 3 blocks from my office.

Tommy, chillin' in my office. He's a VIP. You only get string cheese if you are  VIP.

Eating pizza like a BOSS.
Erin is heading up the main division of Tommy's Team at the Wheaton race on May 12, 2012. I will be heading up division two at the Montrose Harbor race on May 19, 2012, since I, sadly, cannot attend on the 12th. This is a walk/run family friendly event-- you do not have to be a runner! (Let's be glad for walk/jog/walk/walk/walk/jog/pant-for-breath/walk combo is slightly far from professionally competitive).

If you are interested in joining us on Tommy's Team at either location (or any of the other locations!), you can register here and THANK YOU, you RULE. If you are not so into the racing, but are interested in making a donation, then, THANK YOU, you also RULE. You can make a donation here

 If you have any questions, you can contact me by leaving a comment or shooting me an email. You can also contact Erin if you want more information about the Wheaton race, the epilepsy foundation, or her experiences being Tommy's mom.

Cocktail Cupcakes Part 4 - Irish Cream Cupcakes

Welcome to the fourth and final installment of the cocktail cupcake recipes!! If you are new to this blog, These are part of a series of booze flavored cupcakes I did for my BFF's 30th birthday. You can check out how this got started here. You can also check out the other cocktail cupcake flavors: mojito cupcakes, chocolate cinnamon stout cupcakes with salted caramel icing, and amaretto sour cupcakes.

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here)
Irish Cream Cupcakes (Yield - 24 standard cupcakes or 4 dozen minis)
Adapted from the Baileys Irish Cream cake recipe on the Baileys website.

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 teaspoons baking powder (divided)
1 1/2 cup Baileys Original Irish Cream
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter
2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons Baileys Original Irish Cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Cocktail Cupcakes Part 3 - Amaretto Sour Cupcakes


This is part three of four in my series of cocktail cupcakes! For a look back at how this all came to be, take a look here.  Other cocktail cupcake flavors include mojito, chocolate stout with salted caramel icing, and Irish cream

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here)
Amaretto Sour Cupcakes - The Recipe (Yield 24 standard cupcakes or 4 dozen minis)
Adapted from the Magnolia Vanilla Cupcake recipe posted on the Food Network.

1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup amaretto 

1/2 cup butter or shortening (I used shortening)
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
3 cups powered sugar
3 tablespoons sweet-and-sour mix 
1 teaspoon amaretto 
(optional - maraschino cherries as garnish)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cocktail Cupcakes Part 2 - Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Icing

As I mentioned in my previous post, I recently made a number of booze themed cupcakes for a friend's birthday. Most of them were in traditional cocktail flavors, (mojito, amaretto sour, Irish Cream), but my favorite were the chocolate cinnamon stout cupcakes made with Guinness and topped with salted caramel icing. Stout cakes don't really taste like stout; something about the stout creates a rich, dense, moist chocolate cake. I wanted to put a unique twist on the traditional stout cake, so I added some cinnamon and topped it with salted caramel icing. The pairing of chocolate and cinnamon is one of my favorites; it started with my big-pink-puffy-heart love of truffles made with chocolate, cinnamon and chili; and has led to chocolate cake spiced with cinnamon rapidly climbing my list of favorite things. I really like it in the stout cake, as the cinnamon adds a layer of flavor to what can otherwise be a very dense, almost too rich, type of cake. All the alcohol in these cupcakes is in the batter, so it bakes off, making these family friendly treats.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Cocktail Cupcakes Part 1 - Mojito Cupcakes

This weekend, I organized a 30th birthday for one of my oldest and dearest friends.

It was a slumber party.

Yup. Like, a real, live, slumber party just like when we were kids. Except there was booze. And we didn't even have to try and sneak it out of anyone's dad's liquor cabinet.

And, I have to say, it was LOADS of fun and very easy on the budget, as far as birthdays go! The birthday girl chose a handful of her closest girlfriends; we rented a couple of hotel rooms in a location central to (almost) everyone's city of residence; everyone left their partners and progeny and home; we rocked some SWEET pajamas; and danced ourselves silly until the hotel security guard told us we had to be quiet.

I got together with, Crystal, one of the other ladies attending the party to plan desert, which, of course, needed to be fantastic. Crystal is a trained pastry chef and master chocolatier, so, needless to say, I had baking stage fright like whoa. We decided on a boozy, girly, shot themed desert menu, consisting of mini/shot sized cocktail flavored cupcakes, and pudding shots served in chocolate glasses. I made the cupcakes, Crystal made the shots and shot glasses. Let's talk about how good these pudding shots were, ummkay??? Take a look!

Check out Crystal on the news being interviewed about chocolate AND check out her website where she sells her own cakes and cakeballs.

For my part, I created cupcakes in four flavors: Mojito, Amaretto Sour, Irish Cream, and Chocolate Cinnamon Stout made with Guinness.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cookbooks, Calories, and Chemicals

**There is still time to enter the extract giveaway!!**

I'm currently working on another recipe post, but in the mean time, I thought I'd share some fundamentals from my kitchen. (And by another I mean MANY others-- I'm baking for a party this weekend, so BRING ON THE CUPCAKES!!!!)

A few people asked me if I will 'lighten up' some of my recipes. The answer is....not really...well, only sometimes. I do appreciate a good, healthy, well done low fat recipe, but most of the time, in my opinion, a 'lightened up' baked good is just not worth the calories. Anyone who has ever counted weight watcher points or carbs or sugars or anything else of a dieting nature can tell you that you still kill a whole lot of your daily allotted points/calories/carbs/etc. with most low-fat baked things. And, often times, there are a lot more steps and ingredients in low-fat baking. There are some low-fat deserts that are scrumptious, and I have a few I will post for sure; but, usually I'd rather make a real, full-fat version of something and just not eat it all the time.It's more important to me that I really enjoy something than it is to be able to eat it constantly. I'll do my best not to go all Paula Deen on you and put seven sticks of butter in one cake, but if you are looking for low-fat, diet, baking; this is not the blog for you. (I'm supposed to be on a diet, too, so, work out the logic on that one....oops......) :-)

This kind of goes along with the 'first' point, but, I'm not a fan of artificial sugars or food dyes. This is part of my hesitation with some low-fat/low-sugar recipes. It's also why you won't see me post a red velvet cake recipe until I find a good one made from beets or other natural red sources. I'm not going to pretend I'm so awesome that I avoid all dyes and artificial sweeteners, but I do try to. I admit to being a fan of Diet Coke, Lean Cuisine and to putting Splenda in my coffee, but I try to avoid chemicals where I can, and baking is one of those places. Again, I am not steadfast-- I do color my cake icing and use sprinkles and all that sort of thing-- I just try and keep it in moderation.

You may have noticed in my sidebar I have the information on two vintage Betty Crocker Cookbooks. These are my cooking 'go-to' for all occasions. Why the vintage ones, you ask?? Good question.

Fore one thing, they are familiar to me. My mom used the 1969 version when I was growing up and my Grandma has always used the 1950's picture version. I've known what page apple crisp is on in the 1969 version since I was 10.

The biggest factor in my choosing vintage book is that somewhere in the time between 1969 and now, a lot of cook books, even really good cook books, started creating recipes that ask you to add things to a cake mix or other packaged item. There is nothing wrong with this, but, basic baking is simple enough that I would rather bake from scratch and not use a packaged item; I generally think that scratch baking tastes better. I'm not saying I've never doctored up a cake mix, I just, generally, like to make my own.

Finally, these old Betty's are solid, proven, classic recipes. They do have some fancy stuff, and, yes, there are some strange outdated things that you only hear about now when Betty Draper throws a party on 'Mad Men'*, but mostly it's just basic, fundamental baking. You don't need fancy tools for most of the recipes and they are written so you can follow them no matter your skill level. The 1950's version even has pictures and diagrams just as the title would suggest.

So, if you are in the market for a good cookbook, I suggest one of these. The 1950 version has been reprinted and can be found in stores. I'm note sure about the 1969 version. I got my copy though a hand-me-down, but I think some used bookstores and amazon have copies.

*I totally want to throw a 'Mad Men' party and bust out all the outdated recipes in these books while we drink gin fizzes and wear fancy dresses.........anybody with me???

Betty Crocker did not ask me to write this; they are not compensating me in anyway. In fact, they probably don't want me writing this because I'll have to tell you that I really don't like their newer books due to the cake-mix-effect mentioned above.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Lavender Tea Cakes {{and a giveaway}}

First- If you aren't a fan of lavender, don't let the title of this post turn you away! This recipe has a non-lavender option! And? This recipe is beyond easy to make!

Second- thanks everyone who filled out the survey and let me know what sort of recipes you are looking for! The results were all across the board, so I think I'll be trying to rotate between basic-but-delicious standards and some more unique stuff. And, the cupcakes are coming, I promise! I have an event coming up where I'll be making some unique flavors, but I promise my standard recipes are on there way, as well!

Now.....onto the Tea Cakes.........

Friday, February 10, 2012

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

Hi Everyone-

If you've read the about me, you'll know this blog is the product of a lot of fantastic people asking for my recipes. I'm not a professional baker, I've never been trained in cooking, and I'm not an expert. That being said, I do often bake delicious things. I do so in a very small, basic kitchen, so I like to think that my recipes are good for everyone, no matter what set up you are dealing with. (I mean it when I say oven is pretty much a gas powered easy bake that fits one cookie sheet at a time lengthwise, and I'm currently baking without a spatula, since I dropped mine down the abyss behind my counter.....don't ask....I'm a disaster.)

That being said, I thought a good place to start this blog would be with the basics: A really really good chocolate chip cookie. I like my chocolate chip cookies to be soft and have an equal mix of cookie and chocolate, so the dough part is of equal importance to the presence of the chocolate, not just a vehicle for eating the chocolate. The good thing about a recipe of this nature is that the base dough recipe can be used as a base for many kinds of cookies, so you can make a number of cookies with minimal effort.

What's great about this particular recipe:
  • It is easy and fast
  • The cookies freeze well (see info below)
  • The dough keeps and freezes well (see info below)
  • The cookies are delicious

Coming Soon........Julie's recipes.

Nom Nom Nom