Thursday, May 31, 2012

Peanut Butter M&M Cookies

As I mentioned here, Erin recently turned 30, and I baked a number of things for the surprise party that her husband threw for her. I was able to find pink and orange M&Ms in the exact colors of the party, so I knew I had to bake something with them. What goes better with chocolate than peanut butter? (The answer is nothing.)

This peanut butter cookie recipe was my great grandfather's favorite; I remember baking them for him with my mom when I was a kid. It is simple and basic, but I have yet to find one that I like better. The M&Ms were not part of the original recipe, but it was just too good a combination to resist! (Please note: I know these photos are all very yellow. Photography is not my game. I'm trying.) :-)

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here)
Peanut Butter M&M Cookies (Yield- about 3 dozen)

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup shortening
2 eggs
1 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup M&Ms

Friday, May 25, 2012

Julie Vision Etsy Coupon

Some of you who know me or have been hanging around me on the Internet long enough know that I have an Etsy shop. I've neglected said shop for a while and, sadly, don't have the time I used to to keep it flowing with new merchandise. I also have a shop blog that is even more neglected, but that is another conversation. :-)

Every now and again, I close the shop for a few months, and then re-open it again. Every time I re-open I get really excited and cut out a ton of new bags, only a quarter of which ever get sewn. What's the point of me telling you this? I'm determined to get some new designs in the shop!

I've recently embarked on a joint project with the fantastic Sara of Twillypop and it got me excited to sew again. (Are you familiar with Twillypop? Sara's designs are awesome. Like, seriously. I have four of her pieces and get complemented on them constantly.)

My slow down in production was synchronous with my relocating to from Detroit to Chicago and moving into an extremely tiny apartment. (Phenomenal Julie Powers......iddddy biiddddy living space.) So, to make room for new designs, the old ones must go!! Take a look through the shop-- if you see something you like, use code FREESHIP to get free shipping on your order. This coupon will be valid until the end of June 2012.

As always, I love taking custom orders. I've done some special bridal and bridal party bags, as well as some really cute designs that convert baby dresses into handbags. Like this one, where I took one of my mom's favorite dresses from when I was a toddler and made it into bags for both of us; this one, where I used the bride's first communion dress to make her a bridal bag; and this one where I used photos to personalize the bag.

Thanks for reading this shamelessly self promoting post, and thanks for checking out the shop! Here is a little taste of what you'll find there......

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Hazelnut Mocha Cupcakes

Photo by Donya.

I'll start by stating that I've developed a minor obsession with this dark chocolate cake recipe. You'll notice it popping up a lot. That's because it's good. Like, REALLY good. I have plans to bust it out for some triple chocolate high-hat cupcakes soon, so stay tuned for that one. Also, I liked it for this recipe because you can make the coffee extra strong by using Starbucks VIA packets, which gives the cake a slightly mocha-ish flavor all on its own, even without the icing. (Usually, even though there is coffee in the batter, it doesn't taste like coffee, it just tastes like chocolate).

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here)
The Cake...

Dark Chocolate Cake (Yield 2 dozen standard sized cupcakes)
Adapted from Sweetapolita's Rich & Dark Chocolate Cake

2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups dark cocoa powder, such as Hershey's Special Dark
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup strong black coffee (I used 1 cup water + 2 Starbucks VIA packets)
1 cup whole milk, room temperature
1/2 cup melted butter, cooled
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
12 Ferrero Rocher chocolates, unwrapped (optional)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Tommy's Team - Race Day!

Today was race day for the three of us representing Tommy's Team in the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago's 5k  Montrose Harbor race. You can check out Erin's account of the Wheaton race from last weekend here, where they had a much larger delegation!

I wanted to take a moment and share some of our day and THANK EVERYONE who supported Tommy's Team over the past few months. As a team, we raised over $3500.00!! Being at the race and seeing some of the amazing work and programing that the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago supports/creates was truly and awesome experience.  I was amazed and inspired to see the large delegation of kids and teens who are part of the foundations young person's group, a group that helps unite young people with Epilepsy to provide social opportunities for them to share.  As someone who loves Tommy very much, I'm so happy to know he will have the support of this group as he grows up!

Due to the NATO summit in Chicago this weekend, many roads were closed and there were protestors slowing public transit in some areas, so our day began early.  Leslie joined us from Milwaukee and had a slumber party at my house the night before...she was rather unconvinced that 6am was the appropriate hour to wake up and walk for a seizure free future.

But don't let the sleepy facade fool you! Not long after, she was bright eyed and ready to brave the NATO protestors the news told us to expect on the CTA. Luckily, there were no protestors. Although that would have made a better story.
We then met up with Laura, and headed off to the race grounds!
 We had enough time before the race to pose for a, aheam, beaver shot,
and to give some pre-race high-fives.

The numbers were low at the race due to the NATO situation, but everyone there was awesome! We walked at a nice, leisurely pace and finished feeling great!

After the race, we walked one more mile and treated ourselves to brunch at Inspiration Kitchens, which we found by googling brunch locations near the finish line. Turns out, it's AWESOME. Not only did we have an amazing brunch that was super inexpensive, it was some of the best service I've had at a restaurant ever! Take a minute and check out their 'about us' and see what they are doing to help those Chicagoans hardest hit by homelessness and poverty. Way to go, Google! Great find!

Again- THANK YOU to everyone who blogged, tweeted and/or donated to Tommy's Team. I'm proud to be part of an event that is directly supporting kids and families like Tommy and his family here in the Chicago area.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Cookie-Cake-Brownie Cake

Photo by Donya
For Erin's 30th birthday, there needed to be an amazing cake. Not just an amazing looking cake, but an amazing tasting cake. (Have you met the woman? Don't let the skinny exterior fool you-- girl can proudly pack in the desserts like a champ!) I struggled for some time to come up with the best cake idea, and finally, it came to me. Why limit the cake to cake?? I immediately busted out my spring form pan and set to work on the Cookie-Cake-Brownie. This was one layer of chocolate chip cookie, one layer of vanilla-butter cake, and one layer of brownie. I made all three of theses ahead of time and froze them so that I could stack/decorate them the day before the party.

Photo by Donya

Photo by my phone. Not as awesome as photos by Donya. :-)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Iced Sugar Cookies

First and foremost, this post starts with a massive shout out to Donya, who not only assisted in making these cookies, but took all the amazing photos that you see in this post. AND, she let me use her stand mixer. STAND MIXER!!! I wanted to steal it, but it wouldn't fit inside my jacket.

I'll back up a moment-- these cookies happened because Donya and I worked with Erin's husband to throw her a surprise 30th birthday party. We had to be awwwwwfully sneaky to do this, because, as far as Erin knew, Donya and I had only met in passing and didn't really know each other. This was true, except that we spent the past month emailing 320482304234723948732 times a day planning the party. (and giggling.)

As this party took place over an hour from where I live, but only about fifteen minutes from where Donya lives, we decided that the day before the party was going to be 'last minute errands-decoration making-baking slumber party of fun.' And it was just that! We finished all the last minute decorations (pics to come!), iced the cupcakes (posts to come!), baked up a batch of these bad boys, and still had time to go out for a fabulous dinner and do a load of laundry. I've now determined we are the best party planners ever, and shall henceforth be referred to as "Crooked Vision." :-) (The universe that exists in my brain is SO AWESOME, you have no idea.)
Crooked Vision!!!!!
The recipe itself has been in my family for over 150 years and came from my great-great-great-great-great grandma on my mom's side. The original recipe calls for lard, but over the years it has been adapted to shortening-- I do not recommend using butter! The cookies have a light, cakey, texture and freeze really well. (No, YOU repeatedly got caught stealing frozen cookies out of your grandma's freezer.) This is the recipe we use for Christmas cookies, or really any kind of celebration. My grandma still mails me a box of these on special occasions, because my grandma is awesome.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Road Trip Apple Pies

Last weekend, my family and I took a mini-road trip from Chicago down to Springfield, IL, to engage in all kinds of nerdy, historical, Lincoln related tourism. (If you didn't already know this, I'm a HUGE history nerd. HUGE.) We mapped a route following the start of historic Route 66 and stopping any/all cheese-ball road side attractions. This included giant Bunyan/muffler-man style statues, small town museums, a 'metal menagerie', and various other roadside oddities. CLEARLY, a trip this awesome in nature needed equally awesome road snacks. Enter the road trip apple pie: a single serving pie wrapped in a driver-accessible, eat-while-driving wrapper. Though slightly tedious to wrap, these are super easy to make and they withstand the road with flying colors.

What's that? You want to see some road trip pictures??? OF COURSE YOU DO!!!!