7.31.2011

A Happy Birthday and Homemade 'Funfetti' Cupcakes

. Well you can probably guess what's coming next....


Happy, Happy 24th Birthday, Ms. Hollyann!



Today is officially Hollyann's (a.k.a Bacon-loving Friend) big birthday and I want to wish her the best birthday yet, I know her boyfriend will take care of that though!  No pressure, Brandon...

For the office celebration of Hollyann's birthday, which took place on Friday, I offered up my services to bring in Hollyanns' treat-of-choice.  Most would assume that when given this chance, you would conjure up some decadent dessert [or at least that's what I would do!].  I mean if someone else is making it, why not?!  But no, instead Hollyann went basic and old school on me and asked for nothing more but her favorite 'Funfetti' Cake.  I was actually quite excited about this request though because 1) I had never made a Funfetti Cake before and 2) it gave me the chance to bring some favorite recipes together to make her goodie [ahem, we don't do boxes around here].  


What I came up with was quite simple, but I think it all turned out very nicely and the birthday girl was happy.  Which is all that matters in the end anyway!

Since I can never make exactly what someone asks for [my dad would know about this], I opted to make her cake into cupcakes, since those are always easier to share in the office.  For the cupcakes, I chose the basic [yet fabulous] Vanilla Cupcakes from the More from Magnolia book.  I've used this recipe before to make the Strawberry Vanilla Cake, so I pretty much knew what I'd be getting here.  It's a great recipe, a slightly dense cupcake with a wonderful vanilla-butter flavor.  Simple, yet perfectly constructed by the magicians over at Magnolia.  


Instead of just a regular frosting, Hollyann mentioned how much she loved the cream cheese frosting from the Hummingbird Cupcakes, so that was easy.  Yet another simple recipe but one that I will be using for years to come.  

And what's a 'Funfetti' Cupcake without confetti?!  Here's the ridiculous easy, no-brainer part.  All I did here was throw in some sprinkles to the both the batter and the frosting, and there you have it: 'Funfetti' Cupcakes!


So I hope that Hollyann has the most blissful birthday!  It's crazy to think that we've already known each other for over a year now...wow!  And I can't wait to see what's in store, love you girlie! .

My Notes:
  • When mixing the batter, mix just before the batter completely comes together.  You'll be adding and stirring in the sprinkles following this step, which will allow you to combine the batter just enough.  Otherwise you'll end up with 'tough' cupcakes.
  • Make sure to let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting, otherwise the cream cheese and butter will soften and slide off.  Not pretty.
Homemade 'Funfetti' Cupcakes
Adapted from Magnolia Bakery and Bake or Break


Ingredients:
Cake:
1-1/2 c. self rising flour
1-1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 c. unsalted butter, softened
2 c. sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 (1.25 oz.) jar of sprinkles

Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. butter, softened
2-1/2 scant c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. sprinkles

Directions:
1.  Heat oven to 350°F.  Line 12 muffin cups with liners; set aside.

2.  In a small bowl, combine self rising flour and all purpose flour; set aside.  In a large bowl, cream butter until smooth.


3.  Add sugar gradually and beat until fluffy (about 3 minutes).



4.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with milk and vanilla extract (with each addition, beat until incorporated but do not over beat).




5.  Gently stir in sprinkles.  Fill muffin cups with batter, a little over 1/2 full.  Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cupcakes comes out clean.  Let cupcakes cool completely.  Repeat with remaining batter.



6.  For frosting, beat cream cheese and butter together until creamy.


7.  Gradually add in powdered sugar, beating until light and fluffy.  Add in vanilla extract and beat until combined.  Stir in sprinkles.



8.  Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.


Yield: 2 dozen cupcakes

7.30.2011

Peach Crumb Bars

. So I'm just about to sit down to do some work...on a Saturday.  Yes, on a Saturday.  I remember that I used to tell myself I would always leave work at work, but I've found that is simply not in my DNA.  Instead of enjoying my nights and weekends, I find myself stressing over matters at work: what needs to be done yesterday, what meetings do I need to be ready for tomorrow, etc., etc.  In the grand scheme of things, work will always be there and everything will eventually get done, but I've talked myself through this many times over.  So my resolution is to just give in.  I gather that if I even do a couple things here or there, my stress levels will be greatly reduced.  Sound like a good idea?  I think so.


I'm currently sitting on our deck right now, enjoying the sun for a moment and figured it would be a good time to get a little blogging in before I get to the "real" work.  And this beautiful summer day reminded me of a little treat I made last weekend: Peach Crumb Bars.  Now I have to admit, this bar wasn't quite what I was expecting.  And in all honesty, it was a little bit of disappointment [for both Robbie and I].  Yes, they are good.  But there was something that was missing, a sweetness that just wasn't quite maximized.  And after some extensive taste testing, I will say that the culprit lied in the base and crumb topping, which is one in the same.  It was just a tad bland, despite there being a large amount of sugar added.  The one good thing about this recipe though is that this subtle base and crumb topping really gives the peaches a chance to shine.  And if you can get your hands on some ripe peaches...yeah, can't say much more about that!  These are also those kinds of bars that you could nibble on constantly because they're not at all heavy.  And I always tell myself that I'm getting my servings of fruit in for the day.  Good rationale, Jess.


Also, I stumbled across this recipe on another blog, Two Peas & Their Pod, who noted that they added a good sprinkling of cinnamon-sugar before baking [oh, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream post baking].  Can we say genius and yet so simple?!  I truly think this would amp up this dessert just enough to make exactly it what I was looking for.  Now don't take any of this the wrong way, these bars are very good, extremely versatile [since you can substitute any type of fruit], and are a great dessert/snack.  I think that particular day though, I had something else in mind and hence, my disappointment.  But I say that you test these out yourself and formulate your own opinion.  And then let me know what you think! .


My Notes:
  • These bars are best eaten the day they are made.  They do, of course, last a couple days correctly store but will lose that slight crunch over time.  Not really a big deal, but I felt like it needed to be noted!
Peach Crumb Bars


Ingredients:
Dough:
3 c. all purpose flour
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. unsalted butter, cold
1 egg, slightly beaten

Filling:
5 c. diced or sliced peaches (about 5 medium peaches)
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Directions:

1.  Heat oven to 375°F.  Grease a 13x9-inch pan; set aside.

2.  For dough, in a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Using a pastry blender, cut in butter.


3.  Add egg and mix in with pastry blender (mixture will be crumbly).  


4.  Pat half of the dough into the prepared pan.  Place remaining dough into refrigerator until ready to use.


5.  Meanwhile, for filling, place peaches in a medium bowl and sprinkle with lemon juice; mix gently.


6.  In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Pour over peaches and mix gently.


7.  Spread the peach mixture evenly over the crust.  Crumble the remaining dough over the peach layer.




8.  Bake for 45 minutes or until the top is slightly brown.  Cool completely before cutting.


Yield: 2 dozen bars

7.25.2011

Jumbo Upside-Down Peach Muffins

. Ever have one of those days when you know you should probably just try to get through it and not attempt anything new?  Like throughout the entire day, little things keep happening that makes you go 'whoa', let's try to climb out of bed a different way and start this day over.  Well when I made these [jumbo] peach cakes last week, which were originally upside-down muffins, I was having this kind of day.  But my stubborn self decided to make these anyway...and I'm SURE glad I did!


However, I will say that the aforementioned weird day creeped right into my nighttime baking sesh (e.g., I forgot to melt the shortening and so I ended up with a nice chunky batter, see pictures below!).  But magically, these little baby cakes came together and they were absolute heaven on a plate.  Oh yes, I did just say that.

The cakes themselves are wonderfully sweet and have that muffiny-cakey texture.  The peaches add their wonderful flavor as well and offer up their juices to the cake, which makes them even more moist.  But the kicker is a simple mixture of butter and brown sugar placed at the bottom of the pan [which ends up being the tops after all is said and done].  This little concoction slightly caramelizes during baking and who can say anything bad about that?  ...YUM...!


As I mentioned before, the original recipe was for muffins.  But I decided that we didn't need 18 muffins sitting around the house, so I chose to whip out my favorite large muffin pan and try a little experimenting.  Also, I struggle with calling these muffins because they are a tad on the sweet side.  Of course they would be a lovely, indulgent treat for breakfast but they are just as wonderful throughout the rest of the day.  But isn't any treat?! .

My Notes:
  • Since I was kind of making this goodie ad hoc, I had to guess as to what combination of topping ingredients would be the best.  So the recipe below is what I did but I've also included the link to the original recipe if you would like to make regular-sized muffins.
  • The peaches I grabbed at the grocery store weren't extremely ripe but don't worry.  Like my Nectarine 'Sconecakes', the sugar in the topping brings out the sweetness in the peaches, so all is well.
  • I ran out of light brown sugar [another omen that I probably shouldn't have been baking!] so I opted to use dark brown sugar for half of the muffins.  So in the pictures below, the dark muffins aren't rotten, it's just the dark brown sugar!  And as for taste, I really couldn't tell much of a difference, so using either is perfectly fine.
  Jumbo Upside-Down Peach Muffins
Adapted from AllRecipes.com


Ingredients:

2 c. all purpose flour
1-1/2 c. sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. shortening, melted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 c. milk
6 tbsp. butter, cut into single tablespoons
 12 tbsp. packed light brown sugar
3 c. peeled, sliced peaches


Directions:

1.  Heat oven to 375°F.  In mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.


2.  Add shortening, eggs, and milk.  Mix until smooth.


3.  In the bottom of a six-cup large muffin pan, place two tablespoons light brown sugar and one tablespoon of butter.  


4.  Place in oven for 5 minutes.  


5.  Arrange peach slices in the muffin cups.  

I originally only put in 1/2 tablespoon of butter but that was clearly not enough, so above is the second 1/2 tablespoon of butter I used.

6.  Fill each cup with batter until almost full (a little over 3/4 full).  


7.  Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until browned.  Turn out cakes immediately to wire rack to cool.


Yield: 6 jumbo muffins

7.24.2011

Sunday Special: Grilled Chicken with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce

. Iiiiiiiiiit's back!

Now I can't say for how long, but I'm hoping that [healthy] Sunday Specials will be making a comeback.  We'll see how that goes though.  I know Robbie is keeping his fingers crossed, despite my big Sunday Special comeback being a bit of a flop.  Well, kind of.


You can probably guess I wasn't too ecstatic about the recipe we'll be going over in this post.  But I still feel like it needs to be shared, because even though it wasn't my absolute favorite, it was still very good, light, and perfect for summer affairs.  Hmm, as in BBQs and picnics I mean.

I had this clear vision of what I wanted last weekends' dinner to be like, something that resembled a dinner Robbie and I had a while back at Greek restaurant.  I wanted a dish that was cool and refreshing.  Don't ask me why, because I couldn't tell you why.  Oh wait...yes I can.  How about the [on average] 95°F weather + humidity we've been having lately?  Oh yeah, that was it!


The key to this whole dish is that intriguing Cucumber Yogurt Sauce.  At least that's what caught my attention.  It's that 'cool' and 'refreshing' element, perfect for the hot summer days we've been experiencing.  And when I say 'cool', I really do mean it.  This little concoction has pieces of cucumber [surprising], a little cumin, and mint.  Yes you read right: fresh, cool, mint.

The chicken itself is beyond ridiculously easy.  Even Robbie and I figured it out.  A little pepper, a few minutes [both sides] on the grill, a quick slather of some yogurt sauce [pre-cukes], and voila!  Quite possibly, no, THE easiest thing I have made thus far.  Maybe 20 minutes of prep and cooking and the chicken was ready for chow time.  I would like to note that I served the chicken with some brown rice and rolls but you could really pair this with most anything I guess.  Chef's choice!

Grill Master!

So what was it about this meal that didn't really strike a note with me?  It wasn't necessarily the recipe, but I think what I had envisioned I would be getting from the sauce was a little different than what we actually got.   I was aiming for something more like tzatziki but the flavor was not quite the same.  And as for the brown rice?  Not a fan.  Going from the soft, sticky rice I grew up on to brown rice is kind of a recipe for disaster though.  They just don't really compare.  However, while we were eating and in an effort to avoid eating my brown rice [as if I couldn't have dessert if I didn't eat my grains!], I started to cut up the chicken and place it [with some sauce] onto my rolls.  And that's where it was at.  Grilled Chicken Sandwiches with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce?  Yes, please!  So next time around, that is what we'll be having .


My Notes:
  • It didn't seem like the original cucumber yogurt sauce recipe was going to be enough for us [remember, we eat as if there are five people in our house], so I doubled it.  It also is the where the majority of the flavor comes from, so I thought this was a wise decision.

Grilled Chicken with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce
Ingredients:
1 (6 oz.) jar plain low-fat yogurt
1/4 c. thinly sliced green onions
2 tsp. snipped fresh mint
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1 c. chopped, seeded cucumber
4 small skinless, boneless, chicken breast halves (1 to 1-1/4 lbs.)
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper

Directions:
  1. In a medium bowl, combine yogurt, green onions, mint, cumin, salt, and pepper.  Transfer half of yogurt mixture to a small bowl; set aside.  Stir cucumber into remaining yogurt mixture.  Refrigerate cucumber yogurt sauce until ready to use.
  2. Sprinkle chicken breasts with pepper.  Place chicken breasts on grill and cook first side for 6 to 7 minutes.  Turn chicken breasts over and brush with reserved yogurt mixture.  Grill for 6 to 7 minutes on second side or until no longer pink.  Serve chicken with cucumber yogurt sauce.

Nutrition Facts: Calories 159 ; Total Fat 2g (Saturated Fat 1g) ; Cholesterol 68mg ; Sodium 251mg ; Carbohydrates 5g ; Protein 29g

7.21.2011

'The Lauritsen Life'



. Hey everyone!  The boyfriends' (okay, we all know his name is Robbie, so we're going to refer to him as that now.  I think we've made it to that point ☺) sister [Kelli] and hubby [Brett] have started their own blog!  Since Kelli and Brett live in Kansas City, away from their family and friends in Omaha [and other various places I would guess!], they've created The Lauritsen Life to keep everyone updated on what's happening in their neck of the woods.  A good idea, I must say!  They're a very outgoing, social couple, so there's always something interesting going on with those two.  And since they live so far away [and Robbie isn't the best of communicators sometimes...joooking!  Kind of...), I'm excited to read about those two!  So in support of them, head on over to their blog and become a follower of The Lauritsen Life.  I can guarantee they'll be a lot more exciting than Robbie and I! .

7.19.2011

Tried & True Tuesday: Jammie Bodgers

. Okay, don't even ask where the name comes from because I have no clue.  Hey, I didn't name them, so don't blame me.  All I did was test out this recipe one summer and incidentally discovered a gem!

You've probably already read it once or twice on this blog, but my boyfriend and I used to play softball and baseball in college.  Yes, that's how it all began ☺  Anywho, every summer, the baseball guys are shipped off to different states and summer teams to play more baseball [as if the nine months school year isn't enough...].  Unfortunately, our very first summer apart, the boyfriend was in Joplin, Missouri.  We saw each other once that summer.  Once in the entire summer!  I mean give me a break here, at that point in time that summer seemed like forever.

The Happy Couple from 2007!

Fortunately, the boyfriend was able to get on a team in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, for the next two summers, which was only an hour away from where I lived.  Thank.  The.  Lord.  Which meant that we both made frequent visits [he more than I, now that I think about it] to see each other.

For most of my visits, I made a baked goodie [crazy, I know!] for the boyfriend and his host family.  And one of those treats happened to be these Jammie Bodger's, more of a random selection but scrumptious nonetheless.  I remember bringing them and the boyfriend letting me know after I left what a hit they were with the family.  And there's basically nothing to dislike about these except for the fact that the supply is not endless.  The cookies are soft and buttery, sandwiching a filling of your favorite jam flavor and a smooth buttercream.  Sounds simple enough, but the combination was really fantastic!

Hope everyone is having a faantastic week so far, it's been busy around our house but can't complain!  Until next post! .

Jammie Bodgers


Ingredients:
Cookie:
2 c. all purpose flour
3/4 c. unsalted butter, chilled and diced
2/3 c. superfine (caster) sugar
1 egg yolk

Filling:
1/4 c. unsalted butter, room temperature and diced
1 c. powdered sugar
Jam, in your favorite flavor

Directions:
  1. For the cookies, put flour and butter in the food processor and process until mixture resembles breadcrumbs (if you don't have a processor, cut in the butter with your fingertips by rubbing the butter and flour together)..  Add sugar and egg yolk; process until mixture starts to form a dough.
  2. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth.  Shape into ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Heat the oven to 350°F.  Grease two baking sheetsl set aside.
  4. Roll out dough thinly on a lightly floured surface and cut out rounds using 2-inch cookie cutter.  Place cut-outs onto baking sheets.  Re-roll trimmings and cut out additional rounds until you have 40 cut-outs.  
  5. Bake 12 minutes or until a pale golden.  Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely.
  6. For filling, beat together butter and sugar until smooth and creamy.  Spread a small amount of buttercream onto the underside of half of the cooled cookies and top the buttercream with a small amount of jam.  Top with second cookie to make sandwiches.  
Yield: 20 cookie sandwiches

7.17.2011

PB&J Cupcakes



. Oh my, these are a keeper.  And would you guess that Ms. Martha Stewart supplied the recipe for this goodie yet again?  Well she did.  We're 2-2 with Martha recipes lately.

You've probably noticed or read that I like to make desserts on a seasonal basis.  There's just no better ingredient than a seasonal fruit, in my opinion.  But I think we can all agree that PB&J's aren't really seasonal.  Right?  Actually more of a nostalgic eat.  And I needed something just like this for last Friday night.  Why?
Please excuse both the 'I just went swimming' and 'I haven't washed my face in days' look I'm rockin.'

Well for the return of this lady, right there!  That's Ms. Jess [Draemel] Allen, fellow blogger at Blonde Ponytail but most importantly, one of my former college softball coaches!  Jess is an absolutely wonderful woman: wildly passionate, driven, dedicated, and just a joy to be around.  She was a huge inspiration in my college career to always strive to become a better player.  She definitely left her mark on myself and many other players, and that's something I'll never be able to express or thank her enough for.

Her blog, Blonde Ponytail, mainly focuses on health and running.  I've maybe called her crazy a time or two since she's that lady running marathons and calling a 5-mile run easy.  Ha, easy my butt ☺  But just a glimpse of any of her posts will show you what I'm talking about, so wander on over and I know you'll enjoy Blonde Ponytail as much as I do!


Anywho, since my BFF from softball [please see the above picture, she's the one with the frosting-stache), myself, and several of the softball girls wanted to catch up with Jess, we decided to all meet at a slowpitch game a bunch of them were playing in.  And you all know what that means!  Baaaaaaked Gooooooodies!

So when debating on what to make, I knew I wanted to zero on something that would ring a bell with us all.  I immediately thought of what our softball team referred to as 'bench snacks.'  Between every double header, we always had 'bench snacks' for the team to refuel before heading out for the second game.  And one of the 'bench snacks' staples were all of the fixin's for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  Every double header, no fail.  So what better way to reminisce about our softball years than with our Saturday peanut butter and jellies?


And these cupcakes were nothing short of AH-mazing!  Martha really knew how to take that classic sandwich and plop it into a peanut buttery, soft, and moist cupcake, topped with a fantastically smooth peanut butter-cream cheese frosting.  And where does the jelly fit in?  Well, right in the centers!  MmmMMmM!

Even though our little reunion was cut drastically short [due to some rain and lame lightning], it was so great to see Jess and the softball girls.  It's a bittersweet thing though, wonderful getting to see them all again but also remembering how much I miss those ladies!  We went from hours upon hours, day after day, together, and then once graduation hit, hello real world and goodbye friends.  But I guess that's what makes these little gatherings so fun, huh? .

My Notes:
  • When filling the liners, gently flatten the tops of the batter before baking.  The batter is fairly thick and if you don't do this, you'll end up with little pockets of uncooked batter.  Boo to that.
  • I chose to use strawberry preserves this time around, but you can use whichever flavor of preserves or jam you prefer.
  • The directions say to fold in the whipped cream when making the frosting.  However, I found that the whipped cream wasn't really combining, so I continued to use my electric mixer with the whisk attachment and the frosting turned out great.

PB&J Cupcakes
From Martha Stewart


Ingredients:
Cake:
1-3/4 c. all purpose flour
3/4 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 c. unsalted butter, softened
1-1/3 c. sugar
2/3 c. creamy peanut butter
3 large eggs
1/2 c. sour cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Filling:
Your favorite flavor of preserves or jam

Peanut Butter Frosting:
6 oz. cream cheese
1/3 c. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. creamy peanut butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. heavy whipping cream

Directions:
1.  Heat oven to 350°F.  Line muffin tins with paper liners.  Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in small bowl; set aside.


2.  Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.


3.  Add peanut butter and combine well.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  



4.  Reduce speed to low.  Add dry ingredients to peanut butter mixture in three additions, alternating with milk and vanilla extract, and ending with dry ingredients.




5.  Divide batter among muffin cups, filling a little over 1/2 full.


6.  Bake 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean.  Let cool completely on wire rack.


7.  Once cooled, cut out centers of cupcakes using a paring knife.  Fill centers with preserves.



8.  For frosting, beat cream cheese and powdered sugar with mixer on medium speed.  Add salt, then peanut butter, and then vanilla extract.


9.  In separate bowl, whisk heavy whipping cream until soft peaks form.  Fold into peanut butter mixture.



10.  Frost cupcakes as desired. 


Yield: 20 cupcakes
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