Friday, February 24, 2012

I'm Back!

Yeah, so it's been, um like 4 months since I've made an appearance here. Sorry about that.

To be honest, I don't really know what I'm doing. And I'm ok with that, hopefully y'all are too.

This whole crazy cupcake business thing started out of a hobby that someone offered to pay me for, and it's continued more in that theme. I'm not looking to be the next big bakery in town. I love that I can do something I love on the side here and there (saying no when I feel too crazy with life) on my terms.

At the same time, there is a lot in our lives we've been doing as well. We're very involved at our church (Emmaus Church), lead a small group, do baseball, and have 3 kids. It's a lot to keep up with, and if I feel like God would rather me focus on all of that than cupcakes...I'm good.

The last few months I haven't been sure if I should keep trying to do CupKates, so I just left everything on cruise. Didn't post blogs, or much on the facebook site. And yet I am still getting calls and orders on a regular basis. It doesn't seem as though it's going to fade out on it it's own, and having 2 kiddos in school at least 3 days a week, I feel like I can manage a fair amount of orders. Plus I absolutely adore getting to meet and interact with all of my customers and helping create something delicious for your special events.

So I'm blogging, because I'm still here and apparently am not going anywhere any time soon.

And in my absence, I've come up with a few new flavors I thought I would share.

Chocolate Chip Cookie cupcake. Just like the cookie, but in cupcake form

Browned Butter cupcakes with Salted Caramel

I'd also love to hear from y'all as far as what you would like to see more of from me. Do you enjoy the random recipes and dinner ideas? Do you just want to see pretty cupcakes? More giveaways? Or really, you don't care and are just going to order cupcakes. That's fine too, just trying to figure out where best to spend my time.

Hopefully I'll be making more regular appearances again!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Grilled chicken caesar wraps

Between trying to get all the suitcases put away, folding the massive pile of laundry (seriously y'all, I can't see my bed underneath it all), and starting in on the long list of holiday to-do's I need some quick, easy and healthy (anyone else trying to detox from last week?!) meals right now.

This is my go to dinner on the fly. Our version of take out or fast food.

Between baseball and small group and other weekly commitments we are often eating on the go. Either with less than 15 minutes to scarf it down, or getting home late and shoveling the food in before putting kids to bed.

As an advocate of the Slow Food movement and family meals I don't love that we do this. However it's not every night, we are having at least 4 family meals a week, and to a certain extent I think it's the phase of life we are in with school age children. It's hard work trying to balance activities and involvement with family time. One I most certainly do not have figured out yet!

All of the items necessary to make this can be made ahead of time and warmed up. I almost always make leftovers as this also makes a great lunch!

2 grilled chicken breasts sliced on the bias
cooked brown rice*
5 cups shredded romaine
whole wheat tortillas (I get mine from Trader Joe's)
Brianna's asiago caesar dressing

*To make my brown rice I take 1 cup rice, 2 cups stock, a dash of olive oil and salt (about 1 teaspoon of each) and bring to a boil. Once it comes to a boil you put a lid on it and turn it to low and simmer for 40 minutes. Turn off and then let set 10 minutes before serving. If you're really in a rush Trader Joe's has microwavable bags of organic brown rice that cook in less than 10 minutes.

So really, once you cook the chicken and rice it's just assembly. I just grill my chicken on our gas grill until they hit 160 degrees with a digital thermometer. Take up and let them rest while covered for 5 minutes and then slice.

I put the rice down first, then a couple slices of chicken. I top mine more generously with lettuce than my husband chooses to and then top with the dressing.

You could do it with the chicken and rice being cold, but I prefer mine hot with cold lettuce. Just a nice contrast and holds my appeal whatever season it is.

Here's the thing about these...the dressing makes it. I typically make my own dressings, but this one is worth buying. First off, most good caesar dressing recipes call for an egg yolk and while I'm pretty liberal with the food standards while pregnant and nursing, that one won't fly. That and um, it's easy. This is the best caesar dressing I've tried, including at restaurants.

Fast, easy and healthy, what more could a mom ask for? Now you'll have a little more time to throw some tinsel on something or bake cupcakes for both your kids classes.

Bacon Apple Cheddar Stuffing

Being the food nerd that I am, I often update my facebook status about what we are eating for dinner, or what I am cooking.

Not usually a ton of comments hit those but a lot of likes. So when I posted that I made balsamic grilled pork tenderloin, roasted sweet potatoes, salad and bcaon, apple, and cheddar stuffing and I got a plethora comments asking for the recipe, I thought it would be nice to give it to you.

I'm not sure how this recipe came about, other than I know I started out putting it inside a pork roast. But pork roasts are tricky to cook, not very quick and make for squishy stuffing. It's fall encapsulated in a dish to me.

I realize stuffing is a very polarizing subject. Cornbread vs bread, sausage or not, lots of sage or's a very personal business often relating closely to what part of the country you are from. This being said, and while it may not be the case for all, I think this stuffing has mass appeal. First off, who doesn't like bacon? And not many people are currently putting bacon in their stuffing so it's different enough to be sort of like grandma's but just under par. It's part bread and part cornbread. And who doesn't like cheddar and apples? It's pretty much all-american. (on an unrelated side note, have you ever put cheddar or your apple pie? It's SO good! My husband disagrees and is repulsed by this act...but if salty/sweet is your thing, DO IT!)

This was such a big hit in our home my husband has requested it for Thanksgiving. I'd say it's a winner!

1/2 package of bacon (or about 8 slices) diced)
1 small onion diced
4 cups loosely packed bread cubes (I've used three leftover hot dog buns or 4 dinner rolls for this recently) dried (left out over night or stuck in a 250 degree oven for 1/2 hour)
6 cornbread muffins, or 1/2 of a normal sized batch*
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 large apple or 2 small diced
1 cup packed freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 egg
1 teaspoon rubbed sage (a little more if you like it heavy on the sage)
salt and pepper to taste

First off, cooking is very loose. There aren't too many hard and fast recipes. The beauty of it is experimenting and customizing it to your tastes. If you think it's too much apple, cut back. Think celery would be a good addition (it would, but the hubs isn't crazy about it and I didn't have any), throw it in! I would encourage you to make it the directed way first unless you are quite comfortable in the kitchen and then notate your preferences for the future.

*I use White Lily cornbread mix. Not that healthy, but I love it and it turns out perfect each time. I follow the directions on the back. If I am making cornbread just for this I half the recipe. The recipe for half calls for 1 cup of the cornbread mix. You could use leftovers. If you're a little short no biggie you may just need to cut back on how much stock you add.

Preheat over to 350 degrees.

In a saucepan cook bacon on medium. It won't cook quite as fast, but that is good. We are rendering the fat which will get more fat out (for flavoring) and make the bacon crispier. Once the bacon begins to get crispy add the onion. Cook until the onion is just translucent. About 8 or so minutes.

While the bacon and onion are cooking crumble to cornbread into a large mixing bowl. Add bread cubes, apple, cheddar, sage and salt and pepper (I used about 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper) and toss together. Once the onion and bacon are done toss those in. Add about 2 1/2 cups of stock (more or less if needed) to get to an oatmeal or grits like consistency.

Beat the egg in a small bowl and then add. Mix thoroughly.

Pour into greased baking pan and bake for about 1 hour at 350 on the bottom rack moving to the top rack for the last 15 minutes to brown the top. The cooking time is really iffy depending on what kind of dish you use. The more shallow it is the quicker it will cook. Mine was about 1 1/2 inches deep and took about an hour. Just use the toothpick test if unsure.

A quick keeping it real shot for you. I'm photographing by my sink (most light) which is filled with dishes and I still have Halloween candy buckets on my counter.

As always, if you have any questions feel free to ask!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pumpkin Bread

I love fall and all of it's flavors. It's by far my favorite season, and I'm already salivating at the thought of pork tenderloin with bacon apple and cheddar stuffing that will hit my table at some point this week. Apples, pumpkin, pork, caramel, soups, braising...everything about fall screams comfort to me.

This time of year Trader Joe's releases their cans of organic pumpkin. This stuff is amazing. I have made pumpkin puree from scratch before, but I think this tastes better. The pumpkin has almost of a caramelized type flavor to it that give it extra depth. Apparently others think it's amazing as well because it sells out quickly. So when I walked into the store and they were setting up a brand new tower of the beautiful golden cans, I grabbed 8. Or 9. A lot. I had just used my last can from the year before so it was perfect timing. And 8 or 9 cans will not get me through this year, I full plan on restocking again at least once.

Part of the reason for that is because I make pumpkin bread about once a week during the fall. It freezes great, makes great little thank you gifts (way better than a note!), is easy to throw together, makes a good snack, lunch treat or breakfast and results in a heavenly bread pudding. This is one of those items like bananas that will never go to waste, there is always a use for it.

Pumpkin Bread
(adapted from Bon Apetit)

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 cans Trader Joe's organic pumpkin puree
3/4 cup sugar (if you prefer a very sweet pumpkin bread make this 1 cup)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat over to 350. Spray pans with nonstick cooking spray ( I usually use a combination of 4 mini loaf pans, 1 muffin pan and 2 tin cans (directions below)

Beat pumpkin, brown sugar and sugar in mixer until combined. Gradually beat in oil, then eggs adding on at a time. Sift in baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and salt, mix until blended.

Add whole wheat flour, mixing until just combined then slowly add buttermilk. Once incorporated add all purpose flour. Once blended add to pans.

Bake until tester comes out clean or with moist crumbs. For me the muffins took about 17 minutes, and the breads about 1/2 and hour.

One of my favorite ways to bake these is in tin cans. Not only is it eco friendly, I remember my grandma doing this to be thrifty long before green was anything more than a color. I love using cooking tips and tricks and recipes from my grandmothers and remembering the wisdom they passed down.

You should have two tin cans laying around after using the pumpkin anyways, so might as well go ahead and use them. Make sure they are the type of can that is coating free. Rinse thoroughly and let dry. Then spray with oil. Fill just under 2/3 full. If you're paranoid about your oven getting dirty (I'm not as mine never stood a chance) place a sheet of aluminum foil underneath just in case the overflow. For me these took a little longer than the mini loaves, I would check every 5 minutes with a tester after 20 minutes.

Now depending on your can opener you may have a rough edge on the can. My can opener doesn't do this (Pampered Chef), so it's not an issue for me, but if yours does you may either want to get a new one since it's cheap and safer, or just file down the sharp edges. Or just not use this method since filing it down sounds like a pain.

The thing I like best about the tin can method is it's a super easy and cute thank you or hostess gift. Either grab some cellophane or one of those clear plastic treat baggies they sell at all the craft stores for parties. Wrap it over the tin can (or slip it in the bag) and tie it with some cute ribbon or raffia, throw on a tag and you're good to go. This would be a great teacher gift around the holidays with a gift card attached.

Salted Caramel Spread

We went apple picking last weekend.

It was wonderful, to head to the mountains and just have a fun day with the family. To say we've been busy is a bit of an understatement so it was a special time to get away and play.

After coming home with several bags of apples (about half of which were Honeycrisp, our fav!) I wanted to make something that would make the apples a bit more indulgent while still eating them raw.

Most people would probably run to the store and buy the caramel dip, but I didn't want to run to the store and I know how easy caramel is to I'd seen the recipe for this salted caramel spread on Pinterest and knew I had to try it.

It was ridiculous, and everything I had hoped it would be. Plus a little goes along way, and it makes a fair amount so I actually still have a whole jar in the fridge. I plan on making several large batches of this around the holidays for teachers, friends, coaches, etc.

The beauty of it is it's versatility. You can use it as a dip for apples and other fruit, to drizzle in hot chocolate, swirled in an apple pie, mixed into buttercream or whipped cream, dotted onto an apple crisp or tossed with freshly popped popcorn. The possibilities are endless.

Salted Caramel Spread
(adapted from Kathrin Koschitzki as featured on Design*Sponge)


1.5 cups sugar
3 1/2 Tablespoons water
2 sticks + 1 Tablespoon butter cut into small pieces
3/4 teaspoon salt
Just over 1/2 cup warmed heavy cream but not quite 2/3 cup
2 tablespoons corn syrup


Place sugar, water and corn syrup in saucepan stire to combine then cook on medium low heat until amber in color (this doesn't have to be stressful, golden brownish color is what you're looking for, no thermometer necessary, just DON'T TOUCH IT after the initial mix).

Reduce heat to low and slowly add the butter while stirring. The mixture is VERY hot so be careful while stirring and maybe even step buck as the butter will sizzle some.

Add the salt and cook an additional two minutes.

Remove from heat and slowly stir in the warmed cream. Mix until just combined.

It will initially be more sauce like than spread like, but thickens upon cooling. Let cool a bit and then pour into jars and store in the refrigerator. Mine filled about 3 smaller mason jars.

Cupcakes I've been cooking

Just a few of the cupcakes I've been baking recently.

Double Vanilla Hungry Caterpillar

Double Vanilla for a baby shower

Chocolate mini cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream

Mini Chocolate Guinness stout cupcakes with Bailey's buttercream

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Chicken and Dumplings

Today is the first rainy and cool day of fall.

Plus I sent off my baby boy to preschool for the first time ever.

And I don't feel good.

The day calls for comfort food.

However, with figuring out two school schedules, pick up and drop off times, parent meetings and a 6 month olds nap schedule I didn't exactly have all day to spend boiling a chicken, shredding it, making dumplings and throwing it all back together.

But I wanted chicken and dumplings.

I've had this problem often. Particularly when I'm sick. I cook myself sick food, so I've had to learn some shortcuts.

No chicken boiling required.

Every time I go grocery shopping I grab a rotisserie chicken. I shred it up and divide it into two or three bags and throw them in the freezer. I can pull off about a 10 minute dinner if need be with one of these. Maybe sometime soon I'll do a "what you can use it for" post.

I know most people will argue homemade chicken stock is so much better, and generally, I concede. But I promise you, your family will never know on this one. Store bought stock is where it's at, but not just any. Kitchen Basics low sodium chicken stock. It's in a yellow box. Available at Whole Foods, Publix and Walmart for sure. Usually on the very top or bottom shelf.

I don't really do exact recipes, I'll be exact as possible for y'all, but essentially, this is what I do:

Lay out shredded chicken to thaw (about 1 cup, more if you like it heavy on the chicken)
dice up 3-5 carrots (depending on how much carrot you like)
1 stalk of diced celery (if you have it, I didn't today, no biggie)
1 small onion diced

Throw those in the pot you plan to use with a little olive oil (or butter) and saute until partially cooked, about 5-10 minutes.

While it's sauteing grab
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup buttermilk (or just under 1/2 cup whole milk and add a tablespoon or so of vinegar)
2 cups flour (I actually used white whole wheat today)

Pulse in your food processor (or you can hand cut it in) until a ball forms adding more milk if necessary.

Add about a carton and a half of stock to your veggies and let it heat up while you roll out the dumplings

Dust a pice of waxed or parchment paper with flour, grab your rolling pin and roll out the dumpling dough. It need not be pretty, and thickness doesn't really matter, but thinner will cook quicker. I use a pizza cutter to cut mine quickly. I like my squares bite size for the kiddos so that's how I cut them.

Add them one at a time to the stock mixing every so often. Add the chicken. Let it simmer for an hour or so stirring every so often.

Serve with cornbread. And honey. Because my mother in law did.

Sorry I don't have any pictures. I promise it's good. And only involves about 1/2 hour prep time.