Friday, August 27, 2010


So far each wedding season I've been a part of so far there is a surprise star. Last year I was surprised how big a role sugar cookies had started to play in everything from hotel greetings to favors and decor.

I love that more and more people are relying less on tradition (lackluster vanilla cake with buttercream) and finding a dessert option that reflects them as a couple.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm a traditional girl. I don't think you can go wrong with a classic. I searched for literally 3 months for a person/place that could do my wedding cake but make one that didn't well, suck. I mean really, apparently making really good cake is a lost art. You can put all the pretty fondant on it you want, but if it doesn't taste good, what's the point?

I ended up finding someone who coincidentally enough, ran an out of home bakery. To this day that is some of the best cake that I have ever eaten. We had quite a bit leftover that we got to freeze (we had a cake and punch reception for the masses, and then at the smaller dinner reception had 6 other kinds of cakes besides our wedding and grooms cake). We got to eat some through out the year leading up to our one year anniversary and that cake was just as good a year later as it was on our wedding day.

All that to say, if you're going with tradition, do it well. If you don't mind breaking out of the box a little bit, not only are cupcakes all the rage right now but I have been getting several requests for these little guys:

Mini Key Lime Pies. Don't let their cuteness fool you. For something so small they pack a punch of flavor. The perfect balance of tart and sweet and salty topped with homemade whipped cream.
Honestly I've made a couple batches up this summer just for our family. It's a perfect fit for all those BBQ's we gt invited to or just a fun dessert treat to cool you off.
If you think they would make the perfect addition to your next event, you are in good company this season!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cupcake Free

Warning, this is a cupcake, picture free post. More just the musings of a self proclaimed foodie.

So as I've mentioned, I love cooking just as much as I love baking. Admittedly, sometimes even more...I just produce more creative, consistently good baked goods. That said, I am no chef nor proclaim to be one. So view this post as notes from a well trained, self educated home cook.

I got to go to a fun new place today. I love exploring cities. A friend of mine and native Atlantan took me to a place she knew I would enjoy called Star Provisions. It's a restaurant and a market. They sell things like meats, seafood, cheese, bread and pastries (as well as ridiculously cute service ware, linens and other such fun things for all your entertaining needs and wants). They also have a gourmet cafe menu with breakfasts with luscious looking large quiches and lunch with sandwiches and other such things served on wonderful vessels like tomato parmesan focacia.

It's in an area with lots of other great restaurants and fun little shops, all within a block. A fun place to go, but very tempting on your wallet (unless of course spending $50 for a kids shirt isn't even comprehensible and then not so tempting, like it was for me.)

Now the food however...good ingredients are expensive. They just are, as much as it pains me to say, but they really do make a big difference. If you are only putting 5 ingredients in a dish it will taste infinitely better if you get the best quality of those ingredients you can find. As much as I would love to have an unlimited grocery budget to play with fun high end ingredients reality and practicality reign me in. Whole Foods and I used to be frequent friends, now we settle for quarterly or so minglings.

I knew I wanted to sample some of the glorious ingredients (like the $60 a pound Foie Gras!), but reality and practicality again needed to balance me out. So I thought about dinner. Local slab bacon, parmigiana reggiano and freshly made baguettes all were reasonable (the parmesan in small amounts) and looked great. Spaghetti Carbonara was now on the dinner menu (with bread and a salad with a honey balsamic dressing) with plenty of leftovers for lunch and enough baguette to make a breakfast bread pudding or french toast with. One of the nice things about these small specialty markets is you can buy however much you want or need, not a packaged quantity that will probably go bad before you get to it.

I walked out for $8 and change. $2.50 for the baguette (which was bigger and better than comparable at Kroger or Publix and theirs are $2), $4 or so for the parmigiana reggiano (1/8 of a pound which was enough for dinner and probably another 2 dinners) and about $1.50 for the bacon (1/4 pound).

I was happy. My gourmet lunch cost more than the main ingredients for at least 3 meals. They even had cupcakes to try. Which looked delicious and I probably would have been tempted by if I weren't full, in a bit of a rush and knew I had homemade chocolate chip cookies at home.

All this to say, if you have the least bit of foodie tendencies or just enjoy a fun place to eat really good food you should take a trip down to Star Provisions. I'm not really very familiar with all the areas of Atlanta, but I think it was considered more in the west side. It wasn't that far from downtown in my opinion. The bacon alone made it worth the drive!

If I intrigued you with my spaghetti carbonara, here is my favorite recipe. I use bacon instead of pancetta, more like half an onion, a little extra white wine (1/3 cup instead of 1/4) and just Parmesan, no pecorino. Also since I'm pregnant I went ahead and added the eggs while the pan was still on and cooked it a little bit to make sure the eggs were cooked. No longer than 2 minutes. The best part is this can easily be made in less than a half an hour. I sometimes make the sauce an hour or so before hand and just reheat it while I'm boiling the water for the pasta. Quick easy, and gourmet looking. Can't beat that!

Do you have a favorite place you go to satisfy your inner foodie?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Fancy Nancy

Recently a customer contacted me to do cupcakes for her daughter who was really into Fancy Nancy books. Being immersed in a world of baseball and testosterone I had never heard of the books, but was excited to learn more. Apparently they are all about a girl who wants to be fancy and loves all things wonderful like pearls and heels, and feather boas and generally being a bit over the top. My only starting point was that her daughter asked for strawberry fuchsia cupcakes.

Brace yourself for girliness:

Strawberry, fuchsia (or as close as I could get!) cupcakes. To make a bit more...fancy, I went with the rose frosting technique and dipped them in purple sprinkles

I also layered some of the cupcake wrappers for a fun look

Feathers, you may ask? Feathers! Maybe one of the most fun cupcake accessory I've gotten to work with! These are double chocolate cupcakes with hot pink sprinkles accessorized with pink feathers.

A side view.
I had a lot of fun making these. They were just so wonderfully girly. I love getting to do fun and creative stuff as well. I think these would be great fun for a bachelorette party.
Now for a complete change of topic. I don't know about most of you, but it seems like we have been either going to, or hosting quite a few cook outs recently. It seems like with school starting up these are actually increasing with friends getting back together or kicking off new groups or seasons.
While I'm sure it may be assumed that I always bring something very homemade and usually sweet to these types of events, you would be wrong. Not only am I more of a salty person there for bringing mainly more savory dishes (plus that way I have something I know my kids will eat, just in case), sometimes I'm tired of baking cupcakes for my job and just want something quick.
This is where I'm going to share a few shortcuts I have with you. This weekend we were invited to a cookout. We wanted to go but had already had a very full day planned. We would have 45 minutes in the house in which I needed to make something, get me and the boys changed, freshened up and swing by the store to grab drinks.
Confession: I make things from a box. Well, maybe not things, but I do make one thing from a box. Brownies. In particular, Ghiradelli. I buy the box from Costco that has 6 packages, and in 45 minutes I can have wonderful brownies ready to go. Bringing vanilla ice cream usually makes me a rock star as well. They have no hydrogenated oils and are just a shade less tasty than homemade.
Now for an easy savory side dish for cook outs. I don't know about y'all but my family loves baked beans. They can be easy and are usually a crowd pleaser. While I have tried numerous recipes making baked beans from scratch, I haven't found one yet that beats this shortcut. Buy Bush's baked beans, the family size can in the vegetarian flavor. Poor the can in a pretty bowl, add about 3 (or more) tablespoons of your favorite sweet and smokey BBQ sauce. Stir, heat for 3 minutes, cover and walk out the door. These are really good and really simple. In fact there was hardly any we got sent home with and I got irritated at my husband for throwing them out without asking. I was going to eat them as a snack with potato chips. Because I'm pregnant and I can do things like that.
Hopefully that gives you a few easy go to options for you next get together. Fanciness and convenience all in one post. Amazing what I can get done with only one child around!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Wedding Brainstorming

I'm sure in August more than anything y'all have back to school on the brain...not weddings. And while my house is immersed in getting ready for school (I have a kindergartner this year!) I am also prepping for wedding season.

For me the busiest wedding times are May and then October. June and September are usually pretty busy as well. Right now I'm brainstorming lots of ideas and option for weddings and getting ready to do several tastings. And busy returning lots of emails regarding such.
I've been coming up with (what I think) are fun ideas like a cupcake bar (with margarita, mudslide, pina colada, type flavors), mini key lime pies for a beach wedding and doing some fun monogramming on the cupcakes as well.
I also have been trying a few different decorating options apart from the standard. I think this is sweet and elegant. They're also great for anniversary presents!