Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pumpkin cupcakes with salted caramel buttercream frosting ( I know, right?!)

Where have all the cupcakes gone?  All I'm sayin' is that cupcakes around these parts have been scarce.
All it took to spur me into action was one simple request for a cupcake and I was searching high and low for the next cupcake inspiration.  I found this recipe at this blog: Made in Melissa's Kitchen.  I put a copy of the recipe below with a few adaptations of my own.  But please go to the link for her exact recipe and other delicious recipes as you won't be disappointed!  But there is one thing.  Despite what Melissa from the blog said, making caramel sauce isn't all that easy. Having never done it, I went into it thinking it would be easy because of her.
Nope.  It wasn't.
I burned it so bad but didn't really realize it until I mixed it with two sticks of butter and two cups of sugar, tasted it and found it to be bitter. BOO!  I had to toss it.  What a waste! But after the initial hiccup, I took another hint from the blog and used a caramel sauce from Starbucks.
Needless to say, I found both my inspiration and my new favorite cupcake!
(Psst..I took them to work and four out of six of us ate two in one day! Not bad, eh?)

Pumpkin Cupcakes

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (I used whole-wheat pastry flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice; set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the  brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, and eggs. Beat on medium speed until well combined.  Add dry ingredients, and mix on low until smooth. Fold in pumpkin puree. 
Divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about halfway. Bake until tops spring back when touched, and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pans once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.
Makes ~ 18 cupcakes. (More like 24 for me)

Source: Adapted from MarthaStewart.com.

Salted Caramel Buttercream
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 stick salted butter
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
In a saucepan, stir together granulated sugar and water.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Cook without stirring until mixture turns a deep amber color, about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and slowly add in cream and vanilla, stirring until very smooth.  Let caramel cool for about 20 minutes, until it is just barely warm and still pourable. Alternatively, you could use just under 1/2 cup of your favorite caramel sauce.
In a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter and salt together until lightened and fluffy.  Reduce speed to low and add powdered sugar.  Mix until thoroughly combined.
Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the caramel.  Beat on medium high speed until light and airy, and completely mixed (about 2 minutes).  Mixture should be ready to use without refrigeration.  If your caramel was too hot when added, it will cause your icing to be runny.  If this happens refrigerate for 15-20 minutes. 
Source: Slightly adapted from SprinkleBakes.com.
I'm so glad these cupcakes turned out good, or else I would be stuck having to eat every one of them.  Due to the sticks upon sticks of butter, I'm pretty sure eating only one cupcake made me gain 5 pounds.  But they are completely worth it.  At least that's what I tell myself....
Try them out and see.  You won't be disappointed!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

My outfit Monday

I lost interest in putting outfits together, wearing any jewelry or trying to look cute.
What can I say? My activities this past month have not required much of an "ensemble."
There was a weekend of camping and wearing "camp clothes", then wearing scrubs all week for work, a weekend of being sick and laying around in my sweatpants and NO makeup, followed by another week of scrubs.
Last weekend, my attitude towards my wardrobe changed. We went out of town to visit some friends and ended up going to some places I probably should've dressed up for.  Since I was still stuck in "slob mode" I didn't.  I ended up packing outfits that ended up looking like I was still camping.
So today, I took some inspiration from both Pinterest (how pin-spiring (ha ha)..) and another source (not sure where this the second photo is from.) 

Outfit of Pinterest:

Second outfit idea:

My take:
Cardi: Old Navy; Tank: Wal-mart; Skirt: Old Navy
Shoes: Old Navy
I'm loving this striped skirt and think I will have fun making it a Fall/Winter skirt.  Oh the possibilities.  I also happen to own a bright yellow skirt and could maybe pair it with this same cardigan I'm wearing here for an outfit that more resembles the Pinterest outfit.  Again...oh the possibilities!
Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

That time I went wake boarding

Remember that one time where I actually chose to try snowboarding?
It was rough and it was tough. And sadly, I haven't strapped into a board since that fateful Winter.
Since then, no matter what Aaron tried to say to coax me into trying it, I just couldn't bare another bruise/muscle-ache-fest.  Oh the bruises, the amount of ibuprofen consumed, the anger as I tumbled down the hill.  Oh the horror and inhumanity!
So imagine my surprise when I agreed (yes, begrudgingly at first) to try wake boarding this Summer.
I managed to escape the first planned trip because of shark week (my loving term for "that time of the month"), but this time I ran out of excuses and time.
Everyone and everything said "JUST DO IT!"  So I said "fine."
(what can I say? I'm obedient, if nothing else.)
So the first step was to find a bathing suit and board shorts I would want to wear in public. I HATE bathing suits and as a result, was hoping for something like this:

Women in bathing suits on Collaroy Beach, 1908 via
But I ended up in something quite different (but still maybe with the same coverage): Board shorts to my knees and a tank top to cover my demure one piece suit.
Something more like this:

I kid you not...my outfit was pretty much like this
     Talk about sexy, yo.
(sorry , no real pictures were taken of me this fine day...too bad...)
But I digress.  Soon enough, it was go-time and so I hopped in the boat.  I watched several people take their runs and tried to analyze their approach to getting up.  It looked easy enough.  I was even educated on the art of standing up, what I should feel when in the water and what moves I should make.  This is all I can remember:
  • Lay back in the water with my knees bent and keep my arms held out straight in front of me.
  •  As soon as I felt pressure from the water, "stand up" in the water and turn the board
  • Voila! Stand up!
Here's what happened:
I went to get in the life vest and it was found that it was too small.  ALL of them were too small.  Nice.  Real nice.  Apparently there was nothing on the boat to contain the girls and I.  So I had to wait.  Yes I was embarrassed.  No, I wasn't disappointed that I barely escaped my impending doom.  Should I have been?
But no one would give up that easy.  Soon enough, another bigger (much bigger, even on me) life vest was wrangled up and it was officially my turn.
So I strapped in so someones board with bindings that were way to big.  I plunged into the water and floated to the top.  All the while, I had at least 4 different people yelling pointers out to me.
I secretly felt confident that I would nail this maneuver in one move but also didn't believe it at the same time.
I yelled "go" and the boat moved ahead.  Despite my warm, fuzzy and positive feelings, I failed.
Big time.
Instead, I was jerked this way or that and most of the time, I plunged into the water head first, sometimes even backwards.  My sinuses (and every other cavity in/on my body for that matter) were washed clean, made new, if you will with every cleansing dip as I fell, slipped or was yanked into the dirty lake water.
A super cute lil' guy on the boat yelled at me as I gasped and floated on the side of the boat " You just really need to hold on harder!"  I laughed to myself and thought, "this is supposed to be fun?"
But there was something different.  Even though I failed time and time again, I still kind of enjoyed it (not so much the choking and gasping on the rushing waters going down my nose and throat) and wanted to keep trying it.
Sadly, my body and my weak T-Rex arms did not agree and I could handle no more.  That night I felt muscles I've never felt become sore.  But, I slept well knowing I tried.  The next day I decided to try again.
The second time was a little better.  I didn't swallow as much nasty water and I almost, ALMOST got up. But my abs, then my arms could handle no more and soon enough I couldn't even make a fist.
The handle got yanked out of my weak hands and I quit.  I was weak man, weak.
Sadly, it's a bit too chilly for me to get out into the water to try again, but I really want to try and try again until I get my "AHA" moment and stand up on the water.
It won't be anything close to what Jesus did, but no doubt that moment will still go down in history
(I really hope you know I'm joking on that last part...)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Ding, dong...zucchini

Hello? Are you still out there?  I guess I should warn you before I take a leave of absence, hmm?
Well, I'm back with a few (mind you, only a few...) ideas for the blog in me head.
So..........................Today's topic is zucchini.
Word on the street is that this time of year, most people who've planted zucchini end up having more than they know what to do with.  So much so, that they search high and low for anyone (anyone?!) who would take it off their hands. I've heard of some people actually ringing a doorbell, droppin' zucchini like it's hot on the doorstep and high-tailing it out of there before anyone can protest.  A woman down our street just placed a literal mound of zucchinis in her driveway with a free sign.
Me? I got some from my grandma's neighbor and my next door neighbor.
But I asked for it.
Great right? Just saute it with some garlic and olive oil and voila!?
Been there, done that many-a-time.  But you can only do that so much.
Plus, Aaron doesn't even like it (he gave it a valiant effort) and so I was the one stuck with too many zucchini. 
I thought about making zucchini bread.  But then a thought came about: "what about cookies?"
So an internet search was done and I found some tasty sounding cookies and gave them a try!
They were a crowd pleaser, let me tell you. Here's the recipe (sadly I wrote it down and forgot where I got it from) if you'd like to give it a try.

Chocolate Oatmeal Zucchini cookies
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325.   Line or grease a cookie sheet.  Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.  Stir in the egg and vanilla.  Mix well.  Stir in the shredded zucchini.  In a separate bowl, sift the dry ingredients together.  Stir in the dry ingredients, then the oats and then the chocolate chips. Bake for 11 minutes (mine had to go for closer to 14 min.)  Enjoy!