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I realize that it has been close to 2 months since my last post.  I have been struggling with what to do about my blog these days.  As you might remember, life has changed quite a bit for me this summer, new job, new friends, and grad school started last week.  I have still been cooking, but haven’t been as good about documenting it as I was in the past.

I feel like I am at a crossroads with my blog, and I am trying to figure out where to go.  I started this blog 2 years ago as a project, a hobby, something to pour my energy and creativity into.  I had just gotten married, and as anyone who has anything to do with planning a wedding knows, it can be time consuming and once it’s over you can be left with a feeling of, “well what now?”.  So I decided to start a food blog.  It was a learning process, my photography was pretty bad in the beginning (not that it’s magazine quality now), and I had yet to really find a voice as a blogger.

After that first year we bought a condo, which was a great place to focus my energy and creativity.  It’s grown so much, and for the time being I am truly happy with the decor, so I don’t need to focus as much time into that.  I am a person who craves projects (although I don’t always finish them quickly, take my quilt I have been working on for close to 2 years, the good news is that it is so close to being finished!), because I like having things to do.  Just ask Brad, I’m not one to sit around doing nothing for days on end (unless it’s a vacation from work, then I definitely can sit around and do nothing but read).

Right now school will be the focus of my energy.  Working full time and going to grad school part time at night is definitely going to be a challenge, but a welcome one at that.  I am hoping that when I am done I will be able to have the skills to someday down the road run some sort of community arts organization, a true collaboration of my artist within and my desire to work for the arts in a different way than being a traditional artist.

So for now I am going on a bit of a blog hiatus.  I will still continue to read my favorite blogs and keep up with what is going on in the blogging world (as well as the world of the home cook/foodie), but I think I will not be spending as much of my time hunting for new recipes to try and share with the world.

I wasn’t sure what would come of this project, and it made me break out of my regular cooking shell and try new things.  Some were successful, others were complete failures (and not necessarily shared with my readers).  I wasn’t sure if anyone would actually read my blog besides my mom and friends, but people did.  And they commented, which I also really appreciated.  So here’s to seeing where the road takes me, and who knows, maybe we will meet again sometime in the future!

P.S. I just discovered that I never posted the recipe for s’mores cupcakes, so I am going to share them below.  They are easy, awesome, and a total crowd-pleaser, so make them, immediately.

S’mores Cupcakes

Source: Macaroni and Cheesecake

3/4 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup low fat buttermilk
3 tablespoons canola oil or applesauce
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with foil liners or squares of foil for the rustic look; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla, and beat until smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to assure batter is well mixed.

Spoon batter out evenly among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full. Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Marshmallow Fluff Frosting

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
16 oz. tub of marshmallow cream (or fluff, if you are from New England)

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on high until light and fluffy. Add the confectioner’s sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, and beat until fluffy each time

Beat in the vanilla until incorporated. Add the marshmallow fluff and beat until creamy.

Pipe the frosting on the cooled cupcakes using a large ziploc bag with the end snipped off (a la Sandra Lee).  Top the piped frosting with crushed graham crackers and an individual piece of hershey’s chocolate.

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This past week was filled with holiday parties, and naturally, desserts galore.  On Thursday my office had our annual potluck, and I offered to bring a dessert.  I made the mistake of asking what people preferred at our weekly staff meeting, and was met with a random assortment.  The final decision was red velvet cupcakes, and one idea had been to tint the frosting green, but many thought that might go a bit too far.  Mind you, that was NOT my idea.  There’s already enough food coloring in the cupcakes to…turn your insides red?

Anyone who knows me knows that I happen to take my red velvet very seriously.  I make either cupcakes or cake for special occasions (and yes, they are different recipes), had the cupcakes at my wedding shower, had the cupcakes at my wedding, made a red velvet cake for a bff’s birthday, made a cake for a coworker’s wedding shower…the list goes on and on.

I think they are perfectly festive, with the bright red cake and the white cream cheese icing.  I naturally took it one step further and adorned them with holiday sprinkles.  I played with piping the frosting, but I think it was a bit too stiff and didn’t take well to that.  So I stuck with my regular “rustic/handmade” look.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

adapted from Epicurious.com

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 ounces water
1 ounce red food coloring (they sell one ounce bottles, conveniently)
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare cupcake tins as directed as directed in the recipe you are following.

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add eggs and blend well.  Add cocoa and food coloring to butter and egg mixture, and blend well.

Sift flour and salt together into this mixture.  One at a time, add the following ingredients: buttermilk, vanilla, and water.

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and baking soda. Fold it into the cake batter. Make sure it’s incorporated, but don’t beat it.

Pour the batter into the cupcake tins. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cake springs back when touched.  Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes, then turn the cupcakes out of the tins and onto a rack to finish cooling completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting

2 8 oz. blocks of cream cheese, room temperature
2 sticks butter, room temperature
4 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

On high, mix cream cheese and butter together until blended.  Add in confectioner’s sugar, one cup at a time.  Once all sugar is incorporated, mix on high for 3-5 minutes, until smooth.  Add in vanilla until blended.

Put icing in fridge until the frosting gets stiff enough to easily spread.

My fabulous friend Kelley, of My Achy Bakey Heart, recently celebrated her  24th birthday.  I keep her around to both make myself feel young, and also old, since I just celebrated my 27th birthday last month.

Anyway, Kelley and I share a love of books, as we met via book club.  We also share a love of certain vampires (yes, I read the Twilight series, but I love the Sookie Stackhouse books much, much more), and we will often get together to watch True Blood.  For a while I had to use her for her HBO, until I moved and we got it when we re-signed up for cable.

A week or so ago I bribed her to come watch with me, offering dinner and baked goods.  I decided to make these cupcakes, as I wanted to make something new.  I happen to own Amy Sedaris’ entertaining book I like you : Hospitality under the influence AND I happened to get it for Kelley for her birthday.  I had never actually made anything from it, and I figured that why not start now.

For those of you who haven’t read this book, or even looked through it, you should.  It’s got some amazing photos and ideas, and it’s very much out of the 70’s.  I also happen to be a big fan of strangers with candy, as well as her brother’s memoirs, so of course I wanted it as soon as I saw it.  You will too, if you seek it out.

Now, onto the recipe.

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups milk
Amy Sedaris’s Vanilla Buttercream Frosting I had leftover frosting in a can, so I cheated, but used lots of food coloring for fun

Now for her fabulous instructions: Turn oven on to 375 degrees F.

Put butter in mixer and beat at medium speed until somewhat smooth. Pour in sugar and beat well. Add 2 eggs. I like to crack the eggs on the side of the bowl while it is moving, which can be really stupid. I like to take chances. Yes, I have had to throw away my batter because I lost eggshells in the mix. Yes, it was a waste of food and yes, I know how expensive butter is, but what can I say? I’m a daredevil. Mix well. Add: vanilla, baking powder, salt, flour, and milk. Beat until it looks like it is supposed to and pour into individual baking cups, until they are about 2/3 full. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Should produce 24 cupcakes; I get 18 because I’m doing something wrong, although my cupcakes were voted second best in the city by New York Magazine.

Frost with Amy Sedaris’s Vanilla Buttercream Frosting.

It’s hard to believe that just one year ago I posted my first recipe here on picky eatings.  I haven’t made millions yet (not that I’m holding my breath on that one), but I have gotten better at taking photos of my food, I’ve discovered some amazing blogs, met some great people, and challenged myself with new recipes.

In honor of my blogiversary, I thought I would make something totally over the top.  Which I did.  Earlier this year I found the book Hello Cupcake at Costco (have I explained my love affair with that place?  If not, don’t ever bring it up, or I will talk your ear off), but never made anything out of it.  Normally I am into trying new flavors, but this book is all about regular cupcakes that are decorated adorably.  And I feel like I somewhat accomplished that.

This project started as any other I take on, I was excited, enthusiastic, and ready to work!  And by the end…well, you can probably tell that I did the bottoms first, and by the time I had found the missing candy pieces (and even had to make some substitutions, where is a good old fashioned candy store in a tourist locale when you need it?), I was ready to make dinner and be done with the cats.

The frosting wasn’t quite cooperating by the time I did the heads, which is too bad, because in the book they are quite a bit more adorable than what I got.  But at the same time, this was my first try with really creative decorative frosting.  Sure, I’ve done my fair share of cakes with fondant and scripty writing on them, and the occasional decorative frosting item here and there, but this one was quite a bit more labor intensive than anything else I have made in a while.  A long while.

And my husband kept telling me what he has always been telling me, since my freshman year of college when we first met, that you are never going to get it perfect on the first try, and you don’t learn unless you make mistakes.  Which I still never like to hear, as I WANT to be perfect on the first try, darn it!

Regardless I still think these are pretty darn cute, and it was a good solid effort on my part.  And now I know that certain kinds of candy are crazy difficult to find.  Ever think that Runts are easy to find?  Sure, they might be in the machine at the grocery store, but if you need 12 pink hearts you better bring a roll of quarters and hope you can get them, because you won’t find them in a box on any shelf, as far as I could see.

In short, it’s been a great year, I have another blog I am hoping to get going soon (focused a bit more on life, decorating, making the transition from walls and 8-9 foot ceilings to no walls and 14 foot ceilings and no more squeaky floors), so keep an eye out for that.  I hope for many more years of cooking and blogging about it, there are so many more recipes out there that I want to try!  I have a fabulous Indian dish I made last night (after the cupcakes were finished, we ate at about 9pm) that I will be posting soon, and if there is anything you want to see on here (my 2 regular readers, not including my mom, so 3 then), email me!  I am always looking for delicious new things to try!

If you want the instructions on the cat cupcakes, email me and I will send them to you, as they are long and somewhat complicated to type out.  On a Monday morning.

And of course, it couldn’t be a post about cat cupcakes without photos of my adorable cats…who are adjusting quite well to our new digs.

I made these cupcakes for my boss’ last day, which happened to be a few weeks ago.  She happens to live in Providence, and we work in Boston, so her daily train commute was close to 3 hours, on a good day.  We were all very sad to see her go, but were also understanding of why she left.  She also happened to be one of the best bosses I have ever had (especially since she came after one of the very worst, so that was a breath of fresh air), and she will be very missed.  The office is in a bit of a tizzy, what with hiring freezes and budget cuts, but as Tim Gunn would say, “make it work.”  And that is exactly what we are doing.

Anyway, on to the cupcakes.  I made these, well because I always bake when people leave, or come in, or have a birthday.  In the office they like to think of me as the in house Betty Crocker.  Because if it’s baked, chances are I made it.  Although my colleague Lauren is working on it (and her birthday is coming up, and I need to figure out what to make for it).

Gingerbread I kind of chose from out of thin air, it’s winter (and a darn cold one at that), and gingerbread is one of those wintry foods.  It’s not just for Christmas, people.  I also happen to love cream cheese frosting with a passion,  so anything I get to frost with it is a bonus.  I found this recipe on allrecipes, and doubled it.  I did a different frosting as well.  The recipe probably would have made well over 2 dozen cupcakes, but I filled mine really a bit too high, so I got 24.

Gingerbread cupcakes

1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup unsulfured molasses
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder (I used what I had in the cabinet, which is not Dutch process)
2-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup hot milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter or line with paper liners muffin tins.

Cream butter with the white sugar. Add the molasses and the eggs and egg yolks. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and salt. Dissolve the baking soda in the hot milk (use a larger bowl/measuring cup than you think necessary, this bubbles up a lot).

Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and stir until just combined. Stir in the hot milk mixture.

Pour the batter evenly into the prepared tins.  I poured at least 3/4 full, you might want to do more like 2/3 full.

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 20 minutes or until slightly springy to the touch. Allow to cool a few minutes in the pan and remove to a rack to cool.

For the frosting I did a very simple cream cheese frosting.  I combined 1 stick of unsalted butter, 1 8 oz. package of cream cheese and mixed them together.  I added in a splash of vanilla and then slowly added in about 3-4 cups of sifted powdered sugar.  It made barely enough frosting, so I might add more butter next time.  It was still quite delicious!


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