Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Still here....just in a different here.

I've been MIA for a few weeks now because of a major life change for our family.

As many of you know, we've lived in eastern Virginia for the past 9 years (almost) and because we moved there for Grant's new job, we had no family nearby.  Throughout the years, we tried multiple times to move back closer to family, but the doors kept getting shut and we felt like we were in Virginia for good.  
We settled ourselves in for the long haul and just decided to grow where we were planted.

This year, however, the desire to move became stronger than ever and became a goal for us.  

After months of us praying, wondering, and waiting, God answered our prayers and provided a job for Grant at the Walmart home office in Northwest Arkansas, which is where I'm from and my parents and two of my siblings still live.  

Because we didn't want to run "split" operations, Grant in Arkansas and me and the kids in Virginia trying out sell our house, we decided to move all of us to my parents' home until we find a home to buy.   
We were faced with the task of packing up most of our house - a rather remarkable amount of stuff going with us, and lots more stuff just packed up in boxes in the garage to make the house "show ready".  

Oh, and we can't forget all the cleaning......and the efforts to spend time with our dear friends before we left.  
It was a complete whirlwind of activity, little sleep, excitement, and stress.  And we can't forget the tears.  

It was so difficult to say goodbye to our best friends who have walked through life with us and shared in the ups and downs of pregnancies, child-raising, homeschooling, church, sports, and everything else you can imagine.  We have been so incredibly blessed with wonderful people surrounding us - and we don't take that for granted.  

So we made our 3 day journey on Thanksgiving weekend - a real adventure complete with a child vomiting all over the floor and seat the first evening.....our credit card being rejected multiple times because they were suspecting fraudulent activity (never mind that we had already informed them that we were on a trip and would be making lots of charges), and arriving at a hotel past midnight and exhausted beyond description to discover that the room was much smaller than expected and wouldn't accommodate our family.  Fun times.  :)  
On the up side, the weather was great, the traffic couldn't have been better, and the kids and dog did very well.  

We're trying to settle in, get some homeschooling done, and look for a home right now.  So that's about it....
I'll be posting more recipes soon and will definitely be trying out some new ideas on family for the holidays!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Snickerdoodle Blondies - SRC

I am really loving the Secret Recipe Club.  This month was especially fun because I was assigned to a fellow baker's blog - the Secrets from the Cookie Princess.  Colleen is a gal after my own heart for sure - she loves baking for friends, family, co-workers, and her husband and has a great variety of 
amazing goodies and treats.....and several savory options as well.  

I was tempted to try all sorts of delicacies - like Brown Sugar Cinnamon Biscotti, Pecan Pie Cookies (wouldn't those be great for Thanksgiving???) and Mint Fudge Swirls (a beautiful cookie for Christmas), but since we were having an early "Thanksgiving" dinner with some friends in a couple of days and I was responsible for dessert, these bars jumped out at me.

I was not disappointed. The lightly spiced snickerdoodle cookie is a perfect base for the pumpkin layer - which is flavored like pumpkin pie, but with some flour added in, it's a bit thicker and sturdier than pie. The cinnamon and sugar on top add just the right amount of extra sweetness and spice, and of course, I couldn't resist adding some whipped cream on top, 'cause you can't have pumpkin desserts without whipped cream.  

These bars were popular with our guests and I was more than happy to have a few left over for munching the next day.  Grant wasn't the biggest fan, because he prefers pumpkin in cheesecake - but the kids and I loved them.  

You can store them at room temperature, unless you've already piped the whipped cream on top, in which case, keep them in the fridge.  They taste great either way.

Pumpkin Pie Snickerdoodle Blondies (from Secrets from the Cookie Princess)

Snickerdoodle Layer:
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1-1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Pumpkin Pie Layer:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 (15 oz) can pure pumpkin puree
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

2 Tbs. sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon

Optional - but highly recommended
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 Tbs. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°.

Snickerdoodle Layer:
Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, beat butter and brown sugar until fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.
Gradually add the flour mixture and mix until well blended.  The batter with be thick. 

Lightly grease a 13 x 9" pan and lay a piece of parchment paper across the pan, leaving overhang on the edges.  This will make it easier to get the bars out of the pan later.
Spread the snickerdoodle batter into the lined pan and press into an even layer.  Use your fingers  - it's a bit sticky and the paper may slide about, but try to get it even.

Bake for 4 minutes.

Pumpkin Pie layer:
Use the same bowl from the snickerdoodle batter.  Mix the butter and sugar together until fluffy, then add pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla and mix until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.  Add flour, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice and mix to combine.
Pour the pumpkin mixture over the slightly baked snickerdoodle batter and smooth the layer over the top.
In a small bowl, mix topping ingredients (sugar and cinnamon) and sprinkle evenly over the pumpkin pie layer.

Bake for 37-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan comes out clean.  
Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for about an hour.  Bars may deflate slightly and the top layer will have a pie-like texture.  The edges will be more firm.

After bars have cooled completely, gently lift the bars out of the pan using the parchment as a sling.  Cut into squares.  Store in an airtight container.

Before serving:

Whipped Cream (optional):
In a chilled mixing bowl, beat cream on medium/high speed for 30 seconds.  Add powdered sugar and vanilla extract and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. 
Put into a large pastry bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe whipped cream on each square. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Fauxstess Cupcakes

Whew.  The election is over.  Can't say that I'm happy about the results.....state or national.....but at least I was able to take my kids with me to the polls and exercise my duty to vote. You can only imagine the spectacle we made, me with my gaggle of children, complete with an umbrella stroller holding the baby, maneuvering our way down the length the crowded hallway in the local high school to find our place at the end of the line.  Oh, and there was only a handful of Caucasians in the mix, so we attracted even more attention.  I got some *interesting* looks.  Thankfully, we only had to wait in line for 30 minutes, which is pretty good compared to a lot of people.  
The one upside.....I am more than happy that my phone will finally stop ringing with political calls.  I guess because Virginia was a serious swing state this election, we were completely inundated with calls for at least a month.  (I know, I know....ditch the landline already. We will soon.)  So that's over.  

So what do you do when you're down in the dumps or unhappy?  Do you do the smart thing and go exercise or vigorously clean your house?  Or are you like me and sit down and stuff your face with chocolate? 

My family didn't eat a lot of prepackaged things when I was young, although I do fondly remember the Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls making an appearance occasionally.  Did you know those are really good frozen? Try them sometime.  The filling almost tastes like ice cream.  Anyways.  I don't know if I have ever eaten a real Hostess cupcake, but I can say without a shadow of a doubt that these are better.  

I mean, it's chocolate cake, with marshmallow buttercream hiding in the middle, and ganache.  And we can't forget the whimsical swirl on top - because cute food automatically tastes better. No contest with that package.  

I got the recipe from Annie's Eats - and made them for Annika to take to her Wed. night church class several weeks ago.  While they were a huge hit and everyone loved them, Grant commented that he didn't particularly like the cake part. I thought it was good.....but not my favorite. 

So when it came around for Marissa to take snack to her class a few weeks later, I decided to make them again and use a different cake recipe. We both liked them even better.  Of course, Annie has tons of positive reviews on her cupcakes, so maybe we're just the odd ones.....either way, you can't go wrong.  They're scrumptious. 

Wish I had some around to munch on today.  Guess I'll have to settle for chocolate covered peanuts. 

Fauxstess Cupcakes (cake from Food Network, filling and ganache from Annie's Eats)

2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
12 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups plus 2 Tbs. sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1-1/4 cups water
1/4 cup milk

Filling and frosting swirl:
1 container marshmallow fluff
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
Pinch salt
1/2 tsp. cream or milk

Chocolate Glaze:
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350°.  

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.  Increase the speed to medium-high and slowly add the sugar.  Continue beating until light and smooth, about 4 minutes.  Turn the mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Sift the cocoa powder into the bowl and add vanilla.  Beat on medium speed for 1 minute bowl.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute between additions. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. 

Combine the water and milk in a saucepan and bring just to a boil.  Remove from the heat.  With the mixer at low speed, add the flour mixture, about 1/4 cup at a time.  Carefully pour the hot liquid into the batter.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a large rubber spatula to finish combining the batter until smooth.

Fill paper-lined cupcake pans 1/2 full with the batter. I ended up with around 30 cupcakes.  Do NOT overfill.  I nearly always do that and I always regret it.  

Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cupcakes comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pan for a couple of minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the filling, combine the marshmallow fluff and butter in a mixing bowl and beat on medium-high speed until smooth.  Blend in the powdered sugar and salt and whip until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes more.  Transfer the majority of the filling mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a medium round tip, reserving 1/3 cup in the mixing bowl.  Blend in the cream to the reserved filling mixture to make it smooth for piping the swirl on top of the cupcakes.  Transfer this to another pastry bag fitted with a small round tip (Wilton #3 works well). Chill until ready to use.

Fill the cupcakes by inserting the pastry tip directly into the center of each cupcake and squeezing in a dollop of the filling. If excess filling comes out of the top, just scrape it off with a knife so the top of the cupcake is essentially smooth. If you overfill too much, the top of the cupcake will crack, so be cautious about that.  

Make the chocolate glaze by placing the chopped chocolate in a small bowl.  Bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan or the microwave.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let stand 1-2 minutes.  Whisk together until a smooth ganache forms.  Let cool briefly, about 5 minutes.  Take the cupcakes one at a time and invert them, dipping the top into the chocolate glaze.  Transfer them to a wire rack or baking sheet and let the glaze set.  (You can speed up this process by chilling in the refrigerator.)  Once the glaze is set, use the reserved portion of marshmallow frosting to pipe a uniform swirl across the top of each cupcake.  Store in an airtight container until ready to serve. 

Yum.  The filling is my favorite.  

It tasted so good.....better take another bite.

Can't just leave a chunk of cupcake there....oh, the hazards of cupcake baking.  

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Little Pet Peeve......

Now, I know I'm not the skinniest gal on the street......

but I'm not exactly huge.  

Miranda and me - September 29, 2012

I'm 5'8-1/2" tall, and I usually wear size 6 or 8, depending on the brand. 
Losing baby weight isn't easy, especially when you know I love to bake like crazy.....and I love to eat what I bake.  That being said, I am still breastfeeding, I practice moderation and
I exercise 4-5 times per week, either running 2-3 miles or doing P90X videos (usually just part, because I'm a homeschooling mom of 5 kids - hour long workouts are hard to come by).

So why is it that when I browsed through a JCPenny ad from the paper, 
the Plus Size model was significantly skinnier than me?????

Something is seriously wrong with this picture. 

Where are the real women in the ads?  

Grant and me - Sept. 29, 2012

Photos by our friend....Kristina Johnson
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...