Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wordless{ish} Wednesday

I've seen so many people take an avocado seed and start growing it in a cup, but I've never actually seen anyone grow a tree itself!  We may not get to that point either, but I have been wanting to try this since, well, lets just say "years"!  Dustin is pretty excited about it, too!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

St. Patrick's Day!

This past weekend we decked ourselves in green and celebrated St. Patrick's Day. Del's parents invited family and friends out for a feast, and we wanted to contribute. What better way than to add our own little family's "traditional" St. Patty's Day feast of corned beef, cabbage, red potatoes, and (what else) cupcakes?!

All of the food everyone made was so yummy! Now, if you know me, you know I L-O-V-E love to bake! And I love to experiment with my baking, so I was very excited for this holiday because I was finally able to try something new! Cupcakes! They are my weakness. I love to make them, I love to eat them. I've tried making cake from scratch before, and it turned out almost disastrously. Needless to say, I was worried this time. However, they turned out better than I expected! My mom loved them and wanted more so she could take them to work and share them with others. I guess everyone else has been enjoying them because she says people keep asking her for the recipe. So here it is:

*Side note: I found each part of this recipe from three different sites (Nook and Pantry, Serious Eats, and Confessions of a Tart).  However, they each seem to have gotten their recipes from one site, Smitten Kitchen. I took all of their recipes, and "modified" them a little to do more of what I was hoping to accomplish.  The recipe below is with measurements, I used a little more of a "to taste" method when making mine.*

1 cup Guinness Stout
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream


         Filling:                                                           Frosting:    
            8oz bar milk chocolate                                                            1, 8oz bar of cream cheese, softened                                
            1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder                                 1, 4oz stick of unsalted butter, softened
            1-2 tablespoons butter, room temp.                                        3 cups confectioner's sugar                                                      
            1-2 teaspoons Irish Whiskey                                                     4-6 tablespoons Bailey's Irish Cream

For the cupcakes, of course you start out by pre-heating the oven to 350 degrees.
Then the first step is to bring the stout and butter to a simmer over medium heat, then add the cocoa powder and whisk until it's smooth.  Once it's smooth, take it off the heat and let it sit.
While your chocolate stout mix is cooling, make the dry mix.  In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.  Whisk together and set aside.
Next, get out your electric mixer (or hand mixer) and beat together the egg and sour cream until blended.  Slowly add your chocolate stout mix and mix just until blended together.  Then begin adding your dry mix.  I added mine about one cup at a time, letting it mix in completely before adding more.
Once everything is put together, you can line your cupcake pan, and fill each hole!  I filled mine up about a quarter of an inch from the top of the liner.
The original recipe says to bake them for about 17 minutes, but mine took more like 25.  So I would suggest baking for about 17-20 minutes and then continuously checking on them until they are done (I use the toothpick trick to tell!).
Let them cool completely (I stick mine in the fridge for a few minutes) before doing ANY coring or frosting.

The filling, in my opinion, is super easy to make!  And especially tasty!
Start off by coarsely chopping up an 8oz chocolate bar.  I only had a 16oz chocolate bar, so I had to weigh mine out. Put the chocolate in a "heat safe" bowl.
Next, you bring the heavy cream to a simmer, add the cocoa powder and whisk until mixed together and smooth.  (The original recipe calls for bittersweet, but I didn't have any of that, and wanted to use up what I had left in my "stockpile" so I felt this made a good substitute.)
When heated, pour chocolate heavy cream over the chopped chocolate.  Let it sit for about a minute, then stir until it is smooth.
Add the butter, and stir until mixed together.
Add your Irish whiskey, and stir until mixed together.
Let it sit (I put it in the fridge for a while) until cooled and able to be piped (or just cooled enough to where it won't soak in with the cupcake!).

Fill the cupcakes:
First, make sure the filling is cooled (thick, but still soft enough to be piped, if that's the technique you want to use).
To fill the cupcakes, you can either pipe the ganache in, or just spoon it in.  I did it both ways for both batches.
I L-O-V-E my new cupcake corer!  It makes things soooo much easier!  So, once the cupcakes are cooled, you just set it on top, and twist and turn it down, then pull up, and that's that!  You have a cored cupcake!
When all of your cupcakes are cored, you can then fill (either pipe, or scoop) with the ganache.

I used a hand mixer for this, and afterwards felt like my wrist and hand were going to fall off!  So if you have a stand mixer, I highly suggest using that instead!
Begin by mixing together the cream cheese and butter.  Then start adding the confectioner's sugar, about a 1/2 cup at a time.  Beat until light and fluffy.  Then start adding the Bailey's, more or less depending on how much you want to actually taste it.  Mix until completely incorporated into the frosting.

{the final product}

And that's it!  They really aren't that hard to make, and are definitely fun!

Thursday, March 8, 2012


*Note: This is most definitely going to be a venting blog. I just needed somewhere to get this out, and it seems no one is willing to hear the truth. Hopefully someone will get on here, see this, and realize that something needs to be done.*

Babies. Pregnancy. In my opinion, there is maybe only one other moment in life that even comes close to comparing to bringing a new human being into this world (the day you marry your best friend). However, if you are 18 and not in a committed relationship, getting pregnant can really change things for you. I know. Trust me. So naturally, it really bothers me when an 18-year-old girl is pregnant and treating it like she's getting a new car! This is a baby! A human being! Not a prize. Not a trophy. Not something that you can give away, trade, donate, or just set on a shelf or in a drawer when you are done with it and don't want it anymore.

I know of a girl who is in this situation right now. She's 18, still in high school, and not in a committed relationship. However, I am constantly given the impression that she is thinking that having a baby is: easy, cheap, and only temporary. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, the bad guy, but she needs to realize that's not the case. Unfortunately, no one is willing to sit her down and tell her that.

She is constantly going back and forth with the father of the baby. He wants to be involved, he doesn't want to be involved. She wants to be with him, she doesn't want to be with him. That right there needs to stop. Now. If he wants to be with her and be a part of the baby's life, then he will be. Forcing him into it isn't going to do any good. He has to WANT to be. She doesn't listen to me.

She blacks out in a beauty supply store. One, being around chemicals isn't good for a pregnant woman. I had to restrain myself from getting my hair colored because I was told I couldn't be around the "fumes". She is taken to the ER where they tell her she blacked out because she hadn't eaten or drank enough that day. Really? RULE #1: EAT AND DRINK, HEALTHY! Is it really that hard to keep a water bottle with you? Is it seriously impossible to keep some sort of snack bar, or bag of trail mix, or granola or something in your car or your purse? You work at a fast food restaurant! I know it's not the healthiest, but can't you take a break and eat something there? What about while you are at school? They don't serve you food? You can't have a granola bar in between classes? If you're afraid of gaining weight, forget about that now. You are going gain weight when having a baby! I was told that (for my weight and height and age) I was supposed to gain 25-35 pounds. I gained 30. With some exercising (which is possible with a baby) I lost it. All of it.

The final straw was when she made a comment about having "life-changing decisions to make". I replied, and she told me to text her about it. So I did. Her response was one of not being ready to tell family (yes, she is a relative) because she doesn't want a lecture. Really? You know, sometimes real good comes from those lectures. When I pointed out (yes, I did it nicely) that she had told me to text her, her response was, "I forgot lol". ugh.

This young lady really needs to open her eyes. A baby is a serious thing. Not to be taken lightly. You can still enjoy having a baby. You can have fun, be happy, be excited. But you also need to be aware that it isn't easy. It is expensive. It is life-changing in itself. And it is not temporary. Even when your little one goes off to college, gets married, has children of his/her own. You still worry, you still care, you still try to take care of them. Just ask your own parents.

It just really bothers me, how lightly she is taking this situation. Her dreams are put on hold now, indefinitely. She has to support more than just herself now. She isn't reading up, or studying anything about pregnancy. She is focusing more on baby names and trying to have a relationship with the father than she is making sure she is doing everything right for her baby.

She is due in September, so hopefully she learns, realizes, and accepts these facts. Hopefully she also knows that I, along with the rest of her family, are all here for her. To help her, but not do everything for her.

I think I've said {more} than enough. I don't want to make any ripples in the water, or start any arguments, or any debates on here. I just needed to get this out. Like I said, I think people are in denial and someone needs to show her that, yes, she can still have fun and be excited, but this is still a serious matter.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Seeing Hearts

I was feeling pretty icky last night {still not quite sure why} so I decided some chicken noodle soup was the best route for dinner.  I kept finding pieces of veggies that looked like hearts!  Definitely made me smile a little! :)

{Pardon the phone pic!}


Friday, March 2, 2012

Friday Favorites: Starting With Us

Do you dream of being the next American Idol?!  Do you sing show-tunes in the shower?  Belt out the lyrics to every song on the car radio? {guilty!} Admittedly, I l-o-v-e LOVE to sing, but can't carry a tune whatsoever! {eek! gasp! horror!}  I am so glad that the same does not hold true for my cousin, Randy!  This amazing young man has taken up the wonderful talent of writing and singing his own songs.  Yup!  My family and I were given a pleasant surprise when he posted a link to his first written and produced song on Facebook.  My mom was the first to show it to me, and in turn I have been given the thumbs up to share it with all of you!

And get this!... If you love his song as much as I do, {in fact, I'm positive you will!} you can download it and save it to your iPod, Zune, computer, or whatever for just $1!  Then listen to it over, and over, and over, and... well, you get the idea!

SO...... click here and start listening!  And feel free to let Randy know how much you love it by leaving a comment here!