Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Photography!

A few months back I invested in a new camera - my first ever digital SLR. I ended up going with a Nikon D3000 because it was what I could afford and what I could find on Ebay. So far I love it!!! I've been having so much fun playing with it, and learning how it works! Since all my baking stuff is packed in boxes (I'm moving this weekend!!!), I figured I could post a few of my favorite pictures I've taken so far ....

This is one of the first photos I took with my camera .... my baby girl Mercedes:
She's so cute I can't stop taking pictures of her!I also love taking pictures of flowers ....Recently we took a day and went to Como Zoo. These are some of my favorite photos! I also finally invested in Photoshop Elements 8. (Okay, my husband actually bought it for me because he's so nice and knows I would never buy it for myself. I can always find a "better" way to spend the money!) Photoshop definitely helps me take my photos to the next level, but I still have a lot to learn! These zoo photos went from nice photos to frame worth in my feeble opinion.

I'm planning on framing these butterfly photos for my office.
Lastly is this cute monkey photo. I had to include him - he's too cute not to!
I hope to post more photography photos as I keep using my camera. I'm still learning so am always open to tips and tricks for photography and Photoshop; feel free to share your knowledge!

Next up will be another food post. It'll have to wait until after the move since my computer with my Photoshop software is also packed in a box, but I hope you enjoyed this post!

Monday, July 5, 2010

July 4th Cupcakes

Fourth of July came and went, and I never posted pictures of my red, white and blue cupcakes. Here they are one day late ...

I just made a white cake, divided the batter into three bowls and dyed one red, one blue and kept the last one white with gel food coloring. I put a teaspoon of each color into the cupcake liners starting with the blue, then white and finally the red. After baking and cooling the cupcakes I took off the liners so everyone could see how fun they looked!

I topped the cupcakes with a buttercream icing. I used the Magnolia Bakery Buttercream recipe and added 1/2 a teaspoon
of raspberry extract to give it a slight raspberry flavor. Finally I decorated with sprinkles, and topped with cupcake toppers I made from downloading free toppers from Tweedle Dee Designs. So cute!!!



I really liked the buttercream. It's not too sweet, but I didn't use the whole amount of sugar called for in the recipe. There's many buttercreams I've tried that I haven't been fond of, but this one I'll probably use again. It's super simple, and tastes good. Here's the link to the yummy buttercream recipe: http://www.kitchenlink.com/cookbooks/2005/0743246616_4.html


Here's the link to the cupcake toppers: http://tweedleddesigns.blogspot.com/2010/05/free-printables-4th-of-july-party.html
(I realize you probably won't want these exact ones since it's after the 4th, but maybe they'll make new ones for next holiday! They have so many ideas I wish I would've found the site sooner so I could have made more fun things for the party.)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Root Beer Cupcake Bites

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a recipe for root beer cupcakes on the Smitten Kitchen blog. I love me some root beer. In fact, it is the only soda I drink. Root beer combined with a chocolate cupcake would have to be perfection. There was no going wrong with that combination.

However, because my in-laws were coming home and I'm planning on making cupcakes the next weekend for the 4th of July, I wanted to do some
thing different and a little more impressive. I decided to use the cupcake batter recipe, but instead make cupcake bites. Yum! I had picked up the peanut butter cup candy mold about a month ago so I could effectively make them without a cookie cutter, and I had all the candy melts and sprinkles. It sounded like a great idea!

I went ahead and made the whole cake recipe, and baked it in a 9x13 pan. The batter turned out pretty good, but at first I thought I was a little disappointed in the root beer flavor, but I went ahead with the plan. Even after tasting the final baked cake, I was still disappointed in the lack of root beer flavor. Next time I make the cake I'll use regular cocoa powder rather than dark chocolate. I think that would help. I felt the dark chocolate was too overpowering for the root beer.

I let the cake cool, then crumbled it up in a big bowl, mix
ed it with Whipped Cream frosting (yes, I cheated here; I used a can of frosting!), then rolled the mixture into small balls. I was amazed that I made almost 100 of these! How are we going to eat all of these?? (Just as a side note, the cupcake bites are getting close to being gone. My husband is going to a party tomorrow and will take a good part of what's left with him so no worries, we found a place for all the cupcake bites!)

After letting the cake balls set in the freezer for about 20 minutes, I started melting the chocolate candy melts for the bottoms. Here is what took forever. Somehow, when I was picking up the candy mold, I only thought to buy one. However, one only makes 11 bottoms at a time so when you have almost 100 cake balls, this starts to take foreve
r! I had to fill the molds, set the rolled cake balls on top, stick them in the freezer for 10 minutes to set, then pop them out and start all over for the next 11. This process went on and on!



Hours later, after all the cake balls had cup
cake bottoms, I started to dip them in the white candy melts. I decided to do only white thinking it looked a little bit like ice cream, then topped it with a red M&M to represent a cherry and chocolate sprinkles. I wanted them to look like root beer floats! So cute!!!



Finally, after all the tops were dipped and decorated, I got to try one. The verdict? These cupcake bites taste yummy! I think they look like root beer float cupcakes, and they taste like how I would envision chocolate root beer tasting. Yum, yum, yum!
Plus, aren't they so pretty???!



Here's a link to Bakerella for more specific (and better!) directions on how to make cupcake bites: http://www.bakerella.com/cupcake-bites-made-easy/


I used the root beer cupcake recipe from Smitten Kitchen. The changes I made include not making cupcakes (obviously!) and baking the batter in a 9x13 pan. Also, I added 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract. I used 1 1/2 cups root beer and 1/2 cup root beer schnapps. Here's the link: http://smittenkitchen.com/2010/06/root-beer-float-cupcakes/