Friday, June 17, 2011

Random Friday Thoughts

Today has been a tiring day. I just feel drained. So, in lieu of a baking post, here are some of my few favorite shots from my phone camera over this last week:

Pink and white carnations ... I love them all bunched together in a simple glass.

My tomato plant is actually growing tomatoes! I picked up a patio tomato plant on the spur of the moment while flower shopping to help feed my love of tomatoes and it might actually produce some. Hopefully it will be a success story!

My new hat. Fedoras are so "in" right now that I didn't want to succumb to the trend. However, I loved this hat on me and caved into trying to be cool! I picked it up at J. Crew. I deemed it as a necessity purchase since I have to protect my pretty new hair color from the sun!

And that brings me to my last picture. I dyed my hair red!! I've been light blonde forever, but decided I needed a change. So red it is!! I love it. I feel as if I am meant to be a redhead. However, I'm afraid of the upkeep and am so afraid it's going to fade to orange. It is already starting to fade, but the salon I got it done at will redo it for me since it's only been a week and a half free of charge. Thank goodness because I don't want to go back to blonde; I love, love, love the red!

I hope everyone has a fabulous weekend! Until next time~

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Marshmallow Chocolate Cookies

I love cookies. They are one of my favorite things to bake, and one of my favorite sweets to snack on. I love them more than I love reality TV. And that's saying a lot since I'm pretty sure most of my shows on our DVR are a mixture of reality TV - Real Housewives, the Kardashians, Tori Spelling, and on and on. But given an ultimatum, I would choose cookies over reality TV.

The best part of cookies is finding new recipes. Moving away from the choices that I grew up with - chocolate chip, M&M, sugar cookies - and finding new tastes. Most of which are still at the core the same cookies I grew up with, but with more ingredients!

These cookies are based on a recipe I saw on Tasty Kitchen. The recipe is for Campfire Cookies (s'more cookies). I thought they looked good. However, I only like graham crackers in certain things - real s'mores, as a pie crush or with frosting smushed in the middle of two crackers. I am not a huge fan of crushed up graham crackers in my cookies. So, I redid these for my own tastes. I came up with a chocolate cookie with marshmallow creme, semi-sweet chocolate chips and white chocolate chips.

The result? Delicious cookies!! I wish I would have used more marshmallow creme though. You can barely taste it in some of the cookies. (Did you know I eat marshmallow creme by the spoonful? I love this stuff! I don't eat regular, plain marshmallows though. But the creme is the best!!) Another way I think I could get the marshmallow to stand out more is not mix it so well into the batter. Put that in last and kind of cut it in rather than stirring. But, for the first time making these, I am happy with them!!

Check out the original recipe here.
My changes: no graham cracker, I used over half a container of marshmallow creme and used both semi-sweet and white chocolate chips. I also suggest creaming the butter and sugar, then adding in the eggs and vanilla beating well before adding the flour/ cocoa mixture.

Just to warn you, these cookies stay very moist. We've had some rather warm weather here in Minnesota the last few days and the cookies are all sticking together. If you're going to bring them to a picnic or something I would suggest keeping them in the fridge prior to help with the sticking issue. They still taste good though even when they fall apart!

Enjoy! Until next time~

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Photography: My Baby

I snapped this photo of Mercedes a couple of weeks ago just after she had gone to the groomer. She was laying up in the window "seat" (aka a bench I had and put a blanket on top of then placed it in the bay windows) enjoying the sunshine. This has since become one of my favorite photos of her. I love her expression and the way the sun is shining in the window.

In case you want to know, I shot the photo with my Nikon D3000. I edited the photo in Photoshop Elements and also ran two actions from the Pioneer Woman's action sets - colorized and sunshine.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hostess Inspired Cupcakes

When I look back to why I haven't posted anything in awhile, I can't pinpoint just one thing. Here is a list of many small reasons I have come up with:
  1. I haven't baked much fun things in the past month. (I've been sticking to making chocolate chip cookies and chocolate pudding cookies - too boring to post!)
  2. I had a mole removed from my leg which in turn got infected to the point where I couldn't walk. (Yes, I thought this would be a simple procedure, but it turned into my own personal nightmare.)
  3. I couldn't go to the gym or even do much walking around at all so I was feeling down and depressed.
  4. My neighbor keeps sitting outside in her itsy bitsy bikini and I keep thinking that I will never fit into a swimsuit if I keep baking. Of course I never have looked like that. But then these thoughts go through my head: My husband will probably enjoy having her as a neighbor. Does he wish I looked more like that? I need to stop baking and go to the gym. But I like baking. I like food.
  5. I've been neglecting my camera. Seriously, I need to get out and take some photos!!
But anyhow. ENOUGH WITH THE EXCUSES!!! I am back. And with a goal of blogging once a week!

o kick off my rediscovered love of baking then blogging about it, I thought I would try a recipe that has been on my "must bake" list for quite some time - Hostess Cupcakes! I loved these things as a kid. I would tear off the top and eat it first, and save the cream filled chocolate for last. The always came in packs of two and I loved being able to save one for after school. The days that my mom packed those in my lunch were the best days!!

I've seen many recipes posted on many different blogs. All with the same end result - looking like a Hostess cupcake. After reading through all of the reviews I decided to combine a couple of recipes to make what I hoped would be the perfect Hostess cupcake.

My cake recipe came from one of my cooking heroes and whose blog I log onto almost daily, Ree Drummond, aka The Pioneer Woman. Seriously, would I have found my love for cooking and baking if it weren't for stumbling upon her blog one day?? I used her Chocolate Sheet Cake recipe, which made 24 cupcakes. And it is one of the best chocolate cake recipes I have made. Although I still have yet to actually make it into a sheet cake!!

The filling recipe came from Bake at 350. Her
cupcakes were so dang cute. And everyone who made them had rave reviews so I knew it was the way to go. Check out her version of these cupcakes and her recipe here. And prepare to be jealous of how awesome they look!!! Mine don't come anywhere near as cute as hers, but at least they taste good!! I filled the cupcakes the same way Bridget did - I cut a small X on each cupcake and used a piping bake fitted with a star tip and stuck it inside the X area filling until the cupcake felt heavy. Be careful not to overfill; they will start to crack!

The frosting recipe is a basic chocolate ganache recipe. There is one on the Bake at 350 post as well. I didn't follow that recipe exactly. I used semi-sweet chocolate chips and only 1 teaspoon of vanilla, but otherwise it's the same process. I dipped my cupcakes in the chocolate when it was slightly cool. I had enough frosting to dip each cupcake twice. I wanted that nice glossy look to them.

I put my icing swirls on with white candy melts. I melted them in a container and just swirled them on to resemble the Hostess cupcakes. I thought this was easier than making another batch of icing!!

I love these cupcakes. They look super cute (exactly like Hostess cupcakes), and they taste super delicious (even BETTER than Hostess cupcakes!!). I made them to bring with to our Memorial Day get together a
t my parents' house and everyone tried one, and my dad had two so they were definitely a hit! They take a little bit more time than a regular cupcake, but are oh so worth it. I just love how they look like you just unwrapped the Hostess cupcakes and put them on a plate. However, once you taste them, you know they're homemade because they taste so, so much better!

Once again, here is where to find the recipes I used:
Chocolate Sheet Cake Recipe (makes 24 cupcakes)
Filling Recipe and Inspiration Recipe

Now I just need to figure out how to make those Sno Ball Hostess snacks. Those pink coconut balls. I loved those even more than their cupcakes!!

Until next time ...