Saturday, December 26, 2009

Photo 365 ~ Dec 20-25

December 20th - 25th, 2009

Cupcakes! Round 4

Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

This is yet another recipe from Smitten Kitchen that is fantastic. Some carrot cakes are too heavy, too dry, too sweet, or are just plain bad, these cupcakes are none of the above. It is a light and moist carrot cake. It is one of the better carrot cakes I have had and I have sampled quite a few. The icing is a great compliment to the cake.

We liked the icing so much that we used the leftovers on Mom's cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. Yum!


Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

• 2 cups all purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 1 teaspoon ground ginger
• 2 cups sugar
• 1 1/4 cups canola oil
• 4 large eggs
• 3 cups grated peeled carrots
• 1 cups coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Line cupcake molds with papers, or butter and flour them.

Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in medium bowl to blend. Whisk sugar and oil in large bowl until well blended. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time. Add flour mixture and stir until blended. Stir in carrots, walnuts and raisins, if using them. Divide batter among cupcake molds, filling 3/4 of each.

Bake cupcakes 14 to 18 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Let cool in pans for five minutes or so, then transfer cakes to a cooling rack. Let cool completely before icing them.

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

• Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
• 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
• 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
• 1/4 cup pure maple syrup

In a stand mixer beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy. Chill the frosting for 10 to 20 minutes, until it has set up enough to spread smoothly.

If piping, allow the icing to chill in the fridge for 10-20 minutes to stiffen up.

Cookies! Round 3

Ricotta Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sunday was a day I spent in the kitchen. With the 23 inches of snow on the ground there was no sense in running errands so I decided to get a jump on my baking for the holidays. I first mixed up the Orange & Gray cookies because they were such a hit, next came the oatmeal raisin and finally I made Ricotta Chocolate Chip cookies from a recipe that I got from a friend. Let me tell you, they are awesome! They are light and cakey.

Ricotta Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 lb. ricotta cheese
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 large bag of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and mix until incorporated, then add the ricotta cheese and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients into the wet mix and mix well. Add the chocolate chips. Drop on greased baking sheet or parchment paper and back at 350º for 13 to 15 minutes.

If you find the cookies start to get hard/dry you can add a slice of bread to the container or you can dump icing on them like I did on Thursday morning. If you like and orange and chocolate combination I highly recommend using the Orange Buttercream icing from the Orange & Gray Cookies. It is a huge hit at our house.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Photo 365 ~ Dec 16-19

December 16th - 19th, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Photo 365 ~ Dec 12-15

December 12th - 15th, 2009

Cookies! Round 2

Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies


If you cannot already tell, I have been on a baking kick as of late. I had a request from my husband for oatmeal raisin cookies, which are is favorite, so I set out and found a great recipe from Smitten Kitchen. Her trick for thick, chewy cookies is to refrigerate the cookie dough before baking so it doesn't spread as much when baking, genius! I followed her recipe to the T except for that I added dried cranberries in with the raisins and didn't add the walnuts. I baked my cookies for 10 minutes (probably because I only let them sit in the fridge for an hour...what! I got impatient). I doubled the recipe so I would have plenty of cookies to distribute between the workplaces and leave a few at home. Next time I think I may try a bit of nutmeg, cocoa or small chocolate chips added into the recipe.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together. Stir this into the butter/sugar mixture. Stir in the oats, raisins and walnuts, if using them.

At this point you can either chill the dough for a bit in the fridge and then scoop it, or scoop the cookies onto a sheet and then chill the whole tray before baking them. You could also bake them right away, if you’re impatient, but I do find that they end up slighly less thick.

The cookies should be two inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake them for 10 to 12 minutes (your baking time will vary, depending on your oven and how cold the cookies were going in), taking them out when golden at the edges but still a little undercooked-looking on top. Let them sit on the hot baking sheet for five minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Cookies!

Orange & Gray cookies with a subtle Orange Buttercream Frosting


I was browsing the Twinings website for recipes the other day because I enjoyed the Earl Gray cupcakes so much and I found a recipe
for Lady Gray Cookies. I modified it slightly and used Earl Gray tea and Orange Zest, turning them into Orange & Gray Cookies. This recipe is two parts, the dough needs to be refrigerated for a few hours or overnight before baking. I found that the cookies were a bit dry for my liking because they are meant to be served with tea, so I made a subtle orange buttercream frosting for them. This makes them perfect for solo eating.


Orange & Gray Cookies

(Modified from Twinings)

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 hot cup water
  • 4 Earl Gray teabags
  • I large egg
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp fresh orange zest
  • small squeeze of fresh orange juice

Take the 1/4 cup of hot water and add the four Earl Gray teabags. Let that steep for 3-5 minutes allowing the teabags to absorb the water making a tea concentrate. Squeeze all of the liquid out of the tea bags and allow the concentrate to cool. Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg and then the fresh orange zest. Add the tea concentrate.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and the baking powder. Add half of the flour mix at a time, mix until incorporated and a dough forms. Gather the dough into the center of a bowl and cover with saran wrap Refrigerate the dough overnight or at least a few hours.

Once the dough is chilled, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Flour a board and form it into a round circular roll so you can slice off 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick pieces.

Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 12 - 15 minutes. (Mine needed 13 minutes.) Once completely cooled, make the icing.

Made 30 cookies.

Orange Buttercream Icing

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh orange zest
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice

Mix together the powdered sugar, butter, orange zest, vanilla, salt and orange juice until smooth. Add orange juice as needed to make it spreadable.

This made just enough icing for me to put a light coat of icing on each of my 30 cookies. If you want heavier icing, I suggest doubling the recipe.

Photo 365 ~ Dec 8-11

December 8th - 11th, 2009

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Photo 365 ~ Dec 6 & 7

December 6th & 7th, 2009

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Photo 365 ~ Dec 1-5

December 1st - 5th, 2009

Personal Project - Photo 365

I graduated with a photography degree that I don't use. Well, not the taking photos part of the degree anyway. I have decided that I am going to take at least one photo a day for a year starting December 1st. Any subject, any time, whatever strikes me that day is fair game. This will be a great way to remember a year, force me to use my new camera, and to learn it's limits. Maybe, just maybe, I'll fall in love with photography again.

I will be putting the photos up in a Picasa Album as well as posting thumbnails here every few days. I don't want to fall behind and let this become a burden. I want this to be fun and not a chore. I'd love your feedback and maybe I'll inspire someone to start this project with me.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving veggies



Cupcakes! Round 3

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes


I found a recipe for Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes from Patent and the Pantry that I knew I wanted to make at Thanksgiving for my dad to try. So I called my dad and asked if he had a bottle of Guinness in the fridge that he would bring up with him on Wednesday and he promptly informed me that he had "outgrown the taste of Guinness." Ok, off to plan two. I went to the Foodery and relayed my dad's message and came home with Left Hand Milk Stout to use instead of the Guinness. So I made Chocolate Stout Cupcakes instead.

I was hesitant because I don't like beer, at all. But I was pleasantly surprised about how mellow the beer flavor is in the cupcakes. My mom and I could taste the beer flavor, but the beer drinkers in the family, my husband and dad, could not. The cream cheese icing cuts the richness of the chocolate and smooths out the overall flavor.

This recipe made 96 mini cupcakes for me which I baked at 325 degrees for 10 minutes. I had enough icing for all of the cupcakes with not much to spare.

Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes

Excerpted from Feast by Nigella Lawson (Hyperion Books, $39.95, 2006)

  • 1 cup (250 mL) Guinness
  • 4 oz (1/2 cup or 125 mL) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups (500 mL) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) sour cream
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 2½tsp (12 mL) baking soda

Icing

  • 8 oz (250 g) cream cheese
  • 1 cup (250 mL) icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp (25 mL) whipping cream

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners.

Pour the Guinness into a large saucepan, add butter and heat at medium-low until melted. Whisk in the cocoa powder and sugar, then remove from heat. In a small bowl, beat together the sour cream, eggs and vanilla. Pour into the slightly cooled Guinness-butter mixture. Whisk in the flour and baking soda.

Spoon batter into cupcake pan, so each liner is about three-quarters full. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Let cool in the pan, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Once completely cooled, make the icing.

Beat cream cheese and icing sugar until smooth. Add the whipping cream and beat again until it is thoroughly mixed and spreadable. Add more cream if you want a thinner icing. Spread onto cooled cupcakes.

Makes 24 cupcakes.

Spaghetti Squash

We have been attempting to vary our diet and incorporate some new ingredients into our routine. We tried a spaghetti squash recipe that I found on Smitten Kitchen, Moroccan-spiced Spaghetti Squash. I think it turned out well, my husband didn't care for it but I believe that was due to the coriander that the recipe called for since he doesn't like cilantro. I have another spaghetti squash in the kitchen that I will have to try something different with next time.

We took the roasting route and cut the squash in half and cleaned out the seeds before roasting face down.


Moroccan-Spiced Spaghetti Squash
Adapted from Gourmet

Serves 4

1 (3 1/2- to 4-pound) spaghetti squash
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley, if you’re cilantro-averse

To cook the squash in a microwave: Pierce squash (about an inch deep) all over with a small sharp knife to prevent bursting. Cook in an 800-watt microwave oven on high power (100 percent) for 6 to 7 minutes. Turn squash over and microwave until squash feels slightly soft when pressed, 8 to 10 minutes more. Cool squash for 5 minutes.

To roast the squash, two methods: If you’d like to roast the squash whole, pierce it all over with a small sharp knife to prevent bursting and bake it in a 375°F oven for one hour. If you are good with a big, sharp knife, you can save some time by cutting the squash in half lengthwise, scooping out the seeds and roasting the halves face-down in an oiled baking pan for about 40 minutes in a 375°F oven.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until it is barely golden. Stir in spices and salt and remove from heat.

If you have microwaved or roasted your squash whole, carefully halve it lengthwise (it will give off a lot of steam) and remove the seeds.

Carefully halve squash lengthwise (it will give off steam) and remove and discard seeds. Working over a bowl, scrape squash flesh with a fork, loosening and separating strands as you remove it from skin. Toss with the spiced butter and cilantro.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Cupcakes! Round 2

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

This is the second recipe that I have tried from Patent & the Pantry and without disappointment it is excellent. Everyone is raving about them.

These cupcakes are perfect mix of seasonal pumpkin and spices. It smells like fall when it bakes in the oven. I had never used whole nutmeg and grated it myself. I found the the whole nutmeg at Whole Foods and used a microplane grater/zester to grate it for the recipe. I had too much icing again, but I do not think that half a batch would have been enough. I am trying to decide what I can make that would be a compliment to Cream Cheese Icing so I can use the rest of it.

It made 96 mini cupcakes and I baked them about 11 minutes. Enjoy!

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and the spices. In another bowl, whisk together the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and eggs. Add dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Then whisk in pumpkin puree.

Line the cupcake pan with liners and fill each about halfway with batter. Bake until tops spring back when touched and a cake tester comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Rotate the pans if needed. Transfer to wire rack and let cool completely before icing.

Cream Cheese Icing

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Beat butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and sugar.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cupcakes!

Earl Gray Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream

I found this recipe on the Patent & the Pantry and it is divine.

I used Stash Tea's Double Bergamot Earl Gray tea. The only thing I did differently was that I heated the milk and steeped a tea bag in the milk and then allowed the milk to cool. I also used 2 tea bags in the batter (didn't measure). I would recommend cutting the icing recipe in half unless you like heavy icing or want to eat it w/out cupcakes (it was that good). I used the juice & zest of a large lemon and didn't measure.

It made 53 mini cupcakes (which baked for about 13 minutes) for me and next time I won't fill the cups as full. Enjoy!

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp. Earl Grey tea (I used 1 bag and didn’t measure. I might add more next time.)

Preheat the oven to 350. Beat the butter and sugar together until it is light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, making sure they are thoroughly combined before adding the next one. Mix together the dry ingredients, including the tea. Beat in half of the dry mixture with the wet, then add the milk and the rest of the dry mixture, stirring until just combined. Line the cupcake pan with 12 cups and fill them about two-thirds full. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cool thoroughly before frosting.
Lemon Buttercream

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice

Cream butter, then add the icing sugar and beat until fluffy. Add the lemon zest, juice and beat until smooth. Spread over cooled cupcakes.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sports Fan

The Phillies one is on the way.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Chaos Organized



The chaos before.

Chaos organized!

I feel like I have accomplished something now.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New Art

We went to dinner at the Globe Theater in Berlin in attempts to avoid the Ocean City craziness. I went to the ladies room and fell in love with a photograph that they had in the restroom. It a figure study of a nude female hung in a fishnet. It is beautiful. 



Saturday, July 18, 2009

Chicken Pot Pies

Chicken pot pie, mini size.


Friday, July 3, 2009

Long overdue update

I feel like I blinked and June passed me by. I cannot believe that it is July already. I vaguely remember a bunch of rain and a super busy month at work. I am wishing that I could have the day off to start the holiday weekend early like most of the city, but I will be working today. We are spending the day shooting shoes.

I've gotten hooked on Lifetime's Army Wives. I have finished season one and two on DVD. I'm loving it. I don't know if I like it because it resonates with me a little bit, but I can say that it is good TV. I sat down Monday evening and started & finished the latest Stephanie Plum novel. It was a silly, easy read. I think that the buff, straight fireman that has to take a second job as being a Mr. Clucky (chicken) mascot for a fast food chain in order to support his cross dressing and expensive handbag habit was a little over the top though.

I need to vent for a minute and say that I hate the neighbors kids. Maybe I hate the parents for letting the kids run around at 10:30 at night screaming, yelling, riding their little training bikes up and own the street. They have taken to stopping in front of our house and screaming at the cats if they are in the window. I don't feel like this is appropraite behavior for their parents to allow them to do. It makes them bad neighbors. I can handle the kids until about 9 o'clock, but after that I have had enough. I am ready to start winding down and relaxing. None of that includes screaming kids. They out last night until after 11. These are pretty young kids too, under the age of 5. Crazy, right? Or am I just too harsh? Having the air conditioners running helps cut the noise a little bit, but it is still very apparent. I am not sure if I should talk to them and if so, how to approach the subject.

On another note, Kassena has inspired me to finally put a wedding album together, so after almost 3 years I think i will start on that project this weekend. We went over to to her and Anthony's place and she showed me the one that she is designing for her wedding. It looks great, I cannot wait to see it printed. They also fed us our first vegan meal, they made lasagna with eggplant, roasted peppers, and sweet potato with wheat meat and fermented soy with homemade sauce and pesto. It was yummy, yep I just said that something completely out of my food world was yummy. Thanks Kassena and Anthony!

So what are your plans for the 4th? We are both working today so no major plans. I may hit the farmers market with Kassena in the morning but other than that it will probably be a relaxing weekend. After this week of work, I need it.


Sunday, June 14, 2009

The ceiling fan fight of 2009

We finally decided to replace the gaudy gold & white ceiling fan in the living room after owning the house over two years, so we head down to Lowe's thinking this would be a simple project. Not so much. We picked up the Aero fan which I love, the lines are clean and simple & no pull chains to interrupt the view. The fan went together perfectly, no issues there. Little did we know the remote sensor for the fan had to be installed in the top housing by the ceiling. The celing bracket that we have in the ceiling has a 1/2 drop bolt in the center of it leaving no room for the remote to slide in place properly. No matter what we tried, we couldn't get the fan to sit properly. So at 10 pm last night, we are uninstalling and disassembling the perfect fan. It was returned first thing this morning and we spent 45 minutes in Home Depot making sure we didn't like anything there and another 45 minutes in Lowe's trying to decide which one I could live with. (Yep, you did the math right, we spent 1.5 hours debating on fans.) It was not an easy task. We ended up with the Santa Ana fan which is cool and modern, but not nearly as perfect. It is a nice looking 2 blade fan but the light is dimmer than we hoped. We don't use it as a main light, so it isn't a deal breaker. This one is staying on the ceiling.

The Aero - the perfect fan
The Santa Ana - what we can live with


More sad dog:



Friday, June 5, 2009

MOO!

I feel important now, well not really, but I now have business cards. 




Sad dog:

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend - by the numbers


2 plane tickets - Philly to Cleveland & Cleveland to Philly
4 states - PA, OH, IN & IL
4 tanks of gas
2 live deer that tried to side swipe the car on 71 heading towards Columbus
16 dead deer on the side of the road during the trip back through OH
40 different license plates
55+ cops
0 that pulled me over
60 +/- people in the family photo
426 photos taken
984 miles of road driven
countless truckers...

...all in 4 days. Needless to say I am glad to be home.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Happiness


Is it wrong that this tiny piece of everyday life makes me happy? Sometimes it's the simple things that bring the most enjoyment and satisfaction to life.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Key!

Love: Lacie iamakey and itsakey USB flash drives

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Monday, May 4, 2009

New

New radiator cover!  New siding! New water pattern! Growing paws!



















Saturday, April 11, 2009

Helper



Avalee spent a good portion of the morning yesterday trying to convince my Dad that she was a good helper. She wanted to investigate and eat everything. 


Friday, April 3, 2009

Pretty end to a rainy day

Working & Double Rainbows