Monday, September 28, 2009

Happy Birthday, Cupcake Rehab!

I'll be honest. I'm pretty excited about this post. Yes, it my first cupcake post in over a month. But. BUT! More importantly, this post details my Cupcake Rehab tribute cupcake!

Many of you will remember my blogmother, Marilla of Cupcake Rehab. She's known for her fierceness, both general and cupcaked. Well, this September marks the second birthday of Cupcake Rehab and Marilla is offering a giveaway for the occasion.

The rules are simple. Build a Cupcake Rehab themed cupcake and tell her about it by October 12th. (There is clearly still pleeenty of time, so check it out HERE and build a cupcake yourself!)

So... drumroll...

TA DA! This is my humble submission to the Cupcake Rehab 2nd Birthday giveaway extravaganza. What makes this cupcake so Cupcake Rehab?

Ah... thank you for asking. Most esoterically (is that a word?!), this cupcake is Cupcake Rehab inspired because both Marilla and I have had epic failures with Paula Deen cupcake recipes (hers Red Velvet, mine Arnold Palmers). This cupcake involved the hybridization of two Paula Deen recipes. Yes, children, two. I went there.

In a more obvious, on the nose way, this cupcake looks kinda like the one she created for this Undead Logo:

Orrr... at least that's what I was going for. :) Don't flip back and forth between the two pics... then it's just silly.

But wait! There's more!

If you think this undead cupcake couldn't possibly get any cooler or more twisted, then you've got another thing coming. And that thing is...

liqui-freakin-faction. That's right, my sweets. The rotting corpse of the undead, bones (or walnuts) and all, is lurking just below the surface of these cupcakes.

I really wish I could upload a picture of the sick smirk on my face as I type out the grotesque details. It's just too good. The cupcake, that is. The smirk is probably ridiculous and very unflattering. So I'll leave it at that.

Back to the cupcake: It's delish! The putrid body of the undead is actually a chocolate caramel turtle baked inside the chocolate cake in a two-layered baking process.

The icing is nothing to brag about, so I'll leave that out, but here is the hybridized Paula Deen recipe for Undead Cupcakes, or what she might call "Chocolate Sybil Turtle Cake" if someone forced her to.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 cup AP flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 16 oz. can Hershey's chocolate syrup

1 14 oz. package caramel candies
1/2 cup butter
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 6 oz. pkg semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Ready cupcake tins.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift dry ingredients, add to creamed mixture, beat. Add vanilla and chocolate syrup to batter and mix well. Pour about 1/8 cup batter into bottom of cupcake liners. Bake for 7 minutes. (I got 24 cupcakes from the batter. Because of pan concerns though, I had to do these 12 at a time.) Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Yes... really.

Meanwhile, prepare turtles. Melt caramel candies with butter in a saucepan. When completely melted, remove from heat and stir in condensed milk until smooth. Let mixture cool completely (we might have rushed this). Add chocolate chips and nuts.

When cupcakes are cool, dollup turtle mixture on top of cooled cake. I'd say a scant tablespoon.

Cover turtle with batter until cupcakes are 3/4 full. This cake doesn't spread much, so it's okay to get it close to the top. Return to oven for about 12 minutes. Check for doneness and re-evaluate.

A lot of work? Perhaps.

Worth it in the end? Without a doubt.

I'll be singing the praises of this undead cupcake for a loooong time.

So Happy 2nd Blog Birthday, Marilla!

And, in closing... I'll extend the same warm wishes that my brother recently extended to me: I love you, but if you were a zombie, I'd blow you apart so stinkin fast...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Farmer's Market, Schmarmer's Market

In my small town, there is not much in way of activities, so when I was invited to brunch and the farmer's market on Saturday with a couple of colleagues, I quickly accepted.

Brunch was fab. We went to our favorite local bakery, Sugar Magnolia (could it be more sweetly Southern?) and we had sausage, egg, and cheese biscuits. The biscuit they put that egg and sausage on... was wickedly buttery. I should have known that the bakery would really shine when it came to the biscuit. Unngh. I'm drooling.

Anyway... The farmer's market was cute... but very (almost disappointingly) small. I did, however, get my blood pressure checked by a nursing student. And I found a mother and son team selling fresh herbs with little recipe cards attached.

Note to farmer's market sellers: Attached recipes are a brilliant idea.

I picked up some basil and rosemary, and, a day or so later, I set out to make the recipes.

WARNING: This blogpost is not for the feint of heart. It almost ruined me. I'd call it a comedy of errors if I were stable enough to be laughing at it.

I started out by assembling the ingredients for the Garden Vegetable Pesto. I had to make a trip to the store for tomatoes... but it was going to be worth it for some delish garden pesto.

Or was it?

It wasn't.

I forgot that my food processor is too small to handle life. Let me rephrase that... it's too small to handle one tomato. And this recipe calls for two tomatoes, one zucchini, cheese, basil, oil, blah blah blah.

So I dumped the tomato. And pulled out the recipe and ingredients for Rosemary Pasta Sauce. I didn't take a picture of the ingredients or the recipe because... well... I don't remember what happened exactly... but I think you can consider this moment the beginning of the end.

By this point, I was crazy hungry. At 7:23pm, I busted out the pita chips and hummus.

And while I enjoyed my appetizer, I melted 1/4 cup of butter over low heat and added onion. Do you know what happens to onions in butter over low heat? I'll tell you... nothing.

So... at 7:52pm, warm onions still warming, I made coffee and this happened to my new creamer. Really? REALLY?!

Ugh... so... no... I didn't wait for the onions to get "dark brown" before I tossed in the garlic, rosemary, and water (didn't have chicken stock, of course).

The sauce smelled good... but looked small. I followed the rest of the directions though and tossed the lb. of spaghetti with another 2 tbsp of butter and 1/4 cup of parmesan.

It was... okay. The sauce is very light in flavor but heavy in greasy butter.

And... it was about 9pm by the time I got to eat it.

So... much like I am right now, I was tired of the whole thing. Perhaps I'll invest in a food processor equal to the task of a tomato-filled pesto. But until then, I'll just stroll the farmer's market with friends, hit the nurses tent, try the "best pound cake ever" (sorry, kids, but it wasn't), and leave the cooking to someone else.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Thank You Note

Huzzah, Ladies and Gentlemen!

I have my very own KitchenAid Artisan stand mixer.

And isn't she a beauty?

I think so.

Now... if you would... please join me in sending a big Thank You to my grandparents. Thank you, Papa and Gramma!

So far, I've used my mixer to make bread and cookies, and in the future, I will do much more than that.

Welcome, welcome, new mixer. I guess I should name you or some such...

(If you haven't already, please take note of my grandmother's beautiful handwriting on the note. Gorgeous!)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Starve a Cold, Feed a Fever (?)

Is that the way the saying goes? I... ya know... could google it. But it's not really that important. Because... well... I eat when I want. Sick or not.

But this weekend, I am a bit sick.

I blame my students. All 109 of them.

I used to be one of those people who could say, "Oh... I don't get sick." (It wasn't true. It never is when people say that, but they still say it.) Anyway, since I've started teaching, I can't even pretend.

So today I might be dealing with the swine flu. About a dozen of my students have it. It only makes sense.

But I'm taking it in stride. And tomorrow when I go back to class, I'm going to do my best to "Spread It Around!"**

And finally... I fed the swine flu. I fed it:

+ a baconeggandcheese bagel sandwich
+ a grande soy caramel macchiatto
+ Simply orange with pineapple
+ leftover spaghetti with rosemary sauce (stay tuned)
+ pita chips & roasted garlic hummus
+ V8 red pepper soup with a buttered, toasted honey wheat bagel
+ 2 cups of decaf coffee (in progress at time of typing)

Doesn't that just look ridiculous all written out like that?

Well... I regret none of it. And I can't promise it will end there.

** Cool people will have recognized the Golden Girls reference. "Spread It Around!" was Blanche's incorrect understanding of the Sunshine Cadet's motto. Dorothy quickly righted her: "Sunshine, Blanche! Spread sunshine around." And... like the cadets... I plan to spread around nothing but sunshine tomorrow. I'm no supporter of this pandemic.

Monday, September 14, 2009


or How Breakfast Says "I Love You"

By this point, you probably all know that I love breakfast. What I know that you may not know is that breakfast loves me back. With all her eggy, protein-rich heart. How do I know this?

BaconEggAndCheese sandwiches.

There is no breakfast food more rewarding than a perfectly constructed baconeggandcheese. And, yes, a proper one deserves to be one word. Out of respect.

Anyway, this particular sandwich was made with two buttered, toasted slices of my homemade honey whole wheat bread. I scramble-fried two eggs (I said protein-rich, right? Well... I meant it.) and topped those eggs with one and a half slices of good ol' American cheese. Three strips of bacon later, this sandwich was perfect.

(My picture of her is not quite so perfect... but I was hungry. And impatient.)

Now... here I might lose some people, but I don't care. I like to enjoy my baconeggandcheese with a bit of ketchup for dipping. It's magical and I will hear no criticism of the practice. Well... I might hear it, but it won't bother me.

Here's something that might bother me though:

I bought this ready-for-the-microwave bacon the other day. It stays in the fridge and fairly easily cooks up in it's space packaging if you give it enough time. What's troubling is that it dispenses itself. Like a kleenex. Am I the only one who finds this really bizarre?? (o_O)

This post is dedicated to the late, great Patrick Swayze. (._.) He's like the wind through my trees.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Yeast Beast and How I Conquered It

I guess that title makes it sound like an epic battle, but, in reality, I just found a really good recipe.

For some reason, I've always been afraid to work with yeast. I don't know... something about the living aspect of the thing made me nervous and certainly convinced that I would kill it.

But since I've been in Georgia, I've been introduced as "Amanda. She bakes." And, more than once, people have responded with, "Oh... so you make bread!" and I've had to make an awkward face and try to let them down easy with the promise of cupcakes.

Well, no longer.

This weekend I made Honey Whole Wheat Bread following's recipe. And aside from the fact that my mixer couldn't do all the dough work and I had to finish it up on the floured counter, I followed this recipe to the letter. And it worked like a charm.

MeckMom speeds up the rising process by putting the dough in a just slightly warm oven twice. So... though you can expect to devote at least two hours to the bread baking process, it is a relatively quick recipe that turns out 4 loaves of bread. (I cut the recipe in half.)

And, as it would turn out, one of my new "You bake bread?!" friends called while I was in the throes of bread baking. About an hour later when I showed up on her doorstep with a hot loaf of Honey Whole Wheat bread, she knew exactly what to do with it.

Homegirl toasted it with garlic, a move that the rest of us were unsure of in theory but in love with in practice. Then she whipped up a quick tzatziki sauce with garlic, cucumber, and sour cream. It was... amazing.

So will I bake bread again? Heck to the yes.

And how will I respond when new friends excitedly ask "So you bake bread?!"?

I'll smile, raise an eyebrow, and say something smarmy like, "Among other things..." Because we all know that a skill is infinitely more impressive when downplayed.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cookie on Cookie Action

Now, I'll need you to throw chronology to the wind with this post. These cookies were actually the first things I baked in Georgia.

See how empty everything looks?

You'll also notice that I'm using a hand mixer. Might be the last time for that... but you'll just have to wait for more news on that front.

Anyway, I was invited to a meeting at a colleague's house the first weekend I was in the new place. So, not wanting to show up emptyhanded, I made Oreo Chocolate Chip Cookies. I'm not sure if I used this recipe or another one, but you can find it all over the blogosphere.

The cookie is pretty basic. Make up a chocolate chip cookie dough but before the chip step, add in 20 crushed Oreo cookies and blend.

Once it looks like this, then you can fold in the chocolate chips as usual.

Now drop the cookies by rounded tablespoons and bake those suckers off.

And while we're waiting, have a look at the new kitchen. Not nearly as kitschy or adorable as the last kitchen (as seen in the header), but it will do in a pinch. And I have plans for kitchen betterment, as I'm sure you've already guessed.

Back to the cookies...

Out of the oven and cooled on the rack, these cookies are a thing of beauty. I believe that there is not a simpler pleasure than a baked Oreo cookie. And combining this pleasure with the comfort of a good chocolate chip cookie just cannot (I repeat)cannot fail.

Everyone at the meeting raved about these cookies-n-cream treats and even though there were only 4.5 of us there and I brought a heaping plate full, I didn't come home with even one cookie. Each person happily took home several. That's what I call a success.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day Turkey Burgers

What can go wrong when burger prep starts with these guys?!

I submit, nothing.

Since I had the day off for Labor Day, I took it fairly easy. I got up around 11 and established myself on the kitchen floor with the Golden Girls and my new IKEA dining room set. About 3 episodes later, I had a table, four chairs, a wire rack and a growing hunger that spicy Cheez-its didn't quite satisfy.

That was about when I decided that this Labor Day needed a burger.

I didn't get to making the burgers then, however. Nah... then I took a nap on my new sofa.

Around 5pm, I ventured outside the house to gather supplies for the best turkey burger on record. So cook along, friends. This burger isn't really hard and it's surprisingly rewarding. I promise that even beef-loving turkey burger skeptics will go all in for these.

Bacon Cheddar Jalapeno Turkey Burgers

1. Chop up the jalapenos from the opening shot there. How many you use is up to you. I used as many as I had because... well... I love them. That amounted to probably 1/2cup before the chop.

2. To those chopped jalapenos, add one chopped onion, a tablespoon of minced garlic, four chopped strips of cooked bacon, one egg, and a good handful of shredded cheddar cheese.

3. Add 1.3 lbs of ground turkey to the bowl, shake on some chili powder, and mix it all together. Form into patties (I got 5) and cook them on the grill or stove top. Stove top instructions I found online said 5 minutes per side for turkey burgers. I know I did longer than that... so just use your judgment: let them brown fully on one side before you flip them once.

4. And this next step is optional, but I recommend making a quick sauce for this burger. It provides a little wet and a little interest.

I combined ketchup and hot sauce until the ketchup was just a bit too spicy to be enjoyable. Then I added honey to taste. It made a good, sweetly spicy tomato sauce that balanced the bite of the burger.

And voila! The most brilliant turkey burger I've made thus far.

This burger is hot hot hot. Not too hot, but hot enough that it got my nose running a little bit. And I believe the bacon lends the bland turkey meat a bit more meat flavor, which is always nice. The cheese influence was subtle, so I might recommend using a grated cheese instead of a finely grated... but really there probably isn't a difference even then. :)

In conclusion, I offer two thumbs way up for this relatively healthy dinner!

And... since homegirl lives alone these days... I have 4 leftover burgers to eat for school lunches. Woohoo!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Why I <3 Today

1. I fell asleep before 11pm last night. Soporific Project Runway episodes FTW!

2. My radio station played "(I Had) The Time of My Life" during my 6 minute commute to campus. I didn't even have to ask! I sang every word with all the verve and gusto I could summon.

3. Even after shaving my legs, I was ready early enough this morning to get a bagel for my mid-office hours brunch.

4. During my office hours, I'm going to start reading my new book, How to Be a People Magnet by Leil Lowndes. If you've had more than 2 conversations with me, you will probably recall my love for How to Make Anyone Fall in Love with You. Same author.

5. At 1:50pm (on the dot), I'll be off until Wednesday at 8am. I plan to fill my time with a roadtrip complete with book on tape, a book festival complete with crazy high school roommate, and countless scoops of Bruster's icecream... complete with dinosaur cookies. I'm also going to test my magnetism, if you get my drift.

So... Can your good day top mine?

Update: At 10:30pm, while eating Turtle ice cream at Bruster's with Kira and her socially anxious but still adorable dog, Lila, "Hungry Eyes" played over the loud speaker. It was damn poetry.