Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Birthday Cupcakes: Lemon Angel Food Cupcakes with Whipped Cream Frosting and Strawberries

Ahhhh....I have finally scratched the baking itch, and it feels soooo good. Have you ever just wanted to bake but knew you didn't have the time to commit to an afternoon in the kitchen? Well I have felt that way for almost two weeks and tonight I finally got to bake, and there was much rejoicing. 

My friend Liz is throwing a surprise birthday lunch for her husband tomorrow, and since she used me as an excuse to get him to the restaurant, apparently the mister and I have a big announcement, I wonder what it is?!?  I decided to use her as an excuse to bake. I think it's a scenario where everyone wins. 

Strawberries have gone mad here! Last week at Saturday Market everyone and their dog had strawberries. And to me strawberries mean angel food cake yuummmm. I have always wanted to make an angel food cake but have been to scared to try. I admit I am fairly fearless in the kitchen, but angel food cake has always alluded me. For Jeremy's birthday cupcakes I was originally just going to use my amazing vanilla cupcake recipe, but I found a recipe for angel food cupcakes that felt less intimidating then making a full cake and decided to try it. I am so glad that I did, I just took these little angels out of the oven and can I just say they look like individual servings of heaven. EEK!  I've already taken out five more eggs to get at room temp. Can someone say angel food cupcakes with their coffee in the morning?

I originally found this recipe on  Culinary Adventures of a New Wife.

Lemon Angel Food Cupcakes

3/4 cup superfine sugar*
1/2 cup sifted cake flour
5 large egg whites* at room temperature
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
zest of one lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners. 
In a small bowl, sift together cake flour and 1/4 cup superfine sugar. 
In a large bowl, beat room temperature egg whites until foamy, then add in cream of tartar and salt.
Gradually add in remaining 1/2 cup superfine sugar while mixer is on high speed. Beat egg whites to soft peaks. 
Fold in vanilla and lemon zest. In two or three additions add flour mixture into beaten egg whites.
Divide evenly (I used my 1/3 cup measuring cup) into muffin tins, they will be full. 
Bake for 16-18 minutes (mine went about 18-20, but my oven is old) or until they are golden brown. The tops will spring back when lightly touched. 
Remove from pan and cool on wire rack, no need to turn upside down. 

*I didn't buy superfine sugar, instead I just pulsed regular ole' granulated in the blender until it was super fine. 
*This website has a lot of great tips on using egg whites, from how to separate them to what a soft peak should look like. Very helpful.

Now, the recipes that I saw all said the same thing..."these are so light you don't want to weigh them down with frosting. Just drizzle them with the lemon glaze." WHHHHHAAAATTTT?!?!?!?! These people be crazy! Everyone knows the best thing about strawberry shortcake is the whip cream. So I set out on a mission to find the best light and fluffy whipped cream frosting I could find. And I found it! This frosting is soooo good I think it's going to become my new standby. 

Whipped Cream Frosting

1 eight-ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teas. vanilla extract
1/2 teas. almond extract
2 cups heavy cream

Combine cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and almond in large bowl. 
Fit mixer with whisk attachment and mix on medium speed until smooth.
While mix is still whipping, slowly pour in heavy cream.
Stop and scrape bottom of bowl a couple of times while you continue whipping until stiff peaks form. 

SO simple and easy I love it! I didn't use almond extract, instead I added more vanilla. The frosting was also very stable. I made it in the morning and never put the cupcakes in the fridge before we left for the birthday lunch. I wouldn't leave them out overnight but for a couple of hours they're just fine. 

Are you ready to see what these beauties look like? Prepare the napkins for your drool.Go ahead, I'll give you a minute. 

Happy Baking!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday Favorites!


I'm so happy it's Friday, except that it means I go back to school on Monday, that I'm not so happy about but it's okay. I've had a great week relaxing and enjoying being on vacation, but I was starting to get bored so it's good that I'll have class four days a week. Not good that my math class starts at 8:00 am, that part sucks. BUT I did sign up for another class and guess what it is....BALLET! Yep, my first ballet class in 20 years (eek, that makes me feel old). I think it will be fun, and I'll get in great shape. Plus it's only two days a week, two hours each day but only two days nonetheless. 

In addition to Motivation Monday I'm going to do Friday Favorites. Just a few things each week that I love, am thankful for or that are going on the Christmas wish list.

Ready, OKAY!

* The Eugene Public Library. Or really all libraries in general. The Eugene downtown library is amazing, the building is beautiful with a huge spiral staircase that you feel so small walking up. It's awe inspiring in there, just what a library should be. And the books, ah the books. Plus it has parking, which is a rarity in downtown. 

* Three day weekends. The mister took today off because it was my last day of summer before school starts. Sweet, right? It would probably be more fun if we weren't smack dab in the middle of Junuary here in Eugene. It's supposed to be nice tomorrow, but that's what they said yesterday. Either way it's nice to have three days to spend together instead of the two we usually have. 

* Reality TV.  I found some great new guilty pleasure shows this week. "You're Cut Off" on VH1, about spoiled rich girls who get cut off and have to learn how to support themselves. AMAZING! Usually I would feel bad for these girls, but they're snotty so they deserve a smack in the face by reality. 

The other, "Campus PD" on G4. Seriously, drunk college kids trying to explain to police officers why they are passed out in the street, classic. I couldn't get a clip to properly embed, so you'll just have to take my word for it. 

*This website: Olioboard
It helps you create Mood Boards for decorating, a great time waster as well by the way. 

Okay peeps, it's time for me to get my butt off the couch and be productive today. Or at least go buy my books. Have an amazing weekend!

30 Day Challenge: Day 16

Good Morning! I'm going to do a real post so this one is just going to be about the 30 day challenge. I skipped day 15, a fanfic because I had no idea what that was and I was so busy yesterday watching Tony Hayward stonewall the  Senate Committee I didn't look it up. 
Day 16 is a song that makes you cry, or almost. 
Kind of depressing, I would rather do a song that makes me want to jump up and dance around but that's not the challenge. Drats. 
Even though there are a lot of sappy, sad songs this one always gets me a little choked up. 

Helplessly Hoping
by: Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
Helplessly hoping
Her harlequin hovers nearby
Awaiting a word
Gasping at glimpses
Of gentle true spirit
He runs, wishing he could fly
Only to trip at the sound of good-bye

Wordlessly watching
He waits by the window
And wonders
At the empty place inside
Heartlessly helping himself to her bad dreams
He worries
Did he hear a good-bye? Or even hello?

They are one person
They are two alone
They are three together
They are for each other

Stand by the stairway
You'll see something
Certain to tell you confusion has its cost
Love isn't lying
It's loose in a lady who lingers
Saying she is lost
And choking on hello

They are one person
They are two alone
They are three together
They are for each other 

So there you go, a song that gets me choked up. Now I have to go find the tissues. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Book Review!

Whhhhaaaat?!?! Two posts in one day? Is the world coming to an end? Is this finally it? No dearies, don't fret. Today was rainy and cold so I decided to put away my to-do list and curl up with Gypsy on the couch and finish my book, that I started yesterday by the way. 
If you can't read the quote on the front of the book it says, "An addictively satisfying, deeply amusing, dirty-ass masterpiece...Sweet." -William Gibson. And it's all true. I wouldn't say it's the best book I've ever read, in fact there are some major proof-reading mistakes throughout the book that drove me nuts a few times. 
The story is about a guy named Stark who was into some dark magic in LA during his teen years. One of the guys in his magic circle decided Stark needed to take a little trip, so he sent him to Hell. This didn't kill him but while there he realized that he was very hard to kill. He was hired as an assassin for one of Lucifer's generals who gave him a key to get out of Hell. When he comes back to Earth eleven years later he finds that things in LA have changed and what follows is a somewhat typical Heaven vs. Hell, Angels vs. Demons free-for-all. It was sometimes predictable, sometimes funny but always entertaining.
I give it 2 1/2 storm clouds out of 4.  

Books, Bikes and Bananas

Ahhh....summer vacay I love it! I spent most of yesterday checking for my grades to post until I realized that it was Tuesday and they post on Wednesday. So I went to the library and finally got my library card and picked up six books to kick off my summer reading extravaganza! Book reviews are in the future peeps! 
I did find out that I get financial aid for the summer which is a big relief because I was wondering what I would have to do to pay for my class. I want to register for another class but the one that I want is full, drats! It's Art of the Western World and offered on-line, plus the mister took this class so we already have the book and he can help me pass it. I'm thinking of emailing the professor or just checking every day to see if someone drops it. Fingers crossed!
To continue my task of the 30 day challenge days 12 and 13 are a fictional book and a non-fiction book. Hmmm...
A fictional book that I like:
Saving Fish from Drowing by Amy Tan is a great story. I had never read any of Amy Tan's books before this one but she definitely has my eye now. The story is narrated by Bibi Chen an antiques dealer in San Fransisco who unexpectedly dies before a trip with friends to Bhurma. The friends go on the trip where they misunderstand most of the culture they are immersed in. The story is great and the characters  are endearing, even if they do some really dumb things throughout their journey. 

On the other side of the library a nonfiction book:
 I love this book! I had to read it for my Nature and Religion class this last term and it seriously changed my life. Swimme is a genius and the way he tells the universe story and how we came to be is just amazing. It also has one of my favorite quotes in it:
             "Perhaps the entire natural world is a tremendous party, a festival,    and we the long awaited champagne."

Perhaps we are...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Major FAIL!

Oh my goodness I FAIL at my blog this last week! My last class was over on Wednesday at 5:00 and my brain has been on vacation since then. I also did a lot of drinking this weekend so there was a subsequent amount of napping that went along with it. I'll quickly recap:

Thursday: Sold my books back, got way more money than I thought I would so I went and bought plants and the Sims 3 Ambitions expansion pack.

Friday: Played the Sims most of the day. You can do laundry! And be a ghost hunter! I'm a laundry-doin'-ghost bustin' machine!
     *Friday night was Happy Hour, we started at 4:30, by 9:30 the bartender was asking us (my girls and I) if we were driving. Lots of weird things happened that night. Three of us were followed by bicycle cops, a random dude came to the bar to meet my friend (she didn't like him), two drinks were spilled within 30 minutes of each other. The mister and I did go and see Simplistic at The Muse, they were good. Would have been better if I hadn't been stupid drunk, at least it was a good time. 

Saturday: Hangover brunch to watch the world cup game. Amazing food thanks to the guys of the group. Yep, we girls watched soccer and the boys made breakfast. It was pretty awesome. Of course we had to wash down all that amazing food with Mimosas. When I got home I immediately got a blanket, pillows and my iPod and took a THREE hour nap in the backyard. Very nice. Oh, and I got a free bike from my friend Matt! Bonus!

Sunday:Planted my flowers and my strawberry plant. Also started my herb garden.
Monday: Planted my tomatoes. I'll post pictures tomorrow.

So that's it! Now you're all caught up. And that tickled my fancy, day 12 of the challenge! I know, I know it should be like day 16 but it's my blog and I'll do what I want!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

30 Day Challenge: Days 9,10 and 11

Geesh has it been a crazy couple of days?!?! The last official week of classes was last week, and now it's time for finals. I'm so excited to be done, but at the same time I just want it to be OVER! I have two finals tomorrow and I'm obviously doing an amazing job at studying while I update my blog. 
Before I get to the actual challenge posts I just have to share what happened last night at the bar! We went to see our friends band, JTT (Just the Tip, insert jokes here....) for their last show in Eugene until August. When we got to the bar the band that was playing was, well, interesting to say the least. The lead singer had a tiger costume on and they were playing some sort of punkish music, more like a "my friends and I are in a band" feel, not like an actual serious band feel. Anyway at some point the tiger costume came off and under that he was wearing a floor length, long sleeved, turtlenecked gold sparkle knit dress. So much better, right? Well the lead singer pointed me out in the bar and started calling me Tina Fey, which is okay by me. Besides the fact that he said it about 10 times and at one point came down into the audience and had me sing a song with him, the lyrics of which were, "life is hard, suck my dick." Yep. It's always an interesting night when you go out in Eugene. So now I have a new nickname and JTT has a new spokesperson in Tina Fey. I guess it could be worse...

Let's get this challenge started so I can go study...

Day Nine is a photo I took:

This was taken at the park behind my house, where Gypsy gets to run and play.

Day Ten was a photo of me taken over ten years ago:

 That's me and my Granny, I've shown this in a previous post. I was 4, notice the nice 1987 mullet?!?! Totally Radical!

Day Eleven is a photo of me taken recently:

 This was taken as part of a group project for my final in Nature and Religion...There are four of us in the original all in a tree.

Okay, now I must study...blerg.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

30 Day Challenge: Days 7 and 8

Good morning, good morning! I couldn't post my Day 7 of the challenge yesterday because I accidentally left the power cord to my computer at school. I guess I got distracted after I got my nose pierced. Yep I re-pierced my nose at school, not myself of course! They were having a street fair and one of the piercing studios was there offering free piercings so I got a wild hair and did it between Environmental Politics and Religion. Nice day at school!
Day Seven of the challenge was a picture that makes you happy and day Eight is a picture that makes you angry. I think I'm going to switch these though and have the photo that makes me angry first, then the photo that makes me happy! You know, to end on a good note!

Here's something that should make everyone angry, or scared. It should at least make you think about the food your eating. 
Confused about what you're seeing? These are pictures of hamsters that were fed Genetically Modified soy which is currently 91% of the US soybean fields. The hamsters were fed this soy over two years and three generations. By the third generations the hamsters had hair growing inside their mouths and they were sterile. This study was done by the Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences and National Association of Gene Security. The actual study should be published in July of this year but you can read the article on the Institute for Responsible Research website here (READ IT!!!). Honestly I'm tired of hearing about genetically modified food being researched everywhere in the world, except for the US. Before I get to intense on this subject let's switch to something happy. 

Have you seen any pictures of my Gypsy dog when she was a puppy??!?!? Here you go, puppy happiness:

Puppy Happiness! What did I ever do before her?
So read the article about the hamsters, then look at the adorable puppy pictures, you'll feel better.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

30 Day Challenge: Day Six

Today's challenge is:
Whatever tickles your fancy

This morning I got up and started a post over my coffee about the epiphany I had last night about the colors I had finally decided about for my living room. I know it sounds trivial, but it's not I swear! And don't worry I'll post that one later, because what is tickling my fancy even more is my new ability to edit pictures! I finally found a program that is easy to use and I have spent the last four hours playing with pictures, it's been a pretty geeky night. 
Here's what I've been up to:

This was my first try...

 The mister and me at the beach a few weeks ago...

 My friend Colleen and I at my birthday partay...

 Me and my friend Dee at my birthday...

 The mister and I on our birthdays, sorry Alex you were cut out...
 This one may be my favorite, even though I cut myself out...
This is when I found the text option... That's me and my Grandma, I was four?
This one I took on a field trip to a burn area, this Trillium was surrounded by dead logs, it was beautiful. 

The program I found is called Picnik. It's not free, it's $4.95 a month or $24.95 per year. I tried it for $4.95 and so far it's worth it, maybe next month I'll pay for the whole year. 

Have a great night! See you tomorrow!