Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Cupcakes Deluxe

I realize I am a bit behind the curve on the cupcake fad. What can I say? I'm a traditionalist. To me, nothing says "celebrate" like a homemade layer cake (of any variety), imperfectly iced and deliciously moist. So birthdays or any occasion, I go for the cake.

But over the winter, my Mom-mom sent me this nifty little tool for taking the middles out of cupcakes and creating a filled cupcake. Since she and my Grandpop were coming up for the weekend, and my mom would be here as well, I thought it was high time I gave it a spin.

First, I searched around a bit for filled cupcakes ideas on the internet. After stumbling across this site I decided the chocolate-peanut butter combination was the way to go. Because really, you can't go wrong with it. A little more poking around and I came to this recipe on the Food Network website which explained the process a bit more clearly. Not having things like cake flour on hand (or much use for it beyond what the recipe called for), I opted to use the basic chocolate cake recipe out of my Better Homes & Gardens cookbook.

Once the cupcakes had cooled completely, I hollowed them out with my new little tool. I can't give you a good shot of that because I was flying solo on this baking endeavor and that makes in-the-moment photos difficult.

And then I had a bowl full of cupcake centers, begging to be eaten. I decided though to put them back on top after filling the cupcakes, so besides Bert getting one, devouring would have to wait.

Then I simply made peanut butter icing, adding a bit more milk so it was a little thinner, and spooned it into the cupcakes. This is about the time when I realized why I don't do cupcakes: it's just like baking a cake, but you have to do everything thirty times over. Pour batter thirty times, get out of pan thirty times, ice thirty times, and on and on.

Next up was the ganache for the top. I always thought ganache sounded super-fancy and difficult when I would hear it on cooking shows. Turns out, it's icing for slackers. Heavy cream, heated to near boiling, pull it off the heat, dump some chocolate in, let sit for five minutes, whisk until smooth, let cool for ten to fifteen minutes, spread on cake. That's it. Seriously. I may skip icing from now on.

Hmmm...thought there was a picture of it whisked smooth and all glossy. Oh well.

After I plopped the tops back on all the cupcakes, I dipped them in the ganache and sprinkled chopped peanuts on top, leaving me with these beauties.

I would recommend keeping them in the fridge until shortly before serving as the ganache can be pretty melty.

The cupcakes were delicious, but they took pretty much a whole morning, if you include cleaning up (and I do, because that's really the worst part of baking). So certainly worth it, but only when the VIPs are coming to visit.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Join the Club

Yep, we are officially parents. I mean, we have been for almost two years now, but the arrival of this huge hand-me-down makes it an official decree.

We have joined the ranks of people that will put anything in their yard for their child's amusement.

I got a call from a friend last week about this play set that her kids had outgrown (passed on from another friend whose kids had outgrown it), asking if Bert would get some use out of it. We said sure, we'd take it, and headed over Saturday morning to pick it up. It took a little wrangling to fit it into Keith's truck, with a few pieces in the trunk of my vehicle, but it all made it home and went together pretty easily.

Bert, as you might have guessed, is pretty much in love with his club house. I think the other kids called it a pirate ship because of the steering wheel and telescope on the one end and portholes in the middle. So a pirate club ship maybe?

It has a clock...

And a table with two little stools...

And a slide...

Hmm, that move might need some work.

And a chalkboard.

Yes, his chalk is in a tin beer mug. Actually, I think it had root beer at a lumberjack festival originally.

Hey baby, wanna come up to my place?

So far, he has stayed busy enough up there to afford me a little time to sit with a book. I'm hoping it is amusing enough through the summer that he can be outside without running off while I work in the garden. 

A big thanks to the families that passed this on to us!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Bedtime Stories

It's no secret that Bert loves his books. We read at least two each day before naptime and bedtime, and often throughout the course of the day. He is a huge Curious George fan, and I also try to bring a few different books home from the library every week or so. Right now, he has latched onto one called Bear Wants More by Karma Wilson and requests it at least twice a day. We have had it from the library for about a week and a half, and he pretty much has it memorized. Last night we took some video so you could see him "read" it to Keith. (You might have to turn your volume up to hear him.)

I am thrilled to have a little reader, and he certainly got that from me!

Monday, April 22, 2013


Finally, finally, finally, it feels like spring has arrived. Though it has still been chilly in the morning and breezy throughout the day, we have been spending more and more time outside working, playing, and relaxing. A bunch of seeds went in the ground a few weeks ago, and I am excited to see them begin to sprout. Especially since I was being my usual cheap self and planted some older seed.

The peas are up, despite the seed being two years old.

Radishes aplenty....

Spinach too...

Lettuce, carrots, and onions are also growing, though we are still waiting for the potatoes to poke through.

The rose bush started from a slip of my Grammy's is growing in leaps and bounds.

Our spring bulbs are actually nearing the end of their bright and cheerful life.

Poppies and other perennials are getting a good start along the side of the house.

Hands down, these are the leaves we were most excited to see this spring...

Little leaves on our little apple trees! All four trees have leaves and look very healthy. As Keith says, "I can't wait to eat our own apples in five years!"

So with the yard already mowed once, plants popping up all over and green everywhere we look, I would say spring has definitely arrived at the quarter-acre. (Even if we did have a little frost this morning.)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Snack Time

If Bert woke up from his nap right now and asked for a snack, I would tell him that it is too close to supper time to have a snack. Bert is not up from his nap yet, the coffee is still hot from making a pot for Uncle Travis (whose visit explains the late napping as well), and I am having a snack. Poor Bert; that's really unfair.

Monday, April 15, 2013

90 Years and Counting

Yesterday, my grandpop celebrated his 90th birthday. That's impressive under any circumstances, but when you consider that he survived World War II and the Battle of the Bulge, it becomes pretty incredible. I wish I could tell you how many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren there are now, but honestly, I've lost count. (Any relatives reading this that can supply those numbers?)

On Saturday night, much of the family gathered at my parents' house for cake and ice cream for Grandpop. Four generations were well-represented, and it took two cakes and a couple gallons of homemade ice cream to feed us all.

We didn't try for 90 candles.

Nobody had to choose between chocolate and carrot cake; most of us had a small slice of each!

Susan on ice cream duty.

Bert approves of everything. Especially seconds.

Hugs all around.

It was a really nice evening, and I can't think of a better reason to gather or a greater person to celebrate.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Easter, Anyone?

I just realized today, a week and a half after the fact, that I never posted a single word about our Easter weekend. Huh. Here goes.

First off, I neglected to take many pictures. It was one of those weekends that was so blissfully full of family and just enjoying each other that I hardly thought of the camera at all.

Keith was off Friday, so we headed up to my parents first thing in the morning, arriving around 10 a.m. My Mom-mom and Grandpop got there around lunchtime, and from then on out, it was just visiting and being entertained by Bert. And Keith got drug off by my dad to work on some undefined project. And my brother was around too, always a treat.

Saturday morning, I met up with my best friend for breakfast and chatting. Then after lunch, Mommy, Mom-mom, Bert and I did a little shopping, and stopped in a farm supply to check out the ducklings and peeps. Why my mom didn't offer to keep one on the farm for Bert, I don't know. I also got to check out Bert's quilt that my aunt is quilting for me, and it looks incredible. Saturday evening involved dinner from one of our favorite pizza/sandwich/salad places and just hanging out.

Sunday morning Bert dug into his Easter basket, which I did actually manage to get a few shots of.

The Easter bunny brought some snacks, colored bath tablets, sidewalk chalk, a stuffed Pluto dog, and books. Uncle Travis got the pleasure of reading Curious George Goes Camping immediately upon discovery.

Easter dinner was wonderful, with perhaps the most delicious spiral ham I have ever had. Afterwards, Mom-mom and Grandpop got on the road and the rest of us headed down over the hill to visit with the family gathered at Grammy and Grandpop's house. After that, we loaded up and headed home. Bert fell asleep before we were even a mile down the road.

It was a relaxing, delightful, and belly-filling weekend and we loved every minute of it. Even the weekend-long hunt for Travis's car keys, which involved retracing steps all over the county, only to discover them sandwiched in his wallet a few hours before he was set to leave. No Travis, we won't let you live that one down.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Bread Alone

I have never quite agreed with the line "man cannot live by bread alone." Certainly woman can, if it is good bread.

My aunt handed me a magazine a couple of weeks ago and said there was a bread recipe she thought I should test. It took me a little while to get around to it, but I am certain I'll be stirring this up again. Keith's reaction was, "I could eat this until I got sick." That's actually a compliment, people.

No-Knead Wholegrain Bread
adapted from MaryJanesFarm, Dec-Jan 2013

6 cups flour, plus a little extra for kneading (I did 2 cups of white and 4 of whole wheat)
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons flax seeds
1/4 cup quinoa
2 teaspoons yeast (the original recipe called for just 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast but I often have trouble with dough rising so I ramp up the yeast, and I wasn't sure if "rapid rise" was the same as "instant")
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
cornmeal as needed

1. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the cornmeal.

2. Add 3-4 cups of water and stir until blended. (The amount needed will vary, depending on the type of flour used. Start with 3 cups, and add more as needed.) Dough should be shaggy and sticky.

3. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 12-18 hours at room temperature, 65-70˚F.

4. Preheat oven to 500˚F. Place covered pot in oven as it heats. (You could use a cast iron dutch oven; I used a 5-quart soup pot with a metal lid.)

5. While oven and pot are heating, lightly flour a work surface and scrape dough on the floured area. Sprinkle a bit of additional flour on to the dough (just enough so that it won't stick to your fingers) and fold the dough over itself a couple of times. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest until oven is done heating.

6. Once the oven is heated, remove the pot and sprinkle cornmeal in the bottom. Place the dough in the pot and set the lid on top. Bake for 35 minutes with the lid on. Remove lid and bake for an additional 10 minutes. When the bread is done, remove it from the pot and cool on a rack. (And remember, your pot is going to be very, very hot so use a spatula or something to get the bread out instead of trying to get your fingers under it. Just a friendly reminder from someone who thinks of these things after the fact.)

I am over-the-moon pleased with this bread. I think next time I make it I will divide the dough and do two loaves in a smaller pot because the dough will spread to fit your pot. This recipe made a massive loaf, about 14 inches across and 5 inches high in the middle. Want to see it one more time?

The photos alone may ruin an Atkins diet or two.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Writing is on the Wall

And that writing on the wall spells out very clearly that one should not leave a member of the under-2 set alone with crayons. Under any circumstances (in this case, it was kneading bread dough).

He was so proud of himself. And I was so glad that the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser works as advertised. 

It must be crayon karma for all the messes I made for my mom to clean up. (There are still tiny cat stickers stuck to her sewing machine from one of my "creative" streaks.)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Diaper Diaries: Part 4

It's been quite awhile since we talked cloth diapers. I wish I could say that the little man was miraculously potty trained at 21 months, but that's just dreaming. I thought maybe we were due for a little chat about what cloth diapering looks like with a kid constantly on the move, and one who eats real food. Basically, unless we are having something spicy for dinner, Bert eats exactly what Keith and I are eating.

First up, what have we changed? (Besides a lot of diapers.)
• We've switched from a wet bag to a diaper pail (like this), with a washable liner inside.
• We generally put Bert in a disposable at night, for a couple reasons: he was wet enough get uncomfortable during the night, requiring a middle of the night diaper change; and without going into detail, there was a minor health issue with his nether regions being damp all night.
• We had just been using plain water to wet the reusable flannel wipes but now I put a squirt of his baby body wash in the spray bottle with the water for a little extra cleanliness.
• He was in his medium-sized covers so long that the velcro started to wear out, so we had to sew on a new strip of that.
• Bert is now in the large size of the bummis covers (27-36 lbs) and that should take him to potty training.

The diaper routine is pretty simple these days. If it is just wet, it gets tossed in the diaper pail. Poopy diapers get scraped into the toilet and most of the mess gets flushed away, and then we rinse them with cold water before putting them in the pail. Every other day, the diapers, covers, wipes, and pail liner get washed. We run a cold rinse cycle first, then a hot wash/cold rinse with our homemade detergent. We hang them out to dry if we can, otherwise they go in the dryer.

So, has it been worth it? I think so. Here's a little breakdown of what we've invested in cloth diapers so far:
• $260 for the starter set, 4 medium covers, and 24 additional prefolds
• $60 for 5 large covers
• $20 for diaper pail
• $30 for 2 washable diaper pail liners

So that's $370 total (and some of the supplies we received as gifts, or used rewards points to purchase). At this point, Bert has about 6 diaper changes each day. I figured out the disposables we buy cost about $0.35 each. If we used disposables all the time, the $370 would only cover about 6 months of diapering. And that's being generous, because it doesn't include wipes (which we don't buy regularly) and only accounts for 6 diapers each day (he regularly had 8-12 diaper changes a day when he was tiny and still breastfeeding.) Granted, we do buy an eco-friendly (or at least eco-friendlier) disposable diaper for use at night and when we are away from home whereas if we used disposables all the time, we would definitely look at cheaper options.

We do have a bit of ongoing cost with the cloth diapers because of needing to wash them. And with the cold, dreary winter we've had, they have certainly been thrown in the dryer more than I would have liked. But let's just say that a load of diapers and wipes, which I do every other day, costs $2 to wash and dry. (You can check out those numbers here.) With an average of 12 diapers, that still only comes out to $0.17 a diaper, plus there are wipes in there, and the liner, so we are definitely at half the cost of a disposable. And if we have a nice day when the diapers go out on the line, we are talking about 3 pennies per diaper.

Overall, we have been really happy with the choice to do cloth diapers. We have actually had less leaks in them than in disposables. Even at night, Bert wouldn't be soaked through in cloth diapers, he would just feel the wetness more and be uncomfortable. I haven't dealt with poop leaking out of a cloth diaper, but several times when we have been away from home, his disposables have leaked poop. We're happy it costs so little, and we aren't constantly dragging garbage bags of yucky diapers to the curb to be dumped in landfills. We've also heard that kids in cloth diapers potty train easier, so here's hoping. (Occasionally Bert tells me, "Poopy!" when he has a dirty diaper so that's a good sign!)

So that's the scoop on the diapers these days. I thought about photos to accompany this post, but what part of this process would you really want to see?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...