Monthly Archives: June 2011

“Funfetti” Cupcakes

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I think we’re all familiar with those cakes that come in a blue box:

The other day I had a hankering for cupcakes and pulled the last box of cake mix that I had out of the cupboard, the Funfetti variety.  As i sat mixing them up I realized that they were nothing more than a white cake with sprinkles.  I knew I could do that.

So, i set out to find a vanilla cupcake recipe that I could add sprinkles to.  I had a few requirements.  The recipe had to use whole eggs, I would have nothing to do with extra egg yolks.  And it had to be able to be mixed with my dieing hand mixer (seriously, the think starts to smell funny two minutes in and gets stuck when asked to do more than whip cream).

I finally stumbled upon this blog which lead me to Martha (got to love her) and a recipe for Billy’s Vanilla Vanilla Cupcakes. I knew when I saw the recipe that these were going to be the ones. There’s a really good video on the site, from when Billy himself was on the Martha Stewart Show and made the cupcakes.  I watched this, and it was quite informative.  The recipe doesn’t say if the butter should be at room temperature or if it should be cold.  The recipe shows that the butter is pretty soft, so that was nice, especially for my poor dieing mixer.

I chose to frost my cupcakes with cream cheese frosting (also from Martha’s site) because that stands up better to heat.  You see, i decided that instead of torturing my children with my culinary adventure I would torture my entire extended family at my family reunion that took place this past weekend.

The part of the country I live in is hot this time of year (who’s isn’t really) and I didn’t want to run the risk of the frosting melting.  I knew that cream cheese would hold up a bit better on the 2 hour car drive to my grandma’s house than butter cream would.  I also figured they’d hold up better outside for an the hour or so that they were sure to be outside.

“Funfetti” Cupcakes with Billy’s Vanilla Vanilla Cupcakes

1 3/4 cups cake flour, not self-rising
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Colored sprinkled (the type that you would use on ice cream)

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. In a large bowl combine flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt; mix on low speed with hand mixer until combined. Add butter, mixing until just coated with flour.
  • In a large glass measuring cup, whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla. (I noticed when I was doing this that 4 large whole eggs are about 1 cup, just thought that was interesting.) With mixer on medium speed, add wet ingredients in 3 parts, scraping down sides of bowl before each addition; beat until ingredients are incorporated but do not over beat.
  • Mix in as many sprinkles as you think are needed.  I used a lot.  The batter looked like this.

  • Divide batter evenly among liners, filling about 2/3 full. They’re not kidding on this.  This recipie should make abotu 30 cupcakes.  I overfilled my liners like I always do to fill up 24 (which is how many will fit in my cupcake pans).  They overflowed really bad in the oven.

  • Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 17 to 20 minutes.
  • Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting

4 tablespoons room-temperature unsalted butter
4 ounces room-temperature bar cream cheese
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • In a medium bowl, with an electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add confectioners’ sugar and vanilla extract; beat until light and fluffy.
Once they were cooled and the frosting made it was easy to frost them.  I decided two cupcakes into frosting that instead of just sprinkling the top of the cupcakes with sprinkles that i was just going to dip the frosted cupcakes into the left over sprinkles.  The container I had was pretty big, so there was room for me to just dunk them in the container they came in, but for sure you could pour the sprinkles into another container.  I filled up two teirs of my three tiered cupcake holder with the cupcakes that I made.
You can see how much better the ones that I dunked in the sprinkles look compared to the ones that I just sprinkled with the sprinkles.
I really liked these cupcakes, they were moist and they were tender, and they weren’t too sweet.  I’m pretty sure every one else liked them too, they were the first desert to dissapier.
I had planned taking a picture of the people at the reunion eating the cupcakes, but seriously I went into the house to get something for my grandma and when I came back the cupcakes were all gone.  So, instead, one more shot of the goods themselves 😉

Summer Cleaning-Kitchen

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I’m not even going to bother with pictures this time.  This past week as been hectic as all get out.  I drove my parents and little sister to the airport 2 hours away and had Boo get car sick all over the back seat.  And I got sick and yeah.  SO, this is a few days late, but better late than never.

I’m reporting on the summer cleaning challenge #3, the kitchen.  I started out by going through my food cupboards.  I quickly realized that I had food in every single cupboard in my kitchen.  I wasn’t using most of it because I couldn’t find most of it.  SO, fist task was to get rid of the food that we weren’t eating for one reason or another.  I ended up taking a good amount of food down to the food bank and manage to condense my food to three cupboards.  Now, my kitchen is odd shaped, so three cupboards really isn’t that much.  I’ve got all my canned and boxed food above the counter I usually prepare food on, my over sized boxes ad bags (flower, sugar, rice, oil) in the only cupboard that doesn’t have a second shelf, and my baking stuff (baking soda, spices, coco) in the smallest cupboard.

Next I tackled my pots, pans, and baking dishes.  I’ve always struggled with a way to organize them without having them stacked in random ways and the lips all over the pace and falling out of the cupboard when I open it. Since i moved all my food to different cupboards I was left with an empty shelf in the cupboard with my canning jars.  That seemed to me the perfect place to put all the lids.  I also got ride of several pots and pans that I hadn’t used in pretty much ever.  I’ve got a bunch more room in my cupboard.

I’ll admit, I’ve not gone through the cupboard with my dishes in it yet, I’m scared.  I need to get rid of some because the bowls (mostly glass) are threating to topple out when ever I move anything in the cupboard.  I know I’ll be able to get rid of several that we’re not using.  But that is, sadly, a project for another day.

Next up is the bathroom, that will be easy as I’ve only got the one and keep up on it really good 🙂 tune in next week…or rather the end of this one 🙂

Roasted Ranch Potatoes

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I’m always trying to find things easy to make for dinner.  Mostly because I don’t have a lot of time, but also because I’m lazy.  I love potatoes, I really do, but I get tired of the same old thing.  Baked, mashed, occasionally fried.  I want something a bit different.

A while back I got a bottle of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix (the powder) at Costco.  I’ve slowly been using it.  And I thought why not use that to flavor the potatoes?

Now, I can’t claim the recipe as mine, it came off the back of the bottle, but I did just kind of eye ball it, so, yeah.  Anyway, here it goes!

Roasted Ranch Potatoes

Potatoes (I used russets, but I think these would also be good with red potatoes or fingerling)
Mild flavored oil (you wouldn’t want something that would over power the ranch flavor)
Ranch dressing powder (like I said, I used Hidden Vally, but I’m sure there are other brands out there that are good too)

  • Cut the potatoes into equal sized chunks.  If they’re small enough you can leave them whole.  It’s important that they’re all about the same size so that they cook evenly.
  • Toss with enough oil to coat.  This will help the seasoning to stick.
  • Toss with enough Ranch dressing to coat thoroughly.  You want to be able to see the flecks of ranch on the potatoes, that way you’ll know you got enough seasoning on them.
  • Place on a cookie sheet that’s been covered with either parchment or aluminum foil (this is for easy clean up and is totally optional). Roast in a 450 degree oven for 35 minutes or until tender.  You can turn them half way through so that they get evenly brown on all sides.

I served them in my lazy way with pre-made frozen Salisbury stakes and caned green beans.  The kids loved the potatoes, because they are meat and potato kids and have rarely met a potato they didn’t like.  The only down side to these is that the oven needs to be so hot for so long.  In the middle of the summer it’s not the best thing, but in the winter I’m sure it would be ok.  If I had a grill I’d see how these would do as a packet, either in aluminum foil or parchment, but I don’t.  If you have one try it out and let me know how it goes.

Toy Clean Up

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That crazy mom, Kelly, is at it again.  This weeks cleaning challenge, kids toys.  Again, this is something that I needed to do.  And again, I didn’t take any pictures.  It’s that scary.  Instead, lets pretend that the mess in my closet looked like this:

or perhaps like this:

or even this:

Actually, that ones not that far off.  Though, not my kids room, they’ve got an old school metal bunk bed.

So, lots of toys, never getting played with and half of them broken.  This is not a good thing, and I was sick of it.  I knew I needed to go through them, get rid of them, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.  I just needed a push in the right direction.

So, thanks to Kelly’s post this past week I decided to do it.  I sent the kids to my mom’s because I knew it would be almost impossible to get rid of their toys while they were still here, and went about going through the toys.

First thing I noticed, my kids have a lot of crap.  I don’t mean toys that I don’t like, but toys that are broken, and things that are dirty and beyond being cleaned.  I decided that I needed two different garbage bags for this job.  I turned their toy box upside down (not too hards as most of the toys were on the ground) and set about putting the toys away.

Anything broken went in the trash bag, things that were in good condition that the kids never played whit went in the donation bag, and the toys we were going to keep went back in the toy chest.  I got rid of all the wooden block and was trying to decide what to do with the toys they play with that have little parts (legos and Mr. Potato Head) when I realized that I’d found the perfect use for one of those plastic drawer sets that I’d picked up for less than $2 at a yard sale last weekend.

When i got done I had a bag and a half of trash (broken toys and papers and other plastic things that the kids had put in the toy box while “cleaning” their room), 2 bags of toys to donate, a bag of mega blocks that were never played with to give away and a bag of wooden blocks to give away.

And the end result:

Is it perfect? No, far from it.  But its better than it was.  I’m sure I’m going to find toys all over the place that I wish I’d gotten rid of, but nothing I can do about that now.  I’ll wait a few months and do it again.  Will they miss some of the toys that I got rid of?  Maybe, but I stick with my choices.

Stay tuned next week for my results of the next summer cleaning challenge, and if you want, you can play along too.  Just visit Kelly’s blog every Friday to see what she has in store for us.

Easy Chocolate Pudding Pops

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Have we discussed the summer doldrums yet? The period of time in the summer when its looking like it will never end and at the same time quickly slipping away?  When the kids sit like lumps on a log because they don’t want to go outside and play because its too hot?  When they wish they were this dog?

Sadly, we don’t have a pool.  At least, not one that’s going to have enough room in it to just lounge around.  All the public pools are always packed to the max this time of year. Even if we’ve got to be hitting record lows.  So, what’s there to do.  How do we break out of the dullness that is summer vacation?

Well, if you’re me then you start school for the summer and take four classes in half the time.  I think i may have suffered a brain injury of some sort when I registered for classes because i don’t know what I was thinking.

If you’re my kids you bug me and bug me until we make pudding pops 🙂

When I was a kid I remember making Popsicles with paper cups and plastic spoons.  They were a blast!  I loved them.  This year, for the first time, I thought I’d introduce my children to the joy of these simple summer time treats.  I got 3 oz Dixie cups from the store and set about finding something small enough to put in as the stick.  I could have just got bigger ups and used spoons like my mom did, but I wanted the smaller size because they would be easier to share and provide better portion control.

I thought about using craft sticks, thinking that if they’re good enough for the pros they’re good enough for me and while walking through the isles of my local Wally World came across mini crafts sticks!

So, stick in had we set out to make pudding pops.  It’s really easy.

Chocolate Pudding Pop

1 large box instant chocolate pudding
3 cups milk
Dixie cups (the paper ones you’d use in the bathroom)
Craft sticks, or plastic spoons if your cups are big enough

  • Mix the pudding with the milk.

  • Whisk until the pudding is well combined, but not thickened.  It’s easier to pour when its still a little liquedy.

  • Line up your cups on a cookie sheet or other flat stable surface.  Fill the cups as full as you’d like to.  I decided to fill them about half way full.

  • Insert sticks into the pudding.  This is where the pudding is nice.  If you used juice, you’d have to let the them freeze up for a bit before you insert the sticks so that it doesn’t float or become all crooked.

  • Clean a level spot in your freezer so that the cups don’t tip over on the cookie sheet…And then wait.  We made them before I went to class, which is two hours, and when we came back they were hard, so I’d think that if your frezer is cold enough it’ll only take about two hours.

The only thing left to do after that is eat them.  Just peel the cup off the sides.  These cups seem to have a problem with the bottom sticking.  It doesn’t just pop off like I remember, but they still came out OK.

The kids really liked them, as you can see Bud and Boo are both enjoying them.  Another plus with using the pudding is that its a a little slower melting than a juice pop.  Other than getting pudding all over there faces, there were no sticky hands because of drips.  And, you can fit them in your mouth completely.

Bud wants me to make jello pops. I’m not sure how that will work, frozen jello on a stick, but I’ll post if and when that happens.