Monday, May 25, 2009

Get excited. Oh yeah, oh yeah!

I'm hopping on a plane to sunny California tomorrow morning and I can't wait! I get to see my brother, L.A., San Francisco and Napa Valley. AND I just got back from Grand Lake. Can life get any better? 

Get excited, oh yeah, oh yeah!!

.grace.
1. Family dinners at Grand Lake.
2. Catch Phrase.
3. V.a.c.a.t.i.o.n.  it's vacation time!
4. Being all packed and ready to go.
5. Seeing the West Coast for the first time. 

See you when I get back! 

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tweet, tweet.

I did it. I gave in to Twitter. Like I need one more distraction. Actually, I joined months and months ago, before there was so much hype about it, just because I didn't know what it was and you can't get on the site and just "look around" so I was forced into joining. Then I did nothing with it. I actually forgot I even signed up. About two months ago, I got a few emails in one day saying that so-and-so was now following me on Twitter. After 3 or 4 more of those came in, I got on there and deleted my account. I don't like being followed. It creeps me out. But you know what I do like? Space. Like of the Outer Space variety. And while reading about space today, like I often do, I read that one of the astronauts on shuttle Atlantis is Twittering from space about the repairs being done on the Hubble Telescope. Twittering from space? Is that even possible? Apparently it is. So I joined Twitter once again, to follow an astronaut.

Now can someone explain to me what exactly I'm supposed to do on Twitter?

Grace:
1. Astronauts. I love them.
2. Redhawks baseball and Thirsty Thursdays.
3. Spicy cinnamon jellybeans.
4. Thunderstorms with lots of lightening just like last nights.
5. Twitter. Tweet, tweet! (My name on there is wallycado for all you Twitter freaks out there.)

Monday, May 11, 2009

On a scale of 1 to Tater Tot...

Boyfriend once asked me, "on a scale of 1 to tater tot, how much do you love me? 1 being the lowest, and tater tot, obviously, being the highest." I'm sure you all can guess my answer. Ever since then, we've used the "Tater Tot" scale to rate everything from restaurants, movies, iPhone apps, video games, and on occasion, a friend or two. So today, I want to share with you all a few of the things that rank high on my Tater Tot scale. You could also call them "My Favorite Things" but we've been there, done that.

I'm starting off my list with a few baked goodies, naturally. But I have some sad/bad news. My family has been asking me (begging me!) very nicely to put a hold on my baking spree. Apparently there's a little thing called "lake season" coming up and they would like to look their best in swim suits. Don't we all? I told them to suck it up and get outside and run off the extra calories because I'm not stopping! Just kidding. I didn't say that, but I thought about it.


Here we have some Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Icing. I have to admit that I have absolutely no idea if the cupcake part of these are good, but the icing? The icing. Is. Delish. I may or may not have eaten by the spoonful out of the bowl, put it on various cookies, and was thisclose to making a PB&J sammy out of it. Then I got a massive stomach ache and had to put the spoon down. Be careful with this stuff. It's dangerous.

I made this batch of cupcakes for my dad. He had a rough week and was in need of some major comfort food. We can ignore the fact that I had given him 6 strawberry cupcakes two days before, but sometimes it's like that with comfort food; sometimes you just really need it.

Aren't they dreamy looking? Here's the recipe!

::Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Icing:: from Tate's Bake Shop Cookbook
Ingredients: for cupcakes, makes 8
6 T salted butter
6 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
1/2 c. firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/3 c. sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. all purpose flour

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin pan with 8 cupcake liners.
Combing butter and chocolate in a medium microwaveable bowl. Microwave on low, in 30 second intervals, until melted and combined. Stir in the sugars. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each one. Stir in vanilla, then flour.
Divide the mixture into the 8 prepared muffin cups.
Bake cupcakes for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out with moist crumbs attached (similar to a brownie). Cool completely before icing.

Peanut Butter Icing: (good on everything!)
Ingredients:
3/4 c. confectioners' sugar (powdered sugar)
3/4 c. creamy peanut butter
1/4 c. salted butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. heavy cream
Directions:
Put all ingredients, except heavy cream, in bowl of electric mixer and beat until creamy. Add heavy cream and beat again until creamy and soft. If needed, add more powdered sugar or heavy cream to get desired consistency. I think I added a few tablespoons more of powdered sugar. Spread icing over cupcakes, and top with chopped nuts or sprinkles. I like to put the icing into a Ziploc sandwich baggy and cut off one corner to use as a piping bag. You should try it! It's super easy and makes your cupcakes look really cute.

Okay, it's time to get serious. This is a Sour Cream Pound cake with Lemon Glaze and it is divine. And it's a monster of a pound cake. It's one of those that you set out on the counter with a butter knife or fork on the plate, and just let people go crazy. Every time I walk into the kitchen, I have to cut myself a little sliver. Okay, who am I kidding, I grab a whole piece.

This is quickly becoming my favorite lemony dessert. It may even be better than the Lemon Ricotta Cookies. On a scale of 1-Tater Tot, this is a crispy, hot tot, my friends.

::Sour Cream Pound Cake::
Ingredients:
2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. cake flour (I didn't have cake flour, so I just used 3 c. all purpose and don't think it mattered at all)
1/4 tsp. salt* (reduce to 1/8 tsp. if using salted butter)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 c. unsalted butter, room temp.
3 c. sugar
1 T. vanilla
6 larges eggs
1 c. sour cream

Directions: Preheat oven to 350. Spray 10 inch bundt pan with nonstick spray.
In small bowl, sift the flours, salt and baking powder together and set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar with electric mixer until it's light and fluffy.
Add vanilla and mix.
Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the sour cream, and mix.
Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined.
Pour or spoon the mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Lemon Glaze:
Hmmmm....I basically used the same recipe for the lemon glaze on the Lemon Ricotta Cookies, but I didn't measure anything. But it's easy, so don't be scared and give it a try. Just put a few cups of powdered sugar in a bowl, and add the zest and juice of one lemon. Stir with a whisk until combined. If it's too runny, add more powdered sugar. Too thick, add more lemon juice, a bit of water or splash of milk. Just play with it until it's the consistency and taste you like. Poke your pound cake with a fork or toothpick all over, then pour the glaze over the warm (not hot) pound cake, making sure to let it drip down the sides and in the middle. The pokes will help it run inside the cake and make it extra super duper delicious. Trust me.

Okay! Enough with the sweet stuff. I've got a stomach ache just thinking about it.


On a scale of 1-Tater Tot, my dad is off the charts. Maybe a crispy french fry? Or a nicely salted onion ring from Johnnie's? That's how awesome he is. And just ask anyone. Seriously, people love my dad. He'll talk to anyone, about anything, and will immediately become your best friend. Everywhere I go with him, he seems to know everyone, and if he doesn't, he'll meet them. He also knows everything about everything. He'll see an interesting knot (yes, knot) and he'll study it until he knows everything about it, from it's history and origin, to how to tie the knot and use it properly. He's an avid reader, with a love of real literature, a seasoned fisherman, and loves his family more than anything. I could go on all day about how great my dad is, and all the things I love about him, but I think you all get the point. Besides, most of the people reading this know my dad and probably agree with just how great he is.

Love you, Homie D!


Have you heard of 31 Bits jewelry? I think I have mentioned them before, but I thought I'd talk about them again. My little bro's girlfriend gave me one of the bracelets for my birthday, and it's been a love affair ever since. The stories about the women who make them are inspirational, and remind me of just how privileged and lucky I am to not only live in America, but to have the simple pleasures in life that I often take for granted. Like my health, food, money, a job, and security. These women work to support their families, many of whom are sick and have very poor living conditions.

The jewelry itself is made from recycled paper that is rolled into beads. Each piece is different and unique to the designer.
Please, check out 31 Bits and help support the women of Uganda! Here in OK you can purchase the pieces at Retropolitan in Edmond. And say hi to Fayth while you're there!

One last thing, and then I'm finished. I promise. But since we're on the topic of buying goods for a good cause, go out and get yourself a pair of Tom's shoes. I'm sure you all have heard of these before, but if you haven't, you should check them out.



For every pair of shoes sold, Tom's gives a pair to a child in need. And they don't give shoes just because they make shoes. They give them to children in developing countries where children often go shoeless. In many of those regions, children and adults alike, develop podoconiosis, which is a disease you get from walking barefoot in silica-rich soil. Not to mention the sores, infections, and other diseases that can come from going barefoot all the time. Also, just having shoes enables the children of these countries to attend school where shoes are required.

I've heard some people say they think these shoes are too expensive for what you get. And yes, maybe $40-$50 for a pair of canvas shoes is a lot, but think of what you are doing with that $40 and the life you might be changing. And really, I'd rather spend $40 on something I can feel good about (and good in!) than on something I'll only wear once before it goes out of style. I already have two pairs and have my eyes set on the pair shown above. If only Blue 7 had my size, I'd be showing 'em off right now!

.....grace.....
1. Sunshine after 17 days of straight rain.
2. New tires! Mine were bald...really bald. Thanks, mom!!!
3. Allied Arts City Card.
4. Bagels. Yum.
5. Pho'Nomenal...and that it is.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Strawberry Cupcakes, two ways.

I'm a silver lining kind of person. I really enjoy finding the good in the not-so-good. I find it comforting to see good things in messy situations, and I find it reassuring to know that I haven't lost my optimism. When my grandmother passed away on Christmas morning, I thought to myself, at least she's going on her favorite day of the year. A day she loved because she loved giving, and she loved her family. And even with her passing, it was a happy day. We all gathered and rejoiced in her life, and in her passing. After suffering from the evil that is Alzheimer's for nearly 5 years, we knew it was a blessing that she finally moved on.

My dada passed away on Monday night, just four short months after his wife, and I've been struggling with the sadness and loss of yet another grandparent. But I think he did what so many old people do; he died of a broken heart. My silver lining is knowing that he is back with my grandmother, his wife of 67 and a half years.

You know what else is a silver lining for me in all that I do? These little punks.


K had a big dance recital on Sunday, and in honor of the occasion, I baked cupcakes! These are strawberry cupcakes (from a box) with vanilla buttercream icing and "Barbie" sprinkles. Or at least that's what the box said. I was hoping for sprinkles in the shape of an actual Barbie, but no, they are just pink and purple.


Barbie Cupcakes:
1 box of strawberry cake mix
Follow directions on box. Bake in lined cupcake pans. Makes 1 dozen regular cupcakes and 1 dozen mini cupcakes (my favorite!!).
Buttercream Icing:
2 sticks of butter, room temperature
1 box powdered sugar
1-2 tsp. vanilla
2-4 tsp. milk

I've decided that buttercream icing is all about personal taste. Every recipe I've looked at uses the same basic ingredients, but there's always a different method in mixing it all together. I've found that I like my icing to be more buttery than sweet, and thicker rather than thin. So here's what I did on Sunday. I took 2 sticks of butter, dumped in a little less that a full box of powdered sugar, and, while sitting on the floor next to the dog bowl for lack of an available outlet, I mixed it together with a hand mixer. After it was creamy I added 1 tsp of vanilla and about 2 tsp. of milk. Then I mixed it until completely mixed. I liked what I tasted, so I stopped there. If you like sweeter icing, just add more powdered sugar and use the milk to thin it out as needed. There's no right or wrong way with buttercream. Just make sure it's yummy to you.

Anyway, because yesterday was my mom's birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!!!!!) I made another batch of strawberry cupcakes. This time, from scratch, baby. And with strawberry buttercream on top. Oh man, oh man, these girls were delish. And because I had a hell of a time finding a recipe that didn't call for a box of white cake mix and a box of strawberry jello, I'll go ahead and share this recipe with you so you don't have to go through the struggle and strife I went through.

Sprinkles Strawberry Cupcakes and Frosting, provided by Martha. Of course.
Makes 1 dozen
Ingredients:
2/3 c whole fresh strawberries
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. coarse salt
1/4 c. whole milk, room temp. (I used low-fat at fridge temp, and it was fine)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp
1 c. sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg whites

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 and line muffin tin with liners
Put strawberries in food processor or blender, and process until pureed. You should have about 1/3 cup of puree. Add more strawberries if needed, and save any extra puree for frosting.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In a small bowl, mix together the milk, vanilla and strawberry puree; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer (I think a hand mixer would be fine too), cream the butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until well combined and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed and slowly add egg and egg whites until just blended. (At this point, it's a little lumpy and weird looking, but it turns out that's okay.)
With mixer on low, slowly add half the flour mixture and mix until just blended. Add the milk/strawberry mixture and mix until blended, then add the remaining flour mixture, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Mix until blended.
Divide batter into prepared muffin tins, and bake until tops are just dry to the touch, 22-25 minutes. Cool completely before icing.

Strawberry Frosting:
Ingredients:
1/2 c. strawberries
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, firm and slightly cold
pinch of coarse salt
3 1/2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp vanilla

Directions:
Puree strawberries in food processor or blender. OR use leftover puree from cupcakes. In the bowl of an electric mixer (or hand held), beat together the butter and salt on medium speed, until light and fluffy. Reduce mixer speed and slowly add powdered sugar and beat until well combined. Add vanilla and 3 tablespoons strawberry puree and mix until just blended. Do not over mix or frosting will incorporate too much air. Frosting consistency should be dense and creamy, like ice cream.

A few notes, I doubled the recipe for the cupcakes, because 1 dozen is definitely not enough for me. Next time I think I'll add more strawberry puree to the batter, just to get more of a strawberry flavor. This cake is pretty thick too, so I think that would help make it a bit more spongy. I didn't, however, double the icing recipe and I had just enough for everything I made. I'm pretty sure I didn't follow icing directions precisely, I probably over mixed, but mine was thick and creamy and just delicious. Here's my finished product!

One dozen cupcakes.....


And one mini three-tiered cake!

Notice the slight lean my mini cake's got going on? That's because I have no idea how to make a three-tiered cake, or how to ice a cake at all. It's all about experimentation for me. I tried to distract from the lean with sprinkles and I think it may have worked! Most importantly, my mom loved it. And I think yours will too, so go make one for the mom in your life! It is Mother's Day week after all. Enjoy!

*!*!*!*!Grace!*!*!*!*
1. 26 years with an awesome Dada.
2. My mama on her bday. Happy Birthday Mom!
3. 4 inch cake pans. Go buy some today!
4. The Neil Young station on Pandora.com. It really helps to listen to some good tunes during any and all of your cooking/baking sessions. Trust me, I know these things.
5. Karoline and Annie's Baking Extravaganza! Coming soon to a network near you.

Monday, May 4, 2009

It's Mother's Day week, make some brownies!

Okay, okay. I'm finally getting around to this. I've been a bad blogger this week and I apologize. I'm sure you all were checking in everyday, cursing me for not updating you on my day to day life, as exciting as it is. Oh you weren't checking in everyday? My bad.

Mother's Day is this weekend (Sunday, for you guys out there who may not pay attention to such things) and in honor of my mom, and all moms around the world, I've decided to make this a very sweet week indeed. It will be full of brownies and cupcakes, pies and muffins, pancakes and coffee cake. Or maybe not. It might be more savory and include meatloaf and mashed potatoes. I don't plan these things out, which might explain why I visit the grocery store about 14 times a week. Anyway, whatever I make, I promise you it will be mom-worthy.

Here's a few goodies to get you started!

Actually, you should just stop right here. This recipe for Chocolate Fudge Brownies with Butterscotch and Pecans will be all you need to make your mom the happiest mom in town. Just ask my mom, she got these last week.

Chocolate Fudge Brownies with Butterscotch and Pecans (that was a mouthful!)
Ingredients:
1/2 c. flour
1/8 tsp. salt
4 T. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
2 lrg. eggs, at room temperature
1 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. coarsely chopped toasted pecans - *see note
1/3 c. butterscotch chips
*Note: To toast pecans, spread evenly on baking sheet and bake in pre-heated oven (350 degrees) for 10-15 minutes, or until fragrant and, well, toasted. Or you can cheat like I did and just throw them in a skillet on top of the stove for 10 minutes or so. Honestly, I don't even know what difference this made, but the recipe said toast the pecans, so I toasted the pecans!
To make: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and grease and flour an 8x8inch baking dish.
In a small bowl, combine the flour and salt and set aside.
In a medium sauce pan over low heat, melt the butter with the chocolates, stirring occasionally until smooth. (This can also be done in the microwave in 30 second increments.) Remove from heat, and allow to cool to luke warm, 5-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, beat the eggs with the sugar until light and creamy, 2-3 minutes. Add vanilla and beat well. Add chocolate and butter mixture and beat until well combined. Add the dry ingredients, and mix thoroughly. Stir in half the pecans and half of the butterscotch chips and spread batter evenly in prepared dish. Batter will be very thick. Bake for 20 minutes* and sprinkle with remaining pecans and butterscotch. Return to oven, and bake an additional 15-20 minutes*, or until toothpick comes out with moist crumbs attached. Cool completely (or overnight) before serving.
* More notes: I followed the directions exactly and wished I would have added the remaining pecans and butterscotch after 15 minutes instead of 20. At 20 minutes, the brownies were too done to really let the toppings adhere to them, so they just sat on top and looked pretty, but fell off pretty easily. I also only needed to bake it for another 15 minutes after adding the toppings, and I still might have overcooked it ever so slightly. Next time, I'll bake for 15, add the pecans and butterscotch, then bake for an additional 15 and see how it looks. I definitely wouldn't go over 40 minutes total, unless you know your oven is finicky. And definitely let it cool completely! I couldn't wait so I cut into it way too soon and it sort of fell apart on me. But dang, it tasted delish, and I'm not even that much of a brownie eater! Make these, you realllly need to.

I was going to include a recipe for Sour Cream Coffee Cake, but I'll save that for later. Instead, I'll end with a pretty picture of my sweet niece. Why? Because she's stinkin' cute and the grass is green and the flowers are a-bloomin', so why not?
::::::Grace::::::
1. Being able to find the grace in small things, even when grace seems hard to find.
2. My dad for not only being a great dad, but for being a great son.
3. My iPhone for keeping my nephew entertained during his sister's 3 hour long dance recital. Mom, you can thank me later for choosing soccer over ballet.
4. The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers
5. Falcone's. Delish.



Saturday, May 2, 2009

With cheese, please.

You know, I started out today's post with pictures and recipes from last weeks baking extravaganza, but then I decided that I'd much rather tell you about something else: cheeseburgers. And no, I didn't make one. Last time I took that job into my own hands, it just didn't turn out well. Maybe it's because I'm not a guy, or maybe it's because I'm scared to use the outdoor grill, but I just can't make a cheeseburger to save my life. That doesn't mean I'm going to stop trying though. I realize cheeseburgers are one of the easier things to make, but hey, just because it's easy for everyone else, doesn't mean it's easy for me. And besides, boyfriend makes really good burgers, and so does my dad, step-dad, brothers, uncles, friends, neighbors, etc., so I've never really had to do it on my own. So really, it's not my fault that I don't know how to do it. No one has ever taught me. Same with mowing the lawn. I begged my dad for years to teach me, but no, he taught my brothers, and so every summer they earned extra cash by mowing lawns and I went broke. But that's really another story for another time.

For you OKC folk, do you all remember Abraham's burgers? It was in a little tiny shack off of Western Ave and they had hands down, the best burgers ever. I can't even remember how many times I ate there in high school. A few years ago, I was taking boyfriend there for the first time (how he had lived here for 20+ years and never ate there, I'll never know) and when we pulled up to the tiny shack, it was closed! For good! But now, my prayers have been answered, and the good folks at Abe's realized that OKC (and myself) can't survive without them and they have reopened. In a new building. That can actually seat more than 20 people. Boyfriend and I are heading off to lunch today to give the new joint a try. Don't worry, I'll keep you informed.

And I promise that I will post some delicious recipes soon. Be on the lookout for chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream icing, sour cream coffee cake, and fudgy brownies with butterscotch and pecans. And anything else I decide to make between now and then.

Happy Derby Day!

Grace:
1. Saturday morning thunderstorms, even thought I got hit in the head with a piece of hail. Twice.
2. Kickball in the front yard with P and K.
3. My mom's flower garden.
4. Stove top popcorn. It really is far superior to the microwave variety.
5. My new black pashmina from Private Quarters. I basically live wrapped up in that thing.