Saturday, March 22, 2014

Defying Gravity

To be honest, I've actually been baking quite a bit in the last week. Between lemon bars, lemon loaf, cookies, and blueberry muffins, there has always been something going on in our kitchen. The unfortunate part is that I haven't been documenting any of it, and I'm extremely reluctant to write a post without pictures! I need to write something though, and going back through old photos, I figured that my puppy Angus would be a fitting subject!

We're approaching Angus's third birthday, and I thought I would document a bit of what goes on in the life of our dog. It's a extra bonus that many of these pictures were taken in the spring, and helps cheer me up in the middle of the seemingly eternal Minnesota winter!

Who me?

Yeah, so about this. We have a super soaker water gun, and it turns out that Angus is a pretty big fan. This means that when the gun comes out, gravity seems to fade away.

I took this picture in the fall on a fairly windy day. This was pretty perturbing for the prince as he had just done his hair!

When you call "come," you can pretty much guarantee no response, but when you call "treat," well, this is what happens!

I love you Mama! Oh, thanks baby, I love you too!

Yeah, like I said, Angus is a pretty big fan of the super soaker....

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Chocolate Cupcakes

My friend had a Birthday recently and naturally, there had to some sort of treat involved. I was originally planning on making a chocolate cake, but given that there wasn't going to be that many people at the party, I decided on making cupcakes instead. I've used one recipe for chocolate cake for a while, and while it is delicious, I wanted to try something new. I used the chocolate cake recipe from My Baking Addiction and modified it slightly to make this batch of cupcakes. This recipe baked into cupcakes perfectly and was moist and tasty! Next, I went to the refridgerator to grab some butter to make chocolate butter cream and met an unpleasant surprise; there was no butter. What!? Thankfully we did have cream, which I used to make chocolate ganache. I never loved ganache for frosting cupcakes as it just doesn't hold up nearly as well as buttercream when being piped. The solution to this, I discovered, was to whip the ganache which gives it a bit more body, and it piped perfectly!

The trusty old Kitchen-aid mixer did a great job whipping up the chocolate ganache for the cupcakes!

I received a cake stand for my birthday which fit my small batch of cupcakes just perfectly!

Sprinkles were involved of course!

I made this tag to tie around the base of the cake stand!

Chocolate Cake:
(makes a 1 layer 8" cake or around 12 cupcakes)

1 cup sugar
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoons cocoa
1 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup strong black coffee 
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoons vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 350F. Grease a 8" cake pan or line a muffin tin with wrappers. Mix together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer until combined. Add eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla. Beat on medium speed for about two minutes; the batter will be thin. Pour batter evenly into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes for round pans, 12-15 minutes for cupcakes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Frost with chocolate ganache or a frosting of choice.


- To tell the truth, I don't really have a recipe for chocolate ganache, I usually just guesstimate with a ratio of 1 part cream to 4 parts chocolate.

- It's no problem if you don't have buttermilk: simply add a tablespoon of lemon juice, vinegar, or yogurt to the milk and let it sit for a couple of minutes


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Restaurant Review: The Buttered Tin

Our family received a gift card to a place we had never heard of, The Buttered Tin, around two months ago. We checked out the website, but it was a good 45 minutes away and decided to save it for a time when we were in the area. The website is absolutely wonderful, but simply did not do this lovely cafe/ bakery justice! The moment we walked in, we were glad we had made the trip. The atmosphere was one part cute, with one part cozy, and we actually did't mind the 25 minute wait as we could spend it narrowing down our lunch options and drooling over the pastry case! We went during the lunch rush, so there was a line up, but around 12:30, it cleared out a bit. The Buttered Tin is located in St. Paul, Minnesota, and if you're ever in the area, I'd highly recommend it for breakfast, lunch or a quick pastry. And you guys, the breakfast menu made my jaw drop. From Banana's Foster French Toast to the Loaded Hash Browns, there was something for anyone and everyone!

I ordered the TBT Hash which was root vegetables with potatoes, an egg on top and some toast. It was delicious, and the majority of their meats are sourced locally. Not to mention that the bread was made in house!

My Mom ordered the BLT sandwich complete with a tiny side salad. She really enjoyed it as well, and we will definitely be back soon!

We ordered this caramel roll for dessert and were rewarded by our decision. The caramel roll was everything you could wish for in a caramel roll: gooey, chewy, sticky, soft, and sweet! 

We bought a cupcake for my sister who missed the occasion called a Peanut Butter Blossom, and judging by her facial expressions, it was heavenly! All of their varied cupcake flavours looked adorable in the glass case.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Photo Wall

This may be one of the cheapest and most fun ways you can decorate for  any sort of party! I got this idea from one of my favourite blogs: psheart. I have some of the worst handwriting on the planet and still managed to make this mural look cute, so I'm positive you can too! We had a roll of paper sitting in our basement, so I grabbed three long pieces and taped them to the wall. Another plus is that you can just roll up the three pieces of paper and use them at another party! I love how you can make this look however you want, whether you write it yourself, paint it, use photo's, and can make it for any occasion. I made mine with the words "Happy Birthday" but you could definitely write Merry Christmas and add some silver bells and ivy on the edges!

Tada! The yellow ribbon around the edges cleaned up where I had cut the paper and brightened it up. I really liked adding the balloons to the top as well because they give it a festive touch!

I basically wrote happy birthday a million different times in a bunch of different ways! 

I also added a couple quick drawings of cake, balloons, and a banner.

Make sure to include a bucket of fun props such as scarfs, glasses, and hats! This is super fun whether you're a toddler or 99!

Happy Birthday!
A Happy Birthday mural definitely doesn't exhaust the list! Here's a couple more ideas:

- For Christmas, write Merry Christmas and add ivy and silver bells around the mural.

- I think this would work super well with any themed birthday party. Adding a fairy castle in the background for a little girl or a racetrack in the back for a boy would be super fun!

- A couple years ago we hosted an olympics party, and it would be super fun to draw some rings and make it into a booth for a press conference with the winning athlete!


Sunday, January 19, 2014

How To Make A Pie Crust

A pie crust seems to be one of those foods that is a bit intimidating to make the first time. I credit this to the fact that they can be a fussy, and the fact that your local grocery store probably stocks them for cheap, making it perfect every time.

 Trust me on this one though, once you make your own pie crust, there is simply no going back. The gap between a store-bought pie crust and a homemade crust is signifigant, not even taking in account the immense pride you will feel once you're done! Plus, if you have the right recipe (supplied below) and you are willing to put in a bit of effort, you'll soon become a pro at making pie crusts, and impressing everyone who eats your pie!

I've included an easy step by step tutorial to show you how to make my favourite recipe for a no-fail pie crust. I have experimented with a couple recipes, and this is the best by far! It's super flaky, crumbling when your fork hits it. I'm a filling person, so I love how this crust allows the filling to take the stage while still being dressed to impress!

The Best Pie Crust:
Makes One 9" Pie Crust

1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
3 Tablespoons water

Sift the flour and salt together in a mixing bowl. Cut the stick of butter into tiny cubes and add to the flour mixture. Using your fingers, combine the butter into the flour until the mixture is crumbly and rains from your fingers. Add the water tablespooon by tablespoon, mixing well each time. You may use not use all the water, or you may use more than 3 tablespoons. The dough should just come together, but not be too wet.  Press the crumbs together into a ball and chill until needed.

-A ball of pie crust can stay in the freezer for around a month!
-Do not knead the dough when mixing
-You want to be careful with the amount of water so that the crust isn't too wet (making it too sticky to roll out), or too dry (crumbling when rolled). 
-Both of the above problems can be fixed when rolling by adding lot's of flour to the rolling surface, or adding a spritz of water.