Tuesday, June 28, 2011

pink & fairies

My latest cookie project was so much fun, mainly because it finally gave me an opportunity to make something totally and completely girly.

Don't get me wrong ... I mean, I love making baseball gloves and beer mugs. But there's just something about fairy wings and pink princess crowns that's good for the soul.

Hopefully they'll survive the transit and the Texas heat and arrive safely to my dear friend, Bonnie and her sweet girls, in San Antonio.

Friday, June 24, 2011

just add buttercream

Article first published as Just Add Buttercream on Blogcritics.

I'm sort of a traditionalist when it comes to cooking. Blame it on my mom, but, the thought of taking shortcuts on items such as homemade whipped cream (Cool Whip? Sacrilege.) or birthday cakes made from scratch (Duncan Hines? Get a rope.) makes my inner-Julia Child wince and run for cover. Sacré bleu.

So whenever my son, the cupcake junkie, [frequently] asks to make cupcakes, visions of a 'too-much-to-worry-about-right-now' endeavor fill my head. Until recently.
Cars cupcakesA friend has convinced me that, especially when it comes to kids, it really doesn't matter if the cupcake comes from a box, as long as it's topped with something delectable and homemade like buttercream — so Sandra Lee (of Semi-Homemade fame), right? But when the alternative is one of those sticky-icky cardboard cupcakes covered with foam that's sold in grocery store bakeries, it makes sense.

In anticipation of the new Disney Pixar Cars 2 movie that opens this weekend, my son, Aidan, has Lightning McQueen on the brain. And yesterday, as we were strolling along the baked goods aisle at Hannaford (on one of our regularly-scheduled trips for powdered sugar and flour), he saw the rows of cake mix boxes and begged for Cars cupcakes.

My inner Julia flinched a bit, but ultimately relented. And my inner Sandra rejoiced (although I did choose the "moistest" cake I could find); however, I drew the line at the canned frosting, opting instead for the real McCoy — buttercream.

In the end, Aidan got Lightning McQueen, and I didn't feel like a total sell-out.

All in all, a sweet compromise.


Vanilla buttercream frosting
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted (don't skip this step!)
  • 1 teaspoon milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Add butter and sugar to mixing bowl and beat at medium-high speed until blended.
Add milk and vanilla and continue to beat for another 2-3 minutes, or until smooth and creamy.

Frosts 12 cupcakes

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

{ re-creating elephants }

My current cookie project involves a baby shower and a Pottery Barn nursery pattern -- a very organic, nondescript, gender-neutral nursery theme ... so much so that the concern arose that the design wouldn't be a good basis for bright, fun, festive cookies.

No need for worry ... the PB pattern turned out to be a super template for cookies!

The simple graphics, various textures, and contrasting light and dark colors came together perfectly to create a nursery-themed, fun array of goodies for the eco-friendly baby celebration.

Elephants on parade.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

{ red and blue }

Ever since I began my cookie-making journey, I've been gawking over a design by one of my cookie idols -- (Callye from SweetSugarBelle ... she's brilliant) lace-decorated cookies. They're so simple, oh-so pretty, and can be added to just about any shape.

I was sort of at a loss this year as far as what to get Aidan's teachers for an end-of-year gift. And I'm ashamed to admit that time sort of got away from me, and his last day of school is rapidly approaching. So I figured it was the perfect time to attempt the long-admired lace cookies. I wanted to use fun and bright summer colors, so I opted for red and teal blue on round and cross-shaped cookies.

Mine aren't anywhere near as lovely as Callye's, but they were fun to make.

And they're yummy.

Monday, June 13, 2011

{ roasted striped bass with shrimp and mussels }

Ty went fishing last weekend and caught some fish.

They were big fish.

So an obvious item on the dinner menu this week was striped bass, in some form. I opted for a recipe adapted from Ina's bag of tricks.


    to remove excess sand, soak mussels for 20-min in water and a spoonful of flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onions
  • 2 ounces pancetta or bacon, diced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 (28-ounce) can plum tomatoes, drained and diced
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 (2 to 3-pound) striped bass fillet, skin removed
  • 1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 24 mussels, cleaned and debearded
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat oil in a medium saute pan and saute the onion and bacon/pancetta over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the tomatoes, saffron, salt, pepper, white wine, and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes.

Lay the fish in a 10-by-14-inch baking dish and season with salt and pepper. Add the shrimp and mussels to the dish. Pour the sauce over the seafood and bake uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes, until the fish and shrimp are cooked through and the mussels are open. Sprinkle with basil and serve.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

{ moving forward, backward )

My little girl is rapidly becoming a baby-in-motion. She's started to crawl and is zooming all over the place; but the kicker is, she's crawling backwards, not forward.

It's a humorous sight to see how she shimmies herself into tight spaces -- under furniture, into the corners of rooms, and this morning, underneath her older brother's living room "fort" made from pillows and blankets.

She was extremely proud of herself. 

Thursday, June 09, 2011

i blew out my flip flop


Jimmy Buffet would be proud.

Ty discovered a fishing spot about 3 miles from our house, and so far, it's been full of much adventure, and very few fish. We've (me) sunk in [deep] mud, been swarmed by gnats, discovered dinosaur bones (according to Aidan), and lost our fishing net to the high tide.

Family time at its best. And I love it.

Monday, June 06, 2011

{ farmers' market }

I was asked to make some cookies with a Farmers' Market theme. It provided a perfect canvas for one of my favorite elements of cookie-making --- bright colors!