Friday, April 29, 2011

Recipe Recap: Brownie-Stuffed Cupcake with Caramel Buttercream

Don't wait to make these. Seriously, stop reading, go buy some yellow cake mix and brownie mix, and make these rightnow.

These cupcakes are going to be staples in the McKitchen. I made them with a caramel buttercream this time around, but I want to try them with peanut butter frosting as well as chocolate.

After reading some reviews, I arrived at my method for assembling these cupcakes. I put a little more than 1/8 cup of cupcake batter in the bottom of each liner, followed by a generous dollop of brownie batter, then topped that with a layer of cupcake batter, which I gently spread to cover the brownie layer. Yes, it was a touch time-consuming and I don't think I'll try making them again on a Wednesday night when I don't get home until 8:00 after my spinning class, but I do have to say they were totally worth it.

Mmm, fudgy brownie layer...

I'm still working on being a good baker. I would say more often than not, my stuff turns out slightly overbaked. I've blamed my oven before and I'm going to continue to do so - I think it runs hot. Unfortunately, I haven't developed my own gut feeling about when something's done and I'm still figuring out just how many crumbs stuck to a toothpick equal "baked to perfection."

But this time around? I don't know if it was a fluke or I'm finally getting the hang of things, but I would have to say that these were baked for precisely the right amount of time. The cupcake was done but moist, and the brownie layer was ever-so-slightly gooey.

For the frosting, I used this recipe. It's not super-caramelly, which is good because it's a pretty basic recipe that can be used on a variety of cakes. I did have to experiment a bit with it because I only had 4 cups of powdered sugar. I did a little looking on the interwebs and it turns out you can blend (literally use a blender) a cup of regular sugar with one tablespoon of cornstarch until it's powdery and use that in place of powdered sugar. Phew, crisis averted!

So, which are you craving more right now, a cupcake or a brownie? Or maybe you're all about the frosting? I worked with someone once who would only eat the frosting off cake and cupcakes. So for her birthday one year, in addition to a small cake for the rest of us, I got her a quarter-pound of frosting from the Harris Teeter deli. She thought it was perfect.

{Cupcake recipe}
{Frosting recipe}

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Sunday was my 32nd birthday.


I don't know what I expected 32 to feel like. Twenty years ago, I'm sure I thought 32 was OOOOOOOOLD. Ten years ago, it was an age I didn't think about because it was just soooo far off.

Now I have to plug "32" into the machines at the Y so that they can accurately calculate my calorie burn. I wonder if it'll make a difference...? Other than that, this birthday didn't have much effect on me. I'm really not hung up on my age. Having a younger McHusband'll do that to you.

Sunday was pretty routine: cereal for breakfast, TV, laundry, exercise, some cleaning, a home-cooked dinner with my hubby. I normally go to a spinning class at the Y on Sundays but the Y was closed for Easter. Instead, I went to my friend Heather's neighborhood and ran 6.5 miles. I made the mistake of not getting started until 11:30 with the sun high overhead and the humidity at a summertime level (ahhh, you gotta love "spring" in NC) so I wasn't feeling "it" and couldn't finish the 8 miles I really want to do. Oh well.

The McHusband got me the cycling shoes I asked for as well as a Subway gift card. I eat lunch at Subway on Wednesdays. It's the only day I eat out for lunch. Did you know they offer a mini? It's not that much smaller than a 6" sandwich, but it takes about $2 off the price of my turkey combo.

I'll get to try out my new shoes tomorrow night during my spinning class. Keep your fingers crossed that I remember I'm clipped into the pedals and don't try to get off the bike like I used to...

Even though Sunday felt like any ordinary day, I had a table full of cards to remind me that it wasn't.

Bri's card came with bling and much fewer calories than the cupcakes that've been in my kitchen lately.

I have to share the card my dad sent. It made me laugh and then I immediately took it out to the garage to share with the McHusband.

And on the inside:

The McHusband made dinner for us. He'd bought a Bird's Eye frozen teriyaki stirfry meal and we decided to give that a try for dinner. It was actually really good. It was just veggies, noodles, and sauce and we decided it'd be good to have some chicken with it next time.

I had dinner with some girlfriends last week on Thursday, a group of us went to dinner and a movie on Saturday, I had a birthday lunch with work yesterday, and I have one last (but definitely not least!) birthday lunch this Thursday.

Yeah, I definitely need to put those cycling shoes to good use with all this celebrating...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Storm: Extramacise and Sunday

After naps, we pretty much just hung out around the house. Owen and Lyla kept each other busy in "her" room (the front bedroom), and the McHusband squeezed in a P90X workout. The kids checked on him from time to time and had a front-row seat on the dog beds.

Lyla eventually calls out from upstairs: "Gma, I need to change clothes so I can do my extramacise." She'd had enough of the sidelines, it was time to join in the fun.

Of course, Owen had to change into his gym clothes, too, but he wasn't that interested in doing any extramacise. You know, kinda like those perfectly made-up girls in the coordinated outfits at the gym; they aren't there to break a sweat.

Between the park and the extramacising with Tony, both kids slept great Saturday night. Even Olivia, after Aunt Steph worked her magic, had a good night. The kids wanted to be outside practically as soon as they got up on Sunday and, well, when you're at Aunt Steph's and Uncle Ryan's, you don't need actual clothes, or, you know, shoes to go outside.

Of course, we had to check out the patio...

I know what I'm getting Lyla for her birthday in June.

We finally got them to go back inside. There was some petting of the baby...

And I can't remember what the cookie bribe was for, but I'm pretty sure Owen earned this cookie doing something he didn't want to.

We had a great weekend with everyone. The McHusband and I will be ready to do it again...this time NEXT year.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Storm: Saturday day

Saturday day. Not to be confused with Saturday night. I could do all of Saturday in one post, but it's almost 9:00 on Sunday and I have TV to watch, plus the McHusband will be up here soon, looming over me in a "IhavetogetonthecomputernoworI'lldie" way.

The weather wasn't great last Saturday, but it could've been much worse. It was overcast and cool, but at least it was dry and that's really the only condition that we cared about. You know, kinda the same philosophy we have with the dogs - so long as it's dry, we'll venture out.

We went to the park by the old house, the one we went to last year when everyone visited. There wasn't anyone else out there so we had the run of both playgrounds, which was nice. It can be a pain when you're little and fighting to gain your footing among the six-year-olds.

There was tire-swinging...

And horseback riding, which Owen took very seriously.

Not the McHusband and me though. We were having fun reaching out to our inner children.

Of course, there was a LOT of sliding.

I think the best caption for these next two pictures is, "Weeeeeeeee!"

The kids did lots of climbing.

Owen mastered this ladder after one trip up.

Lyla took a short break from the swingin' and slidin' to do some sitting as well as what appears to be some cheering.

Soon enough, it was time to head over to the pond to check things out.

We found a dead minnow on the ground by the pond. Lyla isn't her mother's daughter nor is she either of of aunt's nieces; she picked that little dead fishy right up.

Guess what else we saw while we were out there? A mean ol' snapping turtle!

At one point, Calvin called so Owen was walking around talking to him. Doesn't he look like he's conducting important business?

Okay, that wraps up Saturday day. Still to come: working out with the McHusband.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Recipe Recap: Toffee Crunch Cookies

I knew we'd need rations to weather The Storm that was headed our way this past weekend. I made Shannon's favorite munchie, the spicy pretzels, and I stocked up on Classic Jelly Beans, which I kept in a bowl on the counter and were WAAAAY too accessible for the good of my waistline. I knew Mom and Shannon like to snack on those, and I used it as an excuse to finally break down and buy some Easter candy.

I also used their visit as a reason to make some cookies I'd had my eye on for a while. I highly recommend these cookies, particularly if you're looking to get away from chocolate (blasphemy!) and you like a soft cookie. I used plain toffee bits instead of the chocolate covered ones, thus the name change in the title of the post.

These came together very easily and I didn't even mind the minimum-one-hour chilling time necessary before I could bake them. I had stuff to do in preparation (a.k.a. battening down the hatches) for my visitors (a.k.a. the impending storm) so I kept busy and the hour flew by.

I liked that I got a TON of cookies out of this recipe. We all were guilty of grabbing one (or three) here and there throughout the weekend, and they were only finally gone right before everyone left on Sunday.

Mmm... The toffee bits melted a little bit and their goodness spread just enough through the cookie.

The other thing I made was a pumpkin Bundt bread with a streusel topping. I'd bought a boxed mix from Trader Joe's back in the fall and figured it would be a good thing to have on hand for this weekend. I made a Libby's pumpkin-bread-from-a-box a few years ago and that one was definitely better, but this one was fine.

I added some of the streusel topping into the middle of the cake as well. You'll just have to trust me on that as it blends into the cake.

I think I feel the same way about streusel as I do about diet Sprite added to my adult beverages: it makes most things better.

Who wants to visit next? I've got a whole list of goodies I'm just dying to try!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Storm: Friday

Shannon and her entourage arrived around 3:30 Friday afternoon. Olivia needed to eat and Lyla and Owen needed to stretch their legs. My bird feeders needed filled and there was some, um, cleanup required in the yard so we set out to take care of those things. Lyla was excited to go the the McHusband's "barn" in the backyard, and Owen was thrilled when he realized there was a tractor in there. He climbed up into the seat so he could go for a ride while Lyla checked out the trailer, which I very knowingly informed her was "for stuff." That's right, nothing gets by me.

I finally convinced them to get out of the barn so we could fill the feeders and take care of that other fun task. Mom got a couple pictures from the deck. Who knew septic tank covers could be so fun?

We ended up on the patio where the kids played on the McHusband's wall. Owen had his shoes off and you can see Lyla making the decision here that she wants to be barefoot as well. Sorry, Bri!

We had a lesson in entomology, although it wasn't exactly a successful one since we couldn't identify the crazy green moth that was attached to the back of the house.

He wasn't too scary looking, but he was pretty big and the thought of him suddenly taking flight and being in my face kinda freaked me out. The kids didn't seem to have that same fear.

A couple close-ups for anyone with more bug knowledge than us who might be able to ID our flying friend.

Once the moth got old, we moved on to the Citronella candles I had placed around the patio, which the kids were kind enough to consolidate in one place.

Lyla was so cute. She said, "Mmm, these candles smell good. My mom would really like them." So, Nate, there's Lyla's Mother's Day gift from Lyla: some Citronella candles. Anyone who knows Bri knows she sorta has a "thing" for candles and plug-ins so, actually, she probably wouldn't mind at all opening up a couple of Citronella candles in pretty containers.

Shannon came out with Olivia and handed her off to me. I just can't get enough of those baby snuggles.

I think this is known as a "milk coma."

Everyone loves the McHusband's wall.

Lyla had to try out my chairs.

Finally it was time to go in for juice and snacks and to think about making dinner.

Check out Aunt Steph, Baby/Toddler/Dog Whisperer. Lyla's probably saying, "Aww, she's so cutie" about Olivia. I guess she combined "Such a cutie" and "She's so cute."

While I worked on dinner (a version of PW's Sour Cream Noodle Bake), Mom painted Lyla's toes with some polish she found on a side table. What, you don't keep at least three nail polishes on the side table in your den? Because, you know, painting your nails can be such a last-minute decision, you gotta have that stuff ready.

Showing off pink toes requires a full dancer's pose.

Lyla and Owen both have dogs at home but no cats and they've always been very interested (waaay too much so as far as Tori and Emma are concerned) in ours. Tori was more comfortable in this same spot during our St. Patrick's Day party than she was at pretty much any point this weekend. You can see how wide her eyes are as she assesses Owen and his intentions.

And Emma? She was mostly on our bed or in hiding all weekend but when she'd come downstairs, it was a big deal.

"Aunt Steph! I found the other cat! There she is!"

Emma didn't stay visible for long, but that just made her all the more appealing.

Part 2 of The Storm coming up. And I have a couple videos to share. Wait until you see the pillow fight that we encouraged.