so long, 2010

what’s new year’s eve without some sparkle? i had a ratty pair of black flats that were about to meet their demise in the garbage until i saw THIS tutorial from the ladies at we are not martha. ummm…can we just say love love love! i’m pretty picky when it comes to glitter and sequins, but boy, if i’m not a sucker for the perfect amount of flair added to an outfit. i haven’t decided on the rest of my clothes, but i know what my feet are wearing tonight!

in 2010 i…
let go
stopped (mentally) beating myself up
fell in love all over again
went to seattle
got a puppy
became a dog person
and then became head over heels for that puppy
did not read enough books
missed my best friend(s) terribly
met new people
laughed and laughed and laughed some more
took a stand
did some good
saw ronnie spector perform
got ready to take the mister on the trip of a lifetime


lemon-limoncello cupcakes for christmas

traditionally, the week between christmas and new years is a pretty lazy time – you hang out, you play with all your presents, you visit with friends who are in town, you hang out some more, this time in your pajamas. so even when you need to be productive and get ready for a 2 week trip, which you are leaving for next week, you somehow find yourself playing 2 hours of beatles rock band (in your pajamas) instead. i guess that’s my way of explaining why i didn’t post about these cupcakes 4 or 5 days ago.

i was asked to bring a dessert to christmas night dinner and after changing my mind a million times on what flavor cupcakes to make – i stumbled upon this recipe from brown eyed baker and it totally won me over. the combination of the lemon curd filling and the cream cheese frosting make each bite taste exactly like you are eating a lemon bar. one of the mister’s cousins ate 3 of them 🙂

LEMON-LIMONCELLO CUPCAKES (originally found here)

Yield: 1 dozen (i doubled the recipe for 2 dozen since we had a big group at christmas)

1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 ounces (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons limoncello
½ cup buttermilk (i used the vinegar+regular milk sub)
¼ cup lemon juice
Zest of one lemon

THE LEMON CURD: *also doubled the amount of lemon curd made*
Zest of 2 lemons
½ cup lemon juice
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk

THE CREAM CHEESE LIMONCELLO FROSTING: *note: though i doubled the batter & curd recipes, i did not double the frosting and it was more than enough for everyone!*
2 ounces (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon limoncello
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1. Prepare the cupcakes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and position a rack in the center. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until light and creamy, 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the limoncello and beat an additional minute. On low speed, add flour mixture and buttermilk alternatively, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Add the lemon juice and zest and mix on low speed just until incorporated. Divide the batter between 12 muffin tins. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean. Let cool completely.

2. Prepare the lemon curd. In a heavy medium saucepan, stir together the lemon zest, juice and sugar and bring to a simmer over medium heat. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and egg yolk. Whisk the lemon mixture into the eggs to temper them. Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and place over medium heat, whisking constantly until it thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, and let cool completely.

3. Prepare the cream cheese limoncello frosting. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until light and creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the limoncello and beat for an additional minute. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the sifted powdered sugar and beat until fully incorporated and smooth.

4. Assemble the cupcakes. Cut a hole into each cupcake with the large end of a melon baller or the back end of a large pastry tip (i used a serrated steak knife). Fill each cavity with the lemon curd. Fill a pastry bag with a star tip (i used a gallon size zip lock, snipped the corner and just drizzed ribbons over the cupcakes) with the cream cheese limoncello frosting and pipe onto each cupcake. Decorate with lemon and berries, if desired.

happy holidays, friends!

it’s our little puppy guy’s first christmas and he made out like a bandit 🙂 his puppy presents included – a pop out tunnel for him to run through, an assortment of squeaky rubber toys and a “dinner plate” made up of stuffed toys shaped like food – he loves it all!

we spent the day with the mister’s family and are now home regrouping before going out for the night with friends. it’s an annual tradition to go to one of our favorite bars for christmas night karaoke – we’re on our fifth year! i am overwelmed by the love and laughter in my life – and the amazing generosity in the thoughtful gifts i was given this year. i am very very lucky girl!

also, i can’t believe we leave on our epic trip in only a little over a week. so much to get ready! eep.

chocolate mice (that definitely don’t stir)

how cute are these? this is my absolute favorite holiday treat to make – i’ve made them every christmas for 6 or 7 years now. not only are they delicious, but they make great hostess gifts. i have yet to meet anyone, man or woman, who has not completely fawned over these chocolately little guys. and though a bit time consuming, they are easy peasy to make.

1 jar maraschino cherries with stems (that is important, the mice need tails!)
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
hershey kisses, unwrapped
sliced almonds
black cake/cookie icing (it comes in the little tube in the baking aisle)

drain and dry the cherries

line a cookie sheet with wax or parchment paper

set up a double boiler on the stove and melt your chocolate chips (i’ve dipped them with just chocolate chips and also with the addition of a couple tablespoons of shortening – whatever your preference is)

hold each cherry by the stem (tail) and dip/roll through the melted chocolate – set on cookie sheet – remember to space accordingly because you’ll be adding the hershey kiss head

next, add the hershey kiss head and ears to the “body” – using a butter knife and scrape off the leftover melted chocolate from the sides of the pan and use it as frosting to “glue” – put a little on the flat bottom of the kiss, add two almond slices for the ears and press to the cherry body – repeat until all the mice have heads

finally, use the cake/cookie icing and give them all eyes! you’ll be delighted to see an entire chocolate mouse army awaiting you 🙂

raspberry chocolate birthday cake

my wonderful friend jack’s birthday was this week. he had a party last night and i volunteered to make a cake. can you believe this is the first real cake i’ve ever made? as in, not a sheet cake, just one layer straight from the pan with frosting on top. i didn’t get a photo of the whole cake because as soon as it was done, we had to rush out the door to a holiday party BEFORE the birthday party. holidays. YIKES.

anywho, i made a chocolate cake with raspberry puree between the layers and a raspberry buttercream. this was the first time i have ever tried making a swiss buttercream, and boy, was it ever buttery and delicious. i love the smooth texture since often times, frostings can have a horrible mealy texture if not made well.

(makes a 2 layer, 9 inch cake)

the cake (adapted from joy the baker)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons white vinegar
2 cups cold water

about 1/4 cup raspberry puree (for between the layers)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of two 9 inch cake pans with greased parchment paper lightly dusted with flour.

In a large bowl, sift the dry ingredients together. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, water, vanilla extract and vinegar.

Slowly whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients being careful not to overmix. The mixture will be quite wet, but that’s ok.

Pour half the batter into each cake pan and place in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cup comes out clean.

Cool in the pan for 10 minutes then place on a wire rack until completely cool before frosting.

the frosting (adapted from sweet chic)
3 large egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
2 sticks + 2T unsalted butter
1/4 cup raspberry puree

set up a bowl over a pot of bowling water and whisk egg whites and sugar together until sugar is completely dissolved – remove bowl from heat.

using a hand mixer, beat egg mixture for 5-7 minutes on medium/high until meringue forms and mixture is down to room temperature.

add butter in pieces and mix until smooth and fluffy. finally, add raspberry puree and mix until completely incorporated.

even out tops of each layer with a sharp serrated knife
spoon raspberry puree on top of bottom layer and spread evenly
add top layer and frost

snowmaggedon (or some other cutesy name)

we were snowed in this weekend and it was AWESOME. the blizzard was forecasted to begin late friday night, so friday after work we went christmas shopping, got take out for dinner and went to the grocery store to stock up on snacks and dinner fixings for the next day. up to 20 inches fell in some places – apparently saturday was the 5th biggest snowstorm in twin cities history.

other than the 2 rounds of shoveling we did (so that shoveling this morning wouldn’t be totally miserable) the rest of the day/night was spent making super delicious foods, playing with a very excited puppy, wrapping christmas presents and hanging out in pajamas. we already decided we want to invest in some xc skies and/or snow shoes so we can take complete advantage of the next blizzard!

here is the giant snow pile we have in the backyard. it is going to be turned into a snow fort for the dog. i wish i had gotten a picture of the pile of frozen snow the plow had left for us when it went through the alley. that was a fun thing for the two of us to chip away at first thing in the morning.

and here is the mister with a very serious faced puppy finishing up the backyard while i was leaving to go vintage shopping 🙂

i win stuff & linzer cookies

last week i won this fab little treat cookbook from Dara & Co.’s blog giveaway on Minnesota Monthly’s website. this is a great cookbook for making some very stylish looking desserts. i was really excited to win and the timing is perfect for me to have some new recipes to try for holiday baking. thanks, Minnesota Monthly!

after reading through the whole thing, i let the mister browse and pick which recipe he wanted to taste first – SO, without further ado – linzer cookies!

LINZER COOKIES (from Sweet Chic)
1 cup roasted hazelnuts (helpful tip on removing the skins)
3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 stick chilled, unsalted butter, cut into little pieces
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extra
1 cup jam (i used simply fruit schmucker’s raspberry jam. i also made my cookies a bit big, so didn’t need even close to a whole cup of jam)

using a food processor, grind hazelnuts and 1 tablespoon sugar to a fine texture

combine ground hazelnuts, flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl – whisk until all ingredients are thoroughly combined and there are no lumps

in a separate bowl, beat 3/4 cup sugar and butter until they form a coarse mixture, about 1 minute (using cold butter results in a flakier cookie – you can warm the butter and cream the butter and sugar too, if you want)

mix egg and vanilla in a small bowl. add to the butter mixture and mix until everything is thoroughly combine. add half of the flour mixture and mix on low for about 30 seconds, until it’s all JUST combined. then add the rest and do the same, mixing for about another 30 seconds

remove dough from bowl, form ball (or log or whatever, just press the dough together) and wrap in plastic. refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days if necessary

when dough is ready, preheat oven to 350 and line cookie sheets with parchment paper

form dough into 1 inch balls, space them about 1 inch apart on cookie sheet. use your thumb or 1/2 teaspoon spoon to make indent in the middle. then use the same 1/2 teaspoon and spoon jam into the depressions

bake 18-20 minutes. cool. and eat!

red wine pot roast

(the meat looks/tastes MUCH better than this photo captures – i’m still learning how to make meat look appealing in a picture!)

the mister loves pot roast. i mean, i do too, just not as much as he does. i’ve been seeing red wine slow cooker recipes floating around, so i thought i’d wing it myself and see how it went. results: pret-tay, pret-tay good (i hope you watch curb your enthusiasm).

2.25ish lb pot roast meat
2 cups red wine (i used a malbec)
1 cup chicken broth
1-2 cloves garlic
1 medium onion
thyme, sea salt & black pepper to your liking

chop up onion and throw in the bottom of your crockpot.

slice up garlic into slivers. cut slits throughout roast and push garlic slivers into the slits. season generously with thyme, pepper and sea salt (make sure to get some in the garlic pockets too!)

set roast on top of onions, add wine and broth, cover and cook on LOW for 6 hours

shopping online

every time i go online to browse for christmas presents, i mostly find things that i really (really) want. how many presents can i buy myself before it is considered a problem?

check out 20×200 if you never have – it is an excellent source of wonderful affordable art.