things i’m loving

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via Target
Who doesn’t love a good cross body (especially for under 20 buckaroos!)? This bright cobalt is all the rage this season.

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via Essie
My joints are aching for some warm weather…and this polish in mint candy apple doesn’t help. Would be super cute with a golden accent (i.e. gold nail or two or even a design).

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via Pottery Barn
My bathroom is so happy with its new robe hooks and matching fixtures in oil rubbed bronze. Just my style – classic with a hint of antique.

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via Jillian Michaels’ Body Revolution
These workouts have been kicking my butt! They’re only about 35 minutes each and make you hurt in all the right places :). Hopefully by summer I’ll have her abs…I can dream, right?!

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via Moi
French press coffee is the best – especially if you don’t have to leave your house! Mine is made by Bodum and I love it. It’s easy to use and easy to clean. It’s available at Target and  Bed Bath & Beyond. I also have a Keurig but it’s easier to adjust the strength with my press.

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via Moi (again)
I recently had dinner with my friend, Elizabeth, at Soul Gastrolounge in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood of Charlotte. I’ve heard great things about it for years, but never tried it. Believe me, its name doesn’t do it justice. We ended our tantalizing tapas dinner with a dark chocolate cupcake with salted caramel ganache and a whipped malt frosting. The photo isn’t very clear, but it didn’t last long enough to get another ;). This was one of the best cupcakes ever! It paired perfectly with a good ole cup ‘o joe.

choco-lot!

I have been on a crazy chocolate kick lately…not that I don’t partake in the usual fix, but I have been baking chocolate things a little more than normal. The past couple of weeks I have made a double dark chocolate cake (just because),

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milk chocolate cupcakes (for a friend’s birthday),

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and dark chocolate cupcakes with orange buttercream frosting (for dinner at a friend’s).

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Now, I haven’t gone on complete chocolate overload as I have tried to share/give away as much as I can. My mom is a lover of chocolate, too, so I of course had to share a little bit of all of the above with her.

For the chocolate cake and frosting, I used Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate cake and frosting recipe straight from the box of cocoa. For the milk chocolate cupcakes, I used the original Hershey’s cocoa box for the cupcake and frosting recipe. I say, if the recipe is the BEST, why mess with it?! For the chocolate orange cupcakes, I did take a few liberties with the recipe. I used the Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate cake recipe, subbing one teaspoon of vanilla for a teaspoon of freshly squeezed orange juice. I also snuck in a little orange zest. For the frosting, I used 1 stick of unsalted butter, 1 teaspoon of freshly squeezed orange juice, 4 cups of confectioner’s sugar, 3 tablespoons of milk, and half of a jar of marmalade.

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I think these were kid tested and approved, wouldn’t you say? (Thanks to Beckham, 1, and Jack, 4, for letting me use them as my taste testers and posing so preciously for this photo. :))

Have you tried any new chocolate recipes lately? Feel free to share…

Baking with the Doors Open

Saturday was a beautiful day. Birds chirping. Sun shining. Breeze blowing. You get the picture. After a short day of work ugh I hurried to Bi-Lo and was in and out in ten minutes flat. I had a ton of baking to do before Easter! Since it was so nice out, I threw open my patio doors and poured myself a glass of Chardonnay Sur Lies from Biltmore…so light and crisp – perfect for sipping while baking.

Easter is my favorite holiday and this year, thanks to Pinterest, I had lots of ideas about what I wanted to make. My parents were hosting the festivities, so I was only responsible for bringing the desserts.  I had it narrowed down to 3 very delicious choices:
– Berry Cobbler via Everyday Occasions
– Cake Batter Truffles via Chef in Training
– Skinny Coconut Cupcakes via Skinny Taste
Instead of choosing just one to make, I decided on all 3.  Everyone likes options! I can easily follow a recipe but I also like to mix it up and sub certain things or add a little something here and there.  I laid out all my ingredients, preset the oven and pulled out all my baking dishes.

I started with the cobbler.  The recipe was for blackberry cobbler, but I had some strawberries and blueberries that needed to be eaten so I added them to the mix.  I also subbed organic sugar crystals instead of regular white sugar. I used my fleur-de-lis pie plate for the first time (yay!) and as silly as it sounds, I think that made the cobbler even more delicious.

The butter bubbled up on the sides to add a slight saltiness to the edges of the crust. Combined with the sugary fruit and remaining crust, it was just the right melange of salty sweet.

While the cobbler baked, I got to work on the cake batter truffles. My mom has gotten me addicted to the cake pops at Starbucks so I thought I’d surprise her with these on Easter. They’re like cake pops sans the stick. They were easy to make, but took a little longer than I expected. If the balls of cake batter dough got warm as I rolled them in the vanilla coating, they’d break in half. So, about every 10 minutes I had to refrigerate the cake balls and then reheat the vanilla coating. It was quite a tiring process after a while. I used some pretty Easter sprinkles I impulsively bought at Target a couple of years ago (sprinkles don’t expire, right?) so I was super excited.  Oh, and I was out of wax paper so I had to use saran wrap. I didn’t really notice a difference. They peeled off nicely when chilled.

And the next shot is nice, too….can you see me licking my lips as I sprinkle?  I may or may not have been sampling as I was making them 😉

While these cooled, I prepared the coconut cupcakes. I started with the frosting. I have never made coconut cream cheese frosting, but I must admit I will be trying this again soon. It was just the right texture on the cupcakes and it wasn’t too sweet. It’d also be easy to swap out the coconut extract (which made my house smell amazing all weekend) for orange or almond. I will more than likely be trying this soon. So back to the cupcakes. Here’s the icing prep:

Like how I laid out everything? That wasn’t staged at all…And don’t you just love my teacup stainless measuring cops and spoons? I love to look at them almost as much as I love to use them!  While the icing chilled, I mixed the ingredients for the cupcakes…

….and then poured the yummy batter into the cupcake wrapper lined muffin pans. And yes, I know it was delicious because I sampled some.

The recipe said to ice them right before they’re served so I let them cool overnight. I did, however, allow myself one before bed. I needed something to go with my wine, you know.

And here’s 2 of the final products at my parents’ house for the Easter festivities:

See the bunny peeps playing peek-a-boo?!

Here is a nice one of our eclectic multicultural holiday dishes:

And just for fun, here’s my sister showing me some sisterly love in good ole bunny ears fashion:

And finally, one of the little monkey (also known as my adorable nephew, Mason). I have no idea what he’s doing but isn’t he pinch-his-cheeks precious?!

Hope y’all had a Happy Easter!

strawberry shortcake cupcakes

Spring has sprung early this year, but there are certainly no complaints here. In celebration of my favorite season and love of its delicious strawberries (and perhaps a little pinspiration via Food & Wine), I decided to make strawberry shortcake cupcakes.  After about 20 minutes at 350 degrees, I let them cool on racks for about an hour.

While I waited, I prepared the strawberries by soaking them in an apple cider vinegar and water mixture to get rid of any bacteria and dirt.  Then I sliced them just to the caps so I could fan them out on the icing.

Then I prepared and sampled the icing…

By the way, I live in Nike running clothes on the weekends. Don’t judge. After waiting extra long enough so the icing wouldn’t melt off the cupcakes, I began icing.

Then delicately pressed a strawberry fan on each cupcake.

And, because I like to stage pretty pictures of my delicacies, I gorilla glued one candlestick and saucer from the Dollar Tree and placed a cupcake atop it.

Finally, because I don’t need 24 cupcakes for myself, I individually wrapped them to give away to friends and coworkers. I go to the Dollar Tree for all my gift-wrapping essentials, including party bags and clear cups. I already had some pink ribbon to tie around each bagged cupcake. I wanted everyone that received a cupcake to feel like they were getting a special treat.

And for the final ooh and ahh effect:

I must admit, they were enjoyed by all. I even saved one or two for myself to enjoy…okay, maybe three or four. 🙂

A birthday party and in-depth discussions of Pinterest

In lieu of Elliott’s 25th birthday, we hosted an indoor cookout shindig. When getting into party planner mode, I of course consulted my fabulous Pinterest boards (if you don’t know what Pinterest is, it’s time to jump on the bandwagon!). I found a delicious recipe for funfetti cake and tweaked it for cupcakes (of course). We had a yellow theme (in support of App State), so I added some yellow food coloring to my buttercream frosting…I’m not gonna lie, I licked the bowl. 🙂

I also found a yummy recipe for cake batter jello shots…believe me, they were even more smackyourlips delicious than they sound. The liquor store was out of cake batter vodka so I substituted Pinnacle whipped cream vodka. It was such an easy recipe! I had mini cupcake liners and a mini cupcake pan so I used that as the molds. I added yellow food coloring to the jello to make them look like legit mini cupcakes. I think the cream soda really adds to the cake flavor. I added some Reddi-Wip and sprinkles and all 60 of them were gone by the end of the party. I still have tons of the ingredients left, so I have no doubt that these will make another appearance very soon…

Because of the non-stop rain, we pitched a pop up tent and moved the grill under to keep all the guys from getting soaked as they flipped the burgers and hot dogs. There were lots of guests – Elliott’s dad and sister and her bf, my parents and sis and precious Mason, and lots of friends from out of town. The girls talked Pinterest and decorating and baking before playing a very entertaining few rounds of the Game of Things. Most of the time I don’t give honest answers. I prefer adding to the humor of the game with awkward or dirty responses…all in fun, of course. It’s even funnier when no one expects it from you. Sneaky, I know. After chowing down, visiting, board games and a little thirst quenching, we headed to Charlotte to a country western bar. Now, before you judge you must know that we are not die-hard country westerners or many of us even true southerners. It is a fun place to go for many reasons: 1) people watching, especially when someone rides the bull, 2) cheap drinks, 3) it’s super close to the house, 4) it’s a fun place to dance if you don’t like to dance, and 5) out of towners have so much fun! It was so crowded that there wasn’t a lot of dancing going on, but we did get many laughs out of people catapulting from the bull. There is always an eclectic mix of folks, which is very revealing about Charlotte’s melting pot of people.

All in all, it was a successful birthday party – food, drinks, fun and all!