Thursday, January 20, 2011

Food: Moose Tracks Inspired Cupcakes

The Moose Tracks Inspired Cupcake
Andrea and Jenni came over last night to help me with the crazy idea I had to try to convert Moose Tracks ice cream into a cupcake. It didn't turn out quite like I hoped, but the end result was still delicious. So much so, I wish I would have brought one to work so I could be eating it right now.
We started with Love & Olive Oil's Go-To Vanilla Cupcake. I thought the cider vinegar in the milk seemed weird, but her recipes have never let me down before, so I went with it. Since it was an experimental cupcake and going to be filled, I doubled the extract and skipped the bean for cost effectiveness. I also used whole milk instead of soymilk, because that's what I have at home.
I had planned on making a filling out of Peanut Butter & Co.'s Dark Chocolate Dreams peanut butter, but the recipe I used (which called for regular peanut butter, not chocolate) resulted in the peanut butter going from looking like chocolate peanut butter to looking like ground beef. No joke. It was weird, but Andrea and I figured if we ever need to make something look like a taco, we'll know how to do it. So we filled one trial cupcake with it anyway. After I frosted it and Andrea swirled melted chocolate into the frosting, we cut it into thirds and ate it. [For the record, a third of a cupcake is quite a mouthful.] The consensus was that the overall taste was good, but the clay-like, slightly gritty texture of the filling was weird and vaguely unpleasant. Maybe we should have tried the chocolate peanut butter by itself, but I didn't think of it at the time.
So we moved on to Plan B.
We didn't have a Plan B, because I'm always so sure things will just work like I want them to.
So we made up a Plan B. 
The result was mixing the melted Toll House Chocolate Chunks with some Half & Half, resulting in a ganache-like substance that, as ganache should, just tasted like melty chocolate. It would probably horrify any ganache purists (if there is such a thing) since it was made from Chunks (oh no! the stabilizers!) and Half & Half instead of cream and all done in the microwave. But it worked, and tasted good, and that is the material point. So shove it, purists. :-P
We made such a mess with the peanut butter filling we didn't feel like getting out the piping bag and trying to do the half-chocolate, half-vanilla frosting I planned. So I just used an offset spatula and the vanilla buttercream (also, without the bean) from the recipe. [Can I just say that's the best vanilla frosting I've ever had? I could have just eaten that by itself. Okay, I so I did eat some of it... and saved the extra to eat more of later...] Then we finished them with the mini Reese's cups I bought for the occasion and some chocolate shavings so they wouldn't look so lonely up there. The verdict for me was: delicious cupcake, but not very Moose Tracks-y, so if you were going to market them, we'd have to change the name.
I also had to cut one in half to see if it matched the diagram I drew for it the night before (because I am a total geek), and lo and behold, it did! Well, mostly.

The halved cupcake, the the diagram.

This morning I realized they ended up the inverse of the classic Hostess cupcake -- vanilla cake with chocolate filling and vanilla frosting. Had I thought of it last night, we would have left off the Reese's cup, flattened the frosting and piped a little curly line of chocolate across the tops. Oh well. Looks like I'll have to update the diagram for next time. :)

Friday, January 14, 2011

2010Holidays, Part the Second

...and by later, I meant, ten days later.

The point really wasn't what I made, or what I got for Christmas. It never is.

This is the first year that I've gotten to see almost all of my family and friends for around the holidays. I missed some of the K-side family because I didn't go to Christmas breakfast, and I sadly didn't hear back from Andrew before he returned to Kuwait, Nick is in NYC and Steph's family is in Texas now so she didn't come home. But that was about it.

I had quite a few glorious days off, making nice long weekends where I could cook, bake, shop and spend time with Justin or the friends and fam.

I don't know if I can actually put it into words. I guess what it comes down to was the prevalence of feeling loved and if everything was right in the world. Even the friends I didn't see were with their families, and Justin's mom had to work, but he got to see her a few days before and spent Christmas with my family.

I belong here. And I love them all.

I know my "home" will always be wherever my family is making dinner, my friends are playing board games, wherever we all feel loved and cherished for exactly who we are.

That is the magic of Christmas. Or the magic of girls' night. Or the magic of it's-Tuesday-I'm-going-to-chez-Quinn-because-I'm bored.


Love is always the answer.

Here's a pretty picture of my cupcake.
Guinness Gingerbread Cupcake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


They were awesome. Here's why:

Christmas In October
This was Mom's idea, but she passed the planning on to me and I am glad to say it went well. We all went to Grandma's house and brought Christmas-dinner type things. I made gingerbread with Guinness and spiced crème anglais. It was pretty tasty, if I do say so myself. I should stop taking camera phone pictures, because they are pretty crappy.

It was delicious. And fun. And a few days later, we had second Thanksgiving, just for the heck of it. :) I made cranberry sauce (that I added some red wine and orange zest to) and roasted brussel sprouts with shallots, pears and thyme. So good. Even people who don't like brussel sprouts tried them and liked them. (I don't have a picture though.)

Ninja Cookies
I tend to send random emails to Hannah of cute things I find on the internet and she bought one of them (ninja-shaped cookie cutters) for BJ for his birthday. So without him knowing, Andrea and I went to their house while he was gone and helped Hannah make a bunch of peanutbutter ninja cookies. It was loads of fun, because we eventually started making themed ninjas and discussing their lives and whatnot. :) I have the best friends.

Ugly Sweater Party
My friends and I have been talking about doing this since at least last year, and Andrea and Jenni hosted one this year. It was a lot of fun. Jen and I painted a wintery backdrop to take pictures in front of in our Ugly Sweaters, and almost everyone managed to find really ugly sweaters. :) It was great. For that, I made spinach/artichoke dip which was also tasty and I also don't have pictures of. Boo. BJ has yet to send me the pictures of everyone in their Ugly Sweaters as well.

Ugly Sweater Party Cheesey Winter Scene

So apparently I worry about using up all my vacation days and not having any by the end of the years. Well, we get 10 and by the first of December, I had 5.5 left. Lol. So for Christmas and Birthday/New Years, I had three- and six-day weekends, respectively. The other ones I took randomly throughout the month, so I wouldn't lose them, using them to Christmas shop and help my mom craft with second graders, lol.

Zoo Lights
Justin took me to see the Lights at the Zoo. It was FREEZING. But, fun. It was the first time we'd been back since our first date there over a year ago. (Aww. :)) And we randomly ran into Jenni and Nathan, which was weird. Baby elephant, snake-neck turtles, good times. :)

Triangle of Trust
Lyndsey and BreAnn and I got together while Lynz was home. We just wandered around shopping and eating things, but it was a lot of fun. Bre drove so I was able to have my first Great Lakes Christmas Ale on tap at lunch time. Mmm. And it was great to see them both again, since we haven't all been together since Lyndsey and Mike's wedding over a year ago. Fun times. Bre and I are going to try to spend more time together in the future, since we only live about 20 minutes apart.

Christmas Eve
Before going down to the farm, I baked off some Gingerbread and Stout Cupcakes. I got the recipe from Love & Olive Oil, but I altered it a bit. I wanted to use the fresh nutmeg I got from Andy, so I took out the allspice (because I didn't have any anyways) and added more cloves and the fresh nutmeg. And I used Guinness for the stout, of course. I left them to cool, but I knew they'd be good just from their amazing smell.
As usual, spaghetti dinner was a huge success. I contributed a bottle of wine (because it was called Electric Reindeer and I thought it was funny) which was just okay, and I brought the Mexican Hot Chocolate cookies that didn't burn. [Which reminds me: I need to get Amy's mom that recipe.] All the food was amazing as always, and we got pajamas again this year after Mom and Dad said they were going to stop last year and transfer the tradition to Quinn. But instead of us all staying at the farm and getting up super-early to open presents, we went to our respective homes. Justin came up around 11 or so and we each opened one of our presents. Mine was the XKCD book and his was two pairs of Christmas boxers. :)

Happy Christmas Eve!

Christmas Day
I didn't go to breakfast this year, because I didn't feel right about leaving Justin alone and also didn't want to drive back and forth four times. So Justin and I opened our other presents. His was a Star Wars 'Cantina Band' shirt and mine was an N64 with Mario Kart. [Geez, we sound like nerds! :)] Then we made breakfast (farmboys with sharp cheddar and mustard, hashbrowns, +eggs for the boy) and swore at various Mario characters for a while.
After that, we made the frosting for my gingerbread cupcakes. I wanted them to have orange cream cheese frosting. [Best decision ever.] Although I should warn you to never try the mixture for taste BEFORE adding ANY powdered sugar. Not pleasant. I just made a basic cream cheese frosting and added the zest of one orange. Mmm. So good.

[Wow, this entry is getting long.]

So we frosted cupcakes, got ready and went to Mom and Dad's where we had our traditional English Christmas dinner with my family, Amie, Jason, and Rachel. It was so good. Prime rib and Yorkshire pudding are possibly the best combination known to man. Then we opened presents. Quinn was hilarious. Everyone seemed to enjoy their gifts. And we were SO full from dinner we ALMOST FORGOT TO EAT CUPCAKES! Scary, I know. But I remembered as Andy and Amy we packing up their stuff and their kid and passed them out to everyone. And it's a good thing I did, because they were amazing.

Best cupcake I have ever made or eaten.

Prettiest too, actually, since I've never before been able to get the frosting all fluffy like that. And Justin found the pretty crystal-y sugar in the cupboard and suggested a little sprinkle of cinnamon as well. The cupcake wrappers were cute too, but the cupcakes were really moist and soaked them so they weren't so pretty afterward.

Anyway. Enough waxing poetic about cupcakes. [But they were delicious!]

So then Justin and I hung out a while longer then went home with our full bellies and presents. :)

My Birthday (AM)
Went to Amish country with the fam: coffee, shopping, shopping, lunch, shopping. Lunch was at my favorite restaurant called Broken Rocks in Wooster. If you haven't been, you should go. Instead of my usual Cajun Chicken Pasta, I got the crab cakes this time (and another Christmas Ale!) and they were really good. And the Belgian Chocolate Custard, of course. Oh. So good.


So I've written all this, and still haven't gotten to the point.
More later I suppose.