March 23, 2012

Sour Cream & Strawberry Cupcakes

I found a cupcake blog that I became obsessed with months ago but had yet to find time to try one of the recipes. Until I got the baking itch last night and decided to whip up a batch of Sour Cream & Strawberry Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting.  De-lish. 

The texture for these is somewhere between a muffin and a cupcake and they're sweet...but not too sweet.  (which you get by adding the sour cream and the cream cheese)

I tweaked the recipe slightly from the original because the batter was a little too thick for my liking.  By adding one extra egg and a smidge more sour cream, it ended up less dense and, hopefully, a little yummier.  Enjoy!

2 c. flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 sticks butter
2 pinches of salt
1 1/2 c. + 1 tbs. sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. + 2 tbs. sour cream 
2 c. diced strawberries

Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.  In another bowl, add butter (room temperature), sugar, vanilla and egg and mix with an electric mixer on medium until nicely blended  Stir in the sour cream and strawberries with a spatula.

Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes.

8 oz. cream cheese
1 stick butter
1 lb. confectioner's sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Add ingredients to bowl and mix on medium-high until fluffy.

March 17, 2012

Pastel Dipped Easter Eggs

Growing up, I learned an invaluable trick for preserving eggs beyond just one Easter holiday.  Using just a t-pin, you can easily hollow out eggs instead of hard boiling them. 

Gently push the t-pin in to one end of the egg several times to create one larger hole about the size of a pencil tip.  Repeat on the other end, but make slightly smaller.  

Blow through the smaller hole to push the egg contents through the other end.  I would also gently shake the egg a little to mix up the egg white/yolk which made it easier to blow through the other end.  

Once the eggs are completely hollowed, simply dip them in a small cup of food coloring mixed with 1 tsp of white vinegar.  

I went for the half dipped look so that only the bottom of the egg is colored and used pastel yellow, peach, pink, blue and light green. Hoppy Easter!

March 13, 2012

A Practically Martha Picnic

I love hosting.  I love the planning and prep work and having everything taken care of so that all anyone has to worry about is showing up.  It's something that brings me immense joy and satisfaction.

I wanted to share the menu from a picnic brunch I threw this past weekend for a large group of friends.  Not because I think it's mind-blowing, but because it was SO easy.  (minus the dessert part below, which I take zero credit for)

Here is a breakdown of all the little nibbles. 

Greek Pasta Salad
Boil bowtie or penne pasta in salty water (salty like the ocean, not the Dead Sea).  Toss with chopped Kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, feta cheese and some balsamic salad dressing.

Berry Salad
Mix together strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and/or blackberries.  Squeeze the juice of one lemon over them and toss. 

Chop up peppers, cucumbers and/or celery and add some baby carrots and cherry tomatoes too.  Include some hummus or a ranch dip (sour cream + 1 packet Hidden Valley seasoning) for dipping. 

Cheese & Cracker Platter
Dice up cubes of cheddar, pepper jack or colby cheese and plus some logs of softer cheeses like Brie.  Trader Joes sells a delicious goat cheese and honey log for less than $5.00 that is so unbelievably flavorful.  

Find a local bakery and grab a mix of favorites like glazed or chocolate sprinkled donuts!  They're classic yet oh-so-indulgent.

Deviled Eggs
Hard boil a dozen eggs.  Cut them in half, diagonally and set aside the yolks.  Mix them up with some mayonnaise and Dijon mustard and use to fill in the little yolk holes.  Season with cayenne pepper.

I went with a big bowl of Castelvetrano olives because I'm slightly obsessed with them.  A variety works great though too!

Grab a pitcher and pour in some champagne with some OJ.  Bonus points for using Trop 50 (50% less sugar & calories).

No picnic is complete without a little something sweet.  My dear friend brought homemade funfetti cupcakes with a dark chocolate ganache frosting, plus...chocolate fudge cookies.  (recipes to follow)

I hope this makes your next hosting adventure one teeny bit easier!  Some photos from my picnic adventure below!

Merci. Gracias. Thank You.

I love the art of a hand written message.  Since college, I've saved every single card and letter that I've received for a variety of occasions:  birthdays, holidays, graduations and the classic thank you note.  It's so much fun to open up a box of old notes and read through them anew years down the road.

The thank you note will never go out of style.  It's a simple, thoughtful way to say you appreciate someone or something that could never be properly communicated via text, email or Facebook post.  This past weekend, I had the pleasure of spending my birthday with a group of my favorite people, many of whom I owe a little thank you note.  There are so many to choose from though...which do you like the best?

Etsy - Rainbow by Almond Crafts
$15 for set of 10

Vintage Thank You by Paper Source
$13 for set of 8

Rose by Kate Spade
$20 for set of 10

Etsy - Blue & Orange by Ink Press Letterpress
$14 for set of 6

Multi Thanks by Kate Spade
$30 for set of 10

Marigolds by Paper Source
$12.50 for set of 10

Etsy - Typewriter by Rachel Ink
$10 for set of 10 flat cards

March 6, 2012

BIG Cupcake News

One of the perks of living in Los Angeles (besides the nearly year round gorgeous weather) is the existence of not just one, but several to-die-for cupcake eateries.  There's Yummy Cupcakes for the valley resident with a sweet tooth, Magnolia Bakery imported from New York and then there's Sprinkles, whose flagship store has stood in the heart of Beverly Hills since 2005....and now has a cupcake ATM. 

Yes, you read that correctly.  A cupcake-dispensing ATM.  Why this hasn't been done before for after hours food purchases (Pinkberry, are you reading this?) is beyond me.  It seems pricey.  To watch the sugar-wielding robotic ATM arm in action, check out the video below from the gals at Huffington Post.


March 3, 2012

10 Martha-Worthy Moments In Film & TV

One of my favorite things in life - other than baked macaroni and cheese or chardonnay - has always been movies and TV.  By the time I was in preschool, I could quote and sing along with The Wizard of Oz like a little toe headed Judy Garland.  By the time I graduated college, I could recite scenes from Sex and The City like a little crass mouthed Carrie Bradshaw.    

When I posted the Liz Lemon picture on here a few days ago, it got me thinking about how many classic crafting, cooking, cleaning and other Martha-worthy moments there are in film and television, including my Top 10 favorites below for your enjoyment.

#10 Happy Endings 
Penny, Max and Jane slave away with glue sticks and magazine cut-outs to visualize their dreams in to reality one poster board at a time. 

#9 Julie & Julia
Julie masters the dreaded de-boned duck stuffed in a pastry recipe and gets engaged at her rooftop dinner party.  Double win!

#8 Mean Girls
Markers have never been used for a project so vicious.

#7 National Lampoons Christmas Vacation
Clark Griswald's Christmas lighting fiasco will go down as one of the best (and worst) Christmas decorating endeavors in history. 

#6 Ghost
Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze share a passionate pottery session.

#5 American Beauty
In what can only be described as a Windex-induced mania, Carolyn Burnham scrubs, squeegees and vacuums along to her slightly creepy "I will sell this house today" mantra. 

#4 Sex & The City
Jennifer Coolidge's suddenly single character channels her heartache in to making hideous purses...then has a nervous breakdown. 

#3 The Sound Of Music
Ever-resourceful governess Maria unleashes some serious sewing skills to turn curtains in to play clothes for the Von Trapp children.

#2 Bridesmaids
Bankrupt Cake Baby owner Annie Walker whips up a single, sad (albeit gorgeous) cupcake to the tune of Fiona Apple.  

#1 Cinderella 
Cinderelly's sweet little animal friends pitch in to make her a dress for the royal ball.  How could you watch this scene and not get warm fuzzies?  And cry a little when her evil step sisters tear it apart...bitches.