Friday, March 30, 2012

Spring To Life

Hello and welcome.  Just stopping by to show you a little layout I made using photos from Epcot.  My parents spend the winters in central Florida and they love Epcot.  I may be exaggerating, but it seems like they go there at least once a month. 

On this trip, they went with their friends Harvey and Ethel to the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival.  Disney has a reputation for going all-out in everything they do, and if the pictures are any indication, the displays didn't disappoint.

The picture in the bottom right corner is one of my favorites.  If you look closely, you can see it's the dragon from Peter Pan. 

I used American Craft's Garden Cafe line for the patterned paper and journal card.  As amazing as the photos are, I can only imagine what they're like to see in person.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Chocolate Cupcakes

Do these cupcakes look sweet or what, LOL!  Welcome to Adventures In Baking where I attempt to entertain you with my weekly trials and tribulations of learning to bake.  This week I went back to basics:  Chocolate cupcakes with fudge frosting.  The recipe can be found here at Cookies and Cups. 

The ingredients.  Normal cupcake things.  Butter, flour, sugar, vanilla and lots of cocoa powder. 

Let's get started.  Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder together.  I don't have a sifter so I just used a whisk to mix it up.  Cocoa powder makes me sneeze.  I don't think using a sifter would change that. 

Next step.  On low speed, add eggs one at a time.  Then add the vanilla, water, oil and buttermilk.  I have to admit I was a little scared to turn on the mixer at this point.  I was using a 4.5 quart bowl and it was FULL.  I could just imagine flour and cocoa and buttermilk spewing everywhere.  It worked out fine, but it had disaster written all over it, lol.  Mix on medium for 2 minutes, fill liners and bake for 20 minutes. 

Final step.  The fudge frosting.  Combine all the ingredients and beat for 30 seconds on low and 1 minute on medium.  Let the frosting stand for 15-20 minutes to cool.  Sprinkle various items on top for decoration.

Taste test.  The cake is light and springy and the frosting.....well, what can I say.  The frosting is yummy.  And I'm getting better at using the decorating bags and tips.  My chocolate-loving friend stopped by to check them out.  She ate two.  She's a fan.

The clean-up.  I made 36 cupcakes with this recipe.  I gave half of them away and saved a few for the freezer.  Can you freeze cupcakes?  Guess I'll find out.  A little warning:   The frosting recipe makes enough to frost a small car so you may want to reduce the quantity if you make this.  I saved mine, now I just have to figure out what to do with it. 

On the next episode of Adventures In Baking .... we're back to a bread or muffin.  I see blueberries.

Till next time

Monday, March 26, 2012

Welcome Home

Hi and thanks for stopping by to spend a little time with me.  How was your weekend?  Did you have the same awesome weather we did here in Illinois?  Blue skies, slight breeze, driving around with the sunroof open and the windows down.  Granted, this is generally April/May weather so who knows how hot the summer's going to get, but I wish it would stay like this year round.

I've had these pictures in my email for a almost two years now, so I though it was about time to put them on paper!  The summer of 2009, my brother and his girlfriend (now fiancee) adopted two little puppies.  The yellow lab is Apollo and the black one is Alana.  They're super cute.

I used American Craft's Campy Trails patterned paper and embellishments.
Don't forget to check out Wednesday's episode of Adventures In Baking.
Till then

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Chocolate Mint Thumbprints

Hi and welcome to Adventures In Baking!  In celebration of St. Patty's day, I decided to Go Green!!  This recipe is straight from Betty Crocker herself and you can find it here.  These cookies, in green, are a little out there but they're a fun way to add a little color to your holiday. 

The ingredients.  The ingredients for this recipe are a little different from other cookies I've made.  It uses powdered sugar instead of white or brown sugar.  It also calls for egg yolks instead of the whole egg.  If you check out the full recipe on Betty Crocker's website, you'll notice the cookie photo uses Andes Mints on top as garnish.  They look very refined.  Well, as refined as an Incredible Hulk colored cookie can look, lol!  When I stopped at the store to pick up my cookie ingredients, I couldn't find any Andes Mints so I grabbed a bag of Mint M&M's.  Did you know M&M's are available in flavors?  They had Mint and Raspberry and I think there were a couple others.

Lets get started.  Beat butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy.  There is no easy way to work with powdered sugar.  It flies everywhere the second the mixer starts.  Big poofy cloud.  Right up the nose.  Great. 

I find the science of baking to be very interesting.  The dough starts out as two completely separate items, butter and sugar.  Once the beaters start working, those same two items turn into a very dry, almost powdery, consistency.  Then, right before my eyes, they slowly blend into a smooth and creamy dough.   It's Magic.

Next step.  Beat in peppermint extract, egg yolks and food color until blended.  Now that's green.  Let's talk about eggs.  I'm not an egg eater and my egg knowledge is limited to hard boiled eggs so this recipe stumped me for a minute.  I wasn't completely sure which part was the yolk so I sent a quick text to my mom.  She straightened me out.... separate the yellow from the goop and keep the yellow.  Got it.       

Final step.  Shape dough into 1-inch balls. 

Using the end of handle of a wooden spoon, press a deep well in the center of each cookie.  Bake 10 minutes.  The instructions say to reshape the wells as soon as they come out of the oven, but mine held their shape and I didn't need to reshape any of them.  Cool cookies completely before adding chocolate.

Microwave chocolate chips, cream and butter.  Fill wells with chocolate and garnish with candy piece. 

Taste test.  These are pretty good.  Except for the chocolate.  I personally prefer milk chocolate, but I wanted to stay true to the recipe so I went with dark chocolate.  Ick.  Bitter.  The green cookie portion of the cookie is a nice texture.  Light and flaky. 

This would be a nice recipe to have for holiday parties.  Instead of green, they could be pink for Easter or Valentines and red for Christmas.  Or for Halloween ..... how about dipped in white chocolate with a few red squiggles drawn on and blue M&M's so they look like eyeballs!  That would be cool.....and creepy.....but still cool!

The clean-up.  The recipe yielded 2 dozen plus 10 for a total of 34.  Once I determined I didn't really like the chocolate, I left the last 10 unfilled and gave most of the filled cookies away.

On the next episode of Adventures In Baking ....... it's cupcake time!

Till next time

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Birthday Spots

Hi-ya and Happy Tuesday evenin'.  Are you lovin' this weather or what??  It's insane!  It's currently 82 degrees.  At 7PM.  In March!  Crazy I tell ya.  Storms are movin' in tonight and tomorrow, but the forecast all through next week is still in the 70's.  I'm dying to break out the sandals, but the whites of my feet are holding me back, haha.  Gotta get a little sun this weekend, cause the capri's and sandals are calling my name. 

Just stopping by tonight to share a birthday card I made for my Grandma before I send it off through snail mail.  I used a new stamp set to create the fun background pattern.  I'm looking forward to trying it out with a few different color combinations.  Not a lot of embellishment since it's going through the mail, but the center circle is pop dotted to stand out a little.

I don't usually do much on the inside of the cards, but my sentiment didn't take up much space and looked lost all by itself. 

I'll be back tomorrow with my weekly Adventures In Baking post so be sure to stop back by.

Till tomorrow

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Blackberry Jam Shortbread Bars

Hello and welcome to Adventures In Baking.  I searched all over the web to find this weeks recipe.  I just couldn't find anything that was calling out to 'bake me, bake me'.  I almost made a brownie, but switched to the bar at the last moment.  I've saved the brownie recipe for a later time so I'm sure they'll pop back up eventually.  This weeks recipe is from Recipe Girl and can be found here. 

The ingredients.  Lots of butter and sugar.  I also invested in a large bottle of vanilla cause I've been using it like crazy. 

Now, let's talk flour.  I've been very open about my lack of baking (and cooking in general) knowledge.  Having never spent much time in the baking products aisle of the grocery store, I was aware, somewhere in the far corners of my brain, that there were several types of flour (white and wheat are all I can come up with, though).  When I started exploring the aisle a little more I discovered there's all-purpose and cake flour.  Then, this weeks recipe calls for Almond Flour......Huh?  So, off I went searching the aisle for Almond Flour.  The first two stores I went to didn't have Almond Flour and, since I didn't know what the purpose of it was, I wasn't sure if I could substitute regular flour.  Between the baking aisle and the natural foods aisle, I found almost 20 (!!!) types of flour.  Who knew?  I've discovered  flour made out of all kinds of beans and even green peas.  A few other flour highlights you may not know about:  Hazelnut flour, kamut flour, amaranth flour, coconut flour and even hemp flour.  Hemp?  Flour?  And what the heck are kamut or amaranth's?  I finally found Almond flour in the third store and boy is it pricy $$$$.  $12 for the bag you see in the picture.  Good thing it can be stored in the freezer.  I've sure learned a lot about flour this week.  Next time you go to the store, take a little time and check out your flour section.  You never know what you'll find. 

Let's get started.  Prepare the shortbread.  Combine the butter and sugars, beat until creamy, add the vanilla and salt and beat some more.  Beat the almond flour and regular flour into the mixture just until a smooth dough forms.  Divide the dough in half.  Wrap one half in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

Next step.  Press the other half into the bottom of the pan.  Bake for 20 minutes, just until it starts to turn brown around the edges. 

Final step.  Place jam in a bowl and stir until smooth.  Spread jam evenly over partially baked crust.  Crumble the refrigerated dough over the jam to form a crumbled topping.  Place back in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.  

Taste test.  I put the taste test off for a few hours after it came out of the oven because I wasn't too anxious to try this.  To be honest, there's not a single thing about it that I find appetizing.  I'm impressed I made it, but I don't really want to eat it.  I wanted to make something I wouldn't normally make and it's kinda cobbler-ish.  I did finally try a piece.  It's pretty good, but super sweet.  Too much sweet....sugar overload.  If I made this again, maybe with a different fruit flavor, I would definitely use a sugar free jam.  My chocolate-is-the-only-dessert-worth-having taste tester friend stopped by to try out the bars and she liked them also. Her comment was that they got better with each bite.  That's a glowing review as they don't contain a drop of chocolate!  I like them much better the next day so maybe this is one of those things that's better after it settles a little.

On the next episode of Adventures In's cookie time!  And St. Patty's Day.  Let's see if I can find something that combines the two.

Till next time


Friday, March 9, 2012

Doggie Love

Hello Friday!!  I love Friday night and the promise of the weekend.  Even if the weekend isn't filled with plans, the opportunity to do absolutely nothing but relax gets me in a better frame of mind.

This is a layout of my best furry friend, Theo.  This coming Monday would have been his 16th birthday.  The pics were taken when he was still a baby at almost 4 months old.  I used Authentique's Blissful collection patterned papers. 

Miss you kiddo.



Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Pecan Pie Muffins

Hi and Welcome to Adventures In Baking.  This week I had a nice, sweet lemon pound cake muffin recipe all ready to go.  Then the weather turned from bright, sunny and mid-60's to cold, rainy and the 20's.  The light, fluffy lemon just didn't feel right anymore.  I wanted something warm and cozy.  And that's how I found the recipe for Pecan Pie Muffins here.  Pecan Pie totally says fall and warmth and, especially, Thanksgiving but that's just the mood I was in. 

The Ingredients   All five of them.  Yes, that's not a typo.....five ingredients. 

Let's get started.  Stir together brown sugar, flour and pecans.  **Five ingredients and one measuring utensil!  Can this get any easier? 

Next step.  Beat the butter and eggs together until smooth and stir in the dry ingredients until just combined.

Final step.  Spoon the batter into the muffin cups. 

Taste test.  This smells just like Pecan Pie.  This tastes just like Pecan Pie.....but, in my opinion, better!  I really couldn't begin  to remember the last time I ate Pecan Pie, but it's been years.  My memory of Pecan Pie is that it's super sweet and while these do have a bit of sweetness, it's not overwhelming.  This muffin is the perfect sweet, chewy, nutty proportion (and you don't have to worry about burning the crust!)

The clean-up.  The recipe made 9 muffins.  An odd number.  They barely rise so I could have filled the cups more for a larger muffin.  The recipe says to place a slice of butter on top and eat them warm but I opted to skip the butter.  I've reheated mine in the microwave for 10 seconds throughout the week and they're still moist and yummy.  Although it's again in the mid-60's and I kinda with I had a lemon muffin.  I'll just have to save it for the summer.

If you get a chance, give these muffins a try.  This is, by far,  the easiest recipe I've tried in this great adventure of mine.


Monday, March 5, 2012

Cutie Pie

Hello!  Well, it's definitely been a Monday.  Let's hope this week goes by lickity split.  Hmmmm...... just where do you think that expression came from?  And what does it have to do with time moving quickly?  Things to ponder......

Anywho, just dropping in to share another layout.  I've really been diggin' the one page layouts.  So much quicker, especially when you only have one or two photos to work with.  The papers and embellies are from Fancy Pants Summers End line.  I've used these patterned papers on multiple layouts and only have a few scraps left, but I made it work!

Here's a close up of the little banner.

See ya soon!

Saturday, March 3, 2012


Hi, how's your day going so far?  Mine has been pretty tame.  After cramming 20,000 activities into last weekend, I'm taking it easy. 

This is another layout I completed last weekend during my scrapbook marathon.  My friend Jennette sent a couple of family pictures in their 2011 Christmas card that I thought I'd add to my 'Friends' album.  I used 3 Bugs In A Rug's Deck the Halls patterned papers from the December 2011 Apron Strings kit.  Aren't those stocking on the background paper super cute? 

Speaking of albums, here's a question for ya.  How do you organize your layouts?  I currently have 4 series of scrapbook albums that each focus on a specific subject.  The series are:  Family, Friends, Myself and Places.  I used to fill albums in the order I completed layouts and it was just a jumbled mess!  I switched to the series concept last year and it's working much better. 


Now that I have the layouts organized, I've been reconsidering the scrapbooks themselves.  Right now I use post-bound albums.  Post-bound albums have three sets of metal cylinders spaced along the inside spine that hold the pages in place.  The cylinders are available in a variety of sizes ranging from 1 to 3 inch's.  The longer the cylinder, the thicker the book.

The other type of album is a 3-ring or D-ring binder just like you used in school .... just larger versions to fit 12 x 12 layouts.  For some reason, I just don't like the look of the 3-ring binders.  I think it's because, when they're open, there's a break between the two facing pages where the rings are visible.  It breaks the flow of the layout and it's just not pleasing to my eye. 

As I do not scrapbook in chronological order, I'm constantly taking the post bound albums apart and moving pages around and it's a pain in the hiney.  And while I don't buy expensive scrapbooks (I try to stock up when they're on sale at Michael's for $5 each), it adds up because you just can't fit that many pages into one album.  This is me trying to talk myself into switching to the ring binders ...... they're more expensive (generally $20 or more each), but they hold so much more I think the pricing would be pretty even in the end.  It all comes down to whether or not I can deal with the aesthetics of a 3-ring binder.  I know making the switch is the best decision for the long run .... I just have to convince the stubborn side of my brain that's holding out for more post binders!  Wish me luck.

Till next time