Thursday, November 26, 2009

nothing short of thankful

Of all the reasons throughout the year that we have to celebrate, Thanksgiving is my favorite.  I love everything about it.  There is no concern of cards or gifts or wrapping paper, or midnight visits from mystical creatures, only of family, friends, and of course good food.  This year I was able to spend it with family that I don't get to see quite as often as I would like-yet another thing to be thankful for.  The food, as well as the company, was wonderful.  Taking time to relax and enjoy family, food, and football was the doctor ordered after a few rather stressful weeks at work.
This year I made pumpkin cakes for dessert.  I saw them on the cover of the Southern Living and thought they were too cute!  I didn't use the recipe in the magazine, but instead somewhat made up my own (although, the recipes in the magazine look oh so appealing.  I will probably have to try them in the near future!)  I made these twice; once for friends and once for family.  The first time I didn't follow the mags suggestion of using caramel for the stem and leaves and used frosting instead...they turned out looking more like Christmas wreaths.  The second time I decided to take SL's advice-apparently they know what they are talking about ;) 


Sunday, November 22, 2009


This weekend I baked for a co-worker.  It was her son's Bar Mitzvah and she and her husband threw a huge reception after the ceremony.  The reception had an NFL theme and the guest of honor is a Green Bay Packer's fan so I made him a cake of the Packer's field and cake pops in the shape of 'cheeseheads'.  From what I hear, the reception was a blast and the kids there loved the pops!


Sunday, November 15, 2009

baby's on the way

About a month ago T asked me to bake a cake for a baby shower she and some friends were throwing for a co-worker.  The shower had a Dr. Seuss theme so I was super excited (not to mention nervous) about making the cake.  After scouring Google images for ideas from other bakers' creations, I came up with my own sketch of something I thought I would be capable of producing.  That idea changed a bit after I found these cute Dr. Seuss alphabet flash cards while shopping one day.  T and I were a bit worried that there wouldn't be enough cake to go around (...we were wrong by the way) so she whipped up some delicious cake pops to accompany the cake.  The shower was amazingly successful and the guest of honor loved her desserts.  I'm so glad I was able to be a part of her special we just have to wait on baby :)




great balls of [brownie]

A friend from work recently asked me to make a dessert for her.  She was having some friends over for a game night and just wouldn't have enough time to prepare something.  As always, I was excited to make something new, and being the laid back person she is, she let me decide what to make.  I had a few other baking projects going on the same weekend so I needed something that would be easy, but still fun for her guests.  I decided to make cake pops and brownie pops.  I used red velvet cake for the cake balls and covered them in milk chocolate and used white chocolate to cover the brownies.  They were amazingly easy and fun to make.  I hope that she and her guests enjoy eating them as much as I enjoyed making them!  As a 'thank you' for the dessert she went above and beyond reason and bought me a beautiful covered glass cake plate has several other uses.  The gift was worth far more than the desserts, but I am thankful to have such thoughtful friends and can't wait to see it put to good use!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

thunder rolls

For over a month now my students have been begging me to make Thunder Cake.  (for those of you who aren't up on your children's literature, it is a recipe that Patricia Polacco includes in a story about her childhood titled after the dessert)  I read the book aloud to my students to show how sensory images are used in writing.  With such a high demand for the treat, of course I decided to make it...but it didn't come without a price.  If I was going to make it, I was going to make it work for me of course ;)  We have a classroom economy where students earn tickets (money) for completing their homework and classroom jobs.  And if you give a child a ticket, they are going to need to spend it.  So, once a month we have a class store.  I try to keep the store limited to things that cost me little to no money (pencils, erasers, hw passes, computer time, etc), but there is always a food treat as well.  This month my treat was Thunder Cake.  I was a bit concerned about how these cakes would turn out since the "secret ingredient" is pureed tomatos.  The cakes weren't as sweet as I would like, but slap a little frosting on them and they were just fine.  'Traditionally' Thunder Cake is served with buttercream icing and garnished with a strawberry, but I just couldn't resist using chocolate icing and sprinkles--lets just say I know my customers (what 10 year old doesn't love sprinkles?)  Although it isn't my new favorite recipe, the kids didn't seem to notice.  And thats all that mattered :)


Sunday, November 1, 2009

a pirate looks at forty (seven)

I've been wanting to make a pirate ship cake for a while now and with my father being the parrot-head that he is I thought there would be no better occasion than his birthday. I played off of Buffet's song "A Pirate looks at Forty" as my theme and came up with a pretty fun cake.  It was a cake of firsts for me--this was my first shaped and chocolate cake that I've made.  It was a lot of fun to make and didn't take nearly the time I thought it would.  To personalize it a bit I added Dad's favorite candies: Runts and Twizzlers for treasure and rope.  I was quite happy with the end result and think that Dad will be pretty surprised :)

every dawg

Halloween always falls near another special day for my UGA family: the GA/FL game.  Because of the holidays (yes, GA/FL is a holiday), and the fact that the whole family was going to be in attendance, we decided to make it a Festivus occasion as well.  Our Festivus does not resemble the ever famous Sinfeld holiday.  Ours is a day where age rules are thrown out the window and we are able to let out our inner child--anything goes, everyone brings their 'A game', and it is a guarenteed good time :)  For this celebration I decided to try cupcake bites from Bakerella's blog.  Once I got the hang of it they were super easy and too cute!  I went with GA colors, but I can't wait to use other color variations.  Molly had a beautiful (not to mention delicious) spread waiting for our arrival, and the costumes were quite creative.  Although the game was quite a disappointment, it wasn't able to put a damper our Festivus fun.  In the words of Corey Smith "every dawg has his day."  Happy Festivus everyone!

 The Hanson's Beautiful Home

Ms. Cathy and college Molly

Monopoly pieces

Knowshon and "The Ginger Ninja"

Taylor Swift and Kanye West

The Ninja Turtles, a lobster, and Captain Jack Sparrow

Thursday, October 29, 2009

welcome to the future

I haven't had much of a reason to bake recently...and lets face it, I just don't have the self control not to eat every last cupcake in the house if there isn't anyone else to do it ;)  But, all of that is about to change.  Luckily for me, I have lots of people who trust me to make their desserts so I will be busy until roughly January.  This past weekend was the beginning of my baking marathon.  T's good friend, and a co-worker of mine is getting hitched.  Taste-tester decided to throw her a shower and asked if I'd make a cake.  Knowing better than to turn down a taste-tester's request, I of course accepted.  The shower was fall themed.  I decided to try a design inspired by a cake I had seen on My Sweet & Saucy (check her out- her stuff is amazing!).  Here's the final product:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

laughed until we cried

Have I mentioned how much I love fall Saturdays?  Once or twice?  Ok, well just in case you missed it, I love college football Saturdays, and this weekend was no different.  Because Saturday was my little brother's 18th birthday, and one of our friends had recently moved back to our hometown, we packed our things and headed south. 

I decided to combine JT's birthday 'cake' with our tailgate dessert (in order to not have ungodly amounts of desserts to consume).  A while back I had seen bakerella make the cutest cupcake 'sliders' with sugar cookie fries.  This seemed like the perfect time to try those out.  These were surprisingly easy to make--mainly because I used box mixes for everything--cupcakes, brownies, cookies, and icing.  The 'sliders' and fries looked great, and my taste-testers all agreed that they tasted even better! 

We made plans for everyone to meet at my parents' house to watch the game, then we would 'hit the (small) town.'  I don't think anyone could have expected how much fun we would actually have.  I literally laughed until I cried (during commercial breaks of course) at moments, and loved yet another Saturday watching my favorite team with my favorite people.  After the unbelievably long game-for the second week in a row-we went to the 'local hangout.'  The night continued to be one to remember when we ran into people we hadn't seen since high school.  "Ah, memories."

Saturday, September 19, 2009

feels like home

Last week was the first home game of the season for Georgia and it felt great to be back in Athens again.  Thanks to our football fanatic, we had a great tailgating spot, and his trusty companion made sure that we were well fed while we were there.  We stuffed ourselves with veggie burgers, pulled pork, mac'n cheese, dips galore and cupcake kabobs. A 7 o'clock kick off also gave at least nine hours of pre-gaming for most people on campus and ensured that there was plenty of entertainment for onlookers ;)  Saturday was a perfect time to catch up with old friends that I haven't seen in awhile- if one thing can bring us all together its Georgia football!     We had a great time and I can't wait 'til next week!

Monday, September 7, 2009

party in the usa

One of my favorite activities of the school year combines teaching and baking: cookie geography. My students have been studying the regions of North America so as a little assessment we create U.S. regional maps using cookies and candy. (yes, I know right now you are reminiscing about how easy life was at age 9- may I interject here that I have the best job ever!) The students are divided into groups and each group has a set of supplies and directions that they use to create their maps. I was really impressed at how well they worked in teams this year and the maps turned out great. The kids love creating their maps but after intense observation, I can state with full confidence that their favorite part is devouring the final product!

i want to hold your hand

Although I've fallen quite behind on posting--and baking :(--I hope that the beginning-of-the-school-year-madness will come to an end soon and I will be back in the kitchen! My mother's birthday was at the end of August and that provided me with a no-excuses reason to bake. This one was really 'out-there' as far as flavors go, but turned out to be pretty good. I made an orange cake with a coconut filling and a lime buttercream frosting. The frosting was AMAZING (if I do say so my self). It actually paired quite well with the orange cake, but next time I would skip coconut filling. I would love to try the frosting again on another type of cake--maybe something margarita inspired? (yum!) This was also one of my first attempts decorating with fondant. I made my own marshmallow fondant (because I can't stand the taste of the other) and it turned out to be easier to work with than I had anticipated. The shapes were pretty basic, but I'm taking babysteps. Mom loved her cake-although she did request something smaller and chocolaty for next time ;).

Now its college football season- let the tailgate baking begin!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

three little birds

"...and when your stomach is empty and your mind is full its hard to sleep. But eventually, sleep and Wilbur found each other."

It's nearing 11 o'clock on a school night, two and a half weeks into the year. I've been lying in bed for the past 45 minutes hoping that, by some miracle, I would fall asleep. Instead I lay here reviewing the day in my head, my mind unable to focus on anything else but my students- present and past.

Today I had my students create timelines of their lives. We are going to use them as starters for writing autobiographies. The kids were really excited. I was a bit worried that they wouldn't know what to include (expecting to hear a thousand "I don't have anything to put"s) so I gave a few of my own examples- the birth of my brother, graduating high school, going to college, a family vacation- just to get their ideas flowing. They didn't need my help. My little worker bees got right to it; recording every wonderful (and less-than-wonderful) event they could remember from births to 'fiestas' and everything in between. I was impressed by how well they were doing. I myself had had a difficult time coming up with momentous occasions to include on my own timeline. After taking a closer look at each student's work, I realized they had an advantage over me--they have experienced far more life in their nine years than I have in 23.

Scattered among the cheery memories of birthday celebrations and first pets were those of sibling death and family upheaval. It isn't that I forget that my students are different than most students living in the surrounding areas. Many are from single parents homes, and almost all are economically disadvantaged, but my knowledge on those topics is often from paperwork, not observation. On the surface, they don't 'go without.' For the most part they are all fed, clothed, and clean; but, underneath the Hannah Montana and WWE t-shirts are hearts that are marred with hurt. Now don't get me wrong, our school is filled with smiling, happy children who love life and thirst for knowlege, but I will never know what it is like to live in their shoes. I have never experienced the pain of leaving all I've ever known (family, friends, my native language and country) for a so-called 'better life.' Nor do I know the grief of loosing my older brother to gun shot. I don't know what it is like to "apartment jump" or be bounced around to which ever family member is the most stable at the time. I especially don't know what it is like to brush my sholders off and move on afterwards.

I am amazed at the things my students have experenced at such a young age, but even more, I am amazed at the twenty-six fantastic little people who show up in my classroom Monday-Friday with smiles on their faces and joy in their hearts, ready to take on the day. They look adversity in the face, give it the proverbial finger, and keep going. I don't know how they do it, but I hope that one day they realize what outstanding people they are-even at age nine.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

can't help falling in love

I love any occasion that gives me the opportunity to bake. I especially love it when there is an engagement involved! On July 24 family and friends of Kristen and Micah headed to Toccoa for a surprise engagement party (graciously organized by Tiff). It was perfect and, although I don't know how, everyone managed to keep it a secret. The happy couple were glowing when they arrived. We had a delicious spread of food including hamburgers-two black bean burgers ;)-, potato salad, veggies, and of course, my favorite, cupcakes! I decided to make white chocolate cupcakes (a new recipe since I wasn't thrilled with the last one I'd used) with a peach whipped cream icing. The critics gave them two thumbs up. The cupcakes were quite sweet, but the whipped cream icing was a nice match (instead of a more sugary choice). Now I can't wait for the taste testings and wedding! (Did I mention that Kristen asked me to make her wedding cake!?!)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

livin' la vida loca

I was recently invited to a friends house for dinner. It had been a while since I had seen these ladies and I was super excited to see them all! On the menu was margaritas and quesadillas so when I was asked to bring a dessert I thought this would be a perfect time to try out my recipe for tres leches cupcakes! Tres Leches is one of my favorite desserts, so I had high expectations for this recipe. I was a bit disappointed by the cake--a little too grainy and cornbread like for my taste--but overall I liked the recipe. The combination of evaporated milk, sweetened condenced milk, and half and half was a delicious glaze, and homemade whipped cream topped this cake off perfectly!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

don't stop believin'

I once vowed to never cover a cake in fondant. I love almost anything that has sugar as a main ingredient, but store-bought fondant never made the cut as far as I was concerned. I was intrigued however when I heard about marshmallow fondant. I didn't have a cake to bake, but I couldn't resist the urge to try this new recipe. The recipe was simple and only called for marshmallows, water, confectioners sugar and shortening (the latter of which was needed to grease your hands and work surface). It was easy and, due to its messiness, very fun to make! Melt the marshmallows, add the sugar, kneed into a dough and voila! It was also surprisingly good-for fondant of course. I am still not a complete fondant convert, but for that 'clean and smooth' look it is definitely the best contender that I have tasted.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

everyday america

July fourth has been one of my favorite holidays for as long as I can remember. It's a holiday strictly for enjoying life. There are no presents, no 'big expectations', no week long preparation; it is simply a time for friends, family, food and-the most important part ;)-fireworks! This year we had several friends over to celebrate with a day of relaxing (three of whom started the day with a 10k run-we were so proud!) With the help of our guests we had a smorgasbord of delicious food and wonderful company to share it with. A little time at the pool and a fabulous fireworks show (2 actually-lucky me!) made the day complete. This year we decided to do something a little different though. Since this is a holiday to celebrate our freedom, we decided to send a token of our appreciation to our men overseas. Let me take this time to tell you that I am friends with some of the most wonderful people you will ever meet. They completely floored me with the care they took to pick out items to donate to our soldiers and how much they gave! I am proud and thankful to have such amazing people as a part of my life. With their generosity, we were able to make small care packages for 18 soldiers!! These men and their families have sacrificed much of their own lives for us to continue with life as 'normal.' Hopefully these little bags will help to bring a smile to their faces and let them know that we appreciate all that they are doing. The holiday also gave me an opportunity to try out a few new recipes-something I'm always excited about! As I searched for recipes I happened upon a recipe for s'more bars-perfect! It doesn't get much more American than that (graham cracker+chocolate+marshmallow=yes please)! The recipe was easy to make (if you haven't noticed yet, that's a major factor in my cooking) and got rave reviews from guests! They tasted great, were less messy to eat than the original (although some may find that more of a con than pro), and saved well. They were the perfect treat for our all-American celebration.For an additional dessert I tried out a white chocolate cupcake and made a raspberry whipped cream frosting to go with it. The cake recipe was very good but quite sweet and the white chocolate flavor didn't come through as much as I had hoped. When I use this recipe in the future I think that I will omit the chocolate and use it as a white almond cake mix.

...That's how it goes in everyday America,
a little town and a great big life...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

sweet southern comfort

I was having some friends over and wanted to try out a new recipe. As most of my friends know, I'm a sucker for strawberry cake so when I found this recipe on ilovecuppycakes blog I had to try it. Instead of a strawberry flavored cake, this is a butter cake with real strawberries mixed into the batter. The result is delicious! I was a bit concerned about what it would be like to bite into a chunk of strawberry, but it was actually quite good! They weren't as sweet as most cupcakes, but almost like a mixture between a muffin and a cake. My trusty taste-tester gave it a 'DG'-translation- I will be using this recipe again ;)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

another try

Since my last attempt at cookies had failed, I had to try again. This time I used a recipe that I had clipped from a magazine (can't remember which one) a while back for Lemon Sugar Cookies. I stuck to the recipe this time, but since I had little need for 7 dozen cookies I did half the recipe. It was a simple recipe to follow without too many ingredients. The dough was intended to be a 'cut out' dough, so I did have to refrigerate it for an hour before I could roll it out and bake them. However, even after it was chilled, the dough was no match for the Georgia heat. It was near impossible to roll out, so instead I rolled the dough into balls and used the bottom of a glass to press them flat. I also found that the cook time was a bit long. The cookies hardened once they cooled and were a bit too crunchy for my (and more specifically my taste tester's) liking, so I shortened the time. I made a glaze out of confectioners sugar, milk, and a bit of lemon juice to decorate the cookies--in the words of my oh-so-wise roommate "everything taste better with frosting and sprinkles ;) Although the lemon flavor was a bit muted for my liking, overall I'll count them a success.

Friday, June 26, 2009

almost doesn't count

I found a recipe for No Bake Oatmeal Cookie Balls on a blog the other day. I had (almost) all of the ingredients already and the recipe was quite simple so I decided to make them myself. I did want to tweak the recipe a bit though. I substituted Splenda for sugar and only added half of the butter it called for (I just couldn't put in a whole stick-as a baker i'm going to have to get over that ;) To add moisture (from the lack of butter) I put in a few teaspoons of applesauce. The recipe also called for peanut butter and I only had natural peanut butter (a little different consistency and not quite as sweet as regular). The recipe was very simple to make and took little prep time. The longest part was letting the cookies cool in the fridge for 20 minutes. With my substitutions they only had about 40 calories each, but I wasn't impressed with finished product. They weren't bad, but they didn't have much flavor (probably because they were lacking the good stuff-fat!). Below I'm posting the original recipe incase anyone would like to try the 'real thing.' Oh well, can't win 'em all ;)

No Bake Oatmeal Cookie Balls
adapted from

2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 cup confectioners' sugar

In a large bowl, combine the oats, sugar and cocoa. With clean hands, mix in the water, vanilla, butter and peanut butter to form a dough.

Wash hands, then roll the dough into balls 1 to 2 inches in diameter. Roll balls in confectioners' sugar until thickly coated.

Chill 20 minutes before serving.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

how sweet it is

I have recently developed a new hobby-baking. I have always enjoyed cooking shows and the newly popular cake-decorating shows really sparked my interest. My DVR is overloaded now with shows like Ace of Cakes, Cake Boss, and Amazing Wedding Cakes. I love being in the kitchen and have began trying my hand at baking as well. It is not as easy as they make it look on TV (nothing ever is I guess). And there has been more than one occasion that I sounded like a sailor had taken over the kitchen ;) but the end result is always worth it. Here are a few of my creations thus far.


Baby Shower

Also, this week we were off to see the beautiful new baby Lily and her proud parents. Tiff whipped up some of her homemade mac'n cheese and I tried out a recipe for lemon bars I got from Bakerella's blog. They were very easy to make and tasted great. Next time I might use some of the crust mixture to sprinkle over the top. Here is the recipe if you'd like to try them yourself!

Lemon Bars
1 cup butter
1 3/4 cup flour
2/3 cup confectioner's sugar (plus more for dusting)

1 1/2 cup plain sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Grease and flour a 9 X 13 pan

To make crust:
• In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and confectioner's sugar
• Cut in butter until combined and crumbly.
• Press mixture into bottom of pan.
• Bake for 20 minutes or until golden.

To make topping:
• While crust is baking, prepare topping.
• In a larger bowl, add sugar, flour, and baking powder.
• Then add slightly beaten eggs and lemon juice.
• Mix well and pour on top of warm baked crust.
• Bake for 20-25 minutes.
• When cool, dust with confectioner's sugar and refrigerate.
• Cut into bars and enjoy them cold!