Saturday, July 31, 2010

Cucumber Salad

Do you have a bunch of cucumbers growing in your garden this year and don't know what to do with all of them? I wish I had a green thumb. My gardens die. I do have a baking thumb, though. Anyways, you should make this cucumber salad. It's the perfect summer side dish. It's light and refreshing. The vinegar gives it a tart flavor that's balanced by the sweetness of the sugar. This is a simple recipe that was passed on to me by my cousin that I've tweaked to my tastes. Quick tip: After making this salad, let it sit in the fridge for a few hours to let the flavors meld. The longer it sits, the better it will be. 

Cucumber Salad

2 large cucumbers

1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 - 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 and 1/2 - 2 tablespoons sugar
salt & pepper to taste

Slice cucumbers into thin slices and set aside. Whisk together sour cream, vinegar, sugar, and salt & pepper. Pour over cucumbers and toss to coat. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Vanilla Princess Cupcakes

One of my coworkers recently asked me to make cupcakes for her daughter and I was thrilled! She liked the simple crown cupcakes I made a few weeks ago for my neighbor and asked me to make something similar. Her daughter picked out a princess theme, so I set out to make the cutest, girliest cupcakes that I could. And, I think I succeeded. I was really happy with the way these turned out. I made vanilla and chocolate cupcakes with a vanilla buttercream. I toped them with pink and purple crowns and rimmed the sides of the cupcakes with pink and purple sprinkles and sanding sugars. I finished them with pink edible pearls. The only thing I worried about was the weather. It's been in the 90s here with humidity so thick you can cut it with a knife. As soon as these cupcakes were frosted, I had to pop them in the fridge so they didn't melt. I worried all night about the sanding sugar and sprinkles melting and bleeding. Thankfully they all stayed perfect.

I used a new vanilla recipe for these cupcakes and was not disappointed like I have been recently with vanilla cupcake recipes. This one was moist and not too dense. It didn't rise as much as I would have liked, but I would definitely make this recipe again. I altered the recipe a bit since I didn't have any vanilla beans. I omitted the bean and doubled the vanilla extract. The verdict: very yummy with a distinct vanilla flavor. I topped them with my favorite vanilla buttercream.

Vanilla Cupcakes
Source: adapted from Annie's Eats
(makes about 30 cupcakes)

3 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (I omitted since I used salted butter.)
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (I omitted.)
2 sticks butter (room temperature)
2 cups sugar
5 eggs (room temperature)
1 and 1/4 cups buttermilk (room temperature)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (I used 2 tablespoons.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two cupcake pans with cupcake liners.

In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.

If using, scrape the vanilla bean seeds into another bowl with the butter and discard the pod (or reserve for another use.) Beat butter on medium-high speed for 3 minutes (with either a hand mixer or stand mixer), until light and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for an additional minute.

Add the sugar to the butter mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the eggs one, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.

Combine buttermilk and vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup. Beating on low, add the flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, and ending with the flour mixture.

Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full (I had enough batter for a half-dozen more cupcakes) Bake 18 - 22 minutes. Allow to cool in the pans a few minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

My Favorite Vanilla Buttercream
2 sticks butter, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 - 2 tablespoons water

Cream the butter. Add vanilla and water. Beat well. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time until desired consistency is reached. Beat well.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bacon-Bleu Potato Salad

There is no shortage of salads during the summer: pasta, potato, and macaroni. It's always the same. Every cookout has them. By mid-summer, I am sick of the same old thing. I was looking for something a little different when I found this recipe. I'm not a huge fan of potato salad, but this one may have changed my mind. I loved the sharpness the bleu cheese gave this dish, plus the saltiness of the bacon. If you're looking for a dish to bring to a cookout, then you need to try this recipe. 

Source: adapted from First for Woman, May 24, 2010
Bacon-Bleu Potato Salad

2 pounds potatoes
1/2 cup mayo (I used one made with olive oil.)
1/4 cup salad dressing (such as Miracle Whip)
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 - 3/4 cup bleu cheese crumbles
4 - 6 slices bacon
salt & pepper, to taste

Cube potatoes, leaving skins on and boil until tender. Drain and set aside to cool.

Fry bacon. Drain grease and set aside. When cooled, crumble into small pieces. 

After potatoes and bacon have cooled, mix together mayo, salad dressing, sour cream, dijon mustard, vinegar. Fold in bacon and bleu cheese. Pour over potatoes and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Snickerdoodle Blondies

Happy Blogiversary to me!

So I'm a little late. I'm always late so it's fitting for me. My little blog turned one year old last week. So much has changed for me in the past year. After I started my blog, my love of food and baking continued strong. I started to debate if I could turn a hobby into something more. So I took a leap and I start pastry arts classes next month. A year ago I was just an editor with a hobby. Now I'm an editor with a dream of opening her own cupcakery. I guess only time will tell.

Since it's been so hot, I've been neglecting my blog lately. Who wants to turn on the oven in 90-degree weather? I was searching for something to take on a bus trip to a wine festival that wasn't too messy and would fill up our stomachs before hours of drinking. Randy suggested brownies. OK, I'm going to say it: I'm not a huge fan of brownies. It's the texture—too thick. Then I saw a recipe for snickerdoodle blondies and decided to give it a try. I've made blondies before and it wasn't love, but I decided to try them again. These were right up my alley. I love cinnamon and I love snickerdoodles. I figured these would be perfect for our trip. While they were tasty, it's the thick texture I can't get over. If you love cinnamon and blondies, then these are for you. I did love the crunch the cinnamon/sugar mixture on top added.

Snickerdoodle Blondies    
Source: adapted from My Baking Addiction as seen on Brown Eyed Baker

2 and 2/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt (I only used 1/2 teaspoon.)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups brown sugar, packed
2 sticks butter, room temperature (I used salted.)
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl and set aside.

Beat together the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and vanilla and beat until thoroughly combined. On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture until just combined. (Batter will be thick like dough.)

Spread the batter evenly into the pan. Combine granulated sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a small bowl. Sprinkle mixture over the top of batter.

Bake for 25 - 30 minutes. Cool completely before cutting. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

2010 Fizzball Cake

Each year, my cousin has a huge Fourth of July party. It's the kind of party he begins planning for the next year the day after it's over. Everyone in the entire family must attend. It's huge with well over 100 people. There is tons of food, loads of drinks, camping out, music, a pool with a slide and diving board, and games—Fizzball being the main event, of course. Fizzball is basically a drunken game of baseball. A can of (awful, skunky, nasty) beer (such as Milwaukee's Best) is shaken and pitched to the batter. The batter uses a bat, paddle, etc. to hit the can of beer. Points are given by a panel of judges and are based on style, flair, and bribery. If the batter strikes out, he must drink the gross can of beer.

That leads me to the cake. I made a Fizzball cake for the first time last year. I placed a can of beer on top and it was saved and thrown out as the first pitch this year. So, this year I continued the trend and placed a can of beer on top. I kept this cake simple—marbled chocolate and vanilla cake topped with vanilla buttercream. I also kept it decorated simply, too. I think it came out great since I had to battle 90-degree weather and was terrified it was going to melt all over. All in all I think it looked really awesome and I look forward to making next year's Fizzball cake!

Friday, July 2, 2010

It's a Girl!

No, I'm not pregnant, but I am going to be an aunt again! Our niece, Rylee Renee, is set to arrive at the end of August. I made these cupcakes for the baby shower. I made these once before for my co-worker (Baby J is set to arrive in October) and they were so adorable that I had to make them again. This time I topped them with a basic vanilla buttercream since it was too hot and humid for a swiss meringue buttercream. I also used fruit flavored Lifesavers instead of mint. I also gave this vanilla cupcake recipe a second chance, but again it turned out too dry. I'm still on the hunt for that perfect vanilla cupcake. I used my old standby for the chocolate cupcakes: Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake.