Monday, February 28, 2011

Here's to New Adventures

Ah, another weekend ended and it is Monday. I was MIA from the blogosphere mostly due to a busy weekend, packing up my apartment and saying temporary good-byes to friends before I take off to the land of Peru for 6 weeks!

That being said, I am taking a quick break here before making the last push to empty my apartment and get it all cleaned by tomorrow at 4pm! Yikes! So much work to do. Anywho, I figured I should mention that I will be out of the country for nearly 6 weeks here soon so post may be fewer and farther apart until I return at the end of April to the ol' USA.

Since the trip I've been planning for months now is finally upon me (10 days!), I thought I would share some excitement with you. First of all, I'm going with my best friend, Andy. He does not have a return flight and leaves in 2 days which is crazy! Trip of a lifetime, though. He's been saving a lot longer than I have though, so he can afford to do that.

Here is a picture of the hostel we'll be staying at for $5 a night in Lima, Peru, just a hop, skip and a jump (maybe a little more) from the beach for the first 10 days or so!

I'm just a little excited, despite everything I have to do before I go!

If you have any recommendations for must see places to go or eat, please leave a comment! Also, although I've traveled a bit, I'm always open to hear travel advice!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Caramel Cheese(cup)cakes

Cheesecake cupcakes seems redundant. However, cheesecakes sounds sort of gross even though I like cheese. Cheese(cup)cakes it is. Well, I'm going to share a yummy creation I made based off of a recipe from my trusty Betty Crocker Simply Desserts.

I thought the Caramel Cappuccino Cheesecake picture looked good, buuuuut I don't like coffee nor have I ever made a cheesecake before. I've been meaning to forever, but never seem to just have the 32 ounces of cream cheese many recipes call for. My other hesitation has been due to how amazing my Uncle Galen's cheesecakes were. He passed away 6 years ago, but everyone in my family still raves about his cheesecakes. It's a lot to be compared to!

Anywho, cream cheese was on sale so I bought enough, but realized I didn't have any chocolate cookies as called for to make the crust. And the experimentation begins. I had half a bag of Rold Gold Dark Dipped Chocolate Pretzels and half of a sleeve of Pepperidge Farm Chocolate Creme, naturally, I crushed them up and ended up with about 2 cups crushed pretzel/cookie combo. 

Makeshift crust ingredients.
So, not only did I not have the cookies for the crust, I had already packed up my springform pan since I am moving out of my apartment this next week. Improvising again, I thought it would be great to make cupcake sized cheesecakes instead. (I also am reconsidering my packing skills, as I didn't have a spring-form pan, but obviously had cupcake pans...Shouldn't all kitchen stuff get boxed together?)

Here's what you will need to replicate what I made:

3-4oz. chocolate covered pretzels, crushed
3-4oz. TimTams, crushed
1/4 cup butter, melted

32 ounces cream cheese, softened (4 - 8oz. bricks)
1 1/2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
3 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3+ cup caramel topping

3/4 cup whipping cream
3-4 Tablespoons powdered sugar (to taste)
2+ Tablespoons caramel topping

Here's how I did it:

1. Heat oven to 300 degrees F. Line cupcake tin with liners - I used my jumbo tins (12 total) so please adjust amount of crust as needed.

2. Crush desired cookies. (It called for a 1 1/4 cup crushed cookies but I used just under 2 cups.)

3. Mix crumbs with butter. Drop just less than 1 Tablespoon into the bottom of the cupcake liner. Press flat with spoon. Refrigerate while prepping filling.

4. Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add one egg at a time, beating until well combined after each addition. Add vanilla, cinnamon and caramel topping and beat until well blended. Drop about 1/2 cup mixture into each cupcake.

5. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. The cheese(cup)cakes will be slightly jiggly still. Betty Crocker suggests turning the oven off and opening the door at least 4 inches while leaving the pans in there for another 30 minutes. I did this and am not sure exactly what it was supposed to accomplish...

6. Cool 30 more minutes outside of oven before refrigerating for at least 6 hours or, as I did, overnight, covered. If you are planning on serving these at some sort of gathering, I think it looks best if you remove all the cupcake liners as seen in the first picture and the last picture.

7. To make the whipped cream, combine powdered sugar with whipping cream and beat on high until soft peaks form. Drop a dollop on top of each cheese(cup)cake and spread around to fill liner. Then drizzle caramel topping over each one. If you had any extra crushed cookies, you could sprinkle it on top. I did have extra, I just forgot to sprinkle.

That's it! Enjoy! If you'd like to try the version with coffee in it, click here for the original recipe.

Lastly, if anyone has any tips on how to make sure the center does not collapse, please leave me a comment! If you look closely at the picture above. The whipped cream is about half of the cupcake in the middle, while the edges are still high....Does it have something to do with cooling? (I wonder this because when I opened the door and turned the oven off, they were full and hadn't collapsed.)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Secret No More

I cannot keep it a secret any longer. I have to share my favorite, favorite, favorite food blog with you: The Girl Who Ate Everything. If you are already aware of this magical blog, I am so happy for you, if not (and you like food, even a little bit) get ready to wipe the drool from your mouth.

This recipe for Cookie Dough Stuffed Cupcakes is what made me decide, I must not keep the secret any longer. I haven't tried these yet, but from my experiences with her recipes, you really can't go wrong. Look at these!

Copyright Christy from The Girl Who Ate Everything.

What got me stuck on Christy's recipes were these Cinnabon Rolls. They are absolutely to die for. Without a doubt, the BEST cinnamon rolls I have ever made or tasted. She's got it down! If you disagree, try the recipe a second time. It really is a winner. Yes, they take some prep, but are sooooo worth it. I promise.

Copyright Christy from The Girl Who Ate Everything.

These Strawberry Puffcakes are on my "To Make from TGWAE" list. Aren't they gorgeous? That's strawberry frosting under the chocolate!

Copyright Christy from The Girl Who Ate Everything.

Oh my gosh, I almost forgot! One of my favorites for sure. These Coconut Lime Sugar Cookies will make you stand out at any function you bring these to and you will love them. They have perfect flavor and are so unique.

Copyright Christy from The Girl Who Ate Everything.

I recently thought these were so cute. She gives you steps how to make them. Don't be intimidated.

Copyright Christy from The Girl Who Ate Everything.
Or her Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars or Meatball Sliders. I could go on and on and on. She has everything from main dishes to appetizers, and obviously desserts, as I am more inclined to.

So, now that you've got a handful of beautiful pictures to inspire you to replicate this goodness, go take a look around Christy's site, take note of a few of her recipes and please, please let me know if you can figure out how she is not 800 pounds.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bacon Pepperjack Cheese Wrapped Shrimp

I love bacon. I love pepperjack cheese. I love shrimp. 

I never considered combining them all, until I visited my friend, Cara, in Texas and we drove to Baton Rouge, LA to visit our friend, Kaycie two weekends ago. Anyways, we ate so much food that weekend, the first dinner being shrimp wrapped in peperjack cheese and bacon, then deep fried. Surprise, surprise. It was sooooooo good, I thought I would try to replicate it, minus the deep frying.

My first attempt was last Friday night when my mom came over, sort of by surprise. It was a disaster - I cooked the bacon too long before trying to wrap it so it was too hard and just broke into piece and I didn't use enough bacon.

Tonight, I bought pre-cooked shrimp because I was unsure of the cooking time for shrimp compared to how long the bacon would take. I also didn't want the cheese to be turned to a crisp while waiting for the bacon to cook. To combat this, I cooked the bacon on the stove until it was still soft, but nearly fully cooked. Then, I wrapped a piece of cheese around the shrimp, before wrapping the nearly, fully cooked bacon around it, securing with toothpicks. I used once slice bacon per shrimp. (Note: soak the toothpicks, or at least run under water to moisten, so they do not burn in the oven.)

I placed the 10 shrimp in a 13x9 glass dish and baked at 350 degrees F for about 8 minutes (or until bacon is at desired crispness and cheese has melted).

Can you imagine this deliciousness deep fried too?!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sneak Peak! - Baby Shower Suite

I absolutely love planning parties. I haven't actually planned too many of them, due to lack of funds. I would have a party for every holiday if I could afford it. However, this just means that the parties I do get to plan or assist in planning are that much more special.

My friend, Michelle, is due to have a baby the second week of March (so soon! yay!) and I finally mailed all the invites out for a "meet the baby shower" since the mom to be wanted everyone from out of town to celebrate at a shower, as well as come into town and get to hold the baby. Therefore, the shower is a couple Saturdays after the due date. This is such a fun idea to me!

I am in the process of finishing up the rest of the decor and plans but here is a sneak peak at the invites:

First, I stuck the Martha Stewart dogwood cherry blossom border (from Michaels) to light pink scalloped cardstock and trimmed the edges. Next, I glued the ribbon onto the salmon colored cardstock. Then, I glued the scalloped light pink cardstock to the salmon colored cardstock. I trimmed each piece of text as close as I could get to the edges and glued the party info onto the light pink cardstock. Before gluing the "meet the baby shower" square onto the front, I slid the edge of each "meet the baby shower" square on top of a glue stick, then dipped each side into a pile of green glitter to give them a little sparkle. The stamp was purchased from Michaels as well and was one that Michelle pointed out many months ago that "would make a cute baby shower invite." She was right!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Fabric: The. Best. Thing. Ever.

Maybe an overstatement. Probably not. I have not been sewing for long, but I loooooooove fabric. One of my favorite things is going to fabric stores and browsing the rows of bolts.

I will also admit, I have far too big of a stash for the number of projects I've completed. I have a hard time resisting adorable fabric, especially on sale. It is for this reason, I am recognizing this habit and not going to buy any more fabric until I deplete my stash a bit. I will keep you posted on my progress as well as any symptoms withdrawals I have.

Since I love fabric so much, I also love to show it off. Recently, I took a trip to SewPo for my first time. I love small fabric boutiques, but also shop on a budget (don't we all?) so I really didn't intend to buy anything....until the owner pointed out her 20% discounted 'Designer of the Week' fabric, which happened to be a local Portland girl named Erin McMorris and her Wildwood collection for Free Spirit. So as a sucker for local shopping (local fabric shop with local artist!), I caved and bought 8 fat quarters.

There are only 7 different ones pictured because I bought two of the second print from the left. Anyway, I thought I would make a lap quilt or something, until finding this fabric at Fabric Depot in the 50% off clearance section!!!

Not only did they have a bolt of one of my favorites (top right hand corner), but a couple new prints to complement what I already had.

Now to find the perfect quilt pattern to create a summer-y masterpiece!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Delish Cookie Recipe

My mom came over tonight (sort of by surprise) and said
"These are seriously made from scratch?"
Thanks mom!
I have been making an effort to try new recipes in my cookbooks in order to know what's good or not by sticky noting what I thought of the recipe, what I would do different, etc. Tonight, I tried a recipe out of Betty Crocker's Simply Desserts that my dear friend Allison gave me. It was for White Chocolate Chunk Macadamia Nut Cookie. I couldn't resist making a few using semisweet chocolate chips, hence the black and white cookies above. I also just had white chips so mine weren't "Chunk" cookies.

I will be give my friend Michelle some of these for her birthday this weekend. We're going to the beach for the night and I'm really excited to get out of town. Please enjoy the recipe below!

Here it is:

White Chocolate Chunk-Macadamia Nut Cookies
Prep Time: 1 hour      
Start to Finish: 1 hour    
About 2.5 Dozen Cookies

1 cup packaged brown sugar           
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened (I used butter)
1/2 cup shortening (this stuff grosses me out, so I substitute 1:1 with butter)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 package (6 oz.) Swiss confectionery bars (white chocolate), cut into 1/4 - 1/2 inch chunks
1 jar (3.25 oz) macadamia nuts, coarsely choppped

Preheat oven to 350. Mix sugars, butter, vanilla and egg. Then, add flour, baking soda and salt to mix. Dough will be fairly stiff. Finally, add in white chocolate chunks or chips and mac nuts. Drop Tablespoons of dough onto cookie sheet. Bake for 11-13 minutes until golden brown.

1 Cookie: Calories 190; Total Fat 11g; Cholesterol 15mg; Sodium 100 mg; Total Carbohydrate 21g (Dietary Fiber 0g); Protein 2g

Thursday, February 17, 2011

How Could I Forget?!

My first post seemed easy enough and yesterday I pondered what I should talk about next. I completely lost track of time yesterday, hence no post. Today, however, I remembered that I didn't even mention my interest in photography yesterday!

I have always loved photos and started scrapbooking in my early teens with my mom. A loyal owner of Canon Powershot point and shoot cameras, I simply enjoyed the convenience of fitting a camera in my pocket and capturing moments of life as it happened. Then, my good friend Michelle started borrowing a mutual friend's Canon Rebel XSi Digital SLR camera. Wow. Here is one example of a picture she took that made me realize what a difference there is between my point and shoot and a SLR.

Copyright Michelle Waters
Theeeeen, Michelle's husband gave her the same camera for her birthday. I even got to experiment with it and take some pictures of Michelle and her adorable family. Granted, Michelle was the one who made sure the settings were all good to go since I had nearly no knowledge in such things. But seriously, how precious is this?

Could this get any cuter?
Anyways, I was hooked. For my college graduation in May, my dad gave me a Canon Rebel T1i for my birthday! To put it mildly, I was ecstatic.

I am in every sense of the word, an amateur photographer. My favorite subject to shoot is my niece, Addison. She is quite a ham most of the time, being the two and a half year old that she is, so it usually makes the pictures quite entertaining.

Here she is, at her best:

This past October, Michelle and I took a photography class, tailored to Canon Digital SLR camera useres, at the local community college and it was awesome. It made me miss going to school a bit, but I also now know how sweet it is to be able to take community education classes at local community colleges for cheap to learn skills I wasn't able to study at my university. Anyways, I'm considering doing a "Foto Friday" in order to encourage myself to use my camera every week, and not just during special occasions....We'll see.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Gotta Start Somewhere

I have been wanting/meaning to start blogging for ohhhhh, let's least half a year now. So, to finally begin, I'll explain how I became interested and why I plan on blogging. Ready?

Never one to turn down a sweet treat or scoff at the words "arts and crafts," I always say I have two sweet teeth (not just one sweet tooth) and I was always the first to the arts and crafts' table at summer camp or church events. That being said, I recently re-discovered my love for baking and crafting in college.

Once I moved off campus and had my "own" kitchen, I started baking a bit. To clarify, "own" meant it was in a rented house, shared with 6 other people! The oven was ancient and very difficult to predict how long something should bake for, regardless of suggested baking time. Nevertheless, I absolutely loved making treats and having my friends devour them. I wasn't too experimental, but did create a delicious brownie concoction that is requested often. It is too tasty and easy not to share on here soon! I love browsing through recipes online and I plan on sharing the treasures I find with everyone in blogland.

My last semester of college, I moved into a less crowded house with one of my best friends, Michelle. She received the book Hello Cupcake and we decided to make one of the creations from it. Below is a photo of our first cupcake:

Don't mind the yummy rainbow chip frosting in the background. It had nothing to do with the creation of this cupcake.

Of course, it doesn't look quite like the picture in the book, but even without proper decorating utensils, we loved making it and decided to start a blog to archive our cupcake endeavors. Well, I ended up not posting because I never made time to. However, Michelle has kept it up and it has morphed into a super cute blog you have to check out: The One with the Cupcakes! Her family is so adorable and she posts the cutest ideas (not just cupcakes, although there are plenty of those).

Despite not posting on the blog we thought we wanted to do together, I was enthralled with all that is blogland. I simply could not believe how many incredible ideas are out there! The crafting blog community is amazing. One of my favorite first blogs was My Longest Year. I loved reading about Crystal's endeavors, balancing being a mommy, a military wife, photographer and still finding time to sew. She was so inspiring to me and I loved the moments in her kids' lives she captures with her camera. I had never sewn anything in my life, but Michelle had experience and conveniently had just bought a sewing machine at a garage sale so we decided to make these aprons and oven mitts from Crystal's blog. The concept of tutorials online seemed genius to me. :) I LOVED going to buy the fabric and after Michelle and I were done with ours, we made our two other friends, Kaycie and Cara, aprons as well. Here we all our, looking domestic:

From the left: Michelle, Kaycie, Cara and me.

Since that first project, I have inherited a very old Morse sewing machine that had been sitting in my Grammy's garage. She couldn't quite remember who the original owner was and was certain it was not hers. After some sleuthing, my mom and I concluded it was my great grandmother's on my mom's side. I love it, quirks and all! I have completed a few sewing projects, with plenty more on the list. Recently, I have become very interested in quilting, but more on that later.

To wrap up, my plans for this blog are to share tasty recipes, as well as my craftventures with the rest of the blogosphere. It will also serve as a way for me to archive all the projects I do so someday I can utilize the 'blog to book' sites I see advertising for all over. That would be so sweet to have a book cataloged of projects/inspirations. Finally, I also hope you find some sort of inspiration from this blog!
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