Monday, May 26, 2014

In honor of Nick on Memorial Day

2014 Repost of Memorial Day Blog
Nick:
You and your family are in my thoughts


I wrote this post last August on my blog in memory of a young man I knew. I'm reposting it again as  he & his family are in my thoughts & prayers today - Memorial Day.
This post today will have absolutely nothing to do with cupcakes or recipes. It is not about political views. It's about a life. A wonderful life of a 23 year that ended way too soon. I first met Nick as a 6th grader & as his counselor followed him through 8th grade. He was one of those kids that years later stands out in your mind. Not a mean bone in his body, just a typical, likeable, middle school kid who could sometimes drive his teachers crazy. A smile, a personality - he had it all.  Moving on to the high school, he became an athlete and he often came back to the middle school around junior year to work at the school & to see his coach each week. I can still see him talking to that coach each day in the hallway outside my office when they had duty. Still a great kid with all those same qualities but so much more grown up.   He would always come in to talk and say hi, or wave through the window... the same old Nick. I just loved that kid.
I retired from school & didn't know he had enlisted. On Saturday I picked up the paper and read about this young man who I have known since he was 11 years old.  He was killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday, August 10, 2011. Coming from a helping profession, where I was always trying to "fix" things is frustrating as there is no fixing this. But I feel I need to do something so if you're reading this, say a prayer or think a thankful thought for this young man who gave his life for his country. Thank you Nick.<

Saturday, March 1, 2014

My March Birthdays



Getting ready for our 4 year olds John Deere Birthday Party tomorrow.  My cookbooks  are still packed away.  We move in 1 month so I went on Pinterest for a yellow cake recipe.  There are so many of them!  I went with Smitten Kitchen which has great recipes
http://smittenkitchen.com/recipes/#Cake      
 I picked this as I had cake flour and buttermilk.  It looks delicious and will let you know how it turned out after the party.  I did like that there was enough batter for 2- 9 in pans and it seemed to rise nicely.




For decorating I made custom wrappers and custom cupcake toppers


& a cake banner for decorating as I did not have time to get my natural food coloring. I can not use regular coloring anymore especially for kids.
Whole Foods carries the natural color but no time to get it.  I like India Tree coloring.  Any other suggestions, would love to hear from you.
So vanilla and chocolate icing and chocolate and vanilla cake for my favorite boy.
Happy Birthday seanie!  Love you!
And Happy Birthday Mom who would love that she and Sean could share a special day! Miss you!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Winter One-derland Birthday Party

We never expected a January baby, but Nella arrived 5 1/2 weeks early one year ago.  She is beautiful and perfect in every way and its hard to remember that tiny little preemie.
Planning a party for this little girl had to be special.  Invitations were ordered from Ellison Reed on Etsy as were the thank you notes and gift tags. See Ellison' Etsy Shop
I was in charge of the sweets and the rest of the decorations. A Vanilla Birthday Cake was tinted pale pink.
 Devils Food Cupcakes with vanilla buttercream and snowflake cupcake toppers in gold with tiny pink snowflakes from my Etsy Shop WellDressedCupcakes
A first try with homemade marshmallows (see previous post) for the hot chocolate bar and Rice Krispie treats dipped in chocolate for the favors.  The favor bags were hand-stamped with pink snowflakes and the tags were ties to each with pink twine.















Centerpieces were large glass candle holders filled with pale pink tissue Pom poms and tiny lights scattered in each holder.  




Friday, February 7, 2014

Homemade Marshmallows


Marshmallows.  Every time I see a picture of these, I want one.  They first caught my eye on Etsy.  Visit Condimentum for Nepolitan Marshmallow or try  Guimauve Confections for a Salted Caramel Marshmallow.  The pictures are beautiful and I promise you will never look at a marshmallow in the supermarket the same way once you have seen these!  I had never thought about making a marshmallow.  The
 But the more, I saw of these on Etsy, I knew I had to give them a try.  A first birthday party was coming up and a hot chocolate table planned.  Perfect timing!  The ingredients needed seemed easy enough but I was still a bit hesitant to try these.
I decided to go with Alton Brown's recipe (see link)http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/homemade-marshmallows-recipe.html
Patience is key to this recipe and a free standing mixer is a must.  All of my things are packed away for our move so the cottage supplies would have to do.  I think a hand held mixer just took way too long.
Step 2 

After about 10 minutes at high speed

  In place of a candy thermometer, which is another must, I used this chart to determine temperature. http://www.thermoworks.com/pdf/candy_temperature_chart.pdf.
Slightly out of order, sorry , but in step one, using this method to determine the stage of the syrup



The recipe called for a 9x13 dish.  I also used parchment instead of greasing the dish. These look nothing like the beautiful Etsy Marshmallows but the did taste delicious!

I would have liked them to come out a bit thicker like the ones I have seen in those beautiful pictures so would recommend a smaller baking dish or ban.
It's definitely better to make these one day before and use plenty of powdered sugar which makes them easier to cut.
They were DElICIOUS!  And yes better than store bought.  I did not have any natural food color so they stayed white.
One detail that bothers me and I didn't think of it until I started reading these recipes was the use of the gelatin.
I am now on the hunt for a vegan recipe.  Will post as soon as I try that one.

Have you ever made marshmallows?  What recipe did you like and how about a vegan recipe?  Would love to hear from you.




Saturday, February 1, 2014

Pete


No baking today.
I need to talk about a very important member of our family whose name is Pete - a special guy with a big heart.  Smart, handsome, caring, happy, enthusiastic, helpful.....
I'm talking my son's best friend who goes to work with him every day at Kessler, a rehabilitation hospital. Pete and my son work with patients who have spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, strokes, amputations, and multiple sclerosis.  Not an easy job and one that requires special people.  
Pete brings a smile to the faces of everyone he encounters...especially the patients, whose lives he has touched during a difficult and challenging time. Pete was once named the Employee of the Month.  

Did I mention that Pete is a dog?

Pete is a Facility Dog who received his training from Canine Companions for Independence (CCI). Pete is not your average dog. He has been trained specifically to assist individuals with disabilities and knows more than 50 commands. In this case, Pete was trained to work in a rehabilitation facility where he has a lasting impact on not just one individual, but instead on the many patients (and staff) that come through Kessler's doors. Thanks to the work of Pete and Sean, more than 15 former patients have gone on to be matched with their own Canine Companion for Independence. 

 Unfortunately, Pete has been diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer, specifically an atypical malignant melanoma 

Please see the attached video and if you can, Petey needs your help.
As a family we love this dog so very much.  He makes a difference in so many lives.

http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/join-team-pete/132454