About Lauren

baker - blogger - friend

The New Year

Wow, it has been a long time since I last posted.  I’ll be surprised if anyone still reads this thing! 🙂

A lot has gone on in my life since I last posted.  Some things I won’t share, but I will share a few things.  First, I finally got a job in September!  That means I have a real school librarian job, with a salary AND benefits.  I hardly know what to do with myself! 🙂  I was off for 2 weeks over Christmas and it was great knowing I would be paid at the end of it.  It’s the joy of working 9 months and stretching out your pay to 12.

So I am usually one of those people who makes a New Years resolution and breaks it about a month in.  Okay, I lie.  About a week in.  Oh, who am I kidding; it’s more like 3 days.

Well, in the name of cliches and solidarity, I am making some more goals for the new year.  I decided to post them here because a) it gives me a little accountability and b) one of them involves the blog!

  1. Become a more disciplined person.  This not only includes the standard “eat better, exercise more” but also speaks to maintaining a cleaner house and a more productive life.  I want to be more disciplined in my time with the Lord.  I can’t JUST desire to be a Proverbs 31 woman, but I actually have to do something about it!
  2. Be more transparent with my friends.  I have a problem with being closed off with some people.  Most people.  Not that I’m going to tell everyone every detail of my life, but I think I need to be more open and honest.  I need to be less shy.  I also need to keep in mind the words of this article from Boundless.  To be transparent and a little blunt, part of the reason I am probably still single (besides God’s timing) is that I tend to be very closed off around guys.  This article really opened my eyes to that.
  3. Stick to a budget.  Now more than ever I need to be mindful of where my money is going and be a good steward.
  4. Blog more!  This blog will likely turn into more cooking than crafting, but I also want to add some posts about what the Lord is teaching me and general life updates.

I am looking forward to the new year and what it will bring.  Anyone else have resolutions or goals for the new year?


Dinner Time!

Lest any of you think I don’t eat any actual real food (only sweets), here is a picture of what I fixed for dinner tonight:

Fried round steak with gravy
Garlic green beans
Crash hot potatoes (courtesy of the Pioneer Woman)

Delish!  And I have enough food left for 3 more meals 🙂

Strawberry Cupcakes

I know I’ve been posting a lot of recipes lately, but I’ve been doing a lot of baking!  A friend wanted some strawberry cupcakes (also, some salted caramel cupcakes — yum yum) for a party she was going to.  I did some searching online and found the Sprinkles strawberry cupcake recipe.  I went to Sprinkles once before, mainly because of all the hype.  (I have shared before how I used to really not like cupcakes.)  I fell in love with their vanilla cake, but all the others were only okay, in my opinion.  They seemed a bit dry.

But in the interest of giving the benefit of the doubt, I thought I’d try it.  Well, they were fine.  They tasted alright, but again, were a bit dry.  So I took matters into my own hands and created my own!

I tend to think of baking in bases.  Have a good vanilla base?  Then you can add flavors to it to change it up.  Same with yellow cake, chocolate cake, etc. I basically took the same recipe as my Cookies & Cream cupcakes, but changed just a couple things.  And of course, omitted the cookies and added strawberries.

The frosting on top is to die for!  So go ahead, make this recipe, and thank me later. 🙂

Strawberry Cupcakes
Makes about 28 cupcakes.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cup white sugar
4 eggs
1/3 cup strawberry puree
2/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 heaping cup strawberries, macerated and chopped

For the chopped strawberries:
First, take 1 heaping cup strawberries and hull and quarter them (or halve them, depending on size).  Place in a bowl and add enough sugar to coat them.  Let this sit for at least an hour (or as long as overnight) to macerate them.  (This means you are going to be making some delicious sugary strawberry juice!)  Once the strawberries are ready, place in a food processor and chop finely – but not so finely as to puree them.  Once they’re chopped, you’ll have finely chopped strawberries in strawberry juice.  (Resist the urge to eat it with a spoon.)

For the pureed strawberries:
Take about 2/3 cup strawberries and hull them.  Place in a food processor and grind them until pureed.  This should yield you about 1/3 cup of strawberry puree.  *Hint: Puree extra strawberries for the frosting.

For the cake:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine flours, baking powder, and salt into a bowl.  Whisk and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.

Put 1/3 cup strawberry puree into a 1 cup liquid measuring cup.  Pour enough milk over the puree to fill mixture to 1 cup.  Mix in 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Alternate mixing the flour mixture with the strawberry milk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour.  Blend until just combined, but do not overmix.

Take the chopped strawberries (juice and all) and fold them into the batter.

Line muffin tins with cupcake liners and fill 3/4 full.  Bake about 20 minutes, rotating half way through.

Strawberry Buttercream
2 sticks butter, room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3-4 tablespoons pureed strawberries

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese.  Add in the 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.  Gradually mix in the powdered sugar.  Add 3-4 tablespoons of pureed strawberries, until frosting is at desired consistency.  If frosting becomes too thin, just add a little more sugar.  Mix until all the powdered sugar is incorporated.

Pipe onto cooled cupcakes.  If you are not piping frosting, you can make 1/2 to 3/4 of this recipe.

Tip Junkie handmade projects

Cast Party Wednesday

The Search for the Best Chocolate Chip Cookie

I know I have already made a post about my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe.  But in the past week I have come upon two other recipes that looked and sounded delicious.  So, I knew I would have to make all three to figure out which one I liked best.  🙂

This was a difficult experiment, I tell you what.  Making a bunch of cookies and then eating one from each batch?  Soooo hard to do.

So, cookie #1 was from Jacque Torres.  (I actually made half the recipe and got 2 dozen large cookies.) It calls for bread flour and pastry flour, which gives it a crispy, yet tender texture.  It’s both chewy and soft, with tons of chocolate.  It calls for bittersweet, but I just used the semisweet chips I had on hand.  I actually even forgot to put in the salt and this cookie was still delicious.  I know it would’ve been even better with the salt.

Cookie #2 was from New York City’s Milk & Cookies Bakery.  It calls for old-fashioned oats, finely ground.  I could definitely tell there was oatmeal in this cookie by its texture, even though it was finely ground.  It also had a lot of chocolate, and I again used the semisweet chips.

Cookie #3 was my chocolate chip cookie recipe, but this time instead of milk chocolate chips, I got a block of milk chocolate from Whole Foods.  I made about a half cup of chocolate ribbons and then made a cup of milk chocolate chunks.  This meant that chocolate was all through the cookie (from the ribbons) and in big chunks, which were gooey and delicious.  The cookie was still sweet and soft, with slightly crispy edges.

My verdict?  I still LOVED my cookies, and with the changes in the chocolate, I loved them even more.  And I declare these the winner!!!

In second place, I’d give it to the Jacques Torres recipe.  Third place will be the Milk & Cookies recipe, mainly because of the oatmeal texture.  I’ve really only liked oatmeal in oatmeal raisin cookies and I just wasn’t as crazy about this cookie texture (though they were still good.)

What’s your favorite cookie recipe?  Any special methods you use in your cookies?

Also anyone want to come take all these chocolate chip cookies off my hands?

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

Oh, my, are these delicious.  If I do say so myself.  And, of course, I’ve been super annoying to anyone who has tried them — “don’t you like them?”  “aren’t they delicious?”  “that frosting is so good, right?”  “did you know I made up that recipe myself?”

Clearly being humble is not my strong suit.

Also, imagine what I would be like if I regularly created my own recipes.  Yikes.

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes
Makes about 26 cupcakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups white sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup milk
15 Oreo cookies, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine flours, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.  Mix together with a whisk or fork and set aside.

In a bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Add the vanilla and mix.

Mix the flour mixture into the dough, alternating with the milk.  Your flour mixture should be added in three parts and the milk should be added in two parts.  Begin and end with the flour mixture.

Fold in the chopped Oreos.

Place cupcake liners in your muffin pan and fill each cup about 2/3 full.  (I use the largest Pampered Chef scoop.)  Bake for 17-20 minutes, rotating halfway through for even baking.  Cool thoroughly before frosting.

Frosting for Cookies and Cream Cupcakes
(note: If piping on your cupcakes, use the full recipe as piping uses more frosting.  If spreading frosting on with an offset spatula, you could easily make half or 3/4 of this recipe.)

16 oz. cream cheese, softened
8 tablespoons butter (one stick), at room temperature
heaping 1/4 cup homemade Oreo cream filling (recipe to follow)
6-8 cups powdered sugar
Milk or heavy cream

Mix the cream cheese, butter, and cream filling until combined.  Slowly add in the powdered sugar.  (I use about 7 cups, but less would enhance the cream cheese flavor.  It’s what you like best!)  Add enough milk or heavy cream to thin it out a bit.

After frosting, top your cupcakes with some Oreo cookie crumbs and a full-size or mini Oreo.

Homemade Oreo Cream Filling
1/4 cup shortening (I know, ew.  But I use organic palm shortening which is actually a natural product.  Or you can just use Crisco.  Either way.)
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla

Mix all ingredients together with a stand or hand mixer until the consistency of Oreo cream filling.

Tip Junkie handmade projects

It’s Been a Week

Sorry for the lack of posts this week!  Life has been crazy and maybe next week I’ll do a post on it.  For now, I’ll tease you with a couple cupcake recipes I’ll post next week.  I know I’ve said I don’t really like cupcakes.  I still don’t really … I will always choose a piece of cake over a cupcake (call me crazy).  But, they are fun to bake and I love trying all the different flavors.

Baking is a stress reliever for me, and with a lot of stress in my life these past couple days, I decided to bake some Raspberry Lemonade Cupcakes and some Cookies and Cream cupcakes.

I’m actually planning on making these for a friend on Monday, but needed a practice run since I’d never made them before.  I have some changes I want to make to the Raspberry Lemonade recipe and I’ll share with you my original Cookies and Cream recipe.

For now, enjoy the pictures. 🙂