Gingerbread Cupcakes with Egg Nog Frosting

16 December 2014

 



Who doesn't love baking around the holidays?!  Cold days warmed by a hot oven and the smell of treats wafting through the house - that is my kind of day.  These cupcakes are a lovely burst of all my favorite flavors of the holidays - moist, spiced cupcake with creamy, rich eggnog frosting...in short -perfection.



Gingerbread Cupcakes with Egg Nog Frosting
makes about 12 full sized cupcakes or 24 minis

Gingerbread Cupcakes:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup softened butter 
1/2 cup molasses
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup water

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  With an electric mixer, beat the sugar, butter, molasses and eggs on medium speed.  Slowly stir in flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, the allspice.  Finally, mix in the water to thin the batter a bit. Spoon the cups about 3/4 full. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Egg Nog Frosting:
1/2 cup softened butter (1 stick)
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup eggnog
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Whisk butter in an electric mixer and add powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time until full combined.  Keep whisking while adding egg nog and spices.

gingerbread cupcakes with egg nog frostingServe the cupcakes with a little sprinkle of nutmeg and a whole lot of holiday cheer!

Bungee Jumping!

07 December 2014

It's been awhile since I've posted on this blog.  I always start to want to work on it and then I psych myself out a little by just feeling guilty about not blogging.  I'm going to try a new approach with no guilt.  I am not a perfect blogger.  This blog is important and has taught me a lot about myself and allowed me to share stories and meet so many wonderful people.  I love blogging and I have no intention to stop doing it, but I am just going to accept that I have a full time job and a lot of excuses that might get in the way sometimes.

This year has been a rollercoaster - brain surgery, trip of a lifetime, new job, family reunions, and so many special little moments.  I'm about to turn 31 on Monday, so I am closing 30 with a bang.   This year has been about doing this that scare me and this weekend fit that theme to a T.

This weekend, I went bungee jumping!

It was a beautiful hour long drive up to Amboy, WA.  We parked in a lot in the middle of the woods and followed the signs through a lovely path before arriving at the bungee bridge.  It overlooked a breathtaking scene of trees and rolling river below.


I walked up, signed some terrifying paperwork that may or may not have jokingly asked if I was an organ donor and if I would prefer cremation or traditional burial...but still, I had my eye on the prize!  I was doin it!  

There was a quick safety run down to teach us what not to do and then we suited up with our harnesses.


I watched a few people go first and I tried to ease my nerves and just stay calm.  When it was my turn, the team helped get me set up, reminded me of the safety details, and told me that I need to be sure I commit and just get over that ledge and do it without any hesitation.


I stepped over the ledge and I just did it!


It was terrifying.  I definitely panicked in the first few seconds of the free fall, but then I hit the bounce and I realized I was still ok and I breathed out.

It was a really quick jump, but it was amazing.  I am so glad I did something so scary that I've always wanted to do!  It's a perfectly exciting way to end my 30th year.

What do you think?  Would you go bungee jumping?

Awesome Last Minute Costume Tutorial : Taxidermy Deer!

31 October 2014

Happy Halloween!

I always struggle with Halloween costumes every year - I have big dreams of doing something awesome and "ooooh" and "aaahhh" worthy, but really when it comes down to it I don't really find the time to put a lot of time an effort into making something I will wear for one night.  Same goes with money...I just can't fork over massive amounts of money for a one nighter.

This year though, I am pretty pleased with how things worked out...



I am a taxidermy deer head! 

This costume is one of my favorites because it was cheap and easy to make and I feel comfortable and pretty in it without having to be slutty. 

There are 3 parts to it and it is a quick and easy last minute costume: 


The antlers and ears are just a basic headband.  I picked up this paper mache deer head  from the craft store and painted it an off white color.  Then I just cut the antlers off and glued them to the headband.  It is a lot of weight, so I then used some white duct tape to offer a little more support and keep them attached and in place.  The ears are simple to make : just cut two tear drop shapes out of felt - darker felt being a little larger, glue the light felt on top and fold and crimp the base as you attach it to the headband. 

The mount is just cut out of foam core with a circle in the middle and then a cut up the back (to allow a little folding to get in and out of it).  Just cover the foam core in some wood grain style contact paper and use a bit of gold paper to make a little engraving tag and you are done.  Mine was a little rough around the edges when you get close up, but it worked! ;)



The makeup is the key.  It's actually not very hard and you don't need a lot of fancy tools of products - I had just about everything in my makeup case already!  I followed this tutorial and just edited it a little and simplified to remove the lower lashes and lighten up some of the use of black to my liking!

It also makes a perfect easy couples costume when you team up with a hunter...

I'm having so much fun with it all.

What are you for wearing for halloween this year?!

#100happydays

13 July 2014

I've been participating in the 100 Happy Days challenge on instagram for the past few months and I just completed all 100 days!

It's been a really enlightening challenge. I feel like gratitude and appreciation of the small things is something that I have worked really hard to make a central theme in my life because I genuinely feel like it makes me a happier and better person.

It's been a rough start for this year. I lost my job and got brain surgery in January and that took a real toll on my heart this year. Shortly after surgery, I realized that I was lucky to have support system and to be recovering so quickly and so well. There was a lot of stress, but there was also a lot to be grateful for.


I started the 100 Happy Days challenge on March 24th and ended on July 4th. I missed a few days so it did take a few more than 100 days to finish. It was a really powerful experience to try to remember everyday to find some small thing to share and document that made me happy...even in the most boring or grumpy days, I had to look deep for something which helped refocus me and helped me to have less of those days that linger on.


It's incredible what I've done in 100 days. My life has changed so much in such a short time and it's so cool to have this to document it.




 Some of my favorite highlights from the past 100 happy days...

+Thailand! Obviously that's a huge one! Tigers, elephants, food, beautiful views. Amazing.
+Hosted a sweet pair of foster kittens for a few weeks until they could be adopted
+Lots of wonderful garden progress
+Beautiful meals with friends
+Watching Macaulay Culkin sing songs about pizza
+Reconnecting with an old friend
+Co-hosted a bridal shower and standing by a friend as she married the love of her life
+Lots and lots of canned good and canning swaps
+A trip to New York City
+A picnic in the park
+Celebrated two of my favorite people's birthdays
+Made some incredible meals that I'm proud of and happy I got to share
+Ended on a fantastic weekend adventure to the Oregon coast with a dear friend



Have you tried the happy days project or something like it?

Perfectly Portland : A 4th of July Trip to the Oregon Coast

08 July 2014


I hope you all had an amazing holiday weekend!

4th of July has never been all that big of a deal in my life I suppose, we never had many traditions to celebrate growing up. This year was a little different, this year was a chance to take a road trip to see some beautiful small town traditions.

A dear friend invited me on a weekend getaway to her hometown of Lincoln City, OR.  It is about a 2 hour drive from Portland.  I got the chance to spend a couple of days enjoying the small towns of the Oregon Coast and the darling little 4th of July activities that came along with them.

Friday afternoon was spent in Glendon Beach, where we shopped some handmade crafts and watched a cute DIY parade that the town puts on every year. Instead of the fancy million dollar floats you might see at big parades, this charming little town encourages anyone and everyone to participate with classic cars, costumes, dance routines, etc. It was a really sweet tradition that I was lucky to be able to check out.




That night, we watched fireworks on the beach. It was a beautiful sight. I am not always super into fireworks, but there was something really magical about my friend and her family surrounding me, the roar of the ocean, and the gorgeous booms of color that made this year special.







The rest of my weekend was spent relaxing, yard saling, and enjoying the beautiful views of the coast.





How was your holiday weekend?

Seasonal Eating : Raspberries

03 July 2014


July means that strawberry season is coming to an end in Oregon, but raspberries are in full force and soon will be followed by blueberries and blackberries.  These are the simple pleasures of summer for me.

Here is a little roundup of some exciting recipes for raspberries to try this season...

















I'm always looking for more ideas for this beautiful harvest, so please tell me about your favorite thing to do with raspberries!

Jam Sessions : Easy Japanese Picked Sugar Snap Peas

01 July 2014

I love sugar snap peas.  They are the perfect treat in the early summer months.  We grow them every year and I always look forward to the harvest and to seeing them appear in farmers markets.  Ususally I just eat them raw as a snack, but I decided to give pickling them a try (because you know, in Portland, we pickle everything!).


Instead of a standard pickle, I went with an asian style with rice wine vinegar and a simple seasoning of
nori komi furikake.  If furikake isn't already a pantry staple for you, it probably should be!  It's a really simple mix of seasame seeds, salt, and seaweed.  It's traditional use is to make a simple bowl of rice into something magical and flavorful.   If you can't find furikake or don't care for it, you can substitute other seasonings or leave it simple and fresh with garlic and chili flakes.

Quick and Easy Pickled Sugar Snap Peas
Makes about 5 half-pint jars

1+ pound sugar snap peas
2 cups rice wine vinegar
2 cups water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
5 tablespoon nori komi furikake (or your own blend of nori and seasame seeds)
1 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes (more if you want a little more heat)
2 chopped garlic cloves

Start by prepping your peas.  Remove the tips and pull off the tough string that runs along the pod.  Wash the peas.  Arrange them into 5 half-pint jars.  
Top each jar with: 1 tablespoon furikake, 1/4+ teaspoon chili flakes, & about 1/4 teaspoon garlic.
Prepare your brine by mixing vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil.   Once they sugar is fully dissolved, pour the hot brine into each jar and leave about 1/4" from the brim.
Let them cool on the counter and then screw on the lids and store them in the fridge for up to 2-3 months.

*Note, this recipe is for refrigerator pickles.  It is not safe to can and these jars will not be shelf stable.   They will last for about 2-3 months in the fridge.  The rice vinegar is usually about 4.0 acidity which is too low for canning.  If you wanted to adapt the recipe for canning, you could use white vinegar instead.


I like to just eat these as a snack, but you could also serve these on a cheese tray or as a light side dish.  They are a delicious and light pickle with a really refreshing summer taste that I just love!

A Simple Summer Raspberry Crostata

24 June 2014


One of my favorite parts of the summer is berry season.  Something about the soft, sweet flavor really brings me to a place of happy childhood summertime bliss.   Our yard has a small raspberry bush in the back and I always look forward to the perfect moment to harvest the sweet vibrant ruby red gems from it.  This year, I decided to make a beautiful and simple rustic summer crostata with my harvest.

The favor of the berries are still really bold and fresh and this dessert could not be easier to whip together.  This is the kind of recipe that just feels like home to me.


Summer Raspberry Crostata

Crust: (you could also sub with store bought for even quicker prep)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter or shortening, chilled
3 tablespoons ice water

Mix the flour and salt together in a medium size bowl.  Using a pastry blender, cut in the cold shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Drizzle 2 to 3 tablespoons ice water over flour. Toss mixture with a fork to moisten, adding more water a few drops at a time until the dough comes together. Gently gather dough particles together into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 30 minutes before rolling.

Filling:
2 cups fresh raspberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 egg white for brushing

Preheat a 400 degree oven.
Mix the raspberries, sugar, and cornstarch.  Be gentle with your mixing to keep some of the berries whole.
Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat. Roll the dough to a 12 circle or rectangle.Fill the center with a layer of raspberry, leaving a 2" boarder around the edge.
Fold the boarder  crust over the berries and pleat the edges along the way.
Brush with egg white and sprinkle with sugar.   If you have left over pieces of crust, you can cut them into shapes with a cookie cutter and use the egg white between layers to adhere them.
Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown.

What is your favorite berry recipe?


Summer Bucketlist!

20 June 2014

It's officially summer and I am so excited for adventures and bare feet in the grass.

I've been a little MIA on the blog lately because I took a wonderful new job as an operations manager for a technology company and I've been pretty distracted getting my feet wet and learning the ins and outs of my new role.  So far, I am really loving it and it feels like I could really find my place here.

So far, summer has been busy!  I took a week long trip to NYC to train for my new job, I was a bridesmaid in a lovely wedding, and I've been just enjoying the company of my amazing friends as often as I can.


Here's a list of some things I am really looking froward to over the next few months to really take in all that summer has to offer...

+make lots of meals from garden produce
+attend a brewfest
+swim in the sandy river
+watch fireworks on the beach
+see crater lake
+preserve strawberries
+learn to make fruit wine
+make rose jelly
+have a tomato canning party with friends
+visit Sauvies Island
+go on a picnic

What did I miss?  What is on your summer bucket list?

Learning to Cook in Thailand & Cashew Chicken Recipe!

27 May 2014

I've been in love with the flavors of Thai food from the moment I tasted it. There's so much complexity, but yet it's simple, good food. It's affordable recipes made for working people. Large part of my travel to Thailand would of course be the food. I wanted to stop at every single street vendor and everything I saw. I was so excited to be able to take a cooking class and learn more about what goes into my favorite exotic flavored dishes.


I choose Thai Farm Cooking school in part from Melyssa's recommendation and also because I loved the idea of not only learning the act of cooking, but getting a better understanding of the ingredients by visiting a local market and a small family farm. At the market, we learned to identify different types of rice and how to find the essentials of Thai cooking - sweet, sour, spicy, and salty.




After the market, we piled into the truck with our ingredients and drove out to a beautiful rural farm outside of Chiang Mai. Our instructor, Liam, was amazingly knowledgeable and so full of energy that she made the day so incredibly fun. She took us through the farm and showed us all the different plants and let us smell and taste the freshest ingredients. It got me really inspired and excited for my garden this year! She talked about age old companion planting to keep bugs at bay and make the flavors better and it was really inspirational for my own little garden at home!

Learning the difference between different types of basil
Sampling fresh tumeric from the garden


I was lucky to have an amazing class full of people that were just so sweet and so fun. We bonded at the market by eating bugs together, shared our food and travel stories, and it was like a wonderful little family with these 8 other strangers I had just met! That is one of the great, unexpected things about travel.


Ingredients for yellow curry ready to be diced and crushed to a paste

Just hanging out in my farm attire and making some curry paste!
The final result of my hammering away with the mortar and pedstal!


And the yummy finished product of yellow coconut curry!
The farm was a gorgeous place to explore and relax during our breaks.  There was lots of eating during the class and we were all super full at the end of the day!



During the class, we each choose 5 dishes to make. I made a yellow curry, Tom yum soup, pad thai, cashew chicken, and mango sticky rice. the curry was ground the old fashioned way with fresh ingredients and a mortar and pedestal.  I loved that we were given options and even through I didn't make the other dishes that were an option, I got to learn a little about them by watching by classmates and we all shared our creations, so it was a pretty fantastic Thai feast!

At the end of class, we got a cookbook with all the recipes. I'm so excited to try these things out at home!



And in case you are interested in giving it a try, here's an amazing and simple cashew chicken recipe from the Thai Farm Cooking School website!  It's super fun to make and comes together in a jiffy!



Chicken with Cashew Nuts (Gai Phad Met Mamuang Him Mapaan)
Makes about 1-2 servings

1/4 pound of sliced chicken or tofu
1/4 cup of roasted cashew nuts
1/4 cup of sliced carrots
1/4 cup of sliced onions
2 sliced roasted and dried chillis, without seeds
1/4 cup of chopped spring onions
1/4 cup of mushrooms
2 tbsp. of soybean oil
a pinch of salt
1 tsp. of fish sauce
1/2 tsp. of sugar
1 tbsp. of oyster sauce
2 tbsp. of water

Heat the oil in the wok. Fry the chicken until golden brown. Add carrots, onions, mushrooms and water. Stir fry until almost cooked. Add oyster sauce, fish sauce, sugar, salt and spring onions. Stir fry again until mixed well. When done, turn off the heat and add cashew nuts and roasted chilli. Serve with rice.


What is your favorite Thai dish? Have you even taken a cooking class in a foreign country?  I definitely hope I can make cooking classes part of my travel experiences as much as I can!

 
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