Friday, February 26, 2010

Cupcake Magic

Have you ever baked cupcakes, spent lots of time decorating them, and they never look quite as good as the ones from a professional bakery? Luckily, there is a new company that can solve that problem - Ticings.

They have created fabulous, tiny sheets of printed icing that you just plop onto your icing for that finished, professional look to any dessert table. They have general shapes and themes, and are quickly developing prints for holidays, as they just debuted Valentines's Day and St. Patrick's Day.Sticking to your New Year's resolution and only allowing yourself the mini-cupcakes? No problem, they've got Ticings for those too! I just love the circus themed ones for a child's birthday!

What's better than cupcakes? (Nothing, some of you would say) But its an entire cake! They also have full sheet Ticings that you can roll right onto your sheet cake or round cake. Find them here.

I know they may seem a little pricey, but if you add up their cost, plus a box of cake mix, you are still paying less per cupcake than those Cupcake bakeries, and they are homemade! Your guests will be enTiced to try them all!

Ticings did not pay me to promote them, I just think their product is great!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fat Tuesday

Today is Fat Tuesday, the end of the annual celebration of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Louisiana. The celebration of Mardi Gras actually begins on or around the Epiphany in January and is celebrated until the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. It was named "Fat Tuesday" because party-goers typically eat richer, fatty foods before having to fast for Lent.

To host your own Fat Tuesday party tonight, here are a few Mardi Gras staples that you will need:
A drink made famous at Pat O'Brien's Bar in New Orleans that no Mardi Gras celebration is without. For recipes, go here or here.

A traditional Creole dish that just warms your insides up! And you don't have to go all the way to N'awlins to get it. Your local grocery store has the best - Zatarain's - to whip up a batch of Southern cookin' at its finest! Their dirty rice and gumbo are also favorites of mine.

Made famous by Cafe du Monde, these French, heavenly squares of buttery fried dough and five pounds of powdered sugar are a simple but delicious dessert. You can order online, and if you are lucky, sometimes you can find boxes of the beignet mix at your local grocery.

King Cake
No Mardi Gras celebration is complete without a King Cake. Originally created as part of the Epiphany celebration in honor of the 3 Kings coming to visit Baby Jesus, this cake is typically a cinnamon rolled pasty dough ring, covered with icing and sugar in the colors of Mardi Gras. The cake also features a miniature plastic baby baked inside, which is said to bring good luck. To make your own King Cake, the famed New Orleans chef Emeril Lagasse has a recipe. Or you can always order online from an authentic New Orleans bakery here, here, here, or here.

No Mardi Gras party is complete without bucket-loads of beads. These can be found at any major party supply store. If you are looking for bigger beads or fancy strands, check out these online suppliers here and here.

And to complete the festivities, there is nothing better than some good New Orleans Jazz!

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For more information on Mardi Gras and next years festivities, please visit the Mardi Gras New Orleans website.

Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Hearts and Arrows

Happy Valentine's Day!

Hope you are surrounded by the ones you love today!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentine's Day Playlist

Valentine's Day is quickly approaching us, and as you make your plans, remember that music is an easy way to set the mood. Here is a playlist of some new and classic songs about love. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Valentine's Day Dinners At Home

This Valentine's Day, my husband and I are going a more non-traditional route and having dinner with our parents. Its a belated celebration of our first wedding anniversary (which was in January) and the official union of our families. But if you are planning on staying in with your beloved this Sunday, I encourage you to check out Martha Stewart's Dinner For Two for some great recipes to make together.

And for some quick and easy desserts, check out the following, courtesy of the Hostess:

Champagne & Grapes
Hershey Kisses Cookies
Most Dangerous Chocolate Cake
Splendid Strawberries

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Super Bowl Sweets

Tonight is the Super Bowl, a time to gather with friends and family to gorge yourselves on beer, hot dogs, and bowls full of some kind of Tostitos chips, and occasionally to catch glimpses of the football game. You're just watching for the commercials, right?

I came across a post from Amy Atlas and was intrigued... a beer infused cupcake, perfect for tonight's festivities. Here's the recipe:

1 cup flavorful dark beer– I used Rogue Mocha Porter as recommended in the original recipe. You can find this beer at Total Wine or World of Beer.
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
3/4 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Combine the beer and butter in a large sauce pan and heat to melt. Remove from heat; whisk in the cocoa, sugar, and espresso. In a bowl, whisk the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla, then whisk into the beer mixture. Sift together the flour and baking soda, and fold into the batter.
Pour into cupcake pan (you can go a little more than ¾ full on these) and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Cool completely on a rack.

Salted Caramel:
4 tablespoons water
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt, kosher or sea

Combine the water, sugar, and the corn syrup in a deep saucepan and cook over medium heat—stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Cover the saucepan and let it cook over medium/medium-low heat for 3 minutes. After 3 minutes, remove the lid, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. (Do not stir from this point on, but once it starts to turn brown at the edge you should carefully shake/swirl the pan so that one area of the caramel does not burn.) Continue to cook until the caramel turns an even amber color then remove from the heat and let stand for about 30 seconds. Pour the heavy cream into the mixture. Be careful. The mixture will bubble up! Stir the mixture. Add the butter, lemon juice, and salt. Stir until combined. Pour into a Pyrex measuring cup. Stirring occasionally, allow to cool until thick and warm, about 20 minutes.

1.5 sticks butter at room temperature
6 ounces cream cheese
4-5 cups powdered sugar
3/4 cup salted caramel

Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed until creamy. Sift 2 cups of powdered sugar into the cream cheese mixture and beat to combine. Add 3/4 cup of the salted caramel and beat to combine. Sift rest of powder sugar, in 1 cup increments and beating between each, until you arrive at the thickness and sweetness you desire.

I found the icing to be a bit messy, but quite delicious. The cake itself is not sweet, but the icing is, so they are a good offset for one another. I topped the icing with a little bit of espresso, but would recommend maybe just a few sprinkles of salt instead. Unless you are a serious coffee lover, the espresso tends to be a bit overpowering. Hope you enjoy this unique recipe!