Half and Half – Birthday Cupcakes for Kids and Dogs

half

Both my kids birthdays are in July, thus there their half birthdays are in January.  Just when you make a plan to ease off the sweets and decadent foods from the holidays…here comes the halves.  As my kids are getting older (9 1/2 and 12 1/2) the half cupcake just doesn’t cut it (see  reaction above).  So the tradition of half the cupcake, and half the candle lives on.  But the second halves are off camera to be eaten as well.  We still sing half the birthday song  which sounds like this…”Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday to You”.  It’s a bit abrupt, but it works.  You also get a birthday card cut in half.  And there’s a present that consists of a single item of a pair.  Such as one wrapped sock, one shoe, one ski glove.  Yes, the other is given as well, but not wrapped.

cupcakes

This year my daughter and her friend made lovely cupcakes together. Not only did they look great but also tasted really good.  They chose a combination of chocolate cupcakes and wedding cake frosting.  What is wedding cake frosting?  Well here’s the recipe from Southern Living Big Book of Cupcakes on Amazon, by Jan Moon.  It’s a very versatile white frosting that can be used for any occassion.

Wedding Cake Frosting, page 31.

Makes 3 cups

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup whipping cream

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 (16 oz) package powdered sugar

Beat first 4 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.

Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until blended.  Beat at high speed 2 minutes or until creamy.

 

IMG_3170

In addition to the January halves, now we also have a dog anniversary.  We adopted our dog Ally McBeagle 1 year ago, January 15th.  So of course that deserved a celebration and more cupcakes.  These were peanut butter dog cakes.  A generous neighbor gave us a special puppy cake mix.  We added water and voila, doggie cupcakes.  Of course Ally is not as picky as the kids, but the kids loved creating her birthday cake and also bagged up doggie cupcakes for a few of her doggie friends to enjoy.  My daughter suggested a doggie birthday and that’s where I drew the line.  I even cringe as children’s birthday parties. I can’t imagine the chaos of a dog celebration.  Ally loved her cake.  Considering she’ll eat just about anything she finds on a walk outside, it wasn’t a big compliment to our baking.

 

 

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Amazing Race Party and Food Challenges

race

My family loves watching the Amazing Race.  The kids love to see all the crazy antics and challenges.  I love seeing all the settings and cultures from around the world.  And we all route for our favorite teams.  It’s kind of a life lesson in geography and anthropology all wrapped into one.  Showing the kids how people stick together and cooperate as well as how poor sportsmanship can bring down the team.

This year my daughter wanted an Amazing Race birthday party.  Since she wanted to participate I came up with the challenge and clues for her and her friends.  This was actually pretty fun and creative.  There was a dress up race around the park, a backyard obstacle course, a geography word scramble, just to name a few.  Of course I had to have some foodie challenges as well.
chopsticksobstacle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

friends

 

We actually begun at a favorite local juice shop, Juice Girl where the girls had to drink a juice and smoothie and determine all the ingredients before getting their next clue.  There was a travel to China challenge where the girls used their chopsticks skills.  Finally I put them to work with a race to make lemonade (the old fashioned way – nothing electric), as well as cupcake decorating (using candy they collected at a yogurt shop contest).  This was good idea as not only were they making things quickly but they would also be careful and make them tasty as they would be drinking the lemonade with their lunch, and eating the cupcakes after.

lemonadecupcakes

My daughter and her friends had a great time.  With all the challenges we kept 8, 9 year olds busy forabout 2.5 hours both at home and around town.  The challenges took some organizing (making simple syrup, gathering chopsticks) but really made use of things we already had at home (dress up clothes, obstacle items) and didn’t require buying much (bag of lemons, juices, smoothies).  We decided we’re going to do smaller get togethers and challenges more regularly, while we’re waiting for the show to start again.

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Sprinklebakes by Heather Baird – Cookbook Review (Dessert Porn)

 

Did that get your attention?  The best way I can describe Sprinklebakes, Dessert Recipes to Inspire Your Inner Artist is dessert porn.  I am not kidding.  The cover is not exciting or sexy, but the images inside are beautiful and sinful and I can’t stop looking at the book.  These are all the beautiful things I wish I could make but don’t have the creativity, time or patience.  Although I am inspired and there are some approachable recipes and ones which I hope to build my confidence and venture deeper into Heather’s artistry.  Heather has a sprinkle bakes blog, but unfortunately I can’t get any of the photos to load, so you’ll have to visit another time.

In looking at some of these pictures such as hand painted cookies (literally Mehndi Hand Cookies), sugar sculptures (Dale Chihuly-Inspired Candy Bowls) and outrageous “mixed media” creations (Anatomical Heart Cake) I try to make myself feel better in knowing that the author was a painter before turning her creative skills to sweets.  Thus her artistry may never be mine.  However I can aspire and learn from her text and instructions on color theory, brush strokes, sculpture molds, candy making and more.   In the meantime I’ll practice on her more simple but delicious recipes for tart shells, pastry creams, cupcakes and candies.

 

Book Review

Pros: amazing photos, comprehensive dessert cookbook for many creative and tasty recipes, thorough instructions

Cons: some recipes may be intimidating and overwhelming for some while inspirational to others,  time consuming, some items require much planning and purchasing online

I used Heather’s tart crust and pastry cream recipes and combined them to make a wonderful berry fruit tart on Memorial Day.  See my photo below.  I liked that this was using her recipes to make my own creation because I didn’t have to compete with one of her images.  And it was a big hit for looks and taste.

So my kids asked me to make it again last weekend for a friend’s dinner party and it didn’t work as well.  I don’t blame the recipe, I blame myself.  It was one of those days when there’s too much to do and you try to squeeze in making a dessert.  Do you do that too?  Yes, I was a bit ambitious for the events of the day.  I wasn’t as patient with cooking the cream, so when I went to take it out of the refrigerator it had not set properly and was quite runny.  This of course I didn’t discover until I was going to assemble the tart 15 minutes before leaving for said friends’.  We ate it anyway.  That’s what friends are for.  Kind of a shortbread cookie with berries and cream.  Still tasty, but not as lovely as Memorial Day.

Here’s the tart crust recipe which is very versatile and I will use over and over with various fillings and fruits this summer.

TART CRUST page 89 from Sprinklebakes

YIELD: Approximately 2K cups, enough for 8 to 10 small apples, 20 crab apples, or ½ pound grapesor cherries

This tart crust is remarkably easy to make and comes out perfectly every time. It takes just a couple of spins in the food processor to have beautiful buttery pastry dough.

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading

3 tablespoons sugar

K teaspoon salt

½  pound (1 stick) cold butter, cut into ¼ -inch cubes

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 egg yolk

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon water

1. Generously grease a tart pan with vegeta­ble shortening.

2. Pulse the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor until combined.

3. Add the butter and zest and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal with some small pea-size butter lumps.

4. Add the egg yolk, vanilla, and water and pulse until just incorporated and the dough begins to form large clumps.

5. Turn out the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead slightly. Gather the dough together and form into a ball. Flatten into a disc or rectangle, depending on what shape pan you are using.

6. Press the dough over the bottom and up the sides of the pan in an even layer with well-floured fingers. Chill the shell for 45 minutes.

7. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

8. Lightly prick the bottom of the shell many times with a fork, and bake until the sides are set and the edge is golden, about 20 minutes.

9. Cool the shell completely in the pan on a rack.

SUGGESTIONS FOR TART SHELL USE

Chocolate Tart: Fill the baked, cooled tart shell with cooled liquid chocolate ganache. Refrigerate until set and serve with fresh whipped cream and raspber­ries.

Lemon Blueberry Tart: Fill the baked, cooled tart shell with freshly made lemon curd. Refrigerate until set. Top with fresh blueberries and dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Tropical Fruit Tart: Fill the baked, cooled tart shell with vanilla pastry cream. Top with slices of kiwi, pineapple, and mango and sprinkle with toasted coconut.

 

 

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Halloween – The Aftermath

So after trick-or-treating for hours on Halloween night, my kids came home and counted their candy.  Scary thing is that after hours of trick or treating, each with their own friends, they both had 74 pieces.  Although my son had a tube of toothpaste so he said he won with 75 items.  My daughter had been saying she would get more because “if you wear a cute costume, instead of a scary one, people give you more candy”.  Well, apparently, not true.  Yesterday we turned in the candy to my son’s orthodontist who pays $2 a pound.  They each kept 3 pieces to eat.  My son had 4 pounds and my daughter 3 pounds.  Knowing he couldn’t eat more than a few pieces of plain chocolate with his teeth hardware, he said he picked more lollipops thinking they would be heavy.  I guess his stretegy worked.

Here are our pumpkins still standing.  My husband really did a great job this year.  And no, he doesn’t use stencils.  The kids looked at photos with him online and they chose they’re favorites.  The kids were better at pulling out the guts from the pumpkins than in years past.  I did the usual roasted seeds.  This always seems fun, but not many have been eaten.  They are hard to chew.  Luckily my mom came for her annual Halloween visit, so I send seeds back with her to Poppa.

Instead of eating all the candy collected, here are the cute spider cupcakes we enjoyed.  We made a few for friends and neighbors too.  These are easy, but quite a hit.  Simply make your favorite chocolcate cupcake recipe, add thin pretzel legs (I dipped mine in chocolate) and lots of sugar eyes (we buy ours at Cake Art in San Rafael).  Be sure to break the pretzels before inserting.  I thought I could put one pretzel straight thru for both sides of legs, but the cupcake came apart in two.  A friend of ours made them for a kids’ soccer game last weekend, and unfortunately dropped them on her garage floor getting into the car.  Now that’s sad and scary.  So be careful transerring.

Hope your Halloween was happy.

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The Cupcake Caper

This time every year I am faced with lots of stress over cakes and cupcakes.  This year has been no exception and there’s only been one birthday so far.  You see the summer is full of birthdays in my family.  This year we added a preschool graduation into the mix too.  I’m not sure what got into me, but I thought I was going to make cake for my daughter’s graduation when I first signed up.  Until I was told there would be 150 cupcakes needed or two half sheet cakes.  Oops!

So I bought them at the suggested bakery near the school.  They are quite popular (and $$) and use fresh ingredients, but somehow I wasn’t impressed.  Though most of the 125+ people were happy and the cakes were eaten.  They were somehow bland and dense.  They were super cute though right?  And was I going to bake cake for that many people?  Nope.

 

However I spent two days (and more time and agony) perfecting 24 cupcakes for my daughter’s birthday party the following day.  Months ago my daughter picked out a cupcake photo she wanted me to make for her birthday.  It was an adorable cupcake decorated with sugar jewels out of our favorite cupcake cookbook (see previous review).  Turns out these are not so easy to find except for online and quite expensive ($1 per jewel).

Edible Diamonds

I went to CakeArt, an amazing cake decorating and baking supply store (they also have classes) in San Rafael for help on the jewels.  I thought if I can’t buy them, I can make them with molds.  Turns out they had a few “diamonds”, but the owner warned me they are made from isomalt and not good on many people’s stomache’s if eaten (and you know kids would try them).  Well, my daughter quickly understood this was not a good idea.  Luckily there were so many other lovely decorations she moved on and chose others.  This was still a few weeks before her party.

 

She still couldn’t decide on cupcake flavor.  One day she carried the cupcake book everywhere and reviewed it all during my son’s baseball game.  First she wanted lavender vanilla and I bought lavender.  Then it was strawberry milkshake, and I shopped for strawberry extract (couldn’t find).  It was too overwhelming that she could choose any flavor cupcake and frosting and mix and match with her chosen decoration.  Three days before she decided chocolate cake and vanilla buttercream frosting.  Hooray, I thought the hard part was over.

test batch

Since she had been so indecisive, yet so obsessive, I made a few test cupcakes for her reviewa few days before the party.  Then she says “Of course I’m going to like any of them…it’s a cupcake.”  Oh glad I wasn’t worried.  But glad I did the test.  I learned two valuable things from this recipe.  Do not spray with cooking oil as directed.  See above how the papers fall away?  And next, filling 1/2 to 2/3 full wasn’t enough.  I was also able to convince my daughter that the white frosting looked the best (her ideas of striped and colors were tried above).

test #2

Filling 3/4 cull and skipping the spray worked much better.

looking good and practicing my piping

Making the buttercream ahead for the test, I thought I’d just re-whip the next day when it was time to make a whole batch.  Well, this didn’t turn out so well.  The morning of the party, I frosted half of them and realized the butter cream was separating and kind of melting after a bit.  Yikes!

buttercream starting to separate

I quickly made another fresh batch of frosting and the second dozen looked far superior.  My daughter came in and said “Are these a diffrent kind?”  Having about one hour (still needing to shower and get dressed myself and pack the car with other food and ice chest) I scraped the frosting off the first dozen and refrosted them.  I felt much better.  O.K. first she was obsessed, and now I was.  As you can see, it all turned out fine…we made it to the party (at a gymnastics studio), everyone had fun, and the cupcakes were a hit.  Big kudos to the cupcake carrier too.  (Purchased at Target)  Great invention to protect your creations when on the go.

scraping off the melting frosting
fresh frosting fixed everything
the birthday girl adding the finishing touches
off to the party!
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Review from Southern Living’s Big Book of Cupcakes

Who can tell?  What sets them apart?  Is it the paper wrapper?  No, sometimes muffins have papers.  Is is the flavor?  No they can both be sweet or savory.  Is it the texture?  No, both can be light and fluffy or dense.  Is it the ingredients?  Nope, pretty standard to have butter, sugar, eggs, flour, etc.  I think it comes down to frosting.

Many a time I’ve put a muffin in a paper cup and called it a cupcake when my kids were smaller.  But now they ask “where’s the frosting?”  I can still get away with making a healthy muffin (bran, fruit etc) in a cupcake paper and putting a bit of “frosting” such as cream cheese or plain fresh whipped cream.  However…a new  cookbook arrived at my house for review: Southern Living’s Big Book of Cupcakes by Jan Moon.  And things will change. 

My kids have poured over it page by page looking at beautiful cupcakes.  When I get a new cookbook, I start marking pages of recipes that look interesting and may try.  My kids have marked more than half the book and it won’t even close now.  I’m in trouble….

My mother-in-law is visiting and we happen to be celebrating her birthday, so it’s time to try the new cookbook.  After much deliberation, my mother-in-law chooses Lemon Ice Box.  Not only do these have a lovely whipped cream frosting, but also a filling.  I’ve never ventured into filled cupcakes.  Now we’re ruined.  This is definitely not a muffin.

bring on the filling
whipped cream frosting

The cupcakes took a bit of time, which was fine for another rainy weekend day.  My kids enjoyed helping the licking the beaters.  Funny thing was that I forgot the shortening.  I don’t ever buy shortening, so I guess I just glanced over when I read the instructions.  I didn’t even realize I fogot until I put the cupcakes in the oven.  Oops.  It didn’t matter.  The cupcakes were great – moist and fluffy and tasty.  It made me question why the recipe had it to begin with. Hmmm….

You’ll be reading more about this book and cupcakes from me soon, I’m sure.

My Review

Pros – there are many…appealing photos, yummy recipes, innovative ingredients and flavors (did I mention maple bacon?)  Really a bible for cupcake followers.

Cons – not many so far.  Although like many baking and cake books, there are some hard to find decorations (which if course you can substitute).  I question the use of shortening and butter.

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King Cake, Take 2 …Cupcakes

I was searching through more king cake recipes and found one for cupcakes on the king Arthur Flour website.  This was immediately exciting to my kids because they both realized everyone could get their own “baby” (walnut) and luck for the year.   

Since I haven’t tasted anyone else’s king cake version, I still can’t compare.   This cake had a few of the elements of the crescent version – including the cream cheese frosting and the decorative colors.  However these may be my new go to vanilla cupcakes.  The cake was moist and the cream cheese frosting very versatile.  The few unique ingredients that are in a classic brioch like king cake and not in a classic vanilla cupcake are the addition of Fiori di Sicilia (a combo citrus and vanilla flavor) and nutmeg.  I made a few tweaks to the recipe I found online, as there was too much sugar in the frosting, which was plenty sweet enough.  I used a mixture of lemon oil and vanilla extract as I did not have Fiori di Sicilia.

These are great for a mardi gras party with kids, so no one gets left out of the luck.  Just be sure of any potential nut allergies if you use the walnut “baby”.Also good for a small goup or family, rather than making a whole cake.  You can even freeze cooked, unfrosted cupcakes to enjoy another day.  Here’s how to make them…

  Mardi Gras King Cupcakes

Yield: 12 cupcakes.

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 2/3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons soft butter
  • 2/3 cup milk, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia; OR 1 teaspoon vanilla + 1/8 teaspoon lemon oil
  • 2 large eggs

Icing

  • 3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon lemon oil
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • colored sugars, preferably purple, yellow, and green
1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the muffin tins with papers, and spray the insides of the papers.
2)In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt.
3) Cut butter into pieces and beat in with an electric mixer at low speed, until the mixture looks sandy.
4) Combine the milk and vanilla in a small bowl.  Add milk to butter mixture, all at once. Mix at low speed for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds. Scrape the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl.
5) With the mixer running at low speed, add 1 egg. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds. Add the second egg, again beating for 30 seconds.
6) Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, and beat briefly, just till smooth.
7) Scoop the batter by heaping 1/4-cupfuls into the prepared muffin tin. A muffin scoop works well here.
8) Bake the cupcakes for 23 to 25 minutes, until they’ve domed, and are a light golden brown around the edges. They’ll spring back when pressed gently on top, and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.
9) Remove the cupcakes from the oven, and place on a rack to cool completely before icing.
10) To make the icing: Combine the butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and lemon oil in a medium-sized bowl, and beat them together until light and fluffy.
11) Add the sugar gradually, beating well.
12)optional – you can 1 – 2 tsp. add milk if frosting is too thick.
13) Spread each cake with icing, and immediately dip in gold, purple, and green sparkling sugars, covering about 1/3 of the cupcake with each color sugar.
14) Store at room temperature for several days. For longer storage, wrap well and freeze.
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Got a Princess? Review of Annabel Karmel’s Latest Cookbook

 

As you know I receive many different cookbooks and recipes to try.  As soon as I opened Annabel Karmel’s Princess Party Cookbook, Over 100 Delicisous Recipes and Fun Ideas, it was whisked away by my daughter.  She’s 4 1/2 and likes anything with sparkles and bling…especially Annabel’s photos of cupcakes, cookies and lovely girlie party presentations.  I’ve had the book a few months and forgot about actually making something because she looks through it so often (even puts sticky notes on her favorites), I couldn’t take it away from her bedroom shelf.

I finally decided to try out a few things one weekend.  My daughter was so excited.  Obviously the photos were enticing, but how about the taste.  I have to say the recipes are pretty good and we have a few new favorites.  The book is full of fun ideas with matching foods and recipes for girl get togethers – from themed birthdays (princess and the pea, Cinderella) to Valentine’s parties to movie star sleep over and soda fountain fetes.  My daughter really wants to make the jeweled cupcakes.  However like a few other ingredients for the presentation, the edible jewels are hard to find.  Annabel even has some websites for resources, but couldn’t help with these jewels.  I finally found them and will report back when they arrive (hopefully soon).   

We tried the Cindarella’s Coach Risotto with pumpkin and arborio rice first.  I thought this was good choice because I had some left-over pumpkin puree and the rest of the ingredients.  However I had to guess at the amount of pumpkin since the recipe calls for 1/2 medium butternut squash or pumpkin.  It would have been helpful to have the amount too.  I guessed at 1 cup, which worked well.  My family ate the risotto with grilled pork loin and it made a nice hearty side dish.  It said 4 – 6 servings but this was quite generous. 

Next we made Cheesy Cloud Pillows.  This was basically popcorn with shredded cheese.  It was o.k., but nothing exciting.  Here’s a good example of a fancy name to create excitement.  No, I’m not being critical … sounds a lot like “Dad’s Magic Chicken”.   

My daughter will never eat a boring egg salad sandwich again, after seeing the egghead sandwich recipe and photos.  Basically egg salad “open-faced” on bread.  The face is created with red pepper pieces, shredded carrots, pickles, olives, etc. etc.  We’ve had great fun making and eating these.  While simple, it is fun and engaging for all ages. 

Last week we hit on another favorite… the angel cut-out cookie recipe (see below).  Annabel suggests making these angles to hang on the holiday tree.  They’re lovely, but hanging up seems like such a tease and waste of a good cookie.  We decided to shape the dough into snowflakes and ballerinas to share at my daughter’s winter wonderland dance performance.  These were very good.  You can’t go wrong with butter and superfine sugar.  I made my usual glaze (milk and confectioner’s sugar), because I didn’t have meringue powder for the recipe’s icing. My daughter really got into decorating these and carefully placed sugar pearls and candied stars on each cookie, to much appreciation. 

All and all if you have a girlie girl and need party and food ideas then you’ll enjoy this book.  Sometimes I was a little put off by all the use of candy in the decorating, but you can substitute (dried fruits, nuts and chocolate chips), or just know this is not an everyday healthy cookbook.  Remember too, Mrs. Karmel is from the UK and some ingredients may differ or be less available stateside.    

Angel Cut-Out Cookies by Annabel Karmel

(condensed version of recipe, without icing and tree hanging tips)

2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons butter, slightly softened

3/4 cup superfine sugar

1 egg yolk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl cream the butter and suagr until pale and fluffy.  Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat until combined.

Stir the flour and salt together with a fork in a separate bowl, then add to the butter mixture.  Mix until it forms a soft dough.  Form the dough into a flattish disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or until firm enough to roll out.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Divide the dough in half and and roll out on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thick.  Cut into desired shapes.  Repeat with the second half of the dough, then reroll the trimmings and cut out more cookies.

Transfer to baking sheets lined with parchment paper, speacing the cookies about 1 inch apart.  Bake the cookies for 11 – 12 minutes (*check in 8 minutes if small shapes), until golden brown.  Let cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks and cool completely before icing and decorating.

*I burned a batch when using small cutters.  So check a few minutes towards the end of baking time.

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Ahhhhh….Oscars!

I love Oscar night.  I really enjoy movies, and while I don’t get to the theatre much to see anything over a G rating, I’m always there for the Oscars.  It’s the fashion, the comradery, the bloopers, the hopes and joyful tears and jeers… and the food (more on that later).  I don’t watch alone and not at home (the kids aren’t up for a marathon of dresses and talking by real people).  I go to my dear friend Janelle’s, who’s been hosting this night as long as I can remember.  There was a few I missed, but only because I was out of town.  Twice we were out of the country (London one year and Prague another) and did everything possible to get a feed of the Oscars in our hotels, but to no avail.

There’s always one movie I’m excited about.  I love to cheer for the movie and cast my ballot for favorites.  In the past few years since kids, I try to make educated guesses for movies I’ve never seen or even heard of.  This year in addition to A Single Man, I was routing for Food Inc.  I though the movie was great and had just heard the producer speak on a panel at the Teens Turning Green Summit and really wanted her to take the stage and give an Oscar speech.  It unfortuately didn’t happen and now while sad as it is, I need to see The Cove.  The good thing is that Food Inc. is out there and according to the producer is the number one selling DVD of all time.  Hopefully that will help make some changes in the commercial food industry (or at least wake up some consumers).

Back to our oscar food…the spread reads like the Oscar for best appetizers and wine to be found, followed by dessert.  Everything from local cheeses (at least 6 kinds) and crackers (wheat, gluton free, rye, etc), to wild salmon and onion spread, to organic veggies and hummus, to charcuterie to marcona almonds and more.   We laugh and eat and drink and gossip and do it over and over until the show is over – 3 plus hours later.  Mind you there seems to be this much food and variety whether there’s 2 of us or 8.

This year I brought dessert.  Cupcakes and sandwich cookies. Nope you’ll be surprised I didn’t make them.  Fitting the Oscars into a Sunday full of french toast breakfast, a ballet birthday party, a soccer game and family gardening duties is tough.  There’s no time for extra baking and missing out on something else.  The sweets were purchased from Teacake Bakeshop in Corte Madera.  Aren’t they lovely?  Yep, and yummy too.

cupcakes and cookie sandwiches
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Kid’s Cupcakes – “The Best Ever” (Organic Recipe)

From Lisa Barnes

So last year’s cupcake trials for my son’s birthday did not come out great, as you can read. However I was determined to make him proud this year with a yummy recipe since once again he wanted cupcakes. His sister just had a yummy cake a few weeks prior, so the pressure was on. This year I was ready as I’ve been testing them for client requests and my next book.

This recipe was very well received at home, as my husband and son said “these are the best ever!” But they were also a hit at my son’s preschool. We even turned the cupcake celebration into an activity for the kids. I made the cupcakes and brought in fresh whipped cream, blueberries, strawberries and sprinkles for the children to frost and decorate their own. We had a great time. Of course I did not anticipate the use, make that overuse of sprinkles. I only brought one color but the teacher had a few left-over from Valentine’s. As you can see by the picture above, they all have personality and are unique masterpieces – like the children themselves.

Better Brownie Cupcakes

I call these cupcakes “better” because they are better for you than the usual chocolate cupcakes found at the grocer or bakery. And children (or adults) won’t believe these are wheat-free. Who knew potato flour, brown rice flour, and oat bran could make such a yummy brownie dessert? As my husband says “It still has chocolate in it. Anything tastes good with chocolate.” These are great for packing and sharing as they do not need any frosting so are less messy and easy to tote.

Makes 9 standard-size cupcakes or 18 mini cupcakes (can be doubled)

6 tablespoons organic unsalted butter
4 ounces (1/2 cup) organic semisweet chocolate, chips or chopped
½ cup evaporated cane juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 large cage-free organic eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup brown rice flour
2 teaspoons potato flour
¼ cup oat bran

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 9 standard muffin cups or 18 mini muffin cups with paper liners.

In a double broiler or microwave, melt butter and chocolate together until smooth and combined. Remove from heat and let cool.

Stir evaporated cane juice, salt, eggs, and vanilla into chocolate mixture. Mix well then stir in rice flour, potato flour, and bran. Scoop by tablespoonful into muffin cups (about ¼ cup for standard muffins and 2 tablespoons for mini).

Bake for 18 minutes for standard muffins and 12 minutes for mini, until puffed but gooey in center. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in the refrigerator for fudge-like texture.
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See also Greg’s Recipes For Kids – Organic Whole Wheat Bread and Chocolate Cookies
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Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler, and Williams-Sonoma: Cooking For Baby, and lives in Sausalito, California.
Images Credit: Lisa Barnes
OrganicToBe.org | OrganicToGo.com
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