Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Yes in my Mess.

homemade hostess cupcakes to celebrate @wearethatfamily new book! (recipe & giveaway)

Kristen and I met over Hostess cupcakes.

OK, not really.  Our family moved in next door to hers.  Two introverted moms who said hello in the yard...we had boys who, despite their age difference, hit it off.

One day, Kristen's son was over playing LEGOS with kiddo and the boys came into the kitchen....just as I was contorted into some awkward position taking pictures of...cupcakes.
(Looking back at those pictures now makes me cringe, and I was *really* trying!  Ugh.)

I was embarrassed they'd caught me taking pictures of food.  What would he say when he got home?  "Mom, Mrs. Edwards made cupcakes and before offering us one, was lining them up on a tray, bending over at a weird angle, moving them around, and taking pictures of them."

Instead, her son walked right up and said, "do you have a blog?"

And, that's how I knew I was living next door to THAT family...We are THAT Family.

homemade hostess cupcakes to celebrate @wearethatfamily new book! (recipe & giveaway)
Kristen and her family have become friends, and truthfully, inspirations to our family.  They've since moved to a new neighborhood, but we still think of them as our neighbors to this day.

A few years ago, Kristen had a life-changing experience.  She traveled to Kenya and witnessed the poverty, hunger, and devastation there.  She also heard a call.  A call to do something.  She and her family have answered that calling in a beautiful way...opening Mercy House Kenya

Rhinestone Jesus by Kristen Welch
In Kristen's new book, Rhinestone Jesus, she tells her story.  It all starts with a Rhinestone Jesus pin she wore to high school, and well, the story continues to this day.

Kristen said, "Yes" to her call.  Did she have millions stashed away to give?  Did she know exactly how to start a non-profit?  Was her life in perfect order and everything in place?  No.  Kristen said yes, as she puts it, in her mess.  #yesinmymess

rhinestone jesus quote

One of my favorite passages in the book is this one:
"We often don't do anything because we think our contribution won't be enough.  Or we convince ourselves that we must do something great for it to be important.  We don't act because we lack confidence.  We convince ourselves that our contribution couldn't possibly matter."

So, whether you're being called to start a maternity home in Africa...or you're making dinners for new moms in your parish like another Kristen I know, or you're fostering and adopting a child like my friend, Karen, or you're ministering to people by feeding and entertaining them in your home like Sandy, or you volunteer tirelessly at your child's school like my friend, Melissa...Rhinestone Jesus encourages us to say "yes" in our own mess.

{If you'd like an opportunity to win a copy of the book, please scroll down past the recipe.}

homemade hostess cupcakes to celebrate @wearethatfamily new book! (recipe & giveaway)

print recipe photo printrecipe.jpg

Homemade Hostess Cupcakes

(adapted from Food Network magazine, makes 20)

For the Cupcakes
1 & 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup water
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 & 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

For the Filling
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 cup marshmallow creme

For the Ganache
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the Icing
1 stick unsalted butter
1 & 1/2 - 2 tablespoons milk
2 cups powdered sugar
white food coloring (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners for about 20 cupcakes.

For the cupcakes: Bring the sugar and 1 cup water to a boil in a saucepan, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Place the chocolate and butter in a large bowl of an electric mixer, pour the sugar syrup on top.  Let sit, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture has cooled slightly. Stir in the vanilla.

Beat the eggs into the chocolate.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into the batter.  Mix until thickened and combined.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans (about 1/4 cup batter per cupcake) and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, then transfer cupcakes to a rack to cool completely.

(They will sink in the middle...they'll puff up when filled later.)
For the filling: Using a mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Beat in 1/2 cup powdered sugar. Add the vanilla and 1 tablespoon heavy cream; beat until smooth. Beat in the remaining 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons heavy cream. Beat in the marshmallow creme; set aside or refrigerate.

For the ganache: Place the chocolate in a bowl. Heat the cream and 1 tablespoon butter until just boiling, then pour over the chocolate; let stand for 5 minutes. Stir gently until smooth. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla; and stir.  Let stand until cool but still glossy and liquid.

homemade hostess cupcakes to celebrate @wearethatfamily new book! (recipe & giveaway)
Assembly:  Spoon the filling into a pastry bag with a medium star tip. Insert the tip into the center of each cupcake top; fill until the cupcake is heavier and the top puffs up (do not overfill). (It's OK if some of the filling peeks out, it will be covered by the ganache.  Feel free to scrape the excess off.)

Spoon a little cooled ganache on each cupcake and lightly spread with an offset spatula or a knife. Chill for at least 15 minutes.

homemade hostess cupcakes to celebrate @wearethatfamily new book! (recipe & giveaway) Meanwhile, prepare the icing: Using a mixer, beat the butter until fluffy. Mix in the milk and powdered sugar until smooth, adding more milk if needed.  Tint white by mixing in white food coloring (optional...the icing will be an ecru color without it, but look very light against the dark chocolate). Spoon into a pastry bag with a small plain tip, such as a #2 or #1, pipe onto the cupcakes to decorate.

Store in the refrigerator.

Rhinestone Jesus by Kristen Welch
Kristen's book, Rhinestone Jesus, is available starting May 1 at many retailers and is available NOW on Amazon.  If you'd like to be entered to win a copy here, please leave a comment letting me know how you say "yes in your mess"....or how you'd like to start. ♥

{Entries accepted through 11:59pm CST, April 27th.}

yes in my mess kitchen photo yesinmymess8of9.jpg
{my mess.} 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

You Say It's Your Birthday...popcorn.

birthday cake popcorn ... made with birthday cake m&ms
If birthday cake-flavored everything is wrong, then I don't want to be right.

birthday cake m&ms !!!
It all started with these.  Laurel posted a picture of a bag she'd picked up at the airport on Instagram.  Where to find birthday cake M&Ms...that was the question. The hunt for them commenced.  I am now known as the weird lady who walks past each and EVERY check-out aisle in the grocery store...all 20-something of them...scanning each and every candy display.

Luckily, there's this little thing called the Internet.  I found out that these Birthday Cake M&Ms aren't due in stores until May, but CVS stores ended up with them on the shelves early.  Bingo.

That same day, I was walking through Joann Fabrics and BOOM!  Hello, birthday cake-flavored candy melts...
birthday cake candy melts & recipe for birthday cake popcorn
...that's what we call fate. 

let's make some birthday cake popcorn!
All I needed was popcorn and sprinkles, and I had the makings of Birthday Cake Popcorn. 

Crunchy, sweet, with a hint of'll think it's your birthday when you make it.

print recipe photo printrecipe.jpg

Birthday Cake Popcorn

1 batch stove-popped popcorn (from 1/2 cup unpopped)
2 TBSP salted butter, melted
pinch kosher salt
1 bag birthday cake-flavored candy melts
2 (8-oz) bags birthday cake M&Ms (you'll use 1.5 bags)

Start with your freshly-popped popcorn.  (If you need a refresher on how to do this on the stove, click here.)  Spread the popcorn out on a large rimmed baking sheet.

let's make some birthday cake popcorn!
Pour the melted butter over the popcorn and toss.
{Can we talk for a minute about how much I love that little dot of melted butter?  Ok, thanks.}

Sprinkle on a big pinch of kosher salt.  Toss again. (During all this tossing, discard any unpopped kernels you might see.)

birthday cake popcorn melts photo birthdaycakepopcorn4of8.jpg
Melt the candy melts according to the package instructions.  I use the microwave option.  Pour the melted candy melts over the popcorn, then toss to coat all of the popcorn.

I love my "Salad Hands" for this job.  I actually use these things all the time.

birthday cake popcorn mix photo birthdaycakepopcorn5of8.jpg
While the candy melts are still melted, toss in the M&Ms and the sprinkles.

birthday cake popcorn mixed mess photo birthdaycakepopcorn6of8.jpg
Now is the time to taste.  If you think it needs a bit more salt, add some more kosher or finely ground sea salt.

Spread the popcorn onto two cookie sheets and let the candy melts harden.  Break into clusters and serve or package.

birthday cake popcorn ... made with birthday cake m&ms

I highly suggest bagging it up and getting it out of your house as soon as possible.  On the other hand, popcorn is a very good source of fiber and whole grains.  Hmmm...

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Sweet on Trader Joe's Saturdays: Butter Almond Thins

Welcome to the 2nd installment of our Sweet on Trader Joe's Saturdays!

This week, kiddo & I review one of his most requested TJ's sweets: the Belgian Butter Almond Thins.
trader joe's butter almond thins review
Trader Joe's describes these as "all-butter traditional Belgian biscuits."  They run $2.79 for a 7.05 ounce box...approximately 8 servings per box.

The cookies are very thin and delicate, crispy, and definitely buttery.

trader joe's butter almond thins review
My Take:  OK...I love that these have 6 ingredients and no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.  That said, though, these aren't my favorite.  They're good, but not my cup of tea.  If you're a shortbread cookie lover or love those "butter cookies" in the tins at Christmastime, you might really enjoy these, though.  I, on the other hand, was tempted to slather them with Nutella.  
Overall rating: 3 of 5 stars

Kiddo's Take: I don't know what world she's in, but these are delicious. Their thinness makes it feel like they melt in your mouth, and the almond flavor comes out very strong, leaving you with a sweet and enjoyable aftertaste. (Caution: I could eat an entire box of these in 5 minutes, so be careful.)
Overall rating: 5 out of 5 stars

trader joe's butter almond thins review

Trader Joe's Belgian Butter Almond Thins: split decision!

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