Stocking Stuffers

Last minute shopping anyone? Thankfully all of my Christmas shopping is done, except for a few select stocking stuffers. It is a tradition in my family for my Mom, sister, and I to do all the stocking stuffer shopping together. Since this year our stocking stuffer shopping will be early morning on Christmas Eve, I began putting together a small list of stocking stuffer items. I don’t usually have a list, but in my continuing quest to be organized I was putting one together. So that got me thinking of a few of my favorite items that would fit nicely in my stocking this year :). So if you haven’t completed your shopping and need a few items here are some ideas that I thought I would pass along.

Because my hands in the winter age twenty years and this helps revive them….

Almond Oil Intensive Hand Rescue

So I can mark that recipe I found in my cookbook with something other than the envelope I just got in the mail….

Chef Set Page Flags

Because if you are going to wear socks they should be fun (and tall!)….

Anthropologie Striped Spectrum Socks

Because I could always use more of my favorite nail polish (the only one I run out of!)….

Essie Nail Polish in Wicked

Because they make ones that match your hair color and they don’t have metal to tangle your hair….

Goody Color Collection Elastics

Because I am a California baby and it would just be wrong to not choose my hometown’s chocolate (plus it’s my favorite!)….

Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate with Raspberry Filling Squares

Because Oprah recommended it years ago and it is still terrific today…

Philosophy's Gingerbread Man Salt Scrub

And lastly because it would fit so well in the foot of the stocking….

Nikon D3000
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The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Desserts Edition

As you may have realized from my actual cooking blog, I don’t always stick with the different blog categories I set up. This stems from my own history of having stream of conscious type writing. I usually write exactly as the thoughts play out in my head and this tends to me having eureka moments and then constant months of writer’s block. Perhaps it’s why it took me so long to write papers in college. Anyway how does this lead me here? I am inspired by the new Food Network show The Best Thing I Ever Ate. While watching the show it got me thinking about really good things I have eaten at various places around the country and I feel the need to share.

I would love it if you shared your favorite desserts, etc. as I will try to update each week! So here is my first edition. The best dessert I ever ate came from Louisville, Kentucky. It was the Spring of 2007 and I was at a convention. Several of my colleagues and myself went to one of the famous eateries near our hotel called Maker’s Mark. Appropriately named for Kentucky! The food was fabulous, but the item I remember most is the dessert. I have a passion for Dunkin Donuts. I know you may be rejecting my claim right now, with a desire to express the reasons why Krispy Kreme is better, however I can tell you this. I have tried many selections of both and I still love Dunkin Donuts. Their light and airy donuts feature a plethora (many, a lot, a whole bunch..why couldn’t I think of these while writing my thesis?) of selections, however, I have two favorites in particular, sugar raised, and chocolate (not chocolate frosted, chocolate).

So how does this relate to Maker’s Mark. While I was mulling over whether or not to get a dessert, one of my colleagues told me “to go for it”, and the waitress pointed to one on the menu the “Wide Awake”. “Try this one, you won’t be disappointed” she stated. After reading the contents, chocolate espresso torte, I decided that it would be worth the try. I made my colleagues promise to share it with me, as I was pretty full from dinner. When our waitress brought the torte out it looked unassuming. However, after one bite I was hooked. I ate every last bite of the torte and would have ordered seconds, except I wasn’t paying. It had the taste of the chocolate Dunkin Donut I mentioned earlier, except with an extra kick of espresso and something that made it chocolatier, “more chocolatey?”. And even though I woke up two hours after going to bed ready to get up and go for the rest of the day (I did say espresso were in the contents), I think if the restaurant hadn’t closed for the night I would have marched back over there and ordered a second. And that is the best dessert I ever ate.

Sidenote: If you ever happen to go the Maker’s Mark: Bourbon House and Lounge in Kentucky I believe the dessert is now called Homage to Keller.

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Banana Bread

Those who know me well will find it interesting that I am posting about making banana bread for two reasons. The first is I don’t eat banana bread, and the second is I’m not the best baker. I named my blog after cupcakes because I like to eat them, not particularly because of my skill of making them. This story begins with three overripe bananas and my plan to make banana bread for some of my family. See, whenever I am making banana bread I am never making it for myself. In fact I won’t eat bananas in anything but their plain straight from the grocery store form, and only at a certain ripeness. Once they past that point I refuse to eat them, hence I end up making quite a lot of banana bread for someone who doesn’t like to eat it.

Perhaps I should give a quick story of why I don’t like banana bread or foods with banana in them. It all stems from a 1994 (95?) celebration of my great-grandmother’s 90th birthday. While it was a joyous occasion some of us unfortunately got food poisoning. Before we realized we had food poisoning I ate about six little Debbie banana breads (they were miniature. I still shutter a bit as a I write this). So without giving all the unnecessary details, I don’t like banana bread now. In fact I didn’t even eat bananas up until about five years ago, and the smell of baby banana food (I shutter again). Anyway, that is neither here nor there, but it brings me up to date on making my latest banana bread. I don’t have my own special recipe, but I do have one I recommend. It’s from Food Network’s website. It’s the Banana Walnut Bread (I leave out the walnuts) made by Food Network’s Kitchens. It’s simple and easy, it only has about six ingredients.

I have made this banana bread several times, but despite making it over and over I still run into trouble occasionally with my cooking. I ended up having half of the banana bread stick to the pan and pieced it together. This is just an example of one of my many baking debacles that I run into, however I continue to bake figuring one day my food will turn out the way I expect. Despite all this my family members that I delivered the bread to enjoyed it, with one of my favorite little food critics stating “It was yummy, it was like lovin’ in my tummy”. I’m not sure if I can give a recipe a better recommendation than that.

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Why I Cook Cupcakes Wednesdays

– Because they take less time to bake than cake.

– Because you can decorate them according to each individual person’s preference. For example, this year for my husband’s birthday we will be having both peanut butter icing and vanilla icing.

– Because you can buy cute cupcake containers and put them in your kids’ lunch for school.

– Because you only have to frost the top of a cupcake, not the sides (which can be difficult and normally causes my cakes to lean).

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Why I Cook Cupcakes Wednesdays

– Because they are weight friendly. You can eat just one cupcake and you know exactly what the portion is that you are eating. (And if you eat two, you know you are getting the same portion as the first)

-Because  they encourage peace. You don’t ever hear anyone at a birthday party complaining about one person’s cupcake being bigger than another person’s (well maybe, but you shouldn’t eavesdrop on conversations at parties anyway. It leads to all sorts of misunderstandings.)

– Because I have a hereditary trait of not being able to cook even cakes (Which means that all my cakes slide. It’s passed down from one generation to the next). But a cupcake doesn’t slide.

– Because there is an equal proportion of icing to cake. That’s just simple physics.

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