Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cupcake Hero: Squash

If you look over to the right, you'll see a new little cute cupcake icon. That's because, as of this month, I have decided to become a cupcake hero baker! Similar to the Iron Cupcake, I'll be assigned an ingredient each month and then bake a cupcake around that ingredient. They are all posted on the website and a winner will be announced each month. I figure if I have yet another reason to make cupcakes I should probably do it. I am SO exciteed for cupcake hero. The past ingredients have been so fun and the caliber of the entries are amazing. I can't wait for the months to come!

This month's ingredient is squash. I thought I'd try to find some insane crazy squash to use, but then I have been having dreams of a dark chocolate pumpkin cupcake even before the ingredient was announced (more on that later.) When I got to the market, the variety was so exciting I decided I couldn't just settle for plain ol' pumpkin. After perusing the winter vegetable aisle for a bit, I finally decided on a Castilla Squash.

I'm going to be honest, I think these are pretty much the same thing as a "cinderella" or "fairytale" pumpkins. They look something like this. In fact, the Castilla Squash not only looks just like a fairytale pumpkin, but the flesh is identical as well as the taste. So if any of you out there know defnitely if they are the same or not, let me know, but as of now, I'm going with yes.

(Here's a fairytale pumpkin)

(Here's my Castilla Squash--see what I mean?)

Now, back to my dream. About 6 weeks ago, I quite literally started dreaming about a pumpking cupcake with a whipped dark chocolate ganache. I woke up the next morning and told my husband all about it, thinking he'd be thrilled for me. He wasn't. He was pretty much terrified that I am now dreaming of cupcakes as well as spending the majority of my days planning them, baking them and searching the web for them at all times.

This cake has evolved since the dream a bit, mainly because I have a friend who has requested that all my future cupcakes come with a cookie crust of some kind ever since my Key Lime Cupcake. (See, Michael-- that's how much I care.) I have to say, the cookie crust really makes this one for me. The texture is what is so fantastic.

As I was baking up this recipe and contemplating my castilla squash/fairytale pumpkin debate, I couldn't help but think that if I had been Cinderella and had this pumpkin, there wouldn't have been a way to get me to the ball because my coach would have already been roasted down and pureed for this little cupcake o' heaven right here. I am now entirely convinced the only reason Cinderella went to that ball is because there wasn't any dark chocolate in the house and she needed to find a dessert buffet to drown her sorrows. Sorry, Princie, you were just a close second. Who REALLY wants to dance around all night in glass shoes anyway? Hello...can you say blisters?!

So, for all you fairytale lovers out there, I give you my cupcake squash creation in which I call:

The "Better than the Ball" Fairytale Cupcake:

Cookie Crust
1/2 package chocolate sandwich cookies
1/3 cup melted butter

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup softened butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin or squash puree**

1/2 cup half and half (or heavy cream)
6 ounces of bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate-chopped ( I say either here, because not everyone is a fan of bittersweet)
1/4 cup powdered sugar

For cookie crust: Take apart and scoop cream out of sandwich cookies. Process in a food processor until fine crumbs. Melt butter. Stir butter into crumbs until thoroughly combined. Place about a tablespoon into each cupcake liner and press down. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 350º and line a 12-cup muffin tin with bake cups. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt. Set the mixture aside.

In a separate mixing bowl, stir together the butter and sugar. Whisk in the eggs and stir in the vanilla extract.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and gently stir the mixture until well combined.

Stir the pumpkin into the batter until it is thoroughly combined. Spoon the batter into the cookie pressed liners. Bake for 20 minutes Let the cupcakes sit in the tin for 10 minutes and then remove to a rack to cool thoroughly.

For Ganache: In a small saucepan combine cream and chocolate. Cook and stir over low until melted and combined. Transfer to a small glass bowl, let cool until thickened. Add powdered sugar and whip until thick and spreadable. Spread/pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

**To make pumpkin puree: Roast or steam squash until very soft. Scrape out of skin. Place in food processor and pulse until very smooth.

This is so delicious, I promise you'll love it. It's the perfect flavor and texture combination of pumpkin and chocolate. The cookie crust is crumbly and crunchy, the cake is dense and moist and the whipped ganache is rich and creamy. One bite and you'll never be able to look at Cinderella's coach the same way again.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Vivie is two today. Her birthday gets to me in a way Sydney's never does. I think some of it has to do with her being my last baby. I also think a lot of it has to do with the circumstances in which she was born.

Two years ago I was diagnosed with severe pre-eclampsia and put on complete bedrest at the 29th week of my pregnancy. I mean complete. I wasn't even allowed to shower or go to the bathroom unaccompanied for fear of my blood pressure spiking and going into seizure. The bed rest didn't really work and soon I was so swollen I had feet that looked like this.

(Yes, those are flip flop impressions)

One day, at week 32 I couldn't feel my daughter moving anymore, so I went down to the doctor's for a check. They immediately admitted me into the hospital for what I thought was observation only to find out I wouldn't be leaving. I delivered my daughter 24 hours later.

About 20 hours after delivery, I went into liver failure. More specifically I went into a rare and serious condition called HELLP. My husband was told not to expect his wife to live out the day. HELLP has no cure. There is no way to prevent it. For most women, it comes on before the baby is born and the only remedy is to deliver the baby and hope that stops the onset. For some of us very lucky few, it happens post delivery, there is nothing to do but wait. Luckily, my body responded and healed itself (albiet VERY slowly) and luckily my baby received the care she needed and spent only 2 weeks in the NICU before I brought her home.

Believe it or not, I do feel like the luckiest girl in the world. Many of my close friends know the entire ordeal I went through to get Genevieve here. In fact, we joke about it quite often in a way that only I can do. However, what I don't really talk about is just how scary the whole thing really was. I think it's too much to actually talk about sometimes, but I have also realized that I never really did. I spent most of those terrifying hours sedated and medicated due to the severe pain, but when I was lucid, I knew deep down just how grave the situation had become. I remember on several occasions just praying to God to let me hold my baby or let me see my Sydney.

Vivie taught me something before she was even born. I learned that no one on this earth should ever take having a child or having an easy pregnancy for granted. (So for those of you who have easy pregnancies and easily conceive-- count your lucky stars every day!) I also learned that you can love someone else so much that you can quite literally fight death off knowing that that person is waiting for you and needs you. I also learned that my capacity for loving my children is larger than I ever thought possible, that if my husband, my girls and I could make it through that horrible ordeal, we can figure out how to make it through anything. I remember this when she's tested my limits to the very end on any given day. I remember this when Sydney begs for one more round of princess tea party. I TRY to remember it when my "sweet little angels" are screaming and fighting over each other's my little ponies.

Today, I just want to say how happy I am so have my Vivie. She makes me smile every day. I love when she wakes up in the morning and I love when she gives me snuggles and kisses at night. I even love her during the day when she is secretly plotting world domination (seeing as how she is such an evil genius.)

I love you Genevieve. Happy Birthday.

Voting is Open!!

The voting is now open for this month Iron Cupcake. My entry, The Honey Jack, turned out pretty well. Take a minute to vote for me!

Monday, October 20, 2008


Well, it's happened. I've finally been tagged. I've considered myself lucky up until this point at avoiding all tag related blogging, but my dear friend Erin has finally done it. (She is my dear friend because if it was anyone else I'd probably ignore the whole thing!) I've come away still pretty lucky, though because this certain one doesn't ask 137 excruciatingly self absorbed and mundane questions, it just asks for 7 quirks no one knows about you.

I have to say I can't think of too many things, which scares me because I might be living a little too open book for my own taste (and probably for the taste everyone around me.)

Here they are, my crazy quirks:

1. My hands get really hot when I'm tired or sleeping. Not just a little warm; REALLY HOT. The joke in my family is that I might spontaneously combust if I don't get to bed soon. They get so hot, Jon can't even stand it when I touch him with them because he is afraid I'll burn right through his clothes. He even begged for us to buy a king size bed so when we're sleeping my hands won't accidentally come into his space and sweat him out. (Yes, I know, the thrill is gone.)
I have been approached by several clandestine governments about my powerful hands, but I feel as if my gift could never be used for evil.

2. I went through a few years where I told everyone I hated Jane Austen and all of her works. This was a flat out lie. I never hated Austen. In fact, I secretly read Pride and Prejudice in my room when no one else was around. I just didn't want to be ONE MORE girl in love with Austen's characters and particularly Mr. Darcy. I have, however, repented of my Austen denial. I am currently in more in love with Mr. Darcy than ever.

3. In high school, my friend Chris Gonzales gave me the nickname "squirrel toes." This is on account of the fact that I have some of the shortest, stubbiest toes known to mankind. Sometimes I'M not even sure if they have the right amount of joints in them they are so short. Many people had a grand time calling me the rodent related pedial nickname. Once I told Jon about it, thinking I had found a confidant, but he only proceeded to call me 'squirrel toes' everyday for the next year and a half.

4. I love to eat low carb cheeseburgers. No, I am not on any kind of low carb diet. Basically, I have decided that the bread is completely superfluous to the meat, cheese, lettuce and tomato goodness and I don't want it anywhere near my cardiac nightmare of nirvana. In fact, I'd inject In 'n Out Burger's double double animal style straight into my veins if possible, but since it is not, I prefer to eat it 'protein style' (a.k.a without the bun) in order to get all the full effect of all the yummy goodness.

5. I actually think I look kinda cute when I wear really heavy eye make up and dark lipstick. I know that I give off a Morticia Adams vibe (and in fact my father calls me the daughter of darkness) when I do so, but there's something about out that I think looks cute on me. I have decided that this means there is a little goth girl who never got the chance to come out during the awkward teen years so once in a while she reminds me she's still there.

6. I get REALLY carsick. It hasn't been too bad the last few years, but it used to be so extreme that when I was in college I would actually cancel or turn down dates if I found out my date was not driving and we would be riding in the back seat and we were going farther than 15 miles. I would just tell them I hadn't finished a paper I needed to get done or whatever. All I knew was that I WASN'T getting in that car. (I also had such bad allergies in college that I cancelled dates if I found out we were going to one of those uber-popular corn or hay bale mazes all over Happy Valley.)

7. I religiously watched the show Dawson's Creek AND all of it's reruns until I was 29 years old and then they finally took it off the air. I am still in love with Pacey Witter. (Joey didn't deserve him.) He will always be my TV boyfriend (sigh...)

Okay, now for avid readers, I tried to think of people who I never seen partake of any type of tagging before, I figure I'd spread the wealth. Here is who I tag:

(because I miss her like crazy)

Amy Webb (because when she left I didn't know her well enough to miss her like crazy, but now I know her better and strangely I now miss her.)

Abi -- because I never get sick of Abi's crabby blabbing

and, my cousin, Celia-- because hey! Why not? and also because she lives in Montana, which is cool, because not everyone does...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Iron Cupcake: The Honey Jack

I'll give you one guess what this month's ingredient is and here is your clue...

No, it's not awesomeness. It's CHEEEEEEESE!! Yes, cheese. Cheese in a cupcake had me a bit perplexed. I wanted to steer clear of the obvious easy ones and I wanted the cheese in the cake and I didn't want it to be cheesecake. (Am I losing you here?) Anyway, after some experimentation I finally came up with this delectable square little morsel of yummy.

The Honey Jack Cupcake with Toasted Pear Meringue Frosting

Have you ever gone to a fancy shmancy restaurant and saw on the menu and pear walnut salad of somekind? That's basically the flavors I was going for, but not nearly as strong an of course in cupcake form. I started with a very basic honey cake and added VERY finely shredded monterrey jack cheese. I mean fine. I used a microplane and grated for an hour. Ugh. I will never get that hour back as long as a live. Next, I created a candied walnut filling that baked into the cupcake and then topped it all off with a pear flavored fluffy meringue frosting and toased the whole thing up with my handy little torch I stole from hubby's tool chest. Overall, I think the flavors are very nice together. It doesn't scream cheese, but there is a moist saltiness in the cake you definitely taste. It's not too sweet, so my husband loves it and the flavors are very subtle. And of course I had to use my square cupcake pan because right now I am completely in love with it. The whole recipe is below.

Start with Walnut mixture:

• 1 cup finely chopped black walnuts
• 1 tsp olive oil
• 2 TBS brown sugar
• 1 TBS real maple syrup

In a small fry pan, mix all ingredients together and let simmer until the sugar is dissolved and everything is well coated. Set aside.

Cake Ingredients:

* 2 cups flour, sifted
* ½ tsp each baking powder and baking soda
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 cup unsalted butter
* 1/2 cup honey
* 2 large eggs
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
* 8 ounces sweetened condensed milk
* 1 cup monterey jack cheese, super finely shredded


1. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.
2. In a medium bowl, beat butter, sugar, eggs and extract.
3. Pour in flour mixture in thirds adding 1/2 can of sweetened condensed milk in between (beginning and ending with flour mixture.).
4. Add in grated cheese and blend well for two minutes.
5. Put in muffin cups 3/4 cup full only.
6. Top with walnut mixture.
7. Bake in 350 oven for 20-25 minutes.

For Frosting

2 tsp meringue powder
2 TBS water
1 egg white
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup pear nectar

Beat first three ingredients until soft peaks form. While beating combine sugar and nectar in a small saucepan and simmer until sugar completely dissolves. SLOWLY drizzle the syrup into the beating meringue and then whip on high until stiff glossy peaks form. Pipe onto cakes and toast under broiler or with a kitchen blow torch.

There you have it! It's very different from anything I usually make. I, mean, I'm really a buttercream girl at heart. But this is a nice change. The voting will open for this cupcake on October 26th and I'll post a reminder to go and vote for me. I am determined to win one this year! As a reminder, here's all the great prized I get if I come in first.

Art on the Menu Cupcake Creation

Cute little Cupcake earrings
by Lots of Sprinkles

Sassy Sweet Tee from BakeLove Bakewear

Hello Cupcake Cookbook

Taste of Home Cookbook

Fiestaware Head Chefs Utensils

Cupcake Courier Caddy

a Jessie Steele Apron

and 1-800-Flowers

See, you totally need to vote for me so I can spoil myself rotten with all these goodies.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

In the Land of Sydney

I'm sure a lot of you could care less about the things my daughter does, but some of the are SO FUNNY, I can't help but share with the world. The last few days she has been ON FIRE!

On Sunday afternoon, Sydney informed us that she has a husband. He is very nice. We would like him a lot, she says. He has root beer brown colored hair and dark blue eyes and is very handsome and he likes to sing and he loves her very much. His name is Derrick Edward Cullen Olson and he picks flowers for her and tells her he loves her and sometimes they smooch, but that's okay because he is her husband. Naturally, we needed to know more about this 'husband.' I mean, he is family after all. We asked if he looked like one of the boys in her class, to which she emphatically said NO! Then we listed off the boys at church. NO, NO, NO... he doesn't look like any of them. A little while later a commercial came on for the new High School Musical Movie.

"Hey Syd, does your husband look like that boy?"
"I don't want to talk about it!!"
And then she ran out of the room....

This morning, we were walking to school and Sydney was telling me about how she has all kinds of friends in her kindergarten class. We started naming them off. Then I got to one name, let's just say the name was "Kelly."

Me: "...and your friends with Ruth and Keelyn and 'Kelly'
Sydney: "--hold on mom, 'Kelly' doesn't raise her hand in class and she shouts out the answers, and I don't know if I can be friends with someone who doesn't raise their hand in class..."

We've decided to have an anti-discrimination intervention with her this evening.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


While perusing the Costco website (and listening to conference at the same time) I found the holy grail of all gifts for any true child of the 80's. The entire Fraggle Rock series collection on DVD.

I think I might be in love with it. For any of you needing a Fraggle Rock fix, here you go.

(courtesy of YouTube member anarthalle)

And if you weren't a Fraggle Rock fan, I KNOW you watched these a time or two on PBS.

Admit it, you totally crushed on Gilbert Blythe. (Well, actually, I didn't, but I did crush on that incredibly handsome rich older guy who wanted to marry Anne the schoolmarm. Hmmm...)

I had no idea how many Anne/Gilbert montages even existed out there! This one is most definitely my fav. I mean, you get Anne, Gil, AND awesome Brian Adams music. Seriously, it doesn't get any better. This one is made by YouTube member AmyofGreenGables.

So, if any of you out there are lookin' to cross of people on your Christmas list, look no further.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Funniest. Blog. Ever.

I found this little gem courtesy of my friend Emilie. It is probably the most hilarious blog I have ever read. I was seriously crying with joy and laughter. I will certainly be stalking this one.

p.s. You will in no way find this funny if:

a.) You are not a mormon
b.) You are not at all familiar with Utah culture
c.) You are not able to laugh at the strangeness and awesomeness of a and b above

Define 'utensil'....

No, Vivie. Use the spoon.

The spoon, Vivie, use the spoon. SPOON SPOON SPOON!!!
That's not a spoon, that's a princess wand.

NO NO NO! Vivie, don't put that... your mouth.

Whatever, at least your actually eating something.

Yeah. I know. You're awesome.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The "Goodie" Bucket List

I came across this list of the 100 sweets to eat in your lifetime on the awesome blog of Cakespy.
I was intrigued and figured this is right up my alley. I was actually surprised at how many I had eaten. Here is my list. If it's in bold, I've eaten it. If it's red, I still need to try it and if it's gray, I probably wouldn't ever try it due to it's ingredients containing something on my WoW taboo list. I ended up with 53 out of 100 and 3 I won't be partaking of. Not too bad! Of course I'll be reporting on any of these I try from now on. I do have a 101th suggestion, though. Everyone sometime must try a Berger Cookie. They can only be found in Baltimore, but can be mail ordered. They truly are heaven on earth.

1. Red Velvet Cake
2. Princess Torte
3. Whoopie Pie

4. Apple Pie either topped or baked with sharp cheddar
5. Beignet
6. Baklava
7. Black and white cookie
8. Seven Layer Bar (also known as the Magic Bar or Hello Dolly bars)

9. Fried Fruit pie (sometimes called hand pies)
10. Kringle
11. Just-fried (still hot) doughnut
12. Scone with clotted cream
13. Betty, Grunt, Slump, Buckle or Pandowdy
14. Halvah

15. Macarons
16. Banana pudding with nilla wafers
17. Bubble tea (with tapioca "pearls")
18. Dixie Cup
19. Rice Krispie treats

20. Alfajores
21. Blondies
22. Croquembouche
23. Girl Scout cookies

24. Moon cake
25. Candy Apple
26. Baked Alaska
27. Brooklyn Egg Cream
28. Nanaimo bar
29. Baba au rhum
30. King Cake
31. Sachertorte
32. Pavlova

33. Tres Leches Cake
34. Trifle
35. Shoofly Pie
36. Key Lime Pie (made with real key lime)
37. Panna Cotta
38. New York Cheesecake
39. Napoleon / mille-fueille
40. Russian Tea Cake / Mexican Wedding Cake
41. Anzac biscuits
42. Pizzelle
43. Kolache

44. Buckeyes
45. Malasadas
46. Moon Pie
47. Dutch baby

48. Boston Cream Pie

49. Homemade chocolate chip cookies
50. Pralines

51. Gooey butter cake
52. Rusks
53. Daifuku

54. Green tea cake or cookies
55. Cupcakes from a cupcake shop
56. Crème brûlée
57. Some sort of deep fried fair food (twinkie, candy bar, cupcake)
58. Yellow cake with chocolate frosting
59. Jelly Roll

60. Pop Tarts

61. Charlotte Russe
62. An "upside down" dessert (Pineapple upside down cake or Tarte Tatin)
63. Hummingbird Cake

64. Jell-O from a mold

65. Black forest cake
66. Mock Apple Pie (Ritz Cracker Pie)
67. Kulfi

68. Linzer torte

69. Churro
70. Stollen

71. Angel Food Cake

72. Mincemeat pie
73. Concha

74. Opera Cake
75. Sfogliatelle / Lobster tail
76. Pain au chocolat
77. A piece of Gingerbread House
78. Cassata
79. Cannoli
80. Rainbow cookies
81. Religieuse
82. Petits fours

83. Chocolate Souffle
84. Bienenstich (Bee Sting Cake)
85. Rugelach
86. Hamenstashen
87. Homemade marshmallows

88. Rigo Janci

89. Pie or cake made with candy bar flavors (Snickers pie, Reeses pie, etc)
90. Divinity

91. Coke or Cola cake
92. Gateau Basque
93. S'mores
94. Figgy Pudding
95. Bananas foster or other flaming dessert
96. Joe Froggers
97. Sables

98. Millionaire's Shortbread

99. Animal crackers
100. Basbousa

Try it for yourself! Here is the link for the original cakespy post and below are the instructions...

1) Copy this list into your site, including the instructions!
2) Bold all of the sweets you've eaten--or make them a different type color.
3) Cross out any of them that you'd never ever eat.
4) Consider anything that is not bold or crossed out your "To Do" List.
5) Optional: Post a comment here linking to your results--or just post a comment letting us know how many you've tried, or what you're going to try next!