Category Archives: Easter

Is it too late for an Easter post?

According to my priest it’s not.

Easter marks the beginning of a season of celebration and new beginnings so technically I’m not late in delivering this Easter cupcake recipe to you.

Technically, I’m right on time!

And I’m not just emphasizing my punctuality because my husband told me mass started at 8:30 last Sunday when it really started at 8:45 to get me out the door in time.

I’d like the record to show that I made it to church on time for many years before I met him.

Thanks, mom! 

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Planned out or last-minute, these cupcakes are great for any spring celebration. I’m actually not a big fan of coconut, but I’m a sucker for a cute bird’s nest and toasted coconut makes the cutest bird’s nests so coconut it is. (note: If you are a coconut lover, you can add coconut flavoring to the icing and/or shredded coconut to the batter)

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Banana Carrot Cupcakes (adapted from How Sweet Eats)

  • 2 C flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 C melted butter (substitute coconut oil)
  • 1 C sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 2 C grated carrots
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 C buttermilk

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with liners.

Toast coconut in a thin layer (I use a silpat) until just slightly browned. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon together. Set aside.

With an electric mixer, blend sugar and butter. Add eggs. Add bananas, carrots and vanilla until well combined.

Add half of dry ingredients and mix together (being careful not to overmix). Add buttermilk and remaining dry ingredients.

Using a 1/4 cup scoop, fill cupcake liners until they are 3/4 way full.

(Or, if you’re like me, accidentally forget the buttermilk and remember after you’ve already filled your cupcake liners, scrape everything back in the bowl and add buttermilk)

Bake 16-18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting

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    1 1/2 blocks of cold cream cheese

  • Blue Gel Food coloring
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Toasted unsweetened flaked coconut
  • Cadbury mini eggs

In a stand mixer, whip cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually add powdered sugar. Add in vanilla extract and food coloring until you get a robin’s egg blue (or until your sister tells you it looks unappetizingly gray).

Ice cupcakes and top with coconut and cadbury mini eggs.

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Oh and I almost forgot to mention the best part, these cupcakes are basically more fruit and veggies than they are dessert so you can eat them without any guilt whatsoever.

 

Confessions of a lonely extrovert

Editor’s note: I started writing this post two weeks ago when Matt was still in France. Then I picked it up and finished it a week ago after my family left town except I never hit publish. Please forgive me for the segmented nature of the following excerpts. Just further proof of my struggle as a halfway blogger.

They say introverts relish in quiet time alone. That spending too much time in a loud setting with lots of activity and people can cause them to shut down in an effort to conserve energy. That downtime is not a waste of time but rather necessary and satisfying.

I am not an introvert.

So you can imagine how an extremely extroverted person deals with their spouse being away on a work trip for 12 days?

  • First and foremost, she has a lot of conversations with her dog.
  • She also shops because well, shopping, but also the majority of retail workers are also extraverts and she finds comfort in random musings with strangers.
  • She spends equal amounts of time at the gym and fresh kitchen.
  • She bakes.

Yes, you read that correctly. She bakes. She finally throws some flour and sugar in a bowl a bakes a flippin’ cake. Remember when this blog actually had photos of cakes in regular rotation?

layer cake, easter cake, baking, pastel layer cake, rainbow layer cake, vanilla cake, dessert, Easter, birds nest cake topper, robin eggs, white layer cakeMuch to the delight of both my mother and mother-in-law, I did not spend Easter alone. Which is good, because it would have been incredibly awkward to eat this entire cake by myself while binge-watching Fuller House* on Netflix. Instead, I took it over to my co-worker’s house in celebration of both Jesus and she and her husband’s birthdays that weekend. The spouses birthdays and Jesus houdini-ing himself out of the tomb of course.

I appreciate the concern of my mother(s). After all, I do mention nearly every month that [insert holiday] is my favorite holiday so I can understand their sympathy calls and flight searches at the thought of me spending one alone. Fortunately, both seemed happy to hear that I was bribing my way into someone else’s home with four layers of sugary sunshine and the return of Matt and a visit from my sister just a few days later.

*Let’s discuss the awkwardness that is Fuller House another time

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Easter Layer Cake 

  • 1 1/2 C unsalted butter, softened (can substitute 1/2 C vegetable shortening if you want)
  • 3 C sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 C flour (sifted)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 C whole milk
  • 1/2 C buttermilk
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Ideally this is the time to grease and flour all four of your cake pans. Oh you don’t have four cake pans? Me neither. I somehow only have three so grease and flour what you have and set aside.

In a stand mixer, whip butter until light and fluffy. Add sugar 1 cupat a time. Add eggs one at a time until each is combined.

In another bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt.

In a liquid measure, combine milk, buttermilk and vanilla.

Add dry ingredients into wet one cup at a time, alternatingbetween milk mixture and flour. Try not to overmix.

Place four medium bowls out on your counter. Divide batter into each bowl evenly. For me it was just under 2 cups of batter per bowl. I like to use gel food coloring as I find it’s a little more accurate. For this version, I just used my pastel set of gel colors and added them separately to each 2 cup bowl.

Once your layers are colored, pour the first two into your two baking pans andbake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. These layers are thin so they will cook relatively quick.

Remove from oven and let cool on rack for 5-10 minutes. Add a layer of parchment or wax paper to your rack before you flip them out of the pan to make turning easier for you when they are cool.

layer cake, easter cake, baking, pastel layer cake, rainbow layer cake, vanilla cake, dessert, Easter, birds nest cake topper, robin eggs, white layer cakeButtercream Icing

Once your second batch is out of the oven and cooling you can start on your buttercream icing. This stuff is indulgent so I usually keep it pretty thin. That being said both times I’ve made this cake I’ve had to make extra buttercream icing to get it covered so go ahead and make a bunch.

Buttercream Icing

  • 3-4 C powdered sugar (sifted)
  • 1 1/2 C unsalted butter
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 3-4 TBL whipping cream

Sift the powdered sugar into a large bowl. Cream butter in a stand mixer and add powdered sugar slowly so as not to go all King James on your kitchen. Add vanilla and cream and whip it until peaks form. Refrigerate it until you are ready to ice the cake.

Once your layers are cool, wrap each of them in plastic wrap and freeze them for a few minutes. this will make the icing process much easier. Do a rough ice and then finish it off with, you guess it, more buttercream.

Top it with a little toasted coconut and Cadbury mini eggs and your ready to go! layer cake, easter cake, baking, pastel layer cake, rainbow layer cake, vanilla cake, dessert, Easter, birds nest cake topper, robin eggs, white layer cakelayer cake, easter cake, baking, pastel layer cake, rainbow layer cake, vanilla cake, dessert, Easter, birds nest cake topper, robin eggs, white layer cakelayer cake, easter cake, baking, pastel layer cake, rainbow layer cake, vanilla cake, dessert, Easter, birds nest cake topper, robin eggs, white layer cake

 

April Showers

It’s wedding season! Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday we were all getting together for bridal showers and bachelorette parties every other weekend?

Truth is it’s been a while since we all got together to celebrate a wedding. That’s why Matt and I decided to be the last. You know, to build the suspense and excitement.

And to give our friends a chance to go out for a night and leave their kids with grandma and grandpa.

We ventured home last weekend for a weekend full of wedding festivities and Easter celebrations. After a brief pilot strike, new flight schedules and a detour in Chicago, we made it to Springfield around 1 a.m. Saturday morning. This was our third trip home that we arrived after midnight so we’re hopeful that by the time the wedding comes, the travel gods smile down on us instead of pouring their flight delays and traffic jams all over us.

Travel woes behind us, we spent Saturday amidst family and friends and if you ask me, there’s no better way to spend a weekend day. It meant so much to us for both sides of friends and family come into town, something I appreciate so much more living thousands of miles away from them.

My mom and sister handled all of the planning and execution of the shower so while I can’t take credit for any of the details, I did manage to snap a few photos to share with you. I think we both know I’m good for little more than photo posts at this point so here’s a mash-up of the weekend.

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wedding shower, bridal shower, babies, wedding season, spring bridal shower, champagne bar, wedding cake, save the date cookie

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wedding shower, bridal shower, babies, wedding season, spring bridal shower, champagne bar, wedding cake, save the date cookie

wedding shower, bridal shower, babies, wedding season, spring bridal shower, champagne bar, wedding cake, save the date cookie, family

wedding shower, bridal shower, babies, wedding season, spring bridal shower, champagne bar, wedding cake, save the date cookie, family

wedding shower, bridal shower, babies, wedding season, spring bridal shower, champagne bar, wedding cake, save the date cookie, family

wedding shower, bridal shower, babies, wedding season, spring bridal shower, champagne bar, wedding cake, save the date cookie, family

We had a great Easter celebration and are continuing the party this week with the boys visiting Florida for their spring break. You’ll have to excuse my delay in posting as a certain spunky younger brother is turning 5 tomorrow and I’ve got some decorating to do but I’ll leave you with a few shots from Easter Sunday.

Easter, brothers, boys, photography, easter sunday, family, kidsEaster, brothers, boys, photography, easter sunday, family, kids Easter, brothers, boys, photography, easter sunday, family, kids

Can you tell they’re brothers?

 

 

The art of unplugging

So I’m back in the city after several days visiting friends and family at home. If you read my last post, and by read I mean just looked at pictures, you have a pretty good idea of how most of the weekend was spent, laughing with friends and family, celebrating and lots and lots of food.

darcy's pint, birthday, cake, going away party, friends, family, greater swiss mountain dog

There was also this little religious holiday called Easter in there as well. The weather was gorgeous this weekend so we spent most of our time outside, hunting Easter eggs with halloween buckets, playing soccer and taking Finn to the park.

easter, egg hunt, boys, swiss mountain dog, easter egg hunt, tulips

I spent little to no time on social media or even with my phone in my hand. Perks of being with most everyone you connect with in person, I suppose. My nephew is on spring break this week so I stayed a few extra days to hang out with him and procrastinate packing. I didn’t even manage to bake anything this weekend and why would I when I have a mother who does it better?

If you want to know how much of this cake I helped with then remove the white chocolate shavings and robin eggs. Remove those and you still have a pretty ultimate chocolate cake.

ultimate chocolate cake, birthday cake, easter cake, bird nest on top of chocolate cake

Ultimate Chocolate Cake 

  • 2 1/2 C flour
  • 1 3/4 tsps baking soda
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2/3 C butter
  • 1 1/4 C sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 C buttermilk
  • cocoa

Preheat oven to 350. Grease two 9 inch cake pans. Dust pans with cocoa.

In a large bowl, sift flour, baking soda and powder together.

In a stand mixer, cream butter until fluffy. Add cream and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each one. Add chocolate and vanilla.

Mix dry ingredients into wet alternating with buttermilk.

Pour evenly into two cake pans.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and let cool on racks. Don’t skip this step or your second layer will crumble into pieces and you’ll have to rebuild it with extra icing. Oh darn.

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Ultimate Chocolate Icing

  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/3 C butter
  • 3 C sifted powdered sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 C plus 2 TBL evaporated milk

Melt chocolate and butter together. In a bowl, combine sugar, salt, vanilla and evaporated milk. Add melted chocolate. Beat until icing thickens. Cool to room temperature and then ice cake.

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You’ll have to forgive me for posting a cake like this on Workout Wednesday but let me tell you, eating a piece of it is a workout in itself. And doesn’t everyone deserves a cake workout every one in a while?

The answer is yes.

 

 

 

An Easter Season

Before I begin with this week’s post, I’d like to take a minute and wish myself a happy 100th! I didn’t realize I was anywhere near 100 blog posts until after I published last week’s post, but since this entry consists of other things that already happened last week, I’m going to take a minute to celebrate 100 snippets of food, parties, observations and randomness. Thank you for hanging in there as I dropped and picked up the blog over the past few years. And since Willard Scott isn’t here to make the announcement, I’ll go ahead and do it myself.

smuckers

Gotta love Smuckers.

This week has been a little crazy for me. I spent the better part of it in a freezing and rainy Atlanta for a work trip so I haven’t had much time to do all the things a blog post requires-writing, photo snapping, actually making something from scratch. Over the years, I’ve gotten much better at remembering to take photos while I’m making things, but I have yet to master loading them in a timely fashion. I don’t know that I will ever be one of those bloggers who share recipes and fun crafts in the weeks leading up to a holiday. After all, they are the ones I lean on as I search for themed food and ideas each holiday. Nope, I seem to be the one who posts about Easter treats and randomness in the weeks following, once everyone has moved onto Cinco de Mayo and 4th of July.

I was going to scratch the Easter idea altogether and focus on the humorous events that filled this weekend like my sluggish, slow and frequently-paused 10 miler, a big Chicago Fire win over New York  (3-1!) or a nice little 20 MPH headwind-filled bike ride along the lake path. I was, until my priest used today’s homily to emphasize that Easter Sunday is just the beginning of the Easter season. That the season that follows is filled with celebration and that we shouldn’t forget to be thankful each and every day.

And so in celebration of 100 posts and the kick-off to the Easter season, I bring you an Easter treat,

I found this recipe in an aforementioned search for Easter treats from a blog I follow called Two Peas and Their Pod. I wanted something that I could make last-minute to take over to see some new little Easter Bunnies as well as to bring home for the weekend. It was quick, easy and tasted pretty good too!

salted caramel easter popcorn

Easter Popcorn

  • 1 bag plain popcorn
  • 2 C chopped pretzels
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/4 C water
  • 1/3 C cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 C miniature marshmallows
  • Pink food coloring
  • 1 C Easter Pretzel M&M’s
  • 1/4 C chopped white chocolate

In a large bowl, mix popcorn and pretzels together.

In a dutch oven, boil sugar, salt and water over medium high heat until mixture is caramel in color. It can take up to 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and add cream, stirring until smooth. Add vanilla, marshmallows, and pink food coloring. Stir until marshmallows are melted and mixture is smooth.

Pour caramel mixture over popcorn and pretzels and gently stir with a rubber spatula until popcorn is well coated. Stir in M&M’s and white chocolate. Line pan with parchment and spread mixture out to dry. Sprinkle with salt. Let cool completely.

Prefer the original? Check out Two Peas and Their Pod.

I packaged each bag in a little tin and gave them to my girlfriends for their new little girls’ first Easter.

easter popcorn

I have to admit I didn’t do much cooking the rest of the weekend. My mom puts me to shame when it comes to cranking out an Easter brunch so I just enjoyed spending time with family and watching the boys hunt for eggs.

Owen_jake_easter

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Easter brunch consisted of mimosas (or milk), ham, quiche, fruit salad and lots of hardboiled eggs.

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Aunt Pat even made the trip!

The next day Jake and I were making an attempt at some play dough shapes when we realized most of it had dried out. I guess the craft bug bit me because I suggested we just make our own. Leave it to the nearly 3 year-old to squash any doubt I might have had that this might be a daunting task.

Oh no, Jake. Looks like the play dough is dried out. Guess we’ll have to play something else. On second thought, I bet we could make some ourselves. Would you want to try to make it with me? 

Well sure, Sarah! That should be easy. We should make some. Absolutely. 

homemade playdough

My little helper and I whipped up a batch of homemade play dough in no time. I’ll save you the details and just suggest trying a recipe like this one. And before you judge me, the stove was not on while Jake was stirring the pot.

Jake_playdough

If you are looking for an easy craft project with a young one in your life, I recommend this one.

playdough_process

Here’s to a season filled with celebration of the little things in life. Like those cute little fingers of Jake’s. I know I’m entering spring feeling very blessed and with a renewed spirit. I hope you are too.

Have a wonderful week!

For the Love of Pranking

I thought about dedicating this post to Easter celebrations of this past weekend. Things like family gatherings, sunshine, spring renewal and chocolate.  But since my favorite holiday of the year fell the day after, I’m afraid to say colored eggs just didn’t make the cut. Well, actually they did make an appearance but more on that later.

colored easter eggs

Not only did April Fool’s Day fall on the day after Easter this year adding to the distraction level for those that normally might have been somewhat aware, but it landed on a Monday. Double-Whammy. Post Easter and a Monday? Even more of a chance to catch ‘em unsuspecting while their glucose is low.

I come from a family who pranks. It’s in our blood. Well most of us. My grandmother was the Queen of the April Fool’s. She was so good that even a lover of pranks like myself avoided answering phone calls from her altogether when the First of April came around each year. I learned early-on it was better to be on her team than against her and that neither law enforcement nor age would inhibit her from a chance to play a joke on the family members she loved most. And while she may have led the April Fool’s parade each year, she did so with good-humored intent and a kind heart. I think it’s the reason I don’t see practical jokes (when done correctly) as mean-spirited still today.

That being said, I’ve realized over the years there are many families that don’t prank. And let me tell you, those that don’t prank may not always appreciate those that do.

Rule #1: Don’t prank a hater.

This never ends well. Not only can these people not appreciate the love that comes with practical jokes, but you completely lose the chance of instigating a day-long, week-long or even lifelong prank war. And there’s no joy in that. Notice I referred to the potential victim as a prank-hater and not a non-pranker. Believe it or not, there is a contingency out there that is just unaware of the fun that days like April Fool’s can bring simply because they’ve never experienced it. Take a chance. You never know when you’ll discover a natural talent.

rule #2: Know your audience.

This is an important rule. My mother doesn’t exactly come from a family of practical jokers but having lived with my father nearly 35 years she’s picked up a couple of tips along the way. But even after years of prank mentorship with the Murphmaster, she’s still very trusting (bless her heart). She’s also easily-startled. (See here) Playing an April Fool’s joke on her is like taking batting practice. You’re sure to hit a good one. It just might not mean as much as facing an Ace.

And so Monday morning, just before my mom left for work we put one of her grandsons in the coat closet. I suggested Owen (6 years) to do it, but Jake (nearly 3) volunteered. A few blueberries and a game on his iPod and the kid was cozy as can be. And less than 10 minutes later down she came. Door opens, ‘Oh my goodness!’ ensues.

april fools

Whoosh. Crack. Base hit.

Rule #3: Break a habit.

The best practical jokes replace the expected with the unexpected. Like clear wrap on a toilet seat or a locker filled with jelly beans, things that once seemed normal suddenly are not. Something’s changed. People have hilarious reactions when their routines are thrown out of whack. That telling moment when realization washes over their face. This coffee is salty. Why is my coffee salty? I just put sweetener in it. (tastes again) WTF is going on here!?

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Oh just your simple baking soda sweetener swap, that’s what. And for someone who loves their iced coffee all day long, this is the prank that keeps on giving.

RBI.

Rule #4: Play up your strengths

To explain this rule, let’s take a page from the matriarch O’ practical jokes herself. The best jokes not only involve understanding your audience and their routines, but they utilize your strengths. Do you have a good poker face? Are you creative enough to implement the items needed to make the joke believable? Can you keep it simple? Nana adjusted her pranks along with her age and because she did so she was able to pull off a simple yet stellar April Fool’s joke. A few years ago she used that sweet little 85 year-old voice of hers to call my Minnesota-based aunt (a nurse, mind you) and leave a voicemail saying over and over that she couldn’t see.

Oh Pat, I can’t see. I just can’t see. Can you call me back?

When the panicked daughter called her back inquiring why she wasn’t contacting her son who lived just a few minutes away, she calmly informed her that the reason that she couldn’t see was, wait for it… because her eyes were closed.

Grand Slam, Nana. Grand Slam.

>Happy Easter…Part Two

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A sampling of the Easter treats I made for the weekend. While these take a little longer to firm up before dipping than the ever-popular oreo truffles, these cake eggs turned out to be pretty tasty. Adapted from a bakerella recipe, I created a funfetti version. Looking forward to making them again in a new flavor soon!