Monday, March 25, 2013

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

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So I have been happily Pinning away on Pinterest! If you are not on board, come on! I pinned these cupcakes awhile back, and when I decided Bunco was the perfect time to make them, I decided to find the original source.  You see, there is very little original stuff out there, and I like to try to find the origins of a recipe.  After all, someone started the trend, they deserve the credit.  Sure enough, there was a trail of 3 blogs.  However, the last one had no index.  I will never understand how a food blogger can justify not organizing their recipes or offering a search option.  I feel bad, but the last stop for me on my search was here, Cast Sugar.  So I followed her recipe, sort of.  I always like to read comments, in case there were issues with others making them, and wow, what an eyeful.  The spam content was over the top, but hidden among the spam were a few constructive comments.  The one thing I did see was that her recipe only made 8 or 9 cupcakes, so I thought about doubling it, but decided I would try a single recipe to make mini cupcakes. I'm glad I didn't double it!  I also changed a few things in the frosting, and think my version was just perfect!

They are pretty straight forward as cupcakes go, and I opted to use a little Pink Americolor gel paste to tint them.  I also used the same on the buttercream.  Finding frozen pink lemonade concentrate is no easy task.  Kroger had none, and what they did have in regular lemonade was slimy, sticky and disgusting, nothing pink however.  Aldi and Fresh Market had none, and I was forced to go to Walmart.  I think I am the only person to ever go in and buy just a can of frozen lemonade concentrate.  But they have it, under the house brand, and it worked just fine.  I actually bought 2, just in case they were that good!  They are fresh and bright, and perfect for a rainy spring day!  Here's the recipe:

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

1 Cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 egg whites
1/3 cups, thawed, frozen pink lemonade concentrate
1/4 cup buttermilk
pink gel color

Preheat oven to 350 F.  I used paper liners for mini cupcakes.  You can also make large and jumbo cupcakes. This recipe made about 40 minis.  But let me warn you, the papers I used were cute as could be, but were soooo small.  They certainly were just a bite!

Combine dry ingredients and whisk to combine.  This includes flour, baking powder and soda and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk sugar, egg whites, oil and lemonade concentrate.  Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately without overmixing.  Then tint the batter the perfect shade of pink.  Fill the cups half full and bake.  They recommend 20-25 for regular sized cupcakes.  And I was more like 12 minutes for mini cupcakes.

Cool completely before icing.

Lemonade Buttercream Frosting

3-31/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 stick butter, softened
3 Tablespoons Crisco
pinch of salt
3T thawed, frozen pink lemonade concentrate
pink gel coloring

Cream all ingredients together, adding powdered sugar as needed.  You want it to be smooth and easy to pipe.  Tint to the perfect spring pink!
So, what are you waiting for?  Get in there and bake!

Thursday, March 21, 2013


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What is Bunco, you ask? A crazy dice game, resurrected in the 90's by suburban housewives, looking for an excuse to get out of the house, head to the neighbor's, drink wine, eat munchies and all under the guise of a game. Our moms played Bridge, Canasta and Hearts, we play Bunco. It requires NO thinking, which makes it the ideal game for socializing and imbibing. It is often referred to as Drunco. Although that is less common the older you get!

I started playing 18 years ago when we lived in Alpharetta. I have been in various bunco groups since then. The rules change a little from group to group, but basically you sit in groups of 4, partner across and roll to 21. A Bunco is 3 of a kind of the number you rolling for. Detailed info can be found on Wikipedia here. And you can access the World Bunco site from here?! The nice thing is that this game requires nothing more than dice.

Now to be perfectly honest, Bunco is here, and I have made all sorts of stuff.  Spicy Shrimp Cigars and Kopanisti a Feta Dip, both from the Williams Sonoma web site   And Pink Lemonade Cupcakes with Pink Lemonade Buttercream, from Pinterest.  The cupcakes will have their own blog, but I was thinking I needed to post these cute cookies above one more time!  So, what are you waiting for?  Bunco!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

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Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

How could I pass this up?  I am the very first to admit, I am not a St. Patrick's Day fan.  I grew up in a very Irish community, everyone was Irish.  I was Italian (and Serbian, but my name is very Italian).  So every March, I would pretend to be Irish for a day, but really I was just a little mad that there was no Italian day.  Of course years later, I learned that Columbus Day was for me!

When I came across the Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes, well I decided these would be pretty fun for St. Pat's.   I mean let's be honest here, they're chocolate cupcakes made with stout, filling made with Bailey's and Irish Whiskey in the frosting.  What's not to love!?
So I did an Irish Car Bomb search and found this site with a video on how to make the cocktail.  And all I can say is, "What a mess!"  You have like 10 seconds to drink it before it curdles, that does not appeal to me.  But they say if you can chug it, before the curdling, it tastes like a milkshake.  And then I suspect comes the alcohol hitting your knees and making the room spin like a bomb went off! Trust me, there is plenty of alcohol in these too.
I forgot how good this stuff is!

I bought this little 4 pack, mini bottles of Bailey's, and totally enjoyed the remainder in a glass.  I forgot how good it is!  Is 10 a.m. too early for this?  Could it be 5 o'clock in Ireland by any chance?  Also,  I didn't have Irish Whiskey in the cabinet, so I went "local" and used Gentleman Jack.  I mean it's made in Tennessee, and we should support our local industries, right?!

This is what "legal" kids give their parents for Christmas!

This recipe make a lot of minis!

Guinness Chocolate Cake

1 cup stout (Guinness)  Drink the rest of the bottle, it's pretty tasty!
2 sticks butter
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder-You know I used Pernigotti
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1½ tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line two cupcake pans with foil liners. Combine the Guinness and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the cocoa powder and whisk till smooth. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the eggs and sour cream to blend. Add the stout-butter mixture and beat just to combine. Mix in the dry ingredients on low speed just until incorporated.  Fill cupcake tins, lined with papers, about half full for minis.  This makes a lot!  Like 60+ depending on your tins.  Bake for about 12-15 minutes.  They should be clean with the toothpick test, but not dry.  Allow to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  I have no idea why, but many of mine pulled away from the paper liners.  It was a little humid here and I suspect that may have been the problem as I sealed them up for a day before I finished. 

A little ganache in every bite.

Bailey's Ganache
8 oz bittersweet chocolate

1/2 C heavy cream
2 T butter
1/4 c. Bailey's

Bring the cream to a simmer, remove from heat, add the chocolate, butter, and Bailey's. Let sit for 3 minutes. Whisk till the chocolate is completely melted. Cool, I am not patient here, and I proceeded with it fairly runny.  I opted to cover the top in ganache.  That way there is a chocolatey hit on every bite, plus the minis are pretty little for a filling.  Chill to firm ganache. 
I L-O-V-E this buttercream!

Whiskey Buttercream
2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons whiskey

Whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Reduce the speed to medium-low and gradually add the powdered sugar until all of it is incorporated. Add the whiskey, increase the speed to medium-high and whip for another 2 to 3 minutes, until it is light and fluffy.

Frost as desired and just ry to eat only one.  I am totally wearing green this year, and I may try the real cocktail if I have enough green beers to coax me!  What are you waiting for?  Get in there and bake!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Coconut Oil Chocolates

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 So in keeping with my resolution, I have a Pinterest recipe that I have put to the test.  Coconut oil chocolates.  I love the benefits of coconut oil, and use it daily.  It's great for rubbing on dry elbows and dry lips, makes the best popcorn and I use it to rinse my mouth (admittedly a little gross).  When I saw this Pin, I thought it was interesting.  The recipe was rather large, so I used the same proportions and made it much smaller.

Coconut Oil Chocolates

2 Tablespoons Virgin Coconut Oil (this is my favorite)
1 Tablespoon Pernigotti Cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
small dash vanilla paste

Simply melt the ingredients except the vanilla and whisk it until smooth.  Remove from heat, add vanilla and pour into molds.  The photo shows these rather enormous chocolates, but I have these small tin and silicone molds that I have owned for years.  I can see my mom molding butter for special occasions in the silicone milds.

The silicone worked great, you could simply pop them out.  The tin molds were not so successful.  I think I may hit the sweet store and look for a silicone bunny and experiment making my own chocolates.  I am sure there is a way to make the tin ones work, but on this day, it wasn't going to happen!  The gal at the sweet store suggested freezing them.  So maybe when I make them again (which I will) in my new bunny molds, we'll try the little tin ones again.    

I think it is a little dark for Mr. Preppy, but I thought maybe the addition of peanut better might make it more palate pleasing.  They probably could stand a little more whisking, as they seem to separate a little in the color when they harden.  But they are super smooth and creamy!  So many ideas!  Cute and delicious!  Happy Pinning, and what are you waiting for?  Get in there and cook, bake, create!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

It's A Boy!

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 So today is a surprise baby shower for the volleyball coach.  She is having a boy, and I know the team is so excited to pass that baby around.  Just a few more weeks.  I did the "halfway lunch" with Christina meeting her to give her these cookies.  I love the fuzzy ducks...and the rattles with the confetti.  Fun platter to make!  Congrats coach....

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Do Not Be A Victim of Crime Part 2

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So if you read Part 1, you know that I was a victim of a wallet snatch.  Even if you think this could never happen to you, there are a few things I want you to do.  Sit down and empty out your wallet.  Everything.  Think for one minute what would you most miss if it all disappeared?  The picture of your Grandma?  A note from someone you love?  A receipt for something you really need to return?  Or God-forbid, your Social Security card?  Two of the victims I spoke to had their SS card in their wallet.  So take a little inventory.  If you use primarily your debit card and a credit card, get rid of the rest.  Leave them at home.  I had a Nordstrom's card.  I don't even have a store here, I use it online and when I travel. There was no reason to have it on me, and of course it was of no value to her.   I had bought a new wallet a few month's earlier, and it was kind of thin, so it had only credit and reward cards...but little else.  When I was replacing my debit card and going through the automated set up, it dawned on me, that the PIN for my old debit card was my birthday.  Clearly printed on my driver's license   My perp wasn't that smart, thankfully.  Also, look into the app for your smart phone called Key Ring Rewards Cards.  You can eliminate all those rewards cards stuffing your wallet and littering your key chain.  I had a pack of reward cards in my glove compartment that are gone!  All on my phone.

Now, before you put all that stuff back or put it away, write down every card; the number, expiration and the phone number on the back to call if it is lost.  You can also make a copy of it if that is available.    Most credit card phone systems are automated, and having the card number will get you through faster.  My wallet was stolen on a banking holiday, so no one answered the phone number for me to cancel my debit card.  Thankfully they monitored the spending and called me before they approved her second swipe.  (She was inclined to spend $1500 at a time.  That is unusual behavior.  Had she spent $300 at a time, she would have been busy.)  It would have been so much easier if my husband, who was working at home could pull out a file with all of the card info laid out for him to call these companies.  Also, if you file a police report (which you should) they will need all of the info on those cards.  They will also ask you to describe your cards.  Not all cards are black.  My wallet was stolen in the suburb but the cards were used in the city.  Therefore, I filed 2 police reports and the officers linked them up and shared info on my case.  Her charges could include identity theft, theft (my wallet was expensive), fraud, and grand larceny.

Next, you need to call one of the big credit reporting agencies.  They have an automated system where you can input your SS# and put a fraud alert on it. Do it with one agency and they will make sure it is passed to the other two.  It is a smart first step even if your SS card was not in the wallet.

Next, document every transaction.  Get online and note the date, time, charge amount and any other info you can find.  Get the store name and number so you can call them.  My perp charged everything at a major retailer at the mall.  We called with all of the transaction amounts and the security officer could pull each one up.  He pulled the video at that register and could follow her all the way to her car, and got her plate number.  Her registration led to her driver's license which matched the video.  Easy. It was also rather curious that all the transactions, including the ones declined, all happened at the same register.  A red flag for the retailer.  I contacted my credit cards and bank again to get direct numbers for their fraud departments.  The detective will need copies of the transactions that you will not be able to provide.  If you use American Express, you will be most impressed with the way the system works.  If you use Capital One, prepare yourself for the runaround in India.  I never spoke with a representative who was working in the US, or who could communicate off a script.  This card will be cancelled for good.

After filing the police report, the detective assigned to my case called 2 days later.  I explained everything and told him that the security officer at the store had the tape copied, and it was waiting for him.  The theif was identified that day.  I did some of the work for him, but I refused to sit back and let this go without fighting.  He told me most victims call the credit card companies and move on.  People rarely go to any length to make this stop.  I want to prevent it from happening to you.

This doesn't all happen without  little anxiety.  It is a little frightening to think someone has all your information.  In the case of a stolen purse, you may have your house key in there as well.  I have a security system, but I did call them in for a wireless upgrade.  I admit I sleep a lot better.  I will likely have to testify in court, which I am happy to do.  I couldn't identify the main suspect in a lineup, but that doesn't much matter.  She is readily identified in the video using my cards.  Do not think this can't happen to you.  Instead, take a few precautions to insure if it does, that your recourse will be easy.  Share this information and keep an eye out where you shop to prevent this crime.  I promise, tomorrow we bake!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Do Not Be A Victim of Crime

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I promise to be back baking and cooking and sewing, but this is my PSA.  You need to know this.

I am a victim of a crime.  It made me so angry because it was my own dumb fault.  But still, someone broke the law.  Here's what happened.  I was at work and opted to not use my locker.  I took my new purse, which is kind of big, and stashed it behind a bunch of coats and aprons on our coat rack.  Anyone could walk by and not see it.  But this coat rack is down a dead end aisle, past the lockers, there is no reason for anyone to go there. It was a busy day at the store and 2 customers played another associate and I with the distraction technique.  One of them slipped back there and when I went to lunch an hour later it was missing.  You need to know this.  This is a very fast growing crime, and it can be prevented.

As I have been speaking to other victims, I am outraged that there is very little punishment doled out because they are rarely caught in the act.  Mine was caught, and I will tell you all about that after the court date.  But for now, I want to share some stories with you.  And although the majority of these happened in the Memphis area, the thieves cross all racial boundaries.  You cannot really finger point this culprit.  If my purse had been locked up, they would have moved on.  Instead they went on a $5,000 shopping spree.  But there are other methods for stealing your wallet. Notice I say wallet.  Stealing a purse is risky.  If they swipe your wallet, it will take you a little longer to figure it out.  A year ago another associate at our store had just one credit card stolen.  It was a day before she realized it.  They know where they can shop with credit cards and no one will ask for ID.  Macy's is one, gas stations are another.  We the consumer are paying the price.  Stopping them is the only solution.

Shopping carts are one of the thieve's favorite targets.  There we are in the grocery, Target, Costco wherever.  We have our hands on that cart so setting your purse in the front seat is a natural thing. One of my friends was looking at the photo kiosk at Target, standing at her cart, and she turned to catch a woman with her hand in her purse.  She thwarted the thief  but was shocked at how brazen she was.  Another friend was in the parking lot at Costco loading her groceries.  As she put things in her trunk a guy came running by, grabbed her purse and jumped into a waiting car.  Another victim was at the grocery and a young girl asked her questions about the different lettuces in the produce department.  As she is being a good samaritan, the accomplice slips away with the wallet.  Think it can't happen to you?

Another victim went to the gas station and pulled in to a pump.  A gentleman waved her to another pump saying it was not operating.  She pulled her credit card out, she began to pump gas and with her back turned, this man got into her passenger door and took her purse.  How do you pump gas?  Who would think you have to lock your car when you are standing next to it?

How about the victim dining at a fine restaurant.  She sets her purse on the floor.  When they leave, she discovers her wallet missing.  Gone.  While she and her husband are dining, someone has slipped her purse out, taken her wallet and slipped it back.  This happened at a high end restaurant.  It happens all the time.

Finally, I was told of two purses stolen from parked vehicles at two different private schools.  Moms in a hurry, parking the car, and running inside for a second or even going to the car ahead of her in carpool to chat with a friend.  Both purses swiped in the blink of an eye.

It appears the method for stealing my wallet is one of the most popular, as it has happened all over our suburb.  Small businesses are best, because there is a real sense of familiarity for the people that work there.  You get comfortable. I was comfortable.  I've been working at the same store for over 15 years.  The truth is your purse or wallet is safer in your trunk than at work if you have no means for locking it up.

I spoke to the Sergeant handling my case, and he said most perpetrators of economic crimes are usually very brazen and generally non violent.  By stealing a credit card, shopping, selling the merchandise and trashing the card, there is no evidence.  It is easier and less risky than stealing merchandise from a store or robbing you at gunpoint.  Because they rarely have violent crimes on their records, they post bail if they are caught, and go back to work.

So I am telling you that you should never, under any circumstance set your purse down.  It doesn't matter if it's your local grocery or the gas station at the corner.  Memphis, Tulsa or Paris.  They are everywhere.  The next post is going to be about what you need to do before you become a victim, and after, should this befall you.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Cookies for a Good Deed

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thanks, thanks, thanks
So I have had an interesting couple of weeks.  I had my wallet stolen and the thief went on quite a shopping spree. ($5,000 in under an hour.  Pretty impressive.)  I was pretty upset, especially considering that it had happened to girl in a store 2 doors down from where I work.  I don't know her circumstances, but I left my purse out of my locker.  It was covered up, but this woman went right back into our stock room and found it.  If I had known she had hit a store a few days before I may have been a little more careful.  So after the dust settled that day, I decided to go to every store in our shopping center and let them know what happened.  I didn't want anyone to think it couldn't happen to them.  When I got to the Vera Bradley store, the manager was so sorry that this had happened to me that she told me to pick out a new wallet.  Anything I wanted.  I was so shocked at the thought.  Such kindness.  I admit I was still a little wonky from all the events of the day, but I chose a new one.  I knew I would have to think of a good way to say thank you, so shocker, I made cookies.  I tried to make them in the colors of the pattern of the wallet, but there was a lot of navy, and I hate dark icing (stains your teeth!).  She loved them.  I wrote an heartfelt letter to her company because we all know that good deeds often go unnoticed, but piss off a customer and the letters will pour in.  She countered the evil deed for sure!

So my other cookie baking last week was for a 1st birthday.  This is obviously a big deal, turning one.  So when I got the invite, I decided that I would try my hand at chevrons.  I don't think I want want to make dozens of these, they are a bit tedious, but how cute!  The invite that inspired me is below.  This week, the volleyball coach is being honored at a baby shower.  So here we go...What are you waiting for?  Get in there!