Wednesday, June 29, 2011

(Belated) Sunday Recipe #2: Mocha Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache

Hi everyone!

Long time no see... Sorry for the delay in posts! I was in northern MN at a cabin all last week with the  family. We didn't end up crossing over into Canada after all (Mr. G was afraid I'd get stuck because of my outdated passport), but we had a nice, relaxing week that I will relay in my next post.

For this post, I'm attempting to catch up on one of the Sunday recipes I missed with my latest cupcake confection - mocha cupcakes with chocolate ganache!

Let me begin by announcing that I am no longer a mall employee... I quit my job just before going on vacation. My managers and coworkers were all really sweet, and I was treated well, but it was time to leave retail. My last week was also our biggest sale of the season, so I was scheduled for my first (and hopefully only) overnight floorset shift. It was also a potluck for us associates, so of course I seized the opportunity to try a new cupcake recipe. Here it is:

Mocha Cupcakes (from my 200 Cupcakes recipe book):

  • Ingredients:
    • 1 cup water
    • Heaping 1 cup superfine sugar
    • 1/2 cup lightly salted butter (I used unsalted)
    • 2 tbsp cocoa powder, sifted
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 2 tbsp coffee granules
    • 1 3/4 cups self-rising flour
    • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • Directions:
    • Line muffin pan with paper/foil liners and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    • Put water and sugar in a saucepan and heat gently, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the butter, cocoa powder, baking soda, and coffee granules and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from heat and let cool. (Try a little bit - it legitimately tastes like mocha!)
    • Beat flour and eggs into the cooled chocolate mixture until smooth. Pour cake mixture into muffin pan.
    • Bake for 20 minutes or until risen and firm. 
    • Makes 1 dozen cupcakes.

Chocolate Ganache (from my faves Katherine and Sophie at Georgetown Cupcake):

  • Ingredients:
    • 2 cups water
    • 2 cups chocolate chips 
    • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • Directions:
    • Put 2 cups water in a pot and bring to a boil.
    • Place large heat-resistant bowl on top of boiling pot.
    • Pour chocolate chips and heavy cream into bowl.
    • Stir continuously until chocolate chips are melted and mixture is smooth and shiny. This process should only take 3 minutes. :)
    • When ganache is ready, "dip and twist" cupcakes into mixture and add desired topping.

Here are photos of the ganache and the finished cupcakes:

FYI - these cupcakes taste even better than they look. They're perfect for both chocolate and coffee lovers alike, and they're practically necessary for all-nighters (that's how I justify it). 

Hope you enjoy! I'll report on the vacation soon. Feel free to comment with any yummy coffee recipes you recommend.

<3 Mrs. G

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sunday Recipe #1 - Mexican Shrimp Bisque

Hello all,

Hope you all had a lovely weekend. I've decided to start posting a new recipe every Sunday - hopefully I keep it up!

I haven't tried any creative new recipes recently (with the exception of cupcakes, of course), so the one I'm posting today is actually one I made while in Connecticut - Mexican Shrimp Bisque. I got the recipe from The Taste of Home Cookbook, which I received as an engagement present last year from my in-laws. It's a great, well-organized cookbook, and this recipe in particular is amazing. Very time-consuming, though - it was my first time peeling and cooking raw shrimp. The soup wasn't challenging to make once the shrimp was finally peeled and cut - it's just a matter of heating all the ingredients until the shrimp is cooked and the bisque is at the right consistency.

The odd thing about this recipe is that it doesn't make much at all. I ended up doubling the recipe to serve two, so you might need to triple or quadruple it depending on how many you are cooking for. Nevertheless, it's a delicious Cajun/Mexican soup that is sure to become a favorite if you like seafood and spice.

  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (I think I used the equivalent of already minced garlic)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp sodium-free chicken bouillon granules
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 pound uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • In a large saucepan, saute onion and garlic in oil until tender. Stir in flour until blended. Stir in the water, cream, chili powder, bouillon, cumin, and coriander; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Cut shrimp into bite-size pieces - add to soup. Simmer 5 minutes longer or until shrimp turn pink. Gradually stir 1/2 cup hot soup into sour cream; return all to the pan, stirring constantly. Heat through (do not boil).
  • Serve and garnish with cilantro (if desired).
Hope you like! Enjoy your week!

<3 Mrs. G

P.S. I start my internship this week. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wish You Were Here!

Hi everyone,

I have really come to appreciate my new home, so in honor of that, I've decided to share with you what I've discovered to be great about the North Star State.

25 Reasons Why Minnesota is Awesome:
  1. The accents.
  2. We border another country.
  3. We have moose. Do you have moose?
  4. This is the land of 10,000 lakes.
  5. Boundary Waters.
  6. Twin Cities = double the fun.
  7. We have all 4 seasons.
  8. We get LOTS of snow.
  9. Some cities have subways. We have skyways
  10. No rednecks.
  11. No guidos, either.
  12. We are home to 21 Fortune 500 companies.
  13. You can see the Northern Lights here.
  14. Rhubarb! (See my post on it here)
  15. Hockey.
  16. Funny city/street/building names (ie: Ytterboe Hall at St. Olaf College - Mr. G's alma mater!) 
  17. We have 68 state parks.
  18. We are the most active state in the country.
  19. Home to my favorite band - Owl City!
  20. The people are very friendly - "Minnesota nice."
  21. Viking ancestry. Enough said.
  22. We have the Mall of America (and some of us work there).
  23. Walleye.
  24. Not the sports teams...
  25. We may not have royalty, but we've got something better: The Kinetic King.
So, in short, you should come visit. :)

In other news, Mr. G and I had our first two games on Tuesday as part of our beach volleyball league, and I am happy to report that Team Adequate is turning out to be much more than adequate - we won both games and 5/6 sets! Yours truly didn't do so bad, either. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come... And based on what I saw from most of the other teams, I think that's not impossible; apparently "intermediate" encompasses a broad spectrum of talent. I'm mainly concerned about facing the team Mr. G has dubbed "Team Fit 'n' Tan" - you can probably guess why. But hey, we're already overachieving based on our namesake, so the worse that could happen is that we actually turn out to be, well, adequate. And I can live with that.

Also, speaking of tans, I laid out today in the beautiful weather and ended up getting one of the worst sunburns of my life. Based on the intensity and splotchiness of said sunburn - combined with the quantity of my freckles - I'm only a hair color away from achieving ginger status.

Last bit of news for today: I got an internship! I am officially a summer event intern for the MN chapter of the American Diabetes Association. :) I can't wait to get started!

Hopefully you all are enjoying your summers as well (and wearing SPF)! Feel free to share any funny sunburn stories.

<3 Mrs. G

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

Hello everyone!

Hope you all enjoyed your weekend. I know I did! It was our first beautiful summer weekend here in the Twin Cities, so Mr. G and I took full advantage of it - we were on the lake the whole weekend! On Friday and Saturday we went on a couple boats on a nearby lake with some friends. We also got our tan on, did a little swimming (very little - the water is still freezing!), and I even tried tubing for the first time! Today we went to Lake Calhoun with some friends and brought our dog Molly along. She got to try something new today, too - swimming! I wasn't sure how she would react to the water, and as it turns out, she's not a big fan... It took a lot of tugging and pulling to get her in at all, and eventually Mr. G just had to pick her up and dump her in. Once in the water, she half-swam / half-flailed around, splashing and scratching all the way to the shore haha. After that, she was done. I'm hoping she'll do more swimming at the cabin in a couple weeks - maybe she won't be as scared with fewer people around? She's so big, though, which makes it even funnier that she's scared of everything!

Here are photos of Molly's pitiful attempts at swimming:

wet and unhappy

Also, as promised, here is the recipe I used for the chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes I made for Memorial Day. I found it through Cupcakes Take the Cake, a great cupcake blog I follow. The cupcakes turned out amazing! Possibly my best yet - it's a tie between these and the fresh strawberry ones from Easter. I got to try new things with these, too; it was my first time using filling as well as piping on frosting. Although the piping bag took some getting used to (and was extremely messy), I think the final result was pretty good! Everyone else seemed to agree... It's a good thing I saved a couple for Mr. G, because the other 22 were gone in 3 days!

My favorite part about these cupcakes was the frosting. There is SO MUCH BUTTER in this recipe, but you can especially taste it in the frosting. I love it! When it comes to baking, the more butter the better. Also, I may or may not have eaten some frosting by itself these past few days... No shame.

Here are some photos of my cupcakes as a working progress:

fresh out of the oven


sprinkled and ready to go!

These are also now featured on a baking blog called Sweet as Sugar Cookies. Check it out!

Mr. G and I have our first volleyball game on Tuesday as part of our league, so wish me luck! I haven't played in a while... I also haven't met most of my teammates, so I hope they're not too competitive, or I may be sitting most of the games out haha.

Enjoy your week!

<3 Mrs. G

P.S. As an update from my last post, our toilet is fixed!! Mr. G and his friend were able to take it apart, remove the cleaning sponge, and put it all back together. We even got a new seat, and we didn't have to call a plumber! Yay!

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Little Cynicism Never Hurt Anybody...

Let me begin this post by saying that I had a bad day today. It was one of those Murphy's Law days - I got stuck working with an annoying coworker, then I came home to find that the flushable sponge I used to clean the toilet today wasn't flushable after all - I might as well have flushed a teddy bear. What's worse is it requires some serious plumbing, and Mr. G and I are going to attempt to do it ourselves tomorrow. I only pray that we don't get nastiness all over ourselves and our bathroom AND realize we still have to pay someone to fix it. Also, we discovered a leak in our laundry room - could be related to the toilet issue, or it could be our water heater going out, which I can't even begin to think about. And on top of everything, my air bag warning light came on in my car; as if I didn't already know my car was having issues when we had to rip off the splash guard...

Needless to say, I'm feeling frustrated and a bit cynical today. Usually I try to suppress negativity (at least on here), but sometimes these feelings lead to interesting thoughts, so I decided to air them since I know I'm not the only one thinking these things. So here goes.

My first random anecdote is about birthdays. Amidst the chaos of today, I had an epiphany about aging - while I am not yet at the age where birthdays are something to dread, I have definitely arrived at the age where they are nothing to look forward to. My friend turned 24 today, which made me think about the fact that I will be turning 24 in February, and I realized that I could care less. The same thing happened when I turned 23 - I felt like I had been 23 for months already and the actual day was just a formality. I haven't even reached what I consider to be the ideal age (25) and I am already at the point of nonchalance about birthdays, which means that before long, my relationship with my birthday will escalate from civil acquaintances to full-on frenemies (yes, frenemies - birthdays still come with parties, after all). This also means that before long I'll be forced into the frighteningly oversaturated market of age-defying beauty products. As if I don't have enough to think about already - shopping for regular moisturizer gives me anxiety. Not to mention I still get acne; if I have to shop for wrinkle-reducing serum that has salicylic acid in it, I'll just quit. Anyway, the moral of this cynical story is: the older you get, the less you have to look forward to! (just kidding...)

My second anecdote is a more serious one about self-worth. I've been thinking a lot about this lately. Even with all the blessings in my life (which there are plenty, I realize), there are also quite a few things that burden me - namely: my lack of a career, my lack of friends out here, and as always, lack of money. I feel like I handle things fairly well for the most part - I don't let them get to me most of the time, and I'm taking all the right steps to make improvements. Nevertheless, all it takes to bring me down is seeing others succeed where I have failed. I feel my self-worth drop with every peer I see getting a job, getting married (I got married!), moving to a new place (I did that twice!), and having children (no thanks, but still). It's disturbing how much we - or at least I - look outward for the measure of our worth.

Have you ever had one person in particular one-up you on everything? I have... Let's say his name is Sam. Sam has been making my gold look like dirt for as long as I can remember. For everything I achieved, he did it ten-fold. My test scores were impressive - his were incredible. When I thought I had found my niche in college, he managed to beat me at my own game. Even at graduation - when I had a medal around my neck and an honors diploma in hand - he got a standing ovation for all his accomplishments. The only thing I had that he didn't was marriage, but now that's about to change, too, and I'm sure his wedding will set the standard for all weddings to come. Maybe it's an older sister, or that annoying friend, but I feel like we all have a Sam... The moral of this story? There will always be a Sam. And if you're as ambitious and competitive as I am, this will be one of life's toughest pills to swallow.

So, now that I've poured out my bitterness, I feel the need to go watch the Wiggles or something. I was hoping this blog would convey a more consistent message of optimism and contentment, but sometimes brutal honesty is refreshing. And who's to say I'm not content? Well, besides the job market and my bank account... But in all seriousness, I know that I am a blessed girl with a patient, loving husband and a God who has a plan even when I don't. And a blog. So I'll be fine. :) Even on days like today...

Feel free to share some of your cynical anecdotes with me - misery loves company, after all. ;)

I promise my next post will be uplifting - there is (literally) nothing bitter about chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes!

<3 Mrs. G

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Garden Inspiration: Lavender & Rhubarb

Hello everyone!

Hope you all had a fantastic Memorial Day weekend! I spent mine out in the country with my in-laws while Mr. G was away at a business conference in Canada. We grilled burgers, went shopping, played with my dog, and tried to avoid the humidity. I made chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes for the occasion (recipe forthcoming!), and considering my father-in-law ate about 6, I think they were a success. I also tried rhubarb for the first time and made a rhubarb crisp with Mr. G's mom, who has a rhubarb plant in her backyard - can't get any fresher than that! The crisp was fantastic, and I chopped up some stems to take home with me. :)

Here is the recipe for the rhubarb crisp:

  • Filling:
    • 8 cups fresh, cut rhubarb
    • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
    • 1/2 cup flour
    • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1 cup additional fruit (optional - raspberries were delicious!)
  • Topping:
    • 1 1/2 cups flour
    • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
    • 3/4 cup oatmeal
    • 3/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
    • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • For filling:
    • Mix first 4 ingredients in a large bowl until coated.
    • Spoon into 9x13 pan.
    • Drizzle with vanilla extract.
  • For topping:
    • In another bowl, mix all topping ingredients until crumbly.
    • Sprinkle over filling.
  • Bake 35-45 minutes or until rhubarb is tender and topping is golden-brown.
  • Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Enjoy!

Speaking of fabulous plants, I have also developed a fascination with lavender after seeing it on several wedding blogs. It is such a soft, fragrant flower with colorful blooms and an almost ethereal quality to it. 

Source: Style Me Pretty

Source: Style Me Pretty

Source: Style Me Pretty

See what I mean? Lavender is so dreamy... Tiffany blue will always be my favorite color, but lavender is definitely a close second. To me, it is reminiscent of the French countryside, and it evokes a vintage-y feel while still being colorful and pretty. 

On Memorial Day, I decided to turn my fascination into a hobby by buying my very own lavender plant! It will be my first experience gardening, if you can even call it that (baby steps). I bought lavender provence, which is a French lavender that is very fragrant and low-maintenance. I also got talked into buying lime basil, which I can't wait to use in salsa. What's great about it is that you can eat the leaves right off the stem. Also, as a plus, both are organic! Here are my baby plants:

my little herb garden!

And speaking of vintage, I did more thrift shopping with my mother-in-law yesterday and found some great stuff - my favorite is a lime green wooden mail sorter. It doesn't really match anything I have, but I love the bold color so much that I'll figure out a way to incorporate it... Hopefully.

Anyone else have herb gardens? Or any rhubarb recipes to suggest??

I'll post my cupcake recipe soon! The frosting is the best part - I may or may not be eating leftover frosting by itself right now...

<3 Mrs. G

P.S. Happy June!


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