Friday, October 28, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Brown Butter Buttercream Frosting

Oh pumpkin-flavored goodness, how I love you. I love Fall baking because pumpkins are in season, and all of the warm spices that go so well with them make chilly days so much better. I had been wanting to make some pumpkin cupcakes for a while, and assumed that I would use a cream cheese frosting with them (because really, who doesn't love cream cheese frosting?). BUT, I found this recipe for a brown butter buttercream at and knew I had to try it . . . And it was wonderful. It complemented the pumpkin beautifully, and I think would also be great with apple cake or apple cupcakes. The cupcake recipe is one that I found in my Betty Crocker cookbook - it's actually for pumpkin bars, but it worked beautifully for cupcakes. They turned out moist, flavorful, and brimming with fall flavors.

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes
4 eggs
2 c. sugar
1 c. vegetable oil
1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees and grease 24 cupcake tins, or line with paper baking cups
2. Beat eggs, sugar, oil, and pumpkin until smooth.
3. Stir in flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.
4. Spoon evenly into baking tins - about 3/4 full.
5. Bake 18-22 minutes or until the top springs back when pressed lightly. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Brown Butter Buttercream Frosting
The original recipe can be found here, and below is with my minor modifications.
2 sticks of softened butter
4 c. powdered sugar
1/2 - 1 tsp. cinnamon
3-4 T milk
1. Melt one stick of butter in a saucepan over medium heat, and continue cooking and swirling the pan until the butter is a deep golden/amber color. Remove from heat and let cool.
2. Once the brown butter is cool, beat it on medium speed with the second stick of butter until creamy - 2-3 minutes.
3. Add cinnamon and powdered sugar and beat on med.-high speed until thoroughly combined, 2 minutes.
4. Add milk and beat on med-high until light and fluffy, approximately 4-5 minutes. Add more milk or powdered sugar to achieve the consistency you want. This frosting was great for piping!
These went with Dusty to work, and he accepted some very nice
compliments on my behalf :)
And this one was for me!
On a Side Note: Asher and Aiden got to see two of their cousins over the weekend and absolutely loved it! They had so much fun together. Aiden is now pulling himself up on everything and is way too daring for my peace of mind - I can't leave him for a second or he'll try to stand up by the fridge or something and slide forward and bonk his head  . . . So far, this hasn't deterred him. He's our little daredevil!

Obviously Asher and Tryg are in the "won't-sit-still" phase :)

Aiden bothering Tryg and thinking he's hilarious

Popcorn and movie night!

Loves popcorn, just like his Mom


Mr. Mischief . . . 

"What, Mom? I'm not up to anything, I swear!"

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Book Series Blues

I know I've found a winner book-wise when I feel a teensy bit depressed when I'm finished. It's rare that this happens to me with a single book, but it's been known to happen when I finish reading a series that I've been pretty invested in.

I just finished reading "The Hunger Games" trilogy, which is what brought me to write this post. It was one of those series where I couldn't put the books down, stayed up later than usual to read them, and literally did nothing but read during the boys' precious nap time . . . Clearly, I was very unproductive for a few days. So after speed-reading to the end, I was left with that "down" feeling where it kind of feels like something's missing for a little bit. Maybe this doesn't happen to you, and it's probably weird, but I actually miss the characters when I'm done. This has happened with Harry Potter (of course), The Lord of the Rings, Twilight, and maybe a few others that I can't remember off the top of my head.

The first time I ever remember having that type of feeling when I finished a series was when my parents bought The Chronicles of Prydain for my siblings and me one Christmas when I was probably 11 or so. Anyway, I remember laying on the floor in front of the heater, flying through the books and enjoying every second. When it was done, I was so disappointed that I immediately re-read the entire series. Nerd city.

That's what I love about books though - they provide an escape or reprieve from stressors or other things going on in life. Bravo to any author who can achieve that strong of a connection with their reader because that is a rare gift.

On a Side Note: I'll be posting the recipe for some Pumpkin Cupcakes soon - they were pretty yummy! And, I had to share these pics because I think they're hilarious!
I guess he just couldn't wait any longer . . . 

Ohhhh, BUSTED!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sleep Training

Well, Aiden's going to be turning 9 months this week and we finally decided a couple weeks ago that he needs to sleep through the night on his own. Yep, he was still waking up for bottles once or twice a night. We tried diluting it so it was mostly water, but he just started relying on the comfort of it, I think. Anyway, he had about four nights in a row that he woke up at least 4 times each night, and two of those nights he was awake in his crib for 2-3 hours before he fell back asleep. Needless to say, Dusty and I were TIRED. We definitely needed to try something . . .

So, since we were at the end of our ropes, we decided to try the Ferber method - it worked amazingly well for Asher, so we were hopeful it would work for Aiden, too. We had wanted to try it earlier, but Aiden still sleeps in our room, and Asher's room is right across the hall so we didn't want him to wake up scared if Aiden was crying. But, we took the plunge . . . The gist of the Ferber method is to let them cry for 5 minutes, go over and comfort with a few words, then leave. If they continue to cry, leave them for 10 minutes, comfort with the same words, then leave. And so on and so forth in five minute increasing increments. The first night was horrible. Seriously. Awful. He cried for a total of about half an hour, which when you're laying in the same room, hoping your toddler doesn't wake up, and wondering how long he can possibly continue, feels like long, long, never-ending hours. But here's the light at the end of the tunnel . . .

Since then, he never gets a bottle at night, and rarely wakes up. The second night was significantly better than the first - he only cried/fussed a total of about 10 minutes, then slept through the night. It was great - we all got some much needed sleep. Aiden has been much happier, too because he's actually getting the sleep he needs during the night. If he does wake up during the night now, he usually just rustles around for a little bit and goes back to sleep on his own.

This method is definitely not for those who aren't sure they want to do it. You really have to steel yourself and wait the time allotted. Going back and forth is confusing for the little one and can make the process last much longer. And trust me, those minutes you're waiting for them to stop crying move at a snail's pace. It's definitely not for everyone. With Asher, we waited until he was 16 months old before we did it, and then we only did because I was so pregnant with Aiden that I couldn't stand hunched over his crib for 1/2 an hour waiting for him to fall asleep. With Aiden, it was the same kind of thing, except it was exhaustion that drove us to it. Like I said, it's not easy to hear your little one cry for any amount of time, but this has worked really well for both of our boys and makes night-time much more relaxing for all of us!

On a Side Note: It's finally feeling like Fall which means it's apple and pumpkin season! I love desserts that use these ingredients so we'll see what I find! Also, we took the boys to Bloomsbury Farms last weekend and had so much fun!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Treasure Cookies

Well, it might be the season of sickness, but it's also the season of leftover candy (or will be very shortly). Halloween often leaves our house with random candy that I'm usually not sure what to do with so I end up eating it (which is perfectly fine). BUT, this is a much more creative (and delicious) way to use up that candy. If you're like me, your Halloween candy is all chocolate, and Treasure Cookies work great with lots of different types.

I've seen this done before with peanut butter cookie dough wrapped around miniature Snickers, but thought it would work just as well with other cookie bases and candies subbed in. Actually what led to this experiment was that I found some Dove chocolates that I had forgotten about - and if you know me, you know how rare that is for me to forget about chocolate!!! Anyway, the chocolates had gotten a little hard, but I wasn't about to waste them so I decided to use them in these cookies.

Treasure Cookies
1/2 c. melted butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
12 pieces of unwrapped chocolate, I used Dove
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together butter and sugars until thoroughly combined.
2. Whisk in egg, vanilla, soda, powder, and salt.
3. Stir in flour until just combined.
4. Take 1 Tbls. of dough and place on greased or parchment-lined baking sheets. Place 1 chocolate in center, then drop another Tbls. of dough on top and form it around the chocolate so it's not at all visible. Bake 10-12 minutes or until light golden brown.

**The Dove chocolate worked okay, but since it's just solid chocolate it doesn't melt into the cookie at all. I think I would prefer Milky Way, Snickers, Reeses PB cups, or maybe one of the flavored Dove chocolates. Anyway, the recipe is a great base - you could use chocolate cookie dough, peanut butter, sugar cookie dough, and mix and match with whatever chocolate candy you have on hand. If you have fun-size candy, I would cut them in half or thirds to make it easier. The cookie dough I used was basically chocolate chip cookie dough minus the chocolate chips, so it would pair well with many flavored chocolates. Hope you have some luck with this recipe!

 On a Side Note: We're sleep-training Aiden via the Ferber method - NOT fun, but it worked great with Asher and has been working well with Aiden so far, too. More specifics on that in the next post! Here's a pic of the patio we put in about a month ago. Huge upgrade from what it used to be.
That's how cracked it was before the guys
started doing anything to it. Yikes
The finished product

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Brown Sugar Cookies

Every time I saw the picture of these cookies in my "America's Test Kitchen 10th Anniversary Best Recipes" I wanted to try them. They look so much like a ginger cookie, but they're really more similar (ingredient-wise) to chocolate chip cookies, minus the chocolate chips. Actually, the recipe is almost the same as the Chocolate Chip Cookies recipes I posted a while back. Similar method, too, with browning the butter. These cookies were really tasty, and that's coming from someone who usually likes a little more going on in her cookie. They were great for Asher, too, because there wasn't anything that would make a mess on his face or hands . . . just crumbs on the floor, but that's inevitable!

Brown Sugar Cookies
14 Tbls. butter
2 c. dark brown sugar (I used light)
1/4 c. granulated sugar
2 c. plus 2 Tbls. flour
1/2 tsp.baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 Tbls. vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350. Mix 1/4 c. of brown sugar and the granulated sugar in a shallow dish and set aside.
2. Brown butter over medium-high heat until its a dark golden brown color - approximately 5-6 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool slightly.
3. Add remaining 1 3/4 c. brown sugar and salt to the butter and mix, then stir in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla until everything is thoroughly incorporated.
4. Add the flour, soda, powder, and salt and stir until just combined.
5. Roll tablespoons of dough in sugar mixture and place on parchment-lined or greased baking sheets and bake 12-14 minutes. Don't overbake so they stay nice and chewy!

On a Side Note: We're trying to break Aiden of the habit of waking up during the night . . . he cried for half an hour last night and it was rough. We're all lacking sleep right now. He's totally getting into music, though, and starts bopping along if he hears an upbeat song and sees us and/or Asher dancing. Asher's into gummy bears right now, but he can't seem to remember what they're called so when he asks for some he either says "honey bears" or "money bears." I get a kick out of it every time!
Asher "helping" put in the patio - those pics to come with the next post.
Look at that sweet little face! Hopefully his night-waking
ends soon because it's horrible to hear him cry!