10/31/2010

Chocoholic Cupcakes




I recently served these cupcakes at a baby shower. The plan was to do an elegant, classy shower on a budget. I love baking, instead of ordering cupcakes from a fancy bakery, I planned to make my own cupcakes from scratch. The week before the shower was CRAZY for me, so unfortunately I didn't have time to do anything from scratch. So I had to think fast and come up with something that would be just as tasty without caving into buying expensive cupcakes at a bakery. So I turned to the trusty boxed cake mix and added an ingredient to make it extra special. I also made a rich and delectable chocolate frosting. They turned out so good and moist!! Here is how I did it...


Cupcakes
  • 1 box of Devil's Food cake mix, preferably Duncan Hines
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325. Line standard muffin tins with cupcake liners. Prepare cupcake Mix the first 4 ingredients together with a stand or hand mixer. Mix for about 2 minutes. Divide batter evenly amongst the lined cups using an ice cream scoop. Using an ice cream scoop reduces clean up and ensures that each cupcake is the same size. Fill them about 2/3's of the way up. Sprinkle a teaspoon or so of chocolate chips on top of the batter of each cupcake. Bake for about 20 minutes. Remove from the muffin tins and cool on a cooling rack for about 15 minutes. This makes 24 cupcakes.

For a healthier option, substitute the vegetable oil with 1/3 cup of unsweetened apple sauce and only use 1 cup of water. This is noted on the back of the cake mix box.


Chocolate Icing
  • 3 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup of whole milk
  • 3/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
In a large bowl, sift the powdered sugar and cocoa powder together. In another large bowl, add 1 cup of the sifted mixture, the butter, and a tablespoon of milk. Using a hand mixer or whisk, mix the ingredients together. It will be lumpy at first, but keep the faith! Repeat that step for another 3-4 times until you reach the desired consistency.


Icing the Cupcakes

Icing is MESSY, so I have come up with a way to control some, not all, of the mess. After all, icing cupcakes is the best part! Place the corner of a large food storage bag in a large cup. Fold the tops of the bag over the cup. Using a spatula or large spoon, spoon the icing into the bag that is inside of the cup. Once all of the icing is in the bag, life the side of the bag out of the cup and seal the bag. Make sure that all of the icing is in a corner of the bag. Cut the corner of the bag. The size of the cut depends on how small or large you want your design on the cupcakes to be. I ice the cupcakes using a swirl pattern, but you can use any pattern you like.

If you don't want to use the freezer bag method, a butter knife or small icing spatula will work perfectly.
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Orange Tango Punch



I served this punch at a recent baby shower and the feedback was phenomenal! I wanted a punch that was crisp, fresh, and beautiful. Most importantly, I did not want it to include sherbet. It seems like all baby shower punches include sherbet, so I wanted something that tasted just as good, but was different. So I did some research and came up with this recipe:
  • 1 6 oz can of frozen concentrated orange juice, thawed
  • 1 cup of frozen concentrated lemonade, thawed
  • 2 cups of cranberry juice cocktail
  • 3/4 cup of super fine sugar
  • 3 cups of water
  • 2 liters of lemon-lime soda, chilled
  • 2 cups of ice or an ice ring
  • 2-3 lemons, sliced
  • 2-3 naval oranges, sliced
Mix the first 5 ingredients together in a punch bowl or a pitcher until the sugar is dissolved. Chill the mixture for 1-2 hours. Right before serving, add the lemon-lime soda, ice, lemons, and oranges. Stir and enjoy!
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10/30/2010

Baby Pumpkins & Cupcakes

I've just made it home after a fabulous day with Ragi, a great friend that I have known since high school. Today I hosted a baby shower for her to celebrate the upcoming arrival of her baby boy, Niko. I LOVE his name...




How cute is she?? I can only pray that I look that fabulous when I am 8 1/2 pregnant!!

This is the second largest baby shower that I have hosted and I must say that me and event planning have a great relationship. I LOVE IT! The main idea of my baby showers is CLASS! And if I'm lucky, CLASS ON A BUDGET!! Here's how I did this one...

The planning of most baby showers starts with a theme. Halloween was this weekend, so pumpkins were the first thing that came to my mind. I thought it would be strange if people showed up at a shower the day before Halloween that was decorated in blue, white, and yellow. The next step involved determining the number of guests and sending out invitations. It may seem lazy, but to me the easiest, fastest, and cheapest way to send out invitations is by e-mail. I found this great website, www.pingg.com, that has REALLY cute, creative, and classy e-cards. I like it tons better than E-vite.com. I was unable to find an e-card with a picture of a baby and a pumpkin together. So my brother, a very talented graphic designer, created this graphic and I created my own e-card.



After I sent out the invites, I started planning the decor. The easiest way for me to decorate an event is to plan around a centerpiece. The centerpiece for this shower was a diaper cake that I made out of about 200 Huggies diapers that I purchased in bulk from Costco.



I am going to do a future post on the making of the diaper cake, so stay tuned! The next thing I planned were the party favors. I don't think that offering favors is standard for baby showers. But I was able to find some cute baby pumpkins in the dollar section at Target. They were 6 for $1, so I bought all they had! I stuffed them with Hershey kisses and placed them in a basket by the door so that people could grab one on the way out. The kids that came loved them more than the adults did!




Next up- FOOD! Ragi is Indian, so I wanted to incorporate some Indian food as well as the standard baby shower food. I love fresh flowers, so I centered the food around an arrangement of sunflowers, which are in season and on sale. Ragi's mom made some samosas as well as some other Indian delicacies. I got some fried chicken fingers from Publix (which are in my opinion the BEST chicken fingers out there), spinach dip, Mexican pinwheels, crudites, and a huge fruit salad. You must balance the healthy with the non-healthy! I also made my YUMMY Orange Tango punch. Click here for my recipe. I wanted something that looked beautiful, tasted fresh, and something that did NOT call for sherbet. It was a hit!






For dessert, I wanted to incorporate lots of candy and sweets since the shower was the day before Halloween. The centerpiece of the dessert table was my Chocoholic Cupcakes. I made 48 cupcakes (minus the icing) in less than 10 minutes. If you don't believe me, see my recipe. I also filled candle votives that I got on sale at Michael's with candy corn and M&M's. I decorated the table with an arrangement of sunflowers, some baby pumpkins, and some table runners I purchased from TJMaxx.





Last but not least- the dreaded baby shower games. I am not a fan of lame baby shower games. The "dirty diaper" game has to be my least favorite. In my opinion, games should be fun, easy, and interactive. I think that games should start with an ice breaker. That way, people feel more comfortable interacting with each other during the games. So I asked each person to introduce themselves, say how they knew Ragi, and and offer some "words of wisdom." After the ice breaker, I held two drawings. I passed out the envelopes that Ragi will be using for her thank you cards. I asked each person to write their name and address on the envelope. I then drew two cards. The winners received a $5 Starbucks card. It was easy and it makes doing the thank you cards that much easier for Ragi. The second game was called "How Old Were Ragi and Loli ?"



I had 15 pictures of Ragi and her 2-yr old daughter Loli at various ages. Each person had to guess how old they were by looking at the pictures. The person with the most correct answers won a prize. It was easy and people interacted with each other as they were viewing the pictures.

All in all, I enjoyed every minute of the planning process. With the help of Ragi's mom, I was able to stay within my budget of $250 and I received some great feedback. Perhaps Ragi's daughter enjoyed the day the most...




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10/24/2010

Sunday Morning

When I think of Sunday morning, of course I think of God. I also think about the smell of fresh coffee, pancakes, the Sunday newspaper, and a cozy place to enjoy it all in. Below are a few photos that remind me of all of that. Enjoy and happy Sunday!










Images (from top to bottom): House Beautiful, designer Sandra Bird; Adventures in Shaw, Whole Wheat Lemon Pancakes. Click here for the recipe; House Beautiful, designer Eldon Wong; House Beautiful, designer Amanda Kyser


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10/23/2010

At Home, At Peace


Welcome to my blog! This is my first post and I am so excited! Blogging about my passions is something that has been on my "to do list" for quite some time now. I am elated to finally start a diary of pictures, thoughts, and ideas that help me savor my home and my life. I am even more excited to share them with you. I will primarily focus on food and design. But from time to time, I will divulge on other topics that I am enjoying at the moment.

In a few weeks, I will be 31 years old. The old adage is so very true, "With age comes wisdom." The older I get, the more comfortable I am with myself and the closer I get to learning who I am. I can give a defined and detailed answer when someone asks, "What do you like to do in your spare time?" Over time, I have developed passions for interior design and cooking- two things that I loathed when I was a kid. But with time, good, bad, and new experiences, new friends, several apartments, and a new house, I can't imagine my life without good healthy food and comfortable design.

I can honestly say that my love for food started by observing other people cook. I have been an avid viewer of
The Food Network since one of the stars of the network were the Two Fat Ladies- which means I have been watching it for years. I would watch chefs like Giada de Laurentiis, Paula Deen, and Ina Garten for HOURS! My parents and friends would tease me because I was mesmerized only by watching- not doing! I never cooked anything I saw! I'm a bit of a perfectionist and I think I was a scared of screwing up a meal that looked so perfect and good on TV. But like I said, "with age comes wisdom," which means I've learned that eating out everyday is not cheap and skipping breakfast and having a bowl of cereal for dinner is not the healthiest. So over the last few years, I have stepped out of my comfort zone, cooked a few really good and really bad meals, and have developed a whole new relationship with my stove. We are now BFF's. I look forward to sharing some of my favorite recipes with you in future posts.

My love for design started the same way my love for food started- by watching others design. When I was a young teen, the walls of my pink room were covered in magazine pictures of my teen heartthrobs. But thanks to
Ken Lowe, founder of HGTV, all of that changed. I loved watching House Hunters and Designer's Challenge. After "watching" so many shows, my room went from Barbie pink walls to soft cream walls. I filled it with my grandmother's antique furniture. I had a beautiful four-poster bed with pale yellow bedding, crisp white sheets, and carefully positioned photos of friends and family on the walls. Oh and the colors of my bathroom matched. Everything was perfectly placed. After that first transformation, I felt like I could breathe and truly relax in my room. Since then, I have put a lot of thought into the rooms that I spend a lot of time in. My college dorm room was a perfect example. I had carpet installed on the concrete floors, the bedding on the beds matched, and my mom made curtains for the windows that matched the bedding. My roommate and I were serious. Now that I have a better understanding of design, I am not so matchy-matchy. I love a cozy room filled with different textures and styles. There is definitely an art to "putting it all together." I have studied that art form from watching shows like Divine Design and Sarah's House and from reading magazines like Traditional Home, Elle Decor, and House Beautiful. I also have some favorite designers, which I plan to profile in future posts.


I hope this has given you some insight into how this all got started. I am at peace when I do the things that I enjoy doing. Savoring happiness, home, family and friends, and most importantly life is what makes everyday worth living. So I look forward to sharing with you how I savor all of those things. See you soon!
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