Monday, 30 April 2012

What's on the Menu this week?

Well, as much as I wish the weather around here was lovely and spring-like, it seems like we are going to get sunshine only sporadically this week. Either way, this week should be full of fun and family time, and I'm really looking forward to some sunny days to sit out on the lawn chair while the kids ride bikes and draw sidewalk chalk villages before us.

For the past two weeks, one of my favorite meals has been on the menu plan, but we didn't end up making the meal! So once again, there will be Fettucine with Prawns in a Boursin Sauce. Hopefully, by adding this meal to a weeknight, we will be more likely to actually get to eat it! It seems like the weekends just fly by, and when we get home from whatever party we have attended we are either too tired to cook, or it's too late to make a meal (my kids go to bed around 7:30 most nights...) so we grab something on the go.
BRINNER (sorry for the poor Iphone photo quality!!)
Also back on the menu this week, is Miss A's favorite dinnertime request (and one of my faves too!) - BRINNER! You know? Breakfast for dinner? For the kids it's usually waffles or pancakes. Then I'll make eggs, bacon, hashbrowns and beans for the hubs and I.

On the menu this week we'll be having:

Monday - Pasta with Salmon and Crab, with Rachel Salad and Garlic Bread
Tuesday - Leftover Turkey Pot Pie
Wednesday - Butter Chicken and Rice
Thursday - Pasta with Prawns in a Boursin Sauce
Friday - BRINNER!
Saturday - Family BBQ
Sunday - Fend for yourselves!

I will be linking up to OrgJunkie's Menu Plan Monday - tons of great recipes, meal ideas and plans. Check it out!

What will you be having for dinner this week?

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting

Yesterday began my life's quest (well, my life right now...). The quest to find the perfect cupcake. I was making cupcakes for my dear friend Laara's baby shower, and wanted to make something sweet and salty and over the top delicious.

I went digging through the the dessert section of my soon-to-be-organized recipe binder and found a recipe for a dark chocolate cake with salted caramel buttercream. Yup, that was it.

I don't know where I found the recipe, it was just printed off on regular paper, not from a website, so I don't know who to thank for this bit of gloriousness. If it's yours, THANK YOU! My recipe had quite a complicated sounding frosting recipe, including NINE egg whites on the ingredients list. Since I only had a dozen eggs in the fridge, and needed four for the cake itself, I google another salted caramel frosting and found this one. And this combination rocked.

The next time I make this recipe (and there will definitely be a next time!!) I will let my caramel cool even longer than the suggested 25 minutes, maybe even overnight. I think the caramel not being cool enough made the frosting separate a little bit. It was still amazing and delicious, but it could have held up a little better, and definitely was not going to work for piping the cupcakes. Also the cupcake recipe made 41 regular and 24 mini cupcakes. The frosting worked for only about 24 cupcakes. You would definitely need to double or maybe even triple it if you wanted to fancy pipe the cupcakes.

Now, onto the recipe! Seriously, these cupcakes were awesome!

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting


1 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
3 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 egg whites
1 1/2 cups Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder
4 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp Vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups hot strong coffee


Preheat oven to 350. Cream butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about five minutes.

Add in eggs and egg whites and beat again until light, about three minutes.

Alternate the dry ingredients and the coffee/vanilla, starting and finishing with dry ingredients. It will look like a big hot mess at this stage, but don't worry. Mix for another 15 seconds or so until it starts to look smooth.

Scoop into your prepared cupcake pans and bake until a skewer inserted in the cupcake comes out clean, about 18 minutes. Let cool.

Salted Caramel Frosting


1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 tbsp water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 stick of butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar


Briefly stir together granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue cooking, without stirring, until mixture turns dark amber in color, about 6 to 7 minutes.
Remove from heat and slowly add in cream and vanilla, stirring with a wooden spoon until completely smooth. It is going to bubble up A LOT at this stage. It's all good, just keep stirring. Set aside until cool to the touch, about 25 minutes.
Combine butter and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-high speed until light in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low, add powdered sugar, and mix until completely incorporated.

Turn mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add caramel. Beat frosting on medium-high speed until airy and thoroughly mixed, about 2 minutes. Cover and refrigerate until stiff, about 45 minutes, before using.

I let mine rest overnight, brought it to room temp in the morning and re-mixed before frosting.  

Saturday, 28 April 2012

The Quest for the Perfect Cupcake

Hi Everyone! I hope this weekend finds you happy, healthy and enjoying the lovely springtime weather with your family. Although the weather out here can't figure out what exactly it wants to do, spring is definitely in the air, and I'll take advantage of any moment of sunny weather outside!

Today is a big day for my little blog. I have decided to start a blog series. Once a month (at the very least) I am going to make a brand new cupcake recipe, on my Quest to Find the Perfect Cupcake.

I have made a lot of cupcakes in my day. A lot of yummy cupcakes, some super easy cupcakes, some more complicated, and a couple of epic fails (a diabetic cake... it was horrendous). But I can't say that I have found the PERFECT cupcake.

Each month I will try a brand new (to me) recipe and post the recipe and my progress here on the blog. I hope that it inspires you to try some new recipes,or get some ideas on ways to revamp a current recipe that you have in your recipe binder (note to self - add "organize recipe binder" to current to-do list!!).

If you have a suggestion for a recipe, please send it to me! I'm willing to try almost everything ~ sweet, savory, caramelly, peanut buttery, you name it, I'll try it!

The first recipe in the series is for a Dark Chocolate Cupcake with Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting. The cupcakes are in the oven as we speak, so I can't review them yet... but I can tell you that the batter tastes freaking AMAZING!!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Linen Closet Loveliness

I challenged myself this week to get back into Spring Cleaning Mode. After my 100 Item Purge Weekend Challenge, I felt so good letting go of excess clutter, that I knew I would be able to do it again.
I still haven't finished the toy room/computer room project, it is "in-progress" and will hopefully be finished next week.

To get back into the organizing swing, I tried to take on our linen closet. Back when I first started clearing the clutter, I managed to purge FIVE trash bags full of bedding for beds we no longer owned, and tablecloths that were horrendous! We had the closet nicely sorted and it stayed that way for a while, but like most things in life, the chaos crept back in and the closet was once again in need of some help.

I didn't want to spend any money on this project, so I just rummaged around in my cupboards and found some dollar store plastic containers, then I hit up my scrapbooking supplies to find ways to make my project pretty!

The closet holds our bed linens, towels, tablecloths, and my gift collection - when I find a good deal on something, I usually buy four of five of an item and save them for the inevitable upcoming birthday party/baby shower. I know that sort of goes against the ideal for a recovering hoarder to buy up a whole bunch of stuff, but what can you do?

I started by completely emptying out the closet and sorting like items together: kids bedding, king bedding, table cloths, regular and holiday towels, etc. As you can see, we have a LOT of towels. Way too many for a family of four. But I couldn't purge all of them. I don't do the laundry (that's the laundry fairy, aka the Hubs) so if we run out of towels, we don't get more until he does the laundry!
I also found a great way to store the extra twin sized duvet and cover that we keep for the kids rooms.

I folded the duvet as tight as I could and put the duvet and its cover into the pillowcase that matched! I know Martha Stewart normally folds her sheet sets and stores them nicely and flat in the pillowcases, but this worked for me! Since we don't use this set of bedding too often, I stored it plus the extra pillows and random fleecy blankets for picnics and parties on the top of the closet.

I refolded all of the towels into threes, to fit more onto each shelf (and to make them prettier!) and I containerized the items that don't get regular use - the tablecloths, holiday towels and kids' beds extra sheets.

Then I got my craft on and pulled out some chipboard journalling tags, punched a hole in the tops and hung them from the containers with some pretty ribbon from my craft supplies.
At the end of the purge and organizing, I had quite a respectable donate pile, filled with 10-15 towels, five bed pillows (seriously,who has five EXTRA bed pillows?!) an extra comforter and sheet set that the kids don't use any more.

I also had a TON of extra space! I think I'm going to put my extra cake and cupcake carriers and display items in the remaining space in the closet.

Hope you enjoyed my little linen closet bit of loveliness. Now to convince the Laundry Fairy to fold towels into threes.... hmmmmm.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Tastes Homemade Box Cake Recipe (Making 200 Cupcakes, Part 2!!)

Well, we did it! We baked a little over 200 cupcakes for Miss A’s Irish Dancing fund raising event this past weekend. With help from my cousin, my sister and her friend, we managed to put my two monsters to bed, bake, ice and decorate 170 cupcakes in around 3 hours! I finished the last batch of 50 the next morning.

Using the plan laid out in my last post, we started out with a clean kitchen, pre-measured ingredients, room temperature butter and a whole lot of patience!

For three of the cupcake recipes we used my Altered Box Cake ingredients to make them taste more homemade than from a box. The fourth recipe was for Coconut Cupcakes with buttercream and shredded green tinted coconut on top. I’ll post the recipe for these later this week – they were delicious!!
Altered Box Cake Recipe (how to make your boxed cake mix taste homemade)
For each batch of cupcakes, follow the instructions on the box except:

Instead of water, use the equivalent amount of MILK
Instead of vegetable oil, use the equivalent amount of MELTED BUTTER
Add THREE tablespoons of sour cream
Add one tablespoon of VANILLA EXTRACT
Using Wilton's 1M tip
For icing and decorating, we started out using Wilton’s trusty 1M tip. However, for one of the chocolate icing batches I used chocolate shavings instead of cocoa powder, so the tip kept getting jammed with chocolate.

We switched to the Wilton 4D tip and were in LOVE! It made quick work of the textured icing and made a lovely swirl on our cupcakes.

In order to get the most icing to last without having to refill the icing bags, we used Wilton's plastic 16" icing bags. They are massive!!
We used a few cupcake storage containers I had on hand, and then we got creative. I used a couple of under the bed storage containers and they were awesome! They held a ton of cupcakes, they stacked nicely, and most importantly, they fit in the fridge!!

We got to Miss A’s event early on Saturday and she and I setup the display. It took a good 45 minutes to setup, so I am glad I left myself lots of time!

The event went fantastically well, there were less than 10 cupcakes left at the end of the night! Success!!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Menu Plan Monday

Miss A is the Ginger-haired princess in the middle :)
Can you believe it’s the end of April already? I certainly can’t. This past weekend just flew by, with Miss A performing in her very first Irish Dancing performance. It was the cutest thing ever! She loved it, and it made me so happy to see the big grin on her little red-headed face.

This week seems a bit more relaxed than last week, but this weekend is another fun-filled party weekend. I’m going to try to get back on the fruit-for-the-kids-and-salad-for-Mama-at-dinner-time kick. It worked well a couple of weeks ago.

Tonight when I get home I’m going to make a big batch of my favourite Caesar Salad dressing from Epicure. The regular recipe calls for 2 tbsp mayonnaise and ¼ cup of olive oil, but I’ll lighten it up by using ¼ cup of low fat Greek Yogurt instead.

On this week’s menu, in addition to yummy Caesar salad, we’ll be having:

Monday: Meatloaf, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Beans (Freezer meal, recipe to come this week!)
Tuesday: Chicken Macaroni Bake Freezer Meal
Wednesday: Lasagne Wednesday! Costco lasagne, served with sourdough breadsticks
Thursday: Chicken and Black Bean Quesadillas , Cheese quesadillas for the girls
Friday: Appies with the girls from work!
Saturday: Birthday Party and Housewarming Party!
Sunday: Pasta with Prawns in Boursin Sauce, Caesar Salad

Hope you all have a great week!!

Caesar Salad Dressing Recipe

I have an addiction. To Epicure Selections. It’s a fantastic line of spices, dip mixes, soup bases, and a bazillion other delectable creations. I use something from Epicure every day. Every. Single. Day. I have an entire kitchen shelf devoted to my collection.

I’m not a sales consultant, or being paid or compensated to write this post, I just honestly love the products. There is no salt or fillers added, it’s just spices. It’s a Canadian product line, based out of BC, and they have something for every taste.

One of the first products I was introduced to about 6 years ago (by my lovely friend Kim!) was the Caesar Salad Dressing mix. It makes the most garlicky, delicious Caesar dressing. It’s something I always have on hand and mix up big batches for family dinners and block party BBQs.

If you have never tried Epicure, but are interested, you can find a consultant on their webpage. The consultants can do home-based parties and bring a variety of products for your guests to try out. It’s fantastic, trust me.

Here is my recipe for the most amazing Caesar salad dressing. I’ll be making a big batch of it today to use this week for my weekly menu plan of dinners! The regular recipe calls for 2 tbsp mayonnaise and ¼ cup of olive oil, but I’ll lighten it up by using ¼ cup of low fat Greek Yogurt instead.

Caesar Salad Dressing Recipe

2 Tbsp (30 ml) Epicure's Caesar Dressing Seasoning
1 - 2 tsp (5 - 10 ml) Epicure's Minced Garlic
1 Tbsp (15 ml) lemon juice
¼ cup low fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup (60 ml) milk
1/4 cup (60 ml) grated Parmesan cheese
Epicure's Black Pepper, coarsely ground, to taste
12 cups (3 L) Romaine lettuce, cut into bite-sized pieces
½ cup Hormel Real Bacon Pieces
¼ cup Parmesan Cheese

Whisk first 7 ingredients in a large serving bowl. Season with Black Pepper.
Add Romaine lettuce and toss to coat.
Sprinkle with bacon pieces and remaining Parmesan cheese. 

I’ll be linking up to:Orgjunkie’s Menu Plan Monday, A Bowl Full of Lemons, Delightful Order, Serenity Now & maybe a couple of other places, if I can figure out how!


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