Thursday, October 31, 2013

Filled Cupcakes with my Friend: The Cupcake Corer!!!!

We had a triple birthday celebration on Friday... Delightful young ladies, two with summer birthdays and one from October, so we did a "Birthday Extravaganza" at Ruthy's Place!!!

Which meant...

Baking Party in the Kitchen!!!!  (cue the dance music!!!!)

Some like yellow cake. Some like chocolate. And everyone likes cupcakes! So I used two of my fave mixes, Duncan Hines yellow and Dark Chocolate (oh, that just SOUNDS wonderful, doesn't it???)

I baked the cupcakes exactly like you'd do normally, only this time I DIDN'T BURN THEM.

Not one.

So then there's this:

Recognize it? No?

It's a Cupcake Corer... Who knew???? This little bad boy takes the core out of the cake, allowing me to STUFF IT with some kind of amazingly wonderful goodness.


Today I used this:

I used to make all my own jams and jellies and maybe I will again, but right now, McCutcheon's products rank right up there with my homemade. And I buy them at my friend Kim's farm store, she's a woman farmer and baker very much like Piper McKinney in "Falling for the Lawman"!!!!

Oh, you don't know what "Falling for the Lawman" is??? It was my fall release with Love Inspired (huge shameless plug grin here!!!) and yes, you can still buy it HERE!!!!!  I love Farm Lit books, I love country/rural/small town settings. It's so much fun! (and youse know I'll be saying the same thing about cities next week when I'm plugging "Love Finds You in the City at Christmas" right????)  :)

Half will be filled with frosting or raspberry filling.... 

And here is a shot showing the amazing Cupcake Corer device in action!!!! You simply twist it in and pull and out comes:


The kids gobbled these up for dessert after lunch, when I cleverly put them all down for nappy-naps...

Pretending it was for THEIR OWN GOOD, of course!!!

(Insert fiendish laugh!)

And then I filled the cupcakes:

Frosted them: using the Hershey's Chocolate Frosting recipe I talk about all the time!!!

The only thing I do differently with the chocolate frosting is to add 1/2 teaspoon of salt per batch. I love the background taste of salt-to-sugar and it adds a zest that is just plain fun.
My Mama always did that back in the day. I kind of hate that they forgot about the blend for so long, and now???

Guess what's hot at every chocolate selling store in the world????

Chocolate Salted Everything.

:)  Funny how the more things change, the more they stay the same.

(This logic should NOT be applied to 70's or 80's fashions. For the love of all that's good and holy in this world, please. Stop yourself before re-creating a dreadful faux pas AGAIN.)

The cupcakes filled with raspberry have a dot of raspberry on the top. The ones with a white buttercream center have a ... Yes, you guessed it!!! A white buttercream star on top.

Oh, happy day! 

Oh, glorious day!

Fun and frolic was had by all!!!!

Happy birthday, Skylaar!!! And Happy Un-birthday Dianna and Aubree!

We love you, girls!

Here is that link again:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Caramel Apple Butter, From Start to Finish!

Hello, everybody!! Today I'm going to make Caramel Apple Butter with the help of a vintage 'China Cap' food mill. The name comes from the shape of the strainer. The GAL saw one in an antique shop and posted a pic on facebook. I thought, "I've seen one of those!" I asked my dad and he dug around in the attic... and la voila! Edna had a great time with Cho, the China Cap Food Mill. She says that Cho is very interesting and has quite a few stories to share, mostly about 1950's housewives and their quest for perfection.
My friend Karina Klein saw our facebook conversation and said that she had one at her wedding... as the table decoration! She married an apple farmer and since his parents always used one for apple sauce, they decided those good memories should be part of the decoration. Clever!! She graciously allowed me to use her picture in this post. I just thought this was so sweet...
So, now I had the food mill. But what to do with it? My friend Mindy Postelwait swooped in to save the day by dropping off the COOLEST book of jam, jellies and preserves. (By the way, her husband Jason was in my graduating class. I have a terrible time coming up with names when I write so I asked him if I could use his. He said sure... and now he's forever immortalized in 'Leaving Liberty'. I'm not sure if it's a good character or a bad character, but his wife is still speaking to me!)
 We still have tons of apples. I thought I'd definitely try apple butter, but maybe with a twist. There was a recipe under the main one for 'caramel apple butter'. YUMMO.
 You'll need 3 cups of apple juice or cider. If I'd thought of it earlier, I would have juiced 3 cups and used that. Mmmmm..... but time was short, so I grabbed a bottle of juice from the cabinet.
 Nifty apple peeler makes short work of about 14 apples.
 Bring the apples and the juice to a boil.
 See.... Boiling.... Then turn it down to a simmer and cover. Simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring every now and then.
 I think this is the way to use it. At least, I'm assuming it is! Otherwise, the apple sauce would get all over....  Cho seemed happy to be perched over the pot so I decided that was the way it should be.
 Scoop out the softened apples and juice, dump them into the food mill. For aluminum, Cho certainly kept her cool.
 I had lots of helpers. I can't even get a picture in there... She was a bit shocked at our kitchen, overrun with small people, but Cho said she loved the feel of their tiny hands on her wooden pestle.
 Hahahaha! I love this picture of my son. "Heyyyyyy, it's way past my bedtime and we're making apple butter! This is the life!"
 After you've pushed most of the apple mix through the mill (you can dump in the rest, or leave it out if you like a smoother mixture), return to the pot. Have I mentioned that I'm in love with my new Dutch oven??? I read those comments between Missy and... someone else talking about Lodge Ware. So, I went and got myself one of these. LOVE IT.

Ok, 1/2 cup white sugar, 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, 3 tbs lemon juice, and 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Bring it back to a boil after mixing well.
 The house smells so good I could sell tickets.
 After it's gone to a full boil, set it to simmer with the lid OFF this time. We're going to boil off a lot of the liquid. After about 1 hour (mine took 1 1/2) fill small, sterilized jars with the apple butter.
 Leave about an inch or two of head room. Put on a fresh lid. You can re use the rings if you have them. Mindy-of-the-last-second-recipe-rescue had already given me jars and jars of blackberry jam at the end of summer. I was really hoping I didn't screw this up so I could give her back the jars with something IN THEM.
MMMMMM. Water bath canning will seal it and keep the jar fresh for a year. Here's a quick overview of that process if you haven't done it before.  water bath canning It was pretty easy!! And now I can give Mindy something when I give back her jars. SCORE.

  Edna and Cho are tucked away in the corner, giggling over my lack of an apron. I feel the need to step up my kitchen fashion. Maybe I'll pick up something pretty. But I'm not wearing make up and heels while I cook! They're just going to have to deal with a little bit of social progress.

  OK, until next time!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Friday Night Lights - Homecoming Texas Style

This past Friday was Homecoming for our high school. You know, like the big kahuna of football games. Not because of who we play, but because of tradition. Alumni return. Friends gather.
And the mums are over-the-top.
You may have heard it said that everything is bigger in Texas. Well, just wait 'til you see this.
Since homecoming is always crowded, it's important to get to the game early. Especially when you have child in band and they're going to do a special pregame performance.
And why bother with dinner when there are so many good things at the game.
Hot dogs always taste better at a football game.

Though some prefer Chick-fil-A or a barbeque sandwich.
Believe it or not, in this cow and chicken war, my daughter opted for the cow, while her husband was the chicken.
And no game is complete without an order of nachos.
The excitement builds as the team gets ready to take the field. Go Panthers!
But first, the band treats us to a most excellent performance.
I love marching bands. Football games would be so boring without them.
My little trumpet player is down there somewhere. Fourth trumpet from the front. Can you see him?
Oh, and those boxes are their props. This was their competition show. They've had competitions every Saturday this month. These kids may not lift weights, but I can tell you that they work every bit as hard as the football players.
But if you're a high school student, the big deal about homecoming is the mums. When I was growing up in Michigan, we had mums too. They were large, live and they sold them the day of the homecoming game for $1 or $2.
The mums in Texas, though, are unbelievable. Flowers and ribbons and feathers and whatever else they can think up. Some even light up.
The color guard girls show off their mums as they arrive at the stadium.
Yes, these mums hang around their neck.
Some mums are a little more subdued. Underclassmen have colored mums, usually school colors. The seniors, however, have white mums. High school protocol, you know.
The cheerleaders found a way to put those megaphones to good use.
Can you tell which mum belongs to a senior?
You guessed it.
Look at the cute teddy bears.
And just because a senior mum is white, doesn't mean it can't have personality.
Anybody want to guess her favorite Disney movie?
Some mums travel in pairs.
Some in threes. I suspect this is to hold each other up. Can you believe the size of these things?
Some even have to have their dates carry them.
Yes, this is outside the ladies room. :)
Oh, but the guys get in on the action too. They have garters. They wear them on their arm.
And the kids buy these for their homecoming dates. It's not uncommon for a mum to cost upwards of $200. A garter can cost $100 or more. Just depends on how ornate they are and whether you make it yourself or pay someone to do it for you. Yes, mums are big money in Texas.
But the grand prize for this year's most over-the-top mum has to go to this girl.
Next year, I think there should be a rule that no mum can be bigger than the person wearing it.
 Now it's your turn. What high school traditions linger on where you live?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Easy-Peasy Chicken Turnovers (and research trip pictures!)

We'll start with a gratuitous puppy picture!

Puppyhood is fleeting - Thatcher will turn seven months old on
Wednesday. The same day as another famous puppy in Upstate New York!

When I saw Tina's fabulous Easy Crescent Danish Rolls on Friday (click here for that recipe), I remembered my recipe for Chicken Turnovers.

Much to my family's dismay, I don't remember that recipe often enough!

It's another creation with Pillsbury Crescent Rolls - boy, those pastry thingies sure are handy, aren't they?

Chicken Turnovers


2 cans Pillsbury Crescent Rolls (or store brand)

1 1/2 - 2 cups cooked, boned chicken (I used canned)

8 ounces cream cheese

seasoning to taste (I used 1 teaspoon Tone's Rosemary Garlic)

So, here's what you do:

Soften the cream cheese, either by warming in the microwave, or letting it sit in a bowl until it reaches room temperature. Mix in the chicken and seasonings, plus a little chicken broth or milk if it isn't mixing well.

A word about seasonings - The Rosemary Garlic was really good. You can also use just salt and pepper, or onion, or garlic, or Parmesan cheese and garlic....  Or go a different route and use thyme, or tarragon....

Experimenting with the seasonings is a lot of fun!

And if you want to make more turnovers, just add another can of crescent rolls and a bit more chicken. Each can of crescent rolls you use makes four turnovers.

Open one can of crescent rolls at a time and divide each can into four rectangles. Press the perforation together.

Put 2-4 Tablespoons of your cheese/chicken mixture on one end of the rectangle. Fold over the other end and seal the edges. 

I like to crimp the edges with the end of a fork....

Bake for 18-20 minutes at 350 degrees, or until golden brown.

These are great by themselves, but I really like them with soup or chowder, as an alternative to sandwiches.

Especially tomato soup. Mmmmm..... Now that's a great lunch!

Now to the research trip - you all like westerns, right?

On Saturday, my husband and I took a research trip. I'm taking a (temporary) break from Amish historicals, and am working on a proposal for a story set in Deadwood in the autumn of 1876.

We started our tour by following part of the Cheyenne-Deadwood Stagecoach route from Newcastle, Wyoming to Deadwood, South Dakota.

This cow was hanging out near the scene of a violent gold robbery at the Canyon Springs stagecoach stop back in September, 1878.

We ended up in Deadwood, at the Mt. Moriah Cemetery. It was sobering to see how many of the headstones told the sad story of Deadwood residents who died at a young age. Civil War veterans, doctors, wives.... Many died in their twenties.

And the Potter's Field? Two sections. Huge. Many graves are unmarked.

The saddest were the children. Too many children in a very short time.

And yes, we had to pay our respects to Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, Potato Creek Johnny and Preacher Smith.

Calamity Jane's last request? "Bury me next to Wild Bill." And that's where you'll find her.