Cupcaking with Worms

It is important to realize that are many different species of worm, each suited to a different habitat. These worms are suited perfectly for a little cupcake garden.  I copied these cupcakes from my newest cookbook, A Baker’s Field Guide to Cupcakes.  I’m really enjoying the layout of the book, it’s easy to follow. For example, for each recipe, there’s a write up that explains either the variations you can take with each one and then the recipe follows with a picture of the end product. It’s a paint by numbers cupcake book which is perfect for me. I tend to not be too snazzy in that part of baking.

I’m getting better results with the ’basic’ cake recipes in this book. The recipes I’ve used from Martha tend to explode out of the little cupcake holders and so far, I’ve had really good luck with these.

As always, I take the treats up to the office and share them with my team, but I wanted to participate in AfricanKelli’s Calculated Acts of Kindness challenge, so today I took them into the break room and shared.  Everyone who happened to be  in the break room at 2:15PM today, got to attend a Cupcake Party! It was really fun. I got a chance to visit with some people I usually only get to say ‘hello’ in passing to in the hallway and meet some people I hardly knew. There was even one guy, who didn’t say one thing to me, walked straight over to the cupcakes and grabbed one and walked away. Hope you enjoyed it random cupcake grabber!

This meal was brought to by the by the letters E, the number 9 and no fossil fuels.

“Self.” That’s how I start all my personal internal conversations. “Self, you really should try to do something half way active. You’ve had desserts for most of your meals this week. Haven’t we been talking about the approaching swim suit season. Do you really want that new ‘curve’ around your tummy slushing around for everyone to see?”

That’s the conversation that precipitated my purchase of a bicycle. Now before you think I’ve gone and lost my mind and forgot about that unfortunate front break, flying over the handle bars incident I had when I was 16; I haven’t. I wanted a bicycle that would let me get from point A to point B, involve a little movement and look stylish. Look at this pretty little thing: And it’s all mine.

I was so excited this morning when I thought about all the things my bicycle and I could do.  Yesterday we went to La Grande Orange and got a sparkling water, this morning we would go to Sprouts.

Grocery list in hand, I headed out and it was a lot of fun.  I even rang my little bell at a few kids on the way. When I pulled up at the grocery store, I even had an audience.  The cashier and the manager both came out to talk to me about my bike. We talked about biking things. It was all very fancy. She even loaded my front basket so nothing would fall out. I felt really good on my way home. I was actually out and moving, I had to be thoughtful about what I purchased, I didn’t use any grocery bags and I didn’t have to use my car to get there.

It was only a buck…why not buy it

Buying and creating websites; it’s a sick compulsion when you work at a .com. I can’t explain it. You sit around during the day and someone will say a funny little line and “Poof” there’s a website up in minutes. I will even admit, that I have been bitten by the bug, only a few times.

One day last week, Tischy walks up to me at work and he says, “Hey!” (he starts all his conversations that way), “Hey! Do you want to buy a hot dog for a buck?” Confused look overcomes my fantastic face. “Yeah, I started www.dollarhotdogs.com just now. It’s going to be amazing. I’m going to sell hot dogs, made to order for a buck.”

Back in my office a while later, I browse to the site and sure enough. He’s selling hot dogs for a buck. It’s kinda cleaver, I must admit, but will he really put his money where his mouth is. Will he really deliver a made to order hot dog via mail?

I placed my order. It was $1.00 + .80 for shipping and handling. I walked in this past week, to a special delivery. I actually received my dollar dog!

I wish you could see the postage stamp, it cost him $1.83 alone for the stamp. $2.00 for the box and we haven’t even factored in the cost of the hot dog! Needless to say, I’m NOT going to eat it. I give it an A for effort, but I don’t think he’s making a million on this one.

From Phoenix with Love

Thinking about the people I love and doing thoughtful things don’t usually line up in my life. I buy cards for almost every significant event, compose a thoughtful message and never get the cards in the mail. I can’t even think of a good excuse why I don’t. I have stamps, my office is across the street from a post office, I just can’t seem to make the two actions connect.

BUT, this year, HA! I actually executed on something semi thoughtful. I made stationary.

It was a little scary wondering through the craft store. I was embarrassed. I needed a glue gun. The minute I asked some glitter-bedazzler-sewing maven for a glue gun, they would know I was a novice. They might, even point and laugh at me.

So, trudging through the store, I finally found the cutest little glue gun you’ve ever seen. I fought through the stamp isle (more on crazy scrapbookers later) and found some pretty ribbon. 19 hours later, I had a finished product, ready for delivery.

HAPPY VALENTINES DAY Y’ALL!

Everyday recycling…More you can do

I take out the trash less.  That’s one of the BIG benefits since I started recycling paper products and cans at home.  The City of Phoenix dropped off my new blue recycling bin and I’ve been filling it with joy.

Who knew it, taking out the trash can be fun. Once you start recycling, you start to see all sorts of opportunities to reduce, reuse and recycle.  I’m saving all my dry cleaner hangers and taking them back about once a month.  We go through about 75 hangers a month (a clear indication I don’t iron).

Krista at work, who’s a very seasoned environmentalist, started a can counter web site. Over the past year, she’s trained an entire wing of the office to drop cans off at her desk, and she take them home to recycle.  Since, we work in technology, you can imagine the amount of a caffeine consumption over there. You can visit her at KristaRecyles.com.

This morning, I saw a story on the news where you can remove your name from direct marketing mailing lists.  Looking at how much junk mail I toss in the recycle bin, I thought it would be worth a shot.  It’s only a buck and hey, if it works, then all the better.  Check out the web site for the Direct Marketing Association. Tired of getting all those credit card offers, call 1-888-5OPT-OUT.  I’ll keep you posted.

Vegan with a Vengeance Chocolate Cupcakes

Curious. That’s what I was when I saw a recipe for Vegan Cupcakes. I’m not a vegetarian or a vegan, and I was curious about what goes into a cupcake without milk, butter and oil.

My shopping spree took me to the most Hippy store I know, Sprouts. I love going to there, shopping while sipping on free coffee samples and listening to “At the car wash.”

I’ll tell you, this experiment made me more conscience about what I’m cooking with.  My final verdict is that I’m glad I learned something new, but no lifestyle changes for me. I am going to try to make a soy latte with some of the new ingredients sitting my kitchen.

On a side note, I did have this vegan cupcake with a big glass of milk. I know, it defeats the purpose, but come on, can you really have a cupcake without milk?

Devil’s Food Vegan Cupcakes

Adapted from “Vegan With a Vengeance,” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz (Marlowe, 2005)

Time: 1 hour 45 minutes

FOR THE CUPCAKES:
Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
3 tablespoons black cocoa powder (see note) or more Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain soy milk
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

FOR THE FILLING:
1/3 cup nonhydrogenated margarine, such as Earthbalance
1/3 cup nonhydrogenated shortening
21/2 to 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the chocolate icing:
1/3 cup plain soy milk
4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup or confectioners’ sugar

FOR THE ROYAL ICING:
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons plain soy milk.
1. For the cupcakes: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-muffin pan with paper liners, and spray lightly with nonstick spray. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a mixer, combine the soy milk, oil, syrup, sugar, vinegar and vanilla. Mix at medium speed for 2 minutes. Add half the dry ingredients and mix to blend. Add remaining dry ingredients and mix for 1 minute.
2. Use a standard ice cream scoop to fill cupcake liners 3/4 full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Turn out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
3. For the filling: In a mixer, beat margarine and shortening until combined. Add 21/2 cups confectioners’ sugar and beat until very fluffy, about 10 minutes. Taste for sweetness and add remaining 1/2 cup sugar if desired. Add vanilla and beat for 1 minute more.
4. For the chocolate icing: In a small skillet, bring soy milk to a simmer. Reduce heat to very low and stir in the chocolate and maple syrup, stirring until just melted. Turn off heat.
5. For the royal icing: Using an electric mixer or by hand, sift sugar into a bowl and add 1 tablespoon soy milk. Mix, adding up to 1 more tablespoon soy milk until consistency is like stiff toothpaste.
6. To assemble: Prepare two pastry bags, one fitted with a large plain tip, and one with a small writing tip. Fill large-tipped bag with filling, and the small-tipped bag with royal icing. (Instead of pastry bags, thick resealable plastic bags may be used. For filling, cut off one corner of bag so the opening measures a scant 1/2 inch across. For icing, opening should be just large enough to pipe a thin line.)
7. Using your pinkie, poke a hole in center of each cupcake top about an inch deep. Push tip of pastry bag with filling into each hole, firmly squeezing in filling and slowly drawing tip up and out. When all cakes have been filled, wipe off any excess that sticks out from holes; tops of cupcakes should be flat.
8. Place cupcakes on a baking sheet or tray that fits in refrigerator. Rewarm pan of chocolate icing over low heat if necessary, stirring constantly. Dip top of each cupcake into icing, swirling to coat completely. When all cupcakes are dipped, refrigerate 10 to 15 minutes to set. When set, use royal icing to make squiggles across center of each cupcake. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve, up to 1 day.
Yield: 12 cupcakes.