If you would have asked me a year ago about buying something vs. making something from scratch, I probably would have looked at you with crazy eyes. I never made things from scratch. It just wasn’t my thing. Too time-consuming, too frustrating, too much effort.
Now, I like to try and make everything from scratch. Sure, I take a shortcut or two here and there. And there are still many things that allude me (French macarons, for example). But I want to at least attempt making something at home before I go buy it. Most of the time, the taste is better than store-bought anyway.
Take these donut holes, for example. It took a little time to master. When a recipe tells you to heat the oil to a certain temperature, do it. Do not go over or else you end up with burnt outsides and undercooked insides. But once you get the hang of these babies, you’ll never buy another donut hole. You can coat them in whatever you want, dunk them in whatever you want and sprinkle them with whatever you want. Get creative!
I was breezing through the Biggest Loser Family Cookbook the other day when I read something really interesting.
“Create meals around your favorite vegetables. There is nothing worse then resenting the choice to eat healthy.”
It’s so true. I try to force myself to eat tomatoes in salad. Or peas. They are just gross. Sorry. But this statement is so true. If I try to force myself to eat salads for lunch, I’m only going to end up grumpy and pissed off at salad. So instead, I’m looking into the veggies I love and seeing which ones are great. Butternut squash and sweet potatoes and green beans. I never used to be a green bean fan but now that I know how to prepare them in a way I like, I could eat them every day.
People of Earth, I want to make an announcement. In case you’re not hip to the holidays, Thanksgiving is very, very rapidly approaching. If you haven’t already made your plans and finalized your menus, this is your warning. Do it now. Shop when you can. Avoid the crowds. Conserve your energy for the big Black Friday shopping/decorating bonanza.
Part of being prepared for the biggest food holiday of the year is deciding where you will go and who will be there. If you are heading to your mom’s, bring a pie. If you are hosting, bust out your big kid pants and buckle down because you are in for a lot of work. Don’t stress, please. Cooking for holidays is fun! I promise. You just need to maintain some serious organization. Start with your menu.
Menu planning is probably the best tool in any arsenal. Once we started deciding in advance what to eat for dinner during the week, our lives got a lot less hectic and harried. It is essential for any holiday feast. Try to balance out your menu with yummy but light appetizers, delicious sides that can also make great leftover meals and tasty but not overly sweet desserts. We are sharing our Turkey Day menu here, feel free to share yours too! We can inspire each other!
– Fancy deviled eggs with crumbled bacon and herb and garlic goat cheese truffles.
– Sweet Tea brined turkey breast
– Maple whipped sweet potatoes, buttermilk mashed potatoes, roasted carrots, creamy corn, stove top mac and cheese, rosemary and black pepper biscuits
If I’ve learned anything about icing and cake/cupcake decorating over the past few years, it is this: patience is everything. For me, that doesn’t always work. I have zero patience. I want things now. That typically ends in trouble. But I’ve learned to exercise a little restraint when it comes to baking. I got tired of failure after abysmal failure and just gave in to waiting.
It is majorly important to let anything you are baking cool completely before you ice it. Truly, it is. Even though you want to see how pretty those cupcakes will look once you pretty a fancy flower on. Trust me. Just wait it out. Go for a jog. Put on an episode or two of Top Model. Start reading a little bit of the new Sophie Kinsella book you’ve been dying to get your hands on. Get about 3 chapters in. Then go back and ice.
The icing I used for this cake is a chocolate malt buttercream. I went that direction after Brian confessed to me that he loved Whoppers. What kind of person chooses Whoppers over Snickers? Brian, apparently. I didn’t want to overload with malt flavor so I used a classic vanilla cake recipe of my mom’s (I’ll share it another time, promise). The thick, chocolatey malt buttercream offsets the vanilla cake perfectly. It’s sort of that best of both worlds idea.
Note, when icing a cake or cupcakes, beware of consistency. This is another issue I always have. I add too much cream and end up with runny icing. Then try to balance it by adding more confectioner’s sugar and it ends up just bad. Add the cream or milk ever so slowly. Mix it in really, really well before you add any more. I find that icing works best when it maintains a bit of shape but isn’t too thick or hard. If I can squeeze it out of my piping bag but it doesn’t run everywhere and lose the flower shape I piped out, then it’s perfecto.
Try to resist the urge to get a spoon and eat this. It’s wildly addicting.
1. Most root beer sodas are caffeine free which is great if caffeine causes you to get immense headaches or kidney stones. This doesn’t necessarily apply to me but it is definitely nice to have options.
2. It’s got such a different flavor than other sodas. An almost refreshing, spicy sort of flavor. Not your standard cola.
3. Its’ flavor is concentrated into my most favorite candy, root beer barrels. Try them. Now. Your life will be forever changed.
4. It goes great with sweets. Especially vanilla ice cream. Or cake. Or cake with vanilla icing. Oh yes.
When I get in a baking mood (and that doesn’t happen as often as you’d think), I try to make something appealing for everyone in the house. Only because I know that eating an entire batch of cupcakes by myself would make my gut too big to fit into my cute jeans. These popped up on my list a few weeks ago when I realized I had cute cupcake wrappers, root beer extract and old fashioned root beer candies for garnish.
The end result was great. The cake is moist and tasty with a nice punch of root beer flavor. And when combined with the vanilla buttercream, it tastes like a pastry version of my most favorite ice cream treat. I’m thinking these would be a really fun twist for an ice cream social party (which I will so be having when spring or summer rolls itself around again!).