The most recent issue of Better Homes and Gardens helped me form my goal for the new year. And, no, it’s not to get into Better Homes and Gardens even if getting a one page feature in the magazine is a little lifetime dream of mine. This goal is more attainable. I want to try one new endeavor or finish one project each week and then, lucky blog readers, blog about it. I’m keeping the parameters purposefully broad to allow for some flexibility. If I get the bottom hems of my otherwise assembled curtains sewn and get them hung, I win for the week. If I try a new smoothie recipe, provide a link on my blog, and say “Yum, that was delicious,” I win for the week. I’m even going to allow the exploration of a new place to count though trying a new dish at a familiar restaurant will not count. (I have to keep myself from getting too lenient on myself.)
Why did I pick this goal? Well, it should force me to do at least one blog post a week, which will in turn eliminate those mid-semester months when my blog languishes in cyberspace. But, more importantly, I’ve noticed that whenever I get busy, the activities that I seek out to recharge are the ones that tap my creative nature. I suspect I’ll feel like I’m leading a more balanced life in 2013 if I’m more disciplined about creativity.
This week, I’m working on starting to pull together the syllabus schedule for the new course that I’ll start teaching in two weeks, but since that process at this point doesn’t make for particularly interesting blog fodder unless you care that the goal for today is to read a 257 page book in its entirety, I’ll share some recipes that made their debut at my small, very quiet New Year’s affair — oh, and I’ll catch you up on the newbies that I promised in the last post as well.
Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes
These cupcakes looked so great in the picture on the inspiration blog that I had to try them out for the Christmas party. But, I think they were cursed from the beginning. Anyone watching me make them would have thought I’d never baked anything from scratch prior to this attempt, which, despite my addiction to box mixes of brownies, is simply not true. I missed out on the fact that my butter needed to be room temperature and that I needed strong brewed coffee while incorporating all the ingredients, so I wound up frantically scrambling to put butter on the warm range surface to expedite its warming and grind espresso beans that I forgot I had in the freezer. As if that wasn’t enough, my canisters must be getting old. I used to nearly punch myself in the face every time I opened them because the seals took so much effort to break. Not so this time. I picked up the sugar container by the lid only to have the lid pop off and spill a mountain of sugar all over the counter. I’m fairly certain the dog licked about 1/4 cup of sugar off the floor. I wound up icing these cupcakes in burgundy instead of red since after I pulled the red coloring gel out of my cake box, it disappeared (and I still really, really hope I find that container before the dog does). And, for some bizarre reason, the red stripes melted off the peppermints that I stuck on top of the cupcakes. I’d like to say though that I don’t blame any of this on the recipe. The cupcakes were amazingly moist when I first pulled them out of the oven. I just think this recipe isn’t for the faint of heart and perhaps was a wee bit of a stretch outside my baking comfort zone.
Bonus: I looked up a method to prevent cakes from drying out since that seems to be a persistent problem of mine, and I now have the motivation to try all the espresso desserts I have saved since that darn bottle of espresso powder cost me $11 at Williams Sonoma.
My dad grew up around this amazing bakery called the Saxonburg bakery, and they made amazing maple rolls. The bakery has shut down, but my family and I have a ridiculous craving for those maple rolls. So, I’m on a quest to try every maple glaze and icing on the planet until I find one that replicates the one from Saxonburg bakery (or until someone in possession of the recipe sends it to me). I started the quest by using the maple glaze at this blog. Don’t get all impressed and think I made the Better than Starbucks Maple Scones as well because I cheated and put the icing on canned cinnamon rolls. It wasn’t the bakery’s glaze, but it still was delicious. My family all gave it two thumbs up and said they’d welcome the chance to have it again. Too bad there are probably at least 100 other maple glaze recipes that we might have to wade through…
Ok, this recipe for breakfast pizza is ridiculously easy, but it’s a good idea to have on hand if you get the breakfast blahs. And, we all know that a good breakfast recipe is either easy or can be made the night before. Seriously, who wants to roll right out of bed to start cooking. Not this girl. I like getting recipes from blogs because I can tell where I might mess up or get additional ideas to embellish the recipe. In this case, I decided to borrow the idea of using sausage gravy for the sauce of this pizza. Who has two thumbs and made the sausage gravy from scratch? This girl (but I made it the night before, of course). I wound up with the pizza crust, a layer of sausage gravy, a layer of cheese, 5-6 scrambled eggs sprinkled with reserved sausage crumbles, and then more cheese. Yum. It was yum the first time, yum when I ate it for leftovers this morning, and I’m guessing it will be yum when I eat it for leftovers tomorrow.
Oh boy, I still have 3 unrevealed recipes, but this post is getting long. I’ll save them for another day, but if you’ve read this far, I’ll reward you with our family’s punch recipe. We give it freely to those who ask, and I did find out it had been published in a church fundraiser cookbook, so I guess I can spread it to the blogosphere without having someone from the family hunt me down to pluck out my fingernails one at a time.
New Year’s Punch
2 cups cranberry juice
2 cups pineapple juice
3/4 cups sugar
1 tsp almond extract
1 qt. ginger ale (4 cups)
Mix together the ingredients and stir well to make sure the sugar gets dissolved. Add ice.
If you’re making it ahead, it’s ok to mix together everything sans the ginger ale. Add that and ice at the last moment and give it one last stir.
I think if you double the recipe, you can squeeze it into a one gallon pitcher if you stir very, very carefully. But, really, you ought to just drag out your punch bowl and triple or quadruple this recipe because the punch will go fast.