Thursday, September 29, 2011

The One With Olivia in the Tub

Olivia in the Tub

Actually, she's in a sink. But it's still cute.
Sorry folks, not a lot else going on around here. We've had some sick babies and a lot of projects to do lately. My Etsy shop got cleared out last week, which is great, but also means I need to spend some quality time re-stocking it, as well as preparing for the season's craft fairs and bazaars. So it might be a little quiet here on the blog for a bit. I'll try to show you sneak peaks and fun pics as they come up.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The One On Jaci's Birthday

Happy Birthday to my amazing little sister, Jaci. (She's the one in the middle, holding Ellie). You have grown and changed so much this year and watching you go off to college makes me feel old, but also excited for all your adventures. Love you so much!

Monday, September 26, 2011

The One With the Specimen Art

I know Mallory has had her eye on some art similar to this for a while, so I thought I'd make her one for her birthday to go with this print I had picked out a while back.
I love the texture of using a shadow box frame to create some dimension. It is so simple, yet more interesting.
And I don't really have much to say about this except that it is pretty and I really liked how it turned out. I think I will make a few more similar to this and maybe a few Christmas-themed ones to sell at some upcoming craft fairs and bazaars.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Speechless Sunday

I would love to have an excuse to have this dress in my closet. Via

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The One on Georgia's Birthday

Happy Birthday to my wonderfully talented, beautiful superstar little sister, Georgia. 
Can't wait to see what this year brings you! Love you!

Friday, September 23, 2011

The One With the Portland Photo Safari

Apparently, this whole week is birthday-related posts. On Monday, I'll share a present I made for Mallory but today I want to share a present someone else gave her. Mallory's mom bought both of us spots on Jennifer Costello's Portland Photo Safari with a deal from Livingsocial. It was so much fun!

Jennifer is a local photographer who teaches these photo safaris every week to help budding/aspiring photographers. She begins with a lesson on how to use your camera and offers tips on posing, lighting, etc. After the lesson we all walked around downtown to take pictures and practice using the techniques she had just taught us. She gave us assignments with things to try and capture and then answered any questions we might have had.

Now I don't really consider myself very good at still life photography (pictures of things). I'd much rather capture people or events. But it was still good practice and I was pretty happy with some of the pictures I came away with and super excited about the things I learned and want to put into more practice.

So far as a photographer I have been having to rely a lot on Photoshop to fix what I can't control in my picture-taking. I know this is a really bad thing to do, so I was really relieved that Jennifer helped me learn to control the actual picture instead of relying on Photoshop to fix it. All of these images are SOOC (straight out of camera), except that I sharpened them and downsized them for optimal viewing on this post:

My safari buddy, Mallory!
Getting a new angle: ordinary objects
become much more interesting
when you take a different perspective
Capturing texture: Leaves in the grass. I was
almost laying on the ground to get this shot.
Capturing highlights on a water fountain
Working with white balance: detail of the fountain statue
Not getting the white balance quite right, but I still like this shot.
Playing with depth of field: Flowers
Capturing texture and pattern
So are these the world's greatest shots? Certainly not. But I did think some of them turned out kind of cool. And I'm looking forward to getting more practice! 

P.S. See Mallory's pictures from the day here

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The One With the Tortellini Broccoli Salad and Bruschetta

Even more party food recipes!
On the menu last Sunday we had Tortellini and Broccoli Salad and Bruschetta - two of my favorite party foods. Pretty simple and pretty delicious.

This recipe is party-sized, so if you're making it for dinner, halve it!
For the Tortellini Broccoli Salad:
  • 2 bags frozen tortellini (19 oz. each)
  • 4-6 cups broccoli florets (depending on how much you like broccoli)
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 2 tsp chopped chives
  • 1 pound bacon, cooked and cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  •  Coleslaw dressing
Prep the salad: Cook the tortellini, drain and set to cool.  Cut broccoli into bit-sized pieces. Cook and chop up bacon. Mix all ingredients together and toss with the coleslaw dressing. I like to make it pretty moist, but this part is up to you. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour so that the salad soaks up all the flavor.

Tip for preparing ahead of time: Cook  and cut up the bacon and the broccoli the night before. Do not cook the tortellini until the day of the party and then combine all ingredients just a few hours (at most) before the party.

Bruschetta is one of my favorite appetizers and it is so easy!
For a small gathering I will do just one baguette and for a party I'll use two. Again, the recipe listed below is party-sized.
For the bruschetta:
  • 2 baguettes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbls lemon juice
  • 3 cups diced roma tomatoes
  • 1 cup diced red onion
  • 2 Tbls basil
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Combine the oil, lemon juice, tomatoes, onion, basil, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix together well. I like to make this either the day before or at least a few hours before so that all the flavors mix together really well. Right before serving time, cut the baguette into thin slices and broil until lightly toasted. Spoon the mixture onto the toasted slices and serve with a smile. :-)

As a side note: the other salads featured where a Caesar salad and a pasta salad. I just make up the ingredient amounts as I go, but for the Caesar I use chicken grilled with garlic salt and oil, lettuce, parmesan, croutons and, of course, Caesar dressing. The pasta salad is a recipe from Mallory and just uses the pasta of your choice, tomatoes, red onion, olives, cucumbers, feta cheese, diced salami and Italian dressing in the quantities you desire.

This pretty much ends the food-related birthday posts. And just in case you think I'm a one-woman show, I'd like to take this moment to say a HUGE thank you to Allison, Mallory and my mom for all of their help in the kitchen. And a big thanks to Steve for entertaining babies, too. I love you all!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The One With the Bacon-Wrapped Potato Bites

In preparation for the birthday party last weekend, I went through my pins on Pinterest to see what yummy ideas were just waiting there to be tested. I saw bacon-wrapped potato bites and knew they were birthday-party worthy.

My pin took me here where I found that the recipe is really pretty straight-forward and simple. For the party I used three pounds of bacon and probably eight potatoes (about 3 pounds). Here's what you do:
Preheat oven to 400.
Wash your potatoes and cut them into 1-inch pieces. All your pieces should be roughly the same size. Put them in a pot of cold water and bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Once they have started boiling, watch them carefully and check them often. They are done when you can easily insert a fork into them. Be carefully that they aren't too soft or it will be hard to wrap them. Drain and set aside to cool. 
Prepare the dressing:
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbls rosemary
  • Garlic salt 
  • Pepper
Mix the olive oil and rosemary and add the garlic salt and pepper to taste. Toss the potatoes in this dressing to coat them well.

Cut strips of bacon in half. Wrap a half-strip around each potato piece and use a toothpick to secure. Lay your pieces on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes or so. Once they are crisped up on side one, turn them over and bake for another 15 minutes on the other side.

The recipe linked above has a spicy sour cream dipping sauce but I opted for a fry-sauce type with mayo, ketchup and honey dijon mustard. Really this is a basic (but delicious) potato-bacon combo, so you could make any sauce you want. They're even really good all by themselves.

If you are making these for a party and want to prepare ahead of time, you can cook and wrap the potatoes the night before and store them in aluminum foil in the fridge overnight, putting them in the oven a few hours before the party starts. :-)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The One With the Strawberry Lemonade Cake

In a desperate attempt to hold on to the fading rays of summer, and at Mallory's request, I made Strawberry Lemonade Cake for Ellie and Mallory's birthday party last weekend.
I was so busy getting everything ready and then it was consumed so quickly that this is literally the only real picture I got:

Yep. Pretty lame. Or pretty awesome if you consider that this was the only piece left after the party. Not too bad, if I do say so myself.

Anyway, the recipe was mostly inspired by Mallory's Lemon Poppyseed Cupcakes with Strawberry Buttercream Frosting. I just turned it into cake form and dubbed it "Strawberry Lemonade Cake" because 1) strawberry lemonade is one of my favorite things in the whole wide world and 2) it's a little easier to say.

You know I love dressed up cake mixes because they save me time, so I found this recipe for a lemon poppyseed cake and adapted it a little. And I modified Mallory's Strawberry Buttercream recipe per her suggestion. Here's how it goes:

Preheat oven to 350. Prep pans. (Here's how, if you need to know.)

For the Lemonade Cake:
  • 1 18 oz Yellow Cake Mix
  • 1 3.4 oz Instant Lemon Pudding Mix
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon poppyseed filing
Combine cake mix and dry pudding mix. Add water and vegetable oil and blend. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add poppyseed filling and stir to incorporate. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a fork or toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

While the cake is baking and cooling, prepare the

Strawberry Buttercream Frosting:
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3 3/4 cups powdered sugar (1 pound)
  • 1 cup pureed strawberries
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Use a food processor to puree strawberries. Blend butter and powdered sugar. Do not be alarmed if your mixture is not creamy, it doesn't have nearly enough liquid yet. Add your pureed strawberries and blend well. Add vanilla and mix on low for one minute.

If you don't want to have such a strong strawberry flavor you can use less of the pureed strawberries. If you're unsure, mix in a little at a time until you have the flavor you want. If you use less you will probably need to add milk or water by the tablespoon to make your frosting thin enough to spread easily on your cake. If your frosting gets too runny, you can always add more powdered sugar to thicken it up (although you will need a lot more powdered sugar to thicken it then you will need milk or water to thin it out).

Once your cake has cooled completely, spread the frosting in the middle layer and on top. Keep refrigerated until serving time!

Monday, September 19, 2011

The One With the Birthday Party

Yesterday we celebrated Ellie's second birthday and Mallory's twenty-fourth birthday with a little party.
I used the same banners I made last year for Ellie's party and went with a pink and yellow theme. My mom came and made the flower arrangements (which I loved). And we had some pretty yummy food. (This isn't even all of it - this is just what was set out when I snapped a few hurried pictures before having to rush back into the kitchen to finish prepping.)

I made some of my favorite recipes and tried a few new ones which I'll be sharing over the next week. The menu included bruschetta, chicken caesar salad, a tortellini and brocolli salad, pasta salad with Italian dressing, bacon-wrapped potato bites, clementines (Ellie's favorite food) and saltwater taffy (one of Mallory's faves). And we had three cakes: a chocolate with chocolate buttercream (you can find the recipe for the frosting on this cake recipe), a pink almond party cake and a strawberry lemonade cake. Apparently everyone enjoyed the fare... there were only crumbs left over.

It was a fun little party. We had a photo booth so that guests could take pictures and write notes for the birthday girls. I will someday be assembling them into little albums and will show you the final product. Over the next few days I'll share some of the recipes I used since I pretty much use Ellie's birthday parties to show off my all time favorite foods - which have so far proven to be great crowd pleasers.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Speechless Sunday

Celebrating the birth of two of my very favorite people today with a little party!

Love you both. So. Much.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The One With the Instagram Weekend Recap

To go with the post below... here are some of my Instagrams from last weekend.
Carrying two babies around all the time means less arms for carrying around expensive cameras. Enter the iPhone... a pocket solution that allows me to capture a few special moments even if it's not in the preferred form. I like the graininess and the crapiness that is inherent in Instagram photos... it lets me just enjoy the picture and not it's technical merits.
Anyway... Thursday was spent exploring downtown with Brynn and the babies. And Friday through Sunday was spent in Seaside with the Waters' family (photos in the post below).
If you want to follow me on Instagram, my username is michelle_loves. Find me and I'll follow you back!

Friday, September 16, 2011

The One With the Waters Family Vacation

Last weekend we headed to the coast with Steve's family for a little vacation. We also had the brilliant idea of taking a family picture. Brilliant might not be the best description of our idea for the following reasons: a) we had five babies under two years old to try and have dressed, fed and awake, b) not everyone was there (sorry, Val), or c) some people had to leave early (Kev) and d) everyone was supposed to be ready by ten to take the pictures but there were only two bathrooms and ten adults and five kids. So yeah, we might not have thought that one all the way through. But we did come away with this picture:
It's Christmas card worthy, I suppose. But babies were falling asleep or extremely cranky and it was high noon by the time we shot this... so yeah.. think blindingly bright and screamy (per the babies). O yeah, and I don't have a tripod for my camera so I used a telescope tripod and secured my camera to it with hair ties. I'm awesome like that.

Anyway, there were some other good things that happened...

The babies loved the sand.
I love this picture. This captures exactly how Cyril walks around all the time. And I love
the sand flying out of his crocs.
And the dads (and grandpa) carried the cranky babies to the beach for picture time the next day.
And I squeezed in a few individual family portraits on that very bright day (hence all the squinting).
So the lesson here is: if you're going to take family pictures make sure you are staying in a place with enough bathrooms that everyone can get ready on time. Then the babies will still be happy at picture time. Also, avoid taking pictures when it is so bright no one can look at the camera. :-)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The One With Ellie's Second Year in Review

Tomorrow my baby girl is going to be two years old. Two. Years. Old. I can't believe it. Oddly enough, it's not hard to believe that she's that old. It's actually weird to think she's that young. Being Ellie's mom has changed my life so completely that is hard for me to even remember what life was like without her. It has been such an adventure. And it continues to be more and more fun as she grows. I love watching her learn and explore and become a person all her own.  A person who can't go anywhere without her blankie. Who loves airplanes and watching squirrels play in trees. Who loves Nama and Papa and the beach. Who scribbles all over the patio with her chalk and cries her eyes out if she can't take a book to bed. Who needs lots of napkins to get through a meal. Who just loves her baby sister and is always trying to comfort her and keep her happy. Who gives nose snuggles. Who just discovered "gross" and "ick". Who loves her daddy so very much. Who likes to cuddle with me even when she's mad. Who wakes up singing every morning.

Gosh, I love her so much.

So to commemorate her second year, I thought I'd share some of my favorite pictures since her first birthday. (You may have already seen these, but here they are again. Deal with it.)

On her birthday with her favorite birthday buddy, Aunt Mallory. They were both born on
September 15th, just 22 years apart.

At her first birthday party. She didn't at first know how to attack the cake, but eventually
she figured it out.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The One With the S'mores Cupcakes

I love s'mores and everything having to do with them. So when I opened up my most recent issue of Cuisine at Home, I was super excited to see the S'mores Cupcakes recipe and couldn't wait to give it a try. I thought our family vacation to Seaside would be a great opportunity.

These cupcakes are delicious and messy, true to their inspiration: the original s'more.  They are made of graham cupcakes, a chocolate ganache, and topped with marshmallow cream.

I slightly varied the recipe I found there and here's my version: 

To make the graham cupcakes:
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered graham cracker crumbs (about 12 whole graham crackers)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter (12 tablespoons) - at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs - at room temperature
  • 1/2 Tbls. water
  • 1/2 Tbls, vanilla
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk*
Prepare cupcake pans with liners.

To make the powdered graham cracker crumbs, all you need to do is break the graham crackers (I do six at a time) into a Ziploc bag. Use a heavy rolling pin to crush the crackers. You'll want to shake up and re-roll the crumbs several times to get them to a powder consistency (as opposed to sandy, like you would use for a graham cracker crust). Or, you could use a food processor to powder the graham crackers. Save any extra crumbs for garnish.
Whisk together the graham cracker powder, flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in water and vanilla. Alternately add graham mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the graham mixture.
Fill each cupcake liner 2/3 full of batter. Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes.

*I used a powdered buttermilk blend. I added the required amount of powdered buttermilk to the dry ingredients and added the 1/2 cup water alternately with the graham mixture. 

Meanwhile, make the chocolate ganache:
  • 1 1/3 cups milk chocolate chips (8 ounces)
  • 2/3 cups heavy cream
  • 4 tsp. light corn syrup
Place the chocolate chips in a heat-safe bowl. In a 1 qt. pan over medium heat, stir together the corn syrup and heavy cream and bring to a simmer. Pour over the chocolate chips and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Whisk mixture until chocolate is smooth. Refrigerate for an hour or so to let it thicken up into a spreadable consistency.

Assemble the cupcakes: spread the chocolate ganache over the graham cupcakes and top with a dollop of marshmallow cream. I didn't have a kitchen torch to lightly roast the marshmallow cream, so I placed my cupcakes under the broiler for a few minutes (watch them very carefully if you do this). Of course, it also melted my ganache. It was still delectable, but I really do wish I had a kitchen torch so my ganache could have stayed a little more intact.

I think next time I'd like to attempt these cupcakes with a dollop of marshmallow cream surrounded by my mother's go-to chocolate buttercream (you can find a recipe here). That just sounds yummy.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The One With the Baking Tips and References

I know lots of people have questions regarding measurement conversions and tips on little baking tricks and I thought I'd compile a list of the ones I use most often. I plan on adding to this whenever I think of something else, so feel free to ask questions if you have any.

Terms and Methods
You may see some terms in recipes that you are unfamiliar with but are used often and without explanation. As I think of them I will try to list them below.

Folding: is a technique used for mixing ingredients when you want to keep as much air and substance in your mixtures as possible. Use a wooden spoon or a spatula to lift the batter in a cranky motion. Use slow, steady movements so as to combine your mixtures without overworking and flattening them.

Double boiler: is a method of heating used for delicate ingredients, especially chocolate. To make a double boiler, fill one larger pot about half-way with water and set a smaller pot or a heat-proof glass bowl (like Pyrex) in it. The important thing about this method is to make sure that the water will not spill into whatever you are cooking in the top of your double boiler, so don't fill up the bottom pot with too much water, or use too small of a top pot. Make sure the top pot has a handle you can use to lift it out of the water. While cooking, you will usually want to have the heat up just high enough to make the water simmer, not boil. Boiling is too hard to control and can easily spill water into your mixture, which could ruin it.

Melting chocolate in the microwave: by placing chopped chocolate (or chocolate chips) in a heat-proof, microwave safe bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds. Stir chocolate and replace in microwave for 10 second intervals, stirring between each until chocolate is melted and smooth. Be careful not to overheat, as it can ruin the chocolate.

Measurement Conversions
  • 3 teaspoons are equal to 1 tablespoon
  • 4 tablespoons are equal to 1/4 cup, 16 tablespoons to 1 cup
  • 2 cups is equal to 1 pint, 2 pints to a quart, and 4 quarts to a gallon
When you know these conversions, it is easy to use the information on the back label of an ingredient to find out how much you need with some basic math. Here's an example: If a recipe calls for 8 ounces cream cheese and you have a 32 ounce tub from CostCo which contains 32 servings of 2 tablespoons, then you know that for 32 ounces there are 64 tablespoons and so 8 ounces would be 16 tablespoons, or one cup of cream cheese. I know, it makes you feel like you're in fifth grade again with all these word problems, but knowing your measurement conversions can really come in handy.

Ingredient Conversions
  • 6 oz chopped chocolate is equal to 1 cup chocolate chips
    (For each two ounces of chopped chocolate, use 1/3 cup chocolate chips)
  • 1 stick of butter is equal to 8 oz and 1/2 cup

  • You can substitute all-purpose flour for cake flour by doing this: Measure out a cup of all-purpose flour and then remove 2 tablespoons. What you have left is equivalent to a cup of cake flour. Once you have measured out all the flour you need, use a fork to quickly sift and aerate the flour before incorporating your other ingredients. Using this trick, my cakes have all turned out fine.

Other Ways to Measure
  • The little spoon in your silverware drawer is a teaspoon, if leveled off (like with a liquid). The big spoon is a tablespoon if leveled off. A heaping teaspoon would be about equal to 1 tablespoon. You can use these when cooking, but it is not advised to use a non-standard set of measuring utensils for baking, as they are not exact. 

Tips and Tricks
  • Baking is all about chemistry. It requires exact measurements in order to turn out right. Keep that in mind as you read ingredients and directions on a recipe. Level off your measurements with the straight edge of knife to make them exact. And remember that each step of a recipe is important. 
  • For tips on choosing your cake pans and how to prepare cake pans, click here.
  • For my favorite cake-making supplies, click here.


I'm really not much of a kitchen gadget collector. They take up space and require money I don't have. So I have found a lot of ways to get by without these gadgets and here are a few:
  • Crush the graham crackers for a graham cracker crust without a food processor: Break the graham crackers into a ziplock, gallon-sized bag. Use a heavy rolling pin to crush the graham crackers. You will need to shake and re-roll the graham cracker crumbs to make sure you get all the little pieces smashed down. Your crumbs are ready when they are about the consistency of sand.
    I have also found that Honey Maid's graham crackers are, for some reason, the easiest to crush to crumbs.
  • The chopping knife in your knife set is also an excellent substitute for a food processor. Chop in one direction, from right to left, and then in the perpendicutlar direction, from top to bottom. Rearrange whatever it is that you're chopping and repeat the process until you have pieces of the desired size.
    I use this for chopping candy for toppings and vegetables for cooking and pretty much everything else. Even garlic can be chopped very tiny with a knife if you don't have a garlic press. First, lay the flat side of your knife against a clove of garlic and press down on it with the palm of your hand to break down the clove and disconnect the peel. Remove the peel and chop away.
More to come as I think of things. And especially if you have questions that I can answer. :-)

The One With the Prepared Cake Pans How-To

Ever wondered how to prepare cake pans?

It has come to my attention that I often refer to certain processes like preparing cake pans without really saying how to do them. I sometimes take for granted that my mother taught me how to do these things, so I thought I'd make a little tutorial to show you how, too!

So, here's how to prepare cake pans!

The best way I have found for making sure your cake comes out just about perfectly is to prep your pans with butter, flour and parchment paper. It takes a few extra steps, but always saves a lot of hassle in the end.

First, choose your cake pan.

When it comes to round cakes, there are basically three types of pans. Nowadays, most cake pans are coated with a non-stick surface, but if you have older cake pans they may not be. Either way, you still need to prepare your pans. The three sets below are the ones I use most frequently.

1. 8 inch in diameter by 3 inch in height round, light cake pan: Whenever I use this pan, I just make this one pan, with 3 cups of batter in it. Once it has baked, I use a cake leveler to halve the cake and then frost between the two layers I have created. The straight edges of this cake pan make it the best for small, decorated cakes, like this one.

2. 9 inch round, light, coated non-stick cake pans: These are the two I use most often when I make the basic cakes posted on this blog like the Cherry Coke Chocolate Cake or the Pink Almond Party Cake. The slightly tapered edges are easily covered up by frosting.

3. Tiered round, dark, coated non-stick spring-form pans: I use these whenever I make a three-tiered cake, like the one I made for Ellie's first birthday party. However, dark coated pans tend to bake cakes that have a rounder top, as the dark coating attracts more heat, cooking the outside faster than the inside. This means you end up needing to cut off a lot of cake in order to get a flat surface for frosting. These spring-form pans are easily removed, but are really intended for use with pies, tarts, tortes and ice cream cakes.

So, the best cake pans are light and coated non-stick rounds. But anything you have available will also do the trick.

Now that you've chosen your pans, gather your supplies for preparing them. You will need:
  • Pans, obviously
  • Butter
  • Flour
  • Parchment paper
  • Pencil
  • Scissors

Now you're ready to prepare your pans: 

A. Take your pan and lay it on a piece of parchment paper. Use a pencil to trace around the outside of the pan.

B. Cut inside the line you just drew to create circle of parchment paper that will fit inside the bottom of your cake pan. Set aside.
C. Butter your pans. The easiest way to do this is to use the wrappers for the butter you will use in your cake batter. If you don't have these, you can use a paper towel or a scrap of parchment paper to spread your butter. Use about a 1/2 tablespoon of butter to fully coat your pan, bottom and sides.

D. Flour your pans. Drop a spoonful of flour into the buttered pans and gently shake it around until flour coats the bottom and sides. You will have excess flour, which you should tap out either into your next pan or into a bowl to use in the next step.

E. Now place the parchment paper circle into the bottom of the pan. Butter and flour the parchment paper like you did the entire pan earlier, being sure to tap off all extra flour into another pan or into a bowl to use it in your cake batter. 

And there you have it! Prepared cake pans, ready for your batter. It seems like a long process, but you will get the hang of it pretty quickly. Once you have baked your cake, you will be able to easily flip these over onto a wire rack to have the cakes cool. They will slide right out of the pans and then you can just peel the parchment paper off.

P.S. You can also use wax paper in place of parchment. No need to butter and flour the top of your wax paper (step E), but steps A-D are still important!

Additional tips:
If for some reason you are having difficulty getting your cake out of the pan, let it cool for 15 minutes and then use a plastic knife (not metal, as that will scratch your non-stick coating), to loosen the edges. Flip it over onto a rack or plate and gently shake it to loosen the bottom.

If you'd like to see more cake-making supplies besides the pans listed above, check out this post with my top cake making essentials.

Have any other questions about baking processes I refer to? Feel free to ask! I'd be happy to post a little demo on the how-to.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Streamlining Saturdays: Kitchen Clean Up

I'm one of the messiest cooks in existence. Seriously. I can't seem to adopt that "clean as you go" mentality. This is why most of the cooking happens when Steve is not around - he can't stand how messy I make the kitchen. I try to convince him that you can't be both creative and neat at the same time, but this argument doesn't win him over. Anyway... the moral of this post is that I have been trying to figure out little ways I can make clean up easier after all is said and done.

The main problem of my messy cooking is dirty dishes: dirty bowls and pots and many, many dirty spoons, spatulas and whisks. I'm one of those types who gets out a new spoon every time something needs to be tested for consistency. Or I lose my spoon each time I set it down and before you know it every single spoon in the entire kitchen is used up and I'm still not done making whatever it is that I was making. So, I figured out that using a small glass to hold my utensils keeps them from 1) getting the counter sticky, 2) getting lost. Even if I have to use a few different utensils for the actual creation process, I at least don't end up using 8 spatulas to scrape one pan.

See... so handy. Now I only use one of each. And my favorite part... while cleaning up I can just add water to the glass to make the dish washing much easier when the time comes. :-)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The One With My Grandmother's Wedding

 A few weekends ago we went to my grandmother's wedding in Spokane, Washington. It was a very sweet affair, with a gathering of family and friends. My grandmother's new husband, Bill, is just the sweetest and it is fun to have a whole new family.

Their ceremony was a simple one, with precious vows. My grandmother, Darlene, couldn't even recite them she was so emotional, so the officiant read them for her. There were a lot of tears.

After the ceremony there was a little party. And some dancing.
And some toasting.

As for me, it was great to be with all my sisters and brother. We haven't all been together in a while, and I think this is the first picture of all of us that's been taken in years. I hope we don't go so long before being reunited again...
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