Sunday, August 28, 2011

Edible Scissor Cupcakes

My skinny hairdresser LOVES cupcakes.
Lemon, chocolate, whatever.
Lemonade cupcakes with fresh raspberries
 and raspberry filling are her favorite so far.
But that doesn't keep me from taking another batch
for her to sample with every appointment.
And sometimes in between appointments.
You know, in case she changes her mind.
I didn't take a photo of them before running out the door.
I wanted them to be icy cold when she got them.
A sunny lemon yellow pile of tart frosting topped
with a bright red raspberry and a little straw to
slurp up all the juicy goodness inside.
They truly are juicy.
All the lemonade simple syrup they can hold goes inside.
An old fashioned lemonade tag hanging
on a ribbon completed the tray.
She plays soccer all the time so she can afford the calories.
My own cute little guinea pig.
She's simply adorable. And very sweet.
I made these a while back before she left on a trip to Europe.
 And these when she came back home.
Almond with almond buttercream filling and frosting.
They were garnished with an oval fondant plaque
and topped with edible scissors.
Had lots of fun making these! 
I tried to bring enough for her to share.
So that she wouldn't have to hide them from the other stylists.
Not that she's not a sharing person.
Sometimes I think she'd just like one for now
and maybe one (or six) for later.
I'm not sure how many "enough" is though.
These were all gone before I left.
This week's treat. Maybe her new second favorite?
I'll have to say they were pretty tasty on my taste buds!

Thanks for visiting!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Blackberries Everywhere

According to Martha, blackberries peak in June and July.
Not true this year in the Pacific Northwest.
The  season has just started here and the plump
dark bundles of juicy goodness are now bursting off the vines.

I've missed picking them for the previous two years but decided
to "make hay while the sun shines" or in this case, jam.
The sun has been hiding most of the summer so we've
really been savoring these rare days lately.
Can't believe it's already back to school time!
When the kids were small, we'd take a day trip
 to the mountains in Arizona to pick wild blackberries.
We usually only ended up with a handful
by the time we drove all the way back home.
But we had fond memories and stained lips
and hands to prove we'd been there.
This year my son and I only picked
for about a half hour or so . . .
. . . and got this many.
He thought it was hilarious that I belted my bucket in for the ride home.
Safety first! 
Meanwhile, he kept his cuddled up next to his size 13s on the floor.

We ended up with enough to make a batch of freezer jam and a batch of
syrup with just enough leftover to sprinkle on yogurt or ice cream later.
My husband's grandmother made strawberry freezer jam
every summer and we always looked forward to the fresh bright
 taste and color that remains by not cooking the berries. 
I don't know why I haven't made it before now.
The jam and syrup did not disappoint.
It was all so easy!
First you give them a little bath.
We cut the little cores out of the center.
Pretty sure you could skip this step but it was our first time.
They core strawberries, don't they?
This took more time than picking them.

 Next step is mashing them.
This was our weapon of choice.
The recipe says one layer at a time
but we were impatient.
And cruel. Poor berries. 
Add the sugar. 
 And stir . . .
 . . . and stir some more.
 Dump the Sure-Jell
into the pan with water.
Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
Pour the hot Sure-Jell mixture into
the squished berries and mix it up.
 Ladle the hot jam into containers.
Top with lids and let set for
24 hours before freezing.
Probably the hardest step.
Told you it was easy.
Now on to the syrup . . . 
More boiling and stirring 
High tech stirring!
It really went fast. 
Pour the hot syrup into your container and freeze.
Tastes just like the ones we've bought at the store.
Only better 'cuz you get to lick the spoon.
 This is the recipe we used for the syrup.
And what the tool we used for juicing looks like now.
Just a pretty pink memory.
And here's the recipe for jam in case you get the bug.
Tonight I made strawberry jam as well. In honor of Grandma.

Martha offers tons of recipes for blackberries. You can check them out here.
Happy what's-left-of-summer!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Surprise Baby Shower

This was a dessert table for a surprise baby shower
during our mini family reunion this summer. 
The theme was "Here's the Scoop" with all kinds
of ice cream related items including a build-your-own
sundae bar with WAY too many sprinkle and syrup choices.
I hope to someday learn the lesson about less is more.
"J" and "E" are the first initials of the parents-to-be, my nephew and his wife.
"B" stands for baby but as it turns out, B also stands for boy!
The happy couple later learned that they will
indeed be blessed with an infant of the male persuasion.
Most of the shower guests had already decided that before they made
the trek to the OB/GYN to learn for themselves.
When the votes for favorite nickname were tallied, 
"Scoop" (boy) won out over both "Sprinkles" (girl)
and "Chunky Monkey" for those who couldn't decide.
baby-shower-ice-cream-cone-theme-here's-the-scoop-dessert-table-deborah-stauch The couple decided to surprise the rest of the family with the news
of their pregnancy after the family was all gathered at our home.
So I decided to take it one step further and surprise them
with a shower once they had spilled the beans.
My husband and I had accidentally learned before the rest of the family that they were expecting this long anticipated and much hoped for pregnancy.
Lucky for me!
The fun part was trying to do everything possible ahead of time and then keep it all hidden while they and other family members stayed at our house before the shower.
(Hence the plastic wrap in some of the pre-shower photos.)
As luck would have it, the mom-to-be had to work out of town on the day
of the planned surprise and the dad-to-be drove her. Great plan!
Soon after the breakfast dishes were done and they were out of the house,
we started setting out the fun stuff that had been
neatly tucked into a linen closet behind a purple sheet.
Like something out of the "The Wizard of Oz."
Never look behind the purple curtain!
I worried that the surprise might be ruined if anyone
tried to find an extra towel in that particular closet.
My fears were for naught. Thank goodness.
The grandma-to-be, my dear sister-in-law, helped IMMENSELY. 
Not only with the set up but with countless time
at the sink and stove during our reunion. And ironing the tablecloths.
(thank you, thank you, thank you!)
Not much of a vacation for her.
Hope those pruny dishpan hands have gone back to normal by now!
We took our time and giggled a bit lot
as we were setting out all the tasty tidbits.
Haven't had that much fun preparing mini treats
and putting together a table in a long time!
Among the lineup:
Baby Cones
Mini ice cream cones filled with Oreo Truffle filling
and dipped in candy melts with pastel sprinkles
and customized paper bands.
The one with the green dot was gluten free.
Fruit Loop Kabobs
Fruit Loops on wooden skewers with a bead topper
and a citrus gum drop purchased from Trader Joe's.
I'm glad that Bakerella hadn't posted about her homemade gumdrops at that time or who knows what cute little baby shape might've ended up there instead!
These were Grandma-to-be's favorite.
Candy ducks on white chocolate foam atop Mini Reese's Cups 
floating on glass bubbles in a silver claw footed tub.
Whew! Try saying that three times quickly.
Can you spot it in the photo below all ready for action?
Scallops to match the buntings were cut into
the white paper table coverings later.
Cheesy Alphabet Tiles - aka Scrabble Juniors
Cheez Its filled the paper cones.
Peanut butter filled pretzels and yogurt covered
pretzels in pastels were tucked inside
the scalloped cups and bags.
I tried for some salty with the sweet but sweet won out.
Another gluten free choice.
Cry Baby Gum Balls, Sugar Babies, Milk Duds and
Strawberry Whoppers went along with this corny sign.
What can I say? I'm a cornball. And a mental case.
As further evidenced with these 
"our sweet family" photos.
Hey, the family was all here.
They could've done an intervention.
But they didn't.
And so I'm free to do it again. hee, hee!
Breathe. Nothing planned for the near future.
This was a truly special occasion and I was fortunate to be able to do it.
The family is rarely all together and we haven't had the chance to attend
the showers of some other much loved babies.
So we were blessed with great timing.
And I am thankful.
Pistachio Cream Cupcakes with Sugar Hydrangeas
Sundae Station Toppings
Among the many were Baby Ruth's, Milky Way . . .
Tee Tiny Kisses and
Peas & Carrots for the health minded.
Well, maybe not.
The "veggies" were candies from Jelly Belly.
And on and on.
Too much sugar, too little time.
We decided to do dessert first.
We followed it up with simple hamburgers.
Not shown are the baked beans that were a surprisingly
good and quick substitution to Grandma's recipe.
The line had to be drawn somewhere.
No great photos, no great beans.
Back at the shower . . .
there was also a giant Sugar Daddy for the new father-to-be.
And Pop Rocks hidden inside one of their shower gifts.
We celebrated the announcement to the family the night before the shower
with a toast of icy bottles of Dad's Root Beer and a tray of Mother's Cookies.
Grandma's Cookies and Grandma's Cake Batter Ice Cream
also made an appearance during the shower.
Yeah, I know.
I may have over done the theme just a bit.
Ya think?
Was I supposed to just LEAVE these things at the store?
I ask you.
Jordan Almonds. Good idea for a name?
Probably not for a boy but we were still trying
to remain gender neutral at the time.
Grandpa-in-waiting was represented with a Waffle Cookie Structure since he's a lover of waffles and waffle cookies and is also in the construction industry.
The sundae station also included a half gallon jar of pickles. 
Just in case any one might be craving pickles with their ice cream.
The syrups were all set to go into little glass pitchers
but that plan was ditched in a rare moment of clarity.
The dishwashers may have gone mutinous on me.
I tried to hide some of the gently used dirty dishes back into the
Wizard of Oz closet for later clean up so that we wouldn't spend all
of our quality time at the sink.
They caught me in the act and found most of them anyway.
A little mobile hung from inside the large bell jar.
Leave no surface untouched.
Not such a great motto for the "less is more" approach.
Next time. Maybe.
One of my goals was to make the shower look like it might belong
in an Amy Atlas Events featured submission.
Didn't quite make the cut but I learned a lot in the process.
Like cover the mirror. Use a spot with natural lighting. Scale down the menu. 
Take time to get some good photos after cutting out
all those scalloped signs and cones. : (
I did consider all of these things but didn't want to rearrange furniture while the family was here or try to plan an outdoor event during our very cool and rainy summer.
I have no excuse for the scaling down the menu part. Personality flaw.
Since everything had to be hidden and I wasn't sure how long we'd have for the set up, some of the pictures were taken days before the event so that I could re-assemble the table quickly. Then after everything was set up, the day simply FLEW by getting the rest of the food for dinner ready.
And visiting a tiny bit in the meantime.
Which was the point.
So I completely neglected my photographer
duties before the shower started. Silly girl!
The "day of" photos were taken by family members who
managed to get in a few snaps before the carnage.
My niece's closeups were among the best.
Thanks Jen and the rest of you for capturing the craziness!
And thanks to all of you for pitching in. I couldn't have done it without you.
Hope you enjoy the sugar rush!