Tag Archives: parties

When Life Hands You Lemons…

I don’t know about you, but usually the advice I get from the rest of that phrase varies between things like “make lemonade”, “throw them back”, or “find someone else who life handed vodka and have a party. Still, no matter what amount of seriousness or humor is thrown in, I still find I can’t stand that phrase.

So why have it as the title for this post? Because I have run out of ideas. Plus today’s recipe has lemons in it.

My best friend and I met up yesterday and over lunch we got to talking about our work. She is a writer/editor who was doing amazing work at the school where she too recently graduated from. We got to talking about writing groups, and how we need to form one along with how to actually go about it, what sort of people, what sort of writing, etc. I thought back to what had been going on in my work-shopping classes at school. We all tended to use the same technique in those classes, which I like to refer to as the ‘Compliment Sandwich’. This occurs when someone is giving their opinion on someone’s work and says “I liked this…..There were some issues in this part….But I really enjoyed this other part here”. Basically it goes Compliment – Constructive Criticism – Compliment. Although this may not get every issue with a piece out in the open right away, it does allow the writer to feel encouraged to continue working on the piece.

That brings us to today’s topic: Motivation and Encouragement.

We all need it in our lives, from friends, from family, from co-workers, from classmates, about our work, our relationships, our choices, our hair color. Outside encouragement helps spur our own motivation and it is something we should remember when people are asking for our advice, our help. If someone comes to you in a time of need, tell them the truth and give them what they need to hear, but don’t discourage them either. Instead, push them to keep going while giving them pointers along the way. It’s a difficult thing to do and I am in no way an example of how to do it but from three years of the ‘Compliment Sandwich’ and the lack of it, I have learned how it can affect people for the better.

For our last class of Poetry Workshop (I am not a poet by any means either, but it is good to expand your horizons. Plus they didn’t offer Advanced Fiction Workshop) we had a little celebration of what we had achieved over the past semester. We celebrated how far each of us had come, how those of us who didn’t write poetry gave it our best effort, how those of us who were seasoned poets learned new techniques, and how we had given each other the criticism that was necessary while also encouraging each other to keep working on every individual piece.

What would a celebration be without cupcakes?! Vanilla Lemon Curd filled cupcakes with Strawberry Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting, to be exact. That’s my ending to the key phrase, “When life hands you lemons….bake with them.”

Vanilla Cupcakes (These are the best ones I have ever made, recipe is certainly a keeper!):

3 eggs
1 cup white granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a muffin tray with paper liners. Then, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
In another bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar until pale. Takes about 5 minutes.
Add in the flour mixture and mix well.
Place the butter and milk in a saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a boil.
Then pour the mixture into the batter and beat well. Add the vanilla extract and mix well.
Scoop the batter into the muffin cups. Bake for 15 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before filling and frosting.

For the Lemon Curd:

I had a lack of time and used store bought which was a huge mistake! Make your own! Use the recipe I used for lime curd here, but use lemon instead.

To fill: with a paring knife or apple corer, take out the middle section of each cupcake. If curd is a consistency that you can use it in a pastry bag, scoop it into a bag and fill the cupcakes that way. If not, just use a spoon to spoon the filling in. If able, replace the topping of the center of the cupcake. Frost when done.

For the Strawberry Frosting:

Typical cream cheese frosting with some fresh strawberries added in. To make the frosting lighter add some whipped cream to it and it will fluff up wonderfully.

Cupcake recipe adapted from: http://shewhobakes.blogspot.com/2010/02/boston-cream-pie-cupcakes.html

Joyeux Anniversaire!

This past week happened to be the Birthday Week of dearest Smidget!

As part of her array of gifts, she was given a classic dessert for her birthday cake as made by Kiwi. Now, I’m not gonna give you the recipe for one simple reason: you should already have it.

Yell and scream all you want. Cry and kick, just please don’t hit the knees, but I’m sure if you go to your cookbook collection you will find that you have the necessary book to make this cake. And if you don’t, get it. Now.

Which classic culinary catalogue did this cake come from? Why, only one of the greatest cookbooks in the world! The one I was able to give to myself as a birthday present! The one that changed the way American women cooked! That’s right: Louisette Bertholle, Simone Beck and Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking!

See? Ya have it, don’t cha?

The cake is Reine de Saba avec Glaçage au Chocola, or for those non-French speakers like me, Chocolate and Almond Cake with Chocolate Icing. I will admit, I used the recipe for the cake, but then made up my own Chocolate Buttercream because I wasn’t energized enough to make Julia’s version. Plus I was getting ready to go to the amazing Sullivan’s Steakhouse with my parents for birthday dinner. Best steak ever. 14 oz, dry aged, New York Strip. With a Roasted Red Pepper Truffle butter. I died.

But I had to come back to life for this:

In case you are thinking to yourself “Scruffs (cause, of course, you call yourself Scruffs), I daresay, I do believe I recognize that delectable delicacy” why then you’d be right! If you recall from that delightful movie Julie and Julia, at one point towards the end both of the ladies are making cakes. They show Julia frosting one and then go back to see what’s going on with Julie. Well, Julie brings out the cake to her husband, begins to slice it, and while she gets her cake server he takes his fork and just digs right in. They end up smearing it all over each other.

This is that cake.  Although that did not happen. Proof, you cry? Here. But if I don’t show up tomorrow morning, you’ll know why. Aka, Smidget will have killed me. And I don’t have a cake to come back to life for this time.

So there you have it. A great cake, for a great Smidget!

And it tasted pretty darn good too!

Also, among the other gifts Smidget got was a small canning pot. Ya know, to can things in. So that should be happening soon, which I believe will prompt this conversation in our house:

In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it…

Happy Easter!

Or for those of you, like  myself, who don’t celebrate Easter, Happy Weekend!

I may be a few days late, but there’s  a good reason for it. One of my staff members celebrated his birthday this Easter so in our staff meeting on Monday we celebrated with cupcakes! I had asked him prior what he preferred and all he said was “Chocolate”. I took that and ran, which not only made me out of breath, but also apparently brought confused looks to my staff member’s faces. Kidding, of course, they totally expected it.

I tried the same book again (what can I say, it’s time to start the search for the perfect recipes and ya gotta start somewhere) that I used for the Cookies and Cream Cupcakes. They had a simple recipe for chocolate cupcakes, which unfortunately burned on the bottom a bit. I think it may have resulted from a mixture of a long baking time (25-30 minutes? really?!) and a poorly functioning oven. However, the cupcakes were still the most moist ones I’ve made from scratch. I topped them off with a chocolate buttercream and little chocolate birds nests with Cadbury chocolate eggs.

I put out 16 for a 12 person staff and after an hour they were all gone, which I think bodes well! Try them out and tell me what you think!


Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream and Chocolate Bird’s Nests
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup milk
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
11.5 oz chocolate chips (one bag) melted and cooled slightly

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 standard muffin cups with paper baking cups.
2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add oil, milk, eggs and vanilla; beat with electric mixer at medium speed 2 minutes or until well blended. Stir in melted chocolate until well blended. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling three-fourths full.
3. Bake 25 to 30 minutes (I found I needed less than 22 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean. Cool cupcakes in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely on wire racks.

For the frosting:
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
1 and 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Pinch of salt
As much chocolate as you want, melted and cooled

1.  Combine cocoa and the boiling water, stirring until cocoa has dissolved.
2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, confectioners’ sugar, and salt until pale and fluffy.
3. Reduce speed to low.
4. Add melted and cooled chocolate, beating until combined and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
5. Beat in the cocoa mixture.
6. Let sit at room temperature while the cupcakes cool.
7. Pipe as desired onto cupcakes (I simply spread the frosting on the cupcakes so it worked with the topper).

For the Birds Nest Topper
1 11.5 oz bag of chocolate chips
1 5 oz can of chow mein noodles
1 bag of Cadbury’s Chocolate Mini Eggs

1. Melt chocolate, add chow mein noodles, stir until all noodles are covered in chocolate.
2. Form small birds nests with chocolate chow mein noodles on wax paper or silicone mats.
3. Top with Cadbury Chocolate Mini Eggs.
4. Put in cool place (even the freezer) to set.
5. Remove from wax paper or silicone mats and place on frosted cupcakes.

Cupcakes Adapted from: Favorite Brand Name’s 100 Best Cupcake Recipes; Frosting Adapted from: The Curvy Carrot; Birds Nests adapted from old Girl Scout activity

Also, as a side note, there is now a page on Facebook for From Tundra to Times Square! Like it to be notified about updates and other fun!

Birthday Blunders…

I have recently been made aware of a terrible situation that is occurring throughout elementary (and even middle, junior high, and high) schools throughout the land. Yes, that’s right, the land.  And this tragic topic is:

Summer Birthday Shunning.

As a summer birthday girl, I personally can relate to the issue at hand. All throughout elementary, middle, and high school there were parties, celebrations, goodies, whathaveyou for the people who had birthdays in their respective months. AKA September babies had a party in September, October babies in October, etc.

There is nothing wrong with celebrating birthdays, nothing at all, they are a reason to let loose and have a bit of fun, but there is just one problem. The summer’s are always overlooked.

Those born in May/June/July are never celebrated within the school year. It sucks. Our lockers are never decorated, our teachers never say “Happy Birthday!”, we never get a little celebration in class, no cake, no candles, nothing. We get to sit on our couches (or at our jobs once we’re old enough) all summer long and celebrate only with those close friends, and our family.

Every fall we get to school and our teachers go “oh, we’ll celebrate our summer birthdays now since we missed them!” and then they don’t. So they say “oops, we’ll celebrate in the spring!” but they forget, and we don’t. And then comes “well we’ll just do it next fall, ok?” but it doesn’t happen. Ever. Not ok.

And so, over this past summer as our staff this year got to talking I realized we have quite a few (aka 3 or 4) summer birthdays on staff. So I mentioned to another of these summer birthdays that we should have a little party! This idea was really enforced when the main office we work for had an August/September birthday party. It had to happen. And so, at our past staff meeting, it did.

And I made cupcakes, naturally.

Fall themed cupcakes for summer birthdays? Why not. It’s almost equinox anyway! Plus who doesn’t LOVE fall?! Absolute favorite season ever.

Now, as per usual in this kitchen and at this school, it’s a box mix for the cakes. Spice cake to be specific.

But the frosting, that I made up. In the kitchen. On the spot. So it was something like 2 8oz packages of cream cheese, two capfulls of lemon extract, some melted butter, and enough powdered sugar to get that consistency you want. So if it’s too thick, more butter, too thin, more sugar. Oh, and orange food coloring. Well, red and yellow to make orange, but you get the point.

It was great, everyone on staff loved them and raved about the frosting. So, hurrah for made up cream cheese frosting! I would suggest making it for any sort of work, or even family, function, it will be the hit of the night! Enjoy!

Also, the little sugar guys are Betty Crocker, I got them from Wal-Mart who is already hitting the fall/Halloween season!

The little Owl is soooooo cute!

Who? Me? Really?