4th of July Cupcakes

If you’re looking for a fun and festive idea for your 4th of July dessert, look no farther!

A couple months ago, I started seeing Galaxy Cupcakes with fun hidden surprises inside on my Pinterest feed. I just KNEW I could switch these up a little and turn them into something cute and patriotic.

I cheat a lot when it comes to cupcakes.

I use a boxed cake mix for the cupcakes themselves, then jazz them up with homemade icing. I’ll share my favorite recipe below. ¬†Start by baking a batch of cupcakes. Once those have cooled, use a small circle cookie cutter to make a hole in the center of each cupcake.

Next, fill each hole with star sprinkles!

I found these silver Wilton star sprinkles at my local Michael’s store, but I’m sure you could find them on Amazon, or your favorite craft or baking store.

The last step is to cover the top of each cupcake with icing!

To make these patriotic, I made a double batch of Marshmallow Buttercream Frosting (below). I colored one batch blue and left the other batch white. When you fill the piping bag, try to keep the white icing on one side and the blue on the other. I piped my cupcakes with a large star tip. As you go, the blue and white naturally blend to make these pretty swirls on top.

That’s it! You now have a lovely batch of Star Surprise 4th of July Cupcakes to share!

I hope everyone has a wonderful and safe 4th!

 

Marshmallow Buttercream Frosting


Credit: joyofbaking.com

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 - 7-ounce jar of marshmallow fluff
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Directions

  1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat butter until smooth. Beat in vanilla extract and marshmallow fluff.
  2. With the mixer on a low speed, beat in the sugar. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.
  3. On a high speed, beat the frosting for 3 to 5 minutes, or until it is light and fluffy. Add a little half and half or milk if it is too thick for piping.

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It’s National Donut Day!

I haven’t announced this here yet, but I recently began writing as a contributor for the Omaha Moms Blog. I told literally no one that I’d applied, because I was sure I would never be chosen. It was such a wonderful surprise to receive the e-mail asking me to join the team!

I have a post up this week in honor of National Donut Day…which is today! I had a sweet model to help me get a great pic for the post, so stop by and check out my list of places to find a great donut in Omaha! Leave a comment if you’re feeling really generous. ūüėČ

Blue Apron – Dinner is served!

I feel like I’m pretty late to this party, but we just tried out Blue Apron for the first time last week. Where has this been all my adult life???

When life gets busy, I am notorious for completely foregoing meal planning and grocery shopping. Instead of a big, once-a-week trip, I end up at the store every other day, trying to scramble together enough food to last just a few more days, just until I can sit down and make that list. The last couple of months? I’ve been crazy busy with work. It’s wonderful, but it wreaks havoc on my housewife skills.

Enter Blue Apron. These ads have been popping up on websites that I frequent for a long time now. I’ve made it to the main page before changing my mind on several occasions. I finally decided to bite the bullet and give it a try, because honestly? I wasn’t sure when I’d manage to finally make a grocery list. With Blue Apron, I can choose the meals I want delivered based on my family’s preferences. I can skip a week if we’re not going to need the meals or if we’ll be out of town. And there’s no commitment. I can cancel whenever I want if this isn’t working for us.

I started out with¬†two meals a week, to serve a family of four. If after a few weeks, the kids aren’t eating any of it, I’ll switch to the meals that serve two.

My first box was scheduled to be delivered last Thursday, according to my delivery email. It arrived on Wednesday…while I was on a field trip with my son. Everything¬†comes really well insulated and iced down, but I learned an important lesson. Track the delivery. Don’t rely on the date in the email. If it had been the dead of summer or I’d been gone longer, this might have been a problem.

The first recipe we tried was for Barbacoa Lamb & Beef Tacos, with Roasted Honeynut Squash and Brussels Sprouts. Have you ever seen a honeynut squash? They’re adorable! I never knew there was such a thing. The other important thing to know? You’d better have a lot of prep bowls. I felt like I kept getting out more bowls! There was a lot of chopping involved for this first recipe. It took me longer than the anticipated 15 minutes. I don’t know if “Prep Time: 15 minutes” is printed on every recipe card, but that’s what both of the cards I received this week say. I’m not a professional chef or anything (I know – shocking!), so it takes me…not twice that amount of time, but definitely longer.

I was really impressed with these tacos, though. They even looked (pretty much) like the photo on the recipe card when all was said and done.

Last night, I cooked my second meal – Pan-Seared Chicken with Roasted Fall Vegetables and Butter-Caper Sauce. I did manage the chopping in closer to 15 minutes on this recipe, probably because there weren’t as many squash to peel and chop. Or onions.

Once again, it looks like the picture! I know that’s an odd thing to obsess¬†about. It happens so rarely that I’m really excited to have pulled it off twice in one week!

Overall, I love this service.¬†At least twice a week, I know I’ll have delicious meals that all I have to do is follow instructions, to break up to monotony of cooking the same meals that I know by heart over and over and over… Don’t get me wrong, we obviously love those meals, but it’s nice to try something new every once in a while. This is definitely a game changer.

If anyone is interested in trying out Blue Apron, let me know! I have two free meal offers that I can send to friends. ūüôā

Pumpkins – From the Patch to the Oven (and everything in between)

  1. Find the most sincere pumpkin patch in your area. For us, this was McCall’s Pumpkin Patch in Moriarty, New Mexico.¬†dsc_0248 dsc_0258 dsc_0260 dsc_0266
  2. Bring your pumpkins home and sit them on the porch for a couple of weeks. You know, to “ripen.” Ha!
  3. On All Hallow’s Eve, set up shop in the back yard and carve! Be sure to save as many seeds as you can, a process which is guaranteed to make your children say “Eeeew!” and beg to wash their hands 1,096 times.¬†dsc_0286 dsc_0288 dsc_0290 dsc_0293
  4. Place the pumpkins back on the front porch to hold court. dsc_0296 dsc_0297
  5. Put all those glorious pumpkin seeds in a colander. Wash the yucky pumpkin guts off, and spread on a dish towel to dry overnight.
  6. Depending on how many seeds you have, dump those babies onto a baking sheet (or two).img_2604
  7. Melt some butter, and grab your favorite seasonings. I made one pan with just butter and salt, and the other pan with this Tajin deliciousness.img_2606 img_2607
  8. Pour butter over your little pile of seeds, spread them out in a single layer in your pan, then sprinkle with seasoning.img_2609 img_2610
  9. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 25 minutes, stirring halfway through. If you have your pans on separate shelves like I did, I also like to switch them at the halfway point.
  10. Once your seeds are nice and toasty, let them cool, then serve as the perfect Halloween snack! I always like to have a little something salty on hand, when the candy bingeing starts to get old.  img_2612

Halloween Cookie Extravaganza!

I went on a bit of a baking binge this week. It was partially driven by the fact that I’d volunteered to donate treats to the school for Spooky Story Night, and also by the fact that I went 10 days without an oven.

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If you want to make something quick and easy this Halloween, try out these Gooey Monster Eye Cookies. I found the small candy eyes in the baking section of my grocery store, and the larger candy eyes came from Hobby Lobby.

Gooey Monster Cookies

1 Box Yellow Cake Mix

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 egg

green gel food coloring

powdered sugar

candy eyeballs

  1. In a stand mixer, combine butter, vanilla, egg, and cream cheese. Beat until fluffy.
  2. Add cake mix and stir until combined.
  3. Add food coloring. Once the mixture reaches the desired color, chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  5. Roll dough into 1 and 1/2-inch balls, then roll in powdered sugar. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes, and push candy eyes into cookies while warm.

The original recipe comes from Lil’ Luna’s blog.

These cookies are really gooey and delicious. The¬†next time I make them, I’ll probably try using white cake mix instead of yellow. I wanted more of a Mike Wazowski green, and what I ended up with was a bit more Oscar the Grouch.

My second cookie project of the week was a bit more involved. OK, it was a lot more involved.

I have a good friend who is a cookie master. I tried decorating sugar cookies myself years ago for Neely’s Hello Kitty birthday party, and the results were horrible. Helene saved the day! Since then, she’s shared her cookie-making secrets with me and taught me a thing or two about royal icing.

img_2586This was my first attempt all on my own. I definitely have room for improvement, but all things considered, I’m really happy with how these turned out. I may not have been able to cook dinner for my family for two days with cookie accoutrements spread all over the kitchen, but I have desserts for days!

What’s new in North Dakota…

Y’all, I am a terrible blogger. I hardly ever remember to write. I have been so wrapped up in learning to balance my new¬†schedule with work and family and just normal life in general that I’m afraid I don’t have much interesting to say.

Then again, maybe it will be interesting…to somebody.

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The last time I wrote, I was not in a great place. I’d completely upended my schedule to fit in more workouts and try to¬†prep meals for the week all at one time. And feed my children completely separate meals. I’m really glad I didn’t just give up. I knew there was a solution, a way to balance everything and make it work. I just had to find it!

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Step one: Quit trying to pre-cook a week’s worth of meals. This works for some people. For me, it just…doesn’t. If I’m going to be in the kitchen cooking the kids’ dinner, I might as be well cooking mine and John’s simultaneously. I enjoy taking a break from the computer to stand in the kitchen and prepare a meal at the end of the day. I needed to take that time back. As soon as I did, I started to feel less overwhelmed. It also gives me the freedom to change up our proteins and veggies in the evening if we’re not “feeling” the basics in our original meal plans.

Step two:¬†Take a deep breath and ask your trainer how to¬†combine workouts and cut back on the gym time a little bit. I originally had a workout on my calendar every day of the week but Sunday. I managed it the first week, but I felt like I was neglecting other areas of my life to be at the gym. Now, I weight train three days a week, and I still try to fit in cardio every day but Sunday. I’ve stopped guilting myself to death when I can’t manage everything, though. Sometimes, things happen and I don’t make it. I’m learning to regroup and reboot the next day.

Step three:¬†Remind yourself that you work from home. You make your own schedule. It doesn’t matter if you¬†are getting most of your work done in the afternoon, because¬†the gym is less crowded in the morning. You’re getting your work done!

All in all, I’m feeling much better and very satisfied with how things are going now. I’ve re-learned how best to feed myself, what to feed myself, and when to feed myself. I’ve lost a little bit of weight, but more importantly, I’m super happy with my progress photos. I don’t know that I’ll ever be brave enough to actually share them, but this mama will not be afraid of her swim suits come summer.

The best thing is – now that I’ve gotten into a rhythm, I am confident that I’ll be able to continue down the right path with my diet and exercise. Tiffany has made my goals feel very attainable. I am working hard, but I don’t feel like I’m hurting my body to get results (ex. starvation-type diets). She’s even going to give me a separate meal plan for when I decide to start training for another run.

If you are looking for a¬†personal¬†trainer with a great program, Tiffany is awesome! Here’s her Facebook page:¬†https://www.facebook.com/crzyfit

We’ve been doing her 6-week online program. You can do it from anywhere!

Snowy Sunday

It’s a snowy Sunday here in North Dakota, so I’m writing because I don’t have much to do today. Alright, that’s not necessarily true. I have laundry to do. I could pick up around the house. I could reorganize my closets. A more accurate statement would be that there isn’t much around here that I¬†want¬†to do today.

The last couple of weeks have been busy! Usually, this time of year drags by, so this seems kind of strange. We’ve started a new nutrition and exercise plan (with a personal trainer!), so a lot of my time and energy lately has been focused on learning better eating habits and making time to go to the gym.

Normally, I’d be on a treadmill three, maybe four times a week. Last week, I was at the gym 6 out of 7 days, doing weight training in addition to cardio. It’s definitely an adjustment. A good adjustment, but it definitely takes a conscious effort right now. I’m sure it will become habit within a few weeks and won’t feel so weird, but I’m not there just yet.

The meal plan is something else entirely. Right now, we’re pretty much repeating the same meals every day. I’m learning how to prepare things ahead of time, so we can grab them and eat what we’re supposed to without thinking about it. This has been the bigger challenge for me. I really prefer to cook meals that the whole family can eat, all at the same time. My kids are not on board with what John and I are supposed to eat, though, so I feel like I’m making 15 different meals each day. If we had a second refrigerator, I might have room to stockpile the way I’d like to. As it is, I seem to be spending a little bit of time each day prepping one thing that will last for a few days. Then, I’m making something extra for the kids each night for dinner. I’ve tried to time things¬†so we can at least all sit down together with our respective meals. I hope I get all of this figured out soon. It is pretty exhausting.

That, my friends, is all for now. No photos. Nothing truly exciting. I just needed¬†to run my mouth for a minute. ūüėČ