Just My Cup of Tea

It is officially cold. Sure we have had cold days this fall already but now the hope of a warm day here or there is slowly slipping away. Don’t get me wrong, I like fall, I get to pull out my comfy hoodies and my boots, (I LOVE my boots), throw my heated blanket on the bed to snuggle in, drink yummy warm drinks, bring it on! What I do not like about it is that it means inevitably the bitter cold and snow of winter is coming, I like snow for a white Christmas and Zach and my annual snowball fight, but after that I am done with it, I hate driving in the snow!

This crisp fall weather makes me crave my favorite warm drinks. Growing up one of my favorite winter drinks was peppermint tea, but I never really branched out to try other flavors. When Zach and I got married his sister generously gave us a Keurig, let me tell you that thing has been so worth it, I use it all the time. Well after we got it, I wanted to try all kinds of yummy warm drinks and found some great deals and started trying all kinds of teas. Which brings me to my before mentioned love of chai lattes, I am still trying lots of different varieties of teas and loving most of them.

Keurig 

When Keurig first came out a few years ago Zach’s parents got one and loved it so much they bought one for the family store. Well a few weeks ago Zach mentioned that the Store’s Keurig had stopped working and was only giving tiny cups of coffee, he said they were going to throw it away. When I heard that I said no way, it just needs to be cleaned, so Zach brought it home for me to take a crack at. Last week while we were kitty sitting Zach’s parents’ troublemaker Steeger, I took the “broken” Keurig to their house to clean, Steeger “helped”. Clearly when I say helped I really mean rolled around on the floor and played with my awesome bag that I carried the Keurig in.

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Cleaning a Keurig is really very easy, I was actually pretty surprised, it really mostly took time. The supplies you will need are dish soap, water, vinegar and a straightened paperclip. To start things off I filled a sink full with soap and water and soaked the reservoir tank and lid and the drip tray and cover, let me tell you the drip tray needed it. These parts of the Keurig are dishwasher safe however I opted to let them soak instead. I do run our drip tray through the dishwasher every once in awhile to keep it clean so I do know for a fact they are dishwasher safe, however if you keep them clean you wont need to soak them at all. Make sure that you do clean the reservoir tank though, it can get some build up at the bottom.

Keurig 2

While the pieces were drying I took my straightened paperclip and cleaned all the clogs from the K-Cup holder. I cleaned both needles and the area directly above the cup where the liquid comes out. Once the pieces had dried and I had gotten rid of all the dried on gunk, I put the Keurig back together, it was time to get started with the real cleaning!

Keurig 3

With your reassembled Keurig fill the reservoir tank with white vinegar. I quickly learned after the first cup to put a towel underneath, it was leaking from the bottom because it had gotten so dirty inside. I ran cup after cup of vinegar until the add water light came on, I used a McDonalds cup I could throw away when I was done. The first cup I ran the water was not coming out like I was used to at all, no wonder it was putting out such small cups and the vinegar was gross, it was no longer white and it had dried old coffee in it, it was pretty gross.

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When I ran the first cup I heard water trickling and it wasn’t the water coming from where it was supposed to, it was trickling back into the reservoir tank. Unfortunately I wasn’t fast enough to snap a picture when the vinegar was pouring out of it but the stream was stronger than what was coming out of where it was supposed to. No wonder it was producing such small cups, half the water was refilling the tank.

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The next part is very important, you must, I repeat MUST let it sit for at least four hours, actually let it sit overnight. Why must I let it sit you ask? While it is sitting the vinegar is inside and working its magic, breaking down what has built up inside causing you to get smaller and smaller cups. I tell you what that vinegar really can work some magic!

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After letting the Keurig sit I completely emptied the reservoir tank, washed it again to get rid of all the vinegar, and refilled it with water. When I ran that first cup I was impressed, it was just like my clean Keurig at home. I actually ran about 5-7 tanks, of water through to flush out the vinegar (I lost count because I just kept refilling the tank and kept running it, I was paranoid that I wasn’t going to get all the vinegar out.) Keurig actually recommends running 2-3 tanks after doing the vinegar but I felt like going overboard, no one would complain if I ran it too many times but they would if I didn’t run it enough.

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Check out that difference! Well now that we had a freshly cleaned Keurig Zach told me I should take it to work and share it with my coworkers since I had been talking about how nice it would be for the office to have one and how I wished they weren’t so expensive or I would just buy one for us all to share, and the Store had already bought a new one to replace this one since everyone had written it off as broken.

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It felt amazing to bring this Keurig back to life, I really felt like I had accomplished something, and I am continuously surprised at what vinegar can do! I am slightly convinced it can fix any cleaning problem. I used up not only all my vinegar, but also all of Mary’s so we both now own a big jug full, after I went shopping, I am a little excited to experiment more with it!

On another Keurig related note I was just hearing about how awesome the reusable K-Cups are, since I am not a coffee drinker I had kind of written them off but Mary told me that even for tea they are awesome and tea bags are so much cheaper than K-Cups, so I will definitely be investing in one soon, and so should you, if you haven’t already!

Happy Halloween to everyone! I will leave you with a picture of my favorite little monster, my Toews.

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Chai Time!

I may have mentioned before, I am a huge hockey fan, hockey has to be my favorite sport, I LOVE my Blackhawks. Our kitty is even named after my favorite player Jonathan Toews. Well last night we got to go to the Hawks game and sit in a skybox! it was awesome my Toews scored the game winner in overtime, overtime wins are my favorite because I just love how the whole team jumps on the ice to celebrate the goal! We had so much fun and I am so glad hockey season is back!

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Recently I have rediscovered my love for Chai, not that I ever forgot, but I discovered the best Chai I think I have ever tried. There is a small café called Shawn’s not far from my work and it is so easy to walk there and get a sandwich or bagel and a yummy drink. During a recent jury trial I was on the hunt for a warm drink to keep me toasty in the freezing cold courtroom I was sitting, that’s the problem with hundred year old courtrooms, the temperature is hard to regulate. Well a few days in I tried the spiced Chai latte at this café and from the first sniff of this drink I was hooked, the spicy smell was amazing and don’t even get me started on the taste, it was smooth and delicious. Long story short, it did a great job of keeping me warm and toasty while I spent hours in this cold courtroom.

After discovering this amazing drink I got to thinking that I really wanted this delicious chai in some other form too, so I turned to my favorite website, you guessed it, Pinterest! I found so many recipes from cookies to cupcakes to cinnamon rolls, let me tell you I am excited to try everything! Finally I decided on cupcakes and I was going to make whipped cream frosting with chai spice mixed in, unfortunately the whipped cream frosting just did not turn out well, as far as frosting, I am adding it to my chai tea at home and eating it by its self, so not to worry although it did not turn out for it’s intended use it was delicious!

Chai Cupcakes 1

For this recipe you will need ground ginger, cinnamon, cardamon, ground cloves, black pepper, sugar, butter, egg, vanilla, flour, baking powder, salt and milk.

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In a small bowl, combine ginger, cinnamon, cardamon,cloves and pepper. Set aside.

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In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter until light and fluffy.

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Beat in egg and vanilla, scraping down the bowl as needed.

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In a separate bowl, combine  flour, baking powder, salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons of the spice mixture. Alternate adding the flour mixture and milk to the butter mixture, beating until just combined after each addition.

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Fill lined cups 2/3 full. Bake 18-20 minutes or 10 minutes for mini cupcakes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

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Cool for 10 minutes then remove to rack to cool completely.

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Frost with your choice of frosting,I recommend adding what is left of the spice mixture to your frosting. I used my favorite buttercream after the whipped cream frosting didn’t work out.

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Enjoy!

Spiced Chai Cupcakes

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350. Line muffin cups.

In a small bowl, combine ginger, cinnamon, cardamon, cloves and pepper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. beat in egg and vanilla, scraping down the bowl as needed.

In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons of spice mixture. Alternate adding the flour mixture and milk to butter mixture, beating until just combined after each addition.

Fill prepared cups 2/3 full. Bake 18-20 minutes or 10 minutes for mini cupcakes, until tester insterted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes then remove to rack to cool completely.

Chai Whipped Cream “Frosting”

  • 4oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
  • Remaining spice mixture (about 1/2 teaspoon)

Whip the cream cheese and sugar together until well combined. add vanilla extract and whip for a few seconds. Slowly add the cream and beat until stiff peaks form. Taste and add a little more cream if needed.

Like I said my attempt did not turn out well for frosting but tasted fantastic on its own or added to my chai latte at home.

On a side note a big congrats to my favorite football player Peyton Manning on setting the all time touchdown record tonight, in the words of Brett Favre On to 600!

I will leave you with a picture of my other favorite kitty…Steeger! (He is Zach’s parents’ cat, also named after a Blackhawks player.) He was not impressed with the Bears game.

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A Sprinkle of Love

Today is a special day, it is my mother in law Mary’s birthday! For months I have known that I would be making something for her and featuring it on my blog but I have had such a hard time deciding what to make for her special day. A few months ago she gave me a challenge to make that I was originally going to make, but I changed my mind, I will make it before the end of the year, I promise!

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Mary is one of my biggest supporters, not only did she make my fabulous banner you see at the top of this page, as a fellow blogger it has been great to bounce ideas off her, we even have a few projects in the works to be featured on here so stay tuned! This weekend is her class reunion and it really got me thinking because, ten years ago I was invited to the family picnic part of the reunion since I was her son’s girlfriend of almost a year. We have almost eleven years of memories and I am so grateful that Mary welcomed me into her family with open arms from day one.

Well this past weekend when I was in my baking mood I texted my trusty taster (Mary) asking what cookies I should make, when she replied with frosted sugar cookies, I knew I had a winner for her birthday, especially since I had just some across and intriguing recipe on Pinterest that morning. When I posted my puppy chow post I asked what your favorite treats were as a kid Mary mentioned sugar cookies and how she would make them with her mom at Christmas, so I wanted to make them a little different than her fantastic Christmas sugar cookies, seriously they are one of my two favorite sugar cookies, the other is my co-worker Sue’s, my mouth is watering just thinking of all these cookies! Well now I have a third favorite to add to theirs!

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For the cookies you will need butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, flour, baking powder, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt.

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Beat together butter and sugar on low until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.

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Beat in egg and vanilla.

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Gently fold in flour, baking powder, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt.

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Scoop out dough with medium scoop and refrigerate at least 2 hours. (I let it sit overnight in an air tight container in the refrigerator.)

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When you are ready to bake preheat oven to 350 and put cookies from the fridge on baking sheets.

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Bake 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely on baking sheets before removing.

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While the cookies are baking it is time to make the frosting! You will need butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and heavy cream. Oh and don’t forget the sprinkles!

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Beat butter on low speed until light and fluffy.

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Gently mix in powdered sugar and vanilla.

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Pour a tablespoon of heavy cream at a time, beating until you reach desired consistency. (I used all three tablespoons.)

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Now the fun part! Frost the cookies as desired.

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Cover with sprinkles.

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Share! (They are also delicious unfrosted!)

Frosted Sugar Cookies

For the Cookie:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

In a mixing bowl add butter and sugar, beat on low until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla, scrape sides of the bowl with a spatula. Gently fold in flour, baking powder, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt. Scoop out dough using a medium scoop and refrigerate at least two hours, I recommend overnight. (Do Not skip refrigerating the dough, your cookies will not turn out the same!)

When ready to bake preheat oven to 350, place chilled dough onto baking sheets and bake 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely on baking sheets before removing.

For the Frosting

  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2-3 tablespoons heavy cream

Add butter to mixing bowl, beat on low until light and fluffy. Gently mix in powdered sugar and vanilla. Add heavy cream a tablespoon at a time to reach desired consistency.

Spread about a tablespoon of frosting over each cookie and decorate with colorful sprinkles.

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Look at how yummy those look!

Happy Birthday to the best mother in law!

Positivity

When I first started this blog I promised myself I would never write a post that wasn’t positive or a post that I wouldn’t enjoy reading if I found it on someone else’s blog. Well I will tell you this past week I was not in a very positive mood, I even typed up posts but could not bring myself to post them, they were just negative and I didn’t even enjoy reading over them, why would I expect you to enjoy reading them? They were not really me, they were just a reflection of the negativity I was feeling last week. However the good news of my hiatus from the blog means I have several recipes to share over the next posts!

Recently I started following a blog called National Day Calendar every day has multiple National events, for instance October 2 was National Name Your Car Day and October 3 was World Smile Day. Well according to this blog today is National Do Something Nice Day, when I read that I loved the idea so much, I try to do nice things for others all the time but an actual day for it…that sounds like a fabulous idea! Well I woke up a little early this morning (not before Zach though) and made Zach’s favorite blueberry muffins…no not from scratch, it was the Jiffy brand in the little box, it is Zach’s favorite. Originally I wanted to get up early and make them and wake him up with them, but somebody was up extra early this morning. He was still happy I made him muffins and he thoroughly enjoyed them!

Since I was making a conscious effort to do something nice today it made me notice other nice things, it was fun, I noticed Zach took the time when he was rearranging some things in our living room to stop and play with our kitty because she was curious about what he was doing, she very much enjoyed play time. Not only did it make Toews happy, but it made me happy watching the two of them and Zach seemed to enjoy teasing her.

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This week had to start on the right foot so I wanted to make some cookies! I know I have mentioned it before but chocolate chip cookies always make me feel better, and baking always relaxing me so I decided to try a different recipe for chocolate chips cookies. Not to worry faithful readers, I am not abandoning my chocolate chip cookie recipe I posted back in July, I just wanted to try a different way of making my favorite cookie. Zach has given me the task of making a giant chocolate chip cookie for a future blog, with surprisingly specific requests, I will keep you guys updated!

Bisquick Cookies 1

For this recipe you will need butter, brown sugar, vanilla, egg, Bisquick and chocolate chips (I used a combination of milk chocolate and mini chocolate chips).

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In a large bowl mix softened butter, sugar, vanilla and egg.

(I was too impatient to wait for my butter to soften so I used my trick to grate the butter to speed up the softening, if you are wondering why it look a little different, but it works!)

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Stir in Bisquick and chocolate chips.

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Drop by rounded spoonful onto ungreased baking sheet, I used my cookie scoop. Flatten slightly, I just used my fingers (don’t worry when I bake I am constantly washing my hands).

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Bake 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from baking sheet to cooling rack.

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Enjoy!

Bisquick Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 2 3/4 cup Bisquick baking mix
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375.

In a large bowl combine butter, sugar, vanilla and egg. Stir in Bisquick and chocolate chips. Drop by rounded spoonful onto ungreased baking sheet, flatten slightly. Bake 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from baking sheet to cooling rack.

I definitely ate like six while they were cooling. These were so simple, who would have thought I could find an even easier recipe for chocolate chip cookies?

So now my question for you, What was something nice you did today?

How I Met Jason Segel

Oh did we have an awesome day today! Awhile back Mary sent me an email about Jason Segel, or as we like to call him Marshall from How I Met Your Mother, saying that she had bought us tickets to a signing for the release of his book, Nightmares, through Anderson’s Bookshop (Click on the link for more info and events). A few years back Mary and I went to and event through Anderson’s for Chelsea Handler, back when her book Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang came out. It was so exciting to meet her, I loved her show Chelsea Lately that recently ended. It’s funny because we are pretty much complete opposites but I just find her so funny.

Anyway, back to Jason Segel, when you buy the tickets you also buy a copy of the book so we had two books to get signed. When Mary told us she had bought us tickets we immediately knew we were going to get one book signed to Zach and I, and one for his parents since they were so generous to buy us tickets to meet Marshall! (I am going to apologize for the quality of the photos now, cell phone cameras are not always the best)

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We drove to Downers Grove and easily found the Tivoli Theatre and got in the long line that was already forming to see Jason Segel. Zach and I loved How I Met Your Mother, we even started watching the entire series again from the beginning on Netflix after the show ended in March, we just missed it so much! He was so entertaining, he described himself as a big kid and he totally was. It was nice to see he was excited to be there and he was so genuine. His reactions to the audience and the questions were perfect, he shared so many stories and by the time he was done I felt like I knew him. It is always nice when you meet a celebrity to find out you like them even more after hearing them talk.

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Zach asked Jason so sign the book for us with “Beercules” as a reference to How I Met Your Mother. When I got the book signed for Zach’s parents he asked if I was Mary, so then I had to explain that it was a “gift” for my In laws, he said it was always a good idea to get some bonus points with in laws. It was fun to talk to him one on one even if it was just for a minute.

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During his talk, Jason said something that really stuck with me, I even pulled my phone out to write it down so I would remember. You’re right where you’re supposed to be at all times. Some moments are clearer than others, but you are always right where you belong. Sometimes that is definitely easier to remember than others but I am going to make an effort to keep that with me everyday.

Now were watching the Bears game hoping for a win, a win is definitely where I belong…hint hint Cutler.

In case you were wondering this is how my kitty spends her time while I am blogging. That is her spot, we are not allowed to sit there, and that is also her blanket…now.

Toews

It’s the Little Things

Have you ever noticed that the little things people do for you stick in your memory? A few weeks ago Zach walked in on me standing in my closet with a flashlight looking at my clothes because the light bulb burned out awhile ago and I kept forgetting to ask him to replace it, usually our bedroom is light enough in the morning that I don’t need a light. He took one look at me and turned around, I was in hurry trying to get ready so I didn’t think a whole lot about it. Minutes later he comes back with a fresh bulb and replaced it for me in about 30 seconds, and I hadn’t even asked. I keep finding myself thinking about that and loving him more just or doing something so small for me, it took all of a few minutes of his day but it made such an impact on me.

More and more I find myself saying it’s the little things that make you happy, whether it is having a file on the closest end of the shelf at work, hitting all green lights on a drive, your mother in law making your favorite lunch for you when she knows you are having a long day, or having the girl at the café you go into from time to time remember your order before you can even finish saying hi. Don’t get me wrong when people do big things for me I appreciate it so much, but I find myself continuing to think about the little things because most of them happen without a whole lot of thought, they just happen. Zach didn’t spend days deciding to replace my light bulb, he spent seconds, but it totally made my day.

Speaking of little things, I know it’s kinda strange to say that food makes me happy, but on Monday Zach wanted to go to the store and get some French bread for sandwiches, we were wandering around deciding what we each wanted on our sandwiches. Zach was all about the lunch meat, but since I have found that lunch meat can trigger my migraines I stay away from it. I have been a fan of grilled cheese sandwiches forever, I mean bread and cheese, it doesn’t get too much better than that. Thinking along those lines I remembered of something I saw on Pinterest awhile ago, cucumber grilled cheese sandwiches, hold on stay with me, I know it sounds weird. BEST SANDWICH EVER. For real, I took one bite and looked at Zach and said OMG this is amazing. I seem to know a lot of people who grew cucumbers in their gardens this year and oh they have been delicious, so the garden fresh cucumber may have helped this sandwich be so fantastic, but believe me I will be trying it again and again eventually I will run out of home grown cucumbers. If I had any urge to garden I would be trying my hand at cucumbers next year, however my thumb is definitely not green.

Surprise, guess what I am sharing tonight? You guessed it! My new favorite sandwich! I have already made it again since Monday, I just can’t get enough! The two types of cheese, the crunchy cucumbers the toasted bread, I am hooked.

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For my grilled cheese I used French bread, cream cheese, Havarti cheese, dill weed and cucumbers. (I also used butter for the outside of the bread but didn’t think to include it in my photo)

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I buttered the outside of both pieces of bread, spread cream cheese on the inside of the slices, sprinkled a little dill weed on the cream cheese, covered it with half a slice of cheese on each side and placed the cucumbers in-between. I put the sandwiches on my Panini press for a few minutes just to toast the bread a little.

Honestly these are more guidelines than anything, you could add about anything you might like and I bet it would be delicious. I don’t necessarily recommend trying this with American cheese, I don’t think it would have the same effect. Let me know what you guys try on your grilled cheese.

Frosting First

As you guys may have noticed I have been MIA from the blog this week, but I promise it was for a good reason. My mother in law Mary had a big event on Friday called Word of Art and asked if I would mind making some cupcakes, of course I said yes! So I spent all Wednesday night making two batches of cupcakes (from scratch) and two batches of frosting, then I spent Thursday night frosting all the cupcakes. I felt so good once I passed them off to Mary and knew they were done. I think they turned out pretty well considering it was my first attempt at cupcakes from scratch. I also took it as a good sign when she said there were no leftovers. When Mary asked if I would be willing to make cupcakes she said oh this would be great for a blog post! I absolutely agree!

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While I was making the cupcakes I realized I have another idea for a blog post, I want to try different recipes and find the perfect cupcake recipes, there are so many variations out there I want to see what works the best. The white cupcake recipe I used I actually found in the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook, that I think everyone has, or at least someone in your family has. I thought they were light and fluffy and I learned you do not under any circumstances whip egg whites into stiff peaks by hand, mine were definitely closer to soft peaks but I was done and they still turned out delicious. I found the recipe I used for the chocolate cupcakes on the blog Sally’s Baking Addiction. They were chocolaty and I have yet to have a chocolate cupcake I haven’t liked but these were more dense and chewy than I prefer. It also didn’t help that I had to use a different cocoa powder, I always use Ghirardelli but I could not find it in any of our local stores so I had to use Hershey’s, nothing against Hershey’s, I thoroughly enjoy many of their products.

Frosting is always my favorite part of the cupcakes, there is a bakery here and the whole reason I go there is because their frosting is amazing! Zach is not a frosting fan, so really Zach and I should share cupcakes, I eat the frosting and he eats the cupcake, sounds like a plan right? Well I was going to share the recipe for the cupcakes and the frosting, but since I had my idea to find the perfect cupcake recipes I figured I would just share the frosting recipes because eventually I will share the best cupcake recipes when I try out more recipes, so stay tuned!

Cupcakes 2

Mary’s Best Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 4 cups powdered sugar

Mix all ingredients together until smooth. Add milk or powdered sugar to thin or thicken as desired. You can absolutely add food coloring if you want colored frosting.

(Sorry I was a bad blogger and forgot to take pictures of the finished product!)

Christina’s Creamy Chocolate Frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 6 tablespoons milk
  • 3 cups powdered sugar

In a large mixing bowl, combine butter, cocoa powder, 1 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons milk. Beat until mixed well and no longer lumpy, it will be thick. Add all remaining ingredients and beat until smooth.

(Again, sorry I was a bad blogger and didn’t take any pictures of the finished product.)

Word of Art Cupcake

That’s one of my cupcakes in this photo that was put on the Word of Art facebook page! My cupcakes are famous!

On another note football is back and hockey starts in 16 days! Yay for fall!