Cupcakes

Summer Cupcake Series: Fresh Strawberry Cupcakes

July 17, 2012

I have 5 days left in this country – and Summer has finally decided to stick around. We had to endure a rather unruly June, but July has been quite nice. I have been told I’m not really allowed to complain, however, as I am going to Europe for a month. Where the weather looks like this:

Believe me, I will not be complaining.

That is, until it is so unbearably hot and humid that I can’t sleep through the night. Who can stand sleeping in anything when it is THIS hot. Adam and I have shrugged off our duvet cover each night, and even having a thin bed sheet on top is too much. Each morning I wake up in a tangle of bed sheets and the duvet half on the ground. I find I toss and turn more in the heat.

I remember my mom telling me that when she took my brother to Italy when he was a baby, they would let him run around naked indoors because it was too hot. I can’t imagine a baby in that heat! At least I know i’ll be well hydrated, because I will be hooking an IV of fluid up to myself in the form of a straw – and some Pellegrino.

Tonight we also had Adam’s baseball BBQ and game – it was great until my allergies began to act up. Thankfully my current bed partner (Adam) doesn’t mind crawling in bed with a girl covered in a face mask and a lovely nose strip (thank you Breathe Right)  It’s the only thing that will do the job right now. Along with allergy medicine, nose spray, and an Advil decongestant. I really hope my future children do NOT inherit my allergies. Summer’s really suck with them.

On another note..

Berry season is in full swing – delicious local berries are readily available as we make our way through the seasonal peaks. Strawberry season is almost over – but there is still plenty of time left to go and pick some (I believe end of July is the finish). Unfortunately we haven’t been able to hit up many U-Pick farms, due to the fact we’re moving, packing, and (I’m) leaving the country later this week. However, last year we did visit Krause Berry Farms in Langley, and loved it – Their welcome sign is, after all, a giant strawberry.

They provide all the info for each berry season and schedule. If you have a free weekend I suggest visiting them, the farm and cafe are awesome – corn pizza, fresh fruit smoothies, milkshakes, sky high pies, and mini donuts! You can also buy frozen foods and bring them home with you! You can read about my older post and visit to Krause Berry Farms here.

I made these strawberry cupcakes for our blogger picnic a few weekends ago – they are perfectly light and refreshing without being overly sweet.

I picked up the cute mini purple cupcake stand from our visit to Steveston the weekend before from a store called Serenity Home Decor. They have lots of unique and adorable gifts, cupcake related items, baking, novelty etc. Definitely worth a stroll through.

Fresh Strawberry Cupcakes 

You will need:

24 baked and cooled yellow cupcakes

one batch of Swiss Meringue Buttercream

local, fresh strawberries, washed & sliced (reserve smaller strawberries for decoration)

Fresh Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Ingredients:

5 large egg whites

1 cup sugar

3 sticks butter, chilled, cut into cubes

Directions: 

Add washed, sliced strawberries (about 3/4 cup) to a food processor, and pulse for a few minutes until pureed. Do not drain, or add sugar. I like to leave the seeds instead of draining it like a coulis and heating it up – leave it fresh and un-cooked. Set aside.

In a metal mixing bowl, preferably from your stand mixer, place over a pot of simmering water, not boiling. Add sugar and egg whites. Be sure there is no yolk or oil in the egg whites, they will not whip properly otherwise.

Whisk constantly, until thermometer reads between 140-160 degrees F. If you do not have a thermometer, heat until sugar is completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot. This takes about 7-10 minutes.

Transfer metal bowl back to stand mixer, with whisk attachment and whip until the egg whites are thick and glossy and cool. The bowl itself should be cool to the touch, again this takes about 7-10 minutes on high.

Once the glossy thick texture is achieved, switch to a paddle attachment, and on medium add the chilled cubes of butter, one at a time, until fully incorporated.

The texture will begin to change, to a heavier, silky texture. It may look curdled, but continue to mix and it will become smooth once again. This time my butter was a bit too warm, and my frosting was curdling and soupy. I place it in the fridge for 15 minutes, added a couple more pieces of chilled butter and began to whip again. It became smooth once again.

Pour in the pureed strawberries, and whip for a moment to blend completely. No artificial colouring needed here – all natural baby.

Using a star tip, pipe strawberry buttercream onto cupcakes. Slice reserved smaller berries, dried/wiped dry, and place on top.

These cupcakes are best eaten the same day – but are ok to be stored in the refrigerator for a day or two at most. Allow to come to room temperature before serving.

 These would be perfect for a summer picnic, a bridal shower, baby shower, or summer BBQ as a light and tasty tag-along dessert. You can most certainly swap out Strawberries for other berries as well.

Enjoy your summer =) Any plans??  I suggest visiting a U-Pick Berry Farm! Blueberries, Strawberries, Raspberries!

Life

Across the Border

July 16, 2012



{Look at me – in pictures for once! courtesy of Adam’s awesome sister}

Happy Monday!

How was everyone’s weekend? Adam and I went down to the States again, to his parent’s vacation place (the same one we went to for the long weekend, here). 

{Anyone with a love of Seinfeld, like myself, will get this reference 😉 }

It was lovely and sunny on Friday afternoon when we were leaving. There was a few hiccups on the HWY, so we went around it to the Aldergrove border. Neither of us had been through this border before, and it was actually a really nice drive once you made it across. We arrived there a little after 6 pm, lounged and had dinner.

We also got to see our beautiful niece, and this cute bum (adorable outfit provided by Auntie!) 😉

{She’s teething on everything, and Adam’s fingers were the best thing ever}

Saturday morning we woke up, it was a little cloudy but we had planned on going for a hike just a little ways down the road. At first it was really cold down by the river, because it was glacier water – but once you got higher up and away from the river bed it was actually
really humid and muggy.

It took us a good hour and a bit to hike in, and then we decided to head back. The trail was busy, lots of people passing us by each way. I was complaining that it was muddy and I didn’t want to go any further when it got steep, and then Adam kindly reassured me that “if a six year old girl, wearing pink crocs can do it.. you can do it” haha. I was no longer allowed to complain after that, having passed said girl along the way.

{We left our mark on the bench, along with the others}

When we returned Adam’s cousin and family had arrived for the day to visit, and we all went to the pool. It was really hot and sunny at this point. We hung out by the pool for a while, and then came back for dinner and of course, most importantly, S’mores.

{Epic – with a PB Cup}

 Sunday we woke up, at 10 am! A real sleep in for both of us, seeing as how Adam is up at 6 am every day, and I’m usually up by 7, 7:30 ish….

We decided to head over to Bellingham area, and discovered the cutest little quaint historic town of Fairhaven. It was awesome – we walked around, they had a live band playing in the courtyard area, and then we stumbled upon Village books – it was heaven. It’s a three storey book store, with new, used, and sale books! I could have been in there forever, and I probably was. I picked up four used books for my trip to keep me company on the plane, and when I’m in little Italy with my Nonna for two weeks.. incase I get bored…lol.  They also had a gift shop area, with way too many adorable gifts, paper, souvenirs, kitchen gadgets etc etc. I cannot wait to go back already.


After perusing for about an hour or so, Adam was getting cranky  hungry. So we toured around the cafe’s looking for something to eat. The bookstore had an attached Cafe, but it was quite expensive, and a small menu. A salad was about 13/15$ (with no meat/protein) and a burger was about 15$. So we kept looking, until we stumbled upon Avenue Bread. It was perfect- they boast a gigantic menu with lots of options, a half salad was 5.95, and you could add a chicken breast for 2$. The half salad was large! I probably wouldn’t have been able to finish the full and the chicken breast, and Adam ordered the Twin Sisters wrap, for 7.50$ with a coffee. They have a few locations in the Bellingham area, and one by Trader Joes! 😉

{Adam polished off my bread too}

We stumbled upon another bookstore I could see that was across the street, and this one was Massive! It was two levels, but the books were all used – and there was a million of them. The bookstore was like the ones you see in movies, you literally get lost in it. The books are all over the place, on the ground, in stacks, in every nook and cranny of the shelves. You could search for hours and hours. They also have a huge patio out back that over looks the ocean, and there is a picnic table you can sit at while you read. Adam found a book for 3$ and we went on our way.

After, Adam had wanted to go back to a little sweets shop we passed to get a milkshake, called Papa’s Sweets.

He got Chocolate Strawberry. I like to pretend that Gelato is better than ice cream, so I opted for the Gelato down the street. I also like to pretend that it isn’t dairy, but It doesn’t help. I felt a little sick on the way home (in our hour and a half border wait) but it was so, so good at the time. It’ll prepare my stomach for the gross amount of Gelato I’ll be eating in Italy this month – I better bring some Lactaid with me 😉

{I got an Affogato with Black Cocoa and Salted Caramel Gelato, two shots of espresso on top….amazing}

Before leaving, we drove down to the bay and sat by the water for a bit – it was another great weekend. It was the last full weekend until I leave – Take off is NEXT SUNDAY! …..

Oh – and then we hit up the Fred Meyer before the border – and all I can say is omg…that store is crazy. It’s like a costco, superstore and walmart in one . We’ll definitely be back once we move into our new house..and get Nexus. Seeing as how we will be living SO close to the border.

Hope you all had a great weekend!

Granola

Packing + Quinoa & Seed Granola {Wheat Free/Gluten Free}

July 10, 2012

Summer. Is. Here.

It is HOT. Really hot. Finally we have summer here in Vancouver, and not the one day on, one day off sunshine we have had for all of June and most of July. Everyday I wake up at 6 am when Adam leaves for work, for about a second, and the sun is in full force outside my window. I dread the Fall, when you wake up at 7 am and it is pitch black out. And when you get home from school/work at 4 pm, and it’s also pitch black out. Enjoy it now! No complaining about how hot it is, because it will be over sooner than you think.

I wasn’t too worried about having a sunny summer, because I am leaving for Europe in TWO WEEKS! To say that I am excited is an understatement. I will be leaving on a jet plane, headed for Amsterdam. From there, I go to London for a few days, then to Paris, Italy, Germany, Amsterdam again on a tour, and then to Italy again for two weeks myself with my Nonna. I’ve started to pack, all my ‘travel-size’ items, and get some outfits ready. I have also had to begin packing to move. I leave on the 22, and Adam and I have to be out of our place on the 28. I’ve been slowly packing boxes the last few weeks, and Adam has been moving them to storage for us where they will stay until November. It will feel like an early christmas, as I won’t have seen any of our stuff for four months! We’re moving in with Adam’s parents for the three months, and Adam will be there while I am in Europe for the month. Our house is *usually* pretty clean, I get a little antsy when things are messy, but right now anything goes. There are moving boxes everywhere, stuff piled on stuff, suitcases for my trip etc. It’s killing me not to clean, but what’s the point? Haha.

This is what our house looked like, on a good day 😉 These photos were for the online listing.

{My super-tiny kitchen. Usually there are lots of dishes/bowls/baking items staked on each other and falling off the counters. The oven is also full with baking dishes/cookie sheets. New house? Giant island, tons of cupboards, lots of storage. No more dishes in the oven}

{I actually really liked our living room. The high vaulted ceilings were a plus. What you can’t see is the big bay window at the front of the living room, with floor to ceiling windows. Lots of sun, and south facing, with a great view and trees. No more walking around naked in the new house.. lol. There will be neighbours on either side of us!}

{Our view, in the wintertime}

 

{Summertime view – gorgeous!}

{no pesky neighbours across from us.. not for long!}

{Bathroom was also small, and no drawers (though the new one has no drawers either.. bummer, but we also have three full bathrooms. I’m not sure if thats a good thing or not..more cleaning.. You can see the bathroom makeover here too}

{We had a cozy little kitchen/dining table and a bar. The table had two leaves as well. I liked the cut out in the kitchen too, it was nice when Adam was doing the dishes to be able to talk to him still 😉 }

{Note the map of Italy – of course- and my DIY chevron print…which i think is out of fashion now? lol }

{Our cozy little bedroom, actually its quite big. Bigger than our new one I think, but we will have four bedrooms, instead of one haha. I’m gonna miss it!}

{There are definitely lots of memories we will take with us! Adam’s first place, and our first place together (after I moved in and too over 😉 but I’m looking forward to our new house!}

————-

I actually made this quinoa for the long weekend we went to the States, and it was SO GOOD. It’s even better in the fridge. Like the original post, I need ‘clumps’ and ‘clusters’ in my granola. I like it to be crunchy, and it needs to be loaded. I saw this on my friends site a while ago, and knew I had to make it asap. It did not last long, that’s for sure. I had it on it’s own, in yogurt for breakfast, as a snack. It’s totally customizable and I just threw in a little bit of everything.

I didn’t add any oats, as I didn’t have any GF/WF oats, but if you don’t have a wheat allergy you can definitely add them. I also added honey instead of maple syrup, but you can make these Vegan and leave the honey out and use the maple.

This stores wonderfully in the fridge, and I love a crunchy granola, and it’s great cold as well.

Quinoa Granola
Adapted from Hungry, Hungry Hippie, from the cookbook Quinoa 365 

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup quinoa
  • 2 T chia seeds
  • 2 T poppy seeds
  • 3/4 cup raw almonds, coarsely chopped ( I pulsed mine in a food processor )
  • 1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup raw sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • zest of one orange
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips
Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees.
2.  Line a cookie/baking sheet with parchment paper.
3. Chop/pulse Almonds
4. Combine all the dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl.
5. I melted my coconut oil in the microwave, and added the honey. Stir slightly and drizzle over dry ingredients.
6. Stir until all ingredients are incorporated. Spread evenly onto prepared baking sheet, and bake in over for about an hour.
7. Once baked, let it cool completely. Break it apart, this can be done by lifting the parchment slightly. I stored mine in a container in the fridge, and it also helped the ‘clusters’ form once you break it apart again with a knife or fork after refrigerated.

This granola is delicious. It will definitely be gone before you know it, and totally worth making again.