Thursday, May 28, 2009

Memorial Day Food!

For all the food we made (and ate) over Memorial Day weekend, it didn't feel like I spent all that much time in the kitchen - which is a good thing! Of course it helped that much of the work was on the grill, and Shaun took care of that. We got our grill as a wedding present from Shaun's parents and mostly stuck to pre-made burgers and hot dogs last summer, so we're really excited about learning and trying out all sorts of new grill recipes this summer. We started with basic burgers this time, trying out two different recipes for "The Perfect Hamburger" - one from Taste of Home and one from Williams Sonoma (via Annie's Eats). And no, we didn't reach a conclusion as to which was the true perfect burger - they were both pretty good!

On Sunday we had our friend Rich over for the second round of burgers. Since Rich is a chocolate lover like me, I knew I had to make an appropriate dessert. These brownies were one of my family's dessert standbys while I was growing up. I like the soft, fudgy texture and of course the sweet and creamy frosting - though I'm sure they're good plain as well.

Best Brownies (adapted from Hershey's)

1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 9-inch square (or 7 x 11) pan.

2. Stir together butter, sugar and vanilla in bowl. Add eggs; beat well with spoon. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; gradually add to egg mixture, beating until well blended. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.

3. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Prepare Creamy Brownie Frosting; spread over brownies.

Creamy Brownie Frosting

3 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 tablespoon light corn syrup or honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons milk

Beat butter, cocoa, corn syrup and vanilla in small bowl until blended. Add powdered sugar and milk; beat to spreading consistency. About 1 cup frosting.

I'd also had my eye on a cupcake recipe from Annie's Eats since she posted it back in February - I thought it looked like the perfect summer treat, and Shaun thought it sounded good when I mentioned it to him. I halved the recipe below and brought a dozen to the in-laws' family barbecue on Monday, and everyone who tried a cupcake seemed to like it. I definitely did! And usually when there are dessert leftovers I end up eating them myself (not good), but Shaun helped me out and ate a few of these, so that must mean something!

It was my first experience with Wilton gel icing color, since I wanted to get a bright pink shade like Annie did, and obviously it worked! Still not as pretty as hers, but I'm learning. :-)

Cherry Limeade Cupcakes
Yield: 24

For the cupcakes:
3 cups cake flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. limeade concentrate
3 eggs
3/4 cup milk

For the lime syrup:
3/4 cup limeade concentrate
1/2 cup powdered sugar sugar

For the frosting:
3 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
4 tbsp. (or more) maraschino cherry juice
Red food coloring (optional)

For decorating (optional):
Fresh lime slices
Maraschino cherries

To make the cupcakes, preheat oven to 350°F. Line muffin pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl combine the cake flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Stir together and set aside. In a large bowl, cream the butter with electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and beat on medium-high speed until creamed. Add in the limeade concentrate and mix to incorporate. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between additions. Add in the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix ingredients just long enough to incorporate but no longer.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans for 5-10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack over wax paper to cool completely.

Once the cupcakes have cooled, whisk together the limeade concentrate and confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl to make the lime syrup. Poke several holes in the top of each cupcake with a skewer and pour the syrup over the cupcakes, allowing it to soak in.

To make the frosting, combine the confectioners’ sugar, butter and maraschino cherry juice in a large bowl. Mix on low speed until sugar is incorporated, then increase to medium-high speed and beat until smooth. Add more maraschino cherry juice as needed to achieve desired texture. Add red food coloring if desired.

Frost cooled cupcakes. Garnish with lime slices and maraschino cherries, if desired.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

This week on TV... (AI Spoilers!)

How awesome was the American Idol finale? It seems like people have been quite divided this year when it comes to their favorites, but I honestly would have been happy with either guy winning. And it was fun to see the "upset" - Kris was so shocked! I have to admit I teared up a little when he gave his wife a huge hug after his victory song.

I've become a loyal fan of Michael Slezak's Idol recaps and videos on (You know, because watching the actual show for two hours isn't enough.) I enjoy pretty much all aspects of his analysis, but this is the non-Idol-related point I appreciated most from his live blog: "...ALSO WHY ARE THE COMMERCIALS 4X LOUDER THAN THE SHOW?" I'm glad it's not just my's so incredibly annoying! Sorry for the random rant. Anyway, if you still haven't had enough Idol, Slezak will be posting interviews with the top 3 next week. The previous interviews are fun too - especially Anoop's and Matt's.

In other TV news, Chuck has officially been renewed! It's going to be a long 10 months or so waiting for it to air after the Olympics, but I'm so glad we at least get to see it again. I hope the attention the fan campaign attracted will get even more people interested in the show so it can survive past the 13 episodes that have been ordered at this point. Hey, I actually hand wrote letters to two NBC head honchos in my efforts to help save the show - I'd never even considered doing anything like that before. Cheesy, but it's nice to know that it may have made a difference.

And, as predicted, one last SNL video before the summer break. Celebrity Jeopardy has become a classic, and the most recent edition does not disappoint. (link is here if the video doesn't load)

My favorite throwback moments: the reference to Tom Hanks' "sibilance" mic check from his appearance as an Aerosmith roadie on a Wayne's World sketch many years ago...and the appearance of the fourth contestant.

With that, the TV season closes, so I guess I'd better find something else to do with my time, and something else to blog about. Fortunately, the weather finally seems to be turning consistently warm, so we plan to kick off the summer with plenty of grilling and time outside. Lots of summer birthdays in our families too, so I'm sure I'll be blogging some of the celebration treats! For now, enjoy the Memorial Day weekend!

Friday, May 15, 2009


I love spring. I'm a sucker for color so I love when everything is in this tree near our building.

My favorites though are lilacs...that's got to be one of the best smells in the world. My parents' previous house had a huge lilac hedge in the backyard that would bloom around this time of year, and I loved it. We don't quite have the space in our little townhouse garden for a lilac bush, but I told Shaun that will be my one landscaping requirement whenever we have our own yard.

Spring might be my favorite definitely makes me pardon my forthcoming rambling. I think of high school, when in mid-May we'd have prom and our big spring band concert. And college, when every year I got to stick around campus for senior week, just hanging out, enjoying the (usually) nice weather, and going to band rehearsals for the graduation events. Of course, it was always tough to say goodbye to each class of graduating seniors - and especially bittersweet to actually graduate. I can't believe it will be 5 years tomorrow since I graduated from ND!

Now that I'm out of school, the only bittersweet part of this time of year is the season finales of all the shows I follow (for example, The Office - WOW what an ending!!!). American Idol usually ends last, so I get sad when I hear that 19 Entertainment/Fremantle Media chime for the last time and wonder what I'm going to do with my evenings. Pathetic, eh?

We do have some fun things to look forward to this summer though: celebrating an anniversary (how we're celebrating, however, is still TBD), maybe a couple weekend trips, and the main event - a trip to Minnesota in July. We'll of course be visiting my family (seeing them for the first time since Christmas!), and we're also bringing along a couple of our baseball-fanatic friends who want to take advantage of their last chance to see a Twins game in the Metrodome before the new outdoor stadium opens next year. I'm excited to show them around my hometown, and I'm excited to meet my cousin's baby! She's due with her first daughter in June. She also has a son who's 16 months - it'll be fun to see how much he's changed since we last saw him.

I'll try to wrap this up, but as a belated nod to Mother's Day, I have to share a cute and funny mom story. I was talking to my mom on Sunday, and she mentioned she had tried a recipe from "that frontier lady site" that I had introduced her to. I said, "You mean Pioneer Woman?" and joked that I might need to get her the Mom Translator. ;-) Don't worry...tomorrow is the season finale (with Will Ferrell hosting, it should be a good one!), so I will soon stop bombarding you with SNL videos.

Monday, May 11, 2009

SNL, JT-style

I haven't written recently because, well, there just hasn't been much interesting stuff going on lately. I wrote a post last week but decided it was entirely too boring and deleted it. Shaun and I had a nice and relaxing weekend, and one of my personal highlights was watching Saturday Night Live hosted by Justin Timberlake. I was a big 'N Sync fan back in the day so I may be biased, but I think he's definitely got some talent in comedy as well as singing. Shaun's not his biggest fan but will even admit he enjoyed Saturday's show. In case you haven't seen them, I thought I'd compile some of the highlights:

I loved how JT made fun of himself (and Britney). This led into...

...the long-awaited (or not) sequel to the ultimate Christmas gift, "D*** in a Box". This time they gave unique presents, Mother's Day style. Didn't have quite the surprise factor of the original, but still pretty clever.

This kind of sketch is becoming a classic for JT - and as my hubby so perfectly said, "everything is funnier with big hands". My favorite is the 2-for-1 of "Implants" and "Mediocre Face".

I figured Jimmy Fallon would make another appearance for the Barry Gibb Talk Show. This song always gets stuck in my head, but I don't care because it amuses me. I was also quite surprised that Justin was the one who broke character first - Jimmy held it together better than he ever did when he was a regular! Ha.

So, there ya go...hope you got some laughs on this lovely Monday.