Saturday, June 30, 2012

June Foodie Penpals Reveal!


It’s June Foodie Penpals reveal day!! This is my second time participating in this awesome and delish program, and definitely not my last. I think I’m getting used to this… you know, getting a box full of goodies in the mail every month is kinda fun. A genius concept, if you ask me. :)


Um, this month I sorta lucked out as I happened to be paired with a foodie kindred spirit who shares my love of chocolate, coffee, and spicy foods. This jam packed box of goodies is from Karen Van Zant who blogs over at Class to Kitchen; she really hit it out of the park on this one! This was such an awesome box… I’m glad I took photos right away because most of this stuff is already gone lol.


I almost didn’t know where to start … almost. But my philosophy is, always start with chocolate! And this chocolate did not disappoint!


A bar of Belgian chocolate and Harry London Buckeyes!! Neither of which lasted very long, let me tell ya… so delish! I was particularly excited to see the Buckeyes; my family used to order boxes of Harry London chocolates for the holidays and I remember loving these! The only downside was that there were only four in a package and I chose to not be selfish and share them with family. Oh how I questioned that decision when they were gone. It was tempting to be stingy. ;)


Chocolate Chunk Hazelnut Biscotti Granola… yum! Isn’t that the best sounding granola ever? This was so good in yogurt!


A jar of the chocolaty goodness that is Nutella! Which I actually got a bit creative with and decided to try baking with it. I honestly don’t know why I never baked with it before. Now, Nutella is awesome on its own but baked into banana bread…AMAZING! I made this recipe for Nutella Swirled Peanut Butter Banana Bread. You have to give this recipe a shot, it’s my new favorite way to make banana bread.


Ruby Red Blend Popcorn! I loved this popcorn; especially since the only popcorn I ever make is the one you just stick in the microwave. Made on the stove it just tastes better to me. Plus, it looks so pretty in the jar, doesn’t it?


Tony Chachere’s, always a great seasoning to have on hand as it tastes good on just about everything.


Okay, can I just tell you how much I love this stuff?! This was the first time I’d ever tried this Chili Garlic Sauce but I kinda want to put it in everything! I mixed it into some fajita meat that I made and it gave it the perfect spicy kick. I love spicy foods so this was right up my ally. Can’t wait to try it in more recipes!


And last, but certainly not least, some fair trade coffee! I’ve been on a cold brewed coffee kick lately as iced coffee is the only thing I want to drink in the summer; so I’m planning on using this coffee to make another batch this week!

I just want to say thank you to Karen for all of these yummy goodies! I enjoyed them so much! She rocks! :) Also, I have to again give props to Lindsay over at the Lean Green Bean for organizing all this delicious chaos!  It’s a foodie’s dream! Can’t wait for the goodies to come in July! :)

If this program appeals to you, sign up for July! Seriously, Foodie Penpals is such a blast! Can’t tell you how much I am enjoying it. So if you want to meet awesome fellow foodies, send a box of goodies to someone and receive one yourself; sign up and join in the foodie fun! More info below! :)

- On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.

- You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal!

- The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!

- You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)

- Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.

- Foodie Penpals is open to US & Canadian residents. Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We've determined things might get too slow and backed up if we're trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa.

If you’re interested in participating for June, please CLICK HERE to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions.

You must submit your information by June 4th as pairings will be emailed on June 5th!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Salted Caramel Cupcakes

I'm so excited to share what is perhaps the very best cupcake recipe I've ever tried.

Recipes involving salted caramel seem to be the trend in the food world lately, and with good reason, it's seriously one of the best combos ever. These cupcakes actually started out as Salted Caramel Cake Pops, which I made to pass out as Mother's Day gifts at my church. They turned out so delish! After handing them out to all the mom's and giving the extra to the kids, we were fresh out. And while, yes, that's what I made them for... I think my family and I would've been lying to say we hadn't hoped there would be at least couple extra lol. ;)

Luckily, I had extra ingredients left and set out to make more later that day. But instead, I decided to make them into cupcakes! I couldn't help it, they were practically begging to be cupcakes! I knew they would be good but I didn't expect them to be become my new favorites. If you love caramel (& who doesn't?) and are looking for an amazing homemade cupcake recipe, these are a must try! :)

Salted Caramel Cupcakes -
(Recipe found @


These lovelies start out with a moist and fluffy brown sugar cake. I had never tried brown sugar cake before but with its subtle flavor of caramel, it was the perfect compliment to the frosting. And oh, the frosting! Let me just say that pouring lovely amber colored caramel into fluffy buttercream frosting is a really beautiful thing. It's a happy experience that I think you should have too, just sayin'.

And I hate making caramel...maybe it's just me, but I find it so temperamental. It burns super easy and ruins my happy baking vibe. But this caramel recipe was actually pretty easy and turned out great! The taste that it gives the frosting is just out of this world. You haven't tasted frosting till you've tasted this one!

After you pipe on the salted caramel buttercream frosting, drizzle on the caramel sauce and melted chocolate (not in the recipe but I just had some chocolate lying around), and finish with a sprinkle of sea salt. Now, the most important part... close your eyes, take a big bite, exhale and savor the caramel goodness! Happy cupcaking (I know it's not a word… but it should be)! :)


Brown Sugar Cupcakes -
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk

Preheat oven to 325 °F. Line muffin tin with paper or foil liners.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.

In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each until fully incorporated. Mix in vanilla extract. Add flour mixture to wet ingredients in 3 batches, alternating with 1/2 of the buttermilk, stirring after each until everything is combined.

Pour batter into prepared muffin tin until each liner is 3/4 full. Bake for around 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Makes 15 cupcakes.

Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting -
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 stick salted butter
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and water and cook over medium-high heat. Boil without stirring until it turns a deep amber color. Remove from heat and slowly pour in cream and vanilla, whisking until it is very smooth. Let cool for around 20 minutes, until it’s just barely warm and still pourable.

Meanwhile, beat butter and salt together in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and beat until thoroughly combined. Pour in the cooled caramel and beat on medium-high speed until light and airy (around 2 minutes). If frosting is too runny, the caramel was too warm when added – refrigerate for around 15-20 minutes until frosting is stiffer.

Salted Caramel Sauce -
1 cup sugar
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) salted butter (I recommend using 1/2 salted and 1/2 unsalted, then add additional salt to taste if needed)
1/2 cup plus two tablespoons heavy cream, at room temperature

In a large saucepan, heat the sugar over medium-high heat. Once it begins melting, stir occasionally with a spatula to ensure it heats evenly.

Cook the liquefied sugar until it reaches a deep copper color, then add the butter. Stir until it has completely melted and combined, then remove from heat. Add heavy cream (be careful – it will foam) and whisk until you have a smooth sauce.

Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Microwave for a minute to bring it back to pouring consistency. Makes about 1 1/3 cups.

After cupcakes cool, spread or pipe on caramel buttercream frosting. Drizzle with caramel sauce and melted chocolate. Finish with a sprinkle of sea salt.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Feature on the band, The Paper Kites


Words cannot describe how this bands music makes me feel. I’ll try to refrain from being overly dramatic here (yeah, right ;)); but I’m absolutely convinced there’s magic floating through every single note. Everything about their music is perfect.

My philosophy has always been that all the best songs give you chills. That’s exactly what these songs do. Heaven help me, I swoon over their music, goofy grin on my face and all lol. Okay, now after that weird confession let me tell you more about these musicians that I kinda want to hug if I ever meet :).

The Paper Kites, which is made up of Sam Bentley, Christina Lacy, Dave Powys, Sam Rasmussen, and Josh Bentley; are an indie/folk band hailing all the way from Melbourne, Australia. Seriously, what’s with all these amazing acts coming out of Australia and New Zealand lately? Must be something in the water over there.

They released their first EP entitled “Woodland” in August 2011, and have recently had their song “Featherstone” featured on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy (seems to be a rite of passage for most new bands ;)). A placement that’s allowed for a wider audience to discover the whimsical tunes of a band that, thus far, seem to be one of the best kept secrets. Upon hearing their music all you can think is “Why have I never heard of them before?”


I was lucky enough to stumble onto their music while on YouTube one night listening to another artist.

The moment the first few notes of the song “Bloom” played I was hooked. The song captures your attention with a soft and sweet acoustic guitar riff and lead singer, Sam Bentley’s smooth and calming vocals. The lyrics paint a picture of falling in love,“In the morning when I wake and the sun is coming through, oh you fill my lungs with sweetness; and you fill my head with you. Shall I write it in a letter? Shall I try to get it down? Oh you fill my head with pieces; of a song I can’t get out. Can I be close to you?”  The whistling in the bridge is one of my favorite parts and adds even more warmth to this already lovely tune. Not only is this a song you’ll fall in love with but it’s a song you’ll want to fall in love to.

“Featherstone” is simply magical. The song and the music video are both achingly beautiful. In a strange way the lyrics seem to break my heart and heal it all at the same time, “Wake up to the sound of your fleeting heart. When you go what you leave is a work of art on my chest, on my heart./And we'll hate what we've lost but we'll love what we find. And I'm feeling fine, we've made it to the coastline.”  The trumpets at the end give the song a light and joyful feel.

And the music video… well there’s just no way you can’t smile when watching it; kids living in the woods, dressed in crowns and feathers, having an epic pillow fight? Sounds like all the makings of a great music video to me. ;) You feel like you’re watching the lost boys in Peter Pan. This whimsical video just brings this song to life. 

Other stand outs include, the fast paced journey of “Willow Tree March”, the soft and pretty "Arms" (which has the most heavenly background harmonies I’ve ever heard), and EP title track, “Woodland”.

The band is currently in the studio recording their second EP and will be heading out on the “Heavy Reins Tour” in July. Head on over to their official site for more info and to get a free download of the track, “Woodland”. Also, be sure to purchase the whole lovely EP on iTunes!

The Paper Kites create songs that are full of whimsy and charm; they make you feel warm and just may put you in a state of bliss. With beautiful harmonies and romantic melodies, they transport you to a different place and take you on their magical journey with them. And I’m more than happy to be along for ride.!/thepaperkites

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Blueberry Sauce

So let’s talk breakfast, shall we? I must admit, I’m usually not a breakfast person, and while this is blasphemy to some people; I’ve never been big on pancakes. When I was a kid my grandma would sometimes make pancakes for us on the weekends, they were good, but huge. They would fill up the whole span of a big plate, and I would barely make it through half, while the rest of my family quickly gobbled theirs up. I’ve always been more of a grab a cereal bar for breakfast type of girl. But I think I might be missing out.

There are some pancakes I will make an exception for though; like any pancake with chocolate chips and whipped cream, as it resembles a dessert more than breakfast. And now, these Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Blueberry Sauce. These pancakes make for such a lovely and decadent breakfast. And the best part… they’re low fat! Now this is my kind of breakfast! :) 

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Blueberry Sauce

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(Recipe found @

These lemony pancakes, filled with fresh lemon juice and zest, have quickly become a breakfast staple in my house. They are so light and fluffy thanks to the egg whites and ricotta cheese (am I the only one that reads "ricotta" in Giada De Laurentiis' Italian accent? ;))



The blueberry sauce is thick and rich; not to mention looks ever so enticing running down the sides of the pancake. You could use any syrup over these pancakes but the blueberry flavor of the sauce is the perfect compliment to the lemon.

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Top them off with a little whipped cream and fresh raspberries, and you're ready to start your day!

While they don't take that long to whip up; I suggest making up the batter and sauce the night before. As much as I love cooking, am also not a morning person, and don't love much of anything in the morning hours. So if you're anything like me, night before prep might be a good idea!

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Hope you give these lovelies a try; they make the waking hours a happier time! :)

Blueberry sauce -

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
2-3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water

In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice and cornstarch and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine the blueberries, sugar, and water.

Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and stir in lemon juice and cornstarch mixture. Stir until the sauce thickens slightly. Cover to keep warm and set aside.

Pancakes -

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup ricotta cheese (we used light ricotta)
1 large egg
2 large egg whites
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon canola oil

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a medium bowl, whisk together ricotta cheese, egg, egg whites, lemon juice, lemon zest, and canola oil. Gently fold this mixture into the dry ingredients until flour disappears. Don’t over mix. The batter will be thick.

Heat a griddle or a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spray with cooking spray. Drop about 1/3 cup of batter onto the hot griddle or skillet. Cook the pancakes until browned on the underside and beginning to set, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook the pancakes on the other side, about two minutes longer.

Continue making pancakes until batter is gone. Serve warm with blueberry sauce. Serves 3-4.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

D.I.Y. Cake Stands


Maybe it’s the fact that I’m an obsessed baker or because this is a really fun, easy, and low cost project to make; either way I’ve been making quite a few of these D.I.Y. Cake Stands. Um, if you don’t believe me, just come look at my kitchen… I’m running out of places to put them lol.

When my sister was visiting a couple months ago, there were a few craft projects we planned to do together and this was one of them. Neither of us had ever made one before and we were so surprised at just simple they are. We made one for each of us, and thus began the addiction.

One of my favorite things about making these cake stands is shopping for the pretty plates and bases. There’s a antique and resell shop in my town that I love and probably frequent way too much. In fact, it’s kinda become a Sunday ritual (they’re only open on certain days) for my mom and I to go and search for little treasures. And lately we’ve been scouring the place for antique plates and candlesticks to use for cake stands. It’s so fun to match up the plates with different and unique bases. 

For this cake stand, I used an antique plate with a lovely bird & flower design on it, and a small crystal candlestick for a base. You can mix it up by not only using candlesticks for bases but also drinking glasses, small vases, and sundae dishes. You can just have fun with it and experiment with different variations. Really anything that has a sturdy base with a flat top. One of my favorite things to use are milk glass candlesticks and vases. It always looks so classy!

Don’t think you can only use cake stands in the kitchen, they are so versatile. In fact, I have one sitting on my vanity holding my perfumes, lotions, ect. You can also use them in the bathroom to hold soaps and other toiletries. 

I really hope you give this project a try! But I’m going to give you the same warning I kept reading on other blogs, there is a good chance you will become addicted to making these. In fact, you may not be able to look at a plate and candlestick without wanting to make a cake stand. You will walk out of the store with five plates and five candlesticks and people will look at you funny. But we will both know… it was all worth it! :)

Supplies Needed:



epoxy glue (E – 6000)

a heavy book


Step 1 – After you gather your supplies, you might want to see how you’re positioning your base. I always like to make sure I know the exact spot I want it in before I glue it down. If it helps, you can mark the spot with a pen or marker, as the candlestick will cover it once it’s glued.


Step 2 – Apply epoxy to the top of the candlestick and place it in the middle on the back of the plate. After you have it where you want it, press it down gently. Carefully wipe off any excess glue.

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Step 3 – Place heavy book on top and allow to dry over night.


And in the morning, wake up and admire your hard work!

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Below are some photos of the other cake stands I’ve made:

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Linking up today with Six Sisters' Stuff blog for their Strut Your Stuff Saturday