Dear Elisa

Dear Elisa,

Life may be busy and hectic and chaotic at times, not allowing us to spend as much time as we would like with each other.  However one thing is certain…you are one of my favorites, and here are just a few of the reasons why.

1. You are two months older than me.  This means each year as our birthdays approach I feel like you soften the blow just a little.  And as the number gets higher, that blow needs to be softened just a little bit more.  Here’s to 33!

2. We get to raise our daughters together!  What a true blessing!  To have someone that not only parents similar to myself, but has the same values that are being taught to her children is a gift.  I hope our daughters are the best of friends as they grow up and choose to encourage and love each other the way we do.

3. You are careful with your words.  I so admire this about you.  The words that you speak are the ones I wish I spoke two weeks ago, before I said something I wish I hadn’t.  You are careful and you choose them wisely…something I work towards daily.

4. You are what I like to refer to as “quiet hilarious”.  You don’t strive to be the center of attention, so when you sneak up with some of the funniest things I’ve ever heard, people are always a little surprised, including me.

5. You are brave.  I know that you don’t always feel like it, but the way in which you have conducted yourself throughout your diagnosis is admirable.  You have faced each test result, surgery, and treatment with grace and determination.  Four months ago we claimed Hebrews 6:19 as our own, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”  I am so thankful to be one of your anchors, and even more thankful that you are one of mine.

You are kind, thoughtful, considerate, my canning buddy, and the one I can always count on to bring more than a half eaten bag of chips or a 2-liter of soda to one of our get togethers.  Thank you for being my friend!

Love,

Annie

That's my sweet friend Elisa on the left, radiant as always!

That’s my sweet friend Elisa on the left, radiant as always!

*If you haven’t read about the letter writing challenge I’m doing for the month of June, you can here!  I hope you join me and find some time to write some encouraging words to the people you love in more than a quick email, or a short text.

Dear Sister

Dear Sister,

Growing up with me was I’m sure no picnic.  I was the quintessential annoying little sister.  But not a day goes by that I’m not over the top thankful to Jesus that He chose you to be my big sister, and that you love me. :)

Annie and Sarah

Look at what a brat I was in that picture!  So mad that you got to ride a bicycle.  How dare you leave me behind!  We bickered a lot growing up, and the piece of tape we placed down the middle of our room didn’t really seem to help.  I even seem to remember a slapping fight that we got into over what radio station to listen to on the way to school.  But that’s normal sibling rivalry, right?

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That aside, I remember the day I felt everything changed.  I was a quiet, shy freshman in high school and for some ridiculous reason I thought trying out for the cheerleading team was a good idea.  Since you were a senior, it was not uncommon to go through a typical day at school without really seeing each other.  But that day you made a point to find me in the hallways twice to make sure I wasn’t riddled with anxiety…which of course I was.  You encouraged me and acknowledged me, and that meant everything to me.  When I came home that night as a new member of the Sterling High School Varsity Cheerleading team, you celebrated with me and made me feel like I never had a reason to worry.  For me, that day we went from sisters, to friends, and from that moment on I viewed you so differently.  I admired you.

I admire your intelligence.  Being “Sarah’s sister” through high school was never easy.  I could never quite live up to what that meant.  But it always motivated me to try.

I admire your gift of hospitality.  It comes so easy to you!  And what I love most is that you don’t stress.  Things don’t have to be perfect.  You just love on people right where you are, making people feel welcomed, and I constantly strive to be that way.

I admire what kind of mother you are.  You are engaged and present.  You put your kids above the million other tasks that vie for your attention each day.  You are creative and selfless with them, and they are some of the luckiest kids I know.

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You are my family, my friend, and one of the best people in my life.  I love you more than I could ever put into words!

Love,

Your annoying little sister

 *If you haven’t read about the letter writing challenge I’m doing for the month of June, you can here!  I hope you join me and find some time to write some encouraging words to the people you love in more than a quick email, or a short text.

June is for Writing Letters

In trying to do things a little different around here, I’ve been searching for some new ideas, and yesterday I came across one that I think will be both fun and unique!  Laura Tremaine, over at Hollywood Housewife, had the great idea to spend the month of June writing more letters, and I’m totally up for the challenge!

Writing letters is thoughtful, kind, sweet, and sort of magical.  I used to love sending cards and letters to people when I was in high school.  I would collect all kinds of cards and stationary and send words of encouragement to anyone I had an address for!  Somewhere along the way in the past 15 years I got busy and decided I didn’t have time to do this precious task.  What a shame.  While this challenge will look a little different since it will be unfolding online, I still think taking time to write letters to those that I love and cherish will be joyous.  And who knows…maybe it will give me the kick I need to get back into sending words of encouragement on a more consistent basis.  I hope it persuades you to do the same!

Enjoy!

Churro Cupcakes

Although this post is a little late, it’s still very worth perusing just in case you get the hankering for the most delicious cupcake you will ever eat in your life.  Please read on…

Sometimes when it’s the 5th of May, you have to celebrate by making and eating Churro Cupcakes!  I’ve heard that Mexico doesn’t even really celebrate Cinco de Mayo like we do here in America.  Which is pretty funny.  But whatever.  As if anyone needs an excuse or a holiday to eat a cupcake that is impersonating as a churro.

Cinco de Mayo fell on a Monday this year, which just so happens to be our Family Dinner night, so I was able to make these delicious cupcakes for people that I love!  While there are a lot of steps in the recipe, they are all super easy so I wouldn’t hesitate to make these again!

Churro Cupcakes

Sugar, butter, caramel, cream cheese…you really can’t go wrong!  So stop whatever you’re doing and bake these NOW!  You won’t regret it!

Churro Cupcakes (recipe courtesy of Food Network)

Yields: 28 cupcakes

Ingredients – Cake Batter:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour (not self rising)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon cinnamon, plus more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 3/4 cup sugar, plus more for dusting
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for brushing
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup whole milk

Ingredients – Filling:

2 cups sugar
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream, room temperature

Ingredients – Frosting:

1/2 cup unsalted butter
8 ounces cream cheese
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 to 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions:

  • For the cake batter: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two 12-cup muffin pans with cupcake liners.
  • In a medium bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the sugar and butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until just incorporated. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixing speed to low. Add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk. Beat until combined.
  • Divide the batter evenly among the lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.
  • For the filling: Combine the sugar and 1 tablespoon water into a medium bowl over medium-high heat. Constantly stir until the sugar dissolves into a liquid form. The sugar will dissolve and start to turn brown. Once the sugar and water have completely dissolved, add in the butter and vanilla. Slowly whisk in the heavy cream. Let cool for 10 minutes. Refrigerate for 1 hour to let the caramel thicken before using.
  • For the frosting: Beat the butter and cream cheese until light and creamy. Add in the vanilla. Add in the powder sugar, 1 cup at a time, incorporating fully before next addition. Add milk as needed if the frosting is too thick. Place the frosting into a piping bag fitted with a large star tip.
  • Once the cupcakes have cooled, pull out the centers with a cupcake corer. Melt down the butter. Mix together some cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl. Using a rubber brush, brush the melted butter onto the cupcakes, then roll the tops of the cupcakes into the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Fill the cupcakes with the caramel sauce. Frost cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, dust with more cinnamon and sugar. If you choose, drizzle the cupcakes with leftover caramel sauce.

 

Time for Something New!

Guys.

It’s been awhile.

I’ve been anxious to get back into writing here, but life has kept me BUSY!  I took a hiatus while I entrenched myself in being a mama to our 2 year old, and while barreling through my second pregnancy.  Now that I can move around without waddling everywhere I go, I decided this refuge I call my blog needs a little rebranding.  While I still so enjoy baking and trying new recipes as often as possible, my life right now doesn’t seem to be lending itself to experimental baking as well as documenting it all of the time.  Since I last shared anything here we added this sweet pea to our family.

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Miss Hattie Mae is now three months old and brings so much joy to our lives.  There are times I am so tired from nighttime feedings, toddler tantrums, reading kid books, making lunches, changing diapers, and making trips to the potty, but as soon as I look into this sweet little face, it all disappears and I couldn’t be any happier.  She is an absolute joy!

All that to say, this little space needs a new focus.  My plan is to brand this more as a lifestyle blog.  Sometimes that will look like party planning, sometimes it will be reviewing a product, sometimes it will be about parenting or marriage, and every once in awhile I’ll still post recipes of the newest treat I’ve attempted to make.  If that still sounds interesting to you, I would be overjoyed to have you follow along!

The Amazingly Rich Pots de Creme!

There’s no doubt I’ve been pretty absent on here for several months.  There have been plenty of times that I have wanted to bake and test and type all about it, but life just seems to get in the way these days!  Summer came and went.  Another year of school is well underway.  Fall has begun and the weather has turned cold and crisp.  Aaron and I are currently expecting our second little girl, due in March!

Life just seems to get in the way sometimes…in a good way.

Two years ago we started what we affectionately call “Family Dinner” with two of our dearest friends.  We gather together every Monday night for dinner, coffee, dessert, and fellowship, and it is many times the very best part of my week.  We very seldom cancel our lovely little get together.  The week we were moving into our new home we ate take out food on torn up wood floors at a table made from saw horses and a large piece of plywood.  When I had my first little one we all gathered around the couch where I was recuperating and devoured burritos and enchiladas from our favorite hole in the wall Mexican restaurant.  This last week marked our two year anniversary of our weekly dinners, and we celebrated by going out for dinner.  It was delightful!

For dessert I tried out The Pioneer Woman’s Pots de Creme and it was absolutely heavenly.  At first glance I was super selfish and wished that there was more to split between all of us, but once we started eating it and realized how incredibly rich it was, I couldn’t even finish what I had!

If you’re looking for an easy but fancy looking dessert to try out, this is the one for you!  I almost always have these few ingredients on hand, so it’s a great dessert to pull out of your hat the day of.

I’m so thankful that even when life seems to fly by with the seasons, some things are certain.

Pots de Creme

Serves 4

The Pioneer Woman

  • 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 4 whole eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract ( or liqueur)
  • pinch of salt
  • 8 fluid ounces of strong hot coffee

First thing to do is to take your eggs out of the refrigerator ahead of time and let them come to room temperature before starting.

When eggs are at room temperature you can begin by placing the chocolate chips into a blender. Follow this with the eggs and the vanilla (or liqueur). Add a pinch of salt. Turn on the blender.

While it is blending, remove the circular disk from the blender lid and very slowly pour in 8 ounces of strong, VERY HOT coffee. It is essential that your coffee be extremely hot in order for the final product to be the right consistency and texture.

Blend for a minute or so until mixture is smooth and fairly free of visible bits of chocolate.

Pour the mixture into your serving glasses or little demitasse cups, leaving plenty of room to add a heap of whipped cream later.

Place in the refrigerator for at least 3 to 4 hours so the mixture has a chance to set.

Garnish with whipped cream and maybe a chocolate curl or two and you have an easy, delicious and yes, elegant, dessert!

Peach Cupcakes with Peach Buttercream

I really love planning a party!  I can find any excuse necessary to create a menu, pull out decorations, and make everything on my table match.  Don’t believe me?  Just last night I spent at least an hour considering throwing a FRIENDS party.  It’s only my all-time favorite tv show ever!

There is no good reason to throw a FRIENDS party.

There is no tv reunion happening.

The show has been in reruns for over a decade.

But I have friends!  And they’re great!  And I can’t think of any better reason to make Phoebe’s chocolate chip cookies, or Rachel’s Thanksgiving trifle (minus the beef sauteed with peas and onions).

But I digress…

I started planning Ivy’s first birthday party when she was 6 months old.  I couldn’t wait to throw her the sweetest, most beautiful, peachy party!  I spent months on Pinterest finding every peach idea possible and pinning every cute first birthday party photo idea I could find.  It was so much fun and worth every minute hour I spent. :)

I finally settled on these delicious peach cupcakes with peach buttercream, and I couldn’t have been more pleased!

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Is it too early to start planning for her second birthday party? ;)


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Peach Cupcakes with Peach Buttercream

(www.cathlincooks.blogspot.com)

Cupcakes
2-2 ½ cups unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup sugar
1 cup fresh peach puree
½ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup water
2 tablespoons vinegar

Buttercream
¾ cup butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
¼ cup peach puree
Vanilla, to taste

Cake
Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a muffin tin, or lightly grease and flour a 9-inch round or 8-inch square cake pan. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar into a bowl. In a measuring cup, mix together the peach puree, oil and vanilla. Add the peach mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk together until combined. At this point, you may want to add some yellow and food colouring to achieve a peachier colour. When the batter is smooth, add the vinegar and stir quickly. The batter will foam slightly where the baking soda and vinegar are reacting. Stir just until the vinegar is evenly distributed throughout the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 20 minutes if making cupcakes, or 25 to 30 minutes it making cake. Allow to cool before glazing or frosting.

Peach Buttercream
Whip the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat until well combined. Add peach puree and vanilla and beat again until smooth. You may want to add some yellow and red food colouring to achieve a peachier colour.
Can be piped or spread onto cakes.