Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween Cupcakes

In addition to the Pumpkin Whoopie Pies, I wanted to bring in something fun for Halloween so I went with decorated cupcakes.

Considering I was frosting these at 6 am on Friday morning, I'm pretty pleased with the results!

Spider on a spider web (yes, I know it resembles a crab but at least it's cute)

Your classic pumpkin:
Messy mummy (my frosting wasn't stiff enough and I was too lazy to switch from Ziploc bags to my pastry bags)
Very crudely drawn Frankenstein:

A tray of the cupcakes - I love all the Halloween colors together!

These got a huge reaction from my coworkers although one told me she "can't eat anything with a face on it." She stuck with the pumpkin cupcakes.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

'Tis the season for pumpkin. I'm usually all about making pumpkin flavored desserts during the fall but I had heard rumors that there was a canned pumpkin shortage in the local supermarkets. However, on top of finding a large can of pumpkin puree in my pantry from last year (used for the batch of Pumpkin Bread and Pumpkin Pancakes last weekend), I was able to find plenty of smaller cans of pumpkin puree from the Stop & Shop I frequent. Thus, I was inspired to try a new pumpkin recipe. I'm obsessed with whoopie pies (probably stemming from fascination with trying to make Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies, which are kind of like a cookie whoopie pie) so I was thrilled to find this Pumpkin Whoopie Pies recipe from Martha Stewart. Should you need further pumpkin inspiration, Beantown Baker has also done a full week of interesting Pumpkin recipes.

Makes 12 whoopie pies. (I used my Oxo medium-sized cookie scoop to create smaller, uniform cookies and I ended up 5 dozen cookies or 30 whoopie pies)

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger (I replaced the tablespoons of ginger and cloves with two tablespoons pumpkin pie spice since I'm not a big fan of ginger or cloves)
1 tablespoon ground cloves (Reduced to just a pinch)
2 cups firmly packed dark-brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups pumpkin puree, chilled (I forgot to chill the puree ahead of time, but I did end up putting the batter in the fridge for 30 minutes)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Make the cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat; set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves; set aside. In another large bowl, whisk together brown sugar and oil until well combined. Add pumpkin puree and whisk until combined. Add eggs and vanilla and whisk until well combined. Sprinkle flour mixture over pumpkin mixture and whisk until fully incorporated.

Using a small ice cream scoop (or Oxo cookie scoop) with a release mechanism, drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Transfer to oven and bake until cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of each cookie comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely on pan.

Make the filling: Sift confectioner' sugar into a medium bowl; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter until smooth. Add cream cheese and beat until well combined. Add confectioners' sugar and vanilla, beat just until smooth. (Filling can be made up to a day in advance. Cover and refrigerate; let stand at room temperature to soften before using.)

Assemble the whoopie pies: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Transfer filling to a disposable pastry bag and snip the end. When cookies have cooled completely, pipe a large dollop of filling on the flat side of half of the cookies. Sandwich with remaining cookies, pressing down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edge of the cookies. Transfer to prepared baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate cookies at least 30 minutes before serving and up to 3 days.

I'm glad I ended up making smaller version of the whoopie pies, because even my version ended up being quite a mouthful:

The cookies themselves ended up soft and moist, but I should've taken time to stiffen the cream cheese filling a little more.
These whoopie pies had a nice strong spicy pumpkin flavor, but were a little to messy for my taste as the exterior became very moist after refrigerating and it was hard to pipe enough frosting for each one without having it spill over the edges. I was also disappointed in the cream cheese filling - it tasted great but that's because it was your typical cream cheese frosting. It didn't have that fluffy texture that I associate with traditional whoopie pie fillings.
That being said, Andrew really enjoyed this recipe, being the pumpkin aficionado that he is and my coworkers liked it as well.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Esquire Club

Since I can't mention it too many times, my sister Amy found out that she passed the bar yesterday - yay!
Of course, this called for a celebration so we headed to one of our favorite bars - Cornwall's in Kenmore Square for some celebratory drinks.
Here's Amy reveling in her new status:

She pauses to reflect on the life experiences that brought her to this point in life...just kidding! She models a thoughtful, "lawyer-like" pose and inspires her roommate Pete to do the same:
In a recurring theme, Alabama Slammers (blech!) are ordered to celebrate - thankfully, I passed on this round:
We took time for a classic sisters shot - it never gets old! I am obviously in the role of proud older sister:
Amy and Jen pose for their imaginary billboard to advertise their new legal partnership - Amy fails to hold a serious legal face:
A group shot of everyone present who just passed the bar - needless to say, with Andrew included, lawyers outnumbered "civilians" at our table:

Always a plus for Cornwalls - the bartenders appeared unfazed by the constant shouts of "Esquires!" and "We passed the Bar!" but were diligent in supplying the table with drinks.
Congratulations to everyone who just passed the Mass Bar!

Dryer Drama

Here is the final resting place of my dearly departed dryer.

Yes, I know it looks gross. It died peacefully but my basement is old and grungy.
I worked from home yesterday in order to receive delivery of the new dryer I ordered from Best Buy. Here it is - are you wondering why it's sitting outside my basement door in the rain?
That's because we didn't measure the doorway before buying the dryer - doh! I thought I had bought the same model as my old dryer, but apparently not. The new dryer was exactly a 1/2 inch too big to fit through the basement door. While the Best Buy delivery men were able to take out my old dryer, they had to leave the new dryer at the foot of the outdoor stairs that lead to our basement:

They assured me that the dryer would fit through once the door was taken off but they couldn't do it themselves because of liability issues. I took a deep breath and crossed my fingers that Andrew would be able to figure it out when he got home.
Luckily, he was able to get the door off (with, ahem, a little help from me to hold the door steady):
Tada! The widened doorway with dryer missing...

...because Andrew was able to squeeze it through - he takes a moment to pose victoriously by the object of our frustration:

As for connecting it to the dryer vent...that's a whole 'nother story.
I long for warm, dry clothing.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Amy, Esquire

As I had mentioned back in May, my sister Amy just graduated from Suffolk Law School.

However, it wasn't until she received word that she passed the Bar today that she officially became a lawyer!

Congratulations Amy! We're all so happy and VERY PROUD of you!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wedding Planned in Three Months?!

In case you missed the news, Ivanka Trump got married over the weekend.

Here's the photo that's been plastered all over - it keeps referring to her dress as Grace Kelly-inspired Vera Wang:

It's pretty but I don't think it's anything special.

Photos courtesy of Brian Marcus and Fred Marcus on

And is it just me, or does her husband Jared have the beginnings of what could become the infamous Donald Trump weird comb over?

The reason that I'm highlighting her wedding is the fact that it was planned in just three months! She is quoted as saying it was hard work and it helped her to have a wedding coordinator. Um, I'm sure your money helped a little bit.

Nonetheless, her speediness is making me feel like a total slacker in the wedding planning department. Then again, I'm not a millionaire marrying a millionaire, with my choice of luxury receptions sites and hordes of people eager to suck up to me. However, I am pleased to announce that we put a deposit down on another wedding vendor today (to remain unnamed, as it's one of the surprises we have planned for guests) and I have made progress on booking two other vendors. Only thing that is worrying me is locking down a DJ and a florist. I'm not quite sure that I have a clear enough concept in my head to meet with a florist, but I'm determined to have these done by January so I can start fussing over little details.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cheesy Garlic Biscuits

Tonight was a lazy dinner night. So lazy, I'm surprised we didn't order out. The next best thing was throwing some frozen spinach and cheese ravioli in a pot. As I can't stand the thought of eating pasta without some bread or garlic-oriented on the side, and because I still had some buttermilk left in the fridge, I ended up Googling "buttermilk biscuits."

A recipe that kept popping up was for Cheesy Garlic Biscuits a la Red Lobster. Since I've never eaten at a Red Lobster, I wasn't sure how these would turn out but I like the idea of adding garlic and cheese to the batter and brushing the top with garlic butter. As this recipe called for a Bisquick base, I ended up combining the recipe with another buttermilk biscuit recipe that would allow me to make everything from scratch.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup cold butter or margarine
1 1/4 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
3/4 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon garlic salt

In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and garlic powder. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs (I worked in the butter with my hands). Add the cheese and toss. Stir in buttermilk just until moistened.

Instead of rolling out the dough and using a biscuit cutter, I used my cookie scoop to form somewhat even mounds by piling two scoops on top of one another:

While the biscuits baked at 425 degrees, I combined the melted butter, minced garlic and salt to form a garlic butter sauce to be brushed on the biscuits at the five minute mark.
After baking them for eight more minutes, the biscuits were ready to come out of the oven:

Andrew really liked the biscuits and while I thought they tasted good enough to have two, they weren't anything special. I think I was anticipating something more from all the cheddar cheese that I threw in but all the flavors were very subtle.

Pumpkin Pancakes

You may be wondering why I'm starting off a post about Pumpkin pancakes with a shot of Pumpkin bread.

Pumpkin bread is one of Andrew's favorites and I had intended on making it for his birthday weekend. However, I got caught up making tons of other edibles so I decided to push off making the bread until this weekend. Inspired by a pumpkin pancake mix that Andrew and I had seen in Stonewall Kitchen yesterday, I decided to make pancakes with the extra pumpkin puree I had on hand after making the bread. Andrew was on board with this idea, as it gave him something to look forward to eating right away, rather than waiting for the pumpkin bread to bake and cool.

I ended up modifying a Pumpkin Pancakes recipe from Martha Stewart:

  • 1 1/4 cups of all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoons each of cinnamon and ginger (replaced with a full teaspoon of cinnamon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (I added one full teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice instead)
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • 1 cup of milk (switched to buttermilk since I had some on hand)
  • 6 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree (I upped this to eight tablespoons for maximum pumpkin flavor)
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 egg


For a spiced breakfast treat, whisk 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour; 2 tablespoons sugar; 2 teaspoons baking powder; 1/2 teaspoon salt; 1 teaspoon each cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice; and a pinch of ground cloves. In a separate bowl, stir together 1 cup milk, 6 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and 1 egg; fold mixture into dry ingredients.

What you'll end up with is a delightfully orange and spiced batter:

Melt some butter in a skillet over medium heat (I used Pam instead) ; pour in 1/4 cup batter for each pancake. Cook pancakes about 3 minutes per side.

Serve hot with butter and syrup. I got ten full size pancakes.

They had a great pumpkin flavor and a nice, dense texture - not as fluffy as your typical pancake but still a nice seasonal dish to celebrate the great fall weather we're enjoying today.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Having Phu(n)

Thursday ended up being our big night out this week in celebration of Phu's birthday.

Here's the birthday boy himself sporting a key accessory from his upcoming Halloween costume:

Phu's choice was the Korea Garden in Allston - I'm always down for Korean food and was eager to try a new restaurant. I was charmed by all the Korean touches, including the spoon covers:

Most of our table opted to try Korean OB beer but we also had a chance to try Korean soju, courtesy of Jen L, who ordered for the whole table in Korean:

Phu and his friend Sarah from Colorado posed for the before shot:

Everyone joined in on the birthday well wishes with a shot of soju:

Phu claimed it went down smoothly but this was the after picture:
A full table shot of the attendees:

Several people at the table aren't known for their adventurous eating habits (ahem, Pete) so Phu did his best to encourage people to try new things. By encourage, I mean he was ordering people to eat things because it was his birthday. For example, getting Pete to eat a sardine:
Boys being boys, they had a great time creating different disgusting combinations of foods to try:
Then it was time to head back to Phu's, Amy's and Pete's apartment for dessert - a yummy red velvet and cake batter ice cream cake from Coldstone and the birthday trifle:
How could any good birthday evening end without a pull up contest? Here's Phu demonstrating his strength:

And Pete's attempt to show him up:
That was the end of the evening for Andrew and I, being old fogies who had to work the next day, but the rest of the group headed out for dancing.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Happy Birthday Phu!

I know I've been stuck in a rut of trifles, but people keep requesting them!

This is for Phu, who mercilessly made fun of me for being old. Which is funny, considering he is turning the same age just over a month after. Happy Birthday old man. I hope it's another "full moon" night for you!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Live Event Painting

So because of recent house hunting developments - of which, I hope to have more news to share
soon - I've turned my attention back to wedding planning.
One local Knot bride recently had a live event painter at her wedding - who even knew this service existed?
An artist visits your venue to do a pre-sketch of general details and is present during your reception to paint and fill in the details, including the bride and groom dancing. This serves a dual purpose, not only do you get a unique keepsake from your wedding but it also serves as entertainment for your guests.
Here's another example from a local artist, Gail Fitzpatrick of Live Event Paintings.
Cool concept, but considering that it costs at least around $2,500, it's way too expensive. Again, neat idea but I don't think I'm enthralled enough by it to shell out a penny over a $1,000. Not that the artist doesn't deserve to be paid for her work and skills, but I'd rather spend the money on something memorable and edible!!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Meet Andrew's New Friend

This is the same view of Andrew I've seen all evening - face down and intent on his iPhone. He doesn't even look up when I'm talking to him- just grunts enough in a distracted manner to pretend that he's following what I'm saying.

Got one smile when he figured out how to download his fantasy sports application:
What have I created? I'm starting to rethink this whole iPhone as a birthday gift thing.