Category: housewares

Tales from the thrift.

Well… it’s been a long time since I posted about my thrifty finds, hasn’t it? I think it was last June August when I posted that huge post about (almost) every awesome thing I had. But there’s a good reason for it: I haven’t really had time to go thrifting! Between everything that’s been going on with me & then the house reno stuff, it was impossible.

The other reason is that the few times I did happen to go, I didn’t find anything. Disappointment central. Then… I got lucky! Twice in a row.

So here’s a new TALES FROM THE THRIFT!*

Tales from the Thrift!

In case you didn’t know, I collect vintage stuff. Mostly housewares. And two of my favorite things to collect are vintage jars & Pyrex. I like the 1950′s/early 1960′s patterns and colors the most; the pinks, pale greens, turquoises, black & whites, etc. I love (& collect, or at least I’m attempting to in some cases) the Gooseberry, Pink Daisy, Balloons, DuchessMidnight Bloom, Flamingo, Pink Daisy, Golden Scroll, Starburst, Black Tulip, Butterprint, Medallion, Pink Scroll, Stems, Snowflake, New Dots & Barbed Wire patterns, among others. However a few of the green & bright blue patterns I like are from the late 60′s or 70′s, such as Spring Blossom.

And also like these blue snowflake/snowflake blue mixing bowls *:

1960's/1970's blue snowflake Pyrex Cinderella bowls.

The large bowl cost me around 5 bucks, the small one 3 bucks. The price on the large bowl was originally $9.00 at the thrift shop, but I got it on sale. I love my big vintage Pyrex mixing bowls. They’re actually the only vintage Pyrex pieces I use- the rest are display pieces (other than the fairly common clear pie plates, like you’ll see later in this post). I had never seen this pattern around in my travels (just on the internet), and I was amazed at the condition of these bowls! They’re practically perfect. And speaking of perfect…

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Apple cake, sadness, sickness & Spode.

Apple cake made with hazelnuts. The hazelnuts toast in the oven & the middle layer of apples just melts into the coffee-cake style cake, leaving you with a moist, delicious dessert.

Alliteration at it’s finest, ladies & gentlemen. My 7th & 8th grade English teacher Mrs. Clarey would be proud. Shamefully ‘apple cake’ doesn’t start with an ‘s.’ Anyway, even though I’ve shown you the cake… first let’s tackle the easiest of the four: Spode.

A while back, I told you all about my adventures in thrifting- or, as Xenia says: Tales from the Thrift. I’ve bought some pretty little things since that post & you’ll see some of them today.

Like, right now.

Vintage Spode Cowslip pattern bread & butter plates (+ a recipe for apple cake with hazelnuts).

See? Those plates. They’re Spode “Cowslip” pattern bread & butter dishes, or appetizer dishes. I got them for less than $2.00 a piece (actually closer to a buck a piece) in a thrift store, and according to Replacements.com that’s quite a good deal. I should’ve bought the whole dinnerware set, but they were asking a bit much considering there was quite a lot of it missing. Regardless, I’m happy with my four little plates- dating from December 1950, according to the marks on the bottom (D50). Since the pattern was only started in the 1940′s and discontinued by 1972 that’s pretty cool.

Spode Cowslip plates (& a recipe for apple cake).

I just love me some cute little plates for serving desserts or snacks. Or cake.

Cake! Apple cake!

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Thrift away.

Thrift store!

Do you thrift? I’ve been thrifting since I was 14 years old. My first thrift experiences were long before that, but I started seriously buying for myself in my early teens. As a child I went to bazaars & rummage sales with my mother & grandmother, who would find them advertised in the Pennysaver or newspaper & cut them out or circle them as a reminder. We would also go to thrift shops, antique shops & garage sales; one of my grandmother’s neighbors used to have a garage sale every summer & we’d always stop in & buy something. When I got older I began searching for vintage Levi’s 501′s, motorcycle jackets, vintage corduroys or whatever other retro clothes would complete my super punk rock look. I bought old jeans & made purses (& cutoffs) out of them. I bought denim jackets to stud & patch. I bought old coats- my favorites were a leopard fur one & a red plaid one with a shearling collar. I bought old scarves. Military camo jackets. Vintage t-shirts with weird sayings. Red plastic Pan-Am bags.

Yep. I was pretty awesome.

My thrifting took a break for a few many years when the well seemed to dry up. I went to a few places & didn’t find a damn thing, not to mention the prices went through the roof. So I quit for a while. I did notice that all the good stuff ended up priced astronomically high in NYC consignment shops & the urban hipster thrift stores, however. I said screw it, gave up. And then I got inspired by bloggers who find amazing thrift pieces. Not to mention Xenia & all her amazing thrifty finds, & Ariana too. So I started to ease back in: Goodwill, Savers, St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift shop, etc. I didn’t find much in the way of clothing anymore, so I decided to give up & look for other things instead. I figured I’d go with no expectations. Just wander in on a hot, summer day (or a day when I had nothing else to do) & see what they had. I have an obsession with all vintage or retro housewares, like the things below (the first seven items of which were not thrifted- they belonged to my grandparents & great-grandmother respectively, the last was bought on eBay as a gift for me years ago), and so I decided to stick with searching for things like that.

Before I start showing my thrift finds, I thought I’d share some of my favorite vintage housewares & kitchenware stuff with you. Warning: there are A LOT OF PICTURES here. 

Fantastic green & gold Jeannette Glass 'Hellenic' bar set.

Vintage 1950s aluminum Kromex tumblers & pitcher set, mint condition. #kromex

Fire King 'Jane Ray' jadeite pattern. #jadeite

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The dish ran away with the wooden spoon.

Back in June when I posted that DIY tea towel apron tutorial, I got a ton of great feedback. So I thought maybe I’d bring back the DIY thing with another really easy project: painted-handle wooden spoons.

I’ve seen these wooden spoons all over Etsy & Pinterest. Every time I see them I think “I can do that.” I even mentioned doing it to match the apron in that post.

So I finally did it.

Make your own painted-handle wooden spoons!

Except these aren’t dipped in rubber like most of the ones you’ll see, they’re just painted in Martha Stewart Crafts™ multi-surface acrylic craft paint. Which, it just so happens, is both “weather-resistant” & non-toxic. They also did not cost $29.00 for a set of three like those other ones for sale on the internet. Instead, it probably cost me less than $5.00 a set, maybe even less than $3.00: The glitter paint is $2.99 & the satin is $1.99 (you could paint a ton of spoons with one bottle!), and a set of the three spoons cost me $1.00.

I think it took me ten minutes to paint three of them. I did one set for myself in pink (of course) and a set for my mother in black. Once I saw how cute they came out, I started experimenting with different colors & styles. You can paint them to match your KitchenAid mixer, to match your Le Creuset, to match your kitchen color scheme or just in your favorite color. Gold/silver/metallic or pearl paints are interesting choices, too!

Here they are in pink:

DIY painted wooden spoons.“pink dahlia”

Here they are in black:

Make your own painted-handle wooden spoons.“beetle black”

Here they are in light green:

DIY painted wooden spoons!“scallion”

And finally… here they are in glittery pink:

DIY pink glitter wooden spoons. Crazy easy & cheap to make!“bubblegum pink”

Awesome, right? No wonder the dish ran away with the spoon; look at how freakin’ cute the spoons are!

This is what you’ll need:

  • Acrylic paint. Mine is useable on wood, fabric, metal & glass among other surfaces, and like I said above- it’s non-toxic. Of course, you’re not painting the part of the spoon that touches the food, but why take a chance? I actually highly recommend the Martha Stewart line; it comes in a zillion colors (the colors I used are named above). I used the satin & glitter finishes, but you can use a gloss, metallic or pearl if you prefer, it makes no difference. All of them are non-toxic & weather resistant.
  • A small paintbrush.
  • Scotch tape.
  • Wooden spoons. I got mine in a 3-pack at the dollar store, you can buy whatever ones you want, or you can freshen up old ones you already have at home (as long as they aren’t recently oiled or varnished).
  • A pint jar or drinking glass, deep enough & with a wide enough mouth to accommodate the amount of spoons you’ll be painting without having the painted parts of the handles touch each other or the glass itself.

How to make your own painted-handle wooden spoons.

This doesn’t even really need a tutorial, it’s pretty much self-explanatory, but here goes nothin’.

The first thing you’re gonna do is gently wash the spoons in hot water with mild dish soap. Let them dry thoroughly. Then, you’re going to tape them where you want the painted section to end. Very easy. I made them all even so that when the spoon parts line up, so does the paint. You can paint as far down as you like, but I’d leave a decent amount of plain wooden space above the spoon part.

How to make those adorable painted handle wooden spoons.

Okay… once they’re taped, get your glass or jar handy & get your workspace ready. Paint your spoon handles with a thin coat of paint, placing them handle side up in the jar or glass as you go. Make sure the painted parts are separate from each other as they dry. After one hour, check to see if they need a second coat (they probably do). Keep the tape on and paint a second coat. Let them dry again in the jar.

It's so easy to make your own colored-handle wooden spoons. Here's a tutorial!

After 2-3 hours you can remove the tape to check if they’re even. If not, just re-tape the spoon a little bit lower and fix your mistakes. Keep the spoons in the jar for 12 hours after they feel dry just to be sure. Let the spoons cure for 21 days (or according to your paint directions) before using or washing them again. If you screw up & get paint on a spot you don’t want it, you can sand it off with some sand paper once it dries.

The glittery ones took about 4-5 coats to look good, but if you paint a solid color underneath then paint the glitter, it’d take less.

And that’s it… you’re done!

If you want a less perfect look, you can definitely paint them without using the tape. Go freehand. Be wild.

Adorable DIY painted wooden spoons.

Adorable x 1,000. I just love them.

Another idea: before painting, drill small holes at the end of each handle in the same spot. Sand away any rough patches & then wash/dry/paint the spoons as directed above. After painting, while it’s still wet, poke a toothpick through to make sure they stay clear. When they’re dry, tie them all together with a pretty matching ribbon for a throw-in gift (or stocking stuffer).

You don’t have to make it solid either- you can do stripes if you’re daring (ha!). Just place the tape all the way up the handle leaving spaces in between for painting. You can do polka dots in another color once the first color is totally dry, too, using a pencil eraser to make the dots. Or you can use pinking shears to cut the tape so yours isn’t a straight line around, but a zig-zag. Tons of ideas!*

Like this “zebra” style version I did (it’s more like an Ikat pattern, really):

DIY hand-painted wooden spoons to spice up the kitchen!

So, how easy is that? Very. Go get on it. And make yourself some fancy spoons!

*Yoyo also sent me a link for this post at red-brolly.com that shows you how to cover the spoon handles in fabric or Washi tape! It’s a bit more complicated than using just the paint, but it’s worth it judging by the photos.

Internet inspiration: cupcake liner storage.

There are a couple of things I’ve learned over the past few years that I honestly never would have thought of nor realized if it weren’t for this wonderful thing we call the internet. They aren’t really important things, not for the most part, but I thought I’d share them with you just the same.

  • The internet taught me that not everyone who CAN make a website SHOULD. Yellow text is just never acceptable.
  • Pinterest taught me that there are a shit ton of alfredo chicken pasta recipes & enchilada recipes- everyone’s husband LOVES them & all of them are “top rated”! (are they really, though?)
  • Pinterest also taught me most people do not buy Ball® jars to preserve food. Silly me.
  • Facebook has taught me the most unattractive people love to post the most photos of themselves. Usually in “da club.” Usually drinking. Usually wearing inappropriate clothing for their weight/age/etc.
  • Facebook also taught me that people who didn’t like me in HS want to be my friend now, after not seeing or speaking to me for 13 years. Strange isn’t it?
  • Instagram taught me I really, really, really love to see what other people are eating & drinking. Maybe too much.
  • Instagram also taught me that there are chicks who do that “duck face” thing seriously, not joking. Woops.
  • Twitter has taught me that I like people better when they’re limited to only 140 characters.
  • Twitter also taught me that people still prefer to follow rather than lead. (whoa- DEEP THOUGHTS)
  • Blogs taught me that everyone thinks they’re funny, clever, and either a professional photographer, makeup artist or chef.
  • Blogs also taught me that most of them are none of the above.

But one of the most important things I’ve learned- aside from the fact that there are a lot of really cool people out there, who sadly, do not live anywhere near me- is that anything you want to do, or things you’ve never dreamed of doing (particularly involving the re-use of every day household items)… the instructions on how to do these things are all right at your fingertips.

And so I made these.

DIY cupcake liner storage that's display worthy! Made using mason jars & chalkboard paint.My chalkboard-writing skills only apply to larger pieces… obviously…

I have a problem with pretty cupcake liners. I always have, really, but before I baked it wasn’t as big of an issue. Before I baked, I’d see them in a store & say “Oh how cute!” then I’d promptly pass them by and pick up a frozen pizza & a bag of Totino’s pizza rolls. But once I started using them it became a thing. I bought so many I had nowhere to actually put them. For awhile, I had some out on a few cupcake & cake stands, but they were getting dirty & dusty from being in the middle of all that kitchen-witchery. So then I bought plastic shoeboxes at Bed Bath & Beyond. And I filled those up real quick, but they got overloaded and in the process began crinkling & eventually ruining the shape of my beautiful liners. Wahhh.

What’s a girl to do?

(Psst… I’m sharing this with you because if you’re here reading this, you might very well have the same problem.)

So one day I was browsing Pinterest, as one is wont to do, and I happened upon this. Genius. Why didn’t I think of that?

Well actually, I had, but I thought of it using Ball jars; and you see, based on what jars I had at my disposal I realized that regular mouth jars aren’t wide enough, and aside from that… pint jars are a bit too shallow and don’t hold as many as you’d like. But this time it just so happens that when I saw that pin, I had literally just finished cleaning out & de-labeling two 25 oz. Victoria pasta sauce jars. And as I scrubbed them I was wondering what exactly I was going to use them for. I had already made candy jars out of old sauce jars, so I didn’t want to do that again (a girl can only have so many candy jars).

Cupcake liner storage jars!

And so there I am, washing these jars & seeing this pin on Pinterest. And like I said, I had all these pretty liners… all wasted by being hidden away… it just made sense. So I made some cupcake liner storage jars out of ‘em! The Victoria jars are the PERFECT SIZE for this. Basically, you need a jar with a mouth opening of around 3″ in order to accommodate the liners comfortably. And it should be a pint & a half at least in order to make it worthwhile- you really can’t fit many in a pint jar. It just so happens the Victoria jars are 6″ high (not including lid) with a 3″ wide mouth. Wide mouth quart-sized Ball or Kerr jars would probably work as well.

The thing with these is that there really isn’t any “tutorial” involved- just get jars that the liners fit into without getting squished, and do whatever you want with them. I painted the lids with black Martha Stewart acrylic chalkboard paint (2 coats), and put chalkboard label stickers on the front. This way, if you wanted to split the liners according to holiday or color, use the labels or chalkboard lids to mark them; i.e. “Christmas”, “pink”, “stripes”, etc. The chalkboard paint comes in just about every color you can imagine, so you can match your appliances, your KitchenAid, your kitchen, you name it.

Done. Counter-ready, aesthetically pleasing cupcake liner storage, at your service!

 

*And if you wanna make some more “Pinterest Projects”, head on over to textdrivebys.com and check out my other DIY posts.

How do I love thee, let me count the Le Creuset…

Whew. Things are absolutely crazy around here. I mean crazy busy. INSANE. I feel like I have no time to sit down, at all. I barely have time to figure out what to make for dinner, or to come up with interesting things to post for you guys. It’s as if I literally have no time for anything at all, but somehow I’m managing to maintain my blog; I guess that shows where my priorities are. For example, I had this bread slathered with butter for dinner the night after I made it because I hadn’t defrosted anything and was way too tired to make anything by the time I got around to even thinking about it. Never before now has that above sign been more appropriate. Dinner-making has gone from an every night thing to a few nights a week thing, and there’s been a lot of take-out. I’m really that busy & preoccupied.

But I had this  recipe bookmarked for years now, just waiting for the right time (and the right equipment) to make it. It’s a no-knead bread from Sullivan Street Bakery. Very easy, extremely delicious, and of course it’s all to show off my new LE CREUSET. Yes, that’s right. I said it.

Get ready, this is going to be long-winded.

See, there’s a story behind this. A few months back, right after New Year’s, after having had an exceptionally & spectacularly shitty week I made an executive decision:

I was getting myself a Le Creuset French oven.

To the uninitiated, this may not seem like such a big deal, or such a crazy decision. But for ONE single kitchen item that costs $300.00+, I assure you it is. So after crunching some numbers and assuring myself I was worth it & I deserved such a thing, I made the decision that I would finally get one. Like Lola, my KitchenAid stand mixer, it’s an investment piece. Not only does it improve my kitchen-witchery with all it’s benefits, but it’ll last forever. As in it’s entirely possible that generations from now my Le Creuset will be gracing the kitchen counter of one of my great-grandchildren. Yeah. It’s that serious. Plus it just looks beautiful.

Le Creuset was founded in the French town of Fresnoy-le-Grand, Aisne, Picardy, a strategic location at the crossroads of transportation routes for iron, coke and sand. Armand Desaegher (a casting specialist) and Octave Aubecq (an enameling specialist) opened their foundry in 1925. That same year, the first cocotte (or French Oven) was produced, laying the foundation for what is now an extensive range of cookware and kitchen utensils.

The Le Creuset signature color, Flame (orange) was born in this first piece. With their new ability to pigment the enamel glaze, Desaegher and Aubecq modeled their first color after the intense orange hue of molten cast iron inside a cauldron (“creuset” in French).

During World War II, Le Creuset began to focus on continually improving their cast iron. In 1939, Le Creuset launched the patented Doufeu, an oven containing the world’s first patented basting spikes that allow condensation to drip back into the food during cooking. In 1957, Le Creuset purchased a competitor, Les Hauts Fourneaux de Cousances, and began producing items such as a grill model and a fondue set.

In 1995 Le Creuset began exploring new product categories: stainless steel, stoneware, silicone, enamel on steel, textiles and forged hard-anodized aluminum.

The current Le Creuset logo was introduced in 1970 and was designed to be a symbolic representation of metal casting and molding. The company was purchased by current owner Paul Van Zuydam in 1987.

To manufacture their cast iron cookware, the Le Creuset foundry uses standard sand casting methods. After hand finishing, items are sprayed with at least two coats of enamel. The enamel becomes resistant to damage during normal use. Currently, all Le Creuset cast iron cookware is still manufactured in the company’s foundry in Fresnoy-le-Grand, where workers employ a 12 step finishing process implemented by 15 different pairs of hands to ensure that there are no flaws or imperfections in the final product.

-Wikipedia

I’ve wanted one for years, but I had a few problems. One, I kept spending the money on other things. And two, I couldn’t decide what color I wanted. In typical me fashion, I was drawn to black… but they didn’t have it anymore (they do in the U.K., however, and more than one kind of black, no less). They have a ton of colors- but I’m not a colorful girl. I like pink, yeah, but more often I’m drawn to black, gray, etc. My kitchen isn’t one that has Fiestaware or multicolored gadgets, & so a bright yellow, bright blue or bright green French oven just isn’t me. I’m not a Caribbean girl, or a Cherry girl, or a Soleil girl. I’m just not. Those colors are beautiful. But not ME. They also have white, and a color called Dune, which is a creamy off-white color. I wasn’t crazy about it, though. I mean- it’s a lovely color, but it didn’t have the WOW factor I was going for. But despite that, I was actually going to go with one of the two just because they were neutral and went with my kitchen, etc. And they also matched the set of mini cocottes I have. Truth be told? I really wanted pink; but Le Creuset doesn’t make pink, and the ones that they do make are so rare you can’t get your grubby little hands on them anywhere. Unless it’s this adorable little one. Or unless – and here’s the caveat- just like with the black color that’s long been discontinued in the U.S., you’ve gotta live in the U.K. to get it. And if you do, and you want to make me very, very happy… SEND ME A PINK LE CREUSET! Something. ANYTHING.

Kidding. Sorta. *cough* Anyway, then a few years back they introduced two new colors: Lilac (which I think is gone now) & Cassis. And immediately, I fell head over heels for the Cassis.

Named for the sweet black currant, Le Creuset’s CASSIS incorporates the nature-inspired shades found in aubergine and wild berries. Elegantly understated, CASSIS displays a warmth that complements soft-hued neutrals, and is one of today’s most sought-after colors.

Cassis is the French word for black currant which is a plant that produces dark purple berries, while purple has been a color associated with weath, luxury, and status throughout history.

If I have to get a color, and I can’t have pink? Well then I’m gonna get one that’s not too bright, but one that’s really beautiful and dark. One that looks like it could be almost black, but it isn’t. And so, I decided screw it. Screw matching shit. I love this color. And so yeah, I said I’d get the Cassis, when the time came for me to get one.

And that time was now.

So I went & I bought one. And the minute it arrived I sat on the floor, opened it, and just looked at it. I did the same thing when I first got my stand mixer, you know her as Lola. Sometimes, you just have to admire something before you use it. The color in the sunlight is a royal purple, like you see above. In regular light, it’s a deep, dark aubergine-type purple with a gradient. It’s beautiful.

And then, of course, once you’re done looking at it… you have to use it.

And what was I to make? How could I “break the seal” on this? What should the very first recipe I make be? I decided to go with something brainless. I originally tossed around all kinds of ideas; bœuf bourguignon, coq au vin, all those interesting French dishes, plus paella, stews and other assorted all-day meals. But I thought maybe I’d work up to those. Let’s just start with a super easy bread. Note: you need a Le Creuset French oven or some other 6-8 quart pot with lid to make this bread. Pyrex or a ceramic something or other with a lid will work too, although if you want a cast iron oven and don’t want to spend a lot, you can get Dutch ovens for a pretty decent price. Of course, I’m partial to my new love: Le Creuset.

Anyway, I know I just posted a bread last week. But give me a break, here. I know you’ll love this one. It’s very simple and it’ll blow you away!

SULLIVAN STREET BAKERY NO-KNEAD BREAD (from Jim Leahy, owner)

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 11/2 cups water
  • 1/4 teaspoon yeast
  • 11/4 teaspoon salt
  • olive oil (for coating)
  • extra flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal (for dusting)

Directions:

  1. Mix all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Add water and incorporate by hand or with a wooden spoon or spatula for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Lightly coat the inside of a second medium bowl (NOT aluminum or other reactive metal- only a glass or stainless steel bowl) with olive oil and place the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest 12 hours at room temperature (approx. 65-72°F).
  2. Remove the dough from the bowl and fold once or twice. Let the dough rest 15 minutes in the bowl or on the work surface. Next, shape the dough into ball. Generously coat a cotton towel with flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal; place the dough seam side down on the towel and dust with flour. Cover the dough with a cotton towel and let rise 1-2 hours at room temperature, until more than doubled in size. Preheat oven to 450-500°F.
  3. Place the pot in the oven at least 30 minutes prior to baking to preheat. Once the dough has more than doubled in volume, remove the pot from the oven and place the dough in the pot seam side up. Cover with the lid and bake 30 minutes Then remove the lid and bake 15-30 minutes uncovered, until the loaf is nicely browned.

Stunning! I think this was definitely the easiest bread ever. Seriously. Some breads require either a lot of steps & a starter, like the Levain, or they require a shit load of kneading, like the French bread I made way back when. This one has neither. Don’t get me wrong, the Levain is well worth the trouble, so is the French bread. But there are times you really don’t want to do all of that. I would assume, also, that you can use any flour you like; whole wheat, unbleached, etc. as well as top it with anything you like… seeds, oats, oat bran, etc. You could probably alter it to suit you with any kind of flavoring or herbs, too.

It would be fantastic in a grilled cheese sandwich, or for bruschetta (maybe when it gets hard). And it would also be great just toasted for breakfast, or with fresh jam.

I don’t know about using something like bran flour or coconut flour in it. I’d love for someone to try it & let me know, though! Pola, where are you? 

I’m sure you’ll be seeing a lot more of my new acquisition around here, since it’s good for everything from baking to making jam to roasting chicken & braising meat. This is just the beginning! If anyone has a great French oven recipe, feel free to leave it in the comments or e-mail me. I love new ideas. And here’s the deal: I know that some people will say that $300 for a French oven is extreme, or “decadent,” or crazy. I have a little something to say to those of you about that. See, I’ve had four or five hand mixers since 2008- all of them broke on me, except the last one, which is a $99 KitchenAid 9-speed digital model. And the other ones were NOT KitchenAid, and definitely not $99. One of them died mixing cheesecake, which is understandable. A hand mixer and cheesecake shouldn’t really mix. But the rest? One sputtered and slowed down during a batch of buttercream, and another one just didn’t start one day. Another had something rattling around inside of it after a few uses, which was not only unsettling in and of itself, but it smelled like burning plastic when I turned it on. Who knows what that even was. That’s just one small example, but let me say that now I’ve officially learned my lesson: sometimes, you really do just get what you pay for. And as far as Le Creuset vs. a cheaper model dutch oven goes, this post from the Local Kitchen explains it better than I can.

I’d rather pay a little more one time than pay less over & over again, regretting my decision. When your cheap(er) dutch oven gets chips in it within a month, and scratches n the inside enamel, & mine still looks brand new, we can talk about decadence; specifically how wasteful & decadent it is to buy a less expensive item more than once just to prove a point, rather than investing in one that costs more & lasts longer.

*Le Creuset in no way sponsored this post. All thoughts & opinions are my own, I was not provided with any products free of charge (I wish! But sadly not) and most certainly not in exchange for a positive review. This French oven was purchased by me and all comments in reference to it are mine. I do wish I could give you all a beautiful French oven of your own, but I’m not made of money. *wink*

Fulfilling our purpose.

Courtesy: I Am Photograph

;

Anyone who knows me knows this: I love anything & everything vintage. As a matter of fact, that photograph above? I wish I had a hard copy of it!* That’s a fantastic photo.

*(I might have to print one out.)

I have a lot of vintage stuff, from postcards, decorations and china to knick-knacks and figurines. If I was to list all my vintage or antique items, you wouldn’t believe me. You’d think I was full of crap… that’s how much of it I have. I have vintage Lefton figures, vintage Japanese statues from the 1940′s stamped “Made in Occupied Japan,” I have vintage 1930′s dishes, 1960′s & 1970′s cookware, etc. I have a 1930′s metal cake carrier. I have a 1960′s Sunbeam mixmaster. I have a vintage crystal wine decanter that belonged to my great-grandmother. I have things that belonged to both of my great-grandmothers, actually, including my great-grandma Midge’s crocheted doilies & my great-grandma Mary’s Halloween decorations. I have my great-grandfather Duke’s German-made Christmas ornaments from the turn of the century. I have my grandparents’ Christmas decorations from the 1940′s/1950′s. To some, it might just be old junk. But not in my eyes. These things are all very important to me.

I also have something vintage that I’ve never photographed, or talked about, or even used before: My grandmother’s turkey platter. I had never seen it growing up, it was hidden away with her good silver in the buffet in her dining room. But two years before she passed away, I was helping her look for something & I found it. I gushed over how beautiful it was, genuinely, telling her I had just seen one in Williams-Sonoma that wasn’t as pretty… and she said, “Oh yes. You can use it if you like.” But I never did. I put it back.

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I thought about using it, but I just didn’t. I don’t know why. Maybe I was afraid I’ll drop it & break it, like I did with my grandmother’s big vintage jadeite mixing bowl (which goes for around $100 now, shoot me). But it deserves to be used, not packed away. It only has a short window of time in which it’s useful. It should be showed off.

So that’s why this year- I’m going to.

And it got me thinking… if this plate hasn’t fulfilled it’s purpose in so long, what else hasn’t? Are we all fulfilling our purpose here, every day, whatever it may be? What is your purpose? Is my purpose in life to make people happy with baked goods & my little blog? If so, that’s a pretty sweet deal. Look- I’m not religious. I don’t believe in a God (or Gods). I’m actually a total bitch when it comes to most people & most situations… and I admit it. But I believe that ultimately, we’re here to help one another. I really do believe that we have a duty to our fellow living creatures to be kind & to help them, in any way we can. Big or small. Because what’s the point otherwise? If you see a neighbor in trouble, help them out. If you’re in trouble, ask for help. If this hurricane last month proved anything to me, it’s that some people are totally useless… but most people are really amazing. And deep down inside we all CAN be. It doesn’t take much to help someone in need. To donate a few bucks, or an old blanket or old clothes. Or that coat your kid won’t wear because it’s out of style. And today should be a day where we really think about that. Not just about what we’re thankful for, but are we being the best we can be in life? Are we really living? Life is too short as it is. No matter how old you are when you die, you’re too young. There’s never enough time for what we want to do. So are we taking advantage of every day?

Use your good china to serve take-out Chinese. Use the good crystal on a Monday night. Do that thing you’ve always wanted to do, don’t put it off. Buy the new TV- you can’t take your money with you when you go, and you might as well enjoy it while you’re here. Better yet, if you don’t want to blow the money on a TV… why not donate a few bucks to a charity of your choice. If you’re able to read this, then there are people that are far worse off than you who could really use a little help. Maybe your five bucks could do more good for someone else than it would buying your latte. Be kind to people. Everyone is going through something, and you might give the only kind words they hear all day. We all have bad days, and we all get cranky. Sometimes it’s downright bitchy. And we all make snap judgments to varying degrees. But catch yourself when you’re doing it, and give someone the benefit of the doubt. Lend someone a dollar if they need it. The whole “you only live once” thing is getting old now, I know, but it’s so true.

Bake someone a cupcake. Or better yet, screw your diet: eat a cupcake. I mean, if you can’t enjoy yourself & indulge on holidays, then when can you?

 

Black velvet, sugar skulls & a Sourpuss giveaway!

COMMENTS ARE NOW CLOSED! THE GIVEAWAY IS OVER!

and the winner is…#50!  Kate G!

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*** Congrats Kate! I’m e-mailing you right now. And thanks to everyone else who entered. I hope to do another giveaway soon… ***

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BOY, are you all lucky this week. Cupcakes the other day, cupcakes today. It’s a cupcake-palooza around here… which is appropriate, given my blog name. But I will admit that in general, I haven’t been posting as many cupcakes as I should lately. I’ve been distracted with other goodies & yummies & I’ve kinda been neglecting the cupcakes.

Before I start going off on my tangents, lets get one thing straight right away: this entire post is going to be a big lovefest. It’s ALLLLLL about things I love. You’re going to see me write that over and over and over again, and I do apologize. Both for my repetition, my lack of other suitable words for the circumstances and also for beating you over the head with it. Are you ready?

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I love Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. It’s one of my favorite things about this time of year; along with Halloween, spooky things, black cats everywhere, fall leaves, vampires, apples & pumpkins. Just in case you live under a rock:

Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de los Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and around the world in other cultures. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. It is particularly celebrated in Mexico, where it is a national holiday, and all banks are closed. The celebration takes place on November 1, in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day (November 2). Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts. They also leave possessions of the deceased.

Scholars trace the origins of the modern Mexican holiday to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years and to an Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl. The holiday has spread throughout the world: In Brazil, Dia de Finados is a public holiday that many Brazilians celebrate by visiting cemeteries and churches. In Spain, there are festivals and parades, and, at the end of the day, people gather at cemeteries and pray for their dead loved ones. Similar observances occur elsewhere in Europe, and similarly themed celebrations appear in many Asian and African cultures.

The Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico can be traced back to the Indigenous Pagan cultures. Rituals celebrating the deaths of ancestors have been observed by these civilizations perhaps for as long as 2,500–3,000 years.[1] In the pre-Hispanic era, skulls were commonly kept as trophies and displayed during the rituals to symbolize death and rebirth.

The festival that became the modern Day of the Dead fell in the ninth month of the Aztec calendar, about the beginning of August, and was celebrated for an entire month. The festivities were dedicated to the goddess[2] known as the “Lady of the Dead”, corresponding to the modern Catrina.

In most regions of Mexico, November 1 honors children and infants, whereas deceased adults are honored on November 2. This is indicated by generally referring to November 1 mainly as Día de los Inocentes (“Day of the Innocents”) but also as Día de los Angelitos (“Day of the Little Angels”) and November 2 as Día de los Muertos or Día de los Difuntos (“Day of the Dead”).[3]

-Wikipedia

Basically, it’s about life, despite the name. It’s about celebrating the lives of those we love who have passed on. What a beautiful concept. It’s bright, it’s colorful, it’s happy, it’s fun. It bridges that great divide between the dead & the living, and it keeps them in our thoughts through a celebration of their lives as opposed to the sadness of their deaths. I see nothing bad in that, at all. I find it to be a revelation, actually, compared to the stodgy, stuffy, overly melancholy grieving process of my Catholic childhood. I love to celebrate my ancestors & their lives, as opposed to just remembering them at the ends of their lives. In years past, I’ve not only made an altar, but I’ve celebrated by making tres leches cupcakes & Pan de Muerto. I have a hand painted Mexican sugar skull (Jay has one too, kinda like our version of Yin & Yang), and I have sugar skull printed pillows, etc. Suffice it to say I’m big into it, especially the sugar skull iconography.

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So that’s one more thing I love. Sugar Skulls. Any size, shape, colors, theme. I love them all. I want to collect a variety of them, but they’re hard to find here in New York. Hey, are you tired of what I love yet? No? Good, ’cause there’s more. Who’da thunk it that I actually do LIKE so many things?

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‘Cause you wanna know snother thing I love? Sourpuss Clothing. I’ve loved them for four years now, ever since they first contacted me to send me products to review back in 2008. I’m obsessed with their housewares department- don’t get me wrong, I love Crate & Barrel, I love Williams-Sonoma, and I love Pottery Barn too. But sometimes a gal like me, with my skull obsession & my mohawk, yearns for something more… offbeat… for my kitchen decor. And those mainstream stores will usually only carry creepy or “weird” things around Halloween. Well, that’s great, but what if I want a zombie cutting board in June? Or Frankenstein & his bride salt & pepper shakers in February? I go to Sourpuss, that’s what!

But you know, there’s one more thing I love: cupcakes. You knew that already, though. But sugar skulls on cupcakes? FORGET IT. Love it times a million. I’ve made cupcakes with little sugar skulls on them before, but why not repeat something when it’s a good thing? Thanks to Wilton for the awesome skull mold and beautiful food coloring gel that I used in this post. I made the frosting marigold color because marigolds are the traditional flowers of Dia de los Muertos, and are actually known as the flowers of the dead. (side note: they’d be great for Halloween too, with bright orange frosting)

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BLACK VELVET DAY OF THE DEAD CUPCAKES (taken from here)

Makes about 12 cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) of black liquid McCormick food coloring (or possibly less if you’re using Americolor)
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar

Directions:

  1. Line your cupcake tins with liners and set aside. Preheat your oven to 350° degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl sift the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, mix the food coloring and cocoa powder until completely incorporated. Set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer (or using a hand mixer) cream the butter and sugar on medium high speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg, and beat until thoroughly combined, being sure to scrape down the sides.
  4. Add the vanilla and the red food coloring-cocoa mixture and beat well to combine. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, beat on medium speed until combined, then add 1/2 of the buttermilk, and beat until incorporated.
  5. Add another 1/3 of the flour, beat well, then the other half of the buttermilk, scraping down the sides after each addition. Finish with the last 1/3 of the flour mixture and beat until just combined.
  6. In a small bowl, mix the vinegar and baking soda, and immediately add to batter. Mix on high speed for just a few seconds until evenly dispersed, and pour right away into lined cupcake pans, about halfway, maybe 2/3 full.
  7. Bake for about 20-30 minutes, until a toothpick entered into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack.
  8. Cool completely before frosting.

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They’re beautiful, aren’t they? Deep, dark, black cupcakes. Bright marigold colored buttercream and a pretty little white chocolate handpainted skull. Delicious & pretty to look at, a great combination. And the inspiration for them ain’t too shabby either, right? Look at the pattern:

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Would you like your own set? I bet you would.

In this giveaway, one lucky winner will get the ADORABLE Skulls in Love apron. I’m sorry I couldn’t get a decent photo of it for you, but it’s hard taking self-portraits that are full-on body shots; even with my awesome camera & tripod. Either way, the apron is super adorable & the winner will love it. But it’s not just that, oh no. They’ll also get a matching kitchen set (oven mitt & pot holder) & tea towel as well as a skull bowl and a matching bank too. Perhaps for saving up to buy a KitchenAid mixer? Or to upgrade your old hand mixer? Use it to hold your latte fund? Or maybe the “bad language tax” collection for your kids? Whatever. It doesn’t matter what you use it for. It’s cute, that’s the point. And it all matches & coordinates with the bowl. A little girl skull bowl with a bow, and a boy skull bank with a top hat. I die (no pun intended) of the cuteness. I used the bowl to house my handmade tissue paper marigolds (like I said, they’re the traditional flower of Dia de los Muertos & it’s also tradition to make them out of paper), but you can use it for anything. Flowers, candy, a planter. So did you get all that? ONE winner gets an apron, tea towel, kitchen set, bowl and bank. Jackpot!

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ALL YOU HAVE TO DO TO ENTER IS COMMENT. Leave a comment here telling me why you love the Day of the Dead, too. What does it mean to you? Why can you relate to it? I’ll choose a winner at random via random.org on October 25th at midnight, EST. I’m doing this for ONE week exactly so that the winner has a better chance of getting their prize in time for Dia de los Muertos. As far as the winner goes: commenting on the Sourpuss blog or Facebook is invalid, as is a reply on Twitter. You must comment here to be entered. For an optional second shot at winning, tweet the following:

I just entered to win a Dia de los Muertos sugar skull apron/kitchen set/& more from @SourpussBrand & @CupcakeRehab! http://cupcakerehab.com/2012/10/black-velvet-cupcakes-sugar-skulls-a-sourpuss-giveaway/

Just copy & paste the above phrase, post it on Twitter, and then come back & comment a second time. That’s two chances to win. Optional third chance: share the link for this post (see the icon below) on Facebook and then come back & tell me. That’s three chances. Only the first one is mandatory to enter. The other two are just added extras.

But.. there’s ONE MORE thing. For an optional fourth bonus entry, get a friend to come here & enter. If you comment telling me who your friend is, you get a fourth entry, and they get an entry for themselves when they comment (maybe more, if they choose to use the Twitter and/or FB entries as well). So what are you waiting for? Go… get to commenting!

Sources & credits: Bakelite red-handled cutlery; vintage.

Cookie jars, pink cookies, and a giveaway.

COMMENTS CLOSED & GIVEAWAY OVER!

Okay everyone… the winner is… SARAH! Comment #73 (the last comment)! Congrats Sarah! I’m e-mailing you now. Thanks everyone for entering.

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I have a kind of obsession with cupcake cookie jars. I love all cookie jars, actually, and one of my favorites- not to mention my pride & joy in this particular arena- is a vintage 1930′s Minnie/Mickey Mouse one that belonged to my great grandmother Mary (whom I’m named for, kinda sorta). But I really love ones shaped like cupcakes, for obvious reasons. I’ve got four so far: one pink & blue, one black/orange/white for Halloween, one that’s all patriotic & red/white/blue and then this, my newest addition from Sourpuss Clothing.

So… you wanna see my new addition?

HOW CUTE IS THAT. Adorable. I’ve been lusting over a cupcake cookie jar with a skull on top forever now! And one that isn’t in Halloween colors. That’s kinda hard to find, ’cause for some strange reason people associate skulls just with Halloween. Weird. Oh, and you see those super cute little pink gingham cupcake towels underneath it? Yeah, I got those too. And an apron to match! CCO. Crazy cuteness overload.

Me & Sourpuss Clothing go back a long way, back to when Cupcake Rehab was just a baby blog. They have the most unique housewares for the most unique homebodies among us. I love them. So much so, in fact, that in addition to a Cupcake Rehab sticker, Lola actually sports a Sourpuss sticker too!

So yeah, they’re pretty freakin’ awesome. And they sent me this awesome cookie jar. And when I get a new cookie jar, it makes me want to make cookies to fill it with. And what cookies would I fill it with but pink cookies!? And what’s better than cookies with M&M’s? And how about if they’re coconut M&M’s? Pretty much makes them automatically awesome. Yep, I braved the high humidity & to make cookies just to fill my new cookie jar. I’m kinda insane. But you knew that.

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Now, you probably don’t need another cookie recipe (but I’m gonna give you one anyway). Come on. THEY’RE PINK.

PINK COCONUT M&M COOKIES

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ cup solid vegetable shortening
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 egg whites
  • a dash of Wilton Rose or Christmas Red food coloring gel, or another color if desired
  • 1 small bag coconut M&M’s (for these I only used the white & brown colored ones) or regular M&M’s, or chocolate chips, or white chocolate chips… or whatever the hell you want!

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F degrees. Prepare baking sheets by covering them with parchment.
  2. Combine flour, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl.
  3. Beat together shortening, sugars and vanilla in a seperate, larger bowl until creamy. Add egg whites, beating until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Add food coloring, mix until combined. Adjust until you get the desired color. Stir in M&M’s.
  4. Drop batter by well-rounded teaspoonful on to greased baking sheets. Add more M&M’s on top, if desired.
  5. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until golden on the bottoms & puffy. Cool cookies on sheets on wire rack for 2 minutes. Remove cookies to wire rack to cool completely.

Side note: striped paper straws make everything, including milk, taste better. True story. Thanks Yoyo for sending me a bunch, I love them.

So maybe you didn’t need that cookie recipe.

What you do need, however, is that cookie jar. Amirite? You totally, 100%, without a shadow of a doubt need that cookie jar in your life. And I want to give it to you. I really do. ‘Cause I’m nice like that. And Sourpuss Clothing is nice, too, which is why they’re making it possible that one of you lucky dogs out there will in fact end up with a cookie jar.

You will not, sadly, get the cookies too. Those you have to make yourself. So… what do you have to do to get this cookie jar?

  • First, and most important, you have to tell me something: if you were to win this cookie jar, would you like it in aqua or pink? And why? ‘Cause it matches your mixer? Your kitchen? It’s your favorite color? Do tell.
  • Finally… tell everyone in your social network about it! Copy and paste the following into a tweet or post it on your Facebook page for an extra entry (then come back & let me know)-

I just entered to win a cupcake cookie jar from @SourpussBrand at @CupcakeRehab! And guess what? You can too: http://cupcakerehab.com/2012/06/cookie-jars-pink-cookies-and-a-giveaway

And that’s it. Super easy peasy. Two different chances to win for each of you. I’ll select a winner at midnight via random.org. This little giveaway ends at midnight on June 19th. I’ll announce the winner here and also e-mail them right away to let ‘em know the awesome news- so make sure you leave a valid e-mail address with your comments. ‘Cause I know you’ll be having trouble sleeping with excitement.

“My family is bananas” Bananas Foster cupcakes.

My cousin Mike & his lovely wife Heather live in New Orleans, Louisiana, where Mike is a police officer. Mike’s dad Tom is my mom’s cousin, but they share the exact same DNA since they both have the same family on both sides; you see, my mom’s father Clarence’s (nicknamed Butch) sister Eleanor married my mom’s mother Agnes’ brother (Frank)! They’re doubly related, so me & Mike are doubly related as well. Got it? If you didn’t follow any of that, I apologize, here’s a picture that can hopefully help:

That photo is from Eleanor & Frank’s wedding in the late 1940′s. As you can see, my grandfather & Mike’s grandmother were siblings, and my grandmother & Mike’s grandfather were also siblings. So Eleanor & Frank are the grandparents of my aforementioned cousin Mike, and in turn are the parents of my mother’s cousin Tom. Agnes & Butch are my grandparents, a.k.a. the parents of my mother. Make sense now? I hope so, because I really don’t want to break out the pie charts & graphs. Either way, our family tree only has one branch on this particular side, haha.

Anyway, Mike & Heather sent a care package to me & my mom a few weeks back from a (seemingly) awesome store down there called Roux Royale. We each got a mug, a pair of adorable salt & pepper shakers and this awesome cake plate!

Can you tell I’m a bit in love with the photography apps on my iPhone?

Because I’m inspired by everything, this beautiful cake plate gave me the urge to bake something fantastic to put on it. Although I kept looking at it and rethinking what I was going to do. I’ve made King’s Cake cupcakes before, so I didn’t want to do that. Even though that’s where the natural progression of thoughts went, it’s taboo to bake it before Jan. 6th or after Mardi Gras. I’ve also made beignets, and as good as they are, I recently had a gigantic serving of them from the Grand Lux Cafe which satisfied my craving, plus I wasn’t sure they were really appropriate for display on this cake plate.

Mmm… Grand Lux beignets… *sigh* …. anyway back to reality…

And I could’ve done a Cherries Jubilee-type cupcake, especially since the plate mentions cherries, but I’ve done enough cherry stuff lately. So I kept on thinkin’…

Then I remembered that famous New Orleans dessert, Bananas Foster. Ahh, the lovely Bananas Foster. It originated down there in NOLA at a famous place called Brennan’s, so what better dessert to display on that New Orleans cake plate!?

Bananas Foster is a dessert made from bananas and vanilla ice cream, with the sauce made from butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, dark rum, and banana liqueur. The butter, sugar and bananas are cooked, and then the alcohol is added and ignited. The bananas and sauce are then served over the ice cream. Preparation of the dish is often made into a tableside performance as a flambé.

The dish was created in 1951 by Paul Blangé at Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana.[2] It was named for Richard Foster, a friend of Owen Brennan‘s who was then New Orleans Crime Commission chairman. It is still served at a number of fine restaurants in New Orleans as well as in many restaurants around the world.

-Wikipedia

Brennan’s is really, really famous. It’s in the French Quarter. The head chef, Lazone Randolph, has been featured on more TV shows than Rachael Ray. Well not quite, but almost. Along with Cafe Du Monde, it’s seemingly one of those tourist places that screams New Orleans.

So yeah, I figured Bananas Foster was a perfect idea. Besides, my family is a bit bananas, so it’s even more appropriate! I love them, don’t get me wrong. I love them & they’re pretty much wonderful, but they’re mostly insane. Which helps to make them wonderful. If everyone was sane, wouldn’t the world be a boring place? I’m sure this concept has been done to death, but this is my version of Bananas Foster cupcakes. Easy, not a lot of drama, and no tableside fire action… but the end result does look & taste far more complicated. And it doesn’t melt, unlike the ice cream in the traditional, original version. I even had some cupcake liners left over from last year that were very similar to the cake plate’s design. How do you like them apples bananas?

To avoid the dense, heavy cupcakes that using real bananas cause, I used banana extract. I don’t care if Florian Bellanger would disapprove. They came out amazing, so he can suck an egg. I mean that in the most respectful way, of course. They’re moist, fluffy, but not dense & thick. I’m including a recipe for a gorgeous, thick, creamy caramel made from condensed milk as well. If you’d like to use that (I didn’t) you could spoon it over the frosting, over the caramelized bananas or even on the cupcakes before you frost them. I thought the flavor of the bananas themselves was enough… but if you want a really decadent over the top cupcake… go for it.

BANANAS FOSTER CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

  • Caramelized bananas (recipe below), cooled
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk caramel (optional, see here for recipe)
  • 1 cup cake flour, sifted
  • 1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon pure banana extract
  • ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • few drops yellow food coloring (if desired)

Directions:

  1. Set oven to 375° F to preheat. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.
  2. Sift together, into a deep mixing bowl, the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add butter, ¼ cup of the milk and flavorings. Beat on low until blended, then beat on high for another minute or two.
  3. Scrape the sides of the bowl, add the remaining ¼ cup milk, egg, and food coloring (if using) and beat ½ minute longer on high. Scoop into muffin tins to fill them about ¼ or ½ way because they rise a lot. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until toothpick/cake tester comes out almost totally clean. Cool completely.
  4. Frost with evaporated milk buttercream frosting (recipe below), then drizzle condensed milk caramel on top with the tines of a fork or a small teaspoon. Top each cupcake with one or two caramelized bananas, and if desired, a bit more caramel.

Confession time. Okay, my confession here is this: as you can see below, I did not use pure banana extract like I recommended. I used Watkins‘ imitation banana extract. However, unless you use Watkins, I’d go with pure. The Watkins flavor is really good & not overly fake or sweet, I know sometimes supermarket extracts can be a bit strong at times, in a bad way.


EVAPORATED MILK FROSTING

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 4 ¼ cups powdered sugar
  • 2 ½ ounces evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Cream together the butter, vanilla and 2 cups of the powdered sugar.
  2. Once well incorporated, add evaporated milk alternating with a cup of sugar at a time until all ingredients have been added. Beat on high for 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Spread or pipe on completely cooled cupcakes.
Gotta have some cafe au lait with them, of course…

CARAMELIZED BANANAS

Ingredients:

  • 2 bananas, sliced
  • 6 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Spray a non-stick frying pan and a ceramic plate with cooking spray (or waxed paper or parchment on the plate instead), and heat the pan up over medium heat.
  2. Mix sugar & cinnamon together in a shallow dish. Dip each banana slice in the sugar/cinnamon mixture. Make sure they’re completely coated.
  3. Using a fork or small tongs, place bananas in pan as they’re ready. Cook until golden-brown, then flip. The first side will take a few minutes, the second side a bit less. Do not let them burn! If you see them getting too dark, sticking to the pan or smell a burning smell- flip them immediately! Keep an eye on them.
  4. When finished, place on coated plate (bananas will be sticky). Let cool before topping cupcakes.

If you choose to use it, you may need to soften the condensed milk caramel a bit before drizzling it, depending how warm your kitchen is, etc. In that case, place the can, open side up (obviously) in a small saucepan of simmering water (only about one inch- don’t get the caramel wet!) for a few minutes, stirring fairly constantly, until it softens enough.  I didn’t feel as if I needed it, but it would make a lovely addition. You could even fill them with it- that would be divine.

Proper “Nu Awlins” cupcakes for a proper “Nu Awlins” cake platter. Thanks again, Mike & Heather, for my newest additions! They’ll be well used around here, as there’s always some kind of baked goods out for display.