Tuesday, May 31, 2011

.my cookout playbook.

with the temperature on the upswing and my mood following suit, the long memorial day weekend was the perfect excuse for a good ol' fashioned cookout. there's something about a little sun that i never appreciated until i moved away from florida. now, even the smallest ray of sunshine is invigorating, but a whole wide sky full of it just begs for happiness.

for our cookout, i chose lemonade to be the ambassador of sunshine. also, i tossed in pops of yellow color here and there for a little more cheeriness. when the day arrived, i felt ready. i had baked and crafted and made one to-do list after another in preparation for it. once the guests arrived, my husband's famous burgers were on the grill and everyone was relaxing with a drink in hand, i had a moment to take it all in. happy, the whole day was colored in one of my favorite adjectives.

coming up with a color scheme early on made planning everything around that as easy as pie, or should i say strawberry cake in a pie plate? i was on a red and white mission with bonus shots of yellow. of course with memorial day and fourth of july jumping off all the sale racks, this was an easy task. if you're looking to throw a party or host an event for any reason, i highly recommend picking a color or two (ok, or three) to work from and i promise everything else will fall into place. my favorite find was the yellow umbrella on sale at a local craft store. it served as the centerpiece for the table without actually even being on the table.

my next few entries will break down some of the simple crafts and will also share the delicious treats we served. so, stay tuned for this cookout's ingredients. hope there will be something you can use in your home.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

.ooey gooey.

as of late, i'd been using my lunch bunch at work as my taste testing group for my baked goods. with the end of the school year approaching, i felt compelled to send the gang out with something delectable to celebrate the beginning of our approaching summer break. with a little searching, i ran across this popular paula deen recipe for chocolate gooey butter cookies.


i'll admit, the 'gooey' intrigued me. instead of your normal cookie with bite, this one traded in the crunch factor for more of a cakey consistency. after reading lots of reviews on the recipe, i decided to go for it. one of my main hesitations was that this homemade recipe called for a box of chocolate cake mix as one of the ingredients. what?! cheating?? hmm...well, paula deen told me to.

being that the name of the cookie has butter in the title, it is no surprise that it is one of the main ingredients. then again, most of my grocery trips these days wind up with a box of butter in my cart. my pants like to remind me of that fact too. sigh.

after whipping up all the ingredients, the batter sat in the fridge for two hours to firm. once i got to work rolling the mix into balls, i could easily see another reason why they were named gooey. plopped on the cookie sheet, they set to baking. after the first batch came out, i took a taste and was utterly unimpressed. immediately rushing to my husband for a second opinion, he said they were good. well, 'good' wasn't good enough for me. needing to jazz these cookies up, i folded in some walnuts, sprinkled in some more brown sugar and then baked the rest of the batches this way.

i was excited to taste the new and improved gooeyness and again, took a bite almost as soon as they came out. and again, unimpressed. maybe i needed to let them cool off completely, along with my disappointment. the next morning, i went to work with a tub full of these cookies to share and they looked quite tasty. i snuck a bite of one with my fingers crossed as soon as i got to work. unfortunately, they just weren't doing it for me.

not one to waste, i took them to lunch and passed them out with a sour puss disclaimer that i didn't think they were that good. all the ladies were happy to eat one and even seconds. i took it as a good sign that some even helped themselves to thirds and sixths (not naming any names). i know some things are just a matter of taste, but i figure cookies should be a universal yumm.

maybe don't take my word for it because lots of other people liked the cake-like cookie. but me, i thought they tasted more ooey than gooey.

Friday, May 27, 2011

.workin' it.

another school year ends. another summer begins. it's hard for me to believe that i'm finishing a full decade of teaching. at twenty-one, i had my first full classroom of suspicious-eyed students at a smaller high school in central florida. determined to be as powerful as my hard-nosed british high school math teacher was, i refused to let those kids belittle my mission. those 'kids' from my early days are now in their late twenties and i'm proud to say that although a couple of them tried, i never let them break me.

just hearing myself say 'ten years' nearly knocks me off my feet. in many ways it feels like if i look over my shoulder, i can still see that starter classrom, still hear the twang in my old principal's voice on the intercom, still taste the joy of my first student's 'thank you' as sweetly as i did all those years ago.

a decade is practically one third of my life, but it is far from when i began working. at the age of thirteen, my dad, always industrious with a new invention or idea in his back pocket, decided to open a mini-donut booth at our local flea market. being that it would only operate on weekends, it started as a family affair. my older sister and i would sell dozens of dozens of these hot, freshly cooked tiny donuts to onlookers mesmerized by the donut machine. it was a powdered and cinnamon sugar oasis for the customers. for me, it was a hot, cranky, smelly job. nevertheless, i loved getting paid to do it and after almost six years (my entire adolescence), it just became part of my life. weekdays consisted of calculators and books and weekends were for hot oil and batter.

before you worry about me losing precious free time in my youth, let me assure you that i wouldn't trade the experience for anything. you see, this first job taught me perseverance, responsibility and left no room for laziness. one tragic day, i got a phone call from my mom telling me that the entire flea market had burned to the ground and my family lost their little business. i lost my job.

my college years were then upon me and once again, i traded many free hours for working hours at a book store. that was followed by a couple of years at a local record store until i graduated and started teaching. since the age of thirteen, i have never been without work and work has never been without me. i'm proud of this fact and i think that hard work is somewhere in my genetics. my dad is the hardest working man i know. he's been in the construction industry his whole life where his hands were callused early on and the hot florida sun has darkened his skin over the years as proof of his labor. forty hour work weeks are chump change for him.

whenever i think of work ethic, i think of my daddy. he will do whatever it takes for his family and has always been so generous with his earnings. he, like most of us, would love to have some lazy days, but he rarely does. so in saying goodbye to my tenth year teaching and saying hello to the next fifteen or so, i'm reminded that hard work really is a source of pride.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

.a caramel topped birthday.

saying goodbye to my twenties seemed like a tragedy at the time, but when thirty rolled around, i settled right in. actually, i quickly discovered i liked it. after one full year of insisting i was twenty-ten, i passed up twenty-eleven and took hold of thirty-one with ease. my twenties were officially gone, but many friends around me were on the brink themselves. just this past week, one of my dearest friends in memphis joined the club with grace.

when i asked her what her favorite cake flavor was, she rattled off a long list of combinations. in the three years we've been friends, she has always beamed when it comes to anything confectionery. at the top of her list of flavor combinations was vanilla cake with caramel frosting and i aim to please so that's what i went for.

on pioneerwoman.com, i found this recipe for vanilla cupcakes:
and i found the caramel buttercream frosting recipe on foodnetwork.com. with both of these recipes, i did a tad bit of tweaking. my courage in the kitchen is growing and this helps my ultimate goal to step away from another's recipe and into one that is all my own.

making the actual cupcakes themselves felt about the same as making most cake batters and i was able to play words with friends on my phone in between steps like a multi-tasking queen.however, there was one major difference in that this was my first time using vegetable shortening in a baking recipe. once i had the cupcakes transformed from a doughy scoop to a perfectly rounded individual cake, i placed them on the cooling rack while i headed over to the frosting making phase of the process.

the caramel buttercream recipe began differently than any frosting i'd made up to this point. some of the ingredients were to be microwaved until it began forming a frothy, foaming, thick caramel mixture. then, i added that to the dry ingredients a little at a time and quickly noticed that the frosting was way, way too runny. normally, i wouldn't panic too much at this point, but let me back up a little.

my friend's birthday dinner was the very night of the day i chose to make the cupcakes. no big deal, i've got all day to bake and frost and delight in my finished product. so, i woke up that saturday morning and took a quick little rest on the sofa before i began baking and doing laundry. then 'you've got mail' came on tv and eh, what's a couple of hours of relaxing going to hurt? then i started blog-hopping and lunch-making and doggie-petting, eh, i still had a few hours until it was time to get ready to go out. so, at this point, i started making my cupcakes; which if you read above you'll know went just splendidly. back to the frosting...

after removing the caramel mixture from the microwave, i then (yes, then) read that it had to be completely cooled before adding it to the dry ingredients. what?! rather than panic (completely), i left the kitchen to begin getting ready. multi-tasking, my specialty. i knew i could do this. after about thirty minutes, i came back to find a still-hot bowl. oh no. my only option according to the angry clock on my stove was to put the warmness into the refrigerator and hope for a quick cooling.

while i waited (im)patiently for the mixture to cool to wrap-up the frosting, i put the finishing touches on the cupcake birthday flags. you see, i found an old book that i've kept in my classroom at work for many years that has never even been touched. it was just perfect to use for this project. the birthday girl and i have found kindred souls in each other while enjoying one good book after another. when i think of her, one of the things that makes me appreciate our friendship is this commonality. with that in mind, i figured mini-books were the perfect nod to our shared love.

now with time in a complete crunch, i had no choice but to use the caramel, completely uncooled, and that you see, is why i believe the frosting wasn't turning out fluffy as i had envisioned. once i finally did get it to a satisfactory consistency by using every ounce of powdered sugar i had in the house, i looked over at the sandy-colored cupcakes cooling and down at the sandy-colored frosting awaiting application and thought it was too dull as a combo. this gave me the opportunity to use my new gel food colorings and aqua was screaming to be added.

never one to be late, i frosted in a flurry and quickly topped each with a book flag before rushing out of the house. my wedged sandals that evening were higher than my hopes at the success of this baking adventure. however, when the table full of birthday guests and most importantly the birthday girl herself began their "mmm"s after biting in, i relaxed into my own cupcake. don't mind if i say, they're really quite delicious.

most importantly, the birthday girl enjoyed every last, and first again, bite.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

.forward motion.

guilty. i look back on my childhood and periods of my youth with longing and nostalgia. the days were long and sunny, the nights were blanketed in a symphony of crickets and frogs. in our oak hammock, i was nestled with the kind of happiness that comes from a youth of innocence. as the years followed one after the other, my life took on the shape of progress. from friends to courses to jobs, i was content, joyful even.

like a well-scripted movie, there was eventually tragedy and heartbreak to dramatize my seemingly flawless path. if my life had actually been a movie, these things would play out to give fullness to the character, to show depth and layers. while hardness helped to shape my own character, it left me far closer to empty and flat. i chose to embark upon resilience though and continued to look for my chance at bliss.

in all, my life can be looked back upon with satisfaction and a smile. there were moments that still make me laugh until my ribs ache when i talk about them and there were friends back then that i still hold near today. stories run through my mind in fast forward motion as a montage of my life and it is easy to cling to those carefree days with too much want. always one to have a camera in my hand, thousands of still images color the spots my memory has turned gray.

oftentimes, i hear people talk about their days gone by with a hint or a heap of longing. 'remember how great those college years were?' 'remember when we were younger and could get away with this?' 'remember before we had kids and weren't tied down?' i get it. i understand what it's like to miss good times and people and places. however, why do we sometimes sacrifice the now and the next for what is no longer?

for me, i never want to be at a point in my life where i'd rather be somewhere in my past. i never want to hear myself utter, 'those were the best days of my life.' if i do find myself tempted towards those thoughts, i hope i make every effort to better my today and look forward to my tomorrow. i want to live my life with anticipation for the next great thing, the next best moment. let me try to make efforts to create my happiness.

i'm known to always have some plan, party, event in the works and i keep my own calendar full with prospect. recently married, i look forward to building a life and family and for that family to build a life and family. it is so simple to get caught up in the what ifs and if onlys, but i am the only one in control of how i live the life i have right now. there will surely be more tough days sprinkled amidst the joyous ones ahead, but i must promise myself to hold tight to my situation and to always await the better times that lie before me. my encouragement to you is to let go of the longing for a time that has already said its goodbyes and to find the gumption to make the most of your life right now. from there, i bet you'll find yourself pining for your future. and that, that is a hopeful feeling.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

.peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, just for you.

i opened up my facebook account a few days ago to see the following written on my page from my brand-spanking-new (shiny even) sister-in-law.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. That is all.

now if you knew her, you'd know that she's the type of gal that isn't afraid to let people know what she likes and has the spunk to go after it. that's my kinda girl! so when i read this, i really only had one option. make this girl some cookies here in tennessee and ship them to her cookie-craving self in florida.

homemade cookies haven't graced my kitchen counters yet and i was more than happy to change that fact for her. she is family after all. to the internet library of baking i went and luckily ran across the most adorable food blog that is now saved in my top sites, smittenkitchen.com. there, i found this recipe for some of the best peanut butter cookies you could ever hope to have melt in your mouth. now i know why she calls her kitchen smitten.

Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter at room temperature (smooth is what we used, but I am pretty sure they use chunky at the bakery)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup chocolate chips
For sprinkling: 1 tablespoon sugar, regular or superfine
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. Add the milk and the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly. Stir in the peanut butter and chocolate chips. Place sprinkling sugar — the remaining tablespoon — on a plate. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls into the sugar, then onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between for expansion. Using a fork, lightly indent with a crisss-cross pattern (I used the back of a small offset spatula to keep it smooth on top), but do not overly flatten cookies. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not overbake. Cookies may appear to be underdone, but they are not.
Cool the cookies on the sheets for 1 minute, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

compared to some of the recent yummies i've made, the recipe looked simple enough. i hadn't really considered how many cookies it would make, but surely thought i'd get enough to ship my sis-in-law a dozen. i tied my apron around me, got out my entourage of baking utensils and got right to work. on my drive home from work, i'd felt myself tensing up with things on my mind. not to mention, i hadn't been to the gym in weeks and had promised myself i was going. that's never something i exactly look forward to doing.

however, the moment i got to work mixing, measuring, making ingredients play nicely together, i felt a calmness wash over me. people talk about getting into the zone and baking has allowed me to understand that sentiment. in my opinion, family should be a source of comfort and our safe havens. i smiled to myself when i realized baking these cookies for my new sis was doing just that. without even having her standing in the kitchen with me, making these for her gave me all the warm fuzzies i needed to massage the tension out of my shoulders.

once all the ingredients were combined and ready to bake, i started scooping out heaping teaspoonfuls onto the waxed paper cookie sheet. my hope that i would have enough to send her a dozen multiplied when i realized i hadn't even made a dent in the batter after the first round were quietly baking away. all in all, there was enough to make five dozen! to be fair to my waist line, i only made four and froze the remaining batter for a rainy day.

now before you start worrying about me scarfing down the remaining three dozen cookies, let me explain. my husband started his brand new eye ball internships this same day and i left him a plate with a little note to come home to while i was at the gym. then, i packed up the rest to share with my memphis friends and co-workers. they all thank my sil, i'm sure, for expressing her cookie desires. while now you may be worrying about me not eating these sugar dusted delights at all, fear not. there's some on my kitchen counter right now with my name on them, just waiting for a cold glass of milk.

dearest new sis, please enjoy your surprise in the mail and i hope these are what you had in mind (and tummy) when you wrote that facebook statement. for you, i would do just about anything. xoxo

Monday, May 23, 2011

.style me pretty? yes, indeedy.

today, our wedding is featured on style me pretty and i'm one happy camper. we put a lot of heart into making the day reflect our love for each other and all our friends and family with us. our photographer at swept away studios submitted our wedding and we're so glad she did.

if you get a second, please go check it out here:

you wouldn't hurt my feelings any if you left a comment on their site! ;)

usually, i have no trouble with words, but i am just so tickled-pink and tongue-tied with this that i find myself a wee quiet. (and giddy)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

.iron up some pizza.

why should waffle irons be isolated to waffles? in our house, no longer will ours be. i made a really easy dinner that was just a little something different to break up the weeknight monotony.

start with store bought pizza dough if you're feeling extra lazy, like i was, and tear it into two to three parts. i patted each part into a dough ball and folded in some herbs to jazz it up some. then, i put our waffle maker on high heat and placed the pizza dough in there to do its thing.

meanwhile, i simmered some jar marina and jar alfredo sauce together to drizzle into the little crevices of the pizza waffle. when i opened up the waffle iron, i felt a sense of glee at how adorable it turned out to be!

after adding the sauce, i crumbled buffalo mozzarella on mine and my husband's and then added some ham to meat-up his. they baked for a little bit in our convection oven until they were all ready to eat. i totally meant to top it with some fresh basil from our plant, but got so caught up in wanting to taste it that i forgot. this is one simple dish i will be making again soon with an endless amount of topping possibilities.

Friday, May 20, 2011

.first of all.

have you ever questioned why sentences begin with capital letters? i'm one of those people who question most things (and like to get an answer thank you very much). punctuation, i get that. the little do-hicky at the end of the sentence let's everyone know that thought is complete. then, the little do-hickies throughout the sentence help everyone know the intention of the words.

however, what purpose does starting a sentence with a letter bigger than all the rest really serve? When beginning a sentence with a capital letter, it persuades me to believe that the beginning is the most important part of the whole thing. rest assured, i do believe in first impressions and their immediate impact on a situation. take a job interview or a first date or meeting a client initially; these are all times in which we do want to put our best foot (either one really will do) forward.

but sentence after sentence, day after day, is the beginning really more critical than what lies after it? in my experiences, i've found that the start of things can sometimes be misleading. with friendships, new situations, relationships...reliability can never be formed right up front.

in life, it's usually what comes after that first impression that makes a lasting one. the real grit of things is somewhere in the middle. so maybe the nails-on-a-chalkboard style that teens like to implore tHaT lOoKs LiKe ThIs might make the most since after all because it sprinkles some emphasis throughout.

i'm guilty of forming impulsive impressions and relying on that first encounter with more importance than maybe it deserves. this is my decree to grant credit where credit is due and that is beyond the opening act. maybe this is why i prefer to begin my sentences without capitals because i subconsciously think everything i have to say is equally as important. just as i believe every point in life is as critical as the one that initiated it.

don't even get me started on how things end...sometimes with excitement, sometimes with question. some times they just end. period.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

.puffins, yes, puffins.

as of late, i've honed in on the power of the spatula and the whimsy of the whisk. i've let the sweet recipes speak to me and most of them are saying to whip them up. so when my cousin shared with me a recipe on bakerella.com, i took it as my personal challenge to make it happen.

mini-chocolate-pancake-muffins or as i like to now call them, puffins.

making brinner at my house probably happens more often than it should. wait, i retract that statement. there is nothing wrong with enjoying a meal and if breakfast for dinner makes us happy, then brinner it is! that was always one of my favorite surprise meals growing up. it didn't happen all that often, but i was super pleased when it did.

although the recipe's intention was for mini muffins, i do not have that equipment so instead changed mine into full grown muffins. there were also a few items on the list that i did not have at my pantry disposal. take buttermilk, for example. i didn't feel like running to the store so i looked up substitutions for it with my fingers crossed. for simplicity, i was hoping it was just a mix of milk and butter. amazingly though, the most widely used substitution requires a cup of milk and a tablespoon of real lemon juice. the lemon curdles the milk like a real buttermilk would be. i definitely learned something new there.

once i had all my ingredients set out, i got to work on these puffed up pancakes. starting with flour has become a staple in my life. i think we should just plant a flour tree with as much as i'm using.

a consistency in many of these baking recipes has been the method in which the ingredients are combined. the dry parts are in one bowl and the wet in another. then, they are formed together in the last stage with a slow melding and stirring of the two. this seems to do the trick because i haven't combusted anything yet.

while the recipe suggested one half a cup of chocolate chips to mimic chocolate chip pancakes, i said nay, why stop there? instead, i did half a cup of chocolate and peanut butter chips (mainly because they were leftover from my recent cookie recipe). that punch of peanut butter turned out delicious.

with the muffins baking away, i then put the rest of brinner together. when i brought our plates out with the new recipe on them, my husband asked, what are these? why puffins of course. after a puzzled look, i explained. we both thoroughly enjoyed them and especially with each bite dipped in extra sticky syrup. this is going to be a recipe that will stick in our home.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

.kick in the booster.

do you ever have days where you feel like your life is a soundtrack? not that i can sing any better than a cat howling in heat, but i love to do it anyway. one of the buzz words in my life as of late for quite a few people around me has been confidence. it's astounding how many amazing women i know who don't see themselves as such. as i was thinking over this on my drive to work this morning, my soundtrack for today started playing...

i have confidence in sunshine
i have confidence in rain
i have confidence that spring will come again
besides which you see i have confidence in me

strength doesn't lie in numbers
strength doesn't lie in wealth
strength lies in nights of peaceful slumbers
when you wake up- wake up!

it tells me all i trust i lead my heart to
all i trust becomes my own
i have confidence in confidence alone
besides which you see i have confidence in me!

you caught me, i adore julie andrews. but take dearest maria in the sound of music for instance. she wasn't nearly as ravishing as the baroness, but she still won the captain's heart. what she had was wit, a sense of humor, ingenuity, kindness and you guessed it- confidence.

the most formidable barrier most of my friends, from single to in a relationship to married, have trouble getting over is the gumption to believe in themselves. my hpff has a tongue-in-cheek expression she likes to throw at me whenever she gets the chance, "melinda gets what melinda wants." now, before you go drawing conclusions about melinda..er..me, i was not raised with monetary spoils nor do i have them now as a teacher. i never was the type of girl that could walk into the room and have jaws drop, nor do i now (even with all my new anti-wrinkle creams).

what i have fostered and molded over the years, though, is my confidence. back in my single days, i knew when i walked into a room full of people on the prowl that i wasn't the prettiest girl in the room by any means. however, i had a certain je ne sais quoi. wait, i do know what i had, i had the nerve to believe in what i did have to offer. my inner dialogue went a little something like this, 'i walk really well in the highest of heels, i'm most definitely able to solve an algebra problem the quickest of anyone in here, i make a mean grilled cheese sandwich, i'm well-read, my friends think i'm punny and gosh darn it, i like me.'

why in the world would some single guy choose a girl who could quickly solve algebra problems over a girl who looks like she belongs on the covers of magazines? he wouldn't, but, he just might choose a girl that has that certain il ne sait pas ce qui (he doesn't know what). it was my confidence in myself, even the silly things, that was attractive.

what i wish for the ladies in my life who have a difficult time seeing their own reasons for loving themselves is the clarity of maria. when she awakened her self-assurance, she nearly floated on a cloud of twirling and song. when you write your own inner-lyrics, make sure that you leave out the maybes, possiblys, kindas and such to only bellow what you most definitely know you've got going for yourself.

whether you're single or married or even a dude, it is never too late to give yourself a swift kick in the booster. let the world know how awesome you are by simply letting yourself know.

Monday, May 16, 2011

.showering with sugar.

by now, most of my friends know that i'm elbow-deep in baking and looking for any excuse to try out a new recipe. then again, every recipe is a first for a newbie like myself. you can imagine how flattered i was when a friend of mine asked me to bake the cupcakes for an upcoming baby shower at work. for the mama-to-be, i wanted to make something special, but didn't want to get in above my head either. remember, only elbow-deep right now, thank you very much.

in a guilt-free gazing escapade, i scoured baking blogs for a cupcake that spoke to me. although i wished to make something unique, i also had to keep in mind that they needed to be crowd-pleasing since they weren't being made specifically for one person. then again, the whole point of the baby shower is to honor the glowing gal carrying the baby. i remembered a conversation once where she told me she wanted to get her mom's tiramisu recipe to me to try because she loved it.

now, how could i piece together a favorite family recipe with cupcakes for this event? luckily, eatliverun.com already figured that out and i recreated the detailed tiramisu cupcake recipe with determination and vigor.

these babies called for vanilla bean (or vanilla extract if no bean was available). being that i had none just lying around my house, i set out to purchase my first v-bean and boy will i use these sparingly in the future. is there a wholesale vanilla bean store somewhere i'm not aware of? with bean in hand, i was all set to tackle the dimensions of this cupcake.

first, i began mixing together the cake itself and decided to double the recipe to make sure there was enough for the party. plus, my husband and i are never upset by leftovers. nope, never.

after the vanilla darlings were all tucked away in their paper wrappers and in the oven, i made my way back to the mixer. my husband asked if i was making the frosting to which i coyly smiled. no, the filling. you see, this tiramisu-inspired sweetness will be stuffed with a mascarpone, coffee infused filling. i was a little apprehensive about the call for coffee granules in the ingredients list, but i trusted the path paved before me and put it on in.

after the filling was packed into my piping bag, it was back to the mixer yet again. this time, i whipped up the buttercream frosting dotted with more coffee. once the cupcakes were finished baking and cooling, i started drilling the filling into each one. once stuffed and fluffed, these cakes needed to be all dolled up. although, with a baby boy shower, maybe i should say all action-figured up.

a few days earlier, i had made the toppers for some added cuteness. this was a matter of personalizing some printables, punching them out with my crafty tool and then hot glueing them to popsicle sticks. but nothing quite says complete like a dusting of cocoa powder.

not being a tiramisu-fan in general, i still wanted to taste one before serving them up for everyone. if they were awful, i'd make a run to the boxed cake. hey, it was late before i finished. my husband hates the taste of coffee and i was afraid he wouldn't be a good taste tester for something with coffee in it. however, we split one and both thought it was really scrumptious. the coffee was only subtle and added to the richness of flavor.

my babies fit right in at the baby shower amidst all the cutesy things and an adorable mama-to-be.

.remember, leftovers are frienemies. case in point.