Saturday, April 30, 2011

Jam For Japan

Something fabulous is happening tonight in the Eug (i.e. Eugene). A wonderfully talented group of people in the community are coming together to raise funds for survivors of the Japanese earthquake from last month. Feel free to join us for an extraordinary evening featuring performances by a variety of local belly dancers, local musicians and a silent auction with goods donated by community members. Stop in, have some fun, and help raise money for a country in need that once helped ours when we needed it most. All proceeds from the collection at the door and the silent auction will be given to the Japanese Red Cross Society and will be directly used to provide aid to victims in need. 

Where: Cozmic Pizza, 8th and Charnelton Streets, Eugene, OR
When: Saturday, April 30, 2011, 7:30 to 10:30 pm
Info: Facebook Event Details

If you have enjoyed some of the food and nature photography from this blog, you're in luck! A few of the donated pieces include Panda le Chef photography. Make sure to stick around long enough to make a bid on the silent auction and to catch JAR, one of the city's best jam bands! Hope to catch you there.

Easter Beer Hunt & Cadbury Egg Cupcakes

Yes, I know I am doing this backwards. Most bloggers have their posts coincide with upcoming holidays, not ones that have just passed. Well, call me unconventional because I like to share post-holiday news. Or lazy. Either will work.

Last Sunday marked the 8th annual Easter Beer Hunt at a friend's house. If you have never heard of Easter Beer Hunt, I pity you. Seriously, it's life changing (thanks Charlene for pointing this out). Once you have attended an EBH, you will likely do everything in your power not to miss one in the future.

This year, the gang was coming off of the high of the Arcimoto launch from the evening before (way to go, Arcimoto gang!). Many of EBH hunters were still sore from the festivities the night before and getting to see Nathan Fillion (or in my case, touch him).

Yet I digress. Here are a few of the basic tools for EBH: hammer and nail to make your necklace (imagine flair). 

Each year our fearless leaders spend much of Easter morning hiding beers around a very large yard, which close friends and family then spend the remainder of the day searching out for achievement awards. 

Remember it's not a competition, it's an exhibition. 

In keeping with the holiday spirit, my foodie contribution this year were Cadbury Egg Cupcakes. During my usual weekly hunting, I discovered the recipe from My Baking Addiction. Using a Chocolate Cupcake recipe from Joy of Baking as the base and a Buttercream Frosting recipe from My Baking Addiction, I whipped up two batches of these sweet babies to share with the hunting crew.

Each cupcake held inside of it a mini cadbury egg, adding to the insane amount of sweetness. I had some extra batter left so I made a few small star cupcakes without any hidden treats inside. Next time around, I might use the mini-butterfinger eggs or other flavor to hide inside, changing up the flavor matrix a bit. These are definitely holiday-friendly, easily modified for whichever holiday is coming up next. Enjoy! 

Cadbury Egg Cupcakes 
  • 24 paper cupcake liners
  • Batter for 24 cupcakes (see recipe below)
  • 48 Mini Cadbury Creme Eggs (24 frozen) You’ll use the frozen ones inside the cupcake batter. Freezing the eggs keeps them from completely vanishing inside the baked cake.
  • 1 batch of buttercream frosting (see recipe below)
  • yellow dye or gel
  • Large Round piping tip or snip the end off of a piping bag.

Scoop batter into paper liner ⅔ of the way full. Place one frozen Mini Cadbury Creme Egg into the middle of each cupcake. Use a spatula to spread the batter over the egg.

Bake according to the recipe you are using. Allow cupcakes to cool completely.

While your cupcakes are cooking, make your buttercream. My favorite recipe can be found within this Fundamentals Buttercream Frosting Post.

Remove about 1 cup of buttercream from the mixing bowl and dye it yellow.

Assemble your piping bag fitted with a large tip and pipe a large circle around the perimeter of the cupcake.

Fill in the center of the circle with the yellow buttercream and top with a Mini Cadbury Cream Egg.

Chocolate Cupcakes 
From: Joy of Baking
  • 1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1 cup boiling hot water
  • 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly butter, or line 16 muffin cups with paper liners.
In a small bowl stir until smooth the boiling hot water and the cocoa powder. Let cool to room temperature.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Then in the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts. Add the flour mixture and beat only until incorporated. Then add the cooled cocoa mixture and stir until smooth.

Fill each muffin cup about two-thirds full with batter and bake for about 16 - 20 minutes or until risen, springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. (Do not over bake or the cupcakes will be dry.)  Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. 

Buttercream Frosting
  • 4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • pinch of fine grain sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon clear vanilla extract
  • 2 pounds confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 4-6 tablespoons heavy cream or milk

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter until fluffy. Slowly add in confectioner’s sugar, and continue creaming until well blended.

Add salt, vanilla, and 3 tablespoons of heavy cream or milk. Blend on low speed until moistened. Add an additional 1 to 3 tablespoons of heavy cream or milk until you reach the desired consistency. Beat at high speed until frosting is smooth and fluffy.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chick Update - Nearing The Move!

These gals are definitely ready to move outside. Like yesterday. With the rains and some changes happening on the home front, it is taking a wee longer than anticipated to move the second generation chickens outside to their new home. However, the day is nearly upon us!

Barney (above), LeLu and Athena - my rambunctious, yet oh so sweet, young pullets. What's a pullet? Why it's a young chicken, specifically one that is no longer a chick yet not yet a layer (or a year old, by some definitions).

By far, Athena has turned into the gentle giant of the group (there is always one in a flock). She is kind, sweet, and loves to listen to me sing to her. Ok, having a crazy chicken lady moment here...

One of the most exciting moments still a ways off is when the wee ones begin to lay. Specifically, when they begin to lay chocolate brown as well as blue colored eggs! In a few months time, in addition to the pinkish brown, darker brown, and white eggs our current ladies lay we should see a few more hues and colors. I can't wait! I plan to make some homemade chalk out of egg shells when we get to full laying production (possibly xmas gifts?).

Do expect several more posts about the new brood as their personalities grow and show themselves. For instance, LeLu the ham for pictures.

And not to leave anyone out, here is a parting shot of Blanca running around under the blooming pear tree.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Banana Blackberry Lemon Muffins

A few weeks ago I had a request for more breakfast muffins as a parting gift for a friend's office, this time without any peanuts or strawberries. After doing some hunting, I came across an old Banana Blueberry Lemon Muffin recipe from Dragon's Kitchen. With some finessing and modifications, I created my own version of Banana Blackberry Lemon Muffins and damn if they aren't delicious!

Light, fairly low fat, and healthy. Next time around - no muffin liners. They had the nasty habit of sticking to the liners, which made for a messy eating experience. And they definitely tasted better the next day. Enjoy!

Banana Blackberry Lemon Muffins 
Adapted From: Dragon's Kitchen
  • 1 1/4 cup white flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour 
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 large ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract 
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup blackberries, frozen or fresh
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly grease muffin tin and add liners if desired.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of the lemon rind.

Beat together bananas, eggs, brown sugar, applesauce, lemon juice, almond extract and vanilla extract until blended.

Stir in dry ingredients until blended. Stir in blackberries just until combined. Spoon into prepared muffin cups, dividing batter equally.

For the topping, combine sugar and remaining lemon rind in small dish. Sprinkle evenly over the muffins.

Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Makes about 16 regular muffins.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Running Aids

Some of you know that I am in training for the Eugene Half-Marathon on Sunday, May 2. Eek! It is coming up so soon. A half-marathon equals 13.1 miles, for any non-runners out there. Double that and you have a full marathon (which isn't on my radar anytime soon). If you are in the Eugene area and don't have anywhere else to be at 7 am on a Sunday, feel free to join the crowd and support one of the most popular races in Track Town USA.

In my efforts to be a better runner, I've trained my body to respond well to a little fuel come mile 7 or so of my long runs. I didn't do this the last time I was in training, being younger and more resilient, however this time around I think it has done wonders for keeping me from hitting a wall. A few of the aids have included honey and enhanced honey, Clif Blocks, and Sharkies. I also found a type of electrolyte tab that dissolves in water and helps to replenish a needy body. All have been helpful and I encourage other runners who aren't into the tradition gu-style packets to explore other options. Keep running! Good luck racers!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sweet Potato Banana Muffins

Muffins are one of my go-to comfort foods. Savory or sweet, they serve up a delicious plate of flavors and reassurance that life is good. Hence why my recipe collection includes quite a few muffin recipes.

Honestly I have no idea how I stumbled across this recipe, but these Sweet Potato Banana Muffins proved both delightful and reasonably healthy.

I made quite a few changes to the recipe in my adaptation. Major ones include using white and brown sugars while using less overall, adding allspice and nutmeg, swapping oil for applesauce, and of course adding bananas. Other additions could include chocolate chips (yum), walnuts, yogurt, cranberries, oats, and just about anything else you can think of. PS - your kitchen will smell AMAZING while these babies are in the oven. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Banana Muffins
Adapted From: This Chick Cooks
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar 
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda 
  • pinch of salt 
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten 
  • 1 cup cold mashed sweet potatoes, plain
  • 1/2 cup mashed ripe banana
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup rice or almond milk 
  • chopped walnuts for topping

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line the muffin pan with liners or grease.

In a bowl, mix together dry ingredients, including the flours, baking soda, baking powder, spices, and salt.

In an electric mixer, combine sugar, applesauce, eggs, and milk together. Next, mix in the vanilla. Follow with the mashed bananas and sweet potatoes.

Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, until just barely mixed. Finish mixing by hand, folding gently together until incorporated. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full and sprinkle walnuts over the top. Bake for 12-18 minutes, depending up mini or regular muffin size. Cool on a rack on the counter. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Chick Update & Chicken Tractor Building

We are nearly into week 7 now for these little rascals. Definitely at the height of the 'they're so ugly, they're cute' stage. And Ms. LeLu here surely knows it.

This one is entitled 'Feathers' for obvious reasons. For the most part they have the beginnings of feathers, however there are still little tufts of soft chick down here and there throughout their bodies.

Their newest trick is to see how high they can jump, which apparently is very nearly close to the height of their moving box brooder. Barney was getting ready to do one of her flighty hops when I snapped this shot off.

I have to be watchful around these little ladies. She looks like she is plotting something, right? Athena is still the largest by far of the new additions, although she is as gentle as can be. I call her Big Bird from time to time.

The Tall One has been steadily working on a new home for these guys: the Panda-sized chicken tractor. As we have fewer birds we're raising from chicks this time around, and because I am so much smaller than the Tall One, we figured having a me-sized chicken tractor will benefit us all.

If you aren't sure as to what a chicken tractor is, well it is just that. A hen house/run combo that is setup in such a fashion that the chickens act as natural tillers, tilling the soil for us gardeners such as a tractor would.

Building a chicken tractor is a fun and creative experience. From the type of structure to the color of paint to where the door placement ends up, the builder gets to decide while meeting the needs of his or her specific flock. For me, building a chicken tractor is the epitome of urban homesteading. People are so into them that there is even a gigantic gallery of different types of chicken tractors.

In the meantime, our little ones will continue to live on with us in their giant moving box brooder. Hopefully they will enjoy their first night out under the stars soon. A few more months until we get eggs!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Peanut Butter Jelly Bars

Every so often we all need some comfort food. A little hug from whatever is on your plate. Peanut Butter Jelly Bars are definitely on my comfort food list. I've surely eaten enough of these this week to feel comforted.

As a kid, baking was not part of our household. My mother would lie down if she suddenly had the urge to bake, waiting for the "fever to pass". Holidays usually involved wrangling me into the kitchen to take over cooking whatever my mother had a craving for, but didn't want to labor over. After a while I learned that if I was ever going to get home baked goods, they would have to come from a friend's house. And one of my childhood friend's mother used to make the best Peanut Butter Jelly Bars!

These are fabulously easy to make, very much a tasty treat, and something you should have in your baking arsenal. I didn't make too many changes to the original recipe, other than using walnuts and adding almond extract. There is definitely room to play around here, such as using different mixtures of peanut butter or almond butter as well as an array of different jam/jelly flavors to choose from. I can even foresee using banana slices/chips or even chocolate chips. Play around with the recipe and enjoy!

Peanut Butter Jelly Bars 
Adapted From: Lemons and Lavender
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1-1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 3/4 smooth peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup packed golden brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 large egg, room temperature 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3/4 cup grape jelly or other jelly or jam
  • 2/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line 8x8x2-inch metal baking pan with heavy-duty foil, leaving 2-inch overhang around edges and pressing firmly into corners and up sides of pan. Coat foil with nonstick spray. 

Whisk flour, baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt in small bowl. Using electric mixer, beat peanut butter,  and butter in large bowl until smooth. Add sugar and continue to beat until well combined. Add egg, almond extract, and vanilla extract; beat on low speed until smooth. Add flour mixture; beat just to blend. I do the last bit of this by hand. Transfer half of dough to prepared pan (about scant 1-1/2 cups). Place remaining dough in freezer for 10 minutes. Using fingertips, press dough evenly onto bottom of pan. Spread jelly over in even layer. Remove dough from freezer; using fingertips, break into grape-size pieces and scatter over jelly/jam layer. Sprinkle walnuts over.

Bake bars until top is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Cool bars completely in pan on rack.