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Eclecticisms: October 2010

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Zucchini-Spice Cupcakes

Alas, the end of summer brings an end to fresh zucchini from the garden. (Speaking of the end of summer, how is it 80 degrees on october 10th?! Where is fall, my favorite season?) Last night I used up most of what we have left by making these delicious little cupcakes. Although they might be more nutritious than your run of the mill yellow cupcakes with butter cream frosting, don't be fooled! These guys are sweet and delicious. For an added health boost, you can add 2 Tbs flaxseed to the batter.

This recipe came from a cookbook my friend Susan gave me for my B-day this year, Martha Stewart's Cupcakes.

Makes 24 cupcakes

3 Cps All purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 Cp vegetable oil
2 large eggs, room temp
1 Tbs pure vanilla extract
3/4 tsp finely  grated lemon zest
2 Cps packed light brown sugar (I used half light and half brown for a deeper flavor)
3 Cps packed grated zucchini (about 2.5 meduim zucchinis)
1 Cp toasted and coarsely chopped walnuts (optional... I did NOT add these. If using, you mix into the batter last)
2 Tbs flaxseed (optional)

Cream Cheese Frosting

Pre-heat the over to 350 degrees and line muffin tins with paper liners. Grate zucchini and set aside. The grater I use is one my Mom got at IKEA (left). It's so fantastic that I stole it from her. (This might be an item she voluntarily gave me actually... I'm not sure.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. (I'm back to making faces with my dry ingredients!)

Using your mixer, whisk together oil, eggs, vanilla and zest until well blended. Whisk in brown sugar and blend until smooth. Stir in zucchini (I left a little of the water from the zucchini out since this recipe seemed so moist already. I'm not sure if there would have been much of a difference had I left it in.) Gradually add flour mixture and stir until combined.

Fill cups about 3/4 full with batter. One tip I've read to keep the cupcakes evenly sized is to use an ice cream scoop. I found this batter to be so messy that I wasn't about to start caring about completely uniform sized cupcakes. Each of my cupcakes would be their own unique and individual selves, whether they liked it or not.

Bake 20 minutes, rotating the tins halfway through. Allow to cool completely on the stove top or wire racks before removing the cupcakes and icing them.
Refrigerate in an airtight container up to 3 days, or don't ice them (they would taste great alone!) and freeze for up to 2 months.


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Cream Cheese Frosting

Cream Cheese Frosting is a wonderful thing and it's good to keep a recipe for it on hand. This one is from Martha Stewart. I halved the recipe as it was printed, as half of the original recipe iced 24 cupcakes. It made a LOT. Feel free to double what is here if you think you will need more.

*Note: The more you beat the butter and cream cheese together, the fluffier it will be. Thicker icing doesn't go as far.


1/2 Cp (1 sticks butter) at room temp
6 oz cream cheese at room temp
2 Cps confectioners sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Beat the butter and cream cheese in an electric mixer on high speed for 2-3 minutes, or until fluffy. Reduce speed to low, and gradually add confectioner's sugar. Add vanilla and blend until smooth.

Sorry about my slacking on the pictures for this one. Apparently, I was pre-occupied with my cupcakes!

If you're making this ahead of time, it can be kept refrigerated up to 3 days in an air-tight container. Bring back to room temperature and beat on low speed before using.

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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Betty Crocker's Chocolate Chip Bars

The other evening I got a craving for sugar cookies, but I didn't have any lemon. I was about to start molasses crinkles instead (my favorite), but then it hit me. It'd already blogged about those! (Sick, I know.) I only had some basic ingredients handy so I needed a basic recipe, like these chocolate chip bars. They're easy, fast and a crowd pleaser. They're also easy to carry to work so you can share their deliciousness with your hungry co-workers.

This recipe is from Betty Crocker's Cooky Book.

1/3 Cp shortening
1 1/4 Cp brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/4 Cps flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 Cp semi-sweet choc chips
1/2 Cp coarsely broken nuts (I substituted 1/4 Cp white chocolate chips)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix together shortening, sugar and eggs.

In a seperate bowl, stir flour, salt and baking powder together´╗┐. Slowly blend into the shortening mixture.

Stir in chocolate pieces and spread into a 9x9x1 3/4" pan.

Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes. Once partially cool, cut into bars and serve or store. As you can see, I didn't even get a chance to take a picture before these were dug into. At first glance, these looked as if they'd be too fluffy and thick for my liking, but they have a great flavor and consistency.


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Monday, October 4, 2010

Earring Holder/Frame

One problem that comes with making (or just buying) jewelry is where to put it all. It gets tangled, mis-matched, thrown into dozens of boxes.... just an over all mess.In my case I'm not just talking the stuff I have to sell either, I'm talking the "that's MINE" stuff. I ran across a couple different versions of the same storage idea that I really wanted to try out but didn't follow any specific instructions, I just sort of winged it. A few basic supplies from an art and hardware store and a few hours and you can have a super cool picture frame that serves as an earring hanger and display.


Empty, backless frame (plain wood if you want to paint it yourself, which is half the fun!)
Staple gun and upholstry staples (5/16")
Poultry wire/mesh
Paint (I used regular acrylic, but craft paint will do and it's a lot cheaper)
Gel medium, to make the paint go farther (Optional)
Fabric to line the back of the frame
Wire Cutters

If using a plain, wooden frame, start with a coat of gesso before you start to paint (or collage, whichever you prefer) and let dry.

Paint/collage as desired. I chose colors to compliment my bedroom, which is where I planned to hang it. Painting straight lines can really try my patience on these kinds of projects, mostly because being hunched over and so still for periods of time really aggrevates my back and neck (which I have issues with already, since I'm as good as an old lady when it comes to that stuff). Still, I knew what I wanted it to look like and was determined to get it right.

Let dry. You can use an embossing gun to help speed along the drying process, but do NOT let it get too hot or the paint will peel/bubble. Be patient!

Roll out the wire (which isn't the most fun thing to do) and use your wire cutters to get enough mesh to fill the frame. Make sure to leave enough room to staple to the edges to the frame but pull it taut enough so it doesn't sag in the middle. Once your first couple of staples are in it's not as difficult.

Carefully staple the mesh onto the frame, making sure you are catching the wire so it won't slip out (see above). Depending on the thickess of your frame, you might need to staple at a slight angle. The picture is a little blurry, but you can see where the staples came through on the first side I did, before I'd made that discovery. I ended up picking out the tiny pieces of wood where the staples had come through and filling the small holes with paint. Luckily, it's barely noticeable. Still, lesson learned.

Once finished, measure out your fabric. Using the frame, I traced it with a fabric marker. There are probably better ways that will make it look nicer from behind (haha, that's what she said) such as sewing the edges neatly, but I didn't have the patience or skills for that. Besides, it's just sitting against a wall... no biggie.

Staple on the fabric, the way to did the mesh, so it completely covers the back of the frame (or at the very least, all the the wire edges).

Finally, (with your sore hands!) turn your masterpiece over and trim any stray fabric. Hang the frame and fill it with your favorite earrings! Not only is the storage aspect great, but it's a lot easier picking a pair of earrings when they're laid out in front of you.

This picture of the final piece was taken with my phone so it isn't as stellar as I would hope, but you get the idea. All the earrings shown are Val originals.

I hope you enjoyed reading and will make one of your own!

Until next time, (new recipe blog coming soon)!

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