Dear Mr. Governor… GET A GRIP!!

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(Note: All hyperlinks are to source articles. Please read them if you have the time.)

Originally, I thought I would limit this blog strictly to all matters food — and leave politics to my twitter feed and everyday life. Just one little problem: I really cannot keep them separate. I am passionate on both topics and both have been a vital part of my life for as long as I can remember. Hell, politics and food often go hand in hand! Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman and Barbara Kingsolver have been mixing the two for years! Even my heroine, Julia Child, was politically active.

Julia was raised in a strict Republican Presbyterian family in California. Her father helped to finance Richard M. Nixon’s first campaign. But the young Julia found her ideas challenged after graduating from Smith College:

I was a Republican until I got to New York and had to live on $18 a week. It was then that I became a Democrat. – Julia Child

From that point on she was a staunch Democrat who crusaded for women’s rights, Planned Parenthood, and helped support politicians such as Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. In fact she was such an ardent liberal that many of her friends feared she would turn down the Presidential Medal of Freedom when President Bush awarded it to her in 2003. She accepted the medal but stated this about W:

I’ve nothing to say about him except that I am appalled that he was chosen by our people to be president. – Julia Child

So there you have it. I am using Julia as excuse to launch into a political tirade here on www.growingupjulia.com.

So what’s got me in such a tizzy? Our darn Governor of Maine, Paul LePage and his latest blunder! Since taking office on January 5, 2011, Governor LePage has insulted and bullied the people of Maine again and again. With his constant blustering blunders, he has proven himself to be out of touch with both the populace of our state and with reality.

Governor LePage and his cronies have attempted to disenfranchise citizens, loosen child labor laws, threatened the Department of Environmental Protection, ridiculed our unemployed, suggested that welfare recipients are lazy and should take drug tests and told the NAACP to “kiss my butt”! His idiocy and anger knows no bounds. He has lost his cool and physically threatened reporters and desecrated murals honoring Maine’s proud labor tradition. AND he manages to do all of this with a certain je ne sais quoi that only he can muster: a certain blend of pompous arrogance, naivety, condescension, confusion, bullying and rage. He always seems so angry. What’s wrong LePage? Did you not realize that being the Governor is much harder than managing Mardens?!? It seems every time he is in public he manages to stick his foot in his mouth all while claiming he speaks for the common men and women of Maine (the same ones he wants to submit to drug tests and disenfranchise)!

LePage has been running town hall meetings throughout the state and on November 10, 2011 he conducted one at the Ellsworth Middle School. During this meeting he huffed and puffed and managed to insult Medicaid, welfare, teachers and a plethora of other topics. In regards to his desire to “reform welfare” and fix the budget he threatened to hold the state’s education funding hostage until his demands are met:

Eighty percent of the budget is Medicaid and welfare and education. If the Legislature has the political will to fix the problem [cutting welfare], education will keep the additional $63 million we gave it.

Then he alluded that Maine’s welfare benefits are SO generous that we are attracting a benefit leeching underclass from all over the country. Because yes, folks, LePage thinks that everyone on welfare LOVES being on welfare and just wants to keep riding that fat gravy train:

People that don’t qualify in New Hampshire come to Maine; people that don’t qualify in Massachusetts come to Maine. And my feeling is I would much rather help Maine people before I help the rest of the country. – Governor LePage

Then LePage got onto the topic of healthcare. When asked by an audience member about whether he supported universal healthcare:

Yes. Now, would I support a plan that covers everybody and the taxpayer pays for it? No. – Governor LePage

Mr. Governor, clearly you do not understand the concept of universal healthcare. Sigh… Whatever happened to those Christian principles of caring about those around you? Whatever happened to helping out the needy, the sick and the poor? LePage wants a scapegoat for every problem this state is facing. He points fingers and furiously blames it on someone else. What we need in this period of economic strife is a leader who will bring us together, not someone who wants you to believe your neighbor is a greedy welfare-loving, drug taking, and unemployed villain from New Hampshire!

Now this is all stuff that has become de rigueur with our Governor. But then LePage offered up one last nugget of crazy that sent me spiraling into this rage. He implied that young people should get rid of their Blackberries, iPhones and iPads and instead buy health insurance with that money.

Because yes, Paul LePage, the youth of Maine cannot afford healthcare because we have spent all our money on smartphones! I am so glad you’ve discovered the problem. Tomorrow morning I’m going to stroll right in to ATT, cancel my iPhone and then use the $70 I’m saving a month to buy health insurance. Oh wait! What’s this you say, Anthem? I can’t buy health coverage for $70!? Wait, you want a minimum of $325 a month for a catastrophic plan with a $5,000 deductible? No way! Governor LePage made it quite clear that if I stopped paying for my high tech gadgets I’d be able to afford health insurance on my yearly salary of $16,000. WRONG!!

Diagram comparing the cost of a smartphone and health insuranceI am horrified that LePage alluded that the youth of Maine could afford healthcare if they would simply stop spending their money on gadgets. It truly shows how out of touch he is with my age group.  My phone is a necessity, not a luxury. How could I find or keep a job in this economy without a phone. And compared to health insurance, a smartphone is a bargain.

I am thrilled to be back in my home state after college. But the job market is rough and I am considered underemployed. For over a year I went without health insurance. I have an autoimmune disorder and I could not purchase a plan on my own. When I approached Anthem, I was quoted around $500 a month for a catastrophic plan!  And I still have to cover all my medical bills and tests, because the deductible is so high.  So, in essence, I would be double paying.  Catastrophic health insurance is really asset protection. I simply cannot afford it on my income, not with living expenses and college loans. It is not that I was wasting money on my iPhone; it is that even with an extra $70 a month I cannot even begin to afford coverage. I actively lived in fear of every cough, pain and twitch until the miracle of President Obama’s health care reform occurred. Now I am covered until age 26 by my parent’s insurance. This is the biggest relief I have seen since being handed my diploma. But I am scared about what happens when I turn 26. Will there be an affordable health care plan for me then? Or will I return to living in fear of my own health? I cannot afford to pay almost half my income on insurance. With Governor LePage in charge, I doubt there will be a viable option for me when I reach 26. His statement is out of touch with the financial reality of being under 30 in Maine.

So, Mr. Governor, I am begging you. Please stop your angry pattern of bullying and blaming. Stop threatening to hold various branches of government funding hostage to your desires and pitting one program or group against another. Stop cultivating a climate of fear and hate with your hurtful rhetoric. Instead, Sir, please get a grip on reality. Being elected with just 39% of the votes does not give you a mandate to radically destroy our great state.  This past election Mainers spoke loud and clear. We told you we do not want our same-day voting registration taken away. We told you we do not want outside money and businesses coming in to set up casinos. We stood together, across party lines, and said we are sick of the current political climate. So, Mr. Governor, please, get a grip!

In the meantime I am going to go fuel my anger into something productive, such as a delightful apple pie recipe. Maybe, all LePage needs is an outlet for his anger. May I recommend tennis or hockey? Or perhaps, you could take up bread baking.  Kneading bread is a great release for your anger. Or maybe, Sir, you should purchase a Smartphone and start limiting your rage to twitter or perhaps Angry Birds! I hear your healthcare is taken care of so that should free up about $70 for a fancy new iPhone!

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Chicken of the Week: “Aliena”

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Aliena the Chicken

Aliena

Aliena is one special chicken.

She has survived diseases and injuries that would have killed (and did kill!) other chickens. I had written her off as dead so many times but every time she pulls through. Aliena is a wonder chicken. Just writing about her gets me choked up. Yeah, I’m that kind of chicken owner! But she isn’t even my hen, she is Benjamin’s baby and I think it is their bond that gets me so emotional. Aliena and Benjamin have been through incredible physical distress (Ben has had four knee surgeries) and both of them have emerged from hardship stronger than before. They give me the optimism that you really can survive anything with the right attitude.

Aliena was hatched right here at home. Her mom was Jenny; the previous chicken of the week. Jenny was a crazy mother hen. She would mistakenly sit on her chicks, push them out of the way when there was food and sometimes step on them. Then she almost killed Aliena!

Jenny Keeping the Chicks Warm!

Jenny Keeping the Chicks Warm!

It was summer and we had put Jenny and the two-week-old chicks outside in a fenced pen. A neighbor’s dog came into the yard and Jenny went NUTS. She started attacking everything around her and Aliena got caught in the crossfire. Ben, Dad and I ran out to help and there was poor little Aliena in a pool of blood. Her neck was perfectly split open, but her arteries were intact. Only her skin was sliced but she was loosing too much blood. Jenny still hadn’t noticed and was running around like a crazed fan at a Justin Bieber concert.

Ben and I scooped her up and rushed her inside. I told him we would do what we could but that she would probably die. Naturally at this point she started peeping in pain. I could see Ben’s heart breaking. Having not grown up with chickens, and a plethora of animals, he had never seen a creature injured in such a violent manner. “We’ve got to do something!” he quivered. I rinsed her wound and treated it with an antiseptic. I considered stitching her up but the wound was too big and she was far too young. I put cornstarch and pressure on the wound but the blood kept coming. I passed her back to Ben and told him I had done everything I could. He stood there with this dying chick in his hands peeping away and just looked down with tears swelling in his eyes. Then I went outside to clean up the chaos with Jenny.

When I came back in Ben and Aliena were nowhere to be seen. I walked around until I heard a noise coming from the basement. “We’re down here” called Ben. I ran down to join them. Ben had placed Aliena into a box with a heat lamp, food, water and a bundle of soft towels against which she was nestled. “See I created an artificial broody hen for her to snuggle against!” Aliena still looked like she was on her way out of this world. Her eyes were closed and her little feathered body was barely moving. “Don’t get to attached Ben. She won’t make it overnight.”

The next morning Ben ran down to check on Aliena. “Mattie! Mattie!” I followed him into the basement. Aliena was still snuggled against the towels but she was alert and peeping. “She lived! She made it through the night!” Ben was glowing. I was dumbfounded but noticed she hadn’t eaten or drunk anything. I kept my mouth shut. Ben stayed down with her for an hour.

Then that afternoon we lost power. Aliena’s heat lamp was gone! I went down to talk to Ben. “Ben, Aliena needs heat at this age. If we don’t get power back she won’t survive.” “Already taken care of!” Ben had taken the towels and stuffed them with a bunch of my hand warmers. Aliena was snuggled even closer to the towels.

Aliena made it through that night too. The next day she ate and Ben was there to keep watch. The two bonded very strong. Soon she was hopping out of the pen to sit on his lap. When she got old enough she started hopping on his shoulder and roosting. He could walk around with her fast asleep on his shoulder. They had both proven me wrong. I’m still dumbfounded that she lived through such a gruesome injury. (Video below of Aliena sitting on Ben)

Soon she was big enough to rejoin her siblings and Ben put her out in the baby coop. Then tragedy struck again! Two of the chicks, including Aliena, came down with coccidiosis. The disease killed the other pullet but Aliena pulled through!

Since then she has survived two other diseases and has lived through having an impacted crop. Each brush with death has left her a little more tattered looking but she is still living and laying!

To this day she still runs to Benjamin. If the other hens are chasing her she will jump into his arms or onto his shoulder. Then Ben will chase off the offending hen while yelling at them about manners. They are quite the pair!

Aliena Dossier

Fall Frozen Yogurt

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Quick post today. Ben and I recently acquired an ice cream machine. Both a horrible idea and an amazing one at the same time. In order to keep our figures in check we’ve been sticking with frozen yogurt. It is apple season and we wanted to make some sort of apple treat. Here is what we came up with:

Apple Cinnamon Caramel Frozen Yogurt

  • 3 Large Cortland Apples (peeled and sliced)
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups whole milk
  • 2 1/2 cups plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
1) Heat butter in a medium saucepan on medium heat. After butter has melted added sugar and allow to dissolve.
2) Next add in apples and cinnamon. Cook until the apples have begun to fall apart and taste uber delicous. Make sure they are super soft! Remove apple mixture from heat and mash the mixture until it is reminiscent of applesauce but with some chunks. Allow mixture to cool completely. 
3) Whisk together milk and sugar in a large bowl. Add yogurt and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Then add the cooled apple mixture. 

4) Next process the mixture in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturers instructions. It took this batch approximately 20 minutes to get to the right consistency. 

Enjoy!

Apple Cinnamon Caramel Frozen Yogurt

Apple Cinnamon Caramel Frozen Yogurt

Whoops… and peaches!

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Peach with Spider

Movin' to the country/Gonna eat a lot of Peaches - Presidents of the United State of America

Well that plan went real well…

Blog in the middle of a hurricane! What a brilliant idea! That is until you loose power and internet and all connection to the outside world. Instead of blogging we had a Hurricane Party that essentially consisted of five adults processing peaches for 48 hours with a five year old running around giggling.

We got our power back within 24 hours (normally it takes several days) and, yes, I should have blogged then but life got in the way again. Irene just barely grazed us. The next morning was a gorgeous sunny day and my family quickly threw our stuff in the car and rushed up to Acadia. We had a wonderous vacation. Then I went back to work… Then I had admissions work to do for Smith… And then there was a bunch of shiny stuff, and oh dear, I forgot to blog! Naughty, naughty, me!

I cooked some amazing food during that Hurricane. Even though this material was meant to be posted a month ago I feel it is better late than never.

So today I wanted to share with you my favorite peach recipe from Irene. (We also made a kick-ass Ginger Peach Jam.) This Peach Cobbler recipe is one that my mother tested out all week and we happily gobbled up all the different batches. This cobbler doesn’t have a typically biscuit type topping. Instead it has a wonderful gooey, thick and sugar crunch top.

Mama Daughtry’s Notcha Usual Peach Cobbler!

Mama Daughtry's Notcha Usual Peach Cobbler!

Mama Daughtry's Notcha Usual Peach Cobbler!

  • 4 cups peaches
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 6 T butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 t baking power
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t nutmeg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 t each almond and vanilla extract
  1. Wash, peel, pit and slice peaches. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of sugar over peaches and set them aside at least half an hour to macerate in their juices.
  2. Turn oven on to 350 degrees. Put butter in a 9 by 13 baking dish and place in oven for several minutes to melt.
  3. Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add milk and extracts and blend until smooth.
  4. Remove hot pan from oven and immediately pour in the batter evenly over the butter without stirring. Then pour peaches and their juices somewhat evenly over batter again without stirring. Sprinkle with more cinnamon, sugar and nutmeg and bake for about 50 minutes until top is browned.

 

Spoonful of Mama's Peach Cobbler

Look at all that delicious, gooey, peachy goodness!

And because I was so excited about our peach harvest this year (we processed over 60 pounds!) I wanted to share with you some more photos:

Millions of Peaches, Peaches for Me!

Millions of Peaches, Peaches for Me!

The downside of organic peaches... (This looks very Alien like)

The downside of organic peaches... (This looks very Alien like)

Apparently I'm not the only fan of my peach tree!

Apparently I'm not the only fan of my peach tree!

 

 

Back to Business

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Dear Growing Up Julia readers,

I’ve been MIA for quite some time now. The past few months I’ve been working at a fantastic new job. The job has been keeping me busy and sadly the blog was put on the back burner.

But now I’m on vacation. I had grand plans of escaping to go camping with my loved ones in Acadia. I imagined myself contentedly staring out at the Atlantic from the top of Sargent or Penobscot Mountain. Then this ruined my plans:

Image of Hurricane Irene

BOOM! Here comes Hurricane Irene!

My vacation plans are on hold while Nature’s fury comes roaring up the east coast. I’m certain I wouldn’t fare too well in a tent in this weather!

Instead I am at home. Time to batten down the hatches, buy loads of bottled water, board up the chicken coop, pull out the board games and emergency chocolate and watch the world go flying by the windows!

Before the storm hits my family has some serious Hurricane prep work. We’ve got to clean the yard and put everything away. I’ve got to find a way to protect my half finished earth bread oven (blog post to come about the oven).

But the most pressing and urgent work to be done before the storm is harvesting our garden. Late August is a bountiful time filled with sun-gold cherry tomatoes, peppers, big red tomatoes, zucchini and a plethora of peaches from my childhood peach tree. The Hurricane (even if it is just a tropical storm) will devestate our garden. So before everything hits we are harvesting as much as possible and trying to freeze, can and bake our way through the piles of fruit and veggies.

So I figured while I’m stuck at home I should post all of our Hurricane Prep/Harvest Bonanza recipes. So stay tuned for pictures, tales and recipes of Peach Jam, Peach Ice Cream, Zucchini Chocolate Cake, Grill Pizza, Tomato Sauce and more…

Hollandaise and the Feminist Easter Bunny

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The Country Bunny talking to the Big Jackrabbits from DuBose Heyward's "The Country Bunny"

An image from DuBose Heyward's "The Country Bunny"

Easter in my household is a distinctly feminine affair.

The holiday starts the night before with a reading of our traditional Easter book, The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by Du Bose Heyward. My mother has read it to me every Easter and my grandmother read it to her as a child. The story is a heartwarming tale about overcoming hardship and negativity. In it a little girl bunny dreams of growing up to be the Easter Bunny, but all the boy and aristocratic bunnies mock her and tell her to go back to the country and raise little baby bunnies. It is a magnificent feminist children’s book written in 1939 by the same man who wrote the opera Porgy and Bess. If you have not read it then check it out: The Country Bunny on Amazon

When I was younger I would bounce out of bed in search of what the elusive Easter bunny had left. Now I bounce out of bed to prepare Easter brunch. This holiday I was lucky enough to have Benjamin and Kippy staying at the house.

Mimosa

Mimosa

Kippy and I were in charge of brunch and decided to meld our traditions. The menu consisted of Fresh Fruit, Mimosas, Asparagus with Mornay Sauce, Kielbasa and Eggs Benedict/Florentine covered in a sumptuous Hollandaise sauce. Or at least that was the plan.

The first part of the menu went off without a hitch, then it came time for the Hollandaise. Hollandaise sauce is as elusive as the Easter bunny and generally as satisfying as the sugar rush he leaves behind. I’ve seen people quiver with both desire and fear when discussing Hollandaise. My college roommate swears that her heaven would be floating in a vat of the stuff.

“In these fat-fearing and egg-fearing times, I think we may be forgetting just how good hollandaise is, with its voluptuously silken texture and its lemony-buttery flavor.” – Julia Child from Julia and Jacques: Cooking at Home

Hollandaise is an utterly sinful culinary delight; well it is if you can pull it off. Hollandaise is the true diva of sauces. All to often and easily this magnificent sauce can go wrong and you’re left with a curdled soup of yolks and butter.

Emulsion: noun. A mixture of two or more liquids that are not soluble in one another. One is suspended as small droplets in the other.

Hollandaise is an emulsion sauce, like Mayonnaise. It is completely dependent upon the ability of the egg yolks to absorb the butter and flavors. The egg yolks hold the butter in suspension to create a creamy and decadent sauce. But if it goes array the emulsion fails and the eggs curdle and separate from the butter.

In a hurry I grabbed the first recipe I found out of Julia Child’s Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom.I used her directions but went with the traditional method of making the sauce over a double boiler. Kippy and I furiously worked together while balancing the task of cooking the meat and slicing the rest of the ingredients. We tried to be careful, following the recipe and we treated it with love! Yet somehow before we knew it we had a sad curdled Hollandaise starring up at us. But no! What happened? We clarified the butter. We thought we had cooked everything right!

Hollandaise Gone Wrong!

Hollandaise Gone Wrong!

Naturally, my mother managed to stroll into the kitchen during our moment of culinary failure. Peeking into the pan she chuckled and suggested a new cookbook for us and grabbed Julia and Jacques: Cooking at Home. Julia has a different method with softened butter, no double boiler and clear instructions from Jacques about cooking the yolks or “sabayon”.

Sabayon: noun. A light, frothy mixture made by beating egg yolks with water or other liquid over gentle heat.

Our biggest mistake was patience; we had rushed the emulsion.  When cooking the yolks make sure you whisk them thoroughly but don’t beat them into a fury. The key here is to cook and thicken the yolks. Next make sure you add the butter slowly. Give it time to absorb and adapt to the butter. We had much better luck using chunks of warmed/softened butter than with the melted/clarified butter. Traditionalists, like Jacques Pepin, swear that using clarified butter results in a thicker Hollandaise. Our version, with the softened butter, was exactly how I like it and I could not imagine it being any thicker. It simply doesn’t seem worth the time to bother with the other methods involving double boilers and clarified butter. Another big difference was the size of the saucepan. We used a far to large pan the first time and the volume of the pan didn’t match the amount of yolks. Using a smaller pan gives your greater control. It really is a capacity issue! Also this recipe took very little time and was much easier than blender Hollandaise recipes.

Remember this sauce is very rich. It took so long to recover from that it took this blog entry a week and half after Easter to come to fruition. But you shouldn’t wait for the next holiday to make this truly sumptuous and classic sauce.

The finished Hollandaise on our Eggs Benedict/Florentine

The finished Hollandaise on our Eggs Benedict/Florentine

Hollandaise Sauce adapted from Julia and Jacques: Cooking at Home

Makes about 1 cup

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 Tbs water
  • 1 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice (we ended up adding a bit more at the end for flavor)
  • 8 ounces of very, very soft unsalted butter. (It must be unsalted butter the sauce needs very little salt)
  • Itty bitty pinch of salt
  • Pepper
  1. Whisk the yolks, water, and lemon juice in a medium heavy bottomed saucepan. Whisk until thick and pale. Set the pan over moderately low heat and continue to whisk at a reasonable speed. Whisking in a figure eight pattern is best in order to keep the eggs from overcooking.
  2. Moderate the heat by frequently moving the pan of the burner for a few seconds and then placing it back. As the yolks cook they will become frothy and increase in volume/thicken. When the yolks are thickened and you are able to see the bottom of the pan through the steaks of the whisk (like in risotto) remove from the heat.
  3. In 1 Tbs chunks add the soft butter and whisk constantly to incorporate each addition. Work slowly. Do not rush the butter. As the emulsion forms, you may begin to add the butter in slightly larger chunks but always whisk until fully incorporated.
  4. Continue adding butter until the sauce has thickened to your preference.
  5. Season lightly with salt, pepper and additional lemon if wanted. Whisk in well and then serve.

Chicken of the Week: “Jenny”

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Chickens + Photography Major + Living at Home = An Enormous Catalogue of Chicken Photos.

I’ve decided to finally do something with all of the chicken photos I have clogging up my hard drive. From now on http://www.growingupjulia.com will have a featured chicken of the week. For our first chicken we have “Jenny” a four year old hen with a penchant for obsessively digging holes.

"Jenny"

"Jenny"

Time to Jump on the Cupcake Wagon!

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Carrot Cake Cupcake w/Cream Cheese Frosting and Marzipan decorations.

Carrot Cake Cupcake w/Cream Cheese Frosting and Marzipan decorations.

I am very late to the cupcake party.

My mother did not make them for me as a child. I would have them occasionally at a party or other festive event, but cupcakes and I rarely crossed paths. Now don’t get me wrong, I love cupcakes but they just were not a part of my family’s desert repertoire.

Then sometime in the past decade a cupcake renaissance occurred. Suddenly they were everywhere and had grown up from those Betty Crocker bake sale cupcakes of yore. There were blogs popping up left and right worshipping their common goddess, the Cupcake. Heck there was even a TV Show to boot! Now they came in all kinds of intriguing flavors and with high-quality ingredients. Many of them were miniature masterpieces of sculpture. The cupcake had gone artisan! During this cupcake boom I felt like the little kid not picked for the kickball team. I was on the outskirts of cupcake-land but still unsure how to proceed without the proper training. It was time to go to cupcake bootcamp!

Cupcake bootcamp came in the form of www.verysmallanna.com. Very Small Anna’s beautiful blog showed me what the humble cupcake could become. From her Popcorn-Champagne Cupcakes to her Smartass-Savory Cupcake I read in awe of her daring kitchen creations. Then came her Spring Lawn Cupcakes with their tempting filling of fresh mint custard and luscious looking chocolate ganache frosting. I was hooked; time to start making cupcakes.

So on a Thursday night I called up my little sister, Gaetan, and asked if she would care to come over for a cupcake party. She was thrilled and excitedly brought along her friend Julia to assist in the chaos. None of us are cupcake experts but share an extreme love of all things carrot cake. So armed with some rad cupcake supplies from Target, food coloring, an unhealthy amount of bunny marshmallows and a roll of marzipan we set out to create our very own spring cupcakes. Finally I was in on the cupcake party! (Recipes below)

Cupcakes fresh out of the oven

Cupcakes fresh out of the oven

What's better than a cupcake? A cupcake filled with cream cheese frosting!

What's better than a cupcake? A cupcake filled with cream cheese frosting!

The hostess armed with an icing gun.

The hostess armed with an icing gun.

Bunny Cupcake

Bunny Cupcake

Bunny's Attacking a Carrot and The Bunny Massacre Cupcakes

Bunny's Attacking a Carrot and The Bunny Massacre Cupcakes

 

Forbidden Fruit Cupcake

Forbidden Fruit Cupcake

Balding Old Man Cupcake

Balding Old Man Cupcake

Tier of Cupcakes

Tier of Cupcakes

Carrot Cake Cupcakes (adapted from Martha Stewart)

Make 24 cupcakes

  • ¾ – 1 pound carrots, peeled and grated
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 ½ cups canola oil
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ¾ cup raisins (flame or golden)
  • 1 cup toasted walnuts
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 ½ teaspoon freshly grated ginger

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Line 2 muffin tins with cupcake liners.

2. In a large bowl whisk together carrots, eggs, sugar, oil, buttermilk, vanilla seeds, raisins and walnuts. Mix until well combined. In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, fresh ginger and cloves. Stir the flour into the carrot mixture until combined.

3. Fill each cupcake liner ¾ full. Bake the two tins for 25 – 28 minutes. Let cool on tins for 5 minutes and then transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

4. Frost cupcakes with lots and lots of cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

This recipe is a starting place. I find Cream Cheese Frosting to be an incredibly personal preference. Some like it syrupy sweet and others prefer to have it tangy. Use this recipe as a suggestion and make sure to taste it along the way!

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2½  – 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Beat butter and cream cheese in a mixer on medium speed until fluffy.

2. Reduce speed to low and slowly add sugar. Taste the frosting after adding about 2½ cups. Add the rest of the sugar depending on taste and preference. Finish by adding the vanilla.

Popovers

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Popover!

Popover!

Popovers may be my favorite food, even more so than my beloved fresh pasta.

Popovers and I go way back.  I have been making them since I was about nine years old. They were my original “piece de resistance” recipe.

When I was ten, I wrote Santa a letter begging him for some proper popover tins.  Mom’s muffin tins were adequate, but I knew the narrower and taller shape would make the popovers even more dramatically tall. Santa came through that year, but made sure to attach a note that specified that my new tins were from Mrs. Claus. I happily ran off to the kitchen to try them out and ignored my other presents. Why was a ten year-old so intent on a piece of kitchen equipment?

The summer before, I had found a tattered old cookbook, The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, in a cupboard at my godmother Charlene’s cottage. I asked her if she would bake something from it with me and we decided on popovers. The recipe was simple and in no time we had them in the oven. Thirty-five minutes later something magical emerged. What I had expected to be some muffin-like baked goods had popped over into something incredible. We cracked them open and devoured them with jam. They were eggy, warm, buttery and amazing. I was instantly smitten.

When I returned home, I found the same recipe in Marion Cunningham’s The Fannie Farmer Baking Book. A little later I was watching Baking with Julia and there with Julia was Marion Cunningham making her signature popovers. My childhood heroine with my new popover goddess! I had to learn to make this amazing food for myself! So with the determination that only a child possesses, I set out to master the popover and soon I was begging Santa for the proper equipment.

I have been cooking popovers ever since and have tried many different recipes and techniques. This recipe always produces show-stopping popovers and the key is to start them in a warm oven pre-heated to 425°.  When I first started making them I swore by a cold oven start. After all, my first recipe was from Marion Cunningham and she said to place them in a cold oven. I have tried both methods many times and seem to have the best results with a warm oven. The popovers are bigger and crispier on the outside. Still, if you forget to preheat your oven, never fear. Simply pop them in and turn your oven to 425° and follow the rest of the directions. They will still be delicious.

Popovers (Makes six to eight popovers)

  • 1 cup all-purpose white flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1¼ cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • optional: ¼ cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • optional: fresh herbs to taste

Preheat your oven to 425°. Bring all ingredients to room temperature. Butter a popover tin or six ramekins.

Mix flour and salt together in a mixing bowl. Set aside.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, butter and milk. (Add cheese and herbs at this point.)

Pour liquid ingredients over the flour mixture. Fold until just combined. Do not overbeat. Some lumps may remain.

Fill the popover tins one-half to two-thirds full. Put water into any unfilled popover cups.

Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes at 425°. Then turn your oven down to 350° and bake for an additional 20 minutes.

Remove popovers from oven and remove them from the tin. Puncture a small hole in all of the popovers to all the steam to escape and keep the insides from getting gummy. Serve immediately.