Aug 24, 2011

My FAVORITE ... Coconut Cupcakes!!!

Broc surpised me with this book a couple of Christmases ago. It has some amazing recipes in it. Knowing that I am slightly obsessed with cookbooks and that I am on a never ending quest to find the best recipe, it was the perfect gift. I highly reccomend it! And you know any recipe by Ina Garten is going to be fabulous! 
So in this fancy little book was where I was first introduced to...

The Barefoot Contessa's COCONUT CUPCAKES!!!

Coconut cupcakes happen to be one of my favorite kinds of cupcakes! And these babies are amazing! A hands down favorite for me! The combination of the cake and the frosting together are  perfection! If you are going for the wow factor - these are the cupcakes to make! I'm telling you- a little bit of heaven in every bite! They are elegant and perfect for any party or occasion!

So I think there is one ingredient that is key to making these babies so good. It is my staple secret ingredient to baking. Let me introduce you to the best vanilla on this planet:

Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Vanilla

I never really thought that it made a difference which brand of vanilla extract I used. I thought they were all the same. That was until I tried this! This stuff will change your life. I promise. After trying this there is no way you will ever go back. You can purchase it at any specialty food store like, Williams-Sonoma, or Orson Gygi (if you live in UT). I usually purchase the huge 32 oz. bottle and it definitely gets used!

Now onto the recipe.

Coconut Cupcakes
Courtesy of The Barefoot Contessa

3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
14 oz. sweetened, shredded coconut

For the frosting:
1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 1/2 pounds confectioners' sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In 3 parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. Fold in 7 ounces of coconut.

Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Fill each liner to the top with batter. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a baking rack and cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the frosting. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on low speed cream together the cream cheese, butter, and vanill and almond extracts. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until smooth.

Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle with the remaining coconut.


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Aug 11, 2011

Paper Bag Book

One of the girls I teach at church, got baptized a few weeks ago. I wanted to give her a special gift to help her remember her special day. It is so easy in the states to go and find something nice, but living on this island you don't have the luxury of having a Deseret Book on every corner. So you have to get creative! I took the idea of my Blessing Books I have made for my boys and utilized the resources I had... and Voila! came up with the PAPER BAG BAPTISM BOOK! I know that I am probably not the first person to come up with a book from paper bags. But I have never seen one used like this before. And it felt so good to make something from items I had laying around my house and transform them into something lovely she could treasure forever.

The idea behind a book like this is to have each person who attends, write something they remember from the day/blessing, or simply write a nice note to the person. Normally for my blessing books, I have used a scrapbook with about 10 blank pages. I add a picture to each page to personalize it, and there you go- a lovely book filled with memories of their special day! I love looking at Crew's and Jack's blessing books and reading the sweet things people remembered from their blessing day- things that I would have missed or maybe even forgotten! I LOVE these books! So I used the same idea for this book!

On the first page I usually put the info from the day. If you are doing it for a blessing, you could put the name of the person giving the blessing, date, place, etc...

Paper Bag Book Tutorial:

Gather supplies:
*small brown paper bags (I used 9)
*glue stick
*hole punch
*ribbon/ raffia/ jute
*square photos- one per page about 2 to 3 inches square depending on how big you want the picture.
*photo for the front (and any additional sayings that you may want)
*info printed for inside page

1. Take one paper bag and place three verticle holes, equally spaced on the closed side of the bag.

2. Use the first bag to line up the holes for the remaining bags. Place the bag with the holes punched on top of the next bag. Use the hole punch to punch through the next bag. The holes should match up exactly.

3. When you have finished punching the holes in all of the bags, tie them together with your ribbon/ raffia or whatever you are using. I cris-crossed mine to add a little design to it. But you can make it as intricate or as simple as you desire.

4. Glue each bag closed.

5. Add pictures etc...

Voila you're done! You could use this idea to make a Father's day/ Mother's day book, birthday book (instead of cards, have people write in this small book and maybe only do a few pages) the options are endless!

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Aug 5, 2011

Jack's BEACH BUM Party

My baby turned one on July 7. 
I decided to do a "beach bum" themed party!
 it just seemed so fitting!

Location: the BEACH of course! 
There was an old abandoned restaurant at the beach where we celebrated. It was perfect for holding the food, drinks and cake! 

We served Jack's favorite- BBQ Chicken Pizza, recipe from here. Seriously, he loves it!

Paper Straws from Orson Gygi

We also had some beach themed finger foods as well- Pepperidge Farm Goldfish and Gummy Sharks

 Chocolate cake with a chocolate cream cheese frosting. My creative friend Kristen came up with the idea to turn the candle into a palm tree (genious!) and molded the palm leaves and the fish (small one is Jack and the bigger one is Crew- so cute!)  I molded Mr. Crab. There had to be a crab incorporated somewhere- those things are all over the place here and Jack totally resembles one when he runs sideways in his walker! It's hilarious! 

I made homemade vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream from here, crushed up some coconut cookies for the sand and topped it with a parasol. Doesn't get much better than that!

The birthday boy himself... enjoying some presents!

The gang!

Cake time! Dig in!!

The best part... you can't tell the real sand from the fake sand!

Washing off in the ocean!

Happy Birthday my Sweet Boy!
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This is the first post on my new site A Little Lovely. I have wanted to start a blog like this for quite sometime. I have had great ambitions to better organize and document my ideas, recipes and parties. Not sure what has taken me so long, but here I am- finally taking a shot at it! I am always on the search for the best recipe, I never pass up the opportunity to throw a good party, and I aspire to learn a little about everything. The purpose of this blog is really to house my discoveries, recipes and ideas, and hopefully inspire some of you at the same time. I hope you enjoy reading.
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