Sep 24 2013

Book Club Baking: Champagne Cupcakes

I have a standard (and excellent) vanilla cupcake recipe I’ve been relying on for a while now. It’s fast and easy and I could probably make it in my sleep.

For our book club meeting, though, I wanted to bring something a bit more interesting without having to put more than a bit more effort in. I didn’t feel like going to the store and wanted to make do with whatever I had on hand. How’s that for restrictive parameters?

I Googled something like “awesome cupcakes” or “world’s most awesome cupcakes.” Lemon Sugar’s recipe for champagne cupcakes popped up. I assumed it was going to involve fanciness I just wasn’t up to. But Erin, the maestra of Lemon Sugar, said it was easy peasy yoga pant baking.

And, luckily, I had a bottle of champagne on hand.

Book Club Baking: champagne cupcakes from @lemon__sugar @lemonsugarblog

And you know what? It was super easy AND only used a portion of the bottle. So I got to sip in my PJs and bake and feel fancy, accomplished, and all without working too hard. Heck, this month I even finished the book early.

She went for pink frosting, I used purple gel food coloring which came out more pale blue than anything else. I decided that was champagne-y. Someday I will not accidentally double the recipe despite the warnings to not double it. We had so much GD frosting.

A few dragées because why not (and it turns out the source recipe used ‘em too. I’m a genius!).

I had it in my head that there would be a Pop Rocks experience…that the bubbles would somehow crystalize and solidify and burst? They didn’t. But I would definitely say there was an effervescence to the cupcakes that was really lovely. The addition of the champagne syrup Erin devised was awesome and essential.

I won’t repost the whole recipe but, again, you should go here and bake ‘em yourself. People will think you are fancy! Nay, people will know you are fancy!

Champagne cupcakes!


Sep 14 2013

Test Kitchen: Perfect Pancakes

Not gonna lie. I have been a pancake mix girl my whole life. Why wouldn’t I be? It’s so dang easy. I’ve upgraded over the years and now eschew Bisquick for some fancier brand from Whole Foods.

When we were in California, I wanted to make pancakes but didn’t want to buy mix we’d use once and then leave behind.

Homemade? I assumed it was, you know, a thing.

It’s not. I feel a fool.

I read a few recipes and their reviews and settled on this one the sharer said came from her grandma. I trust grandmas.

They were silly easy and silly good. Brett pronounced them “the best pancakes ever.” I felt domestic and goddess-y.

Once back in Oak Park I tried them again. Disaster. I used baking soda instead of baking powder. I don’t know why. I then spent 30 minutes trying to figure out if I had accidentally poisoned everyone with baking soda. I didn’t.

Last night I tried again. Getting the pan the right heat is always a mess unless you use Brett’s “sacrificial minicake” method. This time I decided to thoughtfully do it rather than heat it up too quickly, burn a few, then turn it down and curse. On our stove, between the 3 & 4 but a dash closer to the 3 seems to be the right heat using a non-stick. Yes, we have a huge cast iron griddle thing. No I didn’t use it. That shit is heavy.

That 3 not quite 3.5? That was perfect.

They were perfect.

Perfect pancakes.

Loie ate 5. FIVE.

Perfect Pancakes
from the mysterious dakota kelly

  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Make a well in the center (this really does help!) and pour in the milk, egg and melted butter; mix until smooth. (Seriously, mix that stuff for real.)

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat (we use a non-stick pan, no butter, and not medium high heat). Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides (do that thing where you wait for legit bubbles) and serve hot.

Two notes:
1. I double sift. Sift the flour first before measuring and then sift again
2. Many reviewers suggest adding a dash of vanilla and I think that’s a grand idea.
You’re welcome. Go make them. Then ponder opening a B&B.

Sep 9 2013

Not-A-Princess Halloween: Amelia Earhart Edition

It’s mid-September. And I’m kind of stressing the kid’s Halloween costume.

Obnoxious, right? It’s only because I nailed it last year.

I have no idea if Lo will skew princess and poofy in her grade school days. I don’t totally mind if she likes pink and purple and glitter. I know she’s strong and fast and learned how to do a somersault all on her own. She jumps and digs in dirt. So girl having some girlie girl in her doesn’t get me down. We’re not likely to support any clothing that implies she’s shitty at math or “boy crazy” at 4 so a little unicorn or rainbow action here and there is tolerable.

Still, until she can articulate a reason for a specific costume, mama’s gonna run the show. Her first year (2011) she was a big plush mess of an 7 month old owl from a Pottery Barn Kids costume. It was SO CUTE. (Here’s a tiny pic so you aren’t so distracted). See those wiggly feet?


Last year, though, I wanted to not spend a ton of money AND exert more creative control. Yup, I can own that.

She’s an adventurous spirit and I’m a former history teacher and a feminist.

Adventure + history + feminism = Amelia Earhart


Here’s how I put it together.

That amazing hat? It’s from my friend Sarah’s friend’s talented hand. Blaze ‘n’ Crochet helped this sister out. I wrote her after seeing a girlie aviator’s cap and said I wanted something a dash more Amelia. Blaze doesn’t even begin to describe it. That lady got that hat done in about 11 minutes. I have proof. She uploaded this picture so quickly I’m not sure I had even hit send on the order! It.was.perfect. And the hat was a staple in our fall accessories.

Blaze 'n' Crochet web

The scarf was purchased here, the one sell out to the Halloween consumer machine (and ours was only $6). The khakis are ten buck uniform pants from Old Navy and the brown corduroy jacket (sorry, no leather aviator jacket this year kid) is too, but I found it on eBay. It had a hood by we tucked it in for authenticity’s sake (Cheerio cup is super authentic, I know). Both of those were reused, though we’re not really a khaki family.

It felt smart because a last-evening-in-October in Oak Park can be chilly. She was already in a hat and jacket! At playdates and parties indoors, we removed the jacket and had her wear a plain old onesie, which gave her a devil-may-care casualness I think Amelia would’ve approved of.

Then, we added a bit of sepia goodness and BOOOM had a picture ready for the history books. (Yes we have old suitcases. Yes we have a typewriter. Yes I’ve seen this. AND yes, I should’ve moved the shoes.)


The only challenge now is that I’ve set a high bar for myself. I realize this is a purely ridiculous thing to obsess about. But I am. And there aren’t a ton of toddler friendly obvious feminine icon costumes, you know what I mean?

I’ve been scouring The Reconstructionists (an amazing project by Lisa Congdon and Maria Popova). So many rad women, if not done soo soo carefully, could just look like “standard prairie girl” or “old timey costume.” Sigh. Oh! They featured Diana Nyad?! Kind of goes against my chilly weather plan.

Onward. Or upward? Maybe it’s Sally Ride time.