Brown Butter Pecan Bark

Let’s talk parenting, hmm?

Specifically, dog and child parenting.

I am the ([too] proud) parent of a canine. He is my pride and joy and yes, he is probably better than your human child. I’m not apologizing for it, just like doughnuts don’t apologize for being delicious and Mother Nature doesn’t apologize when she tricks you into wearing a dress and you’re freezing your ass off. The Universe just happened to bless me with the best dog ever.

Now, I know most dog owners have the skewed perception that they have the “BDE” but they’re wrong. I do. Well, sometimes.

Just like my parents raised my siblings and I to be good people, we have our moments of bad, and so does my Border Collie, Mannie. His “bad” is limited to his excessive barking, which only bothers my family and my super-bitch neighbor whose career is sitting on her stupid ass and complaining all day.

Excessive barking, and not liking other dogs. I’ve already mentioned The Forgetful Lady and her forgetfulness for the facts that A) she has never met my dog before, despite her insisting her Lab and my dog are like, BFFs; and B) she consistently forgets that Mannie really doesn’t like other dogs.

Mannie just hates them. What’s the big whoop?

And while we’re at it, Mannie also hates yard work, the UPS truck/man, cats, any animal that is not himself or my brother, trucks, and he questions children–especially if those kids are scooters, skateboards, bikes, motor scooters, roller skates or any device that makes your demon child mobile. He hates them.

Big whoop: people don’t like hearing that a dog hates dogs. Or that a dog doesn’t like kids. Or a dog doesn’t like _____. People think all dogs are happy dogs that love anything, just like people think children are all happy kids with halos circling their lice-infested heads.

THEY’RE NOT.

Yesterday, Mannie and I had possibly the worst walk known to man, for every obstacle that could interfere did interfere.

First, we encountered other dog walkers, automatically assuming their dogs are just as excited to meet mine. Crossing the street when they were clearly headed toward me made me feel rude, but the look they gave when I apologetically announced, “Sorry, my dog’s not very nice!”

It was as if I told them their dogs were infected with a rabid disease going to kill them in 1.4589 seconds.

Moving along, we encountered a man doing yard work, edging his lawn like a mad man. Mannie went ballistic, causing us to cross the street again to avoid being blown away by his frenzied yard-manicuring. But the guy, taking notice at Mannie’s interest in his chore, decided that this was funny and began to taunt my dog.

Really? WTF yard man?

After pulling Mannie down the freakin’ street away from temptations of chewing up leaf blowers, we encountered them.

No, not street gangs. No, not coyotes, bears, or wild turkeys.

KIDS.

ON MOVING DEVICES.

HEADED TOWARD US.

And their mother, standing outside in a delightfully tacky combination of Wellies and sweats, shouts, “Oh HAAAAAY, yoooooooou! Kids, LOOOOK!! It’s Mannieeee! Hiiiiii, Manniieeee!”

And I cringe.

Because weeks before, when the kids weren’t mobile, Mannie seemed to like their swift pets. Even though I was nervous–especially when some dumbass child put his face near Mannie’s mouth, in which I just about had a heart attack–Mannie did fine.

But fast forward a couple days later, when said children are now zipping by on moving contraptions that, (no shit) ATTRACT a freaking BORDER COLLIE, he has the instinct to herd them.

And the mom, completely oblivious to my dog ripping and thrashing on his leash as I desperately try to pull him away from the children now surrounding us in the street, flying by on Barbie scooters like demons on wheels, says “HAAAAY KIDS LOOK IT’S MANNIE” and they close in on us.

And Mannie snarls and barks, eager to herd these pesky brats back where they came from. Had it not warranted a huge lawsuit or injuries or anything, I probably would have let him. Instead, I did the normal, law-abiding citizen-y thing and told the kids “I’m sorry, he doesn’t like scooters and stuff. He’s not friendly to pet right now” and bolted the eff out of there.

But yesterday, Oblivimom in her Wellies and sweats, surrounded by a swarm of rascals on bikes, unleashed her children onto Mannie and I. I was forced to do the thing most people fear–exercise–and immediately dead lift my 45-pound animal in my hands, in protection from the sugar-trashed kids invading our personal space.

“Sor—rry,” I huffed as I walked past Oblivimom, carrying a freaking Border Collie in my hands. “Man–nie is ki–nd–of in–a — bad– mood– today.”

And… she smiles.

“Our dog looks JUUUST like Mannie!!!!! HIIIIII MANNIEEEE! KIDS LOOK IT’S MANNIE!!”

I continued walking, patience drained from holding a freaking heavy ass dog, and we went along our merry way. And as if Mother Nature hadn’t pooped all over this walk to begin with, Mannie spotted a cat that serenaded him with a variety of “meows” before I dragged Mannie down the street back to our safe place where we watched TV together and were not surrounded by children, leaf blowers, cats, or UPS men, who happened to drive by riiiight as we stepped into our driveway.

Anyway, while this detailed story of our walk only makes Mannie sound like a pest, it’s really children that are the brats. That’s the moral. Oh, and my dog is still awesome. Look at him in his Halloween bandanna.

Isn’t he handsome? So regal.

I have long been a fan of this amazing Brown Butter Pecan Bark and usually make it as holiday treats to put into cookie baskets for teachers, coworkers, friends and firemen. I first tasted it from a family friend who got the recipe from her family friend, and so on. Best part is, it’s a simple 4-ingredient recipe that makes a lot of bark and tastes way more complicated than it is.

And when you’re day is already complicated, the last thing you need is a difficult bark (and believe me, my dog is already my difficult bark). Thankfully, I’ve got you covered. Simple AND a holiday gift in one? You’re welcome.

Brown Butter Pecan Bark

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup chopped or whole pecans (you can use mixed nuts if you’d like, but I had pecans on hand and it’s what I always use)
About 2 pkgs (approx. 12 sheets) honey graham crackers

1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.  Lay your graham crackers tightly across the area of a lightly greased rimmed baking sheet. Trim any crackers to fit the sides of the pan if needed. Set aside.
2. In a large saucepan, bring the butter, sugar and pecans to a boil over medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Carefully (and evenly) pour boiled mixture over the entire plane of graham crackers, spreading pecans around evenly. Immediately pop graham crackers into the oven and bake for 8 minutes.
3. Allow graham cracker bark to cool completely before breaking into pieces and storing airtight.

It’s amazing how butter and sugar melt into a perfectly sweet caramel poured over crumbly, yummy graham crackers. Absolute perfection!

And this bark is so genius to gift, especially for the holidays. It’s cheap, tasty, and so easy to transport and tie up in cute cellophane bags!

Enjoy!

xo, Hayley

Oogy Boogy Brain Cupcakes AND A VIDEO!

So let’s talk American Horror Story on FX.

Have you seen it?

That show is CREEPY with a capital-C.

And also disturbingly DELIGHTFUL. I’m hooked.

Initially, I didn’t turn in right away, so I had my mom relay information to me one day last weekend while we were out shopping. “It’s really disturbing. There are naked butts in it! Male naked butts. I didn’t know they could show naked butts on TV.”

If they can show Snooki on TV, Mom, they can show male naked butts.

After apparently being intrigued by the idea of male naked butts, along with the fact that she supplied me with information about twins being slaughtered by a “half human, half animal” thing with sharp teeth (which was later discovered to be what I can only describe as a demented baby clown), a rubber suit and a Wednesday Addams-type daughter, I tuned in to the saved first episode on my DVR.

And it was like visual crack.

Now, with four episodes under my belt, I have so many pressing questions. Is the creepy boy who appears in their basement and who calls himself “Taint” a ghost? Why did Constance (Jessica Lange) put epicac in a chocolate cupcake–and how did the Mom (Connie Britton) eat it without barfing her brains out all over the place–while leaving that job for the home intruder who looked like one of the creeps in The Strangers. Why does Hayden (Kate Mara) look like a martian, with an unusually large forehead and very compact facial features?

SO MANY QUESTIONS.

And with this cliffhanger Halloween Pt 1 episode behind me, I’m eager to know SO. MUCH. MORE.

One of the things I noticed (among many, believe me) were the creepy brains and baby body parts in jars down in the scary basement, and I began thinking that brain cupcakes would be kind of cool, if not a little (or a lot) disgusting.

But, like American Horror Story, brain cupcakes must be both awesomely outrageously cool and a little (or a lot) creepy and disturbing.

Done and DONE!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QH5AAQITuw&feature=channel_video_title]

Oogy Boogy Brain Cupcakes

24 strawberry cupcakes, baked with strawberry pudding in the batter and cooled
2/3 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 tsp milk
About 4 cups powdered sugar
Wilton pink and black food gel colorings
Piping bag attached with an 7mm or 8mm tip

1. First, prepare your frosting: in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together softened butter and vanilla extract until creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add powdered sugar, about 1 cup at a time, until a paste consistency is reached. Add milk, one teaspoon at a time, until frosting is a nice soft but spreadable consistency (not runny or gloopy).
2. When your frosting is a nice consistency, begin coloring it. Start small as these gel colors are highly concentrated and a little goes a looong way. I like using a butter knife’s tip of color; it usually is enough for a pastel-y shade. First, use pink and scrape it along the bottom of your beater, beating the pink into the frosting. Then, add black, an even smaller amount than pink, as black reallllly goes a long way. I went for a pastel-y pink shade with a tinge of gray, but you can add brown for a darker, dingier color, or more black for a more grayish pink, or whatever depending on what color brain you prefer.
3. Put your frosting into your piping bag attached with a 7mm or 8mm baking tip (a perfect round circle tip). Mentally divide the cupcake into two sections, like the two hemispheres of the brain.
4. Begin making squiggles with your piping bag on the left side of the brain, starting from the center and squiggling outward, toward the left edge of the cupcake. I layered my squiggles by threes, so after the first squiggle is done, do another on top of the first, and a third on top of the second. Repeat on the other side, leaving a small space in between your “hemispheres.” Once you have squiggles on both sides, draw a line or two down the center of the squiggles, representing the brain stem/dividing line between the two sides. If there are any open spaces, pipe frosting on them in a small squiggle pattern or as a small dot to cover.
5. Creep out, impress, and enjoy with your friends!

If you’re hosting a Halloween party this weekend, this cupcakes would be an awesome last-minute party favor or treat to adorn your food or dessert table. You could place them on a normal cake stand, or get creative and place individual cupcakes in glass cups or jars like a “brain in a jar.” In my photos and my video staging, I used simple glass cups I picked up at Crate and Barrel awhile back. It makes for a spooky presentation!

Despite their oogy boogy appearance, these brain cupcakes are a yummy and festive Halloween treat, so enjoy them!

Happy Halloween! Have a safe one and stock up on plenty of yummy candy and watch the American Horror Story marathon on FX!!

xo, Hayley

So Easy Sopapilla Cheesecake Bars

 

So, I’ve started my Christmas shopping.

Sometimes, to make small talk with the cashiers at stores, I’ll say “I’m so excited I found this! My ____ will love it.” Their response?

Oh, is it ___’s birthday?

Birthday? What? Who? No! “Actually, it’s for Christmas.”

Oh… You’re awfully early!

Um, not really.

I mean, if I were psychotic enough to pick up Christmas gifts in July or something (don’t put it past me) that’d be kinda weird. That would warrant a weird eyebrow raise and look from the cashier ringing up my novelty gifts.

But it’s October. Late October. Halloween’s on Monday (can you believe it?) and that means November is on Tuesday. So obviously, I’m only like, a month and a half early.

Read: not “awfully” early. Just early. Is that a problem?

The problem with early Christmas shopping is that you either forget what you bought someone so you accidentally go overboard on them, feeling guilty because you think you neglected them, or you change your mind about the gifts you’ve already purchased because you find something even better.

The latter would be my situation today.

I always forget about Ross. I don’t know why, I just do.

But I stopped in today and found like, ten million things to get my two best friends and my mom. But I was kind of annoyed that I’d already purchased some stuff for the best friends in question. So now I have to make returns and go back to Ross to buy their rightful “new” presents.

Shopping is so hard sometimes.

But someone has to do it. Someone brave, unafraid of long lines, frustrated cashiers and unnecessary returns.

(Me)

In unrelated news, my family and I, while not a single sliver of Mexican or Spanish, celebrate Dia de Los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. Ever since I was little, our house has had little skeleton trinkets or sugar skulls, and I have taken a serious love for them.

And guess what? Day of the Dead is next week!! So I thought I’d be early (NOT awfully so) and make some amazing dessert for the upcoming celebrations.

Even if you don’t celebrate Day of the Dead, you MUST MUST MUST make these awesome So-Easy Sopapilla Cheesecake Bars. As the name implies, they’re so easy, or muy facile, if you’re feeling spicy.

If you’re unfamiliar with a sopapilla, it is a fried dough coated in cinnamon sugar and served with honey on the side, available at most Mexican restaurants. As a kid, my parents would take us to a local hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant called Coco Loco and we always ordered multiple orders of sopapillas after dinner–they’re a must! So after spotting this recipe on both Cookies and Cups and Pillsbury, I knew I had to make them for Dia de Los Muertos… and because I’d be stupid not to.

Don’t give me a quizzical, semi-scared look–I know what you’re thinking: Cheesecake? But cheesecake is so hard to make! You need a spring form pan and a water bath and the perfect temperature in your oven and blah blah blah.

Nope.

No water bath. No spring form pan. Maybe the perfect temperature. But otherwise, this recipe is freakin’ fool-proof. It starts with packaged crescent rolls. Packaged cream cheese. Cinnamon sugar. And butter–lots of it. Then it’s baked in a 9×13″ pan, one which you have at home.

I’m always looking out for you. You can thank me later–preferably after you’ve engorged your face with this wonderful invention.

Come to mama.

So-Easy Sopapilla Cheesecake Bars *adapted from Cookies and Cups (recipe above)

2 cans crescent rolls
2 pkgs (8 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature (I used Neufchatel)
1 cup, plus 1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 Tbsp cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 13×9″ inch pan with cooking spray (I used a metal pan, but glass works as well).
2. Press one container of crescent rolls into the bottom of your pan in one flat sheet. Press the perforations and seams together to seal. This is your bottom crust.
3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, beat together cream cheese, 1 cup of the white sugar, and vanilla until creamy, about 2 minutes. Spread cream cheese mixture over the bottom crust in an even layer.
4. Top the cream cheese mixture with the second package of crescent rolls, again sealing the seams and perforations by pinching the dough together. (One quick tip is to pre-seal it on your counter before placing it on top of the cream cheese–makes it easier and less messy).
5. In a small bowl, mix together the remaining 1/2 cup white sugar and the 1 T cinnamon until blended. Pour the melted butter over the top crust, and sprinkle evenly with the cinnamon sugar mixture–load it on there! Bake approximately 30 minutes, until golden brown. Allow cheesecake bars to cool about 30 minutes-1 hr on the counter, then place in the fridge to finish cooling and set before cutting into bars. Store covered in fridge.

I really can’t think of a better way to celebrate Day of the Dead than eating Jessica’s freakin’ spectacular Chicken Enchilada Spaghetti (extra cilantro, please!) for dinner and these cheesecake bars for dessert. Genius.

Stay tuned for another Day of the Dead recipe coming later this week, and a new Halloween cooking video (our last H’Ween video for the year, waaah) by Friday!

Thanks for visiting!

xo, Hayley

Christmas Wreaths 101–A Tutorial

Well, I guess I wouldn’t be “The Domestic Rebel” if I didn’t ever do crafty things… right? Maybe not. Maybe. Whatever.

Crafty or not, I made Christmas wreaths! I’m kinda sorta obsessed with making them.

I made my first wreath in 2008 and got hooked. Problem was I had no one else to make wreaths for after I made a wreath for a family friend, my grandma, my grandpa, and my mom.

But the itch couldn’t be left alone, so I made two more.

Each year, I post the wreaths on Facebook and get lots of responses from fellow friends–questions about the mechanics of making their own wreath, and compliments on how awesome they look.

But because the questions keep coming, and because Christmas is coming, I figured it was time to do a Wreath 101 Tutorial for anyone who’s been bitten by the crafty bug, and anyone who wants to make a beautiful wreath from scratch that trumps any store-bought wreath any day. The best part is that these wreaths are completely versatile-you can customize them any way you like, with any colors you like. Your imagination is your only limit! And at around $30-50 (depending on materials, etc) these wreaths will make an amazing, one-of-a-kind gift for Christmas, or will be a beautiful display in your own home. Simple!

So, let’s get started!

You’ll need:

1 medium-size/standard-size wreath (in my opinion, the perfect size, but if you’d prefer to go smaller or larger, budget your picks)
About 18-20 picks in assorted colors** (I like choosing a variety of types, like acorns, flowers, and bell baubles, but I’ve seen gorgeous feathers, beads, birds, leaves, etc)
One large bow, complementing the colors of your wreath
One large flower, in one color of your wreath (if desired)
Wreath hook
A hot glue gun, plus glue sticks
Small wire cutters
Newspaper
Patience & creativity!

**When choosing picks, choose 3 colors: 2 main colors, and 1 complementary color. It doesn’t matter if the colors “match”, but make sure you keep it streamlined. For this wreath, I chose a rich purple and a hot pink as the main colors, and gold as the complementary color. You could also do hot pink and lime green with silver; rich purple and emerald with gold; gold and maroon with bronze; or blue and silver with light green.

First, line your work space with newspaper to catch the glitter and hot glue strands that inevitably fall and get everywhere. I made my wreath, as shown, in the kitchen. I like doing it here because I can open my cabinet door and hang my wreath from a wreath hook to assemble it standing up. I find this is easier than laying the wreath down, as when it’s hanging it’s easier to see it as you normally would. Also, you’ll need to fluff your wreath out! Simply pick at the pine fronds until it looks voluminous and not flat.

Then, spread out your picks, flowers and bows.

Unwrap any packaging/remove tags if needed. If you’d like, begin to trim your picks now. I like leaving about 1-2″ of the stem and trim away the rest. If you don’t trim it, the stem will hang awkwardly out of the back.

My only REAL advice is to PLAY AROUND FIRST! Do not hot glue anything until you truly love the placement. When the picks are trimmed, it’s easier to place them around to find a pattern you like. I like nestling my picks into the wreath to get placement ideas before I commit.

My personal preference is trimming my large flower (I like poinsettias) and placing it on the top left side of the wreath. I also prefer putting the bow on the bottom center; this ensures the stems of the bow don’t get in the way of the wreath.

 Then, begin your placement and hot glue it when you love it. I like using larger picks to nestle around the larger pieces, like so:

The gold bell bauble pick and the purple acorn are secured with hot glue (top left, flanking the poinsettia) But I’m messing with placement here (as shown with the large purple ornament and gold flower)

When you’re hot gluing, make sure you coat the bottom of the pick evenly with hot glue–and make sure your glue is actually hot! Then, once you’ve figured out your placement, gently nestle the pick into its place, holding it for about 15 seconds to hold. Work quickly so the glue doesn’t dry up.

I love that the picks are so glitzy!

In general, I like grouping my picks in colors. It makes the wreath ornamentation look fuller, and spices it up. I like using the colors sparingly throughout the wreath (e.g., a cluster of each color here, a cluster of each color there, but no two same colors together), and I like to frame things (a large ornament in the top right and a large ornament in the bottom left). It keeps the eye looking over the entire wreath–a true visual treat!

Some more advice about buying picks: Look for picks in varying shapes as well. I like mixing two large ornaments with a couple 3-packs of smaller ornaments. Smaller ones are easier to cluster by color; larger ones work as larger pieces. If you buy all large picks (bell baubles, large ornaments, large flowers, etc) it’ll easily look cluttered. Similarly, if you buy all smaller picks (small flowers, small ornaments, etc) it will look sparse. Mix up shapes and sizes for the best look.

Once you’ve found your perfect placements and glued them in, you’re done!

You’re done! (NOTE: I ended up buying one more small hot pink flower to place on the right middle by the purple acorn and small gold ball; and another purple acorn to place on the left middle, just behind the small gold ball, next to the poinsettia. Amendments are not shown in this picture).

Because I crave routine in life, I like making my wreaths with the same pattern (generally). The colors in this one are some of my favorites, but I have also made these over the years, starting with the most recent one:

Sparkles are super necessary.

And this Mardi-Gras-ish one for my grandma, circa 2008:

I used two blue poinsettias here, plus a bow. Told you, I like routine.

And this gorgeous, exceptionally-fall-looking number:

Kinda makes you want to eat those pears, even if they are covered in glittery beads.

And this one, for my grandpa. While I’m not a huge fan of the feather in retrospect, I still love the colors.

Perfectly winter wonderland (and a dirty dish towel–such is life).

And one of my favorites, my mom’s wreath, which I made last year:

Hot pink, bright purple, and silver. Doesn’t it just make you smile?

Remember, because of the delicate picks, the glitter and embellishments, and the glue, these wreaths are best for indoor only. If you’re jonesing for an outdoor wreath, it’s best to stick with items that don’t have glitter/glitz/embellishments, like silk flowers or plastic fruit.

I hope my wreath tutorial offered enough information to help you create your own beautiful wreath at home.

Remember, as always, the point is to have fun and play around! There are no right or wrong answers, only creativity to mess around with. That’s the best.

Plus, unique, handmade gifts are always better than store-bought. Especially when they’re this gorg.

Happy Crafting!

xo, Hayley

(Question go unanswered? Feel free to comment below and I’ll reply ASAP with your wreath-making Q’s)

(PS–Wanna save money?! Easy! All of the things I purchased for my wreaths were bought with coupons from my local craft store. Just search your craft store plus ‘coupons’ in Google and print out the latest ones–sometimes for up to 20% off your entire order, or 40% off single items–great for the more expensive bows, and the wreaths!)

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

I can’t wait for Christmas.

Each day that passes, bringing me closer and closer to my absolute favorite holiday makes me more and more excited. Like, I can’t wait for Halloween to be over with, and Thanksgiving to skip on by. Bring on the decked halls, mistletoe, sugar plum fairies and that jolly old man who brings wonderful presents to me.

What’s not to love?

Every year, my mom and I are psychotic enough to participate in Black Friday festivities.

Do other countries participate in Black Friday? I’m going to take a wild guess and say no. I can’t imagine anyone justifying the need and/or want to wake up at 2am, drive out to Target and stand in the freezing cold night for hours in anticipation to buy some a digital camera or a Barbie doll.

It’s kind of crazy, even if I do partake in this event each year.

I remember waking up at two one year to be at KB Toys (remember them?) with my mom at three. We waited in the dark night, rain pouring down all around us, probably for something really stupid like a Furby.

Then a few years back, we stood in line for hours outside of Target, shifting our weight to keep our body temperature regulated, plotting our store-layout game plan of attack to score a limited edition collection of Littlest Pet Shop, my sister’s first known addiction and reason of her childhood existence.

Last year, we waited outside Target (again–apparently that’s our stompin’ grounds) for a digital camera, a digital photo frame, and some towels. All in all, a worthwhile experience.

I can understand why people think Black Friday is dangerous. I would fully participate in a good old fashioned trampling if it meant getting my greedy hands on a dirt cheap camcorder or something. Those who get trampled probably aren’t greedy enough, which is sad to say–of course they shouldn’t die. But Black Friday is purely for the insane people of Christmas to venture out of their inner psychosis and put it on full display by camping outside of Best Buy (something which I even draw the line at. Well, so far).

So why am I rambling about Black Friday? Because I’ve been Christmas shopping. I know, I know, it’s October blah blah blah. Spare me. I love Christmas. If my family didn’t whine like little babies, I’d play Christmas music all day every day. Our halls would be constantly decked. I would probably bake Christmas cookies all day… and these pumpkin cupcakes.

Can you believe I used to hate pumpkin pie? I think I was a stupid little kid.

But now I’m obsessed. Whenever Jamba Juice releases their Pumpkin Smash smoothie, I know it’s fall. There’s just something so quintessentially warm, gooey and amazing about pumpkin, which was reason enough to put this awesome squash into a cupcake. Obviously, my psychosis is good for some things!

And because, eventually, Thanksgiving will rear its head, I figured it’s never too early to think about pumpkin pie. So I made Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes instead. They look like pies but are disguised as unbelievable pumpkin cupcakes. If Target sold these, I would stand in line at 2 am for them. No joke. They could make anybody crazy… so bake them off and spread the psycho cheer :)

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes *cupcake recipe adapted by Betty Crocker’s Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes 

1 box yellow cake mix
1 cup pumpkin (not the pumpkin pie mix)
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce (can substitute with oil)
1/2 cup water
4 eggs
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 pkg pumpkin spice pudding mix (found in the baking or seasonal aisle of your grocery store. If you can’t find this, increase your pie spice to 1 1/2 tsp and use 1/2 pkg of vanilla or butterscotch pudding mix)
Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe & ingredients follow)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 muffin pans with 24 paper liners. In a large bowl, beat together cake mix, pumpkin, unsweetened applesauce, water, eggs, and pumpkin pie spice until well blended, about 2 minutes. Beat in pudding mix until combined. Portion batter evenly among muffin cups and bake, approx. 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with light moist crumbs. Cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8oz container cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
About 5 cups powdered sugar
Wilton copper or brown food gel coloring, optional
Piping tips Wilton 47 (small basket weave tip) and Atecco 12 (small open circle)–the basket weave will make your lattice pattern, and the small open circle will make the edges

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together cream cheese, butter and vanilla until blended and creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add in powdered sugar one cup at a time, until a stiff but spreadable consistency is achieved. Portion out a scant 1/4 cup of this frosting and place it into a ziploc bag; seal out the air and snip a corner off for a makeshift “whipped cream” piping bag.
2. For the remaining frosting, add very small amounts of copper or brown food dye to your bowl until you achieve a desired “pie crust” shade. Mine turned out kind of peachy, but that was okay with me. Start small–you don’t want it to be too peachy or too brown.
3. Next, put half of the frosting into a piping bag attached with your basket weave tip. Put the rest of the frosting into a piping bag attached with your small open circle tip.
4. For Lattice Pies: Make three vertical lines down the center of the cupcake. Then, make three horizontal lines, overlapping with the vertical, across the area of the cupcake to create the lattice look. Use your open circle tip to pipe small circles, barely lifting your piping bag, around the perimeter of the cupcake for the crust.

5. For Old Fashioned Pies: Use the same piping technique with your open circle piping bag by piping small circles around the area of the cupcake, barely lifting your piping bag from one circle to the next (it creates a tight looking “crust”; otherwise, if you lift up too high, you’ll start creating peaks in your circles which you want to try to avoid). Once you have a crust border, use your white frosting in the ziploc to pipe a dollop of “whipped cream” into the center of each cupcake. Feel free to use the whipped cream bag on your lattice pies as well; I’m sure it’d look adorable.

You could even sprinkle some cinnamon and sugar over the tops of these to create the illusion of a real(er) pie. That’d be yummy!

These are fun, whimsical cupcakes to create for the upcoming holidays–and give the traditional pumpkin pie a serious run for its money. I’ve probably eaten enough of these cupcakes today to satisfy every time in the past I’ve said no to a slice of pumpkin pie.

Enjoy!!

xo, Hayley

Spooky Graveyard Brownie Cakes–AND A VIDEO!

My boyfriend and I have a thing for graveyards.

I know, I know. Two super sexy people, one beyond-adorable couple, and a mutual hobby and passion for… graveyards.

Yup.

Wish I could say we really liked volunteering at soup kitchens or we have a burning passion for running marathons to fight cancer, but nope. It’s graveyards.

We like to take pictures there, or “picture adventures” as we lovingly call it. Sometimes, we’ll take our Saturday special sandwiches there to have lunch. Weird? Okay, yeah, sure. But awesome? You betcha!

There’s something peaceful (no duh, Hayley) about graveyards, something mysterious, and man, do they make an excellent backdrop for picture-taking.

Cobwebs and spirits and dead things, oh my!

We love graveyards. They are awesome. And I think we like to justify our love for them by pretending the spirits don’t mind that we’re taking pictures of their decrepit, dilapidated headstones. Some of those people have been dead for a loooong time!

And I’m sure those who’ve been deceased for, uh, hundreds of years, are probably really interested in human technological advances. Some may have never even seen a camera in their lifetime, much less had their picture taken! Now they can experience what it’s like to be photographed by a DLSR–and a slightly bored, way eccentric couple.

Here we are, making faces for the camera in an abandoned cemetery. Woo!

I always see fellow bloggers make yummy things with mini loaf pans, but I didn’t have any, so I went to Michael’s and got some Halloween ones for $1 each. Following my purchase, I had a genius idea, probably brought to me by an intelligent spirit at a graveyard or something, and I thought, why not make cute little graveyard cakes? What a splendidly spooky idea!

The mini loaf pans are the perfect size for a “grave”, plus I switched up the usual graveyard cakes I’ve seen around the web by making white chocolate candy skulls and using adorable bone sprinkles to make a skeleton’s grave.

Genius at work, obviously.

I got my skull candy mold at Michael’s for $4 in the Martha Stewart aisle. If you can’t find it, this mold is similar enough, or I’ve seen sprinkle skull candies (those sugar ones on a sheet of paper you find on the baking aisle at most grocery stores) as well, mostly at Walmart. And my bone sprinkles I picked up at Michael’s as well, for about $3.

 Wanna watch me make them? (I apologize; my speaking isn’t the most flattering this time around–I was tired, whatever). Check it out!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNoJK16Acl0]

Spooky Graveyard Brownie Cakes

1 box fudge brownie mix, plus ingredients on back of box
1 can chocolate frosting
About 1 cup oreo cookies, finely crushed
Bone sprinkles
White chocolate candy melts or almond bark (about 1/2 bag)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease your mini loaf pans with cooking spray (this recipe yields 3 pans, but it’s so easy to double if needed) and set them on a rimmed baking sheet, for easy transportation in and out of oven. Set aside.
2. Prepare brownie batter according to package directions. Evenly portion it among your mini loaf pans and bake approx. 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.
3. Meanwhile, prepare your candy skulls (if using). Melt candy bark according to package directions, decreasing time accordingly to melt half the bag. Pour melted candy into a piping bag or a sealed ziploc, snip off a corner, and pipe it evenly into each skull cavity. If needed, smooth the chocolate out with a butter knife. Allow to set, about 15-20 minutes. You can put it in the fridge to speed up the process. Skulls will pop out just fine; you do NOT need to grease your candy mold!
4. Once brownie cakes are cooled, spread the tops with chocolate frosting. Then, sprinkle the frosted cakes with crushed cookie “dirt.” Make it look uneven, so it looks somewhat realistic. Sprinkle on your bone sprinkles, or form a skeleton pattern with them. Then, pop out your candy skulls and set them at the top of each loaf pan.

Tada! SO EASY.

The best part about these is that they’re really versatile. If you don’t want to make the chocolate skulls, omit them. If you’d rather use stuff to make ghosts, do those. Make tombstones from cookies, like Nutter Butters. Use your imagination!

These would be really fun to make with kids if you have them–get them involved in the decorating process since they’re so simple to make and decorate. I tried to invite my sister to decorate with me, but she just gave me a weird look and walked away.

Happy Halloween, and thanks for watching and stopping by!

xo, Hayley

Homemade Nutty Bars AND A VIDEO!

My childhood consisted of Little Debbie, thanks to my grandma.

We were in her (day) care for a good chunk of our childhood. I don’t think our diets strayed far from Happy Meals, French toast sticks and hash browns, or Little Debbie.

We basically ate nothing but fries and Nutty Bars. We didn’t grow up with defects, so I’m guessing that diet was sufficient after all.

But then again, my childhood revolved around playing constantly. Whether it was that awful game ‘Orphanage‘, or dressing up in obscenely odd costumes featuring hats and high heeled shoes (and carrying around a bottle of mouthwash–hey, it was a cool accessory for awhile) I was always doing something.

Some things haven’t changed since then. I still think about Happy Meals, except I know I won’t feel so jolly after eating a cheeseburger and fries. My thighs won’t, either. And while I don’t play orphanage anymore, I do like to play house. By “play house” I really mean do the dishes, cook dinner every night and vacuum like I’m being held at gunpoint.

Check out those tippy toes! Always eager to be in the kitchen. That’s where the good stuff is. I wasn’t a dumb kid.

And I still do like playing dress up. Especially if it involves frilly pink tutus (yup, I have an adult one)

And, not surprisingly, because it was such an integral part of my childhood, I still like Nutty Bars. Who doesn’t like cookies covered in peanut butter and chocolate? Especially if they’re creamy and crunchy. Lil Debbie knows what’s up.

So I decided to make some Nutty Bars of my own… mostly to appease my dad, who is slightly addicted to them, and mostly because it seemed pretty easy to do, so why haven’t I before? (Some questions can’t be answered)

In doing some extensive research on transforming myself into a Little Debbie, I stumbled across Kristin at Iowa Girl Eats, who made Nutty Bars 3 Ways for her Nutty Bar fiend. I followed her advice and made the one her boyfriend liked the best… and (shocker) is won over the men in my life, too.

I was a bit apprehensive in using these crispbread crackers. I mean, they kind of look and smell like bird seed… and I’m not convinced people eat these plain. But they were absolutely PERFECT in recreating this classic snack bar. The right amount of wafer-y crunch, the perfect balance between the chocolate and peanut butter. I’m sold!

And I made it in a video, so take a look!!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXu_j-z8PW0]

Homemade Nutty Bars *inspired by Kristin at Iowa Girl Eats

1 box Wasa plain crispbread crackers (make sure you don’t get the flavored kind or the kind with sesame seed!)
About 1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 pkg chocolate candy melts or almond bark

1. Start by spreading one side of a cracker with a generous shmear of peanut butter in an even layer. Stack with another cracker, pressing gently to adhere, and smear the top of the second cracker with another even layer of PB. Then, stack a third cracker on top, press to stick gently, and set on a wax-paper lined cookie sheet. Repeat with remainder of crackers, three-high, until finished.
2. Using a very sharp knife (I used a santuko, but a serrated would work too) carefully cut each cracker stack in half down the vertical center. I cut a very little bit at a time to try to avoid the crackers from splitting or breaking–they are quite fragile.
3. Now, prepare your candy melts or almond bark according to package directions until melted and smooth. I dipped mine in a large bowl, but like Kristin, using a loaf pan may be easier. Dip each bar into the melted chocolate, turning to coat on all sides with a fork. Once coated, gently remove with a fork, allowing the excess to drip off, and set it on the wax paper sheet to harden. Before it hardens completely, if you want to be fancy, draw lines or designs onto the tops of the bars with a butter knife. Pop bars into the freezer for about 15 minutes to chill and harden chocolate and set the bars. Then eat!

You have NO idea how outrageous these bars are. They’re nearly IDENTICAL to the Little Debbie classic–it’s like I’m sitting in front of the TV watching Scooby Doo and eating them again. Except I’m not nearly as cute… and my tutu is being dry cleaned.

Enjoy!

xo, Hayley

No-Frills Black & Yellow Cake

Sometimes, life works in weird ways. I’m sure I’m not the first one to discover this.

Sometimes, in life, breaking up is the best thing you can do–in relationships, in friendships, in partnerships (business, or personal).

Don’t worry–Jessie and I are good. Today, I’m talking about breaking up with work.

If you’ve ever been let go, you know it’s a hard thing, especially if you loved the job.

After I was let go at my bakery job, I tried not to be phased. Getting hung up and worrying about it wasn’t going to fix anything; instead, I got out there and put my name in several restaurants, shops and companies to get a newer opportunity, a better chance.

And after no one called back, interviewers left me literally stranded, refusing to call me back or even acknowledge my call-backs (I’m talking about you, oh-so-unprofessional Whole Foods) I struggled a bit with my ego… and with the realization that I really freakin’ missed my cupcake job. But, like breakups gone bad, sometimes, you gotta take it at face value–it just wasn’t working out, and there’s nothing you can do to change it.

That aside, I quickly found a new job and started almost immediately. Finally, I was thrilled to be in the workforce again, making money I so desperately need to support myself, as well as create an amazing Christmas for my friends, family, and boyfriend.

Meanwhile, I quickly found myself deep in a hole–working & training a LOT, homework up the wazoo, plus family and boyfriend commitments. It became all too much. And when I looked for a way out–nearly begging–I was denied.

In these situations, you’re kind of forced to look at life.

You have to evaluate what’s working in your life, and what’s not. While I loved my job, I hated the fact that I was expected to work more hours than I’d wanted–which would severely interfere with my schoolwork, family and boyfriend commitments, and personal state. I learned quickly several semesters ago when I took on nearing-full-time work, school full-time, dance, and being an after-school history tutor that I do NOT work well under pressure, and I do NOT fit in the jam-packed schedule club. I need time to myself–and lots of it. I need mental clarity. I need space in my day to veg out and read a magazine. I was overwhelmed, and it wasn’t working…and there is nothing wrong with that.

You have to change what you can, and accept what you can’t. Ultimately, if you’re unhappy, you have the ability to change that. If you don’t like something, 9 times out of 10, you can change it. But the things you can’t control–how someone acts or reacts, the decisions others make–you can’t change those, and you need to accept that. I was heartbroken when I was denied my lesser hours, something I couldn’t change. But I could change how I was going to react to this news…and I did.

You have to figure out what makes you happy, and get rid of what doesn’t. We can’t always be happy–and anyone who pretends they’re happy 24/7 is a dirty liar. But ultimately, life is waaaayyy too damn short to be unhappy in a crappy, minimum-wage job you hate already by Day 3. It’s too short to sit by and be berated by an angry boss when you’re only twenty years old, not forced to pay rent or struggle with life’s daily, “grown-up” grind yet. I’m too young to be so stressed over one measly job. I’m lucky I’m in a situation where I don’t have to fret about bills, rent, and the absolute necessity of having a job. For spending money, of course it’s nice. But if I don’t have to put up with it, why should I? Why is my happiness measured by this job?

It wasn’t. So I quit.

And now, I am happy.

It’s funny that sometimes, so little counts for so much. The mere fact of quitting–just calling and saying, “hey, sorry, it’s not working” took off twenty pounds of unneeded mental clutter out of my head. It felt great–what a relief! And while it sucks I’m back where I started, I’m happy I’m no longer stressing. No one needs that–and I’m most definitely not pleasant when I’m stressed.

So, in lieu of work, I made a cake. This isn’t your typical Hayley-cake. Nope. It’s absolutely atypical of everything I stand for, everything I showcase. A normal Hayley would be wary of this cake, would probably never show you, my loyal, AWESOME fans.

But then I realized, why am I worried? It’s a freakin’ cake.

And remember that when you look at the title: it’s a no-frills cake. Meaning I put hardly any effort into it. Meaning I sacrificed a pretty crumb coat, beautiful pipe-work, and the like, for just a friggen cake. One with lots of flavor, a simple smattering of frosting, and topped with hot fudge, only because I was feeling marginally fancy.

That. Is. All.

If you’re here for a pretty cake with lots of details and colors, I apologize for being a horrendous let-down. But, you know, I’ve had lots of really pretty cakes that taste disgusting. This may be lacking in the looks department, but A) it tastes AMAZING; and B) I opted to shave off decorating time in favor of spending time with my family… because they make me happy. And because, while they fully support my creative baking and decorating endeavors, deep down, they’re totally no-frills, and this is the kind of cake that makes them happy.

Problem solved!

Ready for some yummy, half-assed cake? You bet you are!

No-Frills Black & Yellow Cake

1 box (two-layer) yellow cake mix, plus ingredients on back of box
1 small box sugar free/fat free French vanilla pudding mix
Chocolate Frosting (recipe and ingredients follow)
Hot fudge sauce (about 1/3 cup)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly spray two 9″ cake pans with cooking spray, and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, prepare cake mix according to package directions. Stir dry pudding mix into batter. Portion batter evenly among both cake pans, and bake about 23-26 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cakes briefly on counter, then cool completely on a wire rack.
3. Once cakes are cooled, carefully split them in half with a long serrated knife to get a “layered” effect. If you’d prefer, leave them be and stick with two layers. I had three in mine since one of my cakes was a little on the anorexic side and I couldn’t split it.

Chocolate Frosting

2 sticks butter, softened
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
About 4 cups powdered sugar

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together butter and cocoa powder until creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes. Stir in vanilla extract. Gradually add powdered sugar, about one cup at a time, until frosting reaches a nice, soft and spreadable consistency.
2. Place one layer of cake onto your serving dish or a plate. Smear with a generous portion of chocolate frosting, just reaching the outer edges. Top with another layer, and repeat. Once your layers are stacked, frost the top layer with the remaining frosting. (You may need to double the frosting recipe, depending on how much you use). The key is to go for a nice, fluffy look, so use your spatula or knife to make it look like clouds or something fluffy :)
3. Microwave hot fudge sauce for about 30 seconds, then carefully pour on top of your layered cake, spreading it around to the edges if necessary. I let mine drip over the edges–who cares–and it looked kinda cool.
4. Then obviously, eat this immediately since you just saved yourself a bunch of time and effort in the kitchen and deserve to spend it eating a slice of heaven and spending time doing things that make YOU happy! (Store airtight and covered in the fridge, though)

You’d think that, per training and typicality, my family would have been like “WTF why is this cake so ugly? Where are the sprinkles? Are you ill?” but instead, they were like, “OMG, what is this cake? Can I have some? Screw it, can I have all of it?” and then proceeded to eat the whole thing. They love me, so it’s good.

And again, THANK YOU to all my amazing friends, family and fans who consistently chat with me on Facebook, through comments, or by email–you guys are the best!

xo, Hayley

Cake Batter Krispy Treats

Proximity is a very subjective thing.

I’m sure you’ve noticed.

I’m not much a fan of being in close proximity to people, especially those I do not know, those who have offensive body odor, or those who are creepy and remind me of people who would drive windowless vans asking kids to help them find their puppy.

I mean, can you blame me?

Just sayin’.

Some people do not understand the concept of proximity. They think whatever works for them will automatically work for me.

Sometimes, I’ll be in a store and someone will walk up thisclose to me, reaching all over me for different things in the dollar bins or hop onto my back for a piggy-back ride while we’re waiting in line.

Usually I purposefully forget to leave my “Yes, I’m okay with you sitting on my lap in public you freaky stranger” sign at home, so I wonder why these people think this is okay.

I don’t want to seem totally judgmental, but I probably wouldn’t mind as much if these people were, you know, kind of good looking.

Think about it: if some haggard, frumpy looking girl was reaching all over you for one dollar sprinkles and rubbing her womanly parts all over your back while you were in line, you’d obviously be a little freaked out… or maybe not, I can’t assume anything. Maybe you’re into that. I don’t know.

But if a nicer looking girl, maybe one who smells like an inoffensive perfume were to, say, sidle up to your side and begin conversation with her face inches from your own, it wouldn’t be as bad… unless she has dragon breath, in which case, I apologize, but that is unforgivable.

No one should ever, ever have bad breath. Have you seen the end caps in grocery store lines? Chock full of mints. Gum. Strips. Sprays. And there’s this thing called toothpaste, so really, there are zero excuses for punishing your teeth and tongue and other people by your stinky mouth.

Either way, some people don’t understand the whole closeness thing, and it’s kind of awkward to bring up. Usually, when people get a leeettle too close for comfort, I’ll gently step back or away in a not-too-obvious way, hoping they get the hint. Some do. However, some do not. And those people should be punished.

In most of my classes, I sit in the second seat (first seat is too eager, and anything in the back has a potential of falling asleep/texting uncontrollably/leaving the class thinking “wtf did I just learn for 90 minutes?”). Because I’m a second seater, I always pull the first desk up a couple inches, then move up my seat a few, ensuring there is PLENTY of space between all three of our desks.

I know, I’m really considerate.

And in most classes, this has proved to be successful. The people behind me don’t knock their knees against my chair legs, resulting in that oh-so-annoying shaky note-taking, and I don’t disturb my front desk person with my ever shifting crossing legs. The world works well this way.

But I have one class where I am consistently bombarded with proximity challenged folk who do not understand the concept of personal space.

The third desk person in my row consistently outstretches his putty-like arms and legs, so I’ll occasionally look down at my backpack and discover a dirty sneaker inches from my designer handbag…which is weird, since I always leave like, a foot distance between our desks since he’s becoming a repeat offender.

In the same class, I have shared one (ONE!!!) conversation with a particular individual who has decided that our single conversation must mean we’re BFF’s and that it’s totally okay if he like, invades my personal space whenever possible. Put together in a group? Great! I’ll basically SIT ON HER LAP. Spot her alone at lunch? Awesome! I’ll happily annoy the living sh*t out of her while she’s doing math, because staring at a page of viciously highlighted notes about polynomials can’t mean she’s actually working.

And what do you say to these people when they’ve become so offensive? Sorry, the lap dog position has been filled–by an actual dog. Can you like, leavemethehellalone?

It’s not that I’m unfriendly. It’s just that I have a very large personal space bubble for a reason. A) it prevents me from contracting infectious diseases (I ensure it’s large enough that coughs, sneezes and gross, obviously sick people do not interfere in it); B) it protects me from unwanted attention, either from horndog boys, or the creepy girl at McDonald’s who has an obvious crush on me (so says my boyfriend, anyway); and C) anyone else I deem unacceptable to get too close to me.

Maybe I should get a legitimate bubble to surround myself in? Or when someone comes too close, scream “PERSONAL BUBBLE INVASION!!!!” like a maniac and hope they’ll back off at the sight of a girl freakishly screaming obscenities. Or maybe they’re into that. You never know with people these days.

To avoid large hamster wheel bubbles and being kicked out of class from screaming, I decided that maybe I should just make these Cake Batter Krispy Treats to throw at people to divert their attention to something far more interesting and delicious. While I’d love to hoard these for myself, I find they are easily attractive to others–the pan was devoured in minutes from my family, who must have like, super sugar senses or something, considering I said NOTHING about the pan of sprinkled goodness in my kitchen and it was inhaled.

See? These krispy treats will SAVE YOUR LIFE.

You’re welcome.

Cake Batter Krispy Treats *from Jessica’s amazing recipe at How Sweet It Is!

3 Tablespoons butter
1 10oz bag marshmallows (about 40 large) or 4 cups mini marshmallows
1/3 cup cake mix (just the powdered mix–I used yellow)*
6 cups puffy rice cereal
Rainbow sprinkles (I used a LOT, but about 1 cup is needed)

1. Lightly grease a 13×9 inch baking pan with cooking spray; set aside. Put your cereal in a large bowl, and set aside.
2. In a medium/large saucepan, melt butter and marshmallows over medium heat, stirring constantly, until marshmallows begin to melt. Gradually add cake mix, one spoonful at a time, stirring to combine. Once cake mix is completely added and mixture is melted (all marshmallows are melted), pour hot mixture into the bowl with the cereal, tossing cereal and mixture to coat completely. Add half of the sprinkles (1/2 cup).
3. Spread mixture into your prepared pan, creating an even layer. I find it’s easiest to use a rubber spatula that’s been sprayed with cooking spray–prevents sticking. Once your mixture is in the pan, sprinkle the top with your remaining rainbow sprinkles.
4. Allow treats to cool completely, about 1 hour. Cut into squares and serve. Store airtight.

*Using this amount of cake mix provides a subtle cake batter taste to these treats. If you’d prefer something stronger, increase your amount to 1/2 cup and experiment with more or less. Also, try using Funfetti cake mix instead of yellow.

I’m glad I got to enjoy one of these before my family swarmed in on them like vultures.

Is it bad that I’ve addicted them silly to my creations? Is it bad that I don’t really care? I’m evil.

Know what else is evil? Not making these. It’s be unforgivable. Pretty much the equivalent of having dragon breath. A huge no-no!

Stay tuned! My video (and an original recreation of a childhood classic treat!) is going to be posted SOON!

Have a good weekend!

xo, Hayley

Caramel Corn Cupcakes

I am an awful worrier.

Worrying is, not surprisingly, pretty dominant in my personality. I worry all the time.

Worries like, will I make friends at my new sandwich-making job? Will I remember the sandwiches? Will I, mid-sandwich creation, stop and eat the person’s sandwich because the fact that I’m handling fresh baked bread, juicy pastrami and ample pickles make me go completely psychotic and savagely hungry? (Probably)

Worries like, did I ace this midterm on analyzing passages from American Literature like I think I’ll pass it? Did I really make that essay on Thomas Paine “my bitch”, as I so lovingly thought so? Did I truly bomb my math quiz, or did those dammit, I have no freaking idea, nor do I freaking care what the hell the slope of this line is, so eff it, I’m putting C work in my favor? (Probably not)

Worries like, if I watch too much of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, does that make me a voyeur, living vicariously through rich women, or a stupid bitch? (I’m obviously being unbiased when I say it means voyeur). Like, is it wrong to overly judge someone or something when I know nothing about it, even though my mom judges people all the time? (Mom’s always right, right?) Like, do I look like a legitimate street-walker if I wear tights with shorts and boots, or would Urban Outfitters call me “chic” and “edgy.” (Jury’s out)

Obviously, some of these worries are warranted (grades, work, street-walker?) and some are stupid (it’s totally okay to judge people; IDGAF about what people say ’cause I freaking love those rich bitches) but they’re still worries nonetheless.

And I definitely don’t need wrinkles at twenty.

So, because of my worries, I baked you cupcakes.

I know I’ve been MIA for the past few days (I’m sorry! I hope you weren’t worried. Okay, I kind of hope you did worry ’cause that would mean you actually read this and care). But with midterms, new jobs, boyfriend, family, and contemplating non-hookerish outfits I’ve been super ridiculously busy. And I don’t really like it because it makes me worry.

Vicious cycles=no bueno.

And I thought, what better way to cure my worries away by baking cupcakes? Caramel Corn Cupcakes, no less.

For some weird reason, the universe totally hated me yesterday and made my cupcakes flat and saucer-like on the tops, but I’m positive I was just on Mother Nature’s shit list for Tuesday, October 11, 2011 and this was a fluke. Either way, they are SO delicious and you must make them because that will make me happy and happy does NOT equal worry. See? I’m like a therapist. With cookies.

Caramel Corn Cupcakes

1 box yellow cake mix
1 cup caramel flavored syrup (think coffee syrup, not sundae syrup) plus 1/4 cup water
1 stick (1/2 cup) melted butter
3 eggs
1/2 small pkg vanilla instant pudding mix
Brown food coloring
2 tsp kosher salt/sea salt
Caramel Frosting (ingredients and recipe follow)

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 muffin pans with 24 paper liners; set aside.
2. In a large bowl, beat together cake mix, caramel syrup, water, melted butter and the 3 eggs until blended, about 2 minutes. Blend in the pudding mixture until combined. If desired, gradually add brown food coloring until a nice, caramel shade is achieved. Portion batter evenly into paper liners, and lightly sprinkle with salt. Bake, approx. 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.

Caramel Frosting *Cookbook Queen’s recipe!

2 sticks butter, softened
1/2 cup caramel syrup (again, not the sundae stuff)
About 5-6 cups powdered sugar
Brown food coloring
1 tsp kosher salt
Caramel popcorn for garnish

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together softened butter and caramel syrup until creamy and blended, about 2 minutes. Gradually add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until your frosting reaches a stiff but spreadable consistency, adding more powdered sugar to stiffen if necessary. Tint your frosting a nice light brown color, if desired.
2. Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes and sprinkle very lightly with sea salt and top with a few clusters of caramel popcorn… if you still have any after sampling some, of course.

Even though I had a craptastical day, I made these to cheer myself up–and it worked! I guarantee it’ll work on you, too. I mean, when you let sweet and salty do any job, it’ll definitely bring your life magic and unicorns and sparky, wonderful things.

Enjoy!

(PS! I should have a new video coming very, very soon! What with scheduling conflicts between both me and my sexy cameraman, it’s been complicated–but no worries, a new treat will be on the way! Thanks for your support and patience!)

(PPS–I found this AWESOME new popcorn at my local Walmart–Popcorn Indiana. I used the caramel corn (so good, and only 110 calories!) on these cupcakes, but the cinnamon sugar kind is TO DIE FOR. Just sayin’!)

xo, Hayley

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