How Do You Know? [sweet tea vodka lemonade cupcakes]

And no, we will not discuss CV(D)’s and my (second) favorite part of Enchanted, but I will gladly begin with a clip anyway.

We will, instead, discuss how I never have any idea how much I like my cupcakes.

sweet tea vodka lemonade cupcakes

I make them, and then I just don’t know.  I’ve made so many.

This is not complaining.  I love them and I’m happy to eat them.  In fact, I just sliced the top off a leftover one and had it for dessert.  I just think they all start to blend together over time.  I judge the success of my cupcakes based on my co-workers’ reactions, and should they be a reliable indication, these are over the top winners.

sweet tea vodka lemonade

I saw these sweet tea vodka lemonade cupcakes in the summer, and immediately penned an email to Ali telling her I found the cupcakes of her dreams.  You see, this little cocktail is what gets Ali through the summer.  She drinks it as soon as the sun starts to shine bright on her face, and she doesn’t stop till she’s packed up her open-toed shoes in favor of Uggs.  And then I forgot that I sent that email because whole months went by, and work started up again, and blah blah, we’re all too busy, blah blah, until BAM.  Ali reminded me her birthday was coming, and a certain sweet treat had been on the menu since the summer.

sweet tea vodka lemonade

To make 30 sweet tea vodka lemonade cupcakes, you will need:

For the cupcakes:

  • 3 C cake flour
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 16 T (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 C sugar
  • 5 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 C buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tsp. powdered iced tea drink mix (I cheated and used powdered lemonade mix)
  • 1/2 C sweet tea vodka, plus more for brushing tops

For the frosting:

  • 26 T (3 sticks, plus 2 T) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 C confectioners sugar
  • 2 tsp. powdered lemonade mix
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  • 1 T lemon juice

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 30 muffin tins with paper liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and creamy, about 2-3 minutes.

Slowly add the sugar to the butter, stopping to scrape the bowl down as necessary. Add eggs one at a time, and scrape down the sides after each addition.

In a liquid measuring cup, combine buttermilk, vanilla, iced tea powder, and vodka and stir until well combined. With the mixer on low speed, alternate adding the dry and wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry and mixing until just incorporated.

Divide the batter among the paper liners, filling each about 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Once baked, allow them to cool in the pans for 5 minutes and then use a fork to poke holes in the top of each cupcake. Brush some sweet tea vodka on the top of each cupcake, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

To make the icing, beat butter in bowl of mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and creamy, about 2-3 minutes.  Slowly add sugar, a little big at a time, until incorporated.  You’ll need to scrape down the bowl, just like you did when you made the cupcakes.  Beat in lemonade mix, vanilla, and lemon juice, and frost cupcakes with a small spatula, or piping bag.

What I (Still) Don’t Do

milkshake

It seems only fitting that I follow up the List of Awesome with another (hopefully) annual Glass of Milk tradition.  The What I Don’t Do list.  If the former list is my ode to the little things that make life grand, this latter list is an ode to letting go of perfect ideals and cutting myself some slack.  Cathy made one of her own recently, and I am forever inspired by the words Whitney writes.

This year’s list is on a much smaller scale than last year’s, but it’s valid in its own right.  These smaller choices make have made just as big an impact in my life.

jeni's ice cream

I don’t say no to ice cream.  Ever.

I don’t keep my house clutter-free.  This year I am attacking the clutter I’ve amassed over the past 10 years of real adult life with fervor and passion, but it’s also not realistic for me to expect that my house will ever be free from clutter.  It just will not.  I love stuff too much.  Or maybe I just amass it too fast.

I don’t buy books.  At least not until I’ve read them first.  I used to be one of those people who needed to own a library’s worth of books, and I had a weird thing about loving on the actual copy I read.  Until I filled a huge Expedit (RIP) with books, couldn’t stop buying new ones, and couldn’t keep up with reading the ones I already had.  Moving into a house with one built in bookshelf helped me pare down and realize that if I hadn’t read a book since I purchased it in high school, I may not read it ever.  On the other hand when I read something I absolutely love, something I know I’ll want to come back to again and again (like this book), I’ll buy it after I’ve read it and find a home for it on my shelves.  But that happens rarely.  Rarely do I read something I have to own and keep forever.  Which helps explain my undying love of libraries.

I don’t make my own coffee.  It would save me money.  It would take less time than running to (my favorite) Starbucks that is a couple minutes past my place of employment.  But they know me, and I like them, and I go almost every day.  I love it, it’s my thing, let it go.

I don’t DVR.  We don’t have it, so not only do I not do it, I can’t do it.  We used to have a hand-me-down TiVo, but it wasn’t HD-compatable, so as we upgraded our TVs, we dropped it along the way.  This little change was amazing in that it greatly reduced the amount of stress in my life.  I used to TiVo every episode of The Barefoot Contessa, and every TCM movie I was aching to see, and then feel like getting through everything on TiVo was a giant to-do list item.  I’m pretty sure watching TV is not supposed to be a stressful part of life, and when I realized TiVo was the boss of me, I quickly readjusted.  We do have Netflix, which gives me no shortage of shows to binge-watch, so it’s not like I’m trying to be noble here, nor am I deprived.

I don’t keep up with the news.  This one does pain me a little, because I would love to be intelligent in this way, and hold my own in conversations surrounding current events.  But reading The Skimm every weekday morning has done wonders for my ability to at least tell the truth when someone asks if I’ve heard about the situation in insert war-torn country here.  I have heard of it, I Skimm’d it.

Let’s hear it, dear readers.  What don’t you do?

We Always Buy Broccoli [broccoli, cheddar and wild rice casserole]

One of my favorite marriage stories happened this year when I sent my husband off to the store with a list a mile long. I don’t remember why I couldn’t go, and it may well have been because I didn’t feel like it, thank you very much.  He ended up at the check out line, and the cashier said, “Wow, you have a lot of groceries.”

He told her, that yes, indeed this was much more than he usually buys and it took him an hour to find everything, but, “If my wife had been shopping, it would have taken her about 10 minutes.”

Which is a bit of an understatement, yet there is some truth there.  Our grocery list holds a fairly stagnant lineup of foods.  Though we rarely eat the same meals from week to week, the ingredients that go into our dinners are similar.  There’s always some pasta, chicken, rice or quinoa, and broccoli.

broccoli rice casserole

There is always broccoli.

I wasn’t one of those children who despised broccoli, in fact, I’ve never been able to get enough of the stuff.  As such, it always finds its way into the cart on my weekly trips to the store, not because I meticulously plan the vegetables that will accompany our meals, but because I like it, plain and simple.  I can’t think of a week in my life that’s passed where I haven’t eaten broccoli at least twice.  And I’ve never tired of it.  Steamed, with salt, plus butter when I feel extra-indulgent.  And a squeeze of lemon like Grandma Glass of Milk taught me.

Thus, when Deb put her spin on broccoli, cheddar, and rice casserole, I wasted no time in getting it on the table.  Holy dream flavors, Batman.  This is absolutely amazing, and the way the flavors work together feels like someone really thought about the way the ingredients would meld, just like The New York Times said it would.

broccoli rice casserole 2

To make broccoli, cheddar, and wild rice casserole, you will need:

  • 3 T butter, divided
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • salt
  • 2/3 C uncooked wild rice (or, like I had, a wild rice blend)
  • 1 pound broccoli
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (or, garlic powder, like I used in the ultimate act of laziness)
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 T flour
  • 1 C whole milk (yes, you can use lowfat, but I’d hesitate before choosing skim)
  • 2/3 C low-sodium chicken broth (veggie is fine too)
  • 8 oz. grated cheddar cheese, divided
  • freshly ground black pepper

Heat 1 T butter in skillet till melted.  Add onion, and saute till translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add rice, and cook 1 minute.  Add 1 2/3 C water (or other amount depending on package directions).  Bring mixture to simmer, then reduce heat, and cook on low, covered, for 50 minutes.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Peel broccoli stems, and cut into small, one-inch chunks.  Cut florets into pieces about the same size.  Cook in boiling, salted water, for 2-3 minutes, then drain.

Melt remaining 2T butter in saucepan.  Add garlic and cayenne, and let cook for 1 minute.  Add flour, and whisk till combined, cooking 1 to 2 more minutes.  Add milk and broth, whisking constantly.  Let mixture come to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, continuing to stir, till mixture thickens.  Depending on the milk you used, this will take between 5-10 minutes.  The lower your milk is in fat, the longer it will take, and the thinner the sauce will be, no matter how much you stir or cook.  Remove pan from heat and stir in 1/3 of cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.

Place broccoli in bottom of oven-proof skillet, and top with sauce.  Sprinkle remaining cheese on top of casserole and bake for 10-15 minutes, until sauce is bubbling, and cheese is fully melted.  Crank the oven up to broil and give the casserole another 2-3 minutes to crisp it all up.

What I’m Reading

It’s time for another food edition of What I’m Reading.

croutons
(this is a fresh batch of croutons)

Love Jenny’s time-lapse dinner story here.

This cheesy chick flick popcorn will happen soon, and its cousin, the dusty cheddar potato croquette might be the perfect complement.

I always manage to bookmark the more indulgent recipes on healthy blogs. Hello, cauliflower and brown rice gratin from Sprouted Kitchen.

I have a container of ricotta I need to use up, which likely means sausage and kale stuffed shells are going on the menu this weekend.

That said, my weekend eating is often at weird times, and involves many snacks.  So I’m bookmarking this chocolate banana smoothie as another option.  If I want to take a photo of it, I’ll leave the greens out.  If I need something filling, in they’ll go.

Oh’s would make a great place to start as far as cereal milk ice cream is concerned.

Note to Self [garlic herb bread twists]

Dear Jennie,

You know how you love having people over, and how happy you are when you have a house full of mouths to feed?  But when you get ready to have people over, and you think up what to cook for them, you never quite know what fits?  Because party food is tricky.  It’s often bite-sized, which means more time in the kitchen, bent over little squares of dough.  Or it’s fried, which means hot, smelly oil, that can’t be dealt with in advance.  Neither of these situations is ideal.  It’s more than likely that party food = whatever was cheapest and least offensive looking in the Trader Joe’s freezer section warmed up in the oven while everyone is working on their first drink.

There’s better out there.

garlic herb bread twists

It comes in the form of Shutterbean’s Garlic Herb Breadsticks.

Jennie, you already know that garlic, herbs, and Parmesan cheese have near universal appeal.  If there’s a guest who wouldn’t enjoy these, do you really want to invite that person into your home?

garlic herb bread twists 2

These are pillows of Trader Joe’s pizza dough, filled with cheese and herbs, then baked, and finished off with oil and more cheese.  They are as good as it gets in the snack food department.  You can prep them quickly in the morning, and then finish them off at night, right before company comes.  And everyone you feed will want to come over again and again because everyone you feed will recognize that these are in a class of their own.  That we all cave and order cheesy bread with our pizza, and yes, it feels right at the time, but it’s never memorable.  Garlic Herb Bread Twists are memorable.  They have a kick from some red pepper flakes, a double dose of cheese (mozzarella and Parmesan), and they have that soft-pretzel-y thing going on where parts of the dough are crisp and crunchy, while the twistier parts are soft and dreamy.

garlic herb bread twists 3

Garlic Herb Bread Twists.  Round up your friends, send out the invite, and get these on the menu, stat.

xoxo,

Yourself

*a note: I made Tracy’s recipe pretty much as-is, except for an herb substitution, and a last minute mozzarella sprinkle.  But this is a versatile recipe that could hold up to an infinite number of flavor combinations.  Tell me what you’d do with it.

To make Garlic Herb Bread Twists as a snack for 3, you will need:

  • 1 Trader Joe’s pizza crust
  • 1 tsp. dried basil (which I didn’t have, so I used thyme)
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. dried red pepper flakes (this is going to give you enough of a kick that you can taste it in each bite, so adjust accordingly)
  • 1/2 C grated Parmigiano Reggiano, divided
  • 1/8 C olive oil, plus more for the pan
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 C shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 C marinara sauce, for dipping

Set dough on counter to come to room temperature.  If you’ve removed the dough from the package, keep it covered with a kitchen towel.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly oil a baking sheet.  If you do this with your hands, it’ll help you work with the pizza dough.

Combine basil, oregano, red pepper flakes, and Parmesan cheese in bowl, and set aside.

Place minced garlic in oil and set aside.

Roll or spread the dough out till you’ve formed a rectangle that is roughly 10 x 15 inches.  Sprinkle dough with 1/2 the Parmesan mixture, and fold dough in half.  Tracy did this the long way, though I did mine the short way.  The longer dough will make for (longer, duh, and) thinner,  crispier twists.  The short way makes them puffier.  I’m a sucker for puffy.  Slice dough into pieces less than 1 inch thick.  Use your sharpest knife, or a pizza cutter.  Pick up each end of a slice of dough and twist in opposite directions from both ends.  Transfer to baking sheet, and top with garlic oil.  I did my best to get all the pieces of garlic onto the tops of the twists.  Repeat for each piece of dough.  Bake for 17 minutes.

Remove from oven and sprinkle each twist with a little bit of mozzarella.  Return to oven for 4 more minutes.

Remove from oven and brush with oil.  Be careful not to get any remaining pieces of garlic on the bread at this point, as it’s not baking off in the oven anymore.  Then, top with remaining Parmesan mixture, which will melt right onto the piping hot twists.

Serve with marinara sauce, for dipping.

The List of Awesome

Here it is, a short 11 months after the last list, because last year I got confused about which day is List of Awesome Day.  Make no mistake it is March 27, not April 27.

Which means today is list of awesome day.  The fourth annual A Glass of Milk List of Awesome.  With some repeats from previous years because some things are always awesome (see also: libraries).  I post this every year because it makes me feel happy.  I love having these lists.  I print them and include them in my scrapbooks.  I look for patterns.  And after 4 years (and 200 items) of awesome, I can tell you that most of what makes the list doesn’t cost money (see also: libraries).  Or at least, not a lot.  Most of what’s awesome is small.  Most of what’s awesome is easily overlooked.  What’s on your list, dear readers?  How do you notice what’s awesome in your life?

As of right now, here are 50 awesome things in mine.

orchid

Libraries
People who work in retail who strike the perfect between ignoring you completely and hovering over your every move
Looking out at the ocean
Queen Helene Mint Julep Mask
Sherlock
Staying in your pajamas all day
A new baseball cap
Lemon water
sugarloaf
The Whitney English Day Designer
Long drives, complete with singing at the top of your lungs
Cute notebooks from Target
Finding out Netflix just got one of your favorite movies
Brownie taste tests
cupcake
Paper invitations
Duolingo
An iced grande vanilla latte when you’re used to skim
Self help books (specifically this one, and this one)
Going to the movies by yourself
The gift of time–giving it and getting it
coupe
A full house and a table full of food
Appearing fresh-faced after a good night’s sleep
Clearing a surface of all clutter
Tara and Johnny
Finishing something that’s been on your to-do list forever
peaches
The minute you (slowly) close the cover of an amazing book
A roaring fire in the fireplace
The new season of DWTS
Figuring out how to can remix an outfit in a new way
Realizing you drank your full 8 glasses of water in a day
A good hair day
obx sunset
The right song at the right time
The excitement of visiting somewhere new
Getting rid of things you don’t need
New underwear (come on, you know it’s true)
Catching up with someone you happened to run into
Finding out you picked the fast lane at the grocery store
Fun pensgiftsGetting a genuine compliment
British accents
Chocolate and peanut butter
Chocolate and mint
Finding something from  your childhood you forgot about
rainbow
Return address stamps
Feeling like you’ve come a long way from where you were
Natural light
Birthdays – yours or anyone else’s
Having time to make something besides a smoothie for breakfast in the morning
Someone taking care of you when you don’t feel well
le pain
A good, long lunch date in the middle of a work week
Watching kids you’ve known for years grow into real people

Previous Lists of Awesome:

2011 2012 2013

The Saga Continues [brownie batter peanut butter swirl oatmeal]

In my never-ending quest to become a person who likes oatmeal, I tried another version.

oatmeal ingredients

Do you see these ingredients?  How could it be bad?

brownie batter peanut butter swirl oatmeal

Of course there are chocolate chips, too, because if I am committed to liking oatmeal, then consider me equally committed to putting chocolate chips in each batch.  Even this one, which is next on my list.  We could replace the sunflower seeds with chocolate chips, right?

This oatmeal was fine.  It didn’t wow me.  I think I am trying to get oatmeal to be like couscous in that I expect it to pick up the flavor of whatever liquid in which it boils.  Boil couscous in chicken broth and it adds flavor.  Boil oats in (almond) milk and…?  Not much difference between that and water.  Am I wrong?

I also wonder if I’m using too much liquid.  I swapped out the regular oats for steel cut, which the box tells me takes more liquid.  So I added more liquid.  But was that wrong?

Dear readers, in lieu of a recipe, please accept this rambling post about my inability to cook oatmeal.  Apologies if I’m boring you, but I feel like I’m almost there.  Like I almost like oatmeal, but there’s still a little something standing in my way.  Tips are welcome and most appreciated.