Thursday, September 27, 2012

September Daring Bakers' Challenge: Empanadas

This month's baking challenge was interesting for me. I'm not quite sure why, but I never could really bring myself to getting into gear and completing the challenge. The challenge itself—empanadas—wasn't intimidating or even hard sounding, but it wasn't until tonight (aka when the blog post was due) that I got around to getting the silly thing done.

I decided to make a sweet empanada instead of a savory one; not really for any reason except that I like to make sweet things. Inspiration struck when I saw some apples from our deaf family friends, the Simons. (Back story: Our family and the Simon family have known each other FOREVER.... as in since the mid-60s, which is well before me, making it FOREVER ago.... like how I do that? Yeah, me, too!)


The Simons have a wonderful backyard apple orchard and they are kind enough to share their bounty with us each year. Most of the apples from their trees are turned into our family's applesauce supple. This year, they also became some apple/cranberry pies for our church's fall festival's pie booth. I had a few straggler apples, which sparked my theory that making an apple dessert empanada was the way to go, and I was right!

I found a recipe online and decided it was best to get into gear and make the darned thing. I had all of the ingredients on hand, which helped me decide which recipe to choose. While putting the empanada dough together, I realized that I've made a VERY similar dough in the past and it was courtesy of another very dear and longtime family friend (Mary Elzy); her dough was used to hug a mushroom concoction (sorry, the exact recipe is eluding me at the moment and I'm too tired to look for it) that was definitely in the savory department. That said, the dough similarities were striking.

The recipe recommended eating the empanadas warm, and being one who follows directions well, I did just that. They turned out to be quite a tasty treat and the absolute perfect size. I cut approximately 4-inch dough circles, which resulted in 3-4 bite empanadas. I equate them to a cake pop or cupcake ... just enough to give you a good taste, but without all of the guilt associated with a bigger dessert. :)

We were supposed to use one of the dough recipes provided by the challenge host, but I forgot that fact until right now.... WHOOPS!!! That's what I get for waiting until the 11th hour and being so tired!

Sweet Apple Empanadas
Patri of the blog, Asi Son Los Cosas, was our September 2012 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she decided to tempt us with one of her family’s favorite recipes for Empanadas! We were given two dough recipes to choose from and encouraged to fill our Empanadas as creatively as we wished!

Friday, September 21, 2012

It's not a crime scene ... it's just Whidbey

I just realized I never posted the rest of the pictures I took during our weekend on Whidbey a few weeks ago. My apologies for the delay, but just think how much more exciting these will be after waiting with such antici ..............pation!

On Sunday afternoon, the kids were getting a bit ... how shall we say ... energetic, so we ushered them outside to burn off some energy. Bestemor (aka Eric's mom) pulled out a container of sidewalk chalk so the kids could let their creativity spring forth.

I love little kid handwriting!

The kids asked me to draw their outlines, which I happily did.
At the end of the art session, the driveway looked quite a bit like a crime scene
with lots of chalk body outlines.
Fortunately, the chipper clothes that Annika drew on the bodies
made it a much more pleasant crime scene.

Annika putting the finishing touches on her artwork

Annika and Conor busy at work.
Annika "sneaking" up on Buster so she
could get his toy and throw it for him again

While the kids played, Eric and his dad (aka Bestefar)
did some projects around the house.

They even needed a ladder and scaffolding

Manly work, I tell ya!

Of course, the kids decided they needed to "help"
Conor trying to strong arm the wheelbarrow

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Snickerdoodle cupcakes

Last night, I had the itch to bake. I know, that isn't really a stretch for me, but oh well! My co-worker's last day is today, and I wanted to bring a little something to mark the day at work.

I've been borrowing quite a few cookbooks from the library recently; they're my version of eye candy (pardon the pun). One of the books currently in my hot little hands is a cupcake book by Martha Stewart. (OK, I don't know if she actually wrote it or if it is just something she staffed out, but it has her name on it.). It has quite a few recipes that I want to try, but decided on this as my maiden voyage and am really glad I did. It was easy, fast, and produced a tasty treat.

The recipe called for using seven-minute frosting, but because I made the cupcakes last night and was concerned the frosting wouldn't hold up, I just made a basic butter-based buttercream frosting; it worked out quite nicely, if I do say so myself. I also didn't do the exact frosting method that good ol' Martha called for; instead, I went for more of a flower than a dome of frosting, which looks prettier, if you ask me!

I halved the recipe and had plenty of cupcakes to share. I think I wound up with 18 or 19. The original recipe's yield is 28; they must use much bigger cupcake pans than I have. Regardless of how many you want to make, I have to give the recipe a big thumbs up. They are very yummy and seem to be a hit among my co-workers.

Snickerdoodle cupcake

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  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour (not self- rising), sifted
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, plus 1/2 teaspoon for dusting
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for dusting
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups milk


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Sift together both flours, baking powder, salt, and 1 tablespoon cinnamon.
  2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of milk, and beating until combined after each.
  3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored up to 2 days at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.
  4. To finish, combine remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 2 tablespoons sugar. Using a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip (Ateco No. 809 or Wilton No. 1A), pipe frosting on each cupcake: Hold bag over cupcake with tip just above top, and squeeze to create a dome of frosting, then release pressure and pull up to form a peak. Using a small, fine sieve, dust peaks with cinnamon-sugar. Cupcakes are best eaten the day they are frosted; keep at room temperature until ready to serve. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Our Island Escape

Par for the course, we seemed to pack as much into our 3-day Labor Day weekend as possible.

Saturday was filled from stem to stern with errands, including a trip to the local fabric store so we could buy the fabric for Annika's Halloween costume; she decided she wants to dress as a witch, but not just any witch. She wants to be a witch in a pink sparkle dress with a purple hat thank you very much.

On Sunday, we packed up the crew (minus Smudge, so stayed home to relax in the peace and quiet) and headed up to Whidbey Island to have a sleep over with Eric's folks. After arriving and putting our feet up for a bit, we headed to the health club that Eric's parents belong to and took advantage of the club's salt water pool. Three generations of Olsons were in the pool splashing, swimming, and playing together. It really was a treat to go swimming together and not stink like chlorine after climbing out of the pool.

The real reason for our visit this weekend was a surprise to our kids right up until the last minute. A few weeks ago, Eric's mom's told her friend (Cindy) about the cowgirl hat and boots she and Jack gave to Annika for her birthday. Cindy extended an invitation for the kids to come over and ride her miniature horses, so Annika's cowgirl gear could get some horse time. Really, how could we pass that up?? We kept this adventure a secret from the kids just in case the plans fell through, but all worked out and we got to visit the pint-size equines. Oh, how I love horses.... great and small, and it seems that Annika has been bitten by the same hose-lovin' bug. :)

We started out with a little introductory time with the horses Tawny and Prince. Cindy told us about how Tawny had colic the day before (UGH!) and how impressed she was with Tawny's rapid recovery thanks to the vet's intervention. She also explained how Prince was nursing a sore hoof (poor guy) and wasn't feeling at the top of his game. Cindy's granddaughter Avery was there, too, to meet our kids and share "her" horses with our kids. The girls were adorable in their pink cowgirl boots, I have to say! After we got the low-down, the kids got some hands on time with the horses; Conor wasn't overly interested in riding, at first but Annika was all over the idea from the get go. We are so grateful to Cindy and Avery for sharing their Monday and horses with us!

Cindy and Avery walking Annika (on Tawny) around the yard

Tawny, Annika, and Avery mozying around

Annika taking Tawny and Avery for a walk

Conor and Prince getting to know each other

Our cowgirl

Eric showing Conor how to feed flowers to Prince

Eat up, Prince

Conor feeding snacks to Tawny and Prince

Staring contest

Conor going for a ride on Tawny

Our kids: The next generation of city-born-but-country-at-heart kids

Annika taking Tawny for one more lap before heading home