Friday, February 7, 2014

Moscato Cupcakes

What is better than a cupcake? Moscato wine. What's better than Moscato wine? Moscato wine in a cupcake. So let's just start there.

I made these for a friend of mine's birthday because I thought it would be more than perfect for her. All of my other food posts on here have been created at my house, but I had to make these at my campus apartment. That being said, bear with me on the college-kid tiny kitchen.

This is going to be a new favorite of mine, I can already tell. Honestly, it comes out tasting like a vanilla cupcake because there isn't enough wine incorporated to change the flavor that much. But it's a pretty darn good vanilla cupcake. There's a slight kick to it that separates it from your run of the mill white cake, and it's delicious. 

So turn on some Steve Earle or Patsy Cline (or both if you're like me) and let's begin. 

So those are your ingredients. Pretty run of the mill for a cake recipe. Except the vinegar. I'm still a little bothered that I used vinegar in a cake but whatever, it's over. I'm sure I'll make it through the PTSD eventually.

First step...combine all of your dry ingredients- flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients- oil, wine, buttermilk, eggs, and....vinegar. 

Once combined, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. Mix only until the batter is combined and then stop, don't over mix or the batter will become too dense and heavy.

Line two muffin tins with cupcake liners. You can get about 18 cupcakes out of the batter, but I only made 16. Fill them about 3/4 of the way full and bake at 350 degrees for about 17-19 minutes. 

While those puppies are baking, time for some icing! It's a pretty simple buttercream, but of course with a Moscato twist. 

Start with the softened butter. Typically, I'd suggest using an electric mixer to whip the butter until fluffy. However- like I said earlier...I was baking in my little tiny kitchen with no mixer. But hey, that's no reason to not make icing. It just took a little extra elbow grease, that's all. Once the butter is softened and mixed until there are no more clumps, add the wine and vanilla. 

Next, add the powdered sugar little by little until it's the perfect consistency. 

After taking the cupcakes out, let them cool completely before icing them. 

Waiting...waiting...waiting...okay, so now they're cooled. Finally. 

I decorated mine with some silver sprinkles and a sliced strawberry, but of course that is completely up to your imagination. You do you. 

Isn't that just the most beautiful little cupcake you've ever seen? True know- on the outside, but more importantly on the inside, where it counts. 

So here's what you're waiting for:

Moscato Cupcakes
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup Moscato wine
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. white vinegar
In large mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Do the same in a separate bowl with the wet ingredients. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry until just mixed. 

Scoop into lined muffin tin and fill each 3/4 of the way full. Bake at 350 degrees for 17-19 minutes. Let cool completely. 

Moscato Wine Icing
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter 
  • 3 Tbsp. Moscato wine
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
Whip butter with an electric mixer (or wooden spoon depending on your determination) until light and fluffy. Add wine and vanilla. Slowly incorporate powdered sugar. 

When cupcakes are cool, spread icing and decorate to your liking and EAT!

So there ya have it....first bacon beer bread, now Moscato cupcakes. I think alcohol is way cooler outside of the bar. Most of the time. Anyway- I digress. I hope you enjoy the heck outta these! 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

What's More American Than Fried Chicken, Anyway?

I have a soft spot in my heart for taking part in insanity. That's why I've slept for no more than 3 hours (sometimes, not at all) on Thanksgiving night for the past 10 years so that I can stand in line with the thousands of people for stupid free trinkets from stores that I don't even shop at on Black Friday. So last night when I drove out of my way to stand in line for a Chick-fil-A sandwich, it really wasn't something out of my character. However, my motivation was entirely different this time. I wasn't there for a free sandwich or to buy anyone a gift at a discount, in fact, the end result was really quite selfish- a delicious #4 Spicy Chicken Deluxe with pepper jack (er...provolone...) cheese and some waffle fries. Last night, my motivation was through conviction, not entertainment.

In case you're not aware of why everyone suddenly had a craving for chicken yesterday, let me catch you up. In an interview with the Baptist Press on July 16, President and COO of Chick-fil-A, Dan Cathy, explained the Christian ethics and beliefs that Chick-fil-A was founded on and operates on. The article was descriptive about the principles of the company's operations, highlighted the successes that God has blessed the company with over the course of their 45 year history, and mentioned scriptures that drive Chick-Fil-A's "way of life", if you will. And then towards the very end of the article, in the midst of gathering Mr. Cathy's opinion on other topics, the issue of traditional marriage came into play. With the simple statement of "Guilty as charged" when asked about the company's conservative position on the matter, Chick-fil-A became the center of a circus that it didn't even ask to join.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said in a statement, "Chick-fil-A doesn't belong in Boston. You can't have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population." Chick-fil-A has recently been considering opening a new restaurant in the city, posing the question of whether it is ethical (or constitutional, for that matter) for an elected official to halt commerce over a social issue. Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, also addressed the statement by saying, "Chick-fil-A's values are not Chicago values." So there you have it.

See, everybody's making a big deal about the gay marriage issue, but that's not what bugs me. Absolutely, positively, 100%- I disagree with gay marriage. I believe that marriage is not only an institution and a legal recognition of relationship, but a sacred, holy union created by God, for God at the beginning of time. Adam couldn't find a helper, God created Eve. (Genesis 2:20-23) And through the next two verses after that, the shortest wedding ceremony ever was officiated by God and that was that- marriage. The Bible is a metaphor for marriage. We are called to use marriage to understand the Bible, and to use the Bible to understand marriage. The purpose of marriage itself is for sanctification, to become more like Christ as we love and respect our spouse as He loves and respects us. So, yes, I don't agree with gay marriage. But no, that's not the reason I went to Chick-fil-A yesterday.

I enjoyed my chicken sandwich to show appreciation for the freedoms of my country. Nowhere in Mr. Cathy's interview was anything mentioned about Chick-fil-A not serving homosexuals. No mention of blatant intolerance, no mention of turning away gays or spitting in their food. He simply said that they support a traditional, heterosexual marriage and that they have personally been blessed by God's goodness in that way. How did Chick-fil-A get drug into a firestorm of controversy? I can't understand how anyone is legitimately surprised by their statement. It is no secret that the restaurant is a Christian organization. The doors are closed on Sundays, the bowl game they host in Atlanta is the only bowl game including an invocation and will never be played on Sunday, and for goodness sake- can you think of any other fast food joint that says, "My pleasure," after you've gone to the counter for the fifth time asking for more ranch and Chick-fil-A sauce? So if no one is offended by those Christian stances that the company takes, why are they offended by their Biblically-parallel view on marriage?

It's not an issue of politics or religion, it is simply an issue of hypocrisy.

In 2008, then Senator Barack Obama claimed a Christian faith and supported traditional marriage, opposing same-sex unions and making no promise to ever change legislation regarding the issue. Suddenly, in May of 2012, an election year (nice timing, huh?), he has abandoned those Christian principles that he ran on and is a supporter of gay marriage. It's funny to me how in 2008, most gays were still voting for Obama despite his personal views on their potential marriages. However, when a private business owner (no matter how big the business is) states his beliefs, he and his company, employees, and patrons are hateful bigots who are denying people their "freedom". What the gay community and its supporters are forgetting is the first amendment; you know, the one they lean upon as a crutch whenever they want to protest, make bold homosexual statements, or put down these "bigots" who defend one of God's best creations, marriage. Freedom of speech. How dare they react so immaturely and harmfully to a man, his family, his company, and his customers for holding a belief they are entitled to? This was a private interview with a private man that happened to publicly blow up overnight. No one asked for this attention, but the gay community decided it would be the "hate flavor of the week". If that wasn't enough, there is the hypocrisy of Mayor Menino discouraging commerce and jobs in his own city through a time of economic drought and unemployment simply because his views do not align with the store's president. There are reasons that Congress (and mainly democrats) worked to pass cases such as Roe v. Wade, Brown v. Board of Education, Title IX, and so many others- equality and choice. I guess this is what happens when they don't like the outcome.

Enough of my soapbox, I'll leave the crazy democrats, liberals, gays, gay supporters, and delicious chicken sandwich haters to sit in the corner and pout.

I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all of the workers at the Chick-fil-A on 86th Street in Indianapolis and across the country. Alexis, Alex, Steven, Taylor, Ryan, Amy, and all of the other servers that I forget never stopped smiling. Not when the protestors were standing outside with their "Stop the Hate" posters, not when the occupancy of the store was doubled and then some, not even when the computer system crashed and the orders had to be taken by hand. It was always "their pleasure" to serve the Americans who love their freedom. As I watched hundreds patiently wait in line for hours and families pray publicly for their meals, I realized the pride I had in my country and my freedom. Where else would you see such a band of strength come together to support a belief system, all while smiling?

And after all...what's more American than fried chicken?

....USA....USA....USA....(sorry, I just really wanted someone to start chanting in the restaurant but it never I'll have to just do it here.)

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Walk Through The Word: Genesis 1

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

Welcome to the Bible. 

I'm fairly certain that any Christian, and probably anyone who has any knowledge of Christianity, could spew off Genesis 1:1 out of their Biblical file cabinet with a distinct ease. I can't say with that same certainty that most people understand what Genesis 1:1 is saying. It seems fairly simple, but it's not simple at all. It probably was for God Himself in that very moment, but it would not be easy for us. 

Can we just take a minute to think about what it meant to create the heavens and the earth? The perfection in planning of how the whole "heavens and earth" thing would play out? 

We are perfectly placed between two spiral arms of our galaxy in the universe. This is no accident, God put us there for safety. Those bands are vicious arms of stars and planets that culminate in a string of fire. However, God placed His precious Earth in the quiet place in between. If the earth's crust was any thinner, we would suffer from immense radiation that would kill us. If the crust were any thicker, the electromagnetic field would be thrown off and all of a sudden we would have electromagnetic storms all over the earth. To me it seems like He cared enough about our planet from the very beginning to protect us just in our perfect location. 

See, we can't overlook Genesis 1:1 just because it's a commonly known verse. The first words of this incredible book express His power and majesty, and do so for a reason. Why would He start His word any other way? Let's go on...

Verses 3-5 can be kind of confusing because when God says, "Let there be light," (v. 3), He doesn't say, "Let there be sun." Although it's hard for us to comprehend having light without the sun, I think of this light and this darkness and picture it as that quiet time right before and after the sun rises and sets. I imagine a watercolor kind of light.

Verses 6-14 talk about the sky, the oceans, and the plants. Pay attention to the order of His creation. We know today that plants need light to grow. Although the sun was not placed in the sky until after vegetation had been created, plants weren't on earth until after the light was there.

Verses 14-19 finally bring the lights that we know into our solar system.

Verse 16 kind of blows my mind as much as verse 1 does.
"God made two great lights- the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars."

The sun is not this bright white light bulb chilling above earth that makes us hot and sweaty in the summer and warms us up on winter days, all while blinding us at the same time. The sun is a raging ball of fire. We are precisely placed 93 million miles from the sun. If we were 5 degrees closer to the sun, we wouldn't exist because of the intense heat that would burn us all up. However, God hung the sun close enough to us that we don't freeze. If we were 5 degrees further away, our world would be a massive snowball.

And the moon? Well somehow, in some way I don't understand, the tides of the oceans are affected by the placement of the moon. We tend to think of the moon as a fairly harmless place, but if we were placed even 1/5 closer to the moon, we would have tsunamis on all of the beaches with up to 50 foot waves twice each day. Our earth would be swallowed up by flood waters. Thankfully, God has promised us that will never happen again, but we'll get to that in a few chapters.

And those stars? Don't get me started. I'll have to let you know of their power in a different post all it's own. But if you want to know, they aren't just twinkling up there for beauty. The sun is a star. Look at that picture up there. That is no "twinkle, twinkle, little star," that is a raging ball of fire, like every star in the universe. We haven't discovered every star created yet, but some scientists believe there are as many stars in the universe as there are grains of sand on the earth. And God knows each one by name. 

Verses 20-23 bring forth the first living creatures, the fish and birds to take advantage of the expanse of water and sky that God blessed Earth with. 

Verses 24-25 introduce livestock, wild animals, and the creatures of the ground. Also realize that these creatures who would need vegetation to live weren't created until after vegetation was created. 

Verses 26-27 give us our big moment! "Then God said, 'Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.' So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them."

I love this. First of all, listen to what God says here. He says, "Let US," as in the trinity, as in Him and His Son and His Spirit. He wasn't talking to the animals that He had just created and saying that man would be created in their image, He was talking to Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Once you understand that, understand that we, you and me, were created in His image, everything changes. We were created to be like Him. The more we follow Christ, the more we begin to look like God. We have a pretty good start, we are created in His image. 

I rest my Biblical case for agriculture in verses 28-30. He tells us that we are to, "Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground," (v. 28) and that He has given us, "every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole  earth and every tree that has seed in it," for food. Verse 30 continues to tell us, "everything that has the breath of life in it- I give every green plant for food." 

Verse 31 wraps up this first chapter of God's word by beginning with saying, "God saw all that He had made, and it was very good."

Very good, indeed. Thank you, Lord. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Walk Through The Word: An Introduction

I don't really have many words for this picture, except that without it, I have no truth, nothing to believe in, no hope for my future, and no grace for my sins. 

I'm going to be reading this cover to cover, and I'm going to be dissecting it on here. I'd love if you would want to follow along with me! :)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bacon Beer Bread

A few months ago while baking beer bread, I got this crazy idea. Bacon. You know the stuff- that salty and smoky and chewy deliciousness that everyone loves so much. Bacon inside of beer bread. So here you have it.

Start with about a half of a pound of bacon. You can absolutely fry strips of bacon and then cut them up for the bread, but I like cutting it up before hand to fry little pieces.  That way each piece gets slightly crispy. Mmm, good.

Drain the bacon and put in a separate bowl for now. Now that the bacon is taken care of, time for some beer bread. 

Start with 3 cups of self-rising flour, and add one half cup of regular white sugar. Because this is a quick dough recipe and doesn't require proofing or rising, make sure that you use self-rising flour. 

Now for the beer. For this batch of bread, I used Budweiser, but I have also used Newcastle and Michelob Ultra. There obviously isn't a specific type of beer to use, but here are some basic rules of thumb:
  • Don't use a light beer. Stop living in denial, the commercials are right- light beer equals light flavor. It's bad enough to drink light flavor, but if you try to cook with it, you'll get no flavor. 
  • Lighter colored beer is acceptable (see above picture), however, the darker the beer, the fuller the flavor. 
  • Stick to the quality factor. Yeah, I get it, the beer in question will only be used for bread, so what's the point in spending money on a good beer? Just do it. You'll have at least 5 beers to drink at your leisure.
  • This brings me to my last rule of thumb: taste. If you don't drink beer (like myself) just follow the steps above when selecting your brew. However, if you are a beer connoisseur, go with what you know (as long as it isn't a light beer) use one that is high up on your favorites list. Because remember, you'll still have 5 beers to drink when it's all said and done.

Pour the beer in slowly and use your hands to mix the dough. It won't seem like you'll have enough beer until the very end, but it will work out perfectly. I recommend having the bacon close and the bread pan sprayed ahead of time because your hands will be covered in a sticky mess. 

I bet you know what's next...

I won't judge you if you need a moment of silence. When you're done, mix that deliciousness in. 

Dump the dough into a well sprayed or buttered bread pan of standard size, even though I'm not real sure what the exact dimensions of "standard" are. 

Bake the bread at 375 degrees for 50 minutes. After the bread is golden and delicious, either rub a stick of butter over it, or brush melted butter on top. Do it while it's still hot so that it forms this epically wonderful crust. The goal is to make the butter sizzle when it touches the sides of the pan. That is success.

Resist the temptation and let the bread cool completely before slicing. 

Bacon Beer Bread
  • 3 Cups Self-Rising Flour
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1/2 pound bacon, fried and chopped
  • 12 oz. beer
  • Butter
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Liberally butter or spray bread pan. 

Fry bacon and cut up, or cut up and fry. After the bacon is cooked, drain and set aside. Mix flour and sugar in a bowl. Slowly add beer and mix with your hands. Add and mix in bacon. Pour into bread pan and bake for 50 minutes. Coat crust in melted butter and allow to cool completely. 

There ya have it, folks. Also- I dare you to make a cheddar grilled cheese with this bread. You're welcome. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

California; More than Models and Oranges.

Last week, I was sitting in my introductory communications class at Purdue and overheard a conversation between two girls in the next row. I'm not sure how exactly the discussion arose, but it ended with one of them chuckling as she asked, "What do they even make in California?" The other girl in the conversation replied facetiously, "Models and oranges."

Although to these girls, the conversation was a joke, it pointed out the great disparity between the producer and the consumer here in America. Between being a student of agriculture and being active in many clubs rooted in the College of Agriculture here at Purdue, I hear a lot about the separation between producer and consumer. In fact, just last week, the recently created Ag Task Force, along with many other ag-related clubs at Purdue, hosted the first annual Purdue Ag Week to target this exact problem. Though we are a land grant university, the college of agriculture only represents 9% of Purdue.  Because the ag campus is separated from the majority of other buildings, there is a distinct gap between the "ag kids" and everyone else. The purpose of Purdue Ag Week, or "SWAG Week", which incorporated the theme and slogan of the week "See What Ag Gives", was to increase awareness of agriculture to the remaining 91% of campus. As I worked booths and spoke with students about agriculture, I was amazed to see how little people who live so close to agriculture actually know about the industry that feeds and clothes them.

So how exactly should we combat this distance between consumer and producer? I think that the first priority should simply be to make it a priority. All too often, we as agriculturalists get focused on the work at hand and not on the discussion that is forming outside our farms and businesses. These days, people are getting upset about "pink slime", but do they even truly understand what they're worried about? In reality, this meat (and not slime) that is at question is simply boneless lean beef trimmings, not some disgusting paste that gets poured on celebrities at the Kid's Choice Awards. The trimmings come from real cattle, just like the less questionable meat that they are mixed with, and are used in this way so that they aren't thrown out and wasted. However, the media has made it seem as though this product is some kind of biohazard waste that we are pumping into ground beef. 17% of the country's workforce is employed in agriculture, and although that is an awesome figure, there's still 83% of the country who will only believe what the news says about their food and the many other products that come from agriculture. That is why there has been such a huge backlash for issues such as the one with the "pink slime".  If I didn't know where my food came from, and I heard that there was slime in my cheeseburger, I wouldn't want to eat it either. 

Most likely, the consumers who are removed from agriculture aren't going to take the time to seek out answers from their producers. It's our responsibility to begin a conversation with those we feed and clothe, hear their concerns and worries, and reassure them of our production practices. Although it seems like a hassle to have these conversations, America's consumers fuel the livelihood of America's farmers. When our industry is hit by an issue fueled by ignorance, such as the pink slime debate, we are the ones who suffer most. I don't look at these conversations as a hassle or a burden, but rather an opportunity to educate and inform people who care about what they are eating and make better allies for when new issues arise, because they will arise. 

Education about how farming happens is almost as important as farming itself. Take the time to learn the details of how your local commodities are grown so that you can educate someone you come in contact with about where their food comes from. I don't think anyone has ever been offended by a producer telling them how their food was produced. If we take the time to reach out and educate, so many of the stigmas that are formed around agriculture will slowly disappear.

Oh, and by the way...California happens to produce...
  • 32 billion dollars in agricultural production (making it the #1 agriculture state by a long shot)
  • 99% of America's specialty crops, including almonds, figs, garlic, olives, pistachios, and rice, among other commodities
  • More milk and cream than any other state in America (sorry, Wisconsin)
  • Half of the domestically grown fruits and vegetables produced each year
  • 23% of the nation's cheese, 31% of the nation's butter, and 15% of that delicious ice cream we all love so much
...much more than just models and oranges.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Reese's Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream Icing

Reese's Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream Frosting. 

You read that right.

Let me just say this....I hate using cake mixes. I really, really hate it. I feel like a loser. I feel pathetic. I feel like I can't do anything good when I use box mixes. Scratch is where it's at. There's something special about sifting flour, separating eggs, and using baking powder.  So when I saw this recipe, I immediately had a love/hate relationship with it. The pictures looked so good...but there was a box in the recipe. I could only imagine peanut butter buttercream....but there was a box in the recipe. Luckily, I forgot about the box and focused on the product. Smart decision, I must say. Now let's get to it.

For the cake....
-1 pkg. Duncan Hines Devil's Food Cake Mix
-1 pkg. Instant Chocolate Pudding
-1 cup sour cream
-1 cup vegetable oil
-4 eggs
-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
-Miniature Reese's Cups

Step 1: One step cake. 
Mix it alllll together. Not everything in the picture. The picture also includes the icing ingredients. Just mix together the above listed ingredients (except the Reese's) at one time and the cake batter is done. Literally that simple. 

Step 2: Cupcake time!
Line two muffin pans with cupcake liners and measure about 3 Tablespoons of batter into each.  Press miniature Reese cup into the center of each cupcake, but do not press in all the way. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick will come out clean. Remember when doing the toothpick trick to not poke directly into the center since the Reese cup is there. The center of the cupcake will look fallen even if completely baked due to the tiny chocolate morsel of amazing-ness hidden inside. 

Now for the icing...
-1 cup peanut butter
-1 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
-2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
-2 lbs. powdered sugar
-3 or 4 Tablespoons low-fat milk, depending on desired thickness

Step 1: Icing base
Cream together the butter and peanut butter until smooth. 

Step 2: Finish it up!
Mix in vanilla and alternate powdered sugar and milk until you reach your desired thickness. So good. So good. 

Step 3: Decorate and make 'em pretty!
Fairly self-descriptive. Another great idea to decorate these with is to add the newest Reese's, the really tiny, adorable mini Reese's on top of the piped icing. I was going to do that, but couldn't find them in the store. I'm sure they were there, but I didn't think about getting them until I was in the checkout line. Leaving my sister there, the mad dash to try to find them was highly unsuccessful. Oh well, they were delicious anyway. 

But seriously....who could turn this down? Okay, Sara would have to turn it down, but only because she's allergic to peanuts. My prayers are with her.