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Cheesecake and More Snow

Phew! The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of preparing for the holidays, traveling, and keeping up with everyday life. Christmas with Ryan was a great one... my dearest husband got me a Nikon D60 and a Making Memories Slice and I couldn't be happier! I have already shot hundreds of photos (mostly just playing around) and this camera is SO much better than anything I've had before.

We traveled to Maine for Christmas and hung out with my dad's family and then on to mom's house for a few days. I brought a Bailey's Chocolate Chip Cheesecake to my dad's... yum! It was a good recipe but the filling wasn't *quite* as firm as I usually like it and the Bailey's was a tad strong so I am going to reduce the Bailey's next time and kill two birds with one stone. Still, it was a great cheesecake:
And now it is New Year's Eve and I really think Mother Nature ONLY makes snow when we have plans. Another 6-8 inches today... so I guess we won't be driving the hour and a half to Amherst to meet with friends. New Year's Eve will be just another night in our house.

A Winter Wonderland

This was supposed to be a really fun and packed weekend for us but in typical New England fashion the weather had a little something to say about that. Friday night's office dinner party was cancelled. Sunday's Christmas family lunch was cancelled. And we barely made it to our Saturday night holiday party. The snow just kept coming! But it was cozy nonetheless, and we enjoyed finishing the wrapping and decorating and I managed to make the sugared pecans and some banana bread. Poor Ryan got stuck with the shoveling... perhaps this is why I still think the snow is beautiful!

Double Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes

I took a small break from the cupcakes for a while. Not that I ever get tired of them but sometimes I DO like to mix it up with cheesecake or cookies and the like. I made some terrific cranberry orange oatmeal cookies a few weeks ago and need to whip up a few batches of the top secret, famous, sugared pecans (the ones I don't even like but everyone says are the best...thanks mom!).

But back to the cupcakes! I have been trying to keep with the flavors of the season in my baking and decided to take on a more controversial flavor this round: peppermint. I say controversial only because I know some folks (including my husband) are not big fans of peppermint, but *I* am! So Mr. Fussypants got regular vanilla frosting on his... whatever.

I called these "double chocolate" only because I threw in a handful each of regular and mini semi-sweet chocolate chips. They were what I had on hand that needed to get used. You can leave those out without any other changes in the recipe. Mr. Fussypants was consoled by this addition and I think it made up for me frosting most of them with the peppermint. :-)

End result: super moist cake and really delish peppermint flavor in the frosting. I love peppermint and I found these quite pleasing. If you like your peppermint more subtle just reduce the extract to 1/2 a teaspoon. I dyed mine pink and rimmed the edges with crushed candy canes but those are optional too!



Double Chocolate Cupcakes
Makes about 15 (I made 12 regular and 9 minis)

1/2 cup (1 stick) room temperature butter
1-1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs, room temp
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 a bag of chocolate chips (of any size)

- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- Cream the butter till it is smooth. Add the sugar and beat about 3 minutes until it is mixed and fluffy
- Add eggs, one at a time, making sure they are well mixed
- Whisk together all dry ingredients in a bowl
- Mix the milk and vanilla
- Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, alternating with the milk mixture. Dry, then half the milk, dry again, the other half of the milk, and then finishing with dry
- Stir in the chocolate chips
- Divide the batter into 15 cupcakes liners in pans
- Immediately turn your oven down to 350 degrees!
- Bake cupcakes for 20-25 minutes. Mine were done at 23 minutes

Peppermint Frosting
A variation on Magnolia's frosting

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3 to 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 to 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
red food coloring to desired color

- Cream the butter in a large mixing bowl.
- Add 2 cups of the sugar and then the milk and extract. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3-5 minutes.
- Gradually add the remaining sugar beating well after each addition until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. You may not need to add all of the sugar.
- If desired, add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly. (Use and store the icing at room temperature because icing will set if chilled.)

Pink Paislee Rocks my World!

Today at A Cherry on Top my reveal for the new Pink Paislee Sweet Cakes line went live. I looked forward to this stuff arriving on my doorstep long before it even started shipping to stores from the manufacturer. This line is so drool worthy and SO ME! I had a blast playing with the gorgeous papers and coordinating products. Here are a few of my projects but you can view the full reveal at ACOT here!

Friendsgiving

After college my friends and I started an annual Thanksgiving tradition we like to call Friendsgiving. So many of us still trekked to our parent's homes for the Thanksgiving feast but we wanted a chance to celebrate together as friends as well. So Friendsgiving was born and I have hosted anywhere from eight to twenty three guests for turkey and all the fixings almost every year since we began the tradition.

This year there were only eight of us (sadly, we seem to move further apart from each other every year) but it was a lovely day. My brined turkey was *awesome* and we stuffed ourselves more than we should have. Throw in a little Wii playing and it's a party!

My only issue was the "Frankentable". It has come to my attention that we need to buy more sizes of extra tables. We only had "too small" and "too big" and so the resulting table was this odd mix of junk tables from the garage. Also, note to self: buy a tablecloth that fits the Frankentable because all I have are cloths to fit the table in its normal state. So yeah... nontradtional colors and a little mixing and matching gave us this:

And here is a shot some of the food before it was devoured: