It’s 2017 and I’m Back!

This post is being updated from 2015 when it was initially written.  That was the day that I flipped the switch and started blogging on a self-hosted site with a paid domain.  And now for the good news…  I’m back!  Blogging back here at my old stamping grounds – yay!

Please continue to stay with me as I share my new recipes, DIY projects, photographs, and my simple country life back here where it all began.

Mini Blueberry Cupcakes

Wish me luck!

3 Favorite Recipes and 3 Years of Blogging

Today marks my 3 years in the blogosphere.  I hadn’t even given it a thought until WordPress sent me a congratulatory message this morning.

To celebrate my blog turning 3 years old, I decided a virtual party was in order, so here are a few of my favorite desserts for you to indulge in.

These HOMEMADE LEMON CUPCAKES are one of my favorite cupcake recipes. Moist and lemony – these are perfect recipe for any Spring or Easter celebration.

This OLD-FASHIONED CUSTARD PIE WITH STRAWBERRY SAUCE is one of my favorite pie recipes.  The smooth sweet taste of custard is countered with the tangy strawberry sauce.  This pie will delight your flavor buds – guaranteed.

And these CHOCOLATE COVERED CARAMEL CHEESECAKE BARS are one of my favorite bar recipes.  These cheesecake bars will take care of any craving you might have for chocolate and cheesecake at the same time.  The caramel is just a huge added bonus.

Thank you all, for reading my blog and helping it grow.  Without you, the readers, it wouldn’t be what it is today.  Your interest is what inspires me to continue baking, writing, photographing, and sharing glimpses of my country life.

 

 

Cream Puffs, You, and The Finger Lakes

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Cream puffs are one of my most favorite desserts to make.  I first made them when I was fairly new to blogging.  This was long before anyone knew who The Joy of Caking was.  Let’s just say I wasn’t on the radar back then.  And while I still don’t have one of the most popular blogs out there, TJOC has come a long way. 

I’ve made some awesome friends, established some very loyal followers, and had the opportunity to work with some great companies that have great products.  I feel very fortunate, and hope my blog continues to grow.  What do you think my chances are of replacing Martha when she retires?

This batch of cream puffs is in honor of all of you.  Friends, followers, and great companies with great products. 

I have often thought of how awesome it would be to have a huge blogger fest here in the Finger Lakes.  And if that ever comes to be, I hope for all of you to attend.  You really would be wowed with a visit to to my neck of the woods.  Wineries galore, beautiful lakes and New York State Parks, quaint towns, antiques, art, museums, history, and food.  That’s what the Finger Lakes is all about.

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Now, back to the cream puffs.  Don’t be scared of making them.  They are easy and delicious.  My suggestion; follow a recipe straight out of a dependable cookbook.  This batch was made from following a recipe from Betty Crocker’s Cookbook.  The ingredients are simple.  Water, butter or margarine, flour, and eggs.  That’s it! Baker’s note: I have had the best luck using margarine over butter.

Cream puffs can be filled with whipped cream, or in this case, I made a vanilla cream pudding from the same cookbook.  And on a scale of 1-10, the pudding was a 10. 

Have you ever visited the Finger Lakes, made cream puffs, or do you want to be the new Martha?

 

Blogging Fame and Glazed Strawberry Crumb Muffins

Do you ever wonder what life would to be like if you were suddenly catapulted into the category of one of the world’s top bloggers? 

What if it was your blog that landed you a  spot in a popular magazine?  Or brought you good fortunes like your own television show, the opportunity to contract with a well known book publisher, or promote brand name products? 

Would you graciously accept the fame and publicity, or would you run  from it as fast as your little feet would carry you? 

What do you think makes certain bloggers or their blogs popular? Is it the blog or bloggers personality?  Does hard work have a lot to do with it?  Is it as simple as pure luck?  How about the quantity or quality of posts?  

What do you think?

Now, hold onto your socks because I’m about to knock them off with this recipe for Glazed Strawberry Crumb Muffins I’ve come up with.

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Glazed Strawberry Crumb Muffins

1/4 c. vegetable oil

1/4 c. butter, melted

1 c. sour milk

1/2 c. granulated sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Pinch of cinnamon

Dash of nutmeg

2 c. all-purpose flour

1 cup chopped strawberries

Crumb Topping

2 tbsp. butter, softened

1/4 c. brown sugar

3/4 c. quick cook oatmeal

Using a fork, mix all ingredients together in a small bowl; set aside.

Glaze Topping

1/2 c. confectioners sugar

One to two drops of milk

Mix until sugar is dissolved; set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners.

In a large bowl, add oil, butter, sugar, and eggs; mix thoroughly by hand.  Add salt, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg; stir until completely blended.  Add sour milk and flour by alternating; mix until all ingredients are combined.  Fold in berries.

Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full.  Bake for 13-15 minutes until golden brown, or toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center.  Leave oven on, and immediately sprinkle crumb topping over muffin tops.  Return to oven for 2 minutes.  

Remove coated muffins from oven and cool completely.  Once cool, drizzle glaze topping over crumb topping. 

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Stop and smell the flowers

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I’ve been somewhat absent from my blog the last few weeks.  I don’t like it either.  I have a whole list of things that I want to write about, but no time lately to prepare each post. 

I promise I’ll be back in full swing soon.  In the meantime, stop and smell the flowers.

Lilacs and peonies are two of my favorite spring flowers.  What are yours?

 

 

 

Humility, Blogging and My Philosophy

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Do you have humility as a blogger?

Wikipedia’s definition of: “humility (adjectival form: humble) is the quality of being modest and respectful. Humility, in various interpretations, is widely seen as a virtue in many religious and philosophical traditions, being connected with notions of egolessness.”

While everyone probably has certain criteria or expectations when it comes to blogging, I believe every blogger should exercise a little humility.  Wondering how I see a blogger showing their humility?

1.) They realize that everyone has a busy life, and while there are hundreds of thousands of blogs for people to visit,  they are fortunate that their blog was found and read by these busy people.

2.) They pay a return visit (even if just occasionally) to the blogs of other bloggers that have taken the time to drop by theirs.

3.) When visiting other blogs they take a minute from time to time to let the author’s know that they’ve dropped by; either by leaving a nice comment, hitting the like button, or sharing that post with others.

4.) They frequently reply to comments left on their own posts to graciously acknowledge them.

5.) They reciprocate and follow those who follow them on social media venues like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

6.) They answer emails from readers.

7.) They remain humble by never forgetting where they came from.

From time to time it’s understandable that a reader get’s missed in the busyness of it all, but that’s really no excuse.  Blogging isn’t all about taking, it’s also about giving.

I’d like to think I have displayed humility in blogging. Unfortunately, I have to admit I’ve seen the lack of it during the last two years since I created The Joy of Caking.  And while I’ve seen the lack of it, I’ve also seen an abundance of it.  I suspect most bloggers can easily answer the question I posed at the beginning of this post.

So, in case you don’t know it, I truly appreciate everyone that stops by to read my blog, comment, like, or follow me in some way.   Thank you!

 

 

 

 

Photo’s, a Pretty Little Primrose, and a Turkey

When I started blogging I didn’t realize how important a good photograph could be. I knew very little about depth of field, lighting, composition, and ISO. In fact, I started out blogging with an ancient digital point and shoot.

I also knew zilch about photo editing programs, other than how to hit the auto correct button that I frequently came to rely on, but found did little good.

I took pictures at the worst possible time of the day. There was no way in world I was going to get a decent picture while relying on artificial light in a dimly lit room. Especially without using any fancy photography lighting equipment or hint of natural light.

I discovered direct sunlight and flashes weren’t my friends either. Both created shadows that distracted from my food.

Aside from the lighting issues, I have learned to deal with the challenges of taking pictures of food in general. As you know, food quality changes quickly. A slice of bread will dry up, ice cream will melt, apples will turn brown, etc.

I realize I still have a lot to learn but I’ve found  one of the best ways to improve my pictures is to practice, practice, practice.  I do this by photographing things that aren’t going to melt – like this pretty little primrose or our turkey.

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I’d like to accomplish…

What’s in store for the new year?  The other day I sat down and thought about what it is that I’d like to accomplish in 2012.  My list didn’t spill off the front page and onto the back of the paper I was writing on at the time,  but the paper felt a lot heavier when I was done. 

Actually, most of what I’d like to accomplish this year appears to be a continuation from works in progress from last year.  Some things on my list are simple things like projects that need to be completed around the house, others are a little more involved.  Here are just a few of the things that made this years list.

#1 – Finish my cookbook.  I started writing a cookbook in 2011.  It’s one that I plan to self-publish.  And it’s finally nearing completion! As I’ve found, writing a cookbook can be quite time consuming.  I created my own cover, took my own photos, wrote and edited the book myself, and now I’m researching the publishing process.  My next hurdle?  Getting it printed at a reasonable price. Have you ever edited your own work before?  It’s a daunting task.  Just when you think you’ve dotted every I and crossed every T you find one that you didn’t.

#2 – Capture the attention of our New York State politicians.  I would like to see transparency in the medical billing for uninsured, self-pay patients in New York State..  Currently, the uninsured are at the mercy of each provider.  Medical fees are unregulated, uncapped, and unavailable for review in advance.  Fees for the an identical service can vary significantly from one patient to the next. I feel legislation concerning this issue is necessary.  My letters have been sent and I’m waiting for replies.  Does the state or country you live in have similar legislation?

#3 – Blog more often.  My posts can be quite infrequent.  I’d like to start blogging more and build my readership.   The tricky part of this?  Finding the time, and enough interesting things to blog about.  Any suggestions on what you’d like to see more of this year?  

# 4 –  (Promise you won’t laugh?) Learn how to take better pictures of a layer cake.  This means making more layer cakes doesn’t it? This is one of those things as a food blogger I find considerably difficult.  Does anyone have any tips that would make this task easier?   Is it a matter of having the right lens, or is it an acquired skill from lots of practice?

My conclusion after reviewing my list of things to accomplish in 2012?  Every item on my list is quite achievable.  I’m going to sign off now so I can finish that darned cookbook! 

What’s on your list of things to accomplish in 2012?

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Sunset -January 06, 2012

Writing (and) Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Once a month I write an article for a local Finger Lakes publication where my assignment is pretty straight forward.  I meet small business owners in the area who  produce foods or wines.  Some businesses have been around awhile, some are new on the block. It’s not a bad gig.

So far I’ve written about a Blue Oyster Cultivation, a local gourmet mushroom farm that grows fresh, hearty oyster and shitake mushrooms.; Lively Run Goat Dairy, a family run homestead cheese maker who produces some pretty awesome artisan cheeses with goats milk; Eremita Winery, a new winery that opened it’s doors in a beautiful, old historic church in the Finger Lakes Region this past August; and most recently,  Stony Brook WholeHeartedFoods, a company that produces the most delicious food grade roasted squash and pumpkin seed oils you’ll ever touch to your tongue.

I enjoy the challenge of interviewing and relaying information I’ve garnered from those interviews to others.  I understand that I’m the eyes, ears, and conveyor of words.  It’s my job to process, write,, and share what I’ve learned in each interview.

Writing articles for publications isn’t typically that difficult for me.  But it’s not always as simple as writing posts for my own blog either.  There are several freedoms we take for granted when we write for ourselves, versus writing on a professional level.  

When you write (blog) for yourself you can pick the topic you want to write about.  There are no assignments.  This is an advantage because you don’t have to meet someone else’s expectations.  There is no pressure.

There are usually no deadlines involved – unless of course you are have a type A personality and enjoy creating strict deadlines.  My poor brain works against itself when I know I have to interview, write, and submit my work on short notice.  An unexpected deadline almost always leaves me with a case of writers block. I don’t get that same feeling when I’m sitting in my pajamas working on a post about a batch of peanut butter cupcakes that I just made and have decided to share with my readers (on the spur of the moment).

Another freedom we take for granted when we write for ourselves is the freedom to be a little quirky. So what If I got upset with the manufacturer of our (good for nothing) refrigerator that broke after only four years of use and I decided to tell the world about it.  Yes, quirky. 

Also, as bloggers, we generally don’t have to (speed) write clear and concise notes to review later on either.  In a professional setting it can be tough trying to keep up with what the person you’re interviewing is telling you.  Especially when you doubt your aging memory. 

So think about this the next time you’re sitting at your computer trying to figure out where to start your post – remember it’s not that bad.  Relax, throw on your pajamas, be a little quirky, and write freely.  It’s a freedom we have as blogger’s.

Now, I know I mentioned peanut butter cupcakes in my title and post so I must deliver.  These cupcakes are a perfect treat anytime!

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This recipe is adapted from Cupcakes! by Elinor Klivans

Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Ingredients:

1 c. all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

3/4 stick of butter, softened

3/4 c. peanut butter, creamy

1 c. brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 c. milk, any fat content

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 3 dozen mini-cupcake tins with paper liners.

In a large bowl; with electric mixer, beat butter, peanut butter and brown sugar until creamy.  Add egg and vanilla; mix thoroughly.  On low speed add in flour, baking powder, and salt and continue to mix while adding milk until batter is smooth. 

Fill each paper liner 3/4 full and bake for approximately 12 minutes, or until toothpick comes clean.

Once cool, frost with your favorite buttercream icing.  I chose vanilla and colored it purple to pretty it up a bit.

Enjoy!

Black & Blues

Summer is whizzing by us like the speed of light; before you know it fall will be upon us.  And while I love the fall, it is one of my favorite seasons,  I love the summer too.  I’ve been trying to preserve as much of this summer as I can.   I’ve lost myself in a couple of good books, hubby and I have finally launched a sailboat we bought a few years ago and never managed to get into the water for one silly reason after another.  At some point in  life everyone comes to  realize that life is too short, and it’s just not a cliché you’ve heard a thousand times before.  You have to find the money, re-prioritize, and make time to enjoy yourselves.  And that is why our sailboat has finally made it into the beautiful water of the Finger Lakes.

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If you haven’t noticed, I have not spent much time baking or blogging this summer.  I  miss both.   While I have been taking lots of pictures, and I’ve written two freelance pieces, the extreme temperatures haven’t really given me much incentive to step into my kitchen and turn on the oven.   Since the extreme heat we’ve been seeing isn’t just a local problem I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about. 

But there is good news. With a bit of relief from the high temperatures  I ventured into the kitchen today to let some of the creativity I’ve got bottling up inside of me out.  To me, there is nothing more inviting than berry and cinnamon filled scones baking in your oven, because of this, there was little debate on what I would make. And regardless of what time of day you make scones, you will not be able to resist sampling them to see if they live up to that wonderful aroma they have just sent wafting through your home.

Since we are in the heart of berry season I decided to mix things up a bit.  I opted to use blackberries and blueberries which seem to compliment each other quite well.  Warning – I did not use them sparingly….

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These scones are lighter in texture than some I’ve made.  I think they are perfect for a summer breakfast treat.

Black & Blue Scones

2 3/4 c. all-purpose flour

1/4 c. quick cooking oats

1/2 c. dark brown sugar

2 TBSP. granulated sugar

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

2 TBSP. chopped pecans

1 stick of (cold) margarine

1/2 c. milk

1/2 c. sour cream

1 c. blueberries

1 c. blackberries

Cinnamon & Sugar to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheet, or use parchment paper.

In a large bowl, add all dry ingredients.  Cut in cold margarine.  In a separate bowl, mix milk and sour cream together.  Make a well in the center of dry ingredients and add milk mixture.  Blend by hand until everything is mixed.  Fold in berries.  On a lightly floured surface shape dough into a 10” round piece, about 1” in thickness.  Using a pizza cutter, cut into even pie shaped pieces and place on cookie sheet.  Bake for 15 – 18 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted into center of scone. Sprinkle with cinnamon & sugar while warm.

One final note. I also found some time to work on a few gift tags while the temperatures have been too warm to spend in the kitchen.  Here is what I’ve come up with. These are a great addition to any treat you’re looking to give away.  Leave a personalized message on the back for the lucky recipient.

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Enjoy!