All posts tagged party

Golden Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream and Wedding Reception Recap

Published October 16, 2013 by jenmatteson

As many of you know, we recently celebrated our marriage with a big party at my parent’s house.  Okay, yes, it was almost a month ago, but hey, at least I’m telling you about it!  The party was a lot of work, and everything was put together with the huge help of my family.  My poor husby was sick for several weeks (with bronchitis – though we didn’t know it until after the party), so we had to work extra hard to pull it all off.  And just so you know…the hubs and I made that cupcake stand.  Pretty bad ass, right!?

Golden Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream

The day before the event was pretty crazy and I was putting everyone to work, including my 2-year-old niece and 5-year-old nephew.  Here’s a quick peek at everyone:

The most adorable niece, Grace, and my big brother, Matt.

Matt and Grace

THE BEST dad and coolest nephew, Carter.

Grandpa and Carter

The cupcake czar and insanely great decorator, my sister-in-law, Colleen.

Cupcake Master!

My poor sick hubs, Nate.


And by far, my right hand woman, the boss, flower artist, and so much more, my wonderful mom!

My momma!

The party was in my parents’ front yard and was held as an open house, so people could come and go as they please.  We provided a taco bar, a chip and salsa bar, beverages, and cupcakes for dessert.  I made toffee as favors, which was a HUGE hit.  Everyone seemed to love it.  And if they didn’t, they didn’t tell me about it 😛


Toffee Favors

Because they have an enormous amount of land, we invited our friends to camp and stay late with us.  This led to a tournament of flip cup, which I must say, I’m pretty good.  Though, I have to admit, it did take a while to settle in, but once I got the hang of it, Team Doily, aka, Lace Gangstas, were unstoppable!

Late night flip cup

I made the cupcakes for dessert – two kinds of cake with two kinds of frosting.  Both the chocolate cake and frosting was a no-brainer, as I love this chocolate cupcake with caramel ganache frosting.  Being a chocolate freak, the vanilla was not as easy.  These cupcakes took a few practice batches, but they were perfectly moist and bouncy (I’m not really sure if that’s a proper food description word, but it was bouncy and springy, like you’d want a cake to be).

The frosting on the other hand was a chore.  The first recipe I tried was an Italian meringue buttercream.  I liked it because it was not too sweet, but most others who tried it weren’t big fans.  So I enlisted the direction of my sister-in-law, who rocks at baking!  She suggested using the Wilton buttercream recipe, so I tried it out.  The original recipe was far too sweet for me, but seemed to please others.  I ended up going with it, but reduced the sugar by a skosh, so it wasn’t overly sweet.  The result was excellence!  I cannot at all take credit for frosting these pictured cupcakes – my aforementioned sister-in-law graciously frosted all 12 dozen cupcakes for our party.  I couldn’t have done it without her!

Golden Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream

Golden Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream

Source: Adapted from Food and Wine and Wilton
Servings: Makes 12 cupcakes, about 3 cups of frosting


For the buttercream:
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tbsp milk

For the cupcakes:
1 cup plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/4 vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk, room temperature


1. Make the buttercream: In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together shortening and butter.  Add vanilla and gradually add sugar one cup at a time on a low speed.  Scrape down sides to incorporate all sugar.  Icing will appear dry at this point.  Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.

2. Keep bowl covered with damp cloth until ready to use.  Icing can also be refrigerated in an airtight container and stored for up to 2 weeks.

3. Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper or foil liners.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt.

5. In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer, cream together sugar, eggs and vanilla until smoothed and slightly thickened.  Add butter and oil and mix until well combined.  Add dry ingredients and milk in three alternating batches, beating well inbetween additions.  Pour batter into muffin liners, filling about 2/3 full.

6. Bake cupcakes on center rack for 18-20 minutes.  Mine took exactly 18, but every oven is different.  Let the muffins cool slightly in the muffin tins, about 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

7.  Frost cupcakes with chilled buttercream.

Blueberry Peach Popsicles

Published July 2, 2013 by jenmatteson

Like my mango pineapple popsicles, these are insanely refreshing on a hot summer day.  The best part is that you know exactly what went in them, and it was pure deliciousness.  I used frozen peach slices for this recipe, but you could use fresh.  I thought for the price, it was totally worth pealed a pitted peaches.  I used fresh blueberries, but frozen would work just fine as well.

Blueberry Peach Popsicles

Add a little of your favorite booze (I used vodka) and make it a party snack.  These will be sure to go like hot (cold?) potatoes!

Blueberry Peach Popsicle

Blueberry Peach Popsicles

Source: Adapted from Thug Kitchen
Servings: Makes about 3 cups


1 cup frozen peaches
3/4 cup real fruit juice (I used apple), divided
3/4 cup yogurt (I used Light and Fit Vanilla, but use what you like), divided
2 tsp lemon juice, divided
1 tsp vanilla extract, divided
1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup vodka, divided (optional)


1. In a blender, combine peaches, 1/2 cup fruit juice, 1/4 cup yogurt, 1 tsp lemon juice, 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1/4 cup vodka.  Blend until smooth. Transfer to bowl and rinse blender.

2. In the blender, combine blueberries and remaining fruit juice, yogurt, lemon juice, vanilla and vodka.  Blend until smooth.

3. Layer peach and blueberry mixture into popsicle molds and freeze until solid, at least 8 hours.

Mango Pineapple Popsicles

Published July 2, 2013 by jenmatteson

It is truly finally summertime, which means it’s hot out there.  We had a beautiful weekend, and spent all of Sunday outside staining the railings of our new deck.  It’ll take a few weekends of staining, but it’s almost completely done.  The problem has been waiting until we had a dry span of days to do it, as we’ve had a slew of not just rain, but severe storms.  But alas, I think we’ve earned the right to get some gorgeous days and warm weather.

Making the mix

I made these popsicles last week and was really looking forward to eating them on a hot day.  We definitely worked hard, so they were a nice and refreshing treat to take a break with. Better yet, they are slightly boozy!  I hesitated to put too much vodka in them because I wanted to be sure they froze, but next time, I think I’ll be adding just a skosh more.

Mango Pineapple Popsicle

The great thing about these popsicles is that you know exactly what went into them, and it’s not some weird cousin of sugar that you can’t quite pronounce.  I went to the store the very morning I saw this recipe posted on Thug Kitchen.  I actually got ingredients to make both the mango pineapple popsicles and the blueberry peach popsicles.  After already adding the vodka, I thought that coconut rum would have been a better addition in these.  Oh well, next time.

But wait, I sort of had that opportunity!  I didn’t have enough popsicle molds to use up all the mix and I had about 1 cup left.  Nate was planning to make us daiquiris for dessert on Sunday, so instead of using a mix, we just used the leftover popsicle mix, added a few more pineapple slices, Malibu rum, and ice.  Hit blend on the Ninja for a few seconds, and you have yourself a lovely pineapple daiquiri.  There’s no end to our creativity!

Mango Pineapple Daiquiri

Bartender behind the daquiris

The popsicles would be a super fun treat to serve your friends after they’ve helped you do some horrid job that only your good friends (or family) would volunteer to help with.  I suppose they’d be good for a summer party, too, but make sure your guests work for them.  They’re worth it!

Mango Pineapple Popsicle

Mango Pineapple Popsicles

Source: Adapted from Thug Kitchen
Servings: Makes about 4 cups


2 ripe mangos, skinned and cut into chunks
1 cup pineapple chunks
1 cup yogurt (I used Light and Fit Vanilla, but you can use your favorite)
2 1/2 tbsp lime juice
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2  cup vodka or rum (optional)


1. Put all ingredients into the blender and blend until smooth.  Taste and adjust any ingredients as desired.

2. Pour mixture into your molds and let freeze until solid, at least 8 hours.  As stated on Thug Kitchen, don’t give up if you don’t have popsicle molds.  You can use paper cups and popsicle sticks, or even fill up your ice-cube tray and use toothpicks.  You might need to freeze for an hour or so before putting in the popsicle sticks or toothpicks so they stand up straight.  If you have leftover mix, feel free to blend yourself up a daiquiri!

Ladies Wine Workout

Published November 16, 2012 by jenmatteson

In the past, I’ve always had a handful of ladies over for wine tasting, but this time, I decided to just have my two besties.  Not only does that make finding a date that works much easier, but that will give us a good chance to catch up.

We’ve all been friends since middle school, and though we’ve definitely gone our separate ways in many aspects of our lives, I am still very close to each of them at heart!  I thought a small intimate tasting would give us a chance to catch up with few distractions.

This tasting was a little different from others that I’ve hosted.  In reading my very favorite magazine, Food and Wine, there was an article titled “Wine-Tasting Workout: Train Yourself to be a Better Wine Taster”.  While my general rule of thumb for tasting wine is ‘if it tastes good to me, then it’s good’, I’m always open to refining my palate and expanding my tasting vocabulary.

This particular article focused on six key things that wine pros are evaluating when judging a bottle of wine: body, tannins, acidity, sweetness, aromas and flavors, and oak.  Because each exercise called for at least three different wines (that would be over 18 bottles), I narrowed it down to three exercises (tannins, body, oak) and two wines from each, making a more manageable 6 bottles for the three of us.  All six workouts would be an excellent tasting activity for a large group.  And don’t worry about any “wine snobs” in your group.  I guarantee that they’ll be able to learn something from these exercises!

Food and Wine tends to suggest wines that I cannot find in my local wine shops, so instead of getting the exact label, I focused on the region and grape to get something pretty similar to what they recommend. I listed F&W’s suggestions as well as the wines that we tasted.

In the end, I think we all learned more about wine tasting and how to better describe flavors.  We’ll have to follow-up on the other three categories that we didn’t get to try this time.  This night may or may not have ended in a dance party (including a guitar from Rock Band), so I’m thinking the 6 bottles we had was plenty (and no, we didn’t finish them all – just the reds 😉 ).

Of course we couldn’t have a wine tasting without some snacks!  During the tasting, we snacked on zucchini fries, sweet potato fries with chipotle in adobo dipping sauce, and an antipasto platter.  After the tasting, we headed into the kitchen to make some pizzas (pesto chicken with caramelized onions, grilled zucchini and roasted garlic hummus, and pepperoni with veggies and mariana).  For dessert, we indulged in a delicious peanut butter pie.

Wine-Tasting Workout


What defines body in wine?  In my opinion, body is one of the more simple qualities in wine to pick out.  “Body is the sense of weight or richness or heaviness, and even the feeling of viscosity that a wine leaves in your mouth,” says Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson.  Typically, a wine with more body has more alcohol and comes from warmer climates.  This is because the grapes have more sugar to be converted into alcohol.

How does body affect pairing?  When pairing wines and food, it’s essential to match body with body, so the wine is not too heavy or too light for the dish.


4 glasses
1/4 cup of each skim milk, 2% milk, whole milk, and heavy cream

Directions: Taste each milk in ascending order of richness, beginning with skim and ending with the cream.  Consider the texture in your mouth; the skim milk will dissipate quickly, while the cream will coat your tongue.  Next, taste wines from lightest to full-bodied.

Food and Wine Suggestions:
1. Northern Italian Pinot Grigio: 2011 Tiefenbrunner
2. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc: 2011 Kim Crawford Marlborough
3. White Burgundy: 2010 Domaine Faiveley Bourgogne Blanc
4. Barrel-fermented Chardonnay: 2010 Rodney Strong Sonoma County

1. Valpolicella: 2011 Tedeschi Lucchine
2. California Pinot Noir: 2010 Dutton Goldfield Azaya Ranch Vineyard
3. Chianti Classico: 2009 La Maialina
4. Zinfandel: 2010 Ridge East Bench

We tried:
1. 2011 Riff Pinot Grigio  
2. 2010 Rodney Strong Chardonnay from Sonoma County

Our findings: I have to admit that we all felt pretty silly sipping different kinds of milk out of shot glasses, but when we switched the wine, we really could tell the difference in body.  The Chardonnay was closest to the whole milk, not quite a cream, and the Pinot was similar to the skim.  Crazy!


What are tannins?  Tannins are compounds in grape skin, seeds and stems that contribute to the structure, complexity, texture, and ageability.  Tannins can create a drying, slightly bitter sensation in the mouth.

How do tannins affect pairings?  A more tannic wine will pair nicely with rich foods and meat dishes.  Tannins cut through fat, and in turn, the fat softens tannins and make them more approachable.


3 mugs
3 black tea bags
hot water

Directions: Pour 8 ounces of hot water into each of the mugs.  Place one tea bag in each mug and start a timer.  After 2 minutes, remove the tea bag from first mug.  After 4 minutes, remove the tea bag from the second mug.  After 8 minutes, remove the tea bag from third mug.  Let tea cool.

Taste the tea in increasing steep-time order, swishing the liquid around in your mouth before swallowing.  Notice how the teas become more astringent as the steeping time increases.  Next, taste wines in increasing tannin order.

Food ane Wine Suggestions:
1. Beaujolais: 2010 Potel Aviron Côte de Brouilly
2. California Merlot: 2009 Simi Sonoma County Merlot
3. Bordeaux: 2010 Château Bellevue Bordeaux Supérieur

We tried:
1. 2010 Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages Red Burgandy
2. 2010 Mouton Cadet Bordeaux

Our findings:  I’ve always felt that tannins were difficult to judge, and mostly because no one could really describe to me what they tasted like.  The steep time in the teas really defined what a non-tannic and tannic wine tastes like.  The Beaujolais was so smooth and left almost no residual dry taste in your mouth, where the Bordeaux was heavily tannic and comparable to the tea steeped for 8 minutes.


What does it mean for a wine to be oaked? When oak barrels are used in winemaking, they develop their toasty, caramelly, vanilla flavors from being fire-charred.  The barrels can be toasted to different levels, depending on the winemakers preference, and can be used to hold the wine during fermentation and/or aging.  Older oak seems to have a more subtle affect on a wine’s tannins, structure, and overall flavor.

How does oak affect pairings?  In general, oaky wines don’t pair well with most food because it can overwhelm the food’s flavors.  However, bold-flavored grilled dishes can be a nice match as the char from the grill mellows the wine’s oakiness and highlights the vibrant, juicy fruit flavors.



Directions: Skewer a marshmallow and roast it over a flame on a gas stove until it’s charred.  Oakiness in reds leave the impression of campfire smoke or the smell of a burnt marshmallow.  Next, taste wines in order of unoaked to oaky.

Food and Wine Suggestions:
1. Sicilian Frappato: 2011 Tami
2. Chianti Classico: 2009 Rocca delle Macìe
3. Napa Cabernet Sauvignon: 2009 Groth

We tried:
1. 2010 Coltibuono Chianti Classico
2. 2009 Pine Ridge Forefront Cabernet Sauvignon

Our findings: Oak is another aroma/flavor that wasn’t very clear to me.  After charring our mallows, smelling, then smelling the wine, the “campfire” smell really came through in the Cabernet.  The Chianti had very little oakiness, so you could still smell it a tiny bit.

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