Dreams & Caramel

I promised some cupcake updates and that’s what I’ll deliver today.

When I made the lemon cupcakes, I individually packaged them and took them to work for coworkers to sample; especially those that didn’t have a chance to experience a Booze Cake during the tasting event.  The feedback was positive.  Not sure if they were being honest or just being nice!  KIDDING!  I know they were being honest.  I thankfully work with an amazing group of people.

Any who, I had a coworker approach me the next day and indicted she is a fan of two different alcohols; Crown Royal apple and whipped vodka.  Honestly, I hadn’t ever tried these two but she had inquired about me making a sample with these two alcohols and if all went well she would put in an order for a party.  Okay, game on.  This coworker told me she likes to drink the whipped vodka with orange soda.  Perfect!  The apple crown was a different story.  This one took a few moments to come up with a combination, then it came to me.  Caramel.

Once I got back from vacation and after my meltdown, I got in the kitchen and went to work.  I found a recipe for caramel buttercream, tweaked it a little bit and crossed my fingers.  Cooking sugar in an capacity can be a challenge.  I had to boil the sugar, let it cool, then I was able to add the powdered sugar.  WOW.  Tooting my horn here and this frosting was so delicious!  No where near as sweet as I anticipated.

I used a white cake for the cupcake, soaked and piped in some apple crown and topped it off with caramel frosting.  I named these..caramel apple.

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On to the whipped vodka.  This one was a similar story.  White cake for the cupcake, soaked and piped in some vodka and topped with orange frosting.  I added a little food coloring to give it a nice orange color.  I unfortunately don’t have many fruits on hand regularly, especially oranges.  I do on the other hand have a few different bakery emulsions on hand that I haven’t played around with.  Bakery emulsions are similar to extract the only difference is extract, like vanilla, are an alcohol base.  Bakery emulsions are water based.  Using the orange bakery emulsion in the frosting was great.  It gave a great orange smell and a flavor that had the right balance of orange and sweet.

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The exciting news?!  She LOVED the cupcakes and I got an order out of it!  Slow and steady I’ll get this Booze Cakes off the ground.

Thanks for reading!

 

Much love,

Samantha

 

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Sunburn, Sand & Carrie

Yes, I went into this blog with intentions of sharing my migraines and baking experiences.  I also feel that after my last post I need to share the positives on my vacation.  It really was a great trip, just all the relaxing and down time had got me thinking about life in general.  I was also a bit vague on that too.

Those thoughts were just about life in general.  Like everything crashing down at once.  My relationship, the friendships I have and making sure I’m surrounding myself with awesome people (news flash – I am), my current job, health, and just my overall happiness.  I realized I needed to focus more on me.  While this vacation allowed that, it was short lived.  I discovered I needed to be more selfish in the long term things of life.  We are making some changes as previously mentioned.  I’m going to insert more exercise and healthier food options into my week, spend a little more time reading those books I want to dive into, and most importantly focus on getting more action with my side hustle; Booze Cakes.

So, onto vacation.  It started on a Saturday with a long drive to San Antonio, TX.  San Antonio is about 4.5 hours from my house.  Not hateful.  But, my friend and I decided to take the longer route and stop anywhere we wanted to along the way.  Best idea ever.  We first stopped in Waco and went to the Silos owned by Chip & Joanna Gaines.  Oh my goodness.  The amount of people here was insane.  The weather was beautiful.  They have a store on site, a bakery with a line about 1/2 mile long, and a large “grassy” area set up with outdoor games.  Too cute.  I also really enjoyed the food trucks.  Lined along the back and side of the grassy area were several food trucks all selling a variety of treats; desserts, tasty beverages, and savory items.

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We then took off to the Inner Space Caverns.  This was a neat experience.  I was surprised how hot and humid it was down there!  But I was also just in awe at how everything takes shape.  It’s amazing to know something like this exists.

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If you are ever in Austin, prepare yourself for a ton of traffic; both on foot and driving.  Man!  I would also HIGHLY recommend two stops: Hayleycakes and Cookies and El Arroyo.  First, I’ve been following Hayleycakes on Instagram for quite some time now.  Her cookies especially are super cute and creative.  She is so stinking talented with her piping that I have major piping envy.  Check her out.  El Arroyo is a delicious tex-mex restaurant that is known for their signs.  No joke, they have an actual facebook page specifically for their restaurant front sign.  If I remember correctly, the sign on this day read “wishing this rain was tequila right now”. Pure genius.  I unfortunately dropped the ball and didn’t get any pictures from these locations.  Just take my word for it that they are necessary to visit 🙂

After this we headed to rental.  Which was a rental house through Airbnb.  Something I will never do again.  I won’t go into all the details but I will just say driving down the street to the house my gut told me to keep driving.  Instead I listened to my mind and went inside the house and wish I hadn’t.  It was dirty with the previous guests food still in the fridge mostly all uncovered.  We put the key back in the lockbox and headed to a hotel for a much more comforting place to lay my head.

Sunday was Cinco de Mayo.  We decided to go to the Riverwalk.  It’s one of those you have to experience things when you’re in San Antonio.  There are a ton of restaurants along the river.  The river is not the cleanest one I’ve seen but the overall atmosphere was chill and who doesn’t love a good margarita with chips and salsa while sitting by the river?!

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The main reason we made the extended weekend trip to San Antonio was to see Carrie Underwood.  Yes, I drove 4.5 hours to go to a concert.  And yes, I would do it again.   Especially for Carrie Underwood.  For those of you that don’t know me very well, I am a HUGE Carrie fan.  I’ve been following her since her days on American Idol and this is the 3rd time I’ve seen her live.  She puts on a killer show!  When I say this concert was amazing, I mean it was AMAZING!  We arrived at the venue and once we got to our seats, row 6 turned out to be the very front row (well in front of us were general admission but we were sitting up higher so they weren’t in my way).  Runaway June and Maddie & Tae opened for her.  I hadn’t really listened to either groups to be honest but they both did a kickass job and owned that stage.  When the lights went out before Carrie took the stage, I had goosebumps.  I was so anxious and excited to see her.  She ended up taking the stage right in front of us and I am not going to lie I lost it.  She was working that stage the entire concert and it was truly an incredible experience being able to see her that close.

We made our journey back to Dallas Tuesday morning but not before stopping at the Hamilton Pool Reserve.  It was a 30 minute hike to the pool but my goodness it was gorgeous!  A huge waterfall pouring into this “pool” of blue water that just looked so refreshing.  The hike and the pool area were so peaceful.

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Once I got back to my house, I had to repack.  Wednesday morning I was headed to the airport at 5:00AM for the 2nd part of my vacation.  I met my mom, brother and step-dad for a few days on sun, sand and sunburn in Fort Myers, FL.  The first day there I applied ample amounts of sunscreen.  But apparently the sun is different down there in Florida and no matter how much or how many times you apply SPF 30, you’re still going to burn.  My brother and I were both a hot mess.  Friday we went to Turtle Beach near Sarasota.  One of my favorite beaches in Florida.  Well needless to say, I spent the entire time at the beach under an umbrella to prevent any further burning.

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Saturday we ventured to an animal sanctuary called Octagon Wildlife Sanctuary.  I need to legit give them a shout out and I also want to leave this for you all too.  If you love animals and are looking for some place to donate to, please donate to them.  I’ll leave their website on this post.  This place is incredible and they are doing incredible things.  They are rescuing animals that cannot be in the wild because they have been around humans their entire life.  Some of their stories were completely heartbreaking.  Others were there because people think they can have tigers, lions and bears (no pun intended) as pets.  Not kidding.  They are there due to improper permits.  These animals all have their own enclosure and you are so close to them and are able to take in all their beauty.  I will definitely be going back to this place every time I have the opportunity to visit.  They are 100% volunteer run organization and all donations go directly to the care of the animals. Absolutely amazing.  Click here to visit their website.

That was my trip in a nutshell.  Lots of downtime and relaxing that was very much needed.  Thanks for visiting!!

 

Much Love,

Samantha

Change the Focus

Jokes on me, I thought I could juggle life and try to have some spare time for myself.  It has been far too long since I’ve shared anything with y’all and I am so sorry.

This joke however has been an eye opener.  I recently got back from vacation and man was it amazing.  9 days of taking things at my own pace, doing what I wanted to do, napping when I wanted, and just focusing on me.  Which I think is something everyone needs to do.  Focus on YOU.  While this was all amazing and much needed, I feel it also had a downside.  It made a can of worms open that I didn’t know existed and I realized I’m really not focusing on me as much as I should.

I’ve been focusing on things to try and change myself and not so much focusing on the things I can be changing around me.  The things around you have such an impact on you as a whole and they can make or break you.

I’ve also realized that some changes are going to be hard, challenging, and I’m going to want to quit, but I can’t.  I also know some will come easy while others are necessary to keep pushing towards.

What are some changes you are trying to make or realize you need to make in your life?

 

Okay, changing the subject.  I finished another round of classes at the end of April.  While I still have a long ways to go, it’s a goal I have to better myself and will continue to push forward.  I’ve realized I need to look at this completion on a day/weekly basis and not at the overall time frame.

Additionally, I made another cupcake!  Who doesn’t love lemon?!  I did a white cupcake, lemon frosting and lemon vodka.  So refreshing.

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I have some other flavor requests that I’ll be working on this weekend and I promise I’ll keep you posted on what they are and how they turn out!  More details and pictures to come.

Stay tuned for more cupcakes and some details on my much needed vacation.  In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this:

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls” – Joseph Campbell

 

Much love,

Samantha

Back With A Vengeance

Before receiving my first round of Botox treatment, I was warned that there’s a chance the migraines will still be around just way more manageable.  I was also warned that about 2 weeks or so before the next treatment I would definitely feel the migraines because the treatment is starting to wear off.  Both of the warning signs were accurate.  I found myself still getting some migraines either during the day or at night but they were extremely easy to manage.  The best part was it wasn’t something consistent all day, every day.  I was happy with those results period.  It was a huge difference and huge amount of relief compared to what I was previously experiencing.

May 10th was the first treatment I ever received.  Come the beginning of July, I was anxious for my next round of treatment.  I was told it would be a stronger dosage and the improvements in migraines would be greater than the first treatment.  On July 26th, the second treatment took place.  Both treatments I am panicked and I mentioned before it’s 35 injections!  That’s a lot of needles.

The reason I’m going through all of this with y’all is they are back.  I feel like some of the recent migraines I’ve had are back with a vengeance.  The week of September 24th I was getting a small, manageable migraine at night.  As previously mentioned, I know I have a light sensitivity.  I tend to notice it more at night when I’m trying to go to sleep, my eye mask isn’t on, and there is the tiniest bit of light from the alarm clock or the moon coming through the blinds.  These are an easy fix; put the eye mask on!

Friday October 5th was a completely different story.  I had spent a decent amount of the day outside in the hot Texas sun.  Something I haven’t done in quite some time being out of work recovering.  It was nice to be outside though!  It might have been hot and super sunny but it was needed.  After getting home and eating dinner I was exhausted.  Around 10:00PM, I was ready to climb into bed.  I should have known something was off at that point.  Not only was I exhausted but I was freezing.  Like goosebumps everywhere, and even after climbing into bed with the blankets up to my chin I was still freezing.  That’s when the migraine hit.  Once my head hit the pillow so did the painful stabbing and pounding in the right side of my head.  I got up to grab an ice pack along with some anti-nausea pills (thank goodness I still have those from my surgery left).  At some point after applying the ice pack I was able to fall asleep.  Not too much time had passed since I had fallen asleep I woke up and was dripping in sweat.  I still had the ice pack on that was still cold and was dripping from my forehead.  I was disgusted.

The next morning I woke up feeling better.  Thank goodness.  Unfortunately the relief didn’t last too long.  That Saturday afternoon I had a bit of a stinger on the right side again.  This has been a continued incident for the past couple days.  My worry is my leave is up from surgery and I return back to work tomorrow, Tuesday the 9th.  Getting back into the swing of things will be challenging enough but throwing the migraines into the mix will only make it worse.

Tip for migraine sufferers:  ice packs can be your new best friend.  I’ve bought so many different ones they have their own shelf in the freezer.  The ones that I have purchased that work the best are ACE the large size.  They fit across the forehead perfectly.  I wrap them up in a towel and I am all set.  Hope that helps!

Much Love,

Samantha

My Nemesis

French. Macarons.  Yes, those delicate, glossy, perfect looking treats that I struggle with making like it is no ones business.  The French macaron contains very few ingredients; egg whites, granulated sugar, salt, almond flour and powdered sugar.

The first time I was introduced to making these was in 2013 in culinary school.  I was terrible at them.  I was patient.  I would even talk to the batter, and while they were in the oven.  I would try to give them pep talks to do what they are supposed to do.  The trick is for them to have “feet”.  Meaning they start to rise as they bake and keep those little feet/edges.  Mine never got feet while in school.  I a also would get nubs on the tops of them while piping and those never baked away.  At that point, I walked away from them entirely and was just determined they are my nemesis and I just cannot make them.

Fast forward to August 2018 while I’m in Vegas with my mom and step-dad.  My mom has a gluten allergy so she is always looking for something that is gluten-free but actually tastes good.  At a little cafe in one of the casinos they had French macarons.  My mom was so excited and I started to flashback to the days when I tried to make them in school and failed miserably.  My mom wanted to learn how to make them and I wanted to be able to teach her.

When I got back home I started reading articles and different recipes on Pinterest.  Yes, I am slightly addicted and yes I have several boards of nothing but recipes that I want to try but I haven’t.  What I noticed is every recipe for the original almond shell is different.  The amounts of each ingredient, the time spent mixing, and even the length of time and temperature to bake them at.  It can be a bit overwhelming and a little discouraging.  What kept me motived, watching the Kid’s Baking Championship on Food Network.  Those little ones could just whip up some French macarons with their eyes closed!  I was like umm, no way am I going to let these delicious treats win.  And if these kids can do this, so can I.

I ordered a cookbook online from Amazon called Les Petits Macarons by Kathryn Gordon and Anne E McBride.  I read every technique and tip in this book several times.  I felt confident.  I was ready to try and attempt French macarons again.

I started whipping the egg whites, adding meringue powder as a stabilizer (something I picked up online), and slowly added in the granulated sugar.  After 11 minutes of whipping on high, my meringue looked amazing!

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Perfectly stiff peaks and had a beautiful glossy shine to it.  This made my confident go through the roof.  I was pumped!  I mixed in the flour and powdered sugar and piped this little gems onto the silicone mat.  The other trick with French macarons is they need to form a skin.  So, once they are piped, they need to sit out for 30+ minutes and air out.

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I still got the nubs when I piped them but I didn’t care.  I wanted to get these into the oven!  The recipe wanted to start the oven at 200 degrees and cook for 15 minutes and then raise the temperature to 350 degrees for another 9 minutes.

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I failed, miserably.  No feet, no shiny color, absolutely nothing.  Just a flat mess.  I was devastated.I scrapped them off into the trash.

I read some more articles as to why they didn’t rise.  Of course, I’m reading different reasons I failed and I’m frustrated again.  What I also don’t understand is I feel like every blog and article out there never talks about the failures people have when it comes to making these.  I’m being completely honest here, these things are challenging!

One thing I found that could be a factor is the oven temperature.  I bought an oven thermometer to make sure my oven wasn’t too hot.  I did find out it really takes a bit longer to get the preset temperature.  At least it wasn’t too hot.

Another issue can be how the batter is mixed.  There is a specific method that is used called the “J” method.  Start at the center, streak the spatula down the middle and to the left to make a “J”.  I was doing my own method the first time around that I’m thinking didn’t want to work in my favor.  Note to self, try the “J” method.

Final issue, the skin.  Humidity can play a huge role with the skin not forming and the macarons not drying out properly.  Humidity is an issue in Texas, all. the. time.  I needed to find a solution to the humidity.

Today, I made another attempt at macarons with having these issues in mind.  I found yet another recipe online that I wanted to try.  As I’m whipping up the egg whites, I’m getting a little frustrated.  The recipe called for two large egg whites.  It was taking such a long time for my mixing bowl to reach those eggs and whip them up! (Note to self, find a recipe that uses more than 2 eggs).  I used the “J” method and while mixing, I would turn the bowl a little more each time.  I did a total of 8 turns and “J’s”.  Once I piped them out, I decided to put the cooking fan on and set the baking sheets on top of the stove.  I let them air out for about 45 minutes and guess what?!  THE PERFECT SKIN!  I can’t even begin to describe the excitement and happiness I was feeling.

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This time, I decided I’d bake them at 325 degrees for 10 minutes.  Before I put them in the oven, I did notice that the temperature inside wasn’t quite 325 degrees but I put them in always.  (Another note to self, wait until the oven is at the temperature per the thermometer).  I looked like a little kid.  I sat on the floor in front of that oven watching them ever so closely.  With a little over 2 minutes left on the timer, I see the feet!  But, I also see the tops were browning.  I didn’t care thought, I HAD FEET!

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I started dancing.  I haven’t been so happy that a dessert was successful I think…ever!  I kept the shell flavor original almond flavor and I made a honey buttercream for the filling.  Things I have also read online indicate that they taste better once filled, and after sitting for at least 24 hours in the fridge.  So, they are sandwiched, and sitting in the fridge as I anxiously wait to eat them tomorrow!

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They are far from perfect for me but I am thrilled that I have finally had a successful batch!  I will post the recipes I used below for both the French macaron and the filling along with the steps I took.

Much Love,

Samantha

French Macaron

INGREDIENTS

60 grams egg whites

75 grams almond flour

90 grams powder sugar

50 grams granulated sugar

1/4t meringue powder

OPTIONAL

Gel food coloring or flavor extract

STEPS

  1. Using stand mixer and whisk attachment, whisk together egg whites and meringue powder on power 6 for about 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add the granulated sugar in two parts, and increase the speed to 8. Whisk together for 11 minutes or until stiff peaks form. (This is also when to add food coloring and or flavor extract so it is thoroughly mixed)
  3. Sift almond flour and powder sugar together.
  4. Once you have stiff peaks, remove the bowl from the stand mixer and add the almond flour and powder sugar. Combine the ingredients just until they are combined using the “J” method – start at the top middle, pull the spatula through the middle, and to the left scraping the side.  Turn the bowl 90 degrees after each “J”
  5. Once batter is combined, put into a piping bag and pipe onto either a silicone mat or parchment paper. (I have the silicone mats with the stencil of the macaron shapes.  There are several print out stencils available online that can be placed under the mat or parchment.  Remember to remove the stencil after piping)
  6. Allow macarons to air out and create a “skin”, about 30 minutes. When you touch the tops of your macarons, none of the batter should stick to your finger
  7. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Bake for about 8-9 minutes.  Be sure to watch them so they do not darken on top.  Additionally, the lighter the color of the macaron, the easier the color will start to brown.
  8. Allow macarons to cool completely before removing from the silicone mat or parchment paper.
  9. Fill with buttercream filling and put into a tightly closed container into the fridge to set up. Pull out of fridge 30 minutes before serving.

Honey Buttercream

INGREDIENTS

1 stick of butter; room temperature

4T honey

2 cups of powder sugar

1T milk

STEPS

  1. Using stand mixer and paddle attachment, combine butter and honey for 2 minutes on medium speed.
  2. Scrape down the sides and add one cup of powder sugar. Start the mixing speed on low and gradually increase to a medium speed. Mix for about 2 minutes.  Repeat with second cup of powder sugar.
  3. Add tablespoon of milk and mix on medium speed until buttercream is smooth.
  4. Put buttercream into piping bag and construct macarons.

Hobbies

I love hobbies.  I think it’s important to have at least one.  We need something to focus our energy on that isn’t part of the daily grind.  Something that we enjoy doing and look forward to.

I didn’t have a hobby for a bit of time.  My best friend got me into scrapbooking in high school.  I enjoyed it!  I would spend hours on end working on putting the pictures together with the perfect backgrounds and perfect designs.  It’s such an expensive hobby!  Scrapbooking has been put to the side with hopes of starting it again.

As I’ve gotten older I find myself reading more and more.  Especially while I’m healing from surgery I have been reading.  I want to share what I’ve been reading in case anyone is looking for something to pass the time with  🙂

Hands down, James Patterson is my favorite author.  I read one of his latest books that he wrote with Bill Clinton, The President is Missing.  Honesty, the beginning of the book had long chapters and it moved so slow.  I was sad but I pushed through and I’m so glad I did.  The pace of the story line picked up and the book was absolutely incredible!  Quick tiny overview, The President is made aware of some type of cyber attack that will be coming to America and the time frame to stop it is very small.  There was action, there were some moments I couldn’t put the book down, and there wasn’t any way to predict what was coming up next.

I am obsessed with This Is Us, like the majority of the country is.  Chrissy Metz wrote a book called This Is Me.  I really appreciated this book.  Chrissy Metz was real, humble, and genuine.  I loved that this book not only gave details of what Chrissy Metz went through growing up and making it to where she is now, but it also provided some self help.  I appreciate when a celebrity can share about who they are and what from their past made them into the person they are today.  It makes them relatable on some sort of level with our lives.

Soon I promise I am going to be able to start baking again and share my experiences, recipes, successes and failures!

 

Much Love,

Samantha

Change in Plans

On top of having chronic migraines, there is a list of other health issues on my plate.  Has anyone experienced kidney stones?  How about gallstones?  Lucky me, I have had both.  The first time I had an episode with my gallbladder was July 3rd, 2012.  I remember this day perfectly, it was two days before I was moving to Chicago.  I had a slice of pepperoni pizza and after finishing it I was doubled over in pain.  This passed by the time I had to leave for Chicago so I didn’t really think anything of it.

Several months later I was woken up to excruciating pain in my back and stomach.  I couldn’t stand up straight it hurt so bad.  I woke up my uncle and he took me to the hospital.  After a few tests this was when I found out I was having an issue with kidney stones.  The double whammy was they also told me they found gallstones too.

Fast forward to sometime mid 2013, eating some pepperoni pizza with some friends and within minutes was doubled over in pain.  I slept it off and the following day started doing to research.  This pepperoni pizza grease was triggering my gallstones!  I ended my relationship with pepperoni pizza which was a hard break.  But I’m obsessed with cheese so I was good with a cheese only pizza anytime.

Present-ish day, mid August 2018, I was at the emergency room.  I guess 4 days of stomachaches and not eating too much can cause your boyfriend to be concerned.  After some blood work and tests I’m told all my issues are stemming from that gallbladder.  On September 6th, I had a consult with a general surgeon, and on September 12th, I was scheduled to have it removed.  I was relieved I could try pepperoni pizza again but terrified because I never had any type of surgery before.

Surgery came and went and everything went great!  I have 4 incisions on my stomach that are taking there sweet time to go away.  All is good.  I’ve been able to eat pepperoni pizza successfully and have been trying to relax and heal.

I bring this up because after posting my first blog post, my plan was the next day to head into the kitchen and try to tackle these French Macarons!  Instead I spent that next two days with pain in my ribs and chest.  I went to the emergency room as I was at high risk for blood clots in my lungs.  I got the all clear there THANK GOODNESS!  I was told that I had inflamed cartilage in-between my ribs and needed to relax.  I didn’t blame the fact that I had starting baking again that week.  I blamed it on the fact that I had vacuumed the house.  Why blame the fun stuff on your ailments?!

I promise these posts will get to some baking things.  Hopefully tomorrow 🙂

 

Much Love,

Samantha