Cupcakes, all grown up

Yesterday we were invited to a party to watch football and eat turkey.  A group of 20 Hokie fans, ready for great food and a great ballgame. Little did we know we’d be watching the Georgia Tech team eat turkey as well.  It were UGLY, folks. Let’s move on from that.

I decided to contribute dessert, but time and budget were tight.  As you know, I am still involved in the Eat on $30 Challenge, so whatever I made needed to fit in that allowance.  I think I succeeded.

A few months ago, I ordered some cute baking cups from Bake It Pretty (love that shop!) that I hadn’t found a good use for.  You see, I wanted the dessert to not only taste good, but look good, too. Cupcakes, as we all know, taste fantastic, and they are perfect for parties because they are already portioned.  But they look, well, kiddie.  These brown baking cups remedied that.  So I made a box mix Devils Food Cake ($1.00) and filled each of the baking cups a little over half full.  No cupcake tin required, these little guys stand on their own.  The box mix makes about 25 of them.

Once they were baked, I let them cool a little while I made a Chocolate Cheesecake Buttercream (Cost? About $3.00) .  One day I will post the recipe for you – it’s one I adapted from Carrie at Fields of Cake.  It’s so whippy and delicious, and entirely too easy to be a good thing.  Plus, it holds up so well to piping, I imagine you could even pipe roses and other flowers from it instead of the crappy old Crisco icing.  I need to try that for you to make sure.

Before I iced them, I filled them full of Chocolate Bourbon Caramel, another gift from Carrie.  When I visited her a couple of weeks ago, she gave me a jar of this deliciousness. Chock full of Bourbon, it really warms your tummy.  I thought it was the perfect thing to compliment this cake, and made it stand out from your average picnic cupcake.  Then I piped on the buttercream and then topped it all off with the homemade Kahlua Caramel that I made a week or two ago.

Verdict?  Yum.  So rich and creamy, you can get over it being a box mix.  So pretty you can get over it being a cupcake.  Give it a try if you need something quick and painless, but I’ll warn you – they are hard to stop eating.

Here’s the recipe for Carrie’s Chocolate Bourbon Caramel…I don’t want you to be without it!


Chocolate Bourbon Caramel

by Carrie Fields, of Fields of Cake

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup water – 3 Tbsp.
  • 3/4  cup unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tbsp fine sea salt
  • 3 Tbsp Bourbon
  • 3 ounces excellent quality dark chocolate
  • 1/4 cup excellent quality sifted cocoa powder


  • 2 or 3 quart, heavy-bottomed pot
  • candy thermometer
  • whisk

Step 1: Prep
Get all of your ingredients out and measure everything ahead of time, as the process goes quickly and it will make things run smooth for you. Cut the butter into Tablespoon sized pieces, it will help.

Step 2: Caramelize the sugars
In the pot, mix the sugar, salt, corn syrup, and water over low heat with a whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved. Raise heat to high then cover the pot and allow to boil for 2 minutes. Remove lid and boil mixture up to about 300° F. Remove from heat and swirl the pot gently. You’ll notice the mixture start to darken a bit. (It may be easier for you to watch the color to decide when to remove from the heat.  Watch it closely, as it will burn easily. You want tot color to be amber, maybe a little darker, as the residual heat will keep cooking it for a bit.)

Step 3: Incorporate the fats
Drop the butter pieces into the pot and whisk until the butter is incorporated. Next, pour in the cream and again, whisk until blended. Note: The butter and cream both have water, so they will cause the pot to bubble up and release very hot steam. Make sure to wear an oven mitt to protect your hands and forearms. Now mix in the bourbon and whisk until blended. Then add the chocolates and whisk again (like crazy!) until blended.  Allow to cool.

At room temperature, the caramel will be pourable and gooey.  When refrigerated, it becomes the consistency of the caramel found in a Twix bar.  Enjoy!

Day Six of the Eat on $30 Challenge saw us spending about $2 on Breakfast for Seven, $5 on Lunch for the 3 of us (Frozen Pizza and Kool Aid) and a total of about $5 for our contribution to the dinner party.  Total spent – $12.00


Let me clarify…Not RaftingCrafting.  But I thought 2 c’s looked like one c too many.

So, crafting.  I’ve been trying to add things to my Etsy Shop, other than Custom Cookies.  I added French Macarons, which, yes, are still cookies…and I am very eager for someone to order a batch.  I priced them cheap compared to what you can buy them for in a bakery (if you can even find a bakery on your neck of the woods that sells them) – so, maybe I’ll get a sale or two from them pretty soon.

I also started making little Charms.  You could wear them on a necklace or bracelet, but my original thought was as a cellphone charm.  I see lots of folks personalizing their phones these days.  Personally, I made one for my Keychain.  There’s really a lot of things you could do with them though!  One gal ordered 10 of them from me yesterday for her Mini-Christmas Tree…what a cool idea!   Here’s what they look like…if you want some, head over to my Etsy Shop for details, or email me and we’ll work something out!

I also need to summarize yesterday, Day 5,  of the Eat on $30 Challenge.

Leftover Potato Soup all around for lunch and dinner.  Seven had a yogurt and Eggo for breakfast, and Milk.  No one paid for anything to drink, namely because we were out of drinks and water was acceptable versus driving to the store.  Total Spent?

     Less than $1.00.

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

I know, I promised you a recipe for homemade syrup today.

It’s still today, officially.  Don’t beat me up too bad. It’s been a realllly long today. Really long.  But I need to be true to my promise.  I have great readers, and they need great chocolate syrup.

I had never made my own syrup before last week.  To be quite honest, I had never even considered it something  “makeable".  I mean, Hershey’s already has some in a bottle that squeezes, and it isn’t really all that expensive.  But in my quest to become domestic, I feel the need to learn to make everything there is to make, just in case there is some great disaster and corporations like Hershey’s no longer exist.  Or if I am suddenly forced to move to somewhere like the Outback and I don’t have a Walmart.  Now I’ll know how to make homemade chocolate syrup to go on my homemade ice cream. I guess since I went to school for art I could also make my own ice cream bowl, but lets not push it.  I feel sure the Aborigines will trade me a very pretty bowl for a little bit of Limoncello Sorbet.  Just a hunch.

But anyway, Chocolate Syrup.  So simple.  So cheap.  No effort involved in the least.  And it is waaay better than store bought. Way Way. I hope you’ll try this yourself.  If you can find some cute bottles (maybe ask a bartender to save a few flip top Grolsch bottles for you?) these would make super cool gifts.  Slap a printable label on it with your logo and they’ll think you a re a genius. Feel free to sub in other flavors besides vanilla.  Mint, for example, would be outstanding.  OrangeCoconut.  Use your imagination!

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

½ cup good quality cocoa powder
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
Pinch salt
1/3 tsp vanilla

Mix the water and cocoa in a saucepan over medium heat until cocoa is dissolved. Add the sugar, and continue to stir. Boil for about 3 minutes over medium heat, then add the salt and the vanilla (or other flavoring). Let cool. Pour into a sterilized glass jar, and keep stored in the refrigerator. Keeps for several months. Yields two cups.

Days 3 and 4 of the Eat on 30 Challenge haven’t completely ruined us.  I am still under the weather, so, not eating helps the budget.  Jon, however, makes up for it.  Reining in a man (non-blogger) isn’t easy.  But we’ll survive.

Seven had breakfast at Mom’s yesterday. I didn’t eat, as per usual.  For lunch, he and I had macaroni soup that Mom made us.  I’ll even count the cost ($1.00) even though we didn’t pay for it.  Jon was working and had lunch out ($5.50) and then decided he needed dinner out, too ($10.00).  Seven and I shared a bowl of Chicken Noodle-Os ($1.00) and he also had some fruit (50 cents) and crackers (25 cents). 

Day 3 total $17.25

Today Jon was home and brought me lunch from DQ.  It immediately made me sick, so, waste.  Jon and Sev had Eggos for breakfast ($1.00) and lunch cost us $8.00.  Dinner was a really nice potato soup for all of us, at an estimated $9.00.  We’ll be eating that tomorrow, too.  Totally worth the expense.  My non-blogger husband used an internet recipe and it was fantastic.  Seven ate his face off.  No, not literally…I have to draw the line somewhere!

Day 4 total $18.00


Last mention of the day – I added a couple of aprons to my Etsy Shop last night, and French Macarons today at a great price!  Check them out!

it only looks expensive

Two and a half days into the Eat on $30 Challenge and we are doing just fine.

Perhaps it’s the fact that we haven’t been eating from the Mastering the Art of French Cooking Book.  Perhaps it’s because I have been beyond sick.  Perhaps it’s because we really don’t spend that much money on food anymore.  I think it’s a combination of all three…but mostly, I really believe that the July Experiment of living on $100 with the Penny Pinching Pantry Raid has made me a very frugal person.  I really can’t cut back much more than I already do, which I guess is a good thing.

Monday was Day One.  Luckily, Jon had made a huge amount of Pork Barbeque on Sunday.  Juicy, tender, full of flavor, and best of all – on SALE.  He cooked us about 6 pounds, and the cost? $5.00.  With the seasonings, vinegars, etc – I am guesstimating $7.00 total.  So on Monday, we both ate it for lunch & dinner.  Seven had yogurt and grapes for breakfast (35 cents for the yogurt, 25 cents for the grapes).  I had a Diet GingerAle (25 cents) and Sev had some KoolAid (10 cents).  At dinner, we added a box of Velveeta Shells & Cheese ($1.50) and a can of Green beans (60 cents).  So, very little money spent on Monday.  I’m going to go ahead and count the entire PorkFest on Monday, but we ate it on Tuesday as well.  Tuesday was a bit unusual – I was too sick to really eat. Jon ate leftover pork for lunch & dinner.  Yep, just pork.  Seven had yogurt again for breakfast, plus whatever Mom fed him while she was keeping him.  For dinner, he had Totinos Pizza Rolls (about a bucks worth) and some grapes and string cheese. He also had milk both days (est. $1.00 total).

Total for the first two days:

About $12.60, give or take, plus the dessert I am about to introduce you to, which brings the total to around $15.90.

  For dessert on Monday, because I was trying to be budget conscious as well as creative, I made Puff Pastry filled with Nutella Mousse and Homemade Chocolate Syrup.  Perhaps there is someone reading this that has yet to use Puff Pastry (which was ME until about a year ago, it isn’t impossible!) and needs to be enlightened.  YOU MUST HAVE PUFF PASTRY ON HAND.  At all times.  Trust me.  Just buy a few boxes, put them in the freezer, and whenever you are short on time but needing something divine, grab it.


I let one sheet thaw ($1.75) then cut it into little rectangles before baking.  While it baked, I made the Nutella Mousse.  I used about a cup of Whipping Cream (75 cents), 2 tablespoons of Nutella (30 cents) and a quarter cup of powdered sugar (15 cents).  I whipped that together until it was nice and fluffy (whip the cream first, then add in the Nutella and sugar, it will do much better) and once the pastry was cool, I sandwiched the mousse in between two pieces.  When I was ready to serve it, I simply poured a little homemade syrup (30 cents) over it.  It was delish!  And so easy!  Newbies – give it a shot – you’ll like it!  Tomorrow I’ll be posting the recipe for the chocolate syrup, so stay tuned!


image On another note, I have just started writing for The Examiner as the Roanoke Food Examiner. It’s a fun gig, and I am happy to have it!  Check out my first post there?  Subscribe?  I’ll be posting a few times a week, so I would appreciate the feedback.  Anything you’d like to see?  A special recipe? Something related to the holidays?  Say the word, I’m open to suggestions!



Secondly, I opened my Etsy Store today, and already had a sale!  Open for all of 10 minutes, and I get a hit!  I am going to be adding aprons along with my custom cookies, but if you can think of something else that would go over well, I’d LOVE to know!

See you tomorrow with the recipe for Chocolate Syrup!

Eat on $30

Many of you will remember that my family and I survived on only $100 plus our freezer and pantry items back in July.  $100 for the entire month, including all of our meals out.  It wasn’t easy, and it really opened my eyes to the way we had been overspending at the grocery store and wasting money on uneaten leftovers and unneccesary meals at restaurants.  Since then, instead of 3-4 weekly jaunts to the grocery store, I go maybe once every 10 days. Huge difference.  I haven’t been tracking each and every dime, but I know I have made a significant difference in our wallets.eaton30

I have been wanting to address the challenge again, but a month is really difficult for me to commit to at this time of year.  Birthdays, holidays – it’s just tough all around.  But when I read about Running With Tweezers one WEEK challenge, I knew I had to give it a go.  The challenge will be, well, challenging, as we must account for every single item we consume, other than salt, pepper, and butter. EVERY ITEM.  Spices, flour, eggs. You name it, we account for it.

The goal is to survive (and eat WELL, in our case, not just crap food) for one week on $30 per person.  For my family, that’s $90.  In theory, to me, that seems pretty easy. In Theory.  I don’t spend that much money each week.  Does that mean I am one of the struggling Americans who has had to cut back on foodstuffs? No.  My family is not hungry.  We have never gone hungry…and thanks to my parents and Jon’s parents and our grandparents, I feel pretty secure in knowing they wouldn’t ever let us go hungry.

But we are LUCKY.  We are by no stretch of the imagination rich.  There are bills we have a hard time paying.  I had to save for several months in order to buy the French Oven I wanted (and it wasn’t the Le Creuset, either).  I don’t go out and buy clothes just to buy them anymore.  I hit yard sales to buy Seven’s toys and clothes.  But we have a great house (with a big mortgage), a garden, 2 nice vehicles, we can go on vacation, we have cable, and phones, and the internet.  We are comfortable, even when our ends don’t exactly meet.  But there are folks out there who really struggle.  According to RWT:

So, $30 per person this week.  We are starting today, which is a day behind some of the group.  We’ll go through Sunday.  It may be tough on us, as my Hub will be working out of town a few of those days.  He’d be on a per diem, though, so I may have to play around with that a bit.  We are allowed to eat with friends, but not be moochers; we’re allowed to eat dinner at the Samples Counter at Costco.  Really, it’s up to us.  How we live on our $30 is up to US.  Isn’t it always?  Couldn’t we all be more responsible?  Maybe if we were, a billion people in the world would have a little more to eat. Maybe.

I intend to do my part, at least this week.  Let’s get the word out.  People are hungry.

Please support others that are participating in this challenge by visiting their sites…I am only one of many…