A Flavor of July: Tomato (Soup) Cupcakes

IMG 4619 Edited A Flavor of July: Tomato (Soup) Cupcakes

Yeah…I don’t even know where to go with this. I have not baked something so ridiculous since the Chocolate Sauerkraut Cupcakes that started off the year. Maybe I baked them because  subconsciously, I thought Christmas in July should lead to New Years in August. And on the eve of August, I’m making some changes…realizing some resolutions.

Tomorrow is my last day of work at a company I have been at for nearly five years. As much as I have appreciated the chance to work where I have worked, I am nearly bursting with excitement at the potential a new opportunity in my life holds. And as much as I am nearly bursting with excitement, I also feel the stress of change. I just keep reminding myself, if I could get thorough a move to a new state to start a new job while simultaneously beginning a master’s degree program, I can get through this.

IMG 4610 Edited e1343782951184 A Flavor of July: Tomato (Soup) Cupcakes

I have been after a new work opportunity for quite a while, so to see this resolution realized is such a nice feeling. There are still a few other things I am after, and frankly, I have little to no idea how they are going to come into my life. I do know I put an order in with the universe, so I’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, I resolve to stay happy no matter the outcome. And that’s a tall order.

“Be happy for no reason, like a child. If you are happy for a reason, you’re in trouble, because that reason can be taken from you.”- Deepak Chopra

We tend to believe happiness is finite. If so-and-so gets X even though I wanted X, then I can’t be happy. But happiness isn’t finite. I don’t know where I first read or heard that, but it stuck. If you take one thing away from anything you ever read here, please take this: Happiness is not finite. Happiness is infinite.

IMG 4594 Edited A Flavor of July: Tomato (Soup) Cupcakes

On to cupcakes! I don’t know what possessed me to bookmark not only one, but two Tomato Soup Cake recipes. Maybe the better question is, why is this cake recipe popular in cookbooks? Maybe because the bakers/cookbook authors are boys, and sometimes, boys just don’t think. Sometimes they really just don’t think. Moving on.

I opted to go with the recipe from “Baked Explorations” by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito rather than the recipe from “United Cakes of America: Recipes Celebrating Every State” by Warren Brown. And while not my favorite cupcakes in the world, the tomato soup cupcakes were not bad. The cake tasted very similar to a spice cake, and with the addition of a few walnuts, the recipe would probably make a decent muffin.

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If you are in the mood for a spice cake, I’d suggest you stick with a traditional spice cake recipe. If you have a need to back something with a weird factor, or perhaps are baking with teenage boys, I think these cupcakes are perfect.

And on a final note, congratulations to Kerri and Kathy for winning the July giveaway! If you did not win this time, there are still plenty of reasons to be happy. One of which could be a new giveaway post coming your way on the 12th of every month. Enjoy!

IMG 4629 Edited A Flavor of July: Tomato (Soup) Cupcakes

Tomato Soup Cupcakes
 
Author:
Serves: 13
Ingredients
  • For the Tomato Soup Cupcakes
  • 1, 10 ¾ ounce can condensed tomato soup
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoons cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • For the Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
Instructions
  1. Place the tomato soup in a small to medium bowl and sprinkle with baking soda. Stir well and set aside.
  2. In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Beat butter and sugars together on medium speed until light and fluffy, three to four minutes.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until just combined.
  5. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and beat for a few more seconds to ensure the mixture is fully incorporated.
  6. Turn the mixer to low and, in three parts, begin to add the flour mixture alternating with tomato soup. So it's flour, tomato soup, flour, tomato soup, and flour.
  7. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl again and beat for a few more seconds to ensure the mixture is fully incorporated.
  8. Fill each well of a paper-lined cupcake pan about three-quarters full.
  9. Bake at 325 degrees F for 25-28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
  10. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
  11. To make the frosting, place the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and ground cinnamon in mixing bowl and beat until combined.
  12. Slowly add the confectioner’s sugar one cup at a time, beating until the frosting is light and fluffy.
Notes
The measurements above are halved from the original recipe.
 

Ciao! Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake Budino

IMG 4582 Edited Ciao! Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake Budino

If my weekend were up for a grade, I would say it earned a B. On Friday, I enjoyed a lovely dinner at The Liberty with two equally lovely friends. In response to my order, the Silver Queen Biquse, Southern Seafood Boil, and Salted Caramel Budino, the waitress exlaimed “all B’s!” “Yes, that is neat! Now if only B‘s meant money,” I replied.

Ever the optimist, Susan piped up, “It does! Billionaire!” Mary K, always the realistic, chimed in Broke!” In response to their foolishness, I ordered another beer to cope. Funny none of us recalled, “It’s All About The Benjamins.”

The weekend of B‘s continued when I bought a bike. Which I promptly wrecked on its inaugural ride, resulting in a bruise. (I’d like to say the wreck occurred because I push the envelope, but really, I just lack coordination.) I rode my bike to the library to pick up a book I looked forward to reading, “Bloom!” It was not at all what I had hoped, so that left me feeling bummed.

Now that you are sufficiently bored, let’s get to the good stuff. The Budino.

IMG 4534 Edited e1343525160727 Ciao! Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake Budino

I had neither heard of nor enjoyed a budino prior to The Liberty’s Salted Caramel Budino, but it was so good I decided to recreate a budino with cherries for my entry into the OXO Cherry Recipe Contest.

Budino is simply the Italian word for pudding. The Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake Budino I created is a layer of chocolate cookie crumbs, cheesecake pudding, and cherry syrup flavored with amaretto and brown sugar. It’s topped with a touch of vanilla whipped cream and, of course, a cherry.

I layered my Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake Budino’s in .25L canning jars. An added bonus of using canning jars is the budinos travel well. Simply screw on the tops to bring the desserts to your next picnic or potluck.

Depending on the vessel you use, you may need to adjust the measurements of each layer I included in the below recipe. I found it easiest to use an ice cream scoop, rather than a measuring cup, to neatly layer the ingredients in the jar.

IMG 4552 Edited e1343529776849 Ciao! Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake Budino

The cherry-amaretto syrup is unique to the recipe, but the remaining layers can be homemade or store-bought to assemble in a pinch. I baked my own chocolate wafer cookies and made my own vanilla whipped cream, but I relied on a boxed cheesecake pudding mix.

Someday I might attempt to make this dessert with homemade pudding. Another day, I might use crushed chocolate graham crackers or chocolate sandwich cookies for the cookie crumb layer, and top the budinos off with a dollop of whipped cream topping from a tub or can.

If making homemade chocolate wafer cookies, the recipe below yields about 1 cup of additional cookie crumbs that can be saved for a second round of budinos. Once I tasted these, I was certainly thinking about a round two! Ciao!

IMG 4521 Edited Ciao! Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake Budino

Cherry Budino
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • For the Chocolate Wafer Cookies
  • ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon baking soda
  • 7 tablespoons butter, softened slightly
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • For the Pudding
  • 1, 3.4 oz box cheesecake flavored pudding mix
  • 1¾ cup whole milk
  • For the Cherry-Amaretto Sauce
  • 2 cups cherries, pitted and chopped
  • ¼ cup amaretto
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • For the Whipped Cream
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • For the Garnish
  • 4 whole cherries
Instructions
  1. To make the chocolate wafer cookies, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Cut the butter into small chunks and add to the bowl.
  3. Use a fork or pastry cutter to incorporate the butter into the flour mixture.
  4. Add the milk and the vanilla and use a hand mixer or wooden spoon to stir until the dough begins to clump. Resist the urge to add additional liquid; the dough will come together as you stir.
  5. Place the dough on a very lightly floured surface and knead a few times to ensure the ingredients are evenly incorporated.
  6. Form the dough into a log and wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough until firm, about one hour.
  7. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut the log into slices about ¼-inch thick.
  8. Place the dough slices on parchment-lined baking sheets. The cookies will spread a bit, so be sure to leave space between the disks of dough.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees F for 12 to 14 minutes, rotating the baking sheet from back to front halfway through baking.
  10. Allow the cookies to cool on wire racks.
  11. Once cool, use a food processor to turn the cookies into a fine crumb.
  12. Place ¼ cup chocolate cookie crumbs in each jar.
  13. Prepare the cheesecake pudding by whisking 1¾ cup whole milk into the dry pudding mixture for two minutes.
  14. Divide the pudding evenly (about ¼ cup) among the jars, layering the pudding on top of the chocolate cookie crumb mix.
  15. Prepare the cherry-amaretto sauce by pureeing the chopped and pitted cherries in a food processor until nearly smooth.
  16. Place the cherry puree in a small saucepan along with the amaretto and brown sugar.
  17. Simmer over low to medium heat until the sauce thickens, about 12-15 minutes.
  18. Allow the cherry sauce to cool to room temperature, then divide evenly (about 2 tablespoons) among the jars, layering the cherry sauce on top of the cheesecake pudding.
  19. Prepare the whipped cream by beating the heavy cream, confectioners' sugar, and vanilla on high speed until stiff peaks form.
  20. Divide the whipped cream evenly (about 2 tablespoons) among the jars, layering the whipped cream on top of the cherry-amaretto sauce.
  21. Garnish each budino jar with a cherry.
Notes
The chocolate wafer cookie recipe will yield about 1 additional cup of cookie crumbs. I have the most luck making my own whipped cream when the bowl, beaters and cream are very cold. I typically place my mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer to chill for about 5 minutes before whipping the cream.
 

The Good, The Bad & The Sparkling Basil Lemonade

IMG 4317 Edited The Good, The Bad & The Sparkling Basil Lemonade

I don’t know why bad things happen to good people. Or for that matter, why good things happen to bad people. A few years back, I had the opportunity to listen to Rabbi Harold Kushner, who wrote the book When Bad Things Happen to Good People The Good, The Bad & The Sparkling Basil Lemonade, speak on those topics. I can no longer recall his message, but I easily remember how I felt after I listened to his message: hopeless.

The day after I heard Rabbi Kushner speak, I happened to be at the office at the same time as a co-worker, a hospice chaplain. Since she was unable to attend the event, she asked what I thought of the experience. I paused, turned from my desk to look directly at her, and said, “I left feeling like…I don’t know, like there was just no point to any of this.” And she laughed. I had just practically bared my soul to this woman, and she laughed.

Fortunately, she followed up that laugh with a statement that shed some light on things. “That’s what Christ provides, hope!” She went on to provide perspective on Jewish and Christian principles that, while enlightening, I won’t get into here because this post is not about religion. This post is about living life as a decent human being.

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My sister’s friend Kendra, who is also my friend in the Facebook world, celebrates her birthday tomorrow. For her birthday, Kendra requested everyone engage in an intentional act of kindness this week and post it on her wall for her birthday. My initial reaction was, “Dang, will I ever be that selfless?” My ongoing reaction is, “This is so awesome that I want to tell everybody!”

Have you ever heard the adage about a man walking along a beach littered with starfish? The man throws starfish back into the sea one at a time as he walks. Another person comes along and scoffs at his effort, saying there are too many starfish for the man to help. In response, the man picks up a starfish and throws it into the sea. “Made a difference to that one,” he says.

That is how I feel about kind, and not so kind, acts. Maybe you throw just one stone into the water – one action positive or negative – but it creates ripples that carry far and wide across the pond. So what are you throwing out there?

IMG 4316 Edited e1343326064986 The Good, The Bad & The Sparkling Basil Lemonade

As for me, I tend to be kind when things are peachy and not so kind when things are crap. As a tangible reminder of “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade”, I literally made lemonade.

The below recipe for Sparkling Basil Lemonade uses a basil simple syrup to sweeten the lemons and sparkling water (or club soda) to jazz up the water. The drink was refreshing, delicious, and a great way to use up some of the basil that is growing like crazy in my tiny urban garden. If you are not sold on the basil in lemonade idea, check out my When Life Hands You Lemons board on Pinterest for other lemonade ideas.

If you would like to participate in an intentional act of kindness this week but are not sure where to start, how about sending a good thought or prayer Kendra’s way? She is going to have a baby girl any day now, so I am certain good vibes for both her and her family would be very much appreciated. And if you would like to incorporate more kind acts in your life, learn how to be a Kindness Ninja. Happy kinding!

IMG 4320 Edited The Good, The Bad & The Sparkling Basil Lemonade

Sparkling Basil Lemonade
 
Author:
Recipe type: Drink
Ingredients
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ cups sugar
  • 1 cup basil, loosely packed, plus additional for garnish
  • 1 liter bottle club soda or sparkling water
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • Ice, plenty of ice
Instructions
  1. Combine the water, sugar, and basil leaves in a saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  3. Reduce and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.
  4. Strain the syrup into a bowl and discard the basil leaves.
  5. Cover and chill the syrup for two to 24 hours.
  6. Combine the chilled basil syrup, club soda or sparkling water, and lemon juice.
  7. Serve over ice to enjoy.
Notes
This recipe can be easily doubled. Not into sparkles? Simply replace the club soda or sparkling water with water from the tap.