Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Don't Be Koi...Have a Cupcake.

Even though we've got some green coming up in the garden, it's been too chilly to do much digging. I was gratified to see Clarence recently, though. He made it through the winter without too much trouble, although he's gotten so fat that he can barely balance himself on the fence post. Still, a tiny handout can't hurt much!

Clarence is my garden companion. He's good company, sprawled out on the walkway, watching as I dig. He's always ready to lend a helping paw...well, mostly when he's helping himself to more food!

But I don't mind. Anyway, we haven't spent much time together lately. Mostly I've been paying attention to indoor plants. My succulents made it through the winter without much damage, and my geraniums are fine. I love their leaves!

I've continued to bring in more fresh flowers to arrange in vases around the house...mainly tulips, and sometimes mums...

...and this week, cheerful yellow daisies.

I had a mystery plant growing alongside my geranium, so I pulled it and repotted it in an egg cup. It's very nice for spring!

Next week I must get out in the yard and start clearing away debris. This week, though, I've had time for guilt-free knitting. Regrettably, my latest project is a bit of a bust. I've had the Kissing Koi mitten pattern for a while but didn't feel secure enough in my fair isle abilities to begin it. However, I decided this pattern was just what I needed to get me out of my knitting funk. The fair isle went smoothly. No puckers and no loose gaps, either. As you can see, the front is a koi fish and flowers...

...and the back is a simple diamond pattern, in place so that you won't have long floats of yarn to catch your fingers on. The orange line is my afterthought thumb.

I have very small hands, and for this size the pattern suggests size 1 needles. I decided to use size 0 needles - the smallest I've got - and still, this mitten is oven-mitt big. I've read notes on the pattern that indicate that it runs large...there's a lot of detail to fit! I'm unwilling to frog it and re-knit on size 000 needles, when it still might be a bit too big. I may make it into an oven mitt, or chalk it up to a learning experience, frog it, and use the yarn for something else!

I'm starting on a cardigan, using the snowflake fingering-weight yarn I ordered from England this winter. This is another experimental project. Gauge is 18 sts = 4 inches. Recommended needle size is 7. I had to go up to a size 10 needle to get gauge, and then the fabric is too "open" for comfort. So, throwing caution into the wind, I'm using a size 8 needle (gauge is 22 sts = 4 inches) and knitting a 40" cardigan in hopes that the cardigan will end up being 36". I think it will work! The thought of frogging a fingering-weight cardigan is something I'm unable - or unwilling - to contemplate, so I'm crossing both fingers and toes that my calculations are correct.

I've baked some beautiful loaves this week...

But man cannot live on bread alone. So, I made cupcakes! This was an unusual and last-minute choice. I had picked a double-raspberry chocolate cupcake recipe from Annie's Eats. But, as I stared at the 2 sticks of butter coming to room temperature on the counter, I started feeling guilty. I want to make nice treats for my husband as he's hard at work on his dissertation, but I don't want him to develop coronary heart disease as the result of my attentions. I decided to make several modifications. Instead of making a dense, rich chocolate cake, I found a pudge-free brownie recipe and went to work!

Pudge-Free Double Raspberry Chocolate Brownie Cupcakes (phew!)
Adapted from allrecipes.com
Makes 12 cupcakes

3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vital wheat gluten
2 egg whites
3/4 cup lowfat vanilla yogurt
a splash of vanilla

Raspberry Jam

4 ounces neufchatel cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup raspberries
1/4 cup raspberry jam

For the cupcakes, mix together the dry ingredients. If you don't have vital wheat gluten, don't worry about it...but it does help your cupcakes to rise a little higher. Add wet ingredients and mix well. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Bake cupcakes for 18 - 20 minutes. Place on wire rack to cool.

I was pleased with the rise. The recipe is for brownies, not cupcakes, but adding the egg whites gives it a more cake-like consistency.

After your cupcakes cool, take a paring knife and cut a hole in the middle. See the little triangle you pull out? Cut the bottom part off and feel free to eat it...just to make sure it tastes all right, of course! ;)

Take 1/2 cup raspberry jam and heat it in the microwave for about 20 seconds. Stir well, and spoon a bit into the center of your cupcake.

Cover it with the piece you put aside. Voila! You've got filled cupcakes!

To make the frosting, cream together the butter and cream cheese. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Because I used fresh raspberries, my frosting wasn't very stiff. If you prefer a stiffer frosting, leave out the fresh raspberries and just use jam. I piped it onto the top of the cupcake without any difficulties.

If you're a chocolate and raspberry fan (like my husband!) you'll love these! There's just a bit of butter and sugar but you've got a chewy, brownie-like cupcake with a double shot of raspberry - the stronger flavored filling, and the lightly-flavored icing. It's a nice balance. Let me just say...Todd's already had three, so I think they've got the stamp of approval! And they're relatively guilt-free.



  1. Those cupcakes sound wonderful....and I love your cat's paws

  2. Thanks! They are already gone! :)

  3. Oh my goodness! Your baking skills are enviable. As is the gorgeous light in your kitchen. All your photos look so warm and wonderful. Thanks for sharing this! And I can't stand for you to frog the koi mitt. Maybe turn it into a pincushion? :)

  4. Thanks! I'm not quite sure what to do with that mitten yet. I hate to frog it, too! Someone suggested that I felt it, but if that experiment doesn't work, the mitten is ruined. I'm still deciding! :)