Friday, February 13, 2015

Cupcake Party: Sarah Hearts Chocolate

Who ever heard of a girl late for her own party? Yet, I just checked and double-checked the calendar, and can you believe it's Friday ya'll??

So, this week, cupcake party on Friday. My blog. Everyone here? Hooray!

In accordance with the real theme of Valentine's Day (not really -we actually just chose it because there is no better flavor for kicking off a party) February's cupcake category is CHOCOLATE! (and I hope you all were terribly refined and read that with a French accent. I know I typed it thusly)

Lauren made some almost-healthy-and-still-incredibly-delicious Double Peanut Butter Chocolate Cupcakes last week, for which I can vouch as a keeper recipe! This week, I tried DC Cupcakes' Chocolate Chip Lava Fudge Cupcakes.

Three words:

Also a keeper.

The first step in making unbeatably delicious cupcakes is to get some unbeatably cute help, which is often hard to come by. I was lucky in my interviewing process, though, and was able to hire Maddy for some cupcake-paper-placing assistance. (please notice the hearts at the bottom of the papers. we love cupcakes.)
I substituted almond milk for the whole milk. I think this made the batter a bit more runny, and in the end I added an extra cup of flour (although if I did it again I would try only half a cup) for texture.
My other "tweaking" came in the form of dark chocolate chunks instead of chocolate chips - I recommend this change!!

What can I say? It's Valentine's Day tomorrow and I love chocolate. What better shape for cupcakes??
My second cute assistant: Kate! 
Then the truly fun part began! Using a lemon juicer (slightly smaller than an apple corer, which is what the recipe suggested) we punched holes straight through the cupcakes, gutting out their delicious innards for a core of even more delectable-ness -
Namely, chocolate ganache! The recipe said to use a plastic squeeze bottle, which would have made this a one-handed task. However, in the lack of squeeze bottles and the surplus of hands, we made do with a paper funnel!
 Next came a vanilla cream cheese frosting, topped with cute little pink sugar-candy-decor-balls. I think the end effect quite charming.
Yes, they were That. Good.

And now for some recipes - just in case you care to make these mouth-watering, diet-shattering, chocolate-fixing cupcakes for yourself! 

1 1/4 c. gluten-free flour {I used 2 1/4}
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
2 eggs
1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 c. whole milk {I used almond milk}
1/2 c. cocoa powder
1/2 c. chocolate chips {I used dark chocolate chunks}

Beat butter until fluffy; stop to add the sugar; beat on medium speed until mixed. Then, add the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl as needed. In a separate container, combine milk and vanilla. Sift flour, salt, and soda. Alternate adding flour and milk mixtures to butter-sugar combo (adding a third at a time). Mix just until combined. Then add cocoa, and fold in the chocolate chips! Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees, either in cupcake papers or greased muffin tins. The recipe said to start checking the cupcakes at 15 minutes, and mine were mostly ready to pull out then. Allow cupcakes to fully cool (on wire rack) before taking out the centers and adding the...

Chocolate Ganache
2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1 c. heavy cream

Fill a skillet with about an inch of water, and put ingredients in a small metal bowl in the skillet - kind of like a double-boiler. Turn burner between medium-low and medium heat. {Ok, I cheated here and turned it to 'high' until the chocolate started to melt, then turned it back down. No negative effects.} Melt and mix until it is one smooth, chocolaty goop of deliciousness. It will seem very runny, but have faith! It thickens. We added it to the centers while it was still very runny, then just popped them in the fridge. After the initial hardening, the cupcakes were fine on the counter, and the ganache didn't get soupy again.

Finally, top with...

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting!
4 TBLS unsalted butter {but mine was salted, and still good}
4 c. powdered sugar {recipe asked me to sift it...but I didn't. However, if your sugar is on the clumpy side, you will want to}
1/4 t. vanilla extract
6 oz cream cheese, at room temperature.

Combine and frost!


I really loved this cupcake recipe - and so did all my taste-testers! Those not accustomed to gluten-free cooking said they were a little dry, and they were on the crumbly side. At some point, I would like to experiment with adding a little less "extra" flour, and changing my g-free flour, to see if I could make them a little more moist. With the fudgy filling and creamy frosting, however, it wasn't bad at all. Even if this is "as good as it gets" I would make them again in a heartbeat...and probably will!

Any questions? No? Well then....

Would you like a cupcake?

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Scheming Still

Once upon a time, there were three of us. Three, adorable, us's. We played violin together, explored the woods together, told each other scary raccoon stories at bedtime, and investigated the scientific and entrepreneurial potential behind turning fondue back into cheese for resale.  Because 2 or 3 days a week is clearly not enough face time, we were ever consumed with plotting intricate "schemes" to lengthen or multiply visits. Perhaps one week we would try to smuggle each other home in the back of our respective vans. Another week held "run away from home" day. We would be suddenly struck deaf to cries of "It's time to go home!" or our feet would turn to lead when it was time to "load up." Oh, how subtly we schemed. On rare days, our plans would be astounded by the simple, "Ok" our parents must have chuckled to give when approached by "Don't you think we should have a sleepover tonight?"

Then we grew up a little, and with us, our world. When I moved the eternal distance of an hour away, our "schemes" grew more intricate. We would attempt to leave necessary items at each others' houses to require an imminent second get-together. Our ears would perk up whenever there was mention of being in the same vicinity, and we would email, and send letters, and plot until we were blue in the face to make the most of every opportunity. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. But most of all, we enjoyed the thrill and adventure of discussing our "schemes."

{photo credit: Christa Taylor}
Then we grew up a little more, and the world got a little bigger. Mikaela married her bestest-estest friend and moved far enough away to put my one-hour distance to shame. And so the scheming continued, and Lauren and I (with Mama Cash!) boarded a plane and had one delightful smash of a visit last month where, true to form, the three us's hatched another scheme...

But this scheme was different. It didn't involve leaving things behind, or begging for sleepovers. It wasn't concerned with scary carnivore stories or finding a day when we could tramp through the woods to go blackberry surfing. No, no, no - this scheme was so delicious, we want you in on it!

Curious? I'll give you a hint: it's a Cupcake Party!! For details and your very-own, highly-personal invitation, read Lauren's post here, then head over to One Bright Corner's main page today for the first of many festivities. Will you join in our lovely scheme? We have years of plotting practice, and can guarantee you a wild, delectable ride!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Life Lately

In the name of preserving landmarks online for all posterity...

Because I spent some good, much-in-demand time working on it...

And because I feel like some sort of general update is due to blogland, as a result of my extended absence...

Ta-dah! Coders' 2014 Christmas Letter! Not for the faint-of-heart, length-wise. (But I do believe my blog in general doesn't qualify for those readers.)

The steadfast love of the LORD never changes,
His mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning –
New every morning.
Great is Thy faithfulness, O LORD;
Great is Thy faithfulness

Mumsie must have sung this song constantly when I was little, because I still hear her voice, praising slowly and reverently, whenever I ‘sing’ it in my head. As we come again to a year’s end, as we prepare again our hearts to celebrate the incarnation of our mighty God, as we look again in retrospect upon the last 12 months of life, we see afresh the many changes of the year. There are new friends, new jobs, new ideas, new sorrows, new joys – and yet, through all the changes, we clearly see God’s mercies and compassion which are paradoxically ever the same, and ever new. Great is His faithfulness!

What’s new for the Coders in 2014? I’m so glad you asked! Settle back with a cup of tea or a mug of cocoa, though, because we do still have 10 kids (as incredible as that may sound to those of you who know Zachary) and this could take a while (but I’ll do my best).

New Reasons to Celebrate:
In March, Gregg and Keri celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary! Actually, that’s a slightly misleading statement. Mom and dad’s 25th anniversary was in March, but they have been celebrating all year by disappearing for a weekend a month. Sometimes to the beach, sometimes to the mountains – they keep in touch enough to make us jealous by pictures of sunshine, snow, and sea.

That’s not all we’ve celebrated this year, though! School landmarks are always good reasons to have a party, and we had a giant triple-graduation bash in July, as Ben finished WSU with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, Emily graduated from the community college with an AA in Business, and Rachel graduated from high school! Pie, pie, and more pie was consumed, which – of course – made the celebration official.

New Travels: (note: for pictures and more details, check out the travelers’ blogs!)
Ø  At the beginning of the year, Ben was working as an intern at Hewlett-Packard as he finished up his degree. Even in his not-yet-a-full-time-employee status, he had the amazing opportunity to go to China for two weeks in February to oversee the production of a part he designed! Chongqing being famous for its spicy food, Ben’s only time venturing out alone resulted in a meal of many tears, LOTS of water, and huge grins from waiters. Nonetheless, he considers it a great experience and can’t wait to go back! (Plans for another business trip are set for January 2015)
Ø  Shortly after graduation, Ben enlisted the companionship of Joshua on a three-week European jaunt. After visiting family in Loches, France, they traveled on to sight-see through England, Scotland, and even a brief 48 hours in Ireland!
Ø  We have only just welcomed home our most recent world-traveler, Rachel! She struck out on her own at the end of September for a two-month absence in Ufa, Russia, where she enjoyed playing with and caring for two adorable twin boys recently born to some friends of ours!

New Challenges:
Our pastor constantly reminds us that “God is always good, all the time.” The evidence of this comes most powerfully in times of pain, of fear, and of uncertainty, and so we share these challenges to testify to the goodness of our LORD. We see the proof of His love and provision while in the midst of trials, and although we are not often told “Why?” He always shows Himself to be the “How.

At the end of August, Megan was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Having a 9-year-old suddenly insulin dependent, being required abruptly to count every carbohydrate she consumes, learning all the emergency signs and responses for high and low blood sugar readings – these things have composed our greatest challenge. And yet, we have truly “seen the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” From His providential hand in causing mama to notice Megan’s symptoms (which seemed coincidental and normal), to Megan’s beautiful and grace-filled response to her life-long diagnosis, we have been in awe of how our King has marked the way.

If you had been a fly on our wall one particular night – only a few days after learning about her diabetes – you would have been touched by Megan’s attitude, as she discussed possible reasons God has allowed her to have this disease. “Maybe I’m supposed to be an encouragement to another little girl who gets diabetes!” “Maybe I will grow up to be a doctor for kids who get diabetes!” – she was joyfully ready to look for God’s purpose in her trial, and the enthusiasm and willingness of my wee sister humbled me. Yes, God is good.

New Ventures:
Ø  Work: After graduation and Europe, Ben became an official employee of HP right here in Vancouver, and continues to enjoy his job immensely. In June, I also started a new part-time job at a local tea room!
Ø  School: Joshua began classes at the local community college this fall through the running start program. At this point, he plans to study for a degree in mechanical engineering.
Ø  Play: The youngest three of the Coder clan have now been added to the ranks of costumed volunteers at Fort Vancouver. Beginning in January, they will be taught the skills and hobbies of young boys and girls living at the Fort in the 1840s, and will be trained to share this knowledge with visitors.
Ø  Music: Intrigued by the art of shattering glass and destroying good hearing, Joshua decided to learn the bagpipes this year. It was several months before he received the actual instrument, but now we are often serenaded by strains of “Amazing Grace” or “Scotland the Brave” floating through his closed door, down the stairs, around the corner, into the great room, and arriving in our ears at a loud-and-clear volume. (We love it.)

Old News:
Amidst the ever-changing newness of life, some things have remained the same year-to-year. For example, Mama is still home-schooling the younger children around the kitchen table, while our two high-schoolers (Grace and James) watch classes online through Bob Jones University. I continue to teach violin and piano lessons to about 30 students, and thoroughly enjoy my time with each of these aspiring musicians. Dad is still working at Home Depot, and will celebrate two years as an employee of ‘the Orange Life’ in April! Besides the bagpipes, music continues to be a major part of our lives, with the youngest 5 taking lessons and practicing the days away (mostly)! J


This Christmas season, we pray that you all will be blessed with a fresh awareness of who our God is as you celebrate His birth. May we all continually learn new lessons from Him, praise Him with new songs, and wonder at His ever-new mercies.

Merry Christmas!!

~Sarah (for the Coder family)