Sour Cream Cupcakes 1 | Espresso and Cream

Lately I’ve been trying to see my husband’s golf hobby as a blessing in disguise. Sure, he’s gone for a large chunk of each weekend, but that means I have plenty of time to spend on the things I love to do, like blogging, getting together with girlfriends for a walk or coffee, and laying outside in the sunshine while reading magazines.

I think sometimes I’m too quick to underestimate the importance of  having individual interests and hobbies in a marriage. Because I love Joe and love spending time with him, it’s easy to default to spending most of our time together, and while quality time is certainly important, it’s amazing how much richer and fuller our conversations and time together ends up being when we devote time to interests apart from things we do together.

This extra time on the weekends has meant that I have a little better grasp on editorial plans for this little blog and the upcoming holidays. It’s also why you happen to see me posting a real, actual Fourth of July recipe almost an entire week before the actual holiday, which pretty much never happens.

Sour Cream Cupcakes 2 | Espresso and Cream

 

Since I’m not a huge fan of “cute” food, I kept these cupcakes pretty simple with just the slightest nod to the red, white and blue. The real special part about these cupcakes is how great they taste and how easy they are to make. I started with a box of white cake mix, then added all sorts of good stuff to the batter like sour cream, an extra egg, some vanilla and a box of vanilla pudding mix.

The cupcakes are light and airy and totally delicious, especially when topped with a vanilla sour cream frosting. The sour cream adds just the slightest tang to the frosting and prevents it from tasting too sweet. For a frosting lover like myself, that just means you can enjoy extra frosting! If you’re looking for a dessert that is a little more in-your-face Fourth of July, I would suggest topping the cupcakes with a mix of blueberries, raspberries/strawberries and shredded coconut.

4th of July Sour Cream Cupcakes
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 18
 
Ingredients
  • FOR THE CUPCAKES
  • 1 box Betty Crocker SuperMoist white cake mix
  • 1 box (3.9 oz) instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ¾ cup vegetable or canola oil
  • ½ cup water
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • FOR THE FROSTING
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) butter, softened
  • 2½ cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Milk (to thin if necessary)
  • GARNISH
  • Fresh blueberries
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Line 18 standard-sized muffin tins with paper baking liners in red, white and blue colors, if desired.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine all the cake ingredients. Mix 2 minutes on medium speed until well combined and batter is smooth. Divide batter between cupcake liners. Bake 16 to 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to a wire cooling rack and cool completely, about 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the frosting. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the sour cream and butter until smooth. Add in the powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until well combined. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons milk to thin the frosting as needed.
  4. Frost cooled cupcakes with frosting. Top with fresh blueberries. Store leftover cupcakes in the refrigerator loosely covered with plastic wrap.

 

Top Knot Tutorial | Espresso and Cream

 

The top-knot is one of my absolute favorite hairstyles. I hope so much that it never goes out of style, because once you master the method it’s incredibly easy to do and works great with second (or third) day hair. It’s one of the things I was most excited about when my hair finally started getting longer! Plus, unlike a regular ponytail, it’s really polished looking.

I think one of the biggest misconceptions is that you need really long hair or really thick hair to do a great top-knot. I have neither and I still think I get pretty good results when I style my hair this way. The trick? Teasing your pony for extra volume and a slightly messy look.

Watch the video below for the full tutorial, then use some of your time this weekend to practice! It may take a little while to master, but I promise the effort is worth it. Oh, and if you do give this method a try, I would love to see you post your photos on Instagram! Make sure to use the hashtag #e&ctopknot so I can check them out.
 

Gluten Free Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies 1 | Espresso and Cream

Lately I’ve really become captivated by the idea of simplicity and minimalism. It started with building a capsule wardrobe (more on that soon) and after I finished, I looked at my closet, so empty and uncluttered and scaled down to what I truly loved to wear and something started to click. In the past few weeks I’ve been digging and sorting through the junk drawer in our kitchen (does everyone have one of those?) and our pantry filled with kitchen appliances. It spilled over into the giant collection of magazines that I’ve kept for years; I tossed all but my favorite old issues of Gourmet and a few items of my own published work. I’ve been selling unused kitchen appliances and giving away cookbooks that I’ve collected over the years and just don’t have room to store. My house is starting to feel like a clean-running machine rather than a car loaded down with stuff.

A little voice in my head kept saying, “I need less.” “I want less!” You see, if I’m not careful I find myself getting caught up in the fallacy that I need more and more. I finish a much-needed living room remodel and start to fixate on other rooms in our house. Rooms that don’t really need to be updated, but something inside me whispers that if I just changed that one little thing, I would be happier.

So lately, when I start to think that I need more than I really do, I remind myself that I would rather spend my life living rather than managing my stuff and trying to keep up with the latest and greatest.

Gluten Free Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies 2 | Espresso and CreamI guess some of that simplicity-seeking has translated into my cooking at home, too. I’ve been baking with less sugar, imagining that’s probably the way that my grandma baked living on the farm all those years ago. It’s been nice, in this era of hyper-sweetened desserts, to sit down and enjoy a really simple, lightly sweet cookie that tastes like something you could eat every day rather than something you can only enjoy on a birthday or special occasion. And, I suppose, with each of these cookies only having 135 calories per cookie, you certainly could have one every day.

Gluten-Free Healthy Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies
Author: 
Serves: 15
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup creamy natural peanut butter
  • ¼ to ½ cup brown sugar (I used ¼ for lightly sweet cookies, use ½ C if you want sweeter cookies)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon gluten-free vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup Chex gluten-free instant oats or other instant gluten-free oats of choice
  • 2 large eggs
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients until well combined. Roll dough into 15 balls, a little more than 1-inch in diameter. Use a fork sprayed with cooking spray to press a criss-cross pattern into the tops of the cookies.
  3. Bake on cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray 8 minutes or until edges are set and just golden brown. Cool 5 minutes on baking sheet. Cool completely on wire cooling rack, about 10 minutes.

 

Thai Chopped Salad (2) | Espresso and Cream
Last month I developed a Thai Chicken and Kale Chopped Salad recipe for the Tasteseekers Kitchen blog at work that I’ve since made a handful of times. Big, colorful salads are one of my favorite things to make for lunch and dinner, especially when the salad is substantial enough to keep you full and satisfied hours later.

This past weekend Joe helped one of his friends paint his house. It was a two-day ordeal that involved quite a few hours out in the sun so when they got done on Saturday night and headed to our house for a late dinner, I was in charge of preparing a side dish to go with their very large grilled steaks. Steaks and a vegan salad: It goes together, right? I didn’t exactly set out with the intention of making this recipe vegan, but as I chopped and tossed things together, I realized that’s just what I did.

Don’t be intimidated by all the ingredients, chopping and making of your own dressing. I promise that it really is quite simple, and the flavors of all the fresh veggies paired with the thai peanut dressing is nothing short of amazing. The recipe itself serves quite a bit, enough for four main-dish portions or six to seven smaller side-dish sized salads. I highly suggest chopping all the ingredients in advance and making the dressing, then tossing everything together just before you plan to eat. And since the ingredients in this salad are heartier than, say, a Romaine lettuce salad, dressing the salad a little early won’t leave your salad soggy.

Thai Chopped Salad (1) | Espresso and Cream

Vegan Thai Chopped Salad
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree, Side Dish
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • SALAD INGREDIENTS
  • 10 cups finely chopped kale, stems removed
  • ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 bag (16 oz) coleslaw mix
  • 4 miniature red sweet peppers, thinly sliced (or ½ cup chopped red sweet pepper)
  • 3 medium carrots, grated
  • 2 green onions, sliced (white and green parts)
  • THAI PEANUT DRESSING
  • 3 tablespoons peanut butter
  • ⅓ cup hot water
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha or other hot sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
Instructions
  1. In a very large bowl, combine the kale and olive oil. Work together the kale and olive oil with your hands until kale is evenly coated with the oil. Add the remaining salad ingredients to bowl.
  2. To make dressing, whisk together the peanut butter and hot water until smooth. Whisk in the remaining ingredients until well combined. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss until well combined and salad is evenly coated.

 

 

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Next month Joe and I will celebrate three years of marriage. I’m tempted to say that I can’t believe it, but that’s only partly true. It’s so strange how these past three years feel long and short all at once. I feel like it was just yesterday that we got married on that beautiful summer morning in July, but it also feels like we’ve been married for a lifetime. We’ve experienced so much life in the past three years that sometimes I get tired just thinking about it; I can’t imagine what the next three years will bring.

The past two weeks Joe and I have been traveling a lot for work, and we’ve been on opposite schedules because of that travel. While sleeping in a king-sized bed all to myself the other night (!!!), I got to thinking about the little compromises that we make, like every other married couple, that keeps our relationship going strong.*

1. Where We Live
If it were up to me, I think I could be happy living in a town home with just a little piece of grass for the rest of my life. Either that or a very small house with a very small yard. Joe, on the other hand, needs space and a yard and lots of house projects to work on. It keeps him happy, sane and stress-free. So our compromise is to live in a modest-sized house with a reasonably sized yard.

2. My Last Name
Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while remember that I struggled with what to do with my last name. Take Joe’s last name? Or keep mine? Joe didn’t pressure me in one way or another. And I settled on taking both last names! I’m Mayberry at work at Hofmeyer at home with our friends and family. And, in case you’re wondering, our kiddos will be just plain Hofmeyer.

3. Our Pets
Joe would have preferred having big dogs. I never thought I wanted dogs, until I found a breed I love. And that, my friends, is how we ended up with two Cavaliers. Joe would agree now that they are the best dogs around.

4. How We Eat
Slowly over the past few years, Joe has become more of a healthy eater than he was when we dated or first got married. I love that he’s eating healthier, but I don’t expect him to eat mostly vegetarian like me. Instead, I prepare meat for his meals regularly as long as he is willing to eat vegetarian a few nights a week. Additionally, I prefer to shop at Whole Foods for a certain amount of our groceries, which Joe used to hate, but now he understands how much it means to me and has come around.

5. Splitting Household Responsibilities
When we first got married, I was really worried that I would be getting a second “job” with all the wifely duties I would take on. Thankfully Joe understood my fears and has made every effort to help out around the house. I do what I’m best at, such as grocery shopping, cooking the meals, packing lunches, washing the sheets and making the beds, and Joe does what he’s best at, including taking out the trash, letting out the dogs and feeding them, giving the dogs baths, doing the yard work and cleaning the bathrooms. It’s nice to have someone to split the responsibilities with and makes our marriage feel more like a partnership.

What marital compromises do you married folk make that keep your marriage running smoothly? 

*I think it goes without saying, but this list is on the lighter side. There are, of course, many other compromises we make that are not mentioned.

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