April 16, 2015

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

Margot asked for three things for her birthday: cupcakes, "cwockalit", and pink. These dark chocolate cupcakes with strawberry cream cheese frosting ticked all the boxes.
And oh my goodness, were they good.

I usually prefer a thick slice of cake to a cupcake or two--something about the frosting-to-cake ratio, I think--but these might be my new go-to treat for a while. Just the right amount of strawberry sweetness to lighten the richness of the dark chocolate. They were perfect.

The strawberry frosting had me a little worried at first. I was hoping to use a piping bag to make roses yesterday, but adding the fresh strawberry puree made it far too runny for that. After being in the fridge overnight it was just thick enough for piping, though, so if that's what you want to do you'll have to plan ahead. Or you can just smear some frosting on each cupcake and call it good. They won't be as pretty that way but they'll still be tasty enough to eat two.
Which is exactly what I did. This morning. Before breakfast.
I regret nothing.

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes 2 dozen

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes
adapted slightly from Tish Boyle

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cups sour cream
3/4 cups Greek yogurt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line to 12-cup cupcake tins with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl (use either a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or a bowl and hand mixer) beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and beat until combined.

Add 1/3 of dry ingredient mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low until fully incorporated. Add sour cream and mix well. Add another 1/3 of dry ingredients and mix. Add Greek yogurt and mix. Add remaining dry ingredients and mix until just combined. The batter will be very thick, similar to brownie batter.

Divide batter evenly into prepared tins--I used an overfilled cookie scoop to keep the mess to a minimum--and bake for 20 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

4 oz (half a block) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup (half a stick) butter, softened
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup strawberry puree (I used an immersion blender on some fresh strawberries)

Beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Continue beating, adding powdered sugar a little at a time to avoid a white powdery mess. Beat in strawberry puree until fully incorporated. Frost cooled cupcakes and serve.
* You could probably use any cocoa powder but the Hershey's special dark stuff is my absolute favorite. It's affordable and such good quality, I haven't used anything else since I discovered it. I buy mine at Target, and I've heard you can get it at Walmart too...or you can be a baking obsessed nerd like me and buy it in bulk from Amazon. (Those are affiliate links, by the way. Just so ya know.)

April 15, 2015

Happy Birthday, Fat Baby!

I really shouldn't call her that anymore. I mean, she's two today. TWO. I almost can't believe it. And just look at her. She's a kid.
A silly, smart, sassy, sensitive, stubborn, snuggly, sweet kid.
Oh, that face. She squeezes my heart till I think it might burst.
She sings all day long. She climbs on me and gives me the biggest hugs and kisses. She loves to read, swing, jump on the bed, and playing pretend with her sister, but her most favorite thing of all is coloring. Give that girl a crayon and she'll entertain herself for hours. I have proof on both my walls and floors.
She is so polite and kind and tender, but boy oh boy, does she have a fiery streak in her. She wants to do everything her way, all by her self, and heaven help you if you get in her way. It takes her a while to warm up to people, but once she decides she loves you, she will love you with every ounce of her big heart.
There just aren't words to describe how much joy this little frog has brought into our lives. I'm so grateful we get to keep her for always. I don't care how tall and skinny and grown-up she gets; she'll always be my sweet fat baby.
I sure love you, Margot. Happy birthday.

All photos by Photography Hill.

April 13, 2015

Mila Monday

Amelia: 202 weeks + Margot: 104 weeks

Living in this desert (which up till now is still pleasant but I'm just waiting for that triple-digit bomb to drop) is hard. But you know what? It's still pretty beautiful. And we have tons of sources for pretty amazing Mexican food. Like these Benny Blanco tortillas we got at the Gilbert Farmer's Market this weekend, which Mila promptly tore into. Flat floury perfection.
Also, being a parent is hard. Kids can be whiny and irrational and stubborn and gross and exhausting. But you know what? It's still pretty much the best thing ever. Because they're also sweet and snuggly and hilarious and helpful and brilliant.

So no matter how much I may complain about all of it, know this: I really like where we live, and I really like my family. Amen.

April 6, 2015

Mila Monday

Amelia: 201 weeks + Margot: 103 weeks

We spent Easter afternoon at David's parents' house and it was just lovely.
The girls dyed eggs for the first time ever. (I'm not very good at holidays, especially when small children making messes are involved, so thank goodness for grandmas who are more patient than I am.)
Uncle Ben played Easter Bunny, hiding all the freshly dyed eggs for the kiddos to find.
Margot was FAR more interested in the water table than anything else. And that was fine: we filled it up for them to splash in after all the eggs had been found.
Aunt Liz had gotten all the girls bunny ears, which they loved.
I'm so thankful to have family close by, for aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents who love my babies, and for beautiful afternoons filled with good food and wonderful people. I hope you all had a happy Easter weekend too. 
Jesus lives. Life is good. Hugs all around.

April 2, 2015

I want to ride my bicycle!

David bought me a bike for Christmas.

Okay, that's not entirely accurate. He bent some wire into the shape of a bike and gave that to me for Christmas. A few days later we went on a family outing to a local bike shop where I test rode a few options. Then he bought me a bike.

She is beautiful and I love her. Unfortunately I don't ride her very often.

Last night David suggested I ride to my weeknight activity with the youth in our church, since it was just at a park down the street. It was the perfect idea. On my way home, I felt so strong and free and carefree. Given that I'd spent the last couple hours dealing with sassy teenagers who like to push my buttons, it was wonderful to take five minutes to shed that stress and just relish the wind on my face. (I love those kids, but boy howdy, do they know how to set a person's teeth on edge.)

I'd love to cruise around with Margot after dropping Mila off at preschool. I could take the girls along the canal path and look for bunnies and ducks. We could all go for twilight bike rides after David gets home from work. It all sounds so idyllic and so pleasantly possible. I just need to figure out some logistics...namely, how to haul my girls around with me.
Do you have a bike trailer? Or bike seats for kiddos? I'd love to know what you've used--or seen other people use--that you love. We need to acquire something but I don't even know where to start!
I also need to name this lovely. I'm leaning toward Clementine but it hasn't stuck, so maybe it's not right. What would you call her?
All photos by Photography Hill
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