Monday, January 17, 2011

Caramel Macchiato Cupcakes and my First Venture into Couponing

Today has been a wonderful day. Thanks to Martin Luther King, Jr., I had no school.

Keep on reading to get to the good stuff...
As a teacher, I fully embrace all those little holidays that schools take off, but most businesses do not. While my Business Man got up and headed to work this morning, I was privileged to stay in our warm, cozy bed and get a late start to my day. It was great to have a catch-up day, because my Business Man and I were gone all weekend at a super-fun weekend in Indianapolis with some of his friends from college. (Woot woot for Merlinpeen!) 

Today was spent getting a lot of chores done, and some fun time in the kitchen as well. I also got my long run for the week in, on a Monday! (That never happens.) It's funny because in college, Monday's were always Long Run Days. But now, in the real world, they tend to fall on Saturday's or Sunday's, based on the sheer fact that those are the only day's with enough free time to run long. I'm trying to keep my long runs up in the double-digits, as I'm pondering a spring marathon... hmmm...

I'll share with you my least favorite and most favorite chores that I accomplished today.

Least Favorite: Cleaning the Bathroom

I'm not gonna lie; it's been a hideously long time since I've cleaned our bathroom. (Obviously, if it's my least favorite chore, it doesn't get done much.) Anyways, to get through the pain as quickly as possible, I always try to clean it right after I'm done running. I don't mind getting down on the nasty bathroom floor and scrubbing nastiness if I'm a sweaty dirty mess from running 10.3 miles. On the treadmill. At the gym where it feels like they keep it 85*F. (Today's instance.) 

Haven't you always wanted to see a picture of our bathroom? At least I didn't take a before picture...
I always save the shower for last. It's the worst. Once I get everything else clean and sparkly, I hop in the shower and get to it. Then, once it's all nice and clean, I get to shower myself. Such a sweet reward for all the hard work, a shower in the just-cleaned shower and lemony-fresh bathroom.

Most Favorite: Grocery Shopping! (Who would have guessed?)

Today I hit up the local supermarket to get us some groceries for the week. We did stop at Trader Joe's yesterday while we were in Indy, but didn't get too much in the way of fresh produce and such. 

Also, I needed to purchase some ingredients that we usually don't have on hand. I received an email today that the Pillsbury Bake-off is now accepting entries for their 2012 contest. Grand prize is one million dollars! Sign me up! The catch is, you have to use certain Pillsbury products in your recipes. I spent a good portion of my morning recipe brain-storming and coming up with ideas that I want to try. So, I had to buy some Pillsbury items to test my recipes out.

I also decided to try using some coupon-ing tactics today in my shopping trip. I have seen people some some huge moolah ($) by using coupons, but I haven't really had much luck. The problem is, the coupons that I find are never for what I'm going to buy. So, why buy something I don't really need to "save" money?

Anyways, after I made my grocery list, I spent a good 30 minutes browsing the inter-webs for some coupons for the stuff on my list. I ended up finding stuff that would work, so I quickly printed and cut them out and made it to the store. Turns out, Ray's is doing a TRIPLE coupon promotion this week, where they triple the value of coupons with a value up to $0.50. (For example a $0.25 coupon would be worth $0.75, and a $0.50 coupon would be worth $1.50.)

Unfortunately, a couple of my coupons were $1.00 coupons, so they couldn't be tripled. And, some of them that were $0.50 had instructions not to double or triple. Bummer. And, a couple of the products that I had coupons for (lunchmeat and organic salad mix) weren't carried by Ray's.

Overall, I ended up saving $4.00, which is not much, but at least it's something! Not too bad for my first try. I got a good deal on some Yoplait yogurt, Pillsbury cookie dough, and Nestle chocolate chips. 

I'm excited to get more into it perhaps, and see how much I can really save.

Goodness, I never realized how long one could ramble on about coupons. Geez. 

[Side note: On a run in college, we once spent 3 miles of our run discussing cheese. Types of cheese, what to do with leftover cheese, shredded vs. sliced. Can I say we got bored easily. I guess once I get talking about something, I could talk forever.]

Anyways, now for the reason most of you are here: the cupcakes! I absolutely love cupcakes. As evidenced by the 501 cupcakes that I baked the day before my wedding with my bridesmaids. Five different flavors; it was wonderful.

I don't even think I've blogged about cupcakes before, which is very unusual. I made these Caramel Macchiato Cupcakes a few weeks ago while we were home for Christmas. My parents have a big Open House each year, and we make a TON of food for everyone who comes to snack on. 

When I first found this recipe on this blog, I didn't try it because of my love for caramel macchiato's. No, I don't even like the drink that much. (Give me a pumpkin spice latte or cinnamon dulce latte any day!)

But, macchiato is a really fun word to say, and the pictures of these were just too pretty to pass up! So I had to try them. 

This cupcake is heavier than most of my cupcakes, but it's very moist, and infused with a slight coffee flavor. It's topped with fresh whipped cream, which is a nice contrast to the denser cake. It's then garnished with a homemade caramel drizzle! Just like when you order a caramel macchiato at the coffee shop. So cute!

Caramel Macchiato Cupcakes (adapted from My Buttery Fingers)
Makes about 18 cupcakes.

For the cake:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup strongly brewed coffee, room temperature
1/4 cup milk
2-3 tbsp. Kahlua
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 rounded tsp. instant coffee
1/2 cup mini-chocolate chips

For the whipped cream:
8-oz. heavy whipping cream
3 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. Kahlua

For the caramel drizzle:
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp. butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

To make the cupcakes, preheat oven to 350*F. Line cupcake tin with paper liners. Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt in small bowl and set aside. Combine coffee, milk, and Kahlua in a cup and set aside. Cream butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs one at at me. Reduce speed to low and beat in flour mixture alternately with liquid mixture, finishing with the flour mixture. Blend in the instant coffee.

Fill cupcake liners about 3/4 full with batter. Sprinkle on mini-chocolate chips. Bake 15-18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean, and cupcakes bounce back when lightly pressed with finger. Remove from pans to wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

To make the caramel drizzle, warm the cream in a small bowl in the microwave. Set aside. Spread sugar evenly across the bottom of a heavy-bottomed saucepan and put over medium-high flame. Try not to touch the sugar but watch carefully as it melts. As soon as it is browning, start to stir. When it has all browned lightly, remove the pot from the heat and stir in the butter. Beware, it will bubble!

Bring it back to the heat and stir for a few seconds until smooth. Remove from the heat again and add the warmed cream. It will bubble again, so be careful. Stir rapidly until smooth. Set aside and cool to lukewarm.

To make the whipped cream, whip the cream with the sugar until soft peaks form. (I always just let it go in my stand mixer... less work for me!) Add in vanilla and Kahlua and whip until medium peaks form.

To assemble, first of all, make sure cupcakes are completely cool! Or else the whipped cream will slide all around. Transfer the whipped cream to a gallon-size ziploc bag, and snip a hole in the corner of it. Pipe in a swirling motion onto each cupcake. Drizzle the caramel sauce over the cupcakes with a spoon. And enjoy! Make sure to store leftovers in the refrigerator, as the whipped cream will get droopy.

That's all for now! I'm back to school tomorrow, and it's the first day of 2nd semester! Oh yeah. I'm teaching Algebra 2 again, but I'm also teaching Calculus... the first few weeks should be fine, but I might be needed some online tutoring with how to teach calc as we get further into the semester. Oy...

Have a great week everyone!


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