Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Camp Susu Snacks—Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cupcakes

All this week I’ve been sharing my niece’s visit to my house (Camp Susu :) with you. You can read about it here and here. I promised to post the recipe for the cupcakes pictured in Monday’s post. And I’ve got a little tip to share with you too!


These are filled cupcakes, but they start out like any other cupcake.


Most recipes for filled cupcakes instruct you to squeeze the filling in with the tip on a pastry bag. I have had limited success with this method. It works; it just doesn’t provide room for that full gooey filling I’m looking for. I tried my apple corer and IT WORKS great! Just core the cool cupcake gently. Save the removed cake portion and proceed with the filling. Replace the removed portion when you are ready to frost the cupcake. You may need to cut a little off the edge to make it fit after adding the filling. I got lots more filling into the cupcake using this method.


See? Lots of gooey goodness inside. This is the perfect cupcake for those of us who like chocolate paired with peanut butter!

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cupcakes


1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup sour cream

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

3 large eggs

1 1/4 cups sugar

1/2 cup peanut butter (I used crunchy)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 24 muffin cups with paper liners. Whisk first four ingredients in a medium bowl until well mixed. In another bowl, whisk milk and sour cream until blended. Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer. Beat in peanut butter until blended. Add eggs, one at a time until incorporated. With the mixer on low speed, add alternately add flour and milk mixture, beginning and ending with flour, until just blended. Spoon 1/4 cup batter in liners. Bake about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pan and place on wire rack to cool completely.

Peanut Butter Filling

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

3-4 tablespoons of milk

Beat peanut butter and butter with electric mixer until smooth. On low speed, gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar and milk until blended and smooth. Beat on high one minute until fluffy.

Chocolate Frosting

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup sour cream

Melt chocolate chips in a glass bowl in the microwave as the package directs. You can also do this in a double boiler. Add sour cream and beat with electric mixer until fluffy.

*Adapted from Woman’s Day Magazine

Now get a glass of milk and a good book :) I am joining my favorite foodie Michael Lee West at Designs by Gollum for Foodie Friday. Click on her button on the sidebar to go straight to the party!

Thanks for stopping by! Don’t forget to say hello! :)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Camp Susu Outdoors—Part II

If you read my previous post, you know that I recently hosted our four year old niece for a five day visit---a visit I planned to keep us both busy and entertained. I am blessed to live in a city with wonderful amenities and venues for both leisure and cultural entertainment. This year we have enjoyed the Botanic Gardens several times.


In April we enjoyed a beautiful sunrise Easter service in the garden. Of course, it is filled with beautiful flora of every description. These hydrangeas photos were taken on a visit in late May. Recently a new addition has opened especially for children. So when my niece came, we headed over to check out My Big Back Yard.


It’s a totally kid-friendly hands on experience with lots of opportunities for fun and learning.


She was pretty impressed with the “giant” ten foot sunflowers! So was I!


We made sure we sure we interspersed the learning with a little down and dirty fun!


Lots of beautiful statuary in the gardens. Some is for playing.


And some is just for looking.


There several kid-size houses with nooks, crannies, and holes to poke heads, elbows, and legs into…easy to get into; not so easy to get out of :)


I hear that it has become the hot new birthday party destination!


It is obvious that lots of planning and care went into this new project.


There are several water features. The best is a “storm” complete with thunder, lightening, and, of course, rain! It was a welcome relief on one of our hot days!


This is part of the “house” section of the garden tour. A place to rest….


And kick off your shoes….


or call it a day and head to the “flower bed” :) . And just in case, you think the Botanic Garden is just for kids….

Natalie Cole Live At The Memphis Botanic Gardens

On Friday night we attended the “Live at the Garden” series. resized_al_green1

and saw Al Green…He’s still got it! And I’m glad we’ve got the garden. I think next year I’ll buy a family pass! :) So what’s in your hometown? A place to “staycation”?

I am joining our gracious hostess Susan at A Southern Day Dreamer for Outdoor Wednesday. Click here to join Susan and lots of other outdoor enthusiasts. You won’t be sorry!


Thanks for stopping by! Don’t forget to say hello!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Camp Susu-part 1

I think I may have told you. I am once again at that awkward age. I don’t fit in with most of my friends….I’m in between. My children are grown and I have no grandchildren…yet. So every chance I get, I “borrow” children. Last month my four year old niece came for five days for what her mother lovingly calls Camp Susu.


We had outings planned and a full schedule for every day. We went to the spray park (is that a rainbow for me? :) and afterwards for cotton candy flavored ice cream (don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it :). We went to see Toy Story and we both loved it. We went to the Botanic Gardens.

CIMG2280-1We swam every day—such a good way to use up energy exercise :)! And to make sure that we would enjoy my favorite part of the day we made a trip to the library to stock up on books.

CIMG2298Robert Fulghum said “Think what a better world it would be if we all-the whole world-had cookies and milk every afternoon about three o’ clock and then lay down with our blankies for a nap”. His book Everything I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten has sage advice for all of us.


Almost every afternoon we shared a snack, a book, and a special quiet time together. CJ, the Build a Bear, likes to snuggle too, so we invited her. We read classics that I love like The Giving Tree and books that are new to me like the adorable Fancy Nancy series. Amid whispers, giggles, tickles and secrets, slowly…..ever.. so.. s l o w l y….. exhaustion took over and white blonde curls that smelled of Johnson and Johnson spilled across the pillow. We both drifted off to dream of another day……..Her mother has already applied for the Christmas vacation session of Camp Susu :)


I am joining Marty at A Stroll Thru Life for Tabletop Tuesday. Marty is constantly rearranging and adding to her tabletop decor in such lovely and creative ways. You can join her here. Thanks for hosting, Marty! Come back on Wednesday for more of our excursions at Camp Susu. On Thursday for Foodie Friday I’ll have the recipe for these delicious peanut butter filled cupcakes!!

Thanks for stopping by—don’t forget to say hello!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Celebrating 100 Weeks of Tablescapes!

I love summer birthdays! My favorite way to entertain friends on their special day is with an invitation to a day of floating in the pool and a “girl” lunch….nothing but relaxation, food, and celebration.


So come on through the gate to the back yard…it’s a celebration for our good friend Susan at Between Naps on the Porch in honor of 100 tablescapes!!!


Nothing fussy here! This is a party meant to be fun for the hostess and the guest. A beach towel is an easy and colorful tablecloth. A crystal compote filled with shells makes a perfect centerpiece to keep things light and airy. The menu is almost all “do ahead”. Just float a while longer while I put the finishing touches on the salad.


These shells have been collected through years and years of beach trips by tiny little hands that are no longer tiny.


The first course is my favorite—gazpacho. With vegetables plentiful in the gardens of friends and at the farmers’ market, there is no better time to enjoy this summer delicacy. It’s diet friendly too. I like to serve it in a chilled martini glass garnished with a wedge of cucumber.


Shrimp (boil your own or have them steamed at the grocery store) on top of mixed baby greens is the main course. Garnish with whatever you like. We love eggs, avocado, and tomatoes. I’ll be topping this with Come Back Sauce. You can find the recipe here. It is the best topping or dipping sauce for shrimp! Save a little room--we’ll be having lemon ice for dessert.


Thank you Susan!! I have been enjoying and inspired by your tables since RMS days! I appreciate your willingness to share your talent with tables and blogging skills. You are indeed a gracious hostess! Happy 100; looking forward to 100 more!



2 large tomatoes

1 medium cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped

1/2 green pepper, coarsely chopped

1/2 onion, coarsely chopped

24 ounces canned tomato juice

1/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

Dash of your favorite hot sauce (optional)

Dip tomatoes into boiling water for one minute. Lift out with slotted spoon. Peel and chop into medium sizes pieces. Put vegetables, a few at a time into a blender and puree’ until smooth. Add tomato juice, olive oil, and vinegar slowly and continue to puree’. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled.

Chop a few vegetable to use as garnish if desired. This is even better the day after it is made. Serve in a chilled bowl with a chilled spoon!

I am linking to Michael at Designs by Gollum for Foodie Friday too! Click on their buttons on my sidebar for immediate transportation to the parties! Thanks for coming to the celebration. Leave me a note!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Food for Thought…The Gate House

gate house

The Gate House


First let me say two things: Number one, I am normally a Nelson Demille fan. And yes, that is two stars….and they’re pretty dim stars at that. And second, I have a personal rule about not abandoning books without reading to the end. This book made me wonder why I’d ever imposed that rule and who’d know if I broke it.


I’ve enjoyed several of Mr. Demille’s books. Plum Island and The Charm School are two of my favorites. This book is a sequel to Gold Coast written eighteen years ago. The characters themselves, especially John Sutter, are interesting and well developed. I enjoyed Sutter’s caustic wit and sarcasm for the first fifty pages. His “Dear Ms Post” letters actually had me laughing out loud. Then slowly I began to feel as if one of us had stayed too long at the party. John Sutter became the boor who told the same joke one too many times.


There’s not a lot of talk about food in this novel. There is lots of talk about money, and wills, and sex. There are pages and pages of deceit, revenge, and sex. There are chapters on mafia dons, mafia hits, and yes….mafia sex.


I don’t want to mislead you. This book is not 674 pages of sarcasm and sex. Sometimes it contains cocktails, sarcasm, and sex. Maybe it’s just me, but I found Susan Sutter’s appetites a little far-fetched even for a cheating, murdering heiress…but maybe that’s just me.


I’m joining Food for Thought on Saturday. Don’t worry. I read two books that I could not put down while I was at the beach. Next time you’ll see more stars…I promise! For more edible reviews click here!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Walking Tour of Seaside

I think somewhere in my line of ancestors there must be a sea captain, or a mermaid….at the very least a pirate. I am never happier than I am at the beach. The crashing of waves is the song of the sirens for me. We just returned from a wonderful week in Florida which is, at least for now, unspoiled by oil.


We have been vacationing in Destin FL for many years, but decided to try something new this year. We rented a fabulous house (a craftsman bungalow you can see here) in Seagrove just a few miles away. Water Color, Seaside, and Seagrove are all beautiful planned beach communities that run into each other. Right away we loved the sense of community we felt. We arrived on Saturday afternoon and got settled. On Sunday morning we walked about two blocks to a good old fashioned Fourth of July parade filled with children, bicycles, and politicians throwing beads and candy.


I took a few pictures of the homes in our little neighborhood. We were a short walk from the beach.


Most of the homes were beautiful pastels with privacy provided by lots of natural vegetation. I loved this one.


Each house had wonderful porches on at least one level. Look at the starfish in the transom above the front door in this home that was a gorgeous shade of blue.


Lots of attention was paid to the details in this planned community. Much of the 1998 movie The Truman Show was filmed here because of the idyllic setting.


We spent our days on these sugar-like beaches. Groups of two or three scouts for tar balls came by at least once an hour.


Lots of bocce ball on the beach!


When we had had enough sun for the day, we walked to town which was built like a town square with a common green. There were shops, restaurants, art galleries…..but my favorite…..


Air stream trailers with food! I regret to say that I was not there long enough to try every flavor from the Frost Bite snow cone trailer, but I can personally recommend the lemon meringue pie with a shot of cream :)… make that :0) :0) ….double big happy faces! There was also a cupcake trailer!!!! I had the best key lime cupcake ever!! And then I waddled home :)


The sun has set on this vacation. I am glad to be back home (no dogs allowed at the beach house :(! But we came back with enough memories to last until next year.

I am joining Susan at A Southern Day Dreamer for Outdoor Wednesday. Please join her for more of this wonderful world we live in! Thanks for visiting….leave me a note!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bungalow at the Beach

I’m back from the beach where thankfully there was no oil. We were able to enjoy beautiful white beaches and mostly gorgeous weather. For years we have rented a three bedroom condo on the beach---a bedroom for us, and girls’ bedroom and boys’ bedroom to accommodate our children and the friends they took. With the addition of a son in law to the family and the need for more room, we tried something new this year. We move several miles down the beach to a quaint community called Seaside, Florida..


Seaside is an idyllic community designed in 1979 with easy walking and bicycle access to diverse shopping, restaurants, and cultural events. We felt more like guests than tourists! To top it off, we rented a totally unexpected treasure that was perfect for our needs.


We found this craftsman bungalow amid all the pastel “beachy” architecture. All on one level it was a perfect fit for our crew which included me, Beloved, three children, a husband, a girlfriend, and a boyfriend. We had three regular bedrooms and one bunk-style room.


The kitchen was a dream! Concrete countertops, heart pine floors, top of the line appliances, and well-equipped open shelves. We are a family of cookers and eaters, so this gave us lots of room.


The kitchen was open to a large dining area and a breakfast bar. The tall ceilings and open rafters are just so unexpected in a beach house! We ate several meals and played lots of board games at this table with great wicker chairs.


Look at this gorgeous fireplace. We’ve already decided it would be a great place to spend Thanksgiving!


Now, take a look to the left and you’ll see one of my favorite parts of the house. These doors open completely to almost double the living space.


This was everyone’s favorite spot. If I were building a house, I would certainly incorporate this into the plan. The living area opens into this covered loggia—the perfect place for morning coffee or waiting out a rain shower.


The loggia was two steps up from this beautiful salt water pool, deck and grill area. My job was to rescue the small frogs I found swimming every morning.


Now this porch off the master bedroom was my private oasis. I have a tendency to wake up very early and this is where I had my tea and read every morning. I watched the sun come up and begin peaking through the shutters. It was a perfect vacation in a perfect house for us!

***We found this home on VRBO and I do not know the owner or property manager. I just thought you might enjoy the tour :). I’ll be back later in the week to give you a walking tour of Seaside and some of the other homes and architecture!

I missed you and I’m glad to be back home! Thanks for stopping by—leave me a note :)!