Monday, April 18, 2011

If Only a Cupcake Could Cure Cancer

This is a very different post tonight. About 15 minutes ago I learned that my dear friend, Jenny, has been diagnosed with breast cancer. My heart is so heavy and I'm too tired to bake, so I'm doing the only other thing I know how to do when I have a heavy heart- write.

I want to tell you about how I met my amazing friend. I was a Resident Assistant in Hudson Hall at Northwest Missouri State University. The most adorable, lanky, blonde young lady with a dimple-filled smile moved into the room next to mine. As she began decorating her room, I noticed that we had lots of things in common. She was Catholic, she had lots of arts and craft supplies, she wore a really cool Egyptian cartouche necklace, and she loved the movie 'The Jerk'. I instantly knew that this young woman was going to be a fast friend of mine. She finished her side of the room and then began to decorate the outside of her door. She hung the most AMAZING picture this only child had ever seen. It was a very contented looking woman surrounded by a sea of blonde children- EIGHT of them. This was a picture that had been in the Omaha World Herald on Mother's Day. I had never known anyone who was a member of a family with EIGHT children. I was instantly in awe and we forged a fast friendship as she told me all about her siblings. I still, on nights when I can't sleep, try to recite all of the names of the Reynolds siblings!

The year wore on and Jenny and I noticed that we also had a love for music and she introduced me to what has become one of my very favorite groups, the Indigo Girls. We sang many duets to the song, "Language or the Kiss" as well as just about every other song on the Swamp Ophelia album. I cannot even count the number of laughs, tears, and songfests in the hallway that were had that year. It was magical. Jenny continued on and went on to be an RA in my husband, Matt's, residence hall and her decoration of her floor was flawless! While Jenny was at northwest, Steven, Angie, and Anna were born! Jenny was now the oldest of ELEVEN!!! My awe continued!!

Jenny's was the only wedding I've actually missed. I mean COMPLETELY missed. Matt and I headed to Omaha on a Saturday morning, spent the day with my mom, gave her our baby, and were headed to the wedding. I couldn't remember the time, so I gave Jenny's mom a call and asked what time the wedding started. I'll never forget the heartbreak in her voice as she said, "Oh, Jill. Bless your heart. The wedding was last night!" AAAACCKKK! I was devastated and teary and what did Jenny and Tim do? They took time out of their busy family wedding weekend and came to the hotel to see US! That's just he kind of person Jenny is. Always putting herself above others.

She is now an amazing wife to Tim, and a model of mothering to Kate, Josh, and Andrew. She is still her incredible self, singing in her church choir, working to live her life to glorify her god, and being an amazing oldest child for her now very, very large immediate family. She is truly one of the very best people I know, and someone who I wish I were more like every day.

My heart is breaking, not because I don't have every faith in the world that Jenny will persevere, survive, and emerge an even better image of herself. My heart is breaking because this beautiful soul is going to feel pain and suffering. The thought of my dear friend going through this kind of pain is almost more than I can bear. I know Jenny, though, and I know she will be a warrior like no other. I am not one to believe that God makes choices to 'do' bad things to people or to 'make' bad things happen. I believe in a kind and gentle God and believe that my faith is that God will sit with me in the times in which I cannot bear to go on. I believe that prayers for wisdom for doctors, strength for Jenny's family, and a never-ending prayer chain of faith and love can raise the strength and spirit of Jenny's body. I know that God doesn't cure disease, but he does provide the grace and wisdom of doctors. That's what I will be praying for, unceasingly, from now until Jenny is completely cured. I would ask that you, if you are inclined to believe in a higher being of any kind, pray for Jenny, Tim, their children, and ALL of those Reynolds siblings that they may be strengthened and find love and laughter in this fearful time.

Tonight I will dry my tears, and know that Jenny has undoubtedly already found the silver lining in this ominous cloud. All I know is that if cupcakes could cure Cancer, I'd bake, and bake, and bake.

Thanks for your prayers,

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Look out Paula Deen!

I finally got a link to my television debut! Of course, we're all incredibly critical of ourselves, and I certainly look like a cross between the Barefoot Contessa and Paula Deen and a lot less like Giada or Rachael Ray, but hopefully the presence of the double chin won't frighten you away!

The episode is actually very, very well done for a college production. I'm really impressed with the video editing that the kids did! I hope you enjoy it!

Good eats,

Monday, April 11, 2011

Monkey Business

Some cakes just make you smile.

I had the opportunity to be a part of another first birthday this week. The mom asked me to make a monkey cake based on the fact that her little boy was always referred to as their 'monkey'. I was thrilled to do this for little Ryker.

This whole cake has more of a story to it than just being a monkey cake. Early last week I was approached by our university television station and asked if I would be willing to be a part of their show, Diner in the Rough. This is a show that is a little like Food Network's 'Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives'. I was a bit hesitant at first, given that I'm not so much a 'location' as I am, well, my kitchen! I wasn't sure if my venue would be what the show was after, but decided to give them a chance to try.

I had my first attempt at being a food network star on Friday afternoon. The producer asked that I have some sort of a project to work on during the shoot, so I chose Ryker's monkey cake. The college students that came to film were absolutely adorable, and took their work very seriously. I allowed the host, Aaron, to be my assistant on the cake. I was thrilled with his willingness to try new things and he did a really great job. I did some finishing items after the crew had left, but overall Aaron helped me with 90% of the cake!

I have new-found respect for the ladies and gents who work on television. Of course, my tiny little show was nothing compared to what those individuals do every day. However, I found it both distracting and a bit disconcerting to talk about what I was doing as I did it. I'm so used to being 100% alone during my work day, that it was hard for me to articulate my process. After a few minutes, I got really comfortable with the host and was able to settle into a pretty good groove. I believe the show will air sometime soon on the university television network. As soon as they get it posted on You Tube, I'll review it and see if I've got my 'Rachael Ray meets Paula Deen' groove on enough to share with all of you!

Here's the final monkey product!

We also had another HUGE moment in our family this week. We celebrated my husband Matt's 40th birthday. It was a terrific surprise for him, and great fun to plan for me! He even got his very own cakes. Finally, something from the business that he was allowed to eat!

I made the black and white fondant cake. He requested something with a chocolate mousse filling, so that's what he received. Avery also made him a special cake. I think she's ready to take over the business!

This week I'm involved in a local cupcake competition! Wish me luck!

Good eats,

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Life's better with Mascarpone!

What do you get when you combine fresh strawberries with Mascarpone cheese and powdered sugar???????

My dear friend, (and new mommy), Meghan recently celebrated her birthday. I was asked to create a strawberry shortcake cupcake for Meg. These cupcakes smelled like pure Heaven. They were a vanilla crumbed cupcake filled with strawberry glace and chopped fresh strawberries. The topping was a Mascarpone and powdered sugar frosting with strawberry puree and fresh chopped strawberries. I topped the whole thing with a huge, fresh strawberry. DANG IT! I shouldn't have given up sweets for Lent. I hope this special cupcake for a special lady tasted as great as it looked!

This cupcake is not yet named. If you suggest a name and I choose it you will win a free dozen cupcakes, so suggest away!

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Mascarpone cheese. If you haven't tried it, think of a creamy combination of Ricotta and cream cheese. If you've ever had my very favorite dessert, Tiramisu, you've had Mascarpone. In Tiramisu, the Mascarpone may be infused with a bit of Espresso, but it's still Heavenly. You can fill cream puffs, cannolis, or even strawberry shortcake with Mascarpone. It seems to live up to its Italian heritage; decadent and delightful! Of course, I've never found anything Italian that I didn't like....well except for possibly the pig's feet I was once encouraged to eat by an Italian cook....that would NOT be made better with Mascarpone!

Good eats,