Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dinner Plan-it 1st Birthday Capuccino Buttercream


Wow...it's been a whole year since the very first post of Dinner Plan-it appeared out there in the wild world of the blogosphere...happy birthday, Dinner Plan-it!

Even at a mere 1 year old, a birthday can be a time for reflection, for studying where you've been (literally and figuratively) in the last year and where you'd like to go in the next.  We've come a long way in one year.  We've grown, we've changed...and over the year, we've learned a lot.

Kimber and I started together with an idea for a mom and daughter cooking blog...and that's one of the things that changed in the first year.  The time commitment to put out a food and dining (and drink!) blog is enormous and it's hard to find the massive amounts of time needed every week. Kimber's job AND social life, at this point in her life, are too full for this amount of time commitment.  

I say, good for her!  Kimber has her priorities straight!  Don't worry, though, she'll still pop in occasionally with new ideas...and a new boozy cupcake or two.  And you can be sure we'll still be collaborating on "researching" some fun, new brunch spots, lunch spots and nightspots!

Time commitment?  You mean what appears on Dinner Plan-it takes time?!  What shows up on each page is the result of many, many hours of work.  From meal planning, to recipe research, to testing, to cooking, baking, grilling or smoking the subject dish, to the photos, choosing just the right sexy food pic, uploading and editing it, to the hours of writing and editing each post, then uploading the post and...well, you get the idea.  It's a LOT of work, work that you have to be passionate about, work you have to love.  And I do.

Even with all that food-blogging love, sometimes there's some major headbanging involved, folks…it isn’t all smooth and simple all the time.  Those technical issues can be frustrating as hell!  AARRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHH!  

Did you know food bloggers rarely have a hot meal?!  By the time I'm happy with the photo, the food is stone cold.  Thank God for the microwave...and a patient family.  If it sounds like I'm whining, I'm not - I wouldn't have it any other way. 

And then there's the weight gain.  Ugh.  Nothing further need be said on that subject.  Really.  

The best thing of all is being able to share the places and events that mean the most to me - Baltimore and Bad Decisions (that's the bar in Fells Point, not my life choices) and our lovely stay at The Admiral Fell Inn, family visits to Michigan and Ohio and West Virginia to visit and cook with all three daughters and sharing our stories.

Telling you about the always fun and food-filled adventures at the Food With Friends events in Annapolis - especially the Bounty of the Chesapeake and those gorgeous crabs (and some pretty gorgeous foodie friends, too!) is always a kick.  Coincidentally, Food With Friends is celebrating it's very own 1st anniversary in three weeks.  Stay tuned for that report!

Other highlights of the year included judging both the Culinary Competition and THE Great Happy Hour Competition at Savor Pittsburgh.  What an opportunity to meet and work with local chefs, restaurant owners, mixologists, fellow bloggers and food writers.  We all had (and have) our love of good food and fine spirits in common.   Such a fun and very down-to-earth group!

Judging the mixology competition of Shakin' It Up to Stop Lung Cancer for the LUNGevity Foundation just 2 weeks later was another incredible experience.  Sitting alongside Bill Toland of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Michael Green of Gourmet Magazine was an honor.

Those were milestones in the life of Dinner Plan-it and my own.  I can hardly wait to see what new adventures and challenges are waiting to fill these pages next year.

Speaking of next year, where does Dinner Plan-it go from here? Again, I'm speaking both literally and figuratively.  There are lots of new restaurants just waiting to be discovered in Pittsburgh and beyond, lots of new dishes and drinks waiting to be recreated and shared.  There are so many chefs, bartenders and business owners that have great stories to tell.  I can't wait for you to hear them!

What else is new out there?  Bar programs in this city have exploded with amazing new mixologists, quality ingredients, housemade infusions, syrups and shrubs…there’s a story!  Pittsburgh definitely plays with the big boys in the bar program department now.

Bar Marco even has an ICE PROGRAM to produce and prepare just the right type of ice to highlight the top-shelf liquors behind their bar...and in your drink.  Wigle Whiskey is now making Ginever - and, rumor has it (reliably), they'll be producing their very own bitters!  New breweries are opening, including Aurochs Brewing Company, which produces Pittsburgh's first gluten-free beer, and The Brew Gentlemen  in Braddock!

There are new restaurants opening…Tender in Lawrenceville, Notions in East Liberty, an as yet unnamed replacement in the Strip District where the short-lived, yet lamented, Emilia Romagno used to be.  There are thriving restaurants I need to get to yet…Yinz-burgh BBQ, Spoon, Avenue B, Point Park AND Point Brugges, Echo, Bella Notte, The Savoy…I couldn’t begin to name them all. 

Okay, that’s Pittsburgh, but how about the “beyond” part?  The south is beckoning…explorations of Memphis or Nashville or New Orleans are definitely overdue.  Time will tell.  Stay tuned for that developing story.   

I’d like to improve the technical side of Dinner Plan-it, too.  Again, stay tuned….I foresee future, further forehead slapping when old and new technical issues and I once again collide.  Fist shaking at the computer does not help.  I know.  I’ve tried.  Please be patient as I work out the kinks?  

So there we are.  DPI's first year is under our belt and new adventures await.  There are new recipes to create and test and photograph and share.  With you.  That’s the entire reason Dinner Plan-it exists.  So Happy birthday, Dinner Plan-it!  Happy birthday and here’s to many more!  Let's toast with a cupcake!

Dinner Plan-it 1st Birthday Capuccino Buttercream

  • 6 cups powdered sugar, sifted and divided
  • 1 1/2 cups butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  4 tablespoons milk+ extra in case you need it
  • 3 teaspoons espresso coffee, instant variety
  • 6 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Combine 3 cups sifted powdered sugar, butter, 4 T. milk and vanilla in large bowl.  Beat with electric mixer until smooth.  

Add espresso powder, cocoa powder and cinnamon; mix until thoroughly combined.  Add remaining powdered sugar; beat until light and fluffy, adding more milk 1 T. at a time as needed until it's a good spreading consistency.

Fit a pastry bag with a good wide tip.  Fill it 2/3 of the way up the bag with frosting and twist the top shut.  Squeeze dollops onto the top of the cooled cupcakes.  Make it pretty!  

Store in a cool place or in the fridge until ready to serve.

The recipe makes enough to generously frost 14 cupcakes.  For a cake, double the recipe.

NOTE:  Cupcakes like these were part of the cupcake display I made for Mieke & Tall Matt's wedding a few years ago.  Matthew (my grandson) is highly allergic to peanuts and tree nuts, you know my gluten issues.  So instead of bought cupcakes and a wedding cake, I was happy to make the desserts peanut, tree nut and gluten-free.  Nobody knew they were anything but delicious!  Not only that, the chef of the restaurant asked for the recipe.  He didn't get it, but you just did!

Oh...the cupcake itself?  Betty Crocker Gluten-free chocolate cake mix.  It's BETTER than regular!  Moist and rich.  Of course, I do doctor it a little.  The recipe on the box calls for 1 c. water.  I use 1/4 c. Kahlua and 3/4 c. water.  And I add 1 T. or so of espresso powder.    

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