Monday, September 29, 2014

I Excel at Eating My Feelings: A Story About Pie and Peebs.

We'll get to the Autumn tree cherry pie eventually, I promise.
I spend most days with my feelings switched to the "sarcastic apathy" position. When something comes along and causes me to step outside my comfort zone, I usually try to stay busy cooking, cleaning, baking, decorating, whatever, until the catalyst for change has receded and I can go back to feeling better about myself and my unwavering witticism. On occasion, something can happen that causes me to actually have to stop all those robotic, repetitive motions that help me cope with change and deal with what's going on.

It comes as no secret to anyone that people aren't my cup of tea; my heart was made to love and nurture animals. The word "pet" simply does not justify what the animals that past or present make up my home mean to me. They are my family, my children, and last week we lost the world's spikiest daughter to a congenital heart defect. We took Peebs into the vet thinking she had pneumonia due to her lack of appetite and labored breathing that happened in a matter of one night. It came as a huge gut punch when the vet and tech took her back to X-ray and her heart failed; after the vet's many attempts to revive her, she died on the table in X-ray alone, without her people by her side. Nothing any of us could have done would've prevented this from happening. It was simply her time, but this never makes things any easier.
The face that starts a million "Awwws."

I have always been so unbelievably fascinated by Peeberton: how something could be so small and delicate, yet strong-willed and so tough was incredible. She was pretty much the animal version of me, and I was her person. I was one of two people in this entire world who she would actually let give her belly rubs and the occasional butt scratch (we all love them). I made it my mission to give her the best life a hedgehog could ever have from the instant she became ours. My favorite moments were spent watching her chow down on fruits, eggs, chicken, etc., and when we had time alone, to stretch out on the couch and wrap her in her blanket before laying down and placing her on my chest. Feeling her little feet shuffle around on me until she found the perfect spot and plopped down (with more oomph than any other one pound creature, might I add)  made my heart burst. It it odd to think that such a small, bristly creature could bring such a large, much needed softness into my heart. I am rendered with an unbelievable crushing guilt that her life was cut so short. Every time I go into her room in the morning to open the blinds, my heart feels so very empty now that she is not there to help me greet the day and generally be cranky about having to be awake in the first I said, we got each other. Until we leave this house, I will forever tell her goodnight when I close the blinds at night, too.

I am not good at expressing my feelings outside of the written word. I could never fight back the pain and tell people how even though she is gone, she is still in my soul- in my introverted and quiet ways, in my devotion to my "people," in my perseverance to keep fighting no matter how big the problem is compared to me- she is my 'spirit hedge' now. And how lucky I am to have loved and cared for a creature so much that saying goodbye to her is so hard.
My hedge, my heart.

In the days following her passing, I spent a lot of time baking up a storm to help me sort out my emotions, so that I could subsequently eat my feelings. I may or may not have wanted to just have ice cream for dinner one night. What can I say...its better than driving to the nearest Costco to obtain their entire supply of Pinot Grigio to drink my feelings. I've never had an ice cream hangover before, and I refuse to believe that a food so good could ever cause pain beyond a brain freeze (and if you're mixing the proper ratio of ice cream to hot fudge to Andes mint chips- this never happens). Along with cinnamon caramel pull-apart rolls I made for brunch this weekend, I also made my mother's homemade cherry pie recipe. This is the next best thing to getting an actual hug from my mother when I'm feeling down in the dumps.
Because it is absolutely delicious and fall-themed.
This ain't canned-filling pie, oh no. Way better than that. I mean, there is a can with fruit involved, but not that simple fruit cobbler stuff. While I initially wanted to carve a hedgehog into the pie, I decided that unbelievable cuteness would've rendered me unwilling to ever cut and actually eat the pie, so instead I carved a tree losing its leaves into the top of the pie. I will explain how to do that in just a moment, but first let me show you how simple this delish pie is to make!
So I used pre-made pie crust, gimme a break, its been a tough week.
You could make your very own pie crust if you like. I've done so before, but find the pre-made Pillsbury pie crusts are simply the greatest thing ever when you want a pie that works excellently as a serving dish for vanilla ice cream- golden brown and crisped to perfection. So here's what you need for the ultimate comfort food pie:
  • Two pie crusts @ room temperature (the Pillsbury stuff comes with two, yet another reason to cut corners!)
  • 1 can TART cherries in their juice- not cherry pie filling- just Oregon canned tart cherries that even I can find at my shitty Walmart in the fruit aisle next to cereal
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 1/4 tsp of almond extract (the only extract better than vanilla)
  • 1/8 tsp of salt
  • 3 TBS of flour
  • 2 TBS of butter- that's where the nice "hugging" feeling from Mom comes from. Thanks, butter.
Yeah, I occasionally eat a cherry or two during this process.
Dump all of the ingredients except butter (and the crust, obviously) together in a bowl and mix. Boom- there's your pie filling. I know, right? So easy, but so good! Take one pie crust and gently place it into a pie tin.
Yeah, don't just take a spoon to this and start eating...resistance is key.
Throw the pie filling into your dish lined with the bottom crust, and then take your butter and cut it into little slices and dot the top of the pie with it. You don't need to be as OCD as me and make sure all butter is evenly spaced, as I sincerely hope you're nowhere near as bat-shit crazy as I am.
I will cut you.
Take a small paring knife and trim the excess bottom crust around the entire pie, like so. Once the bottom edge has been trimmed flush with the pie tin, top your pie with a zebra. Just making sure you're paying attention. Top it with the remaining pie crust, and get ready to flute the edges so your pie is sealed and you can make it look next-level awesome.
To flute: Take your thumb and index finger, and press them into the edge of your pie.
This will create a nice indentation.
While keeping your index finger and thumb on the crust, place your other thumb into the indentation and push in,
pressing your thumb into the indentation. Repeat, moving your "original" thumb into the new indentation
while your index finger creates a new dent, and your other thumb presses firmly and kind of pushes in the crust again.
Pushing in creates those pretty little waves your see here alongside my horribly
unmanicured fingernails. Whomp, whomp. The space in between these fingers is where
my other thumb was pressing in. Can't take a picture of that as I do not have three arms. Yet.
Repeat around all edges of the pie until you're left with a gorgeous fluted crust!
Now, you could be a lazy bum and simply cut slits in the top crust to vent, or you could go the extra mile and decorate your pie like a decent human being. Anything goes here, really- I've done hearts, a turkey for Thanksgiving, an airplane because why not, etc. I chose to do a tree losing its leaves because it is officially fall, and I think everything baked during this fine season should have something to do with either pumpkins or trees or you're totally missing the point.
Free hand, take a paring knife and lightly outline a tree into the top pie crust.
Carefully cut out your outline, being sure not to pierce the bottom crust.
It will leave you with a strange Pagan-esque looking symbol on top of your pie-
Dean Winchester would be proud. Plus one if you love Supernatural and got that reference.
Now comes time to make the leaves. Take the scraps from your tree outline, roll them together, and then flatten them out on top of a piece of parchment paper.
Use the paring knife to draw a curved line into your dough.
Draw an oppositely curved line on the other side, and you've got a leaf!
Take it a step further, and lightly draw in veins on the leaf with your knife.
Then lightly place the leaves around your branches,
and you can make some that are "falling" into another leaf pile on the ground.
Now, I recommend placing your pie in the fridge for at least a half an hour so that your crust can settle in and decide not to completely crumble apart in the oven. Crust is a wicked, feeble mistress. Once your settling time is up, take small sheets of foil and line the edges of your crust while the oven preheats to 425.
I find this to be the most maddening part of making pie.
One side goes on, the other side falls off..grumble, grumble.
Once your oven is ready for action, bake your pie at 425 for 40 minutes. Once the 40 minutes are up, remove those pain in the ass foil shields and let your edges brown for an additional 10-15 minutes in the oven. Remove and let sit:
C'mon, I JUST want to eat you...
I won't lie to you...the hardest part about making a good pie is waiting for it to cool off so it isn't liquid hot magma and you can eat it. I try to make my pies after lunch so they are ready for eating for dinner. I mean, after dinner. You can't have pie for dinner! You can, however, have it for breakfast because it is a fruit- and pastry-based meal...turnovers-schmurnovers.

Baking pie will make most of life's horrible experiences at least somewhat tolerable because you can't be 100 percent depressed while eating a good dessert- this is simply a fact. I want to thank everyone for their unbelievable outpouring of support over the past week. I am reminded at times like these that there are decent, loving people out there in this world who understand loss and how hard it can be to lose a loved one, and I am very fortunate that these are the people I call my friends and family. You all are simply wonderful, so thank you for letting me pour my heart and pie out to you this week, and any other should I need to. Til next time, my fellow eaters!
That's all, nothing left to see here folks...just an adorable hedge tush.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tis the Season for Pumpkin EVERYTHING.

Ahhh fall is in the air here in Clovis...and the cow poop smell is noticeably absent from it, making it even more wonderful! Autumn is my absolute favorite time of the year- yelling at the TV during football games, going insane with Halloween decorations, and of course, eating anything and everything that involves pumpkin flavoring. Except pumpkin pie. As far as pies go, pumpkin is definitely my least lacks a certain charm provided by fruit pies, and the texture makes me feel like I'm eating old, mushy, rotting pumpkin insides. Lovely, right? So instead of baking pumpkin pie to celebrate fall's greatly appreciated arrival, I made a pumpkin bundt cake with cinnamon glaze. I did it all from scratch because I had a fervent desire to not only eat everything pumpkin this week and end up with an Autumn hangover, but also make sure my house smelled like how I imagine Heaven or an actual bakery smells, too. I also love this recipe because it is low calorie, and I can come up with any number of excuses to eat cake with each meal: "It's PUMPKIN- so healthy you CAN have it for breakfast," "It's lunch, I need a semisweet palate cleanser," or "It's dinner, why are you still so surprised I am going for thirds with this cake? How long have we been married again?"
It contains your daily recommended servings of pumpkin and deliciousness.
For being homemade, this cake did not take an entire day away from me to make, and the ingredients were all already in my pantry save for the canned pumpkin because I never want to prematurely believe it is fall only for an Indian Summer to ruin things for me. Mother Nature and I have never been on good terms- every summer she threatens to mow me down, and that one time she almost made me miss my own wedding (I'd offer her some cake to smooth things over if I could). I found the recipe at Taste of Home and made many adjustments to take it up a notch so that with each bite I can actually taste fall and subsequently fall into a delightfully induced food coma. So let me break down this simply tasty recipe for you so that you too can be the bearer of Autumn for your own family, thus earning you a solid opportunity to ask plenty of favors from your loved ones (I mean, my husband helped me clean the house today...just saying, it may have been because of the cake).

Clearly the canned pumpkin deserved to be center has been waiting a year after all.
I happen to have amassed an amazing collection of herbs and spices over the years thanks to the enjoyment I find from baking and cooking, so you may or may not need to grab some spices from your local hell pit (commonly called "Walmart"). Here's the breakdown:
  • 2 cups of white sugar
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 15 oz. can pure pumpkin
See, super simple for a list with thirteen different ingredients! Don't you roll your eyes at should have ground ginger in your pantry because it is the greatest thing ever. Making Asian food? Add ground ginger. Making spice cakes? Add ground ginger. Trying not to throw up? Drink a Gingerale. You get the idea. Ginger also happened to be my favorite Spice Girl, so the fascination goes back to the early 90s. If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with ground ginge!
I kinda wanted to stop at this point and just eat the bowl and call it a day.
 First things first, mix together the sugars, extract, and oil. This will form a crumbly paste that tastes like the dreams of unicorns. Try not to eat it all, and then add the eggs (one at a time) and beat well. You could still eat some of the paste at this point if you're not scared of salmonella (I too live dangerously).
However, I do not recommend eating the bowl of dry mix.
As the bowl of sugar/egg/oil awesomeness mixes, throw together the spices, baking soda, and flour in another bowl. Blend well, and open your can of pumpkin, and set aside. This will be infinitely easier if you're right-handed. I almost always require two tries or a tetanus shot after using a can opener, but the cake is totally worth being reminded of my left-handed shortcomings.
Add a cup or so of the dry mix to the sugar paste, and mix away.
Low speed at first unless making kitchen messes it totally your thing like it is mine.
Then mix in a third of the canned pumpkin. Blend well!
You'll repeat the dry mix/blend/pumpkin/blend process probably two more times until you've used all of your ingredients and have a huge bowl of cake, ready to be poured into only your finest of bundt pans. Just make sure you've greased up your pan thoroughly so the cake comes out easily later, and you don't leave a huge mess for yourself to clean up when trying to scrub your pan and all its damn intricate nooks and crannies. Let your cake bake at 350 until it smells done. The accurate, scientific timing is approximately 50 minutes for those of you not blessed with a kitchen-timer schnauz (I imagine IKEA will make these eventually).
Once a toothpick comes out clean, you're good to go. Let the cake rest for ten minutes.
After a tantalizingly long ten minutes, remove the cake from the pan to cool on a rack.
Doesn't it look scrumptious??! Yeah, you're damn right it does. It will make your whole house smell like the memory of your favorite Thanksgiving. For me, that happens just about every year when the Cowboys lose their Turkey Day game, but it still makes me giddy with delight (both the smell and the losses). At this point, you could dust the cake with powdered sugar, but I recommend going one step further and making my also very simple cinnamon glaze to drizzle on your cake.
Yeah, never a recipe without should be used to that by now.
You'll need:
  • 2 TBS milk
  • 1 TBS butter
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
See, you know you have all this in your pantry, too! Don't make me go on about why you should also always have a pound of pure cut cocaine powdered sugar in your pantry like I did for dear old ground ginger. All you need to do here is melt the butter, mix in the milk, then mix in the sugars and cinnamon.
The hardest part about making this is not eating it by the spoonful.
Once your cake has cooled, take a large spoon and slowly drizzle the glaze back and forth over the top of your cake. The best part is this doesn't require a ton of effort to make it look gorgeous and delicious at the same time:
Oh my glazed greatness...
I had to take it up a notch and make this look even more like the cake embodiment of fall and added red sprinkles to the top as a nice finishing touch. Gold would have also worked like a charm, too. Just add what you like until you feel you've sufficiently allowed fall into your home and had it take over your entire life and made you its prisoner (tastiest form of Stockholm Syndrome, ever). 
You complete me.
This cake is by no means light...yet it is still somehow healthy. I attribute this to the magic of the pumpkin. It really is the great pumpkin, Charlie Brown. This cake marks the beginning of fall baking in the Fox house. Get ready to be overwhelmed by pie and other pumpkiny goodness where the blog is concerned for the next few weeks. I am going to make you so sick of fall you'll be praying for winter...when I can divulge you in the greatness that is "Christmas baking." I can keep you fed with the finest of baked goods 24/7/365, never you fear. Til next time, my fellow eaters!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Cookies for the Cow Dog.

Just about every week I bake something that makes our house smell like an absolute dream. While I am known for having amazing olfactory senses thanks to my large nostrils (in their defense, they are just trying to fit in with my big nose), I can only imagine how tantalizing these smells are for dear old Hank the Cow Dog. So I decided to throw him a literal frickin' bone this week and make him some homemade doggy biscuits. I like making him treats myself because alongside really loving to gloat and feel superior, homemade stuff means I can make them much healthier than the various processed crap from the pet aisle at Walmart. I mean, I somehow don't even think their fresh vegetables are actually healthy, let alone their puppy treats.
Sadly, not for human consumption.
Thanks to the internet and Amazon Prime's amazing ability to let me experience buyer's remorse for much cheaper than a regular department store, I found myself stumbling around the virtual aisles looking for cookie cutters because the 52-piece set I bought over the summer simply wasn't "cute" enough or remotely dog-themed. I managed to find a set, but made the mistake of not reading the fine print. Hank is a medium sized boy, so I was looking for cookie cutters that would yield treats fitting of his stature (read: average, but refined and adorable). Little did Hank know while barking at the UPS man like the guy just tried to knife me or something that the gifts he bore were for Hankenstein himself. Although I think we were both collectively disappointed to open the box and find cookie cutters that looked like they were made for treats better fitting a small chihuahua/large rat (I am told there is a difference between the two, but I cannot manage to discern it).
I should've included a banana for scale.
The other fun thing about these cookie cutters? The first time you take them out of their equally tiny tin, you will spend a solid ten minutes trying to get them to all fit back in. Upon completion of this miracle, you will take a place-marker photo so that you never feel bested by a tin of kitchen accoutrements ever again. Or at least for the rest of the week. Once I got over the initial size shock, I found these to be quite adorable- a tiny bone, a miniscule fire hydrant capable of putting out equally as miniscule fires, a wee paw print, a dog house big enough for fleas, and the world's smallest dog. Variety is the spice of life, they say.
Yeah, I didn't realize powdered milk was a real thing. Where have I been? Middle-class paradise, apparently.
The ingredients for these treats are relatively simple:
  • 3 C whole wheat flour because the regular stuff is good enough for you, but not your yuppy puppy.
  • 1/2 C powdered smells surprisingly good. I wanted to lick some but resisted my urges.
  • 1/3 C melted butter because even dogs can't live without the stuff.
  • 1 large egg (I honestly have nothing clever to say about this. Just get the damn egg.)
  • 3/4 broth of your choosing. Although, if you choose vegetable broth, I think you could be fined for animal abuse. Stick with chicken or beef so as not to break your dog's heart.
I somehow managed to use way more dishes than I needed for this.
 Don't be like me and create an unnecessary mess because you think you can take a shortcut when, in fact, you just need to pay attention. Place your wet ingredients into your mixer's bowl. Congratulations if you guessed the next step- turn on the mixer and beat things together. While your wet ingredients blend, mix the dry stuff together in another bowl. Gradually add this a cup at a time into the mixer until you've got dough:
I'm really glad this doesn't have to look pretty.
Take your favorite bludgeoning tool, and get ready to relieve some stress.
 I mentioned the merits of beating out dough like it owes you money when I made the cinnamon roll cookies, and it still stands true. Once you've placed your dough onto parchment paper, throw another sheet on top of it. Then flatten it out by first just repeatedly hitting the dough lump with your rolling pin. Eventually you'll have to use the rolling pin like a normal person and flatten out the dough to about 1/4" thickness...but be sure to enjoy yourself at first.
Then line up your tiny cookie cutters and have at it!
I evenly rotated through the cookie cutters, and only had to reshape a dough ball and rough it up again once to make sure I wasn't wasting ingredients. Place your cutouts on a foil or parchment paper lined baking tray- I needed two because I excessively bake in a small kitchen and don't have space for giant trays.  One day...
One of these things is not like the of these things was moved for spaaaace.
The original recipe called for these to bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Since other recipes have burned me in the past, and I didn't want to literally burn Hankasaurus Rex's treats, I watched these like a hawk. I lowered my temp to 325 since my trays are dark metal, and they were still done after about 20 minutes. The bottoms were browning and the tops were golden- this is what we're going for. Dogs love the satisfying crunch that we humans find repulsive when it comes to cookies. Gotta love our less picky sidekicks.
"You bake and you bake...but never for Hank..."
I am pretty sure the dog knew these were for him because he's either quite perceptive and realized these treats were in the shapes of some of his favorite things, or because he was just really hoping he'd have his day thanks to the adorable cuteness he regularly emits to get things. Either way, once these were completely cool, I put them into a small Tupperware. I had to give him a few and spoil his dinner (as if) so I could close the lid.
His ears are too big and magnificent for close ups.
 I could've given him anything (as long as it wasn't salad) and he would've eaten it, but I received several dog licks and a sigh of general content after he finished chomping down a few homemade dog treats. Knowing I have a happy dogchild makes me a happy dogparent. I highly recommend if you have a spare fifteen minutes to throw these together for your dog that you do so; he or she will reward you with an even higher outpouring of love than usual, so in other words, it is totally worth it. They go the extra mile for us every day, so it is the least we can do in return. Back to baking human homemade treats next week, but my waistline needed to recover from last week's cupcakes first! Til next time, my fellow eaters!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Nothing Says 'I Love You' Quite like Cupcakes from Scratch

When it comes to things like "feelings" and "emotions," I usually tend to either "have none" or "react inappropriately" to whatever the situation might, I know I probably shouldn't laugh when I see a kid fall off of his bike, but does that ever stop me? Nope. Does that make me evil? Maybe. But I own up to it because being honest to a fault is probably the one thing I do excel at when it comes to being a person-robot hybrid. Since I often have issues computing and emoting your feeble human emotions, I often let my actions speak louder than my words. Sure, I can say I love my husband, but by baking him cupcakes from scratch down to the icing,  I am showing him this is the gospel truth without getting all sappy and gaggy about it. Emotions: As messy as homemade baked goods...but you don't get to eat your feelings now, do you?
Well, I suppose you could, but don't the cupcakes look like they'd taste better?
See? These carefully crafted, meticulously decorated tasty little bundles of love say it all without any awkward pauses or mild horror on my part that I'm being way too  mushy. So now that my husband is safely home from deployment, every time he opens the fridge he is constantly reminded that I love him so much I spent hours and hours laboring to get these bad boys just right. Did you just learn a lesson from me? You're damn right you did. I'm the antithesis to every chick flick you've ever seen, and I have a very fruitful partnership because of it. This will probably be the one time I ever use myself as a successful example for anything, so just go with me here while I give you the run down on this recipe I found and adapted to my liking from here.
I know, I am absolutely horrified there's no butter in the ingredients list, too.
Minus the buttermilk, you probably have everything you need for these cupcakes in your pantry anyway. Once I picked my jaw up off the floor over the fact that these vanilla cupcakes didn't call for any stick butter whatsoever, I decided maybe it was time for me to inch away from my butter safety net and try something new, and boy am I glad I did.
I swear this is only pure cut flour.
Start by mixing together your dry ingredients in a mediumish (new favorite made up word- it sounds so fun and carefree) bowl- 2.5 C flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt, and 2.5 tsp baking powder.
There may not be stick butter, but we're not lacking in the sugar department, no sir.
Then in your stand mixer bowl, dump in four eggs and beat those suckers like they stole your favorite pair of pumps. If you're a man baking these, beat those suckers like they stole your last beer- seriously, but not for an extended amount of time because you can always go get more. Once your eggs are light and fluffy, admire their tenacity at taking a beating so well and add in one cup of sugar. Mix that well, and then add in one final cup of sugar. Don't try to do it all at once or you're going to end up with sugar crystal coated counters...the mess alone would be a pain in the ass, but try saying that five times fast. Once these have blended well, add in 3 tsp of the great elixir known as vanilla extract and 1 C of veggie oil. Now, take a cup or so of your flour mixture from way back when this whole ordeal started, and mix it in. Pour in half a cup of buttermilk, and mix together. Then pour another cup or so of the flour mixture in, and another half a cup of buttermilk. Finish this game of cat and mouse off by dumping whatever flour mix you have left in until everything is nicely blended together.
Naturally, you want to fill your muffin tins at this point, but not too full. I put a heaping spoonful into each cup.
And after baking at 350 for 20 minutes, these gorgeous blondes were born.
This recipe makes 24 cupcakes, so you'll get plenty of batter on you and your muffin tin while filling the cups. That's fine. You should go for this route because then you get to eat some batter, salmonella be damned...the taste alone would've been worth it as far as I am concerned. Now, since my husband's trip back home got pushed back a day, I had enough time to call it a day at this point and let my cupcakes cool in the fridge overnight so I had a firm surface to work on in the morning. Sad fact of life, the more cupcakes I make and subsequently eat mean my surface is less than firm, but these are the things we do for love: Quiet suffering. Wait, that really was supposed to be romantic. Now you see why I bake instead.
Get ready to be AMAZED at my trial and error response.
Now that the cupcakes are cooked and cooled, it is time to get to the part before the fun part- making the icing. Now, I tried a regular cream cheese icing recipe to frost the outside edges of my cupcakes, but it ended up being way too runny to maintain shape even after adding in more powdered sugar and sitting in the freezer for 30 minutes. So I had to scrape that icing off and put the rest in a Tupperware for the next time I actually do feel like eating my feelings since we've decided that is possible. I then went with my old standby plain white frosting, dyed green.
Grab a 2D drop flower tip and fit it to a piping bag. You're a better person than I if you get to this point and don't have green dye all over your hands like I did.
To load up your bag, find a large glass to place your piping bag in, and fold the top of it over the lip of the cup. I found it appropriate that our old squadron's bad ass beer mugs worked best for this. If you ain't Spectre...

Now, take your piping bag and slowly, very slowly, draw a line around the outside of your cupcakes.
You'll find that as you naturally curve around the cupcakes, the tip will make an awesomely crafted design.
End by burying your tip a bit when you reach where you started, and pipe until you've formed a nice little green flower,
and pull up and away a bit.
Once you've made your outside design, place the cupcakes back in the fridge and get ready to make the best strawberry cream cheese frosting EVER.
Ahh, stick butter- nothing is ever truly whole without you.
Clean out the cupcake mess from your mixing bowl, and once you've dried that, get ready to undo that hard work by making a mess again. Mix together one stick (half a cup) of BUTTTTTEEEERRRRR that has been softened with one brick of cream cheese. I went with reduced fat, but I think the real deal would work better because it would be firmer overall. Since I needed a frosting with a thicker consistency, I slowly blended in five cups of powdered sugar, and 1.5 tsp of vanilla extract because I had shaky hands and dumped in about half a tsp more than I needed, but this stuff tastes good no matter what. I finished up by dumping in 3 tablespoons of strawberry jam. If you're not a huge fan of strawberry flavoring, you're weird, but you could do 2 tablespoons instead. Or if strawberry flavor is your jam (see what I did there), go for 4 tablespoons. I did not end up adding in any milk so my frosting would be thick enough.
This frosting yields a soft pink color, but I wanted to amp it up and get more dye all over myself.
After placing in the freezer for a half an hour, get your 2D drop flower tip fitting to another piping bag and fill with the strawberry frosting. Here comes the insanely easy part- hover the tip above the center of the cupcake that is unfrosted, and just pipe with frosting until you've filled in the space and built up a cute little tip, then pull the bag up and away:
As you'll notice, I ran out of green frosting before I could finish, so I got another lesson in trial and error.
But this actually worked out well because I ended up being able to pipe roses with my drop flower tip like I did many weeks prior with the S'mores cupcakes.
To finish things off, I found my cake tweezers and placed a small pearl in the middle of each flower piped in green. This was THE perfect finishing touch.
...had it remained summer here, anyway. I chose to frost in these colors because summer was unrelenting and refusing to go away after Labor Day (how unfashionable), so I embraced it and went for bright colors. Apparently this pissed off autumn, because the following morning when my husband came in it was cold and rainy and has stayed that way ever since. Not that I'm complaining- this is perfect football watching weather. I think my combination of Vikings shirt, Vikings socks, and drinking out of a Vikings tumbler lead to our victory today, as well.

These cupcakes are now a favorite and mine and my husband, so all the work was worth it. All jokes aside, he knows I'm not just an unfeeling fembot, but I will take any opportunity to bake and run with it. So should you find yourself as socially awkward as I, just let these cupcakes do the talking for you. Til next time, my fellow eaters!