In just a few weeks, I will be hosting a bridal shower at our home for the future daughter-in-law of one of my dearest friends. Since there are only two of us hosting it, we have been looking for ways to trim our expenses a bit while not sacrificing quality, especially on the food that we will serve. Rather than having the food catered or purchased from a local bakery, I am going to do most of the baking myself, while my co-hostess (who does not cook much) will provide the non-cooked food, such as cheeses, crackers and fresh fruit.
After “diving head first” into the world of cookie baking before Christmas, I am ready to take on another baking challenge. Cupcakes are always fun and certainly not as difficult as some of the cookies I baked a few weeks ago. But, I want these baked goods for the shower to be as close to good bakery quality as I can get them, so I’ve invested some time in researching recipes to find just what I think I want.
The first recipe that I’ve found is for wedding style white cupcakes with a good buttercream icing. Earlier this week, I made two different test batches of this recipe, with the first batch being full-sized cupcakes and the second batch being the smaller mini-cupcakes. Without a doubt, I will make the minis for the shower. The smaller size will be a perfect bite-sized sweet treat so that guests will not fill up on a single cupcake, and the mini size is just so darn cute, too!
The picture does not really do them justice, as I just quickly snapped it with my phone before heading out the door to deliver some of them to friends, but they really turned out so cute and so good. I am not proficient with the piping bag yet by any stretch, but some simple piping with a large star tip resulted in a nice, somewhat floral pattern of the buttercream on top and a candy pearl for an elegant accent.
To my great surprise, my husband just raved over them, too, which is a shock because he is typically not a fan of white cake. That alone should be an indication of just how good these are. Of course, the good buttercream icing certainly helped. This recipe is the closest one I’ve found to what my mom used to make when I was growing up, and this recipe is really one of the best icing recipes that I’ve found to date.
The recipes can be found at the links below. The only thing I changed on the cake recipe was to use a cup of powdered sugar instead of granulated sugar, and I also used two whole eggs and two egg whites, instead of just four egg whites. I just wanted the cake to be a bit more moist, and this worked quite well. The minis baked perfectly at 325 degrees for 15 minutes. I did not alter the icing recipe at all, but I did have to double the recipe to have enough for all the cupcakes.
I am participating in a study on Wednesday evenings for the next few weeks with some other ladies at my church, studying “The Patriarchs” by Beth Moore, and it is a really good study. As I worked on my homework last night, I read about Sarai becoming Sarah and Beth’s amazing description of how God blessed her, in addition to his blessing of Abraham. At the age of 90, God gave her this new name that means “Princess.” That is a post unto itself, and it would be good for me to write about it. But, as I closed out that section on Sarah in the study, my thoughts drifted to my own “Princess Sarah,” my great-grandmother, Sarah Jane.
When I follow my closest and most “precious-to-me” lineage in my family tree, I am following the ladies on my mother’s side. I know it is more customary for some people to put an emphasis on the father’s lineage, and while that is also very special to me, it does not hold the tender place in my heart that the ladies in my mother’s lineage hold. Truthfully, I only ever knew my own mother (who is still alive at age 91) and her mother, but how I wish I had known Sarah Jane in person, too.
If I could make any reasonable assumptions about Sarah Jane based on my grandmother, she would be an amazingly kind and caring soul that I would certainly have treasured to have in my life for however long she lived. My mother has also told me a couple of times just how much my grandmother adored her, too. You see, Sarah Jane died in the southern part of the Chickasaw Indian Territory of Oklahoma a few days after an appendicitis surgery that was performed on her at their home when she was only 46 years old. Her mother, Minerva – my great, great-grandmother, also died at a young age of 39 in Kentucky. So it is a fact that my precious grandmother that I adored so much in my early life really never had her own mother and grandmother in her own life for very long, since Sarah Jane died when she was just 13 years old and Minerva died many years before she was even born. It almost makes me feel guilty for having my own mother still in my life and quite healthy at age 91, and it also speaks volumes to me about why family was always the focal point of my grandmother’s life. When I think of family values, I think of my dear grandmother’s loving example above all because I think it was instilled in her at an early age by Sarah Jane.
We only have one photograph of Sarah Jane, an early photograph with her young family, including my grandmother as a small child, but it has meant the world to me to have it. We also know much about great-grandmother Sarah Jane’s death, thanks to an actual detailed newspaper clipping passed on to my mother that a friend of Sarah Jane’s wrote about her passing. I have a copy of it that I read often, just to remind me of what is most important in life. I am ever thankful for this unknown friend that made sure that Sarah Jane’s story didn’t die along with her because if not for that article, I don’t think Sarah Jane’s full story surrounding her death would have ever made it to me. Except for a few ancestral details, this is all I really know about my great-grandmother. But if I could know anything about her, this is what I would most want to know. The article is just amazing to me, as it told specifics about her last moments on this earth before she died, but what I dearly love is that she was described as…
“… a sweet Christian lady who lived what she professed.”
The article continues and states that Sarah Jane was “almost an invalid” for the last few years of her life for some unstated reason but that she kept trying to live “for the sake of her family.” That included my sweet, young thirteen year-old grandmother, and while I can only speculate how deeply this loss impacted her at that time, I believe my grandmother did her best to continue her own mother’s legacy of love for the rest of her life.
The article then tells about the final minutes of Sarah Jane’s life with the following statement that I have since memorized just like a treasured bible verse.
“After calling her [seven] children to her bedside and admonishing them to meet her in Heaven, she put her trust and life in the Lord’s care.”
Somehow, I think Sarah Jane’s admonishment is meant for all of us who followed her as her descendants, not just her own children. I know that it was my grandmother’s wish, and I also know it is my mother’s wish, too. This legacy of motherly love and a firm desire to pass on their faith in God is what has always stood out to me when I think about these special ladies, my closest and dearest ancestors. When I think about my male ancestors, I do not have any memory of such things, with the exception of my father’s acceptance of Jesus Christ much later in his own life. But even after his conversion, he was a very private man and never spoke much about his faith to me or anyone else, even though I could see its’ manifestation in some of the things he did, especially for the poor and for his church. No, the legacy of faith passed to me has most definitely been from the mothers on my own mother’s side. And what a beautiful legacy it is.
I am thankful today for a Godly heritage from three wonderful and beautiful women, including Sarah Jane. God help me to live up to their examples and admonishments and impart the same desires to my own descendants.
And to the unnamed friend who penned her obituary, I thank you from the bottom of my heart and hope to give you a big hug someday, as your words have been an unspeakable and life-changing blessing to me over the past few years. You are the ultimate friend.
I first began ancestry research back in 2007 after the death of my older brother, and I did it as a way to give a living memorial to him and help me deal with my grief, since no one in our family had done any research that I was aware of at that time. It has blessed me many times, and I highly encourage anyone who is even remotely interested to explore their own ancestors and their stories.
Update: 7/19/2013 – I have slightly modified the recipe below from the original recipe that I posted, based on several preparations since this post was done. All ingredients are the same, with only a few slight changes in amounts to suit our particular taste. I have also added a few more specifics on the peppers. As a result, the salsa is now slightly thicker than the one shown below in the original picture, which makes it perfect for chip dipping. We’ve also learned that our best batches of this salsa are made with jalapeno and red serrano peppers right out of our own garden, too. Now, on to this great (slightly modified) recipe!
We’ve had a little “crisis” of sorts over the past week, it seems. Our favorite fresh (not in a jar) salsa was discontinued at our grocery store a couple of weeks ago, and I had no clue that move was coming, as the company that makes it is still very much in business. After voicing my disappointment to the store manager, along with my opinion about a few other good products that have been discontinued over the past couple of months in favor of lesser quality ones, I knew that I was going to have to just give in and learn to make a salsa that we would like. Salsa snobs? Guilty as charged, I guess. Once you’ve enjoyed good salsa, it’s just hard to give it up, especially since we eat it several times a week on some food at our house.
After a couple of attempts, I believe I have finally come up with a salsa recipe that we will be quite happy with going forward and does not use fresh tomatoes, since we can seldom buy good ones here and have to grow our own in the summer months to ever have any decent ones. I opted to include habanero peppers in it, since our favorite salsa also included them. This is the first time I have used habanero peppers in anything, and I heeded the many warnings from others online to wear plastic gloves when dicing them up. I also discarded all of the habanero seeds, even though I used the seeds from the jalapeno peppers. Later on, I’m also going to try adding either a bit of pineapple, peaches or a little orange juice, as I’ve had (and loved) these variations in salsas in the past.
Here is my new salsa recipe! Please note that this is a HOT salsa recipe, so if you are not a fan of setting your tongue on fire just a bit, just reduce the hot peppers to your own taste. Peppers can certainly vary in their intensity, so I always add the peppers one at a time, then taste until I’m satisfied with the result.
1 Can (28 oz) Whole Tomatoes, draining all of the juice into a separate glass
2 Cans (10 oz) Original Rotel Diced Tomatoes And Green Chilies
1/2 Large Finely Chopped Sweet Onion (or one Medium Onion)
2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
2 Whole Jalapeno Peppers, diced with seeds
2 Habanero Peppers, diced and SEEDED (or 2 Red Serrano Peppers With Seeds) (WEAR PLASTIC GLOVES TO SEED AND DICE PEPPERS)
1 tsp Sugar (more to your taste)
1 tsp Salt (more to your taste)
2 tsp Ground Cumin (more to your taste)
1 Cup Fresh Cilantro Leaves, chopped, no stems (more to your taste)
Juice of a Whole Lime, about 5 Tbsp.
1-2 Tbsp White Vinegar (helps to keep the salsa fresh and bright)
Combine the whole tomatoes (drained), Rotel, onion, jalapenos, habaneros or serranos, garlic, sugar, salt, cumin, lime juice, vinegar and cilantro in a large food processor, then pulse in short pulses until the salsa is the consistency desired, less for chunkier, more for smoother. Test the seasonings by tasting with an unflavored tortilla chip or with your favorite chip and adjust as needed. The salt content of the chip should be considered when flavoring the salsa, taking care that too much salt is not added to the salsa. I actually added a bit more of all of the seasonings to mine, but I listed what I think would be a minimum of each for starters. Keep the salsa refrigerated in a sealed container. This can be served after about an hour in the refrigerator, but it is much, much better after letting it sit overnight, which lets the flavors come together so nicely. Also, since the jalapenos, habaneros and serranos can vary in their level of heat just a bit, you can certainly tweak the quantities of those to find your own perfect level of heat for each batch. If needed, you can add back some of the drained tomato juice to tone down the heat and/or make the consistency a little smoother. We prefer our salsa with none of the juice added back, but that is just our preference.
And one last reminder, please wear the plastic gloves when handling the peppers, especially the habaneros and/or serranos, and wash surfaces well that come in contact with the peppers and their juices. Do not make the mistake of rubbing your eyes with hands that have touched any hot pepper. Been there… done that… not fun… at all. Enjoy!