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Archive for the ‘birthdays’ Category

Cheers to a fun and picture-worthy 2013! May 2014 be filled with people you love and unimaginable adventures!

Happy New Year! xxo!

PS I posted a similar (shorter) video on Instagram a few days ago…maybe you saw it there; if not, follow me over there!: stephaniebrowngoat.

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We have had so much fun celebrating you as you turned FOUR!

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Not surprisingly, you awoke early with anticipation and excitement on your birthday morning and were surprised to see a pile of presents awaiting you on the table! Just as a sign of you getting bigger, we have you your first snowboard for your birthday! I’m so excited to watch you snowboard this winter with Dada! After opening the gifts, we celebrated with sprinkle pancakes and blew out your first birthday candle.

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I was lucky enough to have the day of your birthday off of work, so I had a special lunch with you at school and then we shared your birth story and pictures of your life with your friends at circle. You got to walk around the circle with a globe while friends said “The earth moves around the sun…12 months…52 weeks…365 days. That makes one whole year.” It was quite wonderful to see how much enthusiasm your friends had in celebrating you! On your birthday night, we went to one of your favorite restaurants for dinner, Phinney Market, and you chose creme brûlée for our special dessert.

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Then, we had a birthday party! You invited 9 friends to our house to watch Monsters Inc. and to eat pizza and cups of dirt. It made my heart happy watching you have such a fun time!

Oh, little man…where to begin? You are FOUR! Such a big boy now. Yet, in so many ways, your personality has stayed true to its younger self. You are quite opinionated and extremely passionate about your wants and needs. You never have trouble telling us when you don’t agree with what’s happening by saying (emphatically), “that’s NOT a good idea!” And, sometimes, during these emphatically passionate moments, you hurt my feelings and I have to take a million deep breaths and remember that in a few minutes you will be giving me your sweet kisses and rubbing my face in that way that only you do.

You love watching movies and looking at pictures of movie characters on our iPads. Our new bedtime routine involves watching two short movie clips or looking at pictures and then snuggling you and rubbing your back. You like to say, “come cuddle me,” which melts my heart.

You continue to love stories and I think you might be just as good as mama and daddy at telling them. You pace (or run) back and forth across the floor talking just as fast as your mouth will allow you to, letting your imagination run wild.

Some of the great things you say:
Do you want to see how high I can jump?

Did I like to do that when I was a little baby?

Just one more. No, mama, just one. Please, just one. You’re not listening to me!

For real life.

Hunting is bad, right? They kill animals, so hunters are bad guys.

What the heck?

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Poppins Mary (for Mary Poppins)

Can we go look for some jewels?

I wish I could go in the sewer.

Oh, lord Jesus, there’s a fiare. (fire)

When we have a baby, I will give her a bath and feed her in the middle of the night. And, when she grows up to be a big girl, I’ll help coach her baseball team with you and Daddy.

Mama, I have to tell you something. (Then a shared whisper)

Regaly (regularly)

Chempicals (chemicals)

Let’s hide from Dada.

I’m continuing the tradition I started last year by asking you this set of questions on your birthday…it was surprising to see the similarities in some of the answers one year later!

1. What is your favorite color? Green
2. What is your favorite toy? Sully and Mike from Monsters Inc.
3. What is your favorite fruit? Apples
4. What is your favorite thing to watch on TV? Beauty and the Beast and Monsters Inc.
5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? Salami
6. What is your favorite thing to wear? Mike (Monsters Inc) clothes (He has this on his wish list for Christmas)
7. What is your favorite game? Puzzles
8. What is your favorite snack? Cherries
9. What is your favorite animal? Giraffes
10. What is your favorite song? Beauty and the Beast soundtrack
11. What is your favorite book? Lorax
12. Who is your best friend? Preston and Hanna
13. What is your favorite cereal? Gorilla Munch
14. What is your favorite thing to do outside? play on the playground
15. What is your favorite drink? Apple cider
16. What is your favorite holiday? Christmas
17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night? Dinosaurs
18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? Pancakes
19. What do you want for dinner on your birthday? Oranges
20. What do you want to be when you grow up? Superman!

Past year’s birthday posts…look at how Jack has changed!
one!
two! and more two!
three! more three!

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A very happy birthday to my sister (whom I get to see and hug in just THREE days)!
Thank you for “being my person”…we all love you beyond belief!

PS I bought her this cool poster for her birthday! I hope it looks perfect in her Gator-themed TV room!

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We had so much fun this weekend celebrating my birthday! It really makes a difference when your birthday falls on a weekend day and when you have such wonderful boys, like I do, to spoil you rotten…I feel so lucky!

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I came home from work on Friday to find our family birthday banner displayed on our living room wall. It set such a festive mood! We kicked off the weekend with burgers, fries- both regular and garlic fries which have tons of freshly minced garlic and spices mixed throughout-, and eggnog milkshakes from Kidd Valley. Kidd Valley is the Northwest equivalent of Whataburger and I have a soft spot for Whataburger. I love the addition of the fresh, spicy jalapeños I can add to my cheeseburger and the milkshakes are sooooo yummy, especially the eggnog one! We watched Home Alone while we ate dinner and Jack loved it…he was laughing with his mouth wide open and his head thrown back at all the tricks Kevin played on the “bad guys”.

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Saturday (my actual birthday) was a perfect day. We took a long, very cold, drizzly winter walk to get coffee and doughnuts from Top Pot Doughnuts. I got an apple fritter (my favorite) which is always perfectly glazed and deliciously crunchy on the outside and gooey with apples and cinnamon swirls inside…mmmmm! The rest of the day was filled with presents (including the very cool red squirrel nutcracker from David’s parents that is equally loved by Jack!), a Greek lunch at Vios, a long nap! (mmhmmm…a deliciously restful 2 hour nap!!! It was awesome!), family, friends, cocktails (a perfectly made French 75) and sushi from Liberty, and a late night!

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We spent Sunday at the circus, eating a delicious lunch at Skillet Counter at the Armory in Seattle Center, seeing the model trains and the winter village that Jack wanted to buy and take home (note the village scene was as large as one floor of our home!), and going to the Children’s Museum.

It was a super fun weekend. A perfect birthday…one of my best ones ever.
I hope all of you were having fun too!

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I got a phone call last Friday…a week ago today. It was a call that I had been expecting, but not one that I wanted to answer. My sister was on the other end telling me that we had just lost our Papaw…

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As I tried to choke back my tears, sweet Jack asked, “Mama, what’s sad on the phone? Who’s hurt?” How do you talk to a toddler about death??? I did the best that I knew how to do… we spent a lot of the morning looking through Jack’s photo books at pictures of Papaw. The photos reminded me how lucky Jack was to have 5 of his great grandparents at his 1st birthday party! How lucky he was to have known Papaw…I just wish it could have been for a little longer. I wish he could have known the Papaw that I knew…the one who would spend hours in his garden, the one who would hold my hand as we walked together to gather pecans from his yard, the one who took Jessica and I out for Pizza Hut lunches, the one who always seemed so happy to talk to me on the phone.

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Last Friday was hard. I felt sad and lonely and was reminded of just how far away we live from our families. We love it out here on the West Coast, but life events such as these sure darken the joy we feel. I’m so thankful that Jack and I got to see Papaw and Mamaw in April…that we got to share those last memories when they were both well and healthy.

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Last Friday, the kitchen brought me comfort, as it tends to do. My Papaw was an excellent cake baker. His pound cakes were amazingly delicious and for years we celebrated holidays and birthdays with one flavor or another. My favorite was his chocolate pound cake with chocolate frosting. He even made it for the desert table at our wedding!

So, last week, I felt close to Papaw as I baked a Southern Caramel Cake for my boys’ birthday party. I’m pretty certain that he passed down his love of sweets and baking to me. Although, he was way more modest with his desserts that I am with my cooking…he would always preface the first bite with all the things that could have gone wrong and why it may not taste right…and he would never have found his recipes blog worthy, although I know for certain that they were!

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Southern Caramel Cake
a cake to celebrate a birthday and Papaw

Ingredients:
For the cake-
1/2 cup buttermilk , room temperature
4 large eggs , room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces and softened

For the frosting-
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

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Directions:
For the cake-

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a bundt cake pan. Whisk buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla in large measuring cup. With electric mixer on low speed, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until combined. Beat in butter, 1 piece at a time, until only pea-sized pieces remain. Pour in half of buttermilk mixture and beat over medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Slowly add remaining buttermilk mixture to bowl and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds.

2. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack. Cool completely, at least 1 hour.

For the frosting-

1. Heat 8 tablespoons butter, brown sugar, and salt in large saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles appear around perimeter of pan, about 8 minutes. Whisk in cream and cook until ring of bubbles reappears, about 1 minute. Remove from heat, then whisk in vanilla.

2. Transfer hot frosting mixture to bowl and, with electric mixer on low speed, gradually mix in confectioners’ sugar until incorporated. Increase speed to medium and beat until frosting is pale brown and just warm, about 5 minutes. Add remaining butter, 1 piece at a time, and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Spread frosting evenly over top and sides of cake. Will last on the countertop for several days.

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Happy birthday, Sweets! Wishing you the most wonderful of days on your birthday! I’ll be spending it thinking about how lucky Jack and I are to be your family. And then, looking forward to celebrating it with you tonight as we go trick-or-treating and eat pizza pies and sweet pies! Happy, happy!

And, to all of you…wishing you a fun and Happy Halloween! We are excited to take our little Spider Man out for some Halloween fun, especially since we all have cool Spider Man masks to wear thanks to Aunt Laura!!!

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Oh my, you are THREE!
Happy, happy birthday, Jack!
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I still remember your first week of life, nearly every detail, as we fought to figure all of this parenting stuff out…
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And, your first birthday that we celebrated in Pensacola at Nonna and Pops house…
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And, last year, when you turned TWO in San Francisco!
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I feel like we have had a month long birthday celebration, but all of your smiles and excitement have been worth every minute of it!
You are such a big boy now! Every day, you grow more and more independent wanting to do everything for yourself like putting on your own clothes, brushing your teeth, and going potty alone.
A few months ago, you gave up your da-dews (pacifiers) after your last one fell into the toilet and you haven’t asked for them again!
One of your most favorite things is to hear us tell you stories. You ask for them in the car, when we are eating dinner, and before night-night…I think you would listen all day if we constantly indulged you!
You love singing songs and listening to music. One of our most favorite activities is to play your instruments and have a family dance party after dinner. We run around the living room banging and clapping and moving our bodies like crazy!
You continue to be very empathetic. You are the first one to run over and comfort a friend when they get hurt or feel sad.
You love sweets! Candy is one of your most favorites tied with mama’s chocolate chip cookies, cake, and ice cream! You still love good food, but you are often too busy playing to stop and eat!
You love Toy Story, playing super heroes, watching movies, building at your work bench, cooking in your kitchen and the real kitchen, and playing outside.
Your new favorite team is the Seattle Sounders…you love going to the games and especially love singing the chant, “Seattle Sounders here we go (clap, clap), here we go (clap, clap), here we go! (clap, clap)”
You are a planner like your mama! You love to ask what we are doing after you wake up and you listen intently as I tell you about our plans for the day.
You still love book time, and continue to especially love “books with mama” which you plea for every night. You love to go to the library to read and check out new books (and movies!).

And, despite all of your loveliness, you have a truly independent and stubborn personality! Sometimes you act like a little bruiser, especially when you are tired or overly excited. Dada likes to say that you and are alike in that we are both inpatient with unrealistic expectations! Sometimes we make each other crazy, but amongst all of that, we love each other like crazy too! You are my sweet, loving little man, my sidekick…I love you so much! Happy, happy THREE!

I’m starting a new tradition of asking you this set of questions on your birthday…this seems like a good place to keep record of your answers and shed some more light on your dynamic personality!

1. What is your favorite color? Red and orange
2. What is your favorite toy? My favorite cars are Tow mater and Lightning McQueen. I might get them because I want them… Also, Batman and Spiderman and Toy Story toys.
3. What is your favorite fruit? Pineapple and orange
4. What is your favorite tv show? Curious George
5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? String cheese
6. What is your favorite outfit? Spiderman costume
7. What is your favorite game? Magnets
8. What is your favorite snack? String cheese :)
9. What is your favorite animal? Giraffe (Gerald from Giraffes Can’t Dance book)
10. What is your favorite song? The Lorax songs
11. What is your favorite book? Le Roi Lion (Lion King in French)
12. Who is your best friend? Hanna and Preston
13. What is your favorite cereal? Cheerios
14. What is your favorite thing to do outside? play Superman and Batman and Spiderman
15. What is your favorite drink? Juice
16. What is your favorite holiday? Easter…I like hunting eggs with Hanna. On Easter, I found a little green egg with jelly beans in there. Who put the jelly beans in there?
17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night? Ah-ah (green monkey)
18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? Grapefruit
19. What do you want for dinner on your birthday? Juice for dinner!
20. What do you want to be when you grow up? Batman!

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It may have been a bit excessive. I think Auntie Jessica would herself admit that she went all out, working on the weekends and in all of her free hours to bring all the details of this party together. She loves this boy of ours…there is no doubt. And, this boot scootin’ birthday party was just one way for her to show it…for her to spoil our soon to be three year old!

The guests, young and not so young, were greeted by a homemade carriage that created the perfect spot for stacking Jack’s presents. Bails of hay, topped with antique quilts, circled the fire pit and provided the perfect spot for wrestling and jumping. Stools and chairs were scattered around whiskey barrels and tables inviting people to sit, to partake in conversation, and to enjoy the chilly night.

The drink table, topped with a birthday banner, held growlers of Nashville brewed Calfkiller beer and glass drink dispensers filled with iced tea and water. A bottle of Tennessee Moon Shine proudly sat in the center of the table. Mason jars served as decorations and our glasses.

And, there was a pony! A real live pony (Beebo) for the boys to ride on. Jack adored him from the moment he saw him, yet it took him a little while to feel brave enough to climb up on his back for a ride. When he did find his courage, the smile never left his face!

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Roasted peanuts provided a fun appetizer, with shells being tossed on the ground. And, dinner could not have been more appropriate for the cowboy theme. There was chicken and dumplings, green beans, collard greens, and corn bread. People lingered over their warm dinner and, most even went back to the table for seconds.

Jack ran back and forth between the pony and the hay bales holding Woody and Jessie in his hands. His excitement was pure joy to watch. I think it is safe to say that he felt excessively loved and spoiled.

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And, then the desserts were revealed and his excitement escalated to an incalculable level. He sang “Happy Birthday” to himself and was eyes were filled with astonishment at the sight of Woody atop his birthday cake! After blowing out his candles, and with our encouragement, he grabbed Woody and licked every last bit of the delicious cream cheese icing from his boots. Then, he dug into the delicious chocolate cake without even waiting for a plate!

His cake was followed by banana pudding and s’mores by the bonfire. And then, Jack was surprised with all of his presents. He seriously had no idea people would be bringing him gifts…I adore the innocence of this age!

It was such a special night filled with amazing decorations, delicious food and treats, ice cold, tasty beverages, and some of the people we love most in the world. In the midst of wanting to love on Jack and show him her deep fondness, Auntie Jessica made all three of us walk away from the night feeling loved and spoiled.

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Happy half birthday, Jack! You are 2 1/2 years old and such a big boy! Just this weekend, we officially said goodbye to diapers and you are now wearing super cool big boy underwear featuring Buzz Lightyear, Woody, and the Thomas train gang! You have been such a rockstar mastering potty training in only a few days with just 2 accidents!

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Speaking of rock star…you sure know how to party like one! After being a perfect, yet quite affectionate- giving the flower girl many, many hugs and kisses, gentleman as the ring bearer in Heather and Justin’s wedding, you broke it down on the dance floor- stage jumping and dancing yourself into a sweaty monster!

You love music and can sing the words to nearly all of your favorite kiddo songs, but your favorite song, by far, is I Will Follow You Into the Dark by Death Cab for Cutie and when you sing along, it melts my heart. When Dada sings it to you, I can’t help but smile.

You love for us to read you books. Some of your current favorites are the French version of Aladdin, In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak (you call this the Mickey book), and the old-school Dick and Jane books. And, you love to watch movies- The Little Engine That Could and Curious George are your current favorites. Your two favorite things to play with are your train table and your shovels and rake- you can happily dig in the dirt for hours!

You are a sweet soul- saying to me several times each day either “I want to hug you” or “Give you a kiss,” which, of course, I absolutely adore. Hearing you say “I love you” from across the room nearly makes my heart skip a beat. You completely adore your friends, particularly Johanna.

Jack, I honestly cannot get enough of you. While it’s been only 30 months, it feels like you have been part of my being, encompassing my thoughts, for as long as I can remember.

Mama and Dada adore you, sweet cheeks. Happy half birthday!

Pictures of you this time last year, 18 months, at Auntie’s half-marathon and at Dada’s medical school graduation:
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And, pictures of you from this time 2 years ago, 6 months, at your first half birthday celebration:
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Jack turned two at the exact time as our plane left the ground, carrying us to San Francisco. I can’t help but feel wrapped in nostalgia with all the moments that filled the days that surrounded Jack’s birth…I wonder if all those vivid memories will ever be forgotten? I really hope not…

Jack enjoyed several days of festivities. We started Jack’s birthday celebration at school on Friday morning. We had a special story time in which he requested that I read his friends and teachers one of our favorite books, The Happy Day. Seriously, every child should have their own copy of this book…it’s really wonderful. All of the animals are hibernating and suddenly they begin to awaken sniffing the air. Following their noses, they find a yellow flower growing in the snow, they all laugh and dance at the magical discovery! After story time, we had a special birthday song (both in Hebrew and English) and game, then hugs from all of Jack’s friends followed by maple leaf cookies and juice boxes.

Friday night, I made a birthday dinner for Jack…he chose the menu. My heart swelled to the point of popping right out of my chest at the realization that I have such a foodie babe!
Salad: Rustic tomato and mozzarella with basil
Entree: Pasta with olives piquant, Tuscan bread with olive oil for dipping (recipe below)
Dessert: Banana chocolate chip cupcakes with cream cheese frosting (recipe below) and vanilla bean ice cream

Jack then tore into his presents…he has so many wonderful new things to wear and play with! Thank you to everyone who helped make his birthday extra fun with new things!20111113-122041.jpg

Then, we flew off to San Francisco and enjoyed a wonderful weekend in the sunshine! We spent Saturday on Stanford’s beautiful campus having delicious outdoor lunch with friends at The Cool Cafe at Cantor Art Museum, running around on the green lawn, and looking at the Rodin sculptures in the garden.
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On Sunday, we made a quick jaunt into the city to visit some friends at the beach area of Crissy Field.

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A very special thank you to Jennifer and Alan for making our wedding excursion possible! Jack still talks about you both…I think the Sprinkles cupcake outing was a real treat!

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Love how Jack and Alan are sitting the exact same way in this shot!20111104-125826.jpg

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And, Rebecca, the #2 shirt was wonderful! He wore it for his whole special day and really likes the dinosaurs!

Olives Piquant
adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers

Mince 1 1/2 cups of assorted pitted olives in a food processor (I like to use a combination of green olives stuffed with garlic and black olives so the texture, colors, and flavors are different)…only mince until finely chopped, not pasty.
In a skillet on low heat, cook 4 cloves of minced garlic in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until browned. Add the chopped olives and cook, stirring constantly, just until olives are heated through. Remove from the heat.
Stir the olive mixture into cooked pasta, you may want to use a bit of the pasta cooking water to give the pasta a bit of moisture, it’s up to you. I often forget to reserve the liquid and it’s always turns out yummy! At the table, top with grated Parmesan cheese.

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Banana chocolate chip cupcakes with vanilla cream cheese frosting
Adapted from Not Without Salt

For the cake:
Whisk together 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a small bowl.

Cream 1 stick of softened butter and 3/4 cup packed brown sugar in a large bowl by hand with a wooden spoon until pale and fluffy. You can also do this, likely with more ease, with a mixer at high speed, but I made these while Jack napped and I wouldn’t dare wake the birthday boy! Using a whisk, beat in 1 large egg until combined.

In a small bowl combine 2 ripe bananas and the seeds from half a vanilla bean. (To remove the seeds, carefully slice the bean in half using a sharp paring knife, then scrape out all the seeds using the knife.). Add 1/4 cup of sour cream to the bananas and vanilla bean, then combine this mixture with the butter mixture. Next, carefully add the dry ingredients, mixing until just incorporated. Now, stir in about 1 cup of dark chocolate chips.

I don’t usually use cupcake liners, but I had some super cute Halloween ones on hand, so I used them this time. If you are not using liners, be sure to grease your cupcake tins well. Bake in the middle of your oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the cupcake pan for 10 minutes then move to a rack to completely cool before frosting.

This recipe makes 12 cupcakes.20111113-121801.jpg
For the frosting:
Combine 8 ounces of softened cream cheese, 1 tablespoon of sour cream, 1 stick of softened butter, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, beans from 1/2 of a vanilla bean, and 1 cup powdered sugar; using a mixer beat until smooth. To avoid lumps make sure the butter and cream cheese are very soft.

After the cupcakes have completely cooled, frost your cupcakes.20111113-121808.jpg

A note: Don’t thrown your vanilla bean pod away. I put it in a glass jar with some sugar and the vanillaness has scented the sugar, making it so tasty in my daily cup(s) of vanilla and cinnamon hot tea. David has used it to make cinnamon and sugar toast, also quite delicious!

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