Sunday, May 22, 2011

Trail Blazer: Challenging body, mind and spirit

Call me: Ken
Decade born: 1980’s
Favorite cupcake: Trail Blazer
Making a difference: Helping kids turn obstacles to opportunities

You might think of obstacles as blockades. Ken thinks of them as hurdles -- to be vaulted over, rolled under or pushed through!

As a diver for the Navy, Ken learned to negotiate a buoyant, airless biosphere filled with peculiar and sometimes dangerous creatures. On land, he challenges a drier environment through the non-competitive running discipline, Parkour

A Parkour practitioner, called a Traceur, runs along a route dense with obstacles. The challenge is to efficiently traverse that environment, scaling walls, leaping gaps, swinging, flipping and always pushing forward. It takes physical and mental discipline as well as creative techniques to master the art. As you speed through trails and courses, you look for the most direct path that can be traversed safely and use well-practiced moves.

As a Parkour instructor, Ken helps kids learn and practice the art of turning obstacles into opportunities. By challenging their limits, boys and girls gain confidence not only to conquer the physical world, but also any struggle they may face.  Traceurs dare to confront personal impediments, blazing new trails into hidden potential, turning obstacles into opportunities.

That’s why the Trail Blazer cupcake is perfect for Ken. This “Choco-nilla” cake is a real original, topped with fudgy frosting, caramel and a pile of Ken’s favorite Northwest trail mix.

This is Ken’s cupcake: Innovative. Spirited. And plenty of FUN.

Make “Trail Blazer” cupcakes:

You’ll need to mix up two kinds of batter. A hearty buttermilk-vanilla cake and a rich milk chocolate one. Think full, strong flavors! Pour the heaviest one in the bottom half of the cupcake liners, then the lightest one on top. Either leave them in layers or swirl gently together.

When cool, pipe a ring of fudgy frosting around the edge. Ken likes confectioner’s icing best because it solidifies into a tough support for the other toppings.

Spoon some gooey caramel into the center, then top with a nutty trail mix.  Happy trails! 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Free Spirit: Creating hope for a new generation

The willingness to share does not make one charitable;
it makes one free
. -- Robert Brault

Call  me: Elaine
Decade born: 1920’s
Favorite cupcake: Free Spirit
Making a difference: Providing care for Native American children

Elaine remembers the little Oklahoma railroad town where she was born. Many of her neighbors were members of the Choctaw tribe. They were descendants of the first Native Americans who traveled the Trail of Tears into exile from their homelands.

Throughout America’s history, the Choctaws had a generous reputation of providing humanitarian aid to needy Europeans. But Elaine recalls seeing these now-obscure people living in horrendous poverty.

“One day, my sister and I accompanied our mother to deliver some clothing and a sack of apples to a poor Choctaw family,” Elaine recalls. “The parents and two little girls were living in a dugout – a sort of cave carved out of the side of a hill. When we gave the girls the apples we brought, they didn’t know what to do with them. They had never eaten an apple before, so we showed them how.”

It broke Elaine’s heart to think that these children were so poor, hungry and neglected despite their praiseworthy, self-sacrificing heritage. “So when I found out about St. Joseph’s Indian School and how they were changing lives by providing education and other essential care for needy or orphaned Native American children, I knew I wanted to be part of it.”

A true friend is someone who sees your trouble and frees your spirit, carving out a road of possibilities for your future. The Free Spirit cupcake (gluten-free, sugar-free and lactose-free)  is perfect for Elaine -- a precious friend of Native American children.

Make “Free Spirit” cupcakes:

Start by whisking up a gluten-free carrot cake recipe. Try Sandra Ramacher’s easy recipe in Healing Foods or find one online that you like. Divide batter into muffin pans lined with cupcake papers. Fill only half way, or you’ll have trouble getting them out of the pan in one piece.

The icing is easy, but takes some patience (see instructional video below), or just follow these simple steps:

1.     Whip 4 egg whites till frothy, then add a half teaspoon of cream of tartar and continue whipping till stiff peaks form
2.     Drizzle in a cup of honey, which you have boiled for about 10 minutes
3.     Whip until the meringue comes to room temperature (hint: place a cold compress on the sides of the bowl to speed up the cooling process)
4.      With the mixer running, add 3 cubes of butter, one tablespoon at a time, and whip till fluffy

Your icing may work out perfectly the first time you try, but if the texture is soupy, it means the icing was too warm when you added the butter. If it’s lumpy like cottage cheese, it got too cold. Just keep whipping and it will behave eventually!

Frost the cupcakes, and sprinkle with zested orange rind. If you want a little more sweetness, drizzle a spiral of (room temperature) honey boiled 10 minutes with orange zest and 2 tablespoons of orange juice. Use the leftovers for almond-flour pancake syrup!

PS: Here’s a little known fact: Many people associate Code Talking with the Navajo Nation, but this way of transmitting secret messages was actually pioneered by the Choctaw Indians who served in the U.S. Army during World War I.

Video instructions:

Sunday, May 8, 2011

First Kiss: A mother's privilege, a child's treasure

There is an instinct in a woman to love most her own child -- and an instinct to make any child who needs her love, her own.  --Robert Brault

Call me: Wendi
Decade born: 1970’s
Favorite cupcake: First Kiss
Making a difference: Being a Mom 

Wendi says she’s “just a mom.” To this mother of four boys, that means . . .

Nurturing her sons’ hearts and minds to become Godly men.
Loving, honoring and respecting her husband.
Mentoring young moms in crisis to ensure they have a healthy pregnancy and are fully equipped to provide for their own children.

And that’s just a start!

Although Wendi and her husband, Scott, feel tremendously blessed to have four healthy, energetic sons, this compassionate woman always wanted to have a daughter. So when their church announced an opportunity to sponsor a needy child through World Vision, her heart leapt at the chance.

The boys helped choose a little “sister” to become part of their family: 4-year-old Temere from Ethiopia The kids even pledged part of the money they earn to pay for their sister’s sponsorship.

It’s only been a few months, but already the boys are getting a bigger picture of what it means to truly be a family. Through World Vision, they’re doing more than providing for Temere’s daily nutrition, education and physical needs. By exchanging photos and writing letters, Temere knows she has a family in America who loves her, prays for her and has hope for her future.

That’s what a mother’s love does. Inspires. Nurtures. Sacrifices. Still, being a mother is not without its rewards . . . and that’s why “First Kiss” is the perfect treat to honor someone like Wendi: a classic yellow cake with a golden pastry cream center topped with a mound of glazed strawberries on a nest of sweet buttercream frosting. 

Sure, doctors will tell you there are complex biological reasons a mother kisses her newborn (sampling pathogens to stimulate memory B-cells that develop antibodies the baby needs). But it’s really much simpler than that: love.

Life begins with your mother’s first kiss. It's her privilege -- and a child’s treasure forever.

Make First Kiss cupcakes:

 Start by cooking up a rich pastry filling. Try this recipe if you don't already have one, or use a thick vanilla pudding. 

Bake cupcakes from your favorite yellow cake recipe or mix.

When the cupcakes and pastry cream are cooled, use a Bismarck tube to pipe in the golden center.

Wash, hull and cut fresh strawberries into bite-size pieces. Stir in a strawberry pie glaze. (See video below for a tip on how to hull strawberries even if you don't have a hulling tool!)

Edge your cupcakes with buttercream frosting so the strawberries won't fall over the side. Pile on the glazed strawberries and top with a dollop of buttercream frosting. Whether you're honoring mom, dad, a birthday kid or just whooping it up, you'll never forget your First Kiss.

PS: Here's a little-known fact. Strawberries are not actually berries at all. They are a member of the rose family called "Fragaria." So next time you want to show your mom or sweetheart your love, instead of a dozen roses  . . . why not try a dozen strawberries?

Video instructions: