Friday, July 30, 2010

The first ever Food vs. Face Contest - Big Deal Bucks!

A couple of weeks ago, I posted something on the FvF Facebook page* about a deal for a $50 Melting Pot gift card for only $25, through eReach Big Deals. Well, the folks at Big Deals were swell enough to grant Food vs Face $25 in Big Deal Bucks to give away. You can check out the current and recent giveaways here. They have some really awesome deals on restaurant gift cards at least once a week.

Here's how their site works: Each day, they post a new deal in your area. If enough people sign up to purchase that deal, your purchase goes through at midnight. If not, bummer - no one gets the hook up. So, when you find one that's really killer, send the link to your friends or post it to twitter and Facebook to get the word out.

Now that the technical stuff is out of the way, here's how you can win. The first person to post a comment with the correct answer wins. Make SURE your email address is included, or we can't email you your prize!

Most of us have heard the story of how nachos were invented. What or who gave this tasty dish its namesake?


*What, you're not a fan yet? Let's fix that.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Meadowlark Restaurant - Dayton, Ohio

We dug into Summer Restaurant week this evening, with our first choice - Meadowlark Restaurant. I've been wanting to go there for quite some time, it's just not really in the budget for a couple of scrappy young kids saving up for a wedding. I figured I'd wait for a special occasion to check it out, but better yet - Restaurant Week.

In case you don't already know, most mid-large market cities hold a restaurant week once or twice per year (Dayton has two), when local eateries offer special menus for a special price, part of the portions benefiting a local charity. In this case, you can get a three-course meal at Meadowlark for only $20.10. Hell of a deal.

I didn't think about making a reservation, as a lot of places don't even take them during this promotion. There was certainly a crowd, but the hostess said there was only a 30 minute wait, which didn't seem too shabby. We browsed around looking at furniture next door for a while, then came back in just under 30. Unfortunately, we waited almost another 30 minutes after returning from our window shopping. Meadowlark is situated very unassumingly in a shopping plaza near the Dayton Mall. Space inside is very limited, which means all but 5 people waiting have to hang outside. When it's 90 degrees out, that's nothing but a stone-cold bummer.

As packed as they were, none of the staff seemed flustered - everyone was still friendly and attentive. Our drink & meal orders were taken quickly. The only thing that struck me as odd is that if you order soda, it comes in a 20 oz. bottle. I've noticed a lot of small independent restaurants doing this, and I can't say I'm a fan. I always order water, but Mr. FvF likes his Sprite. Just seems like it's more cost-effective do have fountain sodas (certainly is for the consumer - no free refills here!). Then again, I'm not a restaurant owner or a buyer.

Since we ordered off the RW menu, I knew our food would come out quickly. Since most of the patrons had been waiting on line, the chef was thoughtful enough to send an extra small plate out to all of the tables - crispy, seeded flatbreads with pimento spread. Doesn't sound like much, but it was just enough of a nibble to get your appetite going. Plus, the mister doesn't care for pimento, so - more for me! Our menu appetizer came out next, and we'd both ordered the same thing - Griddled Summer Squash with Falafel, Blistered Tomatoes, Herbs, Feta, Lemon Oil and Za’atar. It was the most appetizing things I'd seen in years.
This would be a good time to mention that Meadowlark is a chef-owned restaurant, which is also mutually exclusive with having amazing food. Chef Elizabeth Wiley's creations at Meadowlark are certainly no exception. This tasted every bit as good as it looked. Mister Picky Pants doesn't care for tomatoes, so again - more for me.

Just after they cleared these plates, like clockwork, our dinners came out. I opted for the Braised Pork Shoulder with Red Chile Jus, Tortilla Budin and Vegetable Slaw...

and Mr. FvF had the Seared Red Snapper with Smoked Shrimp Hash and Fresh Corn Butter Sauce.

The first bite of mine was divine, and that feeling stuck around until I'd cleaned my plate. The pork was so tender, I'm not even sure why they bothered bringing a steak knife with the dish. As good pork shoulder should, it just fell apart at the touch of a fork. Between the sauce and the seasonings, it reminded me a lot of carnitas done very, very well. The red chile jus underneath and around the pork couldn't have been more complimentary. The veggie slaw was great - just enough vinegar and capers to bring it to life, but not soak or overpower the cabbage. I could have done without the tortilla budin. It wasn't bad, it just didn't bring much to the dish and was a bit on the bland side.

I don't dig on seafood at all (okay, now you can call ME picky), so I just have to take Mister's word on the fish dish. He gave it an overall 8 out of 10. According to him, the shrimp in the hash wasn't very detectable, and the snapper was good, just not remarkable. Keep in mind he's quite a finicky eater and lived in coastal towns for much of his life, so for him, that's a pretty good rating for seafood.

For dessert he ordered the warm eclair with French chocolate mousse, and I had the Dolcessa Gelato Fresh Peach Ice Cream with Butter Cake and Bourbon Sauce. We both traded bites of our desserts, and I have to say, the eclair wasn't memorable. It was good for an eclair, that's just not the type of dessert that impresses me. It was definitely better than Perkins-grade, but nothing you couldn't get at a local bakery. Pastries very rarely get my goat, so take this with a grain of salt.

My dessert was pretty boss. It had to be for me to keep eating it, considering cold food gives me a painful reminder that I need a root canal.
My only real complaint is that I think I may have been shorted the bourbon sauce. Basically, what I got was some great pound cake with some kick-ass gelato on top. I really despise fruit-flavored things, but love the taste of actual fresh summer stone fruits in a gelato, which Dayton's own Dolcessa Gelato very successfully provided.

I'm not sure Meadowlark will shoot quickly to the top of our favorite places to splurge, but I'll definitely make it in another time to check out their regular menu offerings.

4.25 out of 5 sporks!

Meadowlark Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 26, 2010

Longhorn Steakhouse - Kettering, Ohio

Ma and Pa FvF were nice enough to treat us to dinner Friday night, because they're better than most people. Pa doesn't care to venture out to the North side for Old Hickory, so his pick for steak is always Longhorn on West Dorothy Lane. I'm not normally a big proponent of chains, but I've gone to Longhorn several times over the last few years and never had bad food OR bad service.

The salads were plentiful and super tasty. Ma and Pa got the seasonal strawberry salad, which consisted of mixed field greens with strawberries, grapes, mandarin oranges, candied pecans, red onion, feta, and raspberry vinaigrette. My Caesar salad was also delicious, but one bite of theirs and I wished that I could take back my original order.

We all ordered different versions of their Renegade sirloin. Ma and I got the 8 oz (mine mid-rare and hers mid-well) and the fellas for the 12 ouncers (one medium and one mid-rare). In all honesty, two of the steaks ordered medium and under were the slightest bit overcooked, but not to the point of sending back. I still got a nice, solid medium, while Mr. FvF's - ordered the same way, was a perfect mid-rare. They were still delicious and perfectly edible, so we saw no point in sending them back and waiting for another steak.
Mr. FvF's big-ass Renegade Sirloin

We did mention the inconsistency in the steaks to our server, who was very apologetic (and very attentive and sweet all-around), but we insisted we didn't want anything to be done about it, except maybe passing a word along to the chef.

I should also note that we arrived right in the middle of Friday evening dinner rush, but didn't have to wait for a table. It was plenty busy, but the servers still took their time with each table and didn't make you feel rushed.

I do, however, have one big beef with the place that has zero to do with the food, but it really, really creases me. I'm a stylish gal who always likes to wear cute shoes. Anyone who knows me knows that you'll more easily get eaten alive by bears than see my in public without heels on. I've been walking in nothing but them since I was about 16, and it's an art I've mastered. Hell, I can even run in them. The floors at Longhorn Steakhouse are incredibly slippery, and my greatest foe. I don't know if it's the finish of the floors or a wax they use on them, but if you're wearing anything but sneakers or flip-flops, your feet will roll around underneath you like Fred Flintstone until you're assholes over elbows in the middle of their dining room floor. It's so bad, in fact, that unless I'm seated right near the ladies' room (which, ew - no thank you), I won't even make the trek no matter how bad I have to go. I'd feel a little guilty driving to another steakhouse in the Bugatti Veyron that I obtained by suing them for crippling me for life.

So, major point deduction for that, and half a point off for two out of four steaks being slightly over-cooked.

3.5 out of 5 sporks!
Longhorn Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Simple Suppers: Mongolian Beef

Mongolian Beef - specifically from North China on Far Hills Ave - is something I crave more than is natural for someone not suffering a hormonal imbalance. Like a lot of folks, we're on a limited dining out budget, which means you have to learn to make the stuff you love at home...and hopefully just as well, if not better.

I found a recipe that pretty well mimics the dish that I hold so dear pretty well. Aside from having to carve up an entire flank steak, it's pretty easy, too. Here's what you'll need:

1 c. vegetable oil
1 pound flank steak
1/4 c. cornstarch
1 cup total, chopped green onions and yellow onions

And for the sauce:
2 tsp veg oil
1/2 tsp. minced ginger
1 tbsp. chopped garlic
1/2 c. soy sauce
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. dark brown sugar

The directions for this recipe were mind-numbingly long, so let me give you the abridged version.

Start the sauce by heating 2 tsp veg oil in a saucepan over med/low heat. Don't get the oil too hot or you'll get a major splatter when adding liquids. Add ginger and garlic to the pan and quickly, then add the soy sauce and water immediately so that the garlic doesn't scorch.
Dissolve the brown sugar into the mixture, then raise the heat to medium and boil for 2-3 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat.

Slice the flank steak against the grain into thing, about 1/4" slices.
Dip the steak pieces into the cornstarch to apply a very thin dusting to both sides of each piece. Let the beef sit for about 10 minutes so that the cornstarch sticks. As the beef sits, heat up one cup of oil in a wok or skillet.
Once the pan is hot, add the beef to the oil and saute for just 2 min. or until the beef just begins to darken on the edges. Stir the meat around a little so that it cooks evenly. After a couple minutes, use a slotted spoon to transfer the steak onto paper towels, then pour the oil out of the wok. Put the pan back over the heat, place the steak back in along with all of the onions and let it simmer for 1-2 minutes. Add the sauce, stir then cook for 2-3 more minutes.

Simple Suppers: Chicken Fried Steak!

I'd attempted chicken fried steak a while back, and it didn't quite come out the way I planned, so I threw in the towel. Considering it's Mr. FvF's favorite, though, I had to give it another whirl. On the advice of my best gal, the Almighty Lando, I picked up some minute steaks, made a quick egg bath, and tossed some salt, pepper and Mrs. Dash into some flour, and away I went.

All in all, they turned out well, but I encountered a different problem than in my first failure at this dish. Instead of the breading lumping up and coming off all over the place (double dipping is the key there - turn once in the flour mix, once in the eggy bath, then again in the flour), the actually steak started coming apart on me. Only one, though - and I took a picture of that one, because it's the mister's plate and his plate always looks better because it's fuller than mine.

Anyhow, once you have them coated, toss them in a hot, hot cast iron skillet for about 3 minutes on each side, or until the breading browns a bit and gets all crispy and delightful.

The real star of the show, never to be outdone, were the smashed red-skinned garlic rosemary potatoes. Maybe someday I'll be not-lazy enough to tell you how to make those.

Simple Suppers: Chicken & veggie pizza on whole wheat crust

Last week, we decided to make a pizza out of just what we had in the fridge or freezer. I always keep Trader Joe's Whole Wheat Pizza Dough on hand. It's only 99 cents a bag, so I'll buy 3-4 bags at a time and freeze them. We also had a Greek-seasoned grilled chicken breast that we'd used the night before for pitas, and plenty of veggies.

You don't need a recipe to make a pizza unless you're a full-on jack-ass. But, since I'm a sweet gal, I'll tell you what it consists of. Thinly spread whole wheat dough, seasoned with olive oil, salt, garlic powder and parmesan cheese. You can pre-bake it a bit before you add the toppings, maybe about 10 minutes on 350. Once it's risen a bit, but still soft, pull it out and add your toppings. We used: thinly sliced chicken, caramelized onions, fresh tomatoes, pesto, chopped garlic and mozzarella. Bake it for another 5-10 minutes at the same temp, depending on how crispy you like your crust.

Belly up & enjoy!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Stuffed BBQ Bacon Cheeseburgers

In case you don't already know, the first Dayton Man B Que was held here at Chez Food vs Face last weekend. I'll have some upcoming links to the MBQ site with all of the amazing recipes soon. For now, though, you'll have to get by on the leftovers. The festivities left behind all sorts of food in it's wake, from already cooked food from the night before, to about 2 1/2 pounds of ground chuck and various cheeses. My sister's mister missed the event because they were to busy gettin' their metal on with Iron Maiden in Cleveland, so I decided to throw some of my own burgers together and invite them over.

Again, I take the things that normally go on top of burgers and stuff them inside - almost like a meatloaf, but one that tastes good. Here's what you'll need for this burger (yields 7 burgers, so divvy as needed for smaller amounts):

2 1/2 lbs ground chuck (80/20)
5 oz (or about 1/2 C) sharp cheddar, cut into 1/2" cubes
1/4 C bread crumbs
1/2 C BBQ sauce (recommended: Sweet Baby Ray's Original)
6-8 slices of bacon, cooked crisp & coarsely chopped
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cracked pepper
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Combine all of the ingredients with your hands until very well mixed and form into patties. My personal preferred method is to make them into giant meatballs and flatten them just slightly - that way they don't cook too quickly or overcook. If you spy any of the cheese cubes poking out, thumb them back in and cover it up with ground beef. This will keep the precious cheese from oozing out during cooking when it starts to melt.

Toss them onto a 400 degree grill for about 3-5 minutes per side, or until they've got just a little give left to them, much like a medium steak (should create the same resistance as touching your nose with your finger). DO NOT squish the burgers with the spatula and let all of that fabulous juice out. You're grilling, so most of the actual fat will drip off. If you press them, you're ridding the burger of it's natural juices, i.e., flavor.

If you're feeling fancy (which we always are), top it with some onion rings or French fried onions, and enjoy the sound of your arteries clogging and life becoming exponentially more wonderful with each bite.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Summer Restaurant Week 2010 sneak preview

I'm getting all ants in the pants for Summer Restaurant Week, which will run July 25-31. That's when local eateries create special menus for (typically) 3-course meals for only $20.10 and donate a portion to charity. Some joints, like Fricker's, will even have TWO for $20.10 meal deals. Not many folks have posted their menus on the MVHRA website yet, but next week you can get a sneak peak of the vittles some of the participants will be serving up. White Allen European Auto Showroom will be holding a Restaurant Week preview party, showcasing selections from places like El Meson, Rue Dumaine, Bahn Mai Thai, Coco's Bistro and Sidebar.

Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door, cover unlimited samplings and two drink tickets, and are available through the MVHRA website (linked above).

Monday, July 12, 2010

Top 5 under $20 - Dayton Restaurants

Some folks call it thrifty. Some folks call it frugal. I've always been fond of "parsimonious." When referring to my own spending, I call it "you'll have to pry my money from my cold, dead hands." I've always been known to be a bit tight with my dollars. When I was in the second grade and the teacher asked us all what we wanted to be when we grew up, I said "loan shark." No foolies. Ma FvF had cracked a joke about it when I loaned my sister a dollar and charged interest on it, so it seemed like a wise career choice.

In department stores, I go straight for the clearance racks. I coupon clip, sale watch, barter & bargain, and rarely ever pay full price for anything. As well as we eat here at Chez FvF, we only spend about $200 (give or take) on groceries each month. If it weren't for someone being a bit of a picky eater and my mild gluten allergy, we'd be spending a lot less. When we dine out, we're just as penny-pinching. I've been asked by a few people to compile a list of my favorite cheap eats in Dayton. Some of these you can get out the door paying less than $20 for both people, but all of them you'll pay far less than $20 a piece, not including your booze tab. These are all sit-down joints (under $20 does not include tip in all cases), no fast food, pizza delivery or deli style/order-at-the-counter joints. Needless to say, they're also all local independents, so you should feel good about giving them your hard-earned money.

Salsa's - 4904 Airway Road Dayton, OH
I discovered Salsa's shortly after it opened and it's become a staple when I'm craving Mexican or Latin food. Expansive menu, great service, close to home, and the price is right. The entrees Mr. FvF and I usually order are under $9 a piece, so without considering the tip (and we normally don't order soft drinks), our check is usually just under $20.

Christopher's - 2318 E Dorothy Ln Kettering, OH
This, to me, is the holy grail of eating under $20. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, and all for a bargain. You genuinely can't beat their quality of food, either. they use free-range meats and make a lot of their own sauces and dressings, and the house-made pies are out of this world. So good, in fact, that Mr. FvF and I decided to ditch wedding cake all together and serve their pies as dessert at our wedding (they're catering the dinner, as well). The priciest thing on the menu is the Neptune's Temple Platter, which is baked haddock, grilled shrimp, bay scallops, crab cakes, potatoes and a vegetable for $16.95. If you're feeling spendier, you can get a complete dinner for two for $34.95, which includes beverages, an appetizer and two desserts.

Tank's Bar & Grill - 2033 Wayne Ave Dayton, OH
Best burgers around. And no, I haven't been to Five Guys yet, but I guarantee you I won't turncoat and say they're better than Tank's when I do. My usual: Bacon cheeseburger (in which the bacon is always cooked to perfection), medium, with cheddar on an onion bun and a Love Seat (half of a Couch Potato, which is hand-cut fries smothered in cheese and Tank's award-winning chili. Burgers and other super-stacked sandwiches tend to run about $6-7. I heard they do a killer weekend breakfast, too - but of all my years in Dayton, I have yet to be up early enough to make it.

Ticket's Pub - 7 W Main St Fairborn, OH
Whether bar food or Greek food is what you're craving, Ticket's is your joint. One side of the menu is all poppers, wings, potato skins & mini corn dogs, while the other side showcases their Greek specialties, like Souvlaki, gryos, and the gigantor Greek hot plate (feeds two very well for $16.75). There's also the veg-friendly Greek Cold plate for the non-carnivorous. They have some great dinner specials, too, including their least budget-friendly item, a one pound ribeye dinner for $18.95.

Golden Nugget Pancake House - 2932 S Dixie Dr Kettering, OH
Burgers and pancakes and soups - oh, my! Open only for breakfast and lunch (closed Mondays), the 'Nug is a Dayton landmark and makes an absolute killing. You'll be hard pressed not to see a line out the door if their lights are on, but don't worry - it moves quickly.
They had a sever kitchen fire back in 2006-ish, and re-opened with serious gusto several months later with a more updated look and quite a bit more room. The waitresses call you honey, and it's some of the best breakfast ( or lunch) you'll ever have.
I'm obviously not the only one who thinks so. Everyone who commented on the Nug's Mr. Breakfast page is in love, too. A short stack (even specialty flapjacks) will cost you around $4, and you can get a grilled cheese for as little as $2.95. My favorites are the banana pancakes with a side of crispy bacon, or the country omelet.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tuscan Vow Renewal Soup

Remember the super delicious Tuscan wedding soup that I created last month? Well, Mr. FvF liked it so much that I made it again already. We didn't have anyone over to share it with when I made it Monday, so it yielded a good 2-3 bowls of leftovers to be had later in the week.
I decided to pull a Billiam (a friend of mine who is terribly artistic when it comes to recreating leftovers) and turn it into yet another soup. I wish I could take credit for the name, but that one was all Mr. FvF.

After a good while spent scouring the webbernets, I was disappointed to see that no one had advice on turning a broth-based soup into a cream-based soup. Don't worry your pretty little head, because your good pal Food vs. Face does!

The leftovers will soak up a lot of the chicken broth in the fridge, so you'll need one more can. Dump the soup into a Dutch oven or stock pot, turn the head to about medium-low and start reheating, adding about 3/4 of the can of broth. Add about 1/4 cup heavy cream to the soup as well.

In a sauce pan, boil a couple of coarsely diced red potatoes until fork tender.

In another sauce pan, bring the remaining 1/4 can of broth and about 3/4 cup of heavy cream to a low boil. Sift a couple tablespoons (3-4ish) of A/P flour into the mix and begin whisking. Add about 1/2 cup of shredded cheese (I used a softer parm and mozzarella mix) and keep whisking. Continue cooking until the consistency resembles that of a cream-based soup you'd buy in the store. You can add more cream or flour (and maybe some butter) to thin or thicken the roux. Make sure all of the lumps are out!

Drain the diced potatoes and add to the soup, then add the roux that you've made. Turn the heat to low on the soup and stir until everything is combined well.

This is very, very similar to Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana soup, except it tastes good and isn't served to you by someone working on their GED who pronounces "merlot" phonetically.

White Wine Cream Sauce

Last night, all I had on hand to make for dinner was your standard meat & two veg. I knew I was making green beans and broasted rosemary red potatoes, but the Italian marinated chicken I'd thawed out from Dot's Market left a little something to be desired. As I was enjoying a glass of Riesling, I wondered what I should do to make it more appealing. Now is the part where you picture little monkeys driving Shriner cars around in circles to illustrate what goes on inside my head when I think really hard.

White wine cream sauce!

I've never been an ace at cream sauces, but I figured it couldn't hurt to try. I took about 3/4 cup of the wine and deglazed the pan I cooked the chicken in, then added about 1/2 cup of heavy cream, a tablespoon or two of flour, a teaspoon of salt and some parmesan cheese, cracked pepper and herbs. Cooked it down and whisked continuously until it came to a light boil, then reduced it to a simmer for just a couple of minutes. Viola! The shit was delicious.

You'll have to excuse the lack of food-porn quality in the photo. I'd mistakenly left it on the wrong setting from some earlier photos. Yes, occasionally, I use my camera to take photos of things not edible.

Birthday Eats: Pa FvF's Wonder Salsa

In another episode of things I'm totally spoiled on, here's a photo of Pa FvF's amazing salsa.

I never eat salsa from a jar. I'll cook with it, but I'll be damned if I'll dip a chip into that hot mess of stewed tomatoes and onions and pretend it tastes good. I detest store-bought salsa (which was the only salsa I'd ever known, besides the pureed stuff they use in restaurants, which I also don't care for) so much that I was hesitant to even try it the first time he made it.

Every summer he makes it in big batches, and every summer it is coveted like your neighbor's wife. Why only in the summer? Because he buys all the vegetables fresh from local farmer's markets and grills them. Basically, my dad is better than your dad. Deal with it.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Table Scraps: 7/6/10

During the run of I AM LOVE at The Neon Movies, you can use a Neon ticket stub to score 15% off your meal at Coco's Bistro. In turn, you can also use your Coco's receipt for a BOGO ticket of that showing on the same day, should you opt for dinner before the movie.

Blind Bob's is now serving brunch on the weekends, as is Dublin Pub.

The hopefully no longer cursed location that was once Frisch's Big Boy, then Uno's Bar & grill on SR 48/Far Hills in Centerville has once again re-opened as Archer's Tavern. I'm assuming it will be American fare food, like burgers, sandwiches and salads. No website yet, just a Facebook page. Ma and Pa FvF live right down the road, so maybe I'll enlist them to check it out for me.

After finally getting my hands on a Mo's Bacon Bar, compliments of my friend Tim from YouIndie for my birthday, I wondered how upset Mr. FvF would be if I called off our wedding in order to pledge my love to this candy bar.

I am not effing around, you guys. Man B Que is next weekend, July 17, and we're expecting some serious eats. If you want to be part of this carnivorous extravaganza, any and all are welcome, so get at me.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Birthday Eats: Salted Caramel Frosting

I know you've missed me, you big babies. I was really busy celebrating the birth of our nation, and more importantly - the birth of yours truly. This past weekend I celebrated the big dirty thirty, and my sister and her mister were sweet enough to throw me a little shindig. Since they had so much on their hands, I offered to make my own birthday cupcakes, because I had to be involved somehow. Plus, I'd really been wanting to try to make salted caramel frosting. There are a handful of recipes for this on the ol' webbernets, but of course, I went with the one that looked relatively easy, which I found on Bake and Destroy. You can just as easily visit her page (which is totally bad ass) for the recipe, but I'll paste it here for you as well.

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup powdered sugar (possibly 1 1/2 cups)

Stir sugar and water together in a small saucepan, bring it to a boil and cook without stirring over medium-high heat until it turns dark amber. About 6-7 minutes. Remove from heat and slowly add cream and vanilla, stirring with a wooden spoon until smooth. Cool for 25 minutes. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and salt until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add 1 cup powdered sugar and beat until well mixed. Turn the mixer off and add the caramel. Beat frosting on medium-high until mixed well. Add more powdered sugar if it seems soupy. Cover and refrigerate about 45 minutes. Your frosting will likely still be more liquidy than you like. Switch to your whisk attachment and whip the frosting until it’s light and fluffy.

I will say this - making your own caramel isn't for 'tards. My first batch came out relatively well and yielded a decent amount, but I did have one lumpy candy bit that had to be pitched. There's really no notation on how cool to let the sugar mixture get before adding the cream, and it will harden very easily. But, I had just enough for the icing, which turned out magnificent. I'll also add that I don't have the kind of kitchen space needed for a stand mixer, but there's always room for improvisation. Never be intimidated by not having exactly the right equipment, or exactly the right ingredients. Besides, I was dying to test drive this beauty that had arrived from our wedding registry earlier in the week, compliments of the lovely Andres.

Clearly, frosting cupcakes isn't really my strong suit, but not all food needs to be pretty. It just needs to be delicious.