Saturday, February 27, 2010

Less than perfect


It's a relief to be my age.  Well, most days anyway.   Perfection just isn't a concern.  I don't have to even worry about it.   I used to comb the beach looking for the perfect, whole seashell or sand dollar.  Now I see the beauty in the ones that are a little broken or worn smooth by time, sand and waves.  I feel as if they have lived.  
This wine glass is a symbol of that for me, too.  Its first life was in a local wine shop.  After it was chipped, though, it needed a new home.  It would have been a sin to throw away a beautiful wine glass just because of a little chip in its base, so it got to come home with me.  It is well-loved and very useful when I want a nice glass of wine as I prepare dinner.  
I love to read magazines.  I've given up most of them, though, because they are filled with how-to-lose-those-unwanted-pounds or how-to-erase-wrinkles stories.  It seems that looking as if you've lived a few years is something to be ashamed of.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I am definitely vain.  The morning is easier when it is a good hair day.  I am grumpy when I can't get into my favorite black pants.  Would I like to look into a crystal ball and be assured of having many years ahead?  Of course (I think...). There is so much to do and see and I still have so much to learn.  
These days, I mostly read magazines about places and the people who live in them-- Our State, a magazine dedicated to the state of North Carolina, is a favorite, as well as Durham, a fairly new publication about my city.  I enjoy reading books written by people about their lives.  I just finished Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard, an American who met and married a Frenchman.  She calls her book "a love story with recipes."  A great combination, set in France.  I am currently reading The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Arles by Susan Goldman Rubin.  (I've walked the same sidewalks as Vincent and will be there again very soon).  The books I love most are about people who have wrinkles and scars.  They aren't perfect.  None of us are, really.
Tonight's dinner will consist of the steak au poivre from yesterday's post, frites, haricots verts, French bread and these lovely little, less-than-perfect mini-cheesecakes that high school age son loves. 

They cracked on the top while baking.  I probably should've put them in a bain-marie, a water bath, in the oven while they baked.  So, to pretty them up and to add a little extra something-something, I used this--

Pas mal, n'est-ce pas?

makes 12

12 vanilla wafers
2 8-oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs

Line muffin tin with foil liners.  Place one vanilla wafer in each liner. Mix cream cheese, sugar and vanilla on medium speed until well-blended.  Add eggs.  Mix well.  Spoon over wafers, filling cups 3/4 full.  Bake 25 minutes at 325.  Remove from pan when cool.  Chill.  Top with fruit, preserves, chocolate or whatever you wish. 

The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a 'What the hell?' attitude.                   
                            -- Julia Child

Bon appétit, to all who are less than perfect and perfectly happy!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sweet anticipation


Gracie, one of the 8th graders going with me to France in less than a week, drew this picture on my white board.  To say that we are excited and nervous would be a gross understatement.  We try hard to keep it under wraps and concentrate on our day-to-day work, but it just isn't easy. 
Comments and questions...
--Madame, I found the cutest rain boots and raincoat for the trip!
--Look at this packing list that Courtney found on line. Isn't this so practical?
--Will you bring back a French boy for me?  (from one of the girls who can't go with us)
--Can we put on our pjs and watch a movie at the chef's house one night in Arles?
--Will I get to see pink flamingoes?
--Can I wear shorts on the trip?
--Can I try to get pickpocketed?
--Are French boys hot?
--Can we go to a PSG soccer match?
--What if my suitcase weighs too much?
-- How much spending money should we bring?
--What movies will they show on the plane?
--Is it one of those planes that has a long aisle down the middle?  You know?
--If the girls talk about hair dryers one more time my son may scream! (from the mom of one of the boys)

I am sure the list will go on and on as the next few days pass in a blur of taking care of details.  I have my own checklists and questions...
--Do I have photocopies of everyone's passport?
--Did I order enough euros?
--Will my global phone really work when we get there?
--Who is most likely to get homesick, car sick, flu sick?
--How many times will I count 16 heads?
--Will any parents be high maintenance?
--Will they practice the French I've been pounding into their heads for months?
--Will everyone's ATM card, including mine, work?
--Who is most likely to lose a camera, purse, ATM card, passport?

And I have no idea how I am going to get more of my things back from Arles.  Well, I've already decided that I am bringing back a second suitcase, even though Delta now charges $50 to do that.  GRRRR  Plus the stuff that I will have to have, can't live without for another year-- lavender honey (I hope Sophie has some), sea salt, Camargue rice, lavender sachets, herbes de Provence (yes, I know I can buy them here, but are the ones in the grocery store really from Provence??).  The list goes on and on.  I am back to the dilemma I faced when I packed to come home after my sabbatical.  I just want to bring it all home with me.  The sights, the smells, the sounds, the food, the wine, the civilized manner of eating meals (I have already warned the aforementioned 14 year olds that we will not eat quickly on this trip), being surrounded by the soothing French language (ok, the sounds of sirens in Paris I'll leave behind).  Hélas.

We do have some wonderful plans.  Five nights in Paris.  Highlights: dinner reservations at Le Chartier, a trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower at dusk, reservations at Hôtel Le Pavillon, a former convent on Rue Saint Dominique,  the market on Rue Mouffetard or at Raspail, picnics, a guided tour of the Louvre and Notre-Dame.  We will travel by TGV to Avignon, visit the middle school of our new penpals, Collège Le Mourion in Villeneuve-les-Avignon, have lunch in Avignon, head to Arles, check into the lovely Hôtel du Musée, located within the walls and very near the Rhône, cook with Chef Érick, visit the Camargue to see black bulls, pink flamingoes and the Mediterranean Sea, visit the Arles Saturday market, five nights in Arles.  I am already dreaming of steak-frites, seafood risotto, mussels, oysters and salade de chèvre chaud.  

Okay, enough daydreaming.  I still have to get through a hair appointment (I do have to look my best, you know), a Sabbatical Chef cooking class with 20 students with Dorette at C'est si Bon!, and three days of classes before the plane takes off.  And the air traffic controllers in France need to end their strike.  And I have to pack...

Steak au Poivre
4 servings

1 Tbsp. cracked black pepper
4 beef tenderloin steaks or 2 beef top loin steaks (New York strip or Kansas City steaks), cut 1 inch thick (1 pound)
2 Tbsp. butter 
1/4 c. brandy or beef broth
1/4 c. beef broth
1/2 c. whipping cream
2 tsp. Dijon-style mustard

Use your fingers to press the pepper onto both sides of the steaks.  If using top loin steaks, cut each steak in half crosswise.  In a large skillet cook steaks in hot butter over medium heat to desired doneness, turning once.  For tenderloin steaks, allow 10-13 minutes for medium rare (145F) to medium (160F).  For top loin steaks, allow 12-15 minutes for medium rare to medium.  Transfer steaks to a serving platter, reserving the drippings in the skillet.  Keep warm.  Remove skillet from burner and allow to stand for one minute.
For sauce, combine brandy and beef broth (or all beef broth); carefully stir into drippings in skillet, scraping up crusty browned bits.  Stir in whipping cream and mustard.  Bring to boiling.  Boil gently, uncovered, over medium heat for 5-6 minutes or until mixture is reduced to 1/2 cup, stirring occasionally.  Spoon sauce over steaks to serve.

The sauce is also good for dipping your frites!

Bon appétit et bon voyage!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Lovely gifts

It is impossible to have too many Eiffel Towers, especially when they come with pink sparklies and you can wear them!  These lovely earrings came from a shop in Union Station in Washington, DC and were a gift from some of my sweet 7th grade girls.   I simply love them!

They also gave me a yummy box of chocolate truffles.  There is actually one left, believe it or not.  But I don't think it will be there much longer...

Merci, girlies et bon appétit, les truffes au chocolat!

Bonjour, DC et Julia!

Oui, the Washington Monument in the snow.  I spent three days there last week with 90 seventh graders.  It wasn't as cold as it looks.  The snow may not melt up there until May, though, because there is so much of it.  They were throwing it in the Potomac to try to get rid of it.  It didn't slow us down at all.  We had a great time.  No culinary adventures to report, though.  I am sure that DC has many great restaurants, but teens love pizza so we went to Armand's on Capitol Hill (their vegetarian pizza is really good) and filled them up with pizza one night and to a dinner theater for Pennsylvania Dutch buffet fare the next.  
The highlight of my trip was a visit to the newly renovated Museum of American History.  I went straight to see Julia Child's kitchen.  

She donated the whole thing to the Smithsonian.  She and Paul had no children.

A great philosophy in the kitchen...

She admitted to having a thing for knives...

And pans, too, it seems. 

Not as big as you would think, is it?

See the KitchenAid mixer way down there on the counter?  I wonder if she named hers?

I think it looks very cozy.  

Wouldn't it have been wonderful to have dinner with her and Paul?

This needs no explanation...
This is Paul and Julia's list of their wines.  I zeroed in on the Côtes du Rhône.  Impressive, non?

I have a lot more junk on my refrigerator.  A very personal collection for most people.

I loved the signs en français!

And last, but not least, the Cordon Bleu certificate.

It was wonderful to visit and to see all of her gadgets and do-dads.  I can see why Julie Powell wanted to place a pound of butter there.  I didn't leave anything.  I just left with a smile, feeling as if I'd spent a little while with an old friend.

Merci, Julia, et bon appétit!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Pork and pinot

We've now had snow and/or ice for the past three weekends.  Wine Authorities postponed their Pork and Pinot fundraiser twice and decided to go through with it this past Saturday anyway.  The snow was beautiful, but the roads were fine.  It was a bit nippy and windy, but the sun came out.
There are free tastings every Saturday at Wine Authorities.  This time, there were five pinots to sample.  I did get a quick sip of the pinot meunier before I got to work (the guys asked me to work since a large crowd was anticipated).  That is a grape generally reserved for making champagne.  It makes a lovely rosé pinot.  
After tasting, for a $5 donation, tickets holders could get a pork sandwich and a glass of their favorite pinot to accompany it.  This was to raise money for the NC Food Bank.  Coon Rock Farm, located on the Eno River in Hillsborough, brought the cooker and the pig.   Richard cooked and chopped all afternoon.  I was lucky enough to work outside, filling buns, supplied by Guglhupf Bakery, with the pork.  Slaw, also from Guglhupf, and Coon Rock's special sauce were added and voilà, lunch is served.  My fingers were cold, but I enjoyed myself tremendously.  Oui, I was in hog heaven.  No doubt about it.  I know that we served over 200 sandwiches because we ran out of Guglhupf's buns and had to use grocery store ones.
The BFF was also called into service.  She stayed inside, keeping Seth supplied with glasses at the tasting bar, occasionally filling my glass (wine at lunch-- how European and civilized!), and helping Mariana.  There was quite a crowd, but we had a break in the action around 2:00 so I got to sample what I'd been handing out.

I met a lot of wonderful people.  I do not know how much money was raised, but a good time was had by all.  I can see a future article for the Herald-Sun on Coon Rock and their soon-to-be-opened restaurant, Eno Restaurant and Market in downtown Durham.  Hmmm... how about a summer job?  Marco Shaw, the chef, came by and helped out for a while.  I had read about him in the paper and was so pleased to meet him.
I was paid in wine.  I could pick out any bottle in the store (only 450 to chose from).  I chose Domaine de Châteaumar Cuvée Bastien 2008 Côtes du Rhône.  The un-ex made it to the store in time to get a bottle of Devil's Corner 2008 Pinot Noir from Tasmania before it was all gone.  Here is what I think I will serve him with it--

Coon Rock Farm's Savory Sweet Ham Roast
(recipe by Jamie DeMent)

3-4 lb. ham roast
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. dried sage
1 Tbsp. rosemary
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
olive oil and pepper, to taste

Mix brown sugar, sage, rosemary, kosher salt and pepper.  Moisten rub with olive oil until it is the consistentcy of paste.  Rub liberally on ham roast.  Place in baking pan and cover with foil.  Cook in over at 300F until juices run clear (about 2 hours).  Uncover mean and roast 15 more minutes to brown.  Serve with sautéed greens (see Coon Rock website for recipe) and a good pinot noir.

Bon appétit, North Carolina Food Bank!

Bonne Saint-Valentin

This year, Valentine's Day did not fall on a school day.  However, my 7th graders didn't seem to mind celebrating on the Friday before.  AER sacrificed her pretty M&M's in the name of art.  CB and AS made designs and asked me to take a photo.  They have all caught on to my penchant for photographing edibles.  

Next came a heart.  A little more challenging, but quite lovely, I think.  (AER did eat them when we had finished shaping and photographing.)

CL made beautiful cupcakes to share with her fellow advisees.  They were very good!  All homemade, too!  Middle schoolers are much happier when they've been fed treats, whether it's a holiday or not.
At my house, Valentine's Day 2010 passed quietly.  The un-ex and I dragged high school son out of bed to have breakfast with us.   He wasn't too grumpy about it.  (He had a good week- his team won three basketball games and he got his SAT scores.)  We should've stayed home because both really good breakfast places we tried (Rick's Diner and Elmo's) had long lines.  We finally settled for egg biscuits.  
The un-ex wrote me a poem and gave me lavender scented candles.  I burned one while sitting at the kitchen table doing my Sunday homework in order to be ready to hit the ground running Monday morning.  He got a bag of 760 Tootsie rolls.  He loves those things -- at least I think he still does... he might not by the time he finishes the bag!
College son texted that he actually tried red wine at Olive Garden tonight.  He knew I would be proud that he had finally tried it.  He has no idea what it was, but it wasn't bad, he said/wrote.
I pulled Mildred the Mixer out of her cozy cabinet and made banana bread.  It is baking at this very minute, smelling heavenly.  I baked up a few crescent roll pains au chocolat for school tomorrow.  They may not last that long, though, because high school son has already eaten one.  He is known to scrounge around in the kitchen after we have gone to bed.  I hear him foraging sometimes.  Heaven knows he needs to find about 25 pounds to add to his tall skinny frame.  His girlfriend made brownies for him so the pains au chocolat might actually be safe.  She makes excellent brownies.
One of my grandfather's spécialités was beef pot roast.  I wish that I'd paid more attention while sitting in the kitchen watching him work.  I just loved the smell and being in the same room as him.  Since I cannot ask him for his seasoning secret, I've had to come up with my own.  He always shredded the meat before serving so I do, too.  I usually put it in the crock pot and let it cook all afternoon.  Oui, more wonderful smells.

Beef Pot Roast

1  2 1/2 - 3 lb. boneless beef chuck pot roast
2 Tbsp. cooking oil
3/4 c. water
1/2 c. good, dry red wine, optional
1Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. instant beef bouillon granules
1 tsp. dried basil, crushed
1/2 tsp. salt
12 oz. tiny new potatoes or 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 lb. carrots or 6 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 small onions, cut into wedges
2 stalks celery, bias-sliced into 1-inch pieces
(Adjust vegetables according to your eaters and their preferences- mine like potatoes more than carrots so I add more of them and less carrots. Sometimes I throw in peas near the end of the cooking time.)

Stove top directions:
Trim fat from meat.  In a 4- 6 quart Dutch oven brown meat on all sides in hot oil.  Drain off fat. Combine the 3/4 c. water, wine, Worcestershire sauce, bouillon granules, basil and salt.  Pour over roast.  Bring to boiling; reduce heat.  Simmer, covered, for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, if using new potatoes, peel a strip of skin from the center of each.  Add vegetables to meat and return to boiling.  Simmer, covered, for 45-60 minutes more or until tender, adding more water if necessary.  Adjust seasonings, if necessary.

Crock pot directions:  
Trim fat from meat.  Assemble vegetables and place in a 4-5 quart crock pot.  Cut roast to fit; place on top of vegetables.  Combine the water, wine, Worcestershire sauce, bouillon granules, basil and salt.  Add to crock pot.  Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 10-12 hours or on high-heat setting for 4-5 hours. 

Bon appétit, Saint Valentin!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Foux du FaFa

Hanging out all day with 12 and 13 year old keeps me laughing, sans doute, as well as helps me sleep well at night as I am usually exhausted and can barely keep my eyes open past 9:30 or 10:00 at night.  Last week one of them brought in a song and today one of them found the video that goes along with the song. 
Enjoy!  C'est tellement drôle!

Flight of the Conchords- You Tube Video

Monday, February 8, 2010

I love Google!

If you follow this blog at all then you know how I feel about Google and google-ing stuff.   I love it!  How did I survive for decades before Google?  How did I ever know anything about anything?  And now the wonderful folks at Google have outdone themselves with their Super Bowl XLIV ad entitled "Parisian Love."  I showed it to my classes today.  Forget Doritos and Bud Light.  Do we really care about Denny's and their breakfast special?  Just in case you didn't see it, here it is!

Happy Google-ing!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Too much of a good thing is a good thing

I think that this past week I tried to really find out if too much of a good thing is a good thing (I can't take credit for this line... I borrowed it from an Alan Jackson song- country music lyrics just get right to the point sometimes, don't they?).  
Here is my week's timeline:
--Tuesday night:  Academy Nights chocolate making class with Teresa Wilkerson of WR Chocolatier; ganache and truffle making; tempering chocolate; rolling truffles in tempered chocolate and toasted coconut; Joan Fox and I are pictured above at the class
--Friday afternoon:  interview with Dolly Mama at her studio in downtown Durham;  Dolly is a chocolate maker par excellence whose chocolates I have tasted at the Durham Farmers' Market and at Wine Authorities.  I ate the chocolate cone.  At least I took a photo first!

Yes, it was incredible.
--Saturday morning:  off to the Durham Farmers' Market (in the snow) to take some photos of Dolly and taste her hot chocolate (I got the last cup, I think...);  I did offer the un-ex, my chauffeur in the snow, a sip...

I also bought a box of her Sea Turtles.  I love them-- sweet and salty.  What better combination?  70% dark chocolate, creamy caramel center, candied pecan and Flor de Sal (yummy salt) on top.
--Saturday afternoon:  more work on my next newspaper article (chocolate, in case you haven't already guessed);  make truffles using WR Chocolatier's recipes and Sunshine Lavender Farm's dark chocolate lavender truffle recipe (see last post-- it needs some tweaking-maybe a tablespoon or two of butter stirred in with the chocolate and no refrigeration; it was too hard to scoop after only about an hour in the refrigerator; it could just cool on the counter for a while; the lavender taste is divine, though)
This is one my truffles, rolled in toasted organic coconut.  
--Sunday:  finish the article, proofread it many times, get my proofreaders to proof it; send it off to my editor at the Herald-Sun; wrap up the leftover truffles;  make chocolate pudding pie for the eaters to enjoy this week (pretty darned good when you use light cream with the pudding instead of 2% milk and shave chocolate on the top)

And last, but not least, make very simple pains au chocolat or chocolate croissants for one of my 8th grade classes.  One of the girls made them on Friday, forgetting that her class would not meet, so I brought them home and my son and one of his friends ate almost all of them after their basketball game on Friday night.  So, I bought some Pillsbury Crescent roll dough, shaped them into rectangles instead of triangles, filled each one with milk chocolate chips, rolled them up and baked them at 350F for 15 minutes.
I might even melt some chips and drizzle warm chocolate on top before they devour them.  I do really look forward to introducing the 16 of them going to France with me (in less than a month!) to real ones...  But these aren't bad.
And now it is Super Bowl time.  I need a toasted pimiento cheese sandwich.  I bought some at Whole Foods yesterday while shopping for the chocolate for the truffles.  They make it in-house and it is amazing. I think I've had enough chocolate for one weekend...

Bon appétit, Saints and Colts!
Merci, Dolly and Teresa, for sharing you time and talents with me!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Lavender Friday

To try to get through the cold weather with its rain, snow, sleet and freezing rain, I've decided to think about fields of lavender.  Quelle bonne idée, n'est-ce pas?  Annie, of Sunshine Lavender Farms, has been a tremendous help.  Her latest email is nothing short of a feast for the winter-filled eyes.   See for yourself at  You can almost smell it.  Well, I actually can.  On my desk at this moment are two bottles of lavender hand cream and a small lavender sachet.  I also make my room at school smell good with a lavender and vanilla Glade plug-in thing.  I have the best smelling room in the middle school, bien sûr.  I have a lovely 2010 Provence calendar on my desk, too.  The little stone cottage of my dreams is on the cover.  The picture above is the one I took at the Abbayé de Senanque near Gordes.  A bit of the lavender oil that I brought home from there would be nice at the moment.  I have a headache and a little lavender on my temples would be very soothing.  I burned myself quite badly while cooking one night in Arles (hot oil splashed on my hand) and Chef Érick cured me with lavender.  I had to wait until it stopped burning so badly and then he massaged the lavender into the burns.  No more blisters, no more burning and no scars.  I became a believer.  Another wonderful find is the lavender-citrus body butter that I found at the Durham Farmers' Market made by MoonDance Soaps.  I rub it on my hands just before going to bed.  I get the lovely, soothing lavender scent and my hands are in much better shape when I wake up in the morning.
I am working on my next newspaper article, about chocolat, and research must be thoroughly done.  This is serious business, you know.  I took a chocolate class this week with Teresa Wilkerson of WR Chocolatier and I am paying a visit to the Dolly Mama in downtown Durham this afternoon to see how she makes her wonderful chocolate creations.  A nice ending to the day.

Annie's Valentine's Day Chocolate Lavender Truffles
(from Sunshine Lavender Farms)

1 c. heavy cream
1 tsp. dried lavender florets (they sell these at Harris Teeter in the spice section)
12 oz. bittersweet chocolate (use the good stuff... about 62% is ideal- not too bitter)
1 c. unsweetened cocoa

Grate chocolate.  Bring cream and lavender to a simmer for one minute, then strain out the florets with cheesecloth.  Add cream to chocolate and stir to melt.  Mix well.  Chill at least 3 hours.  Roll into 1-inch balls, then roll in cocoa.

Makes 25 truffles.

Bon appétit, vendredi, la lavande et le chocolat!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Snow day!


So, what do you do when you are snowed in and can't go to school?  Bake!  Mildred the Mixer was feeling rather lonely down there in the cabinet so I dragged her out and put her to work.  Denise, a friend, sent me a link to a blog she enjoys called Domestic Sensualist (see my links).  Oh là là.  Just the photos alone are wonderful, not to mention the writing and the recipes.  I discovered a recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes and Creamy Vanilla Frosting and decided to give them a try this afternoon.  (As if I have no papers to grade or lessons to plan...)
So here you are.  In the south, we love Red Velvet Cake. And I love to bake cupcakes.  No fork needed, finger food at its best.  The icing is different from anything I've ever made before so I was very curious to taste it.  I am not very good with the whole decorating/piping thing so I just slathered it on.  I did try some with red sprinkles, but I don't think they are as pretty.  This frosting sparkles!  I think they would make lovely Valentine's Day treats.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
(makes 2 dozen)

3 1/2 c. flour
3/4 c. butter, softened
2 c. sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
6 Tbsp. red food coloring
3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 recipe frosting

Preheat oven to 375F.  Line muffin tins with cupcake liners.
In a small bowl, sift the flour and baking powder; set aside.  In a large mixer bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one.
In a small bowl, whisk together red coloring, vanilla and cocoa (this was impossible for me because all I could find was red gel for food coloring... I did my best and finally just dumped it all in the mixer bowl).  Add to batter and beat well.
In a measuring cup, stir salt into buttermilk.  Add to batter in three parts, alternating with the flour, with each addition, beat until ingredients are incorporated, but do not overbeat.  Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are blended and smooth.  
Bake 15 minutes.  Cool completely before frosting.

Creamy Vanilla Frosting

6 Tbsp. flour
2 c. milk
2 c. butter, softened
2 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla

In a medium-sized saucepan, whisk the flour into the milk until smooth.  Place over medium heat and, while stirring constantly, cook until it becomes thick and begins to bubble (10-15 minutes).  Remove from heat and cover with waxed paper, placing it directly on the surface of the cooked mixture.  Cool to room temperature.  This takes about 30 minutes.
Using an electric mixer, beat butter for 3 minutes until it's creamy and smooth.  Gradually add the sugar, beating continuously until it's fluffy.  Add vanilla and beat well.
Add the cooled, cooked milk and continue to beat on high speed for 5 minutes, until it's very smooth and noticeably whiter in color.  Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Pipe or spread onto well-cooled cupcakes.  Decorate with sprinkles, if you wish.

 Bon appétit, to all!