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Archive for February, 2012

Easy Peasy Anytime Muffins

A few years ago, there was a pumpkin shortage.  You couldn’t find canned pumpkin at any grocery store.  Since then, my sister and I have felt a need to always have a supply on canned pumpkin on hand.  However, when moving across country (and already feeling overwhelmed at the amount of stuff you have decided you NEED to bring with), canned pumpkin seems like the kind of item you don’t need to bring with you.

Well, it only took about a month for me to miss this special ingredient in my life!

Last year, I was introduced to this super easy, fairly healthy recipe by my friend Abby.  She’s an awesome cook, interior decorator, and rivals any man friend in her mad power tool skills!

Fair warning: this muffin has no oil or other added fats or sugars so it will taste like a “diet muffin” (it will still have a moist texture).  So if you’re looking for a good-for-you, slightly sweet treat, this is for you!

And now, for the line-up:

Yep!  Just three ingredients: apples, pumpkins, and spice cake mix.

Next, add your can of pumpkin to your dry cake mix.

I repeat: do NOT prepare the cake mix according to the box directions.  You just want the dry mix.

Start stirring.

Keep stirring.

Question me in your head.

But keep stirring.

And be grateful for the unexpected upper body workout!

If you need a break from stirring, you can take the opportunity to chop your apples.

Personally, I didn’t peel mine but if the skins will bother you or your family, go for it!

The type of apple (I used gala because it’s what I had) and amount (I used about two) is also up to you.

Incorporate the apples.

This won’t take much stirring–I promise!

Okay–it’s finally time to load your pan!

These are going to look very rustic when you finish so don’t fuss too much.

While they are baking, you might decide to take a picture of your favorite dish towel.

Especially if it was given to you by a super sweet friend who indulges you in your love of all things owl.

And there you have it!

While you’re waiting for them to cool, you might decide to take pictures of the sweet new shoes you scored at bargain prices!  I love shoe shopping.  No matter how you feel about yourself or whether you ate a healthy muffin or the full-fledged thing, they will always fit!

Aren’t they cute?!

Yesterday, I got caught in a freak, thirty-minute snow storm with these and they are still holding up!

Well, it’s time to check on my cakes (for cake decorating class) and finish watching the Neverending Story with the hubby!  Happy Sunday!

Apple Pumpkin Muffins

1 spice cake mix

1-15 oz can of pumpkin

1-2 apples

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line muffin tin with paper liners or spray with cooking spray.

2. Mix dry cake mix and canned pumpkin.

3. Chop apples into small, fairly uniform pieces.  Incorporate into pumpkin/cake mixture.

4. Spoon into muffin tin.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.

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Shop Til You Snack

A year ago, an all day shopping marathon with my sister or friends would have been no biggie.  Encouraged by the recent return of energy that the second trimester is so famed for, I thought, I can handle a few hours of shopping!

Seven hours and fourteen stores later, this girl needed a snack and a nap!

This journey took place in a Richmond neighborhood called Short Pump.  The original purpose of the trip was a journey to World Market.  It didn’t take too long to realize this upscale shopping destination had lots of awesome shops!

This shopping policy, found outside Tom Leonard’s Farmers Market, was definitely a good sign!  Inside we found samples galore (fresh squeezed orange juice, pineapple, strawberries, hummus, muffins, etc, etc!), some amazing produce deals, and a great clean atmosphere.

Next, we hit up World Market where I picked up a totally unnecessary indulgence.  But have you had these?!  They are so good!

After World Market, we scored some sweet deals at Kohl’s and Target.  I get such a thrill out of those 80% and 90% off signs!  My favorite finds were a black maternity dress for $8.98 and a tank for $2.40!

All that shopping can leave a girl hungry!  After driving for awhile to make sure we weren’t settling, we decided on Red Robin.  We were richly rewarded.  Did you know–if not, I’m so glad to be the one to tell you–that Red Robin now has bottomless SWEET POTATO FRIES?!  Score!

Stuffed, but not in a food coma (my husband is notorious for those!), we decided we needed some time to walk it off.  We found this great pseudo-pedestrian mall called the Short Pump Town Centre.  There, we ooh’ed and ahh’ed over adorable dishes in Crate and Barrel, checked out a sweets shop (on the hunt for cupcakes), went into H & M for the first time (got a cute beret!), had to stop at NY & C (my favorite!), and then got back to our grocery schedule.

Our next destination was Whole Foods.  I had never been to one before but we’ll be back!  So much good stuff!  I scored some awesome granola, a few green power drinks to try, and more importantly, this beauty:

This strawberry creme cupcake was DIVINE.  The frosting to cake ratio was beautiful and the frosting had so many strawberries in it!  Even my chocolate-preferring husband couldn’t resist!

From here, we tried another sweets store (no cupcakes), stopped at the vitamin store, and then, after much searching, found Frostings!  Frosting was a cupcake shop featured on the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars.

I gotta say, I didn’t love this salted caramel chocolate cake as much.  I’m not sure what it was as I usually love the salty-sweet combo, but not a cake I’ll get again.

Finally, as if this day could get better, we made it to Trader Joe’s!  I picked up some of our favorites (including some ingredients I’ll feature in my next post) including $0.99 honey crisp apples!  By this point, I was desperately in need of a snack.  I snagged some TJ’s granola bars.  It’s been one of the funny things about pregnancy for me.  I can almost instantaneously feel when I’ve gone too long without food and I can also almost instantaneously feel RELIEF when I get something in my belly!

It was a long day, but a good one.  Armed with all these new ingredients, dinner was a breeze and I even got to watch a movie with the hubby!

Hope your week is going well!

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Mad Skills

Oh yeah.  You read that right.  My Fort Lee friend and I are picking up some mad CAKE DECORATING skills care of Wilton’s Cake Decorating Basics Class at our local Michael’s craft store.

Now, as many of you know, my sister already has mad cake decorating skills. Imagine, as our forces unite… we will be unstoppable at our soon-to-be kiddos birthday parties!

For the first class, you mostly sit through a lot of instruction. And learn to not be grossed out when you find out your frosting will call for two cups of lard. Buttercream will never be the same.

Eventually, you get to start practicing on your nifty new practice board!

Finally, you get to show off your first projects to your friends!

Next week, we get to learn about piping transfers and more icings.  Rumor has it cupcakes will soon be on the scene.  Can’t wait!

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Super Bowl Super Dip

Last weekend, families and friends from all over the country got together to enjoy some of the finer things in life: good company, sweatpants, and of course, copious amounts of chips and dip.  Come to think of it, there might have been a football game going on too.

We were invited to participate in these festivities with several of the hubster’s classmates.  The overall food situation was OUT OF CONTROL (the apartment resembled a convenience store mixed with a bar and grill) and I admit, we contributed to the madness.  In addition to another batch of those delightful chocolate chip cookies and some buffalo chicken dip, I tried a couple of new recipes: Jalapeno Popper Dip and Chorizo Black Bean Dip with Pastry Chips.

First, the Jalapeno Popper Dip.

Like with most party dips, it involves a generous amount of cream cheese but I think the real winner in the dish is the bacon.

Note: I loathe, despise, and abominate frying bacon.  This was truly a work of love and sacrifice.

The finished product involves a topping of cheese, panko bread crumbs, and butter.

If the bacon didn’t get you, this will!

Next up, Chorizo Black Bean Dip.  Now, Chorizo Black Bean Empanadas are one of my most favorite appetizers.  However, they are a bit time intensive and I just didn’t think this crowd was fully going to appreciate the effort level.  So I decided to attempt a sort of deconstructed version.  I’d make the filling into a dip (just a bit more mashing of the black beans) and I’d see if I could turn the pie crust into chips.

Fair warning: this has a bit of kick!

A stroke of genius!

These would probably be delightful sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and served with a sweet dip.

Here’s hoping you had a wonderful Super Bowl Sunday as well!

Jalapeno Popper Dip

(original recipe found here)

16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup mayonnaise
8 pieces of bacon, cooked and chopped up
6 jalapeños, minced (if you can’t get fresh, substitute a 4-ounce can diced jalapeño peppers, drained)
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon cumin
1½ cups shredded cheddar cheese

Topping:
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Combine the cream cheese, mayonnaise, bacon, jalapenos, garlic, cumin and cheddar cheese in a mixing bowl. Pour the mixture into a casserole dish or 9×13 baking dish.

3. Combine the panko breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese and melted butter in a small bowl, tossing with a fork until the mixture is evenly moistened. Sprinkle evenly over the cream cheese mixture.

4. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the dip is bubbling. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips, crackers, vegetables, etc.

Chorizo Black Bean Dip & Pastry Chips

1 lb chorizo sausage

1 can black beans

8 oz pepper jack cheese

2 pie crusts

Cooking Spray

1. In a skillet, brown the chorizo.  Drain any excessive grease.

2. While the chorizo is browning, rinse off your black beans.

3. Once chorizo is cooked, add black beans to pan.  Use a potato masher or the back of a fork to begin mashing the beans.  You may find that you’ll want to add a little liquid (add a tablespoon at a time) if you’re mixture isn’t sticking together.  You’ll want about 80% of the beans completely mashed.

4. Let the mixture start to come together over low heat.

5. While that is going, grate your pepperjack cheese.

6. Add half the cheese into the chorizo/black bean mixture and stir until completely melted.

7. Pour mixture into a 9 X 9 baking dish.  Top with remaining grated cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees until warmed through and cheese is melted.

Pastry Chips

1. Simply take your pie crust, roll it out on a lightly floured surface, and use a pizza cutter to slice into square chip-sized portions.

2. Place on a cookie sheet and lightly spray the tops with cooking spray.

3. Put in the same 350 degree oven as your dip and cook for approximately ten minutes.

Enjoy!

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Since the weather was so nice this week (thus far), a friend and I decided to journey up to Richmond to enjoy the day.  Our first stop was Maymont Estate.  It consists of several acres of grounds, a turn of the century mansion, and surprisingly, a small animal rehabilitation area (plus a petting zoo).  And best of all, it’s free to spend the day there (they do appreciate donations–which we were happy to provide!).  Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures of the grounds (I don’t think February pictures would have really done it justice), but I did take some pictures of the animals because GUESS WHAT THEY HAD…

…OWLS!

Is this a beauty or what?!

There were also some gorgeous hawks.

And a bald eagle!

Did you know these birds mate for life?

After exploring the grounds, we had the opportunity to take a tour of the Maymont Mansion.  Unfortunately, they don’t let you take pictures inside.  Some of the highlights: a giant bronze lion guarding the inside staircase, amazing woodwork (everywhere), and a 93 year old tour guide who knew everything there was about the history of the Dooley family.

Famished from all that exploring, we went in search of sustenance.

Back to Careytown Cupcakes!

Thin Mint Cupcake.

Vanilla cupcake, filled with chocolate ganache, topped with mint frosting.

From there, we wandered through Careytown.  There’s so many unique shops!  After stopping in one store where we found some awesome $800 Jimmy Choo’s, we found ourselves in an “upscale consignment shop.”  They had some lightly used Jimmy’s for $80!  With a great deal of self-restraint we walked away, but return trips are in order!

After this there was more walking, more eating (a YUMMY gyro for dinner), and an early bed time!

Hope your week has been blessed!

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So, in addition to the more recent mini donut rage, I have long admired (from afar) the glory that are cake pops.  Who can resist Bakerella’s bite sized works of art?  A couple of years ago, I helped a friend try to make some cake pops for a baby shower.  I’m not sure if we got the frosting/cake ratio wrong or what, but the balls were way too heavy and they kept sliding down the sticks.  Since then, I’ve been a bit hesitant about the whole thing.

THEN, this past fall at my cooking group (I had the privilege of getting together with about a dozen awesome women every two weeks; we took turns teaching each other about three new recipes per week), the lovely Miss Erin (how I wish she had a blog!) introduced us to brownie balls.

Mind hole blown.

First of all, I love me some brownies (or any kind of bar) more than cake.  I know, it’s weird given my cupcake obsession.

Secondly, no worrying about frosting/cake ratio!

If you’re a brownie eater and it pains you to leave crumbs in the pain, you may have already noticed that brownies stick to themselves.  It’s like they are just begging to be made into this easy treat!

First, bake up a couple of pans of brownies.

And trust that your friends won’t judge you for the junk on your counter in the background of the photo.

Next, use a couple of forks to turn your brownies into something that looks like the kind of thing you hope your kids will leave alone if they find it in the backyard.

Then, take small handfuls of brownie and roll them into small balls.

And for the grand finale, fling some chocolate around!

Once dry, store like any other baked good

(HIDDEN so that they aren’t devoured by your husband before you get to take them to the intended potluck)

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