Thursday, August 19, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

Amazing!  I drool just thinking about these.  I found this recipe on Annie's Eats and have been dying to try them.  So when we went to Wolf Trap (an outdoor venue where you can bring in as much food and drink as you want) with a group of friends on Friday, I figured it would be the perfect occasion.  

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips (semisweet or bittersweet)

For the filling:
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 tbsp. light brown sugar, packed
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
7 oz. sweetened condensed milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

For the frosting:
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. milk
2 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350° F. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners (24 total). In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the (ROOM TEMPERATURE!) butter until it is smooth. 

Add the brown sugar. Beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Mix in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir together to blend. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl on low speed, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, mixing each addition just until incorporated. Blend in the vanilla. Fold in the chocolate chips with a spatula.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners.  A swipe-y ice cream scoop is a good tool for filling the liners. 

Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the cookie dough filling, combine the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and cream on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the flour, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla until incorporated and smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the mixture has firmed up a bit, about an hour.

To fill the cupcakes, cut a cone-shaped portion out of the center of each cupcake.  I used a melon baller.

I kept the scooped out parts of the cupcakes for cake balls.

Fill each hole with a chunk of the chilled cookie dough mixture.  I used a small cookie scoop to get uniform sized balls of cookie dough.  It fit the holes made by the melon baller perfectly.

To make the frosting, beat together the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until creamy. Mix in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Beat in the flour and salt. Mix in the milk and vanilla extract until smooth and well blended.

Frost the filled cupcakes as desired, sprinkling with mini chocolate chips and topping with mini chocolate chip cookies for decoration.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cat in a Box

Since I haven't found Duff in any boxes, bags or other small spaces lately, I thought this might fill the void.

Make Your Own: Foam Roller

I thought I was happy with my foam roller, I thought it was fine.  That was until I tried my friend JohnnyMac's Trigger Point foam roller.  It was amazing.  It had a hard core that really helped get deep into the muscles.  My puny little foam roller (actually made of thick Styrofoam) was no longer going to cut it so I decided to try to make my own for a pretty substantial savings.

Foam rollers are used for self myofascial release.  Myofascial release is a technique in which muscle tissue is stretched and manipulated to relieve tension in the fascia, the thin tissue covering the muscle fibers.  It works by breaking up fascial adhesions and also by manipulating certain neuromuscular receptors to allow muscles to release any tightness.  A foam roller allows you to use this technique on yourself.  This video shows how to use the foam roller to target specific areas.

4x10 PVC Pipe - $15
Yoga Mat - free to me
PVC Cement - free to me
Electrical Tape

Gather your materials and find a well ventilated space.  The PVC pipe is available at any Lowe's or Home Depot.  I got the whole long piece of it, but you can get a pre-cut piece.  I used an extra yoga mat I had lying around and PVC cement the my contractor had leftover.

Cut your PVC pipe into the lengths you'd like your foam rollers to be.  I did one of about 24" and three of around 13".  If you don't happen to have a contractor at your house with a large table saw already in use like I did, wrap the pipe with electrical tape at the cutting point and use the hacksaw to cut through the pipe.

Measure the length of yoga mat you'll need to completely cover the outside of the PVC pipe.  Leave about a half inch on either side.  Sure you can use a tape measure and be precise about it or you can use my method; put the pipe on the mat and cut.

Make sure your pipe is laid out straight on the mat, swipe PVC cement onto your PVC pipe or yoga mat in about 1.5" lengths.  After some experimentation, I found putting the cement onto the mat to be the most effective method.  Don't skimp on the cement.

Apply pressure on the cemented section.  Allow the first section to dry for about 5 minutes.

I clipped the ends of the first and last sections I cemented to make sure the edges stuck and I rubber banded the middle to make sure it didn't buckle and to make sure there was a nice smooth edge.

Continue working your way around the pipe in 1.5" sections, making sure to get cement to the edges of the pipe and to the last dried section.  It dries pretty quickly so you'll only need to give those sections a few minutes to dry.  Make sure to press down on these sections while they're drying.

When you get to the last bit of mat to be glued you may have to CAREFULLY trim the free edge of the mat so it meets with the cemented end perfectly.  Swipe cement on the last bit of PVC pipe, clamp the ends, apply pressure and let it dry for a while.

You'll probably have extra yoga mat at the edges of your pipe.  Cut them off with box cutters or very sharp scissors.

Roll out those tired, sore and stiff muscles.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Clinique High Lengths Mascara

A few months ago a group of girls and I were preparing for a bachelorette party.  We were squeezed into a little bathroom so I got a good look at what other people were doing.  I noticed a friend break out this weird looking mascara.  Being a long time fan, lover and unofficial sales girl of Benefit's Bad Gal Lash (which, btw has the same formula of the best selling and more expensive Christian Dior DiorShow), I scoffed at this "other" mascara.  I tried it anyway and was wowed by the results.  I put Clinique High Lengths Mascara over the Bad Gal Lash I had been wearing and it gave my already rockin' lashes more length, volume and depth of color.

When I went to buy it they said something along the lines of "It's great for a natural look!"  Not really what I was going for.  Was I looking at the wrong mascara?  No!  High Lengths will give you a relatively natural look when used on it's own, but layered on top of an awesome mascara like my beloved Bad Gal Lash and it gives you an almost fake lashes look.

Here's some examples of how I use it, I took close ups and a little further shots for reference:

Au Naturale

Clinique High Lengths Only - I went a little thick here

Bad Gal Lash Only - the end of the tube

Bad Gal Lash layered with High Lengths.

Friday, August 13, 2010

I Was Blind, But Now I Can See (My Jewelry)

My poor little jewelry tree was getting a little overloaded.  I couldn't find anything.  I forgot I had stuff...  I was in a bad way.

I had been toying with the idea of a bunch of cute hooks from Anthropologie or something along those lines, but it was too expensive and would take up too much room.  It was in the back of my mind when I came upon a post on Outblush with a great $18 solution:

My newly cleared out jewelry tree and new bird cage jewelry display.

I can see my jewelry again!  I found stuff in there I forgot I had!  Happiness abounds!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Sweet and Sour Chicken has always been a backup menu item for me the rare times we get chinese.  I used to LOVE be fine with the heavily fried food and gloopy sauces that come out of chinese take out, but as I get older I imagine it going straight to my hips and thighs (and if something is going to go there, I'd rather it be in the form of chocolate).  I've also wondered what is in that sauce.  Well, for this week's meal a la Jaimee I made sweet and sour chicken a little healthier AND I figured out what was in the sauce.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

1 pound of boneless and skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into 1" chunks
1 Egg White
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
2 tsp Cornstarch
1 10-ounce can Pineapple Chunks (reserve juice)
1/4 cup Juice from the canned pineapple
1/4 cup White Vinegar
1/4 cup Ketchup
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
2-3 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp Olive Oil
1 Red Bell Pepper, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 Yellow Bell Pepper, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 teaspoon grated fresh Ginger

Combine the chicken with the egg white, salt and cornstarch in a bowl. Stir to coat the chicken evenly.  Let sit for 15 minutes at room temperature or up to overnight in the refrigerator.

In the meantime, whisk together the pineapple juice, vinegar, ketchup, salt, and brown sugar to make the sauce.

Heat a large frying pan or wok over high heat until a bead of water instantly sizzles and evaporates.  Pour in the 1 tablespoon of cooking oil and swirl to coat.  It's important that the pan is very hot.  Add the chicken and spread the chicken out in one layer.  Let the chicken fry, untouched for 1 minute, until the bottoms are browned.  Flip and fry the other side the same for 1 minute.  The chicken should still be pinkish in the middle.  Dish out the chicken onto a clean plate, leaving as much oil in the pan as possible.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the remaining 1 teaspoon of cooking oil.  Let the oil heat up and then add the bell pepper chunks and ginger.  Fry for 1 minute.  Add the pineapple chunks and the sweet and sour sauce.  Turn the heat to high and when the sauce is simmering, add the chicken pieces back in. Let simmer for 3-4 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

Eric ever so politely told me it was really good, but rice would have been a nice addition.  Cut me some slack here, I can't think of everything!

Leftovers approved!

Currently Reading

The Three Musketeers
by Alexandre Dumas

My Chiropractor, Dr. Bills, lent me this beautiful copy of The Three Musketeers.  I'm trying to be very careful with it so it's taking me forever to read.

All for one and one for all!

Side Note:  D'artagnan, the main character - not a Musketeer.  His three best friends Athos, Porthos and Aramis are though.

Another side note:  I'm dying for a copy of The Count of Monte Cristo that looks like this (it's from Easton Press)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Asian Lettuce Wraps

Wow, I feel like this blog has become very food focused.  I'll probably start adding new types of posts, even if I don't have pictures.  Never fear though, the recipe posts will continue, partly because I've gotten some good feedback from my 3 readers and mostly because it's a good place for me to catalogue recipes I want to have Eric make part of the rotation.

So, back to the food!  Last week I went to Detroit on business and took the opportunity to go to dinner with my awesome step-sister, Kelly and her boyfriend, Antonio.  We went to a Japanese restaurant and ordered the Lettuce Wraps as an appetizer.  They were really delicious.  We all agreed that if we weren't trying to be civilized we'd be shoveling the remainder of the filling into our mouths with our hands and licking the plate.  I decided it would be in my best interest to try this dish at home and to try to make it a bit healthier (i.e. lighter and less goopy, but therefore slightly less tasty).  This is where Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen comes to the recipe rescue.

Asian Lettuce Wraps

For the sauce:  (I ended up doubling this recipe because I had A LOT of filling)
1½ tsp. Hoisin Sauce
1 tsp. Soy Sauce
½ tsp. Sesame Oil
1 tsp. Rice Vinegar
Freshly ground Black Pepper
1 tsp. Sriracha Hot Sauce
For the filling:
2 tsp. Canola Oil
2 cloves/1 tsp Garlic, minced
1/2 tsp Ginger, grated
2 Green Onions, chopped
1(ish) lb ground Turkey
Mixed Vegetables, chopped
   I used frozen peas, carrots, red pepper and onion
1/2 Green Apple, chopped
1 can Water Chestnuts, chopped

1 head Butter Lettuce, leaves washed and seperated
2 Carrots, finely sliced

Combine all the ingredients for the sauce (hoisin sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, black pepper, sriracha sauce) in a small bowl and mix to blend.

Spend a lot of time cutting and chopping.

To make the filling:
1.  Heat oil in wok on high heat.  Add scallions, ginger and garlic and fry until fragrant.

2.  Add the ground turkey or chicken, breaking into small pieces, and cook until almost cooked through.

3.  Add the vegetables to the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes.

4.  Mix in the sauce and cook for about 1 minute until thickened slightly.

5.  Add the apples to the pan and toss to coat. Immediately remove the pan from the heat.

6.  Spoon the filling into lettuce leaves and enjoy!  Make sure you have napkins!

Leftovers approved!  I just ate the filling alone as leftovers for lunches.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Wonderful Summer Meal

We had some friends over for a late lunch this weekend.  To take advantage of all the wonderful fresh produce we made elote and grilled pizza.

Elote is a Mexican corn on the cob that I've been dying to make for about a year now.  It's a wonderfully flavorful take on a summertime classic. 

4 ears of Sweet Corn
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
1 Lime cut into wedges
1/2 cup Cotija Cheese, grated (Cotija can be found at a Latin market or possibly your grocers cheese section depending on your area)
               Parmesan or Queso Fresco will work, but try to find the Cotija.
1 Tbs Chili Powder
1 Tbs Cumin

Start by grilling the corn in the husk for 15 to 20 minutes turning occasionally until the husks are blackened and or the corn is bright yellow.  Remove the husk from the corn (It's compostable!)

Slather the corn with a spoonful of mayonnaise.  Squeeze the juice of one lime wedge and add a pinch of salt.  Sprinkle with the cheese (feel free to be heavy handed) and lightly dust with Cumin and Chili powder.

You can serve off the cob as well if you can't bite into corn or don't have enough floss to go around   ;-).  Cut the kernels from the cob and top with the remaining ingredients.  I'd probably stir afterwords as well.

Grilled Pizza
A delicious, healthy and filling way to make use of the wonderful variety of fresh produce available now.

For the Dough:
1 1/4 cups warm (100 to 110 degrees F) water
2 packages dry yeast
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons good olive oil
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Optional:  Chopped Fresh Herbs; basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary
1/2 cup good olive oil

You really use your imagination and include whatever you want here, but here is what we had available:
Good, Fresh Mozzarella
Variety of Heirloom Tomatoes
Basil cut in strips
Variety of fresh Peppers
Grilled Eggplant
Cotija leftover from the Elote
Goat Cheese
Garlic infused Olive Oil
Olive Oil infused Garlic
Awesome fresh heirloom tomatoes, mostly from JT's garden.

For the Dough:
Combine the water, yeast, honey, and olive oil in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook if you have one. Add 3 cups flour, then the salt, and mix. While mixing, add 1 more cup of flour, or enough to make a soft dough. Knead the dough on low to medium speed for about 10 minutes until smooth, sprinkling it with flour, if necessary, to keep it from sticking to the bowl.

When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a floured board and knead by hand a dozen times. It should be smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl and turn it several times to cover it lightly with oil. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Divide the dough into 6 equal parts and roll each one into a smooth ball. Place the balls on a baking sheet and cover them with a damp towel. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes. Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to 4 hours.

If you've chilled the dough, take it out of the refrigerator approximately 30 minutes ahead to let it come to room temperature. Roll and stretch each ball into a rough 8-inch circle and place them all on baking sheets sprinkled with cornmeal. (You will be able to fit 2 pizzas on each 18 by 13-inch baking sheet.)

Light your grill and wait until it's hot.

Place the pizza dough directly onto the grill and cook on 1 side for 1 minute. Turn the pizzas over and brush with olive oil or garlic oil.

Top the pizzas with any toppings you wish, piling them high.

Drizzle each pizza with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Put the lid on your grill and cook for 5 minutes more, until the crust is crisp and the toppings are cooked.


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