Sunday, March 31, 2013

weekend review

I hope everyone had a nice weekend. As expected, ours was super low key.

Kent had Good Friday off work, so I had another another person to contend with the daytime tv schedule, but I still appreciated his company. We ate out on Friday evening at a restaurant called Langermann's. It's located in the Canton neighborhood, which is on the opposite side of the harbor from where we live. I frequently drove by this restaurant during the apartment search, so it came to mind when I decided that we should dine in a new neighborhood.

Since we were already in the area, we stopped by the new Under Armour store before dinner. I needed new running socks, but Kent also demanded that I get an extra pair of running shorts because he thinks that I wear out the fabric by doing laundry everyday. I'm not too sure about that theory; however, I do love my new neon yellow shorts.

Very cool store. It's located right on the water.

I had perused the menu prior to dinner, but somehow I overlooked the southern flare because I was surprised when we were greeted with cornbread and biscuits upon being seated. Overall, the meal was good. I don't think we'll be visiting again any time soon, but here's the visual rundown of our dinner:

The offering of a bread basket is so important to my dining experience.

Low Country Louie (lobster, crayfish, crabmeat, corn, and creole mayonnaise)

 Kent's Braised Lamb Shank w/ Goat Cheese Orzo

My Grilled Salmon w/ Goat Cheese Orzo and Red Pepper Sauce

After dinner, we stopped by a food truck rally that was taking place in front of our apartment complex. I wasn't impressed with the dessert menu at the restaurant, so I needed a dessert fix. I located a cupcake truck, but I knew that it wouldn't satiate my sweet tooth, so see solution below.

I don't know how so many people found out about this event, but the turnout was impressive. The unlimited beer for $10 probably contributed in some way

Nutella Cupcake adorned w/ an Easter rabbit

Chocolate Decadence Cake from Harris Teeter

I ran errands for the majority of Saturday morning, then gave myself a good workout on the elliptical. It was a struggle because I'm still regaining my energy from last week's sickness, but I was happy with my total mileage. I intended to make pizza for dinner, but Kent wasn't feeling so well, so we each did our own thing for dinner- soup for him and "brinner" for me. I've been tempted all week by the grocery store's Easter desserts, but I couldn't justify spending $10 on a buttercream egg cake, so I  made my own cake for $3 and it was just as delicious. We ate it all last night. The Buckeyes lost after an extremely frustrating game, so at least we had cake. 

I was in a funk for the majority of today for no particular reason, but a good run snapped me out of it. I bought some snazzy UA running shoes a few weeks ago that finally feel broken in. I ran 8 miles to the Real Housewives of Atlanta and it felt great. 

My fancy footwear

Tonight I made turkey burgers that were really good. I used this recipe and paired it with a salad. Kent and I are going to go pick up some Ben & Jerry's now to round out the meal. Game of Thrones returns tonight. I don't actively watch, but I'll passively tune in. 

Have a great week everyone!

Friday, March 29, 2013

friday favorites

Hello Friday! I've finally regained my appetite after recovering from a stomach bug for most of the week. As someone who is constantly hungry, it was a strange concept to have to tell myself to eat. Kent and I are going out to celebrate my new job this evening, so I'm looking forward to indulging in real food. I'll try to moderate my intake as I don't want to relapse, but I'm excited for our date night.

The remainder of the weekend should be low key as usual. I've missed my workouts so much, so I need to get my sweat on at some point. Not much else on the schedule as of now. We lead thrilling lives.

Here are some of my favorite things from the week (click on the gray link for source):

Favorite indulgenceChocolate Chip Cookie Cupcakes w/ Cookie Dough FrostingSally has done it again with creating another insanely decadent dessert. Here we have my favorite chocolate chip cookie in cupcake form with eggless cookie dough frosting. Sometimes I think my sugar obsession is a tad extreme, but then I see ideas like this and it almost validates that time I ate my own personal dessert buffet at a friend's wedding*(see end of post). Not the same thing? Oh well. I like my sweets. 

Favorite decor: Moroccan Inspired Backsplash. I love the colors and patterns of this backsplash against the butcher block countertop. I'm not sure that it's very practical for an everyday space like the kitchen, but I love how it elevates an ordinary room into a special place.

Favorite twist: Waffle Wedding Cake. I'm not even a waffle fan, and I love this idea. Morning weddings are a bit odd to me, but if you're going to have a brunch reception then this is a great idea to incorporate into your special day. I shared birthday pancakes with you a few weeks ago, and I think this is another cute idea to celebrate a birthday.

Favorite look: Back to Black. I'm still undecided on the peplum top, but I think this outfit is very well put together. The top is definitely the focal point, yet the color makes its shape not as distracting. From the sunglasses to the necklace, I love it all. The top is from H&M, so it's an affordable look.

Favorite funny: Supreme Court on Gay Marriage. I don't follow the Onion as much as I did in college, but someone shared this article on Facebook the other day. I can't even believe we're still debating this issue. What effect does it have on any of our lives if gay marriage is legal? It's pathetic that people are so vitriolic about the idea of two human beings in love marrying each other. Lets embrace change, America. 

Favorite meal: Italian Drunken Noodles. Oh my goodness, this is comfort food. Pass me a bowl of these noodles and allow me to devour them until I'm drunk with fullness.

Favorite concept: Travel Keepsake Kits. I love this idea! Travel souvenirs like maps and ticket stubs can be difficult to put into a scrapbook, so this allows you to preserve your mementos in a safe and fun way. And lets be honest, who has time to scrapbook? Throw yo' stuff in a box! I'm looking at you Mrs. Kratz!

Favorite read: New York Times: Your Phone vs. Your Heart. This was a great article written by a UNC professor. She argues that human interaction is now so limited by technological distractions that we are losing our capacity for connection, friendship and empathy. The less we exercise our ability to connect face to face, the less biological capacity we will have to do so. It's so awful how often Kent talks to me while I'm on my computer with the TV on in the background and I nod without any idea of what he just said. This article motivated me to really try to work on disconnecting from technology more often. 

Favorite bite: Bacon Cheese Fries. Hmm, maybe several bites. 

Favorite dog: Trojan pup. This is my sister's dog Benny and he is the cutest dog I've ever seen since my sweet Buffy passed. I may have to feature him more often because he is so photogenic. He melts my heart!

Favorite quote: A Party Without Cake is Just a Meeting. I saw this earlier in the week, and it's gone viral on Pinterest since then. This is my life manta, seriously. I cannot tell you how much it disappoints me to attend a party that doesn't include cake. Is this part of being an adult? I assure you any event that I invite you to will feature cake. 
Have a great weekend everyone!

*This was just the first helping of dessert I enjoyed at a friend's wedding last month. They had a dessert room, where they offered every flavor of cake imaginable, a chocolate fondue fountain, and countless dessert creations. It was dessert heaven, really. Kent rolled me out of the venue that evening. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

flourless peanut butter chocolate chip cookies

I'm still not fully recovered from my sickness earlier this week, but I couldn't go a week without baking so I made some super easy cookies for you guys.

These cookies are made without flour and butter. I know that this appeals to a lot of folks who like to find ways to eat dessert while still feeling good about themselves, but these cookies are not that kind of treat. A liberal amount of sugar is still baked into these treats, so only grab this cookie if you want a delicious peanut buttery sweet fix. 

This is literally one of the easiest cookie recipes out there, excluding the kind you buy in a bag from the baking aisle, but that can't qualify as homemade, right? All of your ingredients are dumped into a large mixing bowl and mixed until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and voila, your dough comes together in one quick mix. 

Scoop tablespoon size balls and roll in sugar. Press your palm down on each ball to slightly flatten before baking for 10 minutes at 350. They're best enjoyed right out of the oven when they're gooey and warm, but you should let them cool on the cookie sheet for at least 5 minutes to allow them to firm up.

I love peanut butter cookies because they maintain their chewiness even days after baking. Cookies don't often last long in our house anyhow, but there's nothing worse than reaching for a cookie only to discover that it's dry and crumbly. Bleh. These cookies are soft and tender on the inside with a crisp exterior. Combine this texture with the best flavor combination ever (chocolate and peanut butter, of course) and you have a most delectable cookie that's a snap to whip up!

Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup chocolate chips or chunks
Extra sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Measure peanut butter, sugars, egg, baking soda, salt, and vanilla into large mixing bowl and mix until well combined
Gently stir in chocolate chips
Scoop 1 tbsp size balls and roll into sugar
Bake for 10 minutes
Allow cookies to cool on cookie sheets for 5-10 minutes before removing to cooling rack

Adapted from How Crazy Cooks

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

oreo icebox cake

I was completely out of commission yesterday with a 24 hour stomach virus. I'm normally a trooper when it comes to sickness and injury, but I felt like I was on death's doorstep and let it be known. Kent was so thoughtful and left work in the early afternoon to comfort me in me in my state of agony. The timing of the illness was ideal in the sense that I was still able to enjoy this delicious oreo icebox cake over the weekend.

I first shared this dessert with you on last week's Friday Favorites. I've had this cake on my mind ever since I stumbled upon it, so I thought that Easter would serve as a wonderful occasion to make it. While it's far from a traditional Easter dessert, I felt confident that Kent's family would welcome it to the table. 

This dessert is so simple to put together and it really is delicious. Double stuffed oreos and cool whip are all you need to create an easy and fun treat to share with a crowd. The oreos are dipped in milk to slightly soften before lining the bottom of a 9x13 inch pan. Spread cool whip over this oreo layer, then repeat this process so that you have a total of four layers. I crumbled extra oreos on top to garnish, but you could use hot fudge or leave alone. This isn't a fancy dessert, but I'm not one to deny extra sugar on my dessert. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or overnight. I allowed overnight, so that the layers could fully meld together. 

Just as I thought, this dessert was devoured at our Easter lunch. I think everyone enjoyed the trip down memory lane that the taste of oreos elicits. This cake is simplicity at it's best.

On a side note, does anyone else think of the shower scene in Home Alone 2 when they hear the cool whip jingle? 

Oreo Icebox Cake

2 packages of oreos
2 tubs of cool whip, thawed (I used a little of a third tub)
1 1/2 cup milk

Dip first package of oreos in milk one by one then lay flat at bottom of 9x13 inch pan
Spread cool whip over oreos, then repeat process for a total of 4 layers
Crumble oreos on top, or drizzle hot fudge if desired
Cover and chill for at least 6 hours or overnight

Source Cookies and Cups

Sunday, March 24, 2013

weekend review

Does anyone know where Spring is? I'm still waiting to exchange my uggs for flips flops, but the current forecast doesn't look very promising.

We had a very nice long weekend with Kent's family in Pennsylvania. Kent and I got a good workout in Friday morning. I ran close to 7 miles, which felt pretty easy. I hate adjusting to different treadmills because none are calibrated to the same speeds, so I was happy that I enjoyed my run. Afterwards, I dropped Kent off to watch the ball games with his buddies then I watched a RHOBH season 2 marathon. And I made these brownies:

These are marshmallow reese's brownies, and they are delicious. I intended to blog about this recipe, but their exterior was so ugly that I couldn't. The marshmallow fluff was supposed to swirl with the brownie batter during the baking process, but they baked into puffy marshmallows instead. These brownies received high praise from Kent's mom, and she isn't even a fan of chocolate (shocking, I know). They are also very simple to make, so let me know if you'd like the recipe.

I spent Friday night with Kent's parents and sister. We ordered in Italian for dinner and spent the evening on the couch. I'm not sure how it happened, but we wound up watching home videos of when Kent and his sister were babies. I've decided that home videos are only entertaining if they're of you, but it was still funny to see Kent as a chunky 2 year old.

Saturday's workout was a struggle for me. I was looking forward to a hard workout on the stationary bike. We don't have one at our apartment's gym, so I like to ride the bike at his parents' gym whenever we visit. I was so uncomfortable on the seat and unable to adjust after 15 minutes, so I switched over to the elliptical. I could only handle 10 minutes on that machine, so then I moved to the treadmill to walk. I was going to call it a day when I found some motivation to try running for a few minutes, which turned into 3 miles. The run felt strong and controlled so I enjoyed it. I don't believe in pushing through a workout when you're miserable, so I was glad I found an exercise that worked for me yesterday.

We celebrated Kent's sister's birthday on Saturday night at her favorite Mexican restaurant. The restaurant serves unlimited margaritas with each entree ordered. It also has a BYOB policy that I took advantage of because I'm not a fan of margs.

I was instructed to order a margarita in case the owners were stingy with refills

 The Planning Jaggers. I got a job this week, by the way...yay

We ordered a medley of Mexican staples for an appetizer- cheese dip, quesadillas, shrimp tostadas, and corn patties layered w/ black beans and crab. It may not look it from this photo, but it was all delicious

 I order chicken fajitas as my entrée- boring, I know

The birthday girl being serenaded by the staff

Today we celebrated Easter because Kent's parents will be cruising the Caribbean on the actual day this year. Kent's mom made a delicious spread of food- spiraled ham, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, and chicken noodle soup to name a few. I felt full all weekend long because we basically ate our way through the visit.

 I think I'm the only one who appreciated Kent's mom's cute setup of the easter candy table. Look at those darling jelly bean holders

It was so nice to be able to spend the holiday with Kent's family. The proximity to his family is a lovely advantage of our move to Baltimore. The last time we spent Easter with his family was my freshman year of college. I remember that we prayed before the meal, and it was super awkward. 

I made breakfast for dinner tonight as a lighter option to the indulgence we had over the weekend. Tonight we're relaxing and watching our Sunday night line up. I made a delicious and easy dessert today that I'll share this week, so check back later!

I hope everyone had a good weekend!

Friday, March 22, 2013

friday favorites

Hi friends! I hope everyone had a good week. Despite the fact that Spring officially arrived on Wednesday, it's still unseasonably cold in Baltimore. There is no sign of warmer weather in the forecast, but on the bright side, the days are still getting longer, which makes me happy.

Kent and I planned to travel to Philly today for a pre-Easter/birthday weekend with his family, but we left last night instead due to a power outage in our building. I'm looking forward to spending time with family and being away. As I told you on Tuesday, last weekend was so boring that I couldn't even write about it, so I'm optimistic that this weekend should be more interesting.

Here are some of my favorite finds from this week:

Favorite remixChocolate-Truffle Chip Cookies. These cookies are a fresh take on the traditional chocolate chip cookie. I have experimented with countless variations of this recipe, but this one is particularly unique. Instead of chocolate chips, chocolate ganache is twisted with the dough so that swirls of chocolate disperse throughout the cookie while it bakes. Yes, it requires a little extra work to make your own "chocolate chips,", but it looks worth it to me!

Favorite craft: Eggshell Succulents . There is so much Easter inspiration this week in the food and craft worlds. Ideas like this make me realize how creative some people are, and how much I'm not.

Favorite look: Spring Color Blocking. I love this color scheme of blue and green. Normally you see color blocking with different color families such as red and black, but I love these cool colors paired together. I'm not a skirt person, but I could see myself incorporating this J Crew one into my wardrobe for a spring occasion. One that involves food, preferably.

Favorite indulgence: Oreo Icebox Cake. I love Shelly over at Cookies and Cups. She is so talented at developing the most indulgent, delicious, and simple desserts. This treat is only three ingredients! Oreos take a "bath" in milk to soften before being layered with cool whip. It's then refrigerated overnight to firm up for serving. Who needs me to make this for them??!

Favorite read: Bucket List: 10 Things to Try This Spring. There are some great ideas on this list. My favorites are attending an outside concert and going on an impulsive road trip. Some are inapplicable and silly, but take a look for some inspiration. 

Favorite video: Pink Stops Show to Comfort Crying Child. I love Pink. I consider her to be the music world's Jennifer Lawrence- a down-to-Earth gal who you feel like you could be friends with. During one of her performances, Pink heard a little girl crying and stopped singing to investigate. It turns out the child was upset by a fight that broke out in the crowd. She gave the girl a toy frog and a Rice Krispie treat to comfort her. A Rice Krispie treat does solve everything.

Favorite meal: Chipotle Chicken Fajita Rice Bowl. I love the concept of Chipotle's Chicken Burrito Bowl. Chicken, rice, sautéed veggies, all should work, but for me, it doesn't because I hate their cilantro rice. We went to Chipotle last night and I was reminded of how much I loathe this rice. It leaves the most rancid bitter taste in my mouth. Bleh. This version from scratch sounds so fresh and delicious. Most importantly, though, I can customize it to not include cilantro. 

Favorite funny: 10 Moves for a Tighter Bottom. I did this sequence earlier this week, and I thought it was a great toning workout. 

Favorite funny: 85 Year Old Best Friends. My sweet friend Anna sent me this video earlier this week, and I thought it was so cute and funny. I hope this will be us in 60 years!

Favorite pup: Upside Down Pup. There is nothing like a dog to remind you to keep life playful.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

cream filled carrot cake muffins

In keeping with the Easter theme, I thought I would bake another traditional Easter offering. I can't even remember the last time I ate a slice of carrot cake, but I absolutely love it. My mom used to frequently buy carrot cake from the Publix Bakery during my teenage years, and I have very distinct memories of sneaking into the fridge to cut consecutive slices of this wonderful treat. Is that weird that we refrigerated it? I really like cold cake, and I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because it's easier to slice this way? 

I know rich desserts, and I consider carrot cake to be one of the richest desserts available. Thick cream cheese frosting layered between moist dense cake; this dessert is heavy. These muffins are not nearly as decadent as your traditional carrot cake, but they still maintain the integrity of carrot cake. I like how carrot cake in muffin form naturally forces portion control, which is my achilles heel. 

The creme cheese filling is a delicious hidden surprise. These muffins are moist, tender, and packed with flavor. I learned while making these that my husband doesn't like carrot cake. Umm, shocking. Even he had to agree that these are tasty. For an easy alternative to carrot cake, I suggest these cream filled carrot cake muffins. I would never judge you for eating carrot cake for breakfast, but these seem much more acceptable, right? 

Creme Filled Carrot Cake Muffins

For the filling:
1 (8 ounce package) cream cheese
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the batter:
2 1/4 cup call purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup grated carrots (about 3 carrot sticks)

Preheat oven to 400
Line 12 well muffin tin with liners, or lightly grease; set aside

In microwave safe bowl, heat cream cheese for 40 seconds; stir in sugar and vanilla, set aside

Whisk together dry ingredients; set aside
In bowl of standing mixer, use whisk attachment to mix eggs, oil, water and sugars
Switch whisk for paddle attachment, then mix in dry ingredients until just combined
Gently fold in grated carrots until evenly incorporated into batter

Drop 2 tablespoons of batter into 12 muffin cups
Dollop on a tablespoon of filling on top of batter
Use remaining batter to fill muffin cups until almost full, then use spoon to spread completely over filling
Bake muffins until toothpick comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes *
Remove muffins from oven
As soon as able to handle them, transfer muffins to a cooling rack
Wait 30 minutes to serve so that filling can firm up

*Notes: Keep an eye on muffins during baking so that they don't over bake. I let mine bake closer to 20, and I think less time would have yielded an even moister muffin.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

brown butter m&m cookies

Festive cookies anyone? 

I'm not sure if anyone missed me on Sunday, but our weekend wasn't anything to write home about, so I decided not to blog about it. The highlight was getting a new pair of running shoes. And making the best creamy cheesy parmesan pasta. My life really does revolve around two things. Anyway, these cookies.

I'll use any occasion as a reason to bake, but I really love when I can incorporate a theme into dessert. With Easter just around the corner, the grocery store is inundated with pastel candies. I have little resolve to resist holiday themed candy, so naturally I added it to a recipe.

These cookies use brown butter to create a nutty caramel flavor that pairs deliciously with the chocolate. Brown butter is a "trendy" way to use butter in the food world. You melt the butter in a saucepan until brown bits begin to form at the bottom of the pan. The line between browned and burned is very thin, so be careful to watch the butter closely. The aroma that brown butter produces is truly amazing. I've made cookies where the only star is the brown butter, no additional ingredients necessary.  Another great reason to brown your butter is to avoid having to wait until your butter comes to room temperature. Ugh, no patience for that. You should try browning your butter, really.

This is an easy, delicious and portable treat to bake up this Easter!

Brown Butter M&M Cookies

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup M&M's

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly until brown bits form at bottom of saucepan, then remove from heat immediately
While allowing butter to cool, whisk together dry ingredients in medium bowl
In bowl of standing mixer, beat cooled butter and sugars together until well incorporated
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and beat until just combined
Stir in M&M's
Drop dough by heaping tablespoon onto cookie sheet
Bake 8-9 minutes, or until cookies begin to turn golden
Let cookies cool on rack then store in airtight container

Adapted from A Kitchen Addiction