Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Classic Chocolate Cupcakes

with whip cream frosting and sprinkles


I warned you it would happen, and it did. It's September. Waaaaah! As we leave summer in the rearview mirror, what better way to distract ourselves than chocolate? I love a classic chocolate cupcake. There are a couple of things that a chocolate cupcake must be:

1. Moist- above all, a classic chocolate cupcake must be moist. I slightly changed my favorite vanilla cupcake recipe (which always turn out perfect!) by decreasing the vanilla extract and adding a bunch of cocoa. These cakes didn't fail me, turning out perfectly luscious.

2. Chocolatey- To start, I added a half cup of cocoa to the batter. One taste was enough to let me know I needed MORE chocolate. 3/4 cup cocoa was optimal.

3. Delicious Frosting- I hate frosting. I'll rephrase that- I hate most frostings. I hate how commercial frostings are overly sweet and excessively grainy. I also have great disdain for piling a pound of frosting on a cake. Yuck. I made my absolute favorite frosting to go on these cakes. Homemade and whipped into submission, this frosting tastes like whip cream, not commercial frosting.


And I won't add this as a requirement to a classic chocolate cupcake, but I love me some sprinkles! Really and truly, I sprinkled these cupcakes because I made them for the kids. I'll just keep telling myself that :)

I made these for our family Labor Day Cookout, and they were a hit. The kids were clamoring for cupcakes before dinner (as usual!) and I must admit, they got a few bites. My niece, the little resident sweet tooth, had 2 1/2 while I was there. Sweets never go untouched with our crowd.


Annnnnnnd, I think y'all really need to see how much the cupcakes were enjoyed-


My niece, hamming it up for the camera. I could barely get the boys to smile for the camera, but my niece? She loves the camera. If I want a picture of someone devouring a cupcake, my niece will be the first one to shove that confection in her face. And enjoy the heck out of it while she's doing it!


Boy were they mad when they realized I took a picture :)


The other ham in the family. Could this be where my niece gets it from? Haha.

Did everyone have a fun holiday weekend? We had our family barbecue on Saturday due to everyone's buy schedules. The hubby and I had a fantasy draft on Sunday afternoon that went semi-distastrously. Our league is scattered over the country, with half the faction living on the West Coast and the rest of us stretching from Northern Kentucky to Cincinnati. After some serious finagling with schedules, we found time to do an online draft. The only problem? Our friend's account wouldn't let her draft a single player. The option was simply greyed out. The other gigantic problem? We couldn't stop the draft once it started. We all had to go on auto-pick and wait for it to end to start over.  Talk about taking the air out of your tires. We thought we had our friend up and running, only to come up with the same problem when we re-started. We came up with a work-around (eventually) but a draft that should have taken an hour and half ended up delayed and stretched over a 7 hour period. Now that I think about, we just had our friends over for 7 hours. The draft may have wrapped around the 5 and a half hour mark :)

Regardless, we now have our fantasy teams, so bring on the season!

Have a great week everyone!


Ingredients (makes 12 cupcakes):

1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 egg whites
1/4 cup Greek yogurt, plain
1 cup almond milk
2 tsp vanilla extract

sprinkles (garnish)

Directions:

1. Line a cupcake pan with liners. Preheat oven to 350º.
2. In a small mixing bowl, combine flour through baking soda. Whisk to mix. Set aside.
3. In a large microwave-safe mixing bowl, melt the butter. When melted, add sugar. Whisk until no lumps remain. Mixture will be very grainy. Mix in egg whites. Mix in yogurt, milk, and vanilla until batter is smooth. Batter will be very thick. Distribute evenly among cupcake pan. Bake in preheated oven, 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean with moist crumbs. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before frosting.
4. Prepare frosting. Frost and sprinkle cupcakes to taste. Store in an airtight container.


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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Lately (Summer 2014)

I can't believe it's the last day of August. Tomorrow is September, summer is officially over, and all I have to look forward to is...

-the leaves changing color
-low humidity
-baking with pumpkin
-going to Cancun in October!
-breaking out the long pants. Hoodies. Boots.
-football
-chilly morning runs
-not having to run the air conditioner
-root veggies coming into season! 
-feeling the desire to turn the oven on again
-jacket weather
-apple cider
-Halloween
-all my shows coming back!

Ok. I must confess. I don't hate fall, and I might even be looking forward to it a little bit. But just a little bit. Don't worry summer, I will miss you! To gear up for the switch in seasons, I thought I'd share some summer happenings-


My little bro came out to visit in August. He arrived in Kentucky to relax for a week, right before he went back to school. He's a high school teacher and basketball coach. A little gearing up before the school year, if you will. We had a great visit, with lots of running, sight-seeing, Cincinnati Red-ing, swimming, and eating. Oh, plus an inordinate amount of video game playing. Ok, so I wasn't involved in that part! Haha. This picture was taken at The Yardhouse, a great bar and grill right next to Great American Ballpark. I mean, look at the size of those beers! Heaven...


The hubby and I are never ones to be serious!


Summer is watermelon season, and guess who loves watermelon? My crazy puppies. I couldn't cut into one this summer without being harassed. Come to think of it, they do the same whenever they hear a banana, a bell pepper, or a carrot on the cutting board. At least they're healthy monsters :)


Giz can't jump as high to get his watermelon, but he tries his best!


Sometime during this summer, I was out running by myself. It was a fairly hot day with high humidity, and the 5-miles I ran might as well have been 26.2. It was a miserable run, what with sunscreen-soaked sweat dripping and stinging my eyes every 2 seconds. But I pushed through, and as I was walking to my car, I froze. About 10 feet from my car was this baby bunny. He was so adorable. I'd barely taken a picture on my phone where there was a sudden rustling near me. Something sprang out of the bush close to where I stood, almost making me jump 10 feet in the air. It was his momma. She ran (hopped?) over to him, and they ran (hopped??) away. It was a sweet moment in nature, and it made melting away on that run almost worth it. Almost :)


Gizmo's selfie.


Haloti's selfie. I can't decide whose I like better!


A Chinese fortune I received. I normally roll my eyes at these silly, traditional scraps of paper stuffed inside those crunchy cookies, but I liked this one. In fact, I even put it in my wallet. A positive affirmation to keep on keeping on. 


Bib and goodies from our 7-mile race.


Crossing the finish line of that 7-miler. I'm so super-proud of that time. I've said it before, and I'll say it again- I am not a born runner. It's never come easy to me. In fact, I always tried to avoid sports involving running as a kid. Soccer. Basketball. Track. I stuck to volleyball. Minimal running. However, with the proper training, I'm slowly and steadily getting faster. I may never run a marathon, but I've come a long way since that girl that started out last September not able to run 1 mile. I couldn't feel better about my accomplishments this year.


A brotherly tongue bath is the way these pups start most days :)


To celebrate this holiday weekend, we had a family cookout at the hubby's sister's house yesterday. Everyone in the family has busy, full lives, so we really relish the time we all get to spend together. We grilled hamburgers and hotdogs on the grill, stuffed our faces with cupcakes, and even managed to take some family pictures. Oh, and if you thought I was the one to remember to take pictures, you would be wrong. So woefully wrong. LOL.


Happy Labor Day Weekend friends! I hope anyone and everyone is sending summer out with a bang. Because, before you know it, there will be pumpkin on this blog :)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Udon with Thai Pickled Cabbage and Grilled Chicken



Ohhhhhhh. 

This cold pasta salad is gooooood. So good. I'm a big, big fan of pasta salad. I have a friend that can't stand the taste and texture of cold pasta, and I'm afraid I can't relate. I can't even relate a little bit. I could eat cold pasta salad for breakfast, lunch, dinner, 4th meal, and beyond. The taste? Yum. The texture? Hits the spot. I can sympathize with my friend though, because there are plenty of yummy foodie things that I can't stand. Rosemary, for one. Beets. Liver. The hubby's green juice he makes in the morning. It's funny how one person's filet mignon can be another person's, well, liver and onions. 

Let's talk Thai Pickled Cabbage. I saw the recipe on one of the blogs I follow, Sidewalk Shoes, and I knew I just had to try it. Pam made it sound right up my alley. And it twas'. We've got lots of access to cabbage right now, with it being proliferous at the farmer's markets. Plus, the hubby's uncle grew some. I thinly sliced a whole head, and got it into that delicious pickling liquid as soon as I could. I ended up letting it pickle for 2 weeks, mainly because that's how long it took me to get to it! That 2 weeks did that cabbage good. Upon opening that jar, I was hit with sweet, salty, and earthy scents wafting up at me. And wow, does this cabbage ever have flavor. It adds so much to the salad. If you decide to make this dish, do not (under any circumstances) skip the pickled cabbage. 


When I first made the cabbage, I wasn't sure what I was going to use it for. I finally decided on a pasta dish, and since the pickled cabbage is cold, I deduced that the dish should be cold as well. I picked up a package of udon at the grocery store, a thick Japanese buckwheat noodle. All that was left to do was add a chopped, grilled chicken breast and some shredded carrot. Oh yeah, and make some sauce. I ended up making a saltier sauce to balance out the sweet and spicy of the pickled cabbage. It worked perfectly, the taste ended up an exercise in balanced Asian fusion. I sat down with a plate for lunch one day, and after a few slurps, it seemed the pasta had disappeared. Almost embarrassingly fast.

Oh, how I heart Asian food!


Happy Friday of a long holiday weekend! What does everyone have on tap? The hubby and I are nutty coocoo, and we are running another race tomorrow. I'll be running my first 10K. Funny how I ran a 7-miler before I ever ran a 10K. I'm excited, and a little nervous. The course is a little hillier than I'm used to, but hills are good for you. I really need to run more of them, I just get so comfortable at my little training spot. I haven't made a goal, because I'm not sure of what it should be.  The hubby and I ran hard last weekend, resulting in a little fatigue this week. We ran twice, and both felt hard. We did some cross-training at the gym yesterday, and today is just yoga. I'm going into the race with fresh legs, but I'm still unsure. Especially with a hilly course. I'd like to come in at 1 hour, but again, I'm not sure if that's realistic with the hills. I guess we'll see, won't we? We've also got a family cookout later after the race. I'll be preparing cupcakes today, yay for baking! I'm going with classic chocolate cupcakes, with vanilla frosting and sprinkles. Perfect for the kids.  After the cookout? The hubby and I will be parked on our couch, either asleep or awake cheering on the Ducks. I can't believe the Ducks are playing at 10:30 Eastern time. It'll be a miracle if we are able to stay awake for that. Then, there's Sunday...

Sunday is draft day! 


Yep, it's that time of year again for fantasy football! I can't wait to pick my team, because as of this very moment, I have not one clue of the direction I'm going. And I love that. One of our couple friends participates in the league with us, so they'll be here with us and we are making a tail-gate worthy spread. My girlfriend is making a taco dip and salsa, and I'm planning on whipping up bacon and cream cheese-filled jalapeños. And of course, there will be beer. No draft is complete with a cold brew!

Happy Labor Day Weekend friends!


Ingredients (serves 4-6):

Thai Pickled Cabbage-
1/2 cup lime juice
3 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp ground ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1 head cabbage, thinly sliced
1 small jalapeño pepper, thinly sliced

Salad-
10 oz udon noodles, prepared according to package directions
1 cup carrot, shredded
1 chicken breast, grilled and chopped

Sauce-
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp honey

sesame seeds, thinly sliced scallions (optional-garnish)

Directions:

1. Prepare pickled cabbage- in a large mason jar, combine lime juice through garlic. Put lid on jar, and shake thoroughly. Open jar, and shove cabbage and jalapeños in. Cover, and shake. Place in fridge for 2 weeks, shaking every once in a while. 
2. In a large bowl, combine noodles, carrot, and chicken. Drain cabbage, and add to bowl. 
3. Prepare dressing- in a small bowl combine soy sauce through honey. Whisk to combine. Drizzle dressing over salad, toss to combine. Top with sesame seeds and scallions, if using. Serve immediately.


Thai Pickled Cabbage recipe adapted from Sidewalk Shoes.
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