Thursday, March 27, 2008

Job Update

As many of you know, I recently got a new job which just started on Monday. Thank you so much to all my friends who have been bombarding me with text messages, chats, and emails - sorry I haven't had an opportunity to get back to you yet! Also, thank you to my former employers who gave me glowing references. I would not be where I am today without you! And, thank you to all of you who prayed for me every day that the perfect job opportunity would come up. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Since I just started my job, I don't want to be on my personal email too much yet, so I figure I'll email EVERYONE at once, so you all know what's going on with me, and that way I won't get totally bombarded with gmail chats and emails while I'm trying to work. :)

For those of you who hadn't heard yet, I accepted a job with a small graphic design company that is just getting started in Cardiff, CA. The office is right on the beach, and is only 10 minutes from my house. Everything about the location is ideal. We have a huge picture window view of the ocean, and there are all sorts of cute little beachy restaurants within walking distance. I only work 5 minutes away from Mike! The company is a branch off of a larger retail display company, and since they are one of our major clients, I spent my first three days of work up in their office in San Dimas to get a feel for how they run their office, and to get some advice on how to run my office. I felt like such a grown up, going on my first business trip! It was a little bit lonely staying in a hotel by myself, but luckily one night I was able to meet my good friends Clara and Rachel for dinner, and they kept me company. The office up there was great. Everyone was SO nice, and so much fun to work with. I wasn't sure what I'd be doing there at first, since I was really just there to observe and get ideas for how I am going to set up our new office down in Cardiff. I was a little bored the first day, but I did get some good info. By Wednesday afternoon, I was having a blast, making friends, and I could not believe how long my "To Do" list had gotten! I couldn't wait to get back home though, see Mike, and start working in my own office.

This morning I started my first day in my office. I LOVED it! I had already met the girl I share an office with, and we get along great. My boss is super cool, very laid back and designerly, and the other designer is young and fun as well. There is another boss that works in the office too, but he is out of town a lot, so usually it will just be the four of us. I love it. Everyone is very fun, and I feel like we all have a lot in common. I get to be involved in all the design conversations, when everyone is brainstorming and talking about creative things. Right now my main tasks are to order computers for everyone, since we are switching the office over to Macs instead of PCs, and also researching software for project management and accounting. I get to set up all the files and organize the way we are going to organize all of our design projects. This is going to be SO cool. I get to set up the entire process for the office. I cannot wait! I finally feel like I'm starting something and have a real role in a company, in the industry that I have been going to school for over the past MANY years. This is the job I have been looking for since I started college. It only took 7 years! I have gained so much experience over the years in my past job, and I feel like I finally earned the job of my dreams.

So, again, thanks to everyone who has been wishing me well. Things are great...I couldn't be happier. I think this is the start of an awesome new career, and great things in my life! :)

Much love to you all!

I am going to lay low on my personal email and chats at work for a little while, so for those of you who like to send me massive amounts of forwards (you know who you are!) try to leave me off your list for a couple weeks...but I'll try to keep up with my regular emails as much as possible. Once I get settled in at work, I'll have a little more time to get back on my email and g-chat again. :)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Now you know my ABC's

A- Attached or Single? I am married. I guess that makes me attached, although it's not as if we were actually stuck together...all the time.
B- Best Friend? I love all my friends!
C- Cake or Pie? cupcake - I hate pie, and I am very particular about cakes.
D- Day of Choice? Saturday. I wish every day could be Saturdya.
E- Essential Item? Um....? In what context? I always have to take my chapstick with me, just like Clara does.
F- Favorite Color? red and green, but not together (unless it's Christmas time)
G- Gummy Bears or Worms? ick, neither.
H- Hometown? San Diego, CA
I- Favorite Indulgence? a fresh, homemade cupcake
J- January or July? July! Its my anniversary month. And it's WARM!
K- Kids? Not any time soon!!!! :P
L- Life isn't complete without? Mike :)
M- Marriage date? 7/06/07
N- Number of brothers and sisters? 3 brothers, 2 sisters, 1 brother in law
O- Oranges or Apples? Not really a fan of either unless 1) the apples are cooked; or 2) the oranges are in juice form
P- Phobias and Fears? HEIGHTS, and worms
R- Reason to smile? getting a new job that I've been wanting for 7 years!
S- Season of choice? Summer, fo sho!
T- Tag five people? Danielle, Nina, and Cathy. (Like my friend Rachel, I chose THREE people because it starts with 'T'.)
U- Unknown fact about me? I hate talking on the phone, so I text or email whenever possible.
V- Vegetable? I can't say ANY vegetable is my favorite, but I do like asparagus, and broccoli and carrots are edible.
W- Worst Habit? Procrastination...on pretty much everything. Needless to say...I work best under a deadline.
X-ray or Ultrasound? I have had tons of X-Rays. I think I had an ultrasound on my knee or my foot once. Are you asking which is my favorite? Because it's not like either one is fun or anything.
Y- Your favorite food? Mexican and Italian are a really close tie. I think Mexican usually wins though.
Z- Zodiac Sign? Scorpio

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I've been a bad blogger.

I have been cooking...I've even taken some prep pics...but then I get so hungry that I totally forget to post pics of the finished product. And really, who wants to see a gooey picture of raw meat and then not see how good it actually turned out? So yeah...I've been a bad girl. Shame on me.

Let's see...I made some Onion Soup and Kat's Fast Fancy Chicken. The soup was a new was really good, but it sure did a number on the gasworks in our house. I will NOT be making that again!

On Sunday, I made a big St. Paddy's meal and had a bunch of friends over. I made The Noble Pig's recipe for corned beef. OMG it was so good! It did not last long at all. I also boiled potatoes and steamed carrots and cabbage. I seriously had enough potatoes to feed an army. Oops!

Since I had a plethora of potatoes, I ran to the store to get meat and a green vegetable. I found boneless pork ribs and asparagus both on sale. Awesome. So, I decided to marinate my ribs (the pork ribs, that is) in applesauce, brown sugar, thyme, and salt & pepper. Then the man grilled them for me. Boy, did he do a great job! I ended up mashing the boiled potatoes. It sure was tasty that, you got it, I didn't get a picture.

Sorry for being a slacker....I'll try to make it up to you!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Cupcake Hero: Marshmallow Almond Butter Cupcakes

This month's Cupcake Hero challenge proved to be a fun one! I wasn't sure how things would go when I found out that the ingredient of the month was marshmallow. I mean, I love S'mores, but beyond that, I really don't eat the sticky, gooey, sugary confection. I was definitely up for the challenge though, since I had a half-used jar of marshmallow creme sitting in my cupboard. I began to think of all the things I could do with marshmallow. I quickly crossed the idea of a S'more cupcake off my list, since I figure ANYONE could come up with that, and I was sure it would be done by at least a few of my fellow cupcake-ers.

As I was making my grocery list and perusing the ad for Trader Joe's, I came across an ad for creamy, smooth almond butter. I suddenly had a thought. Would almond and marshmallow go well together? I thought they might...better than almond and peanut butter, I thought. I bought my first jar ever of almond butter, and started devising a plan. My first thought was to make almond butter cupcakes with marshmallow frosting, but I'm not really a fan of the idea of just using the ingredient of the month in my frosting - I really wanted to incorporate it through and through into my recipe.

After reading Tempered Woman's recipe for Peanut Butter cupcakes, I decided to adapt it for my needs. Thanks, girl, you're the best! :) (wink, wink)

I only made some minor changes to the recipe, such as changing the peanut butter to almond butter. I also did some other minor experimentation, which I'll get into later.

Like I said, I didn't want to exclude marshmallow from the cupcakes themselves, so I decided I would try to give them a marshmallow filling. I wasn't sure if I wanted to try to pipe thick, gooey marshmallow cream into the finished cuppys, or just put a marshmallow in them before baking. Since I was unsure, I decided to give making my own marshmallow cream a try, and decide from that point. Until researching for these cupcakes, I had no idea you could make your own marshmallows! How fun is that?
Sweet, sticky goodness.

I let this sit in the refrigerator overnight. Turns out this pretty much blew my chance of piping it in the next morning! It was set nice and a very sticky marshmallow. Oh well. That made up my mind for me...I would be plopping a drop of this ooey gooey stickiness into the middle of my cupcakes.

Just like TW, I did my first batch by swirling the nut butter into the batter, already in the tin.
I then attempted to drop a dollop of marshmallow into the cupcake and press down. It didn't want to go. Who would have thought that something so light and full of air would want to float on top of the batter? Sheesh. So, I baked them anyway.
OMG...don't they look yummy?
For round two, I decided to swirl the almond butter directly into the batter before placing it into the tins, since it was rather difficult the first time around.

I also decided to put the marshmallow in the cup first, and put the batter over the top. Not sure that was such a great idea.

They still look yummy, but they didn't rise nearly as much, and the stickiness in the bottom made them pretty near impossible to get out of the wrapper.
See, CB, I scraped my bowl out very well...just for you!

I think that next time I would combine my two experiments, and mix the almond butter in with the batter before placing it in the cupcake liners, but I would still put the marshmallow on top of the batter.

I made Fluffernutter frosting to top the cuppys with. Again, it includes both marshmallow and almond butter! My whole intent for these cupcakes was to use my jar of marshmallow creme, but since I had so much of my homemade marshmallow left, I decided to use it for my frosting as well.

See how cute these babies are? yummy. They are good naked too...but more like a muffin. The frosting definitely upgrades their status!!! The husband couldn't wait to sink his teeth into one. His words? "These are bad ass." He rated them as some of my better cupcakes. :) I have to say, I am pretty prouf of them myself. :) They are going to a party tonight....let's see if any of them survive!

Now....for the recipes!

Almond Butter Cupcakes

Made 22 cupcakes
3/4 cup (12 T) Butter
3/4 cup Sugar
4 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla
1/3 cup Buttermilk
1 3/4 cups sifted AP Flour
1/4 tsp Salt
2 tsp Baking Powder
16 oz. Almond Butter (some for cupcakes and some for frosting)

Cream together butter and sugar until light, 2 minutes. Add in eggs one at a time, until fully incorporated. Add buttermilk. Add vanilla. Stir in flour, salt and baking powder on low just until flour is incorporated. Fill cupcake liner with batter about 2/3 full.
Scoop 1 T of almond butter onto cupcake batter and gently swirl in to marble somewhat. Drop marshmallow cream into center of cupcake and gently push down. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Marshmallows for filling:
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Confectioners' sugar for dusting

Combine the gelatin and 1/2 cup of cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and allow to sit while you make the syrup.

Meanwhile, combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat to high and cook until the syrup reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat. With the mixer on low speed slowly pour the sugar syrup into the dissolved gelatin. Put the mixer on high speed and whip until the mixture is very thick, about 15 minutes. Add the
vanilla and mix thoroughly.

Fluffernutter Frosting
1 cup marshmallow creme
1/2 cup almond butter
1/3 cup butter or margarine -- softened
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons milk


In small bowl with mixer at low speed, combine marshmallow creme, almond butter and butter until blended. Increase speed to medium. Beat in salt and confectioners' sugar alternately with milk, adding just enough milk to make frosting smooth and spreadable. Beat in vanilla.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Kitchen Gadgets Exchange!!!

Several of my knottie cooking friends have been participating in a monthly baked goods exchange by mail. This month, we decided to mix things up and exchange kitchen gadgets instead. The name drawings were totally random...we use this awesome site called Elfster that assigns you blindly to someone, so no one knows the secret! I drew the name of my dear friend April, whom I sent my Frangelico Vanilla Martini cupcakes to. Well, turns out that April had drawn my name as well!!! SO exciting.

Now, I have been wanting this particular kitchen item for like EVER. I told Mike I wanted one for Christmas, but he couldn't find one for me. Mmkay.... So, you can imagine how THRILLED I was to receive a package from April, and then to find that inside was my very own food chopper!!!! I am so excited. :) It's small enough that I can leave it out on my counter, but totally big enough for an average meal. Woohoo! Thank you so much, April!!!

I was so excited that I forgot to take a picture before I washed it and all...but here is the picture online that shows exactly what it looks like! Thank you, April!!!

Girl's Night In

So, tonight Mike went out with a friend to go see a rock concert for his favorite band, Clutch. I decided to take advantage of my night home alone. I'm sitting here in my red velour sweatsuit with a bottle of wine. I knew for a fact I was making Caprese salad, so I decided to cook some sort of Italian chicken to go along with it. I totally just made it up as I went along. Here is a summary of my evening in the kitchen.

I sliced up a tomato, layered it with fresh mozzarella and basil, and drenched it in balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Then I sprinkled it all with salt and pepper and let it marinate while I cooked the chicken.

I wasn't sure what to do...I cut all the fat off, as always, and kind of poked around at it.

I decided to stuff it with Parmesan and pepperoni.

Then I cooked it with olive oil and salt & pepper in a skillet.

While it cooked, I cracked open a bottle of wine. :)

Voila! I served the chicken with the Caprese and a slice of bread. Yum!!!

The chicken was good...but the Parmesan and pepperoni was a bit stronger than I would have liked. Still, it'll be good leftovers for tomorrow. :) And the Caprese is always delicious!!! I ordered this every day when I was in Italy. :)

While eating, I watched the first episode of "Lost." It gets such rave reviews, I figured I'd give it a try. Not the best thing to watch right before Mike and I both take separate flights, but it looks to be an awesome show. I was going to watch the whole DVD, but I think Mike will like it, so I'm going to save it to watch with him.

So, here I am...sharing my meal with you! :)

Monday, March 10, 2008

I won an award!

Eek! I won an award!!! My friend Danielle, from Dinner with Danielle, has awarded me the "You Make My Day" award! Let me tell you, Danielle just made my day! She is one of my San Diego Knottie friends, who I have had the pleasure of getting to know since we planned our weddings together...only a week apart!

This is my first blog award, and I am super-duper excited. Thank you so much, Danielle!!!

Now, for those girls who make my day:

Natalie at Wits and Pieces - I seriously look forward to this blog every day - she always makes me laugh!
Clara of I Heart Cuppycakes - she was my cupcake inspiration and a wonderful friend!
April from A Wine Lover's Cooking Diary - she always has such awesome recipes - I can't wait to make the Chicken Nachos!
Rachel, the Tangerine Tart - she's gotta be my twin, I swear!
And last but not least...Slush, the Quirky Cupcake! - This is one blog I have to check every day. How can you not love a Cupcake Hero contest?!?!?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Garlic Cheddar Chicken and Mashy Peas

I have seen this recipe for Garlic Cheddar Chicken floating around on so many of my friends' blogs, I just had to try it. Most recently, I saw it on my friend RacheyPoo's blog, and she thoroughly enjoyed it. I figured it would be good, but in no way was I prepared for how excellent this meal is!!! It was exactly what we needed after a week of eating out with the family. A delicious, home-cooked meal. The chicken was succulent and juicy...crunchy and cheesy - Mike couldn't stop talking about how good it was, and neither could I!

I served the chicken with mashed potatoes and mashy peas. We first had mashy peas when we were in London, and absolutely loved them. I don't really have a recipe, I just throw things together. Peas, butter, green onions, salt & pepper, and a bit of cream. Then you mash them up! They are so yummy. :)
(I got the man to do the mashing work for me!)

Garlic Cheddar Chicken

2 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 C shredded cheddar cheese
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon dried parsley
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - pounded thin (I didn't notice that you were supposed to pound them thin...they worked just fine.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat, and cook the garlic until tender about 5 minutes.
In a shallow bowl, mix the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, Cheddar cheese, and spices (if you used them).
Dip each chicken breast in the garlic butter to coat, then press into the bread crumb mixture. Arrange the coated chicken breasts in a 9x13 baking dish.
Drizzle with any remaining butter and top with any remaining bread crumb mixture.
Bake 30 minutes in preheated oven or until chicken is no longer pink and juice run clear.

This probably wasn't the healthiest meal ever, but it wasn't too bad. I am definitely making it again, so I think next time I'll just cook the garlic in olive oil instead of butter. Overall, this recipe gets an A+ rating!!!

Monday, March 3, 2008

I got a facelift!

Check me out! Thanks to my friend Nikki, who showed me an exciting site called Pyzam, I was able to find a pretty new layout for my blog! Nothing too fancy, no major changes, but I think it's prettied up a bit. :) Thanks, Nikki!

Fierce and Ferosh Ferocity.

These cupcakes are some bad mamma jammas, that is for sure. They really pack a punch. In fact, you could say they are the fiercest cupcakes I have ever eaten.

I had decided that I would NOT make any more cupcakes until the next Cupcake Hero challenge, in fear that my waistline would expand exponentially if I kept baking. But when my dear friend CB posted a challenge for this week, inspired by Project Runway, I couldn't resist. Fierce and ferocious cupcakes? How can you turn down that challenge? (It also helped that the in-laws are in town, so I had help in eating these cuppys!)

I spent several days agonizing about what exactly the word fierce means, especially in cupcake terms. I felt that in order to be fierce, it really has to have a bite to it.

Grr, baby, grr!

The word fierce also made me think of a badass warrior. Carefully, I began devising a plan. What would pack a punch to the palate, and be fashionably fierce as well? I chose to make Mexican Chili Chocolate Cupcakes. I found a cake recipe and altered it slightly to fit my tastes. It ended up making exactly 12 cupcakes - perfecto!!!

The decorating of these cuppys was a little harder than I expected. I had such great aspirations. I figured that if my cupcakes were fierce in Mexican flavor, they should be fierce in Aztec warrior glory. See my inspiration?I decided to decorate them as Aztec warrior headdresses. My future sister-in-law (maybe) and I went off to the grocery store and Michaels to see what we could find. It was harder than I expected to find supplies to recreate these glorious works of art. I ended up just buying some Ghiradelli chocolate squares and a few sprinkles and candies, and hoped for the best.

These cupcakes were great to bake. The recipe was fun and pretty easy. I toasted up almonds and ground them in my coffee grinder, and it ended up making a fine almond flour. How cool is that? I couldn't taste the chili powder in my batter, so I kept adding cayenne until I could. These cupcakes baked up so nicely! I love it when they get all dome-y in the oven.

On to the decorating. The frosting was easy to make as well. Once again, I couldn't taste the chili powder, so I just kept adding cayenne. In the end, it came out PERFECT. So rich and chocolatey. You could taste the cinnamon, and afterwards came the fierce punch of cayenne. MMMMMmmmmm..... I piled that frosting on as high as I could. I think the frosting was as tall as the cupcake. FIERCE, baby, fierce!!!!

By this time, my friend Keziah was totally into this with me. We were having a ball decorating these cupcakes. Things were going well. I stuck the chocolates onto the frosting, and got ready to use color to create the feathered headdresses. I used some leftover white chocolate frosting from my last cupcakes. BAD IDEA. The frosting was SO soft. It totally gooshed all over and made my feathers look like leaves, and then eventually melt into blobbiness. :( But, seriously, I think it just made them look even more ferocious. We added toothpicks to the headdresses to make them look still more intimidating. Really. Dangerous. Ferosh.
This is one army of warriors you would not want to stumble across unprepared. They are fully lined up for battle, and they will kick yo' ass!

See them dressed in full battle gear? Seriously fierce. There is no denying it. Swords and shields are drawn and ready.
The captain is preparing to give the battle cry.


The lookout is keeping watch on the sidelines.

This ugly, scary mofo is in the rear, watching for any attacks from behind. You don't want to mess with this fierce cupcake.

In the end, however, I won the battle. I ate those cupcakes, ferosh as they were. But wow, they sure did let me have it on the way down! I could feel the burn as I savored every bite.

These cupcakes are YUMMY. They are hardcore. They are fierce on so many levels. As Mike said, "it was a very complex dessert." They have a deep, dark chocolate flavor, with a hint of cinnamon. As the flavor travels across your taste buds, you begin to feel the subtly delightful burn of the chili and cayenne. OMG, yum. The frosting is rich, the cake is somewhat dense but oh so moist and yummy.

For those of you brave enough to attempt to take on this fierce recipe, see below.

Mexican Chile-Chocolate Cupcakes

10 ounces Mexican chocolate, or semisweet chocolate, plus 1 teaspoon cinnamon (I used dark chocolate)
2 tablespoons strong hot coffee (I used espresso)
1 stick ( 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
3 egg whites
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon Mexican vanilla or other premium vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons ancho chile powder, lightly toasted (for a hotter chile hit, use guajillo or New Mexican red) (I did this, and added cayenne until it looked good.)
1/3 cup toasted almonds, finely ground
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt chocolate in coffee.

Cream the butter with a mixer until fluffy; add 1/2 cup sugar and continue beating for 1 minute. Beat in egg yolks one at a time until well incorporated. Beat egg whites on high with salt until soft peaks form, gradually add 2 tablespoons sugar, and beat until stiff peaks are formed and the whites are shiny.

Blend the warm melted chocolate mixture, extracts, chile powder and almonds into egg yolk mixture and then fold into egg whites alternating with the flour. Continue gently folding until all is incorporated.

Place batter in a well-buttered and floured 8-inch cake pan and bake for 35 minutes, or in individual souffle cups and bake for 25 minutes. (I used a cupcake pan, of course! I baked them for 25 minutes.) Cake will still move slightly in the center when done. (Mine didn't move. They sprung back nicely when I poked them.) Garnish with powdered sugar and cinnamon or more chile powder or whipped cream along with toasted almonds or shaved chocolate. (I frosted them with the recipe below.)

Makes 12 cupcakes.

Per serving (based on 8 servings): 407 calories, 6 grams protein, 22 grams fat, 11 grams saturated fat, 51 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 107 milligrams cholesterol, 67 milligrams sodium.

Chile Chocolate Frosting

1 stick softened butter
2/3 C unsweetened cocoa powder
3 1/2 C powdered sugar
1/3 C + whole milk
1 T vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
cinnamon and chili powder to taste (I probably used about a teaspon of cinnamon, a teaspoon of chili powder, and a 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne.)

Mix butter, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Slowly add milk and extract. Add more milk, a tablespoon at a time until desired texture and volume is reached.

I need a makeover.

Or, my blog does, that is. I love the plainness of my blog, but at the same time, it makes me a little sad that it's not prettier. Sure, I'm an artist, but I'm not good at designing web pages and stuff. Do any of my readers have a talent for that? I want something pretty...I like vines and flowers and pretty stuff. I love red. It's pretty much my favorite color. Green is my second favorite color, but I don't really like red and green together unless it's Christmas time. I do like light green with red though. Anyways, does anyone have any ideas for me? I'd appreciate it! :) If you can make a design for me, I can send you cupcakes or something as payment.... :)