Virtual Bake Sale!

Attention Chocolate & Wine Readers!

I want/need/must tell you about an amazing opportunity to make a huge difference.  A difference to a first-time marathon runner and an incredible charity.  And an opportunity to get some delicious goodies!

My good friend/fellow Boston blogger and bruncher, Amanda, is running the Boston Marathon for the first time.  She is running for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and is attempting to raise $4,000.  Right now, you can attend her blog’s virtual bake sale and bid on a variety of baked goods by some of her favorite bloggers (myself included!!!!)

These are my Double Chocolate Oreo Balls. You should probably go bid on them.

Simply visit her website between now and January 28th to bid on the items.  All of the proceeds go towards the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and will help her reach her goal.  Amanda is a kind, passionate person who wants nothing more than to run 26.2 miles successfully and have an impact on this charity.  YOU can help her make it happen.

Questions?  Shoot me an e-mail!  And please let me know via comment if you bid on anything/win anything, especially if you bid on/bid on my Double Chocolate Oreo Balls!

MY PLEDGE:

For every Chocolate & Wine reader who bids on a baked good from Amanda’s bake sale and leaves me a comment here telling me you did, I will donate $1 to Amanda’s charity.  For every baked good a Chocolate & Wine reader bids on AND WINS, I will donate $5 to Amanda’s charity.  And if a Chocolate & Wine reader wins MY Double Chocolate Oreo Balls, I will donate $15 to Amanda’s charity site!!  Either way, this is a win-win-win situation to help people in need!

Rules:
(PS – these are based on the honor system.  If you say you bid on something, please make sure you do…)

1.  Bid on an item on Amanda’s bake sale and leave me a comment telling me you did.  Include what you bid on and how much you bid.

2.  If you win an item, leave me a comment telling me what you won and how much you paid for it.

3.  If you win MY Double Chocolate Oreo Balls, leave me a comment telling me you did and how much you paid for it.  Then enjoy them immensely when I send them to you!

I mean... yum.

I’ll keep a pledge tally and tell you how much I will personally be donating at the end of the bake sale.

Good Luck and Happy Bidding!!

Halloween in full swing

Like I said in my last life update, Halloween is one of my favorite holidays.  I got my first real kiss on Halloween (I was 15), I’ve dressed up as everything from a cowgirl to a pirate, the pink Power Ranger to a Hocus Pocus witch (Mary Sanderson complete with a floor length black and red cape), and living in the town next to Salem, Massachusetts definitely has its perks in October.  Besides Christmas, Halloween is the best day of the year.

On Friday night, a few of my BU friends ventured to Lynn to the first time to eat, drink and carve pumpkins.

Yes, it is okay to be a full time graduate student, drink yummy beverages and cut faces in pumpkins.

No judging.

My pumpkin... and why yes, it does look like a 5-year-old carved this. Thanks for noticing.

I made nachos with homemade guacamole, pizza and Hungry Girl pumpkin cupcakes with my own buttercream and a candy corn garnish.  It was the casual, college kid version of a Torto dinner party.

Notice my friend Matt wearing my Harrod's apron...

My friend, Sandy’s pumpkin:

She went to art school. Doesn't count.

Saturday brought one of the laziest days I have had in while.  I relaxed most of the day with a brand new 21-year-old and watched Halloween movies (Double Double Toil & Trouble is one of the ultimate classics.)

On Saturday night, DanceWorks Boston hosted a huge Halloween party at Au Tua Nua in Boston.  My good friend and fellow DWB-er, Devlyn, and I headed to our friend Dana’s to have some wine and get ready for the party.  For my cat costume, I wore a black, high collared lace-covered dress, black heels, white lace hand gloves, a jingle heart necklace (in place of a bell), cat ears and of course, my bright yellow contacts.  I coated my eyes with liquid eyeliner and smoky black make-up.  It was pretty cool.  Almost everyone noticed, most people freaked a little.  Loved it.

Cat. 'Nuff said.

I kept my beverage intake to a minimum knowing I would have to wake up somewhat early and do my best on my third 5K: the Witch City 5K in Salem (race report on another day!)

Sunday morning’s alarm came WAY too quickly.  And as usual, I woke up to the alarm and said “WHY DID I SIGN UP FOR THIS RACE?”  I told you I’m not super positive in the morning.  I got up, got dressed, stretched, had my pre-race toast with peanut butter, slugged some water and woke up BF who picked me up from the party on Saturday night and crashed on the couch at my house.

And sometimes he brings me pretty flowers for no reason.... I'll keep him.

The race, overall, went just okay.  Running with a friend is definitely better but my stomach was not feeling it.  It was also the coldest race I’ve done to date.  But the scenery was lovely and I finished it.  A little slower than normal, but ya “win” some, ya lose some.

Salem. Done.

Sunday also brought about some fun research.  Enough said for now.

On the baking front, I made pumpkin snickerdoodles yesterday.  I brought them to work today and everyone loves them.  They taste like pumpkin pie filling and I could’ve eaten all of the batter myself.  And I think if I neglect to post the recipe, I’ll be beaten with something.  Enjoy!

Pumpkin 'Doodles

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
Adapted from pagespak.com

1/2 cup softened Brummel ‘n Brown margarine spread
3/4 cup Splenda/Brown Sugar mix (trust me on this one..)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground giner
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 2 baking sheets liberally with nonstick spray.

2) In the bowl of a stand mixer (this can also be done with a hand mixer), cream together margarine and brown sugar until smooth.  Beat in egg and vanilla and then the pumpkin.

3) In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, ginger and pumpkin pie spice. 

4) In batches, add the dry ingredients to the wet until fully incorporated.

5) Drop tablespoons of batter onto prepared baking sheets.  Bake 18 minutes until set, slightly puffed but not browned.

Happy Fall!

Weekend & Easter Recap

Happy Easter Monday everyone!  Too bad it’s not an actual holiday… I’m pretty sure we could all use an extra day to come out of our food-induced comas.

My weekend was full of friends and family and I loved every minute of it.  After work on Friday, my sister and I decided to spend some quality time together.  We hit the gym for a bit before getting Panera for dinner (I’ll have the You Pick 2: Black Bean Soup & 1/2 Chicken Thai Salad, no wontons, dressing on the side, please!) and went to see the movie Water for Elephants.  It was one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.  The storyline was typical of a romance but the acting was wonderful and I have a soft spot for elephants anyway.  Go. See. It.

After the movie, I headed to Medford to meet up with some friends for Friday night in Boston.  I would have to advise you to skip Kitty O’Shea’s the next time you want a bar/club scene.  Needless to say, the bouncers there are inappropriate, rude and very inconsiderate.  No details necessary, just keep that in mind.

Saturday morning included an iced coffee and spending time with my sister before meeting up with some high school friends for lunch at Bertucci’s (Salad Vivaldi con Pollo & Bello is highly recommended..just saying).  I don’t know how I ever let my communication with these girls go.  We caught up on everything from college life to life now.  We’re older and wiser, but still those high school jokes are still as hysterical.

Later that night, I met up with the boyfriend and we decided to head to Grassfields in Danvers for dinner.  Little did we know that is the identical twin to one of our favorite restaurants a few towns away.  Who knew?  Regardless, I got the Surf & Turf broiled scallops and steak tips (medium rare of course) with a double side of veggies.  The scallops were dusted with a combination of spices that were out of this world and the steak tips were gently marinated and cooked to perfection.  And the veggies? Crisp tender and NOT slathered in butter, thank goodness.  We highly recommend it for a casual, inexpensive date night.  Oh, and try the pomegranate margarita – you will not be disappointed.

Easter Sunday rolled around and I was out of bed by 8:30 to go to mass with my family.  It was beautiful, as the St. Pius V Parish masses always are.  Communion takes a bit longer than normal Sunday service because of how packed the church is but our priest’s homily was short, sweet and meaningful.

We headed home and I made breakfast: Egga-Pinwheels from Hungry Girl.  The first carb-y thing I’ve had in 40 days.  It was heavenly and healthy which is always a nice combo.  It was similar to a ham-egg-cheese traditional breakfast sandwich but with way better nutritional info!

I also made HG red velvet cupcakes with my own buttercream (made with Brummel & Brown spread).  Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of the cupcakes but it was curiously warm outside yesterday and after piping beautiful swirls of buttercream on my cupcakes, it quickly melted ALL. OVER. THE. PLACE.  Still tasted good even though I was pissed about it.  And of course my family would say that “it’s not how they look, it’s how they taste, Rie.”  Yeah, yeah.  Good thing they were yummy - that could have been just embarassing.

Can you tell we are Italian?

After dessert, I headed to Stephen’s and had more wine and his mom’s Italian cookies.  I swear, I could eat an entire batch of those things.  Made with anise and almond extracts, they are little pillows of confectionary genius.  An old family recipe.  Utter perfection.

Overall, it was a successful weekend and I look forward to getting my butt to the gym today and spending the next 2 weeks in body detox.  Fine with me!

Also!  Here are a few things coming up that I am getting excited about:
- My first 5K : Saturday, May 14th @ 10AM
- NDA Staff Meeting in Oklahoma: Friday-Monday, May 27th-30th
- My First DanceWorks Boston show: Thursday & Friday, June 2nd & 3rd
- BAHAMAS: June 11th-18th

Egga-Pinwheels
Adapted from Hungry Girl

1 package (roll) of Pillsbury Seamless Creations Crescent Dough
6 slices lean deli ham (blotted dry with paper towels to get rid of excess moisture)
1 cup Egg Beaters
3 slices fat-free American cheese, torn into pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Spray a frying pan with nonstick cooking spray and bring to medium heat.  Scramble cup of Egg Beaters until fully cooked and set aside.

Roll out dough on a clean, flat surface dusted with flour.  Roll out until dough is about 1/4th inch think and even with the shorter sides to the left and right.  Lay ham evenly over the dough leaving a 1-2 inch border on the right side only.  Evenly spread scrambled eggs over the ham and sprinkle the cheese over the egg.

Starting on the left side of the doll, roll the dough tightly and seal both sides and the middle.  With a sharp knife, slice the roll into 8 disks.  Lay flat on a baking sheet sprayed with nonstick spray and bake in oven 15-20 minutes, until dough is puffed and golden brown.

My Not-So-Lazy Weekend

This past weekend, I decided to forgo sleeping in until 2pm and managed to pull myself out of bed early enough to have a productive two days.

On Saturday morning, after an quick and easy breakfast of a banana and my favorite yogurt (Light & Fit 80-calorie Vanilla!), I watched the tube for a bit before completing a Jillian Michael’s workout DVD and taking a quick jog around the neighorhood.  Sweaty and pumped up, I showered and decided to grab a coffee and visit my Grammy.

During my visit, my Aunt Deb reminded me of the KitchenAid Stand Mixer (the one that was my Grammy’s that she was giving to me) and I noticed it sitting on the kitchen table.  I had completely forgotten about it (seriously, how could I?)  I dragged it home (it’s a heavy sucker) and immediately began figuring out ways to use it right then and there when an opportunity presented itself.. more about that in a bit.

My boyfriend, Stephen, and I had made plans for Saturday night to cook dinner together at his house and spend the night drinking wine and watching movies.  When our parents caught wind of this, they decided to join in the fun (and gave me an excuse to make chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting in my new mixing toy.)  Let me preface - my parents and Stephen’s parents get along well, really really well.  Like they’re best friends.  I don’t hate it.

When Stephen mentioned to me that his mom had a Weight Watcher’s recipe for Turkey Chili, I knew it was going to be a good dinner.  Unfortunately, he and I planned on (and executed) a double batch of the stuff before realizing that our parents ordered pizza instead.  Minor blunder.  The chili, which we added extra veggies to on top of what the recipe called for, was hearty, warming and simply delicious.  I made Hungry Girl Cornbread Muffins to go with it.

Oh and the cupcakes?  Hungry Girl’s recipe (I know, I’m on an HG kick.  I love her, what can I say?) for simple chocolate-y cupcakes and my own simple buttercream.  I dusted some green sugar sprinkles over the top.  For some reason, maybe the use of the mixer or maybe I just didn’t add enough powdered sugar this time, but my frosting was, well… very thin, this time around.  Still delicious and very shiny but not the thick buttercream I am used to.  Oh well, they got eaten anyway.

I spent the rest of the night drinking a new red wine, Black Opal Cabernet (circa Australia 2009), which was deep and full with cherry flavor.  It defintiely wasn’t my favorite of all time but for approximately $7.99 and a night with the fam, I would drink it again.  It paired nicely with the chili anyway.

Waking up Sunday morning posed a bit more of a dilemma.  I pulled myself out of bed around 8:30, called Stephen to make sure he was awake, made him promise me that he would be ready for the gym when I picked him up in an hour and sleepily made my way downstairs. 

Since I don’t like to eat heavy before the gym, I grabbed an apple and plopped on the couch to watch Hairspray.  Before I knew it, I was changing into my gym clothes and getting my iPod ready, all the while the Couch to 5K Week 5, Day 3 lured – no, haunted – every thought in my mind.

At the gym, we met up with our two friends and I immediately hit the tread.  My friend Kimmy is using the Couch to 5K training plan too but the lucky bi-otch is in the early stages where you run 90 seconds and walk 2 minutes.  Man, I miss those days.  I began with my 5 minute walk that ended all too quickly.  With my music set and my sweatshirt covering the timer, I kicked my run into a higher gear (approximately 10:54/mile) and just ran.

20 minutes later (my quota for the day), I was sweaty, out of breath and feeling GREAT.  I even got high-fives from Kim during the last 2 minutes because I thought my lungs were going to explode.  But overall, I felt accomplished and was elated telling Stephen and Kim’s boyfriend, Matt, about my epic run.  Yes, epic.  Whatever – it was epic to me.

After parting from the other couple, I dropped Stephen off at his house and went home to shower.  I spent the rest of the afternoon in the Boston University Barnes & Noble in Boston with Kim… aka wandering around the BU section trying to decide what to buy.  I finally decided on a red t-shirt, a red sweatshirt, 3 car stickers and a shot glass.  Grand total: $80.. well played BU, well played.

At least my car looks cool.

That night, I went back to Stephen’s (I kinda like the kid…) and we watched Little Fockers with his parents and sister, Nina.  It was hysterical; go rent it.

Overall, it was quite a successful and productive weekend.  Hopefully next weekend will be too!

Oh – by the way, today is my friend/co-worker, Tracie’s 40th birthday.

Happy Birthday Work Mama!

Turkey/Veggie Chili (HUGE AMOUNT. Great for leftovers and parties)
Adapted from Weight Watchers

Ingredients:
2 pound lean ground turkey (94% fat free works great)
2 (14.9 ounce) can black beans (not drained.. you’ll need the liquid)
3 (14.9 ounce) cans stewed tomatoes
3 (14.9 ounce) cans fat-free, low sodium beef broth
8 ounces whole button mushrooms, quartered
1 small onion, chopped
2 red bell peppers, chopped
1 jalepeno, seeds and veins removed, finely chopped
2 zucchinis, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 yellow summer squash, cut into bite-sized pieces

Brown turkey in large pot sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

Add all vegetables and canned items and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. 

Lower the heat and let simmer at least 1 hour. 

Serve hot with cornbread muffins.  If desired, sprinkle parm cheese over individual servings.

Cornbread Mega-Muffins
From Hungry Girl’s 300 Under 300

Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup Splenda
1/4 cup granulated sugar (optional.. I accidentally left it out and they still tasted good)
1 TB baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 small can (8 ounces) cream-style corn
3/4 cup egg substitute
3/4 fat-free plain Greek yogurt (I used Chobani)

Preheat oven to 375.

Combine flour, cornmeal, Splenda, sugar (if using), baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Mix well and set aside.  In a seperate medium bowl, mix corn, egg substitute, and yogurt.  Whisk thoroughly.  Add contents of medium bowl to the large one and mix until completely combined.

Generously spray 9 cups of a 12-cup muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Evenly distribute batter among the cups (they will be FULL.. that’s okay!)

Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool and enjoy.

St. Patrick’s Day Treats – Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

I promised green treats and here they are.  Okay, so they aren’t green but they are a dessert take on a traditional Irish-inspired drink.  I brought them to my DWB dance rehearsal last Thursday night and a few to work on Friday morning.  Not to brag, but everyone loved them. (Yes, I know that is bragging. Forgive me.)

I couldn’t actually eat the cupcake portion (Lent…) but you can bet I had a serving or two of the buttercream by itself.  I just couldn’t resist.  I don’t think you could either.

For those of you who have never had one, an Irish Car Bomb is a drink consisting of Guinness, Jamieson and Bailey’s.  You take a 16 ounce glass and fill it a little more than halfway with Guinness.  You then take a shot glass half full of Jamieson and half full of Bailey’s, drop it into the glass of Guinness and chug the whole thing before it curdles together.

Apparently, it’s supposed to taste like chocolate milk.  They don’t – I had my first one on Saturday night.  I’m a much bigger fan of this dessert.  These cupcakes (without the Jamieson part – I decided against the whiskey ganache this time) are a piece of Irish heaven.  And there is no chugging involved.

– I’m sorry that there are no pictures yet.  Unfortunately, I have a horrible reputation with cameras and I either need ANOTHER new one or I have to charge the one I have now.  Sad.  I’ll get them up ASAP!

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes
Adapted from Baked Perfection

Guinness Cupcakes
1 cup Guinness Stout
1 cup butter (I use Brummel & Brown)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup splenda (or another calorie-free sugar substitute)
1.5 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs
2/3 cup low-fat sour cream

Bailey’s Buttercream
3/4 cup butter (Brummel & Brown)
Powdered sugar (I never measure it; I don’t like it super sweet so I just add it in small amounts until I reach the sweetness I like.. it’s probably around 2 to 2.5 cups)
Capful of Bailey’s (literally use the Bailey’s bottle cap – probably about a tablespoon)

Optional garnish:
Green sugar sprinkles

For the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cupcake tins with liners.  I made 24 mini cupcakes and 17 standard size from one batch of batter but you can make 24 standard cupcakes or 48 minis with the same amount. 

Bring Guinness and butter to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Whisk in the cocoa powder until fully combined and smooth.  Take it off the heat and allow it to cool.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl together.  In another large bowl, beat sour cream and eggs together until just combined.  Slowly, add the Guinness mixture to egg.  Gradually add the flour and continue to beat until it is all incorporated.

Evenly distribute the batter into the prepared cups filling them about 3/4 full.  Bake until tester comes out of the center clean – approximately 14 minutes for mini cupcakes, 17-19 minutes for the standard size.  Let cool completely before frosting.

For the buttercream:

Cream butter until smooth in a large bowl using a hand mixer.  Gradually add the powdered sugar until desired sweetness and consistency are reached.  Finally, add the Bailey’s and fully combine.

To decorate:

Using a pastry bag (or awesome mechanical piping set), pipe frosting onto each cupcake.  Garnish with green sugar sprinkles. 
Store in airtight tupperware at room temperature.

Everybody’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!  Although I’m not Irish, I usually take part in the traditions anyway.  I mean, how can you not get into the spirit when you’re a college student and there’s green beer to be had?

Well, I’m not an undergrad anymore and to be honest, I don’t like green beer at all.  But there are things about St. Patrick’s Day that I do love.  The color green is one of them, boiled cabbage is another.  But it seems that St. Patrick’s Day isn’t just an excuse for a free-for-all drinking binge (which, I will not be taking part in but if you head to South Boston, you definitely won’t be alone) but its the perfect time to try out some great Irish-inspired recipes.  I have selected a few of my favorites from some fellow cooking blogs.  I hope you enjoy them!

Oh - and yes, I made St. Paddy’s Day treats for my dance rehearsal tonight.  Check back for my next post to see how pretty they turned out!

Hungry Girl’s Shamrock & Roll Shake

Corned Beef & Cabbage

Double Fudge Irish Cream Cookies

Traditional Irish Car Bomb 

Plaid St. Patrick’s Day Cupcakes (Video Tutorial)

And speaking of cupcakes…. Well, you’ll just have to wait and see!

Risotto & Red Velvet

This past Sunday was the football playoffs between the Packers & the Bears and the Steelers vs. the Jets.  I love football, despite the fact that my team, the Patriots, made a poor showing against the Jets last week.  I’m still getting over it.  Nevertheless, I decided that in honor of these games (and the Steelers KILLING the Jets) I would make 2 new things.  The first, risotto; the second, Hungry Girl Red Velvet Cupcakes with my own buttercream frosting.

I found the risotto recipe from Food Network courtesy of Giada but I, of course tweaked it alittle bit.  Instead of regular butter, I used my favorite substitute Brummel & Brown which is a type of margarine made with all-natural yogurt.  I swear, it tastes just like the real thing and has a mere 50 calories and 5 grams of fat per serving.  A whole lot less than regular butter.

It took longer than I expected.  I browned a shallot in the butter, coated and toasted the rice, simmered in some wine and then slowly added the 2.5 cups of stock/water the recipe called for.  I think I ended up using an extra 2 cups of hot water because after the 2.5 original cups were gone, the risotto had thickened but the grains were still uncooked.  No problems though; just add more water and keep stirring like its your job and eventually, creamy risotto will be your result.

Stage one: Simmer in white wine (I used chardonnay, but feel free to use whatever white wine you have on hand.) This will take between 5-6 minutes.

Stage 2: Continue to add broth/water to rice (about 1/2 cup at a time), stirring constantly until each addition has completely evaporated.  It should continue to thicken and the rice will puff and become tender but still firm.  Depending on how much rice you are cooking will determine the time it takes for the liquid to completely evaporate.  Taste testing is always the best way to tell.  When I ran out of my original chicken stock/water mixture, I simply added water 1/2 cup at a time and continuted to stir until the rice was done.  I found it to be quite soothing.

Stage 3: Remove from heat and stir in a couple tablespoons of mascarpone cheese, a little extra butter (1 pad should be plenty) and some parmesan cheese. Pile into a bowl and eat!

It really was fabulous.  My family ate all of it in one sitting – even my mother who insisted that she DOES NOT LIKE risotto.  Well, I showed her what’s what.  She had 2 helpings and has already asked me to make it again.

Lemon Risotto

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter, plus 1 tablespoon
1 large shallot, diced
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan, plus 2 tablespoons
2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
1/2 a lemon, zested amd juiced
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan bring the broth and 1/2 cup water to a simmer. Cover the broth and keep hot over low heat.

In a medium, heavy saucepan, melt tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and saute until tender but not brown, about 3 minutes.

Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter. Add the wine and simmer until the wine has almost completely evaporated, about 3 minutes.

Add 1/2 cup of the simmering broth and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of the broth to absorb before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes.

Remove from the heat. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter, 2 tablespoons of Parmesan, mascarpone cheese, the lemon zest and juice, and the salt and pepper.

For dessert – red velvet cupcakes and buttercream frosting.  My cousin Ali gave me this amazing mechanical piping set for Christmas.  You pick whichever tip you want to use (there are 10!) and spin on the part that holds the tip to the barrel.  You then fill the barrel with frosting, put the cap on and push the cap for the icing to come out. It’s from William Sonoma and I LOVE it. 

I made Hungry Girl cupcakes because I figured I’d go with a lighter cake for a rich frosting.  Using reduced-sugar cake mixes, fat free hot cocoa, a few mini chocolate chips and some egg beaters, you’d be surprised how moist, fluffy and decadent these cupcakes are, even though they are better for you.

Enter: The Buttercream.  However, I again used Brummel and Brown to significantly reduce the fat and calories from the frosting.  Of course, I used real powdered sugar and a touch of vanilla extract but I always go a little easy on the sugar – I hate when frosting, especially buttercream, is too sweet.  My method is to cream the butter (leave it out beforehand to soften), then gradually add powdered sugar until it tastes right to you.  Right before you add what you think will be the last of your powdered sugar, add a teaspoon of vanilla and blend it in.  You can’t go wrong with that.

Once the cupcakes were cooled, I was free to try out my piping technique.  If I do say so myself, not too shabby – but I’ll keep working on it!

Hungry Girl Red Velvet Insanity Cupcakes
from www.hungry-girl.com

1 cup reduced-sugar chocolate cake mix
1 cup reduced-sugar vanilla cake mix
2 fat-free hot cocoa mix packets
1/2 cup fat-free egg substitute (I like Egg Beaters)
1/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
Red food coloring
1 tsp Splenda (or your favorite no-calorie sweetener)
1/8 tsp salt

Place 2 TB of chocolate chips and contents from both hot cocoa packets in a tall glass.  Add 12 ounces of boiling water and stir until chips and cocoa have dissolved completely.  Place glass in freezer until cold (about 30 minutes.) 

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Once the cocoa mixture has chilled, give it a stir and pour into a large bowl.  Add cake mixes, Splenda, salt, egg substitute, remaining chocolate chips and red food coloring (until desired color is reached.)  Whisk until smooth and blended.  (Batter will be thin – this is okay.  The cupcakes will puff up while baking.) 

Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners and spray with non-stick cooking spray.  Evenly distribute batter amoung cups and bake 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  The cupcakes will look shiny.  Let cool before frosting.

Cupcake truffles… well, almost.

Today was the annual Radiology Christmas luncheon at my work. Naturally, there was way too much food and I definitely didn’t need that last brownie, but oh well.

This year, I was going to make the same red velvet cupcakes that I made for my boyfriend’s family’s Christmas party but let’s be honest, those were WAY too time consuming for the beautiful creations to sit uneaten on a plate in the Radiology lounge.

So, I searched high and wide for a recipe I could make quickly but would still be delicious. I follow a food blog named Cheeky Kitchen and her Cupcake Truffles had me at HELLO.  Unfortunately, these are slightly easier said than done. (PS – this picture came from her blog!)

First off, I didn’t use mint chips because Stop n Shop doesn’t sell em.  Plus, I prefer peanut butter chips.  I mean, hel-lo.  So I used her same measurements with the white chocolate chips she recommended and the peanut butter chips. 

Besides burning my hand on the extremely hot plastic ziplock bag while piping the chocolate into the mini cupcake cups, my only complaint about these was the end result.  While tasty, they stuck to the paper.  I didn’t even think of spraying the cups because I figured that the chocolate would harden away from the wrapper in the fridge overnight.  Wrong.  I also was unable to pipe the frosting-like look that Brooke accomplished in her photo.  The melted white chocolate and peanut butter was thin and slightly runny and I had barely enough to cover the tops of the cooled truffles.  I was happy when the topping hardened almost instantly like it is supposed to though.

Overall, everyone at work liked them even if they had have to scrape the bottom part off the wrapper with their teeth.  I think it was more like fudge.  I’ll probably try it again.  Thanks to Brooke, I do have a very easily duplicated, chocolate-ty recipe that I can whip out any time of year, not just at Christmas.