It’s Almost Christmas!!!

To start this post today, I’d like to say a very Happy Birthday to my cousin Sam!

Sam's 21st Birthday... 22 will be much calmer.

I can’t believe how fast this year flew by.  It’s crazy to me that Christmas is a mere 2 days away.  Am I ready?  YES YES YES!

Our Christmas Tree... It takes up the better half of the living room.

First, I want to give a special shout-out and thank you to to for featuring my Cranberry & Walnut Biscotti recipe the other day.  Because of you, I reached a record number of page views for one day at Chocolate & Wine!  What a great early Christmas present for my little corner of the Internet.

You should really make these for Christmas..

Lots of people ask me what I cook this time of year for Christmas and the various holiday parties I go to.  To be honest, the list is endless.  I try not to bring the same thing to the same place so it’s always a never-ending search for new recipes to try.

This year, I narrowed it down to a few winners.

For my best friend’s ugly sweater party, I made kale chips.  The recipe could not be simpler.  Take a bunch of fresh kale and wash thoroughly (they can be gritty so really let ’em soak).  Then rip the leaves away from the stems and place on a baking sheet coated with non-stick spray.  Top with more cooking spray (instead of oil to save some cals!), a little salt and a little black pepper and pop into a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes.  They become crisp and golden and melt in your mouth.  A really great snack or appetizer for hungry girls watching their waistlines!

Check out those sweaters. We don't play around.

For a Christmas Eve appetizer, I pinterest-ed a recipe (did I mention I’m on Pinterest now?  And obsessed with Pinterest?  Well, I am.) And I found mini toothpick caprese salads.  So easy, so healthy, so beautiful!  I’m even going to make a balsamic glaze to drizzle over the top.

Christmas Day is my favorite.  Because I come from a large Italian family, we do things in a traditional way.  And by tradition, I mean we eat and drink for approximately 6-8 hours and pass out in food comas at the end of the night.

Food Coma 101... Christmas 2007!

Christmas is a time for family and the Torto family’s ancient recipe for homemade raviolis.  These are no joke, my friends.  We already made them (in November) and they are sitting in plastic baggies in my aunt’s basement freezer waiting for their bath in from-scratch, simmered-for-hours tomato sauce.

Christmas day is served in multiple courses.  Antipasti, then escarole soup, then the ravs with meatballs, sausages and pork, then salad, then dessert.  Not to mention the finger foods we munch on before sitting down to the table or the bottles and bottles of Asti Spumonti and 2-Buck-Chuck red wine we go through.

This is Asti and it will be gone.

And that’s only with my family.  I mentioned that Stephen is Italian too, didn’t I?  That’s a whole ‘nother story (and food coma..)

I hope your holiday is filled with family, friends, and great food.  And maybe a surprise or two!

Beautiful pillows of ravioli perfection. Photo courtesy of Miss Ali Reed.

DanceWorks Boston Winter Show 2011 (and some good news)

Hello all!  I am in the BEST mood today and it’s because of a few things.

Well, it’s Friday and that always puts me in a good mood.  I’m also SO close to being done with my first semester of grad school.  Also school-related, I found out this week that I got into BU’s summer program.  Read: I’m going to LONDON for 6 weeks this summer to cover the Summer Olympics.  NBD.  That’ll be a post to come but I screamed and jumped up and down on the couch when I got my e-mail.

Finally, tonight is opening night for the DanceWorks Boston winter show!

DWB Winter 2011 Choreographers... Yeah buddy!

After 3 months of intense rehearsals and an awesome tech week, DWB could not be more ready to perform tonight and tomorrow night at the Boston University Dance Theater.

I’ve said it before but DanceWorks is one of the reasons why I haven’t lost my sanity this past year.  It’s also where I have met some of my best friends in the entire world, been myself, gotten to choreograph and be choreographed.We really are a family and I am so blessed to be a part of such an incredible group.

Opening night.  Ready, set, WORK.

Weekly Gratitude

It’s been a really long time since I did a Weekly Gratitude post.  Sometimes when I’m stressed out or just really busy, I forget about the things that are really important.

I’m thankful for dance.  This is a frequent flyer on my Weekly Gratitude list but it deserves to be there every single time.  I’ve had the amazing opportunity to choreograph, see my visions come to life, meet some of my best friends, and be a complete goofball (aka be myself).

How'd that get there?

I’m thankful Thanksgiving is next week.  I get 2 Thanksgivings.  Stephen and I start at my house, have some dinner with my family and leave before dessert to get up to his aunt and uncle’s house in New Hampshire for pie.  We chase it down with Christmas movies because with our families, Christmas starts the moment the Thanksgiving turkey is gone.

I’m thankful for my BU friends (and that our semester is over in 3 weeks).  They are fun and I like them.  Plus, they understand why I want to rip my hair out from stress, mainly because we are all in the same boat.

I’m thankful that I chose BU.  Yes, it’s a ton of work and yes, the commute blows but I already know so much more than I did a mere 3 months ago.  I had almost no experience in front of the camera, minimal experience with editing and didn’t even know what a JVC HD was.  Now, I’m shooting, editing and putting together all of my own stuff and it’s incredibly gratifying when other people like the projects you spend hours and hours on.

I’m thankful for my AC friends.  I don’t get to see them everyday, but the occasions we do get to be together are the absolute best.  I’m so excited for Christmas on the Cape and to give my awesome Secret Santa present.  But I digress.

This is Alyse. I do not have her for Secret Santa but she'd appreciate my gift.

I’m thankful for my family.  Even though sometimes they drive me nuts, family is family and I love mine.

I’m thankful that I have someone special who loves me.  Mushy?  Yes.  But it’s true so it’s there.

He's a saint because he puts up with me. Seriously... ask anyone.

I’m thankful for crafts I can do.  I’m not a crafty person.  I can’t draw, paint, build, sculpt.  But once in a while, I’ll come across something that is “so simple, you can do it with your kids.”  Well, if small children can make these Christmas gifts, so can I, damn it.

I’m thankful I have a 5K tomorrow.  Did I really just say that?  I probably won’t feel that way when I wake up tomorrow but it’s still true.  After last month’s rough Witch City race, I’m ready to get back to PR-ing.  Here that stomach? Be cool, okay?

TELL ME!!  What are you thankful for today?  I’ll be thankful you told me!


It’s officially the middle of November.. when the hell did that happen?

I only have 3 full weeks left in my first semester of grad school.  That is an amazing sentence.  I could do a cartwheel with that sentence.

The beginning of November included lots of filming, lots of editing, some friend-filled parties, more editing, a trip up the the Tonry Tree Farm in New Hampshire, applying for the London Summer program at BU, dancing, running, and some freaking out.  There is always a little bit of freaking out.  Here’s the first half of my month picture-style:

My best friends from undergrad and I have pulled Secret Santa names and determined a theme (let’s just say it centers around sports).  This is going to be an interesting gift swap!  I already bought my gift and it’s AWESOME.

Best Friends at Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grille

This is RD Sahl.  You may know him.  He was an anchor on NECN forever.  He’s now one of my teachers. 

We're his favorites.

This is what we call a Live Shot.  It took a few tries but we got there.

I want to be on TV when I grow up.

And when my DanceWorks friends get together, well, wine and dancing are always the most populat combination.

Is that white wine in my glass? All the red must've been gone.

And we learn dances sometimes.

Check out that pose.

And this is Fred.

He’s a great snuggle buddy.

That’s been my month up til now.  Running has been more of a priority this month and dance has been the top priority in my workout world.  The DanceWorks Boston show is less than a month away (only 2 rehearsals left!) and I’m so excited. 

So what’s coming up?

This weekend:

I’ll be driving up to Hampton Falls, NH again this weekend but this time, it’s to film for my final project for my Visual Media class.  The Tonry Tree Farm (where we get our tree) has agreed to let me capture their beautiful farm and their history on camera.  I think it’s going to be the perfect Christmas ending to my semester.

Family dinner to follow that night… my parents, Stephen’s parents.  They’re best friends, it’s all very cute.  I’ll be going to bed on the early side because I have my fourth 5K race, the Lynnfield Turkey Trot, on Sunday morning.  I’m gunning for that PR and my goal is to run it around 32:00 but anything under 32:30 works for me!

Next week is a 3 day week school/work week!  2 days of class + 1 day of work + 1 amazing holiday + Black Friday = Happy Marie.

Next Thursday is obviously Thanksgiving and I will be creating some healthier versions of my favorite holiday foods.  Example: Hungry Girl’s stuffing with apples and cranberries.  I’ll also be sticking to lots of veggies and some white meat turkey.  And probably a small slice of Boyfriend’s apple pie because it’s just that good.

Black Friday is not a typical shopping day for my family.  I don’t enjoy the 5am rush to the mall.  I don’t enjoy being pushed and shoved for “on sale” items that are still over-priced.  I do enjoy listening to Christmas music and driving an hour to New Hampshire.  We spend the day shopping for something very special: our Christmas Tree!  Together, Stephen’s family and my family go up to the Tonry Tree Farm, find our (very large) trees, make Stephen cut them down, strap them to the hoods of our cars, make a pitstop at Market Basket for some tax-free beverages and then head home to put the trees up  and decorate all. night. long.

Well, I’m certainly not going to do that…

Next Saturday means homemade raviolis and my 5-year high school reunion.  Strange.  5 years.. seriously?  I’m kind of excited though.  I get to see people I haven’t seen in a really long time and I think it’ll be fun.  And Sunday is my friend Sandy’s 24th birthday which we will be celebrating the following Tuesday night.  The rest of the month leaves a couple of paper deadlines, lots of filming and editing and getting ready for the end of the semester/my dance show/Christmas!!

I wanna know… what are you looking forward to most this month?  What is your favorite thing to eat on Thanksgiving?  Is it too early for you to listen to Christmas music?  (I don’t think it is….)

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

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!

End of summer, beginning of fall

I categorize the sad ending of summer in two different ways.  The first – when I officially finish my last NDA camp.  This happened on Saturday when I ended 2 back-to-back camps: Shen in New York and Bryant University in Rhode Island.

We work really hard at camp... That would be me as a dead staffer.

The second time I say goodbye to the summer is the first day of September (aka tomorrow.)  After Irene, there is an autumn chill in the air up here in Boston.  As much as I love the hot days of summer, I also bask in the cooler breeze of fall.

One of the best parts living up here in the fall is watching the leaves change colors.  Another is carving pumpkins, apple picking, then cooking with said pumpkins and apples.  I also love when I have lots of things to look forward to and this is definitely the time of year when it happens on a regular basis.

Monkey Trunks.  Has anyone ever heard of this place?  It’s in NH on Weirs Beach.  Apparently, it’s like a jungle gym for adults.  With harnesses.  And heights.  And nets in case you fall.  And medical waivers.  Clearly, this was not my idea.  I’m just being dragged along for the ride.  Could be fun.

School starts.  Hello Boston University COM.  You are a lovely building.  I think we’ll be great friends.  Conveniently located only .87 miles from the beautiful BU gym?  That was really nice of you to consider me like that.  Side note: When my mom asked me the other day “What types of notebooks do you want?” it brought me back to 4th grade when Anne Frank was popular.  Good ‘ol nostalgia..

10K Training.  6 weeks, 6.2 miles.  And I plan on crushing  (I’ll try not to throw up the process… No guarentees though.)  Follow my progress on my new 10K Training page!

Dance.  3 nights a week and I could not be happier.  Choreographing “Hello World” is both wonderful and heartbreaking.  “Sideways” hits home in more ways than one.  “Suckerpunch” and “Superbass” are high energy and just fun.  And “Crazy Crazy Insane” will be sexy as hell.  Keep an eye out of video updates.

Sweaty and happy

Boston Brunchers dinner at Lil Vinny’s Ristorante.  Good thing I check my e-mail 4543 times a day or I might have missed Renee’s invite for a free, family-style dinner at Lil Vinny’s in Somerville with the Boston Brunchers on Thursday night.  Lots of pics and a review will be coming your way!

Boston Brunchers brunch at Local 149 .  Once again, my OCD-like behavior of checking my e-mail wins.  I originally didn’t get the opportunity to be apart of this brunch but since Irene caused an uproar, they moved it and I snagged a seat!

Chocolate & Wine’s 1st Blogiversary.  I started my little blog on September 7, 2010 never knowing that people would want to read it and that I’d get so much support for it.  I am so grateful for all of the friends I’ve made and the different events I get to go to through my blog.  Thank you to everyone for making Chocolate & Wine a success.

Stephen’s 24th Birthday.  Man, he’s getting old.  I like to remind him of it everyday.  He doesn’t mind (much).  However, he is probably one of the most difficult people on the planet to buy a present for so this year, we are doing something a little different.  It includes dinner and Boston.  Hopefully it’s a success.

Yeah, we're cute like that.

Raechel’s Bacheloretty Party.  I mean, who doesn’t love dinner, drinks and dancing with a good friend who’s about to tie the knot?  I’m a big fan.

Turn that martini into a shot and we have Raechel's Bacheloretty Party.

Races.  Run for Ryan 5K on September 17th. Tufts Women’s 10K on October 19th. Witch City 5K on October 23rd.  I’m going to make it rain PRs all over those 5Ks.  And in Salem, I’m gunna do it in costume.  Watch out now.  PS – if you want to run one with me, let me know and I’ll send you the info! (Head’s up – I run slow.)

George & Julie’s Wedding.  After a long 2-year engagement, my cousin George is marrying his fiance, Julie.  Seriously, she could not be more right for him.  And of course, we can expect lots of crying from this girl right here.  Damn emotions.

My Sister’s 21st Birthday.  Finally.  She’s kept me waiting long enough.  Now we can have some real big kid fun.

Halloween.  Candy, costumes, parties… enough said.

That takes us through October.  I also plan on having my first giveaway for my blog’s 1st anniversary.  Lots of people right now are doing “Favorite Things” giveaways and I’m jumping right on that bandwagon.  If you want in, check back around the 7th!   Until then, follow me on Twitter for updates – @ChocoAndWine.

I wanna know… What are you looking forward to most this fall?  Any suggestions for what to put in my “Favorites” giveaway?

Weekend Recap & My First Race Week!

As you can see from my previous post, I have lots of RUNNING related things going on this week.  But I don’t want to miss out on recapping my wonderful weekend because it was jam-packed and full of fun.  Makes me wish every day was the weekend.

On Friday night, my friend/co-worker/Work Mama, Tracie, invited me to a wine tasting at a friend’s house.  We drank copious amounts of wine, ate lots of crudites, hummus and oreo truffles (made by me, which everyone loved!) and I met lots of wonderful people.  I took an extensive amount of notes during the tasting, per the English major in me, and learned quite a bit.

The party host, Dawn, from The Traveling Vineyard brought 5 wines for each of us to sample: 2 whites, 2 reds and 1 dessert.  She encouraged us to grab different finger foods to try with each.  The wines included Sauvignion Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignion.  Dawn told us that the proper way to try a wine is to use four categories: color, aroma, taste and legs.  Yes, legs.  The more “legs” a glass of wine has, the more alcoholic it is.  For example, if you swirl a glass of Sauvignion Blanc, the drip lines down the glass will be few, if any, and very thin.  But if you swirl a Cabernet and glance at the legs, they will run thick and numerous.  This is because the alcohol content is much higher in red wines than whites.  It was a great educational experience as well as an excuse to drink lots of wine.  Win-win.  Thanks Tracie!

Saturday was my dad’s 59th birthday.  (Happy Birthday Daddy!)  He took the day off from work to…work.  Around the house.  He likes that sort of thing.  Boyfriend and I went out for a walk along my 5K route in Marblehead around 1 but after a mere mile, it started pouring.  HARD.  We quickly abandoned the walk and headed to the mall to buy gifts for Mother’s Day where we waited in the obnoxious Pandora line for an hour.  Good thing he’s funny.  I would’ve been so bored alone.

On the way home, we picked up additional Mother’s Day gifts (a bottle of Midori for his mom from me and a bottle of red wine to my mom from him), a new bottle of Merlot for us, bought dinner ingredients at Hannaford’s and by the time we got back to his house, we had gotten it into our heads to make homemade wheat bread (a 3-hour process), turkey chili and profiteroles for dessert.  Perfect for a Saturday night at home.

Let me just say – the worst part about breadmaking is the WAIT.  We used this awesome recipe from a blog I found called Hot Mess Cooking.  It is a lengthy process so I’ll let you jump over there for it’s entirety.  The yeast expanded, the dough rose, we punched it, it rose again but it just takes patience…which we all know I don’t have so I proceeded to throw flour around the kitchen and boss Stephen around to pass the time.  He always loves when I do that.

Here’s what the bread looked like. It was so good.

The chili recipe, adapted from Weight Watchers, is easy and requires 1 (maybe 2) pots/pans for the entire cooking time.  We like to throw in a few extra things (mushrooms, turkey kielbasa, a jalapeno, red pepper flakes and hot sauce) but a little heat never hurts.  Just make sure to chaperone the pot if your significant other is heavy-handed with the Sriracha sauce.  That stuff hurts.

Dessert was a classic from 17th century France: profiteroles.  Simply put, these are hollow pastry puffs, light and airy that are split apart making the perfect canvas for ice cream, whipped cream, pastry cream, etc.  We made ours from a basic combination of flour, nutmeg, eggs, butter and water,placed a small scoop of vanilla bean ice cream in the middle and then doused the tops in semi-sweet chocolate.  It was hard not to eat all of them.  Warm and dainty, but so light you don’t feel (as) guilty about that extra scoop of ice cream on the side or eating the chocolate sauce out of the bowl.  All-in-all, a good Saturday.

Sunday = Mother’s Day and I got to spend it with the fam at my sister’s college.  After a mid-day dinner at Bertucci’s (I got the special salad: arugala, orange, roasted red peppers, grilled chix with a lemon dressing and balsamic glaze) and a Mocha Light Frappuccino from Starbucks (happy hour, dur), we headed home.

I sat around for 10 minutes and decided to head to the gym.  I figured I’d do a short run (20 minutes or so) and get some strength training in.  I settled myself onto the treadmill with a new playlist and told myself I would run to the end of it.  At the end of it, I replayed a 5:22 song Kanye’s “The New Workout Plan” and decided to finish that.  At that point, I took my sweater down from the tread to see my time and I was at 3.01.  Since I started the run at .33 after a 5-minute walk, I decided to push the end of the 3 miles.  I clocked it at about 32:20 and marked the completion of my Couch to 5K training.  I was so happy, I thought I was going to cry.  I walked to cool down, did some strength and some abs, drained 2 water bottles and left feeling accomplished (and very very sweaty.)

Looking ahead to this week…

So it’s my first race week ever, but since this is no 26.6 mile race, I don’t feel that “tapering” really applies to me yet.  Here’s what I’ve got planned for the week workout-wise…

Monday: Cross trainer, arms, Dance 7-8
Today: Run the 5K route, abs, sides, arms
Wednesday: Cross trainer, thighs, sides, abs, Dance 7-9
Thursday: Run the 5K route, abs, sides, arms, Dance 7-8
Friday: REST!
Saturday: Well.. duh.

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

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.

Weekly Gratitude

Hooray for Friday!  I know I’ve only had a 4-day work week (so spoiled..) but I’m really excited about this weekend.  It’s Easter .. duh .. and that means spending time with my family, eating good food and being thankful… I figured a Friday Weekly Gratitude was appropriate.

  • Thank you to my sister, Melissa.  She’s home from college for Easter break and man, she’s a funny kid.  She came with me to 2 nights of dance practice and totally showed me up in hip-hop.  I told her to stop being better at it than me.  She doesn’t listen.
  • Thank you to Marathon Monday for giving me the day off from work and giving me something else to strive for.  Those Boston runners are incredible!
  • Thank you to the sun.  It’s nice to finally see you.  Would you mind warming the Boston area up just a bit more?
  • Thank you to flip-flops.  I’ve missed you.
  • Thank you to Boston University’s Accepted Student’s Day.  It was so well-organized and everyone running it was beyond helpful.  I know I am making the right decision to go there for graduate school and I pray that I get picked to study abroad in London next summer to cover the Olympics! ::Fingers crossed::
  • Thank you to my high school friends who have recently gotten back in touch.  We’re getting together tomorrow and it’ll be so great to talk and catch up after a long time apart.
  • Thank you again to the people I work with.  The days go by faster and the crazors are a little easier to deal with because of you.
  • Thank you to my Nuna for everything she has given me.  Most recently paying my (very expensive) BU deposit.  She is amazing.
  • Thank you to my grandmother… another Easter with us and still going strong.  She is the cornerstone of our family.  We love you Grammy.
  • Thank you to Easter Sunday.  A day of love, family and faith.

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.