Monday, March 28, 2011

Dear World, I Am Alive... Dear Vegas, I Miss You

As I stated in my list of 5 interesting facts about being a blogger when you leave readers for days, they tend to get worried. Or the start "un-liking" you on Facebook. Ouch.

So I would like you all to know I survived Vegas.

My diet/waist did not.
Unless half-yard daiquiris are a part of my diet, which, in that case, I did fabulously.
Ugh. I have no will power. 

Okay so now that I've informed you I am alive and slightly worse for the wear, I want to share one story. I know I know What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas. But this story is just too good to keep to myself. 

The Squirt Incident

We were walking around one afternoon, checking out the sites after being at our bottomless mimosa buffet for 4 HOURS when we stopped in The Venetian to take a look at the strip from their balcony. Once up there we decided it was the perfect setting for a picture. My friend, who had just picked up a Squirt at the Walgreens placed it on the railing before settling in for the photo. I nearly bumped it and told him "I will knock that bottle over, be careful." But of course no one paid it any mind and it stayed right there. We found a person to take the photo and I took my place. I reached around to put my arm around my friends shoulder when, OF COURSE, I smacked the bottle off the balcony! My friend reached for it but it was too late. The mostly full bottle plummeted to ground. Unsuspecting people were SHOWERED in Squirt soda when the bottle burst open! Squeals were heard but I didn't look. As soon as that bottle slipped off the ledge I took off! I couldn't face it. They managed to wrangle me back in for a quick picture before we all ran away. Later that night while at a club I had not one, not two, but THREE drinks dropped right at my feet! My legs were covered in sticky, miscellaneous alcoholic beverages. Well that's what I get! I knew it was karmic retribution for what is now aptly dubbed "The Squirt Incident."

Oh Vegas, you never disappoint.

Okay, now, lets hear your story!
Tell me your funniest Vegas story in the comment section below (PG please).  
The funniest story will win a special Vegas themed PRIZE!!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Earth Hour: A Science Lesson


Have you heard of Earth Hour?
If you haven't, let me drop some knowledge on you.

Earth Hour is an event started in Australia in 2007 as a way for the Aussies to show their commitment to conserving energy and to stopping climate change.
The event was so powerful that the following year, 2008, the whole world joined in.

What is this powerful event you ask?
It's simple. For one hour every year, from 8:30 - 9:30 (local time) shut off your power and unplug the items that don't need to be plugged in.
That's it!

So simple but with a huge impact.

In 2009 hundreds of millions of people took part in Earth Hour. Iconic landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge, the Eiffel Tower, the Roman Colosseum, and the Las Vegas Strip "stood in darkness, as a symbol of hope for a cause that grows more urgent by the hour."

Las Vegas Strip, Earth Hour, 2010

Last year, 2010, was the largest Earth Hour thus far. With 128 countries joining it stands as the largest volunteer global climate change initiative in history.

This year Earth Hour is this Saturday, March 26th and I'll be up there, in Las Vegas, celebrating a birthday with a great friend. The same friend, in fact, who reminded me of the importance of this event. She has a blog, many little deeds, that highlights all the little things a person can do in their daily life to make a difference. She's a new blogger (thanks to my encouragement) and celebrating a birthday this Friday so go show her some love and let her know if you are going to participate in Earth Hour!
 
Now is the time to join the rest of the world in saving the only home we have!
 
Once again...
 This Saturday, March 26th, 2011
8:30 - 9:30 (local time)

Vote Earth! Your light switch is your vote!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Guinness Cupcakes with Bailey's Cream Cheese Frosting

 GET OUTTA HERE! Don't these look AWESOME!?

These are some super grown up cupcakes. I'm talking full of booze and chocolate. Super delish!

I'm not even gonna go into any serious dialogue right now cause I want you to get to the recipe.

What I will say is that a room full of St. Patty's Day green beer drinkin', car bomb shootin', drunk-o ladies TORE into these cupcakes when they came home from the bar. That right there is a pretty high compliment. One even told me that she had thought about them the entire night and couldn't wait to get back and try one!
It doesn't get much nicer than that!

Oh and sorry these aren't a healthy recipe. I know I said March is gonna be all healthy recipes but with cupcakes like these they'll go so fast you won't have time to try more than one!

Guinness Cupcakes with Bailey's Cream Cheese Frosting
 Recipe from Nook & Pantry

Ingredients:
Cupcakes - 
2 C unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 C Dutch processed cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 C granulated sugar
1/2 C light or dark brown sugar
4 oz./1/2 C unsalted softened butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 egg
1/2 C sour cream
1 12 fl. oz. bottle/1 1/2 C Guinness or stout beer

Frosting - 
1 8oz. bar of cream cheese, softened
1 4oz. stick of unsalted butter, softened
2 C confectioner’s sugar
4 – 6 Tablespoons of Bailey’s Irish Cream

*Do not be overwhelmed by the ingredient list or the recipe! Almost everything is already in your pantry, with the exception of maybe the Guinness and Bailey's... unless you're Irish. hehe Then you should be all set. And this is a homemade cake mix and frosting. If you go box mix and canned frosting, I won't tell, I promise. But trust me when I say homemade makes all the difference.

Directions: 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter or line with paper cups 2 12 count muffin tins.

In a large bowl briefly whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy.

Add one egg and beat until evenly mixed and fluffy, make sure to scrape down the mixer bowl once in a while. Add the second egg and vanilla extract and beat again until light and fluffy.

Add the sour cream and beat in, then with the mixer running, slowly pour in the Guinness.

Sift the dry ingredients into the batter and slowly stir the batter until it is evenly mixed and there are no streaks of flour. Make sure to stop the mixer frequently to scrape down the sides and make sure to mix up any flour pockets hidden on the bottom of the bowl.

Divide 1/4 C of batter into each muffin cup, you’ll get about 20 – 24 cupcakes.

Bake at 350 degrees F on the middle rack for 20 – 25 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake in the middle of the pan should come out clean. Make sure to rotate the pans halfway through baking. Set on a rack to cool to room temperature before frosting.

For layer cakes: baking 25 – 30 minutes, rotate the pans around halfway, a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes should come out clean.


Finally, the frosting. Oh Joy!
In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or with a hand mixer, add the cream cheese, butter, and confectioner’s sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Slowly drizzle in the Bailey’s, more or less depending on how boozey you want the frosting, and beat until completely incorporated into the frosting.

Commence scarfing!! NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM!!!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Reduced Guilt Irish Nacho Cups

With St. Patty's Day upon us, I fear for my diet. I have been so good. I have cut out greasy food, I've been hitting the gym, and I've cut out drinking beer almost completely. Not that I go very often but I don't think I've been to a bar in a couple months now saving me even more temptation. But with St. Patty's Day evening approaching the call of the Irish is heard loud and clear in this house.

To go out or not to go out for St. Patty's Day festivities, that is the question.

Not only will I be surrounded by beer (and loud college students...blah) but I will be tempted to consume massive amounts of bar food! 
And what would be more perfect on St. Patty's Day then IRISH NACHOS!?

Oh potato, cheese, jalapeno, sour cream, salsa-y, meltyness!

But no! I mustn't! I must be strong. And so should you!

So here is my version of Irish Nachos, muffinized.
(Please note, the pictures don't show the salsa and its hard to see the jalapenos cause they are chopped fine.)

Reduced Guilt Irish Nacho Cups
Recipe by ME!

Ingredients:
Vegetable spray
2 large russet potatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 cup grated Lite Sharp Celtic cheddar
1 or 2 jalapeno(s), finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fat Free sour cream
 
Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Spray 8 muffin tins with vegetable spray. Layer potato slices, cheese, and jalapenos into each muffin cup. Season with salt and pepper and top each gratin with 1 or 2 tablespoons of lite sour cream. Cover with foil and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, removing the foil halfway through cooking time. Invert gratins onto plate and serve.

Serve with a side of pico de gallo. Eat them all, they are guilt free! hehe Okay maybe just 4 or 5.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread Muffins

Here are 5 interesting facts about being a blogger:

1. Bloggers can be celebrities to some.


3. Not posting for a week or so makes readers uneasy and worried for your health. Unfortunately, in some cases, this is a reality :0(

4. If you don't post for days, your already small number of followers drops, making you all kinds of depressed.

5. Reaching 100 followers is a milestone, like getting married or having a baby. I plan on throwing a party complete with Mariachi.

5. Bloggers tend to live the year almost a week in advance.
  
Not sure what I mean? Let me explain.
If you are like me you start looking for recipes for holidays a couple days in advance. Recipes for holiday parties, like St.Patty's Day or Valentine's Day must be prepared with the most delicious, awe inspiring dish. I take my time, first moving through familiar blogs seeing what kind of food they are preparing. Sometimes I find recipes from the previous year, but more often than not, the recipes I find the most appetizing were created that year... before that specific holiday even took place!

So imagine on Feb 1st many bloggers are creating Valentine's Day treats and crafts for readers. Same for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We have to cook delicious recipes in advance so you all can have the appropriate menus for your party.
It may not seem that weird to you, but to me it seems so odd! Imagine cooking a Thanksgiving turkey towards the beginning of November... I'd seem so wrong. But we do it!

Hehe thats a long winded way of saying I have a St. Patty's Day recipe for you... before St. Patty's Day!

Now I haven't forgotten that were trying to healthy over here at DYKTMP? so this recipe is low in fat and full of whole wheat-y goodness.
And it's Irish!

Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread Muffins

Ingredients: 
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp agave nectar*
1 cup low fat 1% buttermilk**
1 large egg, beaten
3 oz raisins (about 2/3 cup)
cooking spray

*Keep this stuff around. It's fantastic! We get ours at Trader Joe's.
**Who has buttermilk on hand? Not me! But have no fear, you can make it. Take 1 cup milk and add 1tbsp of white vinegar OR lemon juice. Let it sit for 5 mins and you got yourself some buttermilk! 

Directions:  

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray muffin tin with butter flavor cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl combine all dry ingredients (flour,baking powder, baking soda, and salt). Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a small bowl, stir together buttermilk, agave and egg until blended. Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and stir to combine. Stir in raisins.

3. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center of one muffin comes out clean.

4. Remove tin and cool on a wire rack for about 5 minutes before removing muffins from tin; finish cooling on rack. Serve warm or cool completely and store muffins in an airtight container or ziplock bags at room temperature. Makes 12 muffins.

5. Eat one and say "Well whadayaknow, these are positively delicious!" with a cute Irish accent!
Happy St. Patrick's Day to ya!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Braille Institute and The Cultural Kitchen

 6 weeks ago the students embarked on a project organized by Hosteling International, San Diego.
Hosteling International is an organization to help promote cross cultural appreciation. 70 years old, this organization runs two hostel in San Diego, housing about 15,000 travelers a year. Their motto explains their purpose perfectly:
 
"To help all, especially the young, gain a greater understanding of the world and it's people through hosteling."

The students are to choose a country, study it, evaluate what they've learned, present what they've learn, and finally cook a meal from that country!

We choose Greece. Well, more like the Youth Assistants choose Greece.

After 3 weeks of learning about Greece, discussing it, studying the food and creating a menu, we arrived on the big day, COOKING DAY!

Here is where all the action begins... 
THE FOOD!

Next, hard at work, we have...
THE CHEFS!
 Here we have Katie, Youth Coordinator Braille Institute and Austin, Bagpipe Player Extraordinary. 

This is Matt, Cultural Kitchen Coordinator at Hosteling International and Leo, the Smooth Talker. 

Then there's Abakar, Ryan, and Mark, aka The Hair.

Beautiful Michele, Drakes #1 Fan.

Ian, Our Resistent Kempo Master

Ian, Tap Dance King

Here are Brooke and LaBroi, and Kelvin in the back, Youth Assistants.

Michelle, Youth Assistant and DJ Jose.

 Juan, AJ, and Ivan

 JAZZY!

 Me, Youth Assistant and Zion, Best Listener.

Sydney, Official Taste Tester

And last, but definitely not least, Jerry the Guide Dog. No kitchen is complete without one!

Next,
THE MENU!
 To start, we had pita, hummus, and a Greek salad.

 Turned out nicely.

Juan, AJ, and Ivan making the first layer of Moussaka.

Here is the cream sauce to go on top of moussaka. Oh hey there's Juliet, Chili's #1 Employee!

Zion and Matt putting the final finishing touches on the sauce...

...Before it gets poured ALLLL over! 
SOO YUMMY!

And now my team.
Team Honey Cake. 
Of course I asked to do the dessert.
Doesn't that look yummy?

Finally, 
THE PRESENTATION!
We had a few parents come, which was great!
And finally, to end a great night...
A DANCE PARTY!
Another successful Braille event!!
Stay tuned for the recipes!

Braille Institute and I

For the past few months I have been working as a Youth Assistant at the Braille Institute of America in La Jolla, San Diego.

If you asked me when I started how I like the job, I would have told you I wasn't too keen on it. While I instantly loved the kids, the job is almost entirely driving. Not my favorite thing to do. Also, my day starts around 2 or 3pm. I felt like my whole day was a waste because I just hung around all morning waiting for work to start. And then after about 4 hours of driving, I often get home close to 7 or 8 or even 9. 
I thought "This definitely isn't an ideal job for me."

But ask me now how I feel, almost 5 months later, and I'll tell you...

I frickin' adore it!  
I really like the adults that I work with and I am gaga for my students!

The driving has gotten SO much better. I don't get lost anymore, which was obviously a drag. I've also found better ways to use my mornings, like sewing, and cleaning hehe.

I am learning so much. I get to try some really fun activities. So far I've taken dance, kempo (martial arts), tap, and drum lessons with the students.

I am also learning a lot about the visually impaired. Visually impaired doesn't mean helpless. That honestly was a major one. I'm hoping to share some of that knowledge with you here. It won't get in the way of my muffinizing the world, but it's so much a part of my life that I want to share it with you all.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mediterranean Polenta Cup

I really like polenta.

It is so versatile. You can bake it, mash it, fry it, and of course, muffinize it.

My boyfriend however, he wasn't so sure of it.

It took some convincing at the grocery store the other day to add it to the shopping cart. I told him "It's good, I swear." But I guess after one bad experience with a type of food it takes a lot of therapy and hypnosis to change your mind. I, of course, pleaded with him saying "It's for the blog!" Of course, he couldn't say no.

I always win when I say that.

"Honey, I need to go shopping for rare, expensive, black PĂ©rigord truffles. It's for the blog!"*

However, after the last few nights of polenta dishes, I think hes coming around. I also let him know that polenta is a good source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and vitamin B6. He was totally on board with that. 

Now, this is a dish I haven't tried yet (mainly because the last few nights our polenta has NOT been in the muffin pan, tragic.) But it is one I plan on trying really soon... before the feta I got goes bad. hehe I just didn't want to keep you all waiting for a recipe much longer. When I make it I'll switch out the photos.

Mediterranean Polenta Cups
Recipe and photo from Taste of Home.

Ingredients:
4 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup yellow cornmeal ( or GRATE instant polenta)
1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 tsp pepper
4 plum tomatoes, finely chopped
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 garlic clove, minced

Directions:
1. In a large heavy saucepan, bring water and salt to a boil. Reduce heat to a gentle boil; slowly whisk in cornmeal. Cook and stir with a wooden spoon for 15-20 minutes or until polenta is thickened and pulls away cleanly from the sides of the pan. Remove from the heat; stir in thyme and pepper.

2. Spoon heaping tablespoonfuls into miniature muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Using the back of a spoon, make an indentation in the center of each. Cover and chill until set. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the tomatoes, feta cheese, basil and garlic.

3. Unmold polenta cups and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Top each with 1 heaping tablespoon of tomato mixture. Broil 4 in. from the heat for 5-7 minutes or until heated through. Yield: 2 dozen.

4. Serve at a party or divide the mixture into large muffin cups and bake for dinner. 

*For the record, I never got those rare, expensive black perigord truffles. I guess my hold over him isn't as strong as I thought. hehe

Monday, March 7, 2011

Meatless Monday: A History Lesson

My boyfriend and I have been trying to find ways to lower our calorie intact during the week. Aside from trying to eat healthy we wanted to do something that took minimal effort but had a big impact.

What we came up with was Meatless Mondays! 


Now this is not a new idea. I didn't make it up. I'm not that clever.

During World War I, Meatless Monday began as a volunteer campaign. The U.S. Food Administration, under president Woodrow Wilson, urged families to refrain from eating meat on Mondays (as well as wheat on Wednesdays) to aid in the war effort. To encourage busy families even further, Herbert Hoover, head of the Food Administration, created booklets, recipes, and menus printed in magazines and newspaper to get the word out to the masses.



The impact of this movement was overwhelming. Over “10 million families, 7,000 hotels and nearly 425,000 food dealers pledged to observe national meatless days.” The amount of food saved was staggering. In one week alone, New York City hotels save some 116 tons of meat. This was the beginning of food reflection. According to an 1929 Evening Post article, “Americans began to look seriously into the question of what and how much they were eating.”

The movement was such a success that campaign returned during FDR and Truman’s presidency to assist in feeding those starving in Europe during World War II.

Jumping to present day, in 2003, Meatless Mondays returned in full force as a public awareness program associated with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future. The goal of the campaign was to reduce the risk of preventable disease by cutting back on saturated fat as well show the impact meat had on climate change.

Even famous people are on board! In 2009, Paul McCartney and his daughters Stella and Mary launched their own crusade for Meat-free Mondays. Chef Mario Batali and former Vice President Al Gore speak out for meatless Mondays and its impact on the environment. 

Countries such as Australia, The Netherlands, Israel, Canada and the US have supported this idea and implemented them in their own ways. San Francisco became the first city to officially declare Mondays as “meat free” appropriately dubbing it “Vegetarian Day.” Always so clever San Francisco! Tehe And the Baltimore School District became the first meatless Monday cafeterias in the country.

Over the years many magazines and newspapers such as Woman’s Day, Washington Post, AARP Magazine, etc have included Meatless recipes to encourage healthy eating habits. 

Now many blogs have adopted meatless Mondays as well. My favorite is Ezra Pound Cake. The website includes great meatless recipes, as well as beautiful photos and entertaining writing.

I want to encourage everyone (as well as myself) to try Meatless Mondays!
It’s good for ya and the environment!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sicilian Rice Cups

Sicilian. 
Another hot topic.
Ask most people and they'd say Sicilians are Italians. Sicily is a part of Italy, therefore they are all Italians. 

If my grandmother were alive she'd get all kinds of crazy on you!
 Siclians are not Italians!
We are Sicilian. End of story.

I am Sicilian. End of story.

So when I came across this lightened version (and remember, we are cooking light this month) of a traditional Sicilian appetizer/dish I was very excited to try it. And muffinize it!

The recipe is a take on the Arancini, Sicilian Fried Rice Balls, or "little oranges." Traditionally, Arancini is made with rice, peas, ragu, and mozzarella. You mix all those ingredients together,  roll in small balls, cover them in breadcrumbs and fry them. Instead of new rice and peas, many Sicilian families would take left over risotto and peas (another classic) and turn that into Arancini. Doesn't that sound delish!?

Today we have a nice light version of this recipe, sans the frying, courtesy of Skinnytaste.com

Sicilian Rice Cups

Ingredients:
2 cups uncooked long grain rice
4 cups water
2 (5 oz) sweet Italian sausage link, casing removed
1/4 cup onion, minced 
salt and fresh pepper
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 cups tomato sauce
1/3 cup egg beaters or egg whites (or 1 whole egg)
1/2 cup pecorino romano
cooking spray
Seasoned breadcrumbs
1 1/4 cup shredded part skim mozzarella 

*Note: I like my recipes simple and user friendly. If you don't have some of these ingredients, improvise. Leave out the meat, substitute for ground turkey, use Parmesan instead of pecorino. Your choice. The most important part is the rice, egg, sauce, cheese and breadcrumbs.

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400f. Cook rice in water according to package directions. Set aside to cool.

2. Meanwhile, sauté sausage meat; cook until no longer pink, breaking up into pieces with a wooden spoon. Add onions and cook until browned. Season with salt and pepper to taste, add peas and 1 1/2 tomato sauce. Cover and let simmer for about 20 minutes.

3. In a large bowl combine rice, pecorino romano, eggs, and 1/2 cup tomato sauce and mix. Rice should be a bit sticky.

4. Spray your 12 cup muffin pan with cooking spray, add a pinch of bread crumbs to each cup. Divide the rice mixture one spoon at a time into each cup. It should be about 2-3 tbsp for each cup. Pack the rice down. Cover the rice mixture with the sauce (or ragu) the same way as the rice, one spoonful at a time til its gone.  Cover each with a pinch more bread crumbs and the shredded mozzarella. (Feel free to layer  the rice, meat and cheese or mix everything together in one bowl and spoon in. Really however you'd like to do it.)

5. Bake for about 15 minutes covered in foil and another 5-10 with the foil off. It should be bubble and hot all the way through.

6. Scoop out each rice cup and serve. Store the left overs in the fridge and eat for lunch the next day. And maybe also dinner the next night as well. Hehe Add a salad and you got yourself a healthy AND proportioned meal.


P.S. Aren't these photos a VAST improvement from before? They aren't perfect in fact they are a little fuzzy now that I look at them.  I have a "new" (okay, borrowed) camera that I'm using and the pictures are turning out GREAT! And not yellow which I LOVE! Maybe I'll post pictures of the camera... if I can find a way to take nice photos of the camera without the nice camera hehe
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