Sunday, February 24, 2013

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cupcakes

As promised, I am keeping up with this blog of mine! We have 17 days until our engagement picture shoot. I am a borderline starting to panic because 1.) I have not dropped the weight I wanted too, 2.) I still have no idea what I am wearing for it, and 3.) we are doing a stylized picnic scene for the first half of the shoot, and I can't seem to decide what I want it to look like. Allow me to explain:
  • I have lost 5lbs, which I am not complaining about. However, I want to drop 10 more before our pictures, and it isn't looking like that is going to happen. For the life of me I couldn't find the motivation to workout after work - until a recent trip to the mall. I am tired of seeing cute sleeveless dresses and never buying them because I hate my arms. I call my arms turkey legs. You know, the things you buy at the fair? My arms look like the round ends of those. So, I have finally found the motivation I needed! I am going to cut out processed foods and begin working out at least 4 days a week. I may not get the results I want for out engagement pictures, but you better believe I will get them by the time our wedding gets here!
  • I have ordered 4 different dresses online and have sent them all back. I keep searching for the perfect engagement session outfit and hating everything once I receive it. I think at this point I have discovered two things - I don't look good in ivory/white, and I really need to start a water and air diet. On a happy note, I went to the mall on Friday, and I think (fingers crossed) that I finally found something I like! '
  • A stylized shoot is where you have props set up for your pictures. I have several things to use for a picnic style set up, but keep stressing myself out trying to figure out what I want to use and how I want it set up. Leave it to me to complicate even the simplest things!
I am the queen of planning ahead, so winging anything is nearly impossible for me to handle. The same can be said for our engagement shoot. I have planned so much that I am going crazy. I just want to get beautiful pictures that we love for the rest of our lives. Being a perfectionist is really a horrible way to be more often than not. 

I realize I am a week late here, but I felt like baking something Valentine's Day-ish. What could be better than a chocolate covered strawberry cupcake?! These are rich and really taste like an actual chocolate covered strawberry. I've outdone myself folks!

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cupcakes

I chose to use my own personal chocolate cupcake recipe (sorry kids, not sharing that today). Go ahead and use your favorite chocolate cupcake recipe or feel free to use this recipe from My Baking Addiction.

1 (18.25 ounce) package devil’s food cake mix
1 (5.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup warm water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tin with paper liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray.
In the bowl of a standard mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat together the cake and pudding mixes, sour cream, oil, eggs, vanilla and water. Beat for about two minutes on medium speed until well combined.
Using a large cookie scoop, distribute the batter between 24 muffin wells; about 3 tablespoons of batter per well.
Bake in preheated oven for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick entered into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool inside muffin tins for about 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from muffin tins and allow to fully cool on a wire rack. Once cupcakes are cool, prepare your frosting.

Strawberry Buttercream Frosting
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
4-5 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup pureed strawberries

In the bowl of a standard mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed. Gradually add in the powdered sugar until completely incorporated. Add in vanilla and strawberry puree, mix until incorporated. Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes.

Friends, feel free to frost your cupcakes and stop at this point. The next step in my cupcakes is where the process gets sticky...literally. But, if you really want the chocolate covered strawberry taste and feel, this step is necessary. It is a pain, and it is messy - fair warning.

Chocolate Coating
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 tbsp canola oil

Melt the chocolate and oil together in a microwave safe bowl for 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval. Pour chocolate into a wide and short cup. The cup should be wide enough so that you can dip the cupcake inside without touching the sides. Allow the chocolate to cool for 15 minutes after heating.

Take a cupcake, turn it up-side-down, and steadily dip it down into the chocolate up to the point with the frosting meets the cupcake. Pull it straight out of the chocolate, allowing the extra chocolate to drip off into the cup.  Turn the cupcake right-side-up and place it on the wire rack.  The frosting should be completely covered with chocolate but if any shows, use a knife to drizzle some chocolate into the spots where the frosting shows.  Repeat with remaining cupcakes.  Allow the chocolate coating to set-up – this can be done at room temperature or in the fridge for 15 minutes (My frosting did not keep its piping shape, which was quite sad for me. You may want to allow more cooling time than this).

* I chose to keep mine in the refrigerator, as I prefer the taste more this way!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Brown Butter Nutella Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

So far, so good - I am posting again after only a week! No applause necessary friends. It feels good to be back into the blog world. I was telling a friend today how time consuming blogging can be. Although it is tough to make time to post, it is worth it! Time for hobbies is hard living life as a teacher. There are so many things I want to do, but I have no idea when to do it! I'm sure many of you are thinking "Yeah right, teachers get weekends off and tons of breaks!" True to some degree, but at least a few hours of every weekend is spent lesson planning or preparing something for my classroom. Usually, any extra time I have on the weekends is spent trying to have fun outside of the house or relaxing as much as possible to rejuvenate for the upcoming work week. My weekends seem to fly by faster and faster. Where does the time go?

I have found myself missing having a true hobby. Seems lately all I can manage to do is work and wedding plan. When I first started this blog, I was cooking and baking so often that Ryan and I were putting on weight as a result. However, my new plan is to make things and bring leftovers to work. That way, my hobby can live on without my jeans losing the ability to buckle! Speaking of jeans buckling, we went to the Florida State Fair yesterday and ate our weight in food. Here is what we enjoyed in no particular order:
  • Honey Bunches of Oats fried chicken on a stick
  • Bacon wrapped tator tots
  • Steak tips with mushrooms, peppers, and onions
  • Buttermilk corn dog
  • Fried PB n' J on a stick
  • Fried Oreos
  • Chocolate dipped bacon
  • Krispy Kreme doughnut burger
  • Mac n' cheese burger
  • Peach sweet tea
P.S - The sweet tea at the fair is my all time favorite. I wait a year for this stuff! You can see in the below picture that I'm not playing. We do it by the jug, and refilled many times throughout the day.

Thank the lord 3 of us split everything while at the fair and we did not eat all of this on our own. I managed to not gain weight yesterday. However, I'd be willing to bet that my cholesterol is at max-capacity. You would think I'd be in the gym right now after that bad of a binge, right? Wrong. Here I sit, melting into my couch with a glass of sweet tea. I have managed to lose 5lbs simply from dieting and eating small portions in the past 2 weeks, but I am pretty far off from my wedding dress goal. In a perfect world, I want to lose about 20lbs total. It would help if I could motivate myself to work out regularly...or once a week even. The problem is that I drive too far for work to wake up and workout in the morning (I'd be getting up at 4am, no thanks.) By the time I get home from work, I'm so exhausted that I just want to relax. First world problems, I know. I really need to get it together, we are paying too much for wedding pictures for me to feel gross in them! Ryan and I have made a promise to workout together 5 days a week starting tomorrow, so hopefully that helps. Our engagement session is 3 weeks away - we are getting close! 

Valentine's day was a success even with my classroom reaching an all time sugar high. I came home to a doorway full of Valentine's day decor, a sweet card, and my favorite flowers followed with a sushi dinner. We decided to keep it low-key this year because we are saving for the wedding. As of the 18th, our wedding is 8 months away. It will be here before we know it. Our 2 year anniversary is on the 19th, I can't believe how fast the time has flown by in our relationship!

The past weekend was a stressful one. During my lunch break at work on Friday while scanning through Facebook, I found out my step dad was in ICU and undergoing emergency surgery. I was truly panicked, so I left and headed to the hospital to find out what was going on. He suffered 2 blood clots in his leg and a few small embolisms in his lungs. Thank God he caught it early enough and went to the hospital. It was a very scary time, and it was hard to see him hooked up to machines. I am just so blessed and thankful that prayers were answered and everything turned out to be okay. The surgery successfully removed the clots and the doctors believe he will be just fine.

Although things have been somewhat crazed lately, I still managed to make some sinfully delicious chocolate chip cookies. As if the chocolate chip part wasn't enough, they are stuffed with Nutella. Yes, for real.

Brown Butter Nutella Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt
Recipe adapted from Thebitesizedbaker

2¼ cup all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon of salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
1¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon plain greek yogurt
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
½  cup milk chocolate chips
1 jar of Nutella, chilled in refrigerator
Course sea salt for sprinkling

In a large bowl mix flour, baking soda, and salt until combined. In a saucepan over medium heat, brown butter and set aside to cool. (How to brown butter)

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Mix in egg, yolk, vanilla, and yogurt until incorporated. Gradually add the dry ingredients until combined. Fold in chocolate chips.

Place cookie dough in the refrigerator for 2 hours to let the flavors meld together.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Roll 1½ tablespoons of dough and flatten the dough to make a flat circle. Place 1 teaspoon of chilled Nutella in the middle then place another flat circle of cookie dough on top. Crimp edges to seal.

Place dough balls on cookie sheet, 2 inches apart and bake 9-11 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Sprinkle with sea salt and let cool on wire racks.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Cookie Crumb Cupcakes

"Aries motto is "Ready, fire, aim!" It may be backwards for others, but you'd rather figure out what to do while you are doing it. Impulsive actions, however, can bring you your share of trouble. While others are gathering information to make informed decisions, you are already on your way. As such, you could suffer from false starts. In fact, you Aries are so good at starting things that you can be off onto your next project before completing the previous one."

So, those who know me know that I am very into zodiac signs and astrology. To say that I am a textbook definition of an Aries female would be an understatement. For years I have always read how Aries are the first to start something, but never finish or keep up with it. Naturally being stubborn, I refused to believe it. However, when I looked at this blog for the first time in months and realized my last post was in September, I got a rude awakening of how true that is! I guess it has been awhile, huh? Hello again blog world! The start, stop, start Aries is back in action!

The past few months have been action packed. I started a new job teaching kindergarten almost immediately after leaving my previous teaching position. I love the school staff, and have made some really great friends. However, I have an hour commute to and from work. An 8 hour day is ultimately a 10 hour day. By the time I get home, I am exhausted and cooking/baking is the last thing on my mind. So sad, right? :(

Aside from teacher life consuming my time, wedding planning had also been a major factor in my non-blogging behavior. I am thankful to be saving the money, but I definitely see why many brides hire wedding planners. There are so many endless details in planning a wedding, it is truly enough to drive someone insane. I am constantly on Pinterest, Weddinggawker, and Weddingwire. I seriously do not know what I am going to do with my time when our wedding is over. I have to say though, the time and effort is paying off. I know we are going to have an amazing wedding day. I recently found my wedding dress, and it is absolutely stunning! And on a super exciting note, we received a free (yes free) 3-day honeymoon trip to Disney World! We have 2 free 2-day park hoppers and a 3 night stay in a royal guest princess room! With Disney, dreams really do come true! Disney has my heart, always!

I have lost almost 10lbs with diet alone. I still cannot motivate myself to workout after work though. We have our engagement photo session coming up in March, so I have to get it together! Sweets should help...or not! Here is a cupcake recipe I threw together on a whim. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did! On a side note, I was in a hurry and gave one of those cake mix/from scratch ingredient recipes a try. It was tasty, but I will be sticking to my all from scratch vanilla cupcakes. Feel free to use your favorite vanilla recipe or this one:

Cookie Crumb Cupcakes
Cake adapted from Recipe Girl

1 (18.25 ounce) box white cake mix
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated white sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups water
2 Tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
4 large egg whites

Preheat oven to 325°F. Place cupcake liners in cupcake pans.
In a large bowl, whisk together cake mix, flour, sugar and salt. Add remaining ingredients and beat with hand mixer for 2 minutes, or until well blended.
Use ice cream scoop to fill prepared cupcake tins- fill about 3/4 full. Bake about 18 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Chocolate Ganache
9oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream

Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, watching carefully to avoid overflow. When the cream comes to a boil, pour over the chopped chocolate, and whisk until smooth.
Allow ganache to cool for at least 10 minutes before spreading on cupcakes (you can dip cupcakes in as well). Allow ganache to set (I give it an hour or more) before adding frosting.

Cookie Crumb Cream Cheese Frosting
1 8oz package cream cheese
½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4-5 cups powdered sugar (or more depending on desired thickness)
2 cups cookie crumbs (I used crushed Oreos, both regular and golden)

Beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy with the paddle attachment of a standard mixer. Beat in vanilla extract and gradually add powdered sugar. Beat in 1 cup cookie crumbs - add more depending on your preference. 

Spread or pipe frosting onto ganache covered cupcakes. Add cookie crumbs for garnish.