3 Minute Chocolate “Cup” Cakes

1 Feb

This is a great recipe from my co-worker Jenna! She tries out new recipes from popular cooking shows and posts it on our company blog, viamediablog.com, each week. I have not actually tried this, and I have to say I was skeptical when Jenna first told us about it, but she said it tastes exactly like a piece of chocolate cake! If you are a little baking-challenged, or pinched on time/ingredients, this is a super quick and easy recipe! Let me know how it turns out 🙂

When I saw this recipe, I was completely skeptical! How could I not be skeptical when there are only 6 ingredients (not counting salt) and it only cooks for 50 sec in the microwave?? As I was preparing the ingredients, I felt like a scientist doing an experiment. I almost wanted it to fail because the process made no sense to me.

The recipe is from a show called Symon’s Suppers on Cooking Channel. You can find the recipe here. I have to say, I just love the new Cooking Channel. While Food Network will always be my favorite network, most of the programming has become cooking contest shows, like Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-OffChoppedCupcake WarsThe Next Iron Chef. While I love those shows, its nice to get back to the basics sometimes and the Cooking Channel is primarily all cooking shows that demonstrate recipes and how-tos.

The first step in the recipe is to melt the chocolate and the butter together. I used the microwave instead of a double boiler because of the ease. While that was melting, I whisked together the other ingredients in a small bowl. After the chocolate was melted, I combined the chocolate mixture with the “batter” mixture.

The recipe called for using coffee mugs, but I decided to use my mini ramekins. The recipe should fill 6 of them perfectly. If you don’t have ramekins, a coffee mug would work perfectly too.

So the true test came after the batter was in the cups. Would microwaving batter REALLY make a cake? I cooked them on high in the micro wave for 1 min 30 sec and the result……

An ACTUALLY moist and delicious “cup”cake! Yum! The only thing that would make this cake more delicious is vanilla ice cream. If I had read the recipe more closely I would have noticed that Chef Symon recommended topping with ice cream and cherries.

Try out the 3 minute “cup” cake and let me know your thoughts!!

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What 20-Somethings Want

29 Jan

I saw this article from The Thought Catalog and it made me chuckle and choke up a bit at the same time. I follow them on twitter and they usually have some pretty insightful ramblings. It has some interesting observations so I thought I would share  (though some of them are a little crude lol, but honest I guess!) A couple things really hit home with me. I feel myself wanting to go out and explore the world, to move on to bigger cities and bigger things, but the pull of home is always there, tugging at my heartstrings and saying “Don’t move too far away!” After all, what’s more important than family? Knowing I am surrounded by people who love me unconditionally and who will always be there for me is better than anything a big city has to offer. One of my favorite quotes kind of says it all…”Follow your dreams but always remember the road that leads you home.” We can still conquer the world and accomplish all those things we want to in life, but to me, home and family is the most important priority. And having that sense of my place in the world is the best accomplishment I could ask for. Anyways, I’m not usually one to bare my soul on my blog, but I thought it was an interesting read 🙂

My Take on a ‘Noodles & Company’ Favorite

24 Jan

Well, it’s been quite a while since my last post. I have been a busy lady, traveling every weekend since Christmas and eating out quite a bit. This weekend t I was craving a healthy dinner that was chock-full of veggies. I immediately thought of Noodles & Company, one of my favorite restaurants when I lived in Raleigh, NC. They have delicious pasta, as you could probably guess by the name, and it’s a pretty quick restaurant so I went there for dinner once a week at least. Unfortunately, there are no Noodles & Company locations here in Lexington, KY, so I decided to make my own version of their Pasta Fresca. I was pretty happy with the end result! It’s a light and healthy recipe with a lot of flavor. I added shrimp but you could also use chicken or tofu, and any combination of vegetables. The sauce is just olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and white wine. Stay tuned for my version of the Noodles & Company Penne Rosa, coming soon! Can you tell I like pasta? 😉

Ingredients:

  • Whole wheat penne pasta
  • Shrimp
  • Spinach, stems trimmed
  • Mushrooms
  • Red onion
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • Garlic clove
  • Feta cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • White wine

Clean and chop up all the veggies while you bring your pot of water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to directions and set aside. Heat a spoonful of olive oil in a saute pan. (You will need a pretty large saute pan/skillet because everything is going in together!) Once the pan is heated to medium-high heat, start by sautéing the chopped garlic clove for about 30 seconds. Then add the spinach, mushrooms, and onions and saute for about 5-7 minutes, until spinach is nice and wilted. Add the shrimp and chopped tomatoes and saute for a few minutes until shrimp turns pink. (If you are using chicken or tofu, it will need to cook longer and should be added before the veggies.) Add in the pasta. Now it’s time for the sauce. I didn’t really measure anything –  just added a splash of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and white wine until everything was well-coated. You are looking for a nice balance of the three flavors. The sauce shouldn’t be too oily or have an overwhelming balsamic flavor. Let everything simmer for a couple minutes, then serve with a healthy topping feta cheese!

Spending My New Years in Gatlinburg, TN

4 Jan

Happy New Year everyone! I love starting a new year; it’s an opportunity to start fresh and make big plans for the future. I had a great weekend in the Great Smoky Mountains of Gatlinburg, TN with some friends. We spent New Years Day hiking in the park. My boyfriend’s family did a lot of hiking there when he was younger, so we found one of their favorite trails that led down to a river and hopped around on the rocks for a bit. It was gorgeous! A great way to start the year. Here are a few pictures from the day… can you tell we are Kentucky Wildcat fans? Everyone is representing in their wildcat blue 🙂

Party Appetizer Ideas: Chocolate Popcorn and Mushroom Crab Melts

27 Dec

My girl friends and I have started the tradition of getting together every year for appetizers and drinks and a ‘Dirty Santa’ gift exchange before we all head home to visit family for the holidays. If you have never heard of ‘Dirty Santa’ or a ‘White Elephant’ gift exchange, it’s a fun and inexpensive way to give gifts. Everyone brings one gift and all the gifts are put in a pile, and then you draw numbers to see what order people will select gifts in. When it’s your turn, you can either get an un-opened gift from the pile, or steal a gift from someone who has already opened! It’s best to be last or at least near the end so you have your choice of what present you want. It’s always a good time, especially when you throw in some random or actual ‘dirty’ gifts ;).

Anyways, on to the recipes! There were some pretty delicious appetizers at the party, and I’ll have to add more recipes from my friends when I get them. I made chocolate drizzled popcorn and these mushroom crab melts that were a big hit. They are both great party appetizers, and would be great for New Year’s or maybe some of the upcoming bowl games. The chocolate drizzled popcorn was really easy. I popped the popcorn and laid it out on a cookie sheet. I melted semi-sweet chocolate chips, then used a spoon to drizzle the chocoloate back and forth over the popcorn, and I used a generous amount of chocolate. (Note: I was a in a bit of a rush and didn’t have time for pictures, so these are just images from the web. My popcorn had quite a bit more chocolate!) Then you let the chocolate harden in the fridge over night, and break it up into chunks. You can use any kind of chocolate you like, add marshmallows, nuts, etc… I saw a recipe with both white and dark chocolate drizzle that looked awesome. One thing I learned from my first-time attempt at melting chocolate- don’t add any liquid! I thought by adding a little milk it might make the melted chocolate creamier… NOPE. It sounds a little counter-intuitive, but adding any liquid makes the chocolate seize up and get all dry and lumpy. You need to just melt the chocolate slowly over low heat until it is nice and creamy.

The mushroom crab melts were a mixture of bacon, mushrooms, onions, crab, cheese, and a little mayo spread over whole-wheat english muffins with a little paprika sprinkled on top. They wold make a great lunch by themselves, but I cut each into four pieces with a pizza-cutter to make bite-size appetizers. Here is the recipe:

  • 3 bacon strips, diced
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 can crabmeat, drained
  • 1 cup (4 oz) shredded swiss cheese
  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 6 english muffins, split
  • Dash of cayenne pepper and paprika

Cook the bacon until crisp, then break into pieces when cooled, reserving the bacon drippings in the pan. Saute the chopped-up mushrooms and onions in the drippings for a few minutes until soft. Combine crab, cheeses, mayo, mushroom mixture, and bacon bits in a mixing bowl and stir until blended. Spread a little butter on each muffin half, then top with mixture. Sprinkle with paprika and cayenne pepper and bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Cut each muffin into four pieces with pizza-slicer.

Decorating My Apartment for Christmas!

4 Dec

It’s funny how as soon as I got back from Thanksgiving break, my fall decorations seemed out of place. The holidays are here and it’s time for Christmas decorations! Holiday decorating can be pricey if you go all-out, covering every surface in glittery, frosty, cinnamon-smelling decor. I focused on a few areas that pack the most punch- my dining table, mantle, and of-course some lights in the windows. I bought several of these decorations at extremely reduced prices after Christmas last year. I also got all my wrapping paper, bows, and holiday cards on sale after Christmas. My mom always does this and it’s definitely a good habit; you can save so much money! I purchased a few more items at Target recently for great prices. I still haven’t gotten my tree; I’ll add photos of that if I ever get one. Here are a few photos of this year’s decorations.

You can save money by assembling inexpensive items creatively instead of buying pre-made centerpieces. I started with a table runner, then I made a centerpiece out of pinecones and a cheap cinnamon candle. I actually bought these pinecones, but you can use berries, bits of evergreen, pinecones, and/or twigs right out of your backyard for a beautiful centerpiece. Last year I spray-painted twigs silver and arranged them in a tall jar and it cost about $10, versus the $25+ centerpiece I saw at Peir 1 that looked almost identical!  (I usually get ideas from stores such as Peir 1 and Target and then make cheaper versions myself :)) The silver plate holders were about $1 each at Target, and I’m sure I will use these for multiple occasions. The napkins and ornament add a pop of color. Super easy and cheap.

Here are a few more details that I have around the apartment that are also cheap and easy. I love holiday frames; they are great for adding color to end tables or your mantle. And I love having even more photos of my family around for the holidays. I also bought these glass jars from Target and filled them with ornaments. I have seen similar photos of different sizes and shapes of jars arranged as centerpieces and they were gorgeous. I bought a bunch of ornaments after Christmas last year for next-to-nothing. Just a couple of ideas from my apartment. Happy decorating and happy holidays!

Christmas Cookie Recipes – Chocolate Gooey Butter Cookies

2 Dec

My co-worker Jenna is a fantastic cook, and she always brings goodies to the office. I work for a cable advertising company.. so Jenna tries out recipes from cable food shows and blogs about them on our company blog! (Check out our blog at www.viamediablog.com and Click on “What’s Cooking on Cable with Jenna” for all her recipes) She brought in the best cookies today.. they are literally melt-in-your-mouth amazing! And she is going to be making a different cookie recipe each week from now until New Years! Check out her post:

What’s Cooking on Cable With Jenna-Chocolate Gooey Butter Cookies

This recipe was not a difficult one for me to pick out–the name alone had my mouth watering. Chocolate Gooey Butter Cookies!! This is a Paula Deen recipe, so you know 2 things right off the bat. They will contain at least one stick of butter and will be as unhealthy as possible. I figure that Christmas is the perfect time to indulge. I will be making a Holiday cookie recipe each week leading up until New Years! Get excited!!

This recipe literally has 5 ingredients. 1 Box of Chocolate cake mix (I used Devil’s Food), 1 Egg, 1 stick of butter, 1 package of Cream Cheese, and vanilla extract. Easy!!

After mixing the ingredients together the dough must chill. This is the only way to be able to roll the dough into balls. Trust me, I tried to roll them without the chilling and I just made a mess. After the dough chills in the fridge for 2-3 hours, it should be cold enough to roll into balls. Once the balls are formed roll them in powdered sugar. That’s it!

I put about 16 cookies on each cookie sheet but I probably should have put less. The cookies really spread out and some ran together. Next time I will only put 12 on each cookie sheet. Lesson learned!

My coworkers and husband agree that these cookies are fantastic! One coworker even commented that they taste almost brownie-like. I think this will become a holiday standard in my house!

http://viamediablog.com/2011/12/02/whats-cooking-on-cable-with-jenna-chocolate-gooey-butter-cookies/

Friendsgiving and My Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes!

22 Nov

Last night my friends and I got together for our first annual Friendsgiving! I have to say that I was pretty impressed with the result. We had all the fixings of a traditional thanksgiving dinner, and everything tasted pretty darn good. Pretty impressive for a group of twenty-somethings who aren’t all that experienced at cooking. We actually ended up with waaaay too much food. But my boyfriend was pretty happy when I brought him a heaping plate of leftovers 🙂 I have to say – good food, good wine, and good friends make for a fabulous evening.

My contributions to our evening consisted of my mom’s world-famous cheesy potato casserole and Kentucky Derby pie. My siblings and I have literally fought over cheesy potato leftovers. It’s one of those dishes that we ask my mom to make for every family get-together. And the Kentucky Derby pie is one of my favorite desserts. Both are super simple to make. I was actually at work late so I rushed home, whipped everything together in about 20 minutes, then let them bake for 45 minutes while I got ready for the evening. Check out the recipes below if you are looking for ideas on what to bring to Thanksgiving dinner.

I’m headed home to WV tomorrow for the holiday weekend. I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving! Let me know how your cooking adventures go this weekend.

Cheesy Potato Casserole:

  • 32 oz. bag of southern style (cubed) hash browns
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Crushed cornflakes

Mix the potatoes, soup, sour cream, cheese, and most of the butter together and spread in a greased baking dish. Top with crushed cornflakes and drizzle with the remaining melted butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes.

Kentucky Derby Pie:

  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • pie shell

Mix all ingredients and pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Thanksgiving Centerpieces

20 Nov

It’s time to start thinking about Thanksgiving dinner. I’ll be going home to spend the holiday weekend with my family and enjoy my mama’s home cookin’ 🙂 For those of you having guests over for dinner, I wanted to write a post about Thanksgiving centerpieces. I have to say that ‘tablescaping’ is a passion of mine, though I don’t get to do it often. It’s always fun to get creative and think outside the vase of flowers for an attention-grabbing centerpiece. And it doesn’t have to break the bank! You can dress up any centerpiece with inexpensive candles, or better yet, arrange items you already have in a new way!

I have a pretty simple fall centerpiece on my table right now. I found a pumpkin basket and fall flowers on sale at Michael’s Arts and Crafts. (And Michael’s always has coupons in the Sunday paper!) The orange pumpkin candles are from Wal-mart and smell fantastic! The rustic table runner is from Target, though you could use inexpensive burlap fabric purchased from your local fabric store. The whole thing cost about $20, with most of that going to the table runner.

Here are some other creative table setting ideas I found on Pinterest that are unique and can be recreated inexpensively.

I love the idea of dressing up these candles with the popcorn kernels- and it’s so cheap! Tall candle holders always make a nice statement and these popcorn kernels give great height. In this case, the fall leaves are tied around the candle with burlap string, though I would suggest tying them around the candle holder itself so they don’t catch on fire, especially if you use real leaves.

I love this idea! It’s clean and classic. The stark contrast of the orange mini pumpkins and gourds against the black iron lanterns is beautiful. You can find the cute minis at your local grocery store for cheap around thanksgiving. Shop around for the lanterns; they can be expensive at some locations but you can usually also find these for a reasonable price. And they can be re-used for multiple occasions, or to dress up and outdoor patio.

This is a great fall centerpiece that can carry over into Thanksgiving. It’s a simple assortment of pumpkins, pine-cones, berries, and candles. The initial on the pumpkin is an added touch that makes a great statement, and I love the black on white. This seemed to be the year for painting pumpkins! I saw white pumpkins with the old-school cameos painted in black that were gorgeous, as well as pumpkins painted with team colors for football season. The next photo of painted pumpkins is my favorite! This is the cutest idea. I am totally using this next year! Not only is it unique as well as easy and inexpensive to make, it reminds me of why we celebrate thanksgiving. Give thanks for all your blessings and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Do you have any creative ideas for a Thanksgiving centerpiece? Please share! Look for my next post which will have my favorite Thanksgiving recipes… including Kentucky Derby pie! Delicious.

DIY Fall Wreath

18 Nov

I am new to Pinterest, (I know! I’m way behind the curve) but I have to say, I love it. I actually joined because my little sister found so many creative ideas for her wedding this past September and she continues to show me all these cute decorating ideas. She actually made a fall wreath using some ideas from Pinterest so I thought I would document her craftiness and post it here! I love the idea of a more modern wreath as opposed to the traditional flower wreath. This wreath uses vines and felt rosettes. I also love the big burlap letter in the middle. It adds a great focal point to the wreath. My sister got her vines from the vineyard where she got married (so sweet) but you can find a pre-made wreath like this at your local craft store. Or, if you are really resourceful, you can find them in your backyard and secure them with a little hot glue and floral wire! The rosettes are actually quite easy to make. You cut a circle out of felt, then cut the felt circle in a spiral. Wind the felt tightly and glue the edge and the bottom of the rosette with hot glue to secure. The key is to scallop the edges (make them look wavy) so you get that appearance of a bunch of petals. To make rosettes with a center of a different color, cut a small circle of felt for the center, wind and secure that. Then cut another circle out of a different color felt and wind around the small rosette.

You can purchase a pre-cut letter at your local craft store, or stencil one on foam core and cut out with an x-acto knife or box cutter. You can paint the letter, cover it in rosettes, or cover it in fabric. My sister used burlap to give it a rustic look. She also hung the wreath using the burlap and added a little extra around the wreath. Love it! Great job sis 🙂

Here are a few more photos of wreaths I love from Pinterest. These all have a modern twist and make a bold statement… and I love the use of different materials. Click on the image to go to the original site to learn how to make these.

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