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Birthday Cupcakes: Semi-Successful

21 Jul

So a little over two weeks ago, while everyone in the USofA was out and about enjoying the sun on the Monday after the 4th (bank holiday for you foreigners), I was at the airport waving good-bye to my SS.

My SS is a computer programmer for an big unnamed company. And along with being so brilliant comes important responsibilities around the world. I’m not sure the travel is always necessary, but there it nothing wrong with exploiting your company for a bit of foreign face time. (See why I love him?) So for the past two weeks he’s been in Asia sharing his knowledge, eating yummy sushi and traveling to dangerous places.

SS's birthday presents!! (Yes, that is a stuffed cat!)

He comes home today. And you know what’s even better? Tomorrow is his birthday.

I took advantage of his lack of presence and planned some little surprises. For example, sitting on his kitchen table are an array of wrapped pressies. (I never wrap pressies; I use cardboard and newspaper. It killed me to BUY paper that is inevitably gonna be thrown into the garbage, but I thought he deserved at least one nicely wrapped celebration before introducing him to my ‘save the planet’ ways.)

The other part of my surprise, besides dinner reservations at a delicious place that, get this you’ll never believe it, HE’S NEVER BEEN TO … (This is no small feat people, he’s been evvvverywhere!) … was CUPCAKES!

I came up with this fantasticly creative idea to make him a variety of fun flavors. The tasting menu was as follows. (All were with chocolate cake.)

S’more Cupcakes: Graham cracker inside with marshmallow frosting
Fluffer Nutter Cupcakes: Peanut butter chips inside with marshmallow frosting
Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes: Jelly-filled with peanut butter frosting
Nutty Cupcakes: Crushed nuts inside with peanut butter icing
Minty Fresh Cupcakes: Crush star mints inside with butter cream icing
Birthday Cake Cupcakes: Chocolate cake with butter cream icing and sprinkles.

Now imagine a dozen of those. Appetizing right? Yeah, well, didn’t work out as planned.

First off, I used a chocolate cake recipe that I didn’t read thoroughly until in the process of putting it together. It was a recipe for Smore cupcakes that required a graham cracker/sugar baked bottom and then a layer of cake on top. I was making just the cake part and it oddly called for “1 cup of boiling water.” I have no idea WHY it called for boiling water, but as the batter looked ace without it, I didn’t add it.

Was this a mistake? I have no idea!

What I do know is that you can’t baked crushed mint into this recipe. Instead of growing to be fluffy and mushroom topped, like the plain ones, or small and solid, like the graham cracker stuffed batter, these collapsed on themselves.

Mint-infused cupcake failure.

At this point I was losing confidence and stamina. My baking partner AAA — who was ridiculously sweet to help me bake for my SS, and is solely responsible for the icings — was her typical optimistic self, attempting to focus me on the positives — and eat her way through the failures.

The next batch I tried sprinkling the crushed mint on top mid-way through baking. This didn’t work either. They instantly went from having a healthy dome top to being sucked into the black hole of the cupcake tin. Argh. The other ones that proved uncooperative were the PB&Js. Attempting to correct my mistake from last week’s PB&J mishap (all the jelly slid to the bottom when baking), I put the jelly in half way through the baking process in hope that the bottom was baked enough to support it. I have no idea if that worked or not but they didn’t seal over on top in the way I had hoped.

There are holes in the PB&J cupcakes.

At this point I was stomping around the kitchen, spastically shaking and moaning about my baking failure. I was at a loss. Should I bother bringing any to the city for him? Should I take a few? And if I do that, should I ice them before I go? Should I bring the icing and do it tomorrow? Should I just pick up Billy’s on the way over? He has no idea I’m going to see him tonight. But even though he has no idea cupcakes were meant to be waiting for him upon his return home, I felt like I was letting him down by giving up so easily. And after 2.5 a half weeks of planning, if my surprise failed in any way it would just break my little heart.  I’m not the type to give up and, well, he knows that. So I persevered.

In the end I salvaged six that agreed with my oven. There were three S’more-themed cakes and three Fluffer Nutter, which were just turned into Peanut Butter and were iced with PB instead of marshmallow. I would have liked to decorate a few plain ones too but they grew so big, they wouldn’t fit in the carrying pan. I’m guessing the boiling water may have changed that outcome somehow.

Either way, the final product looks pretty nice.

Half a dozen delic cakes are better than none.

This also left me with a challenge. That is to master the art of baking mint into cupcakes. But in the meantime, I am definitely going to make the collapsible cupcakes again. This time in a bowl in which they can be served to guests with a big spoonful of ice cream in the middle. Yummm… now we’re talking.

As for the failed ones, they stand at home waiting to be enjoyed. And the handicapped ones, well, the ladies of the house seemed to like them just the way they were. (Seriously, this was taken like 20 minutes after they came out of the oven!)

Mint-infused cupcakes flavor-success.

Now I’m scheduling this to post just as I should be surprising SS at the airport. But if he somehow catches this post before my face, WELCOME BACK SS!! Now come home and eat!!!

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I heart Gordon Ramsay

20 Jun

Who is my favorite chef?

Anyone…?

If you didn’t read the hed on this entry, it’s Gordon Ramsay! I love the loud, brash, foul-mouthed kitchen guru. I don’t, and won’t, watch Hell’s Kitchen, but that’s because of my distaste for reality TV — I have no grievance with the host. I do love Kitchen Nightmares (the British version of course; I love when he visits quaint pubs in the middle of the English countryside).

Someone once asked me, “If you could marry three famous men, who would they be?” My number one? Gordon Ramsay. A girl’s gotta eat, no? (If I remember correctly, my number two was David Beckham, but purely for his thighs, as I’ve had more interesting convos with my dog than he offers in interviews.)

Anyways… I love Gordon. I love his recipes; I love his personality.

So you can imagine my excitement when SS planned another fancy dinner date night, this time at… [drumroll]… Gordon Ramsay at The London.

I squeaked like a lil’ girl when he told me, and secretly prayed that the master himself might happen to be in NY and decide to pop in for a visit during our meal. (A girl’s gotta dream, no?)

Our meal was FABULOUS! And not only because we were we sitting in my food-idol’s NY haven, but the tasting menu sported all my favs — scallops, lamb, cheese (brillat savarin, which I had no idea was cheese until then), and I even loved the foie gras. It was fantastic!

SS wasn’t as impressed as he was with our Jean George adventure. I can agree that it was a close call, and if eaten side-by-side, based on taste alone, I may agree with him. But I’m only human, and my taste buds knew they were eating something [marketed] by Gordon Ramsay. Sigh.

I have very few extravagant desires. Eating at Gordon’s restaurant was one of them. Thank you SS.

With all that said, I must offer some criticism as well (I am a Negotiator personality; it is only fair): Work on the cocktail menu — more vodka mixes — and get an interior designer in there, pronto!

They gave us a copy of the menu as a souvenir.

Day Five: Time to kiss this lemon crap good-bye!

4 May

Yeah, soooo it’s not happening anymore.

I woke up exhausted—partially because it was absolutely necessary that I catch up on the latest episode of FlashForward before I fell asleep. (Has anyone else watched? Holy crap, I’m in such anticipation this for week’s episode that I feel actual pain! I mean, you-know-who is obviously NOT going to take out you-know-who-else but if (s)he doesn’t you know (s)he’s done for… gone… history!! I’m on the edge of my seat just thinking about it… ok, back to it.)

But that didn’t explain the complete fog my brain was in. I spent an hour in front of my computer trying to come up with ‘in-depth, investigative’ questions for my 11am interview, and for an hour I stared, typed, erased, retyped and stared some more. I had a double dose of my lemon-flavored sugar water, and topped it off with some herbal tea in hope my brain would confuse it for caffeine.

No luck!

I was more brain dead than any morning-after during college graduation week. WTF??

As soon as my call was done—and I was finished acting like am bumbling fool who learned to speak English YESTERDAY—I messaged my co-worker with a request for accompaniment to Hale & Hearty.

She was hesitant—which I appreciated—not wanting to contribute responsibility for my giving up. And she wanted me to check with SS beforehand so he wouldn’t place blame on her. (I didn’t check with SS. I was going for soup whether I had accompaniment or not.)

And a half an hour later, sitting at the South Street Seaport with a fabulous view of the Brooklyn Bridge (gonna miss that effin annoying tourist trap when we move offices)…

0504001306

… I ate the best Curried Cauliflower Chickpea Tomato soup ever to exist!

Oops! My bad…

2 May

So after Day 1’s rough start due to a microscopic ninja taking up residence inside my brain between my eyeballs, Day 2’s energy and satisfaction was a pleasant relief. I felt great. Long walk at the beach, followed by errands and a massive closet clean-up (I know, I know, my life is very exciting; don’t be jealous, you too can have this much fun on a Saturday!) filled my day. I felt so good that I even managed to sit in the Chinese food shop and watch SS eat half a quart of Egg Drop Wonton soup, dumplings and pork fried rice. Yep! Just sat there and watched him eat. And theeeeeen cuddled up on his shoulder in the movie theater while he chowed down on a bag of popcorn. Yep! I just smelled and watched. Can you believe it?

Sunday was a different story. I woke up weak and remained weak throughout the day. On numerous occasions I was ready to sack it all off. Here’s why:

1) I woke up in the middle of a dream about brownies.

2) We drove up to PDubbs to peruse the Adopt-a-thon at the local animal shelter. The only thing I wanted more than a puppy or kitty was a pulled pork chopped salad with BBQ sauce and honey mustard dressing from Harbor Q. If there is one place I need to avoid when fasting, it’s P Dubbs (and also Stone Street in downtown NYC, but that fact I just learned today).

I begged SS to let me go get a salad. And while I am confident I would have been able to overtake him by surprise, wrestle him to the floor and pin him down under a table in the restaurant long enough to eat the monsterous salad (say, 1.35 minutes), he said he wasn’t gonna let me so I didn’t even drive to the restaurant.

3) We went to the beach where I watched numerous children eat massive ice cream cones. And every time I shut my eyes to nap I began thinking of food. And that set off an intense craving for cheese and crackers. Where my subconscious went from BBQ salad and ice cream to cheese and crackers, I do not know. Just telling you like it is B&Gs.

At one point I asked him seriously if he would stand up and keep me from eating if I tried. He said ‘yes, because afterwards I would be mad that he let me.’ Yeah yeah…

… sooooo

… I waited for him to fall asleep.

Yeppers. Sure did.

I am a failure. A cheat. A loser. A pathetic, will-powerless EATER!

I can’t help that SS decided to watch a film, which is a synonym for ‘take a nap,’ and left me to my own defenses. Let me tell you, my cranky irritable self had laid all my defenses to rest.

So as I walked through the kitchen… back and forth as a kid might as he prepped to rob a cookie behind mum’s back… I gave in and cut a sliver of cinnamon bun to satisfy my mouth’s desire.

Siiiigh.

Well, you can’t eat just a sliver. It’s not even then. So I made it even… but eating the whole damn thing.

I went back upstairs and returned to my cleaning post as if nothing happened.

And in a matter of minutes the pain kicked in: The guilt, the disappointment, the frustration.

Figuring I had blown it, I hopped back down the stairs and noshed on the leftover chinese chicken in the fridge. Oh man it was gooood. Then back upstairs to continue wallowing in let-down.

And in a matter of minutes the pain kicked in: The stomachache.

My stomach had been full when I ate; I had just finished off three cups of lemonade to try to quell the hunger. My new little tight stomach had no room for a cinnamon bun and chicken. Soooo I pulled out the old college trick I used to use to entertain my roommate after a night of binge drinking. And I returned the food…

And as embarrassed as I am to admit this little scenario in public, not to mention on a BLOG accessible by anyone who can work the Google Box, it taught me a lesson. It showed me that I have back-up resistance. Kinda like skydivers have a reserve parachute in case their main fails to open properly. Well, when my will-power fails to persevere… I have guilt. So I can now rest assured that when my tough outer coating gives in to temptation setting me off track for whatever ridiculous, hard-to-acheive goal I am chasing, my guilty conscience will peek its head and scream at the top of its lungs: “LOOOOSER!”

Why thank you very much guilt!

After that little lesson I knew I had to complete this—whether it means anything to me or not. (And here I thought publicizing my endeavor was enough to trick my brain.)

So here I am confessing my slip-up to anyone and everyone who fancies reading this… all two of you. ha!

What was harder than that was admitting to SS that I am failed while he was asleep… I like to think he believes in me to complete the task, so admitting that I made a big “oops” wasn’t easy.

But I did…

And he replied…

“So, what tasted better? The cinnamon roll or the chicken?”

The new color of food

29 Apr

It seemed the world was out to challenge me already. While I was not yet detoxing officially the last two days, I was on a fruit juice and water diet in prep. Yesterday, after an amazing and uplifting yoga class, I was standing outside Moe’s Mexican Grill when SS invited me to spend the night. As I turned on my heel, I thanked the god I don’t believe in for this small gift. The anticipation of seeing SS was the only thing powerful enough to keep me from getting a rice and bean bowl. (First thing I’m having when I’m back on real food!)

Little did I know, Moe’s was just the beginning.

After arriving and finishing off my dinner of Poland Spring, we cuddled up to fall asleep to some TV. What does he put on? Top Chef Masters. I have never ever watched this show before, yet the theme, coincidentally, was traditional pub fare. They ‘re-invented’ Irish Stew, Toad in a Hole, Shepherd’s Pie, Bangers and Mash, and Steak and Kidney Pie. With the exception of the kidney, THOSE ARE MY TOP FIVE FAVORITE MEALS. Well, maybe not the stew, but the others, OMG! And with that, I knew the world was out to challenge me.

Today, I arrived at work and one of the first things out of my colleague’s mouth was “birthday celebration today.” Normally our “birthday lunch” is a big ordeal, complete with a variety of food, desserts, snacks and drinks. This month it was just some cupcakes. (Budget cuts anyone?) But even so, they were Crumbs cupcakes. Siiiigh. I didn’t even go into the room; I waited to hear about the treats from my co-workers.

I’m leaving work today, and as I approach the corner I notice “Grand Opening” posted right above the door to the new Chipotle at the end of my street. I’ve been waiting for it to open for weeks… and it chose today! I rolled my eyes and silently cursed the Mexican shop (a Burrito Bowl is the second thing I’m having when back on real food!… followed by Gonzo‘s fish tacos).

It started to occur to me just how much food plays a role in my daily life, without even realizing it. My subconscious is always aware of the food that it sees, smells, wants… Now that I’ve been able to reclassify it and remove it from my routine, it’s everywhere. It’s like those heat-detector goggles that they use in crime or murder shows. The bright red/yellow/orange colors that represented body heat stand out significantly. Well, today, all the damn food establishments in downtown Manhattan were as bright as a dog in heat.

After that kind of day, I was sure when I got home I was going to walk in to Grandma’s fresh backed brownies or cheesy Zucchini pie, but thankfully she didn’t bake today.

So as a courtesy, I asked her to please refrain from any food shopping or baking or cooking for the next 12 days… to which she laughed and smirked.

Siiiigh. Is that a challenge?

I want a cupcake!

29 Apr

I’m queuing at Whole Foods intricately balancing two bags of organic lemons, one bag of organic limes, a glass bottle of 100% pure maple syrup, a small bottle of ground cayenne pepper and two boxes of tea—one to aid a detox program, one to help you “excrete.” (I can’t believe I am discussing bowel movements on my blog; I never even admitted to having a digestive system until mid-2009.) All the ingredients I need for tomorrow’s Lemonade diet kick-off. I’m in the Whole Foods in Union Square. There are more than a dozen lines that methodically feed some 30-odd registers. In other words, it’s effin nut-so!

I’m standing there nervous but excited to embark on this test of willpower and self-exploration, when I look over to one of the end cap displays of add-on products to see packets called “Lemonade Diet.” Looking at it more closely, I see they actually sell individual packets of the mix, crystalized. Here I am with $40 worth of organic crap and I could have bought a packet of it? Too late now… and I don’t have a free finger to pick one up for experimentation.

Oooo, those pink frosted cupcakes the girl on the next aisle is holding look sooo yummy!

Food? (Optional)

29 Apr

When I studied abroad my junior year of college, I went skydiving. My friend, REM, had told me there was a drop zone in Interlaken, Switzerland, where the views were supposedly breathtaking. I had always wanted to jump from a ‘perfectly good airplane,’ so at that point Interlaken became a necessary stop on the Travel-Girls Tour de Europe.

It wasn’t until I was in Europe—Nottingham, England, to be exact—planning my month-long backpacking extravaganza, did I begin to recognize the doubt that crossed people’s faces when I mentioned my extreme sport intention. On a few different occasions, when I shared my plans, I was met with a smirk, a scoff, a sarcastic “ok, have fun,” a faux-look of disbelief. Having been born a stubborn pain in the arse, I accepted these reactions of doubt as the challenge they were obviously meant to be.

I now had no choice; I was jumping out of a perfectly damned good airplane whether I wanted to or not.

And I did… and I loved it… and because of that bet… that I made up in my head… I went back and did 25 more jumps in attempt to get my certification—which I don’t have, but that’s a long story.

Anyways, the reason I’m telling you this is because tomorrow I embark on another challenge—a two-week detoxification cleanse.

What does this have to do with skydiving? I’m telling you about it.

Now that I’ve told you, now that it’s available to anyone surfing the big bad Google box… well, I have to bloody do it.

It’s not hard to find, The Master Cleanse is advertised all over Mr WWW. But I actually got wind of it from a friend of mom’s. He’s completed it numerous times—always raving about the effects. He raved enough that I am pretty sure he recruited others from their work clique. I was totally willing to take his word for it, but just to be sure, I scoured the Interweb for other’s reviews, opinions, experiences, advice and [in some cases, graphic] stories. The end was mostly the same, people feel great!

I’m not tremendously unhealthy, but compared to periods of time in the not far off past, and compared to what I would like to be, I’m not really on the dart board.

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with food. I love it; it loves me; we spend way too much time together; I resent it; it resents me; annnnd scene. Worst yet, I love all the wrong foods. I try to eat the right ones, and I recognize how much better I feel physically and mentally when I do. But leave me in a room alone with a pizza, and you can say ciao to the saucy vixen. (No, seriously, I ate a whole pizza that was meant for 4 of us because I was left alone in the room. The others weren’t happy.)

In conclusion, I guess part of the reason I want to do this is to prove that I can and establish a sense of control over food. But also just to recognize what I consider to be an unhealthy relationship with food. Well not as much food, but as the process of eating it. Don’t they say that the first step is admitting you have a problem? Well, hello there, my name is ME, and I eat too much—and for the wrong reasons.

So starting tomorrow I will be putting nothing but a lemonade concoction of water, fresh lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper into my body. I’ve even spent the last two days on a quasi-fast, eating only fruit and veggie juice, to help prep my stomach into it’s upcoming liquid diet.

Knowing I was going to embark on this “adventure,” as I’ve entitled it, I allowed myself one last yummy meal with my ladies on Tuesday night…

… four slices of NY-style pizza.