Buckeye Brownies

Buckeye Brownies via arismenu.com

Buckeye Brownies via arismenu.com

My favorite (and best) cooking inspiration has always been making things for the people I love. Especially birthdays. Birthdays are my favorite thing in the world, and nothing brings me more happiness than making the perfect treat to show my love.

Buckeye Brownies via arismenu.com

In fact, to date my favorite recipe I’ve ever made was for Steve’s birthday last year. I have to tell you, though–these give them a run for their money!

buckeyebrownies-10Buckeye Brownies via arismenu.com

When I saw this post on Brown Eyed Baker a couple of months ago, I immediately sent it to Nicole–the idea is genius, the photos are absolutely gorgeous, and I wanted to jump through my screen and lick every crumb.

Buckeye Brownies via arismenu.com

So when I was deciding what to make Nicole for her birthday this year, I knew exactly where I wanted to start. Of course, I changed a few things to make these a little less indulgent, but they still tasted rich and decadent. The brownie layer is the fudgiest brownie I have ever tasted, and the peanut butter tastes like the inside of a Reese’s cup, and then that perfectly glossy glaze? I diiiieeee.

Buckeye Brownies via arismenu.com

The good thing about cooking for your BBF (best blog friend–I know, we’re totally, like tweens) is they don’t mind that you cut into their birthday dessert to photograph it, and maybe sneak a tiny bite so that you can make sure it’s perfect before you give it to them. ;) Thanks for taking one for the team blog, Nicole!

Buckeye Brownies via arismenu.com

Buckeye Brownies

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours

Yield: 32

Serving Size: 1 brownie

Buckeye Brownies

Rich and fudgy brownies topped with creamy sweetened peanut butter, followed by a chocolate peanut butter glaze--these brownies are to-die-for!

Ingredients

    For the brownies:
  • 1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
  • 1 1/2 tsp espresso powder
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp boiling water
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 3/4 cup nonfat vanilla yogurt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
  • dash
  • salt
  • For the peanut butter layer:
  • 1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 2-3 tbsp unsweetened almond milk
  • For the chocolate peanut butter glaze:
  • 1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

Instructions

  1. To make the brownies, preheat the oven to 350. Line a 9x13 pan with aluminum foil and spray lightly with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together cocoa powder, espresso powder and water. Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until combined. Beat in eggs one at a time, then beat in vanilla and sugar. Stir in flour and salt until combined. Do not overmix.
  3. Transfer batter to prepared baking dish. Bake set and until a toothpick inserted a couple of inches from the edge comes out with a few crumbs, about 30 minutes. Cool completely on wire rack.
  4. To make the peanut butter layer, beat together peanut butter, coconut oil and powdered sugar until smooth. Add milk 1 tbsp at a time until you reach a smooth, spreadable texture. Spread evenly onto cooled brownies.
  5. To make the glaze, place chocolate and peanut butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Heat in 20 second increments, stirring between each, until melted. Spread glaze evenly over peanut butter layer. Cool in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, then serve. Store in an airtight container for up to one week.

Notes

Recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baked

http://arismenu.com/buckeye-brownies/

Drink & Dish: DIY Funfetti Cake Mix {with video!}

DIY Funfetti Cake Mix #vegan via www.arismenu.com

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY BEST BLOG FRIEND NICOLE!!!!DIY Funfetti Cake Mix #vegan via www.arismenu.com

You guys know how insanely obsessed with birthdays I am, right? I jump on any chance to celebrate, and I consider birthdays the day you celebrate that people you love are in your life. My normal birthday message goes something like “Happy birthday! I’m glad you were born!”

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So okay, it might sounds a little silly and cheesy, but how often to we actually tell people we love that we’re glad they’ve in our lives? It’s nice to have a day where we’re reminded. Or maybe I’m just sentimental…

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The beginning of April is crazy birthday time! Within a week, Steve, Nicole and her husband Lance all have their birthdays. I’m the odd man out, but that’s probably a good thing, because I have a total sharing problem when it comes to my birthday. I reallllllly like attention (in case you haven’t figured that one out yet), and I don’t want to share my thunder with anyone.

DIY Funfetti Cake Mix #vegan via www.arismenu.com

Once my dad told me he was dating someone with the same birthday as me. He thought I would think this was “cool”. I told him he should probably break it off. Some people are bad at sharing books and m&ms (I love you Heath), I’m bad at sharing birthdays.

DIY Funfetti Cake Mix #vegan via www.arismenu.com

So I have some pretty serious character flaws. Sharing, over sharing, and obsessive sprinkle photographing. I’m sorry. I took, like, 100 pictures because…sprinkles, they’re sooooo pretty. It was one of those magic days where I loved shooting from every angle, and of course, I wanted to share every single one of them with you because God forbid I leave out the one that looks the same, but it slightly closer up. I don’t know what my problem is.

DIY Funfetti Cake Mix #vegan via www.arismenu.com

That’s why I made the little collage. I figured it would make this post, maybe not 500 years long. Some people just post, like 2 pictures, say a few words, and then post a recipe, but I have SO MANY things to say and OMG SO MANY things to show you!

DIY Funfetti Cake Mix #vegan via www.arismenu.com

Oh, and I guess I should talk about the cake mix, eh? To put it concisely (because lord knows I’ve talked enough in this post), I can’t believe I ever bought a boxed cake mix! This was so much easier than driving to the store! I know sometimes we like to have a little bit of cake mix on hand for when other recipes call for it–well friends, you just put some together, and have it ready in the pantry. It’s so easy. And when I baked it into cupcakes, all I did was mix everything together in one bowl (all you have to add is applesauce, almond milk and vanilla!), and my cupcakes were done in NO TIME! Not to mention, they domed up so beautifully!

DIY Funfetti Cake Mix #vegan via www.arismenu.com

It was a great excuse to throw some sprinkles around with the birthday girl, and film the latest episode of Drink & Dish! Make sure to check out Nicole’s Boozy Birthday Cake Shake. It is ridiculously, sinfully good.


DIY Funfetti Cake Mix

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 5 minutes

Serving Size: 1/24th mix

Easy, homemade, whole grain, vegan funfetti cake mix in less time than it takes to run to the store to buy a box.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • small pinch salt
  • 1 1/3 cups Jimmies sprinkles

Instructions

  1. Whisk all ingredients in together in a large bowl. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

Notes

To bake cupcakes, simply add 2/3 cup applesauce, 2 and 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk, and 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract to mix. Stir until combined. Evenly divide the batter between 2 dozen cupcake tins and bake @ 350 until a toothpick in the center comes out clean, 20-25 minutes. You can also bake into 2 8-9" rounds, or one large sheet cake, just adjust baking times accordingly.

http://arismenu.com/drink-dish-diy-funfetti-cake-mix-with-video/

Weekend Ramblings

JenWedding1

1. A few weeks ago, I went to my awesome friend Jen’s wedding. I took all sorts of pictures, and planned on doing a full blog post about it. That clearly never happened, but I wanted to at least share a little bit of it with you guys. It was so fun. It was the first wedding I’ve been to in my adult life where I didn’t have responsibilities like “bridesmaid” or “bride”. I just got to hang out with some of my favorite NYC guys, and rap Gangsta’s Paradise per my wedding tradition. It’s cute, I promise. I can do it at your wedding for no charge.

JenWedding1

 

JenWedding2

 

2. After Jen’s wedding, we took a 24 hour trip to DC which was just not long enough. I haven’t been there since I was in elementary school, and there was so much I wanted to explore! I did get to see the White House, the Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Holocaust Museum (best part–so beautiful and moving). I also ate, like, the best dinner of my life at Founding Farmers. If you’re ever in DC, GO THERE! You’re welcome.

DC

 

3. Speaking of elementary school (I mean, I did for a hot second), did I mention how at PF Chang’s I ran into my elementary school music teacher? And she remembered me. I have “one of those faces”, or that’s what people tell me. I’ve looked exactly the same for my entire life. The awkward part? I never remember anyone. Even if I know you, if I’m not expecting to see you, it will take me a good 5 minutes to register who you are. I know a lot of people, so this is often embarrassing. I also have the hardest time learning names (because I have, oh, a million students), and this leads to a constant feeling of worst-teacher-ever. It’s a good thing I’m funny.

4. I’m pretty sure my birthday party is tonight. This week, Steve created an event on facebook titles “Ariana’s Birthday” which I was not invited to. Except he didn’t make it a secret event, and it showed up on my news feed, so obviously I clicked on it. The Stacey texted me to let me know she was attending. I hope they still shout surprise when I get there, and I hope that Nicole makes the dessert. ;)

5. I really really really love birthdays. I’m sure this is a big surprise. But I feel a little weird about this birthday. Everyone just gave up a weekend to celebrate me running a marathon. I feel like I should give them a break. I mean, not that I will turn down positive attention, because we all know I love things to revolve around me, but I’m starting to feel like a jerk, and maybe I should spread some of the love around. Like, for my birthday, maybe I should have thrown a party for me friends to tell them how awesome they are! I guess it’s a little late for that. It’s a nice idea in theory, though.

6. My other favorite thing about February is that the Academy Awards are coming!!! I still need to see Argo and The Sessions, but then my list will be pretty complete. At least for the movies I actually care to see which does not include Django Unchained. I’m sorry I just have no interest. Lincoln is still my favorite for the year, but I’m also a huge fan of Silver Linings Playbook, and Zero Dark Thirty. There are some fantastic performances in Flight and The Impossible. And I think Pitch Perfect was totally robbed of a best picture nom. I mean, don’t you  feel like it was the best movie of 2012???

7. I’ve updated my blogroll. Check out some awesome blogs for your reading enjoyment. The list is a little ridiculous, but the sad truth is it’s less than half of my reader. These are the ones I really love, and I think you will too.

Jason’s 31st Birthday

"It's my birthday!" Jason is going to be so happy I posted this picture.

So Jason is officially 31, which, if my memory serves me correctly, means we’ve been friends for about 11 years. It’s been quite a decade, and I have had the pleasure of watching one of my favorite people on earth grow up, and become this truly incredible version of himself. I love that about life long friendships–seeing how people change, and grow, and who they become along the way. I can’t wait to see how we all morph over the next decade!

Anyway, I wanted to make sure to celebrate Jason’s birthday before I left for the summer, so Saturday night we headed to O.H.S.O. Brewery. I read about this place on Marisa’s blog, and it looked like the perfect place for the occasion. Great looking menu, and enormous list of beers on tap, including some of my personal favorites.

“It’s my birthday!” Jason is going to be so happy I posted this picture.

Next to Jason is his friend Charles. Charles *hates* having his picture taken. He tried to hide from the camera several times, but he was right next to the birthday boy, so he’s in more shots than he knows ;)

Hermano is creepily trying to get into that shot in the background, hah.

Look Hermano, you get your OWN picture! ;)

While we waited for our food, we had some drinks. I had a half and half pint of coffee porter and sonoran white chocolate ale. Ummm, delicious. I’m a great beer mixer. I couldn’t wait for Jason to open his presents, so he started right after we ordered.

We got him the awesome Minnie Mouse bag. Hi Charles! ;)

Okay, so last week Jason was at my house, and his birthday present had come in the mail already, and Steve and I didn’t realize it was sitting out on the counter, so Jason picks it up and asks “Whose is this?” Crap. I totally froze, and blew the surprise, so he wasn’t exactly shocked when he opened it.

A GARMIN!!! What’s funny is Tom got him a one year gym membership. We didn’t consult until after we bought our respective gifts. I suggested to Bethany to make the whole thing really offensive and buy him a session of liposuction. Hah. But seriously, Jason has been doing awesome with his running, and I think he will get a ton of use out of this baby, especially since the day of his birthday celebration I pretty much forced him to sign up for a half marathon. Yes, I am a great friend. If you would like a super obnoxious friend that forces you to work out against your will, I am now accepting applications.

We also got him something he will probably enjoy even more…

It’s a People of Walmart book. Jason hates Walmart, and he always talks about how trashy it is, so I knew he’d get a kick out of this book. Next, he opened Bethany’s present.

Clearly, it was a hit.

Great work, Bethy. Not only did you buy the best gift, and fit the gift theme, you also fit the wrapping theme. The hot pink is perfect.

SHAKE WEIGHT!!!!!

Pump those biceps. It’s also the female shake weight. Gotta start somewhere.

We also had a pretty hilarious talk about shake weight injuries. Apparently, that thing can be dangerous! Shake with caution. Steve and I registered for one of those when we got married, but I am very sad to report that no one got us one.

Shortly after presents, our food arrived, and everything was so so soooo delicious. I didn’t take pictures of any of it because I was too busy inhaling my veggie burger. Yummmmm. Then we had birthday brownies for dessert.

Recipe coming soon. These were ridiculous.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JASY!!!!
O.H.S.O Brewery on Urbanspoon

Triple Chocolate Cupcakes

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My mom loves chocolate. She used to tell me that a dessert without chocolate was a total waste.

Most of my life, I was more of a vanilla person. I liked chocolate in things, but I never liked chocolate based desserts–I always thought they were too overwhelming. In fact, at one point in my life, I swore off chocolate thinking it would help with my weight loss. It didn’t. Turns out when you replace your mocha with a caramel macchiato, and make your chocolate chip cookies with butterscotch chips, it actually makes no difference at all. Funny how that works.

When I did the awful carb diets and swore off sweets for entirely too long (if you can imagine me eating no dessert–it’s a scary thought), my tastes entirely changed. Suddenly, the richer, deeper, and more intense the flavor was, the more I loved it! Dark chocolate became more appealing than my once favorite white, and I started craving brownies instead of snickerdoodle cookies.

These days, it depends on my mood, and if you offered me a chocolate and a vanilla cupcake, I would probably want a vanilla one with chocolate frosting. Or a chocolate one with vanilla frosting. But my mother–she will choose all chocolate. Well, to be honest, it probably doesn’t matter what kind of cupcake it is, because all she really wants is the frosting ;)

Frosting is an other thing I used to not like. But I think that’s because I was eating store bought frosting, and that’s gross. In fact, I find most buttercream kind of disgusting. So sickeningly sweet that it makes your mouth feel funny. I look at the amount of sugar in most frosting recipes, and usually end up taking almost a cup of it away! Now don’t get me wrong, this frosting has plenty of sugar, but it isn’t overwhelming. You can taste the cream cheese, and the chocolate, and not just get a mouthful of sugar. Cream cheese and whipped cream frostings are something I can get behind. You can keep your buttercream and fondant.

These were my mom’s birthday cupcakes. Chocolate cupcakes made with coffee to enhance the chocolate flavor, filled with white chocolate, and topped with my very favorite chocolate cream cheese frosting. Rich chocolatey flavor, without feeling heavy. That is my kind of cupcake. Especially delicious with a glass of almond milk. Mmmmm.

 

Triple Chocolate Cupcakes
yield 1 dozen

Cupcakes inspired by Brown Eyed Baker

  • 1 1/3 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup dutch process cocoa powder (or Hershey’s special dark)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • dash salt
  • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup strong brewed coffee
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup all natural white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 batch Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 12 muffin tins with paper liners, and spray lightly with nonstick spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together applesauce, sugar, and egg substitute until well combined. In a measuring cup, combine the milk, coffee, and vanilla. Slowly add the flour mixture, alternating with the coffee mixture, ending with the flour mixture. Fold in white chocolate chips.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the 12 liners. Baking for 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
  5. Cool cupcakes completely on wire racks. Meanwhile, prepare frosting. When cupcakes are completely cooled, frost and enjoy.

 

Hermano’s 15th Birthday

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The only thing sure to make you feel older than getting older yourself, is seeing people you’ve known their entire lives get older! How is my brother 15?!?!?!

This is the face of a 15 year old. A 15 year old who needs a hair cut.

To celebrate, Hermano, Steve, my dad and I all went to Dave & Busters. My family is huge on games, and honestly we could mostly care less about tickets and prizes–we just want to play everything all day long! We started with the electronic jump rope.

Look at my dad's face. Priceless.

We also played air hockey.

I am serious about my air hockey. I do not like to lose.

Did that game where you try to get your ball into the “run” section and not the “move a micro inch” sections.

We spent the larger part of the afternoon there hanging out and having fun before coming back to my house for dessert. Today is Hermano’s actual birthday, but he is living it up in California with his mom and their fancy birthday trip. Thanks for the invite. Some brother you are ;)

I feel really lucky to have this guy in my life. There is something really cool about the sibling relationship when you have a wide age gap. Most of the time, I’d rather hang out with him than most people my age. Hermano is hilarious, smart (even when he pretends not to be), kind, and patient. Kinda the opposite of what you’d expect from a super talented, well liked teenager. I couldn’t be prouder of the young man (weird–I still think of him as a toddler) he’s become! Feliz cuplianos Hermano!!

Black & White Peanut Butter Chip Brownies

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In case you missed it, which would be super sad for you, Monday was my BBFF Nicole’s birthday! To celebrate, I made her brownies!

Now, I’ll be honest. I don’t usually make brownies from scratch. I usually let TJ’s Reduced Guilt Brownie Mix or No Pudge Brownie Mix do the work for me, because they are both delicious and easy. However, there was no way I was going to use a box mix for Nicole’s birthday. Have you read her blog??? She’s like a real chef. In fact every single time I cook for her, or she eats something I make, I get suuuuuuper nervous.

Luckily, these turned out much better than the gnocchi incident of 2012. In fact, they came out ridiculously good.

And now I have a huge problem on my hands…

All I can think about is brownies!!

Brownies, brownies, brownies, brownies, bbbrrrooowwwwnnniiieeesss!!!

Rich, sweet, gooey and chocolatey with peanut butter chips perfectly complementing the white and dark chocolate.

Or in other words YUM!

Black & White Peanut Butter Chip Brownies

yield 36 brownies

For the white layer:

  • 2/3 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 5.5 ounces Sunspire white chocolate chips
  • 2 tbs light whipped butter
  • 6 tbs nonfat vanilla yogurt
  • 1/3 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1/3 cup Splenda
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbs egg substitute
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup Sunspire peanut butter chips

For the black layer:

  • 2/3 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 5.5 ounces Sunspire grain sweetened chocolate chips
  • 2 tbs light whipped butter
  • 6 tbs nonfat vanilla yogurt
  • 1/2 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1/3 cup Splenda
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbs egg substitute
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup Sunspire peanut butter chips

For the White Chocolate Glaze:

  • 10 oz bag Sunspire white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 tbs light whipped butter
  • 3 tbs unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • sprinkles for topping (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9×13 glass baking pan. Line the pan with parchment paper.
  2. Start with the white layer.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour and salt together.
  4. Put the white chocolate and butter in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water (or a double broiler), stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add sugars, Splenda and yogurt. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan.
  5. Add eggs substitute and vanilla to the white chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Do not over mix.
  6. Gently fold in flour mixture followed by peanut butter chips. Batter will not be completely smooth. Tiny flour clumps will bake out.
  7. Pour into prepared baking pan.
  8. Repeat steps 3-6 with black layer.
  9. Pour black layer on top of white. Use a butter knife to gently swirl.
  10. Bake for 40-50 minutes, turning once in between to ensure even cooking.
  11. Let stand for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely (this is where the parchment paper comes in handy!)
  12. Make glaze by microwaving white chocolate and butter together in a medium bowl on 20 second intervals, stirring after each, until melted.
  13. Add vanilla and milk and stir until combined.
  14. Spread over completely cooled brownies, top with sprinkles if desired and allow to cool for approx 1 hour.

Nicole’s Birthday @ Pizzeria Bianco

I want one of these in my house. I'm counting on Lance to make that happen.

If you live in Arizona, and maybe even if you don’t, you’ve probably heard of Pizzeria Bianco. Several reviews call it the best pizza in the United States. It is a tiny little restaurant in downtown Phoenix, and they are known for their delicious, wood oven baked pizzas, and their outrageous wait times. I’ve heard up to 4-5 hours!! And people wait. There’s a bar next door that I’m sure gets a ton of business as people go through multiple bottles of wine waiting for their chance at some pizza.

I had tried to get a reservation there for my birthday, but was told you need to make them about 1-2 months out (YIKES!!). Also, they only make them for parties of 6 or more. For Nicole’s birthday, we made a plan pretty far out in advance, that we would brave the wait times and finally get to try this place.

I want one of these in my house. I'm counting on Lance to make that happen. Nicole's husband has magical powers. Like building ovens, fixing electricity, and changing light bulbs. Yes, I do find changing a light bulb magical. I would be too lazy to even consider it until I had to get out the flashlight app on my phone.

Oh look, my favorite food! Maybe they should create a race special to end right out front and at the end, instead of a medal, they just give you a loaf of bread. A girl can dream...

To our surprise, we were seated immediately! Apparently 6pm on a Tuesday night is the time to get your pizza fix, friends! I was pretty impressed with their fancy glass coke bottles.

It was really nice to get to know some of Nicole’s friends! They were super awesome and fun (obviously, because awesome people keep awesome company ;) )

The Birthday Girl aka my BBFF. Nicole, that means Blog BFF. I created that title just for you. I hope you like it and don't think I'm a freak. ;)

Sheena...I hope I spelled that right!

Kevin

Camille

I have no idea who that crazy is with the cute husband.

We all ended up ordering a different pizza, and I have to say, none of them disappointed!

Steve and I shared this one. It's called the Rosa and has rosemary, pistaccios, and red onions. It was soooo flavorful!! It was like my tastebuds were having a party like that little rat in Rattatouie!

Nicole's pizza. I know it had ricotta cheese and arugala. It was also super delicious, but I liked mine better :)

Lance's pizza....it had....meat. So descriptive, I know. I didn't taste it, but he liked it!

I don't remember who ordered this or what it was, but it looks good!

And the winner issss....! Oh yes, that is my pizza again.

Everything was delicious. I seriously could not get over how bold the flavors were. I don’t think I would wait 4 hours, but I would absolutely go back again!

After dinner we took some pictures. I know, you’re shocked.

BBFFs. This could get awkward real quick if Nicole tells me this term is totally unacceptable and ridiculous.

Then we went back to Nicole’s house for dessert, which of course means I have an other recipe to share with you soon.

This birthday girl knows how to cut some brownies!

I had so much fun celebrating with Nicole and her friends! I feel so honored to be a part of her real life friends group, and to have such an amazing friend in my life!! Happy birthday Niole!!!

 
Pizzeria Bianco on Urbanspoon

Steve’s Birthday Dinner @ Switch

Look! It even comes with a blackberry inside! It was super cute, and even more delicious!

After returning from an awesome weekend up north, I tried to pretend I had nothing else up my sleeve and all birthday surprises were finished. Well I don’t think Steve was super surprised when we arrived to dinner and our friends and family were there waiting. He knows me too well. We arrived at Switch

and met up with Steve’s mom & sister, my mom, Hank, Charlie, my dad, Hermano, Jason & Nacho, Nicole & Lance. Switch is a restaurant and wine bar, and Jason and Nacho had already polished off a bottle of wine before we got there, so I went ahead and ordered myself a delicious glass of pinot grigio.

Then I had total drink envy when Nicole ordered this delicious blackberry cocktail, so i ordered one too. Then I spilled it before I even got to take a sip. I’m awesomely coordinated. But the nice server brought me another one!

Look! It even comes with a blackberry inside! It was super cute, and even more delicious! Also, that photo is of Nicole's drink. I did not drink my wine and that drink at the same time. Not that I wouldn't do that, but I didn't on this particular occasion ;)

We all had an amazing time chatting and hanging out while we waited for our food.

I hate this picture, but there were not a lot of people pictures from the evening, so I'm posting it. My chin looks the size of Texas, and my face looks oddly misshapen. Weird. Hermano looks great though! He finally got a hair cut and so now he can see. It's awesome. Also, slightly less Beiber-like, yes? Which could be a good or a bad thing depending how you look at it...

Nacho is so classy. You should take him to all your fine dining events.

Lance and Nicole

Then the food came, and oh my goodness, it was sooooo yummmmmy!

Yes, those are sweet potato fries. My favorite thing in life. And somehow I'm surprised that I weighed like 10 pounds more after this weekend. I have no idea how that happened.

Steve's birthday burger. I tasted this one too. And still I don't like ground beef, but you know what I do like? Blue cheese. I could eat it plain. In fact, when I was a kid, I used to eat it plain all the time and then my hands would smell really gross like moldy cheese. It was so cute. You're welcome, mom!

This was Nicole's dinner. I forget what it was called, but I can tell you that the flaky bread part was a little like heaven on earth.

Then they brought out dessert with a candle! In fact, they brought out two because we told them Nicole’s birthday was coming up too.

Like pizookie. Yummmmm.

This was super good, but it did not compare to the cupcakes they wouldn’t let me bring in. What’s up with that trendy Phoenix restaurants? I do not prefer this rule.

Hank got this blueberry vanilla bean bread putting thing which put anything I’ve ever created to shame. Maybe that’s bad plugging for my blog to say their food was better? But seriously, this bread pudding was probably made up of sticks of butter and heavy cream and it was incredible. In fact, every single thing I tasted, I absolutely loved. I would most definitely return to Switch again, and again, and again!

We all had a great time and it was the perfect end to a pretty perfect weekend.
Switch Restaurant & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Steve’s 31st Birthday Getaway

"SURPRISE!!!!! It's your birthday!!!!"

In case you didn’t notice by the return of actually good photography, Steve is finally back from LA!! Hooray!!! Just one week after he got back, it was already time to celebrate his birthday! He was awesome and decided to be born on Easter weekend which meant I actually had the whole weekend off to spend with him! That never happens, so I decided to take advantage of it, and I got in touch with my friend/best realtor ever, Kathy, and asked about renting the weekend at her cabin in Heber/Overgaard.

Friday afternoon, I sneakily packed our bags, got the puppies and asked Steve if we could go take pictures on a mountain. It was the best cover up ever. I should be in the CIA or something because I am the best at being sneaky and keeping secrets. He didn’t figure out where we were going until we were almost to Fountain Hills, so I couldn’t have done that bad! We decided to stop in Payson for dinner. I looked on yelp, and found the Buffalo Bar and Grill.

"SURPRISE!!!!! It's your birthday!!!!"

I absolutely loved this little place. They didn’t typically allow dogs, but they let us sit outside with Winston and Clementine, and then even brought them water! The food was delicious too. Steve got a green chile burger.

That potato salad was super delish. I always try his burgers and never really like the taste of ground beef, yet I keep tasting it...? I'm weird.

I got a grilled chicken sandwich with buffalo sauce…my faaaavorite. YUM. And my fav guilty pleasure–SWEET POTATO FRIES!!!

Running is worth it when sweet potato fries come at the end of the day.

"OMG, I find this food more almost as exciting as your birth!!!!"

As you can see from this picture, I am super classy and attractive. It’s obvious why Steve married me.

By the time we got to the cabin, it was pretty late (for us old people) so we hung out for a bit, then went to bed pretty early. The next morning we woke up at the ridiculous hour of 6am because we are incapable of sleeping in. We hung around for a bit with the puppies.

"Mom, it's 6am. This is ridiculous."

"Boy, that walk from the bedroom to the couch really wore me out! I think now is a great time for a nap."

I discovered the waffle maker and it was love at first waffle!

Why have I NEVER made waffles before?!?!?! And why do I not own one of this incredible contraptions that creates the waffles?! This is a serious problem.

Ummm, as soon as we got back on Sunday, I bought a waffle maker. Stay tuned for a whole slew of waffle recipes.

While I was discovering waffle amazingness, Clementine was discovering stairs.

"Okay, I made it up here, but how the heck do I get back down?!?!"

Have you ever watched a mini dachshund climb up and down stairs?? It’s pretty funny. Her legs are so short, and her body is so long! She definitely took a spill or two.

"Stairs aint got nothin' on me!"

"Yes mom, I'm long and cute and you get no credit for that. Even though we have the same body type (long body, short legs, big butt), you do not receive credit for my super cuteness."

Clementine has so much attitude. I am totally responsible for her cuteness. I mean, where else would she learn this?

I roll around on the carpet daily. Clementine tries to copy. Whatever. I started it.

After hanging out for a bit, we decided to go down to Payson. There’s pretty much nothing to do in Overgaard, so we went in search of something fun, and of course, coffee. Yelp took us to a place called Scoops which had coffee and ice cream. My two favorite things!

I asked the barista what he suggested for something fun to do in the area and he suggested a hike along Tonto Creek. Neither of us were really dressed for hiking, but we decided to head over and at least check out a little bit of it, and I was really glad we did! It was really easy and mostly flat. More like a nice walk along the creek than a hike. Winston and Clementine got to experience nature beyond the dog park!

On the way back to Overgaard, we stopped at a lookout on the 270.

Oh my gosh...TREES! We don't have those in Phoenix. Only the prickly kind.

They are so foreign, we must take pictures in case we can't remember what they look like when we get back to Phoenix!

The birthday boy. I like him ;)

We picked up some things for dinner, a couple movies from the red box, and stayed in for the night. I made a super impressive dinner that included hot dogs and a can of baked beans. I hate the name of this dish, so I refuse to use it, but Steve loves it and is always going on about it, so I made it for him. Plus some asparagus to pretend like I actually do eat healthy.

Totally does not look cute, but I have to admit, it was pretty yummy. I'll have to try it again, and make the beans myself and use turkey dogs instead of beef. Slim pickins up at the Overgaard market.

We tried a new beer I picked up from Whole Foods.

Yummmm. I would definitely buy this again!

Then we watched Like Crazy (I don’t really have an opinion–didn’t love it, didn’t hate it. It happened, I guess.) and Carnage which I LOVED. I know friends of mine who have seen/read the play, didn’t love the movie, but I still haven’t seen it, and I thought it was hilarious. Jodie Foster was a total nut and I loved every second of it. I can’t wait until I have the opportunity to see a professional theatre production!

And that was pretty much it. We’re kind of boring people, but we loved it and had a great time, and headed back pretty early Sunday morning for some more festivities that night.

Special thanks to Kathy for renting our her amazing cabin!! If you live in Arizona or you want to come out this way and are interested in getting away from the city for a bit, I highly recommend it! The cabin has 3 bedrooms, a full kitchen with cooking equipment (like WAFFLE MAKERS!), a gorgeous rustic feel, and lots more! I can’t wait until we are able to return!

 

Vanilla Bean Cookie Butter Cup Cupcakes

Vanilla Bean Cookie Butter Cup Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Cookie Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

I have a serious problem.

How do you live with a fridge full of this and not eat every last one?? Seriously.

Well, I guess the fact that they were made for someone else is pretty good for the whole self control thing. I canNOT make cupcakes like this that are just for me. I will eat a dozen in about 2 days hours minutes.

Remember when I made these and said they part one of a special baking project?? Well, I made vanilla bean cupcake batter, swirled in some cookie butter, then pressed one into the center before baking.

I thought they would bake much faster than normal cupcakes, or that the cookie butter cup would just melt right into the cupcake, but they baked for a normal amount of time (18 minutes) and came out looking perfect!

Then I made a Cookie Butter Cream Cheese Frosting and things got REAL over here.

Because what good is a cupcake picture if you don’t cut it in half and show off all the gooey insides?!

Also can we check out all those vanilla bean specs?! In the cupcake and the frosting. Can’t. Get. Enough.

These weren’t completely cooled, so everything just came right out. I love that. If you don’t, just make sure you cool them in the fridge first. But seriously, if you don’t like warm, oozey chocolate, who are you and why are you even reading this blog?!

Just kidding, please keep reading. I can overlook your weird textural preferences. Maybe…

Drrrrooooool.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY STEVE!!!! I couldn’t have picked a better occasion to make probably the best cupcake I have ever created. Obviously, you inspire me :)

Vanilla Bean Cookie Butter Cup Cupcakes

yield 15

  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tbs baking powder
  • dash salt
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup reduced fat buttermilk
  • 1/2 tbs vanilla extract
  • 2-3 tbs TJ’s Cookie Butter (or Biscoff spread), melted
  • 15 Salted Chocolate Cookie Butter Cups, frozen

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line cupcake pans with paper liners. Spray lightly with nonstick spray, then set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or you can use a hand mixer if you don’t have a stand one), add applesauce and sugar. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean and beat on medium speed.
  4. Beat in eggs one at a time.
  5. In a glass measuring cup (or separate bowl) combine buttermilk and vanilla extract.
  6. With mixer on low speed, alternately add flour and buttermilk mixtures, starting and ending with dry ingredients.
  7. Beat until just incorporated, scraping down sides of the bowl when necessary.
  8. Fill 15 cupcake liners 2/3 of the way full. I used a medium sized cookie scoop and it took 1 1/2 scoops per cupcake.
  9. Drizzle in a small amount of cookie butter into each cupcake, and swirl lightly with a toothpick.
  10. Press one Salted Chocolate Cookie Butter Cup into each cupcake.
  11. Bake for 17-19 minutes. (I always turn mine around halfway through to keep even cooking)
  12. Let stand for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  13. Top with Vanilla Bean Cookie Butter Cream Cheese Frosting.

Vanilla Bean Cookie Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

yield enough for 20 cupcakes

  • 16 oz reduced fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup TJ’s Cookie Butter
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 3 cups powdered sugar

Directions:

  1. Place cream cheese and cookie butter in a large bowl. Scrape in vanilla bean seeds and beat together for 1 minute.
  2. Slowly beat in powdered sugar, scraping down sides of bowl when necessary.
  3. Frost immediately, or chill in refrigerator.

 

Happy Tuesday

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Today is the best day. You wanna know why? Well for one thing it’s my brother Charlie’s birthday–happy birthday Charlie!! For an other thing, I have the day completely off. WHOOOO!!!! Also, I started my day off in Linda’s spin class with Kara.

While we’re on the subject of spin, check out this awesome one from Sunday’s 90 min class!

After class, we got coffee from my newest love, Dutch Bros, and headed back to my house for a day of baking!

Definitely a much better start than I got yesterday. Sooooo, yesterday I went to meet Jason for a run, and he was running a few minutes late. I could have gone out and gotten an extra mile or so in, but instead, I sat in my car going through my google reader. Good job, Ari. Way to know what’s important. So Jason comes to my window and says “I guess you had a rough morning too.” Huh???? What??? I mean I’m not really awake yet, and I definitely did not brush my hair, but how is this any different from every other Monday we meet at 7am?

There’s a first time for everything. Luckily, I had only just gotten gas about a mile back, but holy crap–I can’t believe I did that!

Sometimes I suck at life, and that's sad. So is my sunburn.

Ohhhh, life is hard when you’re unobservant like me. Anyway, today has been fabulous, and totally chill, but still productive–exactly what I needed. I have a birthday dinner to head to tonight and then I get to pick up one of my very favorite people on Earth from the airport!!!!

Mac, you were planning on stuffing Sylvi in your Diana Ross suit case, so we could recreate this moment right? Okay, good.

Okay, lots of getting ready to do. Have a fabulous day everyone!