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12 February 2014

Cherry Cordial Fudge Covered Brownies



You are probably shocked to know that I still have more from my trip to recap! I was there for over a week, and I did something each day, so...lots and lots to share!


My youngest cousin is 14-years-old (soon to be 15)! Although I wasn't there when she was born, we have been in her life, pretty much ever since the day she was born. When my family moved out to California, my aunt (her mom) moved into an apartment right next to us (since both our families were house shopping). They found a house in the same area and my family found a house about 45 minutes away. If you are from California, you know, that is not far at all! And we always saw each other. So, I have seen this girl grow up :) She was as cute as a button as a kid and now is as sweet as can be as a teenager, which says a lot because she is a TEENAGER.


I moved out to Texas when she was 9 :/ Because of that, I haven't gotten to keep up with her like I'd want. Thankfully she has a cell phone now, where I can text her :) But whenever my sister and I go back to visit family, I always try to make a day to spend with her or see her! And do whatever it is she wants to do, that her mom probably won't do with her (nothing crazy). She decided she wanted to go to Pink's Hot Dogs. We drove to Hollywood and waited for over one hour to just order our hot dogs and cheese fries :) And ate them up, because we were starving. I have to say they are delicious and the ladies that work there are super nice, which is a lot because they have to service so many people. They let you switch out hot dogs for polish sausages or turkey dogs (in my case, since I do not eat beef.....ever wondered why I never post beef recipes...that's why).



After hot dogs my cousin wanted to go to get cupcakes and chose Sprinkles, but she's been to Sprinkles before and so have I. I told her, they were overrated and not the best cupcake. I suggested we go to Georgetown Cupcakes, since they are AMAZING. Although they are a national chain -- they aren't in too many places, but they are in Los Angeles.  And that is what we did (after getting lost for a good 20 minutes). All the while, catching up and talking about teenage things (that I like to keep up with, so she knows I'm here to talk about anything because I love her :) She really liked Georgetown Cupcakes, more than Sprinkles of course, especially this oreo cheesecake cupcake they have....oh my gosh...so so so drool worthy.


Since her birthday was coming up, we ended the night at the mall...hahaha..so high school right? And I took her shopping so she could pick out some outfits that she wanted.

Day 5 of my Valentine's Day Countdown! We are almost there people! We had our program interviews for potential applicants mid-January and we had a potluck dinner while they were here. Since, I knew I was going to make desserts for this countdown, I decided to make this and the Red Velvet M&M Cake Mix Bars early. That way, I had something to bring, there wouldn't be any left overs at the house where the hubby and I would be tempted to eat them (because we would), and I would have two recipes for this countdown already done. This recipes was inspired by my Hot Chocolate 3-Muskateers Fudge Brownies :) Remember this is no fudge brownie...these are fudge on top of fudge brownies!







CHERRY CORDIAL FUDGE COVERED BROWNIES
Adapted from Cookies & Cups

INGREDIENTS

Preheat Oven to 350F Degrees

1 box of fudge brownie mix (family size), baked according to package directions
2 c. chocolate chips
14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
10 oz. bag of mini hot chocolate 3-Muskateers bars, chopped
1/2 c. of mini marshmallows

DIRECTIONS

Line a 7 3/4 x 11 3/4 or 9x13 baking dish with aluminum foil. Grease aluminum foil with butter, shortening or cooking spray. This will help when removing bars from baking dish, allow for cooling, and easier, cleaner cutting into squares.
 
Bake brownies according to package directions (I like a thick layer of brownies, so I get family size, but if you want a thin layer, you can get a regular boxed brownie mix). Allow to cool completely.

While brownie is cooling, in a double broiler, combine chocolate chips and condensed milk. Continue stirring, until chocolate chips are melted. Allow to cool slightly but not thicken.

Then evenly sprinkle half of the cherry cordial M&Ms on top of the cooled brownie.  Pour fudge over the the M&Ms. Using a greased spatula, spread fudge evenly over brownies and M&Ms.

Press the remaining M&Ms into the fudge layer. Place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to allow fudge to set (overnight is best for cutting into squares, but 1 hour is the best to have the fudgiest fudge brownie...if that makes sense).
Enjoy,
Chika 

11 February 2014

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Puppy Chow



Not only did I not tell you what I got for my birthday but I forgot to tell you one major change. I dyed my hair! I rarely do anything with my hair -- cut or color. I usually follow the same pattern: don't cut my hair for about 2 years, get annoyed with how long and heavy my hair gets and chop it off :) But this time, I was craving something different. I have been seeing this ombre hairstyle floating around and it caught my eye. But being of a darker skin tone -- the bleached blonde ombre was just not something that would look good on  me and would be too drastic of a change.


After doing a little research I found a picture of someone who did a black to dark brown ombre. It looked really cute and like something that would fit me well. I love it! I read a lot about this look being high maintenance but so far it's been great. I do think it looks nicer with curled hair, so I try to do that more often (in fact I just bought my first curling wand). I know some people curl their hair with a hair straightner but it just does not work for me....I find the curling wand really easy to use and it make much nicer curls and waves!

On to the last puppy chow recipe of my Day 4 Valentine's Day countdown :) Since I had some strawberry cake mix left from the Strawberry Puppy Chow, I decided to make a similar version of puppy chow. All I kept thinking about was the dark chocolate covered strawberry cake balls I made. And voila -- there you have it -- chocolate covered strawberry puppy chow! These were different from the dark chocolate covered strawberry cake balls, which had a subtle hint of strawberry. Instead the puppy chow had a strong flavor of strawberry with a subtle hint of chocolate. I think this puppy chow would look really cute if mixed half-and-half with the Strawberry Puppy Chow.







CHOCOLATE COVERED STRAWBERRY PUPPY CHOW
Slightly adapted from from Your Cup of Cake 

INGREDIENTS

5 c. Rice Chex cereal
1 c. chocolate chips

1 c. strawberry cake mix
1/4 c. powdered sugar
Valentine's M&Ms

DIRECTIONS

In a large tupperware (or mixing bowl with lid) measure out 5 c. of Rice Chex cereal. In a separate bowl, sift and then whisk together strawberry cake mix and powdered sugar -- set aside.

Microwave chocolate chips until melted, be careful not to burn the chocolate. If the microwave just does not work for you, you can try a double broiler.

Pour chocolate over Rice Chex cereal. Then using a spatula fold the chocolate into the Rice Chex cereal, until well coated. Dump strawberry-powdered sugar into the tupperware and seal with lid (alternatively you can use a large ziplock freezer bag -- which is easier for clean up). SHAKE....put on some music...dance with it...but SHAKE IT LIKE A SALT SHAKER ;) Just keep shaking....

Once Rice Chex cereal is well coated in strawberry-powdered sugar mix, dump onto large cookie sheet and let cool. Mix in Valentine's M&Ms and serve :)

Enjoy,
Chika

Strawberry Puppy Chow



I realized that in all my recapping of my birthday, I did not tell you all what I got! And, being just a tad materialistic...that has got to be one of my favorite parts of my birthday! You know, those things you would never get yourself regularly because it just doesn't fit into your budget or seems just a little to much to justify in your head? But on your birthday, it is justified....hahah...and as you open it, that feeling of excitement you get? You know, that feeling when you were turning 5 and your parents threw you a huge party. And all you could see was that chocolate cake and huge pile of presents....THAT FEELING :) Maybe that's why I love my birthday so much and probably why my loved ones go all out for me....because I act like a 5-year old on my birthday and not a rational 20-something year old ;) Who needs rational?


This year for my birthday instead of asking for baking and cooking supplies. I know right!?! What was I thinking?! I wanted to "up my game" on another facet of my life. My girly, grown up side. I wanted to get make up...hahah. My mom never wore make up and so my sister and I were self-taught. And we know the basics....foundation, powder, eye shadow, eyeliner, mascara and chapstick. But we did not use make brushes, beauty blenders, primers, concealers, correctors, etc...and I thought it was about time. Well, my sister thought it was because people always see my like a little kid (I wish...)....it's actually because for once in my life, I am feeling my age! I look in the mirror and see those gosh awful bags under my eyes...the puffiness....WHAT?!?! NOOOOOoooOOOOO


So, I wanted to learn the art of make up. Not the extreme kind where you can't even recognize me but where I look nice, for everyday and going out. Where the make-up is photogenic in pictures! And that is what  splurged on....fancy, name brand make up: Urban Decay (including the original Naked Palette), Lorac, Tarte, beauty blender....you name it, I got it. And Paulina splurged and got me fancy Sigma brushes for my birthday so I can learn to put on make up the right way ;) Stephanie splurged and got me these two adorable tops and one pair of gorgeous earrings. I swear, without them, I would look like a hot mess. I've been watching make-up tutorials on YouTube (but man can those girls freakin' talk....shhhhhhh) and playing around a bit to figure it all out. Paulina is going to Facetime and "teach me."

Blah blah.... ;) On to my second  Valentine's puppy chow recipe. The hubby (because remember he's a weirdo) is not a fan of red velvet. He says "it's not bad, there's just nothing special." ::shock face:: I wanted to make a puppy chow recipe that he would like. So I decided to make a strawberry puppy chow! Plus it's pink...one of the the two ultimate Valentine's Day color.s He really liked it #score.







STRAWBERRY PUPPY CHOW 
Recipe inspired by Life, Love, & Sugar

INGREDIENTS

5 c. Rice Chex cereal
1 c. white chocolate chips
1 1/2 c. strawberry cake mix
Valentine's M&Ms

DIRECTIONS

In a large tupperware (or mixing bowl with lid) measure out 5 c. of Rice Chex cereal. In a separate bowl, sift strawberry cake mix -- set aside.

Microwave chocolate chips until melted, be careful not to burn the chocolate. If the microwave just does not work for you, you can try a double broiler.

Pour chocolate over Rice Chex cereal. Then using a spatula fold the chocolate into the Rice Chex cereal, until well coated. Dump sifted, strawberry cake mix into the tupperware and seal with lid (alternatively you can use a large ziplock freezer bag -- which is easier for clean up). SHAKE....put on some music...dance with it...but SHAKE IT LIKE A SALT SHAKER ;) Just keep shaking....

Once Rice Chex cereal is well coated in strawberry cake mix, dump onto large cookie sheet and let cool. Mix in Valentine's M&Ms and serve :)

Enjoy,
Chika

Red Velvet Puppy Chow



Before I continue on with my, probably not so exciting recap of my BIRTHDAY, I wanted to say that it is so nice to have this blog where I can write about random things that I have to share, thoughts that come across my mind (like this tangent) and food that I LOVE :) Why this random comment? I have been having a stressful February, which says a lot since graduate school is one big stress ball...yes I may make up words and yes...stress ball works ;)



Well, after going to the baby shower I headed back to have dinner with my besties. They are gorgeous right?!? I LOVE my besties AND if you happen to be one of the two people who read this blog ;)....you probably know that I talk about Paulina and Stephanie all the time because I truly feel blessed to have them in my life.

This sums up our friendship perfectly!

 As I have gotten older ::cough later twenties....sad face:: I have met many people -- those that became friends but overtime faded away as well as I've seen other people and the development of their friendships. Rarely do I see people keep a strong tie to their friends as they get older and get married. Even more, rarely do I see people keep their high school friends when they go off to college. Well, I have both in them. Paulina, Stephanie and I are going on 13 years of friendship :) We have gone through graduations, first boyfriends, break ups, love, death, engagements, marriages....all the worst and best of life....together. They support me, love me, truly care about me and want whats best for me. I know if I need anything....they would give it to me or help me achieve it. And I feel the same for them. I am so thankful for our friendship.




I had such a nice dinner with them because it's always filled with non-stop laughter. The laughter that makes your stomach hurt because you are laughing so hard. But it just feels so good to laugh that much. And, oddly at the same time we have deep conversations that you would never have with anyone else. My time with them, is always....just that awesome :)

I got to try a "new" restaurant -- by new I mean since I moved away from Cali, it was built, but it's not actually "new." It's called Wokcano and it had the best calamari I have ever had!


And on a side note: Paulina is getting hitched in Cancun, Mexico! I got her beautiful invite in the mail and I just booked the hubby and I's flight/hotel. I am BEYOND excited to spend a vacay with my besties :) I have never traveled with them, so this will be a first! :)

It is half way through my Valentine's Day countdown (I thought I'd spare you the Countdown to Love this time ;) and so I wanted to do a bonus day. This is the first of three puppy chow recipes I want to share with you. Okay, I went puppy chow crazy and then  "blamed" it on this countdown to have an excuse....don't judge me...because once you eat it, you'll know why. I gained 5 pounds just eating this red velvet puppy chow....WHY!?!?! Did I find this.....because the universe loves me! hahaha...this can get a little messy but is super easy to make and fun!







RED VELVET PUPPY CHOW
Slightly adapted from from Your Cup of Cake 

INGREDIENTS

5 c. Rice Chex cereal
3/4 c. white chocolate chips
1/4 c. milk chocolate chips
2 oz. or 1/4 c. of cream cheese
1 1/2 tbsp. milk
1 1/4 c. Red Velvet Cake mix
1/4 c. powdered sugar
Red velvet M&Ms

DIRECTIONS

In a large tupperware (or mixing bowl with lid) measure out 5 c. of Rice Chex cereal. In a separate bowl, sift and then whisk together red velvet cake mix and powdered sugar -- set aside.

Microwave chocolate chips until melted, be careful not to burn the chocolate. If the microwave just does not work for you, you can try a double broiler. Once melted, stir in cream cheese and milk. The melted chocolate will get much thicker, but this is okay.

Pour chocolate over Rice Chex cereal. Then using a spatula fold the chocolate into the Rice Chex cereal, until well coated. Dump red velvet-powdered sugar into the tupperware and seal with lid (alternatively you can use a large ziplock freezer bag -- which is easier for clean up). SHAKE....put on some music...dance with it...but SHAKE IT LIKE A SALT SHAKER ;) Just keep shaking....

Once Rice Chex cereal is well coated in red velvet-powdered sugar mix, dump onto large cookie sheet and let cool. Mix in red velvet M&Ms and serve :)

Enjoy,
Chika

10 February 2014

Chocolate Raspberry Hugs Cupcakes



Let the recapping continue. Weird fact before I begin. I probably "start" a post like 10 times, only to delete it and try again.  I obviously do not usually write about it, but today I was kinda irritated by the non-flow (is that a word...non-flowingness....I should probably not be in grad school...haha) of my post :/ BUMMMMM-ERRRR...that's pretty much how I sound in real life. Hahaha...I've probably convinced half of you that, you would never want to meet me in person ;)



Okay, well the day after my birthday dinner with the fam bam (i.e., my actual birthDAY) -- was very full. I started the day attending  a baby shower thrown for my cousin. Fun fact: she is due any minute now....and I'm just waiting to hear about her new baby girl :) It was a sweet shower, with yummy food and quality time with my cousins. It was super cute, because they knew it was my birthday so they surprised me (after my cousin cut her baby shower cake) with an ice cream birthday cake.


 Another fun fact (are these even fun for you?): before the pizookie platter birthday cake obsession, I would always insist on having a Baskin-Robbins ice cream cake. Why? Because the cake of an ice cream cake (the half cake-half ice cream kind), for some reason, taste differently than a cake not topped with ice cream. Sadly it was so hot in California (yes, in January) that the cake melted by the time they came....whomp whomp...BUT I am totally a person who believes in the thought that counts :) And it made me smile and feel special! Another reason why I LOVE my family. The rest of my birthday-day....to be continued....(dun, dun, dunnnnnnn.....::not a very good cliffhanger::)


So, it is now Day 3 of my countdown to LOVE (or as other people like to non-awkwardly say...Valentine's Day). The hubby stumbled upon these seasonal raspberry Hershey's hugs. Usually you see chocolate covered strawberries, but I have also seen chocolate paired with raspberrry so I thought why not try to incorporate that into a dessert. Plus I wanted to try out this really cool recipe I found for incorporating jam into buttercream, and I happened to have a bottle of raspberry jam that I mistakenly picked up for strawberry jam that I needed to use! AND I hadn't made cupcakes in FOREVER....so it was like a win, win, win... :)


Photograph taken by the amazing Helen

Anther photograph taken by the amazing Helen :)




CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY HUGS CUPCAKES
Cupcake concept inspired from Bru Crew Life
Buttercream adapted from Your Cup of Cake

INGREDIENTS

Preheat Oven to 325F

CUPCAKES
1 box of Duncan Hines Devils Food Cake (or equivalent substitute)
1 c. of water
1/3 c. vegetable oil
3 eggs, room temperature
18 raspberry Hershey's hugs

RASPBERRY BUTTERCREAM
1 1/2stick of butter, softened
2/3 c. raspberry jam
3-5 c. powdered sugar, sifted
heavy cream (if needed for thinning)
Sprinkles
18 raspberry Hershey's hugs

DIRECTIONS

For the cupcakes:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment -- sift in cake mix (I hate lumps). Then add in water, vegetable oil and eggs. Mix on low speed until ingredients are combined.

Line a cupcake pan with liners. Using an ice cream scoop, fill each liner about 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 18-20 minutes (on bottom rack) until inserted toothpick comes out clean. I bake cupcakes at a lower temperature on the bottom rack, but for the same amount of time, because it creates fluffier cupcakes. 

Allow cupcakes to cool for 5 minutes. Then insert, point facing downward, one raspberry Hershey's hug into the center of each cupcakes, pushing down until flush with top of cupcakes (see above picture).

For the raspberry buttercream:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment cream butter and raspberry jam until creamy. Add in sifted powdered  sugar, 1 cup at a time, until the desired consistency is reached. You want buttercream to be stiff enough to hold shape when pipped. If too much powdered sugar is added, add 1 tbsp. of heavy cream until desired consistency is reached.

Pipe buttercream onto cupcake. Garnish with sprinkles, if desired, and top with a raspberry Hershey's hug.

Enjoy,
Chika