Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Buttercream Icing

I have been seeing all of these pumpkin recipes pop up everywhere and while scrolling through one of the blogs I follow, Gina's Skinny Recipes I found the perfect one to try. She has been making a whole bunch of pumpkin things recently so I decided on Pumpkins Cupcakes. I actually decided to do a different icing, I thought Cinnamon would pair nicely and I was correct!
For the Pumpkin Cupcakes:
Source: Gina's Skinny Recipes
18.25oz Yellow Cake Mix
Can of Pumpkin
Cup of Water
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Mix all ingredients together and put into baking cups
3. Cook for 15-20 minutes (mine only took about 15 but I could have put it in a minute or two less)
For the Cinnamon Buttercream Icing:
Source: Food.com
Stick of Butter at room temperature
3 3/4 cups powder sugar
1 tsp Vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
3 Tsp milk

1. Whisk/Whip the butter for 30-60 seconds until smooth
2. Gradually add the sugar, about a cup at a time
3. Add the other 3 ingredients until well blended (if you want it a little thinner you can add a little more milk)

Here is what the icing looked like before I dyed it, beautiful with little speckles on cinnamon showing, wish I had better light :/
I decided to try and pipe the icing on the cupcakes, but I clearly do not have these skills yet, I may have to sit down one day and practice until I can pipe perfectly. Maybe I will get my friend C *hint*hint* to teach me how.
To make it look like a pumpkin
Orange Food Coloring (I use Wilton Gels)
Pretzel rods

1. Cut the top and bottom off of the pretzels for the pumpkin stems
2. Put a little bit of the gel coloring in until you get the shade of orange you want, remember a little goes a long way.
3. After you ice the cupcakes stick the pretzel rod on top and you have pumpkin cupcakes!!
I was really happy with the way these cupcakes turned out and all of my taste testers agreed that these were very good. The pumpkin-cinnamon combo was delicious, definitely a keeper for the fall months, and they are both so easy to make.

One of the really good things about this cupcake is that it is weight watcher friendly (so it clearly makes me feel better about eating it), if you click on the source of my recipe it will take you to the original, and to the points, etc. However the frosting is very not weight watcher friendly, but Gina's has a good frosting recipe to go along with these cupcakes if you want to stick with the weight watchers thing.
Another good idea to do for this cupcake is to draw the pumpkin face, but once again, I need to work on my icing skills, but it still looks cute to me :)

Pumpkin Recipe Source: Gina's Skinny Recipes
Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting Source: Food.com

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I'll have S'more Brownies

I know, I know the title is cheesy, but I mean, who could resist putting this little pun in :)

Every Monday during the school year I take a half a day at work and go to babysit my cousins because those lucky ducks get out of school at 1pm...if only that tradition carried past grade school :)

Last year I started cooking dinner for them, often desserts, and they happen to have an AWESOME kitchen and appliances galore so I am able to test my creativity and spread out.

Monday I decided to try out Smores Brownies...and let me tell you, YUM.

There are 3 components to these brownies (1) Graham Cracker Crust (2) Brownie Middle (3) Marshmallow topping, and it is incredibly easy to make, just takes a little time
For the crust you need (this was for a rectangle pan):
1 1/2 packets of crushed/chunks Graham Crackers (in a box there are typically 3 packets)
1 1/3 sticks of butter
1/3 cups sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Melt butter and mix in graham cracker crumbs and sugar
3. I put aluminim foil in my pan so I could just lift the brownies out and cut them after they were finished cooking
4. Butter or spray your pan and the spread graham cracker mix
5. Cook for about 20 minutes

For the Brownies:
-I cheated and just used a Ghirardelli brownie mix, one of the best mixes in my personal opinion but if you have a go-to recipe (I currently do not) you could easily use that as well
-After you have everything mixed together pour the batter over the crust and cook the brownies according to the instructions on the box, making sure to check it about 3/4 of the way through (I always have to do this because I never seem to have accurate ovens)

For the Marshmallow Topping:
1 bag of Marshmallows

1. Sprinkle a good layer of  marshmallows over the brownies, I used about 1/2-3/4 of a small bag (really a personal preference) and turn on your broiler
2. My aunt’s kitchen consists of a super fancy oven that I love! Just be sure when you get to this step you keep an eye on your marshmallows.  I am only noting this because I learned from experience as I tried walking away to clean up a little while the marshmallows were broiling on high. I turned around to see their oven smoking. Luckily they didn't burn,  just the perfect marshmallow char, I would say no more than a minute or two on high when the oven is already hot.
I let it cool for about 5-10 minutes and then I cut the brownies into little rectangles. I didn't seem to have to much trouble with the gooey marshmallows.
mm just look at those 3 layers, yum

I got rave reviews from these brownies-my family, roommate and friends all said they were absolutely delicious and I will admit I may have taken the plunge and eaten 2-3 before I gave them all away :)

My uncles are not fans of the marshmallows, so I left a little bit of the brownie without the marshmallows and they both loved the addition of the graham cracker crust with the chocolate brownie goodness so if you are not a fan of marshmallows, I would still strongly suggest just making these with a graham cracker crust.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mad Fox Brewery

My mom and I went to Mad Fox Brewery for dinner one night. We ate there on a Friday night but luckily there was not a wait to get seated.

Since we were at a brewery, I figure it was only appropriate that we sampled some of Mad Fox's beers. We shared a sampler but none of the beers really stood out to me because they were to bitter and hoppy for my personal preference. I would have chosen others, but they were out of most of the beers on a Friday night...great way to start the weekend (insert sarcasm).
We started off our meal with an appetizer, Fried Mac and Cheese Bites. I wish I could talk about the fried, cheesy goodness that I was hoping to experience but sadly we never received this appetizer. When we asked about it, to the kitchen runner, mind you - not our actual server, went to check. Towards the end of the meal the manager came over and let us know that the appetizer was sold out, no apology just a statement.

I love eating with my mom because we often pick two entrees and split them. The first entree we picked was the Mad Fox Burger (tomatoes, caramelized onions and shepherd’s blend cheese) $10. My mom loved this burger, and said she would definitely come back here for a burger. I thought it was pretty good, very juicy and flavorful, and the caramelized onions were amazing.
For entree #2 we chose the BBQ Duck Pizza (pulled duck confit, Porter BBQ sauce, caramelized shallots, smoked Gouda) $16. Decent, all of the flavors went together well but I probably would try something else if I ventured here again.
My mom says I am too critical sometimes, and that may be true, but I was annoyed with the way our appetizer situation was handled. It really seemed like our server could not care less and when the manager came to the table it was clear it was because he was obligated to do so, not because he cared about his customers. There was no apology, just "hey, the kitchen ran out of your appetizer" after we were halfway through our meal.

The burger was delicious but the service was pretty bad so there won't be a return trip for me any time soon.


703-942-6840
444 W Broad Street
Falls Church, VA
Mad Fox Brewing Company on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 15, 2011

BRG The Burger Joint

I went to BGR The Burger Joint in Clarendon the other day, a place I have been dying to try and because my roommate L had a burger from here and has been raving about it. Initially I tried to go to the one in Arlington but when I drove by they had a sign up that said they were closed for Labor Day. I had based my decision on going there on a GroupOn instant deal, luckily I was able to get refunded.

When you step inside of BGR, there is a huge menu posted by the door, and then you walk down the aisle to order your food. I went with my friend G and we actually just split a meal.
We ordered a Double Chocolate Shake which was decent, but I probably would not order it again based off the price. It did not quite have that homemade feel to it, ALMOST reminded me of a McDonalds milkshake with better quality ice cream.
Next we split the Wellington Burger (roasted mushrooms, caramelized onions, garlic, blue cheese, mojo sauce) with a side of The Gold Standard french fries. We actually got it with out the blue cheese because I HATE blue cheese. And I am almost positive in the description of the burger in the restaurant there were suppose to be hints of truffle in the burger. The overall quality of the burger was fine, but it was missing the caramelized onions...the main reason for ordering this burger and there were no hints of truffle. There was just something missing in this burger. The fries were good, your typical burger place fries. 

Can you guess how much we spent on these 3 items? This my friends totaled to about $18.95...yes just for a burger, fries and a milkshake. One person, $18. Somehow I still can not wrap my mind around this. If it were perhaps the best burger, milk shake or fries that I had ever had I would have been ok with this, but sadly none of them were.

L still swears her burger was delicious, and this place has gotten a lot of positive reviews, so who knows, maybe I will venture back if someone else wants to try it out.

Grade: C 
3024 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22201

BGR The Burger Joint on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 9, 2011

Bar-Cöde

I had a Living Social Deal that I had to use up before it expired, and per usual I waited until the absolute last day to use it. Just my luck it so happened to be the night of a torrential down pouring and flooding. Not wanting to lose out on my money, L and I bravely ventured to the city to try out Bar-Cöde. Luckily the DC area was not as bad as the rest of VA/MD (at least the parts we visited).
This place was poppin', so many people were out I was shocked. I guess when it comes to rain, I just want to become a hermit and cuddle up on the couch with a glass of wine and a movie. This is a really bad picture of the restaurant but it was rainy and I wanted to hurry inside.

We started out with Spinach and Artichoke Dip $10. Creamy and cheesey, very delicious, something I would definitely eat again.
For my entree I ordered the Margherita Pizza $9.This was pretty good, the crust was a little to crisp for me but overall I enjoyed my meal. The only complaint was that the pizza didn't have any sauce on it, and apparently most of their pizzas do not come with sauce-something I think should be made clear. The server did bring me a side of pizza sauce, but it was really chunky and not too good so I just ate it plain. 
L got the Grilled Chicken Panini $11 (sundried tomato tapenade on ciabatta bread). This was really good, the bread, tapenade chicken combo was delicious. The house dressing was also delicious, the perfect amount of tang. However the mayo (pictured next to the sandwich) was very awkward-couldn't really determine the flavors. Thankfully it was on the side so it didn't tarnish the sandwich's flavor.
To end our meal and finish off the living social deal, we ordered a Nutella Pizza $9 (Mascarpone Cheese, Walnuts, Strawberries) although we got it without the walnuts. It was pretty tasty, and I really like the addition of the strawberries and mascarpone. I still think I prefer the creation over at 7th Hill, a very close call.
Overall I was very surprised by the quality of the meal. When I think of a bar/lounge type of place, I don't really think of quality meals. I left the restaurant feeling quite satisfied and very stuffed. We scarfed down the dip but both took half of our meals back and only ate half of the dessert pizza. This was much more food than I would normally get at a restaurant.

Service was ok, it was a little slow, and my water glass was empty for the majority of the night.
One of my complaints was that the music was a little loud, I realize it is a bar/lounge, but during the dinner portion of the night they should make the music a little quieter so the diners don't have to shout to their companions.

I enjoyed my meal, but I will not be running back here for dinner too soon. If I ever end up getting a job in DC, I know one place I will be trying for happy hour.

Grade: B

Tip: this general areas parking meters are for coins, not credit cards like everywhere else I've gone, make sure you have coins or else you will be scrambling around your car and the bottom of your bag to make sure you have enough time for an hour aka a very quick meal

202-955-9001
1101 17th St NW
Washington, DC

Barcode Restaurant, Bar and Lounge on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Co Co Sala: Summer Restaurant Week 2011

Last week L, L2 and I went to Co Co Sala for Restaurant Week. L and I actually went for my first restaurant week experience ever last winter here.

L2 was driving down from MD, so she met me at my apartment and we drove in to meet L at the restaurant. We got stuck in traffic because with my luck there would be a Nationals game the night I decide to go into DC. The past couple of times I go into DC I always manage to get decent parking, and luckily this was one of those times.

Parking in this part of DC involves paying at the meter and sticking the receipt on your dashboard which I had to do when C and I went to Zaytinya. My urge to get to the restaurant led me to forget this detail and I forgot to put it in my window. I remembered just as we were finishing dessert and I freaked out and ran to my car, tripping out the door and causing a great many laughs for everyone in the bar area (last time I ran into their door on the way out).

We were seated in a back room of the restaurant which had a very romantic vibe to it. Co Co's special restaurant week menu gave everyone a Frozen Hot Co Co sip  to start of the meal, then the pick of two "nibs" and then a choice of dessert.
The Frozen Hot Co Co sip was delicious! They do chocolate really well, just wish it was a tad bit bigger.
 
All 3 of us chose the Tomato and Burrata Salad, delicious as always but I was a little disappointing that I could not taste the truffle oil the description claimed it had.
For the first "nib" we all got the Crispy Creole Crab-cake (mango salsa, chipotle chocolate tomato glaze, avocado cilantro emulsion). Sadly this was not as good as I remembered. All of the sauces and salsa were an amazing addition, but the crab-cake had a bit of a kick to it that I did not remember, a little too "zesty" for L2's liking.
For my second I chose the Artichoke Tart (tomato confit, cream cheese crust, Parmesan and asaigo, truffle oil). I actually could taste the truffle oil in this, but overall I was disappointed in this dish, it just seemed blank.
 
L got the Beef Sliders which she enjoyed, and from the looks at what other people ordered seemed like a popular dish to get.
 
And L2 got the Portobella Flatbread (goat cheese, roasted peppers, olives, fig marmalade). This was huge (although you can't tell from the pic) and L2 liked it.
For dessert L & L2 stuck with the classic Chocolate Onyx, which was just as good as the last time except for the awkward chocolate sorbet. This dish is a bit of heaven with each bite.
I decided to try something new so I got the Peaches and Creme.Sounds great, but the effort it took to eat this unfortunately was not worth it. There were grilled peaches on a pastry and all they gave me to eat with this was a spoon. After finally being able to track down the server for a knife, it barely made the process any easier, having to saw through this pastry. I was not a fan of the Dulce De Leche ice cream, thought it had a weird taste to it. The best part of the dish was the Cream, smooth creamy and very tasteful with the addition of white chocolate.
Negatives:
  • We finished our meal in under an hour, I realize they need to be efficient because its restaurant week but they were just thrusting food in our faces, and there was not a full house.
  • To go along with the rushing, before L2 was not finished with her last "nib" they brought out our desserts. She literally had to jump from the Portobella flat-bread to the dessert to prevent her ice cream from melting, no time for a palate cleansing.
  • Sawing through my dessert was not appealing at all and I ended up not eating the majority of it bc the effort i took to eat this along with the taste was not worth it.
  • Felt the overall quality has gone down in the food
Positives (mostly):
  • I was waiting for L&L2 to go to the bathroom when the manager started to talking to me. He asked me how my experience was and I told him it was just ok. I listed my reasons on why it was not as enjoyable (pretty much the things I wrote above) and he responded pretty well to them, I thought his excuses were a little lame, they were trying to get a hang of restaurant week (which they have done before and they have a limited menu so they don't even have a full kitchen AND they are a popular restaurant in a very well traveled area), etc. but I appreciated the willingness to listen to me about the problems.
  • I was however very impressed that he offered to open the chocolate shop for me so I could purchase a white chocolate bar that is absolutely amazing, probably one of the only times you will here me rave about white chocolate.
  • The chocolate, as always, is good quality, creative and delicious. 

Ugh this review is getting long but I felt like I just had so much to say about this. Sadly Co Co Sala has fallen off my list of recommended eating restaurants. I don't know if it is because I had such high expectations or what but as far as the food goes, there are to many other options in DC.

I will however come back here if I am in the need for some good chocolate...the chocolate here is AMAZING. Perhaps even for a happy hour, or to come during the winter for some of their heavenly hot co co.


Co Co. Sala on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Homemade Fries with Basil-Garlic Aioli

I love french fries but, I mean, who doesn't? The only problem is the calories that come with this fried finger food. Luckily baked fries are almost as good and much more healthy. Pair them with a delicious aioli (well almost, I cheated and just used mayo) and you have a tasty treat.

Try this, you will not be disappointed!

Home-Made Fries
Ingredients:
Potatoes (I just did one big potato, would be enough for 2 as a side...or 1 for dinner)
Olive Oil
Salt
Pepper

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
2. Cut potatoes into similar sized pieces.
3. Spread on pan and drizzle olive oil (enough to coat fries), salt and pepper
4. Mix everything together so fries are evenly coated and put them in the oven.
5. Cook for about 30 minutes, depending on how crispy you like your fries

Basil-Garlic Aioli
Ingredients (1 serving size):
4 Tablespoons Mayo
Clove of Garlic
Teaspoon of dried basil

1. Mix all ingredients together and let sit in the fridge. This will mesh the flavors, give at least 15 minutes.

you can use low fat mayo-does not affect the flavor at all. In fact I usually use low-fat but all I had in my fridge was regular


Dip your fries and enjoy!!