Archive | March, 2011

My Big Fat Greek Yogurt Lemon Cupcakes…

30 Mar

This was my accidental genius recipe concoction…thanks Hop for encouraging me to remember! ; )

Going back to our “New Years Revolution” post, my journey to be the healthiest me also involves a huge change in my eating habits. This includes swapping out barbecue chips for broccoli florets, soda and juices for teas and crystal light packets, blue moon for MGD 64 (okay, I’m still working on this), and baking for…well….baking!

Although it has taken a lot of tweaking, researching (and failing miserably) I have managed to find a way to still bake (how what I love) and not sacrifice a huge number of calories. Now this recipe, I may add was a TOTAL mistake. I ran out of  low fat half & half (yes there is such thing) and was already half way in the middle of a recipe…dashing over the kitchen all I saw that was remotely NOT fattening was…VANILLA GREEK YOGURT…so I figured, what the heck and to my surprise (and that of my neighbor) the cupcakes were FANTASTIC!!! Here is the recipe below:

My Lemon Cupcake Batter:

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 tb baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks (16 tb) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp of lemon extract
  • 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 2 cups Vanilla Greek yogurt (any brand should do)

(You can use lemon zest if you want to, for me personally I find it too bitter but to each its own)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 muffin tins.

Make cupcake batter: sift together first four ingredients into a medium-sized bowl; set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each, then vanilla extract, lemon extract & lemon juice. Reduce speed to low and mix in half of the flour mixture just until combined, then the yogurt, and end with the rest of the flour mixture. Do not overmix. Pour batter into cupcake tins and bake for about 25 minutes, or until golden and inserted cake tester comes out clean. Let cool in tins for 10 minutes, then remove to baking rack to cool completely.

Lemon Yogurt Frosting:

  • 1 stick (8 tb) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice

Make frosting: in the bowl of a standing mixer, beat yogurt and butter on medium speed until well-combined, 1 to 2 minutes; add lemon juice. Mix in confectioner’s sugar, 1/2 cup or so at a time, beating between additions to ensure smoothness.

BAKERS NOTE: Be completely sure that the cupcakes are cooled, my first few I frosted while they were still warm and the yogurt frost COMPLETELY ran off…for some reason the yogurt frosting (while delicious and whips beautifully) it melts easily.

Also, when its time to frost, I like to use the pastry bag method (see how the frosting ended up in the picture.) To make a homemade pastry bag take a ziploc bag, fill with the yogurt frosting and then cut a tip off the bottom of the bag and squeeze. For those that want an easy method use the dip & swirl method-literally, dip the cupcake in the bowl, swirl it around in the frosting and pull it on out!

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Strawberry Shortcake…Huckleberry Finn

29 Mar

Don’t let the thickness fool you…unlike my GWC other-half, I am not the cookie monster. I’m not one of those people that goes ga-ga over a piece of peach cobbler or a fudge brownie. I love baking desserts and pastries but when it comes to chowing down on it I usually can pass. However, the one dessert I fall victim to every time is a strawberry shortcake. Its my absolute favorite hands down! I love a good strawberry shortcake so much that I have left my house and driven to Torrance Bakery solely to snag a few petite boxes of some….well, once I found this recipe the 30 mile trip instantly ceased.

For all of you not-so-Chocolate Lovers like myself…enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds strawberries, stemmed and quartered
  • 7 tablespoons sugar (or splenda)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (or splenda)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • Whipped Cream, recipe follows

Directions

Mix strawberries with 5 tablespoons sugar (I like to use 3 tablespoons of Agave and 2 tablespoons of splenda) and refrigerate while juices develop, at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Add heavy cream and mix until just combined. Place mixture in an ungreased 8-inch square pan and bake until golden, 18 to 20 minutes.

Remove shortcake from pan and place on a rack to cool slightly. Cut into 6 pieces and split each piece in half horizontally.

Spoon some of the strawberries with their juice onto each shortcake bottom.  Using an ice cream scooper top with a generous amount of whipped cream and then the shortcake top. Spoon more strawberries over the top and serve.

Whipped Cream:

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

Using a mixer, beat the heavy cream, sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest until soft peaks form, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.

(I know I said I will soon post my Pear-Or-Peach Cobbler recipe BUT I’m not ready to spread it to the masses yet)

Accessorizing: Texture & Color

25 Mar

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Size and scale are also important, but I think people struggle more with texture and color.  If there is one thing I loathe, it’s matchy matchy clothing and decor.  I like different colors and materials.  It gives so much interest to an outfit and room, but here we are talking about interior style.

While I was on a shopping expedition for some of my current projects at Marshalls, I stopped in the  frame and pillow aisle to do some arrangements for fun.  Unfortunately, they did not have what I needed for my actual project.

For the pink, green, and purple frames, I looked throughout the section for a larger black frame, but could not find one.  In layering, size and scale are so very important.

Here are some tips for pattern and color:

  • Choose a color you love
    • After you have thought about the mood you want to create
    • Decide how much of that color you can take.  If you can do lots of it, make it the paint color, comforter, rug, shower curtain, etc.  Essentially, whatever will have more presence.
  • Balance the color with a neutral (black, white, or brown).
  • Throw in a metal or something shiny.  This adds instant interest because it reflects light. The sequin pillow pictured above does exactly this.
  • When mixing patterns, think large, medium, and small.  Texture: smooth versus woven. The biggest misconception about print and patterns in interiors is the notion that small pattern has the least amount of presence.  On the contrary, small patterns look busy.  Larger patterns are easier on the eye.  The pillow with circles in the slideshow prove this point.
  • Combine simple lines with fussy or rustic things.
  • Use the color wheel to choose a palette.  The color wheel is one of the best things you can look at when building a palette.  It’s a color compass.

“Gourmet” Hamburgers and Sweet Potato Fries

23 Mar

The title reminds me of my sister-in-law’s friend, Dee.  Whenever we do something “extra” she says calls us and it “gourmet.”  I was starving last night, but I really wanted a burger.  I didn’t want to buy anything because I am trying to break the addiction for health reasons and financial.  In addition, I wasn’t only thinking of me for dinner.

I had ground beef, all the seasonings and additions I typically put in a burger, and asparagus on hand (must have a vegetable).  I had the George Foreman Grill on deck.  I just needed to go to the store to buy hamburger buns and sweet potato fries (I wanted to buy bleu cheese, but I am trying to change.)

For the burgers, I used:

1 lb of ground beef

1/2 cup chopped red onion

Grill Mates Montreal Steak seasoning, liberally

1 tspn Liquid Smoke (please be careful.  This stuff is potent.)

2 eggs

1/3 cup plain bread crumbs

Mix well with your hands once everything is in the bowl together.  Form patties no more than an inch thick. Cook until you achieve the doneness you’d like. If ur using a frying pan, turn the heat on medium-high, form the patties like a donut but w/out the hole. You know how homemade patties come out uneven. This can be prevent if you make the edges higher than the middle by creating a small well in the middle with you thumb. Shape them evenly.

Sweet Potato Fries:

Just buy the bag as I did.  Follow the directions on the bag.

Asparagus:

Clean and cut about an inch off the bottom to get rid of the dry brown parts.  Drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and season with freshly ground black pepper and sea or kosher salt.  Roll them around, so they are evenly coated with oil and seasoning.  Cook on a baking sheet on 400F for about 10 – 12 minutes.

Toast your burger buns either in the oven on a baking sheet or put them in the toaster for a minute.  Lastly, dress your burger and eat.

I love this meal because there is no frying pan involved; it’s so simple.  I can line the baking sheets with foil and turn on the George Foreman grill.  Besides the carbs, it has some pretty healthy counterparts packed with Protein, Fiber, and Potassium.

By the time you read this, Lakers will have beat Phoenix. Hahahahahaha

Retirement: Growing My Nest Egg, NOW

21 Mar

That graph shows what most Americans over 65 are doing. Ummm…No. That light blue and orange field needs to grow substantially. We cannot rely on Social Security.

At the tail end of 2010, I became obsessed with when I was going to retire and how I was going to retire.  I started really thinking hard about money, how I want to live in the next 10 to 15 years, and the people who aren’t near retirement at my job but have been working the last 30 – 35 years.  Retirement is about Time Value of Money, value of money given an amount of interest earned over a given amount of time.  Thank you, college degree.  I am also looking into Balanced Funds and Broad Based EFTs.  I haven’t gotten all the information yet, but you can certainly look into those, as well.

I started tying up some of my money up in various retirement accounts and investments the beginning of the year. For some, I did so by automatically transferring money every two weeks (when I get paid) into my retirement accounts, while others were one-time payments.  Figure out what type of spender and saver you are, this typically goes hand-in-hand with the amount of risk you are willing to take.  I treat my retirement better than anything else; it’s the only thing I automatically transfer. Each time I save for retirement, the fewer my days are of sitting at this desk or working in any field I pursue.

Questions you should ask:

When would I like to retire?
How will I retire?
What type of lifestyle would I like to have?
How much money do I expect to go up in pay over the years?
What type of passive income would I like to have at retirement?
What type of investor am I? Take this questionnaire.

401K, an employee retirement plan

If you are working at an ethical and pretty stable place, they more than likely offer a retirement plan and will match.  THIS IS A GREAT THING.  There are so many companies that don’t match because of the economy like mine.  If yours does, DO IT AND DO IT BIG. It’s FREE money!  Most companies offer 401ks and enroll you automatically.  Put in a minimum of what they will match and watch growth.  For example, if your company will match you up to 3% on your 401K, Defined Contribution Plan, you need to have at least 3% of your check going into your retirement account.  If you can stretch your contribution to 10%, you will be surprised at how much money you accumulate in no time.  I did it and it’s awesome.  Before I see my money, it’s taken out and it’s tax-free until I withdraw.  *woot woot* 

    Defined Benefit Plan (DBF)

    An employer pays the same amount guaranteed for your entire life, depending on how much you made and how long you worked.  Some DBFs have 30 years of retirement benefit.  No questions asked.  Government employees typically receive this type of retirement in exchange for stagnant low wages (some positions *raised eyebrow*).  I have not seen much of it in the private sector.  I assume there are few companies, if any that still offer Defined Benefit Plans.  I can’t name one.

    Defined Contribution Plans (DCP)

    An employer gives a defined contribution ONLY when the employee is employed.  They don’t guarantee a pension payment amount and term at retirement; they are only investing while you work with them. 

    When the money is gone and your 80, that’s it.  THIS IS WHY IT IS SO IMPORTANT TO PLAN CORRECTLY.  The result of your retirement account is reliant on contributions and investment earnings. 401K, 457, 403(b) are examples of a DCP.

If you DO NOT have a 401K offering at your job, look into an IRA.  Most banks offer IRAs.  You will need a contribution to and earned income to begin. Have your Social Security number and the Social Security number of your beneficiaries, in the event anything happens, ready.  There are caps on how much you can contribute annually.  Last time, I looked it was $5,000 annually. 

IRA, an Individual Retirement Account

Two types: Traditional and Roth

There is a $5,000 annual contribution limit, if you’re less than 50 years old on either.  Understand the difference between contributions and earnings for tax purposes.

    Traditional

    There is no income restriction, but either you or your spouse must have earned income.  You only need to have “x” amount of income to contribute.  Tax is deferred on the earnings until you take money out, contributions and earnings alike. It’s taxed as Ordinary Income, not capital gains.  You have to start taking money out at 70 ½ years of age.  If you don’t, the IRS will take a big chunk.  If you have a 401k and earn a particular amount of income chances are you don’t qualify for tax deductions.   If this is not the case, you might be able to deduct your contributions.

    Roth

    There is an income limit for Roth IRAs and 5 year waiting period.  You pay tax up front on your contributions, so withdrawal against your contribution is tax and penalty free.  Contributions are not tax deductible, but qualified withdrawals are tax-free.  There is no heavy tax on earnings, if you wait.  The tax penalty is 10% for unqualified withdrawals.  Invest in a ROTH IRA while you’re young, if you do not need the money immediately.  You will be penalized for early withdrawal on earnings, before 59 ½ years of age.  There are few exceptions.  Find them here.

    You only need $2,500 or $200 per month to open a ROTH IRA with Fidelty versus competitors at $3,000 or more.  Check them out for an IRA

    Rollovers

    If you move money from a Traditional IRA to a Roth, you will pay taxes.  Remember you are switching programs from post-tax to pre-tax.  The government is going to get their money.  Rollovers have to have a 5 year grace period, as well.  When you roll it over, you will need to wait 5 years after the conversion before you can take a qualified withdrawal.

    If you Rollover employer retirement funds from an old job into an IRA.  You need to transfer the money directly into the IRA account, direct deposit.  If you do not, you will be taxed for an unqualified withdrawal.

Helpful Information

I love CNN Money Calculators.  They have several you would probably be interested in that go beyond retirement.  Check this one out related to this post.  Retirement Calculator

Keep in mind that you will eventually make more money than you are earning now, so the amount you will need to invest annually to maintain your same lifestyle at retirement will cost you more over the years.  More Savings!

Here is an article on how and where to save everyday:

Great read!

25 Ways You Can Begin Saving

20 Things My Dad and Brothers Taught Me

15 Mar

I thought of this post on my way into work, today.  But I’ve been in a meeting all day, so I just wrote it.  Enjoy!

1.       Don’t sweat the small things.

    Women like the frills and thrills and stick to a particular set of aesthetic standards.  My dad prefers things really simple, plain.  When he asks for food just give it to him on a simple plate, maybe even a napkin.  My dad even goes as far as “just put it in my hand.” No extras.

2.       If we are helping, don’t complain

    unless you see the house is falling down and you know I’m going the wrong way and we need to be on time. 

    Ladies, learn how to watch when they think they know everything.  If need be, leave the room.  I try to only give input when asked.  It prevents arguments. I detest arguing, so you’ll only get so many out of me.

3.       If we cook, eat it the same way we would eat your “experiment.” 

Don’t act like your food is always ON.

    Ladies, we’ve all made a bad batch of food or changed the recipe up.  I will make a joke, but try to oblige and eat.  However, if he can’t eat it, neither can I.

4.       Don’t burp or fart. Disgusting.

5.       If we’re watching the game, either have input on THE GAME, be quiet, or leave the room.

6.       We don’t mind that you curse every once in awhile, but a sailor’s mouth is ugly on a woman.

7.       Be supportive

    The worst thing is having a nagging woman when we are going through something.

8.       That’s a double dribble

9.       It doesn’t take a guy long to figure out if he wants to keep you around.  If he truly wants to be with you, he will make it happen.  Just don’t be crazy.

10.   Take care of yourself and don’t get mad when I tell you you are slacking.

11.   We need “me” time, too.  Have your own friends.

    You, go with your friends and me with mine.

12.   I don’t like a whole bunch of makeup.

13.   Have fun!

14.   If you want to be the man, let me move out of the way.

15.   You can clean whatever you like just leave my Wii/Xbox/Playstation alone

16.   This pile of clothes is clean.  This pile is dirty. This pile goes to the cleaners and this pile…I don’t know.

    The guys I grew up with have a hard time understanding hangers.

17.   This brush is for_____ and this brush is for_______ (in regards to their hair)

18.   There is a difference between Clippers and Liners.  Be gentle with the Liners.

    I grew up lining up my dad and brother.

19.   Try it, again.  Skinny tie knots look terrible.

    I know how to tie a regular tie from my dad and brothers.  I later learned how to tie a bowtie with Seth Brundle.  Good times!

20.   Put your glove in the air.

    then, I was hit in the face with a baseball

It was quite eventful growing up with so many males, but they always showed me love. They showed me love their own special male way. I still wouldn’t trade them.

My Mom —–> Mommy Dearest

8 Mar

Okay. Okay. Okay. My mom is not Joan Crawford in that comedy of a movie, although I do answer her at times with, “yes, mommy dearest.” She, apparently, has never seen this movie.

I was watching Love & Basketball the other night and shed tears, multiple. And not because of the obvious romance. I was searching for the Kleenex box after watching the kitchen scene between Monica, Sanaa Lathan, and her mother, Camille, Alfre Woodard. Monica belittles Camille for never standing up for herself and pursuing her dreams. The tone was corrected with a watch your mouth when talking to me mom slap. Monica finally acknowledges how much it hurt that Camille never attended any of her games with her own set of tears. Camille admits she did not think it mattered. *end kitchen scene* They later reconcile indirectly when Camille states that she’s always admired Monica’s strength.

This was my mother and me years ago. My mother did not understand me growing up and not on some average teenage puberty stuff. I was a tomboy while she was “prissy.” I played basketball everyday and ran with “the guys.” I only wore dresses on Sunday because she’s a Southern Baptist. I excelled academically, but my mother was either late to my award and extracurricular activities or absent. She seldom helped with homework or any projects. My brother and I preferred it this way; she was rather impatient zapping the fun out of everything. However, she worked, cooked, and cleaned. She made sure we were groomed, had a meal, and a clean home. Sometimes, she tried to get involved, but was “too tired.”

We had a breaking point my freshman year of college. Eventually, my being a smarta** and dismissive was going to burst her seams. We had the kind of argument in which you get angry, yell, and then cry. Black children don’t have opinions. Ask the parents. But I had one now. Luckily, my mother cut the slap out the scene. It was one of the best things we ever did. We had to accept that our ideals diverged and collided at times and it was okay. My mother is one of my best friends. Maybe it’s because I have slightly “prissified” myself. Whatever the case, I am thankful and blessed to have her. She taught me a lot that I can now appreciate. She’s bonkers, but I purposely irritate her and as she often says, “play too much.” I love being able to joke with my mom and be completely honest, despite our differences, which lessen the older I become. Hint.

The longest hardest lesson was realizing my parents are humans and individuals, which means they are not perfect. How many of us can be everything to the people in our lives? Most of us will fall short. Why? It’s impossible and taxing. Eventually, I had to deal with those disappointments I had in childhood as an adult, realizing I can’t go back in time while also recognizing how enormously blessed I am to have her. I can’t expect or require my mother to apologize. Knowing my mother, she will not. But, I can kinda understand why. My mother, in her eyes, did the best she could. I believe her and it’s the truth. The biggest sacrifice is being a parent to a child and she did quite alright. I guess I’ll keep her around.

Here’s another instance in which Camille Wright parallels my mother…

When Monica and Omar Epps were talking towards the end of the film as Monica was coming up the lawn slipping off her heels, Camille was peeping out the window over the plants and bushes being nosy h<;;—- My mother would have done the same thing. My mother is so nosey. Anyone who knows her can confirm. My dad is another story, the “rule breaker.” LoL!

To my mom, Happy International Women’s Day!

Your daughter, Misch