Wednesday, April 27, 2011

MUSIC BLAST: Christina Aguilera - Fighter



I was just in the mood for a little vintage Christina Aguilera rebellion music today.
Christina has such an amazing voice and I love this song in which she gives homage and thanks to her haters.
LOL
Classic.
No matter what people have to say about me, whether you like me or you don't, there is not one person in this world who can say that I am not a survivor and a fighter. So, to you, my haters, I dedicate this song. Keep doing whatcha do, boo. Thanks for making me a fighter!

After all you put me through
You'd think I'd despise you
But in the end I wanna thank you
'Cause you made that much stronger

[LOVE THIS CHORUS!]
'Cause it makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
It makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter
Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter

Thursday, April 21, 2011

KITCHEN KREATION: Cream Cheese Carrot Cake Cupcakes


I am so excited about this recipe! First of all, I have NEVER made a carrot cake before, much less made one from scratch, but I was feeling adventurous today and decided to not only make a carrot cake from scratch, BUT to turn them into inside-out cupcakes! Ha! Take that Betty Crocker! LOL
To quote Drake, "Oh you, fancy, huh?"
And my reply, "Oh yeah! Today I am!"
LOL
Does anyone else get excited about finding recipes that when you look at them you know it is pure gold???

Of course when looking for any kind of dessert recipe, I go to my girl Monique's blog, YesDivasCanCook, to find a staple recipe. She had a cool looking video and recipe for Moist Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting that really looked good, but I had something else in mind for these cupcakes. Originally, I came across this recipe for Cream Cheese Carrot Cake Muffins from King Arthur's Flour blog. I'm not even sure how in the world I happened to get to the blog much less, how I found the Carrot Cake Muffins recipe, but just click on the link above to get to their recipe.

What came out of this masterpiece was a beautiful blending of both recipes with a few of my own little add-ins (cuz that's how I do things over here in my kitchen).
OH. MY. WORD.
Delicious, delicious, delicious!
I wanted to do something different for Easter this year and what better way than to have a new carrot cake recipe to experiment on the hubby and his work crew (AKA my test-kitchen lab rats). Please try this one, it was a little more work than my usual cupcakes, but I can imagine that this would be delicious if you just decided to make a cake with the recipe and use the cream cheese frosting to top it. You could also add crushed pineapple, raisins, or your favorite crushed nuts if you like. I might do that next time, for this first carrot cake recipe, I just decided to keep it simple with chopped carrots and cake. If you try it, let me know how it came out!

DISCLAIMER #1: Both blogs say to grate carrots by hand on a grater. Hmm, since I wasn't feeling that doggoned ambitious, I bought the shredded matchstick carrots and put them in my handy dandy chopper. A few pulses later, I had tiny minced pieces of carrot without the bruised and cut-up knuckles & finger tips. [Hehehe, I just love figuring out a good shortcut!]

So anyway, here is my adapted recipe from the two of their blogs. Hope you enjoy!

INGREDIENTS - MUFFINS
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 Tbsp melted butter, unsalted
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
2 cups flour (can use all-purpose flour if needed)
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 cup grated/chopped carrots
Non-stick cooking spray
Coarse white sparkling sugar crystals (optional)

INGREDIENTS - CREAM CHEESE FILLING
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1 tsp vanilla


DIRECTIONS
1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Line a standard muffin pan with muffin liners. Spray the liners with non-stick cooking spray.
3. Use either a grater with peeled whole carrots or use a chopper to mince the shredded carrot
matchsticks to make approximately 2 cups of minced carrots. Set aside.
4. To make the filling: in a medium-sized bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until
smooth.
5.To make the muffin batter: In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
6. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, water, melted butter and oil.
7. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.
8. Fold in the grated carrots, stirring to combine.
9. Drop about 2 tablespoons of the batter (a tablespoon cookie scoop works well here) into each muffin cup, spreading it to cover the bottom.
10. Dollop on a heaping tablespoon of filling; a level tablespoon cookie scoop works well here.
11. Cover with enough batter to fill the muffin cups quite full. The batter will come to within about 1/4" to 3/8" of the top of each muffin cup. But don't try to use all the batter; unless you have particularly deep cups, you'll have abut 1/3 cup batter left over. Bake it in a separate custard cup, if desired.
12. Bake the muffins until a toothpick inserted into the cake part of one (not into the cream cheese filling) comes out clean, about 20 minutes. The tops of the muffins will feel firm to the touch.
13. Remove the muffins from the oven, and as soon as you're able to handle them, transfer them to a rack. If you serve the muffins warm, the filling will be molten. If you wait for them to cool, it'll firm up.

DISCLAIMER #2: I had to use the top picture from the King Arthur's blog recipe because my cupcakes did not come out as pretty as his did. I'm not exactly sure what I did wrong, but for some reason I had a big air pocket between my top layer of batter and my filling once it baked up. I told the hubby that I was going to try again & maybe not beat the batter as much. I'm thinking that I may have introduced extra air into the recipe. We'll see and I'll let you all know how the 2nd batch comes out. Regardless, they tasted so good that the hubby and his crew all gave it two thumbs up. This is a great recipe.

Oh yeah, this tablespoon sized cookie dough dropper worked wonders! Get one if you try this recipe. It helps things go sooo much faster! Best thing ever! I think I'm going to get another one so that I can have one for my batter and one for the filling.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Movie Review: Hanna


GRADE: A/B+

The premise of Hanna is, "A 16-year-old who was raised by her father to be the perfect assassin is dispatched on a mission across Europe, tracked by a ruthless intelligence agent and her operatives."


Directed by Joe Wright (Atonement), Hanna is a wonderfully dark film with beautiful screen shots and lots of action. It was filmed on location in Europe and Morocco and the scenery was quite lovely to see. Hanna, played by Saoirse Ronan, is a 16 year old girl being raised by an ex-CIA assassin, her father Erik (played by Eric Bana). Erik has taught Hanna how to hunt, how to defend herself with various weapons and self-defense methods, and home-schooled her with only an encyclopedia and a book of fairy tales.


The bad guy (or woman in this movie) is ruthless intelligence operative Marissa Wiegler (played stunningly by Cate Blanchett). Several times in this movie I kept wondering why this woman was after Hanna. This was revealed later in the movie, but it did keep you guessing what her motive was for about 3/4's of the film. I thought Cate did a wonderful job playing Marissa. She is really an amazing actress and I think a lot of people will see this movie just to see Cate act her butt off as the villainess.


This movie was full of action and intrigue. One can almost feel bad for Hanna, the baby assassin, as she struggles to survive while people keep trying to kill her. I didn't expect to like this movie as much as I did, but I thought it was great. Definitely a must go-see...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

KITCHEN KREATION: Unstuffed Pepper Bake


Tonight's menu was inspired by a sample eaten at the grocery store this weekend. The lady at the counter told us that the name of this delicious concoction was the Unstuffed Pepper Bake. It was really tasty, so of course I quickly grabbed one of the recipe cards, looked it over and realized I already had all of the ingredients at home and started plotting how I could put my own spin on this tasty treat.

This recipe was an easy way to get the taste of a stuffed pepper without all the work! I hope you like it, because it was really good.

*NOTE: I used a combination of ground beef & ground turkey and less rice than the original recipe called for. Originally, the recipe was for 1 pound of lean ground beef and 1.5 cups of rice. Since I doubled the meat, I also doubled the seasoning, so if you are going to use the 1 pound of meat, divide all seasoning (including the Worcestershire sauce) in half for your recipe. The tomato, cheese, and 15 oz can of tomato sauce amounts are the same as the original recipe. I also added the additional 8 oz can of tomato sauce since there was more meat included in my version and we didn't want the casserole to be too dry.

INGREDIENTS
1 lb ground beef – extra lean
1 lb ground turkey – extra lean
1 bag frozen Onions & Three Pepper Blend - chopped
2 garlic cloves – minced
1 tsp seasoning salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
14.5 oz can Petite Diced Tomatoes – drained
1 cup Instant Brown Rice
2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
2 tsp Italian seasoning
8 oz package Finely Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese – divided
15 oz can Tomato Sauce, no salt
8 oz can Tomato Sauce, no salt
Cooking spray


DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, sauté ground beef & turkey with the chopped onions/peppers blend and garlic for 10 minutes, or until meat is browned & vegetables are tender.
  3. Drain off excess fat and water and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Stir in the tomatoes, 8 oz can of tomato sauce, rice, Worcestershire sauce, and Italian seasoning.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in ½ of cheese.
  6. Spray cooking spray into a 13x9 baking dish.
  7. Spread mixture evenly in baking dish and top with 15 oz can of tomato sauce and remaining cheese.
  8. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes on center oven rack, until heated through and cheese is melted and bubbly.
  9. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
  10. Enjoy!

Makes 8 servings.
According to the handy dandy Sparkpeople recipe calculator, 1 serving was only 307 calories! Eureka! I think I did a pretty good job adapting this recipe to make it healthier with less calories.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Get The Word Out!



Calling all children of God, believers in Christ, builders of the Kingdom, I am in need of your help.

My good friend, Traci Buss, has been called by God to go on a mission trip to Kenya, Africa this year. Her organization's name is GTWO (Get The Word Out) and their website can be found at: http://www.gtwomissions.org/. Their mission is to distribute Bibles locally, nationally and worldwide, wherever there is an opportunity. They also work to build housing as well as distribute Bibles, do Bible teaching, evangelizing the gospel, build discipleship of Christian believers, and participate in Peace Rallies in warring areas of northwestern Kenya. They are working to build schools and recently, to build an orphanage.



Their page states that "God is changing lives all over the world." I think that this is definitely a true statement. I believe that God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Traci is in need of donations as well as prayers right now. The size of the donation doesn't matter because any amount will be helpful, but the size of the prayer definitely does matter! If you feel led to do so, please send a donation on her behalf to PayPal at gtwomissions@gmail.com. At the bottom where it says to send a message, please put Kenya mission trip in the subject line. In the message, just state that you would like this donation applied to Traci Buss's mission trip.


That's it. It turned out to be pretty easy to do and I believe that you can still donate without establishing a PayPal account. Thank you for being obedient to God's Word by helping the less fortunate and the orphans, and for helping a fellow Christian who is desperately trying to stay on the path that God has revealed to her. Thank you for being the cobblestones on that path.


Study Scripture for the day: Luke 6:38
Luke 6:38
- For if you give, you will get! Your gift will return to you in full and overflowing measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use to give--large or small--will be used to measure what is given back to you."

Thank you again and God bless!

TGIF: Janet Jackson - Number Ones Up Close And Personal Tour



Blogger, Facebook, and Twitter family! Oh. My. Word.
Last night the hubby took me to see one of my icons, the beautiful living legend herself, Ms. Janet Jackson!
(screaming)
LOL


You want to talk about a fabulous concert! If you have not had the opportunity to see Janet live, you have GOT to go. Daryl and I were marveling that she sounds even better live than on her recordings. That's so sad to say but she really has an awesome voice, and talk about stamina!
This woman danced for 2 1/2 hours straight, only taking a few small breaks to change and probably to drink some water because after all that dancing, she was sweating up a storm up there. It was so awesome to see her actually perform live and yes she does dance just as hard live as she does on her videos. AMAAAAZING!


This video that I posted is actually one I found on YouTube with some clips from her Chicago stop. I tried to record on my video phone because we had some awesome seats in the Mezzinine area at the Fox Theater in St. Louis, but since this was my first time trying to use the video feature on my Samsung Epic, every time I thought I was stopping to save the video, apparently I was just pausing the dang thing & nothing got saved when I switched back from video to the camera feature. (sigh - me and technology...)
*NOTE TO SELF: Do NOT try to learn a new gadget feature in the middle of the biggest concert of the year! Good grief!!!


So anyway, like I said, it was an awesome concert. According to her web site, Janet will be in:
Grand Prairie, TX - tomorrow, April 2nd
Omaha, NE - 4/5/11
Denver, CO - 4/6/11
Phoenix, AR - 4/8/11
Santa Barbara, CA - 4/9/11 - 4/10/11
Los Angeles, CA - 4/14/11 - 4/16/11
I know, right? What a crazy schedule!


You'll just have to check it out for yourself to see when she'll be in a city near you. Trust me, it will be worth it. The hubby & I drove 2 hours to St. Louis to see her live and it was worth every penny in gas.
Umm, did I mention that I had a great time??? Can you tell I had fun?
LOL!


Oh! Another thing I wanted to mention, besides her voice being great live, but why oh why is this chick every bit as fly in person as she is on screen??? Dang! Gives me new motivation to stay in the gym an extra 30 minutes. It probably should be more like an extra hour, but hey, we've got to start somewhere... Hubby tells me that my usage of the word "fly" is showing my age. (LOL) I replied, "Yeah, like your refusal to give up 'word'." Guess we are just two old fuddy duddies over here. LOL!


One more thing to let you know just how crazy good that concert was last night in case you did not get it from the last couple of paragraphs. Last night when the concert was about to start, hubby posted on his friend feed that he wished he had thought to bring ear plugs because he was sure that I was gonna blast his ears out when Janet hit the stage. I was yelling, whooping, singing, and dancing the whole concert. So much so, that at one point, the lady in front of me turned around and laughed at me and the guy next to me sat forward because I think I kept elbowing him (sorry random guy in Seat 37, Row EE at the Fox Theater). Needless to say I woke up this morning with a sore throat but warm happy feelings about the fun time we had last night.
Good times, fam, good times...


Next big concert to see will be my girl, Beyonce!
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