2014 and I Are Going to be Friends (Or Will You Still be My Blog Friend?)

I was reading through old posts this week and realized my credibility is pretty shaky here in the blogosphere. I promised not to be all philosophical and sad, I said I’d write a post about meyer lemon budino fluffiness, and I failed on both fronts. If I’m being really honest, I probably still owe you a proper wrap up from Finn’s baby shower… and the child is practically walking, faux hawk and all.

Dogs and Babies on Dogs Dishes and Decor

I mean look at him! He’s going to be hiking with Woodley soon.

It seems a little inauthentic to resurrect all that now.

SO… here’s what I’m gonna do instead:

I’m going to stop making promises I can’t keep. Seriously. I’m not going to promise posts I don’t really feel like writing, I’m going to say sorry for not publishing those half written drafts, and I’m going to keep moving forward. I’m going to trust that those of you who have stuck by me through the highs and lows of the last year will do continue to do so, and those who really just want sprinkles, sparkles, and puff pastries have found all that glitters and oozes with butter somewhere else.

So this is Dogs Dishes and Decor these days. It’s the good with the bad. The highs with the lows. Life with a side of glitter.

Cool?

Cool. Now let’s talk about 2014. It started off pretty solid.

I mean, I found this on a rock while hiking with Albus on New Year’s Day.

New Year's Day Hike on Dogs Dishes and Decor

I’d love to know how this actually ended up on a rock in the Hollywood Hills, but I’m not asking questions. I’m just wearing my crown like a boss.

And now that the year is well underway, I’m helping Finnie’s mommy plan a baby shower for someone in our (now defunct) supper club, I’m prepping for a massive shoot at work, and I’m doing my best to navigate the new rules of nutrition outlined by my Ayurvedic doctor without stabbing someone on set because I haven’t had any pickled ginger or dark chocolate in days.

Here’s a preview of the baby shower brain child I’m creating.

100 Layer Cake Baby Shower Ideas on Dogs Dishes and Decor

Photo courtesy of 100 Layer Cake.

Baby Shower Cake from 100 Layer Cake on Dogs Dishes and Decor

Photo courtesy of 100 Layer Cake.

You can check out my Pinterest Board for the shower here.

And just for good measure, here’s the meyer lemon budino I made last spring when my long lost Gillian returned from producing DIVERGENT in Chicago.

Meyer Lemon Budino from Bon Appetit on Dogs Dishes and Decor

Bon Appetit knows what’s up with budino.

You can find the recipe here.

Happy 2014!

Let’s still be blog friends. K?

Blast the Billy Ocean and Create (Or Carrot Cupcakes for Noah)

Guys, it’s time for my Billy Ocean Pandora station. I can’t wallow anymore. I’m no good to anyone — particularly myself — if I’m wallowing.

Sure it’s important to feel your feelings. And yeah we need to acknowledge loss and embrace the sadness, but we also have to pick ourselves up and do our damn dishes… get off our couches and dance in our kitchens.

Tuesday and Wednesday seriously sucked. I’m not going to lie. I cried. So much. I still made myself go to yoga, church, business meetings and whatnot. But between those things? I cried. So much, in fact, that I could hardly wear my contacts because I screwed up the ph of my eyes. So I decided to start Thursday by hiking with my long lost Suzie who is finally back from Iran. Determined to stay in a good place, I’m now blasting Billy Ocean and blogging.

See, Billy Ocean makes me smile — and Suzie inspired me to create. Because she’s brilliant, she pointed out the importance of creating instead of consuming. (Creating has transformative potential for our souls and stuff.) So I’m doing that. I’m creating… this blog post.

Ta da!

And in this blog post? I’m giving you the inspiration to create carrot cupcakes. I made them for Noah’s memorial because my mom couldn’t find cupcakes she liked anywhere in East Lansing.

People loved them and stuff.

Carrot cupcakes from Dogs Dishes and Decor #carrot #cupcakes #fall

Oh, and for further inspiration, here’s the Billy Ocean song that’s making me smile today.

Crank it up and bake yourself some carrot cupcakes. Put frosting all over the pain and then give it all away. And by “all” I mean the pain and the baked goods; there’s no sense in getting fat because bad things are happening.

Just saying…

Noah’s Carrot Cupcakes

2 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
2 C sugar
1 1/2 C vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 C crushed pineapple, drained
2 C finely grated carrots
1 C shredded coconut
1 C chopped walnuts
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350.

Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into a mixing bowl. Set aside. Beat the sugar, oil, and eggs together in a mixing bowl. Gradually add the flour mixture. Fold in the pineapple, carrots, coconut, and walnuts. Stir in the vanilla.  Bake for 18-20 minutes.

Allow the cupcakes to cool completely and top them with cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8-oz package of cream cheese, softened
1/2 C butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 C confectioners’ sugar (or to desired consistency)

Beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, beating until smooth.

The recipe makes about 24 cupcakes, so you’ll have a lot to give away.

It’s All About Ice Cream (Or How to Make Brown Butter Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches)

I have to admit something. I consider cupcakes to be wasted calories. Sure, I’ll eat them from time to time if they’re around, but I absolutely never crave them. In fact, I never wake up thinking about cake of any kind. Ever.

Ice cream and cookies on the other hand?

OMIGOD.

#theyaremylife

Every year for my birthday I make ice cream cookie sandwiches for my party. I use this recipe from Bon Appetit for the brown butter cookies. The recipe suggests dipping the ice cream sandwiches in chocolate, but I skip that business. (#wastedcalories)

Besides, my favorite ice cream flavors are strawberry and orange pineapple, neither of which pair well with chocolate, if you ask me. The recipe says you can use store bought ice cream. Which I do. Sometimes. When I’m busy. Or being lazy.

When I’m not being all busy or lazy, I use this recipe for the strawberry ice cream.

Here they are on the dessert table at the Elephant themed baby shower.

See?

Brown butter ice cream cookie sandwiches from Dogs Dishes and Decor #icecream #epicurious

Divine.

I’m probably going to make them for my birthday party this weekend to go along with this ice cream cookie business.

Just in case you were wondering….

Aaaaanyway, I’m off to the pool now with my mug o’ emergen-c.

Raspberry emergen-c in a Michigan Mug on Dogs Dishes and Decor

#breakfastofchampions

I’m thinking a little relaxation plus vitamins B and C could be the cure for my cold. #mustgethealthyforparty

Anna’s Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich (Or I Find My Birthday Cake)

This past weekend my friend Anna made my birthday super special. First she took me to brunch at Cecconi’s in West Hollywood, which is one of our absolute favorite spots.

See?

Birthday Brunch at Cecconi's on Dogs Dishes and Decor

We ate simply scrumptious stuff. Plus we made new friends. They sang to me and bought us lemoncello. #iadorenewfriends

Then we went to Theory to return unnecessary purchases like responsible kids. And we ended the day with some ice cream and pool time.

Dogs Dishes and Decor

I seriously love So Cal sun.

Anna had foot surgery on Monday, so I made her a gigantic get well ice cream cookie sandwich.

And guys?

This thing is INSANE. Just look at it.

Ice cream cookie sandwich on Dogs Dishes and Decor

Words fail me.

I think I might be in love. I think I have to make it again. I think it needs to be my birthday cake next weekend.

The cookie part is almost cookie cake-y and it doesn’t freeze as rock solid as these did. You can find the recipe here. I skipped the butterscotch sauce because I thought it would be sweetness overkill.

Ice cream and cookies is enough, ya know?

Another Ordinary Cookie (Or I Try ANOTHER Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe)

I’m in search of the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe. And I still haven’t found it. I really haven’t. And I’m tired of eating things that are only average. This is probably some sort of metaphor for my life, but whatever. I’m not in the mood to think that deeply right now.

The cookies I made last night are pretty good. They’re all light and fluffy and stuff. Plus the recipe recommends a tip for dissolving the baking soda in water before adding it to the batter. It’s supposed to prevent the cookies from spreading on the pan. And it sort of works. Mostly. I mean, the cookies are kinda fluffy and they’re not super flat. So there’s that.

Chocolate Chip Cookies from Dogs Dishes and Decor

See? Kinda fluffy.

Maybe I need to drop my need for perfection, embrace my inner Cookie Monster, and just say “COOOOOOKIE!”

So far the only time I really wanted to stick my face in the pan like that? Was when I made cookies from this mix.

So I think the best thing to do is try this recipe from Ghirardelli next.

Some day I’ll get it right. I’m not giving up. Because cookies? Are important.

You can check out some of my past experiments here and here.

There’s Bourbon in My Batter (Or How to Make Chocolate Bourbon Cupcakes with Caramel Bourbon Topping)

So, my blog basically went on hiatus when perky, fun, glue gun/glitter pen-loving Anika became serious, sad, OMG-everyone-is-dead Anika. Then that Anika got all mad.

Again?

Not fun.

Since November I’ve basically been a basket case. I’ve also been really busy, which doesn’t always leave a lot of room for baking, writing about baking, or just learning to BE. The last bit is the hardest for me, by the way. When you’re a DOer, learning to be still… and just BE?

Is murder.

So, anyway, I wrapped another producing project last week and our first episode went live today. Sorry for the self-promotion, but here it is.

Now that I’m not working 12-hour days, I have been crossing things off my personal to-do list like: schedule the massage I paid for five months ago, make an acupuncture appointment to deal with my two year-old IT band injury, and write a bloody blog post.

Today I’m finally getting around to the blog post part, and for my first post back, I thought I’d write about the seriously sinful cupcakes I made for my last day on the Acuvue show. The other producers and I shared a love of bourbon, so I commemorated my last day with some boozy cupcakes. I wanted to make something chocolatey with caramel and bourbon… and a little googling led me to this recipe.

Which led to these cupcakes.

Chocolate Bourbon Cupcakes with Bourbon Caramel Topping

You need to bake these things as fast as possible because the batter is dangerously delicious. Trust me. There was an incident involving my mouth and a large spoon.

Which then led to a few declarations of undying love. (Apparently people like their chocolate soaked in Maker’s Mark.)

The key to these cupcakes (or to any cupcake for that matter) is not to bake them as long as the recipe instructs. I always go for 2-4 minutes under the baking time and the cupcakes end up being much, much better. (You want them to be moist — with a few crumbs sticking to the tester.)

Later this week I’m mixing up some cocktails for poolside festivities so look out for some Skinny Margarita recipes and a cocktail with vodka and muddled peas.

Yup, you read that right. Vodka. With muddled peas.

Stay tuned for that mess.

Brad Pitt with a Dash of Sea Salt (Or I Made Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Sea Salt)

So, I was at work — brainstorming about Brad Pitt — ‘cuz that’s what I do for a living. The other site producers and I were kicking around the idea of an “Evolution of Brad” gallery.

During the brainstorm I emphatically announce, “The hottest Brad Pitt has ever been? Hands down: Billy Beane in Moneyball.”

Quizzical looks all around.

No one is convinced. So I pull up this picture.

Image

I mean, right? DYING over here. Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures.

My colleague, Vijaya, looks at the photo for a moment. A slightly perplexed look crosses her face before she turns to me and says, a little disgusted, “I think you’re ready for the suburbs.”

“I do own pearls,” I reply, the truth of it all starting to set in.

Not only do I own pearls, but I actually wear them. Maybe I am ready for the suburbs….

(Point Vijaya.)

If you’re wondering what all of this has to do with food and the actual point of this blog, the segue in my head is that I wore said pearls to a dinner party last weekend. With my Nancy Reagan dress. (Wow, I should probably start packing for Newport now.)

So, anyway, the dinner party. My friend made a fabulous Polish feast, complete with kielbasa, sauerkraut and pierogis slathered in sour cream, and I volunteered to bring the dessert. Because I can’t stop myself from going absolutely overboard with baked goods I made this chocolate stout cake and these chocolate chunk cookies with sea salt. I saw the cookie recipe in the January Bon Appetit and I was dying to try them. You probably should as well. They’re pretty awesome.

Image

These cookies don’t look nearly as delicious as Brad Pitt in a polo but it’s because I’m a lousy food photographer. They’re divine.

I swear to all that is holy I will try to blog more even if I am at the office talking about Brad Pitt until 8 pm absolutely all the time.

Tomorrow we should probably talk about the state of my freezer. It’s grim.

“Be Fat” is On My To Do List Today (Or How to Make a Mascarpone Cheesecake)

Some days it’s essential to scratch your ambitious to-do list and settle in with some cheesecake, a fistful of chocolate chip cookies, and a Gossip Girl marathon. Luckily, I have cookies. And cheesecake. And all kinds of Gossip Girl episodes to watch on Netflix.

See, I made a mascarpone cheesecake for my aunt last week, and she froze a slice for me.

It’s probably for the best that she only saved one slice of this monster for me.

I also made Ghirardelli chocolate chip cookies this week. So, that’s my Friday. Because? I don’t feel well. And I just need to snuggle in fleecy Betsey jammies and be useless.

So that’s what’s happening. I also added “be fat” to my to-do list so I could cross something off today.

If you aspire to be fat and indolent like me, here’s the recipe for the cheesecake. Or you could serve it at a dinner party. Either way…

Also, it’s a good thing she saved me a small slice because I only want to be fat today — not forever.

Oh, and by the way, when you make the cheesecake, you may want to tweak the recipe for the crust. You’ll notice a lot of bakers commented that they had an issue with it being too buttery. I figured that many people couldn’t be wrong, so I changed the ratio of Nilla wafers to butter. I used 80 wafers instead of 70, and 8 tablespoons of butter instead of 10. I thought it turned out well. Apparently, so did all of my aunt’s friends since they only saved me one small slice….

So, that’s all for the cheesecake situation. And the Ghirardelli chocolate chip cookies? I’ll tell you about those another time.

Lemon Cupcakes for the Critics and the Crazies (Or How to Make Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Filling)

My grandmother is a perfectionist. She can make a perfect pie and find fault with it. She’ll be serving slices to guests while grumbling about some perceived imperfection no one else notices. I’m the same, really. I can’t write, cook, paint, draw, or do an arm balance without thinking about how I could improve it next time. Or how it doesn’t measure up. I am capable of criticizing anything I do. (Obviously, the disease runs in the family.)

When my mother asked me to make my grandmother’s birthday cupcakes this year, I knew I would have to practice first. There would be no trying a new recipe on nana’s birthday.

My grandmother loves lemon, so I decided to make lemon cupcakes with a lemon curd filling. On my first attempt, I frosted them with a seven-minute meringue frosting but decided it was too sweet.

If I’m being honest, I kinda hate seven-minute frosting.

After some deliberation, I finally settled on a lemon cream cheese frosting instead. I was initially afraid that would be too much lemon, which is why I tried the meringue first, but a slight hint of lemon flavor in the frosting was the perfect way to tie it all together.

Here’s my nana with my creation, sitting beside my uncle who is being strange.

My gene pool is rife with crazy, so I fit right in.

My grandma told me they were the best cupcakes she had ever eaten, so I guess my practice paid off. Even I was slightly pleased with myself for once.

The recipe is below.

Lemon Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes

2 ½ C flour
½ tsp salt
2 ½ tsp baking powder
¾ C unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ¾ C sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla
1 ¼ C whole milk
2 T lemon zest

Preheat oven to 375. Place cupcake liners in pans.

Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing to blend after each addition. Add vanilla and mix thoroughly.

Add half of the flour mixture, followed by the milk, and the remaining half of the dry ingredients, mixing to blend after each addition.

Add lemon zest and mix to blend.

Transfer batter to cupcake liners and bake at 375 for 16-18 minutes, or until the tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Lemon Curd Filling

3 T cornstarch
1 C cold water
1/2 C sugar
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
3 T cold butter, cut into small cubes
1 T lemon zest
4 T lemon juice

Whisk cornstarch into 1/3 cup of water. Transfer the mixture to a medium saucepan and whisk in the remaining 2/3 C of water. Add the sugar and cook over medium heat, until the mixture bubbles and thickens to a gel-like consistency, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low.

Stir a few tablespoons of the hot cornstarch mixture into the slightly beaten egg yolks, a few drops at a time, whisking constantly. (This will prevent the yolks from cooking.) Whisk the yolk mixture into the remaining cornstarch mixture and cook over low heat, about 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in cubes of butter until they are melted. Next, add lemon zest and juice, whisking to blend. Transfer to a bowl and chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Note: this makes too much filling for 24 cupcakes, so I might make 2/3 of the recipe next time. The original recipe is from foodess. I modified it slightly.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

2, 8 oz packages of cream cheese, room temperature
½ C butter, room temperature
2-3 C powdered sugar
2 T lemon juice (or 1 tsp of pure lemon extract)

Cream butter and cream cheese. Mix in vanilla. Add 2 C of powdered sugar and add remaining powdered sugar by ¼ cupfuls until you reach the desired consistency. Add 2 T of lemon juice. Chill the frosting until it reaches a spreadable consistency.

After the cupcakes have cooled and the curd has thickened, transfer the curd to a pastry bag (or a freezer bag with a corner cut off). You can either inject the lemon curd into the cupcake directly or you can remove some of the cake with the end of a straw to make more room for the curd. (I prefer the latter approach. I usually poke the cupcake a few times with a straw to remove some cake from the center.)

After you have filled the cupcakes, frost, and serve.

Yum.

The Island Rum Incident (Or How to Make Pina Colada Cupcakes)

When I was 13, my dad and I went to the Bahamas for Spring Break. Our first night there, we heard a delightful reggae sound coming from the bar. Unable to pass up a live performance, we stopped by to check it out. When our waitress came by to get our order, my dad ordered a glass of wine, and I attempted to order a virgin pina colada. The waitress scowled and replied in a thick accent, “It’s the same price without alcohol.”

“That’s OK. I don’t need the rum,” I replied.

“But it’s the same price,” she insisted. This went on for quite a while until I finally requested a Sprite instead of the Pina Colada I actually wanted. I mean, I was 13 and didn’t look a day older than that from the neck up. I was rocking braces with florescent pink rubber bands. You know the kind that make you look like you have an entire pack of Hubba Bubba stuck in your teeth? Yeah, I had those. I also had the bad braids you pay for on the beach. I was clearly nowhere near the legal drinking age anywhere in the world, but she didn’t seem to notice or care. My dad was so amused by the entire exchange that he never intervened. He probably would have stopped her from bringing me a hurricane glass brimming with rum if she had won the battle of the wills, but he was too busy chuckling over the whole thing to get involved. Plus, I’m not one to be pushed around. Never was.

We later figured out the entire altercation was because rum is so cheap in the islands that it’s less expensive than drink mixers or soda. It’s common for island bars to increase the amount of rum in cocktails because it’s practically less expensive than the ice in the glass.

So anyway, I didn’t get my fruity drink that night and rather grudgingly sipped on my Sprite before choking down what was easily the most chewy conch dinner ever served to anyone.

Now I’d happily have a nice Bahamian lady over serve me, but I’m a long way from the islands. Sure southern California doesn’t completely suck, but there isn’t anyone with dreads playing the steel drums in my lobby, and I’m a long way from feeling irie. Or whatever.

To capture a little of the island feel amidst the smog and haze of Hollywood today, I put on some vintage Jimmy Cliff tunes and whipped up pina colada cupcakes.

These pina colada cupcakes are so good I almost forgot I was in the land of smog and traffic. Almost.

Here’s the recipe in case your weather is making you want to run away to warmer places where they’ll try to get your kids drunk to the sound of steel drums.

Pina Colada Cupcakes

2 ½ C flour
2 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ C butter, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
1/4 C brown sugar
1 C cream of coconut
2 tsp coconut extract
½ C chopped pineapple

Makes 24

Preheat the oven to 350. Place liners in the cupcake pans.

Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. In a medium bowl, cream butter and brown sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Add coconut extract and blend.

Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix to blend. Add the cream of coconut and mix to blend. Add the remaining half of the dry ingredients and blend. Add the pineapple and mix thoroughly.

Pour the batter into the cupcake liners. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

2, 8 oz packages of cream cheese, room temperature
½ C butter, room temperature
3/4 tsp coconut extract
2-3 C powdered sugar, sifted

Cream the butter and cream cheese. Add the coconut extract and mix thoroughly. Add 2 cups of powdered sugar and mix. Add additional sugar by ¼ cupfuls until the frosting reaches desired sweetness and consistency.

Garnish cupcakes with toasted coconut, maraschino cherries, and candied pineapple.

Note: I prefer to toast the coconut in a frying pan over medium heat because it’s too easy to forget about it in the oven. I also find it easier to control the heat on the burner, but that’s just me.