Rekindling the [Lettuce Wrap] Flame

Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps

The boy’s place has spoiled me. It’s sky-high, with huge windows that show downtown in the distance, and we can watch the sunset right off his balcony…it’s just beautiful. While I do enjoy taking in these sights of the city when I’m over there, I also tend to focus on, well, a different sort of beauty: the P.F. Chang’s across the street. It’s just sitting there, looking at me, whispering, “What happened to us? Remember in college when you, me, and your friends would hang out and eat lettuce wraps? How can we ever get back to that place?”

It’s not that the boy and I never go out to eat, it’s just that P.F. Changs and I have grown apart. When we dine out, I gravitate towards local eateries, or new restaurants, or diamond-in-the-suburb spots. So, somehow, I ventured away from P.F. Chang’s, and you know what? When I look out that window and across the street to the welcoming, horse-guarded doors, it makes me sad.

We will inevitably venture across the street in the near future, but this week I decided to take dinner into my own hands, literally. I knew I couldn’t emulate the P.F. Chang’s lettuce wrap experience perfectly, because honestly I don’t even know what they put in there (I suspect crack), so I decided to do my own spin. Maybe it wouldn’t fix my P.F. Chang’s relationship, but I’d settle for rekindling my lettuce wrap flame.

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Dirt Cake-Stuffed Cupcakes with Nutella Buttercream

Dirt-Cake Stuffed Cupcakes with Nutella Buttercream

Anyone who’s talked to me about desserts, so pretty much anyone who’s ever met me, knows one thing for certain: this girl loves dirt cake. And yes, I’m talking about the dirt cake you remember from your childhood: thick, smooth chocolate pudding laced with chunks and crumbs of Oreos, often served up in a bucket with a shovel. Of course, a dessert this refined should be saved for special occasions only, so my brother, sister and I look forward to our birthday buckets all year. It’s a family thing, this dirt cake fascination. It’s in my blood, like freckles and sarcasm. I just can’t help it.

Naturally, with my sister’s birthday happening this weekend, I anticipated my dirt cake experience all last week. In all my dirt cake daydreaming, I got to thinking…what would happen if I stuffed dirt cake in a cupcake, and then topped it with some absurdly delicious Nutella buttercream frosting? Inspiration had hit, and there was no going back.

Stop looking at me like that. I know it’s over the top, but you’ll love it. Trust me.

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Baked Cream Cheese JalapeƱo Wontons

Baked Cream Cheese Jalapeno Wonton

When all my siblings were still living at home, Chinese takeout night happened every now and then…and by that I mean like once a week. We’d devour our absurdly huge mounds of food, possibly watch a movie or play a game, and then wrap up the evening with a little brother-sister-sister argument over who would get the final wonton after the other eleven were gone (yes, we bought two orders of six…every time). Now that I’m a refined adult (yeah, that) wontons have sadly gone all-but missing from my life. Until recently, that is, when the boy and I found ourselves at a restaurant that served jalapeno cream cheese wontons. In all my childhood wonton-consuming years, I had never thought about mixing anything with that smooth dollop of cheese. I mean, that’s just crazy. Crazy brilliant, of course.

My memory of these jalapeno wontons lovingly remains in the back of my mind always, but this week it catapulted to the front when the boy asked if we could make them for dinner. At those words, I magically appeared in a grocery store with cream cheese, wonton wrappers, and jalapenos in my cart, and ambition in my soul.

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Guilty Pleasures and Cookie Wars

Triple dark chocolate avocado mint cookies

Let’s talk guilty pleasures, and for once, this isn’t about food (yet). Okay, I’ll just say it: I have a problem with reality TV. “A problem” in the addictive sense, that is. For instance, I jokingly started watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians when nothing else was on, and at some point my viewing crossed a line to…well, needing to actually keep up with the Kardashians. Trash TV like this puts me in a trance that I can’t fully explain…a calm, brain-dead trance, that keeps me coming back for more.

Naturally, this trance expands to food-centered reality TV as well, and my latest “problem” is Cupcake Wars. Here’s the gist: Four bakers compete to have their cupcakes displayed at a grand event (fashion show, broadway opening, hollywood party, etc.), and that event becomes the theme of the competition. The themes come with crazy ingredients too, like vegetables, spices and absinthe (that was just one time, but it made an impression on me), that the bakers need to transform into delicious cupcakes. Food blogger Baker Bettie decided to do her own spin-off of the TV contest, and with COOKIES, no less. I’m much better-versed in cookie experimentation than with cupcakes, so this was the perfect opportunity for me to try something risky and adventurous, and feel like I was actually IN Cupcake Wars. How cool, right? Of course, there would be no actual cupcakes, stressful time crunch, or $10,000 prize, but hey, bring it.

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Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies, A Love Story

Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies

Like most forms of love, my love for carrot cake is complicated, because I don’t even really understand it. As a vegetable, I kind of hate carrots, and as far as desserts go, I’m usually a chocolate girl, but there’s just something about carrot cake that gets me. I thank my good friend and former roommate, who I will annoyingly refer to as “The Bride” in the remainder of this post, for introducing me to my carrot cake love. When carrot cake day rolled around in our college cafeteria freshman year, she insisted that I try it. Being the way I am, I had of course thought that putting carrots in cake was for the birds, or at least people who like carrots. When I begrudgingly loaded up my fork and gave it a go, I knew I’d found a new dessert love outside of the chocolate realm. Yes, that’s right people, I’m a dessert polygamist. Deal with it.

Anyway, for this friend of mine, The Bride, carrot cake is nothing short of food crack. When she sees it, she needs it, regardless of time, place, or level of hunger. Her mom makes an amazing traditional carrot cake: fluffy, layered, and bursting with buttery, thick cream cheese frosting. It will knock your socks off and put you in a food coma. So, naturally, when The Bride’s bridal shower approached, I knew I needed to invite our mutual love, carrot cake. Since the festivities began midday, I didn’t want to make a huge, intimidating cake, so I decided to go the cookie route…well, the double cookie sandwich with thick cream cheese frosting squeezing out the sides route, but still, it seemed like a lighter option.

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