Weeks Eighteen and Nineteen, not feeling too lean

Thank goodness it's the last of the teen weeks. My rhyming is pathetic.

Week 18+19

Can you tell when I got my new Ai-phone?

120: Baked egg with a strawberry smoothie
121: I had left over frosting from making these as well as an open bottle of red wine. As in open for a long time so it tasted like vinegar. These random ingredients morphed into chicken and spinach with a beet sweet butter and red wine reduction.
122: Udon noodle soup with veggies and tofu
123: The last beet chocolate cupcake
124: Pesto pasta mishmash with some wine hearts
125: Everything but the kitchen sink salad (it would appear that I'm trying to clean out my fridge)
126: Happy Cinco de Mayo. This burrito mojado from a hole-in-the-wall joint in SF was a-ma-zing! Muy delicioso! Y barato!
127: Starting my Sunday with chocolate chip pancakes
128: Cold sesame noodles and sauteed asparagus and mushrooms. White wine.
129: Craptacular day deserves a burger, fries, and milkshake
130: Spaghetti with sausage, portobello, spinach and tomato sauce. And wine. Of course.
131: Yikes, another burger. It was a late night.
132: Now the fridge was empty. Luckily, my friends had food so I went to their place. Chicken pasta and salad. And wine.
133: Brunch with my cousins. Smoked salmon Eggs Benedict. Meh.

Rather than spotlight my favorite photo (#123, aka when Ai got the new iPhone), I thought I'd share a few extra photos from yesterday. We took Mom out for an early Mother's Day dinner at Alexander's Steakhouse.

Suffice it to say, I have had enough iron intake to last me for the next year.


We interrupt our regular programming...

called Life to do some mindless web surfing, look at pretty photos and post some old ones.

I am still struggling with this fork in the road of my life right now. I'm stressed, anxious, tired, and the last few days, I've just wanted to throw in the towel and start bawling uncontrollably. Maybe I should just go forward full force and not look back. But I keep taking little steps, and then I sit and wait, pulling out my hair.

Tonight, I'm taking the middle ground and just giving my mind a break from it all.

Hence this post. I thought I'd share some lovely moments I had in Napa back in March. I actually did a few day trips, two with friends, one with family. Each time I go, I like to try a new winery or restaurant, so the experience is different every time.

But each time, I seem to pass by the French Laundry.


I think I'm secretly hoping I'll run into Thomas Keller and he'll just invite me in.


They have a beautiful plot of land across the street, where they harvest a plethora of vegetables. If only my garden could look so organized.

The weekend I went with family, we visited several wineries known for their architecture. Some of it was a bit over-the-top, including a castle with a peacock roaming the grounds.



Still gorgeous though.



We visited another estate, Chateau Montelena Winery, in Calistoga. A beautiful site, with a small lake and beautiful courtyard. This would be a lovely place for a romantic picnic for two.




One of the weekends I went with friends, we visited Ram's Gate Winery. Another great spot, with small plates paired with their wines. A great place to grab a snack and enjoy good times with friends.


Napa and the area around it is filled with fantastic sights, not just good wine. My eye always catches sight of a cool building, sign or landscape. But there is always a destination in mind so we just pass it by.


One of these days, I just want to go up there on my own to just take photos. That'd be nice right now...



When life gives you beets...

Make cupcakes!

Last week, I bought a ridiculous number of beets from the farmers' market. The guy was practically giving them away, how could I resist? Of course, one week later, they were still sitting in the fridge, soon to grow roots. 

Then I remembered this post from Joy the Baker (my hero) about a Beet Chocolate Cake. Because a cake is hard to pass out at the office and to neighbors (but very easy to stuff in my mouth), I turned these into cupcakes. (I seem to have this thing for making cupcakes with vegetables.)

The original recipe uses a cream cheese frosting. As I didn't have cream cheese, I went with a buttercream, tinted with beets.

It's quite a pink frosting. I think next time I'll use more beets and hopefully it will be a deeper pink. I'm a bit late to the Valentine's Day or Easter party. There must be some holiday coming up that this will be good for. Oh here we go, International No Diet Day! Hooray!

I also had a slight mishap with the frosting. I had to run an errand so I put it in the fridge. When I came home, it was as hard as a rock. I let it sit out for a bit and then tried to mix it again with the mixer. Ended up being oddly chunky. So I stuffed it into the cupcake instead. 

Beet Chocolate Cupcakes

It's kind of like a Beet Ding Dong {chuckle}. It also only used up about 1/8 of the messed-up frosting. So now I have about a 1/2 pound of sweet beet butter that I need to figure out what to do with. 

Beet Chocolate Cupcakes with Beet Buttercream Frosting
Adapted from Joy the Baker and Sprinkle Bakes
Makes 24 cupcakes

(The original recipe calls for buttermilk, which I didn't have. I don't have milk either. Yogurt and almond milk, somehow it worked. If it sounds too unusual for you, then go with the buttermilk. But if you're making a chocolate cake with beets, most people are already thinking you're pretty unusual.)

2 medium beets, roasted and peeled
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup almond milk
(yogurt and almond milk can be replaced with 1 1/4 cup of buttermilk)

Using a box grater, grate the peeled beets, using 3/4 cup for the cupcakes and 2 tbsps for the frosting.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars with an electric beater until pale and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, for one minute after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Once eggs are incorporated, beat in beets (hee hee) and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, mix together the yogurt and almond milk. Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter and egg mixture. Beating on low speed, slowly add the yogurt mixture.  Once just incorporated, add the other half of the dry ingredients.  Beat on medium speed until milk and dry ingredients are just combined.  Try not to overmix the batter. Batter will be thick.
Line cupcake tins with liners. Fill each liner about half-full with batter.  Bake for 20 minutes (or when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean).  Remove cupcakes from the oven and set aside to cool.

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp grated beets, mashed

In a medium saucepan, add sugar and flour with milk and cream. Over low heat, whisk the mixture periodically until it starts to boil and thicken, about 20 minutes.

Pour into medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the mixture on high speed until cool. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter; beat until thoroughly incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and beets and continue mixing until combined. If the frosting is too soft, transfer the bowl to the refrigerator to chill slightly, and then beat again until it is the proper consistency. If the frosting is too firm, place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until it is the proper consistency.

Frost cupcakes with piping tip of your choice. Because of the beet bits, the tip may get clogged, so a larger tip will be more desirable.

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