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Impress the Fam This Thanksgiving with Dark Chocolate Nutella Cake I Invented

Nov 26, 2013

I'm always impressed by food blogs and their pretty pictures; however, although I love cooking and baking, I don't love writing a post about that stuff because A) I don't have a camera with which to take pretty pictures like those fancy food bloggers do; and B) I generally find recipe posts super boring and quickly scroll through the photos, knowing full well mine will not look like that, down to the ingredients so I can figure out what I have in my apartment that's not too expired to use and/or that I can substitute for some exotic ingredient like Plaster of Paris.

Wait...I'm thinking of a chalk paint tutorial. Never mind. Same difference though. 

My point is, that's why I haven't posted lots of recipes on here, but I'm going to this week because A) I'm feeling a little too enlightened on dating right now so I want to write about something else; and B) People actually requested I share this recipe I made up, and since I almost never get requests for posts other than ones about dating that result in me getting dumped by three guys in 24 hours, I figured Thanksgiving week would be a perfect time to share it.

And so. I present to you...Drum roll, please...




So here's what happened. My friend K gave me a jar of Nutella that was about to expire, and I had signed up to bring a dessert to a church picnic, so I scoured Pinterest for Nutella recipes and decided upon Nutella Crescent Rolls because I had crescent rolls in my fridge I'd been meaning to use. Sadly, when I popped open the can, an awful smell burst out of it, and I noticed they'd expired in May. Who knew white bread could go bad?!

Side Note: About a month ago I was overjoyed to find a whole box of unopened saltines in my pantry that I didn't even know I had. They had expired at some point in 2012, but I was still under the impression white bread products don't go bad. I sat on my couch with the box, intending to eat a sleeve for dinner, and whaddya know, they were rank. I don't even know what's in white bread products that would smell so bad. I'm really disappointed in the preservative measures in this country.

Every other Nutella recipe I found called for at least one ingredient I didn't have, so I gathered what I did have, which was (here's your ingredients people, so you can relax and not scroll down right away; you're welcome):
  • Box of dark chocolate brownie mix
  • 1/4 cup Skippy creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup of Nutella
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2/3 cup melted butter
*Tip: You can use whatever the box calls for, like oil and water, but I like to melt butter and use milk because it makes me feel like Julia Child. And sometimes I may talk like her while I'm doing it. Melt the buerrrrrrrre then you rub some salt in 'cause it makes it taste niiiiice...Zoot alors I have missed one!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Duh. (Everything you bake is at 350 degrees, you should know that by now.) Mix the brownie mix, eggs and butter in a bowl; set aside, like the baker extraordinaire you are. In a Pyrex measuring cup (or another bowl if you're not as domestic as I am) mix 1/4 cup Nutella, peanut butter and 1/2 cup milk. Nuke in the microwave for 30 seconds to soften. Whisk to ensure it's mixed well then pour into batter and beat for 30 seconds.

Spray your bundt pan with Pam or whatever. I used coconut oil spray from Trader Joe's, which worked better than any other oil spray I've ever used. Pour in batter and use a spatula to smooth the top.


Bake for 40-50 minutes, or longer if it's not baked through. Just check every 5 minutes after 50 minutes to see if it's ready. I recommend watching 30 Rock Christmas episodes while you wait.


This is the fun part! Fork it, sister.


Scoop remaining Nutella and pour remaining milk into Pyrex measuring cup; nuke for 30 seconds and whisk. Consistency should be like syrup, so add milk if it's too thick. Slowly drizzle over cake. It will pool a lot in the middle and that's okay. Better than okay. You're going to find out just how much better real soon! Try not to let it pool too much around the perimeter because it might drip off the cake plate. Or, LIGHTBULB MOMENT!, put it on a plate that curves upward so it doesn't drip off.


This is basically what it should look like when you're finished putting on the glaze. Take several photos until you find one enough in focus to put on Instagram. Take the time to choose the best filter. This is a critical step, y'all, so don't rush it.

Let it sit overnight if possible. If not, ehh, it'll be fine. Please note that the longer it sits, the more time it has to soak in the glaze, so 24 hours will yield more compliments.

UPDATE: Leave it to former roomie Margels to make this cake within six hours of me posting the recipe and discovering the fatal (well let's hope it's not THAT bad) flaw...if you use milk from a cow versus almonds or soy beans or coconuts or whatever they come up with next,  you'll need to refrigerate the cake whilst it soaks in the glaze. Whoopsies.

That snowman is acting soooo white right now. #embarrassing
Right before presentation time, sift powdered sugar on the top. This is optional but it's all I could think of to cover the fork massacre holes.


Now would be a good time to Instagram again and let the comments about how amazing this looks and how everyone wants the recipe go straight to your head where you imagine your genius recipe going viral then getting a Nutella sponsored food blog to create more genius recipes then moving to a farm like the Pioneer Woman where you'd have baby animals become best friends and Animal Planet would film them for Too Cute and then you'd get a TV show on Food Network about baking and baby animals and then you'd marry a cowboy.


Stay close to your cake at all times so you can hear what people are saying and also so you can be nearby when someone says, "Who made this?" and you can act surprised and be all, "Oh! I did, just shippers (<---stupid aggggghhhhh="" auto="" be="" because="" big="" correct="" deal.="" did="" going="" hair="" hope="" i="" it="" my="" nbsp="" no="" on="" phone="" re="" to="" tossing="" up="" whipped="" you="" your="">a lot.


Online Dating: Is it so different from traditional dating?

Nov 22, 2013

When online dating was first ramping up, everyone was super wary of it. It was so creepy -- dating someone you met over the Internet?! Only for the desperate and serial murdering types!

I was one of the online dating pioneers amongst my friends. My interest was piqued in college when Craigslist became a thing. Reading "Missed Connections" was my favorite time-suck for an entire semester. None were ever for me that I could tell; I wrote a couple just to see what would happen. Which was nothing. But that was back when we were young and wild and free with great metabolism and hibernating biological clocks, so it was all good

Once I moved to DC and my blog took off, I tried out eHarmony, and people in my life seemed less weirded out that I was online dating, since I was active online anyway. That was in the late aughts -- not that long ago, mind you -- when singletons were still holding out for old school love. And many most of the ones in my circle of friends got it. And bought houses. And have babies on the way. And...and...and...


...and those of us still in the Single Club feel about the same way we did in the late aughts. Good thing online dating has gone mainstream!

Except, deep down, it still feels icky. Girls still want the love-at-first-sight, he-crossed-the-room-because-he-just-had-to-meet-me thing, and guys want the option of being rejected in person. *kidding!*

While online dating and so-called traditional dating have their differences, might they be more alike than we think? Or has online dating changed the game altogether? 

Bachelors Weigh In:

Matt @djsheeno

I get the sense women online want guys to be straightforward. I have a fun, energetic, playful personality, but I don't feel like I can convey my personality in words as well as I can in person. I put a few jokes in my profile, and I'll contact a girl and write a nice introductory message. Most of the time when she doesn't respond, I feel like if she had met me in person I could have made her laugh, and she would talk to me. 

When she does respond, I try to move things toward meeting in person as quickly as possible. I don't want a pen pal; I want to meet her and see if we click, as soon as possible. 

Anon

Online dating commercials make it seem like you will fall in love after the first date because you both like dogs. EVERYONE LIKES DOGS. I treat online dating as something fun to do while having a coffee at home or commuting, knowing the majority of people I meet online will not be right for me. Doing things that interest me or being introduced to people through friends are far better ways to date because your date has already been vetted by friends and you didn't have to read about the person online.

MitchRapp

There are a lot of swings and misses. A few messages exchanged online is enough to decide if someone is worth meeting, but until you meet them you have no idea if they 1) are who they represented online or 2) if you are interested in them. 

And the Survey Says...:


Pros
  • I can weed out the people who clearly won't be a good long-term fit for me (due to reasons like religion) without having physical attraction cloud my judgment. By the time I meet them, I already know that they are a potential match and I just have to determine if we have chemistry.
  • I think it's easier. You may get rejected, but how likely are you to cross paths with this person again? 
  • I think it's harder to meet people out and about in everyday life. Online dating provides at least some additional structure to the dating process.
  • It's easier for men. They can reach out to girls that they'd never have the balls to approach in a bar!
  • It's more of a numbers game, I think, because you're actively faced with more options and it's safer to make the first move because you're behind a screen.
Cons
  • Online dating skips the warm fuzzies you'd normally get with traditional dating.
  • Online dating can lead to false expectations with a date where you connect online but have absolutely no interest when you meet in person. 
  • On-paper compatibility doesn't have anything to do with chemistry.
  • Online daters don't seem to understand that their profile is their appearance. Spell check...capitalization...photos that don't include their ex-girlfriend with her arm draped over his shoulder. If a guy walks up to you, he is going to have a conversation...introduce himself, ask a question about you. Online it seems the common way to contact someone is a message saying "Hey...what's up?" [This is] like a guy walking up to you and saying that...standing there with a look on his face that says "Aren't you lucky I decided to walk over here and talk to you?" Ugh.
My Thoughts:

According to Jessica Massa, author of The Gaggle: How to Find Love in the Post-Dating World, "traditional dating as we know it is dead." She explains that many happy couples today find love by hanging out in groups -- softball leagues, volunteer work, events within the same social circle, etc. -- and testing the waters in the friend zone instead of explicitly going on dates in the beginning. She calls this romantic ambiguity, and it's something I've observed and resisted for many years. 

As a good ole southern gal, I was raised to expect the very traditional way of dating, i.e., guy asks me out, makes the plan for the date, picks me up, takes me to dinner, pays for it, gets me home at an appropriate hour, calls within three days. So...okay...this model has not panned out in my dating life, online or off. However, because romance has become so ambiguous, it seems to me that both women and men are in a constant state of confusion regarding how to move forward and who should make the move. 

Matt made an astute observation that women want men to be straightforward. I know I feel that way. I keep an online dating profile, and the guys I respond to the quickest are the ones with short, to-the-point opening lines that immediately push for a first date. I receive so many messages that the lengthy ones don't hold my attention unless we're having good banter and are planning a date by the third message.

Interesting to note here, many messages I receive start with something like, "I'm sure you get a ton of messages..." Doesn't everybody? Turns out it's not the case for men...but we'll save that for the next post in the series.

In the meantime, it may be time to formally change the way we view and talk about the dating game. I love a simple dinner date, but perhaps online dating could be more enjoyable and successful if it were done in a more laid back setting, putting less emphasis on connecting and more room to just enjoy each other's company?


Online Dating: Determining Your Approach

Nov 18, 2013

The results of my online dating decorum survey are in! When I first put up the survey, I thought I'd write one post on all the research I did. I think that's going to be a little overwhelming -- for me to write and for you to read. So let's keep the Online Dating series going and I'll segment my findings as I go, with some commentary and anecdotes along the way, as well as thoughts from a few bachelors who offered their input.

And now, for today's post, we'll talk about your approach.

First, survey results:



Bachelors Weigh In:

Matt @djsheeno 

Online dating is a way of meeting women on my terms and time. I don't take it too seriously because I know everyone is trying to put on their best face, and who knows if their profile is for real? Most of the time, what you see is what you get, though. 

I feel like I would have better luck if I were a better writer, and I get jaded because of the lack of responses from the messages I write to potential dates. I like the concept of How About We because I don't like to write, and it seems to be a better idea to just suggest a first date, exchange contact info and talk in person.

I was not happy when I read you telling your female readers not to pay on a date; it makes me feel like you are encouraging women to get a free meal/drinks from nice guys. I heard recently that some women feed themselves by going on dates with guys they have no interest in. These types of things turn nice guys into jerks...and no one wins. 

Anon

Online dating should be the igniter for real life dating. When I did online dating, I once connected with a girl and wanted to get a drink early on. I didn't want to go back and forth talking online when I could talk to her in real life. She was a little surprised, but I think she was most impressed with my forwardness. I like talking to someone in person, having a normal experience with another human being.  

Anon

Online dating is not like blind dating. You've looked at the person's profile, maybe e-mailed them a few times, and think you could get along with them, so you ask them out. If the guy hasn't done any filtering and is just looking to get laid, that is slightly dumb. Maybe more than slightly.

My Thoughts:

When I started online dating, I was definitely looking for love. After a year of it, I have since fluctuated between hopeful but cautious and staying in the game. I have never gone a date to get a handout, and interestingly, 0% of respondents said they were doing it to get a free meal. 

Since my initial post on online dating, I've received a lot of flack for promoting the freeloading lifestyle. I was so confused by this accusation at first, because, even though I said "enjoy the free meal," I meant it much more tongue in cheek or as a pep talk than a suggestion on how to save money for fall boots/rent. 

Apparently freeloading dating is a problem these days, but if the respondents to my survey represent a cross-section of my readers, none of my readers -- or very few of them, I'm guessing -- fall into that category. So to the guys who are wary of these types, I offer a warning and a consolation prize: 

If she's 22 or younger and you're in your 30s, you should be worried she might be a freeloader. However, you can boast to your friends that you're dating a 22-year-old, so there's that. 

And if you decide not to go out with her again, text her a couple of times then ignore her.
She will obsess over your texts with her girlfriends and friend zoned guys who wish so badly they were you. 
If she's closer to your age and you get the sense she's freeloading, enjoy the view of her cleavage and bash her to your friends the next time y'all meet up for beers or whatever it is boys do. 

This? Guys should meet up and do this.

Freeloading issue aside, my approach, as I mentioned before, is to not take online dating too seriously. Too many times I have set my expectations high and been disappointed. Few dates have led to second ones, but most have been okay (meaning not blogworthy).

A word of advice to whomever is the pursuer: keep the online interactions to a minimum. According to a recent study out of California State University, online dating "enables people to get to know each other online and then plan a first date, but the vast majority of adult romantic relationships still start after men and women meet in physical locations...and somehow express interest in getting to know one another better."

I personally lose interest after three messages, if there's no mention of meeting up, and I have fallen into the trap of telling my life story or too many personal details without meeting the guy. This ALWAYS creates a false sense of connectedness and trust, and when it doesn't work out, I have been left wondering what the heck happened. Sometimes guys will write me long introductory messages, telling me all about themselves, and I often wonder if they've copied and pasted it into messages to several girls. It's a huge turn-off. I'd much rather a guy say, "Hey, I like X about your profile. Seems like we'd have some interesting things to talk about. Would you like to meet up sometime?" Knowing he wants to meet me, in person, is more flattering than any witty thing he could write me on an online dating site.

Finally, don't buy into the promises of eHarmony and Match that you'll find your perfect one on there. Getting depressed, jaded, angry, etc. doesn't do anyone any good.

We all feel your pain, Char.
Realize that if you're meeting someone online, he/she is putting him/herself out there at the very least. That counts for something. Some people just want to get laid, some are looking for love, and  a lot are somewhere in the middle. Weed out the ones who aren't near where you are on the spectrum, and try to have fun -- respectful, non-freeloading fun.

Does this resonate with you? Have you had a different experience?

Review: Birchbox

Nov 15, 2013

I've been wary of these subscription services that send you a box of stuff each month for a flat fee. I dipped my toes in the water with Stitch Fix because you don't have to subscribe, you can just get a fix when you want one. So, when my friend J asked if we could have a pizza and wine night so she could convince me to use Birchbox, I was hesitant...but let's be honest, she had me at pi.

After she'd buttered me up with prosciutto and banana peppers pizza from Italian Kitchen on U (my favorite), she took out the little box. It was much smaller than I'd imagined, and she explained it's because they send you samples.

Samples?! Uh, no thanks. Rip-off.

But then she showed me what was inside. I don't remember the contents of her box, but what I noticed was most of the sample sizes were pretty large. She told me each box is customized according to your profile with four to five products, and it's only $10 a month then free shipping on any full-sized products you want to order.

She poured me another glass of wine and went in for the kill. 

"And it's so fun to get a package, right?!

Yes, it is, J. *sigh*

The next day I signed up for an account. I was informed there was a waiting list. I rolled my eyes and thought, Good. Saves me ten bucks.

Fifteen minutes later I received a notification that I was in. Sneaky, sneaky marketing tactics, y'all.

Much like Stitch Fix, they ask you questions about your preferences on and challenges with skincare, hair, favorite products, trouble areas, etc. When I saw you can cancel your subscription at any time, I decided to go for it. I could at least try it out once, no harm in that.

Since it was near the end of October and the boxes ship early in the month, I was delightfully surprised to get an October box the following week. 


Noli checked to make sure there were no drugs or bombs, and then I opened it up to find a Beauty Buzz card telling me about some beauty trends and a couple of tips. (The website has a Magazine tab that offers more of this type of information.)

Here's what I got:


I was instantly excited about this because I'm addicted to lip gloss. The color they sent was Flowering Fuchsia, which I wasn't sure about at first. Hot pink is not the greatest color on me. But I found that it gave my lips a subtle stain, along with the gloss, and it was actually really pretty! Also, there's something in it that is kind of minty. That's not in the product description, so maybe it's just naturally refreshing? All of their lip glosses have vitamin E and jojoba oil, which makes your lips extra soft. This is the only lip gloss I've been using since I got it. It looks like a full-sized tube to me, so I'm sure it will last me through the wintertime at least!

Doing my best Lucille Bluth.

I was so happy to see this neutral shade (Dinge) because I really needed a new one. I have awful nails (thanks to Mean Girls I became obsessed with my small nail beds) and prefer a nail polish that gives good coverage so you can't see how far down my nails start. This gives great coverage with the first coat, and the second coat fills in any gaps. It's the perfect neutral shade for me since I'm fair skinned. The sample they send looks like a full-sized bottle, and I would pay that much for OPI or Essie. Score!


3 & 4. dr. brandt microdermabrasion skin exfoliant ($78) & dr. brandt light years away brightening eye cream ($90)
I wasn't thrilled by these because I generally have good skin (my mother would say those genes come from my great-grandmother Mamie). I used microdermabrasion products before and didn't notice a difference then, and because of the yellow tones in my skin, it doesn't have that translucency that some rosy complexions have. So I decided not to try these. I'm going to gift them to someone for a little happy instead.

This was a "Birchbox Find," which means it's an add-on that I might enjoy and is included on occasion. The only difference I could tell between this and the others is it's not a fancypants brand, but it's still something I would totally use. Who doesn't need ChapStick? This particular kind is marketed as a primer for your lipstick. It's not as waxy as the regular ChapStick, but it definitely doesn't add any color. I haven't noticed any huge improvement in my lipstick wear time while using it, but then again, I've been wearing a lot of the POP lip gloss so I haven't had much opportunity to experiment. 


All in all I was very pleased with my first Birchbox. I've already received my November one, so I'll post on that in a couple of weeks. I'm sticking with this for now because, as J said, it's fun to get a package in the mail, and almost all of the products have been something I would try. The sample sizes are a nice way to do that without making a commitment to the full-sized product, and so many of the samples are large, it feels like you're getting the full-sized anyway.

For $10, it's a great deal, plus it keeps me out of the CVS beauty aisle when I have no reason to be there except that I'm bored/sad/happy/stressed/relaxed/going on a date/watching 30 Rock all night with Noli/etc. So really I'm saving money. (That's called single girl math. #girlcode)

P.S. All next week I'm writing about online dating. I have way too much information to put in one post, so be sure to tune in...and chime in!

10 Emotions My Future Nerd Children Will Never Experience

Nov 8, 2013

Because I'm still on a blogging break sort of but I feel guilty if I don't at least post something once a week...here's what's been on my mind today.

1. The determination of listening to the radio for hours after school with your finger poised over the "RECORD" button on your stereo so you can catch a particular song to complete one of the many mix tapes you were constantly working on for your friends, crush, pen pal and self.


(You needed a study mix, crush mix, best friends aka LYLAS! mix, sad mix, cleaning-your-room mix, girl power mix, country only mix, and songs-your-parents-don't-allow-you-to-listen-to mix, at the very least.)


2. The devastation of either A) the tape running out in the middle of the last song you need or B) upon completion of tape, pulling it out of the stereo only to find the stereo ate the tape. Not only did you lose all that time, but you recorded yourself saying some really profound and poetic things in between songs. Oh well. Time to dig up your moms Rod Stewart Greatest Hits tape, put Scotch tape over the little holes on the bottom and start over.


3. The exhilaration of passing notes in class and learning all the amazing ways that one can fold said notes. I had gallon Ziploc bags of these under my bed, one dedicated to each friend. I assume my mother read them years ago and threw them out in case I ever decided to try to find a boyfriend become a politician.


4. The utter shame of having a note to your best friend about your crush being confiscated in math class and then posted on the classroom bulletin board for all to see as punishment. And gaining the silent and fleeting respect of the cool kids in the process. And perhaps -- perhaps -- recognition from your crush.

Probably not this much recognition. Think signing your yearbook.
5. The astonishment of realizing you just convinced your parents to buy you tickets to a concert that's on a school night because the band is recording the music video for their new single that night and it's going to be historical. (Scroll to 2:39 -- that's where I allegedly appear, I think. It's one of those lies you believe after telling it for so many years.)



6. The arrogance of typing a grammatical or punctuation error on your book report just so you could use the white out ribbon on the electric typewriter. AMAZEMENT EVERY TIME.




7. The overwhelming feeling of love and security when your parents accepted a collect call from you while you were on an Anchor Club sponsored "Future Women Leaders of America" trip to Williamsburg. 



8. The excitement of sitting in your mom's friend's convertible, not because it was a convertible, but because she had a bag phone in her car and got 30 minutes a month to use however she chose.



9. The urgent desire to get up at 6 a.m. on Saturdays in order to watch as many cartoons as you could before your parents woke up and told you your TV allowance for the day was over.




10. The reckless abandon of preserving what little cool points you had by secretly being friends with the weird girl down the street because her parents got her a Nintendo with Mario Kart and she let you be Yoshi. Rainbow Road was the best, obviously. Totally worth it.