Chocolate Orange Zest Cupcakes… Yum!

Yesterday, March 8, was my birthday.  Traditionally my mom makes my favorite cake for me- angel food cake.  This year was the exception, so I decided to make my own birthday cupcakes!

I love baking, so I looked through one of my Betty Crocker cookbooks and found a recipe for chocolate cupcakes with chocolate orange icing.  I was so excited to bake completely homemade cupcakes…. with a little pizzaz.

Although I ran into some difficulties with the cupcake batter (I forgot to add the orange zest so I had to start all over again), the cupcakes were delicious!  I truly think that these are the best cupcakes that I have ever made.

Chocolate Cupcakes Recipe:

Chocolate Orange Zest Cupcakes

Chocolate Orange Zest Cupcakes


Yields: 24 cupcakes

Prep Time: 20 mins


2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup hot water

2/3 cup unsweetened baking cocoa

3/4 cup margarine

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons grated orange peel

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place paper baking cups in 24 regular size muffin cups.

2. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder.  In another bowl, mix hot water and cocoa until dissolved- set both bowls aside.

3. In a large bowl, beat margarine with electric mixer until smooth.  Gradually add sugar- 1/2 cup at a time (beat well after each addition).  Beat 2 minutes longer.  Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each.  Beat in vanilla and orange zest.  On a low speed, mix in cocoa mixture and flour mixture- alternate each.  Beat until well blended.

4.  Fill 24 cupcake cups 2/3 full.

5.  Bake for 20- 25 mins or until cupcakes are spongey.  Remove and cool.

Frosting Recipe:

Chocolate Orange Zest Cupcakes

Chocolate Orange Zest Cupcakes



1/2 cup margarine, softened

3 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, melted

3 cups powdered sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 tablespoons orange juice (pulp free)

1 tablespoon grated orange peel

1. In a large bowl, mix butter and melted chocolate until well blended.

2. Stir in powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time.  Beat in vanilla and orange juice until smooth.

3. Beat in orange zest until well blended.

4. Use spatula to put icing into a sealable sandwich bag, seal, and cut off corner.

5. Frost cupcakes using bag to create swirl and place small pieces of orange peel on top as garnish.


New Wok= Stir Fry Time!

Today I met my friend, Kristen, at Ikea in College Park.  I tend to frequent Ikea, and I am a tad-bit obsessed with it (of course I had already blogged about Ikea in my Craft room post).  While she was looking for furniture for her new apartment, I had my eye set on a new wok!  I have been using a really large, deep frying pan to make stir fry, but I have always wanted a wok.  I am sure that she thought that I was crazy, but as soon as I saw it, I got super pumped.

Dan, of course, was also pumped (not really, but he did appreciate my stir fry that I made tonight).  My mom had given me a bunch of cook books for Christmas one year, so I decided to use the Taste of Home: Winning Recipes book for a stir fry recipe.  Of course I ended up changing things around a little bit, but it was DELICIOUS!  Here is the Taste of Home‘s recipe:


  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 pound beef top sirloin steak, cut into thin strips
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 cups cauliflowerets
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • Hot cooked riceDirections
    • In a small bowl, whisk together the first eight ingredients until smooth; set aside.
    • In a skillet or wok, stir-fry steak in oil for 3-5 minutes. Add broccoli, cauliflower, onion, carrots and soy sauce mixture; cover and cook for 8 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender, stirring occasionally. Serve over rice. Yield: 4 servings.**In my recipe I did not use the ginger, I marinated my sliced beef in Trader Joe’s Soyaki marinade, and I did not use cauliflower (I used canned baby corn, a diced portabella mushroom cap, and water chestnuts instead).

Eggplant Parm… Yum!

Giant Purple Eggplant.

A follow-up to the farmer’s market post… what to do with the giant eggplant.

I had attempted eggplant parmesan before with a smaller eggplant from Wegman’s, but I don’t think that I made it correctly (Dan liked it of course, but I didn’t).  So, I wanted to give it another shot with the eggplant from the Oakland Mills Farmer’s Market.  The eggplant was seriously giant, and it made a ton of food in the end.  I ended up making dinner for my entire family and brought it to my parents house to feed them.

When I decided to make the eggplant parm, I found a recipe from and loosely used it.  Here is what I ended up doing:

Coated Eggplant Slices ready for baking.

Prepare Eggplant

– Peel and slice eggplant into 3/4 in pieces (width) and sprinkle each side with salt.

– Place paper towels onto a cookie sheet and lay a single layer of eggplant onto paper towels.

– Lay a single layer of paper towels on top of slices and press with something heavy (ie. iron skillet, heavy pan).

– Press for 20- 30 mins.

– Remove eggplant pieces and rinse with cold water, dry.

Bake the slices at 350 degrees.

Bake Eggplant

– Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

– Make a mixture of bread crumbs on a large plate (I used plain bread crumbs, garlic powder, salt, and italian spices).

– Coat each slice with egg (I use egg beaters), lay slices on bread crumbs and coat each side thoroughly, and place a single layer onto a greased cookie tray.

– I bake my slices for about 10 mins on each side, but they should looked a little browned when they are finished.

Eggplant Parmesan over noodles.


– After removing baked slices from the oven, leave the oven at 350 degrees.

– In a glass pan (size of pan and amount of ingredients depends on how much eggplant you have), pour tomato sauce/ pasta sauce to coat bottom.

– Place single layer of baked eggplant slices on top of sauce and coat with cheese (I used a mixture of grated parmesan and mozzarella with italian spices mixed in).

– Cover with more tomato/ pasta sauce and top off with cheese mixture.

– Bake at 350 degrees for 30 mins.

– When the Eggplant Parm is done, you should be able to stick a fork into the slices easily (they should be squishy).



Farmer’s Market Finds!

Market Sign.

Dan and I have been going to the Columbia Farmer’s Market at Oakland Mills on and off since last summer.  We went a week ago and made a few purchases.  We really like this particular market because it happens every Sunday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm May 4- November 23.  Many of the other markets are during the week in the morning, so those of us who work are unable to make it to these. We love supporting the local farmers and businesses, so the market is the place to go!

Apples at the market

There are about seven vendors at the market, so it is not huge.  However, the vendors that do sell their goods at Oakland Mills are very nice, and their produce/ goods are delicious!

We bought only a few things on our last visit.  Dan and I decided on buying a cucumber, a very large eggplant, a cantaloupe, and a really yummy loaf of country white bread.  All of our purchases went quickly and so now we need to visit again this Sunday!!

Country White Bread


Cucumbers and squash

Pub Dog Review… Again.

So I know that I had already posted about Pub Dog in Columbia, but I just had to do it again.  I mean we LOVE that place so why not, right?

Dan and I visited Pub Dog this past Saturday before a round of Disc Golfing (the usual).  Business was pretty slow in there considering it was only noon and who drinks at noon? (Whoops.) So, anyway we were probably only the third couple to walk in the door.  We DID NOT sit at our usual table… as Dan decided that we needed to spice things up a little bit.. boo.  Our server was very nice.. I do not remember her name, but she was friendly and quite the jokester.  She did seem a little weirded out that I kept taking photos of our beer and the food, though, and asked us if we were texting each other from across the table.  Oh well.  Such is life.


When she asked what we wanted to drink of course I ordered my usual- Blueberry Dog.  The server then proceeded to ask if i had ever tried their Blueberry Dog and Raspberry Dog mixed together (not on the menu)- a Schnozberry (sp?).  “Well, no.  I haven’t.  I will try it!”  Let me tell you…. it was delicious.  This is now my new usual.  Dan decided on their seasonal beer- Belgian Shepherd.  He said that it was good, but prefers the Brown Dog.

Belgian Shepherd.

In lieu of “spicing up” our Pub Dog experience, Dan ordered their Caesar  Salad.  I, however, stuck with the Spinach Pizza.  YUM.  When the food came out Dan’s salad actually looked very good.  It is funny because they serve it in a metal dog bowl (theme?).  It came with their homemade garlic sticks on top instead of croutons which looked good.

Caesar Salad and Spinach Pizza.

While we were eating I noticed a sign on the wall that said “Thirsty Dog Sundays”.  Of course this peaked my interest and I read on… “Sundays from 12-8PM you can get a 22oz Thirsty Dog Cup filled with our beer for $6. Bring the cup back any Sunday and we’ll refill it for $3!”  Well of course I was excited and we planned to visit the following day.  Unfortunately this did not actually happen, but we will one day!  I also found out while we were there that Pub Dog has Trivia on Mondays, so we might have to move our little tradition to the beginning of the week… what a great way to start my work week 🙂

Ramen Stir Fry. Spruce It up!


Pretty much everyone has either heard of or tried the packaged instant Ramen noodles sold in virtually every quick stop hop or grocery store in the U.S.  (If you haven’t, I am not really sure what to say to you.  Perhaps you should go try some.)  Ramen/ Oodles of Noodles is pretty much the camping/ college food.

As much as I like Ramen on its own, I do try to figure out ways to spruce it up from time to time.  A couple of nights ago, Dan and I realized that once again we had some vegetables that we needed to use up and I didn’t have a lot of time to make a fancy dinner.  So while browsing the pantry I came across chicken flavored Ramen.  First thought- gross with veggies.  Second thought- oh. Don’t use the flavor packet. Duh.

I cut up some yellow onion, half a clove of garlic, diced carrots, a portabella cap, and half of a yellow squash.  I found some Soy Sauce and sesame seeds.  In a my deep frying pan (I do not have a Wok), I sauteed the veggies, onion, and garlic (using some soy sauce and oil).  While doing that I cooked the Ramen according to the instructions on the packaging, but I did not use the flavor packet.  After the veggies were soft, I drained the Ramen and added it to my pan (med.-low heat).  As I cooked them, I added a little more oil and more soy sauce for flavoring (the oil helps the noodles not the stick to your pan).  I added the sesame seeds at the end.

Stir Fry!

This is very quick!  You can use up some of those veggies in your fridge/ counter without having to spend a lot of time cooking! Yum!

Black Bean Soup

One of my go-to dinners is black bean soup.  I always mix it up a little bit, but it is always delicious!

I always start with black beans (I recommend using canned if you are in a hurry… dry bagged beans take quite some time to cook).  I usually use two cans of black beans so that I will have left overs.  I also add about a can of water to the beans once they are in the pot. I chop up baby carrots, about a quarter of a yellow onion, a clove of garlic, and maybe some potato or I use canned corn.  Like I said, it really varies depending on what I have in the fridge or pantry.  I mix all of these ingredients together in the pot along with garlic powder, salt, pepper, and chili powder (to taste).  I bring these all to a boil and let simmer for 5- 10 mins.  (If you don’t like the crunch of the small pieces of carrots, you can always boil these first before you add them to the soup to make them squishy.)

I always make corn bread to go along with the soup.  My go-to for corn bread is Jiffy (I don’t make home-made corn bread).  I was raised with Jiffy, so I of course love it!  When the soup and corn bread are both ready I spoon the soup into bowls (made by yours truely) and put some cheddar cheese on the tops of the soup.  Corn Bread gets a little bit of butter.  So Yummy!!!

What’s for Dinner?

This question never fails… especially in our house.  I usually have some idea of what I am going to do, but tonight was a little bit different.  Dan went to the movies with friends and I had just finished drawing our wedding oak tree, so I didn’t really have dinner on my mind.  (Moose kind of reminded me that it was dinner time when she started whining…. I got lost in the drawing. Whoops.)

After feeding Moose I basically pulled out all of our left over food tid bits and veggies from the fridge.  Once again I was left trying to figure out how to combine these in some kind of yummy way.  So I ended up with chili lime marinated portabella mushroom, avocado, and a mexican fried rice.



One large Portabella Mushroom Cap

Chili Lime Marinade (Target)


Basmati Rice (cooked)


Canned Corn


Garlic Salt (optional)



Taco Seasoning

Vegetable Oil

I marinated the mushroom cap in the chili lime marinade for about 10-15 mins.  I then baked that in the oven on 350 degrees for 15 mins.  I finely chopped the onion and used a garlic press for the fresh garlic.  When the oven timer was at 10 mins remaining for the mushroom, I started up my pan with about a tablespoon of oil.  When  it was heated I added my onion and fresh garlic and sautéed that for a couple of minutes.  I then added my left over basmati rice, a tablespoon of taco seasoning, and a pinch of garlic salt, salt, and pepper.  I mixed these together and turned the heat to medium.  After the mixture seems fried, add the corn and keep mixing for another couple of minutes (the mushroom should be done by now).  I mashed the avocado and added salt and pepper to taste.

Great option for left over tid bits and really yummy!!

About Me.

Oh hi.

My name is Allison.

I am an art teacher based in Maryland.

I enjoy art, ceramics, sketchbooking, dancing when no one is around, singing in the car, decorating.. and redecorating, cooking, people-watching, and random music.

I am engaged to the love of my life... I can't wait to be married to him.

I like learning about new things.

I find people to be interesting.

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