Get Your Chocolate Fix: 3 Ingredient (Skinny) Brownie Batter Dip

I didn’t have any other pictures to use here, so please enjoy this Astronaut Sloth… Slothstronaut.

Hey there! A while back, I said I’d let you know when I have my wedding blog up and running, and now that I do, I figured I should probably share the link: Twyf Becomes Wife. (How perfect is that, right?) I’ve been a little slow in updating it (sorry, couldn’t resist), but check it out, please. Let me know what topics you’d like to see!

Now, I know you all have probably had your fill of chocolate between Christmas and Valentine’s Day, but this is the easiest. dessert. ever. It really is. I made it a few weekends ago for our weekend potluck at work and my co-workers raved over it. Even with non-fat and low-fat ingredients, it still tastes incredibly rich.

brownie batter 1

Ingredients

– 2 cups plain yogurt (can be non or low-fat)
– 2 cups thawed whipped cream (can be non or low-fat)
– 1 18oz. box brownie mix
– handful of chocolate chips (optional)

brownie batter

1. Mix 2 cups of yogurt with 2 cups of whipped cream in a large bowl.

2. Blend 18oz. of chocolate brownie mix into the yogurt and whipped cream. This was easier when I did it gradually, not all at once. Using a hand mixer also helps.

That’s it!

brownie batter 4

I put all of it in a large container and sprinkled a handful of chocolate chips on top. You can try it on top of graham crackers, but I also like it as a really decadent chocolate yogurt/pudding type dessert. Hope you enjoy it!

Blogger Interviews: Abbie and Emilie

I’ve been really excited about writing this post for a while, because it doesn’t involve much writing on my part, and I get to feature two other blogger-friends of mine who have been on the other side of the world since this summer. When I was working on my undergraduate degree, I attended one of the Study Abroad fairs and grabbed several brochures and magazines for studying, volunteering, and sight-seeing in other countries through my university. Most of the information I picked up was for Egypt, South Africa, or Western Europe, since those are places I’ve always wanted to explore. Although I don’t think I would be able to do a whole semester in a different country (I’m too afraid of missing things), I wouldn’t have minded a two-week experience.

Abbie in Malawi, and Emilie in Istanbul

Abbie in Malawi and Emilie in Istanbul

I met Abbie, who worked as a Resident Assistant while she was in college, through my sister and her friends. She is currently in Malawi (in southeast Africa), teaching at a secondary school, and posts on her blog, Traveling and Teaching: Living and Learning. I got to know Emilie through all of our related activities and mutual friends while we were at YSU together, and got to work with her during my graduate internship. She is studying abroad in Istanbul, Turkey (at the same school where Sarah spent last year’s fall semester!) and blogs at overandout while preparing to apply to graduate schools. I asked them a few questions about their experiences in their respective locations…

Abbie's Form 2 Students

Abbie’s Form 2 Students

1. What made you want to travel to this location?

Abbie: I wanted to come to Malawi because I already had such a strong connection to this community as I had previously traveled here in 2010. I’m back in the same part of Malawi and working with the same NGO (non-government organization) as before. This time instead of two weeks, I’m here for a year.

Emilie: I chose Turkey for a number of reasons. For one, Turkey is one of those mysterious countries that it seems no one really knows anything about, and this obviously attracted me. I wanted to meet the people, eat the food, find out for myself if those silly stereotypes that people believe about the middle east are true. A second reason is because Istanbul is quite literally the center of it all. Half of the city lies in Europe while the other half is in Asia. It’s a mix of people from all over the world, 15ish million of them, all living in this crazy, historic, fascinating city. This also makes it easy/quick to travel almost anywhere in the world, with the exception of North/South America, of course.

View from the upper balcony of Hagia Sophia

View from the upper balcony of Hagia Sophia

2. What has been one of your favorite experiences?

Emilie: One of my my favorite experiences so far has been having a HUGE traditional Turkish breakfast with a wonderful, sweet family I met here through some people at home. We had never met before I came to Turkey, but they welcomed Ed (the other YSU student here with me) and I into their home, showed us all over the European side of the city, and have been so generous and kind to us. A few weeks after we arrived, they invited Ed and I over to spend the day and eat with them. It was the most incredible breakfast I’ve ever had, quite possibly the best meal I’ve ever had. Not only because of the food, but the company also made it unforgettable. I only wish I would have taken my camera… rookie mistake, haha.

Abbie: One of my favorite experiences actually happened the first weekend I was here. One of the girls, Alice, who hangs around the lodge/NGO where I stay frequently asked to take me on a tour of the village. As we were walking she asked what my surname was and I told her. She started to smile and talk in Chitumbuka to the other girl walking with us. I asked her to explain and she told me that my surname is the name of her sponsors. What that meant was that my parents sponsor her education. On top of that, I am her math teacher at her secondary school! Alice took me to see her house that is made of mud and sticks and has a thatch roof. Her family welcomed me and offered me a seat on their front porch. Alice told her brother that my parents sponsor her education. Her brother began to tell me in broken English how grateful they were for the sponsorship because by bettering Alice’s life with an education, it’s also bettering her family’s life, as well as the village. Education here is the only way out and a lot of the times it’s not possible because of money.

Victoria Falls in Livingstone, Zambia

Victoria Falls in Livingstone, Zambia

3. Have you had any trouble adjusting to anything?

Abbie: Everywhere I go I stick out like a sore thumb. When I go to the market, when I walk through the village, when I do my laundry in my back yard I am entertainment for most people. As I walk down the road, kids from everywhere will yell “Mzungu!” meaning, “white person.” I’m unable to be anonymous here and that has probably been the most difficult thing to adjust to.

Emilie: Ah, well, living in Istanbul has required quite a bit of adjusting. Not only is the culture overwhelmingly different, moving from small-town Ohio to one of the most overcrowded cities in the world was an eye-opening experience, to say the least. The traffic, the pollution, the (not always reliable) public transportation, lack of greenery, it was all pretty frightening at first. Now, I appreciate all of the differences for what they are, I’ve stopped expecting Istanbul to be just like Ohio, and it’s finally starting to feel like home. I guess if I wanted everything to stay the same, I wouldn’t have come. But I definitely know now that I can’t live without nature, it’s just so depressing!

Cappadocia

Cappadocia

Check out Sarah’s post about her impromptu cave camping trip in Cappadocia!

4. What is one thing you wish you could bring home with you?

Emilie: The one thing I wish I could bring home is the incredibly cheap produce. Seriously, the fruits and veggies and fresh bread are sooooo cheap here, and the quality is so good (assuming you know what you’re looking for). There are bazaars all over the city every day of the week full of vendors selling fish, produce, cheese, just about anything you could ever need. The bazaars and the produce are something I’m really going to miss.

Abbie: One thing I wish I could bring home with me is the kitten I recently got for my house! She is ADORABLE! Her name is Kim Jong Kitten and she eats all the nasty critters that lurk in the corners of my house. (she was named by a PCV friend). Also, I want to bring home ALL THE BABIES!!!!! They are soooo cuuuuute!

 

I wish I could share all the gorgeous pictures these girls have taken. I’m so jealous of each of their journeys and I hope they both continue enjoying themselves. I can’t wait to read more about them! Thank you, Emilie and Abbie! 🙂

Corn Dogs Aren’t Just for Kids: A Grown-Up Baked Corn Dog Recipe

When I think of corn dogs, I think of Summer and of being a kid. I think of how much of a novelty it was to get this hot dog, on a stick, coated in…well…something. Don’t get me wrong, I like traditional corn dogs and every once in a while if I have the chance I’ll eat one. But, what I’m not a big fan of is how they’re made. I don’t like that they’re fried in all that grease, and I don’t like that you’re eating a questionable batter filled with who knows what.

So, when I found this awesome baked corn dog recipe in Food Network Magazine awhile ago I was really excited. I tried it out for a picnic and it was great. Now, you’re probably asking why in the heck I’m blogging about this now, you know, in October. Well, this sounded better than pork chops the other night so I made some and, lucky for you, I documented it as I went along!

Baked Corn Dogs

**Note, I am giving you the same recipe as appeared in Food Network Magazine and as shared in the link above. However, the photos included in this post was a double recipe (I froze the other half.)
Also, unlike the recipe included above, I leave the hot dogs whole and do not cut them in half first. They are easier to roll this way. If you want, it is easy to cut them in half after they are baked if you’re serving them at a party. Or leave them whole if you’re having them for lunch/dinner.

1 recipe makes: 8 corn dogs (you may have a little bit of dough left over)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup reduced-fat milk
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup fine yellow cornmeal
  • 1 and 1/4 cups all purpose flour, plus more for kneading
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika or cayenne pepper
  • 8 bun length hot dogs
  • 1 large egg, beaten

Equipment:

  • 2 Large Mixing bowls, one for mixing and one for rising
  • Wooden spoon
  • Spatula
  • Small saucepan
  • 1 large baking sheet
  • Basting brush
  • Silicon/plastic pastry sheet for kneading (optional — you could also use saran wrap or wax paper)

Instructions:

1. Warm the milk in a saucepan to approximately 110 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have a cooking thermometer, use it. If not, guesstimate.

2. Once the milk has reached 110 degrees, remove the milk from the saucepan and pour it in one of the mixing bowls.

3. To the warmed milk, add the package of yeast. Sprinkle it evenly over the milk. Let the yeast soften for 2 minutes.

4. After letting the yeast soften for 2 minutes, add the olive oil, brown sugar, and cornmeal.

5. Stir the milk, cornmeal, oil, yeast, and brown sugar mixture thoroughly.

6. Next, add the flour, baking soda, salt, and paprika.

(I used Paprika, but the original recipe also suggests using cayenne pepper.)

7. Thoroughly blend the mixture until all ingredients are incorporated.

8. Now you’re ready to knead! Unfortunately, this is the hard part. One downside of this recipe is that the dough, prior to kneading is very sticky. It is manageable, but To do this you have two options:

Option 1. Remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a flour-coated pastry sheet (or on wax paper/saran wrap). Again, the dough is very, very sticky. You will need to add flour to it until it loses most of its stickiness and you can knead it and form it into a smooth ball.

Option 2. I highly suggest this. Make the recipe in a larger bowl than you think you’ll need. Then, instead of taking the dough out of the bowl, simply knead it in the bowl. Keep adding flour and keep kneading the dough until it is smooth. This really is much easier than option 1. It’s much less messy and uses less equipment!

9. Place the kneaded dough into the second mixing bowl. Before placing the dough in the new bowl, grease the sides of the bowl with olive oil.

When you’ve kneaded the dough it will look like this!

10. Cover the bowl of dough with saran wrap and place it in a warm, dry place. Let the dough rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until it has doubled in size.

11. Spray your baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray and remove the hot dogs from the package.

12. Place a sheet of saran wrap or wax paper down on whatever surface you will use to roll the dough and wrap it around the hot dogs. Using flour is not necessary, unless your dough is still overly sticky. I actually sprayed a little non-stick cooking spray on my piece of saran wrap and it worked just fine.

13. Taking small pieces of dough from the bowl, use the palms of your hands to roll the dough into  long “snake-like” pieces. In order to wrap the entire hot dog, you will likely need more than 1 “snake” of dough.

14. Begin wrapping the dough around each hot dog, pressing it down lightly as you spiral the dough around the hot dog.

Note: The thinner your dough “snake” is, the more compact the corn dog will be after it is baked. If you use thicker pieces of dough, the corn dog will puff up considerably while baking.

15. Place the wrapped hot dogs on the baking sheet. Take the beaten egg and egg wash each corn dog.

16. Bake the corn dogs at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-18 minutes or until they are a light golden brown.

Pair with the condiment of your choice and serve!

Enjoy!

The Best DIY Project for Your Fall Wardobe: Infinity Scarf

Sweater weather. Those are my two favorite words to hear in late September. However, with the weather we’ve been having in northeast Ohio, real fall weather hasn’t really appeared until the last week or so, and it’s still not consistent. It’s supposed to be in the mid 70s this afternoon. I’m hoping the fall temperatures become more reliable soon. Fall is, hands down, the best season in my book, and it always has been. Even though January 1 traditionally rings in the new year, I always feel like fall brings a fresh start with a new school year, or a second try if your year didn’t begin as you’d hoped it would. (At least this year it did for me, since I wasn’t heading back to class for the first time in 20-some years this fall. I just really like buying school supplies and picking out my “first day of school” outfit, ok?) Fall means great September thunderstorms, mugs of hot chocolate or hot apple cider (apple anything, really), watching the leaves turn beautiful shades of red and orange, new seasons of my favorite television shows, pumpkin ice cream, football and marching bands, and cozy scarves. Actually, I love all staples of a fall wardrobe, but cardigans and scarves are really at the top of the list.

I’ve already shared super-simple tutorials for DIY makeovers for your summer and winter wardrobes, and now I’d like to give you one to top off your fall looks. Infinity scarves have been popular for a few years now, and while I love my cute floral patterned ones from Charming Charlie’s, this scarf will take you through fall and into winter, and is much cheaper than anything you can get in stores. You should be able to make two scarves for less than $6 — keep an eye out for JoAnn’s Fabrics and Crafts coupons! If you’re using a sewing machine, this project should only take you less than a half hour. If you’re hand-sewing like I did, get comfy with your Hulu Plus queue — I’d suggest 2-3 episodes of Downton Abbey. (Not “Downtown Abbie,” as Brian referred to it.) I started watching this a couple of weeks ago and I absolutely love it. Anyway, here’s what you’ll need to get started with your new accessory:

1.75 yds of medium-weight plaid/flannel fabric
Mine isn’t very thick and not very fleece-like. Consider that it will be doubled over and then wrapped around your neck twice.
Spool of thread
Any color that coordinates with your fabric will do.
Straight pins
These are so much more helpful than I ever realized… I wish I’d used them for other projects I did this summer.

Step 1.

Put on moccasin slippers and refresh your mug of cocoa. Lay the fabric out flat on the floor or a long table, lengthwise. Cut the fabric on the folded edge along the entire length, giving you two identical pieces. Toss one piece off the the side and use it to make a gift for a friend later! Fold your piece of fabric lengthwise with the right side of it facing in. It should be about 10-ish inches wide now.

Step 2.

Pin your fabric together on the “open” edges, leaving about 3/4″ for a hem. Sew along the entire length of the fabric to close the open edges and create a tube. For this part, it was nice to have a straight line on the fabric to follow with my stitches. Once you’re done sewing the edges together, be sure to remove all of the pins.

Step 3.

Turn the fabric right-side out and lay the tube out flat. (It will be the same way it was when you were sewing the open edges together, except now the edges have been hemmed inside. On one end of the tube, fold the edge down about 1″ to create an even hem. It should look like a shirt sleeve at this point.

Step 4.

This part is a little tricky to explain, so I drew a little diagram to make it easier to understand. (I promise it’s easy to do.) Keeping all of the fabric flat, insert the open edges (cut end) from the opposite end of the tube between the folded down edges (hem end). It will be helpful here to pin everything together. Now, you’ll sew through all 6 layers of fabric, as shown in my handy little drawing. Make sure you’re getting all of the layers, since this is how you join the edges and close up the loop.

Step 5.

It doesn’t exactly matter where you tie the knot at the end, since no one is going to see it anyway. For my scarf, however, just so I didn’t snag it on anything, I flipped over the little flap created by the hem and tied my knot underneath.

And you’re done! Wasn’t that easy? Now go show your new fall scarf off to your friends and see if they believe you only had to sew two straight lines. Make a mistake? That’s ok, these scarves are very forgiving. After all, it’s just a piece of fabric wrapped around your neck. 🙂

If you liked this post, be sure to check out:

Having a Good Hair Day: A Sleek, Sophisticated Up-do Idea

Good hair days and bad hair days. We all have them. I sometimes feel like my bad hair days greatly outnumber my good hair days. Mostly, this is because I generally hate my curly hair — I much prefer it when it is straightened. But, we all want what we can’t have, don’t we?

So, when my cousin’s June wedding was approaching, I knew that I needed to find a good hairstyle to rock. I wanted something sleek and sophisticated. Something that was an up-do, but not too fancy. And most important, a hairstyle that wouldn’t fall completely down after a 10 hour day full of smiling, crying, hugging, celebrating, and dancing.

Up-dos are always a gamble. I’ve had enough in my life to worry about whether I’m going to like what my hair looks like on the day of the event, let alone cringe years later when I looked at pictures. Looking back, I don’t think that I ever had a formal up-do/hairstyle that I ever completely liked.

I was always pushing curls down or making my hair look less puffy. I would agonize in the mirror and ask myself if my hair looked stupid.

My senior prom hairstyle finally gave me something that was close to what I liked:

Senior Prom, 2006. Close, but no cigar.

Then, my cousin got married in 2007 and  again I thought I had an up-do I liked, but now when I look at myself in pictures I pretty much hate how my hair looked:

June 2007. In retrospect, not so great.

 

Finally, finally. Fast forward to June 2012. I did my research. I looked at pictures on Pinterest.

I had a vision. And when the stylist doing my hair started an up-do that I didn’t like, I spoke up. A quick and easy change of tactic got me exactly what I wanted.

Finally, the sleek, sophisticated up-do I desired and a truly good hair day:

June 2012.
Side view.

Back view.

 

Front view.
Bonus: You get to see what I look like with absolutely no make-up on!

 

 

Post-ceremony. 6 hours in. Still looking good!

 

So, I hope you’ve enjoyed my little hair fashion show! Even if you didn’t perhaps I’ve provided some good hair day up-do inspiration in the process. 🙂