“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” (and a sinfully sweet Peanut Butter Dream recipe)

What do you do when someone hurts your feelings?

I mean really hurts your feelings. The kind of hurts-your-feelings that goes so deep that only your best friend can see it because you’re that damn good at hiding it. The kind of hurts-your-feelings that causes you to walk to the car and melt into a puddle of tears in the passenger seat. The kind of hurts-your-feelings that leave you asking, “Seriously? What did I ever do to you?”

My soul is of the sensitive sort, I will admit that… I take EV-ER-Y-THING the wrong way. Tell me that my hair looks nice curly, and I’ll assume that you prefer curly over straight and convince myself that you hate it when my hair ISN’T curly. I have this awful, awful ability to manipulate words meant to be complimentary and twist them into this derogatory mass — and I let my feelings get hurt in this way ALL. THE. TIME.

But there is a difference.

Somewhere deep in my confusing, all-over-the-place psyche, I know that regardless of the crap I’m taking from the words my friends are saying… they love me, and the words they are saying are never meant to hurt me.

And then there are the words that cut way deep. The ones that are meant to hurt.

I have to ask, friends… why do so many people want to view the world as glass-half-empty? Why is there such a desire to stomp on dreams, to squelch hope, to make people view life in a “realistic” manner? Isn’t living in the reality enough?

I am a dreamer. A big-time dreamer. A planner and schemer of a million ideas that will never come to fruition and quite honestly, I know that and I’m okay with that. Dreams are meant to be dreamt in order for us to reach our highest potential. They are the things we seek. They are the paths we take. They are the lives we pursue. Dreams keep me going.

Try as I might, I can’t see why it’s a problem to look at the world as a glass half-full. Maybe it’s not “realistic” — maybe the world isn’t this lovely place that I strive to see it as — but what makes it so wrong to see the light?

My feelings got hurt recently. They really, really, really got hurt. But I think that even in the mess that is a hurt heart, one can learn so much… and maybe, just maybe, the best way to cope is to pull a Rhett Butler and move on. “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

If ever an iconic line there was…

On a much more cheerful topic, today’s recipe is a little something I whipped up for my coworker Rusty’s birthday last week. Upon asking what he liked, I was told, quite simply, “chocolate and peanut butter.”

Well. Reese’s Cup Cheesecake had already been done and I wasn’t really feeling any of the recipes I found… so a rummage among my cupboards and a quick trip to the store later, my kitchen counter was covered with a multitude of chocolatey-peanut buttery-goodness — and from that mess came this delectable little sucker (fondly titled “Peanut Butter Dream”).

Rusty’s No-Bake Peanut Butter Dream (feeds ~20)

Ingredients:
One package ~30 chocolate sandwich cookies (give or take a few)
1/4 cup butter (melted)
One cup heavy whipping cream
One cup smooth peanut butter
One 8 oz package cream cheese
One teaspoon vanilla extract
One cup confectioners sugar
One package sugar-free chocolate Jello pudding mix
One cup milk
One package semi-sweet chocolate chips
Canola oil
Cinnamon
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (your choice on big or small, but I prefer the small ones)

Other:
Food processor (or) gallon bag/hammer
9×13 casserole dish

1. Make your crust using the Oreo cookies and butter. Although it would be easier to use a food processor, this poor college student hasn’t made that purchase yet — so I use the good old-fashioned method of cookies-in-bag and pound with a hammer to properly crush them. You want them smashed to smithereens (and leave that cookie filling in there!), but it’s okay if the size of the cookie crumbs vary. This is easy.

2. Once you’ve properly demolished your bag of Oreos, spread them over the bottom of your casserole dish, then carefully drizzle the melted butter over the top. Try to get the butter spread as evenly as possible over the Oreos — this acts as a holding agent to make the crust less crumby and more crusty. Once the butter has been evenly distributed, you can gently shake the dish to help your crust form.

3. Now it’s time to make your peanut butter layer. I know this sounds a little weird, but I promise it’s worth it. First, whip your heavy whipping cream until peaks form (I always second guess myself and think that I’ve done it wrong, but remember that whipping cream takes time… if it’s not whipping well, it just hasn’t had enough time! Give it a bit).

4. In a separate bowl, combine one cup of smooth peanut butter, 8 oz of cream cheese, and one teaspoon of vanilla. Whip until smooth and creamy (no lumps), then start adding in the confectioners sugar. Do this a bit at a time (I recommend in quarter cups). Continue whipping until the consistency is smooth and the flavor is a perfect peanut-buttery goodness (…you best have been taste-testing as you went!).

5. Carefully — carefully — fold the peanut butter mixture into the whipped cream. This is a wee bit tricky, but if I could do it, you can too! Never ever ever use your mixer to blend these two together… too much mixing can lead to your whipped cream falling. Once you’ve reached a smooth, fluffy texture, layer this peanut butter mixture on top of your Oreo crust.

6. Time for pudding! Now, I know the box calls for two cups of cold milk… but I want you to use one. Whip the pudding mix together with a dash of cinnamon and one cup of cold milk (preferably Cruze Dairy Farms!) for two minutes, then allow it to set in the refrigerator. In the meantime, crush 10 Reese’s Cups.

7. Once the pudding has set, mix in the crushed Reese’s Cups and spread in an even layer over the top of your peanut butter mixture. If you have any left over Oreo crumbs, now is the time to sprinkle those on the top of your pudding.

8. Carefully melt your chocolate (I use the double boiler method, but microwave is fine too) and mix in a VERY small amount of canola oil (this will keep it from setting too quickly). Drizzle the melted chocolate over the top of your dish.

9. Finally, cut ~15 Reese’s Cups in half and place as you wish on the top of the dessert. For best results, chill for at least two hours before serving. Enjoy!

What Paula Deen taught me about men (and the best Triple-Chocolate Cupcakes EVER)

“Today, I’m going to show you how to cook for your man,” she said in typical Paula-Deen fashion, waving around a spatula with a delectable, buttery something-or-other simmering on the stove in front of her.

My attention immediately went from the bowl of cereal I was munching on to staring raptly at the TV screen. You see, when I really think about it, everything I have ever learned about men has come from Giada, Ina, and Paula — because clearly, they know what they’re talking about. It’s all in the cooking, my friends… all in the cooking.

I started a new job this summer. Now, I’m still in college, yes — but I also work part-time at a software company as a technical writer… with a lot of men… and they love their food. Pie. Cheesecake. Lasagna. Cupcakes. You name it, I’ll cook it — because as the old idiom says, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach!” And so, I’ve taken a few lessons from my three cooking-comrades.

Allow me to explain.

Giada DeLaurentiis. Oh, Giada, why are you so gosh-darn attractive every single time you cook? I mean good gravy, lady, leave some pretty out here for the rest of us! Somehow (and I don’t exactly know how), she looks flawless even when wrestling with mixers, boiling oil, cocoa powder… it doesn’t matter what she’s doing or how much of a mess the kitchen will end up being — she just looks lovely. Unfortunately, I can’t say that I’ve perfected that art yet (hand me some cocoa powder and a mixer and you’ll end up with a room coated in a lovely light brown film, myself included), but I’ve discovered that wearing a frilly apron hides a lot of the cocoa dust, and when you add pearls and heels… you’re halfway there! Small steps, Meggo, small steps.

Of course, we also have Ina Garten, the woman with a name that younger Megan mistook as a play on “in a garden.” This talented lady taught me how to include a man in the cooking process without actually letting him do a single thing in the kitchen. She is brilliant. Every episode of Barefoot Contessa includes some nice guy (often her husband Jeffrey, but not every time!) running to the store to pick up the perfect wine, cheese, bread, or combination of the three (Ina, where are you finding all of these men?). SUCCESS. He’s out of the kitchen, and while she whips up a mouthwatering spread at home, he’s grabbing the extra treats to make the meal perfect! I call that genius.

And then… you have Paula. Bless you, Paula Deen, for cooking with butter and always being so bubbly. Without you, I might not be brave enough to cook the terribly unhealthy but disarmingly delicious goodies I’ve become so deft at whipping up — and all with a smile on my face! Think about it, friends. Have you ever seen an episode of Paula’s Kitchen where at least one friend or family member doesn’t pop in? Paula’s kitchen is never empty. There are her sons. Her hubby. Her friends. Grandchildren. She’s practically a people-magnet, all thanks to hard work, dedication, a bubbly personality… and a hefty helping of butter.

So, in honor of Giada, Ina, and Paula… I am going to post my semi-homemade recipe for the best triple-chocolate cupcakes in the world — which means you better get ready. These suckers are the most moist, indulgent cupcakes you could ever imagine… and they have a little kick to them as well. Expect proposals, ladies, because they’ll be coming!

Triple-Chocolate Pudding Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Icing

Ingredients:
One box Duncan Hines Devil’s Food Cake Mix
Three Eggs (I prefer to use organic, but it’s up to you)
1/3 cup Canola Oil
8 oz Sour Cream
A dash each of Cinnamon, Chili Powder, and Vanilla Extract
One package sugar-free Jello Chocolate Pudding Mix
2 cups Milk (again, I like to use raw milk… but it’s your choice!)

1. Mix the cake mix with a good dash of cinnamon and chili powder — I recommend 5-7 shakes of each (I like to say that the addition of these adds a bit of complexity to the cake — just adjust until you get the right amount of “kick”!), then add in eggs, oil, and sour cream. Beat until a firm, slightly fluffy consistency.

2. Line your muffin tin with cupcake liners, the use an ice cream scoop to get the perfect amount of batter into each mold. Place in the oven at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes (until a toothpick comes out clean).

3. In the meantime, whip up your pudding! 2 cups of cold milk mixed with one package of Jello pudding mix, blend with your hand mixer for 2 minutes, then place in the fridge to set.

4. Once your cupcakes have cooled slightly, take your knife (use a non-serrated cooking knife — a butter knife will not do the job here) and cut a circle around the top of the cupcake (see photograph below). Next, use a small spoon to scoop out the cake within the circle and cut off the bottom portion so that you have a lid-type piece of cake to cover the cavity you’ve made.

5. Grab the pudding from the fridge (it should be set by now) and place a good-sized spoonful into each cupcake — then replace the lid-piece you created earlier. Now it’s time to make some buttercream!

Chocolate Buttercream Icing:
2 softened sticks of Salted Butter
Powdered (Confectioner’s) Sugar
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 cup Cocoa Powder
A dash of Milk

1. For the buttercream, first take your butter and whip it with your mixer until a smooth consistency — then add in your powdered sugar. Many recipes call for three cups of sugar, but I think that is way too much… so do it by taste!

2. Once your butter tastes sugary-sweet, you can add in your cocoa powder and vanilla. Keep mixing — but be aware that cocoa powder will go EVERYWHERE, so I recommend adding it in a little at a time.

3. Time for milk. You want your buttercream to easily pipe through the decorating tip, so have your milk handy and be prepared to add it just a bit at a time. Don’t let the icing get too runny — it needs to be firm enough to stay on the cupcake, but not too firm… you know how you like your icing!

4. It’s up to you how you ice these puppies. I use a Wilton No. 19 Open-Star Decorating Tip with my pastry bags and do a simple round-the-cupcake icing job — and it’s lovely!

Once you’ve iced your cupcakes, I recommend letting them sit for a few hours — these cupcakes taste BETTER with age because they have time to let the pudding sink in. Talk about delicious! I guarantee that with these, you will be the belle of the ball… so give it a go — and let me know when you do. 🙂