How to Bake Hearts into Cupcakes for Your Valentine(s)!

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As someone who’s looking forward to another V-day on my own, my increasingly wedded-and-engaged friends are asking me the same thing: aren’t you sad to be spending S.A.D. (Singles’ Awareness Day), well, sad?

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There are some years where I might have answered yes, maybe an 8th grade spent on Xanga bemoaning my eternally loveless existence with angsty Maroon 5 lyrics or a college year pining after my incredibly cute, incredibly unavailable coworker.

Even so, I can’t recall ever having spent a Valentine’s Day lonely. Growing up, I recall waking up every February 14th to a lovely something sitting on my windowsill: a Pooh bear, a bouquet of flowers, a pink card with “We love you” scrawled across the front under a picture of Snoopy hugging a heart. In elementary school, I remember the tissue box card holders that we would eagerly decorate and bring to class, along with our customized cards that we would then dutifully slip into all of our classmates’ boxes, even the box of funny Chris R. who sat in the corner and made strange farting noises during math period. I recall the joy of opening up every card and reading message after message that began with “Dear Ala…”

Middle school marked the beginning of specialized attention from boys. While the mass carding stopped and most of my friends just brought bags of chocolates to share with everyone, meek presents from would-be suitors began pouring in, much to the amusement (or bemusement, perhaps bordering on mortification) of my parents. I still own the bumblebee build-a-bear, the sterling silver “A” necklace, the giant poster of a Dalmation surrounded by red roses, and enough other stuffed animals with which to open up my own Plush Museum.

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Somehow, in spite of all this attention, it never really occurred to me to consider Valentine’s Day a day of romantic love in particular.… Read more

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Tofu Pineapple Veggie Rice Bowl with Tangy Asian Peanut Sauce

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #ChineseNYeats #CollectiveBias

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It feels like it’s been forever. It really has been forever, hasn’t it? HI!

Things have been flat-out crazy around here lately, hence the radio silence recently. I drafted up a Life Plan-of-Attack a few weeks ago that basically boiled my hours down to a fine dust: 63 hours of research, 20 hours of miscellaneous writing work, 15 hours of blogging, 15 hours for teaching prep, and 15 hours for swimming. That left 40 hours in the week for sleeping, and next to the word “social” on my whiteboard are two giant symbols:

“??”

Thankfully, it turns out that the weeks of sleepless fervor were well worth it, because now that we’re entering February (WHAT), the dissertation writing momentum is finally, finally starting to pick up. I’ve waded through what must be a quarter of the school library’s tomes on evolutionary theory and child development, not to mention haunted the local Starbucks in more stuporific dazes than I care to mention. Meanwhile, I’m slowly reintroducing parts of my social life back into its place, and guess what? Now that I’ve done some preemptive cramming, I actually get to spend this coming weekend rocking out with my fambam for Chinese New Year’s!

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CNY is kiiiiinda a crazy weeklong affair for my family. While we’re pretty Americanized in a lot of ways (helloooo, English major and not yet disowned! hooray!) this is one holiday on which our household definitely does NOT skimp.

The end of every year always starts with a head-to-toe house cleaning, followed by the plastering of new fortune papers and placing of tangerines all around the house. This year will be the year of the monkey, so we’ll spend the next lunar year in the company of the troop of cartoonized red-cheeked primates that will deck our walls.… Read more

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Parmesan Cheddar Broccoli and LEAN CUISINE® Vermont White Cheddar Mac & Cheese

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #BalancedNewYear #CollectiveBias

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Being back in the pool this year feels SO wonderful. While I’m not a huge proponent of New Year’s resolutions in general, I did make it a goal to kick off 2016 by swimming 6 times a week.

Swim club has been great about keeping me right on track: this weekend, a few of us hit up the pool for some workouts and reminded me how fun it is to be back in a swim community again. After just a few weeks, it feels good to know that when my arms pull through the water, my body is actually inclined to move forward at a relatively fast pace again. I’ve even been motivated enough to squeeze in a few (just a few!) double days of morning and evening practices, which I honestly haven’t done since dinosaurs roamed this earth. Good lord, it’s like I’m actually making progress!

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With this zealous swim calendar and an even crazier work schedule, though, I’ve found the hard way that it takes a world-class juggling act to maintain any sort of balance in my life. After a week of solid swim practices and absolutely nothing in my fridge when I came home wet and hungry, I decided to swing by Walmart one weekend and scour the aisles for something satisfying, but balanced enough that I could eat right after workout.

I was on my way out of the store after picking up some broccoli and shredded cheese when I finally found the golden ticket: LEAN CUISINE® Marketplace Collection Vermont White Cheddar Mac & Cheese. I probably can make this sound any cheesier if I wanted to, but it really was love at first sight, because if there’s one way to my heart of comfort food hearts, it’s mac & cheese.… Read more

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How to Make Skittle Sprinkles

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MakeSB50Sweeter #CollectiveBias

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There are some things in life about which it’s okay to get excited WAY early, like weeks or even months in advance. Chatting about summer vacay plays in January, playing Christmas songs in August, making a spreadsheet that counts down the 5,000 hours until your favorite TV show airs again–these are all perfectly normal reasons to be excited.

With my dad and brother, though, it’s the Super Bowl. Last September, I caught them whispering quietly about getting Super Bowl tickets, which cost as much apiece as my entire kitchen. Of course, the combined pressure of my mom and common sense eventually shut down that idea, but with the big game right around the corner, celebration day spirits at home are at an all-time high again. Luckily, I’ve found my niche in the family when these kinds of things happen–so into the kitchen I went this weekend for some Super Brainstorming!

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As you’ve probably realized by now, Skittles is an official sponsor of the NFL which means that Skittles is here to Make Super Bowl 50 Even Sweeter, and it just felt right to include my brother’s favorite candy in the celebration prep this year. After rummaging through some old recipe ideas, I finally decided that I wanted to make something fun and new to celebrate Skittles in a new way: Skittle sprinkles! The process takes a bit of time from start to finish, but it’s totally simple, plus you get to see your friends’ amazed faces when you tell them that you just transformed their childhood fav into an edible topping.

Of course, this meant that I was going to need a whole LOT of Skittles, so I hopped onto Amazon (a girl’s best friend), sifted through the Starburst and Snickers, and finally ordered some Skittles.… Read more

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No-Bake M&M’S® Cookie Butter Avalanche Bars

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MakeItAMovieNight #CollectiveBias

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Animated films are my jam, my cup of tea, my sweet love, my obsession and my vampiric life blood. If you don’t like animation, you may as well leave now because I’m pretty sure we can’t ever be friends again.

And no, you can’t have any of these bars on your way out. Hmph!

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Animated movie nights are one of my favorite bonding activities ever. If you want to find the want to my heart–because lezzbereal here, everyone does–you might suggest having a snack-filled animation marathon night and I might love you forever.

Every time I go home, my family and I make it a point to watch at least one animated film together, which is so delightful because sometimes I spend more time watching them than watching the film itself. This winter break, we decided to watch Hotel Transylvania 2, which is an adorable film about Dracula’s attempts to turn his half-human grandson into a true vampire. The plot was cute overload, but you know you’re watching a real gem when Blobby the Blob needs to use the bathroom in the middle of a dramatic race sequence and suddenly your dad is cracking up so bad that he is alternately coughing and laughing and quite literally falling off his chair for three minutes straight.

Ahh, families. Gotta love ‘em!

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The only thing that could have made the night better was having about a bajillion snacks on hand. My family and I are a bunch of huge snackers, so we decided to stock up on Orville Redenbacher 6 pack Movie Theater Popcorn Bowls (a very good idea), Milk Chocolate M&M’S®, and Coca-Cola.

Why these particular snacks? I’m so glad you asked!… Read more

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Cheesy Garlic Cauliflower Breadsticks

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #EatLightEatRight #CollectiveBias

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I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling just a wee bit nostalgic now that the holiday season is over. Classes started again this week, which means that I’m back to being a responsible (er, “responsible” adult on a teaching schedule and that my three-day stretches of wearing only PJs are over. Research, teach, work, blog, repeat…

And then, of course, there’s the food, best enjoyed with the fam. Who wouldn’t miss the food?

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Comfort food with family and a healthy start to the new year might sound like an oxymoronic combination, but thankfully I’ve done my fair share of digging and discovered some neat ways to reconcile the two. You might have heard of the power of cauliflower–have you ever tried using it as a carb sub? If not, you’re TOTALLY in for a treat!

To be honest, I didn’t believe the hype until I tried it myself a few months ago. I made a version of these cheesy garlic cauliflower breadsticks and instantly fell in love with the major gooey oozing shredded cheese that I’d smothered all over the light, delightfully gluten-free cauliflower crust. But how does it work, precisely? So glad you asked…

In full-blown vegetable mode, cauliflower seems like a formidable substance to handle. Luckily, all you need to do here is give it a few good chops, throw everything in your food processor to create cauliflower “rice,” and then microwave the whole shebang! From there on out, I’m happy to report that it gets even easier…

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Microwave! Oh boy oh boy. After microwaving your cauliflower rice for 8-10 minutes, you’re ready to mix in some eggs, cheese, minced garlic, garlic salt, pepper, and dried basil. Then it’s off to the oven!… Read more

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Cheesy Garlic Crescent Rolls for #SundaySupper

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Happy new year!

Remember when I shared that insanely cheesy Garlic Crack Bread with all of you last month? Well, I have another recipe up my sleeve that will warm your heart and clog our lovely arteries with equally unapologetic fervor–the perfect way to start the new year in my book. Reader, please to make the acquaintance of these Cheesy Garlic Crescent Rolls! Trust me, this is going to be one fast friendship you won’t want to miss in 2016!

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I don’t know about your holiday traditions, but the table at holiday dinners (especially this past Christmas) is always something of a battle zone in our family. The number of innovative chefs in our family is skyrocketing as our numbers continue to expand–thank goodness for food-savvy in-laws!–but this also means more jostling elbows and flying forks with which to wrangle when it comes to getting food on my plate. Fortunately, I’ve come up with a great system for winning our annual food fights, and it’s this…

Channeling my inner Katniss Everdeen. Muahahaha. May the brussel sprouts be ever in my favor!

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A second (perhaps slightly less worrisome) alternative is to make all of the best food at home and consume as much of it as you’d like before bringing it over to share. That may or may not have been the case when it comes to these Cheesy Garlic Crescent Rolls. Shhh!

I first tried them at Thanksgiving, when one of my cousins brought out a tray as pre-dinner tasters. They’re exactly what they sound like: oozing, melty mozzarrella cheese wrapped in a warm blanket of crescent roll, butter, and garlic. How could I not recreate them on my own?

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Fortunately, I was hosting an end-of-year holiday party for my friends a few weeks back at my place, which meant that I had a chance to flex my foodie muscles and test out my theory.… Read more

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2015 in Review!

I hope you’re all being drowned in a deluge of 2015 Recap posts these days, because I’m about to add to the pitiless fervor by giving you…..more recaps! Hooray!

2015 was a very special year here at Wallflour Girl. As you know, I try to spend ample time updating everyone here on my day-to-day happenings–but sometimes some (very exciting!) things fall through the cracks of daily life. So without further ado, I bring you a recap of 7 of my biggest, unmentioned accomplishments in 2015. I hope you enjoy reading about them!

7. Set the Guinness World Record for “most smiles flashed in a 2-minute period”

Okay, so how many of you knew before today that this Guinness World Record even existed?? I’ll admit–I had no idea either. Not until, that is, my friend told a particularly hilarious joke involving a bear ordering french fries in Yosemite and this goofy grin kept spasmodically popping up on my face and he suddenly turned to me and said: “Hey, you should try going for a world record of smiles!” Turns out, the application process is fairly straightforward, and I sent in my video to the review committee back in May. They sent me confirmation early last month: 122 smiles. So huzzah, you now know a world champion of smiles!!! If that’s not something to grin about, I dunno what is.

6. Became a ninja crossword puzzle creator for the NY Times

Those of you who are religious crossword fanatics will probably recognize the name Will Shortz–renowned puzzler and editor of crosswords at the NYT. Well, here’s some more big news that I’ve been hiding from all of you: I became a master crossword creator for the paper this year! Will and I met at a journalism banquet early this year on the rooftop bar of the dazzling Hilton Inn as we were sipping our sparkling ciders, and when I told him about my great love for puzzle games, he invited me to reach out about a part-time position he had open.… Read more

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Bananas Foster Bread Pudding for #SundaySupper

Bananas Foster Bread Pudding 2--121915Have you ever brought something to a potluck and the only thought running through your mind as you’re dragging your feet from the car to the front door is: “Oh my god, this is SO hideous I hope nobody knows I brought this“?

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Truth be told, over half of the desserts I make when I’m alone at home look like they were pooped out of a woolly mammoth and left to fossilize for a few dozen centuries under mountains of snow. That’s one of the big reasons why food blogging is such a godsend. Making delicious stuff that looks like elephant dung, deeming it unpresentable to the public eye, and eating all the evidence so that nobody ever finds out you’re a big food phony with zero presentation skills…well, that’s kinda my specialty around here.

Then every once in a few Ice Ages, you uncover a real gem. A dessert that is absolutely horrendous to look at–something between burnt toast and your Aunty May’s leftover fruitcake–but tastes like a million bucks, and then some. This bananas foster bread pudding is exactly thatSo ugly and so, SO insanely good. Maybe you should bring it to your next ugly sweater party just so you can fit the theme!

The recipe is a twist on my favorite bread pudding recipe. It’s creamy, boozy, and sinfully good without feeling too heavy on the palate. Eggs, heavy cream, sugar, cinnamon, leftover crusty bread, and bananas are basically all you’ll need to make this last-minute dessert. Oh yeah, and a generous dose of coffee-flavored liqueur rum! You know, for that extra-great holiday cheers ;)

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I may have been cringing when I brought this bread pudding to our most recent holiday party, but you can bet your fancy pants that I was a proud pudding parent when I left that evening.… Read more

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Golden Oreo-Stuffed Snickerdoodle Blondie Cheesecake Bars

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I’ve just started reading Morton N. Cohen’s edition of Lewis Carroll’s collected letters and the pitter-patter of rain outside seems bent on creating the perfect England-esque backdrop for my rambles into this bizarre British author’s mind. I’ve reached a sort of rut as far as my dissertation writing is concerned, so after rereading what I had written so far, I’m taking a step back this week and trying to focus on gathering as many clues as I can around the creation of the Alice stories. It’s kind of like playing a game of Clue, only you’re the only one playing and the clues appear in pell-mell fashion, willy-nilly and wherever they please. I never imagined that the whirlwind after the World Food Champs would take so long to calm down, but things are mostly settled now and (as odd as it sounds) thankfully I can get back to my research with minimal interruptions during the holiday break. My inner homebody is beyond pleased at this quiet change.

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As I sift through Carroll’s letters from Oxford (where he served as a Mathematical Lecturer until 1881), I can’t help but fall in love with the author and his writing all over again. On Saturday, my British friend and I went on a long amble to the beach, where we strolled along the pier listening to live music and padded our way across the sand, far down the shore. I listened, fascinated, as he described his college at Cambridge and the lifelong groundkeepers who maintain the landscape and the ancient architecture that has seen so many developments yet stayed essentially the same since the 1300s. As we rolled up our jeans and waded into the Pacific, I found myself marveling at the fact that a place as many oceans and centuries away as 19th-century England could feel so close at the same time.… Read more

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