Monthly Archives:

October 2016

Dessert/ The Chopping Block Recipe

Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow Frosting


Guys, these computer problems are making me want to open my back door and throw this desktop out the door and smash it to pieces.  I may have to bite the bullet and get a new one – it keeps shutting off for no reason, takes FOREVER to download pictures from my phone.  It’s already past 11 in the morning and I am just getting to writing today’s post.  Crazy!  But I’ve realized that there are worse world problems out there, and have enjoyed a few cups of coffee with a nice breeze coming in the window beside my desk.  It’s a cool 51 degrees and a bit overcast.  And I have the day off today, so I need to stop bitching. Open-mouthed smile

I had such a fun work weekend.  Saturday was Lincoln Scared at the Lincoln Square Chopping Block location.   When I got the email that I could dress up, I knew immediately that I could resurrect my Guy Fieri costume of 2011. 

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One of the managers also dressed up like him – and people were joking that it was two too many Guy Fieri’s in the world!


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One of the retail sales associates, Laura, had the Diners, Drive-in and Dives sign on:”

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There were so many people walking through – it ran from 11 – 2 p.m. and I think we went through 30 giant bags of Candy from Costco and lots of vodka for the Bloody Mary’s for the parents.  It was kind of funny because adults would walk by, see a glass of tomato juice with an olive floating in it and asking “is there alcohol in that?!”  Yep!  That was a big hit.

I posted my picture on Instagram and I thought it was nice that Sunny Anderson commented!

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I came home and made a pasta dish with a new marinara sauce using LOTS of veggies, but I am posting that recipe later this week, so stay tuned.

Sunday I was up bright and early to make it to work by 8:00 a.m.  You all know how I hate being late, and I ended up being about 35 minutes early, so I had time to hit up Dunkin Donuts for breakfast.  I had their veggie flatbread, and it was actually pretty good.  10 smart points though!

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So it was my first boot camp to work at, so the set up was different.  Usually we mis en place everything they would need, but this time we just set up all the equipment they would need and set up a pantry of ingredients for them to measure up all the ingredients themselves.

PicMonkey Collage - cupcakes

Um, there was a bit of butter necessary for these cupcakes!

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I learned a lot yesterday, as you all know I am more of a cook than a baker.  I can’t tell you how many times I made muffin recipes only to have the family try them and ask “did you remember to put sugar in these?!”  Doh!  Compliments of The Chopping Block, here are a few tips and tricks when baking cupcakes at home:

The Dos and Don’ts of Cupcakes 

  • Ingredients should always be room temperature, including eggs, butter and dairy (never boiled). 
  • Use proper measuring equipment for each ingredient: wet for wet, dry for dry. 
  • When creaming butter and sugar, the mixture should be fluffy like finished batter and be soft enough to spread like frosting. 
  • When whipping eggs and sugar until light and fluffy, the mixture should be as light in color as butter and should make a figure eight with the beaters that holds for several seconds. 
  • Alternating dry and wet is always in five steps: dry-wet-dry-wet-dry. In other words, divide the dries into three portions and the wet into two. Add to the batter starting and ending with dry. 
  • Overmixing is a big no-no, because it will result in a tougher, denser cake. Just mix the flour until incorporated.
  • If you are using an electric mixer, do it on the lowest speed. 
  • Don’t overfill your tins. Each cup should be filled the same amount. Using a scoop with a release lever helps a great deal. Start a new tin if you have extra-don’t add, or you will have overflowing cupcakes. 
  • Don’t bang your tins on the table! You don’t want to get rid of all that air you just worked so hard to get in your cupcake. 
  • Convection vs. Conventional: Set a convection oven 25 degrees lower than conventional oven.
  • Testing doneness: Don’t use a toothpick. A more reliable test is to make sure the middle of the cupcake springs back. If it stays depressed, they need to bake longer.

Out of all the cupcakes we made, I loved how the Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow Frosting turned out.

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Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow Frosting
Serves 12
A great cupcake made with sweet potatoes - but could easily use equal amounts of banana or canned pumpkin. A great holiday cupcake!
Write a review
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
360 calories
66 g
31 g
9 g
5 g
1 g
126 g
317 g
44 g
0 g
8 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
Amount Per Serving
Calories 360
Calories from Fat 83
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 9g
Saturated Fat 1g
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 6g
Monounsaturated Fat 2g
Cholesterol 31mg
Sodium 317mg
Total Carbohydrates 66g
Dietary Fiber 1g
Sugars 44g
Protein 5g
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
  1. 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  2. 1 cup granulated sugar
  3. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  4. 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  5. 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  6. 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  7. 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  8. 1 cup sweet potato puree (see note, below)
  9. 2 eggs
  10. 1/4 cup water
  11. 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
  12. 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  13. 1/2 batch Italian Meringue (recipe below)
For the toasted marshmallow frosting
  1. Italian Meringue
  2. 1 1/3 cups sugar
  3. 1/2 cup corn syrup
  4. 8 egg whites
  5. 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  6. Whip the egg whites in a large mixing bowl until foamy. Add the cream of tartar, and beat to soft peaks.
  7. Combine the sugar and corn syrup in a small saucepot. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil. Continue to cook until it reads 235° (soft ball stage) on a candy thermometer. Remove to a glass bowl.
  8. Gradually drizzle the sugar into the egg whites while beating. Continue to beat until cool, thick and satiny.
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a muffin tin with paper liners. In a separate bowl, whisk together the pureed sweet potato, eggs, water, grapeseed oil and maple syrup until smooth.
  2. Mix the wet ingredients In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and allspice. Whisk to remove any lumps from the flour.into the dry, stirring until just combined.
  3. Use a scoop to fill the prepared muffin cups about 3/4 full. Bake the cupcakes until the tops spring back when touched, 16 to 18 minutes.
  4. Remove from the pan and cool completely.
  5. Pipe Italian meringue on each cupcake, using a large star tip. Quickly brown the meringue with a torch or under a broiler.
  1. Note: For the sweet potato puree, bake a medium-size sweet potato, with the skin on, at 350° for 40 to 50 minutes, until very soft. Cool, and then remove the skin. Mash the flesh well with a potato masher, or puree with a food processor or ricer.
My Bizzy Kitchen
It was nearly a full class – 18 out of 20 seats, and everyone had a great time.  As we were cleaning up, my buddy Nick asked me if I wanted to go out for a beer.  Sure!  He’s super nice, 29 years old and from Canada.  He actually met his wife in France and she is from the Palatine area.   He actually has a green card and it’s actually green!   It was easier for him to come to America than it would have been for her to go to Canada, so he’s getting used to being here.  He swears like a drunken sailor like me, and he gets my sense of humor.  He texted me later last night and said “my wife really wants to meet you!”  So cute.


So even in the face of cupcakes all day, they didn’t tempt me at all.  All I was dreaming about was a big burger!

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I had 1/3 of a small potato left in my fridge, so Pam fried slices of potato and set them aside.  My burger is 5 ounces raw ground sirloin (5), with a 2 ounce kaiser roll (5) 1 ounce of Cabot 50% reduced fat cheese (2) and two ounces of the sliced potato on top (2) oh, and with a tiny bit of jalapeno mustard!   This was 14 smart points, but was totally worth it.

I have to share my niece Rachel’s Halloween costume this year – her office is dressing up today – can you guess who she is supposed to be?!

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I am going to buy one small bag of candy on the off chance that I get any trick-or-treators which will be slim to none.   It’s going to be overcast most of the day, but no chance of rain and high of 60, so maybe weather will play a factor in getting some kids to walk down my street.  Fingers crossed!  Tony used to make so much fun of me because I would sit by the front door for hours just waiting for anyone to walk by.  Open-mouthed smile

Hopefully my computer won’t crash again before I hit publish.  Off to check some things off my to-do list!   Make it a great day!


Flashback Friday

I am off today, and the first thing on my list of things to do is to go grocery shopping.  I am seriously deficient in the veggie department lately, and plan to fix that stat.  I spent this morning trying to clean some photos off of my desktop in the hopes to try to get it to work better.  I may have gotten sucked into a worm hole looking at all these pictures and by the time I finally post this, I am sure several of you are wondering if I am okay because it’s already nearing 12:30 in the afternoon!  It’s embarrassing how many photos I have on this thing.  But sadly, they go back to 2013, the last time I did a big photo purge and I can click on a folder from 10/1/16, then 10/1/15, then 10/1/14, and 10/1/13.

Photos from October 2013:

2013 Biz

That photo above was after my summer of Insanity, and I believe I was around 156 pounds in this picture.  My strength training was on fire and I was really getting into my grove having lost nearly 20 pounds since June of that year.  Sadly, six weeks later I had to take on a second job since Tony wasn’t able to work, and my exercise mojo went to hell in a hand basket.  I was working 16 hour days and there was just no time or energy to focus on myself anymore.

2013 tony

That picture of Tony was at my co-worker Janice’s wedding reception – J – can’t believe it’s been three years already!  It was a fun night and I was happy that he felt well enough to go out.

Photos from October 2014:tword 050

Tony's last outside picture

That picture of Tony was the last outdoor picture I took of him.  It was taken on October 24, 2014.  It still makes my head reel that six weeks later he would be gone. 

Photos from October 2015:

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I remember that day – it was super warm out in early October, and I had a tank top on underneath and five minutes into my walk I had to take it off.  I smiled when I did that because it was probably 68 degrees and I thought if Tony were with me, he’d be in a winter coat.

Photos from October 2016:

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Still putting one foot in front of the other.   Still trying to eat right, exercise and lose weight.   While so many things have changed over the years, those things have always been on my plate, and I have to stop talking the talking and walking the walk.  It’s kind of embarrassing being a Weight Watcher Ambassador when I see so many of the other women have success and inspire people.  Here are just a few that I follow on Instagram:

fullplateskinnywaist – These sisters Kyle and Kara are down respectively 68 and 110 pounds!

mamacupcakeww – Star is down 42 pounds, I love her food posts, her struggles from time to time, and just basically keeping it real.

thedailydoseofpepper – This link is Star’s blog – I love her recipe ideas that are full meals – like her chicken parmesan meatball sandwich she posted four days ago – and I follow her even though she is a Cubs fan Open-mouthed smile

trackingisthenewblack – I am new to her Instagram page but, um, I think she loves cheese as much as me!

So today I am also going to be meal planning, figure out a workout schedule as we end the month of October.  Seriously, where did this month go?!  Two months until 2017!!  So crazy.


I did clean out my fridge yesterday and was able to come up with a late breakfast/lunch.  When Jacob’s Mom was over last week to make some of his favorite foods, she left behind a cooked bone in chicken breast.  I had two tiny baby peppers, Cabot cheese (duh!) and I picked through a bag of baby spinach to pull out the good leaves, and I nearly always have some type of tortilla around – I had three remaining Mission extra thin corn tortillas, and about 6 strawberries.  Chicken tacos for 10 smart points.

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I was still plenty full from these tacos on my drive to work, but as I was walking into the Merchandise Mart, I could feel my blood sugar dropping fast.  Damn.  Luckily right next to my work is a Potbelly sandwich place – I had 10 minutes to spare before my shift started, so quickly ordered the sandwich (a skinny roast beef with hot peppers! – 10 smart points) and got to my pre-shift meeting.  Well, if anyone knows what it’s like to have low blood sugar, you know that you want that feeling to go away right away.  So I literally inhaled this sandwich in a matter of minutes.

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By the time the meeting ended and it was time to divide and conquer for our Iron Chef private party, my blood sugar felt fine and I was ready to go.  But one of the managers pulled me aside and asked politely “hey Biz, next time can you finish your food before the meeting?”  It never dawned on me to explain why I was eating during work – but once I told him, he was cool with it.  Damn diabetes! Smile with tongue out

Everyone was shocked that last night was my first Iron Chef private party.  Basically the party is separated into groups, and each group gets a Chopping Block Chef to plan out their menu.  Everyone got the same protein – cut up whole chicken on the bone and flank steak.  Each group had to make a dish using both proteins, and you could make any sides using the “pantry” of ingredients that were on the table.  However, if something was needed that wasn’t in the pantry, that was where I came in and would run back and forth from the kitchen to the party bringing the necessary ingredients to complete their dishes.  So I’d be walking around and one chef would yell “Biz – get a rice cooker and fill it with two cups of rice!”  “Biz, I need cilantro and red wine vinegar.”  “Biz, I need goat cheese!”  Before walking into work I only had 2,000 steps – by the end of the night I had 15,000!

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The only way to describe the night was controlled chaos.  It was loud, rambunctious and I enjoyed talking to the guests about grilling meat, about how to caramelize mushrooms vs. just steaming them, etc.   After everything is done cooking, each group put a “tasting plate” together for another Chopping Block chef to taste who wasn’t working the party to determine who the winner was.   Luckily there were several of us working to put the room back into shape – it probably took us a good 90 minutes to clean everything up, get the dishes to the dishwasher, and put everything away and mop.  The guests left at 9:00 a.m. and we left at 10:30.

Usually it takes me only about 50 minutes to drive home at that time of night because there isn’t much traffic.  Well, that is unless they decide to take I-90 from five lanes of traffic to one lane of traffic.   The spooky cat on the car in front of me was to hide the license plate number, but I literally sat on the expressway for sometimes minutes at a time without moving an inch.

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I didn’t walk into my house until 12:15 last night.  Boo!  And since I can’t come home and go straight to bed, I watched two more episodes of Grey’s Anatomy under my covers before finally shutting off the light at 1:30 a.m.  Um, so in addition to getting sucked into the worm hole of old photographs, I may or may not have slept in this morning as well. Open-mouthed smile

Tomorrow I am excited because I get to work at Lincoln Square for “Lincoln Scared.”  It’s a sidewalk open house in Lincoln Square and we are giving out candy, and having kid events in the downstairs kitchen.  I’ll be sure to post pics on Instagram tomorrow.  Then Sunday I am working a cupcake boot camp.  Our weather is supposed to be gorgeous – temps near 70, even on Halloween!  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to bundle Hannah up because it was freezing on Halloween.

Alright, time to chip off my to-do list.  Happy Friyay – make it a great day!


Pasta Workshop

Gah, I am having such computer problems lately.  My Mac Book Pro won’t hold a charge even if it’s plugged in all night and it has a new power chord, and my desktop will just shut itself off for no reason.

I am trying to think how old my desktop computer is and it’s probably 10 years old?  I should also maybe get rid of the hundreds, thousands and millions of photos of food I can probably delete and never miss!

I decided to eat a bigger lunch because it was a work day.  It was a cold, windy, crappy Chicago weather day – the perfect day to stay under the covers and watch Netflix all day.  I decided early on that I would take the train to work.  The commute is bad enough but add rain in the mix and it gets even worse. 

The night before last I defrosted a pork chop before ditching that idea and heating up a Home Run Inn pizza.  So that became my lunch yesterday.  Guys, I am officially out of Hardcore Carnivore Black rub

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I bought these pork chops at The Fresh Market a couple weeks ago when they were on sale for $4.99 a pound.  This one cost $3.90.  I trimmed off 7 ounces of meat for my lunch (7 points) shared the rest with the dogs, and had a side of 4 ounces of potatoes and broccoli (3) that I sautéed in 1 teaspoon grapeseed oil (1) and some lemon pepper seasoning.  A delicious and filling 11 smart point lunch.

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The only variable with taking the train is that it only runs on the 30 minute mark – so if I miss the 10:30 train, I have to wait until 11:30 for the next one, and it’s an hour and 15 minute train ride because it makes all the stops to the sticks where I live.

Yesterday’s Pasta Workshop class was a bit clunky to start because of the weather and the traffic for the Cubs game.  Also, two of our guests signed up for and went to the wrong location and didn’t show up until nearly an hour into the class.  The class was supposed to begin at 6 and I don’t think we even started making the pasta until 6:40.  The class only ran until 9, so I kept looking at the clock thinking we were never going to make the timeline.  We were using pasta rollers for the pasta, but actually doing everything else by hand.  That’s what I love about The Chopping Block is that the recipes are geared towards helping you cook at home without any special equipment.  We mixed the dough on the table and you could easily use a rolling pin to roll out the dough.

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The Chopping Block recipe for their fresh pasta dough:  2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup semolina flour, 3 eggs and 1-2 tablespoons of water.  That’s it.  The only thing I do differently at home is I do add about 1/2 a teaspoon of salt to my dough, and because my counters aren’t that level and the eggs tend to run off my counter, I do use the food processor.  Simply refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes before rolling it out.  Another tip is to put more semolina flour in a cookie sheet, and as you cut the pasta, toss it in the semolina flour so that it doesn’t stick to the other noodles – it will fall off when you boil the pasta.

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We had a head Chef and three Class Assistants for 12 people – more than enough help so the Chef assigned us to each group to make sure that the rolling process went along in a timely manner.  We also made spinach pasta as well – the Chef just mixed fresh spinach and water in a blender, then strained that mixture into a bowl, so instead of using 1-2 tablespoons of water, we used 1-2 tablespoons of the green spinach water to get that color.  So pretty!  We made pappardelle alla bolognese; butternut squash filled tortellini with a sage cream sauce; and spinach fettuccine carbonara.  Can’t wait to make the butternut squash tortellini, but I am leaning towards making them into ravioli.  Maybe with more practice the tortellini will look prettier, but not bad considering no one in our group made fresh pasta before!

I also encouraged the group to put pictures up on Instagram and Facebook and be sure to tag The Chopping Block!

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So the guests sat down maybe 15 minutes after our initial expectation, which worked out well.  Everyone loved the dishes and could confidently see themselves making fresh pasta at home – the whole goal of The Chopping Block!

I ended up making the 10:30 train with 4 minutes to spare – whew!  Hannah dropped me off so she picked me up – thanks Hannah!

I forgot to share my Timehop from two days ago – one year ago was my living room transformation thanks to my good friend Whitney!  You can check out that blog post here.  I still absolutely love it and can’t believe it’s my house sometimes.

And a year ago yesterday, we got Roman!

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I had forgotten how tiny he was when we first got him.  I think even though he is a puppy, that he won’t grow much bigger.  He might be 12-15 pounds?  Smaller than Rummy, but stockier.   They are both sleeping at my feet underneath my desk as I type this.

Another work day today – whoop!  This time an Iron Chef competition with a company for about 45 people.  Each group is presented with a basket of ingredients and has to create three recipes all to be judged by one of the Chef’s on staff that is not working the party – it’s a lot of fun, loud and lively.   And the weather is a bit overcast, but no rain, so I’ll be driving in to work today.

I haven’t gone grocery shopping all week, and the kadults have sustained themselves on Chinese takeout, Portillo’s, and frozen chicken fingers this week.  I really have no idea what is in the fridge and it needs a good deep clean anyway, so that will be one of my chores before work.  Last night when I got home, I just opened the fridge, shut it, and ate cheese and crackers before going to bed.

Hope you make it a great day!