cooking for yourself: chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting

Have you seen Bridesmaids yet? If you haven’t, back away from your computer/iDevice, stuff your purse with Reese’s cups and a Coke can, and drive to your nearest movie theater to watch it. If you have, remember the scene when Kristen Wiig goes into her kitchen to make a beautiful, elaborate cupcake for herself? The image of her cutting out tiny fondant decorations made me want to simultaneously smile and cry. (The vomit scene evoked similarly complex emotions, but that time I wanted to cry and leave.)

I bought these strawberries because they are in 3-D!

I rarely cook for myself anymore. Generally, I cook way more than I could possibly eat, because I know there will always be hungry roommates. Don’t get me wrong–I love it. I could feed people for the rest of my life. Baking, especially, makes people happy. There’s a joy that’s buried deep in the fudgey middle of a brownie that a meatloaf just doesn’t possess.

But I’ve realized that when I’m alone, I don’t really cook. When there’s no one around, I generally pull the giant tub of spring mix lettuce out of the fridge, top it with salsa or tahini sauce, and dump whatever leftovers we have on top. I eat standing up, or in front of my computer, or on the couch with Maury uh, CSPAN on. Since I had this realization, I’ve become more aware of the need to put love in my own food as well. A dinner alone can be just as wonderful, relaxing, and joyful as a dinner with friends.

I was reminded the other day of a poem I read a while back. It’s at the end of this post, and I encourage you to read it, and let it remind you to savor the time you spend with just yourself. Make cupcakes, and read a book, and spend some time appreciating yourself.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting. Yields 2 cupcakes. You don’t have to share if you don’t want to 😉

Cake:
1 oz. bittersweet chocolate (60+% cacao)
1/2 tsp. cocoa powder
1 1/2 tbsp. canola or olive oil
3 1/2 tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. sugar
1 egg white
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tbsp.  milk or almond milk

Frosting:
1 (heaping) tbsp. smooth peanut butter
1/2 tbsp. yogurt, sour cream, or cream cheese
1 1/2 tbsp. almond milk
1/2 tsp. cocoa powder
1 1/2 tbsp. powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350. For the cake, chop the chocolate and heat in the microwave with the oil (:30 seconds at a time, then stir, then :30, then stir). Stir in cocoa powder, vanilla, salt, and milk and let cool a little bit. Then stir in the egg white. Add flour and baking powder gradually. Pour into cupcake liners and bake for 18 minutes.

For frosting: Stir ingredients together. Frost cooled cupcakes.

How to Eat Alone, by Daniel Halpern

While it’s still light out
set the table for one:
a red linen tablecloth,
one white plate, a bowl
for the salad
and the proper silverware.
Take out a three-pound leg of lamb,
rub it with salt, pepper and cumin,
then push in two cloves
of garlic splinters.
Place it in a 325-degree oven
and set the timer for an hour.
Put freshly cut vegetables
into a pot with some herbs
and the crudest olive oil
you can find.
Heat on a low flame.
Clean the salad.
Be sure the dressing is made
with fresh dill, mustard
and the juice of hard lemons.

Open a bottle of good late harvest zinfandel
and let it breathe on the table.
Pour yourself a glass
of cold California chardonnay
and go to your study and read.
As the story unfolds
you will smell the lamb
and the vegetables.
This is the best part of the evening:
the food cooking, the armchair,
the book and bright flavor
of the chilled wine.
When the timer goes off
toss the salad
and prepare the vegetables
and the lamb. Bring them out
to the table. Light the candles
and pour the red wine
into your glass.
Before you begin to eat,
raise your glass in honor
of yourself.
The company is the best you’ll ever have.

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