Sunday, November 18, 2012
There’s something about Sundays that always evokes some pretty compelling questions about what I’m doing with my life. Like clockwork, I trudge my way through the first six days of the week, my mind boggled from all the chaos and insanity of the world around me. By the time Sunday rolls around, there’s nothing left to do but surrender to the forces pushing against me and expose aspects of my deeper self through self reflection.
This morning I woke before the sun and set off to watch my boyfriend compete in the Philadelphia Half Marathon. I love watching him compete and am so impressed by his strength, dedication, and determination. But as I sat near the famous steps of the art museum, suddenly, in a sea of 30,000 people, I felt so alone. There I was surrounded by thousands of individuals all sharing one love for the same passion and it got me thinking about where my own passions lie. Sadly, I couldn’t come up with anything that I’ve been passionate enough about to pursue my whole life. There are plenty of things that I’ve dabbled in over the years, (i.e. piano lessons, guitar lessons, dance lessons, singing, etc.) but nothing that I truly excel at and enjoy enough to want to pursue long term. Coming to terms with this realization was heartbreaking for me. I'm a Jack of All Trades, without mastering any of them.
Like always, one simple thought quickly escalated into a full blown critique of my life. Soon I found myself making a list of reasons why I wasn’t good enough for my boyfriend, why I would never achieve my dreams, and listing countless things I need to change about myself. But then I stumbled across a quote from Mother Teresa that put things into perspective for me.
“In this life we cannot always do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”
At that moment I came to a new realization. It doesn’t matter if I’m working towards running a marathon or pursuing a passion to become the best at something. What matters is that I put so much love into everything I do, no matter how small or insignificant the task. In the end, it’s love that will lead me to becoming my best self.
Sunday, October 21, 2012
It pains me to know that I've been absent from the blogosphere for just about three weeks now. While blogging and baking brings me so much pleasure, I've reached a time in my life when big changes are happening and I've had to focus my time on other things. Let me explain...
About two weeks ago I started a new job! While it was hard leaving the place that I called home for the past four years, I've moved on to pursue my true passion. I traded my 9-5 desk job to pursue event planning/PR/advertising. It's been a crazy ride so far, but have no regrets and loving every second of the insanity. Just last night I got to meet the guys from Boyz II Men! I'm still trying to get into the swing of my new lifestyle, but once I do, I promise I'll be back to baking on a regular basis.
In the meantime...
I found a little extra time in my schedule this weekend and was dying for some pumpkin treats. I decided to use one of my favorite recipes and make a quick little two bite snack. Combined with a chocolate cream cheese frosting, these little pumpkin cakes are moist, delicious, and the perfect thing to satisfy a sweet craving!
Hope you enjoy!
For the pumpkin cakes:
1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 cup pumpkin (solid pack)
1 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup unsalted butter softened
2/3 cup powdered sugar
dash of vanilla extract
2 tbsp Cocoa Powder
The pumpkin theme carried throughout the duration of the weekend with a trip to the pumpkin patch! I love fall!
Sunday, September 30, 2012
Sunday, September 9, 2012
I can honestly say that I remember almost every birthday party I had while growing up. As a Moonchild, I'm lucky enough to celebrate my birthday in the heat of summer. This meant plenty of pool parties and backyard cookouts. One of my favorite traditions was the great 'Penny Hunt'. My parents would wrap over 100 pennies in aluminum foil, scatter them in the grass, then all the kids would hunt for them. When you're under the age of ten, this seemed like the greatest game of all time. Now, looking back, I realize we were damn fools! Call me crazy, but for some reason, looking for 100 pennies across 1.5 acres of lawn, while burning under the blazing summer sun, doesn't seem so entertaining.
These days, kids birthday parties have ballooned into huge extravaganzas. There's no need for penny hunting when there are things like laser tag, gymnastics parties, glow bowling, and even pony rides! This past weekend, my cousin's son celebrated his 4th birthday. With a Backyard Barnyard theme, the party featured a real petting zoo that came to the house! Miniature horses, goats, bunnies, and a goose. The joy on the kids faces was priceless, as they all got a ride on the pony.
Friday, August 31, 2012
I recently decided to try and test my limits in the baking department by working on my design skills. I wanted to break out of my comfort zone and get a little adventurous with trying new frosting techniques. This cake was not about creating the most delicious recipe, but instead seeing what I could do with different pipping tips and new design concepts. If you look closely, you can see it's far from perfect, but not too bad in my opinion for my first 3D cake attempt!!
Sunday, August 19, 2012
I have been eagerly awaiting to share this post with everyone and i'm SO excited that's its finally time!
Last week I took a little hiatus and escaped to West Palm Beach, FL for a few days. My dad has been taking us there every summer for the past 15 years. I like to think of it as my little sanctuary; a home away from home. It's the perfect place to clear my head when my world is in complete chaos. With some major life changes on the horizon during the next couple of months, it was exactly what I needed.
My hotel, The Resort at Singer Island, had an incredible oceanfront restaurant. The breakfast menu featured the mouthwatering combination of french toast stuffed with Nutella and Bananas! It sounded amazing. After the waiter described it as being so good that, "my eyes will roll to the back of my head", there was no question as to whether or not I was ordering it. And I'm thankful I did....it was probably the most delicious thing I've ever experienced in a breakfast food! Layers of Nutella and bananas smothered between two thick slices of texas toast served french toast style (and a mimosa to wash it down!). It was actually too much for me to finish.
Since i've been home, all i've been thinking about is that meal. I wanted to make an adapted version so I could share it with everyone here. Because it was such a heavy meal and impossible to finish, I thought it would be fun to make mini french toast cups instead of layers of bread. By eliminating the texas toast and only using one half of a slice of regular italian bread, you're saving over 200 calories! Cinnamon and vanilla were also added to the egg mixture for more flavor.
I love this dish not only because it's delicious, but it's also so easy to make! Twelve minutes is all it takes. Simple enough to make for one person or for a whole brunch party!
Hope you all enjoy!
Nutella & Banana Stuffed French Toast Cups
6 Slices Italian white bread
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup Nutella
1 ripe banana
4-5 small strawberries
-Preheat oven to 350*
-Spray muffin pan with Pam
-Using the lid of the Nutella jar, cut out circles in the middle of each slice of bread
-In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, and cinnamon
-Dip each circle of bread in the egg mixture, letting the excess drip off
-Press each circle of bread into the muffin pan
-Bake for 10-11 minutes
-Remove muffins from the pan and fill each with a spoonful of Nutella
-Slice banana and strawberries and arrange on top
-Garnish with whipped cream of confectioner's sugar
If you like the prop's used in today's post, you can find them at Marshall's HomeGoods!
1. Indoor/Outdoor Fabric Tablecloth $12.00 (On Clearance)
2. Glass Starfish Dessert Plates $7.99
3. Coffee Mugs Trimmed in Gold $4.99 ea
Monday, August 6, 2012
Is it just me, or does summer seem like it's flying by? We are almost done with the first week of August already. In fact, I did a little after-work shopping this evening and the stores are packed with sweaters and boots. Come on now, let's not rush things!
This past weekend was all about embracing what's left of the sweet heat of summer. Stopping by a backyard deck party on Saturday afternoon, followed by a night of music and beer at Musikfest, I enjoyed soaking up the sun while in the company of friends and those most important to me. Once the sun went down, Mike and I rocked out 4th row, center stage at the Sublime concert. Quite different from the Country and Pop concerts i'm used to attending! It was an all around perfect day, and I can't think of any place I would have rather spent my time.
Since I was all about the summer ambience this weekend, I wanted the theme to follow through in my baking. I opted for an adapted version of my Tropical Luau cupcakes. Omitting the Banana Cream pudding this time, I settled on a Pineapple cake base topped with a fresh mango buttercream frosting. For the finishing touches, dried mango slices and a fresh stemmed maraschino cherry. They were delicious!! Hope you all enjoy!
Tropical Pineapple Cupcakes with Mango Buttercream
For the Cupcakes
1 box yellow cake mix with pudding in the mix
2 8oz cans crushed pineapple
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
For the Frosting
3 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 ripe mango, diced or puree
-Preheat oven to 350*
-Drain cans of pineapple, reserving the juice in a small bowl
-Using an electric mixer, beat the reserved pineapple juice, cake mix, oil, eggs and nutmeg in a large bowl
-Beat for 2 minutes on high, or until completely smooth
-Using a spatula, fold in the chunks of pineapple
-Divide among cupcake liners, makes about 30 cupcakes
-Bake for 12-13 minutes
-For the frosting, cream butter until smooth
-Slowly add the confectioner's sugar, one cup at a time
-Beat in mango puree
-Fill piping bag with buttercream frosting and pipe onto cupcakes
Monday, July 23, 2012
A few weeks ago, my boyfriend planned a special getaway for my birthday. We took the train into Philly and spent a beautiful day together walking downtown, and visiting local eateries. Since he knows how passionate I am about pursuing my baking, there were two must-see places on our agenda; The Flying Monkey and Philly Cupcake. Located inside the Reading Terminal Market, The Flying Monkey features an array of homemade baked goods. Despite their medley of sweet treats, it was the cupcakes I wanted to try. As I took I bite of a Spumani cupcake, I knew I made the right choice. The frosting was unlike anything I've ever tried. We went back the next day and I discovered it's a homemade swiss buttercream that they use on their cupcakes. Perfectly delicious!
After a mid afternoon stop for some brews and Irish music, we made our way to Philly Cupcake. I had read an article about this place a few weeks back and have since been dying to try it. With countless combinations of fancy flavor concoctions, it seemed like forever trying to decide which cupcakes would fill my half dozen box. Finally, I decided to sample both traditional flavors like Red Velvet and Carrot Cake, as well as some over the top combos like Twix and The Massacre. All delicious, but it was the Black Velvet that stole my heart. To this day, I can't stop thinking about that cupcake. Light and airy, yet full of flavor and moisture. Just perfect in my book!
To put my mind at ease, I knew I had to try and re-create these flavors in my own kitchen. After sifting through countless recipes, I think I've come up with the perfect combination for a Black Velvet cupcake, topped with a Buttercream frosting. I originally had planned to use the Swiss buttercream like the cupcakes from the Flying Monkey, however, after two failed attempts, I was out of egg whites and resorted to a traditional buttercream tinged with blueberry flavor. Still good, but there will definitely be more attempts at the Swiss buttercream.
I ran into a major issue with my cupcake liners peeling a way from the cake base. Determined not to let my cupcakes go to waste, I salvaged about half a dozen and for the rest, I removed the liners, frosted them and made them into little two-bite poppers. I think they actually came out very cute!
Overall, the cupcakes did not meet the Philly Cupcake standards that I wanted to achieve, however, they were still delicious and well worth exceeding my calorie limit for the day!
Hope you like them!
Black Velvet Cupcakes with Blueberry Buttercream
Adapted via Gloobbi
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder1 teaspoon salt2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder1 - 1 oz bottle of black liquid food coloring1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature1 1/2 cups sugar2 eggs1 teaspoon vanilla extract1 cup buttermilk1 teaspoon baking soda1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
-Preheat oven to 350*
-In a medium bowl, whisk flour, salt and baking powder
-In a smaller separate bowl, combine the cocoa powder and food coloring until completely mixed
-Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy
-Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each one
-Add the vanilla and food coloring mixture, beating well until completely combined
-Alternate the flour mixture and buttermilk until all has been incorporated
-In a little dish, combine baking soda and vinegar, and add immediately to the batter, mix until combined
-Divide batter among cupcake liners and bake for 12-13 minutes
For the Frosting...
1 cup butter
3 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar1 teaspoon milk1 teaspoon vanilla extract1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup juice from fresh blueberries
-Cream butter, salt and sugar until light and fluffy
-Add milk and vanilla extract
-Place blueberries in a microwave safe dish, heat for 10-15 seconds, or until juice has bursted from the blueberries
-Add juice to the frosting mixture and beat until well combined
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Summer months are always packed with cook outs, barbecues, picnics and plenty of other parties that can be disastrous for those trying to stick to a healthy eating regimen. That being said, my schedule has recently been saturated with events involving plenty of calorie-laden temptations. From beer and baseball games to birthday festivities, girls night out, and concerts, it's been quite the challenge making wise food choices while out and about.
Friday, June 22, 2012
It's been an emotionally draining week and I couldn't be happier that it's coming to an end. As a Cancer sign, I'm prone to being overly sensitive and moody. However, the past few days my emotions seem to have been on overload. Like the straw that broke the camel's back, the most seemingly insignificant occurrences have me breaking down in tears. Is it hormones, anxiety, love, fear? I may never know. But one thing is clear. When you're having a bad day or just going through a hard time, it forces you to do a lot of soul searching. And sometimes the hardest lessons to learn, are the ones that your soul needs the most.
Monday, June 11, 2012
This is my first blog post from my new iPad! Last week was a little rough for me; three days after my iPhone started acting up, my five year old MacBook Pro had a logic board crash. Unsalvageable, I was now in the market for a new laptop. Weighing the pros and cons of getting a MacBook Air versus an iPad, I couldn't make up my mind. After talking it through with a helpful Apple Specialist, we decided together than an iPad was all I needed at this point in my life. I could't be happier! I feel like a rockstar carrying around my new sleek device.
This week for my post, I threw together a quick and easy no-bake dessert, perfect for hot summer days. With the temperature approaching the high eighties this past weekend, I didn't want to be stuck in doors slaving away in the kitchen. This recipe literally took me fifteen minutes to put together, and it's so refreshing! Creamy vanilla pudding layered with sliced bananas and crushed nutter butter cookies. Yum! I served this for dessert after making my boyfriend Banana Pepper Chicken & Couscous for dinner! A wonderful way to end a nice weekend. Hope you all enjoy!
Nutter Butter Banana Trifle
Adapted via My Recipes
2 packages Vanilla Instant Pudding
8 0z Sour Cream
3 Cups Milk
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
4-5 Medium Ripe Bananas
1 Package Nutter Butter Cookies
1 Container Whipped Topping
-In a medium bowl, combine milk and vanilla
-Add the 2 packages of vanilla pudding
-Using an electric hand mixer, beat on medium speed for 3 minutes or until thick
-Leave the mixture stand for 5 minutes
-Stir in the sour cream
-Slice bananas and set aside
-Crumble cookies and set aside
-Layer pudding mixture on the bottom of a glass bowl. Add a layer of sliced bananas and cookie crumbs.
-Top with another layer of pudding
-Finish off with remaining banana slice and cookie crumbs.
Monday, June 4, 2012
The arrival of June means strawberry season is in fully swing and I plan on taking full advantage of it. As a child, my mother and grandmother would take us to pick strawberries out in the fields at George Schmidt Berry Farm. Tupperware in hand, we would brave the summer sun and gather over 10 lbs of delicious berries, just in time for my birthday. This year, I vote for re-instating that tradition!
A few months ago, a very special guy brought me a bottle of Bols Strawberry Liqueur from Amsterdam. I've been saving it for the perfect occasion and in the process, dreaming up the right recipe. With fresh berries finally in season, the perfect time has arrived!
A play on traditional strawberry shortcake, I wanted to capture some of the same flavors in a fun and festive cupcake. A sweet strawberry, liqueur infused gelée invades a basic yellow cake base, while hints of banana buttercream frosting burst through each bite. Delicious and refreshing...hope you enjoy them!
Strawberry Gelée Filled Cupcakes with Banana Buttercream Frosting
For the cupcakes:Adapted via EdibleCommunities
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups self rising flour
2 cups sugar
2 sticks butter softened
3 extra large eggs
1 cup milk
1 tsp coconut extract
-Preheat oven to 350* and line cupcake pan with liners (makes about 24)
-Combine the flours in a small bowl and set aside
-Using an electric mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy
-Slowly add the sugar and beat for 3 mins
-Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition
-Add remaining dry ingredients, alternating flour mixture with milk
-Add coconut extract
-Beat until well combined and then divide batter evenly among cupcake liners
-Bake for 13-15 minutes and let cool completely
For the Strawberry Gelée:
Adapted via EdibleCommunities
1 cup Smuckers strawberry preserves, low sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp Bols strawberry liqueur
2 tbsp cold water
1 envelope Knox gelatin, unflavored
1/4 cup fresh strawberries, diced
-Heat preserves and sugar on stove top until it comes to a slight boil
-Stir in lemon juice and liqueur, then remove from heat
-In a small bowl, add the cold water, and sprinkle gelatin on top, leave sit for 5 mins
-Add puree mixture to the bowl with gelatin and stir
-Add fresh strawberries, then place in the fridge until set
For the Banana Frosting
1/2 cup solid shortening
1 stick butter, softened
3 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 mashed banana
2 tbsp milk
-Cream the shortening and butter together until light and fluffy
-Add vanilla extract
-Add mashed banana
-Slowly add sugar and milk until desired consistency is achieved
-Core the center of each cupcake and fill with a spoonful of strawberry gelée.
-Using a piping bag, finish each cake with a mound of buttercream frosting
-Decorate with rainbow sprinkles or decorations of your choosing. Be Creative!
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Hope you all are well rested and relaxed as you get back into the groove of things after another holiday weekend. Today is extra painful for me, as I'm not just returning to work after a holiday, but also, vacation! I apologize for missing a week of posts, but the spa resort I was staying at in Arizona has a VERY strict policy prohibiting mobile devices/laptops/ipads, etc. I had to learn about that the hard way, as I was chased from my poolside lounge chair for answering a phone call!
To celebrate the Memorial Day weekend, I was heading out to Lancaster for a picnic. Social etiquette says you should never show up at a party empty handed, and for me, that means bringing some kind of dessert. Since I was returning home from Arizona, I didn't have much time for prep work, so a quick and simple treat was needed for the picnic. In the past, fruit pizzas have been a huge hit at parties we've thrown, and are so easy to prepare. It was a perfect solution. Keeping in mind that I wanted to minimize the amount of work the hostess had to do, I decided to make bite sized, individual fruit pizzas to avoid the mess of cutting.
Monday, May 14, 2012
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
This week, I was given a mixer to take home and test out for a gift giveaway at work. As soon as I was asked, I immediately knew what I was going to make. A few weeks ago, I saw on Foodgawker a post for Funfetti Cookie Butter Triple Chip Bar. When I saw the picture, my mouth was watering with anticipation. I couldn't wait to test out this recipe; Funfetti Cake mix, Trader Joe's Cookie Butter, coconut, and chocolate chips; how could I resist!? Added bonus...It's quick and extremely to prepare!
Monday, April 30, 2012
Sometimes I seriously question my time management skills. I seem to have this notion that no matter what I put on my daily task list, time will just keep rolling along until I accomplish everything. You'd think I would have learned by now that this is not the case. The truth is, there is just not enough hours in a day sometimes. And two day weekends off from work fly by too quick to get things done! There is often little time left for baking and kitchen adventures.
I was almost tempted to go on a baking hiatus this weekend, but decided I could throw together something quick and easy peasy. Friday afternoon I embarked on a weekend getaway to the Pocono Mountains. What a wonderful escape! Saturday I had the privilege of being a spectator at the Tough Mudder 2012 challenge; So much fun!! An innovative and hardcore obstacle course, the strength and stamina of the participants was truly inspiring and motivating. I was so impressed, that I may even consider training for next year's challenge (that's a BIG maybe!)
This week's post is playing off the Tough Mudder theme from my weekend away. Mini Mississippi Mud Pies! Being short on time, this was a perfect option to throw together last minute on Sunday evening. Simple ingredients, hardly any baking required, and delicious enough to satisfy any sweet cravings.
Monday, April 23, 2012
We're getting into some of my favorite months and I couldn't be more excited. From now through October, I'll be a very happy girl. Warmer temps mean I get to break out all my cute sundresses, flip flops, sunglasses and floppy hats. All things I love!
Monday, April 16, 2012
There are not many benefits to going to a small school in the middle of central Pennsylvania. In an area that's known for the Amish, corn fields and cows, it's hardly the party town that thrill seeking young adults typically choose for their college years. But there is one HUGE perk....waking up to the smell of chocolate!
Monday, April 9, 2012
Monday, April 2, 2012
Breakfast is easily becoming my favorite meal of the day. As a kid growing up, I really never gave much thought to my first meal. It was usually a bowl of Kix cereal or frosted strawberry pop tarts. Both of which I would devour in less than two minutes as I ran out the door to catch the school bus.
As I'm getting older, I'm becoming much more adventurous in my eating habits. Things I once used to crinkle my nose at, are now some of my favorite dishes! I'm especially growing fond of the flavor combinations in breakfast foods. Recently I've been mixing up a southwestern egg white stir fry before I head to work in the morning. I combine 4 large egg whites with red, yellow, orange and green peppers, diced and seasoned with crushed black pepper. Delicious! A close second favorite breakfast dish (and a far less healthy option) is a cinnamon vanilla french toast, drizzled with 100% pure maple syrup. The maple and cinnamon flavors are so addicting, it's hard not to refill your plate numerous times.
Monday, March 26, 2012
Ninja, I blend together 5 strawberries, a scoop of chocolate protein powder and a cup of coconut milk. Starting my day the healthy way gives me the energy and nutrients I need to make it through my day without getting that mid morning fatigue. For lunch, I throw together a spinach salad with strawberries, grilled chicken and a light lemon poppy vinaigrette dressing. Eating that many strawberries, means a quart lasts me no longer that two days. Fresh from the grocery store, I just brought home 4 pounds of strawberries! It's only appropriate that this week's recipe would feature this popular red fruit.
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"And so the Lion fell in love with the Lamb..."