Fruit Kabobs!

Food

It’s that time of year again: barbecue season! And while we all love a good burger, bratwurst, and heaping serving of potato & macaroni salad, sometimes we find ourselves in the mood for something a wee bit healthier.

Fruit kabobs are a simple way to fill that health-craving void. All you need for these simple kabobs are wooden skewers, strawberries and a fresh pineapple (or canned pineapple chunks if you’re in a rush).

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Wash strawberries and cut them in half.
  2. Cut your pineapple by first cutting off the outside skin. Proceed to cut the meat of the pineapple into chunks.
  3. Spear your kabobs, rotating between pineapple and strawberry.
  4. Enjoy!

Protein-Packed Spinach + Kale Smoothie

Food

smoothieThis Thursday I had the grand pleasure of having all four of my wisdom teeth extracted. Many of you out there can commiserate with the pain, odd looks from people who are staring at your enlarged “chipmunk cheeks” and your inability to eat just about everything.

None the less, while the past five days have been trying in their own regard, they have made me much more adventurous in the smoothie realm!

Following an oral surgery such as a wisdom tooth extraction, it’s vital that you don’t allow your inability to chew get in the way of your nutrition. As I discovered, smoothies are an easy, delicious and pain-alleviating way to get the nutrients you need when you are unable to chew or, seriously, even open your mouth.

While I tried several veggie smoothies over the past week, this Spinach + Kale smoothie has by far been my favorite. Check out the simple recipe below:

Ingredients:

2 cups spinach

1 cup kale

1 tablespoon peanut butter

3/4 cup milk or almond milk

1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder (I use a vegetable-based powder)

1 frozen banana

Directions:

Blend spinach, kale, peanut butter, milk and protein powder until smooth. Add in banana and blend again.

Enjoy immediately or store in a mason jar for later!

Greek Yogurt and Walnut Dip

Food

Working at Chobani, I’m always looking for new ways to incorporate Greek Yogurt into my cooking. Aside from being a great snack or mini-meal, the yogurt’s thick and creamy texture make it a healthy, versatile ingredient to cook with, and can be used as a substitute for butter, oil, cream cheese, mayo and, most commonly, sour cream.

While I’ve used Chobani yogurt in Swedish meatballs, tuna fish salad, shrimp tacos, bean dip, cheesecake and salad dressing, my simplest rendition was created using the recipe I’m featuring today: Yogurt, Dill and Walnut Dip. 

I originally found the recipe on Real Simple and love how few ingredients it takes to make a filling and healthy snack. Because – let’s be honest – dip is addicting, so the healthier the better!

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups Plain Chobani Greek yogurt
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, plus more for topping
  • 1/4 cup chopped dill, plus more for topping
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a medium bowl, combine yogurt, garlic, walnuts, dill and kosher salt.
  2. Top with additional chopped dill and walnuts.
  3. Serve with carrots or pita chips.
  4. Enjoy!

Marble Cake with Apricot Filling and Decadent Mocha Frosting

Baking

A special post-birthday shout-out to my boyfriend Andy who turned 33 this week! While last year we celebrating by exploring the fabulous town of Skaneateles, this year we celebrated by going out to eat at SUMO hibachi and later enjoying his favorite cake – a marble filled with apricot preserves and topped with a rich mocha frosting.

Here’s how to make it:

INGREDIENTS

For the cake:

  • 1 box of marble cake mix (I’ve mentioned before that the men in my family prefer box-cake. Thankfully, it’s a great solution when you are looking to save time and feature your frosting.)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs

For the filling:

  • 1/2 jar of Smucker’s Apricot Preserves, 18 oz

For the frosting:

  • 1 cup salted butter, room temperature (or unsalted, if preferred)
  • 2 tbs instant coffee granules
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup melted semi-sweet chocolate– cooled slightly (you can use chocolate chips for this)

Painting with #cakebatter. 🥄

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DIRECTIONS

  1. Bake the cake according to the instructions on the box, using two 9-inch rounds.
  2. Let cake cool completely.
  3. Spread the apricot preserves over the first round. Be generous, as the cake will absorb the preserves over time.
  4. To prepare frosting, whip butter and instant coffee granules together until fluffy.with an electric mixer.
  5. Turn mixer to medium/high speed and slowly pour in whipping cream and whip until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  6.  Mix in vanilla extract and melted chocolate while whipping on medium/high speed.
  7. Turn mixer speed down to medium/low and slowly add in your powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until the frosting has reached your desired thickness.(Tip: If you are using a strong variation of instant coffee, you will want to use the full four cups of sugar to balance the bitterness of the granules.)
  8. Gently place the second round of your cake atop the first.
  9. Generously apply frosting to the top and sides of your cake.
  10. If desired, decorate with chocolate chips and cocoa powder.

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Original frosting recipe retrieved from http://www.bakeaholicmama.com/2014/01/chocolate-cake-with-whipped-mocha.html. The recipe has been altered from its original format.

 

Chocolate Bread Pudding

Baking

Last night as I was preparing for the impending snowstorm, I decided to try making a rich and cozy dessert: bread pudding.

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Although I had never actually made bread pudding before, I found through some internet skimming that most recipes were extraordinarily simple. I decided to give it a go and found that with such a short time required for preparing the dish, bread pudding actually makes for a great week-night dessert, or in this case, addition to a blizzard preparedness plan.

I followed the recipe closely, though I used chocolate chips or morsels instead of grating a bar of chocolate and also had to bake my pudding ten minutes longer than the recipe suggested.

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The dessert really did come out great, and the blend of cinnamon, almond, chocolate and Kahlua made for a great cozy-feeling dessert on a cold winter night.

If you do decide to give this recipe a try, I also recommend topping it with whipped cream.(Homemade is obviously the best if you have the time, but if not, store-bought will more than do!)

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I acquired said recipe from FoodNetwork.com and would certainly recommend it to anyone looking to try out a rich and flavorful dessert. Click here to check it out!

Grandma Labriola’s Pat a Choux Dough Recipe

Food

Growing up, I was very fortunate to come from a food-loving Italian-American family. With homemade meals and desserts set on our table day in and day out, I grew up learning to appreciate food and the culture and traditions that come with it.

While my grandmother is adept at making absolutely every kind of dessert imaginable, one of my favorite treats was always cream puffs. (I think most children could empathize with this).

Below you will find her recipe for pat a choux, a light pastry dough used for making cream puffs and eclairs, among other French-inspired treats.

While the end result of a homemade cream puff is quite impressive, I think you’ll find that the process to making them is actually quite approachable.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 eggs
  • powdered sugar for sprinkling

Directions:

  1. Bring 1 cup water and ½ cup butter to a boil in a sauce pan on high heat
  2. Once boiling, shut the stove off
  3. Add 1 cup of flour and stir until the dough forms a ball
  4. Take the dough off of the stove and beat in four eggs, one at a time
  5. Use a spoon to drop the dough onto an un-greased baking sheet, spacing them apart. There should be enough dough to make 12 cream puffs.
  6. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown
  7. Allow the pastries to cool, away from drafts
  8. Once cooled, cut off the tops of the pastries
  9. Pull out the soft dough in the middle of the pastry
  10. Fill the pastries with filling (whipped cream for cream puffs– homemade or, if you’re in a rush, store bought)
  11. Top with powdered sugar
  12. ENJOY!

Italian-Approved Stuffed Shells Recipe

Food

Although I do not look Italian, it is the culture that is my most direct lineage. That being said, I grew up eating a lot of Italian food. Aside from it being my favorite food to eat, it is also my favorite food to cook.

Today, I’m sharing with you a deeply satisfying recipe for stuffed shells, a dish that’s both easy to make and delicious to eat.

What you will need:

1 (16 oz) box of jumbo shells

1 jar of preferred marinara sauce (I like Prego)

1 (32 oz) container of ricotta cheese

2 eggs

1 lb mozzarella cheese, shredded

parsley (fresh or dried)

salt

pepper

garlic powder

Directions:

  1. Boil your shells until they are al dente (this means that they are firm, and still have a bit of a crunch to them).
  2. Combine the ricotta cheese, eggs, a ½ cup of mozzarella, parsley, salt, pepper and garlic powder together in a large bowl. IMG_1429-0
  3. Spread a thin layer of sauce over the bottom of your 9×13’’ pan.
  4. Drain the shells and begin stuffing them with your cheese mixture. Be generous in the amount of cheese you are stuffing your shells with.
  5. Next, cover your shells will the remaining sauce. (For an interesting twist, mix in fresh sliced mushrooms with the sauce before pouring the sauce over the shells).
  6. Cover with the remaining mozzarella.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until the shells are heated through and the cheese is bubbly.
  8. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and enjoy!

 

Embraced my roots to cook dinner tonight! #stuffedshells, spicy #Italian sausage and fresh vegetables 🍴

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Chocolate Frosting (Happy Birthday Dad!)

Food

Growing up, my mother would always get annoyed with my father’s birthday cake request: cake made from packaged mix (such as Betty Crocker, Duncan Hines, etc.). Although she always wanted to make a homemade cake, he insisted that he liked pre-packaged mix the best.

Although I was once opposed to boxed cake mix myself, I have come to realize that it doesn’t really matter if your cake is homemade or not. What matters is the frosting. And you most definitely want homemade frosting.


This is convenient, as making homemade frosting is much quicker than making a homemade cake. That being said, below is an easy chocolate frosting recipe that is not only delicious but requires little effort and ingredients:

What You Will Need:

3 cups confectioner’s sugar

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 stick butter, softened

3-4 tablespoons heavy cream (or however much you need to achieve desired consistency)

1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

  1. Sift sugar and cocoa together.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine 1 cup of sugar mixture with butter and 1 tablespoon of cream. Beat until smooth.
  3. Keep adding the sugar mixture cup by cup, with each accompanied by another tablespoon of cream.
  4. Continue until all ingredients are combined and frosting is fluffy.
  5. Mix in vanilla.
  6. Frost your cake!

If the requirement for heavy cream isn’t enough indication that this recipe is delicious, take my word for it!

And if you find yourself in a situation that calls for packaged cakes, don’t fret. Simply enhance it with homemade frosting.

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Cauldron Cakes

Food

If you follow this blog, you may remember my receiving this book in November:

the unofficial hp  cookbook

You may also remember seeing it in my Halloween post:

halloween display

So far, my favorite recipe has been for cauldron cakes. Although they are similar to pancakes in preparation and cooking procedure, cauldron cakes are much much sweeter. They also call for 8 tablespoons of butter. (This is your first indication as to how delicious they are).

Below is the recipe taken from this book:

cauldron cakes

 

If you are inspired to try cooking these for yourself, here are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind:

  • Constantly grease your cooking surface. Cauldron cake batter is much stickier than that of pancakes. If you do not grease your surface in between batches, they will adhere to your cooking surface and be near-impossible to flip.
  • Don’t be flip-eager. Even when they look ready to flip, give them time. The batter is much thicker than pancake batter and if you try to flip them too early they will not cook properly.
  • Try marmalade. If you are not one for the overly-sweet you may not want to put maple syrup on your cakes. Instead, try orange marmalade. The tanginess of this jam-like substance helps cut through the sweetness while still blending well with the taste of the cakes!

 

All in all, if you wish to have a Harry Potter breakfast, I highly recommend this recipe. I hope you enjoy cauldron cakes as much as I do!

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I Finally Made Sugar Cookies

Food, Holiday

The semester is over!…Or at least it will be for me after Wednesday night. Only one more presentation and I can finally relax and enjoy Christmas break.

While I am clearly looking forward to this, I am also looking forward to the presentations because I will be bringing cookies to class. Because, ya know, ’tis the season.

While I had considered making tried-and-true recipes, I also thought it would be more fun to try something new. A friend recommended sugar cookies and, fairly confident in my baking abilities, I decided to go for it.

Although some people may think it odd I have never made sugar cookies before, it is honestly because I don’t much care for them. I am, however, in the minority and I know plenty of people adore them. My friend Rebecca does at least because she is the one who asked for them!

As it turns out, homemade sugar cookies are extremely simple. These cookies that I made turned out to be both crisp on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. They were also made of ingredients I already had in the house (always a plus). If you are interested, this is the recipe that I used.

The only thing that I did differently from the recipe was that I doubled the amount of vanilla that it called for. (Truly, vanilla extract is one of the most important ingredients in most cookie recipes).

I baked a dozen cookies today as a test batch and will only have to make two dozen for my relatively small class. This  means I will have plenty of dough leftover for Christmas!

Only having to wait a few days (less than a week) to bake it, I am just keeping it in the refrigerator. Cookie dough typically stays fresh in the fridge up to a week. However, if it is going to be longer than a week than I would recommend freezing it to hold the freshness. Freezer bags are a cheap and convenient way of freezing dough.

As it turns out, I don’t hate sugar cookies! In fact, I would highly recommend this recipe to both sugar cookie lovers and skeptics alike. So don’t get stuck in a rut this baking season, try something new. You might be pleasantly surprised!