HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

 

Welcome to 2013 everyone!!!  I spent last night ringing in the new year with my best dental school friends over lots of snacks and a little champagne!  I baked this super easy but very festive ‘fun-fetti’ cake with buttercream icing for the occasion!

 

I chose to use a boxed cake mix (cheap!) because they are guaranteed to taste great–which isn’t always the case with homemade recipes.  I’ve learned that the hard way!  When making layer cakes I think it’s best to allow yourself at least 2 days of working time.   I baked this cake on Saturday and froze each layer, wrapped in Saran wrap and placed in a Ziploc bag, after leveling and cooling to room temp.  I never make icing until right before I’m going to use it, but it is much easier to do you crumb coat on a frozen cake!

 

Happy baking!

 

Ingredients:


for the cake–

1 box of Duncan Hines Classic White cake mix

3 large egg whites, at room temperature

1 cup water

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp butter extract

1/4 cup jimmie sprinkles

 

for the icing–

1.5 sticks of unsalted butter

4.5 cups confectioners’ sugar

1.5 tsp vanilla extract

3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

 

Directions:

 

for the cake–

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line the bottoms of 2 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper.  Grease and flour these pans and set aside.

 

In a large bowl combine all of the cake ingredients except the sprinkles and mix until well combined, about 3 minutes.  Gently fold in the sprinkles using a spatula.  Evenly disperse the batter between the 2 pans and bake for about 26 minutes. Check doneness by gently pressing on the center of the cake, it should spring back a little!

 

 

Place the cakes in their pans on a wire rack and allow to cool for 15 minutes.  Then remove the cakes from the pans and continue to cool completely.  Once cooled, level the cakes and wrap them in 2 sheets of Saran wrap and place in a Ziploc bag to freeze overnight.

 


for the icing–

When you’re ready to make the icing,  combine the butter and sugar in a stand mixer and beat on medium high for about 3 minutes.  Slowly add the vanilla and heavy whipping cream and beat for an additional 3 minutes.  If you want to decorate the cake like I did, set 1 cup of icing aside and mix with your desired food coloring.

 

to decorate–

Remove the frozen cakes and place on an appropriately sized cake cardboard on a rotating cake stand sitting on top of a cookie sheet.  Place the first layer upside down and ice the top before placing the second layer upside down on top of that.  Begin by icing the the sides of the cake and then press handfuls of sprinkles into the sides (this is where the cookie sheet comes in handy).  Carefully ice the top of the cake, add sprinkles to the top of the cake if desired, and use a #3 top to write something fitting for the occasion.  Use a #21 tip and your colored icing to pipe borders on the top and bottom.

 

 

 

 

“In the New Year, may your right hand always be 

stretched out in friendship, never in want.”

 

Banana Bread

Banana bread is one of my favorite treats and after trying a handful of recipes, I have finally found a keeper!  I made a half batch of this recipe (because I only had 3 bananas on hand) and I was quite pleased with the results.  I’m convinced that no matter what the recipe or how spectacular the pan is, all breads end up a little bit dry on the bottom and a touch too soft at the top.  Halving the recipe** solved this problem!

I don’t have any pictures to share because a half loaf of bread isn’t the best looking thing I’ve ever baked, but what it lacks in looks it makes up for in deliciousness!!  Try it out for yourself!

Ingredients:

1¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
6 large very ripe bananas, peeled
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 large eggs
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons granulated sugar

Directions:

Place 5 of the bananas in a microwave-safe bowl covered with plastic wrap.   Cut several steam vents in the plastic.  Microwave on high for about 5 minutes or until the bananas are soft and have released liquid.  Transfer the bananas to a strainer placed over a medium sauce pan and allow to drain, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, you can position an oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour an 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan.  In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

When the bananas are finished draining, remove the strainer and turn the stove top to medium high, allowing the liquids to reduce to about 1/4 cup (about 5 minutes).  Remove the pan from the heat, stir the reduced liquid into the bananas, and mash with a potato masher until fairly smooth. Whisk in the melted butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.

Pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just combined.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Slice the remaining banana diagonally into ¼-inch-thick slices and lay them, overlapping, on either side of the pan.  There should be a 1-2 inch wide space down the center to ensure an even rise. Sprinkle the granulated sugar evenly over loaf.

Bake for 55-75 minutes, use the toothpick test to determine doneness.  Cool the bread in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove the loaf from the pan and continue to cool on a wire rack. 

**As a general rule, if you halve all the ingredients in the recipe, you can usually halve all of the cook times as well.  I microwaved the banana mixture for 2.5 minutes, reduced the liquid for about 6 minutes, and baked the bread for 30 minutes and it turned out perfectly! 

Italian-ish Feast!

I am a part of what one might call a “dinner club.”  A few times a year a group of roommates take turns preparing a dinner for another group of roommates.  Last night it was our turn to prepare the spread!  Lauren I came up with a pretty stellar menu consisting of penne pasta with chicken and vodka sauce, garlic bread, apple cashew salad, and a chocolate cake with peanut butter mousse icing!

The cake was inspired by Annie’s Eats (I’m sure you’re surprised by this)!

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I followed the recipe exactly, except I used Maxwell instant coffee instead of espresso powder.

CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER LAYER CAKE by Annie’s Eats

Ingredients–

For the cake:
1¾ cups plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for dusting the pans
1 tbsp. instant espresso or coffee powder
1½ cups boiling water
¾ cup sour cream
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2½ cups plus 2 tbsp. sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1¼ tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. salt

For the filling and frosting:
¾ cup heavy cream, chilled
3¼ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted, divided
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of coarse salt

To garnish:
Mini peanut butter cups, halved

DIRECTIONS:

  • Start by preparing 3 8-inch round cake pans.  Trace the bottoms of the pans onto parchment paper and cut slightly inside this line.  Using some Crisco on a paper towel, grease the sides of the pan, place the parchment paper circle in the bottom of the pan and grease that as well.  Sprinkle some cocoa powder on top and shake it around the pan so there is a small dusting covering the grease; dump out any excess.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Bring a small pot filled with water to a rapid boil.  While you’re waiting on the water to boil, in a medium bowl, combine the cocoa powder and espresso powder.  Once boiling, add the water to this and whisk until smooth.  Set aside to cool for about 3-5 minutes, then whisk in the sour cream and vanilla.  Set aside.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed until there are no lumps.  Add the sugar and continue to beat for 2-3 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, smoothing down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.
  • Reduce the speed of the mixer to low and add one third of the dry ingredient mixture with one third of the wet mixture.  Repeat until all ingredients are combined in a homogenous mixture.
  • Divide the batter evening among the prepared pans and bake for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through.
  • Transfer the baked cakes to a wire rack for about 10 minutes.  **I like to flash freeze layer cakes so they are easier to ice–to do this you can place a wire rack in your freezer and put the entire cake and pan, uncovered in the freezer for 15 minutes.  At this time you can remove the cakes from the pans and wrap in 2 layers of Saran wrap before putting the cakes back in the freezer for at least an hour before icing.
  • To make the frosting, combine the heavy cream and ¼ cup of the confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl using a hand mixer on medium-high.  Whip until light, fluffy, and stiff peaks form.
  • Next, combine the butter and peanut butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-high for about a minute. Add the confectioners’ sugar to the bowl and mix in until it’s well incorporated.  Blend in the vanilla extract and salt, and continue to whip on high speed until very fluffy, about 4-5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  •  Use a large spatula to gently fold the whipped cream mixture into the frosting.
  • To assemble the cake, arrange a cake board (edges lined with wax paper) on a rotating cake stand.  Place one of the frozen cake layers on the board and add a thick layer of frosting to the top only.  Do the same thing for the next two layers.  Once the layers are assembled you can frost your crumb coat and then place the cake in the refrigerator for an hour.

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  • After an hour, remove the cake and finish icing.  You can try to get the icing as smooth as possible or leave it with a kind of wavy finish!  I used a Wilton #21 tip to pipe a shell border and evenly placed swirls on top.  Place a half of a mini Reese’s cup in each swirl (freeze these for an hour before halving)!

The dinner party was a smashing success!!!  Guests brought wine (some was homemade!), fine cheeses and crackers, and tomato and mozz balsmaic skewers!!  It was a night full of friends, happiness, and good eats! I’ll ‘cheers’ to that any night!

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November TidBITS

It’s been nearly a month since my last post and a lot has happened since then!  I’ll catch you up with some pictures from the last few months and also a few reviews of some recent purchases!!

First things first, THANKSGIVING!!!  What a wonderful holiday!  I was able to go home for a few days to catch up with family and friends and to eat a delicious dinner (and many helpings of leftovers)!

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Over Thanksgiving I received an early Christmas present—the iPhone 5!  I’ve been an iPhone user for almost two years now and I have loved every second of it!  The iPhone 5 isn’t too much different from my last phone, except it doesn’t have the cracked screen app (oops!), the camera is unbelievable, and Siri is my new BFF!  I also snagged this awesome ADOPTED case at the apple store!

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After Thanksgiving I headed back to Columbus to attend a tailgate for the OSU Michigan game and unfortunately have no photos to show for it due to some syncing errors with the above-mentioned iPhone!  Nonetheless, the Buckeyes ended this season 12-0!  Pretty impressive!

After the game came final exam week!  The easiest finals week I’ve experienced in probably the last 6 years!!!  I don’t know my grades yet but I think I did pretty darn well!  Why did I do so well, you ask?  I’m pretty sure it has something to do with my new iPad!!!  Thanks mom!  It was another early Christmas gift that I wish I had asked for years ago!!!  It is an amazing little device!  It’s basically a larger iPhone which I have found to be great for studying, searching the web, and checking e-mail!

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My favorite app has to be Houzz!  If you know me at all, you know I love looking at furniture, wallpapers, light fixtures, etc. etc. etc!  I’ve been designing my dream home in my head since I was a little girl!  This free app has made it easier for my to keep my thoughts organized!!  It allows you to look through different rooms in millions of homes and create a lookbook of your favorite designs!  I love it!

Another thing I really love right now is a little Lululemon splurge I made with some of the money I collected when I sold some gold crowns I made during my first year of dental school.  It’s called the Run: Toasty.  And that’s exactly what it is: TOASTY!!!  I love running in this pullover!  If I ever lose the extra 15lbs. I’m carrying around, maybe I will by the Runderunders to match!!

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 And I will leave you with just one more thing I can’t get enough of–SUR LA TABLE!!!  I have always been intimidated by this store, and after stepping foot inside, I have no idea why!  This place is amazing!  I could spend hours here (and I have)!  This place is a kitchen novice’s heaven!  It was really tough for me to walk away from the wall of sprinkles, but I did it and ended up purchasing 2 8X3″ Fat Daddio cake pans.  I used them today and have nothing but praise for these little guys!

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Plan Happy!

For all of those early Christmas shoppers out there…here is a terrific go-to gift for your chic and busy female friends!  I’ve been using the Lilly Pulitzer large agenda for years and it is absolutely perfect for keeping your life in order.  It usually comes in 4-5 different prints and it includes an address book, a few pages for notes, a pocket in the front to store business cards, etc., STICKERS!, and colorful tabs so you can quickly reference dates.  The flamingo print is on my Christmas list this year!

Happy planning!

Comfort Food

Today was exhausting.  I had no idea dentistry required so much stamina!!!  After being at school in class, running around getting papers signed, calling patients, and seeing two patients from 7am-5pm with only a quick 6 minute lunch bread to suck down a Shakeology shake, I was finally home!  Yesterday, in addition to the broccomoli, I made a hearty vegetable tortellini soup and today it totally hit the spot!

This soup is super easy and absolutely delicious for a cold weather dinner after a long day of work!


VEGETABLE TORTELLINI SOUP (adapted from Spoonful)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 5 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil (more if fresh)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 to 9 ounces fresh cheese filled tortellini
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped (fresh) parsley
  • Black pepper, to taste

Directions:

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, zucchini, and carrot and saute for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring often.

Add the vegetable stock, basil, bay leaf, tomatoes, and salt. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a low boil. Add the tortellini and continue to cook soup for about 10-12 minutes more. Gently stir in the parsley and pepper during the last few minutes.

Broccomole!!!

Guacamole has to be one of my favorite snacks!  I know avocados are well loved by many and have an excellent reputation for lowering cholesterol, controlling blood pressure, regulating blood sugar levels, fighting free-radicals, and making your skin look healthy and vibrant.  They contain monounsaturated fats, which are the good kind of fat.  But it’s still fat!  Which means you can’t be eating a whole gaucamole filled bowl made from four mashed up avocados and say you’re preventing heart disease.  Like all delicious things in life, moderation is key!

There are a few instances when the moderation card can be thrown out the window, and one of those is broccoli!  So what can broccoli do for us, you ask?

1. Assists your body’s detoxification system!

2. Anti-inflammatory nutrients (flavenoids) help combat allergies and inflammation

3. Vitamins A & K help balance the body’s metabolism of vitamin D, which assists the calcium absorption, which leads to strong bones!

4. Fiber for healthy digestion, lowering cholesterol, and maintaing low sugar levels

5. Carotenoids improve eye health

6. Glucoraphanin for healthy skin!

7. Potassium to lower blood pressure

8. Vitamin C to protect against colds!

9. High in protein, low in calories!

10. Lutein to prevent thickening of arteries, which prevents heart disease!

Bottom line: broccoli is a food you should be eating everyday!  This recipe will make it easy to enjoy!

BROCCOMOLE (adapted from Domestic Fits)

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of broccoli, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped, seeds removed
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 oz. 1/3 less fast cream cheese
  • 1 tbs cilantro
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • Sun-dried tomatoes (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Overcook broccoli in lightly salted water.  It should be pretty mushy when it’s finished.
  2. Thoroughly drain the broccoli in a strainer.  Try to get as much water off as possible!
  3. Combine the cooked broccoli and all of the other ingredients in a food processor. Blend until smooth.
  4. Serve warm with your favorite tortilla chips!

Things I Love: OSU Tailgates

I’m lucky to attend a school with some of the greatest traditions in all of college football.  You can’t go anywhere on a game day, home or away, without seeing masses of people in scarlet grey and red and hearing someone shout out a loud “O-H!!”

While I don’t love dealing with game day traffic, I do love enjoying the company of my friends at the Delta Sigma Delta (D-frat; the dental school frat, AKA the nerd house) tailgates!  Today was another great tailgate accompanied by great weather and free pizza!!!

 

 

 

GO BUCKS!

Breakfast of Champions

Today I thought I would share my favorite protein-filled breakfast of all time!!!  I eat this banana protein pancake every morning and it keeps me full for hours.  The recipe is inspired by DAMYhealth.  The website features several different programs catered to people with different needs.  I gave the Beach Body Program a go and failed miserably.  I’m just not that disciplined.  But if you are, you love working out, and you’re ready to make some changes to your diet, I highly recommend it.  Even though I never followed the program 100%, I make a lot of the recipes and follow the workout plans on a weekly basis!

Now, back to the most important meal of the day!

What you will need:

  • 1/3 cup oats (I like Trader Joe’s whole grain, gluten free, rolled oats)
  • 1 tablespoon Stevia
  • Cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1/2 cup egg whites
  • 1 Banana, sliced
  • Organic Agave Nectar (optional)

Spray a small skillet with cooking spray and turn the burner up to medium-high.

Combine all of the ingredients except banana and agave nectar and stir until well combined.  Pour into skillet.  Allow to cook until top starts to look congealed.  Flip and turn down heat.  Continue to cook for about 2 more minutes.

Remove pancake from skillet and top with sliced banana and agave nectar.  This stuff is a LOT sweeter than normal sugar so a little bit goes a long way!

For more tasty protein pancake recipes, check out DAMYhealth!