Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Flourless Chocolate Cake

I made a flourless cake for Easter, and I'm just getting around to posting it... 

I was a little nervous when I was making it, because it puffed up like a souffle, and it's a similar method to a souffle, but this one you don't have to worry about falling.  In fact, you WANT it to fall! You want it to fall down into a dense, delicious cake. 

Flourless Chocolate Cake
4 oz bittersweet chocolate
1 cup chocolate chips
2 sticks butter (1 cup)
6 eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Melt the butter and all of the chocolate in the microwave, stirring every 20 seconds until the chocolate is melted.

Whisk in the egg yolks, tempering them by putting a little of the chocolate mixture into the yolks and stirring to warm it up, and then transferring the whole mixture into the rest of the chocolate.  This keeps your eggs from scrambling from the warm chocolate.

Beat the egg whites, slowly adding the sugar until glossy peaks form.

Fold a scoop of the egg white mixture into the chocolate to fluff it up a little bit, and then add the rest of the eggs and fold until just combined.

Pour it into a well greased spring-form pan.  

Bake at 300 degrees for an hour to an hour and 15 minutes.  The top should be flaky and the inside should be cooked completely.

When you pull it out, the cake will fall into a dense chocolate dessert.  Let it cool for 10 minutes before removing the sides of the spring form pan.  Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Operation Clean Pantry

I've never been the type to buy a bunch of canned goods and store them away for a rainy day.  When can drives come along, I have to make a special trip to the store because I don't have any chili beans or spaghetti-o's just sitting around in my pantry.  I usually make a grocery list based on what I'm going to make that week, and when the week is over, my pantry is bare. 

But lately I've been throwing the weekly menus to the side and eating my fair share of Subway sandwiches instead of getting the kitchen and using my groceries.  So I find myself left with some frozen meat and random pastas and rices.  So instead of making a grocery list this week, I went in and organized the food I already have into meals for this week. 

Here's what I have:
Pork chop
Salmon filet
2 servings of Shrimp
3 servings of Ground Turkey

In the fridge: 
8 eggs
Black beans
Green Pepper
Frozen vegetable medley
Red Pasta Sauce

In my pantry:
3 sweet potatoes
1 onion
Brown Rice
Canned tomatoes

Here are my meal plans:
Grilled Pork Chop with Sweet Potato Fries and Brown Rice
Grilled Salmon with Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Shrimp Skewers with Onions and Green Peppers and a side of Lentils
Shrimp Skewers with a side of brown rice
Southwest Scrambled Eggs (salsa/black beans/cheese) with Sweet Potato Hash (twice)
Pasta with Ground Turkey and Red Sauce (twice)
Vegetable Fried Rice (twice)
Taco Salad

That's 11 solid meals!  Getting me through Sunday night with one meal at a restaurant, and nothing really fancy!  These are meals we can all do, with apparently just what I have in my pantry!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Feta and Olive Pinwheels

I love a good puff pastry dessert... so it stands to reason that I would love a good puff pastry app, and I DO!  This recipe comes from a cold pasta salad recipe my friend makes with feta, olives, spinach and some other goodies.  It's a winning combination, and so is this pinwheel!

1/2 block of feta
2/3 cup whole Kalamata Olives
1 sheet puff pastry

I started by laying out the puff pastry flat.  And then I pulsed the feta and olives in a food processor to make smaller chunks, and spread it over the puff pastry.

Then I rolled up each side.  I also made one where I rolled it all the way from one side.  Both were delicious.

I used some unflavored dental floss to slice the roll cinnamon roll style in 1/4" thick slices.

Baked them for 15 minutes, until they were golden brown around the edges.  They were a big hit at the party!

Those layers are calling my name... I would eat nearly anything stuffed in a puff pastry...  Sundried tomatoes with mozz cheese, brown sugar and cinnamon... 

The possibilities are endless.  Just take something you like (spinach and artichokes?) And chop them up and roll 'em up in a pinwheel.  Easy and impressive app. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Spiced Nuts

For my Chloe + Isabel party last week, I made some spiced nuts, and let me tell you something...  I don't want to toot my own horn, but I get a lot of compliments on my recipes.  My cupcakes get oohs and ahhhs, my pies have been referred to as "the best pie I've ever had" and my cookies and brownies are pretty darn good.  

But no recipe has ever garnered this much "Can I get your recipe" as these nuts did.  And they couldn't have been easier!  I think in total they took me 30 minutes... and I made about 6 cups of nuts, people.  

3 cups of nuts (I used Fisher's pecans, walnuts and almonds)
1 Egg White
2 Tablespoons Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Allspice
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne 

I started by toasting the nuts.  You can skip this step, but it gives it a crunchier nut, and I love the way toasting nuts smell.  To toast them, just put them on a cookie sheet and put them in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.  Make sure to check them after 10 minutes, burnt nuts aren't any fun.  

Whip the egg white until it starts to foam and then add the sugar slowly.  Whip until stiff peaks form.

Fold in the cinnamon, allspice and cayenne, and then fold in the toasted nuts.

Lay the nuts back out on your GREASED cookie sheet, and bake for 5 minutes at 350.  Then, flip the nuts over and bake another 5 minutes.

Remove the nuts and put them on a rack to cool.  They will harden as they cool.

Put the nuts in a tupperware and shake, shake, shake!  Just enough to break the big clumps apart.  Serve, or store for a week in a cool, dry place.

Be careful, these are addicting!!

Don't forget about the big C+I sale!  25% off your order of $100 or more.  Just click here to check out the merch.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Sparkle Cupcakes and a Chloe and Isabel Party

I had a fun Chloe + Isabel party last week, and I was dead set on decorating my cupcakes with a certain colorful sprinkle...

But I went to the store and they didn't have any! They had 16 different shapes and sizes, but none of the little colorful ball sprinkles I envisioned.

So right before I stomped off in a huff and threw a temper tantrum (sometimes I feel like it) I spotted the perfect alternative.  It wasn't even the perfect alternative, it's what I should have been looking for in the beginning had I known it existed! It was the princess of all sprinkles.  Silver and gold.

EEK! This stuff was amazing and pretty and tasty (just big sugar crystals) and everyone was blown away.  Someone in the elevator even commented on how pretty they were.  

And to make the final product, I just used a basic vanilla cupcake recipe, my usual buttercream-ish frosting (recipe below) and the sparkles.  I pipped a ball of frosting on each cupcake and then smashed them upside-down into a bowl of sprinkles.  They were the perfect touch to my jewelry party.

Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup Unsalted Butter
1/2 cup Crisco
1/2 bag of Powdered Sugar
1 T Vanilla Bean Paste
3-4 T Cream

Whip together the butter and Crisco in a stand mixer.  Add the powdered sugar a little at a time (unless you want to wear it).  Add the vanilla bean paste and slowly add in the cream until it's slightly harder than the texture you want it.  And then whip it, whip it good.  Whip it for 2 minutes! Set the timer.  It should go from an off-white color to an almost bright white color.  It should be spreadable.  If it's still pretty thick, add some more cream and whip it a little more.  This is enough frosting for 3-dozen regular-sized cupcakes or a full 2-layer 9" cake.

The party I'm talking about was held at the amazing, shiny, new offices of Happy Medium.  Thanks to my friend Katie for letting me use the space.  It was perfect and fun.

If you're interested in having a party, just let me know! there are some amazing perks to being a host, including FREE JEWELRY!  And I'll bring a dozen cupcakes to your party!

I've noticed that some people run the other way when they hear me say I've started to sell jewelry like Tupperware parties... but I've always been a big fan of parties like this for the free stuff and the excuse to have my girlfriends over.  At this place in my life I find that to spend time with my girls, it has to be planned and structured, or else it gets overshadowed by something else.

The jewelry speaks for itself.  Hypo-allergenic and nickel free.  My boss actually said her ear had been bothering her in other earrings for weeks, and she wore some C+I earrings the other day, and they didn't hurt at all.  I think she wore them for two days in a row!  I can't blame her, I've been wearing the same few pieces for a week now... It's just my favorite stuff!

Last Friday they announced Friends and Family week, going on for another few days, if you're thinking of getting something on my site, GET IT NOW! 25% off orders of $100+! The code is SPRFF25.  Just check out my website HERE! Mother's day is just around the corner, but sometimes you just need to treat yourself to a little online shopping.  mwa haha.

Thanks to all my ladies (and my man) for coming to my party!  You know I love to show off my sweets and treats, so stay tuned for another few recipes this week from my C+I party.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Fitness Friday: Workout Playlist

I seriously can't workout for a long period normal amount of time by myself unless I have some sort of a distraction.  I sometimes listen to NPR's Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me podcast... but it's only 45 minutes every week, which is not really the recommended amount of working out for a person my age.  Plus Arnold likes to listen to it, so I usually stock up on them for a long drive and we nerd out together. 

So I need a good playlist.  Something that keeps me going at a quick moderate tempo,  but also something I can picture myself singing to in some sort of pageant or talent show when no one expected me to be a good singer, but I open my mouth and start to sing and everyone is like, DANG ALISA! who knew?  Wait, don't you guys make up scenarios like that in your head?  And stories where you're kidnapped with your best friend and both of your crushes, who happen to be brothers and have a dog that the kidnappers are holding you ransom for because it's a really rare and expensive dog?  Okay then, guess that's just me and Danielle as 14 year-olds. 

Anyhoo, here's what I'm listening to right now, let me know what you jam to so I can update my workout playlist!
Just a regular guy getting his workout on
My Songs Know What You Did In the Dark - Fall Out Boy
Blurred Lines - Robin Thicke
The Way - Ariana Grande
Pool Mashup: Just the Way You Are - Pitch Perfect Soundtrack
Drunk in Love - Beyonce
Wings - Little Mix
Crazy in Love - Emeli Sande (Great Gatsby Soundtrack)
Don't Stop the Music - Pitch Perfect
Break it Up - Sean Paul
Gorilla - Bruno Mars
A Little Party Never Killed Nobody - Fergie, Q-Tip & Goon Rock (Great Gatsby)
Stereo Love - Edward Maya
Calabria 2007 (Club Mix) - Enur

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

S'more Cupcakes

I got to spend some time with my cousin this weekend. We made S'more cupcakes for her mom's birthday and Arnold's birthday.  She likes baking almost as much as I do, and it was so fun to just say, "You take the dry ingredients and I'll take the wet ingredients." And I knew she was doing it right.

I have a few changes to make to the frosting before they're State Fair ready... but they are really delicious! You can taste the graham crackers floating around in the cupcakes and the toasted frosting makes you feel like you're camping!

S'mores Cupcakes
4 graham crackers
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350ยบ F. Prepare 2 dozen cupcake liners.  
Crush the graham crackers into large crumbs and divide evenly into the liners. 
Combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. 
Add milk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla to flour mixture and mix together on medium speed until completely combined. Add boiling water ¼ cup at a time, carefully mixing after each.  Beat on high speed for about 1 minute. 
Scoop batter evenly into the cupcake liners over the graham cracker crumbs. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean.

Now, the frosting I used was a meringue… which was delicious.  And we “toasted” them momentarily in the broiler, but I have some ideas using giant marshmallows and chocolate ganache…

2 large egg whites
1/2 cup of sugar
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg white, sugar and cream of tartar.   
Place the bowl over a pot of boiling water and mix until the sugar is dissolved and the eggs are slightly warm to the touch. 
Place the bowl in the stand mixer and whisk on low speed for a minute.  Slowly increase the speed until you’re mixing at high speed.  Whisk the frosting for 5-7 minutes or until glossy peaks form.  Add the vanilla. 
Frost the cupcakes using a spoon or a frosting tip.  Broil the cupcakes for a few minutes to toast the frosting. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Some Random Thoughts

I played pretty well at volleyball last night and one of my teammates said I was on fire! I told her I was on steroids... which I am (asthma) and we got a good laugh.  And then I realized I also ate almost an entire bag of spinach yesterday.  Call me Popeye!


I always think of the best April Fools jokes a week after April Fools Day.

We went to see Captain America the other night, and I never buy it when they put all the makeup on people to make them look old.  This is 2014 and it still looks fake... However, they made the guy who played Capt. America look young and small, and I was SHOCKED. 


Seriously, through movie magic this guy looked 10 years younger and 100 lbs of muscle smaller.  I was blown away.  I yelled about it in the car later. 

March Madness was so much better in college when we set up a bunch of tvs in the basement of my friend's house. 

Check out my bf's podcast - Tweets Rhymes and Life.  He and Andrew know everything about everything.  It's crazy. 

I'm really good at singing in my car.  And it's one of my favorite things. 

My Fitness Pal thinks I burn 1300 calories doing 90 minutes of volleyball.  Seriously, I swear this thing thinks I sit on a couch all day and walking to the bathroom is the most exercise I get.  I end up with more calories left in the day than I started with...  Tone it down MFP.  I'm guessing more like 500-650... 

My favorite part of Captain America was the part after the extended credits, so stay longer than you think... there are two little clips after the movie. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Fitness Friday

After four days of cakes, brownies and yumminess, if you're like me, you're popping tums by the handful! So I'm not going to tempt you with delicious desserts today, I'm just going to give you a great idea for an at-home workout that you can do without any tools or contraptions.

I was a Health and Human Performance major in college, so I took my fair share of fitness training classes, I also worked at a gym in college and if you know me, you know I'm up for any and all workout adventures, unless it involves dancing.  Sorry Zumba.

I take a class at the local Y on Wednesdays that always kicks my butt, and this workout takes some notes from that class, but also incorporates the simple workouts that give me the best return on my investment.

So the concept is that we build.  You start with exercise A, and then do A and B, and then ABC...  So you end up with a lot of pushups!

Exercise A: (Shoulders) 12 Pushups!
  Either on your toes or on your knees, but keep that butt down!

Exercise B: (Upper Abs) 12 Crunches
  Pull your knees up to a tabletop position and crunch up.  Don't pull your head up with your hands, let your abs do the work

Exercise C: (Cardio) 12 Burpees: Starting at a standing position, squat down and place your hands in front of your feet on the ground.  Hop your feet back into a plank, and hop back to your hands.  Stand up, and do a little hop.  That's one.  I started off stepping my feet back, one at a time, and then hopping back, but I worked up to a full burpee. 

Exercise D: (Triceps) 12 Tricep Dips
  Place your hands on a chair or a coffee table on either side of your body with your body in a seated position just in front of the chair or table facing out.  Lower your rear as low as you can without feeling strain in your shoulders, keeping your elbows facing back. 

Exercise E: (Oblique Abs) 12 Bicycle Crunches
  Bring your right elbow to your left knee, extending your opposite leg out, and then your left elbow to your right knee.  That's one. 

Exercise F: (Cardio) 1 Minute Quick Feet
  Run in place for a minute as fast as you can!

Exercise G: (Shoulders) 12 Shoulder Pushups
  Do your pushups in a downward facing dog position, bringing your forehead toward the ground and pushing back up. 

Exercise H: (Lower Abs) 12 Leg Lowers
  Laying on your back with your lower back flat against the ground, lower your legs down straight until you feel your back lifting slightly, and then lift those legs back up to perpendicular to the ground.  It might help to put your hands on the ground under your butt. 

Exercise I: (Cardio) 12 Squat Jumps
   Squat down and jump back up as high as you can.  Make sure your squats are in good form, not letting your knees go over your toes, but dropping your rear end straight back like you're sitting in a chair.  You should be able to wiggle your toes the whole way through, that means you're back on your heels, where you should be. 

Here is the progression:

Try to not take too many breaks in between each workout.  Just about 10-15 seconds to stretch the muscle you just worked.  Aim for 45 minutes of work.  This isn't a quick-fix workout... it's intended to be your daily workout. If you don't get to Exercise I, don't worry about it! Get it next time.  If you get through I and still have time, just do A-I again until you hit 30 minutes.  Think about doing 28 or 30 of each workout next time. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Texas Brownies

Yesterday was Arnold's birthday!  He's a big chocolate fan... whenever dessert is an option (not a lot because he doesn't like sweets much) he chooses the chocolate option.  Much to the chagrin of his vanilla/fruit/peanut butter loving lover (me). 

I'm a bit obsessed with this picture

So when I wanted to make him dessert, I of course chose chocolate, but not CHOCOLATE chocolate. 

I don't like dark chocolate, and I don't really love chocolate like most ladies I know.  When I was little I remember getting a cupcake at church topped with a chocolate bar and being disgusted and giving it to my mom before we even sat down.  I was a strange kid.  I didn't like macaroni and cheese or pizza...  Most likely because those were my brother's favorite foods. 

So these brownies are almost subtly chocolate, but definitely chocolate.  They're light and fluffy with a rich frosting that you literally pour on, and it melts in your mouth.  My coworker even said it was the best thing he had ever put in his mouth.  Kind of awkward... but I'll take it! 

I know it's a gem because my brother wrote on Instagram, "Are those the brownies mom used to make??"  Yup. He remembers.  These are one of the few desserts I remember having around on a regular basis.  They are comforting beyond belief, and they taste exactly how I remember my mom making them.  Even though I cut out some of the sugar.  Honestly... 2 cups is too much.  I'm sorry.  Settle down. 

Ahem, so here's the recipe!  Let me know if you like these, they are truly a family recipe. 

Texas Brownies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup shortening
1 cup strong brewed coffee
1/4 cup dark, unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and sugar. In a microwave safe dish, combine butter, shortening, coffee or water, and cocoa. Microwave on High power for 2 minutes or just until boiling. Pour boiling mixture over flour mixture. Stir to blend. Add buttermilk, eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. Mix well. Pour into a greased 17- x 11-inch jelly roll pan.

Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until brownies test done in the center.

Chocolate Frosting

1/2 cup butter or margarine
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/4 cup milk
3 1/2 cups unsifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a microwave safe bowl, combine the butter, cocoa, and milk. Microwave on high power for 2 minutes, stirring once. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Stir to blend. Pour over cooled brownies.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Baking a Cake: Tips and tricks

I used to think that baking was just second nature for everyone.  Something that everyone could just do.  I mean, how hard is it to follow directions?  If you can build Ikea furniture... you should be able to bake.  That is until I tried to make brownies with my boyfriend and he almost threw a heaping cup of flour into the batter.  I explained that you had to level it off so it was exactly a cup, or else you would never know exactly how much to put in...  Even measuring dry ingredients in a cup is risky, sifted flour, packed flour and scooped flour all have different weights and can make vastly different baked goods. 

Even though I understand cookbook lingo for the most part, I still come across tips and tricks that make my baking even better.  So here are a few tips that I have picked up while baking that might help you, even if you've been baking forever!

1. Everything should be room temperature when you're baking, unless it says otherwise. 

That includes eggs. When eggs are room temp they whisk up easier and it keeps the batter room temp, which keeps cooking time accurate. I very rarely have room temp eggs sitting around waiting to be baked into a cake, so I put the eggs in a container and cover them with hot water and let them sit while I assemble the other ingredients.  Eggs are usually some of the last ingredients, so this works well for me.  

2. If it says 1 cup sifted flour, that means 1 cup after it has been sifted. 

Don't level off a cup and then sift it into the batter, you will have a lot more than a cup of sifted flour. 

3. When making a cake, put a little batter in a cupcake tin so you can taste the cake before serving.

Every single time I make a cake I worry that I left out an ingredient, or the consistency makes me think it might be dry...  I always fill my little silicone cupcake cups with some batter to make sure the cake tastes just the way I want it to taste.  It also gives me a little snack to tide me over until it's time to cut into the finished product!

4. Try a scratch cake.  At least once. 

The boxed mixes are easy, and do the trick... But once in your life, try a cake from scratch.  It's just like making a boxed cake where you add ingredients, one being the dry mix, you measure out the oil and water and eggs, but there are a few more ingredients.  Be patient, read the directions fully before you start, and take your time.  The end result will be ten times better than any boxed mix.  Except that Ghirardelli brownie mix... that's seriously really good. 

So there ya go.  Just a few things that make my cakes fail-proof great. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Cake Balls

So sometimes things don't turn out the way you want them to... Sometimes you bake a cake and set it out to cool, and you don't take it out of the pan before you go out to play catch with your buddy and sometimes that cake gets suck in the pan.  And sometimes you shimmy and shake it and think it's coming out, but it comes out in crumbs.  So sometimes you have to start again and you throw the crumbs in a Tupperware in disgust. 

BUT SOMETIMES you get a great idea to use that failure to make cake balls! And sometimes those cake balls really impress your boyfriend's friends.  Sweet. 

I love cake balls.  But somewhere along the way, someone decided that cake balls were just mini balls of fluffy cake baked in a waffle iron-type contraption that you get at Bed Bath and Beyond for $9.99 and dipped in chocolate. 

THAT IS NOT A CAKE BALL.  That's a mini spherical cupcake dipped in chocolate.  Stop it. 

A cake ball is a moist, dense, sweet, ball of gooey cake frosting mixture dipped in chocolate.  And they are so easy to make. 

So you take your crumbs of failure

Offset, your crumbs of failure are all of a sudden artsy

add frosting (I always have leftover when I'm frosting a cake, and it sits in my fridge for a week and I end up throwing it away) and form them into golf-ball sized balls.  Put them in the fridge to solidify.  The butter in the frosting is soft right now, but after an hour in the fridge, it will be rock hard again. 

Dip those babies in chocolate, or chocolate almond bark, and impress your boyfriend's friends!