citrus cake

Hello!

A month. I know. A whole entire month, basically, between posts.

Here’s where I’ve been:

– Learning the work-life balance (it’s not easy!)

– Gradually turning my new place into a home

– On vacation for a week/in a wedding!

– Surviving a break-in…

To get it out of the way, yes, my house was broken into. My bedroom, more specifically. It’s unsettling and gross and sad (I haven’t been sleeping very well ever since), but I’m honestly super bummed about what they took—- my bike!

I had just shipped my bicycle down to D.C. and I was really enjoying having it for commuting, exercise and fun. (So if anyone knows anyone selling a women’s bike on the cheap, let me know. Desperate to replace mine!)

Onto happier things: my cousin Erica was married a few weekends ago, and I was lucky enough to be a part of her big day! It was a beautiful ceremony and reception and – of course- bride. Congratulations, Erica and Aaron!

I was trying to think about what both tied into a “sorry I’ve been gone so long” and a wedding and the answer was obvious- cake.

I lifted the idea for this cake from Apollinas, who does perhaps the coolest blog concept I’ve ever heard of – lifts patterns and inspiration from the runways and re-creates them in baked good form. Amazing.

cakes

So the first thing I did was make my favorite yellow cake recipe. It’s from Martha, and I’ve used it before, most notably in my Super Bowl cakes. This time, I made two 9-inch rounds.

When they cooled, I spread lemon curd (my favorite!) in the middle as filling. I didn’t make my own lemon curd, but it’s easy enough to do.

lemon curd

Next up was a lemon buttercream. I put a crumb coat on, and then swirled the whooole lot of it over the cake. Here’s a little secret about me: I prefer the frosting to the cake. So when there’s a solid inch – or more – of frosting on a baked good, I’m a happy camper.

frosting

Lastly, I used thinly sliced citrus fruits  (still loving my mandolin) to decorate the top. It looked adorable – though not as good as Apollinas’ – and was a big, big hit.)

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Frosting:

Lemon buttercream frosting

2 cups of unsalted butter, softened

5 cups confectioners’ sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract
Juice and zest of 1 lemon (I like my frosting to taste very lemon-y. If you don’t want this, adjust accordingly.)
* Milk or heavy cream, optional
  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together the butter and confectioners sugar.  Begin mixing on low speed until crumbly, and then increase to high and beat for 3 minutes.
  2. Add vanilla extract and beat again for another minute until light and fluffy. Gradually and slowly mix in the lemon zest and juice.
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balsamic glazed tomato and feta chicken roulade

Roulade.

It’s a very fancy name for a deceptively easy meal. It’s like a chicken roll-up, which makes me think of Fruit Roll-Ups. But it’s healthier and more delicious.

No, really. I made these for the number one junk food lover I know and he was a huge fan. Seriously!

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The steps can essentially be boiled down to this:

Slice chicken. Season. Make filling. Roll. Bake. Reduce balsamic. Throw it all together.

But because I’m nicer than that, I’ll give you a little more information.

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balsamic glazed tomato and feta chicken roulades

1. Slice three chicken breasts in half, length-wise. Rub with olive oil. Season each side with dried basil, oregano, salt and pepper.

2. Open a can (12 oz) of diced tomatoes into a pan. Cook over medium heat until the liquid is reduced by half. Midway through, add in half of a Vidalia onion, sliced. Cook until the onion is translucent.

3. Let cool slightly. Mix in a handful of crumbled feta cheese.

4. Place a few spoonfuls of the tomato mixture on each chicken breast half. Starting at one end, carefully roll each breast half up, securing with a toothpick through the middle.

5. Place all chicken rolls on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

6. While baking, gradually reduce about 1/4 a cup of balsamic vinegar.

7. When the chicken is ready – should be slightly golden on top – remove and plate by glazing the top of each piece of chicken with the reduced balsamic.

chocolate PB nutella cake

DISCLAIMER:

This is not health food.

This is not weight loss-friendly, it’s not kind to your swimsuit figure and it definitely won’t aid you in those skinny jeans.

It is pure decadence. It’s the kind of food that makes you want to eat a salad for every meal until the end of time, just so that you can eat a slice of this incredibly rich cake and not feel guilty.

Sometimes you need this kind of food. And there is a way to justify it: the end result is so rich (almost too rich) that just a tiny sliver will satisfy you.

Until you eat some more within the next hour.

It’s an easy cake though. Steps are as follows:

chocolate PB nutella cake 

1. Make your favorite brownie mix. Mine is my grandmother’s recipe, it involves sifting and melting chocolate over a double boiler. It’s great. Add peanut butter chips, or Reese’s Pieces, to the batter – because why not?

Bake the brownies in a sheet cake pan. This will make a very, veeeery thin end result, so make sure you spray the pan liberally with baking spray.

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2. While the brownies are cooking and cooling, whip a carton of heavy whipping cream into, well, whipped cream.

Fold Nutella into it. I used almost the whole jar because why not? Be gentle during this process, but make sure it’s mixed completely.

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3. When the cake cuts out, cut it in half, hamburger-style. Spread the top of one half with your Nutella mixture and stack the halves.

Cut the cake in half again. Trust me. “Frost” and stack again.

Now frost the sides. You’ll have a short and stubby chocolate cake. Four layers of goodness. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour so it can all set – and it should be stored in the fridge, too.

Feel free to get creative with sprinkles. And make sure you have a giant glass of milk on hand when you devour your end result.

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summer salad

World, don’t get me wrong. I love me a good, decadent baked product.

peaches

I die for carbs and a freshly grilled burger? Point me in that direction. Now. But there’s something to be said for fresh fruits and vegetables, and not just because my body starts craving them like candy when I’ve done something like eat a bag of Cape Cod potato chips for dinner (hypothetical, of course).

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The best part about summer, aside from the cute fashion and the ability to head to the beach, is how many fruits and veggies are in season! Throwing together summer salads is one of my favorite fast and easy seasonal meals, and hopefully I’ll be able to share a couple of my best combinations over the next few months.

corn

Look, I’m not reinventing the wheel here. I’m not even making some fancy dressing to boast about. I’m grabbing what looks good in the grocery store, tossing it all together and patting myself on the back for not resorting to instant pasta for dinner. Again.

lettuce

So try this – or throw together another combination and let me know what your favorite “summer salad” is! And aren’t they great? Better than a cupcake!*

pear

*just kidding.

Pear, peach and corn salad

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1. Slice a peach any way you want. Thin or thick. Get crazy!

2. Add a thinly sliced tomato to the mix

3. Add some corn – I used about 1/4 of a cup, but do it up!

4. Plus lettuce. Toss.

5. Slice a pear and arrange it around the top of your salad. Or, if you’re not taking pictures like an annoying blogger, just toss it all in there.

6. Whisk together some balsamic vinegar, olive oil and dried parsley (just a pinch.) Pour over the top.

7. Sprinkle some cheese of your liking – I used feta – and enjoy. Happy summer!

caramelized onion & goat cheese quesadilla

This is easy, simple and delicious. It can all be made in one pan (which is a bonus for lazy cleaners like me, who hate doing dishes), and it’s a fast meal that, with some veggies, a salad or some yogurt, makes a simple, healthy lunch.

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Ingredients:

1/2 medium yellow onion, sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons goat cheese

Handful of romaine lettuce or spinach

Sugar

Salt

Salsa

1 whole wheat tortilla

 

Directions

Slice the onion. Heat the oil in a medium pan, add the onion, a tablespoon of sugar and a pinch of salt. Caramelize the onion slices until golden brown, stirring occasionally.

Spread half of the tortilla with the goat cheese. Add the onion.

Throw the handful of lettuce into the still-hot pan and cook until just wilted. Put on top of the onion.

Spread salsa over the veggies. Fold the tortilla in half and return to the pan, cooking each side until just crisp (about a minute/side).

Slice in half and enjoy!

parmesan quinoa and edamame

I know.
You guys, I know.

I stopped posting again. This has happened before, and each time I come back with the excuse that I have right now: I’m sorry. I’m really busy. But now I’m back!

I’m happy to announce that I have my first postgraduate job (!), that I’m beginning the soul-sucking processes known as taking finals and apartment hunting (anyone know anyone looking for a roommate/renting in the District? holla!) and that I’ve been cooking. A lot.

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Just, you know, not blogging.

But I have recipes coming your way! DIY dry rubs for chicken and yogurt sauces for veggies and really, really sinful candy-cookie-cheesecake bars! I promise.

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Today’s recipe, even if you’re a quinoa hater (hi, Dad) is delicious. It’s an easy and filling lunch or dinner, savory and healthy. It’s got veggies and protein, and it’s the best of all worlds.

DSCF7259It feels sort of weird to transition back into regularly scheduled programming, but I’m not sure how else to go about this except to say that Boston is a damn fine city and now the entire world knows that.

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Anyway.

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Parmesan quinoa and edamame! 

Cook 1/2 cup of quinoa and 1/2 cup edamame together (follow instructions for both. I just cook them in the same pot because I’m lazy.)

Remove, drain. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and mix. Add grated parmesan, salt and pepper to taste. I literally sprinkled, stirred, tasted and went from there.

Scramble, or fry, an egg. Serve together. Optional: sliced avocado with salt and pepper.

buttered popcorn cookies

This post almost didn’t happen.

Seriously, for a multitude of reasons, these cookies almost didn’t make it into my oven.

First of all, I’m still slugging my way through a limited carb challenge. Guess what? I’m not doing very well.

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So the idea of making cookies seemed sort of counterproductive.

Then, I had a bummer of a day. The kind where I didn’t even really want to turn on an oven because that wasn’t the same thing as a couch and chick flick movie marathon.

But, I decided, this was exactly the kind of day that needed a baking marathon to cheer myself up.

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Then I lit the bag of popcorn on fire. Yes. I used microwaveable popcorn instead of popping my own and I lit it on fire. Things are glamorous, all the time, in my kitchen.

So anyway, buttered popcorn cookies. They’re originally from Smitten Kitchen, Joy over at Joy the Baker did her own spin on them today (with chocolate! why didn’t I think of that!). And here’s mine.

Yes! This is what the dough looks like! I know!

Yes! This is what the dough looks like! I know!

In case you were wondering, I of course did not eat only one cookie. I’m the worst.

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Popcorn

2 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/4 cup yellow corn kernels

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

Make the popcorn, sprinkle with salt, toss with the butter and remove any kernels that didn’t pop.

Preheat the oven to 350. Spray two cookie sheets with baking spray.

Cream together butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar.  Beat in egg and vanilla extract.

Add the flour, baking soda, and salt and beat on low until just combined.

Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and use a spatula to fold in the popcorn.  It’s gonna look weird. Let the popcorn break down a bit, and keep folding.

Scoop dough by tablespoonful onto baking sheet.

Bake for 10 to 13 minutes or until the edges and tops are golden brown.