Category Archives: Life

Turning 30 Turned up Rainbows [Cake]

All I wanted for my birthday was to bake my own cake. I picked out and planned my cake for a whole month. Meanwhile, Binks was planning a surprise party right under my nose. As I have been talking his ear off about my cake, he assembled a party planning to build a party around the cake.

I decided on the rainbow cake for my 30th birthday.
While I’m not one for the colorful, for my 30th birthday, the idea of having a plain-white-frosted cake, sliced to reveal bright layers of cake, enhanced further by white frosting, somehow spoke to me as I embark in this new decade of my life. Well, it was a show-stopper.

There were a lot of oohs and aahs once I cut into the cake to remove a slice.

I prepared the cake layers the night before, stored them in the fridge and frosted the next day. The cake layers hold together much nicer and produce less crumbs when I frost this way. I also cut my work time in half so I can focus on one aspect of the cake at a time.Oh and the frostings? It’s white chocolate buttercreams. Yes, I meant frostings. I made two types for this cake. While I love love Swiss meringue buttercream, I wanted something sweeter as well. So, the cake is filled and crumb coated with Swiss meringue and frosted outside with the traditional buttercream. It worked beautifully. the sweetness of traditional buttercream complemented the rich subtle Swiss meringue. The original recipe uses lemon buttercream, but I wanted white chocolate buttercream. A divine choice.

I’m still in love with this cake. Aside from being beautiful, it was delicious, as well. Completely light in flavor and texture, this cake did not feel heavy. Rather, the use of Swiss meringue buttercream throughout the layers made it subtly sweet where you can finish a whole slice without feeling like you might go into a sugar shock. But, just when you think you figured out the cake, the outer layer flavors hit and the sweetness mixes in with the same white chocolate flavors carrying through. I could not have been prouder of a cake – and from my 30-year-old-self, that’s saying a lot!

The whole party was wonderful. My friends and family truly came through and pretty much made a party around my cake.

With rainbow-themed photo booth area and colorful flowers and balloons, I felt a happiness that I remember as a child during birthdays.

The photo booth was a hit with all the guests. We had some younger guests who were having a ball with all the props.

My creative friend made Oreo truffles and packaged them away nicely in these cute little boxes as favors.

*The outside of the cake looks a little wonky because I was rushed out of the house to go run an errand. I thought I would come home to finish it, but walked into a wonderful surprise!

Rainbow Cake

recipe by Whisk Kid

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks of butter, room temperature
  • 2 and 1/3 cup white granulated sugar
  • 5 egg whites, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cup milk, room temperature (just warm for 30 seconds in a microwave)
  • Food coloring*

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour six 8-inch pans. I only have two pans so I baked two layers at a time.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Cream together the butter and sugar until pale. Add the egg whites gradually. Add the vanilla until fully incorporated into the batter. Then, starting with the flour, alternate between adding the flour and milk, adding in two parts.
  4. Divide the batter between six bowls. Add food coloring to each bowl’s batter. Remember, the cake will cook to be the same color as the batter. Add the amount of food coloring you expect to see in the baked cake.
  5. Pour into prepared baking pans.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes. Once baked, remove from oven and let cool in pan for 5 minutes. Then, turn over onto wire rack to fully cool.
  7. I kept them in the fridge overnight but you can frost once fully cooled.

My food coloring: (All of them are Americolor gels)

  • Red: Super Red
  • Orange: Egg Yellow mixed with a bit of Super Red
  • Yellow: Lemon Yellow
  • Green: Electric Green
  • Blue: Electric Blue
  • Purple: Electric Purple

White Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream for filling layers and crumb coat
adapted from Whisk Kid

Ingredients:

  • 9 egg whites
  • 1 and 3/4 cups white granulated sugar
  • 4 sticks butter,
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate, melted and cooled

Directions:

  1. Take your butter from the fridge and cut it into cubes and set aside on a plate on your counter – just not in your fridge.
  2. Wipe down a large (preferably steel) bowl with lemon juice to ensure that no trace amounts of oil remain. Oil is danger to meringue.
  3. Add the egg whites and sugar to the mixing bowl and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), stirring constantly with a whisk. Be gentle but consistent with the stirring. Keep whisking until you get a temperature of 150F for the mixture using your candy thermometer. Another way to check is to dip your hands in the mixture and rub it between your fingers. It should be completely smooth, with no grainy-ness. If there is any grains of sugar, keep stirring/whisking. you want the sugar to be completely dissolved and the egg whites to be hot (and cooked).
  4. Once it gets to be 150F, attach the bowl to your electric mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high heat until the meringue is thick and glossy. You know you are done when the bowl is also room temperature to the touch, and not at all warm. It cannot be warm at all.
  5. Once you get stiff thick peaks with your meringue, switch from the whisk attachment to the paddle attachment.
  6. You are going to start adding the butter, one cube at a time. Your butter should be cool, not cold, at this point.
  7. With the mixer on low-speed, mix until you get a smooth rich texture. The mixture will look curdly at some point, just keep mixing. I promise you it will come together.
  8. Add vanilla and salt, and continue to mix on low-speed until everything is combined.
  9. Add the melted white chocolate until fully incorporated and well blended in the buttercream.

White Chocolate Buttercream

adapted from my Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 and 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate, melted and cooled

Directions:

  1. Sift together the salt and powdered sugar into the bowl of your electric mixer.
  2. Add butter and beat until light and fluffy. Scrape the bowl to ensure that there are no unincorporated parts.
  3. Whisk in the cream and vanilla extract until well blended.
  4. After you get a good buttercream consistency, add the white chocolate and beat on medium-high for another 3-5 minutes.
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Filed under Birthdays, Cake, Life, Uncategorized

Stuffed Mushrooms [ & Happy Birthday]

It’s my birthday today.  Not just any birthday.  I’m officially 30.  Big one right?  I find myself not caring.  I would say that it’s because I’m too busy with a baby and business to care, but I don’t think that’s quite it.  I think it’s denial.  As if now that I’m starting my 30s, I feel a sense of filing away my 20s and accepting all that’s happened in the file as the past.  And, that’s a lot of stuff .  Namely, all that revolves around my dad.  It’s hard to file away his passing as something that has happened.  While others around me make a deal about my birthday, the one thing that stands out is that this year, my dad will not call me to say “happy birthday.”  Although seemingly minute, birthdays are the one thing we grew up caring about.  My dad would make it a point – no matter where we were in life – to always call on our birthdays.  He didn’t care much for cards or presents (bummer when we were kids!), but the words were said.  And, genuinely so.  I fully intend on carrying this tradition forward.

These stuffed mushrooms were my dad’s favorite.  People love them, but I loved that my dad loved them.  He did not like cheese or cheese-y dishes.  (One of the many ways we are different.)  However, my stuffed mushrooms were the exception.  Over time, I have perfected these to be a family favorite.  I would venture to say that this recipe is sorta my thang.  I make these mushrooms at all get-togethers where there are a manageable amount of people.  What I mean by that is a feed-able amount of people.  I wanted to make these at my baby shower, but the amount of people (50!) would not have made this dish feasible.  Although the recipe creates 12 mushrooms, I expect everyone to eat at least 3.  Case and point – I made 12 for a group of 4 and we had no left overs.  While I stand behind all the recipes I post, this one is extra special.  It’s out-of-this-world delicious and surrounded by meaningful memories.  And, those kind of memories are not so easily forgotten.

Stuffed Mushrooms

– makes 12 mushrooms

Ingredients:

  • 12 whole white mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp garlic, minced (about 3 cloves)
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 (8 oz) package of cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, divided in half
  • 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs, divided in half (or fresh bread crumbs)

Directions:

  1. Wash and remove the stems from the mushrooms.  Finely dice the mushroom stems.  Set aside.
  2. Heat pan over medium heat.  Add olive oil and heat.  Add the shallots, garlic and mushroom stems to the pan, and cook until the mixture is generally dry.  You want the moisture from the mushrooms to evaporate.
  3. Add black pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, onion powder, and garlic powder.  Mix for 2 minutes.  Turn off heat and remove from the heat.
  4. Once removed from the heat, add the cream cheese, half of the Parmesan cheese (1/4 cup), and half of the Panko bread crumbs (1/4 cup).  Stir until everything is incorporated and combined.
  5. Pipe into the mushrooms.  Arrange mushrooms on a baking tray.  You can refrigerate or freeze the mushrooms at this point for later use at this point.
  6. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F.
  7. In a small bowl, mix together the remaining Parmesan and bread crumbs.  Sprinkle over mushrooms.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes or until the tops are browned.

6 Comments

Filed under Appetizers, garlic, Life, Vegetarian

Overnight Oats

I’m not a fan of summer.  I really do hate the heat.  I’m not really living in the best city for this.  So, when it comes to food, I do not like to incorporate more heat into my life whenever I can help it.  For instance, I’ll switch from hot coffee to iced coffee.  Soups to salads.  Hot oatmeal to overnight oats.  I’m not one to brag about oatmeal, and Binks definitely won’t brag or say anything nice about oatmeal, but overnight oats is a favorite of mine and tolerated by Binks.  That’s as high a compliment oatmeal can get from my husband.

Considering that this dish is both nutritious and easy to assemble, overnight oats is hands-down a go-to breakfast in this house.  It’s easy to grab in the morning, while taking care of a busy baby.  While I have made overnight oats without yogurt and just milk, I highly recommend using yogurt as it brings the oats to a higher level of richness and flavor.  I like my oatmeal just a little thicker than drinkable yogurt, but not so set like a custard.  Add and layer with your favorite toppings.  Bananas are a must for me for sweetness.  What are your favorite toppings?

Overnight Oats

– adapted from Katheats
– Yields about 3 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup milk (any type of milk you want)
  • 1 cup vanilla yogurt (I prefer Greek yogurt)*
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp sweetener (honey, sugar, brown sugar, Stevia, etc.)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Cover, and place in the refrigerator overnight.  Serve cold the next morning.  Top with your desired garnishes.
*If you use unsweetened yogurt, feel free to add more sweetener with a tsp of vanilla extract.

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Filed under Breakfast, Health, Vegetarian

Sugar Cookie Revisited

A few weeks before my father passed, new neighbors moved in next to their home.  Specifically, a family associated with a motorcycle group.  I remember seeing them and thinking that it would be bad for the neighborhood based on nothing but my own stereotypes.  After my dad passed, seeing them angered me more.  To me, it was bad enough my mom had to deal with the loss in the house, but to add the added noise and raucous of the neighbors made me frustrated.  In hindsight, I just wanted to be mad at anyone else to avoid dealing with the loss.

So, imagine the humble pie I was served when my sister called to inform me that the new neighbors mowed my mom’s entire lawn after learning of my dad’s passing.  Imagine the shame I felt when my sister called me the following month to say they did it again.  Feeling both embarrassed at how much I had judged a family for nothing and simultaneously thankful at their graciousness, I cried that day.  After crying, I baked.  I baked to thank.  And, I have decided to bake them something once a month to show that their gesture does not go unnoticed.

These cookies seemed appropriate for February.  I used a different recipe from my usual to try something new.

I loved these cookies.  If you can believe it, one sugar cookie doesn’t necessarily taste like the other.  My usual sugar cookie tastes rich, buttery and very chewy – almost dense with sugar.  These taste wonderfully in a completely different way.  It’s light, perfectly sweet and fluffy.  These cookies puff up when baking and almost melt in your mouth when you bite down.

My sister stole a couple and said these were the best sugar cookies she has eaten.  I have to agree they are great.  I would definitely make them again depending on my mood/preference.  I’ve learned not to be so rigid.

Sugar Cookies
barely adapted from here

Yields approximately 48 medium-sized cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup butter, softened (I usually leave my butter sticks out overnight)
  • 1-1/2  cups white granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Additional sugar for rolling.  (I used colored sugar)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F degrees.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder.
  3. In a separate large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until smooth and well blended.
  4. Add the egg and vanilla extract.  Mix until incorporated.
  5. Add the flour mixture in three batches and mix in between each addition.
  6. Using a cookie scoop, roll each scoop into the sugar.
  7. Place each cookie onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  8. Bake for 8-9 minutes until lightly browned on the bottom.
  9. Once you remove the sheet from the oven, cool on the sheet for about 2 minutes and then move to wire racks to completely cool.
  10. Store in an airtight container.

7 Comments

Filed under baking, Cookies, Desserts, Life

Baby Shower Goods

I have been in a work-related whirlwind for the past three weeks.  The end of this whole mess was marked by the most fantabulous baby shower I have ever received.  Well, I’m not one for surprises and I wanted to be involved.  I donated my baking abilities.  Remember the smorgasbord?

After a grueling three weeks of response writing, which at the end included a grand total of 600 complied documents, 60 of which were my written product, I went on a baking spree.

Meet the results.  (Lemon Blossoms from here; Goat Cheese Terrine from here; Mexican Wedding Cookies from here.)

And, some additional items.  (Pumpkin bread and chocolate cookies – recipes to come)

My mom made Southwestern Egg Rolls – yep, she’s that awesome, and my MIL made her famous chicken salad sandwiches on croissant.

It was foodie heaven.

And presents and decorations heaven.

I must say that this really did mark the beginning of nesting and preparing for the new baby’s arrival.  I have had baby on the brain night and day.  I plan on balancing that out with more baking.  🙂

How do you unwind?  Do you cook your stress away?

12 Comments

Filed under Appetizers, baking, Cake, Cookies, Desserts, Favorites, Pregnancy

My Favorite {Pregnancy} Things

Baby Binks is now approximately 32 weeks and now seemed like the best time to share with you my favorite pregnancy things up to date.  These aren’t baby-related – but just pregnancy-related (aka – all about me)!

1.  Old Navy

Here’s my math.  Pregnancy lasts 9 months.  And, for at least the first three months, you can fit into everything you had before.  So, I just have to shop for 6 months.  I refuse to spend a lot of money or redo my wardrobe for such a short period of time.  Call me crazy – or call me cheap – I can admit to both.  Enter Old Navy.

a.  Leggings

[Source]

I have lived in these leggings for longer than I want to remember.  I wear it under almost every dress and T-shirt I own.  I cannot attest to a more comfortable pair of leggings.  Mostly b/c I don’t own any others.  Thank God for maternity leggings.

b.  Jeans

Jeans are always tough.  I usually buy Gap jeans but the price and the fit of these maternity jeans sold me.  I got flare-legged jeans the day that I started noticing my thighs were widening.  I’m not a fashionista, but I think it helps.

 

[Source]

After experiencing maternity jeans, I’m not sure how I can ever go back to a button again.  You feel me?

2.  Gap

a.  The Dress

After finding out that my cousin’s rehearsal dinner required American dressy-casual clothes, I had to go look for a dress.  Luckily I found this:

[Source]

I really am pleased with it.  It’s plain.  It’s black.  It fits and hugs in all the right places.  I’m happy.

b.  The Cardigan

I can’t find the exact one but it’s similar to this, except it’s black (of course).

[Source]

3.  Burt’s Bees Body Butter

I found this on sale and randomly picked it up as a belly butter rub, and I am extremely glad I did.

[Source]

I use it every other day on my stomach and some dry areas (elbows, feet, etc.) and it’s perfect.  It’s not greasy and absorbs fairly quickly.  Either that or my skin is so dry it sucks up any moisture it can get.  I hope it’s not that.  It has a great smell and the one tub should last me until the very end!

4.  Babycenter

Yep, there’s an app for it.  And, I have it.  And, it’s free.

[Source]

I usually rely on my apps to get me through the day.  Facebook, Twitter, Words with Friends, Yelp, INRIX, TV Guide, Pandora, and now…Babycenter’s pregnancy app.  I use it often to find out what the update is on the BittyBinks.  It gives you a check list of things you should be doing at certain times so that you don’t run behind (e.g. Kegels, signing up for birthing classes, finding a pediatrician, etc.).

5.  Flats

I was never a flats wearer before, but when the heels were getting too much, I went and bit the bullet.

[Source]

Are they most attractive pair of shoes I own?  No.  But, I love them.  I wear them everywhere.  I can’t imagine a better pair to accompany me through the pregnancy.  Side note:  Do you know it’s not safe/good for your feet to be completely flat?  So, I made sure to get some ‘flats’ that had a slight heel to help keep my feet in good condition.

6.  An extra pillow…or two.

I didn’t buy a special maternity pillow.  I refused to.  No other reason than I’d rather spend the money on something else.  Instead, I just added an extra pillow to my sleeping schedule.  I keep it between my legs.  (TWSS!)  Sometimes when I feel the need to be especially cozy, I put an extra (extra) pillow behind my back.  It keeps me in place.  Think of Ethel and Fred preparing for bed in that cheap motel.  No one said I was trying to win the sexy pregnancy award.

7.  Other Bloggers

You cannot imagine how thrilled I am to have at least 5 pregnant bloggers – all around my same due date.  It’s like having a pregnancy club where you are reassured that what you are going through is normal.  And by club, I mean one where I’m in it and no one else knows they are in my club.  🙂

My favorites:  Rhodeygirl Tests, The Daily Garnish, Legally Fit, and The Fitnessista.

At a time where none of my friends and/or family are pregnant or have been pregnant (in the past 2 years), reading about their experiences really has helped tremendously.

8.  My Binks

I will avoid being mushy.  I have been very fortunate – nay – blessed to have a super supportive partner/teammate who puts up with the good, the bad and the hormonal.  I couldn’t have come this far so well without him.  🙂

So, whether it be your partner, friend, family, etc., the support of a loved one goes a long way.

So what’s your favorite thing right now?  Pregnancy or not.

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Filed under Favorites, Life, Pregnancy, Uncategorized

Catch Up

I’ve been gone for a while – I apologize.  Well, I apologize if you missed me.  If you didn’t, well hello there!

I’ve been busy doing some family stuff and trying to catch up to some semblance of normalcy.  Let me see if we can update each other (me first) on what’s been happening on this end.

1.  I made the most delicious red velvet cupcakes with the most dreamy cream cheese frosting.

The recipe comes from none other than Ms. Deen herself.  I had it once at a chili-cook off and finally made it myself.  I can’t wait to make it again – with a slight twist that I’ll be sure to share.

2.  I’m attempting to be crafty.  

Mind you, I have no creative bone/nerve in my body.  But, when I saw this, I had to try.  Here is my current progress.

I can’t wait for the finished result.  So far it’s been easier than I thought.  Well, I’ll probably eat my words once the felt flowers come into place.

3.  We have been eating out more.  And the spicier the better.

Now that we have been balancing more with my mom/sister and making sure that we have a lot of family interaction to make this transition somewhat easier, I have been ignoring my home-cooking duties.  Therefore, a lot of lunches and dinners taken to go.

I thought my pregnancy spicy-cravings would decrease as time went on but alas – no.  I can handle the heat and the some.  It’s quite pathetic.  When someone asks me what I want to eat, my answer has almost always been ‘something spicy.’

Luckily, I work across from one of my favorite Thai restaurants in Dallas (Thai Soon), and they have an excellent lunch special.

Pictured above is a beef enchilada and puffed taco from Ojedas.  What is not pictured is the pitcher (yes, pitcher) of salsa that I drank with a side of chips.

4.  We have been painting.

What started out as a project just to paint the nursery turned into a whole-house paint project.  Working closely with our favorite Benjamin Moore paint and advice we read online, it’s been a project that’s mainly done by Binks.  Although I work very closely at the end to make sure he knows all the places he missed.  I’m sure he loves that.  🙂

I’ll show you finished projects soon!

So tell me, what are you up to?  

15 Comments

Filed under baking, Cake, Desserts, Life, Lunch, Uncategorized