A Sentimental Saturday Thought

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Last week, I went back to the town where I went to graduate school to meet up with my graduate school friends. All our reunions are fun and restorative, but this one was truly special – one of our friends is expecting her first baby and we helped her family shower her with good wishes and gifts.

As I was flipping through my photos on my camera, I came across this slightly out-of-focus picture and it made me think all about my graduate school journey and the amazing women who joined me on it.

When I see the amazingly sweet peanut butter rice crispy treat, I remember the desserts we would snack on during potluck dinners, during Super Bowl parties, and during birthday celebrations. When I see the bright orange napkin, I remember the bright fall days at by the lake, the highlighted pages of multiple thesis revisions, and the big, day-long party we had on Match Day.

When I look at this picture, I remember that this all started (the blog, these friendships) when we all came together three years ago and took a leap into a new world/career path together.

When I look at this picture, I remember the amazing times we had together as Grad School Foodies and look forward to the times ahead (especially with our newest addition!).

 

Your sentimental friend,

C

#TBT… the New Camera Edition

So it’s been officially two weeks since I had my new camera and it’s been so much fun playing around with it (and frustrating my parents, The YIA, and The Cat by taking numerous photos of them ALL THE TIME).

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But seriously…

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I think they are loving the attention!

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(especially The Cat!).

Oh and I might have taken some pictures of food too…

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(this is a photo of a special project coming soon!)

 

It’s been a fun couple of weeks with the camera… now what should I photograph next?

Your shutterbug friend,

C

S’mores and Flashcards

Happy Tuesday, kiddos!

This weekend was epic because it combined some of my favorite things in a short 48-hour time frame. Who doesn’t love when that happens?

The most important/fun thing that happened this weekend was that I got to see cousins from both sides of the family.

First off, we had one of my cousins visiting from North Carolina for a few days leading up to the weekend. A is an awesomely wonderful person/lawyer/lover of camping, spelunking, and hiking/owner of a super cute English long-haired dachshund. We haven’t seen each other in person in a while, so it was nice to have him here for a visit. Come back soon, A!! (and bring that adorable puppy of yours too!)

Then, another set of cousins from my dad side descended upon our house for a visit and to sort through some of my YIA C’s things. It was so nice to be together and have a quiet family BBQ.

Which involved the second thing that made this weekend epic…

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S’mores!

Seriously, who doesn’t love the melty, crunchy, chocolately goodness that is a s’more? Perfectly toasted (or in my cousin M’s case, charred) marshmallows sandwiched between pieces of chocolate and graham crackers… summer dessert nirvana.

In celebration of me passing the RD exam, my dad set up an activity that really pushed my weekend over the edge.

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We had a Flashcard Burning.

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Yep, that’s the sight of 638 flashcards burning…

It was pretty awesome and a great way to start my life as a RD and not feel weighed down by all the notes and pre-test anxiety!

 

It was a pretty fabulous weekend around here – how was yours?

Love,

Your s’more obsessed friend, C

Belgian Waffles

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Happy Wednesday, everyone!

How’s your week going?

 

Things have finally settled down around here after a big weekend of celebrating E’s birthday… I think she had a nice time having a celebration in her new place with her new friends and a celebration at home with her family. Best of both worlds!

Being the birthday girl meant that she got to choose all the foods for each meal on Monday – our favorite burger joint for lunch and our favorite Mexican place for dinner. What was left was breakfast… and what E asked for surprised me. E loves eggs and I assumed that she would want baked eggs and scones for breakfast.

She threw me for a loop when she requested Belgian waffles… but the birthday girl gets what she wants (plus, who does not love a good waffle?).

Belgian waffles are super easy to make but do require some steps.

They start with two eggs that are separated, with the whites going into a small bowl and the yolks in a large one.

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Beat the egg whites with a hand mixer (or by hand if you want to work out your muscles!) until soft peaks form. Set aside.

To the yolks…

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Add in some milk and vegetable oil. Whisk to combine thoroughly.

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Then add in some flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

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Stir gently to combine, but don’t worry if there is a lump or two.

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Then add in the beaten egg whites.

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And gently fold them into the batter – if you mix too vigorously, the egg whites will deflate and your waffles will lose their light texture (and you will be very, very sad… trust me).

Portion out the batter into your pre-heated waffle iron and cook using the appliance directions.

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For my waffle iron, I portion out 1 cup of batter in the center of the iron and allow the weight of the lid to push out the batter evenly. The amount you need for each waffle can vary depending on the size and shape of your iron – I have a large waffle iron that makes 4-4” inch Belgian waffles.

To keep the waffles warm, I keep them on a wire cooling rack in a 185 degree oven.

Then just serve them up with your favorite toppings – we went with a selection of fresh berries and a dusting of powdered sugar but the options are endless.

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PB&J, chocolate hazelnut spread, chocolate chips, Greek yogurt and honey, fresh strawberry sauce, chicken tenders (chicken and waffles… food nirvana), plain ole maple syrup, etc etc etc.

 

A sweet birthday breakfast for an even sweeter sister!

Have a great week, kiddos!

Your waffle makin’ friend,

C

Belgian Waffles

  • Servings: 5 people
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

2 eggs, separated

1¾ cup + 1 tablespoon skim milk

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1¾ cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

Cooking spray

 

Steps:

  1. Preheat your waffle iron according to the manufacture’s instructions.
  2. Separate the eggs, placing the egg whites in a small bowl and the egg yolks into a large bowl. Whip the egg whites until they form soft peaks, about 1-2 minutes. Set them aside.
  3. In the large bowl with the egg whites, add in the milk and oil. Beat until thoroughly combined. Add in the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Gently stir to combine – don’t over mix (a few small lumps are okay!).
  4. Add the beaten egg whites to the batter and gently fold to combine, leaving some patches of egg white.
  5. Grease your preheated waffle iron with some cooking spray. Portion out the batter into your waffle iron according to the manufacture’s directions – make sure you cook until golden brown and crisp!

Serve with your favorite toppings (the possibilities are endless!).

Enjoy!

Palm Sunday Recap

Hi there, everyone! I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday weekend!

We celebrated Palm Sunday yesterday (we’re on a different calendar, so our Easter falls a week later this year), which is one of my mom’s favorite religious holidays to celebrate with family and friends. So we had a dinner party with my grandma (The YIA) and our good family friend S.

Palm Sunday is usually a traditional fish supper and my mom whipped up an amazing Asian-inspired feast.

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Ina Garten’s Asian Grilled Salmon and Ellie Krieger’s Aromatic Lime Peanut Noodles… delicious, nutritious, and absolutely beautiful when served on my favorite blue plates.

But it wasn’t only Palm Sunday yesterday – it was also The Cat’s 11th birthday!

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So we had a huge dessert bar with chocolate cupcakes, sorbet, and a vegan Greek biscotti (recipe coming this week!).

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A sweet end to a festive day!

How was your weekend, kiddos? What did you do/eat/see? Let me know!

Your blue plate lovin’, cupcake makin’ friend,

C

Happy Birthday, The Cat!

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Happy Easter and Passover to all who celebrate! Wishing you all the best today as you relax and enjoy your family and friends.

My Easter is officially next week, but today we are celebrating two big events – Palm Sunday and The Cat’s 11th birthday!!

And you cannot have a birthday without cake… it’s an ancient rule written somewhere. Promise.

I decided to whip up Williams-Sonoma Devil’s Food Layer Cake (in cupcake form) for The Cat’s big day. It is a super simple cake that is full of chocolate flavor!

It has four different components.

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A chocolate mixture, which is a combination of unsweetened natural cocoa powder and boiling water.

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A dry mixture, which is a combination of flour, baking soda, and salt.

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A milk element – it is supposed to be buttermilk, but I never ever have buttermilk in the house. My easy substitute? I put one tablespoon of white vinegar in a liquid measuring cup and fill the measuring cup with milk until it reaches one cup. I let stand for 5 minutes and tada, a good buttermilk replacement.

Finally, you need a bowl with room temperature butter and some sugar.

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The WS recipe calls for the batter to be made with a hand mixer, which works fine… but if you have a stand mixer, break that baby out of the cabinet. Using my hand mixer, I got butter and sugar (and then chocolate cake batter) all over my cabinets, walls, counters, and floor… so please, if you have one, use your stand mixer.

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When the butter and sugar are all combined, add in the eggs one at a time. Splash in some vanilla too!

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Then slowly drizzle in the cooled chocolate mixture. When it’s all combined, alternate adding in the flour and buttermilk, starting and ending with the flour. (forget to take pictures of said steps…)

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All that’s left is to dish them up into cupcake tins lined with cupcake liners and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

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The best birthday treat ever!

You can frost the cupcakes with the recipe’s frosting but I was impatient and used a little bit of leftover canned frosting I had in the fridge. You can decorate with sprinkles, chocolate-covered candies, or just leave them unadorned… you have total creative license! Just make sure you have room for the birthday candle.

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Happy Birthday, The Cat! I’m so glad that you’re mine. Now make a wish!

 

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, kiddos.

Your chocolate cake- and cat-obsessed friend,

C

This recipe can be found at Williams-Sonoma’s blog, Taste. I substituted the buttermilk with 1¼ skim milk mixed with 1 tablespoon of white vinegar.

Holiday Recap

Happy Sunday, everyone!! How was everyone’s holidays? Can you believe that New Year’s Eve is on Wednesday?! No? Good, me either!

My Christmas was really wonderful, surrounded by family and good food! This year, E had to work on Christmas… so my mom decided that we were going to have two separate dinners to celebrate!

Our first dinner (Christmas Dinner #1) was on Tuesday night, since we go to church on Christmas Eve and there really isn’t any time to have a sit down dinner. Our traditional Christmas dinner is filet mignon with all the trimmings!

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And my parents totally rocked out the roasted vegetables, onion relish, and mashed potatoes. Is there anything more holiday than mashed potatoes and roasted brussel sprouts? I think not!

The dessert of the night was the Buche de Noel.

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It was traditional Christmas Perfection!

Christmas dawned bright and crisp and fueled by bacon, eggs, and scones, E took off for her new apartment and work and a productive day.

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The Cat and I were equally productive… in nap time.

Later in the day (now that we were refreshed!), we sat down to our second holiday supper. Christmas Dinner #2 was just as spectacular as Christmas Dinner #1.

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Hello, Shrunk Chickens!!! Or Cornish Game Hens… whatever name floats your boat.

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Marinated broccoli and my grandmother’s Greek stuffing rounded out the perfect Christmas dinner.

And, of course, we had Buche de Noel for dessert.

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It tasted great and was the perfect festive end to our Christmas feasts!

 

So, how was your holiday? What did you do, eat, and see? I want to hear all about it!

Your Christmas food lovin’ friend,

C

Buche de Noel, Day 3

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It. Is. Finished.

Oh my goodness, everyone, I am so unbelievably happy today. Yesterday, with some help from my dad, I pulled together the famed holiday dessert – The Buche de Noel.

I have been documenting my progress the past two days, but yesterday was the day… cake baking and dessert assembly (and eating!).

 

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The cake is a standard sponge cake and starts with a combination of eggs, egg yolks, sugar, and a little salt that is whipped on a double boiler until the mixture reaches 100 degrees.

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Then the egg mixture is removed from the heat and whipped some more on high speed until the mixture becomes twice its original volume and has cooled.

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When the mixture has been cooled, then the dry ingredients (cake flour and corn starch) are sifted into the mixture and it is all folded together.

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The batter is poured into a high-sided cookie sheet (or jelly roll pan) and spread out with a spatula. Bake for about 13-15 minutes until the cake is just set in the middle.

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Then turn out the cake onto a work surface to cool and stand back and do a happy dance that you have successfully made almost all the elements for the Buche de Noel.

Then go run some errands and return home to realized that your cat has jumped upon the counter and eaten some of your cake…

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So, make another cake and then make sure you stand watch as it cools so that thieving cats don’t eat your second attempt.

Now, it’s all about the assembly!

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To make the mushrooms, dab a little room temperature ganache on the bottom of a mushroom cap.

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And gently push in the stem until it becomes anchored in the ganache.

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And viola! A meringue mushroom!

 

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For the Buche de Noel itself, brush the cake with a spiked simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar brought to a boil, cooled, and spiked with an equal part of rum!).

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To make spreading the ganache easier (and to ensure you spread it evenly), I put big blobs of ganache all over the cake and spread with an offset spatula.

I totally spaced and didn’t take pictures of how to roll a jelly roll, but here is a pretty good tutorial video from Martha Stewart. I rolled my cake along the long-side, which provides a better sized piece of cake (this dessert is very rich so a little goes a LONG way!).

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Tada!

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We wanted to make a branch sticking out of the middle of the cake, so my dad trimmed 3-4 inches off one end…

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… and placed it onto the middle of the log!

Then frost the log like you would a regular cake… or as my dad put it, like you spackle a wall. Whichever analogy works for you!

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Then artfully arrange some meringue mushrooms around your Buche de Noel.

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And stand back and admire your work!

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Oh so festive!

 

This was a great Christmas baking challenge and I am so pleased with how it all worked out. I can’t wait to try again next year!

Your Buche de Noel bakin’ friend,

C

 

PS – I used the Buche de Noel recipe from Chocolate: From Simple Cookies to Extravagant Showstoppers by Nick Malgieri.

Turkey Day Recap

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Happy Saturday, everyone! How was your Thanksgiving? Did anyone get mountains of snow?

This year, my family and I traveled over the river, through the woods (and the snow!) to my sister’s new place for Thanksgiving. She needed to work in the afternoon, so we decided to pack up the turkey and the trimmings and head up to her place.

And it was two and a half days of perfect family together time! We cooked, laughed, watched movies, and ate. We ate a lot.

Our Thanksgiving dawned bright and super cold. Since my sister needed to be at work in the afternoon, we needed to eat our Thanksgiving dinner at 12:30PM. So I guess I should call it Thanksgiving lunch.

We started out our day of cooking with some light breakfast fare.

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Some eggs, some cereal, some pineapple, and, not pictured, some amazing donuts from the shop down the street. Yum!

Since we did a lot of the prep of the turkey and stuffing at home, all we really needed to do was roast some vegetables, mash some potatoes, and make the cranberry sauce.

And set the table!

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Look how pretty my grandma set the table… and how well the plates match the table cloth! And while I was taking this picture…

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E took this one (and was a good sport in my quest to grab a decent photo of everything). Who knew that standing on couches allowed you to get pretty good aerial table shots?

But when all is said and done, Thanksgiving is about two things – food and family.

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The only thing better than sitting down to marinated turkey breast, Greek rice and chestnut stuffing, roasted vegetables, and creamy mashed potatoes (and a small lake of cranberry sauce) is sitting down to a wonderful plate of food surrounded by people you love (especially my sister… it’s still so weird not having her in the house all the time!).

 

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, full of food, family, and friends… I know I did!

Your Thanksgiving lovin’ friend,

C

Summer Nostalgia

E came home this weekend to surprise my mom for her birthday since she can’t come home during the week… It has truly been a great weekend full of food, family time, and reminiscing about our favorite times with our mom.

Our final day together, Sunday, also ushered in the first real fall day where we live. Crisp blue skies, the leaves [finally] starting to change colors, and a welcome drop in temperature… absolute perfection.

As we snuggled on the couch reading, posting on Facebook, and talking, I began thinking that summer was definitely over and I started to realize that I was missing all the amazing food we made and ate this summer. I was having an epic case of summer food nostalgia.

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Like heirloom tomato and fresh mozzarella salad.

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Or Challah French toast topped with peaches and blueberries.

Grilled vegetables…

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And beer… definitely a summertime indulgence.

Or just the simple pleasure of picking out tomatoes at the farmer’s market.

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And who can forget about dessert?

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Blueberry pie, anyone?

Or a refreshing cherry-pomegranate sherbet.

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*sigh*

 

As much as I will miss all the wonderful things we made and ate this summer, I look forward to seeing what culinary creations the fall will bring (hello, Thanksgiving!!).

Love your summer food missin’ friend,

C