Let’s talk about birthdays. I love having a May birthday. Growing up in Texas, it was always warm enough to spend the day outdoors doing something fun. It was close to the end of the school year. So you knew it was ALMOST time for summer vacation, which was a great feeling. But… and this is very important when you’re in elementary school… it was still DURING the school year. This meant you could bring cupcakes to school. This meant you could celebrate your birthday with all your classmates and receive that little bit of extra attention. So perfect.
And then, I wound up meeting and marrying someone who also has a May birthday. And it makes it a little bit sweeter. We can celebrate our birthdays together. This usually involves a cake of some sort.
A few years ago, I found a cake recipe from one of my favorite food blogs (and one of the first food blogs I ever read)! It is a berry birthday cake. The typical preparation has you putting berries in the cake, but due to the pickiness of my family, I tend to leave them out and serve them on the side for whoever wants them. So instead, the vanilla flavor really shines through. So instead of the big berry birthday cake, I call my version (slightly adapted from Joy’s) the vanilla bean birthday cake. This cake is so good that I make it year after year. I sent the recipe to a co-worker, and she made the cake and wound up bringing the leftovers to work, and it was so tasty. Before I made the cake this year, that co-worker and I stood around for like five minutes talking about the deliciousness of the cake. So let’s get baking!
First, butter and flour up those cake pans!
Divide the batter evenly into the two pans… well as close as you can get it.
Always frost the cake with two pieces of parchment underneath! That way it remains clean, and you can just slide each parchment piece out after you’re done.
Make it fancy with a piping tip and colored frosting!
Okay, yes. We MAY use a brûlée torch to light our candles. Hardcore over here.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. This is easiest done in a stand mixer with a paddle. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition to incorporate.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In another bowl, combine the milk, vanilla extract and vanilla seeds.
With mixer on low, alternate adding the flour mixture and milk mixture, starting and ending with the flour mixture.
Shut off the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and ensure everything is well-combined.
Evenly divide the batter between the two pans.
Bake 40 minutes until a toothpick or skewer comes out clean.
Let cakes cool for 15 minutes, then remove and set aside to finish cooling on a wire rack.
To make frosting, cream the butter about 30 seconds with a mixer.
Add the sugar and mix for another 5-7 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is incorporated.
In a small saucepan, add ¼ cup milk, the vanilla and flour. Whisk together and then turn to medium heat.
Add the rest of the milk, whisking slowly until mixture starts to thicken. Once it starts to thicken, remove from heat, and continue whisking for another minute. If you have lumps, strain the mixture. Let cool to room temperature.
Once mixture has cooled, add to the butter/sugar mixture and beat about 4-5 minutes.
Frost the cake, leaving a little icing aside to color. Color the remaining frosting and then pipe onto the cake to decorate.
Risotto is one of those things that I feel is so daunting. That may be why I’ve only attempted to make it a few times. But, I must be pretty lucky, because every time it seems to come out great! And I’m not the only one that thinks so, Josh does too (I hope he’s not just being nice).
I’ve been wanting to cook up a fresh, spring risotto. So I found this recipe from Rachel Ray and adapted it to fit what I had in the house and what I wanted to use. I left out the pancetta and saffron and added peas. So while this recipe is certainly not vegan, it can be made vegetarian if you switch out the chicken stock for vegetable stock! Of course, if you don’t care about such things, you could always add pancetta or bacon in too. (Which I may next time I make it. Everything’s better with bacon, right?)
Apparently I have a thing lately for recipes that take awhile, because this one takes a bit of time to prepare. You will be standing at the stove for awhile stirring while the stock slowly gets absorbed into the rice. So before you start cooking, make sure you know how long it will take!
Also, we just got back from a several day trip to Chicago! It was my first time there. I can’t wait to share photos of the places we visited and all the food we ate. So look for those posts coming up soon! But for now… enjoy this spring risotto!
Tomorrow is Josh and my two year wedding anniversary. We got married in the little city of Florence in Italy. It was perfect weather and a perfect day spent with a small group of family and friends.
For us, a small wedding was perfect. Even more perfect was traveling overseas to make it happen. We spent about a week and a half in Florence before the wedding, basically making sure we had all our ducks in a row (aka that our wedding would be legal and recognized in the US). And we just got to enjoy and get to know the city, exploring the neighborhoods and the incredible views. And the food. OMG the food.
Last year we celebrated our anniversary by eating some delicious bolognese sauce over homemade pasta. And while it wasn’t on our anniversary, I made this bolognese sauce last week. Close enough. This may not be your traditional bolognese the way I make it, but it’s still pretty tasty. And I will make this again and again.
I will provide this warning. This is a bit of a time-consuming recipe. I like making this on weekends when I can start early, so we aren’t eating dinner at 9 or 10!
I love snacking. Give me a lazy Sunday afternoon with some snacks and some tv and I’m a pretty happy girl. It’s so easy to fall into the rut of just pulling out a bag of chips or making some popcorn. I’d rather do something that’s almost as easy and worlds tastier and healthier.
Enter this edamame.
Edamame is so easy to make. If you get frozen, like I do, you just follow the directions on the package. This usually either involved boiling in some water or cooking in the microwave. I usually do the boiling method though. Just as easy! And then with this recipe, you just take that boiled edamame and toast it up in some olive and sesame oil. I like to throw in a jalapeno for some heat. It gets all caramelized and yummy. I usually leave the seeds in for some extra spice, but if you’re a little reluctant to have your mouth on fire, leave the seeds out. It will still be tasty.
I love my mom, and every few years my birthday appropriately falls on Mother’s Day. When that happens we’ll avoid the Mother’s Day mayhem and I’ll make one of our favorite brunch dishes at home – blintzes. Blintzes are basically crepes wrapped around an almost cheesecake-like filling.
Traditional blintzes are stuffed with ricotta. This recipe also uses mascarpone and farmer cheese for a silkier, dessert-like quality. (Mascarpone can be found with ricotta in the soft cheese section of the store, while farmer cheese is a pressed cottage cheese that you can find in the hard cheese section).
What really makes these blintzes great is a sweet and sour rhubarb compote. The addition of balsamic vinegar really brings out the strawberry flavor. If you don’t think you like rhubarb, I’m betting this recipe will change your mind.
This recipe has three easy components that come together in an impressive dish, and can be made up to a day in advance and finished in 20 minutes.
3 rhubarb stalks, washed and cut into ½ inch slices
16 oz. fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
¼ orange juice
⅓ cup sugar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 tbsp vegetable oil
For the crepes combine the milk, eggs, vanilla and melted butter in a blender and pulse. Add flour and powdered sugar and pulse until mixture is completely blended. Refrigerate mixture for 15 minutes to remove air bubbles.
While the batter is chilling, combine the filling ingredients in a standing mixer or in a large bowl with a wooden spoon, being sure to break up the harder farmer cheese so that it is evenly distributed in the filling. Don’t stress about any remaining chunks of farmer cheese as they will melt in the oven. Refrigerate while you make the crepes.
To make the crepes heat an 8-inch non-stick pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, lightly brush it with melted butter. Pour ¼ cup of your batter into the middle of the pan and quickly rotate the pan to evenly coat the bottom. After about a minute the bottom of the crepe will be a nice brown color. Run a flexible spatula under the crepe and lay it flat on a plate – cooked side up. You can stack the rest of the crepes on each other this way.
To make the blintzes, place a crepe cooked-side up and spoon 3-4 tablespoons of filling lengthwise in the middle of the crepe. Fold one long side of the crepe over the filling, then fold the two short sides in, and fold the remaining side over. Place the blintzes seam-side down in a baking dish for 30 minutes. At this point the blintzes can be wrapped and refrigerated up to a day in advance.
While the blintzes chill, add the sliced rhubarb, orange juice and sugar into a medium pot and cover. Cook over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the rhubarb has softened, add the strawberries and continue cooking uncovered for another 5 minutes. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and cook for an additional minute and remove from heat.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Heat a large pan over medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Fry the blintzes, two or three at a time, starting with the seam side down, until they are brown on both sides (about a minute per side) placing them side-by-side in a large casserole dish when done. Bake the blintzes in the dish for about 12 minutes to firm them up.
Plate the blintzes, generously spoon the compote over them and dust with powdered sugar if you like.
Yup, it’s that time of year. Almost Cinco de Mayo. Living in Texas most of my life, it’s always been a holiday that’s been fun to celebrate. However, I keep my celebrating pretty tame. nowadays Usually it just involves some sort of Mexican food and a margarita. For a recipe I wanted to share this year, I decided to do a little twist on avocado toast. And how do you elevate it to new levels of delicious and put a little Mexican spin on it? You fry up a tortilla, of course and use that in place of the bread!
Luckily, this recipe is really easy to make. Just fry up a tortilla, fry up an egg, slice an avocado, and top with stuff! Scroll down for the exact recipe, but the great thing about it is you can modify it to what you like, or what you have in your kitchen! I didn’t put any cilantro on mine, because unfortunately I’m one of THOSE people. Those people who cilantro tastes like soap to. But, if you like cilantro, throw some on here! Make it rain cilantro! Just not on my breakfast tostada, please.
According to Aimee, salmon en papillote is the very first dinner I ever cooked for her. I had to break it to her that this was my go-to dish for impressing the ladies. It checks all of the boxes:
Sounds fancy – salmon en papillote just means “salmon in parchment” but when heard in my outrageous French accent just makes your knees weak.
Looks cool – few homemade meals allow for such dramatic presentation. For this dish you plate the bag and the diner tears into it like a present…allowing the steam and savory smells to waft almost magically from the bag.
Looks complicated (but super easy) to make – it uses one pan and a cookie sheet, so clean up is super easy too.
Healthy and light – this recipe uses just 1 tablespoon of butter or oil and salt and pepper to taste.
Here you go, a simple recipe for Salmon en Papillote:
Heat butter or oil in a pan over medium heat. Sauté carrots and shallot until soft (3 - 4 minutes) adding salt and pepper to taste.
Fold the parchment in half so it is 15in x 10in and cut a half heart shape so when unfolded it looks like a Valentine’s heart.
Divide the sautéed vegetables onto the wider part of the hear parchment, close to, but not overlapping the fold. Place the fish on top of the vegetables. Top with lemon zest, salt and pepper.
Place the left half of parchment over the fish in the same way you cut out the heart.
Folding: Starting at the top inseam of the heart fold over a 1 inch section of parchment toward the center of the heart. Working your way around the open side of parchment ½ inch at a time, continuing to fold the sections making sure you overlap the previous section so that no steam escapes. Once you get to the end, fold the long tail of the heart around a few times and tuck it underneath the bag.
Place the bags in the oven on a cookie sheet for 9 or 10 minutes.
I love being able to walk to coffee shops (and bars, of course). So when this new coffee shop opened in the South Congress Hotel, I was hoping it would be good. And on our first visit there, it delivered. The coffee is great, the pastries are OMG so good, and the decor is so cute! I love the tile that’s all around the coffee bar area.
Josh ordered an almond pastry (it had apples inside!) and I ordered a ham and cheese croissant that was so flaky, buttery and perfect.
Just look at all the delicious things happening in that pastry case! I almost got a cinnamon roll.. and a lemon tart.. but stopped myself and just stuck with the croissant.
Happy Friday! I don’t know about you, but I am so glad the weekend is almost here. I caught a cold last weekend, and I’ve spent most of this week feeling rotten. I’m feeling a lot better, and I’m excited to rest and relax this weekend and just enjoy not being sick!
I will say, when I’m sick, I do try to get as many vitamins as possible, hoping it will speed the cold along. And I absolutely adore smoothies for that purpose. Being able to pack those antioxidants and vitamin c in is perfect! Lately, I’ve been seeing more and more photos of smoothie bowls, and now that I’ve tried it? I’m sold. It’s all the deliciousness of a smoothie with toppings!
Really, you can add anything to the top. I checked what I had in my pantry, and so I topped this one with a banana, some sprouted pumpkin seeds (my new love!), and some coconut that I toasted. I’m excited to try out more variations, but I’ll include the recipe of what I did for this one! Modify to your own tastes, and honestly, just throw some good stuff on top. Eat it up with a spoon and congratulate yourself on being healthy.
I love this time of year. It’s actually the perfect time in Austin where it’s not too hot and not too cold. The weather is getting warmer, and staying warmer. And eating fresh ingredients becomes the norm. Goodbye to soup, hello to raw veggies and fruits! This tomato bruschetta feels like the perfect way to ring in spring. Tomatoes, basil, garlic, warm toasted bread… what’s not to love?
The great thing about this bruschetta is that it is a perfect appetizer, snack, or part of a meal. To make it part of a meal, just serve alongside some chicken or pasta. When we made this bruschetta, we also cut up a rotisserie chicken and called it lunch. So easy. Honestly, the most time-consuming part of this dish is chopping all the tomatoes, but if you have a great helper (like my husband), those tomatoes are chopped in no time!
And before we move onto the recipe, let’s just talk briefly about the pronunciation of the word bruschetta. I keep pronouncing it broo-sheh-tuh. And Josh keeps correcting me, saying it’s broo-sket-uh. Who’s right? Apparently he is. Regardless, it is a delicious and yummy creation.