Friday, March 30, 2012

Fun Facts Friday

1.  Last night I made this for dinner.  It was fantastic.  I never would have thought about adding basil to chili garlic sauce.  Cooking Light FTW!

2.  When I was a kid I was kind of strange.  I didn't like cartoons, I preferred Sing-A-Long Songs.  Does anyone else remember these?  They were fantastic.  I would also carry around my mini Sony tape player with microphone and belt my lungs out for anyone who would sit still for 5 seconds or more.  Sorry Mom and Dad.

3.  I also preferred to chew a giant wad of Watermelon Bubblicious than eat chocolate.   What was wrong with me?  Apparently this item is so popular these days they don't even carry it on Amazon.

4.  I made a double batch of this for Relay For Life tonight.  It was so good that I no longer have a double batch to take with me.  Sorry team.  It's perfect for the Relay For Life "Birthday Theme".  We are celebrating each and every birthday cancer patients have.  This really strikes a chord with me as several of my relatives have fought and lost their battles with cancer.  I'm not excited to stay up and walk all night long, but I really appreciate the opportunity I have to do it and it's the least I can do to for the cause.

5.  I dare you to dance this weekend.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Jalapeno Cilantro White Bean Dip

As you probably already know, I love hummus.  I believe my love affair started the year I lived 2 blocks from Trader Joe's.  Fairly positive I went there every other day... Josh worked there at the time, they have the best hummus in the world, they knew me by name.  It was glorious.  Every now and again I feel like mixing it up from my normal recipe for something a little more exotic.

This version is technically a "bean dip".  No chickpeas were pulverized in the making of it.  It's creamy, spicy, and begging to be scooped onto salty tortilla chips.

Jalapeno Cilantro White Bean Dip

  • 1 can white beans - I used cannelini, rinsed and drained
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 t sea salt
  • 1/2 t cumin
  • 1/2 t cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 t smoked paprika (optional, but highly recommended)


  • Blend beans and lemon juice until smooth
  • Add jalapeños (seeds too), spices and cilantro
  • Process until smooth, green and spicy!
  • Enjoy with tortilla chips.
Holy not-guacamole!
This dip would be perfect for a tailgate party or summer picnic.  The white beans are a little creamier when they are processed than chickpeas are.  Feel free to adjust the spice as you see fit.  I didn't think this was too hot at all, even with all of the jalapeño seeds.  Warning - if you like chips and dip like I do, this will not last long in your fridge.  Next time I'm just going to make a double batch right away.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mango 'nana white chocolate breakfast bars

Breakfast is an ongoing issue in my house.  It's not that I don't like breakfast foods, I just don't generally have time to prepare and sit down to eat a meal.  It's usually consumed as I'm straightening my hair, applying mascara, or while driving to school (I'm a good driver, don't worry).  The fact is, there just aren't enough hours in the day to be a grad student, get a good night's sleep, and sit down for 3 meals.  Multi tasking people.  That's where it's at.

To remedy this issue (and prevent myself from eating cold pizza in the car) I've started making things in the beginning of the week that I can grab and go for the next few days.  Usually it's something like granola bars, muffins, quick bread, or scrambled egg "muffins".  I live for the weekends when I can make a pot of steel cut oats, or pancakes. 

Last night as I pulled out my ingredients to make granola bars I decided to try something new.  I'm all about my usual peanut butter, pumpkin, cinnamon or chocolate, but buried in my fruit drawer I saw a mango.  Could I put mango in granola bars?  You bet your bottom I could!  These granola bars are absolutely divine.  The whole grains, protein and healthy fats will keep you full for at least a few hours - which is key for me!  They also make a great snack.

Mango 'nana white chocolate breakfast bars

  • 1 1/2 c rolled oats
  • 1/2 c spelt flour (or any flour of your choice - but spelt is great!)
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 T chia seeds
  • 1 scoop (1/8 c) vanilla protein powder
  • 1 banana (mashed)
  • 1/2  vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1 mango, cut into small bite size pieces
  • 1/3 c white chocolate chips

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Mix dry ingredients (oats through protein powder) in a large bowl
  • Mix wet ingredients (banana through milk) in a small bowl
  • Add wet to dry and mix well.  I used a wooden spoon.  It takes a little muscle to get everything incorporated, but you want a very thick batter to make the granola bars. 
  • Stir in mango chunks and white chocolate
  • Spread into 8x8 inch pan that's been sprayed with non stick cooking spray
  • Bake 20 minutes
  • Cool, and cut into 9 squares

This spur of the moment baking adventure turned into the best "run out the door" breakfast I've had in a long time.  If you like coconut (I don't, sorry) that would probably be a good addition to these bars.  If you don't they are perfect as is.  Enjoy with your very large thermos of coffee!

Question of the day -

What's your favorite breakfast on the go?

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Perfect chocolate cake part 2

I suppose it's about time I told how to frost that cake we baked yesterday.
I was trying to decide between a combination of chocolate with peanut butter, or chocolate with coffee.  Now don't get me wrong, I love me some Reese's, that's for sure.  But I baked this on Sunday as I was drinking a homemade latte, so I was feeling the coffee buzz.  Coffee has a way of bringing out the chocolate flavor (as if it was subtle and needed to be brought out more).  It ended up being ah-mazing.  Like so good I just wanted to keep it home and eat it myself with my hands...  Yeah, it's that good.  Enough teasing.  Here's the recipe so you can go make it for yourself.

Mocha filling

  • 1/2 c good chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli)
  • 1/2 c 2% milk
  • 1 T instant coffee granules
  • 3/4 c powdered sugar
  • 6 T unsalted butter (room temp)
  • 1 t vanilla extract

  • Heat choc chips, milk and coffee granules in saucepan over medium heat until chocolate is melted
  • Remove from heat and put in the fridge 20 minutes 

  • Cream softened butter in mixer until light and fluffy, add powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until combined.
  • Add in cooled chocolate mixture
  • Beat on high until smooth and creamy

Now for the frosting.  

Chocolate buttercream

  • 1/4 c butter (room temp)
  • 1/4 c non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
  • 3/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 1/4 c powdered sugar
  • 6 T milk
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • Beat butter and shortening in mixer until light and fluffy
  • Add cocoa powder, mix 2-3 more minutes until smooth 

  • Add powdered sugar 1/3 c at a time, adding 1/2 T milk after every addition.
  • After all of the powdered sugar is added, mix in vanilla extract
  • Beat on high 3-4 more minutes until frosting is whipped

Now for the cake assembly - 

First, you want to level off your cakes with a large serrated knife if they are not flat.
Then I take 4 2-inch strips of wax paper and place them around the edges of the cake stand.  This will keep any mess off of the stand, and when you're all done you just remove the paper and have clean edges.

Next, I take a small dab of frosting and put in the middle of the stand to prevent the cake from slipping.
wax paper edges, and frosting center
Now put one layer of your cake down.  The wax paper should be under the edges of the cake.
Fill a piping bag with your mocha filling.
Never fill the bag more that 2/3 of the way.  If you do, things will get messy quick!  Now snip the end of the bag, about 1/2 inch up.  Pipe a ring around the edge of the cake.  This is making a "dam" for the filling so it doesn't ooze over the edges.  Fill in the dam with the rest of your filling.
Use a butter knife to smooth the filling.
Place your next cake layer on top carefully.
Now take a small amount of your chocolate buttercream and spread it over the top of the cake.  This is your "crumb coat".  Put the cake in the fridge for 30 minutes so the crumb coat hardens.  This will prevent any crumbs from getting through your final layer of frosting.
it doesn't have to be pretty
After it is chilled, take the frosting and spread it around the edges with an offset spatula (a butter knife will probably work too)
Then spread the rest of the frosting on the top and smooth it with a spatula.

Now that your cake is covered, take a buttered knife or offset spatula and drag it through the frosting lightly to create a "painted" rustic texture.
Do this all over the top and sides.  Remove the wax paper strips carefully and marvel at your beautiful work.  
You don't have to tell anyone how easy it was.  I l-o-v-e the rustic texture.  It looks homemade, yet professional all at the same time.  

So this is the third wedding cake I made in my trials.  The second cake can be seen here.  The verdict?  The first cake was much more complex in ingredients and technique.  It was good.  This cake looks hard, but it's so easy to make.  The cake is moist and chocolatey.  Honestly, I'd make AND eat this cake over the second one any day.  I will definitely make the second one again, with a few modifications.  The thing is, I don't really want to be super stressed about this a few days before my wedding.  I don't really see the need in making something more complicated, when this one comes out perfect every time.  As far as the first cake goes, that one was also phenomenal.  I'm not sure if I'll pick the chocolate or vanilla-almond with raspberry.  You'll have to wait and see what I decide to do.  I'll be sure to recap in 2 short months!

Question of the day -

What do you think about non-traditional wedding cakes?

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Monday, March 26, 2012

running ruts and the perfect [wedding] chocolate cake - Part 1B

Happy Monday!  I hope you had a good start to your week.  So far, my day has been pretty great, including finally feeling like I'm getting out of a running rut.  A few months ago I started a pretty intense weight lifting program.  I normally like lifting weights, so I thought this trainer would be a good way for me to increase my strength and give my legs a rest from the treadmill.  I love running outside, but I tend to get really bored running in place for more than 20 minutes.  Well, after finishing my strength program, I did feel stronger, but I was longing for a good long run.  The thing is, my legs didn't want to run as much as my brain did.  I felt slow and tired.  My endurance was basically shot.  So, I've been plugging along for the past 2 weeks, hoping that my legs would eventually remember how to move quicker.  Last week I started something new.  I would run my slow short run, as far as I thought I could go, stop and walk for 5 minutes, and then push myself to run 1 more mile at a fast pace.  The first time I did this I thought I might die, but each time I did it it got easier to run that last extra mile.  And then today, I didn't have to stop.  My legs didn't feel heavy, they wanted to keep going the whole time!  I'm not a fitness expert.  I don't know exactly what happened, but it worked.  Yay!

And on that note - here is a kick butt chocolate cake recipe.  This is the moistest chocolate cake ever.  I made a mocha filling for it, and covered it in chocolate buttercream.  The best part (besides the fact that it is a definite wedding cake contender), is that it's so easy!  You can make the cake in 1 bowl.  The filling is a little fancier, but still super doable.  This cake would be perfect for your sister's birthday, it would be divine for an early summer picnic, and it would totally cure any chocolate craving you are having.
Perfect Chocolate Cake
(adapted from a Hershey's chocolate cake recipe that I have written down from my mom - #olderthandirt )

  • 1 c white sugar
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 1 3/4 c AP flour
  • 1 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1 1/2 t baking soda
  • 3/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 t instant coffee granules
  • 1 t sea salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c milk
  • 1 c boiling water
  • 1/2 c canola oil
  • 2 t vanilla extract

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and prepare cake pans.  I use 2 8 inch rounds, sprayed, parchment, and sprayed again.
-Mix together dry ingredients (everything through sea salt) in large bowl
kitchen aid totally not necessary - you can make this cake by hand with a fork
-Add the wet ingredients (everything else) and stir until everything is well incorporated.  This batter will be very runny.  It's okay.
-Pour batter into prepared rounds and bake 30 minutes (or until toothpick comes out clean)
how easy was that!?!?!
-Remove from oven and let cool in pans 10 minutes before carefully removing and placing on cooling racks.  The cake is not extremely sturdy, so you want to be careful when you flip your pan over so the cake doesn't crack.

If you make the cake in advance, wrap it in saran wrap and put it in the fridge or freezer for up to 1 week.

Stay tuned to part 2 - and my wedding cake decision!!!

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

sunday funday and {vegan} french toast

Hello friends.  I hope you all are having a great relaxing weekend.  Over here in our neck of the woods we spent the morning fixing up the outside of our house that the previous tenants hadn't touched ever.  One side doesn't get much sun, so the dirt is really hard and it's completely overgrown.  We're going to have to tackle that later with larger tools than a hand trowel.  We were able to plant some bulbs in front and some potted flowers and herbs.  Once we can tackle the harder spots we're going to try to do some vegetables too.  It's so nice to have an actual yard that we can work with, and not just an apartment balcony.  (I'll probably regret that statement when we have to start mowing the grass every week).

Anyhow, I made this riff of french toast yesterday when I was in the mood for something a little different than my usual oatmeal.  My mom will probably be upset with me that I ruined what is normally her signature breakfast (sorry Mom).  Sidenote: Momma T makes the best french toast ever!  It's full of butter and sugar and cinnamon and all kinds of wonderfulness.  I however, can never recreate her french toast (she says the secret is in my grandma's ancient skillet) so rather than have second rate french toast, I just made something completely different.  This version of french toast does not use the normal egg and milk to dip the bread in.  Instead it uses one of my all time favorite ingredients - bananas!  The end flavor has just a slight banana-ness to it, but it isn't at all overwhelming.  All in all, it wasn't momma's, but it was delicious.

{Vegan} french toast

  • 1 medium sized banana (mine was previously frozen and dethawed)
  • 1/4 c powdered peanut butter (PB2) (optional, but highly recommended)
  • 1/8 c chia seeds
  • 1 c milk of your choice (I used almond milk)
  • 4 slices bread
  • 1 t vanilla extract
a homemade vanilla latte also always a good idea


  • Thaw your banana (if necessary) and mash it in a shallow bowl
  • Add the rest of the ingredients to mashed banana and whisk until well combined.  The mixture should form a thin batter.  Add more milk if necessary

  • Dip each piece of bread into the batter and cover completely, use a fork to scrape any "clumps" of banana/chia seed off that may have formed

  • Place coated bread on hot skillet that has been sprayed with cooking spray (medium heat)

  • Cook 3-4 minutes on each side.  The banana will start to caramelize and the chia seeds will start to toast.
  • Serve with a pad of butter/margarine and maple syrup

  • Dig in!!!!
I love how the banana gets a little caramelized, the chia seeds get nice and toasty, and there is a slight hint to peanut butter flavor.  What a great way to start your weekend (or random Tuesday :)  )

Question of the day:

What's your favorite breakfast from growing up?

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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Grilled pizza

I've been wanting to make grilled pizza ever since I found a pizza crust that I love.  I had attempted grilling pizza before but it turned into a burnt, doughy, mess and my grill was not very happy with me.  I've been watching youtube videos and reading all kinds of articles to try to get the technique down.  Tonight I decided was as good a night as any to conquer this grilling feat.  I made my dough, chop chop chopped veggies for toppings, shredded my cheese, preheated the grill, and what do you know?  It worked!  And it was incredible!  #neverorderingpizzaagain

pizza + sunshine = happy annie
Steps to great grilled pizza -
-First make your dough
-Then get your toppings together.  The biggest part to making grilled pizza is being organized.  I chopped all of my veggies, shredded my cheese, and put it all in bowls out by the grill so that I had everything right there when it was time to go.
     ---Also, if you can, shred your own cheese 
-While you're at it, light the grill and heat it to high (you may need to remove a birds' nest from it as well, if the birds in your neighborhood are like ours)
-Now, your dough should be ready.  Take a handful of the dough, roll it into a ball, and roll it out into a circle, about 1/4 inch thick.  We made 2 smaller and 2 larger pizzas and the smaller ones were so much easier to handle on the grill.
not perfect rustic pizza
-Brush the top liberally with olive oil, this helps it not stick to the grill
-Now sprinkle it with sea salt (optional, but highly recommended)
-Stack your rolled out pizza dough between wax paper on a plate
-Now make sure you have everything you need outside, ready to go.  
-Your grill should be hot, make sure the grates are brushed off and clean, have your toppings close by,               you'll need a large metal spatula to flip the pizza, cooking spray, a bowl with olive oil and basting brush, and a pan to put the pizza on when it's done (check, check, and check!)
-Spray the grill with cooking spray, don't want anything sticking
-Now, place your dough, oil side down, on the grill

note: these were our large doughs, they were harder to work with, make them smaller than this
-Keep the grill cover open and let them cook 2-3 minutes on this side.  Keep a close eye on them because you don't want them to burn.  The dough will start to form bubbles on top when it's close to being done. 
-Meanwhile, use a basting brush to coat the other side with olive oil
-When the bottom has turned a nice golden brown, use a large spatula to remove the dough, flip it over onto the not cooked side onto the top rack

these went from beatiful golden to charred in 20 seconds, lesson learned
 -Now work quickly to put your sauce, cheese and toppings on.  We did chunky tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and asiago, thinly sliced zucchini, salami, tomatoes, and red onions.
 note: the toppings you choose should be pre cooked - or fast cooking, you're basically only melting the  cheese and cooking the dough in a few short minutes

-Now leave them on this rack and close the cover for 2-3 minutes to help the cheese start to melt
-Once it starts melting, move the pizza back down the bottom and cook 1-2 more minutes until the dough is nice and golden brown
-Remove from grill and serve!

texas shaped pizza?
Tip:  if your pizza is sticking it could be that you didn't clean or grease your grill enough, or you need to turn the heat up - each side should take less than 5 minutes.  Also, if you're crust is done but your cheese is not melted, you could put them in a 250 degree oven for a few minutes to melt it a little better.

Hello new favorite summer meal! 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Fun Facts Friday

1.  Last night I made chicken and mushrooms for dinner and it was so good.  I L-O-V-E mushrooms and could have probably just eaten the mushrooms and bread, and been a happy camper.  Sometimes a few simple ingredients can make the best meals.

2.  I am so proud of my Badger b-ball team.  Last night's loss was heartbreaking, but they hung in there and it was a great game to watch.  Until my cable and internet went out with 30 seconds left and they were down by 1.  I yelled some obscenities at the tv, then grabbed my phone and used my very slow phone internet to catch the last few seconds on game cast.  Probably better that I didn't have to actually see their sad dissapointed faces.

3.  I finally found the bike path in town.  It's a mile long.  Woo hoo!  Running up and down a few times is better than running on the gravel on the side of the highway though    #dangerous

4.  This weekend I'm pumped to go see The Hunger Games.  I've heard really good things about it so far. I'm going into it expecting to be disappointed though.  This is my technique to ensure that I will like blockbuster films.  When I expect them to be great they never quite live up to my expectations, but when I don't anticipate anything I'm usually pleasantly surprised.  Please tell me this isn't a bad philosophy.

5.  Tonight I'm going to attempt to make grilled pizza.  I tried and failed at this once before, but I'm hoping that the 20 or so different articles and videos I've looked at online have given me some insight into this art form.  I'll be sure to share if it turns out delicious.

6.  I've been itching to go to the driving range since the weather got so nice a week ago.  I'm determined to become a better golfer this summer.

7.  I watched the pilot to Missing the other night and I think I'm hooked.  I really like Ashley Judd, and this show is really intense.  It seems like more of a movie plot, so I'm interested to see how they make it into a full tv series.

8.  I've had this song in my head for a week now.  Please help.  Or at least tell me I'm not the only one who used to love this - "I stole your honey like I stole your bike"

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sprinkles and squirrels

Image from Red Bubble
I've alluded to it a few times, but I think it's about time I told you all why I am afraid of squirrels.  If you don't really care to hear, there is a killer cupcake recipe at the bottom of this post you can just skip to, but it's a good story - promise.

Two years ago I lived in a third story flat in downtown Madison.  One day I decided to whip a batch of yummy chai cupcakes for my roommates.  Everybody absolutely loved them. Note to self- make those again soon!  Anyhow, I put them in a tupperware container on our kitchen table for storage.  Well, the next day I came home from class, walked into the kitchen, and there was a squirrel that was halfway through a hole in the screen of our window.  I dropped my backpack, screamed bloody murder, and he ran away.  Oh my gosh!  A squirrel.  In our apartment.  Ahhhhh!!!!  After several minutes of freaking out, I realized I should probably close the window so he couldn't get back in.  I thought maybe the hole was there before or something.  It was a very old house after all.  So I opened the window next to it, that had no holes in the screen and promptly called the landlord (who seemed less than concerned).  The next day, there were still some cupcakes left.  I went to class again.  Came home again.  Only this time when I walked in there was a giant hole through the other screen, the tupperware container previously full of cupcakes was flipped on its side with the top on the floor.  Cupcake wrappers were in shreds everywhere, frosting was everywhere (including on the screen).  They had demolished everything!!!!  As if my neighbors didn't already think something was going on upstairs, I screamed, louder this time.  There was no squirrel in sight, was is it still in the apartment?  I was home alone.  Freaking out.  I called Josh and explained what happened in a very frantic somewhat crazy tone.  He burst out laughing.  At this point I was crying.  What was so funny about this situation?  There are squirrels, in my apartment, and they ate my cupcakes!!!!!!  I insisted that he come over right away and make sure that they were gone.  He thought I was ridiculous, but he quickly realized that I was not kidding.  He came, no more squirrels, and no more delicious chai cupcakes.  So the moral of the story - squirrels like cupcakes, and will break into your third floor apartment to get them.  Beware!

Now you know.

I promise, that story is no exaggeration.  I still have nightmares thinking about it.

I'm not sure if squirrels like sprinkles as much as they like chai, but I closed the windows last night after I made these, just to be safe.

Better than boxed funfetti cupcakes
adapted from
Ingredients (for 12 cupcakes)
  • 1 1/4 c unbleached AP flour
  • 1 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 1/2 c room temp butter
  • 1 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • 1 egg  + 1 egg white
  • 1/2 c minus 2 T milk
  • 2 T vanilla creamer
  • 2 T rainbow sprinkles
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees
-Line cupcake tin with liners
-Mix together flour, bp and salt in medium bowl 
-Cream butter and sugar together in mixer until light and fluffy
-Add in vanilla and egg + egg white, mix well
-Pour milk into glass measuring cup to almost 1/2 c mark, fill the rest up with creamer (this is not 100% necessary, but gives a little richness to the cupcake)
-To stand mixer, add 1/3 of dry ingredients, mix, then half of the wet ingredients, mix 
-Do this twice, ending with dry ingredients, until everything is incorporated.  Try not to over mix this.

-Stir in sprinkles 
-Use an ice cream scoop, measuring cup, or spoon to fill cupcake liners 2/3 full
-Put in preheated oven, bake for 17 minutes, or until toothpick tester comes out clean
-Let sit in the tin for 5 minutes, then remove and let cool on a rack

For the frosting - ingredients
  • 1/4 c room temp unsalted butter (don't use salted, it will be nasty)
  • 1/4 c non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
  • 1 3/4 c powdered sugar
  • 1/8 c milk
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • food coloring (optional)

-Cream together butter and shortening in stand mixer 
-Scrape down bowl, add powdered sugar, mix on high 5 minutes
-Add milk and vanilla, put on whisk attachment, whisk on high about 7 minutes (do it! just walk away from the mixer and leave it alone, this makes it nice and fluffy)
-Now add food coloring if desired.  I recommend using Wilton Gels.  You don't need to use much to get a nice vibrant color.  I used a toothpick to get a little dye, and just swirled it through the frosting.  
-Mix on high until the color is solid
careful not to get it on you, it will stain
-Frost however you desire.  I filled a piping bag
-Then I cut a large hole in the bottom (about an inch from the tip)
-Then I just squeezed a "dollop" onto each cupcake, and spread it out with a knife
-Then I added a few sprinkles for good measure
-Now sing happy birthday, happy thursday, happy donewithacrappydayatwork, or happy spring - whatever you are celebrating!

Warning: keep away from squirrels

What's Annie Making?: March 2012

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