Fruit Salad with Poppyseed Dressing

There is nothing I hate more than moving.  Not law school exams.  Not decaf coffee.  Not even tourists in the city, and if you’ve spent more than five minutes with me you know how much I hate them.  I mean, why do you have to take a picture of a brick wall?  It’s not a city landmark.  It’s literally just a wall that some drunk guy probably peed on last weekend.

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Tourists, I am so over you.

Anyway, moving is the top.  The top of awful things.  The awful-est, if you will.  The problem is I have all the baseline fears for moving – something will get damaged, you forget some all-important item, someone gets their hand smashed under a heavy dresser – but then I get the more irrational fears like my key that I know opens the door will magically stop working or my apartment has somehow become overrun by woodland creatures.

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Ugh.  Moving is the worst.

You’re probably wondering what prompted this sudden meditation on moving.  Well, I moved into my new apartment on Sunday.  And, just like every other time I move and angst, it went perfectly.  My key worked.  The apartment was critter free.  You see, that’s the thing about worrying – usually it’s all for nothing!

I’m going to save you all from a common worry – what to make for dinner.  This salad is perfection, guys.  It’s a cinch to make and combines some of summer’s best produce.  Perfection.

Fruit Salad with Poppyseed Dressing

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Ingredients:

2 heads of romaine lettuce, chopped

1 apple, cored and diced

1 peach, pitted and diced

1 cup strawberries, hulled and sliced

poppyseed dressing

Directions

Combine all ingredients.  Divide evenly between four bowls and serve!

Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes

These cupcakes were a comedy of errors – or at least the frosting was.  I couldn’t understand why my cream cheese frosting wasn’t setting up like it should, until I realized that I bought cream cheese spread instead of actual cream cheese.

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It was a total rookie move, and I was rrreeeallyyy concerned that I’d be bringing unfrosted cupcakes – aka muffins – to this birthday party.  Thankfully, I was able to just beef it up with some extra powdered sugar and it was sturdy enough for me to plop a bit on top of each cupcake.  I was worried it would interfere with the flavor of the cupcake, but I think the fact that one of my friends at three means that it did no such thing.  People can just eat one to be polite.  But three?  Nope, that’s true cupcake love.

I really liked these cupcakes because they’re so unique.  I don’t make cupcakes often, but this summer I’ve been commissioned to bring them to a couple parties.  I an effort to keep my kitchen exciting, I’ve been trying to find different cupcake recipes.  No boring cupcakes allowed!  These are vanilla cupcakes studded with strawberries that have a sweet-tart lemonade syrup put directly into the cake.  It’s topped with a smooth strawberry cream cheese frosting that will make even the most virtuous baker licking the bowl.  As you can see, these cupcakes are anything but boring.

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On a cupcake note, these are from Annie’s Eats and I highly recommend any cupcake novices – or any cupcake bakers – to check out Annie’s site for cupcake recipes.  She has a really diverse selection and her instructions are very clear and easy to follow.  There’s nothing worse than trying to tackle a difficult recipe with confusing instructions, and you never have that problem there!

Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes

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Ingredients

For the cake:

2 1/4 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp salt

2 tsp lemon zest

12 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

3/4 cup milk

2 cups fresh strawberries, chopped

For the lemonade syrup:

1 cup lemonade concentrate, thawed

3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

For the frosting:

1 cup fresh strawberries, roughly chopped

12 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature

18 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

3 tsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

For the cupcakes:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line a cupcake pan with paper liners.

In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest.  Next, cream the butter with a mixer.  Add the sugar and beat until well combined.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides when necessary.  Add half the flour mixture and mix.  Add the milk, mix, and then add the remaining flour mixture and combine.  Fold in the strawberries with a spatula.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean.  Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan and then completely on a wire rack.

For the lemonade syrup:

Whisk together the thawed lemonade concentrate and powdered sugar.  Once the cupcakes have cooled, poke several holes in them.  Pour the syrup over them carefully.  You might want to have wax paper or something under the rack so that you don’t make a mess here!

If you are making these over two days – stop at this step.

For the frosting:

Puree the strawberries in a food processor or blender.  Strain them through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds.  In a bowl, beat together the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy, about five minutes.  Add the powdered mixture and mix until smooth.  Mix in the lemon juice and vanilla extract.  Lastly, mix in the strawberry puree, one tablespoon at a time, until you get the frosting consistency you want.  For me, it was about 3-4 tablespoons.  But, it all depends on how thick or thin you want your frosting.

Source:  Annie’s Eats aka my cupcake guru

Homestyle Turkey Chili

I’ve blogged about this chili before, but it is too darn good to only talk about once.  And there’s a reason for the reblog!  While I’ve been home I’ve been trying to cook for my family on the days when I don’t work.  I figure my mom cooked for all of my childhood – and still does – so I can pick up a few stray days here and there!  I’ve been trying to make new recipes that I could put on here, but last week we had some unseasonably cool summer days and I could not resist cooking up a nice batch of chili.

Spoiler alert – they loved it.  My dad didn’t add salt – which is pretty much the biggest compliment you can get from him that is food related – and my brother had two servings.  It was a rousing success and they’re already asking when I’ll make it next.

The thing that I really love about this chili is that it is boozy.  I mean it.  The chili has nearly one and a half cups of red wine in it.  While the alcohol obviously cooks out it does leave a really complex flavor that I find other chilis lack.  The leftovers are also amazing, which is always something I like when I’m cooking!  Like any other chili, it gets better after it’s sat for a few days.  So, cook up a big pot one weekend and enjoy delicious meals for the rest of the week!

Homestyle Turkey Chili

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Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 red pepper, chopped

8 cloves of garlic, minced

1 lb ground turkey

2 tbsp chili powder

1 tbsp cumin

1 tsp oregano

3 tbsp tomato paste

2 tbsp brown sugar

2 large cans crushed tomatoes

1 1/4 cups red wine (merlot works really well)

2 cans chickpeas (you can use another bean if you like, but I really love how chickpeas don’t get mushy)

Directions

Heat the oil in a large stock pot.  Add the onion, pepper, and garlic, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the turkey and cook until it is browned, about seven minutes.  Add the chili powder, cumin, oregano, brown sugar, and tomato paste, and give everything a good stir.  Cook for another few minutes, stirring constantly.

Pour in the red wine, crushed tomatoes, and beans.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Cook the chili covered for an hour, stirring occasionally.

Remove the lid and simmer for another thirty minutes.

Serve over elbow macaroni or with oyster crackers!

Source:  Loosely adapted from Eat, Live, Run

 

Best-Ever Chocolate Nutella Layer Cake

I hope you all had a wonderful Fourth of July weekend!  I spent the majority of mine on the couch watching AMC’s Dead, White, and Blue The Walking Dead marathon, which was absolutely lovely.  I mean, what’s more patriotic than Daryl Dixon?  I’ll tell you, not much.

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Funny side story about The Walking Dead.  I first started watching it two years ago after a very, very bad sinus infection that basically left me comatose for a weekend.  I absolutely devoured the first season.  I think I finished it off in a day or something.  It took me a bit longer to catch up on the rest, but throughout my binge watching I kept having zombie attack dreams.  It’s weird because usually I don’t dream about what I’m watching or reading, but something about the show just took over my dreams completely.

In case you were curious, I was a total BAMF in all of my zombie dreams.  I think the highlight was when I scrambled ones brain in my bathroom with a pen.  It wasn’t some nondescript ballpoint pen, by the way.  It was a turquoise astronaut pen with a little whale on the side that I actually own.  Sadly it was ruined in my backpack a few months back, which I’ve taken to mean that if the zombie apocalypse happens I’m screwed.

So, let’s talk about this cake.  It has nothing to do with zombies, but everything to do with just about everything else.  I baked it for my birthday a few weeks back and it was a huge hit with the family.  Dark chocolate cake is layered with the most delicious sour-cream nutella frosting.  I should warn you that this cake is a bit labor intensive when you’re assembling it, but it’s worth it.  If you want to make this I highly recommend looking at the original for decorating tips.  She had this adorable little piping around the top of the cake, but I ended up frosting this when company was over so I didn’t want to spend too much time avoiding conversation with my face in a cake.

Best-Ever Chocolate Nutella Layer Cake

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Ingredients:

For the Cake:

2 1/4 cups flour

2 1/3 cups superfine sugar

3/4 cup dark cocoa powder

2 1/2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 1/4 cup buttermilk

3/4 cup brewed coffee

2/3 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs, room temperature

1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

For the Frosting:

4 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup Nutella

3/4 cup full-fat sour cream

11 ounces dark chocolate, melted

1 tbsp vanilla extract

pinch of salt

Directions:

For the Cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare three 7-inch round cake pans with nonstick spray and parchment rounds.  In a bowl mix together all the dry ingredients, including the sugar, and set aside.  Combine the eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil, and vanilla and beat lightly with a fork.

Mix the dry and wet ingredients together and then divide evenly between the cake pans.  Bake the first two layer cakes for 20 minutes, rotate the pans, and then bake for another 5 minutes until a toothpick comes out almost clean from the center of the cake.  Cool the cakes on a wire rack for twenty minutes.  Remain with the remaining layer.  Invert cakes onto racks to cool completely.

For the Chocolate Frosting:

Mix all ingredients in a food processor.  Refrigerate the frosting until it thickens slightly, about 15 minutes.

Assembly

Frost the cake in three stages, letting the frosting set for fifteen minutes in between each layer.  At the end sprinkle the chocolate sprinkles on top.  Let the cake sit out for ten or fifteen minutes before serving so the frosting can soften up a bit.

Source:  Sweetapolita

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

I feel like whenever I transport cupcakes it’s shades of what I will be like as a parent.  I strap them in the backseat.  I take turns slower and whenever I stop suddenly I glance back to make sure everyone’s okay.  I’m telling you guys, driving cupcakes to parties is fantastic training for whenever I become a mother.  I’ll be like, After all the cupcakes I’ve driven to parties and school…I’ve got this traveling with kids thing down pat.

I baked these cupcakes for a close friend’s graduation party and was immediately hit with the dilemma of how to get them there in one piece.  Usually I buy two of those big disposable party trays – the aluminum foil ones – and put the cupcakes in there.  But I was running a little behind, meaning I decided to do all of this in one day and forgot to buy the trays, so I was in a bit of a pickle.  Luckily it was just my mom’s birthday and my brother and I got her a big Vera Bradley purse which just so happened to come in a nice big Vera Bradley box.

The box worked perfectly and the cupcakes made it unscathed to the party!  One of my favorite parts of these cupcakes is that there is actual eggless cookie dough in the middle.  It was so much fun to watch people bite into the cupcake and go, Is this cookie dough?!  And I, of course, would interject by telling them that it was eggless and therefore they would not be praying at the porcelain alter later that night. Because I care.

While these are pretty involved cupcakes, it’s really not that bad if you break up the work.  I would really recommend making the cupcakes the day before and leave the assembly for the day of the party.  I know I would have felt much less rushed if I did that.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

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Ingredients:

For the cupcakes:

3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups light brown sugar

4 eggs

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup milk

2 tsp.  vanilla extract

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

For the filling:

4 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature

6 tbsp. light brown sugar, packed

1 cup plus 2 tbsp. all purpose flour

7 oz. sweetened condensed milk

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

For the frosting:

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup light brown sugar

2 1/3 cup flour

1/2 tsp sat

2/ tbsp milk

2 tsp vanilla extract

For garnish:

mini chocolate chips

tiny chocolate chip cookies

Directions:

For the cupcakes:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two 12-count cupcake pans with liners.  In a bowl, mix together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, around 3 minutes.  Mix the eggs in one at a time.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sat.  Alternate mixing in the flour mixture and milk into the bowl, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Blend in the vanilla.  Fold in the chocolate chips with a spatula.

Pour the batter evenly in the prepared cupcake liners and bake for 18-20 minutes.  When the cupcakes are finished baking a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean.  Allow the cupcakes to cool for 5-10 minutes in the pan.  Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the filling:

Cream the butter and sugar together with a mixer.  Beat in everything but the chocolate chips until incorporated and smooth.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Let the dough chill and firm up a bit in the refrigerator for about an hour.

When you are ready to fill the cupcakes, use a small paring knife to carve out a small cone shaped bit of cupcake from the center.  Fill the cavities in the cupcakes with a chunk of the chilled cookie dough mixture.

For the frosting:

Beat together the butter and brown sugar in a bowl until creamy.  Mix in the confectioner’s sugar until smooth.  Beat in the flour and salt.  Lastly, add the milk and vanilla extra and mix until smooth and well blended.

Frost the cupcakes and top with a sprinkle of mini chocolate chips and the mini chocolate chip cookies.

Source:  Annie’s Eats

Siblings

You all may not know this but I have a brother, and in my humble and completely unbiased opinion, I think he’s the best.  I mean, sure, your brother is probably pretty cool, but mine sends me random mock-up photos of Arthur the Aardvark with Supreme Court justices during finals for a laugh.

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He so gets me.

He’s been away from home for school for a good four years, but is back in Chicago for the summer.  Having him back home made me think about our relationship and how lucky I am to have such a great brother.

We’re close now, but it didn’t start out that way.  My mom tells me often that the worst day in my brother’s young life was when I learned how to pull myself up on a couch and could reach all his toys which he had moved to the couch to avoid my grubby little hands.  He lost his private play area then and life was never the same.

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I was definitely an annoying little sister.  When I think about it, I probably still am.  I constantly wanted his attention and crashed in on him playing with our neighbors more times than I count.  I also spilled holy water that my grandparents had gotten him from Lourdes, France all over the floor.  I don’t remember the circumstances of that particular instance, but I do remember the yelling afterwards.  I eventually grew on him, though,especially  when he learned that the best part of having a baby sister is teasing her.

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Over the years we went from being these siblings bothering each other to ones who genuinely rely on each other for advice and help.  He has been my biggest champion during this long, long journey known as law school, and I like to think I’ve been his, too.  He’s at law school over at University of Pennsylvania (which is an Ivy League, btw, he’s such a smartie), and I’ve called him more times than I can count seeking help on a certain problem I’ve encountered or advice about the job search.  Or that one time my car wouldn’t start the day before I was supposed to drive home from school and I called him in a panic because my knowledge of cars does not exceed driving them.

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I also get to hear him complain about University of Pennsylvania specific things, which will never, ever stop being funny.  At U of I, it’s just a completely different atmosphere.  I complain about undergrads crowding the Starbucks or people sleeping at tables in the library, and he complains about John Legend’s impromptu concert on campus interrupting his studying.

#IvyLeagueProblems

So, here’s to great siblings!  Tell me about yours!

Lemon Chicken Breasts

I love fresh herbs, but I hate spending three dollars on a pack of them where I only end up using about a quarter in a recipe and then the rest molds in the back of my refrigerator.  I’m not the type of person that thinks – oh, let me think of every way to use up this leftover rosemary!  I wish I was!  I’d be making all these fancy soaps and herb-scented everything, but I just don’t have time for that.  So, this summer I really wanted to work on getting my own little herb garden going.  That way, I only pick what I need and don’t waste a bunch of perfectly good herbs.

Last week Whole Foods had a sale on small potted herb plants and I picked up three.  I got myself thyme, rosemary, and parsley.  I was really excited about the rosemary because it’s one of my favorite herbs outside of my beloved basil.  I love the scent of rosemary and the earthiness it adds to dishes.  And, now that I have my own little pot, it was such a joy to just step into my backyard for the rosemary in this chicken dish!

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I implore all of you to try this out, even if you’re not big chicken fans.  I personally don’t love chicken – especially when I cook it – but I was looking for something quick and nutritious.  This takes about an hour to make, but you are only active for probably fifteen or twenty minutes.  After that you just pop the chicken in the oven, and you can do other things, like clean the kitchen or catch up on Vampire Diaries.  I may or may not have done the second.

Lemon Chicken Breasts

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Ingredients

1/4 cup of olive oil

9 cloves of garlic, minced

1/3 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

salt/pepper

4 chicken breasts

1 lemon, halved and cut into eight wedges

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Heat the oil in a medium sauté pan and add the garlic.  Cook just until fragrant, not letting it brown.  Remove from heat and add the wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, and rosemary.  Whisk to combine and then pour into a large baking dish.

Take the chicken breasts and generously season each side with salt and pepper.  Place in the baking dish and then tuck the lemon wedges in between the chicken breasts.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

Source:  Slightly adapted from Ina Garten

Bacon and Swiss Frittata

Hey guys.  I’m still here, despite there being radio silence for a good two weeks.  You see, I got in the habit of not posting during finals, and then after finals I was having so much fun doing nothing that I couldn’t bring myself to add a something.  But, work starts on Monday so my self-imposed vacation from all tasks requiring use of my brain is at an end.  I also will probably have to start wearing something other than old t-shirts and Target yoga pants.

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This is going to be an adjustment.

I’m entering the blogging world again with a simple recipe.  It’s partially because it’s the only meal left on my camera, but then a little bit because I’m not entirely sure I remember how to draft real recipes.  But, you all know that I never have anything bad to say about frittatas.  First, if I did my Italian grandma would have it in for me, but also, frittatas are just delicious.  They take less than twenty minutes and you have a perfectly delicious and portable meal.  I just love them.

This one uses up a lot of ingredients you probably already have in your refrigerator.  When I made mine I was trying to clean out my refrigerator.  You have to love meals like that!  Eggs are mixed with chopped bacon, swiss cheese, and a handful of spinach.  Served with a small salad on the side, or a piece of fruit, it is the perfect lunch.

Bacon and Swiss Frittata

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Ingredients:

5-6 slices of bacon, chopped

2-3 slices of swiss cheese, chopped

sprinkle of parmesan cheese

1 handful of spinach, cut into ribbons

6 eggs

splash of milk

salt/pepper

Directions:

Turn on the broiler.

Heat an oven safe sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add the bacon and cook until crispy.  Add the remaining ingredients, except for the parmesan cheese, and stir.  Let the eggs cook, 5-6 minutes.  When the bottom and edges are set, but the middle is still runny, sprinkle the parmesan on top and put the pan in the broiler.  Cook for another 10-15 minutes, until the top is browned and the eggs are set.  Let cool slightly and serve.

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I hope you all have a wonderful Friday!

 

I’m Baacccckkkk

It’s happened guys.  It’s FINALLY happened.

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I took my last exam this afternoon.

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And while I have no idea how I did on it, or any of them, it’s fine.

11 Overly Excited

So fine.

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Because as of 4:30 this afternoon I am officially finished with my second year of law school.  And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing deserving of over-animated gifs and an abundance of fragmented sentences.  Because, reasons.  So many reasons, guys.

I’m Still Here

Just wanted to let you all know I’m not dead.

Or, you know, stuck under a large bookcase.

It’s just finals time, where all sanity and notions of personal hygiene give way to studying and questioning your decision to pursue higher education.

So, I’m still here.  See you all in one week.