Monday, May 30, 2011

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake

A month or so ago when my family was talking about the BBQ we would have in celebration of Megan and I graduating this spring, I had a crazy idea... I wanted to make the cake for the event. Since our graduations were so close together, Megan and I agreed that we'd just have one BBQ for the both of us, instead of one for each. But graduation is no small event for either of us. Megan was born with a chromosomal abnormality and, when she was a baby, no one was even sure how long she'd live... her graduation from high school is a momentous feat. And of course, I've worked hard to get myself through college. So I decided that even if we couldn't each have our own special party, we at least each deserved our own special cake.

So, always eager to buy a new cookbook, I bought Sky High Cakes for inspiration. Together, Megan and I decided what cakes we would have for our BBQ... and I was not a bit surprised when Megan chose one covered in chocolate and peanut butter. This kid would eat a whole jar of peanut butter with a spoon if we let her.

And oh boy... did she pick a delicious cake.

Once we cut into the cakes there was no time to get photos of the individual slices... they went too fast! This cake was by far the favorite too, and there wasn't crumb left of it by the end of the night. This cake was downright sinful. The layers of cake were fudgy, and the creamy peanut butter frosting melted in your mouth like butter in the oven. And, even though I didn't think it was possible, the chocolate-peanut butter glaze took the sinful flavor of this to a whole 'nother level. It was rich and creamy, and chocolatey, and peanut buttery... and amazing

After they finished with a piece of this cake I had people trying to hire to make their birthday cakes for them! My grandmother thinks I ought to turn cake-baking into a side business... and someone even suggested that I should make my own wedding cake, haha! And to be honest, I don't need the encouragement, because I'd already thought of that myself. But that would be crazy, right? Who needs the stress of putting a cake together the day before her wedding? Right? :)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Pomp and Circumstance

Ooo, boy... what a busy couple of weeks! I apologize for the length between post, friends... I've just been way too busy!

It all started with graduation on May 14...

...which was a blast! It was a great last day with my RT classmates... plus I'm a little sentimental, so I always love a good ceremony. We've accomplished a lot, so a big celebration was definitely in order!

Then last Saturday my parents threw a huge BBQ for my sister and I, and I baked some epic cakes for the event. We spent the evening surrounded by family and friends, with easy BBQ food, beer, and badminton. Thanks to everyone who came and made our celebration successful and special!

I baked a peanut butter chocolate cake for Megan and a Pina Colada cake for myself... don't worry, recipes are coming very soon!

Then this week I began working full time, took (and passed!) the first of my board exams, and Megan graduated from high school!

That's Meggie on the left, with her friend, Katie.
It's been a very exciting couple of weeks! But unfortunately, it's left me very little time to cook... poor Dane has been living on frozen pizza and sandwiches all week and is practically begging for some real food! Now this weekend the boy and I are headed to Twin Falls to spend some time with his family and get a few more wedding details nailed down. So the fun continues! But don't worry... I'll be back very soon with more tasty recipes to share. :)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Pasta Primavera

I'm sure you're all probably sick of muffin recipes by now, but don't worry, I have the perfect recipe to offer in relief. You guys probably already know that I'm a sucker for pasta. I'm usually not a huge carb-oholic (unlike my sister) - I can easily pass up bread or rice, but put a plate of pasta in front of me and it's over. Especially if it's sinful fettuccine alfredo. But with all the healthy veggies and the light sauce in this dish, I didn't feel an ounce of guilt over eating it. Whole wheat noodles add nutrition and a light nutty texture, and all the veggies add a nice crunch as well as fresh, spring-time flavor. "Primavera" means "spring" in both Spanish and Italian, and the beautiful spring colors and flavors definitely help this dish live up to its name! I'm sad to say I hadn't eaten any asparagus yet this spring until I made this, and I loved having it in this dish. You could easily substitute green beans if you're not a fan of asparagus, but try it this way at least once... the boy claims to be an asparagus-hater but he ate every vegetable in this dish without complaint. This is definitely going on the favorites list... give it a try and I bet it will wind up on yours too!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Blueberry Streusel Muffins

Next on the menu for my Thank-You muffin marathon were these amazing blueberry streusel muffins. I felt like I needed a good tried-and-true flavor to go with some of the more adventurous flavors I had going with the other muffins, and these guys totally fit the bill. Even though they weren't the overall favorite everyone said they enjoyed them, and one of my professors (who claims to be a blueberry muffin connoisseur) apparently spent the day trying to talk everyone else into giving him theirs.

But even if you're not a blueberry muffin expert, everyone loves a good blueberry muffin. Soft and subtly sweet with a few sour pops of juicy blueberries... no one can resist a good one. But this is no ordinary blueberry muffin recipe, friends. This is quite possibly the blueberry muffin recipe. This muffin is moist and crumbly and chock full of blueberries, with just a light hint of lemon. I won't lie... it's less like a muffin and more like an individual lemon-blueberry pound cake. And oh boy is it comforting. Enjoy with a cold glass of milk, and you just might forget about that 3 o'clock deadline.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Apple-Pecan Muffins

Alright... recipe time! First on the docket from the Thank-You Muffin marathon: apple-pecan muffins. I'll be honest, guys, this was my least favorite of all the muffins I made for my professors. Don't get me wrong, these guys are still very tasty... they just kind of look like the runt of the litter next to super stars like blueberry streusel and peanut butter chocolate chip. Made with whole-wheat flour and more applesauce than oil, these muffins definitely fit into the better-for-you category too, which is part of why I chose to include them. The little chunks of apple together with the pecan topping add a very nice crunchy-chewy factor, and their dense texture makes these muffins the perfect mate to a small bowl of vanilla yogurt for breakfast. So if you're looking for a muffin that boasts both flavor and health, look no further. Step on up and try these this weekend!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Thank-You Muffins

Well friends, I have officially finished respiratory therapy school. Oh what am I saying... that sentence totally deserves an exclamation point. I've officially finished RT school, whoo hoo!!!

It's been a long hard road to get here. BSU's RT program is one of the toughest in the country, but also with one of the highest passing registry rates. What this really means: these professors put your brain through the ringer, feed you important information until don't think you mentally have room for it anymore, teach you concepts that you never think you'll be able to wrap your head around... but when it's all said and done 95% of BSU's students pass the written registry on their first try, and, more importantly, they graduate some of the most skilled and knowledgeable RT's in the country. I am proud to be among this year's graduates.

But along with mentally torturing their students, the professors of the BSU RT program are also some of the kindest, most generous people I've ever known. Each of them genuinely cares about the success of every student, and they will go to great lengths to ensure that each person understands the material. Their doors are always open, for a question or a conversation. They're fantastic examples of great clinicians and great people. And for that I feel I owe them the world.

So, as puny a gift as it seems in comparison to the tireless hours of work they've put into my success, I made each of them a little gift of muffins in gratitude. Of course, I couldn't make just one kind of muffin... you may remember the episode this last Christmas in which I made two different kinds of cookies and chocolate-covered pretzels, afterall. No, I made four different kinds of muffins. Overkill? Maybe. But the effort of one afternoon of baking and a messy kitchen pales in comparison to the hard work of my lovely professors. Plus, don't tell anyone... but it was kind of fun too. After a long semester of stress and burn out, it was nice to be able to spend a whole day in my kitchen guilt-free.

On the menu...

Apple-Pecan Muffins, from Ellie Krieger. A healthier option for those concerned with that kind of thing. (Expect to see a post with this recipe very soon.)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins, from Annie's Eats. Talk about yum! These lovely little treats taste more like a peanut butter cookie than a muffin! Good thing I've given most of the leftovers away, because I totally eat a whole batch by myself with a gallon of milk.

Blueberry Streusel Muffins, from Joy of Baking. These muffins are moist and crumbly, with a gratuitous amount of blueberries... perfect for breakfast or an afternoon snack. (Another post coming soon with this recipe too.)

And finally, Raspberry Muffins, again from Annie's Eats. Even though these guys were probably the least photogenic of the bunch, they were my favorite in terms of flavor. They're moist and subtly sweet, with big raspberry flavor. Annie's recipe features fleur de sel, but I used kosher salt instead since fleur de sel is just ridiculously expensive. I also left out the coarse sugar because I didn't have it, but I didn't feel like they were missing anything at all. This recipe will definitely be going in my back pocket for future muffin-requiring occasions!

I dropped off the muffins yesterday morning, and they got rave reviews! It sounds like favorites were the raspberry and peanut butter chocolate chip, although I have one professor who was apparently trying to steal everyone else's blueberry. I'm just glad everyone enjoyed them! I'm going to miss these people, and I hope they know just how much I appreciate everything they've done for us. 

Now on to graduation tomorrow! Whoo hoo!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Chorizo-Pepper Empanadas

Feliz Cinco de Mayo, mis amigos! I have to work this evening, so Dane and I celebrated this festive occasion last night. Can't let a little thing like work keep me from enjoying some good Mexican food and a cold Corona. :)

My favorite magazine subscription is to Better Homes and Gardens, and when I flipped through the food section and saw this recipe I immediately ripped it out and put it on the menu for this week. It's not traditional by any means - I'm sure puff pastry is not something you'll easily find in Mexico, after all - but it is a fantastic twist on an old idea. These little hand pies are simply scrumptious, and would make a perfect appetizer for a Mexican-themed party since they're just irresistibly pop-able. For Dane and I though, we just ate a few with some chips and fresh salsa on the side, and they made a great meal! The puff pastry provides a wonderful, flaky crust that just melts in your mouth, while the filling is amazingly flavorful and complex, with a lovely little kick. Mexican chorizo can be overwhelming if not paired well, but cooking it down with other flavors really mellows it out and brings out its flavor without going overboard. We have a little bit of the filling left over, and I'm definitely seeing some breakfast burritos in our future, too.

Give this a try and you'll see why... I'll definitely be making these again!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Szechwan Beef Stir Fry

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you've probably realized that I love a good stir fry recipe. Just like soup, the possibilities seem endless... there's so much potential in the simple combination of meat and vegetables mixed with a flavorful sauce over rice. Stir fry recipes also fulfill two very important requirements for me during the busy school week - they're usually quick, and almost always healthy. And, especially in this case, they're usually damn tasty.

You've also likely figured out by now that Dane can be a picky eater. He's usually willing to at least try something he's not sure he'll like, but he and I don't always agree on what counts as the most delicious meal ever. This was one new recipe that he absolutely loved. No having to talk him into this one - he loved it at first bite. And for good reason! The sweet but complex flavors in the sauce - thank you hoisin! - make this a truly remarkable dish. Plus I think he just loved that I cooked something with beef for a change. :)

Since we like to take leftovers for lunch the next day, I found that the original recipe didn't make quite enough for us. So, the proportions I've listed in my rendition of the recipe are doubled, but you could easily halve them again if you find this is too much for you. But if you love this recipe as much as Dane and I do, you'll appreciate the extra portions.
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