Birthday Cake Truffles

Our friend Dave turned 30 this week. We celebrated over the weekend with beers, pizza and other fun (including owning the jukebox) at one of his favorite bars, Map Room, and are going to be heading down to Cincinnati soon for some more fun.

a few of us out this weekend

a few of us out this weekend

Since there will be a few of us making the trip to Cincinnati, I decided to bake some goodies to bring along the way. And since it’s his birthday, what better excuse to make birthday cake balls, or birthday cake truffles (which sounds way classier than balls).

If you have a birthday coming up – or just want to enjoy some cake batter balls yourself – I highly recommend you make these. They are awesome. They taste like cake batter. And have no eggs. Seriously –  if you like cake batter, you must make these right now. I only hope they make it to this weekend and I don’t end up enjoying them all before then!

birthday cake truffles

Birthday Cake Truffles

(slightly modified from The Girl Who Ate Everything)

Here’s what you need:

For the truffles:

  • 1 ½ c flour
  • 1 ¼ c yellow cake mix
  • ½ c unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ c white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 2-3 tablespoons rainbow sprinkles

For the coating:

  • 2 c. white chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon Crisco
  • 5 tablespoons yellow cake mix
  • Sprinkles for topping

Here’s what you do:

For the cake batter balls:

  1. Cream together butter and sugar. Add vanilla.
  2. Add cake mix and flour and combine thoroughly.
  3. Depending on consistency, add 4-5 tablespoons of milk. Batter should be the consistency of dough so that you can form small balls with your hands.
  4. Stir in sprinkles and evenly distribute with your hands or a spatula.
  5. Roll dough into small, one inch balls and place on a foil- or parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Chill dough balls in refrigerator for 30 minutes or freezer for 15 minutes. 

For the coating:

  1. While dough balls are chilling, melt white chocolate chips in the microwave with Crisco. Microwave on high for 2 minutes, stirring every 30-45 minutes until melted.
  2. Once melted, add cake mix, stirring well to ensure a smooth consistency.
  3. Using a toothpick or fork, dip cake dough balls into the melted chocolate and shake off excess chocolate by tapping bottom of fork on the side of the bowl.
  4. Place completed cake dough ball on the cookie sheet and top with sprinkles. Repeat until all balls are done.
birthday cake truffles

dip the cake ball into the melted chocolate with a fork, dip excess chocolate on side of bowl

birthday cake truffles

place chocolate covered cake ball onto parchment paper, add sprinkles

birthday cake truffles

Enjoy your completed truffles

Garbanzo Bean, Lentil and Vegetable Stew

As I shared with you earlier, I gave up meat for Lent and thus have been experimenting with quite a few new and different recipes. Dinners, typically chicken, pork or sometimes steak, are now slightly different and require a little more though process. So far (yes, only oneish weeks in) it’s been going well and I’ve had tons of fun trying out all the new recipes I’ve found.

I was on Pinterest a few weeks ago making a board of all the recipes I want to make when B said to me, “Why don’t you actually look at some of those cookbooks you own?”  I realized he was right – I’m always finding recipes from blogs, Pinterest, etc. but hardly ever taking advantage of the zillion cookbooks I have! So I took out the first book that I could see – my Bon Appetit cookbook I got as a wedding gift from my brother’s wedding “date.”  I marked off a few recipes and decided that this week was perfect to make the Garbanzo Bean, Lentil and Vegetable Stew.

I baked some cornbread, made the stew on Monday night and B and I enjoyed it on Tuesday. B’s rating? He’d “definitely eat it again” (which means it’s a winner).

Garbanzo Bean, Lentil and Vegetable Stew

Garbanzo Bean, Lentil and Vegetable Stew

(slightly adapted from Bon Appetit cookbook)

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ¼ cup tomato sauce
  • 2 teaspoons coriander
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 ¼ cups canned vegetable broth
  • 2 ¼ cups water
  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 1 15 to 16 oz can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
  • 12 baby carrots, cut into ¼ inch rounds
  • 1 cup frozen lima beans
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley  
  • 1 oz bag fresh spinach leaves

Here’s what you do:

  1. Heat oil in large pot over medium low heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté until soft and golden (about 10 minutes)
  2. Add tomato sauce, coriander, caraway and cayenne; stir one minute.
  3. Stir in broth, water and lentils. Increase heat to high and bring everything to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until lentils are almost tender, about 15-17 minutes.
  4. Add garbanzo beans, carrots, frozen lima beans and parsley. Cover and simmer until carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes.
  5. (If you want, you can cool this and refrigerate this a day ahead. Bring it back to a simmer before continuing. This is what I did – just make sure to add the spinach before serving)
  6. Stir spinach info stew. Cover and cook just until spinach wilts, about 3 minutes.  
  7. Enjoy! Serve over rice (which I did not do; I don’t like rice) or with cornbread (which I did do because I love cornbread). 

After B and I enjoyed the stew for dinner, we had about 3 cups leftover which were great for lunches the next few days.

Garbanzo Bean, Lentil and Vegetable Stew

Meatless Monday / Week

Happy Monday! To all of you that have off today, please think about your friends working and try not to continuously post about sleeping in, being bored, relaxing, and so on. But of course enjoy your day off 🙂

This week will mark the first full week of my meatless meals during Lent. AND B and I only have two things going on this week (I know, it’s hard to believe), meaning we’ll likely eat at home three full nights together. So what do we have planned?

Yesterday/Sunday: Veggie Crock Pot Casserole  (we’ll be eating leftovers for lunch this week) and corn bread

Monday: Fish with roasted potatoes and Brussels sprouts
(lunch will be leftover veggie crock pot casserole)

Tuesday: Garbanzo Bean, Lentil and Vegetable Stew (from my Bon Appetit cookbook) with corn bread
(lunch is planned out with some people)

Wednesday: Spicy Black Bean Burgers (made on Sunday night and frozen ahead of time)
(lunch will be leftover veggie crock pot casserole and a salad)

Thursday: B and I both have things after work so we’ll probably eat on our own
(lunch will be out as I have an all day meeting)

Friday: Out to dinner for Downtown Cleveland Restaurant Week!
(lunch will be out with coworkers)

Next week is a little crazier, with me only home for dinner on Monday and possibly Wednesday … but here’s to week one!

A few questions for the three of you that read my blog (hi Mom, Jane and Cari!):

  • Have you ever gone meat-free? For a week? A day? 
  • What are your favorite vegetarian meals? (Seriously, please share!)
  • What do you give up for Lent?

meatfree

Last minute Valentine’s Day dessert – Red Velvet Heart Sandwich Cookies!

“Do you have any Valentine’s Day recipes?” my coworker, Cari, asked me the other day. Did I have any Valentine’s Day recipes? I almost laughed- I had about a bazillion pinned and about a gazillion more in my head (and a few on here). I was dying to make all of them, too! But I couldn’t. Despite reallllly wanting to make a Valentine’s Day dessert, I had just made cupcakes for our Mardi Gras gathering and was hesitant to add more sugar to my fridge (we may have 2 cupcakes left) or bring to the office.

So when Cari asked if I thought she could just cut one of the recipes I had shared with her in half, I somewhat jokingly suggested we bake together and split the recipe between the two of us.  And she said yes! I didn’t know what to do – I don’t typically bake around other people. Sure, B’s usually in the room watching TV or reading, and at home my parents are somewhere nearby, but there are few times I actually bake with someone. I don’t mind it – but I’m a very messy baker, and not that accurate (I hardly ever measure vanilla … or other things), so my baking style sometimes shocks and scares others.

Was it messy? Yes. Were my hands, the counter top, and more, covered in red batter, powdered sugar? Perhaps. But was it a success? Yes. The cookies came out delicious (although not whoopee-pie like, like the original recipe, but thus the name change), Cari’s boyfriend was excited, and I have quelled my baking itch for another day or so. AND Cari has said she’ll bake with me again, so I really can’t be that scary, right?

Red Velvet Valentine Heart Cookie Sandwiches

Red Velvet Heart Sandwiches

Based off Annie’s Eats Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

For the cookies:

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ c cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 ½ c brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg (or ¼ c Egg Beaters, like I used)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ cup buttermilk, at room temperature (I used powdered buttermilk)
  • 1 oz. red food coloring (a.k.a a whole lotta food coloring)

Here’s what you do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375˚ F.  Cut yourself a heart template from cardboard or card stock. Trace the template/stencil evenly spaced onto pieces of parchment paper or nonstick foil to fit two cookie sheets.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Set aside. If you’re using powdered buttermilk, add the powdered equivalent to this dry mixture.
  3. In your KitchenAid or stand mixer, mix the butter and brown sugar on medium until fluffy and creamy. Beat in the egg (or Egg Beaters) and vanilla.  If you’re using powdered buttermilk, add the 1/2 c water (or whatever the buttermilk box tells you) at this time.
  4. Turn mixer on low and slowly incorporate dry ingredients about a cup at a time. Do not overbeat. 
  5. Blend in the food coloring. I used two full little containers of food coloring gel and probably could’ve used more.
  6. Using a spoon, move batter to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip.  Pipe the batter onto the foil hearts.  
  7. Bake 8-10 minutes and cool for 4-5 minutes on baking sheets before transferring cookies to a cooling rack.  Allow cookies to cool completely before frosting/filling. I put mine in the freezer to speed up the process.

For the frosting/filling:

Here’s what you need:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • Pink sprinkles or sugar crystals (optional)

Here’s what you do

  1. Clean your stand mixer so you can make the frosting in there! Beat the cream cheese and butter on medium until smooth and creamy.
  2. Add in vanilla extract.
  3. Gradually add in powdered sugar until smooth and lump free.

Make the sandwiches:

  1. After cookies are cool, spread them out and pair them up, placing two hearts that appear the same shape and size on top of one another. Flip one cookie of each pair over so that the flat side is facing up.
  2. Make your sandwiches! Using a spoon (or another piping bag, as the original recipe suggests), place a heaping tablespoon of frosting on top of the flat side of the cookie you’d like to be the bottom. Sandwich the cookies together so the flat sides are facing each other and press gently to help the filling reach the edges.
  3. You should be able to see a thin white layer of frosting between two cookies. Feel free to sprinkle sugar crystals along the sides to add more Valentine flair.
  4. Store in the fridge and enjoy!

foil with hearts on them

Red Velvet Valentine Heart Cookie Sandwiches

Cari loves pouring the dry ingredients

Red Velvet Valentine Heart Cookie Sandwiches

Cari is also a great piper

Red Velvet Valentine Heart Cookie Sandwiches

Piping the red velvet hearts

Red Velvet Valentine Heart Cookie Sandwiches

Ready to go into the oven!

Red Velvet Valentine Heart Cookie Sandwiches

Enjoy! Our recipe made 9 sandwiches (18 cookies) and two mini heart cakes.

Super Easy One-Dish Roasted Chicken

I have decided to give up eating meat for Lent. I know it will be a challenge, but it’s one that I think I can do and one that will also broaden my cooking horizons. Will B give up meat? No. But he has said he’ll try whatever recipes I come up with, so I’ve already started looking for new vegetarian recipes to try and even taken some books out of the library.

So, during the countdown to Lent, I enjoyed some of my favorite meaty dishes, mainly pepperoni pizza and pepperoni bread. And believe it or not, I’ll also miss chicken! That’s why this weekend I decided it was time to make this recipe (pictured below – picture is not mine)  that I’ve had for a little while, before my meat-free months begin.

I'm leading with the image FROM  Jamie Oliver because it looks much better than mine and maybe you'll actually make it if you think it looks like this

I’m leading with the image FROM Jamie Oliver because it looks much better than mine and maybe you’ll actually make it if you think it looks like this

If you want an easy, hearty and relatively healthy dish that takes about 5 minutes prep time (but 1 hr 15 min to cook), I highly recommend this. Plus, think of all you can accomplish in the 1 hour and 15 minutes you spend waiting for this dish? You could clean your kitchen, read a book, do some exercises in your living room (I wouldn’t recommend going to the gym while this is in the oven), and more! Think of how productive you can be! At least that’s what I was thinking … B and I ended up just snacking (on pepperoni bread obviously) and catching up on our DVR. Watching episodes of The Office and Walking Dead count as being productive, right?

Anyway, the meal turned out delicious and B took the leftovers (I only had one thigh) for lunch today. I don’t usually like dark meat but with the crusty ciabatta bread, olive oil sauce and other ingredients, I managed to eat it, and enjoy it!

Super Easy One-Dish Roasted Chicken

(slightly adapted from Jamie Oliver)

The recipe below is what I made and it serves 2-3 depending on how hungry you are. The original serves 4-6.

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 thick slices of ciabatta bread
  • 2 full chicken legs (each leg is one thigh and drumstick) 
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • Bunch of basil leaves
  • 1 garlic bulb, broken into cloves 
  • ½ c of black seedless mediterranean olives
  • 1 red chili pepper, chopped
  • Healthy drizzle of olive oil
  • 4 slices of pancetta

Here’s what you do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Get a deep roasting tray big enough to fit all the chicken in one layer.
  3. Rip the ciabatta into medium-sized chunks and place in the tray with the chicken, tomatoes, basil, garlic cloves, olives, chopped red chili pepper.
  4. Add a generous drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper and the chili. Toss to mix up well, then reposition the chicken on top. Bake in the oven, turning the chicken after 30 minutes.
  5. Cook for another 30 minutes and then add the pancetta on top of the chicken.
  6. Return to the oven and cook for an additional 15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked and falling off the bone.
  7. Serve with a side salad and perhaps some more ciabatta bread!
One Dish Roasted Chicken With Pancetta, Olives, Tomato and Garlic

All the ingredients ready to be roasted! The recipe says to put the chicken on top before roasting but I couldn’t leave you with a photo of ugly naked chicken so I adapted it slightly.

One Dish Roasted Chicken With Pancetta, Olives, Tomato and Garlic

Fresh from the oven after 1 hr 15 min

One Dish Roasted Chicken With Pancetta, Olives, Tomato and Garlic

Served with a side arugula salad and some more ciabatta bread (not pictured)

Mardi Gras Cupcakes

My office is celebrating Mardi Gras this week with a Fat Tuesday luncheon and potluck. I thought about preparing some Crock Pot Jambalaya, but really wanted to bring dessert. My cousins are from Louisiana and each year they used to send us a King Cake in New York via mail. I looooved the King Cake – it was cinnamony, flaky  colorful and had creamy frosting. I looked up a few King Cake recipes and thought about making one – but with a relatively small office, it seemed like it’d be too big to prepare. Then I realized – I could make Mardi Gras cupcakes! Of course! These aren’t quite King Cake – they’re not flaky or bread-like – but they are fun colors, have creamy frosting and cinnamon. And B (a chocoholic) more than approved of them – he even asked if I could leave him some at home!

Mardi Gras Cupcakes for Fat Tuesday

Mardi Gras Cupcakes

Inspired by Hoosier Homemade

For the cupcakes:

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1 cup buttermilk (instead of water indicated on box)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil (per cake mix directions)
  • 3 eggs (I used ¾ c Egg Beaters)
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • Purple, yellow and green food coloring (I used yellow, green and blue+red for the purple)

Here’s what you do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line muffin tins with cupcake liners. Mine made about 17 cupcakes.
  3. Use an electric mixer to beat together all the cake mix, buttermilk, vegetable oil, eggs and cinnamon on high speed. Mix well so batter isn’t lumpy – especially if you use powdered buttermilk like I did.
  4. Divide the batter equally into three parts in three separate bowls. I had probably about a cup of batter in each bowl. Using food coloring, create one batter bowl green, one batter bowl yellow, and the third batter bowl purple (I mixed blue and red food coloring).
  5. Get a tablespoon for each color batter.
  6. Start with one color and take a spoonful of batter. Push batter up against one side of cupcake wrapper.
  7. Fill in with the other colors, using the same technique, pushing batter up against other sides of cupcake wrapper until you have the green, purple and yellow batter in thirds in the cupcake wrapper. Don’t worry about making these perfect, they will still taste great!
  8. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes (or what the box says), until toothpick comes out clean. Frost when cool.

Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2-3 tsp cinnamon

Here’s what you do:

  1. Beat butter with an electric mixer until fluffy.
  2. Add powdered sugar, ½ cup at a time, beating well until completely combined.
  3. Add the milk, 1 tablespoon at a time until frosting is creamy and thick. 
  4. Mix in vanilla and cinnamon until well combined.
  5. Frost cupcakes when cooled!
mardi gras cupcakes fat tuesday cupcakes batter in the tins

Tri-colored cupcakes ready to go into the oven

mardi gras cupcakes fat tuesday cupcakes without frosting

Fresh out of the oven – check out the colors!

mardi gras cupcakes fat tuesday cupcakes frosted

mardi gras cupcakes fat tuesday cupcakes

Printables from TomKat Studio

Vegetarian Stuffed Acorn Squash

This recipe comes from another attempt to take B up on his new offer “to try anything that I make even if it’s vegetables” (including vegetables he doesn’t like, like squash, sweet potatoes, broccoli, spinach, chard, arugula … the list really just goes on).

I’d call this one a hit. B ate his whole half-stuffed squash (along with some chicken) and mine made a perfect dinner. I made the whole recipe (2 squashes =  4 servings) and had leftovers the rest of the week for lunch. I kid you not, I think it got better each consecutive day!

vegetarian stuffed acorn squash

Vegetarian Stuffed Acorn Squash (from Eating Well)

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 medium acorn squash, halved and seeded
  • 1 tsp plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce (homemade is always the best!)
  • 8 cups chopped chard leaves (about 1 large bunch)
  • 1 15-ounce can white beans or chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives
  • 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Here’s what you do:

  1. Cut each acorn squash in half and remove seeds. It’s easiest to do this if you microwave each squash for 40 seconds first – it will make them soft enough to cut in half.
  2. Cut a small slice off the bottom of each squash half so it rests flat. Brush the insides with 1 teaspoon oil; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Place in a 9-by-13-inch (or large enough) microwave-safe dish. I used a pyrex so I could also put it in the oven. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on High until the squash is fork-tender, about 12 minutes.
  3. While squash is microwaving, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring, until starting to brown, 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Add garlic to cooking onion and cook for about 1 minutes. Stir in water, tomato sauce and the remaining salt and pepper.
  5. Stir in chard, cover and cook until tender, 3 to 5 minutes.
  6. Stir in white beans and olives; cook until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat.
  7. Preheat broiler. I put mine at 500 degrees F.
  8. Combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a bowl. Remove squash from microwave (they should be fully cooked) and fill each squash half with about 1 cup of the chard mixture. If not already in a broiler-safe dish, place in a baking pan or on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture. Broil in the center of the oven until the breadcrumbs are browned, 1 to 2 minutes.
  9. Enjoy! Serve alone or as a side dish.
ingredients vegetarian stuffed acorn squash

Here’s what you need

vegetarian stuvegetarian stuffed acorn squashffed acorn squash

Fill microwaved squash with bean mixture.

vegetarian stuffed acorn squash

Serve with a side salad!