Archives for January 2012

Ode to Vanilla Bean…

Happy Wednesday all!

Remember when I introduced you all to my newest bff? You know the one…Ms. Vanilla Bean. Well it has turned out to be a pretty committed relationship. We have spent the past couple of days together and seriously, best friend ever. A couple of days ago when I was food blog stalking I came across a post from my other bf Joy the Baker. Now, I love all the recipes that I see on other blogs, but this recipe in particular had me so beside myself that I dreamt about it. Yes, I actually dreamt about Ms. Joy the Baker’s recipe for Vanilla Bean and Cocoa Nib Meringues. Because, seriously, who wouldn’t? 


This was extremely odd, seeing as I had never even tasted a meringue (well maybe except as a topping on lemon meringue pie), so how could I possibly dream about it?! That’s just how good Joy the Baker actually is. She knows how to get her food inside your dreams. Thanks Joy! Anyway, how could I have never eaten a meringue? I know, I am soooo uncultured it’s not even funny. The only meringues I have ever laid my eyes on are the ones in the package on aisle 5 in Walgreen’s. I never touch anything inside of a package with more than 5 ingredients on the list. Some of which I can’t even pronounce. 


So, the next day I was determined to make these “cookies.” Seriously, what cookies are made of egg whites and sugar? Dilemma: I was out of cocoa nibs. No big deal. Luckily I had a stash of vanilla bean, so I improvised. 


Very Vanilla Bean Meringues


I am telling you, these babies are like gold.



 I underestimated the powerful effect that egg whites and sugar can have. These babies are slightly crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside, and did I mention low calorie? 

Don’t go crazy!



Very Vanilla Bean Meringues (adapted from My Recipes)


Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies


Ingredients:
1 c. sugar, divided
1 vanilla bean
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 t. cream of tartar
1/4 t. salt
1 t. pure vanilla extract (I used Mexican vanilla)


Instructions:
1. Place 1/4 c. sugar in a small bowl, scrape seeds from vanilla bean, and add seeds to sugar. Stir well with a whisk.
2. Beat egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt at high speed of a mixer until foamy. Gradually add 3/4 c. of sugar 1 T. at a time, beating mixture until stiff peaks form (Stiff peaks will take the consistency of marshmallow cream).
3. Gradually add vanilla bean mixture and vanilla extract; beat until just combined. 
4. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop batter by level tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheet.
5. Bake at 325 F for 35 minutes until crisp. Cool on a pan on a wire rack.


Note: These cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week. Freeze for up to three months. 


P.S. Thanks for the inspiration Joy!


MANGIA!!!  

The Best of Both Worlds

Oh hey there, 

Remember my blurb about those delicious little red muffins…er, eh cupcakes that I made this weekend? Yea, well I forgot to mention the other cupcakes that I took along to the birthday celebration as well.

They were completely impromptu, yet totally necessary

I just couldn’t resist devouring the frosting with my mother in the kitchen while basking in the delight of my successful experimentation sharing them with all of my family members. 

Meet Ms. Banana Cupcake, and her counterpart Mr. Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
I would like to think that this cupcake is bittersweet…the best of both worlds, if you will. You see, the cupcake is actually gluten-free, and pretty healthy, while the frosting, well, let’s just say a block of cream cheese and a stick of butter make up the base of this creamy peanut butter concoction. But…I believe in balance. Lots of balance, like the perfect balance of butter and flour in your pie crust. So, why can’t you have a little bit of healthy, and a little bit of indulgence in your cupcake. Hell, it makes me feel better. So, obviously you can join me in skipping the gym this week and next, and having not one, but two of these cupcakes. Now. 
Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting:

Banana Cupcakes (GF):

Ingredients:
1 Banana Cake (minus the coconut and walnuts)

Instructions:
1. Prepare the Banana Cake recipe according to instructions and pour the batter into a 12 c. muffin pan lined with cupcake liners.
2. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and a tooth pick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.
3. Allow the cupcakes to cool for 20 minutes on a cooling rack before frosting.

Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting:

Ingredients:
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
1 8-oz. package cream cheese, at room temperature
8 T. (1 stick) of butter, at room temperature
1/2 c. creamy peanut butter (don’t use old fashioned or freshly ground)

Instructions:
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth, about 3 minutes. 
2. Add the peanut butter and beat again until fully incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
3. With the mixer on low, add the powdered sugar in small batches until frosting is smooth and thick. 
4. Frost the cupcakes. 

Note: Slice a banana into thin slices and garnish each cupcake with a banana slice.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CUPCAKE COMBINATION?

MANGIA!!!

You live in a zoo…?

Happy Monday all!


You know that birthday song that all the kids teased you with when you were little and celebrated your birthday? You know it. It goes a little something like this: “Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, you live in a zoo, you smell like a monkey, and you look like one too.” Well, you don’t really hear that song nowadays because seriously, that is just some cruel and unusual punishment to receive on any other day of the year, but your birthday? Geez! Anyway, January kicks off birthday season in my family. Literally, the majority of my family member’s birthday’s consume the months of January and February. This weekend I celebrated my godson’s first birthday, as well as my mother’s 25th birthday…I am such a suck-up. It was pretty eventful to say the least. 


I absolutely love celebrating birthdays. Because my sister and I have birthdays so close, growing up we always celebrated our birthdays together. I believed that our first birthday party together was celebrated at McDonald’s. What can I say? My parents were pretty old school and the Chicken Mcnugget was a fashionable and affordable way to celebrate your kids’ birthdays with the entire family. We probably spent a total of $25 to feed the entire extended family a couple of Big Mac’s. Ha ha! Anyway, my favorite part was receiving the little Ronald McDonald plush doll for my birthday. I still have him somewhere around here. As the years grew on, seester and I grew out of the McDonald birthday phase and grew into the house party phase. 


House parties were, and still are, my absolute fave birthday parties. My sister and I would dress up in our finest Ked’s shoes and colorful spandex shorts with our hair in high pony-tails to attend the event of the season: our combined birthday party. My entire family would show up to party in our backyard, my Dad would barbecue hot dogs and hamburgers, and my momma would order my sis and I an awesome cake from Sam’s Club. My fave was the year that she ordered the cake that was half lion king (for my sis), and half Aladdin (I was Princess Jasmine…you have no idea.). Those were the days. 


Now, I usually celebrate my birthday with a bottle of wine and some good Mexican food. There isn’t anything I would give to relive my birthdays as a child, wearing my princess crown, and running around the backyard with my cousins, full of cake and hot dogs, mind you…sometimes, not such a good combination if you know what I mean. Last night I was baker of cupcakes for my godson. Isn’t he adorable? 

This was the only decent pic I could get…he is still trying to get used to this whole family thing…
So, for his birthday I made red
muffins…. 
I mean…little red cupcakes
 You know the ones with chocolate and red food coloring to make them look pretty
 I think they are called Red Velvet Cupcakes
Yea, I made those  
 with a Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting
Because seriously, there is no better frosting than one made with cream cheese. Am I right? That’s what I thought. They were an absolute hit! Slightly cocoa-ish red velvet cakes, perfectly moist, and ooh the vanilla bean cream cheese frosting…sinful! I don’t think I will ever use regular vanilla extract again…it’s all about the fresh vanilla bean, people. Get in the kitchen and make these now!

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting:

Red Velvet Cupcakes (compliments of Joy the Baker):

Ingredients:
8 T.  (1 stick) of unsalted butter, at room temp.
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs
6 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
4 T. red food coloring
1 t. pure vanilla extract
1 c. buttermilk
2 c. plus 4 T. all-purpose flour
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
3 t. distilled white vinegar

Instructions:
1. Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 F. 
2. Using an electric mixer fit with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
3. Turn mixer to high and add the eggs. Scrape down the bowl and beat until well incorporated.
4. In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa, vanilla, and red food coloring to make a thick paste.
5. Add the paste to the batter, mixing thoroughly until combined. You may need to stop the mixer to  scrape down the bowl, making sure that all the batter gets color.
6. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add half of the buttermilk. Add half the flour and salt and mix to combine. 
7. Scrape the bowl and repeat the process with the remaining milk and flour. Beat on high until smooth.
8. Turn mixer to low and add baking soda and white vinegar. Turn to high and beat for a few more minutes.
9. Spoon batter into a paper lined cupcake baking pan and bake at 325 F for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean. 
10. Let rest in the pan for 10 minutes, then place them on a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.

Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting:

Ingredients:
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
8 T. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 t. pure vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean pod
3 c. powdered sugar, sifted

Instructions:
1. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth.
2. Slit you vanilla bean in half and use the tip of your knife to scrape the vanilla bean paste from each side of the pod.
3. Add vanilla and vanilla bean paste to the mixture.
4. Beat in powdered sugar a little at a time until the frosting is as thick as you like it.
5. Frost cupcakes.

Makes 24 cupcakes.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BIRTHDAY MEMORY? 

MANGIA!!!

On the 22nd of January…

My true love gave to me…well, in this case God gave me the BEST MOTHER a girl could ask for.

You are my peace
You are my laughter
You are my role model
 Most of all, you are my best friend

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM! I love you with all of my heart!
MANGIA!!!

It’s Complicated

Happy Thursday all!

Normally, I would never post anything negative on my blog. And I am not going to. My blog is a happy place, where I want to do nothing more than talk on and on about food, how much I love it, and how awesome my life is with food. Food completes me. Anyway, today I want to talk about something completely off the topic from food, well, sort of, kind of. 

You see, inevitably this conversation will lead into food. It always does. Did I say conversation? I meant more of a “rant”. Here goes nothing. 

Yesterday I got a tip off about a job in my field, Kinesiology, that is, that would have been the perfect job for me. And by perfect I mean absolutely freaking perfect, the location was less than 3 miles from my house and I had all of the qualifications and experience specific to the job description (or so I thought). Anyway, I didn’t get so hyped up about the job because I have the experience to know that you don’t always get what you want. In this case, I didn’t get the job. I received the email from H.R. a little over an hour ago stating that I did not meet either the qualification, education, etc. etc. for the position. Excuse me? I don’t think so. 

By the looks of my resume and job application I fit the demands and requirements of the job position to a t. Needless to say, I am pretty disappointed, not like the emotional basket case I just broke up with my boy friend and now I must go eat my body weight in Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla while I watch The Notebook over and over again kind of disappointed. No, it’s more of like an I am so frustrated I could run a marathon and I still wouldn’t burn off my anger disappointed. Okay, so I guess I am exaggerating just a little. Nonetheless, you get it, I am pretty darn upset about this one.

 The kicker is I replied to the email with one question: “Could you please inform me as to what qualifications I am lacking for the job position? Thank you. Warmly, Chelsy Ethridge.” At least if they reply with an answer I will know what to work on to obtain a similar job position in the future. You’d think with a college degree I would have a field in my major by now! Surprise, surprise…think again. Anyway, I will continue to look at this as just another one of life’s lessons: Everything Happens for a Reason. Maybe the job really wasn’t what I was looking for in the end and God has better plans for me. I have a variety of things that I want to do with my life in terms of my career. Here are some of my life’s aspirations, let me know what you think. 

1. Personal Trainer: Right now I am currently studying for my ACE personal trainer certification. Of course I love everything about it…it’s basically a refresher course of what I majored in. Anyway, if you know me, you know that I love me some fitness. I would love nothing more than to help others reach their fitness goals and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Most likely I will start by working at a gym so that I can attain a clientele. However; I would eventually love to branch out and start my own company, perhaps one that couples personal training with healthy fitness meals. Kind of like a food for fitness concept. I would also love to work in corporate fitness as well. I did an internship and I looooved it! Maybe Whole Foods needs a personal trainer for their employees?
2. Food editor for a Food Magazine (Example, Bon Appetit, Cooking Light, Gluten-Free Living, etc.): I know that my major was not journalism, but I love to write, in fact, I have been writing ever since I can remember. To be able to write about food…as my job….get out of here! That is seriously the icing on the cake. I have been through all sorts of avenues to apply for a food editor position, but have received no response, at least not a positive one. I will keep trying. 

3. Professional Food Blogger: Haha! This one cracks me up, seeing as I don’t even have the funds to make my blog look gorgeous, much less be paid to run the blog because I have a jazillion followers. Let’s just say, these women are my idols

4. Owner of a Bakery and Catering Company: This is my ultimate dream. Go rent the movie It’s Complicated. Meryl Streep’s character owns the bakery that I want. Well, something like it I suppose. 

5. Working for a company like Whole Foods, or Larabar: These are examples of two companies who pride themselves on providing the community with wholesome quality ingredients. Being a Kinesiology major, not only do I believe in maintaining an active lifestyle, but also a healthy diet. This includes nourishing your body with those healthy, “feel good” foods. Hey, if it works for me, it can work for anybody. We all know I have an extreme sweet tooth. I already spend 5 days a week shopping at Whole Foods, working  on their research/development team would be a dream. I already have a background working in marketing, so I say bring it on!

6. My own show on the Food Network about cooking/baking gluten-free: Hello, this is a given.

The job hunt continues! 

In the meantime, I will pop my Red Velvet Cupcakes in the oven. Cooking and Baking is my medicine. 

MANGIA!!!