Zucchini Cupcakes (They Don’t Taste Like Zucchini, I Promise)

I was in bed, flipping through blog posts from other people and I thought “I kind of want to write a blog post of my own”. It’s 8:30 and That Husband isn’t home from work yet… why not?

I’ll start with something simple. I made these zucchini cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting a few weeks ago and really enjoyed them. You should make them for yourself (although if you want to buy zucchini in-season you might have to wait until next year… ooops).

Settling In (and a Few Recipes I Loved)

We’ve been in Palo Alto for a week now, and we’re almost entirely unpacked which means I can finally take a deep breath and attack other areas of my life that have been put on hold for weeks and months over our crazy summer. The amount of shopping I need to do is insane (including things like a couch and something to clean the toilets with, you know silly non-essential extras).

I’m feeling worlds better in my second trimester, but at the end of each day I find myself exhausted. 8pm comes, we work on getting T1 to bed, and by the time I usually would sit down at the computer all I want to do is climb into bed and play Bejeweled. I don’t know that blog posts are going to be as frequent as they were in the past. I do have almost a dozen things I want to write about, including half-marathon training/running, TH’s graduation, my school experience and graduation, my paper on Female Mormon Bloggers, potty training, and how I can meet my neighbors to find some playmates for T1 and mom friends for me.

In the meantime, two favorite pictures from the summer. The first is obviously right after my graduation ceremony. Thanks to Aubrey of Every Little Moment Photography for doing family photos for us after my convocation. She took them, I edited them (and I’ll share the rest soon!).

The second is T1 taking a breather after chasing me around my in-law’s backyard during our last trip to Poland.

One of the things I missed most this summer was my time in the kitchen. During my time at school I was so sick that heating up and eating a frozen burrito was overwhelming, and in Poland my in-laws take care of us all day every day. Now that I’m feeling better I’m combing my Pinterest boards for recipes to try. Here are a few I think you should make as well:

Eggs in Clouds

I thought these were best when the yolks were runny.

Avocado Banana Bread

I did have a little bit of trouble with this bread, but I think that’s because it needed to cook a little bit longer (I left the house and had TH take it out of the oven). It was really moist and the flavor was great!

Curried Coconut Chicken Salad

The chicken mixture keeps well in the fridge for a few days so you can stuff pita bread with the leftovers or continue eating it as a salad.

Summer Vegetable Tian

Mmmmm, this is one I’ll be making over and over until the summer vegetables are gone from the farmer’s market. We ate it with whole wheat noodles mixed with a creamy lemon-dill sauce.

Slow-Cooker Asian Pork With Snow Peas, Red Peppers, and Soba Noodles

I tend to choose recipes that are a bit involved and that don’t reheat well, and this one was neither (hooray!). The pork was incredibly easy to make, the peanuts took seconds to roast, and the noodles and vegetables required little more than a quick boil. For me the best part was enjoying the leftovers for lunch the next day!

Eggplant and Goat-Cheese Sandwiches with Tomato Tarragon Sauce

Oh goodness me, this is the kind of dish I would pay good money for at a restaurant. It took me several hours from creation to dining to cleaning-up but I’m not sure if that’s an indication of anything since I’m notoriously slow in the kitchen (anyone know of a speed cooking class I can take in the Bay Area?). First you start the tomato sauce and let it simmer for just shy of 30 minutes (I would double the amount of tomato sauce and use it for leftovers if I were you). The eggplant slices are breaded and fried, goat cheese is sandwiched between then, and then they are put in the oven long enough for the goat cheese to melt.

Krakow Cake

Every time we’ve visited Poland we have been treated to one of my favorite desserts (anywhere), a cake my husband’s family refers to as Krakow Cake. It’s a recipe developed a world away from anything we know now, with the absence of overpowering sweetness that we’ve come to expect in American desserts. After a big meal this moist and slightly tart (depending on the jam you use) cake can really hit the spot.

When we’re in Poland I can be found eating this cake several times a day. I admit it’s one of my favorite breakfast items. We can call it a breakfast pastry, right?

A big thank you to That Husband’s family for allowing me to share this recipe with all of you. If you try it I know they would love it if you would come back and share your thoughts with them in the comment section below. Continue reading

Nutty Cocoa Cookies

This weird low-carb low-meat diet I’m attempting is tough for several reasons, but the thing I struggle with the most is snacks and dessert. These little cookies, which I’ve named Nutty Cocoa Cookies function as both of those things for me. They’re a bit salty, rich, and sweet (but not too sweet). And I can keep them in the freezer and pull out a few at a time when I’m feeling snacky.

They aren’t really cookies in the traditional sense, but let’s not dwell on that fact okay? I need to feel like my diet doesn’t feel like deprivation, and you can’t feel deprived when you are eating cookies. Right?

These are adapted from a four ingredient recipe I found at Whole Family Fare. My recipe has six ingredients because I added cocoa and salt.

First, whir your almonds around in the food processor until they are are ground up. I know they’re done when they just start to get moist (you want them to be ground really fine or it affects the texture of the cookie and isn’t as good).

That right there is my Blendtec with the Twister Jar attachment.  I personally like my Blendtec a lot more than the Vitamix (which my mom has) but I think either is a great choice.

Add in cocoa, vanilla, peanut butter, and salt. Blend a bit more. If your peanut butter is dry (ours is the natural kind and when TH mixed it up he added extra oil and made it really soupy) add coconut oil. You’ll definitely need coconut oil if you grind your peanuts from scratch (if you do that, grind your peanuts first, remove from the processor, then do the almonds).

The last thing I add is the dates. I like adding them last because sometimes they don’t get ground up all the way and then you get nice juicy date bits in your cookie balls. Find the medjool variety if you can. They cost more but all the foodies say it’s worth it.

Once it’s all ground together you should have a mass that looks a little bit like this. If yours is looking dry, add some coconut oil or peanut butter.
Continue reading

Orange Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Layer Cake

When making my 101 in 1001 list, I added the item “Bake a cake for someone” because I think giving someone a layered, completely-from-scratch cake is an excellent way to show how much you care for them. I also like making cakes, but I don’t do it often because I’m a taste-tester who samples far too much whenever I’m baking.

I decided I would make said cake for my friend Paige, after she had her baby, as a way to celebrate her and the excellent job she did birthing her sweet baby boy. I looked over my Pinterest cake board, and I knew that one of my oldest pins, Annie’s Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Layer Cake, promising rich chocolate flavors combined with the sophistication of salt and caramel was the perfect choice for a new mother.

It took me 3.5 hours, but it was by far the best thing I have ever created in the kitchen. I was a little nervous about the Swiss meringue buttercream, but I just kept on whipping (I think I had it in my kitchenaid for almost 30 minutes) and it eventually came together.

I’m not going to write out the entire recipe (go to Annie’s site to see it) but I did make one small change out of necessity that really took things over the top (in a good way). I didn’t have enough plain chocolate, and didn’t want to go downstairs to buy more, so I raided the husband’s supply of dark chocolate bars with candied orange peels and used that for the frosting. The very subtle orange flavor combined with the richness of the salt and the caramel and the dark chocolate was perfect. If you make this cake, give that tweak a try.

That Husband wants me to make this again, and soon. I loved it, but how can I make this one again, when there are so many other tantalizing cakes waiting to be created?

Although it isn’t as pretty, I had the idea to make a little mini cake for my photo shoot. That way I could take nice pictures in the daylight without being the obnoxious friend giving someone a cake and then asking to take a picture of their slice. 🙂