Grown Up Chocolate Cake

pretty cake
pretty cake

January was a huge month for our household.  We celebrated Baby P’s first birthday, complete with a decadent chocolate cake, lots of presents, a kiddie party, out-of-town grandparents, Snowpacolypse and only one meltdown (from me)!  I’d say that’s pretty good, considering everything…

i may have slightly fallen down the Pinterest hole...
i may have slightly fallen down the Pinterest hole…

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Beef and Broccoli Mushroom Stir Fry

OMG so good
OMG so good

I just looked back at the last 5 posts I made and they are all for sweets.  I swear we’ve been eating lots of good things other than sugar!  I’ve been perfecting this stir fry since mid-December.  Nothing is more comforting in wintertime than a warm beef and broccoli mushroom stir fry.  This rice bowl has made it into our weeknight meal rotation and it’s one of The Hub’s favorites – I swear every time he tucks into his weekly bowl it’s like he’s never before tasted anything so awesome.  The beef gets all melty and tender when sliced thinly and massaged in the quick marinade.  The addition of sambal oelek, a Thai chili paste now found in most grocery stores, gives it just enough of a spicy punch to wake your sinuses.  This is the perfect winter weeknight dish to warm you up from the inside out. Continue reading Beef and Broccoli Mushroom Stir Fry

Chocolate Custard Pie with Vanilla Wafer Pretzel Crust & Toasted Meringue

so delicious with toasted meringue!
so delicious with toasted meringue!

Happy New Year!!  I’m sneaking this pie in just under the “new resolutions January deadline”.  People, I am serious when I write; this pie is one of the best dessert things I’ve ever eaten.  I struggle to describe how stupendous it tastes!  It’s an amazing amalgam of chocolate custard meets a salty, buttery vanilla crust.  As far as I’m concerned, pretzels and chocolate go together like peas and carrots, but throw in the vanilla wafer?  Just.  Stop. It. Beware, it truly matters what kind of chocolate you use, so choose carefully.  I opt for using the Chocolove dark chocolate bars. Two bars perfectly do the trick for one pie and make way for decadent dark chocolate custard bliss. choco_piebest-2

Continue reading Chocolate Custard Pie with Vanilla Wafer Pretzel Crust & Toasted Meringue

Sugar Cookies

everyone loves holiday cookies!
everyone loves holiday cookies!

I participated in my good friend’s fundraising event again this year: the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.  The swap raises money for  the non-profit charity, Cookies for Kids Cancer.  Lindsay of Love & Olive Oil together with Julie of The Little Kitchen helped raised over $7,000 this season, pairing hundreds of bloggers with their cookie swap matches.

cookiegram!
cookiegram!

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Homemade Vanilla Extract

day 1
day 1

Ok, I know making homemade vanilla extract sounds super intimidating and overly ambitious, but honestly vanilla extract barely requires a recipe, and the reward is the most intoxicatingly warm vanillariffic extract EVER.  It took me about 7 minutes to throw this together.  The hardest part is waiting a whole month for the beans to steep before using.  Take your favorite booze, (I’d stick with vodka because it allows the vanilla flavor to shine through best), add vanilla beans with seeds scraped, and let it set for a month or so, giving it a shake whenever you think about it.  THAT’S IT. Continue reading Homemade Vanilla Extract

Homemade Marshmallows and Hot Cocoa

millions of mallows, mallows for me
millions of mallows, mallows for me

When I told my sister I made marshmallows she laughed and said, “why?”.  I know she thinks I am ridiculous and also that I should have another kid if I have enough time on my hands to make homemade marshmallows.  In my defense, I’ve been planning to make my own marshmallows for months now, and I’ve finally found the time to do so. As proof, the unflavored gelatin has been sitting in the dark pantry just patiently waiting to be used since last June.

At the turn of the 19th century, marshmallows used to be something more than what you’d make a s’more with or place in hot chocolate. A sweet confection sold in patisserie shops; marshmallows were a Parisian treat typically flavored with rose water. I am very happy to write, once again, it is FINALLY socially acceptable to eat a marshmallow (something I’ve been doing for years!). No cocoa, no s’more, nothing.  Just pop in mouth and enjoy!

mallows, not just for cocoa anymore!
mallows, not just for cocoa anymore!

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Chocolate Covered Potato Chips


yummmmmma
yummmmmma

A couple of weeks ago I had a good friend and client ask me if I had yet come out of “First Year hiding”. He explained the strange process a couple experiences when you have baby number one; you disappear socially for about a year. You lose track of everyone you hung out with before baby and then remerge; tired, older, haggard-looking, worn thin, yet oddly stronger. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how true that statement is. After I had baby P, any physical, emotional, and mental limits I thought I had were pushed and broken, and then broken again. I realized how little sleep I can (somewhat) function on as a human being. I realized what it means to truly, selflessly love someone else and to put their needs before your own. (And we are talking basic human needs, people, like eating, sleeping and showering.)

he's cute and likes to wake up EARLY, y'all.
he’s cute and likes to wake up EARLY, y’all.

Friends who tired of my regrets to social invitations simply stopped asking and faded quietly into the the background.  Work becomes secondary.  The main focus is this new demanding tiny person I made.  I’m trying to figure out this new parental role while maintaining some semblance of my former self. I am suddenly aware – holy crap – I am A MOM.  I’m a 24-7 caregiver for this forever hungry, happy little person who looks like me and has my hair color, laughs easily, and crosses his feet the same way I do.  It’s overwhelming, emotional, exhausting and crazy-amazing all at the same time. Continue reading Chocolate Covered Potato Chips

Zucchini Fritters

crispy crunchy goodness
crispy crunchy goodness

I love anything pretty much in pancake or waffle form.  Last year, I waffled my mom’s leftover Thanksgiving stuffing and I still think it may be the best thing I’ve ever eaten. When potatoes aren’t available or we are looking for a slightly healthier version of a potato pancake, I’ll make these zucchini fritters. Packed with feta and dilly goodness, it’s a surprisingly tasty bite with an exterior crunch and interior softness. Zucchini fritters are great as a side or they can also be a stand alone meal. This recipe is adapted and scaled down from Cook’s Illustrated too, so you know it’s tried, tested and true. To begin, shred the zucchini. Normally I’m a huge advocate for the food processor, but shredding zucchini on a box grater goes pretty quickly. Just remember to leave yourself the nub for a handle while shredding. Continue reading Zucchini Fritters

Cinnamon Apple Twist Bread

yummy
yummy! this recipe made good use of my tripod and photography classes!

On a whim, I picked up a magazine in the grocery check-out lane just because the beautiful cover photo caught my eye. Little did I know, the entire magazine was basically an ad for King Arthur Flour. On the one hand, it was kind of nice, as there were no other ads for anything, but on the other hand, the whole thing read like one giant ad. The food photography was beautifully done and a more darkly lit than the norm. I liked it. I came across a photo for cinnamon apple bread and had to try it. Good thing the recipe made two loaves, as I sort of botched the braiding of the first loaf. My MIL was in town last week and was nice enough to care for baby P while I tried out a new recipe. My first new recipe attempt in over two months, thanks gramma! Continue reading Cinnamon Apple Twist Bread

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

mmmmm carrot-ty
mmmmm carrot-ty

Blah blah blah, new moms have no time and are perpetually tired. Blah blah, seasoned moms have no time and are perpetually tired. Blah. I really don’t want to be one of those people who complain about having NO TIME for myself and the things I wanted to do anymore post baby. I wanted to be super mom who could bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan, AND make homemade sweet potato baby purée after story time and singing Baby P to sleep with sweet lullabies.

The Cuteness at 33 weeks
The Cuteness at 33 weeks

I went to my GP for a regular check-up and post baby everyone (your GP, the OB, Husband, the neighbor down the street, EVERYONE) seems concerned (well, except for crazy Tom Cruise) that you might have post partum depression. My GP is a fairly young, energetic woman who definitely has no children. She asked if I’d been back to my “normal activities” since having the baby 7 months ago. Well, let’s see, I’ve missed the last 4 books in book club because I’m simply too tired and I don’t want to wear real pants past 6PM and book club meets at 7. Is that depression or a shift in wardrobe priority? Unsure. She seemed concerned about the no-real-pants-after-6-PM-rule. Clearly she’d forgotten my modus operandi is sarcasm. Anyway, she said, “you need to make time for yourself to do things that fulfill you – Michele the person, not Michele the mom”. Well isn’t that the solution to happiness in everyone’s life, not just new a mom’s? When you figure out how to balance baby and life and not feel like you’ve forced yourself to wear real pants and attend an event because you are too tired to stay awake, let me know and I’ll be all over it! In the meanwhile, I’m going to continue to try to fit photographing, cooking, and blogging in where I can, real pants be damned! That being said, this post is more than 2 months in the making.

birthday girl!
birthday girl and pants-wearing mom of 2!

Continue reading Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

recipes to make your belly happy!