Yogurt: A Book Review

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

I think it is not secret that I cook... a lot. I love new cookbooks and trying new things that force me out of my cooking comfort zone. I always find myself going back to the comfort foods, but since I'm doing another round with my trainer, I've had to look elsewhere for new recipes, since the the butter and cheese in the Ina recipes I like won't cut it anymore (but oh how I wish they would!). 

I found Blogging for Books through another blog and I had to give it a try. I hopped on, signed up and answered a few questions about what kinds of books I like and what I like to read. It then took me to another page with about 5 categories and 5 books in each category and I got to pick ANY book to try! The book was shipped the next day and when it arrived I was honestly shocked by how many recipes and creative things were in here.

This book, Yogurt, by Janet Fletcher, is just what it sounds like- a book about cooking with yogurt. The reason that I was drawn to this is because its very protein/veggie heavy and you can basically substitute the cream sauces in other recipes for these ones that use yogurt. The book has recipes for making your own yogurt and also has recipes for desserts, appetizers and lots of entrees. 

I decided to try 2 different recipes from this book. One was a hanger steak with a cilantro, garlic, grilled onion yogurt sauce and the other was grilled zucchini with a yogurt red pepper flake sauce with feta cheese and lemon zest and dill. I probably wouldn't serve these 2 dishes TOGETHER since there is a lot of yogurt sauce going on, but they were both delicious. 



I couldn't find hanger steak, so I picked a great flank steak, which is similar. 

And the zucchini... so fresh and delicious! 

The ingredients are fresh and simple and nothing in the book is really complicated. All of the recipes are interesting, easy to make and quick. It is the perfect cook book if you're trying to whip up something easy and healthy for dinner. 

There are a few other recipes I'm excited to try from Yogurt
Also, Blogging for Books... what a great idea. If you have a blog, hop on and check it out!





Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Monday, April 6, 2015

I'm not much of a cake person. I always seem to go for the richer, chocolaty cheesecakes and ice cream types of desserts. I could take or leave cupcakes, cakes and cookies.

I had been trying to decide on a dessert to make for a family Easter dinner this past weekend, and I stumbled upon this little number here and I thought that it looked very appropriate for spring and something light after a heavy Easter dinner. 

Plus, who doesn't like cream cheese frosting? I could eat the frosting out of the bowl. 
I decided to give this cake a try, even though a cheesecake or caramel dessert sounded better. 
It was a huge hit and everyone was raving about it and having a second piece. 

The cake is very moist and dense and doesn't feel at all like a breakfast cake, it is rich and very dessert-y . It certainly has enough sugar and butter to be a dessert cake... 


Cake:
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
zest + juice of 3-4 medium lemons (depending on how lemon flavored you want it)
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
1 tbsp flour (to mix into blueberries)

Frosting:
8 oz. full fat cream cheese (room temp)
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick, room temp)
3 cups confectioners sugar
1-2 tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt




Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray your baking pans (3, round) with non-stick cooking spray

2. Making the cake: Using a stand mixer or a hand mixer, in a large bowl, cream the butter until creamy (1-2 minutes) and then add granulated and brown sugars and beat until mixed and creamed. Add eggs and vanilla and beat on medium speed until everything is combined and set aside. 

3. In another large bowl, toss together (sift, if possible), baking powder, salt and flour. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and beat on low speed for 5 seconds, after each addition. Add buttermilk, lemon juice and lemon zest and mix. Mix the blueberries in a separate bowl with 1 tbsp of flour and then combine into batter. Mix with a spoon as batter will be very thick and be sure not to over mix!

4. Spoon batter into 3 baking pans and bake for 21-26 minutes or until you can insert a toothpick and it comes out clean. A trick that I noticed was to keep an eye on the cakes in the oven. When they don't look raw in the center anymore, but still aren't browning, check them and take them out if they come out clean. It is better to not let them start to brown. 

5.Making the frosting: Beat butter and cream cheese together until creamed, about 2 minutes. Add sugar, vanilla, salt and one of the tbsp's of cream. Beat together until creamy. Add the second tbsp of cream and beat until blended. Cover and put the frosting in the fridge. 

6. Assemble and Frost: Make sure the cakes are cooled completely. I stuck the layers in parchment paper in the freezer for about 30 minutes since I was making the cakes the day of. They can't be at all warm or the frosting process will be a mess. Lay the first layer on a cake plate and cover with a very thin layer of frosting and then set the second layer on the frosting, frost with a thin layer and set the third layer on. Cover the entire cake with remaining frosting. There isn't a whole lot of frosting so just make sure that you keep an eye on the amount of frosting that you have left. A little goes a long way, I promise. 

You can make the cake ahead (1 day) and refrigerate. You will also want to refrigerate the cake for about an hour before cutting into it. This will ensure that it stays together. 

Decorate the cake any way that you like. I zested a lemon over the top of the cake and sprinkled with blueberries and then lined the base of the cake with thin, half slices of lemons. 

This cake is such a great addition to any spring party. It is light and colorful and seems to be a hit among everyone! It was fairly simple and didn't require a whole lot of effort. It baked easily and was easy to assemble and decorate. 

Enjoy!

Philadelphia and the Snow Storm

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

I am spoiled in California. Really, really spoiled. When it snows, you're probably in Tahoe wishing and hoping for snow because you're skiing, and when it rains, it's not a big deal, because it is still warm. I usually even wear my rainbows when its raining because it isn't usually cold. 
Let me tell you something about the East Coast... 

It SNOWS and it RAINS ICE. I figured freezing rain was probably something like hail, but boy, was I wrong about that too. It is literally frozen rain drops that stick to everything and turn it into a sheet of ice. Its dangerous and makes for impossible air travel. 

After my long visit in Philly, I got stuck here for a few more days after my flight was cancelled Sunday due to this frozen rain (stuck is a very loose term- I was actually really excited that I got to stay, although I was definitely the only person on that flight happy about being stuck). 


SO MUCH SNOW!!


Over the last few weeks, we were able to explore Philly some more and try out some great new (to us) restaurants and museums. We went to the Animals Body Inside Out exhibit as well as a Lego exhibit. This guy builds some crazy figures out of legos. I don't really understand it, because I would be frustrated and over it by lego #8, but more power to him. 



After that, we headed over to the flight museum at the Franklin Institute (along with the other eleventy million people trying to stay out of the snow storm for the day with hyper kids in tow), and Bret tried his hand at paper airplane making. If you fly real planes, you better be able to build a cool paper airplane. 



I was so excited about the snow (walking in it only, not driving in it- terrifying) that I insisted on taking a few selfies as we were walking to dinner. One night, we tried out a few new bars and it snowed several inches in just the few hours that we were out. I had a blast walking around in it. 



I have been gone for so long that I was worried that Bosley has forgotten me and has fallen into a deep state of depression. I'm concerned about him...

Until my mom sends me pictures like this of him playing in the river and finding the biggest stick that he can physically carry back. Obviously, he's devastated by my absence....



DIY Long Distance Relationship Coffee Mugs

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

I like to think that I'm fairly crafty, although it's a miracle if I have time anymore these days to do anything that requires patience and drying time. 
I was trying to figure out something cute and small to get or make Bret for Valentine's Day, when I came across this blog and idea on Pinterest. I decided that it looked easy enough and since Bret drinks more coffee than just about anyone I know, I figured he would get a lot of use out of it. 
What You'll need:
Oil Based Sharpies (they HAVE to be oil based so that they don't smudge later on)
or
Ceramic paint pens (you can buy these at any craft store)
White mugs
Tape
Cut outs of each state that you want to use 
To Make the Mugs:
Carefully cut out the state shapes and tape them to the center of each mug. Trace around the shape with a black sharpie and then peel the paper off of the mug and re-trace over the line with a thicker black line. 
Draw a heart with each city and then make a black bee line from one city to the next, so that they "connect" when the mugs are touching. 
On the back of the mugs, write your favorite song, quote or poem and then let the mugs dry for a few minutes. 
Place the mugs in a cool over and turn the oven to 350. Bake for 30 minutes and let cool.

Perfectly Crispy Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

I love sweet potato fries. Love them. 
Ok I just love fries, but if I ate fries as often as I get the craving, it would be a bad situation. 
I have been looking for baked sweet potato fries recipes all over the internet and have tried about 10 different recipes but have not been able to find one that results in crispy fries. 
Most of them were mushy or oily. 
After several different attempts, trying different things, I have perfected these little babies. 

Here is what you'll need:
1 large sweet potato (garnet yam- the orange ones with red skin)
2 tbsp. olive oil
2-4 tbsp corn starch 
salt & pepper and any other seasoning you'd like

Directions: 
Heat oven to 400 degrees 
Peel and cut sweet potato into thin, even fry shaped spears
Soak in a bowl of water for about 10-15 minutes
dry fries COMPLETELY and dry the bowl that you soaked the fries in 
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly spray with non-stick spray
In the bowl, toss the fries with olive oil, corn starch, salt and pepper. Make sure that all of the fries are completely coated and the corn starch is mixed in well with the olive oil. The fries (and your hands) should be really gummy and sticky. 
Line the fries on the baking sheet but MAKE SURE that none of them touch. You don't want them to be too crowded otherwise they will steam, not crisp up. 
Bake for 20 minutes, until fries are crispy. Flip with a spatula and bake for another 5-10 minutes.

 
Enjoy!

I like to eat my fries with a Siracha aoili sipping sauce: 
2 tbsp light may
1/2 lemon- juice
1tsp Siracha (or more, depending on how spicy you like it)

Life Lately

Friday, January 16, 2015

I've been neglecting this little blog for the last month. To say that it has been a busy few weeks is certainly an understatement. Life is seemingly back to normal now and I've finally had a minute to sit down and catch up. 

Over the holidays, my brother graduated from college. I forgot how extremely long and boring college graduations are since I haven't been to one since my own, and let me tell you, not a thing has changed. There weren't as many kids graduating in winter, so they kept it to a cool 2.5 hours. Plenty of time for me. The beer and sushi at the end of the ordeal was all that was getting me through it. 

Bret was home over Christmas and it was so great having him here. We went back and forth between our families about every day and we even managed to sneak off to Tahoe for a few days of alone time. We did nothing. It was perfect. I worked, Bret read most of a whole book, we slept and cooked and went on a walk and went out to diner one night. It was the first time in a long time I've felt like I could really take a break and do nothing. 

After a week of Christmas and families and birthdays, we flew back to Philly together for New Years. We rang in the new year at a friend's house overlooking the river. I had every intention to stay out on their awesome balcony for hours looking at the view, but the fact that it was like eight degrees with a crazy wind chill made it nearly impossible. None the less, it was the perfect low key and fun new year. Oh and I didn't have to wear a dress and heels, so that was a win. 

When I got back to California, I had to schedule a little procedure for Bosley. He had a lump under his skin that needed to be removed. The vet made it sound like it wasn't a big deal, a short one day procedure and he will be up and about in no time. 
Well... not so much. 
I give you, doggy Frankenstein. 
When I picked him up from the vet, he was so drugged up he had no idea what planet he was on. He was staring off into space and swaying back and forth. 
The first night after his surgery he was up all night crying. If you have ever heard a dog cry, you know how heart breaking the sound is. There was nothing I could do for him and I'm not convinced he was in pain (he had plennttyyyyy of morphine in his system) but I think that he was scared. Let me tell you, it makes me think real hard about having kids anytime soon. 
He is doing much better now and wishes he could run around and play, but he has a few more days of not acting like a puppy. 

This weekend I will be (finally) getting over the last of the worst cold I've ever had in my life (complete with a trip to urgent care) and attending a crab feed tomorrow night with my parents. 
Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!




Making a Long Distance Relationship Work

Thursday, December 4, 2014

 
When Bret and I first met, he was already living in Philadelphia and he was in Sacramento visiting his family for a few weeks. We went out on one date and the next day he went back to Philly. We didn't have any plans to see each other again and I wasn't even sure how this would ever work or if either of us were willing to consider it at all. We didn't talk about any of that during that first date. I think we were both getting more nervous as the night went on because it was so good and I don't think either of us were expecting it. We spent the whole evening being in the moment.
I still get asked why I even agreed to go out with him knowing that he lived across the country. It is a valid question and my answer surprises me, even still- because I would have always wondered if I didn't. The connection was too strong and if I didn't at least take a chance and see, I would have always wondered how it would have gone. 
It was the best first date ever and I would make the decision over and over again, even knowing how hard it would be to make a long distance relationship work. 
Long distance relationships are hard and they certainly aren't for everyone. It takes a lot of work and some days are harder than others, but the good absolutely outweighs the hard and the bad. It works for us and our situation and our relationship is strong even despite the challenges. 
All relationships have challenges and this one is ours but we make it work and we both put in the effort because we care about each other and we want to. 
Here are some of my tips for making a long distance relationship work. 
 
 1. Communication: This is probably the biggest one of them all. Communication. As much as possible. I'm talking about talking on the phone, texting, skype/face time. When I say communication I also mean staying connected to each others lives on a daily basis. Bret and I send random pictures of something we saw in our day, we talk about what we are doing, we text throughout the day. We feel connected to each other all day, everyday. I don't feel like he's over there in another world and I'm over here and we aren't connected. We make an effort to talk at least once a day on the phone and face time at least 3 times a week and we text constantly throughout the day. We talk about our day and what we did and how we are feeling and seeing each other next. We talk about random stuff and silly stuff and serious stuff. You have to be a communicator and expect that of your partner. 
2. Trust: You also have to be completely trusting in a LDR. You have to trust each other and trust your own feelings. I'm not just talking about trusting that your partner is being faithful to you, but also trusting yourself and your partner's feelings for each other, that they are strong and real and that your relationship is worth it. This is where confidence in yourself and in the relationship play a big part. 
3. Planning: We are always planning our next visit. We have been VERY fortunate in that the longest we have gone without seeing each other in the last 4 months is only about 5 weeks. We fly back and forth. I go to Philly and he comes home. I know that in all situations, this isn't possible, but it is important to plan visits. You have to make an effort to SEE each other, even if it is just for a few days and even if it is last minute.
4. Don't Compare Your Relationship to Others: I am guilty of this sometimes as well. I wish that I could see Bret more often, I miss him a lot, I see my friends with their boyfriends being able to spend time together on week days and I wish that we were able to do that as well. I have to remind myself that our relationship isn't the same as other relationships. Every relationship has its challenges and hurdles and you have to accept that yours are going to be different (not necessarily worse, just different) than other peoples' challenges. You can't compare apples to oranges or it will affect you. 
5. Plans for the Future: You have to make sure that you both are on the same page about your expectations for the present and for the future and that you both have a similar timeline. Someone has to move. There are no two ways around that issue. Talk about it. Figure out what you both want, what makes the most sense for both of you and make a plan. You can't just hope that things will work out. Make a plan together, even if it is a year out, three years out or longer. It won't work if neither of you are willing to compromise your current situation (job, moving, getting married, kids, etc). Get on the same page. 
6. Don't Listen to Other People: I have learned this one first hand, unfortunately. Your family and friends will ALL have their own opinion on your relationship. Maybe they think you're crazy or irresponsible or living in a fantasy world. Maybe they tell you that it will never work out and you know what? If you let them get in your head and believe it, they will be right, it won't work. Your true friends and family will always love and support you and only you know what is best for YOU and your life and your happiness. Justifying your relationship and your decisions are never going to change anyone's mind, so don't. Own your decision and your relationship and never let anyone bring you down. It is one thing for them to be genuinely concerned and it is another for them to overstate their unwarranted opinions about your life. It is your choice whether you listen to them or not. 
7. Spend Your Time Wisely: When you are apart, stay busy. I work a lot and travel for work, so I'm rarely sitting around missing Bret all day. Do I miss him? All of the time, but that is different than dwelling on it and feeling sorry for myself. I work a lot, I workout, I volunteer, I spend as much time as possible with my family and friends and I capitalize on my alone time. Stay busy. Find things that you like doing apart from your partner. Don't lose yourself. This is the time to focus on YOU. 
LDRs work out. I get so annoyed when people say that it will never work because its long distance. My answer to that? Local relationships don't work out also. Its not always about the distance. Relationships don't work for a number of reasons, but distance doesn't have to be a deal breaker. If you both want it bad enough and the other person is worth it, it can always work. 

In my case, it is worth it. Our relationship is important to me and very rare and special and looking back, I'd make the same decision to be with Bret because I'm happy and that is what matters.
 
Oh, and?