Saturday, March 31, 2012

Guinness Stout Cake - Happy Birthday!

In 10 minutes, it will be Nathan's birthday! The big 2-3! Woohoo! So this post is all about his birthday meal...

His mom is taking us out for dinner tomorrow to celebrate his actual birthday, but my parents came up today to celebrate his birthday and check out our fancy new kitchen!

Since his cake last year sat around for way too long, I decided I would make the cake today and we could enjoy it with my parents. That way, it wouldn't be sitting around forever getting stale and disgusting.

Nathan grilled tonight, we had venison tenderloins (marinaded in Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce, fresh garlic cloves, and honey) and basil burgers (from H&G cookbook). My mom brought up her potato salad (my absolute favorite... I could probably eat an entire bowl/batch/recipe?). After dinner, we hiked through the woods to make room for dessert (which is the part I contributed!)

I made Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Guinness Stout Cake. With cream cheese frosting. Everything was from scratch, for the first time in my baking career!

The cake starts off with Guinness beer, so that's already a highlight. It was a few more ingredients than the box mixes I'm used to, but it wasn't actually too hard to figure out. I even made the frosting! It was just confectioner's sugar, cream cheese and heavy cream. Easy peasy! My favorite part of the recipe is that the directions say "Ice top of cake only, so that it resembles a frothy pint of Guinness." (quoted from, where I found the recipe) Cute!

The middle deflated a bit, but the texture of the cake was really nice in spite of that...
(photo by me)

The recipe calls for sour cream, so I bought Daisy (Do a dollop, do do a dollop of daaaisy!). Opened it up, and to my surprise? Glacier National Park in Montana! Back story...My friend, Amy, stopped over last night to hang out and informed me that she would (most likely) be moving to Montana next year, and would be right near Glacier National Park! And now, it shows up right in my sour cream!

Amy! There you are!

Everyone loved the cake. It was heavy, we definitely should've cut smaller slices... especially after a huge dinner, but it was delicious. I'd call it a baking success. And we have half a cake left to eat tomorrow on Nathan's actual birthday!
Finished Product! (photo by me)

So, Happy Birthday to my Nathan... and Happy Birthday to any other April Fool's babies! 

What's for dinner at your house tonight?

Thursday, March 8, 2012


After drinking/eating the healthy shake, I got called in to sub at the new district (woohoo!). So I went to work the next morning feeling very hungry, ate a peanut butter and nutella sandwich, and was still very hungry. To celebrate my first day at the new district, we ordered Chinese. Not healthy at all, especially since we now know how to make delicious stir fry... but I was craving it.

So to make our daily caloric intake a little healthier, I made a fruity milkshake. We've got all this fruit, we have to get rid of it. Into the blender it went! But this time, with ice cream and milk. A little vanilla ice cream, a little milk, a whole banana, and a whole lot of blueberries. It was thin, because of the milk, and it was delicious.

Cheers! Blueberry Banana shake. Also, shows off the kitchen!

Tonight, Nathan's mom is coming over for dinner. I still don't know what I'm cooking, though. Suggestions? What's for dinner at your house tonight?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"But why is it brown?"

So, I was reading a post over at Sparkly Love about shakes. It sounded fantastic. Janna and her husband are drinking all kinds of healthy, fruity shakes. She's feeling better, snacking less, and seeing great weight loss results WITHOUT starving herself!

I was inspired. That sounds like a great idea. She made a great point about the difference between juicing and shakes. Juicing gets rid of all the fiber and a lot of good stuff, shakes don't! I went grocery shopping over the weekend and bought all kinds of fruit... and some kale. Because I've been told that kale is super healthy.

So, our dinner tonight consisted of: a banana, an apple, a handful of raspberries, a handful of blueberries, and some kale. Our ingredient list was not as expansive as Janna's, and it probably should've been. Since I had a tiny budget and a long grocery list, the fruit fell to the bottom of the priority/grocery list. We like everything that went in, so we assumed we would like the final product. As I was adding things, the shake turned a pretty reddish-purple color. It looked tasty. I was excited. As I finished and did a final pulse, it looked brown. And as I poured it into the cups, I realized it was way too thick. Janna adds juice and said her husband also adds water. I probably should've added one or both of those.

Shake in blender, with most of the ingredients
(Photo courtesy of me)

We struggled to finish them. They were really thick. Nathan refused to say anything negative about them, but he also couldn't find anything positive about them... It was a little gross. I gave the last bit of mine to the dog.

Thick and brown... with the blur of a dog in the background
(Photo courtesy of me)

I'm determined to try again. Maybe more of certain things, and less of others... I'll just keep trying, hopefully I'll find something I like! Check out Janna's post and try out her recipe, it probably tastes way better than what we made today! Let me know what you think I should add to ours next time!

So, what's for dinner at your house tonight?

Here, piggy piggy!

One convenience of our mountain life? All the meat in our freezer (minus chicken) came from the mountain! Venison, pork, bacon, hams, even some beef now... It's all-natural, no hormones, no nasty feed... It's definitely a plus. And last night, we took advantage of the pork and bacon!

Pork tenderloin, wrapped in bacon... I remember my mom making this a few years ago; it was plain (like most food at her house, because of my dad), but delicious! So I was excited to try it. Our one concern? We had fresh bacon, not smoked... Oh, and Nathan was also concerned that there was no barbecue sauce. 

Mom's directions? Preheat the oven to 400°, wrap the tenderloin in bacon, and stick it in a Pyrex. And then, just cook it for 20 minutes. 

Nathan said 20 minutes isn't long enough. Whenever Gran cooks a loin in the oven, it goes in for at least 40 minutes. I said let's just try it, we can put it back in if it's not done... Well, for future reference, it was 37 minutes in the oven. So, Nathan was right again. Womp, womp.

Here it is, in the oven... looks almost like a meatloaf!
(Photo courtesy of me)
Instead of leaving it plain, we spread a little Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue and honey on top of the wrapped tenderloin. I used the fancy little brush to spread it around, and it cooked into the bacon nicely in the oven.

Here it is, all cooked! With Nathan's salad and cheesy pasta on the side.
(Photo courtesy of me)

Since the loin took an extra 17 minutes, the salads, green beans and cheesy pasta were already done... It ended up being like a 3 course meal (that's my positive spin!). The salad was just a bag of 7 lettuces, sliced mushrooms, croutons, and cucumber (sliced using my fancy German slicer! Check it out in the pic below!). We wanted to finish the bag off, since they don't stay good long, so the salads were pretty filling.

Too many cucumbers? I got a little slice-happy...
(Photo courtesy of me)

THE GREEN BEANS WERE SO GOOD BECAUSE THEY WERE CANNED. I grew up on canned vegetables. I hate frozen vegetables. I know they're healthy, brightly colored, crunchy... but we haven't had canned French-cut green beans in so long, I was in heaven last night eating them.

Everything was tasty. The loin wasn't as fantastic as I remembered my mom's, but it was tasty. It was something new to through into the mix. I've realized, keeping the blog in mind when I plan meals, that we eat peanut pretzel chicken too much. And marinated venison backstraps. Now, I sit and think "I've already written about that... maybe I should try something else!"

So, what's for dinner at your house tonight? Tell me about it!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Disaster of a Shortcut

Today, I looked forward to eating my mother's delicious chicken noodle soup. Nathan is up north at his annual ice fishing man weekend. So the soup is all mine. An entire frozen container of the soup... Mom makes the best soup. First, she boils chickens, carrots, potatoes, celery, turnips... tons of veggies... boils it all down. Then everyone eats the boiled down delicious food. Then, it all goes through a "mouli baby"... which is pretty much a grinder. And then you add noodles and muenster cheese and eat until your stomach is ready to burst. Since I don't live at home, I miss the boiled meal but get a whole tupperware thing full of soup, frozen. So I cooked up my own noodles (Forgot to buy muenster cheese), and defrosted the soup.

I also spilled the soup all over the floor. The unfinished wooden floor. Which means it soaked into the floorboards and squeezed itself into the gaps between the floorboards. Luckily, I got a bowl full before the disaster. Unluckily, I didn't take the noodles off the stove before mopping the floor, so the noodles were totally overcooked. I wish I'd thought to take a picture of the disaster so everyone could enjoy it with me... but I was busy cursing and being overemotional (i.e., scaring the dog).

Also took some time out to use a toothbrush to scrub between the floorboards. Got a lot of soup out that way, actually.

Today did not at all turn out the way I planned. It was a pretty garbage day, but it is a reminder to appreciate good days... and be glad that most days are not like today.

I went grocery shopping today, bought a lot of fruits and veggies... considering making a shake/smoothie thing later. I might put it off til tomorrow, considering how today is going. Who knows what the blender might do. But it's a step in the healthy direction, so that's exciting for me.

So... tonight's dinner was far from a success. But the bowl of soup and over-cooked noodles that I did manage to eat was pretty tasty in spite of everything else. There's an up side to everything.

So, what's for dinner at your house tonight? (Hopefully, your prep went smoothly!)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Sick Day

My cold took a turn for the worse and Nathan had a snow day today... I laid around in bed reading more Piers Anthony (he's got me hooked on these) while he graded papers. Then he informed me that I was allowed to pick anything for dinner and he'd cook it. I thought, and thought, and thought... considered all different options, nothing sounded right. Then, while we were making a grocery list for my heavy-duty necessary shopping trip on Monday, I realized it had been a longgg time since we'd had tacos! Like 4 months. Geez.

So Nathan made tacos, the way we always make tacos... with venison. They were delicious. And the spiciness of the taco sauce cleared out my sinuses! Just in time to smell the brownies coming out of the oven!

That's right, Nathan baked me brownies. They are tasty. And gooey. And everything brownies should be. He sprinkled chocolate chips into the mix, and they were perfect. He literally earned some brownie points today!

Yum! (Alright, promise I will find a real camera to start using soon)

So, what's for dinner (and dessert) at your house tonight?

French Toast (breakfast for dinner!)

Usually, I have class Monday, Wednesday and Thursday nights... and at least one or two Friday nights, I volunteer at Friday Knights ( ). Last night, a "snow storm" hit the northeast, so we got a snow day! My night class was canceled, rejoice! That meant I had to think of something to make for dinner... usually, I get out of cooking on those nights.

So, since I felt a cold coming on and didn't want to do anything too extravagant, I decided we should have French toast and breakfast sausage... breakfast for dinner. I took the sausage out of the freezer, and started looking forward to a tasty dinner.

Nathan came home and we got caught up in watching all the tv shows I usually miss on Wednesdays because of class... And then we started snacking (because that's what we do when we watch tv, so unhealthy!). And then, all of a sudden, it was time for bed and we never made dinner.

This morning, after a horrible night's sleep (I was hoping NyQuil would help, but it made everything much worse), I woke up to a very hungry Nathan. So we decided we would have breakfast for breakfast! He didn't take the sausage out, so it was just French toast today.

I use the French toast recipe from the Better Homes and Garden cookbook (You know, the red plaid one that everyone's mom had growing up... Except mine is pink plaid, because it's a breast cancer awareness special edition), but we leave a few things out.

4 eggs, a cup of milk, 2 tbsp of sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, ½ tsp of cinnamon, ¼ tsp of nutmeg. That's all you really need to get some tasty toast. Mix it all up in a bowl wide enough to fit a slice of bread in. We use regular bread, white or wheat... whatever we've got. I've seen people use chunks of Italian bread (and top it with banana!), challah... whatever floats your boat.

We cook it up on a griddle on the stove, it conveniently fits 6 slices at a time. The recipe ends up making about 12 slices... we always have some left over, but that's ok.

Horrible quality, but I was so hungry... couldn't stand still. 6 slices, on the griddle, with the mixture off to the side. (Photo courtesy of me)

The best part about our French toast is the syrup we use... Since we live up on a mountain, everyone likes to make stuff themselves. We've got neighbors raising pigs for meat, goats for milk, fresh vegetable gardens... and then there are the trees. Maple trees grow plentifully on a few friends' properties, so they take advantage of this and tap the trees to collect sap. Then, we all hang out on a weekend and boil sap all day long. Trees produce 9-13 gallons of sap per season, which boils down to a quarter of a gallon of syrup. If your property is full of maple trees, you can make a whole lot of syrup! It's sweeter and more delicious than any syrup you could buy in the grocery store and it makes food 1,000x better.

So, what's for dinner (or breakfast) at your house tonight?