Saturday, February 26, 2011

Boy or Girl??

Last weekend at a friend's bachelorette party, one of the bachelorette's friends who is expecting said that she would be having her ultrasound soon and were going to find out what they are having. They wanted to break the news to her family and her in-laws of the baby's sex by having a cake filled with either pink or blue frosting. This sounded like something that was just up my alley. I'm always looking for an excuse to practice my cake-ing skills! And (thankfully!) she accepted my offer.

She opted for a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. The recipe? So glad you asked. Keep in mind this was supposed to feed at least 15 people, so I decided to go with a 10-inch round 2-layer cake. Ergo, large quantities of ingredients.

For the cake
4 c cake flour
1 c unsweetened cocoa
2 tsp salt
2 2/3 c vegetable oil
2 1/2 c sugar
4 eggs
4 tsp vanilla extract
3 oz red food coloring
2 c buttermilk
2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp vinegar

Sift the flour, cocoa and salt together in a large bowl. With an electric mixer, in a separate bowl combine oil and sugar. Add eggs. On low power, add vanilla, then red food coloring. Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk, mixing well after each addition. In small bowl mix baking soda and vinegar; add to batter. Bake at 350 for about 50 minutes.

For the frosting
24 oz cream cheese at room temperature
1/4 c + 2 tbsp vegetable shortening
6 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
4 tsp vanilla extract
6-8 c powdered sugar, sifted (more or less, depending on consistency)

Using an electric mixer, cream together cream cheese, shortening, and butter. Slowly add powdered sugar until you reach the desired consistency. Add vanilla and mix well. I colored about 1/4 of the frosting with the appropriate color -- the question is, was it pink or blue??

Here's the finished product, complete with a gold cake plate and box!

Unfortunately I don't have a picture of the cake cut, but...
It's a girl!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Swimmer's High

After talking with a friend and realizing that I haven't been keeping to my swimming portion of the triathlon training, I decided I just needed to get myself to the pool. It always seems like so much more work than running or biking, but it's never that bad when I get there.

About a week ago I ordered a one-piece-lap-swimming-swimsuit online. I just couldn't swim laps in my two-piece anymore. I was getting funny looks. The swimsuit cost literally like 1/5 of the retail price. If you're in the market for a new swimsuit, it's definitely worth your time to check out I also invested in a swimcap, since Kate told me I'd have to wear one for the race. I decided I just needed to get used to it. I had never worn one in my life, and I imagine it was quite a scene to see me put that thing on. I think I need to practice.

But once I had on the swimsuit, the swimcap, and my goggles... I was ready to go! I started off with my 3-lap max that I had been doing. Then I went for five. Next was 8, and then I upped it to 10. Ten laps in a row! Confesson: I had to stop after lap 4 to drain my right eye of chlorinated water. At least it was only a 5-second stop. But talk about a sense of accomplishment. And I only had to stop after 10 laps because there was an old guy waiting for a lane and I'd been in the pool for the 30-minute-limit-when-other-patrons-are-waiting.

I've experienced the post-race runner's high, and for the first time I think I got a taste of having a swimmer's high. If that's even a real thing. I don't know, maybe it was the chlorine, but it felt great!
Any ideas on how to get my goggles not to fill up with water by lap 4? In the pool it's not such a big deal, but in the fishy lake water with no pool bottom to stand on, I think I might be in trouble. Any advice??

Now, if only I could swim without looking like a moron.

Monday, February 14, 2011

And the greatest of these is LOVE.

You may or may not have noticed, but today is Valentine’s Day. It’s everywhere—candy, roses, chocolates. It’s an explosion of red and pink everywhere you go.

In honor of Valentine’s Day… heart-shaped cake pops! We had to have something fun while we were working all day. Tea time and cake pops with my work buddies? Absolutely!
And my Valentine's Day dinner after work?? Mac-n-cheese and hot dogs---and ice cream! Yum! (Thanks Mike!)

To top it all off, a great Valentine’s Day story…
At work we currently have a 20 year old girl that was diagnosed with Leukemia about a week ago. She has been on IV chemotherapy non-stop for the past week, and she’s starting to feel pretty lousy. Her boyfriend decided that even though she was stuck in the hospital connected to an IV pole and had to wear a mask anytime she left her room, that he would plan a surprise Valentine dinner for her. He told her he’d be at work for dinner and wouldn’t be there for the evening. She was bummed, but she understood. Meanwhile, he put a handwritten note on the Family Gathering Room “Reserved for my Valentine”. He moved around the furniture so the table and two chairs were in the middle of the room. He brought in heart-shaped plates and flameless candles. He put a couple pictures of the two of them and a present on the end table, which he had put by the dinner table and two chairs. He put streamers on the door and rose petals on the floor leading from her room to the family room. He was standing outside her room with a single rose, and had her mom take her for a walk to get her into the hallway. They followed the rose petals to the family room, and her mom took pictures outside of the streamered room – with her mask on and all. Her nurse delivered her dinner (yes, hospital food), and they ate it on the heart-shaped plates. He gave her a letter he had written and the gift he had brought. They sat in the family room for at least an hour, until she had to return to her room to get her new bag of chemotherapy.
On the oncology floor, we find any reason to celebrate.
Valentine’s Day definitely makes the cut.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Dinner Date

Friday night, Mike's boss and his wife had us over for dinner. The pictures below are seriously worth at least 1000 words. SO delicious.

ceasar salad, steak, green beans, potato cakes, and wine.

red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.

Need I say more??
Thanks again Josh and Kelli!

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Perfect Combination

Working 12 hour days can get kinda long, but it does have its advantages. The best one? Only working 3 days a week. If you passed the second grade, you know that means that I have 4 days off a week. How glorious! Yesterday was one of those days.

Yes, I was productive. I had two meetings, did some cleaning, that sort of thing. But I also had a fabulous day that I don't get to have when I'm working until 8pm.

The advantages of a day off:
  • Sleeping in past 5:30am.
  • Eating breakfast/lunch whenever I want to, not when my patients allow it.
  • Afternoon tea & gossip time with Sasha.
  • Sitting down for more than 30 minutes a day.
  • Happy Hour with my fellow Gamma Phi Young Alums.
  • Watching two evening tv shows without falling asleep.
  • Going to bed after 9:30.
It's like a weekend on Thursday!

I think the highlight of my day (probably because it happens the least often) was Happy Hour. We went to Jones Bros Cupcakes, and had a cupcake and a glass of wine. Granted, I could have done that much cheaper in the comfort of my own home, but it was the company that was so great. These girls get together for Dinner Club every couple of weeks, but it's usually on days that I'm working until 8pm. Yes, I only work 3 days a week, but they always manage to schedule it when I'm working. (Unintentionally of course. I swear, they really do like me. Right girls? Riiiight? haha.) So we caught up on life, talked about jobs or lack thereof, families, and other big adventures. What I love about these girls is that they're always willing to help in any way they can. We talked about a sister-friend who has been recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Everyone jumped at the opportunity to do whatever they can to help her and her family. A couple of the girls in attendance are looking for work more in the field of their college degree; there were offers all over the place for potential jobs. It wasn't a networking happy hour, but that definitely got accomplished.

The happy hour was probably also my favorite because I got a cupcake and  wine. Yes, I do enjoy going to Kona for a margarita and sushi, but this was a fun change. And much tastier in my opinion. Jones Bros has all kinds of fun cupcakes, cakes, and other treats. They also have sandwiches and salads if you're looking for a real meal. And their cupcakes are so good, they were just on Cupcake Wars on Tuesday. I hear it's a great show; everyone was raving about it on Wednesday. But really, with a cupcake, a glass of wine, and 8 great friends... how can you go wrong?

I love days off. And cupcakes. And wine. And my friends. :)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Small Feats

In high school I wasn't much of an athlete. I think my game high in basketball was 4 points in junior high. With my lack of depth perception volleyball was done. I gave up on track, let alone even attempting cross country. Run three miles? Was Mr. Reagan out of his mind? These little legs didn't want to do that. So I stuck to cheerleading and dance. Much more enjoyable. But in the years immediately following high school, I decided I'd dabble in running. I started with one-mile jaunts, because that's about all I could do at one time. We had a little gang of girls that ran the "med school loop" around Creighton's campus a couple times a week. Then these 5K's started popping up all over the place. Five "K"? What's a K? I don't use the metric system, how am I supposed to know what a 5K is? Welcome to 'murica! But I quickly found out. I ran several 5K's over the course of college, and I really enjoyed them. Three mile runs really weren't that bad, especially when you had a buddy to run them with. Turns out Mr. Reagan was right... I really could have run cross country. Sorry I'm 8 years too late.

Anyway, each summer in the last few years I've been one-upping myself.
In the summer of 2008, I ran a 5K.
In the summer of 2009, I ran a 10K.
In the summer of 2010, I ran a half marathon.

And this summer I'm going to complete a triathlon. Granted, it's a sprint triathlon, but I'm gonna do it nonetheless. And it's the Omaha Women's Tri, so there are no big sweaty boys to intimidate me. Only big sweaty girls.

What does a Sprint triathlon consist of? It's a 750 meter swim (half mile), 20K bike (12.4 miles), and 5K run (3.1 miles). I think I can do it. Without dying.

A couple months ago a few friends and I decided we'd give the Omaha Women's Triathlon a try. Actually, Kate really wanted to try it and I thought it would be a good challenge. We've been trying to recruit friends to do it since then, and most of them just look at us like we asked them in French. Turns out, I don't even know how to do that.

So we've been doing this 20-week training program to get us going. I can do the running and the biking with no problem, but the swimming has been quite a challenge for me. Don't get me wrong, I was a little fish growing up--spending endless summer days at the pool. But swimming laps is something entirely different. I'm on the fifth week of the training program, and today I finally (FINALLY!) can swim 75 meters without stopping. That's a down-back-down, in my language. (I had to ask Kate several times how far a lap was.) And I did it twice! I know that's not a huge accomplishment to many people, but considering my 25 meter max a month ago, I'd say that's not too bad. Now I just have to multiply it by 10 and I'm good!

I might need some water wings.   

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Chocolate Cupcakes with Red Raspberry Buttercream Frosting

The past few days have been nothing but snow and ice. An inch of ice and five of snow has led to the city essentially being shut down. Two snow-days for schools and many business and "use extreme caution" alerts from the Department of Roads. What does this boil down to? Me going stir crazy. After two days of being snowed in at home, I needed something to do besides read, watch tv, and do laundry. So rather than vacuum or go to the gym (although both really need to be done), I decided chocolate/raspberry cupcakes sounded nice. Don't you agree? And I've been dying to frost cupcakes with a large round icing tip. The little things in life, I know.

So I searched and searched for the perfect chocolate cupcake recipe. I'm not a big chocolate fan, and even less of a chocolate cake fan. But today sounded like a good day. Molly recommended to me The Pioneer Woman's chocolate cake recipe. The PW says it's The Best Ever Chocolate Cake... so I thought I'd give it a try.
Here's the recipe (with my minor changes): 2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
½ cups buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp vanilla
1 cup butter
4 heaping tbsp cocoa powder
1 cup boiling water
1 chunk dark chocolate for each cupcake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tin with cupcake papers.
In large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. Stir and set aside.
In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and stir to combine. Add the boiling water, allow to bubble for a few seconds, then turn off heat.
Pour chocolate mixture over flour mixture. Stir a few times to cool the chocolate. Pour buttermilk mixture over the top and stir to combine.
Fill each cupcake paper 2/3 full. Place one chocolate chunk in the middle of each cupcake.
Bake for 20 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then place them on a baking rack to finish cooling.

After these were cooled (and I went to the gym and had dinner with Mike, Molly, and Dave), I made the frosting.
Here's the recipe:

1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
4-6 cups powdered sugar (I just added until it was the consistency I wanted)
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam (I used about 3/4 cup to make it taste better)

Blend the butter and jam with a mixer until smooth. Add powdered sugar a little at a time until it is the consistency you'd like.

Then I piped this frosting onto the cupckes using my grandma's frosting bags and tips. It was actually the coupler from her set, since I don't have a round tip large enough to frost like I wanted. But it worked great -- Thanks Grandma!

After a raspberry and some chocolate sprinkles... Voila! 

Oh, and a quick shout-out to those who have been
telling my dad about my baking and blogging.
He has to keep tabs on me somehow.
Thanks for keeping him in the loop.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Lemon-Raspberry Cake

Lemon and Raspberry. What a glorious combination.

A couple weeks ago I found a recipe for lemon cake and lemon buttercream frosting. Amazing? I thought so. So I just had to try it.

Don't hate me, but I don't know what recipe I used. Had I known it was going to be so delicious and I was going to share it with you, I would have bookmarked it. But I didn't. Fail. I promise from now on, if I brag about something being so tasty, I'll share the recipe. Scout's honor.  If it helps, I think the key ingredients were fresh squeezed lemon juice and lemon zest.

I also learned one valuable lesson from this cake:  when it says 'sifted flour' it's not a suggestion. It actually needs to be sifted. Otherwise you'll have a cookie-dense cake. Lesson learned. (Sasha and Mike said it passed their test anyway!)

But in lieu of an actual recipe, I'll show you my masterpiece.

 I gave this one to a college friend of mine, Sasha. I gave her a disclaimer about the density of the cake, but she accepted anyway. She said it was delicious... let's hope she was being honest!

This one was kept at home for my tastebuds. They were happy little guys. Mike only had one piece. He still reminds me of that.

If I make another lemon-frosted-lemon-cake, I think I'll put raspberries in with the frosting between the layers too. The ones on top were so good, I think it could have used a little more raspberry-ness.