A Birthday Surprise…The Easy Way

So you may recall from some of my earlier posts that I love birthdays. I love making birthday treats. Sometimes though, it can be a pain in the a**. For the most part I like things simple. Which is why I really don’t mind using boxed cake mix and store bought frosting as a base (with some exceptions obviously) because you can do lots of things to make your biz unique.

This time around, I was even lazier (and a little bit poorer) than usual. Two of my co-worker pals happen to have the same birthday. So clearly I was going to make them a treat. Things I did not have/ did not feel like buying: eggs and oil. Usually those two guys are pretty essential for a box mix. Not anymore.

All this cake needs is the mix from the box and 10 oz of soda! BOOM. Stupid easy right?! Eggs Schmeggs man.

It looks really cool when you mix in the soda. NOTE: I used Sprite because I was making a white/yellow cake. If you’re making a chocolate or dark cake you can use a darker soda. Or be cool kid and mix like orange soda with a light cake. It also is a big cut to the calories of the cake.

It bakes up nice and fluffy…and you cook it per box instructions…so like 30 mins on 350.

Now my friend T is real into Nutella. She loves it. So since it is part her birthday I decided to make a Nutella frosting. I didn’t really have the time or funds to buys the ingredients for a butter cream from scratch so I checked the interwebs and found a cheat option. Mix a store bought white frosting with an equal part nutella. Its a little thick so I also added some milk to make it smoother. Eye ball that because it will vary based on amount of frosting and the consistency you’re looking for.

Then all that’s left is to frost your biz. The frosting is a little different consistency wise because of the Nutella so its a little thicker, but more durable than regular frosting. When I say durable I mean that should you say.. accidentally slide the finished cake into your electric kettle it really doesn’t even make a dent.

So I wanted to write on the cake. In the end I remembered that I had icing for this exact purpose. However, before my brain started working I attempted to whip up some colored icing to write on the cake…and totally failed and made a big mess lol. I attached a photo so we can all laugh and judge me together lol.

Long story short: Happy Birthday Louis and Tessa (who unfortunately ended up calling in sick and won’t get to eat cake with us 😦  )

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Apples to Apples: Part 4

I imagine at this point many of you are getting sick of this apple business. I get it. But maybe now its becoming clear for you just how many apples I picked that fateful Saturday…

This being the 4th installment of my apple series I’ll share 2 of the more unique recipes I tried. The first that I’ll talk about is a tasty Fall Apple Sangria….mmmm sangria….

Sangria is one of the easiest things to make because it is very forgiving. Personally, I’ve always had a soft spot for sangria because it satisfies so many needs…the need for some booze and it also is a tasty snack. Win win. Here’s how I made this fun fall beverage:

1 bottle sweet white wine (I used a Moscato)
1 bottle champagne (I used a Dry Cooks)
3 bottles of hard cider (out of like a 6 pack)
1.5 Tbs sugar
1/2ish lemon juice
1-2 apples

All you do is dump all this biz in a bowl, let it sit for a little while and DRINK UP!!! Hello Friday!…..I may have drank most of this myself one weekend….

The second recipe I’m going to talk about is one I found on Pinterest…shock I know lol. Its a shake up on Mac and Cheese. Its a Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese with bacon and apples.

Now my first issue with this was that I simply couldn’t find canned butternut squash….so I subbed in canned pumpkin instead. You can find the recipe here.

So the picture on the website made it look super good. Even mine photographed pretty well (even without the bacon). I have mixed feelings about the recipe. It has an “interesting” taste. I think that it’s because of the broth that the recipe calls for. Its not bad…its just very different. I’m not sure I would make it again. But I’m really happy I tried it out. And as weird as it may seem, the apples TOTALLY worked. They were crunchy and tart and went so well with the mac and cheese aspect of the dish. Plus, who doesn’t love bacon?

This actually concluded my mini-series on apples!!! And at the present moment I only have about 5 apples left that I’m just snacking on.

How has apple season been for you folks?

Taking the chronicles legit!…also pumpkin pasta!

Hey there folks!

Those of you who have been following the chronicles may have noticed the website change. I decided that it was time to take the blog to a slightly more legit forum…no offense tumblr. Welcome to the chronicle’s new home…wordpress. I uploaded the previous posts onto the new site too. Moving on.

I didn’t have much going on in the kitchen this past week. I went to Chicago for the weekend and didn’t get a chance to go grocery shopping. No food=no cooking.

Last night a friend and I decided to have a low key Friday, so we got together and made  dinner. We ended up making a super tasty pasta dish and a yummy dessert…plus it was healthy. Score. I found a recipe for Baked Butternut Squash Pasta with Ricotta and Toasted Walnuts. Yum right?

I made some substitutions, mainly to use Libbys canned pumpkin instead of the squash. It saved a TON of time and we were able to use the left over pumpkin for desert.

Here is the recipe real quick:

20 oz canned pumkin
1/3 c parmesan cheese
1 1/4 c skim milk
2 tbsp flour
3 tbsp walnuts
1/2 c part skim ricotta cheese
20 oz whole wheat pasta
spices (garlic, italian herbs, salt, pepper)

Step one: cook the pasta.
Step two: heat the milk, flour, and spices in a sauce pan until thickened. Add pumpkin.
Step three: Mix in the pasta. Dollop the ricotta on top, sprinkle walnuts and top with parmesan cheese.
Step four: bake for about 20 mins until golden brown on top.

We had bought some fresh strawberries and raspberries and fat free Cool Whip for dessert. But we stepped it up even more. My friend had a box of Guilt Free Brownies, so we used the remaining canned pumpkin (secret trick to making things healthier) to the brownies and baked’em up. The end result was hot from the oven chocolate brownies with fresh fruit and Cool Whip.

Overall great way to relax on a Friday night with friends.

A meal to warm you up in cold weather

Overall this winter has been CRAZY warm. It was real easy to forget that based on the cold temperatures this past weekend though. 20 degree days…gross.

The cold weather made me crave something weather appropriate. Nothing suits cold weather like a solid soup…or stew…I don’t discriminate. The thing is I am by no means a soup/stew enthusiast. I don’t dislike them, I just don’t prefer them. But hey, when its cold outside you do what’cha gotta do. So I flipped through my cookbooks until I found something that intrigued me.

I settled on Turkey Chowder. Did you even know that there was such a thing? I sure didn’t…but again, I’m no soup expert. I figured it was a solid choice to warm me up, feed me for the week, and not bust my budget. Plus, turkey is one of my favorite things and I like chowder, so it stands to reason that I would enjoy them together.

This is a pretty low maintenance recipe (are you noticing a trend here?) and only takes about 15 minutes of prep time…less if you have good knife skills.

Here’s what you need:

3-4 pieces turkey bacon crisped
1 lb turkey cutlet cubed (1/2 pieces)
1 potato peeled and cubed
1 celery stalk chopped
1 carrot chopped (this seems conservative, I used like 3 smaller ones)
1 onion chopped
2 cups reduced sodium chicken stalk
2 10 oz condensed cream of mushroom soup
spices (salt, pepper, tyme, whatever you want really…you know what you like)

You just throw it all in the crockpot and turn it on. Cook for like 4-6 on high or 8-10 on low.

The result is 8 1 cup servings of a tasty and hearty soup!

Now, I’m a bit of space cadet and I forgot the bacon part (I even had a list at the grocery store!) and mine still tastes good…so I guess you can call that part optional. Though why anyone would willing leave out bacon is mystery I don’t want to understand…

image

Simple ingredient list

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the end result

Super Bowl Super Fondue

This week Crocket took a break….partly because I ran short on time this week. BUT I did break out the new fondue pot! I was really excited to use it and when more perfect a time than to whip up a Super Bowl treat.

I started looking online for some fondue recipes (I went cheesy rather than chocolate for the Pot’s maiden voyage FYI) and found some good ones. Fondue can be super heavy calorie count wise, which can be a bummer, but I managed to find a low fat cheddar recipe that ended up being perfect. I also learned some new tricks from this recipe…those of you who have cooked with low fat cheese before probably know that it can be a little challenging….the cheese doesn’t melt quite right. A great trick to remedy this melting problem is by using a mix of regular cheese and low fat cheese, and also using a white bean puree..which helps keep that silky smooth texture.

Additionally, the dark ale that you put in adds great flavor. If you’re like me and know little about beer (if its not Bud Lite, Blue Moon, or PBR I’m in the dark about its “qualities”) asking the people at the liquor store is a smart move. I had a lovely conversation with the guy at my local liquor store…he recommended a suitable dark beer (I gratefully took it) and he told me tales of his honeymoon in Switzerland and the fondue he and his wife had there. Good times had by all.

I put the recipe I found at the bottom of the post. It can be expensive building a pantry from scratch and my budget is tight so I made some substitutions. I don’t have Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, or dry mustard, so I used regular mustard, cayenne pepper and some other spices. I got some french bread, broccoli and cauliflower from good’ole Stop & Shop and used those guys as dippers.

For my first attempt at fondue I’d say it went pretty well. I liked it, my friends liked it. And best of all you get a great taste for less calories…and no one will even no the difference!

Cheddar and Ale Fondue:

Ingredients 
15 1/2-ounce can white beans, rinsed and drained (such as great northern, navy or cannellini)
12- ounce bottle dark ale or other beer
1 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup grated reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce, or to taste

Directions 
In a food processor, combine the beans and   1/4 up of the ale. Puree, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed, until very smooth, about 4 minutes.(I used my new Magic Bullet type thing for this and it worked great!)

In a medium saucepan, combine the bean puree and the remaining ale. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat to simmer.

Add the cheeses in handfuls, stirring constantly, until the cheese has melted. Stir in the dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce.

Transfer to a warm fondue pot.

Per serving: 105 calories; 5g fat (3g saturated); 15mg cholesterol; 7g carbohydrate; 6g protein; 2g fiber; 187mg sodium.