What We Ate vs. Friday Favorites: Moist Chocolate Mug Cake with Strawberries

Happy Friday!

I thought I’d share another list of favorites to kick off the weekend, and one of the favorites happens to be a recipe, so I guess this post is a What We Ate and Friday Favorites mash-up… the best of both worlds! :)

Vader's Little Princess

Vader’s Little Princess

Beatrice received this book for Christmas from two of her wonderful aunts, and we pulled it out this past week in honor of May the 4th. Each page is a short comic or illustration imagining Darth Vader bringing up little Princess Leia (and tapping into his softer side). ;) Although I wish they’d put a little less emphasis on Leia as the “rebellious teen,” I get it… she IS a Rebel after all. There are a lot of funny Star Wars references and the illustrations range from cute to clever – it’s a fun little book. :)

White Collar

White Collar

I think my friend Anna first told me about this series several years ago, but I was probably too swept up in Psych or Merlin to investigate it further at the time. Last month, however, my sister-in-law Rebekah told us how much she was enjoying White Collar and suggested we might like it. We enjoy having a good show to follow together so we looked into it and were immediately hooked. The characters are likable and fun, the crime-solving is clever and interesting, the over-arching story is suitably mysterious, and because the crime is “white collar” every episode doesn’t start with a murder (unlike Monk or Psych). Will and I enjoy the sweet, supportive marriage between Agent Peter Burke and his wife Elizabeth, their almost parental relationship with smooth, charming ex-con Neal Caffrey, and of course the “Crazy Uncle” and conspiracy theorist extraordinaire, Mozzie. ;)

Will and I have a deal that we are only allowed to watch movies or shows on the weekend (unless by special dispensation ;D). I enjoy this rule because it helps us make sure we spend time just talking, reading, or playing board games together several nights each week, but it’s also fun having our little Friday Movie Night tradition, and we get really excited snuggling into the couch to find out what’s going to happen next and will Neal ever get his hands on that elusive music box?! ;) We’ve only just started Season 2 so I can’t speak for the entire show, but if you’re looking for a fun and interesting series to get started on, I would really recommend this one. Just be warned: it’s really hard to watch just one episode! ;D

Moist Chocolate Mug Cake with Strawberries (For Two)

Mug Cakes

While you’re all settled in for a weekend White Collar marathon, you’re probably going to need some snacks… and while baking is really fun, sometimes you just want a quick treat at 9pm without an hour of cook time and a sink full of dishes. I bring you… the mug cake. Now that Will and I have a microwave (that I actually remember to use 25% of the time!), I have been mastering the art of these magic little miracles. This recipe is our favorite so far, and makes enough for two mugs (because treats are better with a friend). You can easily halve it if you’d like though. :)

Moist Chocolate Mug Cake with Strawberries (For Two)

Moist Chocolate Mug Cake with Strawberries (For Two)
Adapted from Table For Two

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons milk
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil (melted coconut oil works too)
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter (or Nutella!)
  • 8-10 strawberries

Method:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
  2. Whisk in the milk and oil until all ingredients are combined and the batter has no clumps (there may be a few tiny clumps of cocoa powder – that’s okay).
  3. Divide batter equally between two microwave-safe mugs. Be sure you use a fairly generously-sized mug so the cake has room to rise (it doesn’t have to be massive, but just make sure it’s not tiny).
  4. Drop a spoonful of peanut butter (or Nutella) into the center of each mug, and push it down a little into the batter so the surface is level. This will form the moist, gooey center of your cake. Mmm.
  5. Place a paper towel in the microwave and set one of the mugs on top (just in case you have a volcano situation… it didn’t occur in any of my tests, but if your mug is a bit too shallow, you never know).
  6. Microwave the mug cake for 60-80 seconds.
  7. Carefully remove mug from microwave and repeat with the second mug. Top each mug with 4-5 sliced strawberries. Dig in with a spoon. YUM.

These cakes may not be gourmet but they really are delicious, and just the right amount for one person. :) They’d probably be even more scrumptious with some fresh whipped cream on top, if you’re feeling extra decadent.

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What about you all – any weekend plans? Are you reading any good books? Are you a fan of White Collar, or is there a different series you are currently enjoying? Are you a believer in the magic of microwaved mug cakes, or do you consider them to be a baking abomination? I’d love to hear what favorites you guys are enjoying this weekend – please share in the comments! :)

Monday Inspiration: Seven Sweet & Savory Strawberry Recipes

Strawberry season has arrived! Will and I visited a u-pick farm on Saturday and took Beatrice picking for her first time. And by picking, I of course mean sitting in her stroller looking cute (and mildly anxious) while we picked, but you have to start somewhere. :)

Now we have several flats of strawberries and are eating them on EVERYTHING before I make the rest into jam. Since strawberries are plentiful this time of year and you may be staring at your own small mountain of berries, I thought I’d share a few recipes – some are old favorites and some I’d like to try for the first time. If you’d like to visit the original recipes, just click the titles. :)

nutella cake

Chocolate Strawberry Nutella Cake

This is a recipe I haven’t tried yet, but I’m predisposed to love anything that includes the words “chocolate,” “strawberry,” and “Nutella.” Not convinced? Go read the recipe on The Pioneer Woman’s blog. By the time I was halfway through the photos I wanted to drop everything and bake a cake. Go clear your schedule, tie on an apron, and check it out! (If you need help eating it, I am willing to offer my services).

Almond-Honey-Cake-with-Strawberry-Ripple-Cream.-16

Almond Honey Cake with Strawberry Ripple Cream

If “chocolate,” “strawberry,” and “Nutella” are my magic words, “almond,” “honey,” and “strawberry ripple cream” (okay so that’s not one word…) are my husband’s. He loves almond-flavored anything and would probably eat an entire jar of honey with a spoon if I didn’t guard it carefully. This cake is a work of art (don’t you love how she used the strawberry blossoms on top?), and if it tastes as good as it looks… YUM.

Also, a friend pointed out that this cake looks like it’s straight out of a Redwall feast. If you’ve read the books you know exactly what I’m talking about.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

If you have rhubarb on hand, this is one of my favorite pies of all time. It looks beautiful, and the tartness of the rhubarb is perfect with the sweetness of the strawberries. I’ve made it the past two years and I will probably be making it again this year. I’ve even made it with just rhubarb, but it really is better with the strawberries. Mm, delicious. Will and I have been known to eat this for breakfast (surprise), but it’s also scrumptious as a Sunday afternoon dessert.

pork and strawberry

Pork with Strawberry Balsamic Sauce

In case you were feeling yourself gain 15 pounds and become diabetic while reading these recipes, here is something savory to give you a break. Strawberries, basil, and balsamic vinegar sound like they would be amazing with pork, don’t they? I would love to try this one.

Bonus Round: Here’s another recipe for pork, strawberries, and balsamic vinegar from Southern Living that looks pretty amazing.

strawberry pizza

Strawberry Basil Pizza

Here’s another savory strawberry idea. The recipe suggests baking it on naan if you want to switch things up. This looks like it would be an amazing lunch on a hot summer day. Or maybe just lunch in general. Or even a snack. I’ve been craving pizza all weekend and this recipe is really not helping. But it’s a recipe from Fitness Magazine so that makes it healthy, right?

jam

Strawberry Jam

I made strawberry jam for the first time 4 years ago, and I’ve been hooked ever since.  I generally either use the recipe that comes in the box of Ball brand No-sugar/Low-sugar pectin, which consistently made 5 half-pint (8 oz) jars per batch, or the Pioneer Woman’s recipe. Her recipe requires what seems like an unholy amount of sugar, but it tastes AMAZING and looks beautiful. Even when I use a different recipe I like to look at her step-by-step instructions which you can find here and here – they’re so helpful! I’ll probably be referring to them again when I make jam this week. :)

I also found a variation for Strawberry Balsamic Jam here – doesn’t that sound delicious? You just reduce the lemon juice to 1 tbsp and add 3 tbsp of balsamic vinegar. It’s supposed to enhance the strawberry flavor and give the jam “a robust taste.”

layer cake

Strawberry Layer Cake

I know, I know… enough cakes already! But this cake just looks so fresh and elegant. Can’t you imagine eating it at an outdoor brunch with tea? I can. Let’s just take a minute to all drink tea in airy sundresses while eating slices of strawberry layer cake in my fantasy world, okay?

Alright, back to reality. But who says that can’t be a reality? If you bake this cake, put on a pretty frock and pearls, and have a tea party picnic in the backyard… this dream can come true!

I think I had too many cups of coffee this morning. In case you were wondering.

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Of course my other favorite way to eat strawberries is plain, or with fresh whipped cream. :) What about you all? Which recipe do you think looks the best? I would LOVE to hear if you all have any favorite strawberry recipes, or recipes you are hoping to try soon. :)

What We Ate: Banana Oatmeal Muffins

Oatmeal is a great breakfast food, but the other day I was wondering how I could get the nutritious power of oats into a more portable form. Will is often looking for a quick breakfast he can grab on the way to work, and I am always on the hunt for snacks. ;) As I looked for recipes, I also realized we had two very ripe bananas languishing on our counter. Naturally, I bring you the Banana Oatmeal Muffin.

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This muffin is kind of like banana bread in muffin form – very moist and it gets better with age. It tastes healthy in a good way (not “Mm, this tastes like sawdust and flaxseeds,” but more like “Mm, this tastes delicious yet wholesome”), and is surprisingly filling… I can actually eat one for breakfast and not be hungry for an hour or two (for me, that’s a long time). If you’re in the mood for a batch of on-the-go breakfast or wholesome but delicious snacks (or have a few overripe bananas), these might be just the ticket.

Banana Oatmeal Muffins
Adapted from allrecipes.com

Yield: One dozen muffins

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup of white sugar
  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil (coconut would work fine too)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mashed overripe banana (about 2 bananas)

Method:

  1.  Preheat oven to 400° F.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add sugars and whisk until combined (you will have what looks kind of like a crumbly muesli topping).
  3. In a large mixing bowl (I used my Kitchen Aid with the whisk attachment), beat the egg lightly. Stir in the milk, oil, and vanilla. Add the mashed banana and combine thoroughly (If you’re still using the whisk attachment, you can get the mixture nice and smooth and beat out some of the banana lumps). Stir the flour mixture into the banana mixture until just combined (if you’re using a mixer, switch out the whisk for the paddle attachment, or go old school and just use a spoon).
  4. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper muffin cups, and divide the batter evenly among them. They might seem dangerously full, but it’s not a mistake.
  5. Bake the muffins in the oven for 18-20 minutes (or until a toothpick stuck in the center of a muffin comes out clean). Remove from oven and let rest in the tin for a minute or two before popping them out and placing them on a rack to finish cooling.

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There you have it. :) You can store the muffins in a large ziplock bag or container in the fridge for several days. As I mentioned before, the muffins actually get better with age – just like banana bread they become richer and more moist.

All bananas were personally sampled by Beatrice.
All bananas were personally sampled by Beatrice.

I’m sure this recipe could be adapted in any number of different ways – if you click to the original recipe you can find lots of variations and substitutions people have used in the comments section (applesauce instead of oil, less sugar, more spices, soaking the oats, adding nuts, etc.). I used old-fashioned oats because I like the firmer texture, but I’m sure quick oats would work just as well and probably cook down a bit more.

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Let me know if any of you discover a good variation so I can try it out next time. :) Do you have any favorite recipes for make-ahead, portable breakfast foods or snacks?

Sickness Survival Strategies and The Great British Bake Off

Hello Friends!

Well, I meant to put a post out on Wednesday but I was down with fever, chills, and a cracking headache so I’m afraid that didn’t happen. I haven’t been sick for months (unusual for me since I tend to catch every illness I come in contact with, a week after everyone else), so I suppose I was due for it. Normally, I almost enjoy being sick (unless nausea is involved… THE WORST) because as miserable and foggy as it feels, sometimes it’s nice to be able to make a nest of blankets, stock up on water and crackers, and just sleep and recharge in a happy feverish haze without feeling guilty about housework, just for a day or two. In fact, I usually bounce back from illness with more energy than I had before and ready to tackle the postponed chores, so I suppose being sick is often my body’s way of making me take a break.

Things were a bit different this time around. Motherhood doesn’t provide sick days, and it was pretty taxing being awake and engaged for Beatrice all day while my body was doing everything in it’s power to lie down and power off. There was definitely some exhausted crying involved when Will came home Wednesday night, but I actually felt kind of triumphant the next day (after an evening of Baby Back-Up from Will and a good night’s sleep), that even when I was feeling horrible I was able to push through and keep Beatrice fed, clean, and (mostly) entertained.

Since spring colds and seasonal allergies seem to be circulating these days, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite coping strategies that have helped me survive the spring flu season. Most of them are so common-sense they probably don’t even need to be stated but I will anyways so brace yourself for a voyage with Captain Obvious. ;)

1. Naps

This one is probably a no-brainer but if I am able to lay in bed and sleep for a day or two when I get sick, I recover so much faster. Besides, often with a pounding headache or fever it’s difficult to read or even passively watch a show, and closing my eyes is the only remedy. With Beatrice I wasn’t able to utilize this strategy much, so I’ll move on to  my next favorite.

2. Blanket Nest

Make yourself a nest of blankets on a couch or chair where you can curl up and relax, and make sure your essentials are within reach on a nearby table (water, snacks, tea, tissues, books, etc). This will become your home base from which you can make forays to the kitchen, baby’s room, etc., and allows you to rest while still keeping an eye on things.

3. Hot Showers

The steam helps you breathe better and I always feel a bit less groggy and more relaxed after a hot shower, especially if I have aches or the chills. Even though I’m going to feel gross no matter what when I have a cold, taking a shower in the morning makes me feel a little less gross. Changing out of pajamas into some loose, comfy day clothes helps too (or at least fresh pjs).

4. Copious Amounts of Crackers and Hot Tea

I’ve devoured several sleeves of Ritz crackers and at least a gallon of chamomile tea with honey so far. Don’t skimp on the honey – William taught me this. I used to put probably 1/2 a teaspoon in my tea and was appalled when I saw Will scoop a huge heaping tablespoon into the mug, but I’ve since come to my senses. When you’re sick, there’s no such thing as too much honey. Adding a squeeze of lemon to your chamomile tea with honey is just the ticket if you have a sore throat.

And now I come to my favorite.

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5. The Great British Bake Off

Beatrice and I have been watching probably way too much of this show in the past 48 hours, but it’s so much fun. For one thing, it’s about baking (enough said). But even better, they’re baking in a beautiful outdoor tent, and you get to listen to a lot of lovely accents. ;) There are three baking challenges per episode – a signature recipe, a technical challenge, and a “show-stopper,” and there’s a side piece about baking in history at some point in each episode. The show has a peaceful, cheery pace, it’s entertaining, and I’ve learned a lot of tidbits about baking techniques as well.

paul and mary

Most American cooking competition shows like Top Chef or Cutthroat Kitchen tend to wear on me a bit because as interesting as the cooking may be, the chefs are often a bit foul and half of the things they say are getting bleeped out… and there’s always so much drama! In Great British Bake Off the competitors are mostly very likable and range from grandmas to dads to students. I like that they cheer one another on and seem to be having so much fun (aside from the occasional time-crunch panic), and that the judges are fair without being mean-spirited or overly critical. They enjoy the food and really seem to want to see the competitors succeed.

paul-hollywoods-cob-loaf-recipe-from-the-great-british-bake-off

The main problem with the show is that it makes me want to get in the kitchen and try some of the methods and recipes (aside from sponge cakes soaked in syrup… no thanks), so it was very frustrating being sick yesterday. Also, it is now one of my life goals to get my hands on one of their baking stations – wouldn’t that be amazing to have in your kitchen, with the wood counter-top and the little proofing drawer and oven? So cool. And wouldn’t it be fun to get together and bake with all your friends outside on a nice day? ;)

rivals

I’ve only watched Season 5 and I’m only about halfway through, but I’m rooting for Martha, Richard, and Nancy. :) You can watch the show for free on YouTube (just search for “Great British Bake Off”), and there are a lot of extra videos about the techniques and recipes on the Great British Bake Off YouTube channel. I definitely feel inspired to do some baking once I’m feeling better. Just one caution: if you enjoy baking, this show is addictive, so make sure you have some time on your hands. ;)

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Do any of you all have a favorite cooking show, or a good series you recommend when stuck in bed with a fever? How do you like to kick a cold (or cope with one)?

What We Ate: Saturday Morning Buttermilk Waffles

Leisurely Saturday morning breakfasts are something I look forward to all week. Most days Will and I usually eat a quick breakfast of oatmeal before he leaves for work, but on Saturdays, we take our time. Bacon, scrambled eggs, pancakes, coffee cake… something to savor and laugh over and enjoy. Here are my highly arbitrary rules for our Saturday Breakfast Tradition:

  1. There must be coffee. Obviously.
  2. There must be orange juice. We don’t drink it most other mornings, but on Saturdays? Treat yo’self.
  3. Use the fancy plates and glasses. Cloth napkins, if you have them. Think “high-class brunch as the morning breeze ruffles your hair and you soak up the tropical sunshine on the deck of your seaside villa.” Or something along those lines. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a tiny apartment and it’s snowing outside – Saturday Morning Breakfast is a state of mind. It’s a mini-vacation every week (whoo hoo)!
  4. Flowers on the table. Not required, but nice.
  5. Relaaax. Take your time over breakfast. Talk. Laugh. Eat seconds. Move into the living room for a chat over your second fifth cup of coffee, if you wish. Don’t clear the dishes right away. After breakfast is over you’ll feel refreshed and ready to clean up and start on the weekend tasks, but for this magical breakfast hour, just enjoy, connect, and recharge. :)

The ultimate weekend breakfast food is (in my opinion) the waffle. The best thing about staying at a hotel is undoubtedly the waffle maker at the complimentary breakfast bar (and also not having to make the bed… that’s nice too). I once got mildly disappointed at a hotel where they actually made you breakfast, because I did not get to make the waffle myself. I quickly got over it though when they brought the waffle and it had powdered sugar and strawberries on top. That is also very acceptable.

A few weeks ago I made waffles using an old Better Homes and Garden recipe where you had to separate the eggs and whip the whites and fold them into the batter… it was a little time-consuming and the waffles came out a bit on the spongy side. Very disappointing. Last Saturday, however, I tried out a different recipe and the results were not only delicious, but the prep was fast and easy and much closer to pouring your paper cup of batter into the hotel waffle maker (which is what I’m all about).

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Saturday Morning Buttermilk Waffles
Adapted from Betty Crocker Country Favorites Cookbook

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups buttermilk (milk will work in a pinch)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • butter for greasing waffle iron

Method:

  1. Heat waffle iron and brush with a bit of melted butter (I put a slice of butter in the waffle iron while it was heating and used the pastry brush to spread it around as it melted).
  2. Beat eggs with a stand mixer or hand beaters until fluffy. Beat in remaining ingredients until smooth.
  3. Pour 1/3 to 1/2 cup of batter (depending on the size of your waffle maker) into the center of your hot waffle iron, and close the lid.
  4. Bake for about 5 minutes or until the steaming stops. Mine has a green light that turns on when the waffle is done, which is handy. I like to cook my waffles on the highest heat setting so they are brown and crispy, but it’s all a matter of personal preference. Carefully remove waffle.
  5. Enjoy!

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I made a little strawberry rhubarb compote to put on the top of our waffles by throwing a handful of frozen rhubarb, some fresh strawberries, and a dash of orange juice into a saucepan and mashing/stirring the mixture until it cooked down into a warm, bubbly jam. It was a little tart because of the rhubarb, which I enjoyed, but if you like things sweeter you could probably throw in a teaspoon of sugar.

This recipe made somewhere between 6 and 8 waffles, so Will and I ended up with a few extras. I placed them on a baking sheet, stuck them in the freezer for a few hours, and then popped them into a ziplock bag. Admittedly, this is a super old concept found in the frozen aisle of every grocery store, but I felt like a genius, and will probably be gaining 10 lbs since now I can eat waffles every day of the week by taking one out and popping it in the toaster.

On a scale of 1-10, my waffle enthusiasm is a Leslie Knope.
An accurate representation of what my life will now look like.

My favorite topping for waffles (besides drowning them in butter and syrup… fill ALL the holes!) is peanut butter and sliced bananas. Mmm. Do you all have a favorite topping? If so, please let me know because I am always looking for a new way to enjoy waffles. :)

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Do you all have any weekend plans for a long, leisurely Saturday breakfast (featuring waffles, obviously)? ;)