Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Penne alla Vodka

This is going to be another Grey's Anatomy-less Thursday for me and my friends, Tamara, Chelsea, and Emily.  Most of us are going home for the weekend and so we can't get together for our traditional dinner night.  This was an unbearable thought for us and so we decided to go crazy and get together on a Tuesday instead.

Whenever we make dinner we end up talking about other dinners we can make.  Penne alla Vodka has been a proposed option for some time and so we decided to finally get it together for tonight.  This dish is, in my opinion, the perfect combo of comfort and class.  It is super easy and yet sounds super fancy.  Also, it is just plain delicious!

Penne all Vodka (adapted from Picky Photo)
Such Cefs :)

Another reason to make this dish...

Gorgeous Sauce!

The perfect meal!

1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 12 oz can tomato sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp garlic powder (honestly we didn't measure)
1/2 cup vodka
1/3 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup parmesan (plus more for topping)
1 tsp all purpose seasoning
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 lb of your favorite penne, cooked al dente

1. In a large saucepan, heat both cans of tomatoes, garlic powder, all purpose seasoning, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.  Let simmer for 5-6 minutes.  Add the 1/2 cup of vodka and simmer for 20 minutes.  Stir every once in a while.  Add cream, butter and parmesan and stir to combine.  Let simmer for a couple minutes.
2.  Cook pasta according to directions and drain.  Serve with sauce and top with parmesan cheese.
Enjoy :)

Note: if you want to get really fancy, cook pasta just shy of al dente and then let the drained pasta sit in the sauce for a few minutes.  Another option, reserve some pasta cooking water and add to the sauce to thin it if desired.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Fudge Brownies

I was having a hard time finding inspiration this week for the weekly study night treat for DTS.  Steve, one of my fraternity brothers, suggested Plain Ol' Brownies.  That is what it occurred to me, not only was this a fantastic idea, but I had yet to make a "plain" brownie recipe.  I hardly make anything "plain."

However, I have been in a sort of "plain" mood.  It is that time of the semester when we are almost half way through and people are starting to hit a slump.  I know I am.  I have been feeling more tired and less motivated and I have been craving a trip home for a weekend just to relax and see my family.  Plain brownies are the perfect treat to embody what I am feeling.  There is nothing exciting about them, but they are still amazing.  And, even though I am feeling sort of plain, I am, of course, still amazing :)

I don't want to brag, but although I am feeling sort of lack luster, I am still doing really well in my classes and my practicum.  I have taught two different classes on my own at this point and everything I do reinforces my love for teaching.  Also, I am having great experiences with DTS/work/friends.  It may be that time of year where we hit a little mid-winter slump, but try to remember, there are still great things happening.

Like Fudge Brownies:

Fudge Brownies (adapted from The Yummy Morsel)

3/4 cup flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
1 3/4 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
5 tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp coffee grounds
1 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line an 8x8 inch pan with foil and grease generously.
2. Whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.  Set aside.
3. In a microwave safe bowl, melt butter and chocolate, stirring after a minute.  Melt completely and set aside.
4. While the chocolate cools, in a large bowl beat eggs, sugars, coffee grounds, and vanilla until smooth.  Mix in the chocolate mixture until well combined.  Slowly mix in the flour mixture until just combined.  Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Enjoy :)

So I followed the original recipe exactly except I used bittersweet chocolate and I had to bake my brownies in a foil pan since mine isn't at school with me.  Let's be honest here, they did not come together.  The brownies turned out very mushy and very fudge-y.  I am fine with this, but I understand that some people prefer to not eat brownies with a spoon.  I brought them over to Tamara's with Emily and we loved them.  And then this happened:

Step 1: Take mini inception cookie and spread on way-too-gooey brownie




freak out about how amazing it is!

So I guess I am going to try another recipe tomorrow (and a different pan) so that I will have something for study night! 

The Cookie-Brownie Sandwich

Mini Inception Cookies

Here it is...finally.  Mini Inception Cookies.  I have been wanting to do this for quite some time.  I love making oreo stuffed chocolate chip cookies.  It has kind of turned into my thing.  So when Sunday rolled around and I felt like baking I decided that baby inception cookies would be perfect! Plus, the Oscars were going to be on and these are the perfect movie themed cookies!

Mini Inception Cookies

Make the recipe for the original inception cookie-dough and instead of Double Stuffed, buy a bag of Mini Oreos.  These are perfect since they are actually the size of a "normal" cookie, although I thought of them as "mini" and ate a bunch...that's how that works right?

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Let me start by saying I have the world's greatest campus job.  I work for VIP which stands for Visitor & Information Programs and I am an Information Guide (IG).  This campus organization helps with campus tours, staffing the front desks of various locations, and general customer service to anyone on this campus.  As an IG I get to staff the front desk at Union South, the Welcome Center, and the Discovery Building.  I help people who are visiting, hanging out, calling campus, e-mailing campus, chatting campus, and so on.  As an IG I get to be one of the "faces of the university" who is responsible for welcoming visitors to campus and providing the best information to anyone who needs it.  This is a great job because I love to help people out and I love my university.  Also, I LOVE my fellow IGs.  The people I get to work with are absolutely amazing!  Every time I work I leave feeling as if I just made 2 or 3 new best friends.  Everyone is just fantastic.

One of the fantastic traditions that we fantastic people take part in is the Progressive Dinner.  It's simple: 4 locations, 4 dinner courses (Drinks, Appetizers, Main Course, and Dessert), and of course, a theme!  Tonight is Progressive Dinner and the theme is high school cliques.  When I found this out I was thrilled.  I am going to get even more use of my old cheer uniform!  I also get to show off some of my culinary skills :)

I am making a Reese's Pieces Cake.  I found the recipe on Tasty Kitchen and I fell in love with the simplicity of it.  I knew that my day was going to be busy and I wouldn't have all the time in the world to bake, so I picked this guy.  Also, this cake represents a food that I just can't live without: Peanut Butter.

In my opinion, Peanut Butter should just be it's own food group.  You can eat it with any meal and it's good for you.  I can't wait to try this cake at our last stop tonight!!!

Reese's Pieces Cake

For the Cake:
1 18 oz box of chocolate cake mix
Ingredients specified on box, but instead of oil, replace with peanut butter (I used Natural Creamy)
3/4 cup of chopped reese's pieces
For the Frosting:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups Creamy Peanut Butter
3/4-1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

1. Make cake as directed on box, replacing the oil with peanut butter and then stir in the lightly copped reese's pieces.  Bake as directed on box.
2.  Make the frosting: Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and peanut butter until light and fluffy.  Slowly beat in powdered sugar and beat until well combined.  Spread on top of the cooled cake.
Enjoy :)

And here begins the fun part.  Because it is Progressive Dinner, I figured I would share with you the recipes/pictures from all the IGs who are cooking/baking for tonight's event.

Stop 1: Appetizers: Apples, Grapes, Southwestern Black Bean Hummus, and Brownies (they can be an appetizer too!)

The Apples and Grapes were simple and obviously don't have a recipe, but seriously they made the start of the night great...who doesn't love fruit?

Southwestern Black Bean Hummus
By: Melanie

Melanie is another IG with a fabulous food blog.  Seriously, head over to her site, Melanie's Mixtures, and check out all of her amazing recipes.  This dip was great and you gotta try it.  Plus, you don't need a food processor! In fact, I am not going to post the recipe because I really want people to head over to her site.  Just follow the link and enjoy :)

Stop 2: More Appetizers: Greek Dip, Stuffed Peppers, Empanadas, and Cinnamon Sugar Kettle Corn

Stuffed Peppers
By: Max
Source: Food Network
15 assorted mini bell peppers (red, orange, and yellow)
1/2 cup cream cheese
1/4 cup goat cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil

In a bowl, mix the cream cheese, goat cheese, garlic, and basil until well combined.  Cut off the tops of the peppers and clean out the seeds.  Fill each pepper with the cheese mixture.  Enjoy!

Chicken Empanadas (from Food Network)
By: Paul
Source: Food Network
3 cups chopped, cooked chicken
1 8 oz bag of shredded Colby and Monterey Jack cheese
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 jalapeno, seedless and chopped
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 15 oz package refrigerated pie crust

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2.  In a bowl, mix chicken and the next 7 ingredients.
3. Unroll pie crust and, using a 3 inch circle cookie cutter, cut out rounds from the pie crust.  Reroll and continue to make rounds until you have 12-15.
4. Assemble the empanadas by laying the rounds flat on a clean surface, brush the edges with water, place a heaping teaspoon of the chicken mixture in the center, and then fold the dough over and press the edges of the crust together.  Using a fork, press the edges together and make little indents in the sides.
5.  Arrange the empanadas on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.

Cinnamon Sugar Kettle Corn
By: Lauren

1/3 cup popcorn kernels
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon

If you have an oil popper: Put the kernels and the oil in the popper.  Once the oil starts to boil (or once the first kernel pops) sprinkle the sugar all around the pan.  The popcorn will pop in the sugar/oil glaze. Dumb into a large bowl.  Salt once popped (be careful, it's hot!).  I usually take a knife to turn the popcorn and break away any clumps as I mix.

If you are using the cinnamon, mix the cinnamon and sugar together beforehand.  Make sure to mix well! Then, add as normal.

To stove pop: Put the kernels and oil in a big kettle with a top.  Once the oil starts to boil (or once the first kernel pops) sprinkle the sugar all around the bottom.  Make sure to shake the kernels back and forth in the pan so they don't burn! Pour into a bowl and salt with instructions above.
Enjoy :)
Source: Simply Recipes

Stop 3: Main Course: Cheesy Spinach and Tomato Quiche, Couscous with Chicken and Veggies, Chili, and Spaghetti-Pizza Style

Cheesy Spinach and Tomato Quiche (from Heather's Dish)
Made by: Leigh
Source: Heather's Dish
1 whole russet potato, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
8 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 Roma tomatoes, cut into thin rounds
3 cups packed fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup cubed cheese (white cheddar, feta, Parmesan, or asiago are good)
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray a 9-inch pie pan with cooking spray.
2. Place the potato slices on the bottom and sides of the pie pan. Bake the potatoes for about 10 minutes or until they start to look translucent. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and milk until smooth.  Whisk in the seasonings until well combined.
4. Layer the spinach on top of the potatoes and then the cubed cheese on top of the spinach in the pie pan.  Pour the egg mixture into the pie pan and then lay the tomatoes on top of the egg mixture.
5.  Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the middle is no longer jiggly.  Sprinkle with the Parmesan and broil until cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve immediately.

Couscous with Chicken and Veggies
By: Kaitlin

Your favorite couscous (She used Near East)
1 cup of chopped, cooked chicken
1 cup of cooked broccoli
1 cup of chopped tomatoes
salt and pepper for taste

Make the couscous.  In a large pan, mix in the rest of the ingredients and season with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.  So easy and so good!

Chili (slightly adapted from All Recipes)
By: Briana
Source: All Recipes
1 pound ground beef
3/4 cup diced onion
3/4 cup diced celery
3/4 cup diced green bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 10.75 oz cans tomato puree
1 15 oz can kidney beans, with liquid
1 15 oz can kidney beans, drained
1 15 oz can cannellini beans, with liquid
1/2 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp dried basil
3/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
a dash of hot pepper sauce
1 16 oz box of elbow macaroni, cooked according to box

1. Cook the beef in a medium skillet until browned.  Drain the grease.
2. Place beef in a slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients.  Cook covered on low for 8 hours.
3. Mix in cooked macaroni and serve!

Spaghetti-Pizza Style
By: Maria
Source: Busy Cooks
1/2 lb thin spaghetti or a little more
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
24 oz or more of spaghetti sauce
1/2 lb ground beef
1/4-1/3 lb sliced pepperoni, cut in quarters and separated
1 cup shredded cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9x13 inch pan.
1. Prepare spaghetti according to box and drain.
2. In a saucepan, cook the beef until browned.  Drain the grease.  In a bowl, mix the beef with the sauce and the pepperoni pieces.
2. Spread spaghetti in a lightly greased 9x13 inch pan.  Top with the sauce/meat mixture. Sprinkle the cheese over the top.
4. Bake for 30 minutes covered and then uncover and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until cheese is lightly browned. Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.

Stop 4: Dessert: Reese's Pieces Cake, Cookie Dough Cupcakes, and more Brownies

Cookie Dough Cupcakes
By: Sami

Sami is another IG with a cooking blog.  Seriously, we need to all get together and have a giant cooking party.  But anyways, Sami  made FANTASTIC cupcakes for last night.  She blogged about them a while back and you can find the recipe here.

Accidental Brownies
By: Jiawen

1 box of chocolate cake mix
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup butter, melted
3 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a pan with cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, beat cake mix with water, butter, and eggs.
3. Bake according to the directions on the box, about 30 minutes.
These were supposed to be cake bars, but ended up being more dense and like brownies...they were great!

Such a fun time!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Raspberry Cinnamon Cupcakes

Yesterday I taught my first ever math lesson! It was amazing! I made this great Presidents Day math activity for the 7th grade class that I am observing.  It was the perfect activity since it combined graphing with facts about the Presidents.  I adapted the lesson that I found via twitter and sent it to my cooperating teacher to see what she thought.  She loved it! I walked into the class on Presidents Day and she came up to me and said, "So, do you want to lead the activity?"  I eagerly said yes and then proceeded to feel super nervous.  I spent the first period trying to think of what I was going to do, how I was going to talk, how I was going to stand, would I get students to read out loud or work in groups, and so on.  I was shocked at how much thought goes into simply standing and presenting an activity to a class.

Becoming a teacher has been my dream and ambition since and early age.  The fact that I finally arrived at the point in my life where I can actually get up in front of a class and teach is amazing to me.  Yesterday was a dream come true.

The students loved the activity.  They started by predicting the President's salary and were amazed that baseball players who don't even get to play made more than the president.  It was really fun to watch them debate.  Then, they moved on with the activity and spent the time graphing how the President's salary has changed over time.  They had to identify the independent and dependent variables and then graph the data.  They then learned about the concept of a step graph.  For homework, they had to look at the equation for finding what the past salaries would be in today's money.  Then they computed these results.  The kids were enthusiastic and completed a lot of the assignment all on their own in class.  I was so excited to see them having a good time and grasping the concepts.  I can't wait to spend more time teaching and getting  used to being in the front of the classroom.

This experience has put me in such a great mood and that usually means I feel like making something delicious and sharing it with friends.  I have the traditional study night this week and I decided that I would break out my shiny new cupcake corer to celebrate all the good stuff going on in my life.  I found a great recipe for Strawberry Stuffed Cinnamon Cupcakes and decided to adapt it a little and make it with Raspberry Jam instead.

Raspberry Cinnamon Cupcakes (inspired by Scientifically Sweet)


all done :)


look at that cupcake corer go!

Filled with raspberry jam

Raspberry Cinnamon Cupcake

For the Cupcakes:
3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups minus 4 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp sour cream
4 tbsp canola oil
2 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup milk
For the Filling: 
about 2 cups raspberry seedless jam
For the Frosting:
8 oz low-fat cream cheese
8 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
1-2 tsp milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 and spray cupcake pan.  This recipe will make about 24-30 cupcakes.
2. In a large bowl, whisk flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Using your mixer, slowly mix in the sugar until well combined.  Next, mix in the softened butter and beat for about 2 minutes or until you have a mixture the consistency of fine, moist crumbs.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, sour cream, canola oil, and vanilla.  Slowly add this to the dry mixture and beat until combined.  Slowly pour in the milk and beat until just combined.
4.  Fill the cupcake pans until each cup is just 1/2 full.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
5.  Let cool completely.  Once cool, using the cupcake corer, or a knife, core the cupcakes and fill with about a tsp of jam.
6.  Make the frosting: beat the butter and cream cheese until well combined.  Beat in the cinnamon and sugar.  Slowly add the sugar until well combined. Add 2-4 tsp of milk until you have the desired consistency.  Frost the cupcakes :)
Enjoy :)

Cinnamon Mug Cake

What do you do when you have too much batter?

Well, some people, patient people, would wait for the cupcakes that are taking up all the pan space to finish, cool, and then make more cupcakes with the rest of the batter.  Those people are not me and I was not patient.  I made Raspberry Cinnamon Cupcakes and after I filled 24 wells, I still had some leftover batter.  So, I found an oven-proof mug and poured the rest of the batter in.

The result: probably one of the best things I have ever accidentally made.

Hot chocolate?...nope! Steaming  mug of cinnamon cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting!
The Glee finally was on tonight and every Tuesday a few of the girls in my house all get together and watch glee.  I always bake before this to be ready for study night on Wednesday.

Glorious oven safe mug
Tonight, I was downstairs baking for study night and having a grand time.  Kim helped me out and what ensued was a mix of baking/dance party/photography workshop.  It was awesome.  We had so much fun and I think that this provided the base for our spontaneous creativity.  And thus, the mug cake.  We found the mug on the shelf and had to scrape off the sticker on the bottom.  Waiting to see those beautiful letters: "Oven-Safe" was one of the longest waits of my life.  Slowly we peeled back the sticker: Oven-S...A...F...E!!!!  We immediately plopped the rest of that batter into the mug and stuck it in the oven with the rest of the cupcakes.  No waiting for one batch to finish and cool, everything got baked in one take.  The mug was perfect! We had to leave it in for an extra 10-15 minutes compared to the cupcakes.  Then we dumped some cinnamon cream cheese frosting on top, grabbed three forks (Juliana showed up by then) and went upstairs to watch Glee.

I don't want to spoil anything for those of you who are waiting to watch Glee on Hulu or some other site, but this episode was epic! It was the winter finale and that mug cake was the perfect way to celebrate.  Such a great night: friends, glee, and cake!

Check out the recipe for the cinnamon cupcake batter here!

Enjoy :)

Thursday, February 16, 2012


I've been Liebstered by The Posh Latin Cook, thanks Elena! This is an award for beloved new blogs. 

The Liebster Award originated from Germany and it means, "Dearest, Beloved, Favorite."

Here are the rules:

1. Show thanks to the blogger by linking back to his/her blog.

2. Pick 5 blogs with less than 200 followers and let them know about your nomination by leaving a comment on their blog.

3. Post the award on your blog!

My nominations:

Check these guys out!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Oatmeal Fudge Bars

I just love oatmeal in my baked goods and this recipe that I found on Erin's Food Files was just too great to pass up!  I love the easy factor of making bars instead of cookies and I love the fact that it's not just chocolate chips, but fudge!  Tonight I have study night, which I always bake for, but since yesterday was Valentine's Day I did not have time to bake! Uh oh! So today between middle school this morning, class this afternoon, and study night/dance rehearsal/composite pictures for my fraternity tonight I had to bake.  Bars seemed like a great idea with all this shenanigans going on.

These bars were super easy to make and took no time at all.  I had them all prepped and ready to go into the oven within 30 minutes and then they only took 30 minutes to bake.  That gave me plenty of time to do the dishes and even get some reading done for my classes!  I hope you enjoy this recipe:

Oatmeal Fudge Bars (inspired by Erin's Food Files)

For the cookie part:
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
For the fudge filling:
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 15 oz can sweetened condensed milk
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease or flour a 9 x 13 inch pan.
2. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a medium sized bowl and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, beat butter with sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs one at a time until well combined.  Mix in vanilla.
4. Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients until just combined.  Mix in the oats.

5. Press about 2/3 of the cookie dough evenly along the bottom of the pan.
6. Make the filling: Over medium to low heat, melt the chocolate, milk, butter, and salt, stirring constantly until smooth.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.  Pour mixture over the cookie dough in the pan and spread out evenly.  Make sure the the chocolate is not touching the sides of the pan as it might stick.

7. Sprinkle the remaining cookie dough on top of the fudge layer.  Bake for about 30-35 minutes, until the topping is light brown and the fudge layer is firm, but not set.
Enjoy :)