I’ve made red velvet and other color velvet cake ball truffles in the past, and even though I mixed cream cheese frosting into them I still felt like something was missing. I finally decided it was a distinct separation of the flavors of red velvet from the cream cheese frosting, because what’s red velvet cake without cream cheese frosting? Just a red cake if you ask me.
Therefore, in addition to mixing cream cheese into the truffles themselves, I stuffed them with it! Go ahead and take a bite to see for yourself. Fun right? Maybe is the post-defense giddy-ness but I am already envisioning different colored centers for holidays and other color-specific events. Yea, this “I refuse to admit the fall and winter holidays are coming” girl is caving at last.
After 4 hours of surgery yesterday, my mom is doing well. Right after the surgery everything was well and she was feeling understandably tired. So far the doctor has been positive about the results of the surgery and the future. Hopefully I will hear more as the day goes on.
These cake batter hearts would be a really cute Valentine’s Day present to hand out. It’s like a jumbo sized white chocolate candy cup stuffed with cake batter, except it’s formed in a cookie cutter. After the candy has been devoured the cutters can be used to make festive cookies! It’s a two-for-one gift. These could also be made in silicone molds, such as petite or regular hearts. Just pop them out after they set and wrap in plastic or place in a cute bag.
Today my mother is having yet another surgery in attempts to put a stop to the remaining aneurysm behind her eye. About a year ago, she had surgery on the same one but in the end did not work. Obviously, we are all hoping this time will finally take care of it after first discovering about the two aneurysms a decade ago. Unfortunately, I yet again was unable to be there today but my brother was able to swing purchasing a flight last minute and will be there. I do think my package may have made it on time this round, as opposed to last year’s failed overnight shipment. And no I did not mail my mother a molten lava cake because that would’ve been a difficult thing to package. But in honor of Valentine’s Day and my mom’s (current) favorite color, I present to you these red velvet molten lava cakes.
This is my fourth hot cocoa mix recipe. First I made a regular version, followed by Salted Caramel, then recently made Peanut Butter and now Red Velvet! In case that isn’t enough, since last time I made special peanut butter marshmallows to pair with the peanut butter hot cocoa, I decided to go ahead and make cream cheese frosting marshmallows to complete the full flavor of a red velvet experience. And I think I am now officially in love with homemade marshmallows. You’d think that would’ve been solidified when my first was the peanut butter version, but cream cheese marshmallows? Holy freaking awesomeness.
If you notice in the background, I packaged up single servings of hot cocoa and a marshmallow in mini red containers to give away as Valentine’s Day presents. It’s a present that warms the heart, body, and soul!
One year ago: Dark Chocolate Strawberry Shortcakes with Amaretto Cream
What is a holiday without some festive Funfetti recipes? A holiday lacking a whole lot of fun, that’s what. So I took it upon myself to make sure you got your dose of Funfetti this Valentine’s Day with a 7-layer bar. I really enjoying making these bars, because it’s an easy way to use up things in the pantry leftover from a previous baking expedition. Such as cherry baking chips. And typical for 7-layer bars, these will disappear as magically as they appeared.
While we are on the subject of disappearing acts, I’ve learned something about portion sizes and their relation to how quickly they will get eaten. Take these bars for example. When I first brought them into work I had them sliced into 24 bars, but my labmates cut them into fourths in an effort to feel less guilty about eating such a decadent treat. Of course they were neglecting to notice that instead of eating one or two fourths of a whole bar, they were eating 6ish = 1.5 bars. If they had just eaten the bar as I had cut it originally, they would have actually consumed less of it! Yet somehow the guilt factor is different. The moral of the story? Ignorance is bliss (and now I know how to deceive them O:-) ).
One year ago: Sausage Lasagna Heart Calzone
Valentine’s Day is officially one week away folks! So let’s gets our lips soft and ready with some homemade lip balm. You’ve ever got two different options to choose from! The bases for both are the same but with slightly different additions so if you have a flavor idea to build upon these, go for it!
But first you need a couple of things. I bought my beeswax, shea butter and peppermint essential oil from Whole Foods, however the beeswax was in a solid pound block that I had to struggle with to cut. But I’ve been told you can find beeswax and oil-based candy flavorings at craft stores, which is where I buy my colored candy melts. Also, I used mini plastic bead containers from Joann Fabrics for the peppermint lip balm and and 0.25 oz. mini glass jars from Freund Container & Supply for the honey lip balm. But you can really use anything you want that is lip-balm sized. Ready?
The first bath I made was the peppermint and it reminded me a lot of Burt’s Bees lip balm. If that doesn’t convince you to make this lip balm I am not sure what will. And it was so easy to make, I immediately set out to start another batch!
The second batch was a honey lip balm with some pink candy melts mixed in for a little festive coloring. Unfortunately, the pink candy melts didn’t add hardly any color, so next time I would use red instead. But it did add a hint of sweetness along with the honey, which was quite lovely. But don’t try to east it because it will definitely still taste like beeswax, haha.
One year ago: Whole Wheat Blueberry Cottage Cheese Pancakes
Two years ago: Velveeta Chicken & Veggie Mac
Tomorrow I meet with my graduate committee to determine my fate for the remainder of the school year and hopefully the last of my graduate career. Which means I will be preparing bribe-worthy treats tonight and ordering up lots of coffee in the morning to keep them happy. But for now, enjoy this other equally bribe-worthy treat.
Every year for a labmate’s birthday I come up with a different red velvet creation. The lab as a whole loves my red velvet cake, but I don’t want to make the same thing every time so I find new variations. With my excess of stress in preparation for my presentation to the committee and writing a research paper to be published, I decided to go for something a little easier to make without sacrificing taste. And these red velvet rice krispie treats taste just like red velvet. But what is red velvet without cream cheese frosting? It is the most important part!
I know I don’t talk about my personal life in much detail on here, and more so lately than usual (mostly because I have no life other than working 13 hrs a day at lab). But today I am sharing something about my mom, which is the reason I made cake pops in the shape of flowers to form an edible bouquet. Yes I do realize it is Pi day and being the nerd that I am, contemplated changing today’s post to a pie but I don’t think anyone will argue that my mother is more important than any pie in the world.
Let’s begin with the year 2002. I was a senior in high school and my mom moved from upstate NY to live with family in Maryland (why she moved there is an entirely different story that I’m not getting into today). Shortly after, she was diagnosed with not one but two aneurysms in her brain, one located behind each eye, and they were not small (golf ball-sized). Her neurosurgeon attempted to put a stint in for the one behind her right eye but it was not successful and therefore moved on to the next option – a craniotomy. Unfortunately in the process her optic nerve was cut for that eye and obviously resulted in the termination of vision through that eye. As far as I know none of the family was aware that this was going to be a possibility. I was none too pleased because having the terrible vision that I do, I am very conscious of the ability to see. And upset because not only were we unaware that this may happen, but it did happen and there was nothing to do about it.
Naturally, my mom feared losing sight in her remaining left eye and did not want to pursue a second craniotomy for the other aneurysm. I can’t say that I blame her but it was always in the back of my mind, “What if it decides to rupture? Would I rather have a blind mom than none at all?”. But the decision was hers not mine (thankfully). So she continued to live her life, got remarried, moved to Delaware and is the happiest I have seen her in a long time.
Then last year, I got a message from my aunt (in MD) saying my mother was being helicoptered to the hospital – no more details given. WHAT!?!?!!? Commence ultimate freak out. Later I was told she had been bumping into things and saying things which did not make sense so they thought her aneurysm was acting up. For the next couple of days, my mom sat in pre-op, not being able to eat anything because she was told she would go into surgery in the morning after they ran tests, but then never having the surgery the next day, or the next. Meanwhile, I was preparing for a seminar I had to present on my research and was juggling whether I needed to jump into my car and haul the 15 hours to be there for her surgery. If my mom was going to lose her vision completely I wanted her to see me one more time. The fact the hospital was being so wishy-washy whether or not they were going to perform surgery was most frustrating. In the end, they decided her aneurysm was stable and that she was just suffering side effects from dehydration (she and my step-father as been battling a cold of some sort). Yup, all that drama just to find out she needed a glass of water.
I wish I could say that was the end of it all. But unfortunately over the next year she started to notice the occasional symptom (headache, cheek numbness, blurred vision) but it would fade away and she’d let it go. One day she confessed to me that these symptoms were becoming more persistent and severe. (Guess a glass of water wasn’t the solution after all.) After an MRI last week it has been decided that surgery needs to be performed. The aneurysm is growing and the size of it categorized her as an emergency – life or death. Which started my frantic scanning of flight prices which were not economically friendly. After talking with her, since this surgery is “just” for a stint, I am holding off on the last-minute travel for now. If for some reason the stint doesn’t work on this one either (crosses fingers and every body part possible), then I will fork over whatever it costs to be there. That’s assuming she even goes through with another craniotomy, because from talking to her she has no intention of doing so.
Unfortunately my older brother is also unable to be there because my sister-in-law is full term and due any day now with their first child (YAY!). But our step-dad, aunt (her sister) and uncle will be there. Mom goes in for pre-op at 8 am EST and will go into surgery around 10 am (and I will be tethered to my cell phone all day). I called her yesterday and she was scared but is in good spirits. (I know the feeling. In early high school I had surgery on my left eye to correct the strabisthmus and I cried while waiting to go into the operating room.) She did mention that her headaches have intensified and cannot wait for it to be over. We all hope that the stint relieves her pain swiftly.
Little does she know what is crawling to her doorstep at this very moment. I cannot wait for my package containing these flower bouquet cake pops to reach her today, she will be so excited! I know she will want to show them off to all of her friends too because that’s what mothers do.
I LOVE YOU MOM! Be strong. I wish I could be with you today like you have been for me. And even though you don’t have the internet to see this post, you get the better end of the deal – the cake pops!
(Please excuse any poor grammar or lack of fluidity in this post. I can’t proof-read emotions haha.)
One year ago: Cookies and Cream Peanut Butter Pie
FLOWER BOUQUET CAKE POPS
1 box chocolate fudge cake mix*, plus ingredients
1-16 oz. tub chocolate frosting *
Colored chocolate candy melts (such as these)
*or whatever flavor variety you prefer
- Prepare cake as directed for a 13 x 9 inch cake.
- After cake is cooked and cooled completely, crumble into large bowl. Mix thoroughly with frosting. Form into two large balls.
- On a lightly greased surface (I like to use a pastry mat) use a rolling pin to roll one ball to about 1/2-inch thick. Cut out shapes using greased small flower-shaped cookie cutters (I used these by Wilton). Gently push out of the cookie cutter onto a wax paper lined cookie sheet.
- Chill for several hours. (You can speed this up by putting in the freezer.)
- Melt chocolate in microwave (or over a double-boiler) per directions on package.
- Dip the end of a pop stick into the chocolate and insert halfway through the bottom of a cake-flower. Roll in chocolate, tap off excess, add M&M and insert into styrofoam (or lay on wax paper) until firm.
- Repeat with the remaining shapes and use different colored chocolate coating if desired. (I started with the yellow and worked towards the darker colors so that I could keep using the same bowl.)
Source: Adapted from Bakerella.
I am always on the lookout for fun food items. When I found heart-shaped pasta from World Market (while in east TN since the store no longer exists on my end) I snatched them up – perfect for a Valentine’s Day themed meal! Which lead me to think about vodka sauce (don’t ask why this holiday perked thoughts of alcoholic food).
Samantha from The Little Ferraro Kitchen lead me to this recipe. It’s not to thick, but not runny either, and has great flavor which I am sure has many thanks to the full cup of vodka. But I did try something new and used a cup of Chobani‘s 2% plain Greek yogurt in place of the heavy cream. I’ve been enjoying finding new ways to substitute in Greek yogurt for other ingredients in order to add protein and reduce fat. In this instance it made the sauce a bit tangier but thought it paired very well with the already present vodka tang.
While I am on the subject of Chobani, how would you like to win some!? One of you will be the lucky recipient of a bundle three 32 oz. containers including plain in 0% and 2% and 0% vanilla. This giveaway is open to US and Canada (but a Canadian resident will just receive three of the 32 oz. 0% plain containers as vanilla & 2% plain aren’t available across the border yet). To enter, please leave a comment sharing your favorite way to use Greek yogurt. Giveaway ends Monday, February 20th. Winner will be contacted via e-mail and has 48 hours to respond. **GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED** Samantha from The Little Ferraro Kitchen is the winner!
PASTA WITH VODKA SAUCE
Serves 4 to 5
1/4 cup good olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, diced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1-1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 cup vodka
2 (28 oz) cans peeled plum tomatoes
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound pasta
4 Tbsp fresh oregano
3/4 to 1 cup 2% plain Greek yogurt
Grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Heat the olive oil in a large oven proof saute pan over medium heat, add the onions and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add the red pepper flakes and dried oregano and cook for 1 minute more. Add the vodka and continue cooking until the mixture is reduced by half.
- Meanwhile, drain the tomatoes through a sieve and crush them into the pan with your hands (be careful and crush slowly because the juice will squirt*). Add 2 teaspoons salt and a pinch of black pepper. Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and place it in the oven for 1-1/2 hours. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water, and set both aside.
- Place the tomato mixture in a blender and puree in batches until the sauce is a smooth consistency. Return to the pan. Or blend in the pot if using an immersion blender.
- Reheat the sauce, add 2 tablespoons fresh oregano and enough yogurt to make the sauce a creamy consistency. Add reserved pasta cooking water if the sauce it too thick. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and simmer for 10 minutes. Toss the pasta into the sauce and stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan. Serve with an additional sprinkle of Parmesan and a sprinkle of fresh oregano on each plate.
*The first one I squeezed resulted in an explosion of sauce all over my (thankfully already not-perfectly-spotless-clean) kitchen.