Donut Skip Breakfast. I Mean It.

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Instead of suffering through biology or chemistry, I’m taking Nutrition for a science class. I am definitely excited to learn more about proper diets and what I am putting into my body. My teacher is Jamaican, so she says that she grew up being told to eat like a king for breakfast, a prince at lunch, and a pauper at dinner. The problem that Americans have is that we do the opposite.

I have never been able to understand why or how people skip breakfast. When I eat breakfast, my stomach is growling two hours later so really even just a small breakfast doesn’t work. I think my nutrition teacher, as well as most people around the world, have the right idea with eating more in the beginning of the day.

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What You’re Missing Out On When You Skip Breakfast:

  • IMG_9312.jpgFUEL: Technically the most important part of the most important meal of the day. All of the iron and protein taken in from eggs and bagels give you energy, but the best part is that you have the whole day to burn it off.
  • A GOOD TIME: Making Breakfast is fun. You don’t even have to wake up early; that’s what brunch is for. Whether it’s banana pancakes on a rainy day or scrambling those eggs to a beat, enjoy the time for yourself or who you’re with!
  • Photo-Ops: Breakfast food is very photogenic. Enough said there.
  • MORE DESSERT: Let’s face it, most typical breakfast foods are practically desserts–which is probably why I love breakfast and brunch so much. You can go really healthy with eggs and oatmeal, but even super healthy fruits are sweet. Occasionally Treat Yo’ Self and  take it up a notch with waffles or coffee cake. Your sweet tooth will be thankful and maybe even satisfied for the whole day–unless your sweet tooth is out of control like mine. This goes back  to the fuel and having the whole day to burn off that Captain Crunch covered donut or cinnamon streusel french toast (that’s what that beauty below is).  

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I do not always eat sweets for breakfast, I actually usually only do as a treat, but when I do I could not be happier. Waking up to sugary treats is always ideal. I am currently on the hunt for a good sit-down breakfast or brunch place near my campus, but my dining hall scrambled eggs do the job. 

Even if you aren’t big on sweets, I hope I have convinced you to make some time for breakfast. They aren’t kidding when they say it’s the most important meal of the day!

Shout outs in the same order as their photos to Fractured Prune (OCNJ), SunRise Cafe (OCNJ), my own kitchen, and Benelux Cafe (Milwaukee, WI) for my beautiful examples!

What’s everyone’s favorite breakfast food? Let me know!

Brunch or Die Crew,

Casey

 

 

 

Years In The Making: Tried & True Birthday Cake

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Cake was like my first true love. I’ve baked on and off for years, but when I started making cakes from scratch something really clicked. The decorating is still a challenge to me, but I love creating the more important part of the inside. Cake usually signifies an important event, whether it be a birthday or sporting victory, and I love being a part of that to this day. I eventually made some cakes for family events and friends’ parties. After all of that I have perfected my chocolate cake, but I struggled until just recently to get a perfect vanilla cake.

IMG_9686.jpgMy face completely lit up when my dining hall had vanilla cake today, and it was surprisingly moist and delicious. This reminded me of the last thing I baked before I left home–a vanilla cake with chocolate icing.

I make the cake with a recipe from BuzzFeed, of all places. I could spend hours watching those several-second Tasty and BuzzFeed videos, but I finally took the time to makes one of the recipes that I had seen.

Props for BuzzFeed:

  • This cake is actually moist. All the recipes I have tried, including the almighty Cake Boss’s, turned out dry. IMG_9720.jpgThis recipe does not need a single extra oil or egg yolk; it is perfect the way it is.
  • The recipe was easy to follow. No difficult techniques or requirements for leaving the cake to set in order for it to get the right shape.
  • This cake is HUGE. It is supposed to be three layers, but even just separating it in two was huge.
  • The flavor reminds me of a boxed mix, which I do not consider a bad thing, but that does lead me to my one critic: Instead of 2 teaspoons of vanilla, try about 1 tablespoon instead. I have not done this myself, but the cake was missing the true vanilla flavor when I made it. That extra 1 1/2 tablespoon would probably do the trick.

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I did not personally try to make the icing, because let’s be honest 12 oz. of bittersweet chocolate can get expensive, but Duncan Hines chocolate icing did the trick! I decorated with some white icing and UD colored sprinkles because I knew I couldn’t mess it up. I actually think it turned out pretty cute!

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I have only made this recipe once, but my whole family was just so pleased with the results that I wanted to share! This cake would definitely make a perfect birthday cake, or you could make it on a boring, cold winter day like I did!

I would love to hear about and see your results if you make this! Tweet me @caseyirwin97

Your not-quite-cake-boss-but-cake-manager,

Casey

 

 

Bananas for Bananas: Tried & True Banana Bread

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It’s been a crazy week for me, so nothing better than ending it would a scrumptious #FoodieFriday 

Today is the first day in six that I have not eaten banana bread. Even as I drove halfway across the country the country with my dad, I brought three small pieces with me to snack on. I practically bleed mushed banana at this point, so it is probably best for my health that I ran out.IMG_9657.jpg

The banana bread that I was eating was not from a bakery, but my own making. Banana bread is one of the first things I think to make when I come home to visit my family, especially when there always happens to be neglected, overly-ripe bananas laying around.

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 7.59.42 PM.pngI would like to say I adapted the recipe to make it my own, but really it is just a Food Network recipe that I tweaked a little. The funny thing about baking in that the littlest tweaks can make the biggest difference in the final product, eventually even making a difference in your day as you enjoy the product.

My Tweaks:

  • The recipe is called “Banana Muffins with Mascarpone Cream Frosting”, but the only thing to that I keep from the title is the “Banana” part–so no muffins and no frosting. Keep it easy with a 9 x 13 bread pan and butter the pieces for an extra treat.
  • Making the bread means cooking it longer to about 40 mins. Getting the middle cooked usually means a darker exterior, but I personally love the barely-there crunch and color that the extra heat gives it.
  • The 4 ripe banana it calls for does a decent job at making the bread moist, but go for 5 if you can swing it! It takes the moist-ness of the bread to a new delicious level. I sometimes find using only 4 dry, being so used to the 5.
  • If you’re making the bread for a crowd, considering mashing the bananas a little extra. The only complaints i’ve had with this bread was from those who don’t enjoy the banana bits, but some people prefer those.

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So the recipe is basically perfect… I almost wish it hadn’t been so I could tell you more tweaks, but the given spices are so perfect with the banana flavor!

Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 5.24.08 PM.pngBanana bread can be enjoyed any time of the day with just about anything–As a side with eggs, with a smear of butter on the side of a cup of tea, or my brothers even like it mixed in with vanilla ice cream.

I would recommend to any baker and eater!

Anyone else basically addicted to banana bread? Has anyone tried this recipe with the frosting? I have always kind of ignored the frosting, but I am curious how it tastes!

Constant Carb Consumer and Alliteration Admirer,

Casey

The Key to Success[ful cookies]

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After watching a full season of The Great British Bake Off in one day, I find myself reconsidering my whole life and wanting to return to my baker dreams that I had just a few years ago. While I hope to get over this feeling soon, unless it might just lead me to bigger and better things (…food PR…), I know I need to appreciate being able to bake anything I can get my hands on.

No matter how intricate or beautiful the latest food trend is, nothing quite beats a classic chocolate chip cookie. The first thing I baked by myself were chocolate chip cookies, and I have luckily come a long way from the mess that those came out to be. For years I had classic tasting cookies, but their pancake shape was not quite right. Now, thanks to a  recipe my mom got from a friend [hence the random name], I know the not-so-secret key to the most picturesque, delicious chocolate cookies that I could ask for.

Darci’s Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients: IMG_7002.jpg

2 Sticks of Butter

1 Package of (4 1/2 cups servings of) Instant Vanilla Pudding (🔑)

1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract

1⁄4 Cup White Sugar

3⁄4 Cup Brown Sugar

2 Eggs

2 1⁄4 Cups of Flour

1 Teaspoon of Baking Soda

Chocolate Chips to Taste

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Process:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit (convection bake).
  • Combine butter and white sugar (in a stand mixing bowl is easiest); Add brown sugar and pudding mix; Beat for about 2 minutes; Add eggs and vanilla; Set aside.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk the flour and baking soda (Optional: Save about a cup of flour and mix with the chocolate chips in a separate bowl).
  • Gradually add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.
  • Mix the chip/flour mixture in with the dough. The dough gets fairly thick at this point, but that is normal.
  • Form balls of dough by hand or with an ice cream scoop. The dough keeps it shape pretty well when baked, so keep that in mind when choosing size.
  • Bake until the cookies are brown around the edges (I always go by color), about 13-18 minutes.

These always satisfy my sweet tooth and hankering to bake, and I never have an excuse not to make these cookies whenever my dad begs me to–even if he just wants to eat the dough. They’re just so easy on the eyes and hands. I wish I had a batch of these with me right now!

I would love to see any of your results! Are there any other classic cookies or baked goods I should master next?

Your Cookie Connoisseur,

Casey

Tastebud Travel: Trying Indian Food

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Veggie Samosa

What’s #FoodieFriday without a sweet recipe? A very sad Friday if it weren’t for my most recent indulgence!

A Small Disclaimer: I’m a very picky eater–no matter where or with any cuisine–whose diet mainly consists of pasta, cheese, beef, and chicken.

I’m not normally one to step out of my comfort zone when it comes to food, but recently i’ve found myself craving new food combinations–even ones i’ve never even tried before. When my Anthropology class assignment literally told me to eat at an authentic, new restaurant and “BE ADVENTUROUS”, I knew I had to go past my Chinese take-out favorites. I would love to travel to India one day, even if I don’t necessarily get the guts to do that amazing looking Rickshaw Run, so yesterday I combined my school work with my personal curiosity of the country’s cuisine.

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Main Course

My mom, who had never had Indian food either, came with me to try something new for herself (and because she’s the best).  Kama Bistro in La Grange (IL) was a good starter restaurant because it considers its menu full of “contemporary” Indian cuisine with influences from other cultures. We told the waiter about our lack of experience with Indian food, so she was very kind with explaining things and giving suggestions.That and some of my previous research–because this was magically an assignment at the end of the day–led us to this:

What We Tried:

  • Vegetable Samosa
  • Chicken Tikka Masala
  • Aloo Gobi
  • Plain Rice
  • Naan
  • Yellow Dal (I think? My mom kept calling it lentils…)

IMG_9524Of course we could not skip dessert, no matter how full we were. I think we went with the most American option, that beautiful Bitter Chocolate Delight beauty to the right, but it was also the only option without nuts–and my oral allergy syndrome would not appreciate any of those.

I found some of the tastes familiar, probably because of one of the spices that I could not quiet put my finger on. I liked the kick of spice that some of the dishes just barely had, because I can barely handle mild buffalo sauce on a good day. I’m not really sure what I was expecting, but I’m glad the flavors were not too overwhelming. I was not blown away, but I enjoyed my meal.

Final Thoughts: I would gladly go grab Indian food if any of my friends had a craving, but don’t wait on me to be the one to suggest it first! To be honest, my favorite part was the naan bread with the Chicken Tikka Masala coming as a close second.

What is everyone’s experience with Indian food? Should I have tried something else on the menu? Any other picky eaters out there hesitant to try new foods? 🙋

Stay Curious,

Casey

Never Too Much: Tried & True Pumpkin Cake

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This pumpkin cake is a tasty mouthful in the name itself as a cake with cream cheese frosting in the middle and a chocolate ganache on top.

I wanted to share this recipe with you all on this #FoodieFriday because I really enjoy making things that taste great but don’t take a lot of decorating to look delicious either–and you can never have too much pumpkin in your life!

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 7.34.56 PM.pngI promise not all of my food post are going to be Pinterest recipes, or even just recipes, but I am enjoying baking as much as I can while I have a kitchen! Somewhere between my first Pumpkin Spiced Latte and pumpkin bread indulgences, I still managed to be interested in this recipe. I have made this cake twice now, both of which I have been very pleased with how they turned out.

My cakes never ended up looking like the original photo, but that did not even cross my mine until I attached it above. This cake is so delicious that it would be okay if you stopped reading this post and went to make it right now, but then you would miss the really good stuff.

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What Makes This Cake Special:

  1. IMG_9390It’s really easy to make: I feel like my cakes can be ruined by one simple decorating mistake, but this recipe was stress free on that and all parts. The recipe is fool proof; no decorations required.
  2. It is not even that sweet: The actual baked cake is similar to a very soft pumpkin bread that is a bit sweeter, so the toppings are really what set this cake apart from actual plain bread old with chocolate chips.DSC00786.jpg
  3. The Cream Cheese: I don’t know if pumpkin and cream cheese are a regular thing that I did not know about, but the flavors are so complementary.
  4. The ganache… THE GANACHE: This is like perfect touch to this cake. Chocolate and pumpkin are an amazing combination.

My Tips:

  • Be Cautious with the Confectioners Sugar. The cream cheese filling and ganache get stiff very quickly, so make sure you take the time to see if you like the consistency before you put in those last few 1/2 cups of confectioners sugar.
  • DOUBLE IT. DOUBLE IT ALL. The recipe mentions that you can double it if you want two cakes and let me just say a single cake is extremely small. Don’t bother making this cake if your are not going to double it, because the cake will be gone before you know it if you don’t.

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My family definitely knows how to eat, but I think us finishing almost half of my most recent take on this cake in one night definitely says something. This dessert was very easily a highlight of my indulgences this week, and I think it could be one of yours too!

Let me know how this one goes for you all!

Stay Sweet,

Casey

Poppin’ Like It’s Hot: Tried & True Blueberry Muffins

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Happy #FoodieFriday!

When you have a sweet tooth as strong as mine, you try your best to fit in the healthier food groups into your diet whenever possible. The only way i’m going to be eating blueberries is when I eat them in muffins–If I end up gaining the freshman 15, it will be because of Newark’s Brewed Awakening’s blueberry muffins.  I had a perfect opportunity to try to make bakery-like muffins from home, and actually eat blueberries without cringing every time I feel the squish and pop, when my mom asked me to use up a pack of blueberries.

Instead of even opening one of the dozens of cookbookScreen Shot 2015-12-17 at 7.30.34 PM.pngs in my house, I found a recipe on Pinterest-from a blog that even said the recipe was “tried and true”. As far as picking the recipe, I used my usual criteria that mostly depends on the pictures. The recipe does not call for anything out-of-the-ordinary, which makes it perfect for just whipping up one afternoon.

 

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Long Story Short… MAKE THESE MUFFINS!

There is not much I would change about this recipe. I am concerned how just about everything will turn out as I put it into the oven (miss perfectionist here), but these reassured me as soon as I started to smell them baking.  The muffins are a sweet treat that I never regret eating, even when one isn’t enough.

Highlights and Tips:

  • IMG_8643.jpgFilling the muffin tins to the top with batter should make picturesque muffins that pour over the top once they rise (I personally should have filled mine more!).
  • DO NOT HESITATE with sprinkling sugar on top; It’s a nice touch!
  • Same with the blueberries: the batter-to-berry is perfect so don’t hesitate with adding the berries.
  • 25 minutes on convection bake were all my muffins needed. This gives the berries enough time to beautifully pop and ooze all over the muffins without burning the bread part.
  • I used whole milk but others may work.

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Whether you’re more of a health nut or dessert connoisseur, whether you’re an amateur baker or restaurant chef, I really suggest you try this recipe. You get more than the basic blueberry muffin experience with the beauty, texture, and taste of a bakery muffin from scratch. Pair it with a cup of tea and you have yourself a great afternoon.

 

 

Eat Up!

Casey