7 Things to Do in Interlaken, Switzerland

When making my country bucket list for my study abroad trip, Switzerland slowly made its way to the top as I returned to the list over a few months time. I had no desire to ski the swiss alps or explore the water. I just wanted to see the beautiful mountain from the bottom and eat some chocolate. Not knowing who to go with or how to get there, I tried not to get my hopes up until I was booking the trip itself just two weeks in advance.

I found myself being able to go, with my friend Caitlyn by my side, in late February. It almost didn’t happen a couple times, and getting there was a feat in it of itself, but I am so thankful for having made it through the whirlwind trip.

I had less than 48 hours in the country, but I think I used my time wisely enough to be able to pass on my tips. Here is what I consider to be the essential things to do and see in Interlaken, Switzerland:

1. Go Paragliding

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I am not sure if I can do the experience of paragliding justice through my words, but I will give it a try. After what can only be a complete lack of coordination on my end during the first attempt at take off, my pilot Simon and I sailed off the side of the mountain over the city of Interlaken. From the moment we were in the air, I was in awe. The nerves I had were gone and I wanted to soak up the 15 minutes that I had because it was pure bliss to just look out at the lakes, buildings, and mountains. He even pulled some “rollercoaster” moves that would normally ruin anything for me, but I embraced it all. I would recommend paragliding to anyone, and just about anywhere. I hope to do it somewhere warm next time.

2. Don’t Just Eat Chocolate; Make It!

The Funky Chocolate Club offers an experience that takes you from bean to bar. They definitely tailor to the gullible tourist market, but I am not mad about it. Their calling is for a chance to get “chocolate wasted” and they delivered as soon as they gave us our first piece.

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Our adorable chocolate guide taught us about the history of chocolate, how the different kinds are made, and helped us make three bars of our own. It was a chill vibe that also enhanced the importance of the chocolate process. The best part was that because I made the chocolate, it is just a bit easier to ration it knowing I put work into it. I still went through two of the three bars in a week.. oops!

Would also highly recommend their chocolate covered strawberries.

3. Stroll Through Unterseen

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Deciding to get up at 5:45 am on a Saturday, after a full day of traveling the day before, was the best thing we could have done for ourselves. I could not exactly tell you how the larger city of Interlaken is divided besides this area, but the town of Unterseen was worth seeing. There was no one around, even after we took our time getting up and eating breakfast, as we strolled the streets at 7am.

Clouds were everywhere and it could have been warmer, but seeing the unique architecture and shops was nice. It was also our first real look at the mountains. They took my breath away, as we had arrived too late to see them the night before. I had seen mountains in California and Pennsylvania, but these are in a league of their own in both size and density of trees. I was constantly turning every which way in order to see them all.

4. Eat An American Burger at an Irish Pub In Switzerland

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The 3 Tells Irish Pub has the worst nachos I have ever had, thanks to some stale chips and nasty guac, but the biggest and messiest burger I may have ever had. That is a very good thing. It was right next to our youth hostel, Balmers, which is probably why it is so popular. The cheese on the burger had a great taste, the bun was different, and the fries were unnecessary considering the size of the burger but I still scarfed them down. It was kind of our only option to eat at the time, and the service was a little uncomfortable, but overall I can’t complain too much when they serve a quality burger like that.

Shoutout to Barracuda Cafe and Bar, just down the road from 3 Tells, for serving bagels in the morning and mojitos at night.

5. Sneak into the Victoria-Jungfrau

Just make your way through the first floor and even up a staircase or two. We simply wanted to get warm, but it was probably the nicest hotel I’ve been in–even if I didn’t stay there. I spent maybe 40 minutes here while our chocolate cooled, but it was the perfect spot to taste of life of luxury, even it was just from using their bathroom and sitting on some cozy sofas.

6. Take A (Free) Bus To Oberhofen Castle

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Now we are still not sure whether the ride should have truly been free but hoping on and off several buses without being checked for tickets made it easy to jaunt about. Working in several missed buses there and back, and maybe a few panic moments, we found out that Oberhofen Castle was surrounded by beautiful water and a quiet town. It took us about 5 minutes to realize that the only thing to do there that time of the year was take in the view, but making out way out there was well worth it just for that.

7. Check out a Lake or TwoIMG_5618.jpg

The bus ride to Oberhofen offered an amazing view of Lake Thun (pronounced “tune”), but Lake Geneva gave that a run for its money as we made our way to the airport. Lakeside mountains are a combination I never grew up seeing but that I miss already.

 

Here is a look at some of the stuff I mentioned, as Caitlyn captured it all in an amazing video. Let me know if I missed anything… I may need to go back some day when it’s a bit warmer!

Here’s to my next adventure and finally writing about them!

xx Casey

Tried & True: Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Cookies

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Finally back at it again with the #FoodieFridays! Food has been such a big part of my life lately but not in a way that I could write about it on my blog until now. Thanks to my lack of warm weather plans, I took to the kitchen during my few days back at home this past week.

I wanted to make something different, but not too timeIMG_0908.jpg
consuming. Cookies seemed like a good way to go, but I wanted something more than my basic chocolate chip cookies. This led me to deciding to make yet another Pinterest find, Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Cookies from Betsylife. Luckily for all of us and my family, I was very happy with how they turned out.

Highlights:

  • Dark chocolate is really underrated and I used to consider caramel overrated, but the combination is perfect. These cookies specifically have a great ratio so that you’re never stuck with a caramel-less bite.
  • These cookies still manage to not be over chocolate-y, so you can shovel down more than a few without immediate guilt or that death-by-chocolate kind of feeling.

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Tips:

  • IMG_0848.jpgUse the full 9 oz bag of Toll House DelightFulls. It seemed like too much so I did not initially add all of them, but after doing my first batch I added the rest of the bag to the dough I had left and it really added to the rest of the cookies
  • Be cautious but generous with the salt. I personally do not like a lot of salt with caramel, but I was a little too cautious with these cookies.
  • Judging these cookies in the oven was tough because they start out dark anyway, so I personally just trusted my gut. They do not spread very much, but you will start to see them almost crack open a bit like a load of bread when they’re done.

My family found the appearance of these cookies in relation to how appetizing they are debatable, but we all loved them for their taste. Heated up and mixed with vanilla ice cream is an extra special treat!

Let me know if you try this recipe! Also, does anyone have any tips for how to come up with my own recipes? I can’t just talk about other people’s creations forever!

Crazy for Caramel,

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

 

 

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

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