On Thursday night while hanging out with some friends, my buddy Mike started asking everyone what they “bring to the table.” Huh? was my first reaction. But after some further explanation I realized we were discussing our favorite qualities and what we contribute to the “friend group.” Somewhere along the line, as we went around the table, it was decided that not only were we listing our “to the table” qualities, but they also had to feature everyone’s favorite literary device, alliteration. For example, Mike finally settled on Smiles, Sarcasm, and Sultry Looks (smiles and sarcasm-yes; sultry looks-questionable). As we continued around the table we landed on Muscles, Manly, McGee; Parties and Pass Outs; Language, Learning, and Love. Then there was me: Food, Fun, and Fitness.
Do you think we’re weird? Its ok if you do. I think we’re weird too.
Food, fun, and fitness are probably the very best 3 words to describe me. Especially the food part, which I quite literally bring to the table all of the time. In my mind, food is the world’s best uniting device. We all like it and we all need it. Nothing breaks the ice in a social situation quite like a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies, and nothing tells a person you care, quite like a homemade cake.
This lavender cake is actually the perfect example of using food to “love on” someone. I first learned about this recipe when my brother and his girlfriend came out to visit me back in March. After returning to Pittsburgh, she sent me a bag of dried lavender so I could give the recipe a try on my own.
Since then I’ve gone on to make lavender cakes for all sorts of occasions. It was a simple dessert when my college roommate came for a visit. It turned out to be the perfect pastry when I wanted to bring breakfast to my office one morning. I dressed it up with some festive sprinkles for my co-worker Kathy’s birthday earlier this month, and I made a lavender loaf cake to bring as a snack to my church community group one evening.
I’ve had a few requests for the recipe, so next time you are looking to bring food to the table, I think this might be the cake for you!
- 2 cups sugar
- 10 Tbs butter, at room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 3 eggs
- 3 1/2 cup flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 cups (16 oz container) vanilla Greek yogurt
- 2 Tbs dried lavender, minced
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1-2 Tbs milk (more if needed)
- 9 or 10 inch bundt pan
**note, if you do not own a bundt pan, this recipe can be halved and made in a 9 inch loaf pan instead. When halving the recipe, use 1 egg and 1 egg white.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt pan and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Mix in the vanilla, then beat in each egg, one at a time.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the stand mixer in 3 batches, alternating with the addition of the Greek yogurt. Beat well to make sure ingredients are fully incorporated after each addition. Finally mix in the minced lavender** and beat the entire batter on medium-high speed for 1 minute before pouring it into the prepared budnt pan.
Bake the cake for 1 hour or until a toothpick tester comes out clean. Let the cake cook for about 10 minutes before flipping it onto a wire rack to finish cooling. I recommend gently running a knife between the edges of the cake and the sides of the pan to ensure that is slides out easily.
Once the cake has cooled, whisk together the glaze ingredients in a medium sized bowl until very smooth. Adjust the amount of milk as needed to reach the desired consistency. The glaze should be thin enough to drizzle over the cake, but not so liquid that it doesn’t stick. When the glaze is ready gently spoon or pour it over the entire cake. If adding sprinkles, jimmies, or another embellishment, now is the time to do it, so they will stick to the cake as the glaze dries.
**Note: Dried lavender can be purchased at your local spice store or at a specialty market like Whole Foods. I mince mine up finely with a knife, but you can also run it through a coffee or spice grinder if you have one.
Eating For England’s Lavender Tea Cake.
It’s time to bring lavender cake to the table.
Friendcation - (frend\kā\shən) - noun. – 1. A trip taken by a group of friends. 2. A short getaway, particularly to a city known for its partying and cuisine. 3. An organized escape, not involving family members or significant others. Synonyms: Girls weekend, travel, fun. Example: ”Sorry I won’t be in the office this Friday. My girlfriends and I are taking a friendcation to New Orleans.”
When in NOLA, you absolutely must start your day off with a drink. It’s sort of a requirement. Some days the morning beverages will come in the form of champagne and orange juice. Other times in the form of flaming brandy in your coffee. Sometimes both.
Your first stop in town will be the French Quarter. You’ll spend a lovely day strolling the streets, admiring the character filled buildings, floral draped balconies, and quaint shops.
While wandering through the French Quarter, you will stumble upon Cafe Du Monde. The line will be long, but the beignets and cafe au lait will be worth the wait. You’ll love them so much, that you’ll stop back for another the following night. Are you wondering what a beignet is? Beignets are deep fried doughy dreams, covered in mounds of powdered sugar. Think a personal funnel cake… but better.
All that walking will make you thirsty. Good thing New Orleans is the perfect city for afternoon drinks. The beer flows and the music plays all day long.
Day drinking was so much fun, that you’ll want to get cleaned up and head out on the town for some evening sips as well. Some of them will be classy, some of them will be silly. All of them will be delicious.
Looks like you’ve had a lot of drinks, so it’s probably time for some good eats as well. You don’t want to leave town until you’ve tried all of the local cuisine.
You also don’t want to leave town without a visit (or two) to the iconic Pat O’Brien’s. You’ll enjoy the court yard, but nothing can top the dueling piano bar. You’ll request songs like Rains In Africa, Wagon Wheel, and even Thrift Shop. You will undoubtedly sing your little heart out. You will drink a hurricane, and you will have an absolute ball.
Even after all the fun you’ve had at Pat O’Brien’s, you’ll still want to wander off the beaten path a bit to check out some live and local jazz music on Frenchman Street.
The bars are lots of fun, but you’ll definitely want to take in the classier side of New Orleans as well. This city is full of surprises!
Speaking of classy, you’ll take a walking tour through the Garden District. Your guide Denver from Free Tours By Foot will impress you with his knowledge of the neighborhood and the city.
Why yes, I’ve saved the best for last. Bourbon Street. Oh Bourbon Street. What do 3 single ladies do on a night out on Bourbon Street? I think a better question is what don’t 3 single ladies do on a night out on Bourbon Street?
Does everyone know the Ellie Goulding song, Anything Could Happen? I’m pretty sure it was written about a night on Bourbon Street. Where else can you drink a “huge ass beer,” throw beads from a balcony, cheer for a “boxing” competition, and have your tarot cards read, all in the same night?
From the class to the trash, and everything in between, we had an absolutely unforgettable weekend in NOLA and there is no doubt in my mind that I will be back!
So until we meet again New Orleans, until we meet again. <3
Boom. Weekend in New Orleans.
Less than 500 words. 500ish words.
PS: If you’re planning a trip to NOLA, give me a shout, I’ve got lots of great suggestions of places to check out. Everywhere we went was based on word of mouth suggestions from friends and co-workers, so I’d love to return the favor!
Like this trip review? Read my 500 word wrap up of Washington DC as well!
As I mentioned yesterday, my friends and I threw a surprise baby shower for our friend Christina last weekend to help her celebrate as she gets ready to welcome her daughter Grace into the world. I’m definitely not one of those self proclaimed “baby people” but there was something about seeing Christina so happy and glowing that even gave me an ounce or two of baby fever. Let’s just say I was only able to restrain myself for about 3 seconds after hugging Christina hello before I started rubbing her cute little belly! Yep, even me.
And an occasion so special, well it deserves an dessert that is
equally almost as special.
These lemon cupcakes with fresh strawberry cream cheese frosting suited the day perfectly. They are light, fresh, and full of springtime flavors. The cupcake itself is super moist, with juuuuuust the right amount of lemony zing.
And the frosting. Oh baby, we couldn’t get enough of this frosting. (I may or may not have been squeezing the extra directly from the piping bag into my friends’ mouths–but we won’t talk about that). When I was creating the recipe, I knew that I didn’t want to use any strawberry extract. Strawberry flavoring tastes good enough, but it doesn’t actually taste like strawberries. This frosting on the other hand? It’s the real deal. The extra effort to make the homemade strawberry syrup is totally worth it for the natural, fresh berry taste in the final product.
My friends could not get enough, as they disappeared off the plate before my eyes. Even the dad-to-be who “doesn’t even like cake” gave these cupcakes a big thumbs up!
- 2 1/4 cup flour
- 1 Tbs baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/4 cup buttermilk
- 4 large egg whites
- 1 1/2 cup sugar
- zest of 2 large lemons or 4 small lemons
- 1 stick of butter, at room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 tsp lemon extract
- 8 oz package cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 stick butter, at room temperature
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 2 Tbs homemade strawberry syrup
- 1 Tbs heavy cream
For the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 24 cupcake tins with paper liners.
In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and egg whites. Finally, in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the lemon zest and sugar and beat on medium speed until well combined, and the lemon becomes very fragrant. Add the stick of butter and beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Once the butter/lemon/sugar mixture is light and fluffy, mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
In 3 batches, alternate adding the dry ingredients and the buttermilk mixture to the stand mixer. Beat well after each addition. Once all of the ingredients have been added, beat the batter on medium-high speed for 2 minutes.
Spoon the batter into the 24 prepared cupcake tins and bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cupcakes to cool for about minutes in the tins before removing them to finish cooling on a wire rack.
I suggest making the frosting ahead of time, because it need to chill for a couple of hours before icing the cupcakes. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter together for about two minutes, or until very light. Add 3 cups of powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating until fully incorporated after each addition. Next add the 2 Tbs of strawberry syrup and 1 Tbs of cream and mix until the liquids have been incorporated. Add the final cup of powdered sugar and mix on low speed, just until incorporated, then crank up the speed to high and beat the frosting for 3-4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. The final frosting will be very light in texture, which is what makes it so dream-like. It will also be on the thin side, so I recommend chilling it for a full two hours before frosting your cupcakes.
Lemon Cupcakes - My Baking Addiction
Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting – Original Recipe.
The adorable decorations are the handy work of my super talented friend Kate.
I’ve been talking about it pretty frequently over the last few months, so it feels strange to say that another marathon has come and gone. I spent last weekend in Pittsburgh for the big race and for an even bigger reunion. I was a college cross country runner and during my career came to know my teammates more as family than as friends. The strange thing about college friends is that after spending nearly every day together for four years, graduation comes and suddenly you find yourselves scattered around the country (or in our case, the world). The great thing about my teammates though, is that no matter how much time passes, we find a way to pick up right where we left off. And since we’re family, there is nothing we love more than sharing life’s big moments with one another.
And this time around… Well let’s just say there was a lot to celebrate.
I haven’t quite found the words to talk about my race experience just yet, so instead I want to take a minute to tell you about all the other fantastic things we had to celebrate. First, there was the reunion of friends, some of whom I have not seen in nearly 3 years, as life has split our group in many exciting, yet drastically different directions. Then there were the milestones of the last few years. New jobs, new cities, new degrees, new loves, new homes, and a recent engagement. But the most important
thing person to be celebrated was baby Grace.
That’s right, my dear friends are pregnant with a baby girl and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome her to the team!
Since we were in Pittsburgh, Small One volunteered to host a pre-marathon dinner for the team, which we decided to combine with a surprise baby shower for the parents-to-be. Although Christina’s mom is throwing her an official baby shower later this month, we girls wanted to do a little something to celebrate this monumental time in her life. We spent all afternoon preparing for dinner and the shower, laughing and catching up as we baked, cooked, wrapped, and decorated. Opportunities like that are few and far between these days but there is just something so sweet and simple about spending time with the
girls women who know you better than most.
Today’s strawberry syrup is kind of like that. It’s natural. It’s sweet. It’s perfectly simple. It’s all the best things about strawberry, without any added junk. Similar to spending time with good friends, strawberry syrup is exactly what you need this season.
- 16 oz container of strawberries
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 Tbs sugar
- Large sieve
Wash and hull the strawberries, then halve or quarter them with a sharp knife, depending on how large they are. Combine the cut strawberries, the water, and the sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Once boiling, turn the heat down to medium low, and simmer the strawberries for another 30-40 minutes. Every 5-10 minutes, carefully crush the berries with a potato masher. As they cook down, they will become very soft and will mash easily After 30-40 minutes, the berries will no longer be intact and the syrup will be quite thick. Let it cool for about 15 minutes before straining it through a large sieve into a bowl. Use a wooden spoon to help you press the mixture through the sieve. Some of the seeds will squeeze through, but the majority of the pulp will be left behind. Store syrup in a sealed container in the refrigerator until ready to use. I know this is a lot of work for only about 1/3 cup of syrup, but trust me when I say that it. is. worth. it.
Homemade strawberry syrup is perfect when served over pound cake or ice cream, but I recommend saving a couple of tablespoons to for tomorrow’s recipe, Lemon Cupcakes with Fresh Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting.
To sweet berries, sweet memories, and sweet friends.
- Baseball Season – It’s finally here! Baseball season. There is no better feeling than sitting outside, watching a game, and sipping a Bud Light Lime. I’m a PA girl so I love both the Phillies and the Pirates.
- Mint Green – The color of my childhood room. And the color of absolutely every new piece of clothing I purchased this spring. It’s just so… well… springy!
- Hey Pretty Girl – The new song by Kip Moore. I am about as far as you can get from being a hopeless romantic. But this song… *sigh* It melts even my ice cold heart.
- Bike Riding - As part of my quarter life crisis last fall I bought a sort of expensive road bike. I didn’t get much riding in over the winter, but now that the days are getting longer and the sun is getting warmer, I am loving it!
- Hershey Park – We took a road trip out to Hershey earlier this month for a day of amusement park fun! My last visit was 7 or 8 years ago and things have changed a lot. The park is still cute and clean, but the roller coasters have gotten bigger and better!
- Giada Cookbook – I brought you a recipe earlier this month from my newest cookbook Weeknights With Giada. This book is fan-tast-ic and I’ve already tried 3 or 4 different recipes. I highly recommend picking it up if you are looking for a way to spice up your mid-week meals.
- Athleta – I finally got around to using my Athleta gift card and I can’t believe I’ve never shopped here before! Athleta is a women’s athletic apparel store owned by the Banana Republic family. I love that the styles are all super girly, yet are completely functional for a serious workout. I purchased a hot pink T to wear for my marathon this weekend, so I’ll let you know how it goes!
NOT SO NEW THIS MONTH:
- Robyn – My love of Robyn lives on. And I’m proud to say I’ve gotten a few of my guy friends hooked as well! I think I listened to “Call Your Girlfriend” and “Dancing On My Own” on repeat for an hour today at work. Oh and don’t even get me started on the Stella sisters (the daughter’s on Nashville) cover of “Call Your Girlfriend.” I almost died.
It’s finally here. Marathon week! I’ve been training for the last 4 months with my sights set on running 26.2 in Pittsburgh, PA. It was a bitter cold winter here in Philly this year which made training extra tough this time around. Even so, week after week I woke up at 7 AM on Saturday morning to long run with my training partners. The miles were long, but the conversation was good, so even on 3 hour runs, the time went quickly.
Typically with about 3 miles to go, my running partners and I would begin discussing what we planned to eat when we completed our run. The guys always went back and forth, debating between eggs and pancakes. I on the other hand said, “why choose?” We just ran 20 miles, I want eggs and pancakes!
And so Super Brunch was born.
Each week after returning from my long run, I’d round up my friends in the neighborhood and we would make Super Brunch. There were always eggs, there were always hash browns, there were always biscuits, and most weeks there was breakfast sausage. The truly defining characteristic of Super Brunch though were the dessert pancakes. We made lemon poppy seed pancakes, we made oatmeal cookie pancakes, and we made these birthday cake pancakes.
Now I know you think you’ve had fluffy pancakes before, but trust me when I say you don’t know fluffy until you try this recipe. My housemate Pam used to make us a more basic version of these cakes on Sunday mornings during our senior year of college and I could never get over just how cakey they were. So when I wanted to try and make birthday cake pancakes for Super Brunch, I new just the recipe to start with. I subbed butter for oil, sweetened them up a bit, and added cute sprinkles for a funfetti look. I absolutely loved the results, as did my friends, so I couldn’t wait to make them again and share them with you. These pancakes are awesome on any weekend morning, but I think, given the name, they’d be an absolutely perfect treat for a birthday morning breakfast.
- 1 1/2 c flour
- 1 Tbs baking powder
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 1 cup milk
- 4 Tbs butter, melted
- 3 Tbs of multi-colored sprinkles
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, and melted butter. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir, just until combined. Then mix in the sprinkles. The batter will be thicker than a traditional pancake batter, which is what makes these cakes so fluffy.
Heat a non-stick pan or griddle over medium heat and coat the surface with cooking spray. Ladle a 1/4 cup of batter into the pan and spread evenly. Cook the pancake for two minutes or until the edges begin to brown and the top gets bubbly. Flip the pancake and cook for another two minutes, or until both sides are browned and the center is firm.
Serve birthday cake pancakes with butter and syrup, or with homemade whipped cream.
A slight adaptation of my friend Pam’s favorite fluffy pancake recipe.
This isn’t exactly going to come as a shock since I write a blog about it, but I’m a super duper foodie nerd. I love everything about it. I love cooking, grocery shopping, baking birthday cakes, and trying new recipes. I love making food, talking about food, sharing food, and eating food. Just last weekend I was in central PA for a girls weekend with my college roommates and I spent an embarrassing amount of time discussing cuts of pork with my friend’s husband over dinner on Friday night. I think my foodiness reaches an all time high though whenever I purchase a new cookbook. I read those babies like a novel, sometimes in bed, marking pages that I’m dying to come back to. I try the first recipe that really jumps out at me, then I go back and re-read, looking for hidden gems that I may have missed my first time through.
My most recent purchase, at the recommendation of a friend, was Weeknights With Giada. I also own Giada’s Kitchen and have made a ton of recipes from it, all to rave reviews. Giada has never led me astray before and her Weeknights book is no different. It is full of realistic recipes that feel a little more special than a typical mid-week dinner, but are totally do-able, even after a long day at work. No crazy ingredients or tedious methods, just fun, different ways to get dinner on the table in a snap. Whenever I buy a new cookbook, I always like to share a recipe on here with you. As soon as I started flipping through the pages of my most recent conquest, I knew I would have to try this pasta with shrimp and bacon. And as soon as I made it, I knew I had no choice but to share it with you. This dish is rich and comforting, but not in an overly heavy way. The whole wheat pasta stands up nicely against the creamy tomato sauce, and it all is lightened up with the addition of shrimp and fresh basil. The few simple ingredients come together beautifully and will leave you with leftovers that you are actually excited to eat!
- 1 lb whole wheat pasta such as fettuccine or linguine
- 1 lb thick cut bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 3/4 chicken broth or white wine (original recipe calls for clam juice)
- 1 cup fresh basil, chopped
- 1 1/2 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- salt and pepper
Boil a large pot of salted water, and cook pasta until al dente. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, cook bacon over medium-high heat in a skillet on the stove top for about 10 minutes or until crispy. Remove the cooked bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside. If it was very fatty drain a little bit of the grease from the skillet before continuing. The bottom of the skillet should be coated with a thin layer of grease, but no more.
Add the garlic to the hot bacon grease in the skillet and cook for about 30 seconds before adding the tomatoes, cream, wine, and basil. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally, being sure to scrape up the brown bits in the bottom of the pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Once boiling, turn the heat down to medium and let the sauce simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until slightly thickened.
Add the shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes, or until the shrimp have turned pink. Add the bacon and pasta back in, and toss the ingredients gently while cooking for another two minutes. Serve immediately.
**This recipe makes a lot so I like to halve it. When halving the tomatoes I recommending using all of the diced tomatoes and about half of the juice.
A slight adaptation of Whole Wheat Linguine with Basil, Bacon, and Shrimp in Weeknights With Giada.
Comfort. I need this. You need this. We need this.