Caprese Skewers with Garlic Crostini

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Happy New Year! We hope that everyone had a great 2015 and is looking forward to the new opportunities and adventures of 2016!

While neither of us are the most ardent New Year’s resolution-ers, we always have the goal of eating more mindfully, particularly fresh food (sometimes this goal is achieved better than at other times!). Since this is a pretty common resolution, what better way to start off the year on our blog than with a plate of caprese skewers? These were truly fantastic, especially when served with crisp, garlicky crostini and a hearty drizzle of balsamic reduction and olive oil. While this plate is rather summery, cherry tomatoes are wonderful year-round and fresh food seems to taste extra good after the many indulgences of the holidays. They couldn’t be simpler, either. These would make for a lovely appetizer at a party, but they’re equally great as a light lunch!

P.S. Still no functioning camera, so this picture is, again, from our Instagram.

Caprese Skewers with Garlic Crostini

Recipe for the crostini from Ina Garten’s “Make It Ahead

Ingredients

1 loaf of baguette

Olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 clove garlic, peeled and halved

Cherry tomatoes

Mozzarella balls

Fresh basil leaves

Balsamic vinegar

Directions

For the balsamic reduction, pour in your desired amount of balsamic vinegar (keeping in mind you’ll be reducing it) and simmer over medium heat until it’s thickened and reduced to about half. Let cool.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the baguette into slices on the diagonal and place on a baking sheet. You’ll get 20-25 slices. Brush lightly with olive oil and top with a sprinkling of kosher salt and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the bread has crisped slightly. Rub the tops of the bread with the cut side of the garlic clove.

Skewer the tomatoes and mozzarella balls on a toothpick. Nestle with a leaf of basil, skewering one end of the leaf. Top with a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Serve the skewers drizzled with olive oil and balsamic, with the crostini aside (we made little open-faced sandwiches as we ate, which worked out well). Enjoy!

Spice Cupcakes with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

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(Please excuse the picture quality! My beloved camera’s memory card slot is sadly broken, so in the meantime while I decide to fix/replace it, I’m just using my phone. This pic is from our Instagram account.)

Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays! Leah and I are home from school after a busy and productive semester. We are thrilled to be back in the kitchen and are also enjoying the unseasonably warm weather. The Environmental Studies major in me cringes a little, but boy, is it nice! A couple days after we both got home we wanted to bake something both pretty and delicious to usher in the Christmas spirit  (something that tends to be a little lacking after a stressful week of final exams and papers).

These cupcakes were just the thing! A tender spice cake, infused with the pleasant flavor of apple cider, is topped off with a decadent swirl of brown butter cream cheese frosting. We also opted to make the recommended sparkly sugared cranberries as a fun and delicious decoration. The entire family (with the exception of persnickety Henry, who does not enjoy cream cheese frosting) loved these. I think they’d be great to bring to a New Year’s party, particularly because of the wonderfully sparkly berries,  but they’d be undoubtedly welcome at any holiday table.

Spice Cupcakes with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

Recipe adapted slightly from Annie’s Eats

Makes 12 cupcakes

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:

2 cups apple cider

3 large eggs, separated

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup all-purpose flour (114 grams)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/3 cup (65 grams) vegetable oil

3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons water

For the frosting:

½ cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature

8 ounces (227 grams) cold cream cheese

1 cup (126 grams) sifted confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon heavy cream

Sugared cranberries

Directions

First, reduce the cider (this will take about a half hour, so plan ahead). Pour the cider in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, and then lower to a simmer and let cook down until about 2 tablespoons remain. Stir frequently towards the end so that the syrup does not burn. Set aside to cool while preparing the rest of the batter.

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar. Whip on low speed until the whites get foamy, and then increase the speed to medium/high and whip until medium peaks form. Transfer to a separate bowl and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice. Set aside. In the now empty mixer bowl combine the egg yolks, oil and sugar. Mix with the paddle attachment until combined. Pour in the water and cider reduction and beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes. With the mixer running on low speed, stir in the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Gently fold in the whipped egg whites a third at a time with a spatula until fully incorporated into the batter.

Divide the batter between the prepared liners, filling each well about 2/3 to ¾ full. Bake until golden brown and set, rotating the pans halfway through baking. They should take 18-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for several minutes before removing the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, place the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown and aromatic, about 3-5 minutes after the butter is fully melted. Pour the brown butter into a bowl (quickly, because it goes from brown to burnt pretty quickly) and let cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the cooled brown butter and the cream cheese on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Add in the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and salt and beat for another minute or two. Add in the cream and whip on medium-high speed for about 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the frosting is very light and fluffy. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip and frost the cooled cupcakes. Top with sugared cranberries as desired. Enjoy!!

We Made a Wedding Cake!

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Say hello to our biggest baking project so far! Our dad referred to it as our magnum opus. About a month ago, some family friends approached us to see if we’d be interested in making their wedding cake. We jumped at the opportunity- even though we probably should’ve considered the amount of work involved first! While we don’t have a ton of along-the-way photos, we thought we’d outline the process a bit for anyone who is interested! Warning- this is a long post!

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Here are a few details to set the stage: the cake was to serve about 150 people, the venue was a little over an hour from our house, and the bride and groom wanted a more rustic-looking naked cake (a style we hadn’t tried before). Definitely a daunting task, but we have baked a lot of layer cakes and have plenty of cookbooks and bookmarked blog posts that outline the process, so we knew we were up to the challenge. Design-wise, we ended up doing a 3-tiered cake: 6″, 9″, and 12″ tiers, 3 layers each. This was a pretty good size, and according to a couple of sources we used in our research, a cake that size feeds about 65-75 people. Since the wedding had 150 guests, we ended up doing around 100 cupcakes as well. The cupcakes were awesome for a few reasons: they looked really nice arranged around the cake, they allowed us to make a variety of flavors, and it was much easier than trying to make a super-huge cake.

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Making a tiered cake wasn’t MUCH harder than making a normal layer cake. We used dowel rods that were trimmed to the height of each tier as a support structure and had cardboard cake boards between each tier as well. We used the Sweetapolita Bakebook and Smitten Kitchen as some great sources on assembling wedding cakes (this page on America’s Test Kitchen was helpful as well). We also watched lots and lots of YouTube videos on making a naked wedding cake. For details on making the cake design as well, this post from the 100 Layer Cake blog was AWESOME! We used their frosting design for the top of each tier, and it was beautiful. One thing we would do differently in the future is make sure the tiers themselves were a little more level, as the cake itself tilted just a bit.

The cake itself was this absolutely amazing vanilla buttermilk cake from Smitten Kitchen, originally from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes. This will definitely become our go-to vanilla cake from now on (bonus: we now have it memorized!). One batch of the cake batter as posted on Smitten Kitchen made either 3 9-inch layers or 1 12-inch layer and 1 6-inch layer. So, for our cake, four batches of batter made all of the layers. The frosting on the cake was luscious vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream from Annie’s Eats, originally from Martha Stewart. To fill between the layers of the cake, we needed three batches of the buttercream. Between the cake layers as well was strawberry jam  and freshly sliced strawberries. It was a delicious combination!

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(Please ignore the fact that this picture is from Snapchat- it’s the only picture we took of the inside!)

Making a naked cake had some different challenges than a classic cake. For a start, we had to make sure as little cake stuck in the pan as possible. While ours still weren’t perfect, we found that plain old butter and flour and a parchment circle worked best! Keeping the cakes as evenly brown and level as possible is optimal as well. One big plus to the design is that you have to make a LOT less frosting, and when you’re transporting the cakes, you don’t have to worry about the sides getting a little bit bumped.

We ended up making three kinds of cupcakes, about 35 of each. The first flavor was chocolate cupcakes with nutella buttercream and chopped roasted hazelnuts. SO good and probably our favorite of the three.

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Next up was funfetti cupcakes with strawberry icing. For the frosting on those, we beat some of the strawberry jam and a few drops of food coloring into vanilla buttercream, but we prefer this strawberry icing and would recommend that instead (even though the strawberry frosting we made was still pretty good!).

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Our final flavor was carrot cupcakes from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes with cream cheese frosting (the cream cheese frosting is the bomb!). When using that carrot cupcake recipe, be extra careful not to overfill or the batter tends to spread and get stuck to the pan.  Some carrot cakes include pineapple and/or raisins and nuts, but this particular recipe is classic and simple (not to mention moist and delicious!), which is great for a wedding.

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All of the cupcakes were super delicious! One other thing to note about the cupcakes- we made them all a couple of days in advance and froze them, just so we wouldn’t be going completely crazy the night before! We wrapped 12 cupcakes at a time in plastic wrap, then a layer of foil, and then put them in a plastic freezer bag. When thawing them, we removed them from the packaging to prevent condensation. This method worked really well, and the cupcakes were just as tasty coming out of the freezer as going in!

As far as packaging and assembly, we frosted all the cupcakes and put them into boxes the night before (minus the carrot ones- since they had cream cheese frosting, we did them the morning of the wedding). We kept the cake tiers separated until we arrived at the venue. We filled and frosted them the night before and kept them in the fridge overnight to keep them fresh and well-chilled. We brought extra frosting, an offset spatula, piping bags and tips, flowers, more strawberries for decorating, scissors, non-melting powdered sugar and a sifter (the couple wanted the cake dusted with powdered sugar, and this kind doesn’t melt into the cake after a few hours-really important since we were setting up the cake several hours in advance), spatulas to help move the cake layers, a serrated knife and cutting board, and paper towels with us. We wanted to be well-prepared, and I definitely think we were (we didn’t end up even using a lot of it!!). Once we arrived (in a very well- air conditioned car), we stacked the tiers, filled the small cracks between each tier with extra frosting, and then arranged fresh flowers and strawberries on the cake (as well as putting the couple’s adorable deer toppers on the 6″ tier).

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We arranged the cupcakes around the cake and finally were done! What a cool experience. A lot of work and cake batter, but awesome nonetheless. Would we do it again? Yes! Definitely not anytime soon, but having the honor of baking a cake for someone’s wedding is a really amazing. Plus, our parents were at the wedding, and they heard nothing but good things about the cake. Most importantly- the bride and groom were happy with the results!

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Our mom snapped this pic at the reception- the lighting became so pretty as the sun set!

 

Italian Hoagies

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An Italian hoagie, as we call such a sandwich in our area, is one of our favorite sandwiches of all time, when done right. You have chewy and delicious bread, a great place to start for any sandwich, topped with flavorful meats, provolone cheese, crisp lettuce, tomato and red onion. The whole thing is capped off with some red wine vinegar, olive oil and a little oregano. Over the years, we’ve had some really great ones. The first time we realized how much we liked them was years ago after our cousin’s baptism in Staten Island, NY, where an insanely delicious Italian hoagie was served. I have no idea where it was from, but boy, was it good.

Where we live in suburbia good hoagies are difficult to come by (Wawa’s don’t count) so we’ve made our own over the past few years. The key is to use high-quality meat and cheese as well as excellent bread (ours was from La Baguette Magique) and you really cannot go wrong. Unless you’re A) vegetarian or B) missing several wisdom teeth following surgery this past Monday and cannot bear the thought of eating a chewy hoagie right now. But otherwise, this will not disappoint!

Italian Hoagie

Serves 4 generously

Recipe from Food Network

Ingredients

12-inch loaf of Italian bread (or French baguette, which is what we used)

5 tablespoons red wine vinegar

5 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 lb. sliced provolone

1/4 lb. sliced Genoa salami

1/4 lb. sliced ham (not smoked)

1/4 lb. sliced mortadella

1/4 lb. sliced capicola

1/2 head iceberg lettuce, finally shredded

1/4-1/2 cup sliced pickled pepperoncini (this is optional- we omitted this time but they do add a nice spice and tang)

3 plum tomatoes, sliced thinly

1/2 large white onion, thinly sliced (let soak in cold water for 15 minutes to reduce their bite)

1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano

Directions

Split bread lengthwise and remove some of it from the inside. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons each of the olive oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Layer cheese and meat on the bottom half of the bread. Drain onion and pat dry; top the meat with onion, lettuce, pepperoncini, and tomatoes. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the vinegar and olive oil and sprinkle with the oregano. Season with more salt and pepper. Drizzle the cut side of the bread with the remainder of the vinegar and oil and place on top of the sandwich. Cut into 4 slices and serve. Enjoy!

Raspberry Chocolate Layer Cake

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Sorry for all the silence here recently! The summer has been flying by and we haven’t had quite as much time to cook and blog as we like. Since we’re both recovering from wisdom tooth surgery this week, it’s the perfect time for us to share some recipes that we’ve neglected to post about.

Anyway, a couple of weeks back it was our grandmom’s birthday and she requested a cake with a lot of chocolate involved. This cake definitely delivered. It was three layers of dense, fudgy chocolate cake (almost like a brownie but a little softer) with a fresh raspberry filling and a super fluffy chocolate frosting. While it was delicious, I’d recommend not making it a triple-layer cake (I think two layers would be perfect). If you do go the triple-layer route, small pieces are a necessity since it’s so rich.

Rather than listing out all the instructions here, I’m going to just link you to the blogs behind the recipes! For the most part, we followed them pretty completely and all of them have great detailed posts. Check them out. This cake is not one you want to miss!

Chocolate Cake recipe from Annie’s Eats

Frosting from Sweetapolita (We suggest making a double batch to frost this cake; we also omitted the Nutella for some unknown reason- I think it would go great with the raspberry flavor!)

Raspberry Filling from Annie’s Eats (We recommend cooking it a little longer than the recipe suggests when you’re using it to fill a cake, just so that it’s stable)

Mixed Greens Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette, Apples, Feta, and Candied Almonds

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Making your own salad dressing is so worth it, in my opinion. For a start, everything tastes better fresh (and you know those bottles sitting on the shelf in the grocery store can’t really be called fresh). Second, they are really, really easy! Most dressings just take a couple of minutes to whip up. Third, they are totally customizable. You can control the amount of salt, sugar, and oil in your salad to your liking. No more being disappointed by your salad- a great dressing can take your salad from being mediocre to being a wonderful meal!

One of our favorite salad dressings ever is this fancied-up balsamic vinaigrette. It has a great smooth texture and is full of flavor, thanks to the addition of Dijon mustard, shallot, and honey. It pairs really nicely with candied nuts (or toasted ones if you want to avoid the extra sugar) and some fruit. Apples and pears both work really well, but dried cranberries would also be delicious. A bit of crumbled feta is the perfect antidote to the other sweet toppings and adds a nice saltiness to the salad. We usually like to use mixed greens or spinach, but feel free to use whatever greens you like best.

Mixed Greens Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette, Apples, Feta, and Candied Almonds

Recipe from Cooking Classy

Serves about 5 people

Indredients:

For the dressing:

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1 1/2 tablespoons finely diced shallot

Salt and pepper to taste

For salad assembly:

1/2 cup chopped almonds, pecans, or walnuts

1 tablespoon salted butter

1 tablespoon packed light-brown sugar

7 ounces of your green of choice (spinach or Spring mix are great)

2 ounces of crumbled feta (or more to taste)

2 apples or pears, sliced

Optional: dried cranberries

Directions:

Combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, dijon mustard, diced shallots, and salt and pepper (maybe start with about 1/4 teaspoon of each). Using an immersion blender (or a food processor or blender), mix until smooth and emulsified.

To candy the nuts, melt together the light brown sugar and the butter in a small saucepan. Add the nuts and cook until caramelized, about 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Place the lettuce in a bowl and top with the sliced fruit, crumbled feta, and candied nuts. Drizzle with the dressing and toss to combine. Serve and enjoy!

Coconut Cream Cheese Brownies

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While summer is probably best suited for lighter desserts incorporating all the gorgeous fresh fruit that is available, brownies know no season! These particular brownies are extraordinarily fudgy with a thick ribbon of coconut flavored cheesecake. We made these when our brothers had friends over to watch the NBA Finals, and it took some real effort to put aside a couple for photographs! But these are meant to be shared- they’re just too good not to. The brownies pictured here are chilled, which is my personal favorite way to enjoy them (plus, they slice very neatly). Next time we may try replacing the butter in the brownies with coconut oil for enhanced coconut flavor. I think toasted coconut would also work very nicely in the filling!

P.S. Please pardon the slow posting! We worked a lot last week and have been busy, but this week we’re trying to get back on track!

Coconut Cream Cheese Brownies

Makes 1 9×13 inch pan

Idea/Coconut filling from The Baker Chick; Brownie recipe here

Ingredients

For the brownies:

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup butter, salted (if using unsalted add a heaping 1/4 teaspoon of salt)
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour

For the coconut cheesecake filling:

1 (8oz) package cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup sugar

1 egg yolk

3/4 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut (if using unsweetened, up the sugar by a tablespoon or two)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of a stand mixture, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, egg yolk, vanilla extract, and coconut for the filling. Beat until creamy and then set aside.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar, vanilla, and eggs. Stir in the flour.

Line a 9×13 inch pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. Pour in half of the brownie batter, and then top with the cheesecake filling, spreading it as evenly as possible. Top with the other half of the brownie batter.

Bake approximately 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the brownies comes out clean (these will likely take a little longer than a regular pan of brownies). Let cool in pan for about 30 minutes, and then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling. Serve at room temperature or chilled, and store any brownies not being served within a couple hours in the fridge. Enjoy!

Blueberry Pie

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I think we can all agree that one of the best parts of summer is the fabulous fresh berries that are available. Most berries, like strawberries and raspberries, I love eating plain from a bowl. Blueberries, on the other hand, I think are much better when cooked. I like plain blueberries, but when they are cooked and turned deliciously juicy and purple they are just so much more wonderful. So, when we had a ton of blueberries in our refrigerator last week, we knew that we wanted to bake with them.

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Finally it hit us- blueberry pie! Pies are delicious, but we rarely make them and had never tried making a blueberry one before. It was the right decision, let me tell you. This pie was magical- the crust was flaky, the filling was both sweet and tart at the same time, and it was really easy to make. I think the secret to making this pie so excellent was the lemon and cinnamon in the filling. These two flavorings were key to preventing a flat, blah filling. This pie is sure to become a summer baking staple!

One thing to note- while the pie tasted better warm, it is MUCH easier to slice when fully cooled in the fridge.

Blueberry Pie

Yields 1 pie

Pie filling from Annie’s Eats (originally from Williams Sonoma), crust adapted from the Betty Crocker Cookbook

Ingredients:

For the crust:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon shortening

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon butter

4-6 tablespoons cold water

For the filling:

4 cups blueberries

1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

¾ cup sugar

3 tbsp. cornstarch

½ tsp. finely grated lemon zest

¼ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. cinnamon

1 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 egg

1 tbsp. water

Turbinado or granulated sugar, for sprinkling over the pie

Directions:

For the crust:

Mix the flour and salt together in a medium bowl. Cut in the shortening and butter using a pastry blender or two table knives until the largest pieces of butter or shortening are the size of small peas.

Sprinkle with the cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until all the flour is moistened and the dough almost leaves the sides of the bowl.

Gather the pastry into a ball and divide into two. Flatten each piece a bit an wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about 45 minutes, or until the dough is firm and cold but slightly pliable.

Roll the pastry on a lightly floured surface (rolling it on a piece of lightly floured parchment paper makes transfer easier). Make sure the circle is two inches larger than an upside-down 9-inch pie plate.

Gently press the pastry into a 9-inch glass pie plate. Take care not to stretch the pastry, which will cause shrinking.

For the filling:

Put the blueberries in a large bowl and toss with the lemon juice. In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest, salt and cinnamon. Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the berries and stir to evenly coat the berries.

For assembly and baking:

Right after assembling the filling, transfer it to the dough-lined pan. Dot with small butter pieces. Place the second dough round that has been rolled out on top of the pie. Crimp the dough rounds together to seal the edges.Cut vents in the pie with a sharp knife to allow steam to escape during baking.

Refrigerate the pie for 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, place an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat it to 375 degrees F. Beat the egg with the water and brush over the pie. Sprinkle with turbinado or granulated sugar if desired. Place the pie on a foil-lined baking sheet (to catch any bubbling blueberries that escape).

Bake the pie for about 50-60 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Let cool before serving. Enjoy with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream!

Black Bean Tacos with Pico de Gallo and Avocado

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One of the best things about spending more time in the kitchen over the years is gaining a more expanded view of traditional meals. Growing up, our mom made regular ground beef tacos frequently, which are good, but there is a whole world of tacos out there to be explored. We’ve made a few different ones, but our favorite is this recipe for black bean tacos, served with pico de gallo and avocado. Not only is this meal really simple to make (calling for ingredients that are easily accessible and taking very little time to cook), but it’s delicious and filling as well. We’ve made these tacos at least four or five times and each time they are devoured. The pico de gallo recipe we like comes from a Mexican restaurant in New York City and it is wonderful- make a double batch and enjoy the leftovers with tortilla chips!

Black Bean Tacos with Pico de Gallo and Avocado

Serves 4-6

Recipe for the tacos from Annie’s Eats, and pico de gallo via Epicurious

Ingredients

For the pico de gallo:

3/4 pound tomatoes (about 2 medium), seeded and finely diced (1 1/2 cups)

1/3 cup chopped cilantro

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1 small jalapeño or serrano chile, finely chopped (include seeds if you like your pico de gallo spicy)

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

1/2 teaspoon fine salt, or 1 teaspoon kosher salt

For the tacos:

2 tsp. olive oil

½ cup finely chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

¾ tsp. kosher salt

¾ tsp. ground cumin

½ tsp. ground chipotle powder

Dash ground cayenne

2½-3 cups cooked black beans (about 2 cans, drained and rinsed)

1 cup veggie broth or water

Juice of 1 lime (be careful- if your lime is really juicy, don’t add all the juice)

Flour tortillas

Pico de gallo

Avocado slices

Directions

For the pico de gallo:

Stir together all the ingredients together in a bowl- you can make it up to a day in advance (make sure to drain off any extra liquid before serving if you make it ahead).

For the tacos:

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, salt, cumin, chipotle powder and cayenne and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in the beans and then the veggie broth.  Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer for about 8-10 minutes until almost all of the liquid has evaporated and the beans are tender.  Remove from the heat and stir in the lime juice.

Assemble tacos with tortillas, pico de gallo and sliced avocado. Enjoy!

Ultimate Birthday Cake

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Remember that decadent dessert we promised? Well, here it is! We don’t really make big layer cakes all that frequently because when we do, we like to go all out. A few weeks ago, I ordered The Sweetapolita Bakebook, and the first time I flipped through the book, I almost passed over this cake. Based on the outside, I assumed it was simply a vanilla cake with sprinkle-filled vanilla icing; pretty, but nothing too special. However, having followed the Sweetapolita blog for a few years now, I should’ve known better. What really makes this cake fabulous is the filling. A portion of frosting is mixed with eggless sugar cookie dough cubes and sprinkles, and then crumbled colorful cupcakes are sprinkled between the layers.

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Man, is that filling fantastic. It’s such a fun surprise, and the sugar cookie dough bites are definitely the best ones! We’re definitely going to try the eggless cookie dough method for other cakes (chocolate chip cookie dough, anyone?).

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It’s also so fun to have the sprinkles stirred into the frosting. While it made it a little bit harder to frost the cake neatly, it was a really cool effect that I will definitely be using on other cakes in the future.

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We followed the recipe from the book exactly, and since it’s a brand-new book we have chosen against posting it here. You can find the recipe in the book, or find a 3-layer version of the recipe on Sweetapolita’s blog. It was one of our brother’s favorite cakes of all time, and I’m sure we will make it again for a special occasion.