Holidays · Recipes

Orange Creamsicle Cake

OK, I made up that name. I have been craving an Orange Julius SO BAD LATELY (and no, I’m not pregnant, just eating like it…and possibly stuck in the 90s) so when I decided to make a simple cake for Easter at the last minute, it had to meet two criteria: involve fewer than five ingredients, and taste like an Orange Julius. I think this is a success story.

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I found a Pinterest recipe that looked promising, then made it even more citrus-y by making up a light orange icing. That was the critical element! Fresh, juicy and bright, this cake is a definite winner.

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I had two tough critics to please — my Easter guests, the husband and the brother — and both loved it. They are both chocolate freaks and not fruit lovers, so I considered that a victory. I hope you like it, too.

Orange Creamsicle Cake

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 box of white cake mix
  • 1 small container of orange juice, no pulp
  • (you’ll use 1 cup for the cake, 2 TBSP for the icing)

  • 1 small (6 or 7 oz.) container Greek yogurt (I chose 2% Fage)
  • 1.5 cups of confectioner’s sugar
  • optional: one orange for zest and/or garnish

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DIRECTIONS

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, orange juice and Greek yogurt. Mix by hand until well combined and no longer lumpy.

Preheat the oven to 350F and grease a 9×9 glass baking dish.

Pour the cake mixture into the pan and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes; let cool.

Check with a toothpick that the middle is set. Serve cool or at room temp with whipped cream! If you like, garnish with orange zest, peel or confectioner’s sugar.

TO MAKE THE ICING

I winged this, based on past experience which told me that citrus juice + confectioner’s sugar = icing (if you get the ratio right). Here, I used 1.5 cups of sugar to 2 TBSP orange juice, and a dash of zest from a fresh orange I had lying around (optional). Just mix until a paste forms and spread on the cake.

I iced the cake in the morning and then sat it back in the refrigerator while we went to church, so it was ready when we got home. I thought this cake actually tasted best a little on the cool side, so I kept it in the fridge during supper and served it right to the table with whipped cream on the side. (Since it was a rush job, I didn’t have time to make fresh. It was still tasty!) You could certainly serve at room temp if you prefer. I’m sure it would also taste fine with Cool Whip, and my brother had the awesome suggestion to make a simple fruit sauce like you would with strawberry shortcake, just sliced fruit with granulated sugar sprinkled on top until the juices come out. I’m definitely going to try that next time! Maybe, like Mark suggested, for Georgia’s 1st birthday party.

Speaking of her little self, check out that baby of mine on Easter!

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I hope you all have a lovely week and that the rain clears out of Boston and other parts of the Northeast some time soon. Just like babies have to sleep through the night eventually, at some point it has to become summer this year. Right?

If you liked this recipe, and enjoy easy dessert recipes, check this out. Or, if you’re a bit more advanced (I’m not), there’s this lovely cake. And I’m dying to try these.

News

Is ‘maple water’ the next trend?

You’ve heard of coconut water. But what about maple water? A few entrepreneurs in the Northeast are banking on it being the next big thing in beverages. 

Kate Weiler and Jeff Rose founded DRINKmaple in Concord, MA. They learned of maple water on a trip to Quebec for a triathlon. Courtesy Boston Globe.

Says the Boston Globe today:

The time is now for maple water. There is a tight spring window of two to three weeks to draw the water from maple trees. A few maple water products are on shelves now. More are expected in stores next month.

“Coconut water has already proven this is a valid concept,” said Michael Farrell, a maple specialist and the director of The Uihlein Forest at Cornell University. “Maple water is local, tastes better and has less sugar. It’s a no-brainer.”

But Farrell and others say companies drawing maple water from trees in the Northeast and Canada need to overcome a few mass market hurdles. The biggest problem? Most people have never heard of maple water.

In the spring, water flows through maple trees naturally and delivers nutrients from the ground up. Farmers tap the trees to draw maple water, which is also known as maple sap. The same liquid is commonly boiled down to create maple syrup.

In its raw form, maple water is roughly 98 percent water and 2 percent sugar, Farrell said.

To give her product, called “maple,” a shelf life, Weiler said the maple water is pasteurized in a way that retains its original minerals and nutrients. Then the maple water is bottled in sterile packaging to further extend its life.

Read more here. 

What do you think? Would you try it? Something tells me that my sweet tooth would be on board, even if the taste is subtle.

 

Baby · Holidays

Happy Easter Week!

I had Georgia in the cutest outfit for Palm Sunday — she was even waving a palm frond in church along to the music! — but, tragically, I didn’t get a picture of it. How could I be so lame?? I know. I’ll make sure to share a cute picture of her on Easter Sunday, for which I have the cutest outfit and bonnet planned. I think she’ll probably outgrow it the next week, because she’s packing on the pounds so fast these days.

Our friends Scott and Jena were passing through town the other weekend, and they snapped a couple cute portraits of Georgia. Scott is a very talented photographer based out of New York. He even caught the whole family together!

I think we are keeping it low-key this year with the holiday itself because of the baby. In past years, I’ve made simple food and dessert to celebrate Easter. Things like:

Strawberry Yogurt Cake
Strawberry Shortcake

On a totally random, other note, I heard about a cool website that just launched this week which I wanted to share with y’all. A co-worker told me about it. It’s called Urbanful, and they call themselves “part magazine, part marketplace.” They promote city living and all that makes the urban life so interesting, and you can find a lot of cool products on there — plus interesting stories about entrepreneurs and inventors, like these guys who created mushroom kits for the urban gardener:

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‘Back to the Roots’ mushroom kit.

They say they don’t make commission on the sale of any goods on the site, so they’re just trying to connect people to relevant profile pieces and products. We’ll see how they evolve! Could be a cool resource for info about local food, urban food production and DIY stuff. I’m going to keep following them on Pinterest and Facebook. I hope you have a wonderful Passover and/or Easter, and let’s hope this spring weather is finally here to stay! XOXO

Grow Your Own Way · Tips and Tricks

What if your garden is so tight on space…

….that you can only fit a couple of plants? What would you pick? For me, that’s easy: tomato, basil, and peppers. If you can fit one more, make it a green; if you can fit two more, make one of them fruit, ideally strawberries. What does Houzz have to say about it?

How about you — is your must-have crop eggplant, or zucchini? onions? How about cilantro? Here’s what we’ve done in the past, with our limited space. This year, we are definitely scaling back, because we have less time to tend our garden. Once I have pictures, I’ll share them! This week is the first time it’s been above 50 degrees all winter, so we are way behind on planting as compared to other years.

If you liked the Houzz story above, then you should check them out! I’ve been a member (it’s free) since we bought our house two years ago and needed decorating/storage ideas. They have a weekly newsletter that’s always brimming with creative solutions to common household dilemmas, beautiful decor tips and plenty of pinnable inspiration. You can also get recommendations for contractors in your area. Here’s another great article from them that I just read to help me shape up my house for spring:

Poor Mark, I’ve been after him to wash the siding for weeks. (I’m willing to do the next few items on the list — bag up items to give away, and clean the windows — in exchange for a freshly-scrubbed exterior). Unfortunately, we also have to repair the cement on our front walk, replace our storm door, fix the front steps AND buy new porch furniture this year, so it’s not going to be a light upkeep year at the ol’ Linehan abode :/

Recipes

Breakfast Egg Muffins

These are my new “thing.” I make them on Sundays and have a whole batch for the week. Two muffins + Dunks coffee + my desk = Amanda’s weekday morning breakfast. 

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I have a resolution to eat more breakfast and lunch (and, heck, dinner) that I’ve made at home, because we are “modeling” good food habits for G, but also because daycare is really freakin’ expensive. These fit the bill and are pretty tasty.

Breakfast Egg Muffins

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 dozen eggs
  • veggies of choice, chopped/diced (I use bell peppers)
  • 1 small onion, chopped (optional)
  • cheese of choice (I use sharp cheddar or feta)
  • milk of choice (I use almond)
  • Pam spray or oil of choice, to coat muffin tin

DIRECTIONS

Before you start: Decide whether you will be making 6 or 12 muffins. I usually eat 2 of these per day for breakfast, plus some fruit (and coffee!), so a dozen will get you through the week and then some. But you can make half a dozen just as easily, if you think you won’t eat them all within the week. They only keep about 5-7 days in the fridge. You can also make this with a greater ratio of egg whites to yolks, and if you’re using a deeper muffin tin (such as silicone) then you may want to use a couple more eggs. 1 egg fills roughly 1 compartment and therefore makes 1 muffin.

  • Spray the pan with cooking spray or coat with a healthy oil by hand using a balled-up paper towel. Pre-heat the oven to 375F.
  • Prep your veggies: dice the bell pepper(s) and 1 small onion into small pieces. Set aside.
  • Prep your eggs: using either all or half a dozen, crack them into a bowl and whisk. Add salt and or pepper if desired.
  • Add a few veggies, onions and cheese to each compartment, filling about halfway to 3/4 full.
  • Pour the egg mixture over each compartment, stopping at most a quarter of the way before it’s full. They taste worse if they are overfull and “blossom” too high above the pan!
  • Bake about 25 minutes or until they are just browning and the eggs are set.

These reheat great in the microwave, as long as you don’t overdo them (I’d say 30 seconds to 1 minute is best). If you plan to store them for later, in the fridge OR freezer, just make sure you let them cool first. They do well in a plastic bag or a glass container. You can customize this with any ingredients you prefer, including real or fake ham or bacon, and you can use muffin tin liners as well. And of course, feel free to add any additional seasonings you might enjoy. I hope you like them!

What else do you make for breakfast when you have to eat on the go, or are looking to save money? I’ve gone through phases of making smoothies — especially in summer — and also baking this vegetarian Egg McMuffin casserole every weekend to get me through the workday mornings. I’m also considering trying bake-ahead oatmeal in the slow cooker with nuts and berries. Have you done that?? If so, share!

Tips and Tricks

Breaking out of a rut

We have been in a definite food rut this winter. Well, if I’m being honest…since the baby was born.

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The more creative we get with her cuisine, the less energy we have left over to feed ourselves!

Why? Well, when you’re 10 months pregnant, the last thing you want to do is think about shopping and cooking. Because you’re tired, everything gives you heartburn, and by the time it’s ready to eat, you can only manage a few bites of food before baby blocks off the rest of your stomach and you’re full. Then, when baby comes home, all your friends and family will drop off casseroles, breads, chili, frozen meatballs, you name it. You’re set for weeks! But then, when the meal drop-offs taper, you realize you still can’t cook, because you have a newborn that needs to nurse every 90 minutes and getting in and out of a store is a major theatrical production. So one of you heads out for takeout, or you call for delivery…again.

she's cute, but she's a budget-buster!
she’s cute, but she’s a budget-buster!

Cut to us, 6 months later, 10 pounds heavier (including Georgia!) and we are in desperate need of a reboot to eat healthfully and on budget. We have daycare expenses looming!

So recently I found this great article about breaking out of a food rut. It’s tailored to vegetarians, but I think the tips are cross-cutting. A few ideas:

  • Break open a new cookbook. One I’m liking these days is Chloe’s Kitchen, because you’d never know her stuff is vegan. And rarely do the recipes require more than a few, non-exotic ingredients. (Other trusty favorites? The Silver Spoon and the Moosewood Cookbook, plus Food Network Magazine and Weight Watchers online).
  • Have breakfast for dinner. We have started doing this at least once a week, because it is endlessly customizable: keep vegetarian and regular sausage/bacon in the freezer, plus waffle and pancake mix in the pantry, and a dozen organic eggs, and you’ve got lots to choose from. Keep a couple onions and bell peppers on hand with some shredded cheese, and you can do omelettes; put a bowl of fruit out, like clementines and apples (which both keep forever), and you can serve that alongside.
  • Watch a cooking show. Mark loves Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and I love Giada, the Barefoot Contessa, the Pioneer Woman and The Chew. It’s thanks to Giada that we make this dish, and to the Pioneer Woman for this salsa and this seafood pasta!
  • Start a blog. It sure worked for me!

My own best tip for getting out of a rut? PINTEREST. I swear that’s not a plug for my boards…I truly don’t know where I’d be without Martha Stewart Living, MoneySavingMom, Joanna Goddard and more. (And if you do want to follow me, check out my profile here!)

I’m also a big fan of food writing as inspiration. I can’t tell you how many clutch recipes I’ve grabbed from Amanda Hesser, Ruth Reichl and Tamar AdlerFor Georgia, I’ve really been loving this book lately:

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  How about you? How do YOU get out of a rut? We are trying to cut back on eating out so many nights a week by planning better for our shopping trips, now that Georgia can cope with errands, and by keeping staple ingredients like rice, frozen veggies, canned tomatoes, beans, pasta, sweet potatoes and frozen fish/veggie burgers/beef patties on hand. Next step will be working more fresh salads and stir-fries into the mix, which I hope gets easier when we plant our garden. Here’s to spring coming soon!