Cóctel de Camarón: Shrimp! Yes, Please!

So today, was a crazy day.  Ok it totally wasn’t crazy.  I was just exhausted.  I somehow had the bright idea of going to crossfit twice in a 12 hour time span…  I hurt real bad right now. I don’t recommend it.  Give yourself at least 24 hours between workouts.  It’s a good idea.

But work outs aside, today was a bizarre day for me in terms of personal realizations.  Way back when, I used to use SparkPeople to track calories, but I hadn’t logged in for almost a year.  So this morning, I randomly did…

I saw my last log in was after I got back from Italy where I ate my weight (and then some) in Nutella, Pasta and Gelato for nearly 6 months.  Since then, I’ve lost 18 pounds.  That’s kind of a lot on someone who is only 5’3″

I guess getting back home, eating normal meals and exercising a few times a week served me well (even if Paleo didn’t…).

So in honor of the fact that my butt (among other things) shrank, let me tell you about an actual meal (as much as I love cake, it’s not a meal) that is more or less balanced, light and delicious too.

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I would consider this to be moderately healthy.  Depending on what you serve with it that is…

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It involves shrimp, tomatoes, onions and a few splashes of (unhealthy) secret ingredients:

ingredients

Cóctel de Camarón

3 cloves of garlic
1/2 onion, diced
1 lb Shrimp, peel on
2 cups clamato
1-2 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp orange soda
2-3 limes
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Salt
1 Avocado, sliced
Tostadas, for serving

In a blender (I used my magic bullet), blend together 1/4 of an onion  (reserve remaining diced onion) and 3 garlic cloves with some water.  Once it’s smooth, add to a sauce pan.  Fill with water until about 2-3 inches from the top.  Add some salt (or a pinch of bouillon) and bring to a boil.  In the meantime, rinse your shrimp and place in a metal mesh strainer.

Cook shrimp in the broth by dipping the strainer into the broth, like this…

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Once the shrimp is cooked (pink all over, be careful to not overcook), place in a bowl over some ice.  You might have to do this in batches.

Next take about 2 cups of the cooking broth and place in a large bowl.

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Add about 2 cups of clamato, ketchup, lime juice and orange soda.   Be careful, it’s a science.  Taste it along the way to see how it is.

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Stir it all together and set aside.  Next peel your shrimp (alternatively you could peel your shrimp before cooking then put the skins in the broth to help give it more flavor).  Now you’re ready to assemble.

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Start by putting a good amount of diced tomato (1/2 cup?), onions, cilantro and Serrano chili in your bowl.  Then add the shrimp and avocado.  Last pour the broth/clamato mixture over your shrimp.  You want a good amount in there because it gives it great flavor.

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From there, you’re pretty much ready to go.  But don’t forget one important thing…

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A beer.  Because life is all about balance and a cold beer tastes great with this dish.

Serve with tostadas, extra lime, salt and hot sauce (optional).  This will serve 2-3 people.

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Whoever said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach as probably right, but they forgot that the way to a woman’s heart is the same direction.  I wish I could take credit for this, but I can’t.  It was made entirely by an awesome boyfriend who makes ridiculously tasty things.

He makes me generally healthy meals, while I make him cookies and pies.

Clearly, a little bit of both is necessary.  Eat some shrimp and vegetables, as well as some cookies and wine.

What was the last healthy meal you had?

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Until about 5 days ago, I thought “brown butter” was a crock of shit.

I hate to be crass, but let’s be honest, food bloggers are some of the best bullshitters I know.  Don’t worry, I’m include myself in that sweeping comment.

I mean really, we love to make basic things and give them a fancy name that hipsters will repin like crazy and drive traffic to our sites.

Examples:

Chocolate Pudding with Peanut Butter Mousse and Maple Candied Bacon = Chocolate Pudding with stuff sprinkled on it

Spinach-Quinoa-Peach Salad with Honey-Sage Vinaigrette= a salad with fruit and grains

You’re welcome.

I’m just calling it like it is.  And you know what hipsters love?

Butter.  Especially brown butter.

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So for a long time, I avoided anything with brown butter, because it just sounded sort of silly, but then on Friday I was bored and I needed to make dessert for the next day.  So I thought to myself, why not give it a shot?

At worst it, it’s still just a damn cookie.  At best, it’s an amazing cookie.

I won’t lie.  It’s a pretty amazing cookie.

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Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

adapted from Food and Wine

1 stick of butter
1 cup + 2 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup dark chocolate chips

In a pan, melt butter over medium heat.  Allow to brown, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat, transfer to large bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.  In the meantime, combine flour, salt, and baking soda in a bowl and set aside.

Once the butter has cooled, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add 1 egg at a time, then vanilla and continue to be beat for about a minute.  Add in flour mixture.  Mix until almost combined. Fold in chocolate chips until dough is just combined.

Place dough in the freezer while oven preheats to 350F.

Once oven has pre-heated, form dough into walnut sized balls.  Place on parchment paper-lined pan and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden around the edges.

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Remove from oven, leave on pan for a few minutes then transfer to a cooling rack until cool.  Then serve!  This recipe makes about 20-24 small ish cookies.  If you want larger cookies, bake longer and you’ll probably get about 10.

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So I’m going to go ahead and tell you that these are great.

I’m going to swallow my pride and admit I was wrong.  Brown butter is pretty tasty.  They weren’t lying when they said it gives it a nice nutty flavor.

Ok now be a hipster and…

Layer Cakes: Tips, Tricks and Recipes

I love cake. and pie.  Cakes and Pies.

Ok but really I think cakes are awesome.  I also think they’re super labor intensive so I get why people buy them instead of make them, but I really think more people should take up cake making.

This past weekend, I made three layer cakes.

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So from my experience of making three cakes in a row, I wanted to share with you a few tips and tricks to making the perfect layers cakes, along with some of my favorite cake recipes.

1. Use the right cake pans.

I used to have these fancy cake pans from Sur La Table, and I’ll be honest… they sucked.  My cakes were always uneven.  First I thought my oven temperature was just weird, but then I moved and my cakes were still crooked.  So I bought new cake pans.  I bought the cheap Wilton ones at Michael’s (I say cheap because I never walk into that store without a 40% off coupon), and my cakes are perfectly even now.  So my tip: go for aluminum cake pans!

2. Parchment paper IS your friend and always grease and flour your pans.

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Wouldn’t it suck to do all that work and have them stick to the pan?  Yes.  It’s happened to me, and it sucks.

Ever since, I will never make a cake without parchment paper.  Honestly, my least favorite part of making cakes is this step.  I feel like I’m in kindergarten cutting out parchment paper circles.  But it’s a must.  Just do it.

3.  Bake in advance and freeze.

My cakes were all for Saturday and Sunday.  I started baking on Tuesday.  A cake sitting out from Tuesday til Saturday would be dry and gross, but a cake wrapped in parchment paper, double wrapped in plastic wrap then frozen, is still great for the weekend.  The trick is to make sure the cake is completely cooled before you freeze it.  You can flash cool it on a cooling rack in the freezer, but before you wrap it up.  Just make sure it has cooled completely before you wrap it up, if not you’ll get condensation that freezes into ice.  Not cute.

4. A cake without a filling is no fun.

One of the cakes I made was lemon cake with a raspberries and cream filling.  The others were chocolate and banana cakes with peanut butter filling.   Feel free to make your fillings a day or two in advance, cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

5. Leveling the cake is important

I finally broke down and bought a cake leveler.  It’s a good idea to level the cakes before you freeze them.  The leveler is basically a metal wire, it’s not super strong and probably won’t cut through a frozen cake.  You can also just use a knife…

6.  ALWAYS do a crumb coat

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A fine layer of frosting before you actually frost is essential.  It holds it all together and prevents you from getting a crumby cake.  If your crumb coat is going on a frozen cake it’s even easier because the crumb coat gets firm faster.  Once you’ve got a crumb coat, stick the cake in the freezer for a few minutes to let the coat harden before you frost.  EXTRA: Put pieces of parchment paper under the cake so you don’t have to worry about a dirty plate/dish.  You just pull out the pieces when you’re done frosting and you have a clean plate/cake circle!

7.  Use a long knife to frost

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I’m not fancy.  My cakes aren’t perfect, but I think they do the job.  I don’t have all those fancy spatulas you can buy to frost cakes.  I use the 8″ slicer knife that came in my knife block.  It’s not serrated and it’s long.  Gets the job done.  A small butter knife makes it hard to get smooth edges all around, so I recommend a long knife.

8.  Use cake circles and boxes

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To make your cakes go from homemade to slightly fancier, go to Michael’s or any cake supply store and buy cardboard cake circles and a box.  I took one of the cakes to a restaurant and the waitress was surprised to find it was homemade.  On that note, if you go to a birthday dinner at a restaurant, call ahead and make sure they don’t charge you to cut the cake.  I had heard of corkage fees but never of cake cutting fees.  Apparently it’s a thing in Hollywood.  Just saying.

Remember, no matter what your cake looks like, it should taste great.  So on that note, here are some of my favorite cake recipes:

  • Hershey’s Chocolate Cake: This is my go to chocolate cake recipe.  I follow it exactly and it never fails.
  • Epicurious Banana Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting: This recipe is great!  I make a few changes everytime, usually adding more liquid.  Today, I made a super variation of it, blog post on that coming soon!
  • Epicurious Moist Yellow Cake (I easily turn this into a lemon cake by replacing half buttermilk with lemon juice, adding some lemon zest and a pack of lemon jello instant pudding)
  • Rum Layer Cake:  This cake is probably one of the most delicious cakes I’ve ever made.  Everyone loves it.  It’s just plain tasty.

As for fillings, which per #2 is essential, get creative.  Here are some ideas I love:

  • Mix lemon curd with cream cheese and whipped cream for a quick and delicious lemon mousse filling.  Throw some fresh raspberries in the mix and it’s a perfect filling for a lemon cake.
  • Chocolate Ganache is always a winner.  Try adding orange zest or passionfruit puree to it to spice up your normal chocolate cake
  • Whipped Cream: Sometimes you just need simplicity.  Whipped cream in the middle of a fluffy cake is divine.  Try it.
  • Mix peanut butter, cream cheese, condensed milk and whipped cream for a delicious peanut butter mousse filling.  Oh. My. Goodness.  Amazing.  Just try it.

Remember these tips next time a birthday, party, holiday rolls around.  Making cakes doesn’t have to be crazy hard.  It can be super fun!

What’s your favorite cake combination?

I’m currently a huge fan of banana cake with peanut butter filling and cream cheese frosting!

Hot Air Baloon-themed Baby Shower

I totally forgot to tell you all about something.  If you follow me on Instagram, you might notice that I keep posting pictures of a baby.

That’s Graham.  My nephew.  He’s so stinkin’ cute.

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Sometimes he matches my boyfriends.  They’re both pretty stinkin’ cute.

But before Graham was born, I threw a baby shower for my sister, in anticipation of Graham.  That’s what I forgot to tell you about.

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It was cute and hot air ballooned theme, with lots of ideas from Pinterest.  So in case you’re looking to throw a baby shower, here are some ideas.

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Paper lanterns with cardboard take out containers make great hanging decor.   And obviously, you need a lot of food…

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We had fruit salad, green salad, as well as sandwiches, appetizers, and guava and cheese pastries from Porto’s Bakery, a cake and cupcakes.

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The cake almost looked awesome, but I’ll be honest the bakery we got it from pretty much sucked.  The fondant cracked a bunch and when I called to complain, they didn’t really want to listen to my complaint.  Bad service for an over priced cake.   But aside for them blah cake, there were awesome cupcakes made by me.

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And oreo truffle pops.  If anyone’s interested, I can remake these and give a tutorial on how to make them look cute.  Any takers?

In addition to the food, we set up a welcome table

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which included a guest book and a Fujifilm Instax Mini.  Guests took a picture of themselves, then filled out a card with wishes for the baby (which I got on Etsy in case you’re interested)

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Then they put their photo next to their completed card in the album!

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It worked out well!

The center pieces were simple, candles with red flowers to fit the red and blue theme.

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And of course, the favors were pies in jars made with lots of love from Foodologie.

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Pinterest made planning this baby shower fun, but also a little more stressful.  I think Pinterest raises everyone’s expectations of what an event should be.  What do you think?  Does Pinterest give you unrealistic expectations about parties?

I can’t even imagine what my wedding would be like!

Do you have any events coming up?  Are you using Pinterest to plan?