Shark Week Cake

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In case you live under a rock and didn’t know, it was Shark Week a few weeks ago. We go bonkers for Shark Week in our house. My husband and I have been watching it for years, even before kids. It’s a thing. And now, it’s a thing for our kids. For this year’s, I prepared an entire homeschool session based around sharks. We checked several shark books out from the library, I had the boys watch a show on different kind of sharks, we went fishing, and I made cake. Because…cake. I tried to get them to eat fish for dinner, too, but they were having none of that. #moreforme

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I had so much fun making this shark cake. Honestly, I have fun making any cake, but this one was especially fun for me. Cake. Icing. Sharks. Cake. Sprinkles. Icing. Cake. Sharks.

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I made a one-layer (soooo, basically no layer(s)? not sure, too meta for me) vanilla almond cake, with a creamy, vanilla almond frosting.

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I used the I Am Baker method of swirling the frosting into rosettes and added some extra “waves”.

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I made blue toned white chocolate shark fins, used white pearl sprinkles for bubbles, and used dolphin and fish sprinkles.

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Shark Week Cake

Cake:

Recipe adapted from: White Cake Recipe, goodiegodmother.com

**The recipe below makes a one layer 8 inch cake**

1 C sugar

1 1/4 C flour (APF)

1 t baking powder

1/2 t kosher salt

6 T canola oil

1 T egg white (I always have liquid egg whites on hand)

1 t vanilla extract

1 t almond extract

1 C milk (I used coconut)

Sprinkles

Preheat your oven to 350F. Grease one 8-in cake pan and set aside.

Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together the wet ingredients in a smaller mixing bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add sprinkles (I used green and blue) and mix together. Pour into prepared cake pan. Bake for about 30 – 35 minutes or until the center of the cake springs back when touched (mine took 30). Cool the cake for 10 minutes before letting it cool on a wire rack.

Frosting:

Recipe adapted from: I Am Baker, Whipped Vanilla Buttercream

**Recipe has been halved**

1/2 C (1 stick) butter, softened

1 t vanilla extract

1 t almond extract

3 C icing sugar (or more, as needed)

2 T milk (more or less, as needed)

pinch salt

Blue food coloring (I used Americolor Sky Blue)

Purple food coloring (I used Americolor Electric Purple)

White chocolate

Sprinkles

Beat the butter in bowl of stand mixer on medium to high speed until light and fluffy, for about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and almond extracts. Turn the mixer to low speed to slowly add in the icing sugar. Whip for at least 6 minutes on medium high. Add food coloring and mix until fully integrated. Add more milk to the frosting, if too thick. Add more icing sugar, if too thin.

For the white chocolate shark fins:

Place a sheet of parchment paper over a pan. Melt white chocolate chips on the top of a double boiler (microwave will also work, I just find a double boiler more consistent). Whisk until smooth. Add a few drops of food coloring and whisk again. Once smooth, spread out onto the parchment paper. Place in the fridge until hardened. Once it is, use a very sharp knife to cut shark fin shapes.

To assemble:

Place the one-layer cake onto your serving platter. Scoop the blue frosting into a piping bag, fitted with a 1M tip. I didn’t need a coupler. Make frosting rosettes all over the cake. Once it is covered, go back and add a few flicks of frosting, for “waves”. Stick white chocolate shark fins into icing, add a few pearl sprinkles around it, as “bubbles” and sprinkle the entire cake with fish and dolphin sprinkles.

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El fin. <– get it?

Enjoy!

Kristin

Dinner Tonight: Hot Chicken Salad

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I am a southern girl. I’ve got sweet tea running through my veins. I’m pretty sure I’ve also got fried chicken and greens in place of some other vital organs (clearly, vestigial). I spent every Thanksgiving of my youth in South Georgia, where I learned a lot about southern cooking, baking, and good ol’ southern hospitality from my darling Grandma and Granddaddy. The other side of my family resides in North Florida, which may as well be South Georgia, if their food and accents have anything to do with it. My precious Grandmother (she chose that name for us grandkids to call her because she didn’t want to sound “old” 😀 ) also had an abundance of southern recipes for me to learn – Perfect Macaroni and Cheese, Cranberry Cream Cheese Salad… Needless to say, it’s in my blood. It might just be my blood. And I’m so glad. Southern food makes me ridiculously and deliriously happy (see: food related memories).

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Exhibit A: Actual casserole from potluck

My family went to a church potluck a few weeks back and I couldn’t think of anything other than a southern casserole to take. That’s what I always looked forward to at my Sunday church potlucks, growing up. I’d beeline straight for those casseroles. Those were (and are) always the best. I know not everyone is on the Casserole Train (choo choooo), but I am the Conductor, and I’m am hoping they’ll change their mind after trying this recipe.

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I got this Hot Chicken Salad recipe from my Mom, who got it from my Grandmother. My Mom told me that this was one of my Grandmother’s go-to recipes for her Ladies Luncheons. I love picturing my beautiful Grandmother in the 1940’s, with her beautifully made up face and coiffed hair, in one of her fancy dresses, and serving up this delicious casserole to her gal pals.

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This casserole is filled with tender chicken, crunchy celery and bell peppers, salty potato chips, melty cheese, toasty almonds. I meannnnnnn… I have seen this recipe with mushrooms and water chestnuts (blech!), but I love sticking to what my Grandmother did. It’s a link between me and her past. I did make a few changes, but it didn’t alter the integrity of the original recipe.

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Hot Chicken Salad

1 pkg. dressing (some of you may call this “stuffing”)

2 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed (I cooked them in my crockpot and shredded them)

Chicken broth

2 C chopped celery

1/2 t salt

2 T grated onion (I chopped mine and added a bit more)

1/2 C green bell pepper

1 C mayonnaise

2 T lemon juice

dash Worcestershire sauce

1/2 C shredded sharp cheddar

3 C crushed potato chips

1/2 C toasted almonds

Preheat the oven to 325F. Put the dressing into a bowl and add enough broth to moisten it all the way through. Combine all the ingredients from dressing to Worcestershire sauce together and place in greased 9×13 pan. Top with the cheddar, potato chips, and almonds.

Bake for 30 minutes. Leftovers are even better!

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This is best enjoyed with a Mason jar full of sweet tea. And probably some kind of cobbler, fresh out of the oven, or freshly churned peach ice cream for dessert. Just a friendly suggestion. 😀

Enjoy y’all!

Kristin

One Bowl Chocolate Cookies

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I told you I hadn’t stopped baking. And, now I’m back!! Back with a yummy recipe for some super flat (but SO flavorful) chocolate cookies. These came by way of an accident. Not so much in the sense that I was making spaghetti and “oops I made cookies instead”, which has, incidentally happened. But in the sense of, they weren’t supposed to look like this, flat as a board. But the flavor is so good! So there you go. Bake them at your own risk. As you should with all the recipes I come up with. Consider yourself adequately warned.

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One Bowl Chocolate Cookies

Recipe adapted from: food.com

12 oz bittersweet chocolate chips (separated into 2- 6oz piles)

1/4 C butter

3/4 C brown sugar

2 eggs

1/2 C flour

1/4 t baking powder

Melt 6 oz. of the chocolate in the microwave, using 30 second intervals. Stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Be careful not to overheat the chocolate. Add butter to the chocolate and and mix well until melted. Stir together the brown sugar, eggs, flour and baking powder and mix well. Add the melted chocolate. Stir in the second 6 oz. of chocolate chips. The batter will resemble chocolate pudding. Drop by spoonful onto an ungreased (I used a Silpat) baking sheet. Bake at 350F for 12-13 minutes. Cool for 1 minute on the baking pan. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.Store in airtight container. Eat within a few days.

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I have to tell you, I had a little batter left over (and I didn’t want to bake another round on the baking sheet) and I poured it into a little ceramic dish and it baked up like a cake. And it went over really well (with myself). So, if you feel so inclined, you can actually use this batter for a cake-like variation.

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I don’t have any pictures of said “cake”, because it was my from my own private stash…the sort I eat while my children aren’t looking.

Enjoy!

Kristin

Tropical Pavlova

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You know how these days are called the “lazy days of summer”? You know that term? Welp. That’s me. Lazy in the bloggy sense. I’ve been cooking and baking and taking pictures and eating, but that’s it. But, I’m here now. When it counts. With a delicious recipe for you. It’s super fresh and summery and I didn’t even wait until the season has passed to share it with you. That should count for something. Brownie points, maybe? Yes, perhaps I deserve a brownie. Get on that.

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I made (for you, for me, for everyone) a Tropical Pavlova. A Pavlova is a dessert that simply consists of meringue, whipped cream, and fruit. How could all that goodness be bad? It was created (possibly by the Australians, possibly by the New Zealanders) for the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. I mean. This woman, who was already super, ridiculously talented in the world of ballet, had a freaking dessert named after her. #goals

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Anywho, this dessert just works. The meringue shells are crunchy and light in flavor, chewy on the inside (in a perfectly stick to your teeth kind of way), the whipped cream is fluffy, and the fruit is so refreshing. It works in the same kind of textural way that Banoffee Pie works. This is also a gluten free dessert. Bonus.

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This is a picture-perfect dessert for this ridonk hot summer. I will say that it is not delicious as a leftover (source: I’m eating it now). The delicate meringue shell has broken down into a sloppy mess. The whipped cream and fruit, however, has remained amazeballs (is that said anymore, I need to know).

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Make it. Chances are, you’ve got almost all the ingredients in your kitchen now, and if needed, you can switch out the fruit.

Tropical Pavlova

Recipe adapted from: America’s Test Kitchen

4 large egg whites, room temperature

3/4 t vanilla extract

1/4 t cream of tartar

1 scant C sugar

2 mangoes (peeled, pitted, cubed)

2 kiwi (peeled, sliced, quartered)

1 papaya (peeled, seeded, cubed)

Simply Squeeze Coco Real Cream of Coconut (or make your own)

3/4 C shredded coconut

2 C heavy whipping cream

2 T sugar

1 t vanilla extract

Adjust your oven rack to the middle and preheat your oven to 200F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Determine what size you want your shells to be and trace two circles in that shape. I did one a little bit bigger than the other. Using a stand mixer and whisk attachment (handheld is also fine), whip egg whites, vanilla, and cream of tartar for one minute on medium speed. Switch to medium high speed and whip for another minute. Gradually add the sugar and whip until the peaks are stiff and glossy (one or two more minutes). Separate the meringue between the two circles on the baking sheet. Spread evenly. Bake for about one and a half hours, and then turn off the oven and let the meringues sit for about two hours.

Meanwhile, chop up the fruit and set aside.

When meringues are out of the oven, prepare the whipping cream. Pour cream, sugar, and vanilla into a stand mixer (with whisk attachment), and mix for about one minute on medium speed. Increase to high and whip for about three minutes. You can store the whipped cream for up to a week in the refrigerator. Re-whip, if necessary.

To assemble, place one meringue shell (the larger, if that’s the route you took) on a serving plate. Spread almost half of the whipped cream on top, followed by almost half of the chopped fruit. Drizzle the coconut cream and sprinkle some of the shredded coconut. Put the second meringue shell on top of that, and repeat. This was easy to cut into slices.

Enjoy! I will be dreaming of this all summer!

Kristin

Dessert Tonight: Chocolate Avocado Mousse

Avocado

I love dessert. And, because of that, I am constantly looking for healthier dessert alternatives that aren’t bowls of fruit. I love bowls of fruit, also, but Imma be honest – compare it does not, to a happy bowl of decadent ice cream or a perfect slice of frosted cake.

Tonight, I put together a really delicious and super healthy dessert recipe, one that is better than a bowl of fruit – Chocolate Avocado Mousse. The avocado makes the mousse ridiculously smooth and creamy, and even little bit airy. The dark cocoa powder adds a richness. Why should you use avocados in your desserts? Well, despite being high in calories (which is why it is important to eat the suggested serving size), avocados are chock-full of vitamins, including Potassium, B, C, and E vitamins. They are low in sugar, high in fiber, and high in the good kind of fat (that helps combat the bad cholesterol).

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Chocolate Avocado Mousse

4 Servings

2 ripe [enough] avocados

2/3 C dark cocoa

2 T honey

2 T pure maple syrup

1 t vanilla extract

1/3 C unsweetened coconut milk (more or less, if needed)

Put all ingredients into a food processor. Whiz together until smooth. Transfer the mousse to individual serving dishes and refrigerate for about 30 minutes (try to avoid refrigerating for too long, as the avocados will turn brown [not that you’d see it in the rich chocolate], and affect the flavor).

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I mean, forrreeeaaallllzzz, look at that creaminess!

ENJOY!!

Kristin

A Work Week’s Worth of Overnight Oats

It’s summertime and the living’s…definitely busier than our school year! The mornings, especially, have been busy. To ease into my early mornings (sidenote: whyyyyy are my kids waking up so early during summer break???), I’ve been making overnight oats the night before, so that I might have an already-ready breakfast, that is both really delicious and really filling. It’s been very helpful in getting my day moving.

Simply put, overnight oats is (are?) oatmeal, made the night before (or at the very least, an hour before consuming). It is a great time-saving breakfast. Oatmeal is very filling (and high in fiber), and helps me to snack less between breakfast and lunch.

The formula to making overnight oats is very simple – equal part oats and liquids. For my liquid component, I use both unsweetened coconut milk and Greek yogurt. I also like to add chia seeds (high in fiber, protein, antioxidants, and Omega-3 fatty acids) and [golden] ground flaxseed (high in Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and fiber). The more ground flaxseed I add, I find that I need to add a little more liquid. You can choose whatever toppings you enjoy – fruit, jam, chocolate, coconut, nuts, etc. You can eat it hot or cold. I rather enjoy it cold.

Below are some of the delicious flavors I made this week.

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Berry Crumble Overnight Oats

1/2 C oats

1/4 C coconut milk

1/4 C plain Greek yogurt

Almond extract

Strawberries

Raspberries

Mix liquids and oats together. Layer with toppings in a container. Store in refrigerator overnight (or for an hour, at the least).

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Peaches and Cream Overnight Oats

1/2 C oats

1/4 C vanilla Greek yogurt

1/4 C coconut milk

Vanilla extract

Chia seeds

Ground flaxseed

Peaches

Sliced almonds

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Mango Coconut Overnight Oats

1/2 C oats

1/4 C vanilla Greek yogurt

1/4 C coconut milk

Vanilla bean paste

1 T coconut oil

Chia seeds

Ground flaxseed

Mango

Sliced almonds

Coconut flakes

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Blueberry Peach Overnight Oats

1/2 C oats

1/4 C vanilla Greek yogurt

1/4 C coconut milk

Vanilla extract

Chia seeds

Ground flaxseed

Peaches

Peach Jam

Blueberries

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Strawberry Nutella Overnight Oats

1/2 C oats

1/4 C vanilla Greek yogurt

1/4 C coconut milk

1 T coconut Oil

Vanilla extract

Chia seeds

Ground flaxseed

Strawberries

Nutella

Enjoy!!

Kristin

Dinner Tonight: Individual Barbecue Meatloaves

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I have got another dinner idea for you that is both easy and filling – Individual Barbecue Meatloaf. It cooks more quickly than the traditionally sized meatloaf and it is also cuter. Yes, I do think meatloaf can be cute. Almost anything is, when it’s personal-pan sized. And on that note, almost any sized item can be personal-pan, if you try hard enough. I was able to put this meal together in about 30 minutes, from start to finish.

Individual Barbecue Meatloaves

1 lb ground chicken

1 egg, beaten

1 packet of dried mushroom gravy mix (try to find GF if needed)

1/2 C breadcrumbs (I used a mix of 4C GF breadcrumbs and crushed Corn Flakes)

Pepper

BBQ sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray’s Cola-Q that one of my besties left at my house after a cookout – thank you!)

Preheat your oven to 400F. Prepare a baking sheet with tin foil and spray with Pam. Mix together the mushroom gravy packet, breadcrumbs, and pepper. In a large bowl, mix ground chicken, beaten egg, and breadcrumb mixture. Form into 1/3 lb. loaves. Place on your prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 15-20 minutes. brush BBQ sauce on the loaves and bake for an additional 5 minutes.

I served it with brown rice (which I boiled with chicken stock) and a summer fruit salad.

Enjoy!

Kristin

Dinner Tonight: Gluten Free Taco Pie

I’ve got another dinner idea for you to try this week – Taco Pie!

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My family loves tacos. We eat them…um, too much (for my taste). Mexican food easily offers great gluten free options. I think that’s why it’s so often. I like to mix it up, however, because my taste buds will not allow the same meals all the time. I need options.

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This taco pie was both filling and delicious, and very easy to make. I served it with sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, and lettuce, and plain Greek yogurt, and charred corn (and iced hibiscus tea!) on the side.

Gluten Free Taco Pie

Recipe adapted from: Betty Crocker

1 lb. ground beef

1 medium onion, chopped

1 packet gluten free Taco seasoning

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

2 eggs

1 C milk (I used unsweetened coconut milk)

1/2 C Bisquick Gluten Free mix

Sliced tomato

3/4 C cheese (I used dairy free cheese)

Toppings (I used tomatoes, lettuce, cukes, red onion, and plain Greek yogurt in place of sour cream)

Heat oven to 400F. Spray 9-inch glass pie plate with cooking spray. In a large skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat, until beef is browned. Drain. Stir in seasoning mix. Spoon into pie plate. Top with drained and rinsed black beans.

In small bowl, stir eggs, milk and Bisquick Gluten Free mix until blended. Pour over beans.

Bake for about 25 minutes. Top with cheese and tomato. Bake 2 to 3 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Serve with additional toppings.

Enjoy!

Kristin

Dinner Tonight: Italian Chicken Meatballs

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If you are anything like me (may God help you every step of the way, if you are), then you have no idea what you’re making tonight for dinner. You may even have something thawing on the counter. Lucky for you.

Welp. If you need a meal idea to get you through the week, try this one. It was terribly easy and very delicious.

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This was a take on Chicken Parmesan. I had to make it both gluten and dairy free (my husband got the meatballs without cheese…how sad). The meatballs were tender and juicy, and the broiled cheesy top really took them next level. The only reason I didn’t call them “Chicken Parmesan Meatballs” is because I didn’t use parmesan in the recipe. Feel free to call them that, if it soothes your soul.

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Italian Chicken Meatballs

1 – 1 1/2 lb. ground chicken

1/2 C breadcrumbs (I used Corn Flake crumbs, which are gluten free)

1 T onion powder

1/4 C chopped fresh parsley, plus more for plating

Fresh garlic (I used about a tablespoon of the jarred minced garlic)

1 egg, beaten

S&P

1 jar marinara sauce (or use homemade)

Olive oil

Cheese (I used shredded Italian blend)

Pasta, cooked according to directions

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Preheat your oven to 400F. Mix all the ingredients (except for marinara sauce and olive oil) together in a bowl. Form into meatballs. Place on a prepared baking sheet (I placed tin foil on a pan and sprayed it with Pam). In a small bowl, mix together a few tablespoons of the marinara sauce with a few teaspoons of olive oil. Spoon a bit of that mixture over each meatball (see picture above). Bake for about 15 minutes. Sprinkle a little bit of cheese on each meatball and switch oven to Broil. Place pan back in and broil until the cheese is bubbly and brown. Serve with your favorite pasta and the rest of the jarred sauce. I used gluten free quinoa and brown rice rotini noodles.

**Alternatively, you can mix some parmesan cheese into the meatball to give it even more of that traditional Chicken Parmesan flavor.**

Enjoy!

Kristin

Watermelon & Lime Popsicles

It is hot. Like, bad hot. While it’s still technically “Spring”, it’s been Summer weather here in Sunny Florida for a while. We are constantly trying to beat the heat. I made a fun, healthy treat this week that was both delicious and heat-beating (yes, that’s a thing). Watermelon Lime Popsicles! You need only a few ingredients, and one special tool (maybe two).

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Watermelon Lime Popsicles

Watermelon juice

1 lime

microplane

Popsicle bags (I found mine at World Market)

Cut up a watermelon (you can use whatever size you want) and puree it. Strain it. I kept the pulp and ate it, as a snack, with Tajín (a Mexican spice mix of chile, salt, and lime). Wash the lime. Zest it into your watermelon juice container. Cut the lime open and squeeze the juice from both halves into the same container. Stir the liquid and zest. Use a funnel or a measuring cup to fill popsicle bags. Once sealed, place in the freezer for several hours.

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These were insanely good. You could see the beautiful lime zest in the gorgeous watermelon juice. The taste was out of this world.

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I had only made four (using the leftover watermelon juice from my Watermelon Cupcakes) and my boys keep asking me to make them.

Enjoy!

Kristin