Cubs & Cooking

Aaah finally…spring in Chicago!  The weather has been beautiful, the sun has been shining, and everything seems to be going great!!  I went to my first Cubs game on Saturday, am heading to Minneapolis to visit one of my best friends this weekend, then spending a week in Florida with my mom.  I start my new job in May and am finally feeling like a resident of Chicago.  It’s been a long trek after college trying to get my feet on the ground, but can finally say I am employed!! Sunday I went to 33 Club for brunch and Mimosa’s with the girls and spent the day hanging around the house and making dinner! It was a very relaxing day and MUCH needed!

Wrigley Field

First Cubs Game!!

For dinner Sunday night, I made my Grandpa’s Artichoke Sauce with penne pasta.  It is a fairly simple sauce to make, but you need to make sure you really cook the flour so your sauce doesn’t taste too much like flour.  All you need is whipped butter, chicken broth, heavy whipping cream, parsley flakes, salt & pepper, quartered artichoke hearts, and of course Pasta.  It was a pretty long weekend, so dinner was not as exciting as previous “Sunday Dinners,”  but it was Nikki’s first time making it to dinner, which was exciting because she enjoys cooking as much as I do!

The sauce before adding the artichoke hearts

Pasta with Artichoke Sauce

MMM…Dinner!

This weeks Kitchen Adventure was not as “adventurous” as previous ones…but the weekend was full of craziness, so that makes up for it!  The sauce was also really good and I am so glad I finally learned how to make it!  This weekend I will be in Minneapolis and will be on a plane to Florida Sunday night, so my Kitchen Adventures next week will have to be canceled.   Hopefully, since it will be just my mom and I in Florida, there will double the amount of cooking adventures to share when I return!

Advertisements

I Gotta Find My Place…I Wanna Hear My Sound

It has been a VERY crazy few weeks, so I am really glad that last weekend was so relaxing.  I had the best time at home with my family and it was nice to not have the added stress of a holiday or busy schedule.  The past few weeks I have been busy with my internship, interviewing for jobs, and making some big changes.  I am really glad everything worked out and could not be MORE excited to start my new career path working on the Digital team with Edelman!!!  I start in May and could not be more ready to begin my career.  So…with all the big changes, it was nice to unwind with my family!

Saturday I spent the day with my mom.  We went to my cousin Colleen’s Spa, La Dolce Salon, and did a little pampering!  I was in major need of a pedicure now that sandal season is here!

My day ended up being so busy, before I knew it, I was ready for dinner and had nothing to make!  My sister and I had decided to stay in, have wine and catch up, so we went to the grocery to grab dinner supplies.  Here is what I learned from my sister…

Having some wine before dinner and enjoying the spring weather!

When you are throwing together a quick dinner and don’t have enough time to marinade your chicken, put it in a salt, sugar, and water mixture – called a Brine.  It will make the chicken so deliciously moist no matter what you season it with.  Grant, my sisters fiance, came home in time to throw the chicken on the grill with some barbeque sauce and they turned out unbelievable delicious. We paired the chicken with sautéed red peppers, sugar snap peas, and zucchini.  We seasoned them with Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, Basil, and Italian seasoning.  For the dinner being unplanned and thrown together in about 20 minutes, it was mouth-watering good.  There was nothing left and we were still wanting more!

Vegetable Sautè

Barbeque Chicken – Leave in Brine for 45 minutes to an hour

Sunday was my cousins baby shower and my Grandma’s birthday so it was another busy day, but was so much fun!  My mom had spent months working on the table decorations – every table had a different theme and there were 14 tables! My Aunt went all out with the gifts for the giveaways at the shower as well and almost everyone received a gift (there were about 100 people there).  They did such a great job and truly out did themselves….but that is just how my family usually does things!  Check out some of the pictures from the shower below!

My Mom and Aunt Annette – Wonderful Aunts and Hosts!

The Smurf/Potty Training Table

The Dr. Seuss Table – One of my favorites!


My cousin Rosie made this awesome Baby/Diaper/Gift Cake

I’m not sure what to call it, but it was a great gift and I have no clue how she made it!!  It was so pretty that we used it as the centerpiece for the buffet table.

Lucia’s Survival Guide and Cookbook

I finally downloaded pictures from Easter and am trying to decide what I want to do this weekend.  I am heading back to Indy again and am really looking forward to having a more relaxed weekend compared to last weekend.  Saturday my sister and I are going to look at invitations for her wedding.  I can’t believe it is approaching so quickly!  I don’t think these kitchen adventures are helping me get into great shape for her big day, but oh well.  You do what you gotta do!  Hopefully I can come up with something great tomorrow…maybe I will go back to basics and make meatballs.  Sunday’s are spent sitting around my Grandparents kitchen table eating and catching up, so normally I could have made something to bring there, but it is my cousins baby shower, so that is not an option.  Hopefully something inspires me tomorrow….

Tonight for dinner my roommate heated up some of her homemade matzah ball soup and in true Italian fashion….I tried to top it off with some parmesan cheese.  Apparently only Italians add parmesan to their soups!    I got another present for my Kitchen Adventure!!  My Grandpa found a cookbook called “Lucia’s Survival Guide and Cookbook” and on the inside…the book is dedicated “To Gina, who was the inspiration for writing this guide.”  How ironic,  Lucia’s survival guide dedicated to Gina…Gina is my sisters name.  Gina is also my best friend and someone I would dedicate a book to because she is someone I admire most.  The book was not only meaningful because it came from my Grandpa, but it was extra meaningful because it has some irony to it!

Here are the pictures from the weekend and the recipe for the Italian Cream Cake!

Italian Cream Cake

Preheat oven to 350°

Grease and flour three 9 inch cake pans

Ingredients:

1 stick of butter, softened

2 cups of sugar

5 eggs – separated

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup buttermilk

2 cups flour, sifted

1 tsp. baking soda

1 cup coconut

1 cup pecans, chopped

Beat softened butter and sugar until creamy. Add egg yolks, oil, flour, vanilla and buttermilk. Mix until combined. Stir in 1/2 cup of the coconut and 1/2 cup of the pecans. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until fluffy (hint: they should form peaks). Fold egg whites into batter.

Bake at 350° for about 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Ice with cream cheese icing (recipe below)

Cream Cheese Icing

**Makes enough icing for 1 cake (3 layers)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 boxes of Philadelphia Cream Cheese

1 1/2 boxes Powdered Sugar

1 1/2 sticks softened butter

2 tsp Pure Vanilla extract

In a mixer, add cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter and vanilla.  Mix well until creamy and light.

Batter from the Carrot Cake…not including all the ingredients though!

The Italian Cream Cake requires egg whites – you can tell they are finished when they form peaks!

After a long day of baking – here is half of the mess

Italian Cream Cake

Carrot Cake

Scrape It Don’t Shake It!!

So I had a few things planned for my Easter activities, but they all unfortunately fell through.  The weather here in Chicago was SO nice, I couldn’t bring myself to stay inside after work coloring Easter eggs…so that never happened.  I was so flustered while packing Thursday night to go home, I  forgot to pack my recipes of inspiration for holiday flare and was unable to find them online in time to make them for everyone.  SO, instead, I went with second best.  I made an Italian Cream Cake and a Carrot Cake with cream cheese icing.

Let me tell you, I am so glad I did not find the recipes in time because I learned so much while baking with my mom (actually I did the baking, prepping, and cleaning while she did the directing and watching).  Similar to my first kitchen adventure when I was making dinner for my cousins, I learned a few things in the kitchen.

1. there is a difference between a wet measure and a dry measure.  How was I suppose to know that?  Who tells you these things?  It’s not like I had baking class in high school (thanks a lot Brebeuf…useless).  I asked my mom how she knew this little fact and she had no clue.  So here I am telling all of you – there is a difference.

2.  Do not shake off the extra flour when measuring.  You have to scrape it off the top or it will make your cake heavy.  Do not shake off the baking soda or the baking powder either.  You MUST scrape it off.  Ok, seriously?   That just seems absurd to me…what is a little shake going to do?  Apparently, a lot.  So don’t shake…scrape!

3. When the directions say combined and sift….you should always combined the ingredients in the sifter and THEN sift.  Sifting one at a time is not correct.  Adding all together without sifting is not correct and if it says combined into wet ingredients…combined together first then add.  DO NOT add one at a time.  Good thing I have baking 101 right in my own home kitchen thanks to my mother.

4. I don’t know how people bake without high-tech tools.  I could never accomplish what I did without the Kitchen Aid Pro.  That thing is a God Send.

5. When filling your cake pans, use a measuring cup and put about 2 cups in each round pan in order to make your cakes even after baking.

I was so grateful to learn all of these things over the weekend, so I hope you are equally as intrigued and appreciative!  My cakes turned out fabulous.  I was able to share a piece of the Italian Cream Cake with my sister before it was too late.  The cake was gone within 30 minutes after lunch (my family usually hides pieces of this cake to take home with them – it is a coveted dessert in the Bayt family!).  The carrot cake was taken to my mom’s family and I tasted a little bite of it.

I don’t usually choose carrot cake as my dessert option.  I was always freaked out by the fact that it had carrots in it and in my mind carrots ≠ dessert.  But in the cakes defense…it tastes nothing like carrots and was actually really good.

It was nice being able to spend the day baking with my mom, but it was exhausting….I was glad to finally be done and head out to my friends to watch the Butler game!  Sad ending last night, but so proud of them!