With Sweet Dreams and Even Sweeter Days

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pineapple Mint Gin Punch

Over in these parts, I've been suffering from a bit of sunshine fever.

Whether it be the cold days that seem to drag on a little too long come the end of February, the sicknesses that seem to roll in one after another after another, or a hectic schedule that seems to be thrown into overdrive, lately long summer sunshine filled days are a constant presence in my mind.

And it's sufficient to say the weather here has not decided to cooperate.

A trip to Florida for Philadelphia Phillies spring training baseball last weekend did little to quench this.  When I returned to real life, work, and even more sickness less than 48 hours later after I touched down in Clearwater, I needed to keep the sunshine going more than ever.

Thankfully this punch picked up right on cue.

Fresh mint is mixed with pineapple juice, gin, lime juice and a hint of sugar.  Simple ingredients come together to make a cocktail that tastes like it took a whole lot of effort to craft, when the truth is it's a breeze to whip up.

Easy.  Simple.  Fresh.  Bright.

And a reminder that a February pick me up is always in season, regardless of where in the world we may be.

Summer will be here for eventually.  But for now, this just might do.


Pineapple Mint Gin Punch
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Servings: 4 Drinks

- 4 cups pineapple juice
- 1 cup min leaves (finely chopped)
- 3 1/2 Tbsp sugar
- 4 shots gin (1/2 cup)
- 1/2 cup lime juice
- lime wedges for serving (optional but great)

Chop mint finely.  Combine pineapple juice, mint, sugar, gin and lime juice in a pitcher.  Stir to combine.  Fill four glasses with ice.  Cut lime into thin wedges if desired.  Pour punch over ice.  Garnish with lime wedges if desired.  Serve immediately.  Repeat as needed.

Recipe adapted from: Shutterbean and Gourmet

Monday, February 18, 2013

Heart Box of Truffles Cakes

It seems to me that everyone has an opinion, whether good bad or indifferent, to all things Valentine's Day.

My personal opinion is two-fold, the first part being that if you have someone special in your life, reserving all signs of affection for one day out of the year seems to be missing the mark a tad.

But secondly (and maybe more importantly) is that using a day to celebrate love, whether it be love of this special someone, love of great friends, love of your life, or love of yourself, is always called for.

Therefore when Valentine's Day rolled around this year, we were definitely celebrating over in these parts.

I'm aware I'm a few days off the calendar mark.  Blame it on a severe allergic reaction that landed me in the ER this weekend (it all worked out not to worry) or my inability to actually post in time for a holiday (I'll never deny being a work in progress).

But these cakes were so much fun they were worth sharing regardless.

And truthfully a heart shaped truffle cake is just as well received on February 18th as on February 14th in my life.

For whatever love you choose to celebrate.

Worth the little bit of extra effort.

But then again, most love is.


Heart Box of Truffles Cakes
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Servings: 2 cakes

** These cakes can be kept as simple or elaborate as you'd like.  Whether boxed mixed or from scratch is more your speed, go at it.  You've got this.

- Either box mixed cake flavor or choice (or any cake recipe suitable for 2 9-inch pans)
- Either 2 (12 oz) cans frosting in any flavor or batch of any flavor frosting suitable to 2 9-inch cakes
- Fondant of any color (store bought at craft stores or homemade)
- 6-8 oz chocolate of any kind
- Any sprinkles/decorations you'd like (a good basic mixture is 4 different types to get the truffle box look, but really 1 kind is fine too!)

Bake cake mix in 2 9-inch circular pans as directed.  Let cool completely.

Using the circle as a guide, cut heart out from each cake.  Save pieces of cake cut from sides in a medium bowl.  Using a long serrated knife, cut each cake in half to form two layers. (Don't worry if it's not perfectly straight, icing fixes most mistakes!)  Fill each cake with icing and then cover top and sides of each cake with icing.  Save remaining icing.  Roll fondant out into 2 approximate 12-inch circles.  Cut hearts slightly larger than each cake out.  Place each cake on top on fondant heart.  Roll out more fondant to 2 approximate 15 inch circle and lay both circles over top of cakes.  Smooth over top and down sides, trimming to meet the base at the bottom of each cake.  Use remaining fondant to roll out rectangular strips slightly larger than height of cake.  Wrap around sides of cake, using slightly dampened hands to adhere if necessary and trim if there is excess when it meets around cake.  Smooth and refrigerate cakes.

Using a fork (or clean hands) crumble remaining cake pieces to small crumbs.  Mix in remaining icing, a little at a time, until cake mix comes together to form balls.  Line a baking sheet with wax paper and make 12-15 truffle sized cake balls and place on wax paper lined sheet.  Store in freezer.  Line up 12-15 mini muffin or truffle liners (smaller than a cupcake liner) and place chocolate in a heat proof bowl over a pot of simmering water (making sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl).  Melt chocolate over low-medium heat and dip each cake ball in chocolate (using a fork).  Tap off excess and place back on wax paper lined sheet.  Top immediately with desired sprinkles.  Continue with all cake balls until finished.  Return to freezer until chocolate has hardened.  Place "truffles" in liners and place on top of cakes.  Keep refrigerated until serving but allow to sit out at least 20 minutes before cutting.

Recipe adapted from:  Woman's Day

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Smashed Avocado Chickpea Salad

As I mentioned a few times already in passing, last month I started my official student teaching placement.

While I still take a college seminar course at night, my Mondays through Fridays are now spent entirely in a 7th grade science classroom assisting a cooperating teacher with lessons as well as teaching my own.  

Exhausting more often than not, hilarious at times, stressful at others, and all around enjoyable.

This is the first time since starting college I've been on such a structured schedule, and that translates to being responsible for packing a lunch every single day.  Having to brainstorm things to eat that will keep me full for an entire afternoon and won't make me want to pull my hair out from boredom has been challenging to say the least.

That's where salads like these are a lifesaver.  Healthy and filling with only good fat, easy to whip up one batch for all week, and most importantly delicious.

With a similar texture to that of egg salad, the creaminess in this comes from avocados instead of mayonnaise.  Cilantro, scallions, and lime juice make for a taste reminiscent of guacamole.  It's great on sandwiches as shown, on crackers, or really anyway you could imagine.

You can dress this up even more from here if you'd like, though it really doesn't need much embellishment.  

Don't let the green color throw you.

Get on board.

Smashed Avocado Chickpea Salad
Printer Friendly Version
Servings: Filling for 4 sandwiches

- 1 (15 oz) can chickpeas (skins removed if desired)
- 1 ripe avocado
- 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
- 2 Tbsp scallions, chopped
- Juice of 1 lime
- salt and pepper

Rinse and drain chickpeas.  Remove outer skins if desired.  In a medium bowl mash chickpeas and avocado together.  Add in cilantro, scallions, and lime juice.  Season with salt and pepper to your liking.  Use for sandwiches, on crackers, or any other way you'd like.  Will stay covered tightly in refrigerator for a few days, but remember avocados brown easily so the color might change slightly the longer it sits.

Recipe adapted from: Two Peas and Their Pod

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Things I'm Loving Lately: Winter 2012/2013 Edition

Time spent with friends, whether it be a week or six months since we've seen each other.  And picking up just the same.

This watch.  With student teaching in full swing a watch is much needed.  And I've had my eye on this one for quite some time.

Watching a great friend get married.  

Easy Sundays, especially when they are filled with things such as this.

The holidays at home.

The pool almost being good enough for ice skating.  Almost.

Baking for another wedding.  Seeing the project shown (plus 300 cookies) through from beginning to end.  Most importantly being such an important part of someone's special day.

Time spent with family, both extended and close.  But especially my mom.

Who is up for anything and who makes little things special in the way she enjoys life so completely.


And a picture of my contribution while in the making.

Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market.

Strong winter sun.  (And it seems like I'm not the only one.)

Box of truffles cakes.

Commutes.  At least when they look like this.  

And this.  Because if there is ever a moment when I can't find a reason to laugh, this gets me every time.