Archive for June, 2010

I WON!!!

Check out the post here!

The review:

Your last-minute entry was a hit–the addition of mint to the blueberry,  white chocolate, and cream party was unique and sublimely delicious!  The flavor was cool, refreshing, and a bit unexpected…very original!  Thanks for introducing us to the wonder that is blueberry + mint 🙂  Fantastic job for a Cupcake Hero first-timer!

Thank you so much to everyone who voted for me or supported me in any way possible.

Thanks to Dorothy for hosting Cupcake Hero and Clara for the lovely prize package I’ll receive and.

Special thanks to Boy for tasting everything I’ve ever baked whether he wanted to or not and for encouraging me to keep at it. For being my biggest fan. And for booking our trip to Vegas.

New Cupcake Hero theme to be announced on July 1st!

DB – Chocolate Pavlova

More horizon expanding coming your way. Watch out now!

Firstly, I was pleasantly surprised to find out on Friday that I’m a finalist in Cupcake Hero as the cupcake chosen by the host to go up against the cupcake with the most votes. Thank you all for your support and I hope I win but I’m already on top of the world by being chosen! I hope the flavor of the cupcakes comes through when Dorothy makes them! I’m definitely encouraged.

Moving on to other good news.

I finished my ACLS course today and am now certified to save lives. Yay!

Also..

I’m going to Vegas in a couple days. VEGAS! YIP YIP!

Just booked it a couple days ago. I know. Super last minute. At the end of my third year I managed to cease functioning and neglected to plan a vacation in a timely fashion which led to this last minute-ness. But it works out because we got a really great deal.. and will be staying here for 3 nights. Oh yeah.

I don’t really like gambling which would seem like the logical thing to do in Vegas. (But Vegas has other things to offer. Like this show. Which I’m seeing. Happy happy joy joy!) To me, it’s basically signing up to lose money and maybe some people have a good time doing just that but I don’t. Especially since I currently make no money and am hundreds of thousands of dollars in education-induced debt. I don’t mind watching other people gamble though. And getting some free drinks on the floor.

When it comes to baking though I’m learning to be more of a gambler. This past week has been a huge growing experience. I’ve taken some risks and it’s been a complete success! I entered my first Cupcake Hero, submitted to Regional Recipes, and now am presenting my first Daring Bakers challenge. It’s been so great pushing myself to try new things and be creative at the same time. Sure I had to make a couple things more than once but, in the end, things were delicious and looked decent enough. I’m a baker in progress and loving the journey. Corny, I know, but I’m basically on top of the world right now and I tend to get sappy when I’m happy.

Shoot me.

This challenge wasn’t too difficult. I did have to re-do the pavlova because I didn’t bake the first one long enough but it tasted great both times so I didn’t exactly mind making a second batch. And (I’m typing it out loud so I stick to it) although I followed the recipe verbatim this month because I was shivering in my booties, next month I plan on mixing it up and putting my own spin on things. Yeahhhh gambling!

The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.

Chocolate Pavlova with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse
a Daring Bakers challenge by Doable and Delicious

Chocolate Pavlova
3 large egg whites
1/2 c plus 1 tbsp white granulated sugar
1/4 c confectioner’s (icing) sugar
1/3 c cocoa powder

Instructions
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 200F. Line two baking sheets with silpat or parchment and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, whip egg whites until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar 1 tbsp at a time until stiff peaks form. Sift the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder over the egg whites and fold it together. This will take a little bit but be patient, young grasshopper.

Fill a pastry bag with the meringue and pipe into shapes or just free-form it.

Bake for 2-3 hours until the meringues become dry and crisp. Cool and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse
1 1/2 c heavy cream
zest of 1 average sized lemon
9 oz 72% chocolate, chopped
1 2/3 c mascarpone
pinch of nutmeg
2 tbsp orange juice

Instructions
Heat 1/2 cup of the heavy cream and the lemon zest in a saucepan over medium high heat. Once warm, add the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let sit at room temperature until cool.

Place the mascarpone, the rest of the cream and nutmeg in a bowl. Whip on low for a minute until the mascarpone is loose. Add the orange juice and whip on medium speed until it holds soft peaks. (DO NOT OVERBEAT AS THE MASCARPONE WILL BREAK.)

Mix about 1/4 of the mascarpone mixture into the chocolate to lighten. Fold in the remaining mascarpone until well incorporated.

Mascarpone Cream
1 c whole milk
1 1/2 c heavy cream, divided
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks
6 tbsp sugar
1/2 c mascarpone

Instructions
Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture turns pale yellow.

Combine the milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan over medium high heat, bringing the mixture to a boil. Take off the heat. Pour about 1/2 cup of the hot liquid into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to prevent scrambling the eggs. Pour the yolk mixture into the pan with the remaining cream mixture and put the heat back on medium. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens enough to lightly coat the back of a wooden spoon. DO NOT OVERCOOK.

Remove the mixture from the heat and strain it through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Slowly whisk the mascarpone into the anglaise and let the mixture cool at least 2 hours in the refrigerator or overnight.

Put the cream in a bowl and beat with electric mixer until very soft peaks are formed. Fold the cream into the mascarpone mixture.

Assembly:
Pipe the mousse onto the pavlovas and drizzle with the mascarpone cream over the top. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and fresh fruit if desired (I topped mine with mango.)

– Sharlene

Honey Walnut Cake

I saved a life today.

The patient was a 28-year-old male who arrived by ambulance after a motor vehicle accident. Upon arrival, his heart went into a dangerous arrhythmia known as ventricular tachycardia or v-tach as we say in the biz and had no pulse. I proceeded to run the code, ordering several rounds of epinephrine and vasopressin, multiple defibrillation shocks, as well as amiodarone (an antiarrhythmic) and lidocaine. I ordered a fellow student to conduct CPR and I quickly intubated the patient for airway management.

He eventually went into a normal sinus rhythm with strong pulses.

We all cheered and I congratulated my team on a job well done.

My patient?

At the end of the day he was packed up into a suitcase of sorts and stored in the closet with all the other mannequins.

I took my ACLS (Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support) class today. 10 hours. Part two is tomorrow. Another 10 hours. Yayyyyyyyyyy!

Pardon me, I’m a bit delirious.

But I’m sane enough to know a good cake when I eat one and this is it. I made this cake yesterday for a little end-of-the-year party a couple friends threw. Sorry for the lack of pictures but, you know, PARTY with DRINKS so.. blogging was on the backburner.

Anyway, delicious cake.

AND! For the first time, I’m submitting something to Regional Recipes! Hollerrrrrrrrr.

I really did save a life today.

REALLY!

Honey Walnut Cake
adapted from epicurious

Makes one 9″ cake.

Ingredients
3/4 c sugar
1 tbsp orange zest
1/2 c unsalted butter, room temperature
2 eggs
1 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 c buttermilk
1/2 c chopped walnuts (or any nut combo of your choice)

For honey syrup:
1/2 c honey
1/2 c water
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp lemon zest

Optional garnish:
fresh fruit (I used strawberries and blueberries)
sweetened whipped cream

Instructions
Preheat oven to 400F. Line a 9″ round cake pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and cloves together. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, rub orange zest into sugar. Cream butter and orange-rubbed sugar together. Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly in between. Alternating, mix the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the buttermilk in 2 additions, finishing with the dry ingredients. Fold in the walnuts. Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake for 30 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan.

While the cake is baking, combine the honey, water, lemon juice, and zest in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.

After the cake has cooled in the pan for 10-20 minutes, pour the syrup over the cake, cover, and allow to sit for several hours before serving so the syrup can soak in properly.

Bon appetito!

– Sharlene

Mint Blueberry Cupcakes with White Chocolate Whipped Cream

Sometime in the midst of all my stress and end-of-the-year nervous breakdowns I gave thought to doing away with this blog altogether. It’s still a baby, a little blip on the internet map, and could have very easily fallen away without much of a fuss.

When I suggested this to Boy, he was not in agreement.

I started this with the sole intention of pushing myself to be a better baker, to create recipes instead of always following someone else’s lead, and to try new things.

So, with that in mind, I joined Daring Bakers last month and completed my first challenge earlier this month (the reveal is on the 27th). This past weekend, I decided to try something else too.

I’m going for Cupcake Hero.

Whoa.

I decided this on Saturday. On Sunday I woke up with a few ideas of how to use blueberries in a cupcake and took my sweet time getting to the grocery store etc. Then, last night around 8 pm I realized that the deadline for Cupcake Hero is midnight tonight.

WHOA!

I scrambled. But I’m actually quite happy with the result! Maybe I work well under pressure? I even had the chance to have Boy and two other friends try a few! The overwhelming opinion was that they taste “fresh” and that’s exactly what I was going for. Not too sweet, not too heavy, and perfectly summery.

Let’s hope I win but if not this is definitely a recipe I’ll keep in my arsenal when I’m looking for something different to bring to a party. They’re delicious.

Mint Blueberry Cupcakes with White Chocolate Whipped Cream
a smalltownoven original

Makes 12.

Ingredients
For cake:
2 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 c sugar
1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp mint extract
3/4 c milk
1 1/4- 1 1/2 c blueberries (I used fresh)

For topping:
1 c heavy cream
10-15 mint leaves
3 oz white chocolate, chopped

For garnish:
fresh blueberries

Instructions
Do ahead: Heat heavy cream and mint leaves in a saucepan until boiling. Take off heat, cover, and steep for 1 hour. Strain mint leaves out of cream and refrigerate until chilled for several hours or overnight (freezer if you’re in a rush).

Preheat oven to 350F. Line 12-cake muffin/cupcake pan with appropriate liners.

Toss blueberries with 1 tbsp flour. In a large bowl, sift together rest of flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, cream sugar and butter together until well blended using a hand or stand mixer. Add eggs one at a time and mix well. Add extracts and mix completely. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions alternating with the milk in 2 additions, mixing well in between each addition. Fold in blueberries.

Bake for 20-24 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before moving to cooling racks.

For topping, melt white chocolate with 2 tbsp of mint-infused heavy cream in a large bowl over a pot of simmering water. Be careful not to allow the white chocolate to burn! Once melted, take off heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes. In a separate large bowl, whip the rest of the heavy cream (~3/4 c) until the appropriate consistency. Fold in the cooled white chocolate.

To assemble, place a dollop of topping on each cupcake and garnish with fresh blueberries.

How cute!

– Sharlene

Cottage Cheese Pufflets

Giveaway from Whisk for a KitchenAid hand mixer and cookbook set! Yay!

So that’s it. Third year’s over. Simultaneously, my head just said both “already?” and “took long enough.” Does that every happen to you?

It was the first year of the rest of my clinical life. It was my first real exposure to the inner workings of a hospital. To the fine balance between the relationships between patients, doctors, nurses, therapists of all sorts, and social workers that ultimately determines outcomes, to the healthcare pitfalls in America. It was also my first chance to take something I had read about for years and apply my knowledge. To listen to a heart and hear a murmur and know deep within me that I actually hear it instead of just nodding along to an attending’s suggestion that one may be present. To spend time with a patient, figure out what’s going on, make suggestions to get to the bottom of it, treat, and see results. To feel as sense of responsibility for patients and in their care.

And now, at the end of a full year of surgery, internal medicine, pediatrics, ob/gyn, psychiatry, and family practice, I feel learned, matured, and TIRED.

VERY tired.

We have two weeks between third and fourth year, one of which is filled with classes at school but no required studying and one full week free. I’m ecstatic.

First order of business: Party. Check. Had one last night, made a very quick version of what ended up tasting like strawberry toaster strudel (read: puff pastry layered with strawberries, sweet cream made of cream cheese, whipped cream, and condensed milk, and a strawberry syrup of sugar, water, strawberry gelatin, and perhaps a splash of vanilla).

Second order of business: Bake. Check. Made these cottage cheese pockets of goodness. ‘Twas one of the best ideas I’ve ever had. Even though I had to wait a night and it was a two-part event.

Third order of business: Eat. Between me and Boy, we ate the entire (half) batch in an evening. I had originally intended to bring a dozen or so to my resident who is living a lowly existence of night float.. but given the circumstances (read: there are no more puffs), I will have to think of something else. Small price to pay for a stomach full of these bundles of joy.

Cottage Cheese Pufflets
adapted from Dorie’s Baking from My Home to Yours

This half-recipe makes about 30.

Ingredients
1/2 c (1 stick)  unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tbsp sugar
pinch salt
4 oz cottage cheese
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 c + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
¼ cup thick preserves, marmalade or jam [I used blackberry preserves.]
Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting, optional

Instructions
Cream butter and sugar together. [Dorie says to use a food processor. I just used my hand mixer.] Add cottage cheese and vanilla and mix some more until velvety and it looks like whipped cream cheese. Add the flour and pulse/mix just until blended.

Wrap dough and refrigerate anywhere from 3 hours to 3 days. [I spread it out in a freezer-sized plastic bag which made it easier to roll out later.] You can also freeze the dough for up to 2 months and defrost it, wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator if you so desire

For baking, preheat oven to 400F and line two baking sheets with parchment/silicone mats.

I suggest you roll the dough out between sheets of wax paper as it is very very sticky! Working with one half at a time, roll the dough out to 1/8 inch in thickness, preferably in a rectangular or square shape. If the dough gets too soft, stick it back in the fridge for a bit. Cut the rolled-out dough into 2-3 inch squares, dab on a tiny bit of jam, fold over, and seal the edges. Line up your little pufflets about 1/2 inch apart on the baking sheets. Poke a hole in the center of each as a steam vent. You can also flash-freeze the pufflets at this point in time and then bake them straight from the freezer at a later date with 2 extra minutes added on.

Bake each sheet for 10-12 minutes. Let cool a bit before eating as the jam inside is hot hot hot!

Perfection.

– Sharlene, MS4 (previously, MS3)

    Cottage Cheese Pufflets
    recipe courtesy of Dorie Greenspan’s BFMHTY *
    1 c unsalted butter, room temperature
    2 T sugar
    1/4 t salt
    8 oz cottage cheese
    1 t vanilla
    1 2/3 c flour
    1/4 c jam or fruit preserves
    powdered sugar for dusting
    1. Blend the butter, sugar and salt in a food processor until creamy. Add the cottage cheese and vanilla. Process another 2 minutes until the mixture is the consistency of whipped cream cheese. Add the flour and pulse until dough forms.
    2. Dump dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Shape into a rectangle, wrap and refrigerate at least 3 hours.
    3. Preheat oven to 400.** Roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut the dough into 2 x 2 inch squares (I used a circle cookie cutter because it was easier). Add a dab of jam to each square, slightly off center. Fold opposite corners together to form a triangle. Seal edges and poke a minute steam hole in the top.
    4. Bake on a parchment lined cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and dust with powdered sugar once they’ve cooled a bit.

Cookies and Cream Brownies

I had a bad day yesterday.

In short, a patient yelled at me and nearly made me cry, I tripped in front of all the residents and some attending physicians at noon/lunch conference, I got out extra late because I had to wait for clinic hours to finish before meeting my preceptor, and managed to have a terrible asthma attack which required a visit to the ER at a later hour than I could have cared for.

Yeah. It was bad.

After the first thee things, I wanted (needed? same thing?) to come home and cry bake brownies. Not just any brownies either. I wanted cookies and cream brownies. Now, is that odd to crave something you’ve never ever had before? That you’ve maybe heard of once in your life? Well, that’s what happened to me yesterday. Cookies and cream brownies needed to be made. They needed to have Oreos in them. And they needed to be in my belly sooner rather than later.

This was not one of those times when I felt like baking. It was one of those times when a huge plate of nachos followed by a tub of Ben & Jerry’s shared around a table with my best girlfriends would have been perfect. But that wasn’t possible. So cookies and cream brownies would have to do and, in all honesty, the yumminess I was imagining in my head came pretty gosh darn close to that scenario I just described.

So after work I rushed to the store to buy ingredients sometime in the middle of my hour-long commute home on Route 1, the biggest life-sucker-outter I know. I was out in 10 minutes (I’m a really quick shopper). And I went home thinking that my day HAD to get better if these were in my future.

Time’s always wasting so I whipped the brownies together in no time flat especially since I used brownie mix. I’ve never tried a doctored up brownie recipe.

(CAN I JUST TELL YOU?! GENIUS!!!!!!)

Anyway, after brownie-making, brownie-eating, knee-buckling, and milk chugging I considered my day a win. It wasn’t even that late yet. Still time to study! Yip yip!

But then.. asthma attack.

:: cue sappy music here ::

So Boy had to drive me to the emergency room late at night after an hour of wheezing and gripping onto the couch cushion with my eyes closed telling Boy to just shoot me already in between coarse breaths. Oh, also do you sometimes find that you can’t really take advice from the people you love the most? Boy was already telling me to go to the ER. But he also tells me to make immediate appointments to see a doctor if I’m nauseated two mornings in a row without any rhyme or reason. (Would YOU see a doctor? I figured it was anxiety or something and just pfft’ed it off. Yes, I know that’s not a word.) So Boy was telling me to go to the ER but I didn’t want to. Then a third party told me to go to the ER and I proceeded to grab my bag and get in Boy’s car. To his credit, he didn’t say “I told you so” even once. But I feel bad anyhow that I didn’t heed his advice to begin with, chalking it up to overly concerned loved one instead of quite appropriate medical advice from a soon-to-be-doctor-of-medicine. Oops.

[In case you’re concerned, I got some meds, sat around for awhile, talked to a few medicine residents on call who I happened to know and love, and got sent home late late late in the morning. Boy’s the bestest Boy ever.]

Anyway, now that I’ve displayed the haphazard inner-workings of my brain filled with random comments and probably some incoherent statements, these brownies still made my day a good one.

So make them if you’re having a crappy day. Or a good day. They’re super easy and super delicious.

And for the love of Boy, go to the emergency room if you can’t breathe. It’s some seriously good medical advice.

Cookies and Cream Brownies
adapted from Good Morning America

Makes 16.

Ingredients

For brownie cake:
1 pkg brownie mix [I used Betty Crocker Dark Chocolate]
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted [Yes, this much butter is necessary for proper day-bettering.]
2 large eggs
4 Oreos, coarsely chopped (~ 1/2 c)

For cookies & cream frosting:
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
2 tbsp (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 c confectioner’s sugar, sifted
8 Oreos, coarsely chopped (~1 c)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray pan [I used an 8×8]  if desired but I usually just stick some aluminum foil in for easy clean-up and cutting.

In a large bowl, mix brownie mix, butter, and eggs with a wooden spoon until moistened. Transfer batter to pan, press Oreos onto top, and place in oven. Bake until set but always aim for fudgy. My batch baked for 40 minutes. Take ’em out and allow to cool for 20 minutes prior to frosting.

For the frosting, using a stand or hand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl until well combined. Add confectioner’s sugar and vanilla until just combined. Fold in Oreos. After the brownies have cooled for 20 minutes (or less if 20 is simply too long), spread frosting. Cut and eat (or allow to cool some more until frosting sets but.. that’s nearly impossible).

Go make your day a little bit better now. I command you.

– Sharlene

Olive Oil Cakes

Nom nom nom!

I’m a stress baker these days. It’s pretty much where this blog came from.

The second my life starts to get busy, when it’s a little more difficult to breathe but I’m nowhere near suffocation, I start baking. I consider ingredients, flavors, and shapes. Do I want something with fruit or chocolate? Both perhaps? Neither? What kind of fruit?  What kind of chocolate? What can I add to make it a *little* bit different, to give it that tiny hint of something new? And what form will it all take? Is this a cookie, a cupcake, a full-blown cake, or muffins? Do I want to try a new shape or technique?

The possibilities are endless.

And the prospects are sometimes much more interesting than the idea that baking all of this will eventually give me diabetes and perhaps hypertension so maybe it would be useful to do the studying I’m supposed to be doing instead of dreaming of disease-causing treats.

But, I digress.

Baking. It calms me.

I sometimes let it be my reward.

Sharlene, if you do 50 questions and get at LEAST 60% right (I realize that percentage isn’t great in grade school but in med school it’ll have to do lest I go insane) you can bake a batch of brownies.

Sharlene, if you finish writing up that history and physical you can eat a brownie you just made.

Sharlene, if you read up on atrial fibrillation, you can eat your third brownie since you have no self-control.

Who are we kidding, Sharlene. We all know you need to eat half the tray and feel sick to your stomach at this second because since eating the first brownie you’ve gotten 7 questions wrong since you’re concentrating on EATING ANOTHER so much.

My inner monologue.

At this point in time, my abs (can you talk about your abs even if you’re unsure they’re there under the layer of blub?) are screaming NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!

Luckily, that blub is there to muffle their screams.

These little cakes are a bit addictive. I added some strawberries and it was seriously a party in my mouth. Highly recommend the addition. I ate 2-3 a day until they were gone. Boy liked them too. He would have had seconds had I left him enough to do so.

Pioneer Woman never fails me.

Olive Oil Cakes
adapted from Ree, but originally from Food Network Magazine

Yields 12.

Ingredients
For cake:
1 tbsp melted butter
2/3 c all-purpose flour
1/3 c whole wheat [I’m trying to use more whole wheat flour because it’s healthier.. this small alteration wasn’t even noticed!]
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp minced fresh thyme
1 1/3 c sugar
2 tbsp grated lemon zest
2 eggs
1/4 c olive oil
2/3 c milk
4 strawberries, sliced

For glaze:
1 1/2 c powdered sugar
2 tbsp melted butter
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350F.

Butter up a muffin pan and dust with a bit of flour. Whisk together the flour, the baking powder, salt and thyme in a small bowl.

In a blender, pulse the sugar and lemon zest in a blender until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, then gradually pour in the olive oil and milk, pulsing about 30 seconds or until it becomes a thin batter. Don’t overblend! Pulse pulse pulse, check, pulse a little more, check, check, check, pulse. You get the idea.

Add the dry ingredients to the blender in 2 batches until just combined. [See above note on pulsing and checking if you need some guidance.] Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake. Ten minutes into baking, take pan out of oven and layer several pieces of strawberry on top. Place back into oven for another 15 minutes or so [about 25 minutes total of baking time] until the cakes just start to pull away from the sides of the pan and spring back when lightly touched.

While waiting, make the glaze by combining the three ingredients until smooth. You can add more lemon juice if you want it a bit more sour. Drizzle over the cooled cakes and garnish with a thyme sprig.

Sorry I couldn’t save you any 🙂

– Sharlene

No-Bake White Chocolate Pie

My mood is much MUCH better today than it was a few days ago. I apologize for that quite uncharacteristic sob story. Honestly, one of the lowest moments I’ve ever had. Except for the time frame of lasting only a few days, I could have been clinically diagnosed with depression.

You can tell I feel much better when the nerd in me makes an appearance.

You know I was never really THAT bad since I kept a running tab of how many criteria for depression I filled at any given time.

Anyway, a big part of my stress and depress(ion) was this here weekend. While pulling my full load on my medicine clerkship (which is killing me by the way)  PLUS make a diaper cake for a friend’s baby shower (have you ever seen one of these? They’re adorable but quite time-consuming to make!), create some cupcakes for the same shower (settled on lychee mango.. will be sharing that recipe soon because they were a hit!), and coming up with something/making something for Boy’s BBQ tomorrow (going to do my first Daring Bakers challenge!! eeeeeeek!). And now that we’re halfway through the weekend and the shower’s over, I can rest a little easier.

And I am.

By parking myself in front of my parents’ humongo flat-screen with my laptop on which I’m doing questions. I am! So far.. I’ve done 22 in 2 hours. Clearly, my efficiency needs improvement. Or the Travel Channel needs to stop showing their Extreme series. Extreme Pig Outs and Extreme Fast Food? So interesting. Have you seen the monstrosities people actually eat? Like here. THE HEART ATTACK GRILL! Insanity.

This probably won’t give you a heart attack and at 350 calories per serving (the recipe makes 8), it’s really pretty healthy compared to  the 7,000 calorie burger I just saw on television (it looked delicious in case you’re wondering).

In honor of the BBQ tomorrow, I’m posting a pie I made for another recent outdoor event. It’s a bit like a cheesecake but much lighter, takes much less time, and is still heavenly. Now that I think about it, you don’t have to stop at bananas. Why not go for strawberries? Or kiwi fruit? Bacon? Freudian slip. Point is, it’s very easily adapted to whatever suits your taste.

No-Bake White Chocolate Pie
adapted from Dorie Greenspan

Ingredients
4 oz white chocolate, finely chopped
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 c sour cream
1/2 c heavy cream, chilled
1 banana, thinly sliced
One ready-made 9″ graham-cracker crust [You can make one and bake it up but I just bought one. My guilt was made up for by time saved.]

Instructions
Warm the chocolate in a bowl set over a pot of lightly simmering water. Remove from heat when only partially melted; stir to melt completely.

Beat the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Beat in the chocolate, then the sour cream. In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream until firm; gently fold into chocolate mixture.

Assembly:
Arrangethe banana slices on the crust. [I’ve also made one with toffee chips. Sprinkle about 1-2 oz of toffee chips on top of the bananas. Not too many or it’ll take over the pie!] Top with the filling. Decorate with cocoa powder or chocolate shavings. Strawberries perhaps?  Chill at least 2 hours.

Yayyyyyyy PIE!

– Sharlene

Strawberry Mango Cupcakes

I was going to write about how I hope everyone had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend (I still do hope that by the way) and tell you all about my own weekend which went by too quickly given I was on call Saturday so it mostly just felt like a normal weekend having Monday off.. except now I’m an extra day into the week when I have a bajillion things to do.. so the Monday off threw me for a loop and now my post has gone in a completely different direction.

To be honest, I’m feeling quite overwhelmed. It’s the tail end of third year and I have one more major exam to round out the year. The only problem is that I haven’t been studying like I usually do. It might be the weather, it might be the produce in stores which inevitably finds its way into my kitchen to be made into something delicious (we hope), or it might just be “senioritis.” Either way, it’s not good.

Because I have to do well on this exam.

It’s not just that though. There are graduations (such as little brother who’s going to law school this fall yippee skippee), baby showers, and the casual BBQs that I always want to attend even though I probably shouldn’t. It’s all sort of just added up to the point where I’m completely underwater and struggling to stay afloat.

Friends out there, do you have days/weeks/times like this? When you just don’t see how you’re going to get everything done and you can’t figure out where to cut corners? What if you don’t want to cut corners? What if all your corners are important as in your best friend, your boyfriend, your family, and then school/your career? It feels as if I’m the piece of paper and those are my four corners and if I cut one of them, I cut off a piece of me (temporary, yes, but still). Is this all a little too heavy right now?

Well, that’s how I’m feeling.

In contrast, these cupcakes are light and fresh. They tasted, dare I say, like summer. Even better after they had been refrigerated for an hour or so before eating. This past weekend I chose my family and baked these for my brother’s going-away/Memorial Day BBQ (he’s attending a summer session that will allow him to have to take less credits in the fall). They’re a wonderful pick-me-up. I wish I still had some left over but they went quickly!

My only note is that I strongly suggest using Champagne mangoes. They’re yellow-skinned and can often be found in the Asian food markets. I find them to be much sweeter than the red/green ones I usually find at the supermarket and while you can attempt to use those, I think these really made the cupcakes. Let me know if you try them either way!

Strawberry Mango Cupcakes
cake adapted from Annie’s Eats; whipped cream a STO original

Makes 30ish regular cupcakes or 60 mini-cupcakes.

Ingredients
For the cake:
2 1/2 c cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
1/3 c buttermilk
1/4 c oil [I used olive oil.]
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 c chopped strawberries
1 c chopped Champagne mangoes (approximately 2 mangoes)

For the whipped cream:
1 c heavy cream
1/4 c sugar, more to taste
1 ripe kiwi, pureed
1/2 Champagne mango, pureed

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350F. Line cupcake pans with appropriate liners.

Sift flour, salt and baking soda into a medium bowl.  Set aside.

In a separate bowl and using a hand or stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time until combined.  Then add the rest of the wet ingredients (buttermilk, oil and vanilla) and combine.  Add flour mixture, stirring until just combined.  Fold in chopped strawberries and mangoes.  Fill cupcake liners 1/2 to 3/4 full and bake accordingly: 18-22 minutes for regular sized cupcakes, 8-10 minutes for mini-cupcakes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool completely before adding topping.

For the topping, whip the heavy cream using a hand or stand mixer on medium speed until it begins to thicken. Slowly add sugar while mixer continues and whip until stiff peaks form. Fold in the kiwi and mango. Taste and add sugar if desired (this will depend on the sweetness of your fruit). Pipe or dollop onto cupcakes.

A tiny bite of freshness!

– Sharlene