Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Duke University

Let me begin by saying this week has been pretty weird.  My car broke down last Thursday, I've been under the weather, and it's been FRIGID outside (I'm talking single digits). And with all this craziness I haven't had as much time as I would like to break out my Cannon... but I do have some awesome pictures of Duke University from when we visited during Christmas break!! (P.S. I also have another recipe post in the works for you guys!) Enjoy! And I hope everyone is staying healthy and safe!!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Healthy Soup for the Soul

Hello! I am so excited to share this AMAZING recipe I just tried from the Ohsheglows website (FYI for those who don't know who Angela is, she writes an all vegan blog that caters to a number of food allergies).  As I am not a Vegan I usually adapt her recipes to fit my (and my husband's) meat eating ways but in this case I followed her recipe as written....and I must say it turned out beautifully.   It is a Butternut Squash soup with black beans and Quinoa with Lime and Cilantro used as garnishes.  Below is the recipe (which is fairly easy in comparison to past posts i.e. peppermint bark) I hope you enjoy! It is the perfect remedy to a cold winter's evening or a bad cold (it has a bunch of spices that will clear those sinuses right up!)

Photo c/o Ohsheglows.com

1 cup Quinoa
1.5 cups water
6 cups Vegetable Broth
1 can Black Beans
2 cups butternut squash (changed from the original recipe which uses sweet potatoes)
2 Limes
1 Ripe Avocado
1 Sweet Onion
1 tbs. Garlic
Spinach (optional)
Cherry Tomatoes (optional)
1.5 tsp. Cumin
1 tsp. Chili Powder
1/2 Tsp. Ground Coriander


In a medium sized pot set at a medium heat, add the water and Quinoa and allow the mixture to come to a boil.  Then turn down the heat (about a simmer) and let cook for about 17 minutes with a lid on or until the Quinoa is fluffy and the water has been absorbed.
In another pan (I used a wok like pot) add the Garlic and sweet onion (I used about a cup of diced onion) and let sit until the onions have become translucent.  Next, add the cubed Butternut Squash (or Sweet Potato) and the Coriander, Cumin, and Chili Powder.  Allow to cook for about 5-8 minutes.  Next, add the vegetable broth and allow the mixture to heat through (or until the squash is tender). 
Once you are ready to serve the soup, add the black beans (make sure to strain them first) to the soup as well as the Quinoa.  You may also add the Cilantro and Lime according to your taste.

And this is my version, not as beautifully photographed but equally as delicious!!

New Year, New Beginnings!

As many of you know, I have finally reached my last semester at BYU and (if I can survive this last stretch in one piece) I have some big life changes ahead of me!  I am happy to be back home and excited to see what the new year brings.  Instead of writing "new year's resolutions" for 2013, I have set a few smaller goals for myself this year and thought it would be a good idea to write them on the blog so that I can hold myself accountable and track my progress.

Goals for 2013:

Blog More!! As you guys have probably noticed (if you have been following for the past year) my blog posts have increased as of late and I want to continue that pace!  I really enjoy writing about the things I do from day-to-day; whether that be cooking, exercising, or hanging with my family.  One thing I really hope to improve, however, are my photography skills.  Sadly I am only a beginner but I hope to take classes this year to improve my abilities!

Fitness:  For those of you who know Stephen and I personally, we are all about exercising on a consistent basis.  With an unfortunate combination of sickness, holiday parties, and travel, our gym outings have become few and far between so here is to jumping back on the bandwagon and getting to the gym at LEAST 3 times a week!

Career:  As I stated above, I am graduating this semester (FINALLY) and will be entering the "real-world" work force soon.  I can honestly say that I am excited for this new chapter in my life and my goal is to find a job that I am excited to do on a daily basis.

Anyways, those are all for my goals for 2013 (I have learned that simplicity is the best policy for new year's resolutions).  I am so excited for the many opportunities that lay in my future and cannot wait to blog about them ;)

Happy New Year,

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Chocolate Caramel Bark

Hello! I hope everyone had a wonderful New Years and that you are all well rested and healthy! I myself am just getting over a pretty bad cold but luckily Christmas Break has allowed me to sleep it off :)  For today's post, I wanted to share an awesome recipe I made last week in NC.  I was inspired by the peppermint bark post I did a couple weeks ago, and thought it would be fun to do something sweet and salty in the same form.  I have to say this will become a yearly tradition as it was even better than the peppermint bark! It has a dark chocolate layer on the bottom, then a salted caramel middle, and a semi-sweet chocolate top with a pretzel garnish....pretty much AMAZING! Once again, this recipe does take a bit of patience and time, however, it is by no means impossible! 

16 oz. 60% Dark Cocao Baking Chocolate
16 oz. Semi-sweet Baking Chocolate
About 1 cup of caramel sauce (recipe for my version below)
About .5-1 cup of smashed pretzels (to use as a garnish)
2 cups sugar
8 tbs. butter
1 cup heavy cream 

Caramel Sauce:
Ok, so you are going to want to prepare this caramel sauce in advance to make sure it has time to cool and thicken before using it in the bark.  First, place the sugar in a pot on the stove over a medium heat.  I like to make sure my pan isn't to shallow to avoid splashing myself with super hot caramel.  Allow the sugar to slowly melt (you can add a tablespoon of water at this point if you like) occasionally stirring to avoid burning.  Once it becomes an amber color, add the butter (at room temp. and diced into small pieces) into the liquid sugar.  This will bubble ALOT but don't worry it will make the caramel SUPER delicious :) Once the butter has settled take the pan off the heat and add the cream (I recommend taking it off the heat because this will bubble even more).  Once the cream has been added, stir the mixture and turn the heat on low (you can also add a little sea salt at this time to bring out the flavor).  The caramel may be more "liquidy" at this point but don't worry! It will thicken as you let it sit.

Chocolate Layers:
OK, so here it where it gets a little tricky just because of time sensitivity.  Once your caramel has thickened, place a double-boiler or a pot with a fitted heat-resistant bowl on top of the stove (remember that the water shouldn't be touching the base of the bowl).  Next, get out a cookie-sheet and line it with parchment paper.  (You may also want to clear out space in your freezer as you will need to freeze this layer). Now you are going to want to place about half of the chocolate into the bowl and allow it to melt.  Make sure you use a spatula and stir the chocolate during all of this as it is quite easy to burn.  Once the chocolate is about half melted add in the rest of the bag.  Once all the chocolate has melted and there are only a few lumps, remove the bowl from the pot and finish stirring away from your heat source.  This allows the chocolate to become smooth and glossy and again prevents burning. Once completed, pour the chocolate onto the cookie-sheet, making sure to even it out with the spatula.  Place layer into freezer.

Once your base layer has solidified (should take about 5 minutes).  Pour the caramel over the chocolate (you probably won't need all of it) and gently smooth it in an even layer.  Place into the freezer.

Ok!! Now we have two layers completed and only one more to go! The third layer is the easiest and you just need to repeat the directions for melting the chocolate as posted above :). I would recommend making sure the caramel is solid enough that you can pour the third layer over top without it mixing together (this almost happened to me!). Now evenly spread a layer of crushed pretzel. Just another little tip, make sure to score the bark to allow for easy cutting later.   And once the third layer is done, you can put it in the freezer to solidify the whole thing :)

This is a seriously delectable recipe! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!