About Me

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Hello! I am Diana, wife to Ted. We are the parents to one miraculous 6-year-old little princess. Aside from my daughter my earthly passions include home-cooking at an intermediate level, Music, knitting, photography, learning Adobe Photoshop, digital scrapbooking, and online social networking.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Cake Mix Whoopie Pies

Whoopie pies are a Maine/New England staple. I think they exist in other parts of the country, but are called different names in different regions. They are a favorite in our house, especially with the hubster & little princess. One year we ordered hubby a giant Whoopie Pie cake from a bakery, but I had never attempted to make them on my own (until yesterday).

My desire to make them at home blossomed about 9 years ago when my boss, at the job I was working, brought in a platter of homemade Whoopie Pies. I will never forget how they tasted, they were incredible. Sadly, she would not share her recipe, at that time, hehehe. Making them has been at the back of my mind since then, and I finally did it yesterday.

This is a bit of a shortcut recipe, as it uses cake mix, but I don't really see that as a cheat. Both the cake part & the buttercream filling are SUPER easy to make. I am sooo happy with how these turned out on my very first attempt. These recipes are hybrids of various recipes & info I found around the web.

Cake (ignore directions on the box):

1 box chocolate cake mix (I used devil's food)
1/3 cup water
3 tbsp oil
2 Eggs

Buttercream filling:

1 cup softened (NOT MELTED!!!) butter
1 cup butter flavored shortening
6 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tsp. vanilla
6 oz. heavy whipping cream.

For the cake, add all ingredients to the bowl and beat on high for about a minute and a half. The resulting batter will be VERY thick, much thicker than regular cake batter. The baked batter will be almost cookie like.

I had read, on one recipe, that these get very big and to only drop them out onto the baking sheet by teaspoonful, so I used my smallest scooper to drop the batter out. I don't know my scooper capacity sizes, but here they are, and I used the one on the left, haha! It turns out that they didn't get HUGE like the recipe said, so the middle one will be more appropriate when I make them next time. Also, have three self-portraits of me, I know you've always wanted one.

Drop batter onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Drop 6 per sheet, relatively far apart, because these spread out as they are baking.

This is what they look like after 10-12 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

For the filling, in a large mixing bowl, beat together butter & shortening until creamy. Add sugar 2 cups at a time, and beat until well blended. Add salt, vanilla & whipping cream, and beat until frosting is fluffy. If it is too dry, add more cream an ounce at a time until you get your desired consistency. This makes about doble what you will need for the amount of cake in one recipe, so next time i will double the cake recipe, or do one chocolate and one vanilla batch.

Fit a pastry bag (or ziplock with a corner snipped off...you know, same difference) with a coupler & large star tip. Get a tall glass (insert plug for our favorite pub here), and place bag inside, turning the sides out and down the glass. Then fill the lined cup with frosting, this is just an easier way to fill the pastry bag.

Once the cakes have completely cooled on a wire rack, use the pastry bag to pipe desired amount of filling onto bottom side of one cake, and top with another cake!

Don't forget to let the 6-year-old try her hand at filling some of them.


Thanks for reading!

Dinner Nachos

Here is a quick little blog post for a quick, easy & tasty dinner that can feed a lot of people with very little food prep. I made dinner nachos for the first time last night, based on a recipe I had eaten at my friend Ash's house. This is a bit of an artery clogger, but it would be very easy to switch out many of the ingredients for lower fat ones. Also, you can embellish this anyway you like! I would have added fresh scallions if I had remembered to buy them. I would have added sliced black olives if my husband didn't pretend to vomit every time I serve them to him. You could also top it with chopped fresh cilantro, but don't invite me over, I am a member of this group: http://ihatecilantro.com/ .

1 bag of your favorite tortilla chips
1 lb lean ground beef
3 cloves garlic
1 packet fajita seasoning
1/4 cup water.
1 can black beans, rinsed & drained
1 jar of salsa con queso (found near the salsa in the grocery store)
1/2 taco sauce
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
sour cream (optional)

In a skillet, brown ground beef with crushed garlic. When almost browned, add fajita seasoning & 1/4 cup water. Add black beans to skillet. Mix and stir another 2-3 minutes until fully cooked and beans are heated through. Drain & set aside.

Line a baking pan with parchment paper, and spread out a layer of chips.

Then layer on the beef & beans:

Followed by the salsa con queso (I don't usually go for cheeze-whiz type products, but I love salsa con "queso"):

Drizzle on the taco sauce:

Top with shredded cheddar.

Heat broiler and broil approx. 3 minutes until cheese is melted & slightly toasted.

Use a spatula to serve. Top with sour optional sour cream, chopped scallions, or (not) chopped cilantro.
I am guessing this will feed a family of 5-6 normal people. My husband and I were naughty and ate almost the whole pan...

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Wine Review: 2 Copas Vino Blanco - 2009

Price $6.00
Varietal: white wine blend (20% Torront├ęs, 80% Pedro Gimenez)
Location: Mendoza, Argentina
Alcohol Content: 13.3%

Let me just start out by saying that this wasn't my favorite white wine ever. I tend to like blends because some straight up grape varietals are too intense for me. I grabbed this cheap bottle, from the local beer & wine shop) in an attempt to eek out one more bottle from our weekly grocery budget. I was intrigued because it was made of grapes that I had never tasted. Torront├ęs & Pedro Gimenez (I did have the fleeting thought that, perhaps, Pedro Gimenez was not a grape at all, but the poor fellow who fell into one of the vats at the vineyard). Either way, I wanted to try it.

Upon smelling it, the first thing I got was VERY strong alcohol, botanicals, perfume, and paint thinner (this was interesting because it made me think of a Sauternes that I tried). On the palette it was musky grape, ALCOHOL, dry and very, very tart apple. So tart it was bordering on an almost cranberry flavor. The finish was the best part, despite some intense afterburn in my belly from all that alcohol. Very sour green apple, not the candy kind, the crab apple kind that grow wild, here in New England. The apple finish lasted for a pretty long time.

In honesty, I found this wine a little hard to drink. It is very, very tart, and not in a good mouth puckering way. Heavy alcohol in the nose was a turn-off that almost made me not want to taste it. But it's wine, and in the end I drink what I pour! I think the tartness of the cranberry flavor was a bit much for me, and the alcohol burn is a little annoying. I did like the childhood nostalgia of the crab apple on the finish. This would be a good second of the night party wine, when a 9% Riesling just isn't cutting it for the purpose at hand.

I had a second glass of this with pizza, and it did improve, but only marginally. The contrast of the tartness in the wine made the sweetness of the pizza sauce all the more enjoyable. However, I wasn't looking forward to each sip. I'd drink and then dive for the pizza. It may be that the pizza was so good because of how marginal the wine is. I read that plantings of the Pedro Gimenez grape are on the decline in South America, and all other things being equal, I think I know why.

I used the remainder of the bottle to make the sauce in my previous post, and it was fine. In that context.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Attempting a comeback...4 years later!

This is the first post of my "new" blog. I am back, with a slightly revamped blog. As for why I have been absent, "they" tend to say, "life got in the way." My intention is to keep food cooking as the focus of this blog. I will be doing budget wine reviews, and maybe to odd music post here & there.I just want to jump in and get things rolling with a new recipe that I threw together tonight. It doesn't have a name, but I think I will call it "Bacon, Tomato & White Wine Pasta Toss." Succinct and original, I know.

5 large tomatoes
8-10 cloves of garlic, pressed
5-6 shallots (or 1/2 sweet red onion), diced
1/2 bell pepper, finely diced
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 lb of bacon, chopped
1/2 bottle (325 ml) of white wine
1 box of spaghetti (or other pasta)
1.5 cups fresh grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese


Chop tomatoes, onion/shallots, & bell pepper. Press 2 cloves of garlic into the onions.

I recommend draining the tomatoes, to eliminate some of the moisture in the sauce. I just put them into a metal strainer and place it in a bowl and leave it to drain while I prep the other ingredients.

Put chopped bacon in a heated skillet and stir-fry until done to your liking (I don't like my bacon too crispy). While the bacon is cooking, grate the cheese (I used Asiago) and get out the wine (my next entry will most likely be on this bottle of wine. Let's just say, it was a good cooking wine, haha).

When the bacon is done cooking, drain it and set aside.

Return skillet to stovetop and deglaze the brown bits stuck on the pan with a few splashes of white wine. Stir until you have a rich brown liquid. Add the onions & 2 cloves of garlic, and bell pepper. Saute in liquid, until onions & pepper are soft and have turned a rich dark color. If the pan dries out berfore the vegetables are tender, keep adding a few splashes of wine.

When the onions & peppers are done, add the tomatoes, basil, thyme & organo to the pan, and pour in the remainder of the wine.

This is the obligatory picture of cooking pasta according to package directions.

Bring the sauce to a simmer, and continue to simmer for 10 minutes or until it reaches a consistancy desirable to you (I like a thick consistency so I simmer it a little longer). Drain pasta, ad it to the skillet and toss with sauce, bacon & grated cheese.

Not to toot my own horn (ok yes, to toot my own horn), I would be very happy if this were served to me in a restaraunt, and my husband really liked it too!

The final result:

Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Fresh Off The Needles: Autumn Toddler Sweater

Well, the last time I blogged about knitting was back in July because I took a break from knitting most of the summer. But I am back into it now and wanted to share my latest completed project. It is a toddler sweater for the Little Princess. It is the same pattern I have used to knit baby sweaters, and is adapted from Baby Knits for Beginners by Debbie Bliss. It is my favorite knitting pattern book that I have ever used, and there are some great intermediate projects in there as well. I borrowed the book from my SIL about 3 years ago and haven't given it back (((blush))). I highly recommend it for anyone wanting to knit non-complicated stuff for babies & toddlers:

I say the pattern is adapted because I used the pattern for "Sweater with Square Set-In Sleeves" which has a diamond stitch pattern. I did the sweater in straight stockinette stitch choosing to do a striped color pattern instead.

Back in the spring, I knit a sage & rose toddler dress for her in the same pattern that I used for other dresses I have talked about on here, and I loved to color combo so much (and had the leftover yarn in my stash) that I decided to do up a sweater for the Little Princess for fall.

It knits up fairly quickly on size 7 needles, it took me 3 days to complete the body panels & neck band, but not without a small glitch that involved the sweater not fitting over my child's giant melon, and me having to rip out my bind-off and redoing it. And then knitting fatigue set in, my pace slowed and it took me another whole week-and-a-half to finish the sleeves and the sewing together.
Anyway, it's done, it fits great, and I am really happy with it. The princess seems to like it as she keeps picking it up and saying "Mommy, you knit this for me?" :)

Here are a few pics I snapped with her in it, and a little digiscrapbook page I did about it:

This scrapbook page was created using all goodies you can find over at The Sweet Shoppe.

That's it on the knitting front for now. There could be a baby shower for a close friend on the horizon, so we shall see what kind of projects that may bring! Thanks for reading!

-Diana, The Ivy Kitchen

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Make Mine a 4-Way, Please!

Oh. Hi. O...I know I haven't done a legitimate cooking entry in over a month now, but here I am with a discovery that I have been wanting to share for awhile! Back in August my friend Ryann from A Working Mommy's Blog, and a Cincinnati girl, asked our collective mommy's board if we thought this was weird:

Chili served over spaghetti with shredded cheese & onions.

As a New England girl, I had never heard of such a thing, nor have I ever travelled to Ohio. My first thought was about Texas-style chili over spaghetti, which sounded interesting. She claimed (her claims have now proven to be beyond reproach, hehehe) that she got it that way at a restaurant called Skyline. Our friend Terri, also a Cincy girl at heart, backed her story up. The whole idea intrigued me, but I had never heard of it being served that way. So I went to do some reading.

Not only do people, indeed, eat their chili over spaghetti in Cincinnati but there are lots of restaurants (or chili parlors) that cator to this very demographic! In reading the Wikipedia article found here, I discovered that the chili in question was not at all like Texas style chili. Same basic idea but with more eastern European and middle eastern influences with the use of cinnamon, cloves, and chocolate! The culinary adventurer inside of me was starting to get really piqued.

I also read some about Skyline which appears to have more than just a cult following among Cincinnati natives and extends to those who've relocated all across the country. People have cans of it shipped to where they are. Apparently the chili is traditionally served as a 2-way (chili over spaghetti noodles), 3-way (chili, noodles & completely covered with shredded sharp cheddar cheese), 4-way (chili, noodles, cheese, fresh chopped onions) or a 5-way (chili, noodles, cheese, onions, and kidney beans).

I looked up recipes for Cincinnati chili, and lo and behold, there was one at allrecipes, under my nose the whole time! In reading the reviews of the recipe over and over were the words "very similar to Skyline." So follows the recipe that would change my culinary presuppositions forever, or at least taste really, really good.

Cincinnati Chili from AllRecipes.com (with a few slight modifications by me).

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 pounds ground beef
1/4 cup chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 bay leaf
1/2 (1 ounce) square unsweetened chocolate
2 (10.5 ounce) cans beef broth
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 6 minutes.

Add beef, in batches if necessary, and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until browned. Now here is where I altered the recipe just slightly. In reading the reviews on allrecipes, many people stated that the "authentic" way to make this was to boil the ground beef in the broth. So that is what I did, I added the broth to the sauteed onions, brought it to a boil and cooked the ground beef in it. I get a finer consistency from the ground beef this way.

Add chili powder, cinnamon, cumin, allspice, cloves, bay leaf, chocolate, beef broth (see above), tomato sauce, cider vinegar, and red pepper.
Stir to mix well. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
It is the best if you now refrigerate overnight. I did not let it sit over night, and it was still DELICIOUS!

Remove the bay leaf. Reheat gently over medium heat. Serve over hot, drained spaghetti. Top with shredded cheddar cheese. End recipe.
The chili is supposed to be a thinner consistency and mine turned out pretty thick, but it is because I should have added another cup or so of beef broth after the meat was cooked. That being said, both DH and I loved it with a thicker consistency and he even said he likes this better than traditional spaghetti sauce.
It was very good, and this recipe makes more than enough to freeze for future meals. We ate ours as a 4-way, DH is not big on beans, and it was just so delicious. The picture at the top of the entry shows a scant amount of cheese compared to how it is served in restaurants, but I was trying to be good. Hopefully I will get to visit Ohio one day and stop by for some authentic Skyline chili! And a big thank-you to Ryann and my Cincy girls for introducing me to it.
-Diana, The Ivy Kitchen

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My (not so) Secret Shame

Ok, the time has come for me to let you all know why I REALLY have been slacking in my blog posting. I have an addiction problem. Well, if you can be addicted to pixels that is. Yes, I have a pixel addiction. It has even been taking over my will to...cook. I am so ashamed (not really).

More specifically I am addicted to pixels in the form of BEAUTIFUL digital scrapbooking kits, and even more specifically the kind they sell over at Sweet Shoppe Designs. I have been intrigued by the concept of Digi for some time, since meeting Lauren from Lauren Grier Designs. I've always looked at her beautiful digital scrapbook pages in awe, and even tried to do it some back in 2006, but gave up. Then I got one of Lauren's kits in a little giveaway she did on a forum we are both on. They say the first one is not addictive...LIARS!

My love for photography and Photoshop lend itself to digital scrapbooking, so it was a natural for me. I am not saying I am any good at it, but the Sweet Shoppe kits definitely let me produce pages that I am proud of., and have given me a medium to work with in continuing to learn about Photoshop. I get 8x8 inch prints made up at a photo lab and put them into an 8x8 album. It is so much fun and I love having an album of lovely decorated pages. The other great thing about digital scrapbooking is being able to share them online with friends and family. The fun, inspirational challenges over at the Sweet Shoppe are just a bonus!

Anyway...so that has been the hobby I have been kind of throwing myself into learning these past few weeks, and I just wanted to let everyone know that I am in NO WAY abandoning my blog, in fact I have a good entry in the works about Cincinatti Chili (ever heard of such a thing?), so I hope to have that up soon!

-Diana, The Ivy Kitchen