Buffalo Tofu Tacos and a Bake-off

I really enjoy tofu. I know that many people are turned off by its texture and lack of flavor, but those are two qualities I appreciate. I’m not one of those people that is easily persuaded by texture, as I know a lot of people are (though I do have my limits with super-slimy). And as for flavor, that’s easily fixable – tofu is so incredibly versatile and it’s like a sponge; almost any flavor can seep into its pores.

That being said, when I had a craving for buffalo chicken, I figured I would give buffalo tofu a shot. I didn’t want to simply marinate some tofu in Frank’s Red Hot and call it a day – it needed some frying action first. That reminds me of the other reason I like tofu – it’s so easy to prepare. All you need is a deep skillet with canola oil, slices of extra firm tofu that’s been pressed to get rid of excess water, and buffalo sauce. Heat the oil, add the tofu (try not to touch it except to flip) and cook it on either side about 2-3 minutes. It’s that easy! I served my tacos with red onion, shredded lettuce, avocado, diced tomatoes, and some shredded cheese. YUM.

On Tuesday  night my kitchen was put to the test. Aside from making the above dinner, I also had to prepare my entry for our company bake-off. I decided to make How Sweet Eat’s Peanut Butter Pretzel Truffles, and RecipeGirl’s Oreo Cheesecake Bars. I didn’t have time to snap a picture of the truffles, but look at these Oreo bars. I knew I had a pretty good chance at placing.

After all was said and done, I wound up taking first AND second place! I scored a gift card and a dessert cookbook – two things I can’t wait to put to good use.

Can I Have S’more?

The Sandlot was a favorite movie of mine growing up. I remember we got to watch it one year in elementary school (either third or fourth grade) and they fast forwarded through the pool scene when Squints fakes drowning just so he can smooch Wendy Peffercorn. Of course, one of my favorite scenes was their “camp-out” when Hamilton “Ham” Porter asks Scotty Smalls if he wants a s’more, and he replies with “how can I have s’more if I haven’t had anything yet?” Ahh, classic.

So, what’s the point of all that blabbering? Well, I had s’mores this weekend! This month’s Hormel Extended Family Food Blogger theme was a camp-out. I was sent some graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate to help facilitate my event. While a camp-out wasn’t in my cards, I was able to make a s’mores pie, and hunker down with my fiancé waiting for Hurricane Irene to hit. Thanks to the generous folks at Hormel, I only had to supply the chocolate and butter for the delicious s’mores pie recipe I found over at How Sweet It is.

I mean, just look at that thing! I knew I had to make it before the storm hit us in New Jersey, just in case the power went out. While my fiancé was filling water bottles, I was making pie – priorities. I almost ruined the entire pie when I tried to roast the marshmallows, and they literally caught on fire. I was able to scrape off the char, and it looked like nothing had happened. After that almost fiasco, I set to have my first attempt at faux meatballs with pasta (recipe coming soon).

We had our own little camp-out by the TV watching The Weather Channel, enjoying our spagetti and “meat” balls, red wine, and s’mores pie. Thankfully, we never lost water or power, but the surrounding areas definitely got hit hard. The evening proved that indoor campouts can be fun, too!

Birthday Cupcakes

If you’re a somewhat regular reader of this blog, or even if you simply look at the tag cloud on the right of the blog, you know that I love cupcakes. So it’s no surprise that I made sure to have plenty of cupcakes in the days surrounding my birthday!

On Sunday, the fiancé and I headed into the city with plans to go to a museum. Unfortunately we forgot about The Pride Parade, so our plans were interrupted. We certainly had plenty of entertainment watching the parade, though. On our way home we stopped at a bakery called Sweet in Hoboken for some cupcakes. Since we live in New Jersey, we try to find the easiest (and cheapest!) ways to get in and out of the city, and on Sunday we figured driving to Hoboken and parking there would be our best bet.

Sweet is cute and simple, and more importantly, has delicious cupcakes. We happened to get there at 5pm when they were closing at 6pm, so all of their cupcakes were by one-get one free! They have both regular and mini sized cupcakes, so the fiancé and I figured it was the perfect opportunity to sample a lot of what they had to offer. I also appreciated the fact that they were looking to get rid of the cupcakes, meaning they  make them fresh every day – no one likes a cold, stale cupcake! For a mere $4.75 the fiancé and I each got to sample a red velvet, vanilla, mocha, ganache, coconut, and fluffernutter (only 4 pictured below). They were all delicious! I wish I had them in the full size so I could have enjoyed even more of them.

For my birthday on Tuesday, of course I had to have cupcakes to celebrate. So, my family brought over four Crumbs cupcakes to try (King Cone, Baba Booey, Three Muskateers, and Peanut Butter Cup). Between the six of us (my parents, sister, her boyfriend, and the fiancé) we each sampled each of the cupcakes – YUM.

Not only did we have the Crumbs cupcakes to enjoy, but I also received cupcakes from Serial Baker! Now this girl is serious – she dropped off birthday cupcakes for me at 10:30p on the eve of my birthday. I was so zonked from my morning run that I was already in bed, so my fiancé actually received the package for me. I had a recipe for a twist on S’mores cupcakes in my head, and she was able to bring them to fruition. A great bakery could always be able to bring to life the recipes in your head. I had mentioned I had a recipe for them and wanted to make them, but just didn’t have the time or energy, so I opted to make two simple pies and bring them to work. So, she decided to make them for me! I have such good friends – look at that bad boy. [The picture is actually from Serial Baker’s post, but was taken by my fiancé – circle of blogging!].

Needless to say, my birthday was pretty sweet! It was made even sweeter by the awesome gifts I received – a no-slip yoga towel, running socks, a yoga mat carrier, a cupcake stand, and a Marc Jacobs bag I’ve been eyeing up for a few months. Next up in terms of celebrations are my bridal shower, bachelorette party, and of course, the wedding. I can’t wait!

Vegan Baking

I’ve known many a vegan in my life, and even more vegetarians. Up until recently, however, I hadn’t ever experienced vegan baking. A good friend of mine was once a vegan herself and just so happens to be the delicious mastermind behind Serial Baker. So, every now and then she makes vegan treats since she has quite a few friends that are vegans. After sampling yet another amazing cupcake from her (recipe and drool-worthy pictures here), I decided to give vegan baking a try.

I don’t remember how I stumbled upon this recipe from Namely Marly, but I was excited to see that I had almost all of the ingredients on hand. I had been given a generously sized jar of Tropical Tradition’s Coconut Oil awhile back to sample, and was pleased to see the recipe called for coconut oil. It had never occured to me that coconut oil is a great substitue for butter because of it’s not quite liquid, not quite solid state. Using the coconut oil as well as some apple sauce made the cookies super moist and chewy, which happens to be my favorite qualities of a good cookie.

Now that I’m aware of coconut oil’s versatility, I’m looking forward to incorporating it more into my baking. Though I do really need to work on my presentation. These cookies blobbed together, as do most of my cookies. I realize that it isn’t always about looks (taste is much more important), but I do want my baked goods to look pretty, too! I suppose that will come with practice, and I certainly haven’t made enough cookies in my life to even think for a second I’ve had practice. I’m also hoping some new baking and cookie sheets will help do the trick (along with all of the other awesome kitchen gadgets on my wedding registry).

So what’s the bottom line here? Vegan baking can be absolutely delicious (for all you skeptics out there), coconut oil is awesome, and you should go make these cookies. Okay, so that was more than one line.

Baby Overload

I know some people reading this might see the word “baby” in the title and automatically assume it has to do with me – but alas, it does not! No babies for me over here. However, I’ve been spending a lot of time with babies, particularly my cousin’s adorable 4-month old, who you can oggle at below…

Baby Mia!

…And also in helping to plan a co-worker’s surprise baby shower. Both have been daunting tasks since I have little to no baby experience, but I think I’ve done well!

At any rate, after work on Wednesday I got right down to business as I had plans to make some hummus, cake balls, and the most amazing and delicious looking chocolate chip cookie, Oreo cookie, and brownie combo-dealy. Oh yes, you read that correctly. I had grand plans to celebrate National Running Day, but with all the work ahead of me, plus the tornado watches that were in effect, I figured I didn’t want to risk being taken away Dorothy & Toto style.

Last time I attempted cake balls they tasted fine, but they were far from pretty. A combination of not having enough chocolate to coat them and not really knowing what I was doing were the major factors. After doing some research for proper ball-coating techniques (insert giggles here), I decided to give it another shot. While these came out much better than my last attempt, they are still far from perfect. I’m thinking next time I’ll try candy melts instead of chocolate, actually buy lollipop sticks, and take a little more care when mixing the cake with the frosting.

I also made Kevin & Amanda’s Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie ‘n Oreo Fudge Brownie Bar… try and say that three times fast! There really aren’t any words to describe this aside from unbelievably awesome. Seriously, how could something that combines chocolate chip cookies, Oreos, and fudgey brownies all in one not be amazing? I figured it would be a ton of work to combine all of that together, but it really wasn’t. It also helped that everything I was making (cake balls and dinner) needed to be cooked at the same temperature. Perfect multitasking! Just look at the layers of deliciousness – you need to go and make these…

I also made some homemade hummus and paired it with some pita just to try and prevent a complete sugar overload. Another co-worker brought in a cheese & olive plate, which was also a huge hit. At the end of the day I think (and hope!) my manager was pleasantly surprised not only by the shower, but also with the gifts and yummy goodies we gave her. She’s due in July, and I can’t wait to meet her baby! Plus, everyone else in the office was impressed with my treats, and it’s always nice to hear positive feedback!

Muffin Remix

I haven’t been posting much these days, but I promise I’ve been in the kitchen! Even though I’m done with classes for the semester, a new project has taken it’s place – wedding planning! Obviously, I’ve been planning the wedding for quite some time now seeing as that we got engaged back in January 2010, but with the wedding a mere three months away, I’m in wedding overdrive.

Having taken off two weeks from running to try and rest my achey and less than perfect legs, I set out for a two mile jaunt sans music and GPS, just to get myself back in the swing of things. It was hot (85 degrees with 70% humidity), so of course it felt much worse than it actually was. Either way, it was nice to be back out there. I’ve been having a lot of fun experimenting with yoga, and I can already see some extra definition in my arms, but running is still my favorite.

After the run and a much needed shower, I decided to make some muffins. I basically took the same recipe from my Coconut Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Muffins, and made them Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Muffins… YUM! I left out sugar simply because I wasn’t paying attention. So, if you want your muffins sweeter, I would suggest adding 1/2 cup of brown sugar to the mix. Whoops!

I love muffins for one simple reason – you can eat them at any time of day as an acceptable snack. Sure you typically associate a muffin with breakfast, but you really can eat it at any time of day without breaking eating rules. We all know I’m not one for following rules, especially when it comes to eating, but you get my point.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Muffins
–  makes 12 muffins –

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup oatmeal (not instant)
1/4 cup chunky peanut butter
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 cup butter
1 cup milk
1 egg
1 cup of chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
2. Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl (including coconut)
3. Heat butter, and stir in milk and the egg. Add that mixture into the dry mixture, to combine, finally adding in the chocolate chips.
4. Spoon mixture into greased cupcake/muffin tin, and bake for 15 minutes.

Oven Workout

After the success of my lasanga “cupcakes,”  I decided to keep with the savory baking trend and give beer bread a try. I’ve had beer bread on my list of things to make for awhile but just haven’t gotten around to it. So, I took advantage of some extra time I had on Friday night to give my oven a nice workout (after completing my own, of course).

I’ve read here and there that for those who actually make bread themselves (meaning from scratch, adding the yeast, kneading it, etc.), it can be pretty tedious and a bit nerve wracking while you wait to let it rise. By using beer, though, you skip the requirement of kneading and setting. Since I’m pretty impatient, this worked out very well for me. While the house was filling with the sweet smells of fresh baked bread, my head started spinning with all the possibilities of flavor variations that I could do with such a simple recipe. Dark beer and chocolate? Yes. Summer beer and fruit? Oh yeah.

Quick ‘n Easy Beer Bread
– makes 1 loaf –

3 cups of all purpose flour
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 tsp salt
3 Tbsp of sugar
12 oz. your favorite beer 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Combine dry ingredients, and slowly mix in beer until fully incorporated
3. Spoon the mixture into a greased bread/loaf pan 
4. Bake for 1 hour 

Feeling Free

For the first time in I’d say probably about a year (since I started grad school), I didn’t have any solid plans on Saturday aside from yoga in the morning. The thought of being able to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted sounded absolutely glorious; I felt like a 17 year old that had just gotten her license and was free to cruise around town with her friends (well, one non-family member these days).

Don’t get me wrong, I like having things to do and structure in my life is important. However, it was great to not have homework and assignments plaguing me in the back of my mind. Taking the summer and fall semesters off so I can train for the Philly marathon and even more importantly finish up planning my wedding will hopefully leave me with a few more ounces of sanity. And it lets me start my weekends with things like this…

Beginning the day with yoga is great – it’s a relaxing way to get your body warmed up and ready for the day, while getting in physical activity. By the end of our hour and fifteen minute session, I could feel the weakness in my arms. In addition to logging miles, I’m hoping to incorporate more fitness-y activities as well; yoga, strength training, some different classes at the gym here and there, and of course reconnecting with the pool, etc. I’m hoping that by upping my overall fitness level, I’ll also help my running and even more importantly, prevent more injuries.

So, after yoga I got to work in the kitchen. I’ve had a few things I wanted to make backed up for awhile, so I figured it was time to actually make something. Since I hadn’t gone to the grocery store and needed important ingredients like flour, I opted for a recipe that only called for one cup of flour, and saved the other recipes for Sunday. I stumbled on this recipe from Andrea’s Recipes, and aside from using regular flour instead of whole wheat, chunky peanut butter instead of smooth, and less chocolate chips, I stuck to the recipe, and it ruled.

The only problem is that now I have it sitting my fridge, screaming my name. In order to ignore the cries, I went out for a solid 3.15 mile run, just to make sure I could enjoy more of the goodies later. And oh, they were (and still are being) enjoyed!

Cookie Cupcakes

As with every occasion I’m a part of, some type of baked good (usually in the form of cupcakes) are made. My fiancé’s birthday on Friday was no exception to the rule. I had planned to make these amazing looking rootbeer cupcakes from the always delicious How Sweet It Is blog. Unfortunately, the recipe called for rootbeer extract, and I just couldn’t find any; I wound up going to four different grocery stores on Monday afternoon, and after finally feeling defeated resolved myself to needing to figure out something different.

After spending some time thinking about what my fiancé likes and doesn’t like, and looking at a few different recipes, I settled on Cookies & Cream Cupcakes. I hadn’t decided if I wanted to do a whipped cream or buttercream frosting, but I figured I could make that decision last minute. We thankfully had the necessary ingredients for either frosting, so I didn’t have to make any extra trips.

My fiancé’s birthday and party was on Friday, but because Friday night parties are always so hectic with it being a workday, I made the cupcakes on Thursday night and stored them at room temperature in my cupcake carrier until I was ready to frost on Friday. Aside from the smashing of the cookies, they were easy to make. I cheated a little and just used a regular boxed white cake mix, as my inspiration for the recipe came from How to Eat a Cupcake’s post. I usually find that any cookies or candy pieces that I put into a cake tend to sink to the bottom. These cookies pieces stayed exactly in place, I think thanks to the use of sour cream. They were perfectly dense, but not too heavy, and definitely would work with either a whipped cream or buttercream frosting.

I had originally decided to make whipped cream frosting, but the cream never whipped; I have a feeling I was just impatient as the time before the party was slowly ticking. So instead, I decided to use a typical vanilla buttercream frosting and I threw some extra crushed Oreo pieces on top of the finished cupcakes, instead of mixed into the frosting itself. Thankfully they were still delicious and everyone was a fan!

Cookies & Cream Cupcakes
– makes 18 cupcakes –


30 Oreo cookies
1 package (18.25 ounces) plain white cake mix
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line cupcake baking sheet with paper liners. Set the pans aside.
2. Count out 8 Oreos and separate the top and bottom wafers. Make sure each has some of the icing on it. Place one wafer, icing side up, in the bottom of each paper liner. Set them aside. Place the remaining Oreos in a large, closed zipper-lock bag and crush them by rolling over them with a rolling pin. Set these crumbs aside.
3. Place the cake mix, sour cream, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Blend together. Measure out 1 1/2 cups of the crushed Oreos and fold these into the batter until well incorporated. Set aside the remaining crushed Oreos for the frosting. Spoon or scoop 1/3 cup batter into each lined cup­cake cup, filling it three quarters of the way full. Place the pans in the oven.
4. Bake the cupcakes until they are lightly golden and spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and place them on wire racks to cool for 15 minutes before frosting.

3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup buter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 tbsp whipping/heavy cream

1. In a medium bowl using either a hand mixer or stand mixer, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.
2. Add vanilla and cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency.

Muffin Love

Desserts are one of my favorite things. During the week, though, I rarely have time to make anything dessert related. So, while I was making dinner on Tuesday night, I had a great idea – oatmeal muffins! Conveniently, the oven was already pre-heated to the temperature I needed to cook them since I was roasting veggies. It was as though the baking stars had aligned, and I just had to bring my dreams of coconut chocolate chip oatmeal muffins to life.

I haven’t had oatmeal in awhile, and we have giant container of oats in our pantry. So while at work, I was trying to think of ways to put them to good use aside from a typical oatmeal cookie or overnight oats. I’ve never made muffins before, but since I’m a huge cupcake fanatic I thought it might be a nice change of pace. Plus, I’m obsessed with coconut and chocolate, and when they’re combined, it’s like kryptonite.

You really only  need about 20 minutes start to finish to whip up a batch of these badboys. This was some nice prep work for the cupcakes I’m planning to make for the fiance’s birthday! I have visions of slathering these with almond butter for breakfast, or with a spoonfull of vanilla ice cream for dessert…

Coconut Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Muffins
–  makes 12 muffins –

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup oatmeal (not instant)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter
1 cup milk
1 egg
2/3 cup of shredded coconut
1 cup of chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
2. Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl (including coconut)
3. Heat butter, and stir in milk and the egg. Add that mixture into the dry mixture, to combine, finally adding in the chocolate chips.
4. Spoon mixture into greased cupcake/muffin tin, and bake for 15 minutes.