#FoodBloggers4FL: Key Lime Pie Milkshakes

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Last week I shared Governor's Mansion Cookies with you as part of FoodBloggers4TX. When the group was created we had no way of knowing that Hurricane Irma was going to batter the Caribbean and Florida right before we shared the post.




Not wanting to leave those suffering from Irma out, it was nearly immediately decided that #FoodBloggers4FL needed to happen, as a way to let Florida residents know we are thinking of them and share with our readers reputable charities they could donate to if they so chose.



Irma was a little more personal for me than Harvey was. I don't really know anyone in Texas, but I know quite a few people in Florida. Both of my brother in laws are in the Tampa area and decided to stay and ride out the storm. My aunt and uncle are snowbirds and have a house in Fort Myers. They usually head down to Florida in October, but decided they're staying through the holidays this year.

The Florida Keys were hit particularly hard and while I have never visited there, it is a place I've always wanted to go. In honor of the Keys, I decided to make a recipe using key limes.


Key Lime Pie Milkshake
Source: Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 2 shakes
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Ingredients:
    • 1 pint vanilla or coconut ice cream (dairy-free works as well)
    • 2 sheets graham crackers, divided
    • ½ cup milk (non-dairy milk works as well)
    • ½ cup key lime juice
    • 1 tbsp key lime zest
    • lime slices for garnish

Directions:

1. Crush graham crackers into crumbs. Set aside ½ cup.
2. Add ice cream, milk, remaining graham cracker crumbs, key lime juice and zes to a blender.
3. Blend until combined. Pour into two large glasses and top with a lime wedge and graham cracker crumbs.

Seeing as I'm lactose-intolerant I made my milkshake using dairy-free coconut ice cream (there wasn't any vanilla at the store) and coconut almond milk. Coconut and lime go perfectly together and this milkshake was no exception. While the temperatures here haven't exactly cooled off, school is back in session and the pools are closed so summer is definitely on its way out and this little taste of summer was perfect for someone like me who hates the thought of the upcoming cold winter months.




The devastation from Hurricane Irma will be felt by Florida residents for weeks, months and even years to come. I can't even imagine what it is like to have your roof torn off, a tree on top of your car and your road flooded out. Your personal belongings soaked with rain water, your carpet soggy, your life entirely in shambles. My family was lucky. Their damage was very minor but it could have been so much worse. If you haven't donated to those in need after Hurricane Irma, or even if you have but you can still spare a little more, here is a list of reputable charities:



South Florida Wildlife Center
The SOS Foundation

Check out what the other bloggers have made:


Fantastical Food Fight: Honey Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

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I never understood the appeal of local honey versus store-bought honey until I picked some up from our local farmer's market last summer. Before that, it was just more expensive honey and since I rarely used it for anything other than baking where its flavor wouldn't shine through, I didn't see the need to spend more money.

And then I tried the local honey.

Oh.

Oh. There's a huge difference and I totally understood why people paid more money for a local honey.




The theme for this month's Fantastical Food Fight is honey. Fantastical Food Fight is a blogging event hosted by Sarah of Fantastical Sharing of Recipes. A theme is picked for each month and bloggers can make a recipe from a cookbook, something they found online or create their own using the themed ingredient and it's all shared on the same day (today) and linked up.



I wanted a recipe where the honey flavor would shine through and it's mildness wouldn't get lost when mixed in with other flavors. Cupcakes seemed like the perfect vessel for that.


Honey Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Source: The Cake Blog
Servings: 1 dozen cupcakes
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Ingredients:
    • for the cupcakes:
    • 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • ½ tsp salt
    • ½ cup buttermilk
    • ¼ cup local honey
    • 1 tsp vanilla paste
    • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • ¾ cup sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • for the frosting:
    • 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
    • 3 tbsp local honey
    • 3 cups powdered sugar
    • pinch of salt

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake pan with paper cupcake liners.
2. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
3. In another medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, honey and vanilla paste. Set aside.
4. In the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs, one at a time.
5. Alternate adding the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture to your stand mixer, starting and ending with the flour mixture until fully combined.
6. Fill each cupcake liner ⅔ of the way full.
7. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until lightly golden and a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to continue cooling.
8. Prepare the frosting by adding the butter and cream cheese to the bowl of your stand mixer and beating on medium speed with the paddle attachment until fully combined.
9. Add the honey and slowly add in the powdered sugar, ½ cup at a time until fully combined. Add in the salt.
9. If the frosting is too sweet, add a little more salt. If it is too thick, add a splash of milk until it is at the consistency you want.
10. Transfer the frosting to a piping bag and pipe frosting onto the cooled cupcakes.



Light and sweet, these cupcakes are the perfect use for some local honey! 



Improv Cooking Challenge: Apple Honey Challah Bread

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It's apple season! I absolutely love baking with apples and have tons and tons of recipes to show for it, but that never means that I'm not looking for something new to make with them.

A couple of years ago I created a list of recipes I wanted to make before I turned 28. One thing that was on that list that never got made was challah bread. I don't find working with yeast all that intimidating but for some reason this bread just never got on my weekly menu to get made.



Until the other weekend. The ingredients for September's Improv Cooking Challenge are apple and honey. The Improv Cooking Challenge is a blogging event with two paired ingredients each month and bloggers can make anything they choose using those ingredients. If you're interested in joining us, read more about it here.








Apple Honey Challah Bread
Source: Trial and Eater
Servings: 2 loaves
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Ingredients:
    • 2 packets yeast
    • 1 ½ cups warm water
    • ½ cup sugar
    • 6 cups all purpose flour, divided
    • 3 eggs, divided
    • 2 medium apples, peeled and diced
    • 3 tbsp honey

Directions:
1. Add yeast, water and sugar to the bowl of your stand mixer. Once the yeast has started to bubble, use the paddle attachment to mix in two cups of flour and the salt.
2. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until it has doubled in size.
3. Using the dough hook attachment slowly mix in the remaining 4 cups of flour and 2 whole eggs. Mix on medium until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl. Let rise for 1 more hour.
4. Turn out the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead it until it is smooth and elastic. Divide the dough into half and then divide each half into four pieces (8 pieces total).
5. Roll out each of the four balls into flat rectangles. Place half of the the diced apples down the center of each piece of dough. Drizzle honey on top of each.
6. Bring up both of the long ends of the dough over the apples and pinch to seal it closed.Take the roll on your far left and turn it lengthwise, tucking one of the ends under the right-middle piece of dough. Take the roll on your far right and turn it lengthwise tucking it under the roll closest to it and under the left-middle roll, creating a weaved square look. Twist each of the ends around each other and tuck under until the dough forms a circle-like shape.
7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 with the second set of 4 pieces of dough.
8. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly beat the remaining egg.
9. Place each of the loaves on the parchment paper. Brush with the beaten egg. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. 





I think I could have kneaded my dough a little longer because it didn't come out as smooth as challah bread is supposed to, but the taste was definitely spot on. The apples and honey add just a little bit of sweetness to this bread. I found that serving it with apple butter made my coworkers practically inhale it. 



Check out what the other Improver's made as well as what we've previous done by visiting our Pinterest board




#FoodBloggers4TX: Governor's Mansion Cookies

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Mother Nature has not been kind to the south in the past week or so. First there was Hurricane Harvey which devastated Texas and then along came Hurricane Irma who wreaked havoc on Florida. I know it's hurricane season and these things are to be expected when you live in those areas, but two back to back major hurricanes has me wanting to help out however I can.



Susanne, of New South Charm, had the wonderful idea that a group of bloggers could get together and share Texas-style recipes on the same day, linking our blogs together as a way to virtually show our support for those affected by Hurricane Harvey.


Right away I sought out a recipe to make and it didn't take long to decide on these cookies. As I've learned, there is a women's magazine that encourages the wives of presidential nominees to submit a cookie recipe and then the readers make them and a winner is declared. That right there, is the epitome of the south to me. These cookies were created by Laura Bush and are large and hearty enough to fill up even the hungriest of Texas cowboys.



Governor’s Mansion Cookies
Source: One Dish Kitchen
Servings: 3 dozen cookies
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Ingredients:
    • 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
    • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
    • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
    • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
    • ½ tsp salt
    • 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
    • ¾ cup sugar
    • ¾ cup brown sugar
    • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • 1 ½ cup old fashioned oats
    • 1 ½ cups chocolate chips
    • 1 cup pecans, chopped
    • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats.
2. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
3. In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add in both sugars and mix until fully combined.
4. Add in the egg then egg yolk, waiting until each are incorporated then add in the vanilla. Slowly add in the flour until fully mixed.
5. Add old-fashioned oats, chocolate chips, chopped pecans and shredded coconut. You may need to mix some in by hand if the mixer is struggling.
6. Scoop ¼ cup portions of the dough and place on a cookie sheet 3 inches apart. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until lightly golden.
7. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to continue cooking. 





When I was making these cookies I was a bit concerned that because they have so many ingredients that it would be too much and the flavors would overpower each other. I was very, very wrong. I rarely eat the baked goods that I make but I ended up having three of these. Tom had four and then I took 2 1/2 dozen into work which disappeared in a few hours. Everyone said how good they were. It's the perfect amount of sweet, crunchy and buttery. 

So thank you Laura Bush and Texas, for these wonderful cookies that a dozen or so Maryland residents got to enjoy. I've been thinking of y'all (I had to) and I hope you know we're all here to help however we can. 



If you are interested in donating to help anyone affected by Hurricane Harvey, here are a few charities: 

Houston Food Bank - http://www.houstonfoodbank.org
Salvation Army - Houston - http://salvationarmyhouston.org
Samaritan's Purse - https://www.samaritanspurse.org/disaster/hurricane-harvey/
Houston Humane Society - http://www.houstonhumane.org

Stay Strong Texas. We 💗 you!


FilltheCookieJar: Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Cookies

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Pumpkin already? I'm not ready! I swear I must be one of the few food bloggers that hangs onto summer with a vise-grip frowning at all things apple and pumpkin related. It's not that I dislike either of those ingredients; I'm actually a huge fan of both of them, but it's too early. I can't focus on anything fall related until it's too cold to wear flip flops.

#FillTheCookieJar is a group of bloggers who share a cookie or bar recipe based on a specific theme on the first Thursday of each month. Our host is Cynthia of Feeding Big. The theme for this month is Halloween.



I knew pretty much right away that I was going to make pumpkin snickerdoodles. First, snickerdoodles are my favorite cookies ever and second, pumpkin is mild so in my brain I equated these to being "mildly fall like". You know, so I can keep on pretending that summer isn't over and winter won't soon be following fall.


Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Cookies
Source: Cookaholic Wife creation
Servings: 3 dozen (36 cookies)
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Ingredients:
    • for the cookies:
    • 2 ⅔ cup all purpose flour
    • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
    • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • ½ tsp salt
    • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
    • 1 cup sugar
    • ½ cup canned pumpkin
    • 1 egg
    • 2 tsp vanilla
    • for rolling:
    • ⅔ cup sugar
    • 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
    • 1 tsp cinnamon

Directions:
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
2. In the bowl of the stand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat until combined. Then add the canned pumpkin, egg and vanilla, mixing until combined.
3. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture a little bit at a time until it is fully combined.
4. Turn out the cookie dough onto a sheet of wax paper. Form into a ball, roll up and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
6. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon.
7. Scoop tablespoon sized balls of dough, roll in the sugar mixture and place 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Use a fork to flatten slightly.
8. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden on the bottom.
9. Cool on a wire rack before transferring to an airtight container. Cookies will keep for 4-5 days. 


Tom ate a ton of these cookies as soon as I pulled them out of the oven and then the ones that I took into work were quickly devoured as well. They're light and pillowy with a nice balance between the cinnamon and pumpkin flavors. I think I somehow only used 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder versus the 1 1/2 actually needed because these cookies had a really hard time rising. Oops! 



Here is what everyone else made:

Lemon Oreo Bars by Family Around the Table
 Glazed Cider Cookies by That Recipe
 Caramel Apple Cookies by Home Sweet Homestead
 Applesauce Oatmeal Cookies by Palatable Pastime
 Witches Hats by A Day In The Life on The Farm
 Spooky Bites by Cindy's Recipes and Writings
 Pumpkin Snickerdoodles by Cookaholic Wife
  Monster Eyeball Cookies by Organized 31
 Breakfast Cookies by This and That


FoodieExtravaganza: #oktoberfest - German Meatballs and Spaetzle

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It's time for #FoodieExtravaganza again! Our theme for this month is Oktoberfest and it's being hosted by Sue of Palatable Pastime.

I'm actually attending my first Oktoberfest in a few weeks so I can't wait to report back on how the food is. I looked at different recipes for quite some time before choosing this one. I wanted to make something that I ate least had a decent chance of Tom trying. Noodles are usually a given with him and even though it meant I needed to order a spaetzle maker, I decided it was worth the nominal expense on Amazon to purchase one. (It cost me less than $20 for the spaetzle maker and a large straining ladle)



If you've had Stroganoff or Swedish Meatballs, this dish reminds me of that. It uses ingredients that almost everyone has in their pantry or fridge or are very easy to acquire. That's something I love about traditional recipes. Today, there's are recipes out there that require trips to two different grocery stores and a specialty market or online order just to get all of the ingredients. Which can be fun sometimes, but other times you just want to pop into the local store and pick up what you need without any hassle. 



German Meatballs and Spaetzle
Source: Food
Servings: 8
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Ingredients:
    • for the meatballs:
    • 1 lb ground beef
    • 1 egg, well beaten
    • ¼ cup milk
    • ¼ cup breadcrumbs
    • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
    • ¼ tsp poultry seasoning
    • salt and pepper
    • for the sauce*:
    • 1 ¼ cup beef broth
    • 8 oz. mushrooms, chopped
    • 1 medium onion, diced
    • 1 cup sour cream
    • 1 tbsp all purpose flour
    • 1 tbsp caraway seed
    • for the spaetzle:
    • 2 cups all purpose flour
    • 2 whole eggs, well beaten
    • ½ cup milk
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 2 tbsp butter, softened
    • 1 tbsp garlic powder

Directions:
1. First prepare the meatballs by combining the ground beef, egg, milk, bread crumbs, parsley, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper together in a medium bowl. Form into 1 ½ inch balls, about 24 in total.
2. Place meatballs in a large skillet and cook over medium high heat until browned on all sides. Drain any fat. Add the beef broth, mushrooms and onions to the skillet and reduce the heat to medium low. Cover, and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine the sour cream, flour and caraway seeds, stirring until fully combined. (*For a saucier meatball, double this portion.)
4. Add the sour cream mixture to the meatballs and stir to combine. Reduce heat to low and cover.
5. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
6. To prepare the spaetzle, sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Alternating, slowly add in the beaten eggs and milk, stirring until a firm, elastic dough is formed.
7. Transfer the dough into a spaetzle maker and drop into the boiling water. Spaetzle are done when they float to the top.
8. Use a strainer or slotted spoon to remove from the water and place in a large bowl. Add the butter and garlic powder and stir until all are coated.
9. Divide the spaetzle mixture onto plates. Divide the meatball mixture and place on top of the spaetzle. Serve immediately.




It's uncharacteristic of me, but I didn't get a chance to make this recipe until this past weekend. While everyone else was eating burgers and hot dogs, we took a German detour. The recipe is pretty easy to make, you can get the meatballs and sauce ingredients together ahead of time as well as your spaetzle dough. The hardest part was pushing the spaetzle through the maker, but only because we had painted the day before and my arm was already sore from a heavier than usual paint roller. 

Tom deemed the recipe "Kinda boring and bland" so I've decided he's no longer invited to taste-test my recipes. 😉

Check out what everyone else made!



Orange Crush + Popcorn

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For the past couple of years now it's become a tradition for my cousin and I to spend a long weekend with my aunt and uncle at their house in Bethany Beach, DE. Even though it's just the two of us, we call it a girl's weekend.

Each year is pretty similar, we do some shopping at the outlets, hit up the pool or the beach, capture a sunrise or two, visit our favorite restaurant and talk, talk, talk. My husband likes to joke that when my mom's side of the family is together (nearly all women) that we do nothing but talk and the sheer volume we produce from conversations can overpower anything the men are trying to watch on television.



A tradition that my aunt and uncle have is that happy hour is at 7 pm and dinner is at 8 pm. While that may seem like a late dinner to some, it really works out perfectly when you're on vacation and can't bring yourself to get off that pool chair or walk out of that one last store. Happy hour sometimes comes with an appetizer or two, and before we even got there I had a plan of what we would enjoy one evening.

If you're a Maryland local or have visited any of the beaches or surrounding Delaware and Virginia beaches, you've probably come across a drink on the menu called an Orange Crush. The origin of the crush seems to be pretty debatable, with multiple places saying they were the first to create it and even multiple versions of the drink out there, but either way, it's a super tasty and light drink to whip up on those hot summer days. But be careful, it's one of those drinks that goes down just a little too easily and you might not realize it until you go to stand up after dinner. 😉


Orange Crush
Source: various recipes
Servings: 1 drink
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Ingredients:
    • 2 oz. orange vodka (or unflavored)
    • 1 oz. triple sec
    • ⅓ - ½ cup orange juice

Directions:
1. Fill a glass with ice.
2. Pour in vodka and triple sec and top with orange juice. Stir and enjoy. 


It doesn't get much simpler than that, does it? A perfect pairing for a light drink like this is an equally light snack, especially when you already have a delicious dinner planned. The last thing you want to do is fill up on your appetizer, right? 




An easy appetizer choice is popcorn, like the original version of SkinnyPop. With only 39 calories per cup you can't even feel bad about eating a handful or two (or lets be honest, five) while you're talking with friends and getting dinner prepared. 

SkinnyPop has a variety of flavors you can choose from and created this handy image showing what type of drinks pair best with their flavor variety of popcorn. 



If an orange crush isn't your thing and maybe a Moscow Mule is, it also pairs perfectly with their original flavor. Or maybe you're feeling spicy and want to munch on some jalapeno flavored popcorn and what better way to cool down your tongue with a refreshing coconut margarita? The popcorn flavor and drink combinations are endless and I don't know about you, but this really makes me want to have another party and check out all of the pairings they've suggested! 

Also, in case you are having a few people over and don't want to get stuck making drinks as they arrive, you can easily increase the orange crush recipe ingredients to fill a pitcher and then leave out so your guests can serve themselves! Without ice and covered, the drink will keep in the refrigerator overnight as well. 







#BundtBakers: Strawberry Crunch Bundt Cake

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This blog post should really be titled "The cake that didn't want to cake."

I've known that the theme for this month's #BundtBakers was strawberry for a few months now. I made my first recipe back in early June when strawberries were plentiful and cheap. It was a strawberry rhubarb recipe and it promptly fell apart as soon as I sliced into it.

I tried again the next weekend, thinking perhaps I just used too many strawberries and the cake was too moist. Nope, cake mush, take 2.

A few weeks later, I tried out my mini bundt pan making a Neapolitan version that I was going to top with chocolate covered strawberries. Which would have been gorgeous if the entire cake hadn't needed to bake for so long that it turned dark brown and you couldn't tell the difference between what was supposed to be chocolate, strawberry and vanilla.



Three failed cakes is where most people give up, but I'm nothing if not persistent. However, I am also somewhat logical and decided that my final attempt in making a strawberry cake to share with you was going to use prepared cake mix in hopes that I could finally get one right.

BundtBakers

And it worked! While not gorgeous or perfect, it turned out well enough that I could share it with you (and finally stop making failed strawberry cakes!)


#BundtBakers is a group of Bundt loving bakers who get together once a month to bake Bundts with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all our of lovely Bundts by following our Pinterest board. We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.
Updated links for all of our past events and more information about BundtBakers, can be found on our home page. Our host for this month is Tammy of Living the Gourmet.




Strawberry Crunch Bundt Cake
Adapted from: Confessions of a Cookbook Queen
Servings: 12-16 slices
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Ingredients:
    • for the cake:
    • 1 box white cake mix, prepared
    • 1 box strawberry cake mix, prepared
    • for the frosting:
    • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
    • 2 tbsp cream cheese, softened
    • 2 cups powdered sugar
    • ½ cup fresh strawberries, mashed
    • 2-4 tbsp heavy cream
    • pinch of salt
    • for the crunch topping:
    • 6 vanilla oreo cookies
    • 4 shortbread cookies
    • 4 oz. freeze dried strawberries
    • 2 tbsp melted butter

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a bundt pan with non-stick spray.
2. Prepare the white cake mix according to package directions. Pour ⅓ of the batter into the prepared bundt pan.
3. Prepare the strawberry cake mix according to package directions. Pour ⅓ of the batter on top of the white cake mix in the bundt pan. Repeat with ⅓ of the white cake batter, ⅓ strawberry and finish with the remaining ⅓ of the white cake mix. (Discard remaining strawberry cake mix or make cupcakes)
4. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove cake from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack. 

5. Meanwhile, prepare the frosting by adding the butter and cream cheese to the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add in powdered sugar ½ cup at a time until combined. Add mashed strawberries and salt. Add in heavy cream 1 tablespoon at a time to thin out the frosting if needed.
6. Prepare the crunch topping by adding oreo cookies and shortbread cookies to a food processor and pulsing until fine. Add in melted butter and pulse until it comes together. Finally add in the freeze dried strawberries and pulse until mixed in.
7. Once the cake has cooled, place a plate on top of the bundt pan and flip it over so the cake is upright on the plate. Spread the frosting on the top and sides of the cake and then coat with the crunch topping.
8. Slice and serve. Uneaten cake should be covered and refrigerated. 





This cake is light and moist and full of strawberry flavor. It's not quite the same as those ice cream bars with a similar coating but it's still incredibly tasty. Tom had three slices before I reminded him that I was taking it into work. My coworkers had it gone within a few short hours. 



Fantastical Food Fight: Key Lime Coconut Rum Cake

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Last month I decided to join a new blogging event called the Fantastical Food Fight. It's hosted by Sarah of Fantastical Sharing of Recipes . Each month there is an ingredient or theme and bloggers can make any recipe that fits under those guidelines.

I made an ice cream base last month using almond milk and unfortunately when it came time to put it in the ice cream attachment of my Kitchenaid, I realized it had curdled. There wasn't enough time to make a new base so I begrudgingly had sat out and vowed to make a recipe far enough in advance this month to actually be able to share with everyone.



The theme for this month is rum and my first thought was "Hey! Right up my alley!" I searched through a ton of different recipes trying to figure out which to make for this and eventually ended up settling on a cake recipe that I found on Inside BruCrew Life.



I've had some serious cake making fails recently (more about that tomorrow) so I decided to follow the recipe nearly exactly (replacing unsweetened applesauce for oil and coconut flavored rum for light rum or rum extract) to reduce my chances in cake failure and not being able to participate. 




Key Lime Coconut Rum Cake
Source: Inside BruCrew Life
Servings: 10-12 slices
Printer Friendly

Ingredients:
    • for the cake:
    • 1 box white cake mix
    • 3 eggs
    • ¾ cup milk
    • ½ cup sour cream
    • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
    • ¼ cup key lime juice
    • 2 tbsp key lime zest
    • for the glaze:
    • 4 tbsp. Unsalted butter
    • ¼ cup sugar
    • 2 tbsp key lime juice
    • ½ cup coconut rum
    • for the frosting:
    • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
    • ½ cup vegetable shortening
    • 1 tsp coconut extract
    • 1 tsp coconut rum
    • 4 cups powdered sugar
    • ½ cup cream of coconut*
    • ¾ cup sweetened shredded coconut
    • key lime slices

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray 2 8-inch baking pans with baking spray or grease and lightly flour.
2. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the white cake mix, eggs, milk, sour cream, applesauce, key lime juice and key lime zest and mix on low speed until fully combined.
3. Divide the batter in half and pour each half into the prepared baking pan. Smooth the batter on top and tap the pan on the counter to remove any bubbles.
4. Bake the cake for 25-28 minutes or until lightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

5. Transfer the cakes to a wire cooling rack to allow to cool. 
6. Prepare the glaze by adding the butter to a small saucepan over medium heat and melting. Whisk in the sugar and key lime juice, whisking until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and whisk in the coconut rum. 
7. Prick holes into the cake with a fork or toothpick and pour the glaze on top, allowing it to soak down into the cake. Let cakes soak for 10 minutes.
8. Run a butter knife around the edge of the cake and invert over a plate. Repeat with the second cake. Cut off the top layer of the cake to make it even, if necessary.
9. Prepare the frosting by combining the softened butter and shortening together in the bowl of a stand mixer and beating on medium high speed until light and fluffy. Add the coconut extract and coconut rum. Slowly add in the powdered sugar ½ cup at a time, alternating with the coconut cream until both are used and a thick frosting has formed.
10. Spread a heaping layer of the frosting on top of one of the cooled cakes. Carefully lift up the other cake and place on top. Add more frosting to the top of the cake, leaving the sides naked. Sprinkle shredded coconut on top and then arrange lime slices on the frosting. 
11. Slice and serve immediately or store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. 


* Cream of coconut is referred to as the solid portion when you buy a can of coconut milk from the international aisle. You can also find cream of coconut in the drink mix section but it is thinner and you'll probably need to use less. If using the canned version, make sure to only scoop out the solids otherwise your frosting will separate. 



Isn't this cake adorable? It came together so easily! There is a mild lime flavor throughout the cake and then this sweet hint of coconut. 

Check out what everyone else made: 



Amazon Fresh: A Review

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Grocery delivery service seems to be the hot new thing. For the longest time, the only one I knew of was Peapod, which works with the Giant stores here. Then Amazon unveiled their Fresh program and Walmart followed up with their pick up service.

I've never really minded grocery shopping. I'm incredibly picky about my produce and know which times to go to the stores to avoid the crowd. I also love exploring the International Foods aisle to see what new-to-me things are out there.

I debated on using a service for a while. First, do I really want to pay for someone to deliver my groceries when I'm completely capable of going to the store and picking them out on my own? Second, do I trust someone to pick them for me?

I finally decided to try it out last weekend. Friday and Saturday we were supposed to have really bad storms and I will admit, grocery shopping in the rain is less than ideal. I checked out all of my options to see what would work best.

(mountain o'groceries)

Walmart - I'd still need to lug the groceries in the house in the rain and that was the main thing I wanted to avoid, so they were out.
Peapod - I price shopped between Peapod and Amazon and they were pretty comparable on most things, however in my area, they were out of 3-4 things that I needed so I decided it wasn't a good fit for this try-out.

Amazon was the winner, because of what they had to offer, the 30 day free trial and the fact that you get $25 off your first order of $100 or more.

Disclaimer: These opinions are solely my own. Amazon Fresh has no idea that I am leaving a review of their service and I have not received anything from them for the purpose of this review. 

Ordering: You sign up for the Fresh trial and then can begin adding things to your cart. It did take me a while to do this because I read nutritional labels so I had to open and enlarge multiple items to see what the best choice was. I did have a hiccup during my order; I'm not sure if the internet went out for a few minutes or what, but it told me nothing else could be added to my cart. I hopped on my phone to continue and then there were 12 packages of toilet paper and 7 packages of turkey bacon. Once I got those and the additional items that it had doubled during the glitch removed, it was pretty easy.
Grade: 4 out of 5 


What I ordered: To give you an idea of what filled up the totes
1 - romaine lettuce head
2 - gala apples
2 - packages baby carrots
1 - package red potatoes 
2 - cartons strawberries 
1 - carton blackberries
1 - carton mushrooms 
1 - cucumber 
1 - package baby spinach
2 - packages frozen peaches
3 - bell peppers
1 - package habaneros
1 - tiny package fresh tarragon
1 - honeydew melon
1 - watermelon
1 - package turkey bacon 
1 - package deli ham 
2 - packages deli chicken 
1 - 1 pound package ground beef
1 - block gruyere cheese 
1 - package prosciutto 
1 - quart milk 
1 - packet taco seasoning
1 - bottle taco sauce
1 - can black beans 
1 - box cake flour 
1 - brick cream cheese
 1 - package sour cream
1 - 12 pack toilet paper 
1 - jar avocado mayo
1 - bag shredded taco cheese 
1 - loaf bread
1 - package raw walnuts 
2 - 1 pound bricks of butter 


(What it all looks like out of the bag)

Delivery: You can choose what time you would like to have your groceries delivered and if you want to be there to accept the delivery or not. I was ordering at 8 pm on a Thursday and my options were morning deliveries for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I chose an unsigned delivery on Saturday morning between 6-8 am. They arrived at 7:33 am.

I don't have a covered porch so the bags were left on the front step. Since it had rained all last night the bottoms of them were damp and I had to wipe down my floors again after unloading, but this really isn't their fault, just a minor inconvenience if you choose grocery service to avoid rain and don't have a covered, dry area for them to place them.
Grade: 4 out of 5 

Packaging: Wow that's a lot of packages. I received 5 of their totes and two large paper bags for $100 worth of groceries. I use plastic bags at the grocery store because I reuse them as trash bags for the trash cans in the house and also to scoop out cat litter daily. I think it would have amounted to about the same.

Each of their green totes has a layer of padding in it, followed by a paper bag with handles and then there are frozen gel packs on the top and bottom with your groceries layered in between. They did a really good job of filling them up with like items and not smashing anything. I did have one tote with only a thin package of prosciutto in it, which was strange.
Grade: 3 out of 5

Environment: There is a lot more I could do to be environmentally friendly, but we do at least recycle. This order came with a lot of items to be recycled. All 7 of the paper bags and a plastic sleeve wrapped around each produce item. Each tote comes with at least 6 frozen gel packs in it, which I fully understand wanting to make sure the items are cold, but this was excessive to me. I kept 4 and had to throw out the rest because I simply don't have anywhere else to keep them.
Grade: 2 out of 5

Quality: This was the real category I was worried about. What would the quality of the produce be like? The carrots, lettuce, deli meats, cheeses, ground beef, dry goods, etc. were all perfectly fine. The strawberries were definitely past their sell date. They aren't moldy, but they're mushy. The mushrooms may survive a day or two in the fridge, but likely not more than that. Both of my apples were bruised.
Grade: 3 out of 5

Storage: To me, this is the biggest failure. You keep the totes until your next delivery and then they pick them up. The problem is that you also need to keep the padding in them. I removed it from 3 of the 5 totes and shoved it all into the other two. The three empty ones I was able to fold up like a reuseable grocery tote and shove them in an empty cabinet. The other two are currently hanging out in my dining room overflowing with the filling. If you lived in a small space or don't have a coat closet, like we don't, good luck finding somewhere to keep these. If anything, you'll have a mountain of cat face-scratching blocks or something for your kids to play with.
Grade: 2 out of 5

Cost: I eat a lot of produce. I would say it's 60% of our grocery bill each month. Meats make up 20% and then the rest is dry goods, paper products and cat litter. From the list above, you'll see there were minimal meats and dry goods and no cat litter. As disgusting as it is for two people, I typically spend $125-160 a week. The prices were pretty average to what I pay at Wegman's. There were a couple items that were more expensive but then quite a few cheaper so I think it evened out in the end. Before the $25 off $100 coupon, my order was $133 and it came to just under $108 with tax. If you order more than $40 worth of products, you don't pay a delivery fee.
Grade: 4 out of 5

Overall grade: 3 out of 5 

(A rare Itty sighting. She is quick pleased with the new face scratchers.)

I'll use the service again, especially since we have the free trial, but I'm not sure if its worth it to keep it long term. I think I'd rather go grocery shopping. I am going to try out using Peapod and Walmart's pick up service at some point and see how they work out for us. If you desperately need groceries and can't get to the store, I'd highly recommend it to anyone. However, if you are just doing it to be lazy and avoid going to the store and are picky about your food, maybe it's better for you to keep shopping yourself.

Improv Cooking Challenge: Peach and Hatch Chile Quick Jam

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As soon as I received ingredient suggestions for this year and paired them together, I instantly knew what I wanted to make for this month's ingredients - peaches and peppers.

Before Wegman's came around, I had never heard of a hatch chile before, but after their annual events where they put out stands in the parking lot and roasted the chilies right there, I quickly caught on to the limited time treat and started buying them in bulk so I roast and freeze them to have throughout the year.



Of course, I failed to take into account the date that we would be sharing this recipe and when Wegman's would be hosting their weekend hatch chile event. Unfortunately, this post is about two weeks before I can go buy them in bulk and with my freezer stash depleted, I had to opt for the canned variety of hatch chilies, which is still delicious and turned out great.

I do enjoy canning and have slowly acquired all of the supplies I need for it, but it is a time consuming process and in the summer the one thing I'm rather short on is time. I'd rather be outside or anywhere but in my kitchen over a stove. The best thing about this recipe is that you don't need to go through the canning process or even use pectin to hold the jam together. It's a quick jam heated up on the stove top that will keep in your fridge for a week or two.

For a longer lasting jam (good luck with that!), you'd need to follow basic canning procedures.



Peach and Hatch Chile Quick Jam
Source: Cookaholic Wife creation
Servings: 1 cup
Printer Friendly

Ingredients:
    • 3 medium ripe peaches
    • ⅔ cup sugar
    • 4 oz. canned hatch chiles
    • 1 cup water

Directions:
1. Peel and slice the peaches.
2. Add peaches, sugar and hatch chiles to a medium saucepan. Pour water on top and heat over medium high heat until boiling.
3. Reduce heat to a simmer and allow to cook for 30-40 minutes or until all of the water has evaporated and mixture is thick and jelly-like.
4. Use a potato masher to break down the peaches into small bits. For a smooth jam, transfer mixture to a food processor and process until smooth. 

5. Store in mason jar containers or a glass container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.


If you have fresh hatch chilies, feel free to substitute them in this recipe. I used the medium heat level chilies and this was just perfect. If you aren't a fan of spice, choose the mild variety, or if you really love heat, use the fire spice level! 



Spread on toast, on top of a bagel with cream cheese, over chicken or pork, right out of the jar on a spoon...the possibilities are endless for this jam. 

Improv Cooking Challenge is a group of bloggers who make a recipe using assigned ingredients each month. Participants are encouraged to think outside of the box and use any variety of the ingredients available to them. If you'd like to join us, click here for more information, or visit our Facebook page. 





To check out what the other bloggers have made, look below and for previous challenges, check out our Pinterest board



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