Almost National Champs! :)

Not sure if I mentioned my obsession for anything LSU related, as I am LSU alumni. I don’t really pay much attention to baseball in general, but this year, the baseball team is REALLY good. So good, in fact, that they are playing University of Texas tonight for the National Championship. Who’da thought? (I’m more of a football fan…don’t come between me and my football!)

geaux tigers

Yes, I painted myself EVERY game my senior year of college! Totally worth it btw…

I figured I might watch this game tonight (after kickboxing hehe). Like I said, I’m not really into baseball but when it comes to the Tigers being possible National Champs against TEXAS? (If Texas baseball is anything like Texas football, I’ll definitely be watching!)

So, before football season starts in a couple of months, I’ll get to say “GEAUX TIGERS!” in excitement tonight. :)

My health goals!

I’ve been lightly treading the waters of embracing my diet/fitness fully since the wedding. I’m back to watching what I eat, but sometimes I splurge all too much! I used to be so much more determined. I need my willpower back, and I’m hoping the accountability of this blog entry plus whoever reads this (yoohoo! anyone? bueller?) will keep me going.

Right now, I *grumble* am flirting with 250 lbs.

By the end of the summer (end of August), I WILL be in the 230s.
By Thanksgiving, I WILL be in the 210s.
By New Years, I WILL be in ONEDERLAND (that’s weight with a 1 in front of the two other numbers, not a 2)
By my 26th birthday, I WILL be in the 180s.
By summer 2010, I WILL be at GOAL! (170 lbs.)

Those are my health goals and PLEDGE to myself and to you guys! I will get healthier and blog about my triumphs, falls, whatever happens. I know it won’t be easy, but my health is worth it!

I will be giving myself some great rewards for reaching these goals too…

Reaching end of summer goal  — Lowlights/Highlights to darken hair up
Reaching Thanksgiving goal — new dSLR camera!
Reaching New Year’s goal — a (tiny) shopping spree for new clothes
Reaching 26th bday goal — an iPhone…oh I want one SO bad!
Reaching GOAL — Lifetime of health and who knows!

Oh and to help someone else out with their health goals, go to 344 Pounds blog. He is asking for readers to give him a killer workout!

Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake

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While it may not be the prettiest icing job, (I tried to make it swirly and messy to look like dirt) I have to admit this will be one tasty cake for my sister-in-law. Today is her birthday, and I told her I wanted to make her a cake. I know she likes chocolate, so I got the holy grail of chocolate cake recipes to food bloggers everywhere: Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake.

I will admit, when they say the batter will be thin, it will be thin as a drink! You will think you botched the recipe and did something wrong. However, as weird as this is, the cake comes out completely perfect and from the tops I shaved off, it tastes incredibly rich, moist and amazing!

These are a few royal icing flowers that I made for the cake. I learned these in course 2 of the Wilton Cake Decorating classes. From top to bottom: apple blossoms, primrose, pansies and daffodils.

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My skills are VERY rusty (it’s been a year since I’ve made these) but I think I did an OK job.

Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake
Source: Hershey’s Kitchens

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
  2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.
  3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost cake. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

There are many variations to this recipe if you don’t have 2 – 9″ pans. I ended up doing the 3 – 8″ pans variation below:
Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost.

For the frosting, I used two batches of Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Frosting. This was the perfect amount with a little leftover to use on the shaved cake tops to eventually make cake balls!

Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
  • 2/3 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.

Low Fat Cake Batter Ice Cream

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I told myself that I needed to find a WAY lower fat ice cream after making the cake batter ice cream last time. I didn’t calculate the nutritional facts until recently and I was shocked. Most low-fat ice creams calculate by the 1/2 cup so I decided to stay consistent with that to get comparative information.

Full Fat Version
Calories: 363.6
Fat: 24.8 g
Fiber: less than 1 g

Whoa! Look at the amount of fat in there! I will admit, it tasted dang good, but is 1/2 cup of ice cream worth THAT much fat and calories?

So, I went to Cooking Light to find some lower fat alternatives. I then found this recipe for Peppermint ice cream and decided to use the base to see where that would get me.

Low-Fat Cake Batter Ice Cream
Source: adapted from Cooking Light

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 cups of 2% milk, divided
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 14oz. can of fat-free condensed milk
  • 2/3 cup cake mix
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Take 1 1/4 cup of milk and mix with egg yolks in a heavy saucepan at medium heat for about 8 minutes or until thickened. Do not let the mixture boil. Let the mixture slightly cool.
  2. Mix remaining milk, vanilla and condensed milk together in a separate bowl. Slowly add the egg mixture to the milk mixture. Mix in cake mix until thoroughly combined. Refridgerate mixture for about 1 hour.
  3. Put in your ice cream maker for 25-30 minutes. Makes about 1 quart or 8 – 1/2  cup servings.

Here’s the nutritional information on this recipe:

Low Fat Version
Calories: 311.4
Fat: 4.4 g
Fiber: less than 1 g

Unfortunately, for this trial, I didn’t save much in calories. However, look at the fat difference! Wow!! So, I’m getting there in finding a good diet-friendly alternative for cake batter ice cream. :) I’ll continue to play with ingredients, though, to try to get the calories lower.

Priorities

wfmwbannerKRISTEN

I’m going to start doing a “Works for Me” every Wednesday, because I love reading people’s tips that work for them. So, I’ll share some of what works for me! :)

I’m very much a “to do” list kind of person. Lists help me remember things I need to do when I get home and I get a little giddy inside when I scratch out a task. My list helped a lot during wedding planning, but at first, it was a little overwhelming.

So, I found a method for time management and tasks. It’s called the ABC method, and I find it to be a great way to set your priorities straight.

If you are looking for this explanation in a nutshell, basically you label your priorities “A”, “B” or “C”. I like to organize it with “A” is something I need to do today, “B” is something I need to do this week and “C” is something I need to do this month.

Here’s an example of a list:

B — call AT&T to fix bill
C — change last name
B — call dentist to make appointment
A — load & run dishwasher
C — cross-stitch baby pattern for friend
B — get inspection sticker

Of course, you can label all A’s, B’s and C’s together, but I write a list in a journal I have as it comes up in my head, so this works for me.

How do you make/organize your “to do” list?

For more “Works for me Wednesday” entries, visit We Are That Family.

Cherrybrook Cupcakes: Review

I received this mix a long time ago, courtesy of Blake Makes. Between moving, planning the wedding, etc. I totally forgot that I had this mix (plus a coupon for frosting).The company is Cherrybrook Kitchen, and they are known for baking mixes for those of you with certain food allergies.

Last week, DH’s family had a BBQ and invited his cousins/aunts over. One of the kids was allergic to peanuts, so I knew that this was the time to use the mix. (I would rather be better safe than sorry since I didn’t have any labels to my baking staples to ensure they were peanut free.) I went to Target and got the frosting with the coupon I received as well and went to town!

I will say that this makes a very weird batter. Almost smelled like pancakes and when the mini cupcakes baked up, it was VERY light and airy. Tasted good too, but not like the standard yellow cupcake I’m used to.

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The frosting reminded me more of a cinnamon roll icing. It was translucent and you cannot pipe this on. It isn’t stiff at all. It tastes just like a standard powdered sugar glaze/icing. So, it’s not too bad.

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All in all, this is good for those of you with allergies. I wouldn’t buy this again for myself, because it’s very pricey ($4 for a mix and $4 for a frosting). I will say though, the kid who was allergic to peanuts went to town eating these! So, if I ever have to bake again for someone with allergies, I know where to turn!

Our Aerogarden

Normally, I’m a fairly frugal person. I used to splurge a lot in my college days, and once I got in the work force, I calmed down with my impulse buys. So, you will RARELY see me get the latest and greatest RIGHT when it comes out.

Aerogarden has been out for a long time, and I really thought it was just hype when it came out. Hydroponics…pfft. However, years later, I’ve noticed that Aerogardens work really well and they aren’t just an expensive hype. So, I saw that Target started selling them, and I thought, well, let’s wait until they go on clearance. Target is notorious for having seasonal clearances on things that don’t sell, and I figured expensive Aerogardens probably won’t sell here. I was right…4 months later, they started marking them down. I wanted the Aerogarden 3 but it was regularly $99.99. I couldn’t justify the 25% off markdown, so I waited. Then, I noticed they weren’t selling at all STILL. So, they went 50% off to $49.99. I thought about it, but thought eh, I can grow outside herbs. I was talking myself out of it. A few weeks later, I walked by the aisle and there was ONE Aerogarden 3 left. I thought, it has to be on an even greater clearance for being here this long. So, I scanned it…..$24.99. Wow…even I was having trouble justifying that until I thought about the little stimulus raise Obama gave us last year. I thought, well, this is Obama’s treat. :)

This little guy came with the English cottage seed kit, and I thought this would be great to grow for spring/summer flowers. I can then put herbs in it for around the holidays when the herbs outside aren’t doing so well.

I read the directions, filled it with tap water, added the seed kits with their little germinating domes and watched them sprout. After I removed the domes, it went downhill for me. So, I called Aerogarden asking what did I do? Surely, my thumb isn’t THAT brown…this is supposed to be fool-proof!

The man explained that my tap water is the culprit, and he would send me a new seed kit for free to try again. Very good customer service, Aerogarden. The fact is, they have a germination guarantee on all seed kits, but since mine germinated already, I wasn’t covered by that. So, it was truly great of them to offer a new kit for free! This time, I used distilled water and check out my garden now!

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You can kind of see that one plant is doing super well and the other two are tiny. I took this picture last week. The apparent problem is shadowing from the petunia plant. So, I cut it back to make sure that the other two plants were getting ample light and I’m noticing that the other two plants are starting to do much better.

If you are on the fence about getting an Aerogarden, totally consider getting it soon. You might not luck out with the deal I got, but they sell them at Bed, Bath and Beyond with the seed kits (don’t forget your 20% off coupons too!). :)

Getting back on the horse…

I weighed myself this morning at a (not so) skinny 251.7 lbs. Yes, I gained a little post wedding but it’s not as bad as I thought!

There was a little voice inside my head that yelled, “Time to get back to the GYM!” I think it was Jillian…is she my Jiminy Cricket?

We’ve been back from the honeymoon for about two weeks now, and I’ve decided to go back to the Y. I’m sure I’ll see the regulars in my gym class, and they may joke about how a wedding isn’t THAT long. I deserve it for being a lazy newlywed. :)

I remember losing so much weight very very quickly in the beginning of the year. It scared my mom into thinking that the dress wouldn’t fit me at all come May 23rd, so I really didn’t diet hard the next few months and basically maintained my loss. The milkshakes were yummy. :) Unfortunately for me and my cravings, I have no dress holding me down, so it’s time to lose the weight!

My leg muscles are already scared of what is to come in circuits/kickboxing class. I’m sure my instructor will kill me today (and then I’ll reward myself with fro yo for the efforts).

And, big news — DH will be joining the Y with me next week! EEP! (He would join today, but new member orientation is next Monday.)

Shipping some baked goodies

I really enjoy baking. It’s one of those things that gives me instant gratification, especially when it is done correctly. :)

For a wedding shower gift, I received this KitchenAid Mixer from my grandma. So, I needed a reason/excuse to break it in. My friend in Dallas jokingly told me to make her some awareness cookies…I wasn’t joking when I said YES!

So, using some methods I learned in cake decorating classes, I made her 2 dozen cookies with a few extras for DH to munch on. I can’t make sugar cookies without him wanting some!

Here comes the hard part, or so I think: shipping these from Baton Rouge to Dallas. Cookies aren’t the most delicate, but you can’t exactly throw them around! I found some ideas months ago on The Hyper Homemaker (the blog no longer exists, so I can’t link) to help me with shipping these.  So, I bought a huge roll of bubble wrap and went to work!

First, I put 5-6 layers of bubble wrap at the bottom of the box. Then, I rolled small sections of bubble wrap along the walls of the box to cushion the cookies going in.

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Then, I laid cookies down in the box to where it all fit snugly. This worked out to 6 cookies for me.

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I repeated this four times until all the cookies were in the box. I put 5-6 more layers of bubble wrap on top in the end and taped it in. I gave it a test shake and didn’t hear a thing. So, I think these bad boys will be safe! Just in case, though, I wrote “FRAGILE” all over the box.

I hope she enjoys them and they make them to Dallas in one piece!

Save the Tatas!

I haven’t touched royal icing in months. There was a reason though. My hand mixer had settings of fast and faster. It really grated my nerves when I had to make this icing, because it would result in large powdered sugar clouds that took over my kitchen, resulting in the need to REALLY clean our kitchen. (I’m talking on my hands and knees because the floor was so sticky!)

So, now I have my precious KA mixer from my grandmother as a wedding gift. I was mentioning to my best friend that I needed a reason to bake, because I really wanted to break my mixer in. She said I could make her sugar cookies (she was joking). I wasn’t — so I now have the task of making her 2 dozen breast cancer awareness cookies.

Let’s just say icing making in the KA mixer is a DREAM. In fact, it’s making me want to enroll in Wilton Course 3, to finish off the series. (I took 1, 2 and 4 already…there are cake examples in this blog if you’re interested!)

I used my no-fail recipe from the ever-so-wonderful Cookie Craft book. I don’t like to share recipes out of books, because of potential copyright infringement. I don’t want to get in any kind of trouble here!

However, just to let you know, I highly recommend this to anyone needing inspiration and ideas for making pretty rolled cookies. I used the royal icing recipe from the Wilton website.

Pardon my icing skills, by the way, I’m VERY rusty!

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Wish me luck on shipping these bad boys to Dallas. I’m going to be using some tips that I starred from The Hyper Homemaker’s blog (which is no longer up, sadly, but will always be handy in my Google reader!).