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Blue Velvet Cake with White Chocolate Icing

When I asked Joe what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday, his response was less than ideal. Each year, I try to produce an over-the-top, inventive concoction to celebrate. Past cakes include double chocolate, chocolate/peanut-butter and even a chocolate/bacon pairing. I thought, for sure, he would want to keep with the chocolate theme this year. You can imagine how confused I was when he told me he wanted something healthier.

Both of us have been working hard to visit the gym, run more often and eat better. With the start of the summer season and the beautiful weather, it’s likely we’ll have to don a swimsuit and head to the beach at some point, and I personally want to make it as painless as possible for myself and everyone in my company when the moment arrives. Still, I can easily be convinced to forego a short run or gym session in favor of a cold beer or an impromptu slice or two of pizza. I’m no stranger to treating myself.

Birthdays, to me, are an even bigger reason to indulge; the one day a year to celebrate you should involve your favorite meal, lots of snacking and, at the very least, a perfectly delicious, beautifully decorated birthday cake. Even though the birthday boy had requested a healthier option in lieu of a birthday dessert, I knew I had to veto his wishes and find a spectacular recipe to commemorate his day. I needed something so delicious and immaculate that he couldn’t possibly be angry with me for going against his request.  Read More…

Cherry Walnut Oatmeal Cookies

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day; who am I to skip any opportunity to eat (especially if it’s key to my day starting off on the right foot)?  Usually, I have a big bowl of cereal in the morning but every now and then I treat myself to something special. Breakfast sandwiches never fail me and a hot bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar can hold me over until my next meal of the day.

There’s one sweet treat that I indulge in very rarely, only because its addictive properties may do more harm than good in the end. Gia Pronto, a locally owned sandwich and salad spot in University City, serves an apple-cherry-walnut bagel in the morning hours of their operation. Laced with swirls of brown sugar, the bagel is reheated on a Panini press, resulting in a warm confection with an exterior as sticky as a cinnamon bun. Don’t expect to get one if you show up past 10 AM, though: these things sell like hotcakes.

To recreate similar flavors at home, I opted for a real-deal dessert that can (and should be) eaten breakfast, lunch and dinner. Read More…

Mulled Wine

I’m not the biggest fan of cold weather, or hot weather for that matter. I prefer crisp days or warm weeks. If it gets to the point where it’s just impossible to look cute in layers upon layers of clothing, or if I am fanning myself in sweat soaked clothing, well, I’m just not a happy camper. There are not many cures for days when the weather is extreme; if it’s hot, I simply sit as still as possible, helpless and miserable, in my own puddle of sweat. If it’s cold, I head to North 3rd for a glass of their mulled wine.

The memory takes me back two winters, to a bitterly cold (though not snow filled) evening. Joe and I had parked a mere two to three blocks away from North 3rd, located on 3rd and Brown in Northern Liberties. Aside from the fact that my hunger pangs were, as always, pretty vocal, the short walk to the restaurant was almost unbearable. We could barely carry a conversation through our chattering teeth and the uncontrollable, convulsion-causing chills that somehow managed to sneak their way through down feathered coats, mittens and scarves. When we were seated at the restaurant, it was frustrating how long it took for us to thaw out and get comfortable. Examining the menu, still wrapped like an Eskimo, I became fixated on the mulled wine listed as part of the cocktail menu. One sip melts the frost from your fingertips, and leaves you with a warm, happy feeling. Read More…

Pear-Ginger Muffins

I’m really bad at cross-referencing ingredients for baked goods with what I have in the cabinets. For that reason, I have enough flour to last me well through the holidays of 2010, and plenty of sugar to spare (granulated white, confectioners, light and dark brown.) The silver lining of my stocked baking cabinet (other than, of course, having a stocked baking cabinet) is that I can respond to a spontaneous desire for homemade chocolate-chip cookies when the mood strikes.

My refrigerator has been stocked with pears since they came in season, and I’m perfectly happy to enjoy them just as they are; pears are a great source of Vitamin C, and a provider of about 15% of daily required dietary fiber. According to, pears are considered a “nutrient-dense” food, meaning they contains few calories but provide vital nutrients. The high fiber and water content of nutrient-dense foods is useful in curbing appetite and giving the sensation of one being full; perfect for a mid-afternoon snack.

Last week, I decided to join the forces of my well-stocked baking cabinet and my ample pear supply and concoct these moist, warm, seasonably appropriate Pear-Ginger Muffins. Read More…

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