The Cake Shop

Yes, I make cookies, brownies, cakes, etc. as a hobby of mine…but what I really want is a functioning business. Something where people call me up for an occasion.

This past week, I was given the assignment of making a cake for my client’s birthday party. She wanted a chocolate cake on the inside, and purple incorporated on the outside. The rest was up to me. So, as usual, I went all out.

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This is by far my all-time favorite, and most creative, cake. On the inside, there are layers of chocolate cake, filled with whipped chocolate ganache frosting, sliced strawberries, & strawberry preserve. The outside is vanilla buttercream I dyed various shades of purple, then “painted” on for an ombré effect. Of course, this cake would not fit my “over-the-top-chic” standard without gorgeous flowers. #CustomCake #MyLove #LooksBetterInPerson #TastesEvenBetter

Tell me what you think! Or, let me know if you’re interested in ordering a fabulous dessert of mine to make your party extra special.

Xoxo
Rachel

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Amazing Grass Review

Amazing Grass sent me an abundant assortment of their organic green superfoods to sample and review! Included in my fantastic package were some whole food energy bars, raw plant-based nutritional supplement drink packets, and a functional Amazing Grass logo shaker cup.

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So here’s a great little intro to what Amazing Grass is all about: “Amazing Grass Green SuperFood allows you to get the best nutrition any time of day, everyday. We’ve hand selected the most nutritious vibrant vegetables, cereal grasses, algae, anti-oxidant rich fruits probiotics and immune boosting support herbs and created a delicious tasting powder that can be mixed easily with water. For those that haven’t acquired the taste for greens, we’re confident your taste buds will love our Amazing Grass Green SuperFood!”

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What I really like about Amazing Grass is that most of their products are vegan. Additionally all of their greens are raw. Several of their products are gluten-free, soy-free, and kosher. To top it off, they are all USDA certified organic!

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Of the bars, my favorite was the Chocolate Peanut Butter. Not surprisingly, my favorite Amazing Meal was Chocolate Infusion. Hey, I have a thing for chocolate…
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I even tested out a fun smoothie recipe featured on Amazing Grass website:Kelly’s Kiwi Berry Blast Smoothie; it can be found here.

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Review: If you’re looking for drinks and energy bars that taste like a treat – this is not for you. Although the flavors are not “I-just-ate-raw-kale-in-liquid-form-yuck” they aren’t “I-just-had-a-chocolate-milkshake-but-they-told-it-was-healthy-so-whatever” either. With that being said, I’d say this is the best product for getting your dose of nutrients and antioxidants in a flavorful way without loads of sugar.

xoxo Rachel

Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream is quite a common flavor these days – but only thanks to an anonymous suggestion to Ben & Jerry’s in 1991. Since then, virtually every ice cream parlor has the iconic “chocolate chip cookie dough.”

Several people are scared off by the thought of making homemade ice cream, but I assure you, there is nothing to fret over. It’s actually really, really, easy. I promise. I also promise you that all your dinner party guests will be begging you for the name of the NYC ice cream parlor you ordered it from…it’s that good.

xoxo Rachel

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GoodBelly

I took the 12 Day Challenge with GoodBelly, and I was so impressed! For 12 consecutive days, GoodBelly challenges you to drink one 8 oz. glass of their probiotic juice a day. GoodBelly is so confident you’ll fall in love, they even promise to give you a refund if you aren’t satisfied. Needless to say, I was completely satisfied.

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So what is GoodBelly? It’s a USDA certified organic vegan, dairy-free, soy-free, and kosher blend of fruit juices containing a probiotic used for digestive health.

I must admit, I was skeptical. I thought this drink would taste disgusting. But boy was I wrong! The juice tasted so good!! I actually wanted to drink it!! After 12 days, (even before then) my stomach felt so good. I felt less bloating and stomach discomfort (common issues of mine) due to drinking GoodBelly. My market offered the pomegranate blackberry and blueberry acai flavors, so I chose them. GoodBelly makes other flavors as well, and also has individual servings if you prefer to drink it that way! 🙂

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And of course, don’t forget to check out GoodBelly’s fun blog here for cool recipes.

REVIEW: I really liked the way GoodBelly tasted, and it also made my stomach feel great! Taking the 12 Day Challenge was definitely worth it to me.

xoxo Rachel

So I don’t typically write ekphrastic poetry because I feel it cements the reader to only one vision. Although, in this particular instance, I feel it will benefit the reader to see the photograph which inspired me to write this piece. My greatest goal, generally speaking, is to create works that allow the reader to have multiple interpretations. So please, tell me your interpretations, how you feel, and what you see.

xoxo Rachel

 

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Independence Day

As the Nation celebrates the fourth of July with stars and stripes, fireworks, and songs, keep in mind how free we really are today. Every American should be grateful for his/her freedom in this country, I am not dismissing that. However, we must acknowledge a greater picture, quite frankly, a question. I want you to question your freedom. Question your political leaders, question your medical providers, question your schooling, question your food. How free are you? Do you have a voice? Can you change what services you are being provided? Can you change how your food is being produced? You have a voice, but does it really have an effect if you dissent?

Currently, I am pursing a collegiate degree, thus I am quite aware of tuition prices, scholarships, and financial aid “awards.” Needless to say, the costs are astronomical and I receive no relief due to various government stipulations (but that’s another discussion). Either way, the point of me stating this is not to be bitter. I chose an alternative, a less expensive school. However, not many kids do this – later they leave with over 100K plus in loans. Is this the definition of freedom? College education was designed to benefit you – to turn you into an educated scholar – but leave you with enough money to function. I am not denying education is essential. Everyone deserves the right to an education. I believe education is a confidence builder, a product of human ingenuity, and a tool for creating a bigger, better, and brighter future. Yet, after college many graduates face a bleak future; a future filled with debt.

Our food system…it’s quite clever. In the 1970s something dramatic happened. Scientists realized high fructose corn syrup could be added to food to create a sweetening effect similar to sugar. But here’s the kicker, it was way less expensive. Soon, high fructose corn syrup took over. Today it dominates the food industry. Lunch meats, breads, crackers – products you would never normally imagine containing the stuff is a norm. Why are so many people suffering from weight gain, diabetes, illness, stomach issues, skin issues, food intolerances, allergies, etc.? Since the 1970s these health issues have risen dramatically. Is there a link?

I know a midwife who is fighting to keep her ability to provide gestational care to expectant mothers, and to deliver their babies. Midwifery dates back to Egyptian times – it’s nothing new. It provides natural and holistic care. Yet, states do not like midwives. Why? It’s outside the government-funded hospital. Hospitals make money. They are a business. Midwives, essentially, are pulling money away from the hospitals when expectant mothers choose to use a midwife over an obgyn. Is this freedom?

Now I am not a PhD psychologist or anything, but there’s this psychological mechanism that teaches obedience. After repeated instances of striking your cat for clawing on the sofa, not long after, when you raise your hand to him/her, he/she is frightened and does not do the undesirable act of clawing the sofa. You didn’t even have to strike the cat at that point, but the desired result follows.

Is the same true for us? We are free…but how free? We speak out, but if our opinions are different – the people in charge raise their hand, and the dissent is silenced. Look at the examples I just gave: schooling, food, health – how many people have spoken out in dissent about these topics? And how many people have been silenced?

If freedom is a sound, let it ring.

xoxo Rachel

Orange Creamsicle Cupcakes

Naturally, when people think “birthday” shortly after they think “cake.” It’s like peanut butter and jelly, bread and butter, bacon and eggs – “birthday” and “cake” just go together!

“So what’s with all this birthday talk?” – you ask. Well, it was my brother’s birthday, and he requested a special treat: Orange Creamsicle Cupcakes. And hey, what goes better together?

Even if you’re turning 100, you’ll instantly go back in time to your younger youth, enjoying orange creamsicles in the summertime from the ice cream man up the street…What I’m saying is, no matter what your age, these cupcakes are just as fun as the real deal.

xoxo Rachel

CREAMSICLE CUPCAKES
recipe by Lauren Kapeluck
(makes 24)

For the cake:

1 box white cake mix (prepared as package directs, substitute 1/4 cup orange juice in place of water)
1 3oz box Orange gelatin
1 tsp orange extract
1 tsp orange zest

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin pans with cupcake liners.
  2. In bowl of stand mixer combine all ingredients.
  3. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes until well combined. Scrape sides of bowl as necessary.
  4. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full with batter.
  5. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  6. Let cupcakes cool in pans for 5 minutes, then remove to wire racks to finish cooling.
  7. Once cupcakes are completely cool, hollow out the center using an apple corer.
  8. Fill centers with white cream cheese filling.
  9. Frost cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting.

 

For the icing:

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 8oz block of cream cheese, softened
5 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp orange extract
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp orange zest
orange food coloring

  1. In bowl of stand mixer beat butter and cream cheese until smooth and creamy.
  2. Gradually add in confectioner’s sugar 1 cup at a time and beat well, scraping down sides of bowl.
  3. Add extracts and mix well for about 2 minutes.
  4. Reserve 1 cup of icing to be used as white cream center filling for cupcakes.
  5. Add orange zest and tint remaining icing with orange food coloring until you reach desired color.
  6. Place white and orange cream cheese icings into piping bags fitted with large round tips.
  7. Use orange cream cheese frosting and swirl around the center of the cupcake two times. Fill the inside of the swirl with a dollop of white cream cheese frosting.

Brownies in a Muffin Tin

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Brownies are those fantastic little chocolate treats that are not cake, and are not cookies. Chewy, moist, and always a rush of chocolate, I know of no person who claims to dislike brownies.

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Today I did not even make these brownies from scratch; I used a box!

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That’s right, a box mix. All you need to do is follow the directions for your favorite boxed brownie recipe, then pour the batter in a muffin tin instead of a regular pan. Bake until the brownies are tender and moist, then enjoy!

xoxo Rachel

Rawtella

 

The folks at Rawtella very generously sent me over 3 of their nut spreads: Hazelnut, Almond Crunch, and Almond.

Rawtella is …

  • Antioxidant Rich
  • Raw & Organic
  • 100% Vegan

Only 3 Organic Raw Ingredients In One Jar
Perfectly stone ground to create the world’s first raw vegan organic chocolate sprouted hazelnut spread.

Overall, I thought that the spreads had  a really creamy, nutty flavor. Unfortunately, the hazelnut spread did not taste quite like Nutella, but that is ok, because Rawtella is MUCH healthier!

xoxo Rachel

 

Grilled Eggplant 5-Star Main Course

I was in the culinary mood the other day. What does that mean? Well it simply means that I felt like making something, but I wanted to make it look pretty – as in I wanted to plate it as if it were showcased at a 5-star restaurant.

I had eggplant, onion, tomato, and avocado in the refrigerator. So I thought to myself – what should I make? Well, I came up with, in my opinion, a brillant little healthy recipe that looks like it could be presented at a 5-star restaurant.

Grilled Eggplant 5-Star Main Course:

(this is just an overview of how to prepare the recipe; use more/less depending on how many people you serve)

ingredients:

  • eggplant
  • yellow onion
  • tomato
  • avocado
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • poppyseed dressing (optional)

directions:

grill the eggplant and onion. layer them on top of each other. add tomato and avocado on top of that. season with salt & pepper to taste. sprinkle with poppyseed dressing.

xoxo Rachel

S’mores Cookies

I had some left-over marshmallows, graham crackers, and Hershey’s chocolate bars from summer s’more making. Since I know I probably won’t be making more s’mores outside, I decided to search a few blogs for inspiration. Luckily I found a recipe using all of those ingredients!

I thought the cookies turned out beautifully. However, I am not really a fan of them. But, if you really love s’mores then these are for you. (My brothers went crazy over these cookies, and so did a few of my friends).

S’mores Cookies (via Two Peas & Their Pod)

ingredients:

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup Jet-Puffed Vanilla Mallow Bits
2 regular size (1.55 oz) Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Candy Bars
Extra graham cracker pieces and mallow bits (optional)

directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with a Silpat baking mat or parchment paper and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together graham cracker crumbs, flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars together until creamy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Add in the egg and vanilla extract and mix until combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

4. Stir in the Mallow Bits and mini chocolate chips. Roll a teaspoon of cookie dough into a ball. Press half of a Hershey’s chocolate square on top of the cookie and gently press down. I stuck in a few extra pieces of graham crackers and Mallow Bits onto the top of the dough for looks, but you can skip this step if you wish. Continue making all of the cookies.

5. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheet, about 1-inch apart. Bake for 6-8 minutes, or until cookies are set. Cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes and transfer to a wire cooling rack.

xoxo Rachel

Healthy Chocolate Soft-Serve

As you may know, I love anything, and everything, chocolate. One dessert I particuarly love is my homemade chocolate ice cream. However, I did not have the time, nor ingredients on hand, to make my ice cream. So, I decided to whip up something different. I got my inspiration from Chocolate Covered Katie’s blog, and took some frozen banana slices I had in the freezer and began my concoction…

The recipe is simple (in fact there are no real exact measurements). To make chocolate soft-serve, all you need to do is: 

blend some frozen banana slices, a few tablespoons of cocoa powder, some hot fudge sauce, and a little almond milk to perfection.

Yes, that’s all. And you won’t believe how incredible it tastes. It tastes like chocolate soft serve – AND it’s healthy too! 🙂

xoxo Rachel

Stuffed Shells

Creamy ricotta cheese in an edible boat… essentially, that is what stuffed shells are. A delicate, yet flavorful, smooth ricotta mixture is stuffed inside a pasta shell, drizzled lightly with homemade tomato sauce, and heated to bubbly perfection.

 

It is Italian comfort food at it’s finest. Simple, sophisticated, and as always, delicious. I shared this meal over at a friend’s house, for our own “petite dinner party” (since in case you don’t know I adore acting elegant and fancy and throwing spur of the moment dinner parties). Anyway, everyone there devoured it in split seconds. Make this for yourself, and I’m sure you’ll do the same. 🙂

 

Stuffed Shells

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces (1 box) jumbo pasta shells (approximately 36 shells)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for greasing baking sheet
  • 6 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, diced
  • 2 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper flakes
  • garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 cups marinara sauce
  • 2 (15-ounce) containers whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/3 cups grated Parmesan
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 3 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Lightly oil a 12 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish and set aside. Lightly oil the baking sheet and set aside.

Partially cook the pasta shells in a large pot of boiling salted water until slightly tender but still quite firm to the bite, about 4 to 6 minutes. You will continue cooking the shells in the oven after they have been stuffed. Using a slotted spoon, drain pasta shells and place on oiled baking sheet, spreading them out so that they don’t stick together and allow to cool.

Heat the oil in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the pancetta and saute until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes. Add the garlic and saute until tender, about 1 minute. Add themarinara sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer, stirring often.

In a medium bowl, stir the ricotta, Parmesan, egg yolks, basil, parsley, mint, salt, and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spoon 1 1/4 cups of the sauce over the prepared baking dish. Fill the cooked shells with the cheese mixture, about 2 tablespoons per shell. Arrange the shells in the prepared dish. Spoon the remaining sauce over the shells, then sprinkle with the mozzarella.

Bake in the lower third of your oven until the filling is heated through and the top is golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes.

 

xoxo Rachel

Peanut Butter Pie

There are two things I believe I love equally in life: chocolate, and peanut butter. I can eat chocolate everyday, any day, and any time of day. And peanut butter? Well, I can eat it in a sandwich, in a treat, or simply off a spoon.

Peanut butter cups have always been a sort of magical treat for me – ever since I first tried it years, and years, ago (inside my Halloween bucket). After that first bite, I quickly rationalized my situation. I clearly remember trading my brother all my Skittles for absolutely all of his peanut butter cups (and yes, it was worth it then too).

So back to the treat … this pie is so good. So mouthwateringly delicious that it will satisfy all your desires for creamy peanut butter and silky chocolate.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup finely ground chocolate wafer cookies, cream filling removed (recommended: Oreo)
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 4 ounces melted semisweet chocolate
  • 2/3 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • rich chocolate sauce to top the pie (optional)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine the graham cracker crumbs, chocolate cookie crumbs, butter, and 4 tablespoons of the granulated sugar in a medium bowl. Stir to thoroughly combine. Press the mixture firmly into a 9-inch pie pan and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, let the crust cool completely, then wrap it with plastic wrap and place the pan in the freezer for at least 1 hour and for up to 2 weeks. Allow the crust to come to room temperature before filling.

Combine the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and milk in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until well blended and smooth, about 1 minute on medium speed. Add the melted chocolate and the peanut butter and continue to blend for another minute on medium speed. Combine the cream with the remaining 2 tablespoons granulated sugar in another medium bowl. Beat with a whisk or electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the whipped cream into the chocolate and peanut butter mixture until thoroughly incorporated and smooth. Pour the filling into the pie crust. Smooth the top of the pie with aspatula, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.

 Rich Chocolate Sauce:

In a small heavy saucepan, bring the half-and-half to a bare simmer over medium-low heat. Remove from the heat.

Place the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. Whisk the half-and-half slowly into the chocolate. Add the vanilla and butter to the sauce and whisk until the butter is completely incorporated. Spread over the pie, then cool.

recipe from Paula Deen