The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook

My family is pretty awesome. They just get me.

As a mother of three and the wife to one, there’s not many occasions for gift-getting. But when the end of the year rolls around and the weather gets cooler and we get to celebrate my birthday and Christmas, I usually get to enjoy a few gifts.

My husband is ALWAYS the winner when it comes to finding me the perfect gift. There’s just no beating him.

But my mom actually won it this year. She pulled my name for Secret Santa and had a wonderful time getting me several things that I was thrilled about.

Anyone who knows me knows that as long as they stick to anything from the Pioneer Woman line at Walmart, any of Paul Hollywood’s cookbooks, or anything from Jaclyn Hill’s cosmetics line then there’s nowhere you can go wrong. The only other addition to that group is Harry Potter. I adore J.K. Rowling and the magical world she created. I am obsessed with Hogwarts and Quidditch and Buckbeak and butterbeer.

My mom was somehow able to find a way to combine my interests into one gift.

I am so excited about this!! The little disclaimer at the bottom of the front cover is really disappointing at first – until you open up the book and see how thorough it is!

There’s a total of 10 chapters and the chapters contain between 7 and 36 recipes. The difficulty levels of the recipes range all over the place too. There’s something as simple as “English Fried Eggs and a Gammon of Bacon”, which is literally a couple of slices of bacon and a couple of fried eggs, and something as difficult as Vol-au-Vents, with directions to make your own puff pastry!

The excitement level I feel is overwhelming and I will be happily sharing each and every recipe with you as I make my way through this incredible book. Thank you so much to Dinah Bucholz, the author of this book, for being inspired to create something as wonderful as this product!

This weekend may be my first chance to dive into a recipe and if so, look forward to a post about it next week. Until then!

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Triple Chocolate Cranberry-Cream Layer Cake

Baking is a comfort for me. When I’m stressed or worried or frustrated, cracking some eggs in a bowl and whisking them with sugar and chocolate makes the world feel right again.

I was in a weird stretch recently where I had been blessed with the opportunity to make several cakes as a part of my business. It ended up exhausting me and I realized I don’t actually enjoy making things that people want me to make – I just like to go in the kitchen and come up with a new creation and hope that I can share it with people and they’ll love it.

That’s where this recipe came from.

I still have quite a bit of my homemade cranberries in the freezer from the holidays and I knew it would go perfectly with all this chocolate.

I think doing the drip on the outside of this cake was one of my favorite things I’ve done so far.

I may update this post with the recipe later, but I wanted to share the pics and my thoughts before I forgot to do it.

I’m constantly struggling with deciding what I want to be “when I grow up”. I’m constantly battling with myself over whether or not I should pursue my baking passion, or whether that’s something that’s just for me that I keep in my home and for my family. Whether I should continue in corporate america or build my own business. Whether I should pursue other passions and hope that it works out or just find the first profession that will make the most money for my family.

I know I can’t be alone in this, but it sure feels like it sometimes. Especially when I see people who know what they want to do from such a young age and grow up to do that exact thing. They seem to know everything!

For the time being, I will be content to NOT know everything. The best thing I can do is make sure I inspire my children to push themselves and be the best version of themselves each and every day. That’s a complete chore all on its own. I want to know that I at least made one positive change in myself, however small, each day. Who knows what the future holds?

This cake, on the other hand? I know exactly what it holds.

Calories.

Carbs.

Love.

Sweetness.

Understanding.

No judgment.

And I’ll share a bit of it with you today.

Late Shift

I got a promotion over the last few months and it’s been rough getting used to the later schedule. My babies are usually in bed by the time I get home and it’s harder to keep up with chores and it’s just a whole new adjustment to our life.

My husband has been amazing – taking over watching the babies and feeding them and making sure homework is done and baths are given and etc.

Unfortunately, this means I come home late with munchies and want to make a lot of stuff to eat.

Tonight, for instance, I made a big sandwich. It was super yummy. I toasted some bread, sliced up some sharp cheddar cheese, an avocado, tore up some romaine lettuce, slathered some Mayo and spicy mustard, layered some ham and turkey, sprinkled some salt and pepper and then chowed down.

It was perfect. The only way it would have been better is if there were pickles.

Turns out my oldest was still up and getting a shower when I got home and I couldn’t help but share with her.

The chores have been falling a bit behind, as evidenced by the cluttered counters behind her wet head.

Anywho…next time you find yourself with a killer craving, this sandwich aught to do it.

Vanilla Crème Cinnamon Cupcakes

 

I first created this recipe almost a year ago when I had some leftover frosting I wanted to use up on something before it went to waste. It was right around the holidays and ALL I WANTED WAS CINNAMON. I mean I couldn’t stop thinking about it and wanting it and smelling it. You know what I’m talking about, right? It was the time of year when the only candles you buy are ones with apples and pumpkins and cinnamon sticks on the front and you burn them All. Day. Long. I live for that time of the year.

So naturally when I began mixing something together, I dumped a whole tablespoon of cinnamon into the batter before I stopped to think twice about it. After I did that my first thought was “oh no, they’re going to turn out so bitter and they’ll be horrible and terrible and I can’t believe I did this, I’m so stupid, what was I thinking?!” and so on and so forth. I was so surprised at how perfectly sweet and tender they turned out. DO NOT be afraid to use this much cinnamon. It’s wonderful for your health, by the way.

 

We celebrated a birthday at work recently for a co-worker of mine and I happen to know she is nuts about cinnamon. One of my favorite things to do when I bake in copious amounts is to bring it in to work – in this way I prevent consuming it all for myself. Most days. She didn’t say a word about it but I know she wanted me to make something for her. I knew I would make something to bring to work in celebration of her birthday.

This recipe was the first thing that came to mind. My original recipe included buttermilk, which lended itself immaculately to the perfect crumb of the cupcake. In this specific instance, I found myself devoid of any types of dairy milk – all I was left with was almond milk. I decided to substitute the buttermilk for a mixture of almond milk and vegetable oil. I’ve heard that if you add lemon juice to milk and let it sit for a few minutes, it will basically turn into buttermilk. However, I just assumed this would not happen with almond milk. Is this true? Please let me know if you have tried this with almond milk and come out with something similar to buttermilk – I would be very interested to know.

The final product this time still came out surprisingly beautiful, even though I found myself dying to have the texture of the buttermilk cake. I decided to add a vanilla pastry crème to the middle of this cupcake to help out the overall texture/taste and it was absolutely delicious!! It was so rich and creamy and went perfectly with the cinnamon flavor. The cream cheese icing piped in a beautiful rosette on top added the perfect touch for her birthday.

The pictures you see here are the version with the almond milk/vegetable oil recipe. In my recipe instructions I will include the ingredient measurements for both the buttermilk as well as the option you see pictured here, just in case you end up in the same situation with no buttermilk and a killer craving for cinnamon cupcakes.

These are perfect to add to your menu of weekend guilty pleasures, next work potluck, birthday celebrations, youth activities, or whatever else you may find yourself needing excellent treats to accompany. Please let me know if you tried this recipe and how they turned out!

Here’s what you’ll need:

For the Cupcakes:

  • 2 sticks of softened butter
  • 1/2 cup white sugar + 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup almond milk + 1/2 cup vegetable oil (or 1 cup buttermilk, if you have it)
  • 2 eggs

For the Vanilla Crème filling:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, sliced in half and seeds removed
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp butter

For the Cream Cheese Icing:

  • 2 sticks of softened butter
  • 1 package (8 oz) cream cheese
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 2 lbs + 2 cups Powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream
  • 2 tsp salt

How to put it all together:

  1. Begin by heating your oven to 350° F and lining two cupcake pans with liners.
  2. Place the softened butter and the sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer and cream them on medium speed until the ingredients are nicely incorporated together and the mixture gets slightly paler in color – about 4-5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, soft the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together in a separate bowl and set aside.
  4. Add your almond milk, oil, and vanilla extract to a pitcher and set aside.
  5. Once the butter and sugar are creamed, add your eggs one at a time and allow to mix.
  6. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula and then add half the flour mixture to the stand mixer. Allow to incorporate just barely and then add the milk mixture. Once homogeneous, add the remaining flour and mix until only just combined – do not overmix!
  7. Use the spatula again to scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl to ensure all the flour is mixed in. Use a large ice cream scoop to drop the batter into the prepared liners.
  8. Bake for approximately 16 minutes and then remove to cool while making the vanilla crème.
  9. To make the crème, add the first three ingredients to a small sauce pan and stir on low heat until the sugar is dissolved and the milk is steaming. Remove the vanilla bean.
  10. Whisk your egg yolks in a small bowl and then temper them by slowly drizzling the hot milk mixture into the bowl and whisking briskly. Then add the yolks to the sauce pan with the remaining milk mixture and stir constantly on low heat for about 6-8 minutes until it thickens considerably. Add the extract.
  11. Strain the mixture through a sieve and then stir in the pat of butter for a glossy finish.
  12. Allow to cool by covering with plastic wrap in the fridge.
  13. To make the icing, mix the butter and cream cheese on medium speed in the bowl of a stand mixer until well incorporated. Be sure to not overmix the cream cheese as it tends to become more loose the longer it’s worked.
  14. Add half of the sifted powdered sugar as well as the extract and mix, pulsing, until all the sugar is mixed in. Stop here to scrape down the bowl, including the bottom. Add the cream and the remaining sugar, mixing on medium speed until light and fluffy – about 4 minutes.

Here’s how to assemble everything:

  1. Use a corer to remove the center of the cupcakes.
  2. Spoon in the crème using a small spoon, until it almost reached the top.
  3. Place the icing in a piping bag fit with a 2D Wilton tip and then pipe a rosette on the top by starting in the middle, pressing in to the cupcake gently to create a small mound and then rotating the tip in a circular motion around the outside of the mound until you reach the outside of the cupcake. Be sure to ‘flick’ the tip gently at the end of the rosette to prevent the icing from holding on to the tip.

Veggie Burgers pass the Kid Test

For dinner tonight, I wanted something as easy as possible.

All the other responsibilities of working a full time job while raising three kids and being a partner to my husband, our washing machine decided to die. Over the last many months it has been one thing after another. My husband, Daniel, and I are attempting to get rid of debt and live without credit in our life and I’m convinced God is testing us. Each time we save up our emergency fund, something happens that causes us to use it up.

 

First it was the car. Some kind of issue with spark plugs. Then it was the A/C. Smack dab in the middle of summer. In Florida. Completely dead. Turns out it was just a capacitor issue that could have cost us $5 and the help of my wonderful dad. Instead, it cost us somewhere closer to 60X that…Then it was the dishwasher. Daniel was actually at fault for that one. Something called the floater that tells the dishwasher when to stop filling water was completely ripped off the bottom of the dishwasher…I’m married to the Hulk. That cost us a bit more than the A/C. There’s actually no way to fix that. Just a whole new machine is needed.

Now…it’s the washing machine. HOWEVER! Every time something comes up, it is always when we have come into a little cash in savings – whether it was by our own saving or through a blessing from God. Also, both the dishwasher issue and the washing machine issue occurred around holidays, which are the best times to purchase appliances like that because of the awesome savings. So – in terms of looking at it as a ‘glass half-full’ situation – I really think God is looking out for us while also testing our resolve to do this ‘kick debt’s ass’ thing.

Anywho – back to dinner tonight. We are in the middle of getting all the dirty laundry separated into piles to take to my in-laws in the morning to use their wonderful working machine to wash our filth. I’m exhausted from a LONG day at work and just want food in my babies’ bellies. We’ve got frozen veggie burgers in the freezer and a plethora of sweet potatoes on the bar. We’re doing burgers and fries, baby. Oh, also we have no lettuce, no tomatoes, no pickles, no buns, no toppings of any kind really. Other than cheese. Surprisingly, this meal turned out fantastic.

I added a few avocado slices with a few drops of lime juice, salt, and pepper on top of my burger patty and chowed down. I have to brag on the veggie burgers we bought because of how surprised I was with the taste. If you haven’t given veggie burgers a try yet, do it just for fun one night. You won’t regret it. 

But if you do, please write a strongly worded letter to the company who made the nasty patty and not to me.

The kids went crazy over these and my little boy tore them up. And he’s my picky child.

For the Veggie Burgers:

  • 2 packages Boca brand veggie burger of choice
  • American Cheese slices
  • Pinch of salt and black pepper
  • Avocado
  • Lime wedge

For the Fries:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, washed and sliced into wedges
  • Spices of your choice (salt, pepper, garlic salt, paprika, Everglades Seasoning, etc.)
  • Olive oil

For the ‘Sauce’:

  • 1/2 cup of mayo
  • 1 tbsp spicy mustard
  • A few dashes of hot sauce

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400° F. Place the burger patties on a sheet pan lined with foil and a wire wrack. Prepare a separate sheet pan lined with foil and a wire wrack for the potatoes.
  2. Toss the potato wedges in a bowl with the olive oil and spices. Space them out on the wire wrack and place both sheet pans in the oven.
  3. Bake the burgers for 12-14 minutes and remove from the oven. Allow the fries to cook a few minutes longer, for a total of about 20-22 minutes.
  4. Top the burgers with a slice of cheese as soon as you remove them from the oven, then prepare your avocado.
  5. If you have never worked with an avocado before, you’ll need to have a sharp knife. Lay the avocado lengthwise on the cutting board and slice halfway through the avocado horizontally while using your palm to rotate the avocado – in this way you will slice the avocado in half around the seed in the middle.
  6. Pull the halves apart and use your knife to remove the seed by ‘hacking’ into the seed and twisting gently.
  7. Scoop out the halves using a spoon, doing your best to get all the ‘meat’ of the avocado. Cut slices and lightly squeeze the juice of a lime  over them.
  8. Next put your mayo, mustard, and hot sauce in a small bowl and mix until combined.
  9. Serve up and Enjoy!

Cheesecake Swirl Birthday Brownies!

My family and I are very close. It’s been tough as we’ve all grown up and gotten jobs, moved out, moved back in, gotten married, had kids, etc. We all stick pretty close to each other though and I love it. It’s been so hard to keep in touch with everyone as often as we used to, no matter how hard we try. Life gets in the way, you know?

We started up a fun habit several months ago as a way for us to all see each other at least once a month, if not more. We pick a restaurant, a date, and we all meet up and have a family dinner together. Some months have been more fun than others, depending on the restaurant choice. But, either way, I am trying different cuisines and hanging out with the fam so it’s great no matter what. Next month is sushi!!  🍣🍣🍣

We recently tried out this ‘authentic’ Asian noodle place in town and I was (highly) disappointed. What a huge bummer. We chose this restaurant as a way to celebrate my sister Emma’s birthday. Emma is obsessed with Asian culture and food and anime and people and etc. She has taken a couple of Chinese courses in college to learn the language and is actually learning Japanese with her hubby from a friend of hers. It’s really fun to hear her speak in Japanese, she’s really taking to the language. Emma, along with my other two sisters, is INCREDIBLY talented when it comes to art and you can really see her passion for Asia in the way she draws. She’s absolutely incredible.

Speaking of incredible…

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Look at this beautiful boy…

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I just can’t get enough of those faces. ❤❤❤

Along with Asian culture, Emma is also obsessed with chocolate. So I KNEW I would have to create something with chocolate in it for her birthday. These brownies were then made.

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They were super duper yummy. I took them with me to the restaurant and after we finished our (disappointing) meals, we scarfed down quite a bit of them. (P.S. There were about 15 of us there in total because my family is rather large…we just didn’t exactly get pictures of everyone…Oops)

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After tasting them, I realized I’m going to have to explore this recipe with many other flavors. Blondies, funfetti cake, german chocolate with coconut, carrot cake, red velvet, dark chocolate, maybe turn the cheesecake mixture into chocolate instead, or even cinnamon…the list goes on and on. I cannot wait to try other flavors with this recipe, it was delicious! And Emma took the rest of them home with her. Happy Birthday, little sis ♥

Ingredients List:

Brownie batter:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp coffee extract
1/4 tsp Maple extract
2 egg whites, 2 whole eggs
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
1 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder

Cheesecake Swirl:
8 oz cream cheese
2 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Melt the butter in a microwave safe bowl for 30 seconds at a time in the microwave until completely melted.
  2. Add the sugar, extracts, and eggs to the butter and mix until combined.
  3. In a separate bowl sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt and add the espresso powder.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix only until combined – do not over-mix.
  5. In another bowl, beat the cream cheese, egg whites, sugar, and vanilla together until combined.
  6. Pour half of your brownie batter into your prepared pan and smooth into a level layer. Scoop half of the cream cheese mixture on top of the brownie layer and use a butter knife to swirl the mixture in with the brownie batter.
  7. Pour the remaining brownie batter on top and level it into an even layer and top with the remaining cream cheese mixture, finishing the top with a swirl pattern.
  8. Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes. Do not overcook! Let the brownies stay a little fudgey.
  9. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before slicing and devouring

My Life! Oh, my life…

The stress of my modern office!

I hope you caught that reference.

Sorry I’ve been away for a few weeks, I feel as though I’ve neglected a very important part of myself by not updating my cookbook here. This is, after all, the cookbook of my life. It includes all the recipes I need to get through the day.

This is one of the three best recipes I ever created.

Jude the Dude to the rescue ♥💕♥

My son, Jude, has a favorite superhero and you’ll never guess who it is.

This is his Halloween costume and it’s impossible to get him to remove it.

As an update, I want to let you know that since my last post, I have accepted a new role at work. I am so excited!! It’s going to be a move up for me in my career which will also mean more money. It’s going to be a really good thing for my family for a while and we are feeling beyond blessed.

We will also be holding a Halloween party at our place this year and it’s actually the first time we’ve ever done anything like this. I’m incredibly excited about how it’s going to turn out and can’t wait to share my recipes with you that I decide on for the party.

I will be posting a few new recipes in the coming days and hope you love them.

Side note – I started writing a book. Like, an actual fictional book. I’m not really ready to say anything else about it but it’s been a very fun way to let out my creativity when my kitchen is too messy to bake and I’m too lazy to clean it.

Can you relate to that?

Additional side note…because of the stress I’ve been dealing with at home and at work, I’ve developed quite a few skin issues. I have decided to overcome my fear and show you a picture of what I look like at the moment so I can share my burden with others. Sorry about that.

I think my camera on my phone had an auto-filter setting when I took this one. I much prefer the way my skin looks in this one. Webcams make me look like I do in my fantasies. Of course, in my fantasies I also own my own bakery and don’t answer to the man and can stay home with my family whenever I want…

Oh well…

As a way to combat these skin issues, I’ve been using this awesome new skincare regimen with Mario Badescu. Have you heard of the brand?

I’m kind of obsessed so far. The product is so mild that it doesn’t give my skin any kind of reaction and it makes my skin feel brand new almost. I feel so refreshed after I’ve washed my face and finished my skincare routine.

Don’t freak out – these products have accumulated over a period of several weeks. Also – I don’t use all of them at the same time. I alternate nights and mornings during the week that I use each product.

I’ll keep you updated right here about how my skin improves and I’ll let you know if it’s something you should invest in for yourself as well.

Anywho, I’ll be back with several new recipes over the coming days so be sure to check up again later for a look at them.

Thanks for spending a few minutes of your day with me and don’t forget to show yourself some love. You deserve it.