Bites of My Life

This one is going to be long, just a warning. College graduation is the definition of bittersweet. This word has never made more since to me in my entire life. An incredible weekend it was though sharing last moments with friends, being surrounded by family and wrapping up the last of my college career. Never will I take a test again, cram for a quiz, sit through long lectures or enroll in a class. Nor will I live in the same town as all my best friends, go to a date party, attend a chapter meeting or be a student ever again. It's bittersweet I tell you.

After having record breaking rainfall and crazy spring storms all week, I was about to go mad. It was the like the rain was foreshadowing all the tears I would be crying this weekend. Our big outdoor graduation barbecue plans were canceled, we got stuck spending way too much time inside (some of that underground in shelter), and nearly had graduation rained out. All I can say is, it made the week that much more memorable. 

After one last long night in Norman, I packed up and left my college town for good yesterday. I bawled the whole way home, then cried some more and cried some more. I moved home with my parents and celebrated a great day with my family for Mother's day. Tomorrow starts my first full day in my new city. On the horizon are big girl job interviews, moving into my own house and settling into the next chapter of my life. Today is my 100th bites post. What a great way to mark all the new bites to come!

-Avocado is a game changer in smoothies/smoothie bowls. So dang creamy.
-Got to share barre3 in the Myriad Gardens with Marge and Whit! A perk of moving back to OKC.
-Sirens blaring and tornadoes sweeping down the plains. Classic finals week having to take shelter from Oklahoma storms!
-Last "morning with marge" :( Great life chats and lots of coffee and tea these past few weeks!
-Whole Foods goodies to brighten up the dreary week we had.
-Last Thursday at our home way from home.
-Little do you know it's actually raining in this picture. We'll do anything to document our dear Kappa days. 
-Cue post-grad life.
-The weather may have washed out our big grad party plans, but it's safe to say we made the best of it!
-Celebrations always call for cookies!
-Lunching at Whole Foods for the first day back home.
-Steak and potatoes, moms request. 


Mini Lavender Cupcakes

It's cupcake day round 2! Yesterday I posted about these Blueberry Lemon cupcakes, but today is all about my Mini Lavender cupcakes. Ever since I made these White Chocolate Lavender Cookies last summer, I've had lavender desserts on my radar.

I despise the scent of lavender when it comes in the form of body lotion or candles, but put it in food and it's a whole other ball game. I even put it in my smoothie the other day. 

I made these cupcakes in minis partially because everything is cuter in mini form and partially because I needed the batter to stretch farther than just 12 cupcakes. That being said you could easily adapt this recipe to make regular sized cupcakes. 

Mini Lavender Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
yields 24 mini cupcakes of 12 regular

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. dried lavender buds
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. milk

For the frosting:
1 block cream cheese, softened
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cup powdered sugar, sifted
red and blue food coloring
lavender buds for decorating

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a mini cupcake pan with liners and set aside. 

Put the sugar and the lavender buds in a food processor and process briefly to combine. Place the butter and lavender sugar into a bowl of an electric mixer. mix together until light and fluffy. Beat the eggs into the butter mixture, one at a time until fully combines.  In a separate bowl sift in the dry ingredients then stir into the mixer. Stir in the milk.

Using a mini cookie scoop or rounded tablespoon, spoon the mixture into the paper liners. If making minis, bake for 9-10 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. If you are making regular sized cupcakes, bake for 18 minutes. 

While the cupcakes are cooling, beat the cream cheese, butter and sifted powdered sugar together. Add two drops of red coloring and one of blue. Mix in the food coloring. Add more coloring, one drop at a time if you want it to be brighter. Frost your cupcakes and sprinkle a few extra lavender buds on top to decorate!

I know cupcakes are like so 2010, but these are worth it. 


Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes

Lemon is one of my favorite flavors when it comes to baked goods. Throw in any kind of fruit and the best just got better. I don't know if you were able to gather from my social media or not, but last week my sorority hosted our annual philanthropy event, Kappa Kupcakes. As is sounds, we sell tickets benefiting a local organization, bake cupcakes and fill a room with sweets for our guests to walk through and eat all the sugar they can. 

I take this event a little more more serious than others. I've been baking cupcakes for this for the past five years. Yes, I was sending over cupcake donations when I was still in high school. You can see my past creations herehere and here

I've had this blueberry lemon cupcake recipe bookmarked since I started baking up kappa kupcakes. While going through which recipes I should use this year, one of my friends suggested I make blueberry lemon; time to pull this recipe out of hiding. 

We hosted our most successful event yet and my cupcakes went quicker than any other year. A true test that this recipe is a winner. 

Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting recipe adapted from Annie's Eats
yields 16 cupcakes

1/2 cup flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
Zest of  1 lemon
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
½ cup milk
1 cup fresh blueberries

For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest of 1 large lemon
Additional fresh blueberries, for garnish

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; whisk together and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, sugar and lemon zest. Beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and lemon juice. With the mixer on low, mix in half of the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Blend in the milk. Mix in the remaining dry ingredients, beating just until incorporated.

In a small bowl, toss the blueberries with 2 tablespoons of flour. Using a spatula gently fold the berries into the cake batter. Using an ice cream scoop or 1/4 measuring cup, divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners. This will ensure you have the perfect even amount of filling in each cupcake. Bake 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pans 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Mix in the lemon juice and lemon zest. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth. Frost cooled cupcakes however you like and garnish with fresh blueberries!

Check back tomorrow for more cupcake baking!


Dinner For a Crowd

Sunday night was one of those perfect nights including good food and great company. I love to cook for my small family or myself, but cooking for a crowd makes me slightly anxious. I planned out a menu that ended up being ready on the table all at the same time without stress or hours slaved away in the kitchen. A gourmet fruit salad, veggie side dish and my favorite chicken recipe is my perfect 'Dinner for a Crowd" meal.

Watermelon Feta Salad:
serves 8-10

1 medium watermelon
6 oz or about 1 1/2 cup of crumbled feta cheese
large handful of fresh basil, chopped
balsamic vinaigrette
salt and pepper

Dice your watermelon into 1 inch cubes. Sprinkle in feta and basil. Dress with dressing, season with salt and pepper and toss together. 

Sautéed Yellow Squash:
serves 8-10

4 yellow squash, sliced
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
salt, pepper
3 Tbsp. olive oil

Heat olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Slice your squash. Once the oil is heated begin to sauté your squash, about 8-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper then sprinkle with parmesan cheese and let it melt over the squash. Continue to sauté for about 3 minutes. 

Parmesan Baked Chicken with Arugula Salad
serves 8-10

4-6 large chicken breast sliced in half length wise
1 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
2/3 cups parmesan cheese
juice of 2 lemons
2 Tbsps. olive oil
salt and pepper
olive oil spray

Arugula Salad:
4 cups or one large bag/container of arugula
1/2 cup olive oil
juice of two lemons
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place a large pan in the oven to get hot. Combine bread crumbs and cheese in one dish or bowl and the lemon juice, olive oil and pepper in another. Slice your chicken in half and pound out thin. Season the chicken with salt and pepper then dredge the chicken into the lemon/oil mixture, then the bread crumb/cheese mixture. 

Take your hot pan out of the oven and spray with cooking spray. Place your chicken on the pan then spray the chicken with cooking spray (this will help brown the bread crumbs). Bake the chicken, flipping once halfway through for 15-20 minutes or until browned and crispy. 

While your chicken is baking whisk or shake together all the ingredients for your lemon vinaigrette. Toss the arugula with the dressing. Remove chicken from the oven and top with arugula salad. 

**see tips below

**Minute by minute tips for a low stress meal

During the afternoon or at least an hour before your guests arrive:
-Cut your watermelon and leave in the fridge.
-Make the vinaigrette for the arugula salad.
-Slice your squash and leave in the fridge until it's time to sauté.
-Set the table.

30 minutes before:
-Preheat your oven and prep your chicken. 

15 Minutes before:
-Begin to sauté your squash.
-Add the feta, chopped basil and dressing to the watermelon.
-Toss the arugula with the dressing.
-Bake your chicken.

Once your guests arrive:
-Your squash should be tender, your chicken should be finishing up and the watermelon salad is ready to go!

Paper plates, plastic silverware and Styrofoam cups, just keepin' it real. 

"People who love to eat are always the best kind of people." - Julia Childs

Cheers to you people!