Cola Cake

A few years ago, for my birthday, a friend of mine made me Diet Coke cupcakes. They were easily the best cupcakes I had ever had. You can go ahead and tell me, “Magnolia is better!” but I will disagree. Since then I have wanted to make my own version of cola cake but not using a boxed mix (my friend’s version required Miss Betty Crocker which is fine and dandy in my book, but I love watching something come together with each individual ingredient). I finally tracked down a cola cake recipe in a Taste of Home cookbook. While I typically try to cut back on sugar and fat in my recipes, I simply could not do so with this particular recipe. You need the sugars, you need the fats. You’ve been warned. Your friend is on a diet? Too bad. Make this a cheat day meal.

  • Cake Ingredients:
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 12-ounce can Coca-Cola (I prefer Pepsi but for this, you need good ol’ Coke)
  • 1 stick salted butter, room temp. and cubed
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows (I took jumbo size marshmallows and chopped them up)
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13×9 in. baking dish. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, and baking soda.
  2. In a large saucepan, bring the cola to a boil; cook 7-9 minutes or until cola is reduced to 1 cup. Stir in the butter, oil, and cocoa powder; return to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat; stir in the marshmallows until melted. Add to the flour mixture and stir just until moistened.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla until blended. Add to the flour mixture, whisking constantly. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Bake 30-35 minutes (33 did the job in my oven) or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely in baking dish on a wire rack (this took almost an hour and a half to completely cool so go run errands or something).
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I tested it twice (see the holes?) because I refused to believe a cake so moist was done baking in under an hour

  • Topping Ingredients:
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. In a small bowl, mix sour cream, brown sugar, and vanilla until smooth.
  2. Frost the damn cake and pretend all that caffeine from that can of Coke is seeping into your bloodstream.
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Caaaaake

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So moist, so good, so caffeinated (not really caffeinated but a gal can dream)

This is easily the most delicious cake I have ever made. It’s moist, filled with flavor (none of which is soda), and the topping adds a nice tart punch to it to cut some of the sweetness. Also no small appliances were harmed in the making of this baked good.

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NatureBox Review

I’m a snacker. I love to snack while I’m at work. I love having something I can mindlessly grab and eat while I bang out expense reports and go through hundreds of emails. The problem is, the office vending machine is full of junk food snacks. The bodega downstairs isn’t much better. Sure, they offer some varieties of nuts and such, but everything else is chips (full of sodium) and candy (full of carbs and sugar). That’s why I decided to seek a better option. That better option ended up being NatureBox. I got 50% off my first box since I was a newbie and moving forward it’s roughly $20 a month to receive 5 snacks that are on the healthy side and are, surprisingly, tasty. Below is what I received for the month of May. My June box just shipped and I’m excited to give my new snacks a try!

  • Coconut Cashews: These were my second favorite snack in May’s box of goodies. Cashews are one of my favorite things to snack on. These cashews were made even better by adding a hint of coconut flavor (it’s not overpowering). They’re also easy to snack on and they’re filling!
  • Apple Cinnamon Crunch: These were my least favorite but they were still pretty tasty. This was a mix of peanuts and other goodies, all with a hint of apple flavor. I barely tasted any cinnamon, which was mildly disappointing. Easy to snack on but not something I would add to my NatureBox pantry ever again.
  • Honey Crunch Crisps: These were my favorite! Crunchy snacks with the right amount of honey flavor. I could have easily polished off this bag in one sitting but then this snack would no longer be considered healthy so…
  • Salt & Vinegar Veggie Chips: I’ve always been a fan of salt and vinegar chips. These were good but my main issue is the fact it’s the only bag that does not reseal. Meaning either eat all servings in one shot (and risk going over your calories for the day) or wasting the remainder of the bag. I ended up doing the latter, which was a disappointment.
  • Asiago & Cheddar Cheese Crisps: I love asiago and I love cheddar. Hell, I just love (almost) all cheese. These were easy to snack on since the flavor punch was so strong and they were fun to crunch away on. I’m looking forward to receiving these again somewhere down the line.
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What I saw when I opened the box

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These are addicting!

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My favorite

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Second favorite

Overall, this is a great subscription if you, too, are a snacker and are looking for healthier options. Some of their snacks are also available in select Target stores. I might not continue with the monthly subscription but it’s easy to “pause” the plan at any time and pick it back up again later. If you’re interested in trying out a box for FREE (yes, free!) click this link and try it out! Happy Snacking!

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Homemade Twix Bars

Twix. A candy loved by (almost) everyone. A cookie topped with caramel topped with chocolate. I’m not the biggest fan of chocolate but damn if it isn’t fun to melt and play with. I found this recipe after trying to figure out what to bake. I tweaked it a bit since certain methods in the original recipe weren’t exactly working out for me (more on that later). I broke the ingredients down into three sections to represent all three layers.

  • Shortbread Layer Ingredients:
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp.
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Caramel Layer Ingredients:
  • 2 cups caramel chips (Kraft sells these in a bag that is more than enough to cover the 2 cups required)
  • 3-5 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Chocolate Layer Ingredients:
  • 3 cups milk chocolate chips
  • 1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. and line a 9″ x 13″ pan with parchment paper.
  2. For the shortbread crust: In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla. Add the flour and salt. Mixture will be extremely dry but will come together after mixing.
  3. Press dough evenly into the pan. Lightly flour your hands (all the way to your wrists) to help with any sticking. Prick the crust all over with a fork to prevent bubbles.
  4. Bake the crust until it’s lightly-golden brown on top and the edges are a deeper golden brown, about 40-50 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately run a knife along the edges to loosen the crust. Set it aside to cool completely.
  5. For the caramel layer: Melt the caramel and heavy cream using a double boiler. Stir until smooth. Quickly pour the caramel over the shortbread crust and smooth it using a rubber spatula. Put it in the fridge to 30-40 minutes to chill and firm up.
  6. For the chocolate layer: Melt the milk chocolate using a double boiler. Add the vegetable oil to thin out the chocolate. Next step is two different ways you can go about sealing the deal on these babies.
  7. Cut the caramel/shortbread twice lengthwise, then horizontally, to create “bite-size” pieces and quickly spread the chocolate over each piece with a knife OR take the chocolate and quickly smooth over the top and cut into bars. I originally attempted to use tongs to “dip” each piece into the chocolate but they started breaking apart as I did that so I said “eff it!” and went with working on parchment paper placed over a cooling rack. Tip: work fast with the chocolate, you might want to enlist a friend or relative to help you out. The chocolate thickens VERY quickly so it’s best to have someone continuously stir it as someone else works to get the chocolate onto the pieces.
  8. Place the chocolate-covered pieces in the fridge and let them chill and firm up for 2 hours. Keep them in the fridge whenever they are not being served since the caramel and chocolate will quickly breakdown.
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Right before they hit the fridge for their final “firm up” session. Look at the beautiful artwork created on the parchment paper.

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After chilling like a villain in the fridge.

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A good chunk of caramel.

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I love layers.

Let’s be honest. These were a bitch to make. My neck is shot from standing over my double boiler but the effort was well worth it. The worst part? Quickly working with the chocolate and figuring out a method to get them all over each piece without the pieces breaking. I first tried with larger pieces but that wasn’t working so ultimately each piece was cut in half from there. These taste delicious and are addictive. You’ll also be stuck with a bunch of them so as they say, “sharing is caring”. Bring some to work! I need a massage now.

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Baked Catfish

Fish. It’s something popular during the warmer months. Actually, fish is popular all times of the year. Some people dislike fish. Some people claim to dislike it but have never even tried it. Oh well, you can’t please everyone. Yes, I just rambled about fish. No, I had no good reason for doing so. Below is my take on baked catfish. A simple dish that you can whip up in a short amount of time. Oh, and catfish are not as ugly as monkfish (remember that recipe?).

  • Ingredients:
  • 2 catfish fillets (7-8 ounces)
  • ground sea salt (they sell this with a grinder attached)
  • ground black pepper
  • 1 stick butter
  • 4 ounces dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • paprika
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Season fish with salt and pepper. Place fish in a deep baking dish.
  3. Melt butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Add wine, lemon juice, and garlic. Simmer about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and spoon over fish.
  4. Sprinkle paprika over fish.
  5. Bake fish for 12-15 minutes, or until fish is cooked.
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Make sure you spoon the extra sauce from the baking dish back onto the fish while serving it.

See? Easy! Catfish is a thicker fish than other fillets so your cooking time may vary. It’s also very filling due to its size. Absolutely delicious and takes little to no time to make.

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Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies

It’s busy season at work. What does this mean? Constant food. Everywhere you look…There’s food! I decided I needed to contribute to this movement and searched for a new brownie recipe. Oh, and, um…I bought a new double boiler, so I HAD to use that. The Epicurious line sold at JC Penney is pretty great and CHEAP (but still great quality!). Martha Stewart had this recipe for peanut butter swirl brownies. I made a few changes here and there and they came out delicious!

  • Batter Ingredients:
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 ounces good-quality unsweetened chocolate
  • 4 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate
  • 2/3 cup AP flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  1. Make the batter: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a buttered 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, allowing extra to hang over the sides. Butter lining (I used Pam Baking Spray) and set pan aside.
  2. In a medium-size mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a double boiler, stir butter and chocolates together until melted. Let cool slightly.
  4. Pour chocolate mixture into a different mixing bowl than that of the flour mixture. Whisk granulated sugar into the chocolate mixture. Add eggs and whisk until mixture is smooth. Stir in vanilla. Add flour mixture and stir until well-incorporated.
  • Filling Ingredients:
  • 4 tablespoons (half a stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  1. Make the filling: Stir together butter, confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, salt, and vanilla until smooth.
  2. Combine the batter and the filling: Pour one-third of batter into prepared pan and spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Place dollops of filling (about 1 tablespoon each) about 1 inch apart on top of batter. Drizzle remaining batter on top and gently spread to fill pan. Place dollops of remaining filling on top.
  3. With a butter knife touching the bottom of the pan, gently swirl the filling into the batter, running knife lengthwise and crosswise through layers. Do NOT over swirl or the brownies will only look like peanut butter.
  4. Bake 45 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean (the peanut butter might stay a bit wet but the chocolate should come out clean on the tester). Let cool slightly in pan (about 15 minutes) then lift out brownies and cool completely on a wire cooling rack before cutting into squares.
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Beautiful swirl.

These came out REALLY good. While they’re still cooling, the peanut butter will separate from the chocolate a bit. Wait until they’re completely cool prior to cutting into them.

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Baked Monkfish with Lemon, Rosemary, and Mustard

Monkfish is an atrocious looking fish. Honestly, if you’ve never seen one before and you’re planning on making this recipe, hold off on the Google image search until after you eat. It is simply an eyesore. However! Monkfish are one of the sweeter fishes out there with less of a “fishy” taste. Below is a recipe I originally found here that I decided to try out.

  • Ingredients:
  • 1 lemon
  • 3/4 teaspoon mustard, preferably coarse or whole grain (I used Inglehoffer stone ground mustard)
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds monkfish
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Remove the zest from the lemon in thick strips using a vegetable peeler or paring knife (paring knife is a bit easier since this calls for thick strips). Slice the zest into small, long strips.
  3. Combine the zest in a small bowl with the mustard, rosemary, olive oil, and salt.
  4. In a resealable bag, toss the monkfish with the mustard mixture. Drizzle additional olive oil into the bag and toss again.Make sure all pieces of fish are coated.
  5. Place fish into a baking dish and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake in the center of the oven until the fish is opaque and cooked through, 20-25 minutes.
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Before going into the oven.

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Done and ready to eat.

This came out really tasty! The lemon helped break up the sweetness of the fish. The rosemary altered the taste, as well. And now I have discovered a new mustard that I plan on using on everything! Okay, not everything, but almost. Google image search Monkfish now.

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Pretzel-Crusted Chicken Cutlets

To my fellow New Yorkers: I hope you are staying inside today as the snow begins to melt from yesterday’s blizzard. Stay in, watch some Netflix, drink some booze. I wish I could say the recipe I am posting today was something I made during yesterday’s storm, however, I actually made this a couple of weeks ago. I was flipping through the latest issue of Food Network Magazine and came across a recipe for pretzel-crusted turkey cutlets. I am not a fan of turkey unless it’s the cold cut kind that I can throw between two slices of bread and call a sandwich. With that said, I decided to try this recipe out with chicken cutlets instead. The result? Caramelized pretzels that have changed my life in a positive way FOREVER.

  • Ingredients:
  • 2 cups small pretzels, crushed (I crushed them with the help of a Zip-Loc bag and a rolling pin)
  • 1 pound chicken cutlets
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne (Food Network called for paprika but I worked with what I already had)
  • kosher salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  1. Spread the pretzel crumbs in a shallow dish. Season turkey with cayenne, salt, and pepper. Brush 1 side of each cutlet with dijon mustard, then press into the pretzels to coat. Top each cutlet with thyme.
  2. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a cast iron pan (everyone will tell you non-stick, I’m telling you cast iron) over medium-high heat. Add half of the cutlets, pretzel side down. Cook each side for 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a plate or an oven-safe dish. If using the latter, place the oven-safe dish in a preheated oven to keep warm (I set mine at 175 degrees F.).
  3. Use a spatula to pick up any remaining pretzels and eat those (I’m not kidding, they are absolutely delicious!). Place the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in the pan and cook the remaining chicken cutlets. Once the remainder is done either continue to warm them with the first batch in the oven or serve immediately. Top all cutlets with any additional pretzels that you did not already eat.
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it possible to have a crush on food? If so, I have a massive crush on those pretzels.

This is the most addicting chicken recipe I have ever made. The chicken itself is barely seasoned but the pretzels give it all the flavor it needs. Serve it with a side salad or any other side you prefer. Make this today if you have leftover pretzels from yesterday’s storm. Don’t let all that sodium go to waste.

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