Monday, January 30, 2012

Poppin' Bottles {Happy 1 Year Blog-iversary!}


One year ago today, I sat down at my computer and clicked the "Create New Blog" button on Blogger, and then proceeded to sit there and think, "What the heck am I gonna call this thing?" for about 30 minutes. As always, I thought I'd do some browsing on the internet in hopes of being struck by inspiration, but instead got sidetracked by adorable kitchen accessories, Lilly Pulitzer dresses, and preppy monogrammed homegoods.

And so, The Kitchen Prep was born! {Because you know how much I love a play on words.}

I'm not going to get all mushy on you {as I have here & here}, but I really can't thank you enough for your support over the past year as I've learned by trial and error, bumps and bruises {and burns} about this amazing world of blogging. Whether you read The Kitchen Prep for the recipes or to get a laugh at my antics, I appreciate the fact that you stop by and absolutely love it when I know that there's someone actually reading all my rambling. So, THANK YOU!

Now, on to the celebration!

Our weekend was super busy {though lots of fun}, so we were barely at home long enough to throw together anything more complex than a bowl of cereal. And I almost freaked out when I realized that today, a day when I should obviously have something fabulous and celebratory to share with you, I had little more than some cold, leftover rice in my refrigerator. Nice going.

So, even though I will not be posting any fancy cake or amazing entree, I couldn't let you stop by without a champagne toast at the very least.


{I have not lost my mind. I used less expensive champagne for this recipe, but I thought the bottle of Dom Perignon we've had sitting around since our wedding almost 3 years ago would make a nice photo prop. No Dom was harmed in the making of this granita.}

Around Christmastime, I discovered the wonderful world of granitas {it started with this recipe}. They are basically slushies with a taste for the exotic. And they they are delicious.


This one is no exception. Champagne, fresh strawberry puree, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, and simple syrup all combine to form this sweet, tart, icy concoction. The recipe calls for some Grand Marnier soaked strawberry slices to top it off, but I figured we're boozing it up enough with the bubbly. {Plus, I didn't actually have any GM on hand.}

So, friends, I lift my glass to you and to the future of The Kitchen Prep. May your days be filled with laughter, and your glasses with champagne!



CHEERS!

Strawberry, Citrus, and Champagne Granita
Adapted from Epicurious
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 pounds large ripe strawberries
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1 1/2 cups dry Champagne {or whatever bubbly stuff you prefer. I used sweet sparkling wine}
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur {optional}

Combine 3/4 cup sugar and 3/4 cup water in heavy small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil 1 minute. Cool. Refrigerate syrup until cold, about 45 minutes.

Puree enough strawberries (about 6 large) in blender to yield 1/2 cup puree. Transfer strawberry puree to large bowl. Mix grapefruit juice, Champagne, lemon juice and chilled syrup into strawberry puree. Pour mixture into 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan.

Freeze Champagne mixture until icy at edge of pan, about 55 minutes. Whisk to distribute frozen portions evenly. Freeze again until icy at edge of pan and overall texture is slushy, about 40 minutes. Whisk to distribute frozen portions evenly. Cover and freeze until mixture is solid, about 3 hours.

{Optional} Meanwhile, slice remaining strawberries. Place in large bowl and toss with remaining 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup Grand Marnier. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to 3 hours.

Using fork, scrape granita down length of pan, forming ice flakes. (Granita can be prepared up to 2 days ahead of time. Cover and freeze until ready to serve.) If desired, divide sliced strawberries equally among 6 wineglasses. Top with granita and serve immediately.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Rediscovered


Do you ever go through periods of time where you completely forget about {or outright ignore} certain items in your pantry?

You buy something without a particular purpose in mind and the next thing you know it travels to the pantry abyss, only to see the light of day when you go through one of your mad cleaning fits and declare that you will not rest until your kitchen looks like one of the pages of Real Simple magazine?

No? That's just me then? Oh.

A lot of the things that wind up in this area of my pantry are given to me by my Mom. She is known for giving away almost entirely full bags {or wholesale club sized boxes} of perfectly good stuff because she tried it and didn't like it, bought too much of it, or couldn't eat it because it wouldn't work with her diet du jour. {A lot of times I think she's just being nice and stocking my pantry since she knows I go through the basics so quickly}.

Such was the case with a bag of organic coconut sugar I {re}discovered earlier this week. I know I've seen it a bazillion times since she gave it to me, but it somehow fell into the "I have no idea what to do with this, but it looks interesting, so I'll figure it out later" category.

Well, I figured it out.

Used in place of brown sugar, this little gem sweetened up a pretty yummy glaze for a fish dinner that would have most likely been pretty blah otherwise. {Incidentally, coconut sugar has a low glycemic index and is supposedly better for you than other sweeteners. Who knew?}


Sorry for the tiny pic. Blogger refuses to resize this one. :(

I'm kinda glad I ran out of an ingredient and was forced to scavenge through my pantry. You should go check out what you've got in yours. It could lead to the next great culinary discovery. Or just a really delicious dinner.

Soy-Glazed Fish with Sauteed Zucchini & Rice
Adapted from Real Simple

2 tablespoons brown sugar {or coconut sugar if you happen to have it}
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated ginger {or 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger powder}
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
kosher salt
1 to 2 10-oz. package{s} cod loins {thawed}

Optional sides:
White or Brown Rice, Quinoa, Couscous, etc.
Zucchini {2 medium or 1 large, cut how you like it}

Prepare your choice of starch {some suggestions listed above}.

For Fish:

Set oven to broil. {500 degrees}

In a small bowl, combine first 6 ingredients. Mix to form a thick paste. Set aside.

{If you'd like sauteed zucchini as a side, this is the time to make it because the fish cooks in under 10 minutes. I usually just cut it up and add it to a hot pan with 1 tbsp olive oil on medium high heat, sprinkle lightly with kosher salt, and sautee until slightly browned & caramelized in parts. Easy & one of my fave ways to eat zucchini. But you choose whatever veggies make your heart sing.}

Place fish on a foil lined {broiler safe}, baking sheet, and brush fillets with about 1 teaspoon olive oil. Lightly sprinkle with salt & pepper if desired.

Broil until the fish is opaque throughout, 5 to 7 minutes. Baste with the soy mixture twice during the last 2 minutes of cooking.

Serve on a bed of rice with sauteed veggies.


Monday, January 23, 2012

PINtervention


How many of you have become hopelessly obsessed with Pinterest? {Raising hand}

C'mon... don't be shy. You can come clean, there are no secrets here. {At this point, you've got to have plenty of dirt on me, so we're even.} ;)

For those of you that haven't yet discovered Pinterest {or are still on the "waiting list"... what's that all about??}, I'll tell you a little about it. Pinterest is a site where you can can keep a visual collection of ideas, pictures, and bookmarks on categorized "Boards", just like you might keep a bulletin board or vision board at home. The only problem with it seems to be that once you sit down and start browsing Pinterest, it's nearly impossible to pry yourself away.

It happens without warning. Starts out with a few innocent clicks and leads to digital idea hoarding. Because, you know, you might actually find the time to brilliantly repurpose every single empty container in your house and find the perfect scrap pieces of wood to build yourself a custom table/cabinet/shelving unit/headboard.

The worst part about Pinterest? You spend so much time finding GREAT ideas that you don't ever get up from behind the computer screen long enough to try them out. And then you feel guilty. Which makes you spend some more time clicking around trying to find pretty things to make yourself feel better.

It's a vicious cycle, folks. One that leads to trips to Home Depot, a longer "Honey Do" list, and more Nutella recipes in your life. {Which isn't necessarily a bad thing...}

You've been warned.

Anyway, now that I've thoroughly forewarned you about getting sucked into the madness, I must share with you a recipe that I found and actually made. It was love at first pin.

Chubby Hubby Bars


If you love the ice cream version of this stuff, you will want to marry the bar version. {Ha, and it has the word "hubby" in it! So clever.}


I adapted the recipe I found on Pinterest just a bit because I wanted to include some homemade Peanut Butter Caramel I had seen on an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay.



I also added a little malted milk powder into the cookie dough {which also happens to contain semi-sweet chocolate chips and chopped up pretzel pieces... yum} to mimic the Vanilla Malt Ice Cream that all the Chubby Hubby goodness comes swirled into. 




I have a feeling finds like these are only going to make my Pinterest addiction worse... but this is definitely a recipe you'll want to "repin"!

*You can follow me AND my addiction on Pinterest by clicking here.

Chubby Hubby Bars
Adapted from a recipe found Cookies & Cups through Pinterest


For the Peanut Butter Caramel
From Food Network


1/4 white sugar
1/4 water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon corn syrup
Pinch of salt


1. Heat heavy cream in microwave or in a small saucepan until steaming {not boiling}.
2. In a small saucepan, heat sugar and water on high heat without stirring until it boils. Allow syrup to turn a light amber color. Keep an eye on this as it can burn very easily.
3. Carefully {it will bubble & boil} add heated heavy cream and whisk. Allow to cook for another 30 seconds to a minute.
4. Remove from heat and wisk in peanut butter, vanilla, corn syrup, and salt until smooth.
5. Pour into a heat safe bowl and set aside to cool.


For The Cookie Base:
2 sticks softened butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup malted milk powder {I used Carnation Malted Milk Powder}
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup heavy cream
Approx. 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Approx. 1 1/2 cups salted pretzels, coarsely chopped
Pretzels for garnish


  1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9×13 pan lightly with cooking spray.
  2. Beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla, mix until incorporated.
  4. On low speed add in salt, baking soda, malted milk powder, and flour a little at a time, mixing until just incorporated.
  5. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in approx. 1 cup of the chocolate chips and pretzel pieces by hand, as not to break up the pieces too small.
  6. Spread in prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes. Let cool completely.
  7. When cooled pour peanut butter caramel over the bars and spread evenly.
  8. Chill in fridge for 15 minutes to set caramel.
  9. On the stovetop or in a microwave safe measuring cup, heat 1/4 cup cream until steaming, and while hot, pour over approx. 1 cup chocolate chips in a small bowl. Whisk until smooth and chocolate is completely melted. Carefully spread chocolate over set caramel. While still wet, add pretzels for garnish if desired.
  10. Put back in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or until chocolate is set.
  11. Cut into squares when ready to serve.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Printed Thermal Tote Giveaway Winner!

Good morning, everyone!

Thanks so much for entering the Printed Thermal Tote Giveaway from Thirty-One!

And the winner is.......

Renee W. {bored2quickly} who chose the Black Parisian Pop as her favorite print!

Congratulations, Renee, enjoy your thermal tote and let us know if you have any good recipes for snacks that you plan to carry in it! ;)

Speaking of good recipes, I started off the morning on the right food with some Fluffy Breakfast Biscuits from The Purple Spoon. They caught my eye from the FoodBuzz "Today's Top 9" sidebar, and I knew I had to make them.


They are most definitely fluffy and delicious!


I practiced self control and allowed myself ONE biscuit {though the whole tray was calling my name}, and I'm freezing the rest for an easy weekend morning {or afternoon, or evening...} treat. Give them a try if you're looking for something easy and scrumptious to make.


Thanks again for participating in my very first giveaway! Don't stray too far, I plan on having lots more fun giveaways coming up!

I also have a decadent post scheduled for Monday that you won't want to miss... have a fabulous weekend, everyone!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Oh, Paula...

Source

Well, it's time to get all serious on you. {Hey, you in the back, please stop giving your neighbor bunny ears.}

I know, I know. You came here for cake, not for a lecture. But bear with me since this relates to our favorite topic around here: yummy food.

As I'm sure you've probably heard, Ms. Paula made a big announcement last week that has really set off an interesting reaction from the masses. She shared publicly that, three years ago, she was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

Now, I have to tell you that I actually am quite fond of Paula Deen. She is loveable. She is flawed. She is real. She seems like the type you'd want to be around for a good laugh or a great buttermilk biscuit. Like a sweet, nutty Aunt or neighbor that knows exactly how to cheer you up.

That said, I also realize that the food she has built her multi-million dollar industry upon leaves a lot to be desired in the nutritional department. She turns the food pyramid upside down on it's head and suggests creamed corn and fried okra count as healthy vegetables. {I wish they did, too, friends.}

But let's be real. We know that the woman cannot possibly believe that. We know that throughout the years, there's a good chance that she has been advised and counseled on her personal eating habits and has quite possibly been given access to professionals that help direct her in not keeling over live and in person on the set, with a stick of butter in her hand. {That might drop ratings, huh?}

Source
So, why are people freaking out about her so-called "dishonesty"? Is it because she should have come clean about the true effect of years spent eating Southern fare?  Is it because she is now profiting from being the spokesperson for a pharmaceutical company that sells diabetes medication? Would her honesty really have stopped anyone from making poor food choices? We have known for years that junk food = unhealthiness = medication unless you commit to change. Yet, obesity in our nation is still at an all time high.

The expectation for her to bring her deep-fried image to a halt after years of success bolstered by that very premise puzzles me. She was hired to come into our living rooms and weasle her way into our affections with warm, cheesy grits.  When I turn on Paula's show, I watch knowing what I'm about to get. It's the place I go when I want to get recipes for something naughty. {And half the time, I don't even use as much butter as she calls for!} Changing from Paula's Home Cookin' to Paula's Wholesome Cookin' just wouldn't have the same ring {or quite frankly, credibility}, and let's face it, the same viewership.

Being mad at Paula is like pulling through the McDonald's drive-thru daily and then getting upset when cholesterol levels rise and pants don't fit. Or like putting celebrities who drink, smoke, and do drugs on trial for giving the impression that their bad behavior is safe for us to mimic because you can still be rich, famous, good looking AND stoned out of your noodle. {Ahem, Mr. Sheen}

Perhaps what has really caused this reaction to Paula's news is fear. A sinking feeling of accountability that has struck hearts and stomachs around the nation. The realization that even if we are eating copious amounts of fat and sugar because that's just what Southerners do or because someone told us it tastes real good, we are still putting ourselves at higher risk for illness. The thought that we have to take personal responsibility for our actions or we may be in real trouble.

So tell me, should I put a warning label on every recipe I share on this blog that exceeds daily caloric limits? {Sometimes I actually do. Despite all the sugar and fat, my husband & I are actually pretty healthy eaters.} I give my readers the benefit of the doubt because I feel like they're smart enough to know that "treat" really means treat.

I know not everyone feels the same, and I can understand the other points of view, but I just thought I'd bring up an important topic and see if anyone cares to chime in.

Regardless of your opinion, I hope you will always continue to do what is right for your situation so that you can live your best life. Make it count, y'all! ;)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"Chai" Love You


Steve makes fun of me all the time {for various & sundry reasons} because he is amused by the fact that I always have to end each meal with a little something sweet.

I won't deny it.  Whether it's some fruit, a piece of chocolate, or a pint of some ice cream... I look forward to that moment when I can indulge my sweet tooth.

I've also become quite fond of having a nice hot cup of something to sip on in the evenings. Most of the time it's hot cocoa {which goes great with Homemade Vanilla Marshmallows}, decaf coffee {because I'd rather not be bouncing off the walls into the night}, or, more recently, a soothing cup of tea.

But to be quite honest, I haven't always been a huge fan of hot tea. That is, until I tried Chai.

I got hooked on Chai when I used to frequent Starbucks as my "office" and happened to have an excess of Starbucks gift cards. There is something so snuggly and comforting about the flavors in Chai Tea. Cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, and pepper combine to form a warm, comfy blanket in tea form.

So, imagine my elation when I found this recipe for White Chocolate Chai Tea. Holy. Moly.



Combining a sweet treat and delicious hot tea blends both of my evening indulgences into one amazing treat... one that even Steve joined me in sipping on. I can't imagine a sweeter way to end the day.





White Chocolate Chai Tea
via Lindt USA

Yield: 4-5 servings


  • 2 cups water


  • 2 chai tea bags {I use Twinings French Vanilla Chai}


  • 2 cups Milk


  • 1 (3.5 oz) Bar Lindt White Chocolate, chopped or 3.5 oz of white chocolate chips 


  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract



  • 1.Boil water in a saucepan (or microwave), add tea bags, remove from heat.
    2. Allow to steep five minutes then discard tea bags.
    3. Heat milk until steaming in saucepan or microwave.
    4. Place chocolate in a small bowl and pour ¼ of steaming milk over chocolate, stirring until chocolate is melted.
    5. Stir chocolate mixture into hot milk; add chai and vanilla extract.
    6. Serve hot in tea glasses or mugs.

    Monday, January 16, 2012

    TKP's First Giveaway!

    Did you know that The Kitchen Prep's 1 Year Blog-iversary is quickly approaching? {Eeek!}
    I would say that calls for a celebration! And as we all know, no celebration worth attending is complete without fun presents {and champagne, of course, but I'm having a hard time checking your I.D. from here. :P}!

    Luckily, I have the perfect gift to give away to one lucky reader: An adorable printed Thermal Zipper Tote from Thirty One! With this cute little tote, you'll have a fashionable way to carry your TKP recipe leftovers to work, school, or wherever you please. And guess what? You even get to choose your own print! {I like the Paparazzi Dot and Parisian Pop, but check out the Cupcakes print if you're feeling whimsical!}
    Paparazzi Dot
    If you're feeling a little sassy, the Wild Zebra print might be more you!


    Thirty One is a company that sells charming yet functional totes, purses, and accessories {including aprons!} that make it fun and fashionable to be organized. Many of their items can be personalized {and I do love a good monogram}, making them great gifts to give or to add to your own wishlist.

    So, how do you get your hands on this sweet little tote? It's easy!

    *** This giveaway is now closed!*** Thank you for entering and stay tuned for the next giveaway!

    TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY (REQUIRED):


    1. Click on this link, then comment below by telling me which Thermal Tote print would be your favorite for carrying tasty treats! {Just click the "Monthly Specials" link on the red bar across the top of the page, then click on the January monthly specials picture of the zip tote on the left side of the page to see the different prints available.}

     

    WANT EXTRA ENTRIES?

    For each of the items completed below, you will receive one additional entry. You MUST leave a separate comment for each entry to count. If you're ahead of the game & you've already done any of the things below, they do count, just let me know in a separate comment that you've already done it.


    1. Become a Follower of The Kitchen Prep.
    2. "Like" The Kitchen Prep on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thekitchenprep
    3.  Go to today's post on The Kitchen Prep's Facebook page and click the share button below the picture of the Thermal Totes. Include the following text in the box above the picture: Check out @The Kitchen Prep today for a fun giveaway! Enter at: http://bit.ly/AggtxE


    THE FINE PRINT:

    • This giveaway is open to USA residents only and will run until Friday, January 20, 2012 at 11:59 pm EST.

    • One winner will be chosen via a random number generator. Winner will be announced on the blog and on Facebook on Monday, January 23, 2012. The winner will be responsible for contacting me via contact form with Name, Email, and mailing address for receipt of prize.

    • Winner will have until Wednesday, January 25, 2012 to claim the prize or another winner will be chosen.

    • Winner will receive the Thermal Zipper Tote as described above, without monogramming.

    • Product will be shipped by Thirty One consultant providing the giveaway.

    I have so many exciting things lining up for this year... and it's only January!

    Alright, enough of the blabber... get to commenting below to enter! Good luck, everyone!

    Thursday, January 12, 2012

    Nutritious New Year


    During the holidays I hardly posted any recipes at all. Probably because I was in the kitchen cooking up a storm in preparation for the holiday feasting & gift giving, leaving me with no time to take pictures and write about everything. Bad blogger.

    It was my very first holiday season with a blog and I definitely learned some lessons that I hope to carry over this year when that busy time comes around again. {i.e. Share what you cook with your readers. That's a start!}

    Here's a list of all the things I made in the week leading up to Christmas:
    • Biscotti - Mocha, Lemon Almond, and Peanut Butter Chocolate {gifts for the hubby's fam}
    • Mini Cupcakes - Chocolate Chai Tea, Vanilla with Classic Buttercream, & Vanilla with Peppermint Buttercream
    • Cashew Candy Crunch
    • Almond Candy Crunch
    • Nutella Brownies {gift for my Nutella-obsessed little sister}
    • Marshmallows - Vanilla & Peppermint {for our family cookie exchange}
    • Candy Covered Snowman Pops {gifts for the kiddos I work with & hubby's patients}
    Cute little guy, huh?

    • Bagels {Gift for my Mom. She loves bagels.}
    • Sour Cream Coffee Cake {Gift for Abuela. Coffee cake is her favorite.}
    • Neapolitan Coconut Candies {Gift for my older sister}
    • White Chocolate Tangerine Tea Cookies {For family cookie exchange}
    • Samoa Bark {Also or family cookie exchange}
    • Zuccoto Cake {For dessert on Christmas Day}

    Throw in - you know - regular meals for the week, working, and wrapping up all these goodies in a presentable fashion, and I was one tired little baker.

    During that time, I was eating a lot of tasty Christmastime treats and enjoying a bit too much Christmas cheer altogether. While it's a whole lotta fun at the time, a diet consisting of pasta, sugar, and cocktails takes a toll on the body. {Though we wish it wasn't so.}


    I'd say the entire month of December was shot as far as nutrition goes, so I was really glad to get back into a healthier routine with the start of the New Year. {Though no formal "Eat less sugar." resolutions were made, as I mentioned a few posts ago.}

    It isn't difficult to stick to healthy with options like this.


    I consider this one of those "non-recipe recipes", meaning that there's no right or wrong way to put this dish together. But the lack of structure definitely doesn't mean lack of flavor.

    This Quinoa Salad is healthy, filling, and delicious. You can toss in your favorite veggies, sprinkle in your favorite herbs, and even whip up your own "dressing" to personalize it for your tastebuds.


    I have to credit my friend's friend, Allison, for the inspiration for this yummy dish back in an old blog post. Her recipe prompted me to experiment with quinoa for the first time, and boy, am I glad I did!

    This is good hot or cold, as a side dish, a main, or as part of a tasty wrap. Can't get any more versatile and convenient. Make this recipe your own and make it your go-to, healthy quick fix for the New Year.

    Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

    1 cup quinoa, rinsed
    1 1/2 cups water
    1 small zucchini, diced small
    1/2 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered or chopped small
    1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
    1/4 cup pepperoncini {banana peppers}, chopped
    1/3 cup feta cheese
    1/4 olive oil
    juice of 1 lemon
    1/4 tsp kosher salt
    1 teaspoon dried oregano
    1 clove garlic, minced or grated {*warning, this raw garlic gives a lot of flavor but also quite a potent kick to your breath! Proceed with caution.}

    1. Combine quinoa and water in pot and cook according to package directions. While quinoa cooks, combine olive oil, lemon juice, salt and oregano and whisk together. Set aside.

    2. Fluff cooked quinoa with a fork and place in a large bowl. Add zucchini, tomatoes, olives, pepperoncini, and feta.

    3. Pour olive oil mixture over quinoa and mix well.

    Enjoy hot or cold.

    Tuesday, January 10, 2012

    ORANGE and BLUEberry Cake


    So, in case you didn't already know this... I'm a Gator fan. Have been about as far back as I can remember, when I didn't even know that being a Gator was rooted in some deep, football-watching tradition. {I grew up in a household of non-football watching women, and even my dad was never into the sport. Blasphemy, I know.} Mostly, I just knew that getting to be a true Gator would be a privilege I would have to earn.

    When my older sister {who is 7 years my elder} got accepted to the University of Florida, I knew right then and there that I, too, would one day make my own journey to The Swamp. And I did.

    My Gator college experience was, in short {for the sake of time and incrimination energy}, amazing. I emerged even more of a Gator than when I entered, if you can believe it.

    And then I married a fellow Gator {he was actually my neighbor during my first year in Gainesville}, and our Gatorness grew exponentially. It's true. We can be "those people", especially during football season.

    Lately, the nation has been swept away - whether off their feet or into a frenzied fit of rage, you decide - by a former Gator who has become pretty well known for his unbelievable ability to turn completely rational human beings into stark raving lunatics by simply throwing a football and, well, being pretty darn cute.

    UM... yeah. This guy.
    Source
    My husband has a man-crush on Tim Tebow. My Facebook news feed is swamped {no pun intended} by ranting Tebow lovers and haters alike after any given Broncos game. Pictures of people "Tebowing" all over the world have become the next idiotic big thing to post. Those who have never picked up a Bible in their life have flipped through the pages {ok, or Googled} to read the verse good ol' Timmy has displayed on his eye black.

    Whether you swoon at his "Aw, shucks" disposition and die hard faith in God, team, and country, or gag at the phenomenon that he has become, I think it's safe to say that Tim Tebow, our humble little Gator, has made a mark on the world.  And it just so happens to be an Orange & Blue one, even after hanging up his Florida jersey. :)

    So, as cheesy as it may be, today's recipe is in honor of Tim Tebow, man of the hour.




    Candied Orange & Blueberry Cake
    Adapted from BHG.com

    1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
    2/3 cup sugar
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    2/3 cup milk {I ran out and used Half & Half}
    2 tablespoons olive oil {Yes, olive oil. Just go with it.}
    2 tablespoons butter, softened {I actually forgot this when I made it. I was a mess in the kitchen today.}
    1 egg
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    1/4 teaspoon almond extract {optional}
    1/2 cup blueberries {fresh or frozen}
    3-5 Candied Orange Slices, finely chopped - I'd say this is optional if you don't feel like doing the candying. But I'd replace with some orange zest.
    Candied Orange Slices {see recipe}

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Lightly grease and flour a 9 x 1 1/2-inch round baking pan; set aside.

    2. In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add milk, oil, butter, egg, vanilla and almond extract if using. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until combined. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Gently fold in chopped Candied Orange Slices {or orange zest} and blueberries. Pour batter into prepared pan.

    3. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove and cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan. Cool completely.

    4. Place cake on a serving plate. Arrange Candied Orange Slices on top of cake. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the orange syrup. Makes 8 to 10 servings


    Candied Orange Slices
    2 naval oranges
    1 cup water
    2 cups sugar

    Trim ends from oranges; slice into 1/4 inch thick slices.

    In a large saucepan combine sugar and water. Bring to boiling; add orange slices. Return to boiling. Reduce heat to medium and boil gently, uncovered, for 12 minutes, gently stirring orange slices into syrup occasionally. Remove from heat.

    Preheat oven to 200 degree F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove orange slices from syrup using tongs or a fork, reserving syrup. Arrange orange slices on prepared baking sheet.

    Bake for 1 hour or until oranges are translucent and candied, but still soft. Remove from oven; cool completely on baking sheet. Store in an airtight container. Transfer syrup to a small bowl and chill until needed.

    Sunday, January 1, 2012

    State of the Blog Address: One Baker, Under Blog

    You know what's super exciting??? {For me, anyway.} I am just moving right along on reaching 100 posts. Considering I've taken several {extended} blogging hiatuses with all the craziness that has been going on this year, I would say that's not too shabby. Oh yeah, and it's a new year today, too, which is also pretty exciting I suppose. ;)

    I am so thrilled that all of you have joined me in this fabulous adventure, and - at the risk of sounding completely nerdy here - I get extremely giddy when I see new followers who are "strangers" and comments on my posts. So, here's your official shout out. {You also get a real shout out when I yell to my hubby upstairs, "Hey babe!! I have a new follower!!!"}. Yup. Me = Geek. I'm ok with it.

    The good news about me not reaching my goal of 50 followers yet is that it gives me time to work out the kinks in this relatively new & dizzying world of blogging, learn more about what you want to read and cook, and read more inspiring & fabulous blogs out there that give me ideas about where I want The Kitchen Prep to go in the future. {Although, to be quite honest, I am so backlogged on my Google Reader that I stopped following most of the blogs I love out of sheer overwhelmedness. I'm making that a word.}

    In the spirit of New Year's resolutions {and since we all know there will be no "Eat less sugar." promises made around here}, I thought of a few things I'll be working on over as I continue to grow this little project in 2012:

    1. Being more consistent. {Because, let's face it... no one likes an absent blogger.}.
    2. Becoming a better photographer. {Because the camera phone and poor lighting just won't hack it anymore. And because my sweet hubby got me a brand new Canon Rebel T3 and this fabulous book. Yippee!}
    3. Being more relevant.{Because the world does not revolve around lil ol' me}.
    4. Connecting. {Because no woman is an island}. Keep an eye out for some more opportunities to connect with me and The Kitchen Prep, coming soon. ;) I'll also be making more of an effort to lurk less & comment more on the blogs I love!

     I hope you'll hold me accountable on all of the above!

    As a side note... can I just tell you how much fun it is to share these recipes with you? Whether I know you "for real" or not, when I come across something that is just too delicious not to share, I immediately think of you. Yes, you. Well, the collective "you". Because what fun is it to keep exciting stuff to oneself?

    So anyway, if you're here, you're a friend of mine. And if I had a big enough house {and access to background checks -- just kidding!}, you would all be invited to my kitchen so you could taste these treats in person. But in the meantime, I hope you'll keep reading The Kitchen Prep from wherever you are and consider sharing it with others who you think are cool enough to join our little foodie circle. ;)

    Wishing you a happy, healthy, and DELICIOUS 2012! Happy New Year!