Whip Smart Kitchen

Introduction, promises and fear: why you should go for it in the kitchen this year

Leannda Cavalier2 Comments

First things first, welcome to WhipSmart Kitchen!

This is actually my second food-related place of residence on the internet. You may have seen my first blog, “Recipe Repository” on Tumblr. To be honest, that blog was just a placeholder to post some recipes and musings while I built this. It’s taken a little longer than I had hoped, but I’m super excited it’s finally up and running!

Julia Child wrote in My Life in France, "this is my invariable advice to people: learn how to cook—try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!"

I couldn't possibly agree more. 

Cooking has played an enormous role in my life. Some of my earliest memories include cooking with my family, and as an adult it’s gotten me through some difficult times. Some people see cooking as a burdensomething I hope to changebut I see it as a pick-me-up. Whether I’m cooking an old standby, trying out a new recipe or creating my own, something about playing with food is like coloring. Therapeutic and satisfying. Besides, even if you've never cracked an egg, I’m betting you love to eat.

Now, let me share my master plan. 

master plan.gif

My three main goals for this blog are:

  1. For you to learn something each time you read my posts.

  2. To share my recipes and love of cooking.

  3. To give you the tools you need to make home-cooking your new best friend.

My first promise to you: I will always give you more than just a list of ingredients and steps.

My first career choice was broadcast journalism, and I will always love it. One of the things I loved most was using it to help people. Sometimes that means sharing someone’s story, and other times it means giving your audience “news you can use.” Whether it’s a new technique, historical tidbits or nutritional information, I hope you always have at least one takeaway that will help you be whip-smart in your future food endeavors.

The least I can do is share what I've learned and give you a roadmap, right?

My second promise to you: I’ll always do my best to meet you where you are, because this is a part of life I don't want you to skip.

The benefits of cooking and taking time with your food are countless. Cooking keeps my body healthy and my mind sharp. Even when I’ve been at my least fit (stress and joint injuries are my kryptonite, ugh), I’m always in pretty good condition because of my home-cooking habits. They allow me to be mindful of nutrition and balance. When I falter I forgive myself and move on, but in the meantime I feel so... blerg. 

When you cook for yourself, you can decide exactly what goes into your body, and what doesn’t make the cut. 

Sitting down to meals and sharing food is also a great way to improve our emotional health. Whether you’re eating at a party with a bunch of friends or sitting down to dinner with your family, eating together is a chance to slow down and catch up. Sharing food is a universal way to show that you love and care about others. It’s how we pass down our heritage and traditions. It's how we learn about people different from us. Eating together is one of the best parts of life. Even eating by yourself is a great way to catch your breath and focus on the moment.

To be frank, being able to cook is also a milestone. It says you’re self sufficient. You’re independent. You can take care of yourself. Heck, you may even be capable of keeping a plant alive!

Basically, it’s a pretty good indicator that you’re adulting as the adults do. Adults handle their business, and they definitely say adulting ;).

My third promise to you: If you’re a willing participant, I promise to help you take matters into your own hands and handle your kitchen business. 

In case you couldn’t tell, I REALLY want you to cook more; however, I’m a big proponent of balance and doing the best you can. Eating out is one of my favorite things to do, and you know what? I eat processed foods sometimes. I eat fast food sometimes.

I know. I know. 

I know. I know. 

No one is perfect and that’s not what this is about. This is about doing your best with what you have access to, being fearless with food and enjoying every step of the way.

Your life has its own unique challenges and roadblocks. Adding menu planning, grocery shopping, cooking and dishes to your routine can feel daunting, even if you're not starting from square one. Let's figure it out together. 

Want a place to start? Join my VIP list and I'll tell you my secrets for getting the recipe right every time. It's not as hard as you think!

Wedding cake revisited: how to eat a year-old cake

Leannda CavalierComment

This post was originally published on my old blog. This version may contain minor edits and updates. The original is preserved at Recipe Repository

The perfect anniversary dessert. Dry on the outside, gooey on the inside.

Tastes mostly like the ice you used to scrape off the sides of the pizza bagel freezer at the grocery store when you were little (you know you did!), yet smells reminiscent of broccoli and marinara sauce. Cuts like bread pudding and has a mysterious stream of water leaking out of the bottom.

Romantic, right?

Is that how you picture year-old frozen wedding cake? We need to talk. It doesn’t have to be that way.

My husband and I just celebrated our first anniversary, and the frozen top of our tiramisu cake was… perfect! It was still packed with flavor–the one it was supposed to have and no other mystery tastes/odors. I would say the biggest changes between the fresh and frozen product is that the cake becomes more dense and the icing gets smushed. It is frozen cake after all.

Still, if I had to guess how long our cake was frozen, I’d say a few days tops. 

We got a backup cake just in case the method we used didn’t work, but we didn’t even need it! I mean, we still ate it… who passes up that good of a cake? Just robots, I’m pretty sure.

We also may have bought 26 extra cupcakes because they were day-old cupcakes for a dollar… but you’ll have to ask my lawyer about that.

There are a billion tips out there for how to freeze your wedding cake, and most of them say different things. I can’t even find the guide I loosely followed last year when my mother-in-law, sister-in-law and husband’s aunt helped me cloak ours in layer after layer.

I’m not a baking expert. I’ve only frozen the one cake. But, this one was kind of a big deal, and it worked out perfectly.

I can’t give you a foolproof method of what works for every cake every time, but I can tell you step-by-step what we did, and some things I learned along the way.

So here goes:

How to Freeze a Wedding Cake for Your Anniversary

1. Take a peek at what’s under the cake. Plastic? Good! Foil? Good! Cardboard? Nope. remove the cake from the cardboard and set aside on a plate, then cover the cardboard with foil.  Cardboard can absorb smells and put those smells into your cake. It also has a smell of its own it can put in the cake. Not cool, unless you want your year-old cake to smell like that time you left all your empty moving boxes outside and it rained.  

2. Replace the cake and remove any flowers or decorations.

3. Place the cake in the freezer, uncovered for two hours.* This is called flash freezing.

4. Remove cake from the freezer and tightly wrap it in two layers of plastic wrap, making certain it’s sealed and there are no air bubbles.

5. Add a layer of aluminum foil (enough to cover the entire cake, so I’d use two long sheets placed in an X-shape under the cake, then wrapped tightly over the top).

6. Add a layer of newspaper in the same fashion.

7. Repeat the aluminum and newspaper layers four more times.

8. End on two layers of foil, sealed as tightly as possible.

9. Mark with tape and a felt tip marker so no one will accidentally open it to see what it is.

10. Put it near the back of the freezer and freeze for one year

Layer breakdown from inside to outside:

2 layers plastic wrap

1 layer of aluminum foil

1 layer of newspaper

1 layer foil

1 layer newspaper

1 layer foil

1 layer newspaper

1 layer foil

1 layer newspaper

1 layer foil

1 layer newspaper

2 layers foil

*Consider cleaning and defrosting your several days before the wedding for this purpose.

To defost:

1. Remove the cake from the freezer and remove all wrappings.

2. Loosely wrap the cake with waxed paper and place cake in the refrigerator to defrost overnight. 

3. Remove cake from the freezer 3-4 hours before eating to defrost fully, keeping covered until you are ready to serve.  

Tips:

-This is a two-person process.  You need at least one person wrapping, and one person holding the previous layer tight.

-Your cake won’t freeze well for a long period of time if it is cut. You should freeze it as an entire round, covered in frosting.

-Do not put in a defrosting freezer. You want as constant a temperature as possible.

-If the power goes out, DO NOT OPEN THE FREEZER DOOR. See the last tip.

-If your cake is fondant or something other than buttercream, you may want to consider looking up specific tips for that, I’m sure there are many floating around out there.

-Freeze your cake as soon as possible. We put ours in the morning after the wedding.  

Again, there are other options out there, many of which look easier than this. I haven’t tried those ones, but most look just a little too easy to ease my mind when it comes to the best/most expensive/most symbolic cake I’ve ever had. And I already take cake seriously.

Want to shop around for other options? I get it. Here are some resources I looked through last year when planning the deep freeze, and a few I found while writing this:

-weddingbee.com

-Martha Stewart

-The Washington Post

-dweddings.com

-Tiny Test Kitchen

-Philadelphia Magazine

 

P.S. If you’re near the Charleston area of West Virginia, you really should try out Sugar Pie Bakery. That’s where we got all the cake in the pictures above.

We wanted a tiramisu cake so bad and couldn’t find one anywhere in the area. We mentioned that during our cake consultation and they created the best one I’ve EVER had from scratch. They now feature it regularly as a monthly cupcake flavor, so you’re welcome.

I love their s’mores, peanut butter cup, chocolate cheesecake, red velvet and carrot cake cupcakes, and I’m sure I’d love anything else they made. They’re also super-friendly with unbeatable service. 

Blog beginnings plus an incredibly useful, easy recipe

Vegetarian, Salad, Italian, recipeLeannda CavalierComment

This post was originally published on my old blog. This version may contain minor edits and updates. The original is preserved at Recipe Repository

First, I want to tell you how happy I am you’re still here if you got through Friday’s post. Looks like you’re my ideal reader! Thank you!

Friday I told you who I’m blogging for, why and the most important message I want to send you about cooking. Today I’m going to tell you my entrepreneurial story… and then give you a recipe I use at least once a week!

I’m writing this as part of Alex Beadon’s 7-day Feel Good Blogging Challenge. I’m a little behind everyone else participating because it came at a bad time for me, but whatever, I’m finishing it anyway!

Looking back, I think I’ve always been geared toward entrepreneurship. I love helping people and I love talking people into trying things. Honestly, I’m pretty sure I can be insufferable to some people on Facebook comment threads. I want to solve your problem and give you my full experience with things right there in the comments.

My reaction to someone asking for cooking advice is similar to a dog hearing the doorknob turn when his owner gets home from work. “YOU CAME BACK! TRY HITTING IT WITH THE BROILER FOR A FEW MINUTES!”

I’m just trying to help!

I toyed around with the idea of a food blog for about two years before I actually got serious about it, partially because people kept asking me to start one. I delayed it a long time because of fear of what other people would think and because I was a little nervous I wouldn’t have enough to say. Oh boy, I was so wrong on that count.

I mentioned in my last post that I was underemployed for nearly two years before finding my current full-time job this February. In January I happened upon one of stylist Hilary Rushford’sInstagram posts promoting her Instagram marketing class. I had been keeping my skills fresh with tons of webinars and this one actually looked fun, so I signed up immediately. During a Q & A toward the end of the class she mentioned she was thinking about hiring some brand ambassadors. I sent an email volunteering to help her out, not really expecting to hear back. A few weeks later I began helping maintain customer service on her 25k+ account along with three other talented ladies, for which she generously gifted us her full Instagram with Intention course. That was the beginning of my descent into the world of online entrepreneurship.

The day after I finished Instagram with Intention I scoured Hilary’s site for more info and landed on a video where she mentioned Marie Forleo’s B-School. I looked Marie up on YouTube and it was over. I was doing it. Seriously, if you want to do anything in this world, watch one of her videos. You’ll be doing air punches and cartwheels all the way to whatever it is you wanted.

She’s also hilarious, which is enough to keep me watching.

Related videos were a blessing here, because that’s exactly how I found entrepreneur Alex Beadon, the host of this blogging challenge. “How to Blog and Build a Following” showed up in the sidebar when I was watching one of Marie’s video. With that, I was down another (wonderful) rabbit hole, late for a very important date. Alex has been so supportive, and she is ALWAYS on. I am sincerely amazed at how much she’s taught me in such a short time.

I also found graphic designer Lauren Hooker of Elle & Company around the same time, either through Hilary’s IWI class or as another suggestion from Instagram. Her online course set me on my way to my next big project, the one I said I would announced soon in my last post.

I’m not getting paid for this, I promise. 

Being virtually surrounded by all these incredible people making the lives they wanted happen just with their passion, talents, the internet, a pinch of brilliance and ton of elbow grease… How could I not go for it?

Funny how things work out sometimes…

I finally found a full-time job in February. It’s shocking how quickly it happened after I searched for so long. I’m not a very woo-woo type of person, but I firmly believe that the change in attitude made it happen.

I went from feeling like a victim who had accomplished so much in my old job/school/home/life only to have it ripped away once I moved, to someone who was just going to go ahead and employ myself if no one else would. I would show everyone exactly what I could do, and it would be even better because it would involve my favorite thing: food. The fact that could use my skills in broadcasting, public relations and advertising just sweetened the deal.

The full time job means it’s happening a lot slower than I planned, but I’m just thrilled it’s happening, and people are starting to hop on board for the ride. I would love to think I could inspire and help someone as much as my forerunners helped me.

Thanks so much for reading, you have no idea how much I appreciate it. Growth with these kinds of things is generally slow (and a little painful), but every little bit is like a drug. A drug that vastly improves your life instead of ruining it and evicting all your friends/teeth.

Thanks =)

Okay, I promised you a recipe and you definitely deserve it after reading all of that. Enjoy!

Caprese Salad with Balsamic Reduction

Caprese Salad

Serves: 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 2 large or 4-6 small tomatoes*
  • 10 oz fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 15 large basil leaves
  • 1 batch of balsamic reduction
  • Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Cut the tomatoes into ¼ inch slices.**
  2. Slice the mozzarella into ¼ inch slices.
  3. Chiffonade the basil using the following method: stack the leaves on top of one another, roll them up lengthwise (so that the middle veins don’t bend) and slice thinly across with a sharp knife so that you cut tiny spirals. After you’ve sliced through the whole roll, toss the spirals so that they separate into thin strips.
  4. On a platter, arrange alternating slices of tomatoes and mozzarella any way you want, I like to line them in a circle toward the outside of the platter, placing any odd ends in the middle.
  5. Sprinkle the basil on top (I like to put a bunch in the middle and then a few pieces over the tomatoes and cheese) and drizzle a little olive oil and balsamic reduction on top. Salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Serve with extra balsamic reduction on the side.

*My faves are bulky heirlooms or romas in summer, camparis/kumatos in winter. You can always use 8-10 oz cherry tomatoes, but it greatly changes the flavor.

**Halve or quarter smaller tomatoes, much less work!

Balsamic Reduction

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 TBSP honey, brown sugar or coconut sugar

Instructions:

  1. Combine ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer on medium-high heat.
  2. Turn down heat to low and simmer until reduced to about ⅓ and can coat the back of a spoon. This takes about 10 minutes but watch it closely because burnt vinegar is acrid, awful and can ruin your pan.
  3. Allow to cool for 10 minutes or more. It should look a little like chocolate syrup.
  4. Drizzle away!

Note: You’ll notice my photo features little balls of mozzarella. That’s called ciliegine. Ten ounces of it works just fine, and it doesn’t even need to be cut!