monster cookie cake

I am officially 9 months pregnant and officially in major freakout nesting mode!!!!! I am of the textbook vibe: please-move-the-crib-there-no-please-move-it-there-or-maybe-this-wall-needs-to-be-painted-a-dark-mustard-color-ohmyguhhhhhh-we-don’t-have-enough-toys!!! *Sits in the gym parking lot and orders the playpen in the most frantic manner* *Can’t decide on any of the nursing bras so buys all of them* *Cries in the Old Navy baby department!!!!*

The good thing is that I’ve had the energy to get worked up about everything. Aside from the average two nights a week when I’m up all night long obsessing about things like rocking chairs versus gliders, I’ve been sleeping like a rock. I was totally bracing myself for the return of first trimester fatigue during my third trimester, as I’ve read is often the case, but I truly do not have the time to be tired right now. I have a list of meals to be prepped (I’ll blog about this soon!), a bunch of furniture to rearrange (or rather, direct Eggboy to rearrange), and a slew of recipes to edit for both Girl Meets Farm and blog posts that I’ll schedule to go live during my maternity leave. And I need to stay current on the Bachelor which is taking up so much time, gosh geez. Luckily I’ve been able to focus a lot of this energy into keeping up with my workouts which have consisted of lifting itty bitty weights and doing resistance stuff and also waddling quickly around the track (while listening to Unorthodox, obviously). Which I think has been key in not driving everyone around me too crazy. I think. They haven’t told me otherwise. But then again what monster calls a 9-month pregnant lady crazy to her face?

Speaking of monsters, I made a monster cookie cake! It was for Eggmom’s birthday! I didn’t know what a monster cookie was until I moved here and kept hearing about the gigantic gooey ones at the UND cafeteria. I’ve never actually had one because I’m afraid of getting caught sneaking onto campus but I’ve had others and they are sooo good: peanut butter, oatmeal, and M&M’s all folded into a soft chewy delicious cookie. It occurred to me that it needed to be turned into a cake when I was brainstorming cakes for Eggmom’s birthday earlier this year. She loves M&M’s. And has oatmeal every morning. And ate peanuts by the handful when she was pregnant with Eggboy. So a monster cookie cake seemed perfect!! The oats and peanut butter in the batter here make it extra dense and moist, and the chocolates (I went with Trader Joe’s naturally colored candy coated chocolates) add good textural excitement. This is a super heavy cake! It’s slathered with peanut butter cream cheese frosting which drives home the peanut flavor and also adds a hint of sourness that’s the perfect balance to the cake. This frosting is sooooo goooood, you might want to make extra so you can just eat it with a spoon. You can totally bake this batter into cupcakes (it’ll make a lot, like 40!) and if you’re really feeling the monster energy, I feel like a few marzipan monsters around the sides would be cute. Or you can just go the normcore rainbow route like I did!

I made this cake using Our Family ingredients, which was especially fitting since I made it for family!! <3


monster cookie cake

makes one 3-layer, 8-inch cake

Ingredients

Cake

2 c (472g) boiling water

1 1/3 c (106g) rolled oats

2 c (260g) all-purpose flour

1/2 c (64g) whole wheat flour, or more all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 c (200g) granulated sugar

1 c (200g) brown sugar

1/2 c (100g) flavorless oil, like canola

1 c (256g) creamy unsweetened peanut butter

2 large eggs

1 tb vanilla extract

1 c (240g) buttermilk 

2 c (320g) candy coated chocolates, plus more for decorating

Frosting

1/2 c (113g) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 c (226g) our family cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 c (64g) creamy unsweetened peanut butter

3 c (360g) powdered sugar

A pinch of kosher salt

1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract

2 tb (30g) heavy cream

clues

Preheat the oven to 350ºf. Line the bottoms of three 8” round cake pans with parchment, grease the parchment and sides of the pans and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the boiling water and oats, cover, and let sit for 20 minutes.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugars, oil, and peanut butter. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking after each. Whisk in the vanilla and buttermilk and then stir in the dry ingredients and then the oats. Fold in the candy chocolates (quickly, to prevent the colors from bleeding), and then transfer to the cake pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean; begin checking for doneness at 30 minutes.

Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, beat together the butter, cream cheese, and peanut butter until smooth. Add the powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla and beat to combine. Beat in the heavy cream.

Stack up the cake layers with a layer of frosting between each and then frost all over. Decorate with candy coated chocolates. Enjoy!


-yeh!

This recipe was developed in partnership with Our Family!

photos by chantell and brett quernemoen

apple and peanut butter green smoothie

We had the best weekend ever in Fargo!! We were there for the first annual Fargo Hotdish Festival which was the greatest thing in the world. We ate 11 different hotdishes that were all unique and amazing. There was a spätzle hotdish, a hotdish with gigantic homemade tater tots, a hotdish with lingonberries, a kugel (!!!!), and so many other incredible interpretations that filled me right up, physically and inspirationally. We also got to Fargo in time for the Unglued Craft Fest, where I fell in love with these gnome watercolors and mind-blowing cow-to-cone gelato from Duchessa. And somehow we also found the stomach space for ramen at Slurp, knoephla at the HoDo, thick squishy toast at Youngblood, and an Ube cupcake and some gummies from Yeobo. It was delicious in every way and felt like a mini babymoon! Now I’m back and continuing to chug along with meal prep, baby prep, and recipe testing for recipes that I’m planning to post during my maternity leave and recipes that will go in the remaining episodes of season 3 of Girl Meets Farm.

This week I have a freezer friendly version of my regular breakfast routine for you! For years now I have been the biggest fan of loading up on veggies at the start of my day. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something first thing in the morning and like I’m ahead of the game for the rest of the day. I feel like superwoman when the rest of my meals for the day are heavy on the vegetables, which is what I always strive for, but in the event that I have a big cake testing day and end up accidentally taking too many test bites and then barely have an appetite for dinner, I feel a little bit less bad knowing that I ate at least some type of plant in the morning. In the summers when our garden is bursting, I love making breakfast salads with tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, fresh herbs, lemon, and olive oil or tahini sauce, piling them over a plop of greek yogurt, and scooping them up with toast. But when it’s not the summer, I’ve been having this here green smoothie!

This is a beginner’s green smoothie, or a green smoothie for people who in their heart of hearts would really rather be eating scrambled eggs with ketchup and extra crispy hash browns and toast with butter at Darcy’s Diner every morning, but are looking to add some reasonable nutrition without going full on brain dust. It’s made with a simple set of ingredients that I stock up on at the beginning of every week (the gigantic bag of pre-washed kale, the bulk bag of honeycrisp apples, and Smucker’s all natural peanut butter or, if I’m splurging, unsweetened almond butter). In the beginning of my green smoothie journey, a little over a year ago, I’d also add some celery, a small piece of ginger, and a few shakes of turmeric, but when I was in my first trimester and suddenly needed to simplify a lot of the flavors entering my mouth, I scaled back to the bare basics and haven’t gotten around to reintroducing these other things. I like the straightforwardness of apple and peanut butter flavor in a blanket of green. It’s sweet, nutty, creamy, and fresh! And delicious.

Also when I got pregnant and read about the increased importance of Omega-3s, I started sprinkling on Trader Joe’s super seed mix at the end which is a nice crunchy mix of flax, chia, quinoa, and a few other seeds. I’m going to call these sprinkles.

One important step that makes this smoothie (or any smoothie really) extra good is blending it into oblivion in a high powered blender. If you feel like your blender is going to launch into outer space, you’re doing it right. I use my Vitamix and blend it until it’s as smooth as possible, milky almost. Blending for too long could warm it up though, so I typically blend for the time it takes me to refill my ice tray, place it back in the freezer, and then retrieve my cups and straws. When I look in the top opening of the blender and see that it’s very smooth, I know it’s ready.

A few fun things that have made my morning routine cuter include: these pretty silicone straws, this sprinkle ice tray, my Marian cups, and the lid that I always use to cover up Eggboy’s half so I can stick it in the fridge for when he comes in for lunch. These aren’t necessary obviously but, like I said, they’re fun and cute.

I’m posting this now because I’m planning to prep a bunch of blender-ready packs for my freezer before Poppy Seed’s arrival! These are great for the freezer and make blending a breeze (assuming that baby isn’t sleeping…). Directions for freezing and blending from frozen are below.


Apple and Peanut Butter Green Smoothie

Makes 1 large or 2 small smoothies

Ingredients

1 honeycrisp apple, chopped

1 squeeze of lemon juice

2 heaping tb (40g-ish) unsweetened peanut butter or almond butter

1 oz (about 1/2 c firmly packed or a nice big handful) fresh spinach

3 oz (about 1 1/2 c firmly packed or 3 big handfuls) fresh chopped kale

6 large ice cubes

1/2 c cold water (I just stream water in from my tap for 2 seconds)

Optional additions: a few shakes of turmeric, a small chunk of ginger, 2 chopped celery stalks

Super seed mix, for topping, optional

Clues

In a high speed blender (and in this specific order), add the apple, lemon juice, peanut butter or almond butter, turmeric/ginger/celery (if using), spinach, kale, ice cubes, and water and blend on high for about the time it takes you to refill your ice cube tray and stick it back in the freezer, or until very smooth. Pour into glasses, sprinkle with super seed mix, if using, and enjoy.

To make these freezer friendly: in quart sized deli containers or quart ziploc bags, pack in the apple, lemon, peanut butter or almond butter, turmeric/ginger/celery (if using), spinach, and kale. Make a bunch at a time! Seal and freeze for up to three months. When ready to blend, add the contents to the blender along with 1 cup of water. No need to add ice. Let it sit for a few minutes so that it can defrost slightly and then use a butter knife to carefully break it up into slightly smaller chunks, just so it’s not one huge mass. Blend on high, using the tamper to help everything incorporate, until very smooth. Pour into glasses, sprinkle with super seed mix, if using, and enjoy.


knoephla soup

We have had a great big week! On Friday, we wrapped filming and ate a bunch of fried food to celebrate. It was so sad to see everyone go, but unlike the past two seasons when I didn’t know if the show would be renewed or not before wrapping, this time I knew they’d all be back in July! And they’ll be able to meet Poppy Seed! Over the two weeks of filming, Poppy Seed grew soo much and also flipped to be head down. For a little while I kept patting what I thought was her head but then we went to the doctor and confirmed that I’d been patting the butt this whole time. Hehe. Even though the counter became further and further away, my carpal tunnel symptoms luckily subsided (there will be a lot of pre-chopped vegetables in these episodes!) but then my brain turned to mush! Toward the end of the run it sometimes took me like six attempts to explain the simplest things like how to put sprinkles on the rugelach. And I dropped an entire tray of choco tacos. But thankfully I was able to hold onto my energy for the most part and avoid back pain, which were my two greatest fears other than over baking the potato bagels. On my evenings and days off, I recharged by swimming, watching figure skating, and descending deeper into my bachelor obsession. 

After wrapping, Eggboy and Poppy Seed and I were thrown the most beautiful baby shower by our moms (soon to be grandmas!), sisters (aunties!!!), and friends. It was sprinkle and hotdish themed, and they took my fear of baby shower games seriously so it was a lovely afternoon of eating confetti petit fours and tater tot hotdish, hanging out with friends from near and far, writing funny things on diapers, and unveiling the sweetest gifts that ranged from ultra practical (mountains of diapers!) to ultra homespun (like cousin Elaine’s hand knit sprinkle cupcake hats!!) to ultra hippo. I’m obsessed with this hippo. He’s sitting right next to me and I can’t stop looking at him and giggling. Eggboy and I felt soo loved and got even more excited to bring Poppy Seed into our extremely rad mishpocha. 

Continuing on with my list of foods that I plan to stock in our freezer for my maternity leave, I have to share this soup with you that is the best kept secret of the upper Midwest. Knoephla soup is right up with tater tot hotdish as my favorite new food that I’ve learned about since moving here. Knoephla (neh-fla) are little chewy dumplings that made their way to this area with German immigrants and are most commonly enjoyed in creamy potato soup, but can also be sautéed with sauerkraut and sausage or put into hotdish. They are kind of like plumper smoother spaetzle and the frozen store-bought ones look a lot like mochi bits. Knoephla soup is traditionally made without meat, just potatoes, vegetables, a bit of cream, and my favorite (from Dakota Harvest, r.i.p.) had the most warming hit of nutmeg. The texture of the dumplings and the pure comfort of it all makes this the kind of soup that I just shovel into my mouth with abandon. We had it at our wedding and for years now I’ve wondered why it hasn’t seemed to pick up that much popularity outside of the upper Midwest. The #knoephla hashtag is my favorite hashtag to follow on IG but all of the posts are from North Dakota! Many of them are from Kroll’s dinner, which has a killer version that you can supposedly buy by the bucket (?!), just in case you find yourself at one of those. This is probably one of the only areas where you can buy frozen knoephla at the grocery store, but not to worry, they are very easy to make. I have a recipe in Molly on the Range for knoephla soup but this is a new and improved version because over the past couple of years I’ve started adding more herbs to it, including an egg in the dumplings for added chewiness, and making a much bigger batch so that I can freeze some. I’m not sure if adding dill would be considered the most traditional move, but as I become closer and closer to being a Jewish mother, I’m more inclined than ever to channel severely dill-y matzo ball soup vibes into, like, everything. So while it’s still winter, make a gigantic batch of this and then eat it on the couch from under a fluffy blanket. 


knoephla soup

Serves 8-10

instructions

3 tb unsalted butter

1 large onion, chopped

2 large carrots, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

kosher salt and black pepper

2 cloves garlic

1/2 tsp nutmeg

10 c chicken or vegetable stock

1/2 tsp dried thyme

2 sprigs dill, chopped

4 sprigs parsley, chopped

2 bay leaves

1 1/2 lb (680g) red potatoes, chopped into 1/2” pieces

1 1/2 lb (680g) store-bought frozen knoephla or homemade knoephla (recipe below)

1/2 c (120g) heavy cream

clues

in a large pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. add the onions, carrots, celery, a good pinch of salt, and a few turns of black pepper and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables soften, about 10 minutes. add the garlic and nutmeg and cook, stirring, for 2 more minutes, until fragrant.

stir in the stock, herbs, bay leaves, and potatoes, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. if using store-bought frozen dumplings, add them when the soup reaches a boil. if using homemade dumplings, begin making them when the soup reaches a boil and then add them for the last 20 minutes of simmering.

stir in the cream. taste and adjust seasonings as desired. remove the bay leaves before serving.

enjoy!

to freeze, let cool and transfer to freezer safe containers. freeze for up to three months and defrost in the microwave or overnight in the fridge, and then reheat in the microwave or on the stove.

knoephla

3 1/4 c (422g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/4 tsp kosher salt

black pepper

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1 c (236g) water

1 large egg

to make the knoephla:

in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, a few turns of pepper, and the nutmeg. stir in the water and egg and mix to form a shaggy dough. turn it out onto a clean work surface and knead it for a few minutes, adding flour as needed, until you have a smooth and stiff dough. roll it into 1/2”-thick blob, cut into 1/2”-3/4” squares, dusting with flour so they don’t stick together, and drop them directly into simmering soup.


-yeh!

photos by chantell and brett! dutch oven by great jones!

valentine's day almond cake

Season 3 of Girl Meets Farm is a go!!!

We are working on the first six episodes right now and the remaining episodes will be filmed after Poppy Seed arrives, in the summer! It’s been so much fun! Of course, there are a few things weird about filming while eight months pregnant, like my arms get tired more easily since there is a growing baby the size of [checks pregnancy tracker app] three croissants in between me and the counter, and I’ve gotten some lame-o carpal tunnel action so sprinkling sprinkles takes some more effort, and of course my belly catches all of the food falling out of my mouth that would otherwise fall to the floor (I didn’t realize how much food fell from my face until there was something there to catch it?!) so it’s necessary for me to have two of every shirt that I wear. But, in general it’s been awesome because there is so much food everywhere!! Taco pizza, coconut cream pie, salt and vinegar potatoes, freezer friendly bagel breakfast sandwiches… this season is pregnant lady approved and sooo (!!!) tasty.

And of course, hanging out with the crew, being cozied up in my house and filming all day while it blizzards outside is kind of like my winter camp dreams come true. I love these people. And I’m excited that later this week I get to spend Valentine’s Day with them and introduce them to my annual Valentine’s Day almond cake. My mom will also be in town on Valentine’s Day, filming her guest episode, so it’s going to be the best day ever!!! Oh gosh I hope there’s enough of this cake to go around… It just occurred to me that I should maybe make a second one…

Anyway, this Valentine’s Day cake is extra special for two reasons: my Chrismukkah gift from Eggboy this year was a set of paintings of my Valentine’s cakes by our amazing artist friend Mollie. Mollie makes the most incredible watercolors, they’re miniature and beautiful, I have a corn dog that she made for me last year and I cherish it. When Eggboy presented me with her paintings of my cakes, I was floored! They’re not all literal, some of them are interpretations, and part of the gift was that Mollie is going to paint my future cakes as well! So one day when we’re all old and crusty, there will be a wall in our house covered with paintings of Valentine’s cakes. Oh geez, I’m so excited. 

Also, Better Homes and Gardens did a story on my tradition with their own beautiful rendition of this cake!! Pick up this month’s issue to read it!!

My cake this year was actually inspired by the cake that BHG did. I loved their idea of doing a layer cake and sticking cookies into the top. I wanted all of the cookies to be different, so during the polar vortex, I just took a whole afternoon and decorated these cookies and it was the best. Some are flower-inspired to look like little bouquets, but the others I just played around with. And of course the actual cake itself is the same fluffy almond cake that I make every year (it’s heavy on the almond paste chunks this year because I was suuper careful not to over beat it), covered with almond fresh whip that is the essential flavor of Valentine’s Day. It’s sitting in my deep freeze right now so that I can defrost it on Thursday. Because if there’s one rule I have about this holiday, it’s that Valentine’s Day cannot exist without this cake!

(You can see all of my past Valentine’s cakes here! 2018 / 2017 / 2016 / 2015 / 2014 / 2013 / 2012 / 2011 / 2010)


valentine's day almond cake

makes one 3-layer 8” cake

ingredients

cake:

1c (96g) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
12 oz almond paste
9 large eggs, separated
3/4 tsp kosher salt
3/4 c (150g) sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp almond extract

whipped cream:

2 c (480g) heavy whipping cream
1/2 c (60g) powdered sugar
1 tsp almond extract

pink food coloring, optional

assembly:
sprinkles of all sorts

my soft almond sugar cookies, baked with wooden skewers sticking out the bottom

clues

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease and line the bottoms of three 8” cake pans and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt to soft peaks and then gradually beat in the sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue beating to stiff peaks and then set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (I usually just scoop the whites out of the bowl and transfer them to a separate bowl and then reuse my stand mixer bowl without having to wash it for this step), combine the almond paste and egg yolks and beat on high for 2 minutes until pale and fluffy (but allow some almond paste chunks to remain in tact), scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in the vanilla and almond extract. Gently fold the whites into the yolk mixture and then fold in the flour mixture. Pour the batter into the pans, spread it out evenly with a spatula, and then bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean; begin checking for doneness at 20 minutes.

Cool in the pans on a rack for 10 minutes and then remove to the rack to cool fully.

To make the whipped cream, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and almond extract to stiff peaks. Add a few drops of pink food coloring if desired.

Stack up the layers with a thin layer of whipped cream between them and then frost all over with the remaining whipped cream. Decorate as desired with cookies, sprinkles, chocolate, etc., and enjoy!

Store decorated cake in the fridge until ready to serve. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to a few days.


-yeh!

photos by chantell and brett!