Sunday, September 28, 2014

"Less Mess" Chocolate Cake

Notice how "Less Mess" is in quotations... yeah, this cake doesn't exactly live up to it's name. It does, however, live up to it's deliciousness. Not sure if that even makes sense, but this cake is GOOD.

A few weeks ago when Nick and I visited his parent's house for the weekend (when we made the Easy Pasta Fagioli!) we decided to make this cake for dessert. We love this recipe because it has no milk and no eggs which means no substitutions for us!

In theory, this cake is supposed to make "less mess" because all of the ingredients should be mixed right in the pan you bake it in. Past experience has taught us that this doesn't work exactly as planned... but how does only 1 bowl sound? Pretty good? Cool.

Here's what you need!
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 heaping tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 6 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp. white vinegar
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 cup cold water
- Frosting of your choice

Here's what you do!
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour a 9x9" pan.

- Combine all ingredients (except the frosting, of course) in a large bowl. If you feel daring you can go the "less mess" route and combine everything directly in pan, but we prefer the bowl.

- Pour your cake batter into your pan and bake 35-40 minutes.

- After the cake has cooled, frost it with your choice of frosting and eat! Nick's mom made some homemade peanut butter frosting for this baby... so yummy.

If you don't have a 9x9" pan, you can double this recipe and make it in a 9x13" pan, which is what we did. We highly recommend this because MORE CAKE.

Hope you enjoyed your first weekend of autumn!

Sarah & Nick

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Easy Pasta Fagioli

Since moving away from our hometowns, Sarah and I really value our weekend trips back to our parents’ houses.  Earlier this summer, we had a really great trip to Sarah’s mom’s place in Lancaster to cook up some Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes, and Eggplant "Meatball" Subs. Now just this past weekend, we thought it would be great to show some recipes from my mother, and cook some delicious food on our trip “up north” to my hometown in Elk County.

For me, I know that some of my best memories of my immediate and extended family revolve around food. My mom and her side of the family are predominantly Italian, so we often have some sort of Italian dish at holidays or large gatherings (ravioli, lasagna, etc.) This time around, since we’re trying to adapt recipes to fit with a vegan style of eating, we opted for some Pasta Fagioli, which has almost no substitutions to make into a vegan soup!

Here’s what you need!
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp. parsley
- 1 tbsp. dried basil (but best to use fresh if available)
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 2 15 oz. cans great northern beans
- 1 29 oz. can tomato sauce
- 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
- 8 oz. small sized pasta (we used Ditalini)
- 1 14.5 oz. can spinach (or 1/2 bag fresh)
- 2 14.5 oz cans vegetable broth
- 2 cups water
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Mozzarella, for topping (optional)

Here’s what you do!
- In a large pot, combine all of the ingredients except for the pasta (and spinach if you’re using fresh).
- Bring to a boil on high heat, reduce heat, and simmer for about 40 minutes.
- After about 40 minutes, add the pasta and spinach until pasta is tender.

That’s it! The soup is SO flavorful. It has recently become one of my favorite meals to eat at home. My mom also happens to be great at baking all sorts of bread. This dish is served deliciously with some fresh homemade French bread, and topped with mozzarella or cheese of your choice!

This isn’t any sort of secret family recipe or anything, so go make some! It’s delicious.

Sarah & Nick

Monday, September 8, 2014

Super Soft Knitted Blanket

Up until recently, my knitting experience has extended only to scarves, mittens, Swiffer cloths, penguin sweaters, and rugs (okay, that's more than I thought...) But I wanted to finally try my hand at a super cozy knitted blanket for the upcoming cold months.

In the past, I've been deterred from knitting a blanket because I didn't want to make it in strips or squares that need to be sewn together. That's the problem with knitting... you can only fit so many stitches on a needle, and that amount is likely not enough to make a blanket. So unless I used some crazy, complicated pattern, I thought this was my only option.

But as it turns out... there's this special little tool in the knitting toolbox called circular needles. I kind of thought circular needles were only used for knitting in the round (i.e. hats and socks and stuff), but as I started researching blanket patterns I realized that I could use circular needles for a large blanket too! NO SEWING! I immediately went out and purchased my supplies and set to it!

Here's what I used!
- Size 17 circular needles
- 6 skeins Bernat Baby Blanket yarn in Sand (10.5 oz. size)
- Scissors

(Yes, I used baby blanket yarn. Everyone deserves a soft blanket, even if they aren't a baby.)

Here's what I did!
- Since this was my first time knitting a blanket and using this type of yarn, I wanted to keep everything super simple. So no fancy pattern here - just regular ol' knitting. Also, this blanket needed to be BIG. Nick's biggest complaint about the blankets we have is that they won't cover him from feet to shoulders. So a big blanket it is...
- I casted on 140 stitches. Then I just knitted, knitted, worked in a new skein of yarn, knitted, watched The Sopranos, knitted, knitted, ate Oreos, knitted, knitted... you get the idea. This baby was time consuming.
- Once I finally reached my desired size, I casted off, knotted, and cut my yarn. By hand, I worked in all of the stray yarn pieces from adding in a new skein.
- My completed blanket is 5'x7.5' (yes, BIG) and also AMAZING.

I'm super proud of this project (as I think I should be). My blood, sweat, and tears went into making it... okay, that sounds pretty gross. But in all seriousness, I accidentally cut my finger while knitting (ouch), and knitting a blanket in a hot apartment in the middle of summer basically means you're covered up with a blanket in a hot apartment in the middle of summer..., and I definitely cried at the Billy on the Street segment during the Emmys (hilarious). So I guess it's true. My blood, sweat, and tears went into the making of this blanket.

This blanket took me about a month to complete, which actually doesn't seem like very long... but I knitted about 3-4 solid hours a day for that month, so it definitely wasn't a quick and easy project that can be cranked out in a few days (like scarves, mittens, etc.)

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Anyone else ever knitted a blanket? How was your experience?

xo, Sarah