Cheers to 2014

Still in shock that 2014 is here…the year that I graduate from college seemed so far away just a few years ago. The expression ‘time flies’ exists for a reason. It really does.

BU Matriculation Ceremony, fall 2010. Might as well have been  yesterday.

BU Matriculation Ceremony, fall 2010. Might as well have been yesterday.

Anyway, one of my many New Years resolutions (I have a list of over 20 in a ‘note’ on my iPhone) is to update my blog more regularly. So we’ll see how that goes…

In honor of the New Year, I would like to share what I ‘cooked’ for the occasion: champagne jello.

I first had this marvelous concoction years and years ago at a family friends’ New Years party (though I was probably around 8 years old and likely had a nonalcoholic version). I don’t remember anything else from the party aside from how cool I was eating bubbly jello out of a classy champagne glass.

So here I am, however many years later, and I decided I should try to recreate this delicious memory–this time with the real stuff (I am 22 now, after all). I looked online and found a recipe in all of about 2 seconds, courtesy of Taste at Home. So here it is!

Ingredients (serves 8, though this depends on glass size)

  • 1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
  • 2 cups cold white grape juice, divided
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups Champagne or club soda (my dad, who did the grocery shopping, splurged on the $9 bottle…)
  • 8 fresh strawberries, hulled

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Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over 1 cup cold grape juice; let stand for 1 minute. Heat over low heat, stirring until gelatin is completely dissolved. Stir in sugar. Remove from the heat; stir in remaining grape juice. Cool to room temperature.IMG_3008
  2. Transfer gelatin mixture to a large bowl. Slowly stir in champagne. Pour half of the mixture into eight champagne or parfait glasses (I used 5 wine glasses because I’m on vacation at a condo and that’s all we have here). Add one strawberry to each glass (pick the prettiest ones). Chill glasses and remaining gelatin mixture bowl until almost set, about 1 hour (because I used wine glasses instead of champagne glasses, it took longer to set–more like 3ish hours).

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3. Place the reserved gelatin mixture from the bowl in a blender; cover and process until foamy. Pour into glasses. Chill for 3 hours or until set.

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Pre-blending

Post-blending

Post-blending

Pouring blended, foamy mixture on the now-set champagne mixture

Pouring blended, foamy mixture on the now-set champagne mixture

Back in the fridge for a few more hours

Back in the fridge for a few more hours

Also, fun fact, this wonderful website posts nutritional values. Even better! Nutritional Facts: 1/2 cup equals 96 calories, trace fat (trace saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 9 mg sodium, 13 g carbohydrate, trace fiber, 1 g protein.

The only downside is that, upon eating later, it didn’t end up bubbly. Not sure if that’s because I used wine glasses instead of champagne glasses so it took longer to set, letting more bubbles escape before setting. But that’s just my hypothesis. Who knows…

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You will never think of jello shots the same way again. Way prettier and way classier and way yummier.

How AMAZINGLY BEAUTIFUL does this look? Here’s to 2014–CHEERS!

Cheers!

Cheers!

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Banana/Reese’s/Nutella Swirl bread

I saw this recipe on another wonderful food blog and immediately knew I just had to try it. I love a good banana bread–moist (sorry, Nikki, had to say it), with a hint of cinnamon, made even better if there are tiny chunks of mashed bananas in it just so you know it’s homemade.

But I had never come across a version quite like this. Separately, bananas, Reese’s, and Nutella are amazing on their own–but just imagine the possibilities when the three harmonize in a 350 degree oven for the longest fifty minutes of your life, anticipation building as the smell of peanut butter and banana permeate your entire apartment. Bananas and peanut butter are a classic combination. I probably had that for lunch every other day in lower and middle school. I can’t think of a better, more creative, or more delicious way of bringing back this medley of flavors.

Ingredients:

  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1.5 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup Reese’s mini cups (NOT the bite-sized Reese’s, the smaller MINI ones. Or use 3/4 cup chopped regular sized Reese’s Cups)
  • 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3 heaping tablespoons Nutella

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350F. Butter or spray loaf pan with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together bananas, peanut butter, oil, egg and sugars.IMG_8330
  • Pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Batter will be very thick. Don’t overmix. Fold in Reese’s Mini cups and chocolate chips.IMG_8334
  • Pour batter into prepared pan. Drop 3 tablespoons of Nutella on top of bread.IMG_8336
  • Swirl with a knife.IMG_8338
  • Bake for about 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
  • Let cool in loaf pan for 10 minutes, then loosen the edges of the pan with a knife and remove from loaf pan, transferring bread to a cooling rack.IMG_8341
  • Makes one loafIMG_8342

I’ve taken my fair share of science classes at this point and have a lot of lab reports under my belt. In a lab report’s conclusion section, it is typical to mention things you would’ve done differently or factors that may have gone wrong and could be improved upon in future experiments. So I’m going to do that here because, as I’m always told on Food Network, baking is, after all, a science:

  • I doubled the recipe, so there’s some chance of error with ratios shifting a bit
  • I’m using a teeny-tiny BU apartment oven and was too lazy to check the thermometer so I’m not quite sure if the temperature was exactly at 350 degrees
  • I first checked on the bread after 40 minutes because the top had already significantly started to brown. However, the inside was clearly still raw. I covered the pans in aluminum foil before putting them back in the oven, in hopes that the tops wouldn’t brown too much more before the inside was fully cooked.
  • When I swirled in the dollops of Nutella, it didn’t get it swirled too deep into the thick loaf and the Nutella was all still relatively close to the surface (which is probably why it browned so quickly). Next time, I would try to make sure the Nutella got swirled throughout the entire loaf so it was distributed evenly.
  • I was too excited to make this recipe and didn’t wait for the bananas to brown enough. Next time, I would either buy slightly overripe bananas or wait until they had browned more, just to ensure the maximum sweetness possible.

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I am aware that I deemed this to be a food blog with a healthy focus and yet my first posted recipe is clearly not. I promise to not make a habit of this, but I do admit that baked goods are my weakness. Here are some ways to potentially make a healthier version of this recipe (note, I haven’t actually tried the below suggestions with this recipe…just brainstorming…):

  • Try using Splenda or half Splenda/half sugar
  • Only use half the peanut butter
  • Replace half the Reese’s with walnuts instead
  • Avoid putting the Nutella in the bread itself; instead, measure out a teaspoon or so once you’ve cut a slice of bread
  • Use half the amount of chocolate chips
  • Pour the batter in a small muffin pan instead of a loaf pan for better portion control
The best part about baking with Nutella? Getting to eat what's left stuck to the spoon.

The best part about baking with Nutella? Getting to eat what’s left stuck to the spoon.

 

HAPPY COOKING!!