mba lesson of the week #8

perfect chocolate cake

Just to ensure that my hourlong spin and pilates class at 6:30 yesterday morning was for nothing, I made a point to spend the day baking the most delicious, irresistible, perfect chocolate cake I’ve ever tasted.

What’s nice about this recipe is that it’s not too heavy – it’s the perfect chocolate cake for summertime. I’m a sucker for the dark chocolate ganache cakes…and while this is definitely a very chocolate-y cake, it’s not going to make you feel bloated like those rich cakes sometimes do! I hope you enjoy it!

Perfect Chocolate Cake

Adapted from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa At Home and Hershey’s Frosting Recipe

Ingredients for Cake
Slice of butter to grease pans
1 3/4 cup of flour, plus more to flour pans
2 cups of sugar
3/4 cup of cocoa powder
2 teaspoons of baking soda
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 cup of buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Ingredients for Frosting
2 sticks of butter, melted
1 1/3 cups of cocoa powder
6 cups of powdered sugar
2/3 cup of milk
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper, and butter and flour the pans.

2. Mix flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in an electric mixer. Add buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Mix well.

3. Pour batter into cake pans evenly and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool.

4. While cakes are baking, make the frosting by combining melted butter, cocoa powder, powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract. Mix well, until smooth.

5. Turn one cake pan onto a cake plate and let cool. Spread the top of the cake with frosting. Place the second layer on top of the frosting, and continue spreading frosting on both the top and the sides of the cake. Decorate with fresh flowers, but be sure to wash the flowers thoroughly before placing them on the cake! Enjoy!

chocolate marshmallow surprise cookies (+ a little country update)

One of my family’s favorite recipes are these chocolate marshmallow surprise cookies – and after dozens of begs and pleas to pleeeaaaasseeee make these cookies, I remembered why they’re my favorite cookie in the world too!

I made about 40 of these cookies on Friday. By Sunday, every last crumb was devoured. And that’s without my help in eating them! I was in class (my 3rd to last MBA class EVER) Friday night, all day Saturday, and Sunday afternoon, hence the lack of blogging these past few days.

Summer school, you are so not conducive to my blogging schedule!

The best part of my weekend, aside from these cookies, was seeing Luke Bryan, The Band Perry, and Tim McGraw in concert! Though I have to say, Luke Bryan definitely stole the show!

Chocolate Marshmallow Surprise Cookies

Adapted from

Ingredients for Cookies
1 stick of butter, at room temperature
1 cup of granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup of milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups of flour
3/4 cup of cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
20 large marshmallows (cut in half horizontally)

Ingredients for Frosting
2 cups of powdered sugar
1/2 stick of butter, melted
1/4 cup of cocoa powder
1/3 cup of milk
1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Cream butter and granulated sugar in electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg, milk, vanilla extract, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix until combined.

3. Drop small 1-inch drops of dough onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake until cookies are firm (though not entirely cooked) for about 8 to 10 minutes.

4. Remove baking sheets from oven and quickly press half of a marshmallow (cut-side down) in the center of each cookie.

5. Return cookie sheets to oven and bake for 2 minutes until marshmallows start to melt. Let cool.

6. To make the frosting, whisk together powdered sugar, butter, cocoa powder, milk, and vanilla until well-combined.

7. Once cool, add enough frosting to cover the entire marshmallow. Trust me, this is not something you want to skimp on! Enjoy!

i love my hopeless romantic: spread [your] love project

I love myself.

Three simple words, that unfortunately in today’s world are seldom heard. We are always trying to fix those little problems that we think are wrong with us rather than embracing what the universe has blessed us with. You should love yourself whether you are tall or short, or thick or thin…remember that you are beautiful.

To help spread this message and help every woman realize her true beauty, Victoria of Garden of Eden Designs and Lindsay of Scenic Glory have asked their fellow bloggers, designers, crafters, and writers to come together and share why they love themselves. And I am here to join in on their project. We as a community should show that all shapes and sizes are beautiful. It is our spirits that should shine through.

I love my hopeless romantic.

I was raised in a world of Cinderella stories, happily ever afters, and white picket fences. I’ve seen my parents’ love that has grown and grown through 22 years of marriage. I’ve watched with admiration as my grandparents – high school sweethearts – celebrate over 40 years of marriage. I was raised in a white house with a picket fence and lots of white roses, all of which has made me truly believe that I am Keira Knightley in Pride and Prejudice. And you know what? I love it.

And now, I ask you to join in on our project. We are declaring the week of June 1st through June 8th Spread [your] Love week, and we want to know why you love yourself. So take a photo of yourself with a sign and let us know why in a post. Help spread [your] love and promote positive body image for all our girls out there. And once your post is up, go link up with Victoria at Garden of Eden here. Your self-love post will remain there for the rest of the year to encourage others to love themselves as well.

Participating? Grab the badge below to encourage others to get involved and spread [their] love!

mba lesson of the week #7

grilled shrimp with mango salsa

After rock climbing yesterday with my two brothers, my arms are incapable of doing anything productive today…they feel like lead. So because I can barely use my arms today, I gave up on doing anything productive, instead looking through recipes outside in the sun.

I’ve been hoarding Oprah recipes for the past 5+ years in a folder on my computer, and when cleaning them out this weekend I came across the most amazing shrimp recipe! I’ve had this recipe saved since 2006 – so worth the extra space on my computer!

Grilled Shrimp with Mango Salsa

Adapted from

For the salsa:
2 large mangoes, peeled and chopped into salsa-size pieces
1/4 cup of red onion, minced
1/4 cup of cilantro leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon of ginger, minced
3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of pepper

For the shrimp:
1 1/2 pounds of large shrimp (I used pre-cooked tiger shrimp)
4 tablespoons of soy sauce
4 tablespoons of orange juice
2 tablespoons of olive oil

1. For the salsa, mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Refrigerate until serving.

2. For the shrimp, place shrimp on a tray and cover with 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and 2 tablespoons of orange juice. Let marinate for about 10 minutes.

3. Place marinated shrimp in the saucepan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add 2 more tablespoons of orange juice and soy sauce. Cook for about 8 minutes, flipping when necessary.

4. Serve with mango salsa! Enjoy!

memorial day strawberry cake

Hope you’re having a great Memorial Day weekend so far! I was able to (finally) catch up on my much needed sleep, reorganize the 5,000 files that were cluttering up my computer desktop (also much needed), and spend time with my family. And do a little bit of baking!

This recipe is from Barefoot Contessa Parties! and is my go-to summer staple. It’s not one of those heavy cakes that you feel sick after eating, but is amazing nonetheless! Plus, you feel like it’s healthy because there are strawberries on it…or at least I do! You will not be disappointed.

Memorial Day Strawberry Cake

Adapted from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Parties!

Ingredients for Cake
3/4 cup of softened butter
2 cups of granulated sugar
4 eggs
3/4 cup of sour cream
1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon of orange zest
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 cups of all-purpose flour
1/4 cup of cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda

Ingredients for Whipped Cream Frosting and Strawberry Filling
4 cups of heavy whipping cream
1 cup of granulated sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
3 pints of fresh strawberries, sliced

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and butter and flour two 8-inch cake pans.

2. Mix butter and sugar until light and fluffy (I used a KitchenAid electric mixer).

3. Add eggs, sour cream, zests, vanilla, flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda one at a time until very well-mixed and smooth.

4. Pour batter into the pans and bake for 30 minutes (or until a toothpick comes out clean). Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes.

5. To make the whipped cream frosting with strawberry filling, whip the heavy whipping cream with a handheld electric mixer until firm. Add in vanilla extract and sugar, and continue to whip.

6. Remove cake from cake pans. Place one layer on cake plate, then cover with whipped cream frosting. Cover whipped cream with sliced strawberries. Place second layer on top, and cover with whipped cream and strawberries once more. Enjoy!

i love outdoor spaces

Pretty outdoor spaces are my favorite – and these pictures reflect perfectly my daydreaming today in this gray, gloomy weather! As soon as the sun comes out, I am planning a little picnic outside with lots of pillows, Shabby Chic blankets, and flowers galore. So romantic. I might even dress up and pretend I’m Keira Knightley in Pride and Prejudice.

Gorgeous. So relaxing. I could spend hours on this bench reading the next book on my list: Belle in the Big Apple. Very intellectual.

The perfect picnic and most romantic setting in the world.

I love these pillows and chairs for the beach. So cute! And I want that fabric.

Hammocks: amazing.

I love prairie-style pictures like this. And the lanterns hanging from the tree are beautiful!

Twinkle lights AND a hammock: heaven!

Imagine having a rose-covered tree swing as a little girl – too precious!

All images are courtesy of Pinterest.

make your own bookplates

One of the most thoughtful graduation gifts I ever received was a collection of my favorite classic novels – Pride and Prejudice, War and Peace, Anna Karenina, and Crime and Punishment – in special collector’s edition hardcovers. Is it nerdy how much I love them?

If you’re looking for a graduation gift over the next few weeks, this is an easy, affordable, and meaningful gift for that lucky graduate! You can personalize it by adding one of these homemade bookplates too. I made these with decorative paper (the kind I was busy searching for at Michael’s yesterday!) and a template I made for the bookplate insert itself. These templates are attached as PDFs below in maroon, black, light blue, and light green! The PDFs are already sized, so all you need to do is print!

Template for Light Blue Bookplate


mba lesson of the week #6

May 25, 2011

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