Saturday, July 30, 2011

Birthdays Galore!

Apparently July is birthday month, but since we have lived so many places over the past few years, most of the honorees aren't even in the same we don't get to do much celebrating.

One birthday girl, however, lives right next door. So...Happy Birthday, Mema!

We celebrated her big day by going to dinner last Thursday night at Red Lobster - there is nothing I love more in the world (after David, of course...maybe...) than crab legs, so I think I was more excited about her birthday than anyone else.

It was also a great excuse to bake a new cake. Mema loves coconut cake, but we have that for her every year, so after much research, I went with Pioneer Woman's Italian Cream Cake. This thing got rave reviews from a lot of different, well-respected food blogs that I follow, so I figured it had to be good. And it was! The cake was moist with a hint of coconut, and the icing was like German Chocolate icing collided with lots of butter and cream cheese. But best of all, it was a layer cake, which is my absolute favorite - what could be better than a cake with icing? Lots of cakes, stuffed with icing and stacked together. YUM.

**After picking at leftovers of cake for the past week, we finally discovered the one thing that could make this cake even more magical - a little blast in the microwave. The icing turns into a glaze and it all tastes like a huge, fresh Krispy Kreme donut.**

Italian Cream Cake (Adapted from Pioneer Woman)

For the Cake:
1 stick butter
1 cup oil (I used canola)
1 cup sugar
5 whole eggs (separated)
3 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup coconut (I used half sweet, half unsweet)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup buttermilk (I used whole milk with a splash of white vinegar)

For the Frosting:
2 packages (8 oz.) cream cheese
1 stick butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 package (2 lb.) powdered sugar
1 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans)
1 cup sweetened, flaked coconut (I used half sweet and half unsweet again)
a tiny splash of lemon juice (to bring out the cream cheese flavor, a la Dorie Greenspan)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 9-inch round cake pans (I used 8.5").
Beat egg whites until stiff. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together butter, oil, and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg yolks, vanilla, and coconut.
In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, and baking powder.
Alternate adding buttermilk and dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix until just combined, then fold in egg whites.
Pour evenly into the three prepared pans, then sprinkle the top of each pan with 1 (at least) tablespoon sugar.
Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto cooling racks and allow to cool completely.
In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Stir in chopped walnuts, lemon juice and flaked coconut. Spread between layers and outside of cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

More Balti, Please

Note: Please excuse the bizarre formatting. I have re-written this dumb blog about 6 times now because Blogger seems to hate pictures and likes to erase everything and then auto-save. Grrrr....

I have lots of blog posts/ideas sitting on the back burner but between our internet and my camera (which bit the dust by landing face-first in a coolwhip-topped "better than sex" cake - what a way to go!), we've had a little problem getting images online. I also got a new computer (hooray!), so I'm in the (slow) process of moving pictures, documents and music over from my crusty old PC to my sparkly new MacBook (tough life, huh?).

I finally have the pictures from our latest trip to Maryland, though! David's younger brother, Brent, is attending the Naval Academy this fall, and had to be in Annapolis at the beginning of July for what is affectionately known as Plebe Summer. To those of us with absolutely no self-control or life aspirations, it is known as 6 weeks of physical anguish and mental torture for incoming freshmen. The worst part of all of it is that after after Plebe Summer, the poor kids begin 4 years of incredibly tough college classes and military training and then commit to serve in the Navy. The toughest parts of my college career were choosing which dessert(s) to eat every day at Bolton, and whether I should go to Statistics class...or skip it and watch Selena with all of this is overwhelming to me, and I have a newfound appreciation for Brent, other smart kids, and everyone who serves in the military.

Regardless, since David and I are total bums right now, we went along to support Brent. If nothing else, I think we were inspirational to him because he knows that getting through Plebe Summer is the first step in not ending up back in his parents' basement.

I-Day is the official start of Plebe Summer - you can google it for a lot more information, but it is basically the opposite of the way I started college. I spent weeks and tons of money at Target making sure that my 10x10 cell dorm room was color-coordinated and stocked with the latest and greatest in electronics (just ask Mere about my amazing alarm clock/sound machine that woke us up to the sound of being attacked by Al Queda waterfalls every morning) and then leisurely spent moving day arranging it all between trips to Bolton (for the aforementioned desserts) and movie marathons on the UGA housing TV channel. By contrast, Brent was allowed to take absolutely nothing. No bed-in-a-bag, no new TV or amazing alarm clock...not even his fabulous new iPhone (and I'm pretty sure USNA doesn't have an on-campus, 24 hour movie channel). In fact, when he checked in, they took the clothes he was wearing and gave him a fabulous new white uniform (and hat!), shaved his head, and began screaming at him. My RA screamed at me a few times throughout my freshman year, but I'm pretty sure I deserved it.

Once we got Brent dropped off on Friday morning, he was gone for the day until his official swearing in ceremony that afternoon. David's parents and grandparents went to a picnic sponsored by the Alumni Association, so David and I spent the afternoon exploring Annapolis. Annapolis is beautiful and a really fun little New England town. It's right on the water (duh, Navy...) and it was a gorgeous day, so there were a lot of people out on boats or just wandering around. After our little jaunt around the world, we have become awesome at walking and walking and walking around cities, so we did what we do best and found a lot of cute little stores and cafes. Being the foodies that we are, we searched and searched for the best little local lunch place and ended up at....Moe's! Don't be disappointed in our selection - the closest Moe's to Roanoke is in Blacksburg, so we don't get to go very often and this particular location had one of those magical, touch-screen Coke machines (officially the Coca-Cola Freestyle). As a new carbonated drink drinker, this thing blew my mind and I'm pretty sure I had Sprite Zero with every flavor combination imaginable. I digress.

After our amazing Mexican lunch, we caught up with the rest of the fam and headed off to the initiation ceremony. People had been saving seats all day, so we got to see a few fights go down between disgruntled parents, and a woman next to us was completely trashed and spent the entire ceremony yelling for her daughter, crying, and trying to balance while she stood on her chair. It was a touching ceremony, and the people-watching wasn't too bad either.

Post-ceremony, we got to see Brent again for the first time since he was whisked away that morning, and say our official goodbyes. We'll see him again in August for Parents' weekend but otherwise can only hear from him in official letters or weekly phone calls. We are allowed to send all the encouraging letters and care packages we want, though, so if you are interested in sending a box of goodies or note to him, let us know and we can give you his address.

After saying goodbye to Brent, the rest of us decided to console ourselves with dinner (in Brent's honor, of course) at none other than the Cheesecake Factory. Nothing says "support our troops" like a giant chunk of cheesecake, so we were just doing our civil duty. We all fell into a sugar-induced food coma back at the hotel and then everyone got up and headed back to Roanoke in the morning - except David and I. We hopped in the car and headed to Baltimore for a few days of exploring.

The drive to Baltimore from Annapolis was super easy, and we got there with plenty of time to spend the evening exploring. Baltimore is a really cute city with lots to do and a very....diverse....population. We walked all over the John Hopkins campus, spent some time down at the waterfront, explored Little Italy, spent a hot afternoon at the (free!) art museum, saw the Orioles' stadium, took the boat taxi to Fells Point, and, of course, had lots of good eats! We also stayed at a hostel, which was a fun experience.

As always, pictures speak louder than words (and this is already way. too. long.) so check out some of our little trip:
The Baltimore Art Museum and lots of signs featuring the best 4-letter word in the English language.
These people were so excited about free art that they ran into the car in front of them. 
The real "welcome" to Little Italy is the amazing smell of fresh bread and basil. But if your sniffer happens to be out of order, there's a sign, too.

Little Italy
Nothing says "Italian" like little old men playing Bocce.

Dinner at our favorite restaurant ever. Do you recognize those little cheesy balls of goodness? No? Shame on you. Here's a hint:

We loooooove Fogo!

Call me cynical, but I think the graffiti here is much better than any of the "art" we saw in the museums. Here's an example of something that made it into the museum:

Really? What the heck is that?

The "World Famous Lexington Market" is quite the colorful place. It has some of the best fruit I've ever tasted served by some of the creepiest people I've ever seen. If you are looking for fried chicken for breakfast (a la South Africa), this is your place.

Hello, Orioles

David loves B.J. Surhoff from his days of playing Ken Griffy Jr. on Super Nintendo. If you think those day are over, you're wrong.

Baltimore from the water taxi (which isn't free on the weekends, apparently. They don't tell you this until they have already taken off, and if you don't pay they kick you off at the next stop. We learned this the hard way and ended up at....)
Fell's Point

Meatball sandwich from Isabella's Brick Oven in Little Italy. Crusty, saucy, amazing.

And for dessert....a Napoleon from the famous Vaccaro's Italian Pastry Shop. We tried the canollis and a giant, chocolate-covered cream puff too, but they disappeared before we could take a picture. Oops.

If there was a competition for the world's cutest Barnes & Noble store, this would definitely win.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Future Mrs. Kilch

There are a lot of milestones in life to look forward to - and I feel like I've already hit most of the ones I'm interested in right now (getting a dog was next on the list, but after this week, it's being postponed) - I did the college thing, got married to my very favorite person, moved around the world, got a full-time, big girl job, bought a house, and am currently mooching off my in-laws. Anyways...until the next big thing comes my way, I'm living vicariously through other people and hoping that exciting things are happening to them.

So, here's a big THANK YOU to Kyle for finally proposing to my sweet friend, Katie, last night. I have been waiting for this FOREVER - she was a huge help in planning my wedding, and I can't wait to start thinking about flowers and dresses and menus and all sorts of wedding goodness with her again!

Katie and I met in high school when we were both new to the area, and bonded in our technology class, where we played "Go Big Girl" way too much. We lived in the same dorm in college and she is a part of most of crazy college memories. We have had so much fun together and I'm so happy for and Kyle - he's a lucky guy!

To the future-Kilches. Here, here!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

This Chocolate's Not for Eating

This week, David and I have been puppysitting for friends who are on vacation. I have had MAJOR puppy fever, so I was worried that spending so much time with Fenway, a 12-week old Chocolate Lab, would REALLY make me want a dog. Somehow, it has had the opposite effect - this boy is SO MUCH WORK.

He was incredibly hyper this morning and chewing everything he could find, so I took him for a short run around the 'hood. He hasn't mastered walking on a least yet, so running was a mess (his collar kept slipping off and he spent the first half mile trying to bite my heels) but when we came back he drank some water and has spent the rest of the afternoon sleeping. Mission accomplished!

Since we're watching Fen, we've been staying at his house, which is always an adjustment. Moving around the world over the past few years has taught me that kitchens are always the biggest variable between houses, and this was no exception. In fact, for some reason the oven  here would not heat up past 100 degress...which is no good when you are trying to bake bread!

So I had to bake it in the toaster oven.

Not ideal, but it worked, and I ended up with a (super delicious) loaf of dark Rye.

Here's the recipe I used (without the caraway seeds). I highly recommend it to any other carb addicts out there- it's slightly sweet with a little of that rye tang. Delicious!