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Giving Thanks: version 1.0

Facebook, texting, Instagram, emailing, Twitter, Snapchat....this blog! Technology has done a pretty amazing job connecting people better over the last couple of decades. Or has it? The question contemporary sociologists are posing today is: Does having hundreds of followers or thousands of friends make us truly feel more connected or is it making us feel more alone? The growing research points to an actual increase in feelings of loneliness and disconnectedness among those in the facebook generation.1 Why? To put it simply: we're not actually compelled to leave our social media-machines (i.e. cell phones and computers) and go interact with people. The faster pace and increasing demands of work and school only perpetuate the compulsion to stay plugged in. Luckily, there are still wonderful facets of life that prevent us from heading straight  into a world of soma, obstacle golf, and conditioning centers. Girls night, book clubs, classroom discussions, phone calls, brunch dates, pot luck get-togethers....THANKSGIVING! These are a few of my favorite things and things that I hold sacred enough not to dilute with too much tech. Every week I look forward to getting together with some girlfriends and cooking a meal. We take turns bringing ingredients and/or hosting. We catch up, cook, eat, and enjoy. It helps me stay sane. The recipe below is for my very favorite Chicken Pot Pie-- a dish I made at one of these girls' nights. It's part of my Thanksgiving post because Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays (surprise, surprise), and this is a great dish to make with turkey leftovers OR just because you're around the ones you love and want to show them how much. Although I am ever-grateful for advancing technology, next Thursday I'll be sticking with my non-updated version of Thanksgiving and expressing my gratitude for wonderful friends, family and health in person at an actual table!
p.s. If you do decide to use turkey leftovers, just use store-bought low sodium chicken broth in place of making your own as seen in the recipe below

Chicken Pot Pie
Serves 6-8

Chicken Broth:
2 lb raw chicken breast, cut into 3 inch pieces
4 cloves of garlic
1 Tablespoons salt
½ Tablespoon pepper
1 sprig of Rosemary
7 Cups of water

Pot Pie Stew:
2 Cups diced yellow onion
1.5 Cups diced carrot
1.5 Cups diced celery
6 Tablespoons butter
6 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons thyme
2 teaspoons rosemary
1 bay leaf
¾ Cup corn starch + ¼ Cup cold water
1/3 Cup dry sherry wine
6 Cups chicken stock (from above)
1 Cup frozen green peas
1/2 Cup heavy cream

1 package frozen puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
1 Tablespoon water

  1. Fill a medium pot with 7 Cups of water.
  2. Chop the garlic and add it to the pot of water. Add salt, pepper, and rosemary to the pot as well.
  3. Place the cut, raw chicken in the pot. Cover the pot with a lid and cook over low, medium heat.
  4. Reduce the heat to low once it comes to a boil. Keeping the lid on, continue cooking for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Turn the heat off, remove the lid, and allow the chicken and the resulting chicken stock to cool.
  6. Start the process of cooking the pot pie stew (directions below). During the step of waiting for the veggies to cook, use a slotted spoon to remove the chicken from the stock. Cube the cooked chicken and set aside. Save the chicken stock (throw out the solids) because it is the stock you will use for the pot pie stew. 
  1. In a large saucepan, sauté onions, carrots, and celery, in butter over low/medium heat. Once the onions start to turn transparent, add garlic and herbs in.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the corn starch with ¼ Cup cold water. Stir until a smooth paste is formed. (this step helps you avoid the clumps that would form if corn starch was added directly to the hot pan).
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees
  4. Once the carrots have softened slightly, lower the heat. Add the corn starch paste to the sautéed vegetables and stir constantly to form a roux.
  5. Add chicken stock and sherry and stir to make sure clumps don’t form. Allow the mixture to come to a boil, and the mixture will become thicker. Turn the heat down to low.
  6. Add chicken breast and stir to combine.
  7. Add heavy cream, stir, and bring the mixture to a boil once more. Reduce to a simmer and continue to cook for 3 minutes or until thickened.
  8. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Stir and allow the pot pie stew mixture to cool.
  1. Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper
  2. In a small bowl use a fork to beat the egg with the water and set aside.
  3. Sprinkle the counter lightly with flour.
  4. Roll some refrigerated puff pastry to 1/8 inch thick. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter cut circles that are ½ wider than the rim of your individual ramekins or mini-pie dishes.
  5. Fill each ramekin or mini-pie dish 80% full with the warm pot pie mixture
  6. Brush each circle of dough with egg wash and place each circle of dough egg-washed-side down on top of each of the filled ramekins.
  7. Cut a small slit in the middle of the pastry.
  8. Brush the top of the pastry with egg wash. Place each of the completed ramekins/ mini-pie dishes on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  9. Bake for 15 minutes in the pre-heated oven. Decrease the heat to 400 degrees and bake until the crust is puffed and golden brown (another 15-20 minutes)
          Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe Adapted from Beth-Ann McFarland-Lyons' recipe at her restaurant Kitchen 324
Photo Credits: KiwiConfections


Getting By

"Getting by" might seem like the mantra of under-achievers everywhere, but when I use the phrase I mean doing your very best to handle/juggle everything life may hand you. For some it's raising kids while working, for me it's school and everything in between, and for others it's the daunting combination of work, school, and kids. Whatever the circumstances are, sometimes just "getting by" or surviving the day is quite a feat and, in my opinion, not possible without the support of friends and family. My parents, sister, and fiancé have all been my biggest pillars of support but my friends are the daily, even hourly providers of comradery and encouragement. Living alone underscores the importance of friends even more-- especially when it comes to the kitchen. Cooking for one is no fun (and since that rhymed, it's probably worth becoming an official "saying"). I'm ashamed to think about the once beautiful bell peppers, plump mushrooms, crisp kale, and nutrient-packed sweet potatoes I've thrown out...Not to mention the food I prepared, got sick of, and left "to mature" a few weeks in the fridge. I've had to learn the hard way that cooking and eating one's food alone is simply a recipe for disaster and waste. Once I started cooking for and with my friends and exchanging dishes, things became much more manageable. The social aspect of eating and cooking is practically imprinted in our DNA and done solo they can become yet another monotonous chore. Today, I'm sharing a recipe for Chicken Enchiladas that I make to share with friends. The flavors are best the next day, and it makes a great lunch you can heat up at work or school. Bonus points: it's great on your wallet at under $20 for the whole meal or less than $2.00 a serving. Whether it's cooking, motivating myself to get to the gym, or studying for hours on end, I get by with a little a lot of help from my friends.

p.s. Don't let the length of this recipe fool you. I made these again last night and timed myself: from start to finish, it took 30 minutes.

KiwiConfections Enchiladas
Serves 8-10

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
2 Cups sliced white mushrooms
6 Cups raw baby spinach
½ Cup finely chopped onion

3 Tablespoons chili powder
4 Tablespoons corn starch
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon oregano
3 Cups Organic, Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1 (8 oz) Can Low Sodium Tomato Sauce

1 pound cooked chicken, shredded

2 Cup reduced fat “Mexican Blend” cheese

  1. Drizzle olive oil in a large saucepan or wok and heat over medium heat. Add mushrooms and onion to the pan. After allowing the onions and mushrooms to cook for about 1 minute, add the baby spinach to the saucepan. Sautee the vegetable until the spinach starts to soften. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the vegetables to cool down.
  2. Pour the cooked vegetables into a colander and allow the excess water to drain while you make the enchilada sauce.
  3. Combine all dry ingredients in a small bowl
  4. Stirring constantly, add enough chicken broth to create a thin paste. Pour into saucepan and add the rest of the chicken broth.
  5. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens.
  6. Stir in Tomato Sauce
  7. Pour half of the enchilada sauce into a heat safe bowl
  8. Add the cooked chicken to the remaining half of the enchilada sauce and stir.
  9. Pre-heat your oven to 400°F.
  10. Heat corn tortillas in a pan or heat them up in the microwave with a wet paper towel on top.
  11. Fill each warm tortilla with a mixture of chicken, mushrooms/spinach/onion, and cheese.
  12. Roll the tortilla up and place it seam down in a baking dish.
  13. Repeat this until your casserole dish is full.
  14. Spoon enchilada sauce on top of the enchiladas and sprinkle remaining cheese on top.
  15. Bake the enchiladas for 20 minutes.
  16. Serve and Enjoy


When Life Hands You Brown, Mushy Bananas

You always hear "When life hands you lemons..." I never really understood why lemons were considered so bad. And besides, it's pretty clear that lemonade, lemon bars, and lemon wedges in water and/or cocktails are all delicious. On the other hand, most people will simply throw their brown, mushy bananas away. And that is why I propose we change the aphorism to, "When life hands you mushy, brown bananas." Because if you actually use them to bake with, they're even better than regular, yellow-green bananas. If you haven't caught on yet, I'm about to make a metaphor between almost rotten fruit and life. Three years ago yesterday, I met an awesome guy in a brown banana situation. I had just moved back to Kansas City after graduating from U of M, I still wasn't 100% positive that I wanted to go to medical school, and my first significant relationship had ended a few months prior to that. Coming back to Kansas City wasn't easy because it meant swallowing my pride and moving back in with my parents (who I love dearly) instead of going straight to grad school or a high-paying career, and it also meant leaving my social network and having to start over. After going on a few dates with people I'd met organically through work or mutual acquaintances and realizing that it wasn't working, I did what I consider to be the most daring thing I've done to this day-- I joined an online dating service. I'm sure many of you or people you know might think, "Aww, that sort of thing is really nice and cute for other people, but I would rather die than do it for myself." (Believe it or not, people have actually said this to me after knowing how Ryan and I met). And I can't blame you for thinking that because I think I thought that too before I pulled the trigger. I went on 17 dates in the span of two weeks. I don't recommend this sort of schedule to anyone, and I probably could have started a blog on just those 17 experiences. The guys I met were hardly brown bananas, but they weren't for me. Just when I was ready to close my account, I decided to make good on a raincheck I'd given a guy who had messaged me before. I was so busy at work (and going on dates) that I had turned down a polite invitation to grab drinks from a really great-sounding guy. He had just graduated from Notre Dame (I didn't hold it against him) and was in Kansas City living with his older sister while applying to dental school. We both loved "Arrested Development" and travel-- he'd been to South Africa for study abroad and I'd traveled to Central America on health brigades for three of my four spring breaks in college. Last minute, I said that I had some free time for lunch and that we could meet then. He obliged and three years later we've traveled to 7 different countries together, he's in dental school, I'm in medical school, we're engaged, we've made wonderful new friends, and we only have 18 months left of being 350 miles apart. Whether it's online dating or having to do long-distance, don't dismiss the brown, mushy bananas and just throw them away. Sometimes, finding "the one" in an unorthodox manner or having to face the challenges of long-distance before you're even married makes your banana bread way better than the ones made of regular, yellow-green bananas. Oh, and...Happy three year anniversary, Ry!

And now for a fantastic recipe-- a guilt-free, but delicious and moist banana bread to welcome Fall.

Healthy Banana Bread
Serves 10

3 medium, very ripe bananas, mashed
½ Cup reduced fat Greek yogurt
2 Tablespoons Canola oil
2 eggs
½ Cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ Cup All-Purpose Flour
½ Cup Whole Wheat Flour
½ Cup Ground Flaxseed
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
  2. Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed. Add brown sugar and vanilla and  beat until combined.
  3. In a separate bowl combine flours, flaxseed, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon
  4. Add flour mixture to banana mixture; stir just until blended.
  5. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven; cool 10 minutes in pan. Remove bread from pan; cool completely.
  6. Slice and enjoy (or cover with saran wrap and refrigerate for later).

Photo Credits: KiwiConfections


Pick Me Up

No, I don't mean pick ME up... I mean Tiramisu-- Italian for 'pick me up.' Every now and then a friend or classmate or random person will ask me about my thoughts on the latest and greatest fad diet...everything from the new millennium's Atkins diet to the hot-off-the-presses Paleo diet. As a disclaimer, I must first say that my humble opinion holds very little weight compared to the health and happiness you receive from following any of these diets. But...since this is my humble blog, I'll share my humble opinion anyway. Did you know that Italy has been ranked as one of the healthiest countries in the world countless times? In fact, last year Italy was ranked 2nd healthiest country in the world by Bloomberg. Despite this, the birthplace of the ice cream cone has stayed relatively steeped in its unapologetic love affair with delicious food. Real food, mind you. Yes, Italy is famous for its pasta, pizza and gelato...but you often walk to get to these places and since it's impractical to load up on a lot of food on a grocery trip (on account of the little streets, little cars to match, and lack of Costco's), many Italians make several trips to the grocery store in a single week and cook fresh foods for themselves. Italy does not consistently make it into the top 5 list of healthiest countries in the world because its people are at the whim of every fad diet. In fact, it's because Italians don't deprive themselves of things like tiramisu that they don't need the extra "pick me up" from a juice cleanse or a bee pollen shot. I don't think it's a coincidence that Italy is home to both Prada and the Pope because it illustrates nicely the need for some balance in life. Enjoying simple pleasures in life and making healthy choices seem to lead to a longer life..ask Greece, France, Australia, or Italy if you don't believe me.

Kiwi Confections Tiramisu
Serves 15

6 egg yolks
¾ Cup White Sugar
2/3 Cup Milk
1 ¼ Cups Heavy Whipping Cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound mascarpone cheese
3 ½ Cups strong coffee (at room temperature)
1/3 Cup rum
1 ½ packages (7 ounces) Savoiardi Lady Fingers*
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

  1. Brew your coffee and allow it to cool to room temperature.
  2. Add egg yolk and sugar to a medium saucepan. Whisk the two together until well blended and cook over medium heat being sure to stir constantly. Allow the mixture to come to a boil for a full minute continuing to whisk. Remove the custard from heat and allow it to cool.
  3. Transfer the custard to a heat-safe bowl and place saran wrap on the custard to prevent a film from forming. Place the bowl in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

  4. With the whisk attachment of a stand mixer, whip the heavy whipping cream with vanilla until soft peaks form.
  5. Whisk the mascarpone cheese into the yolk mixture.
  6. Combine the coffee and rum together. Dip each lady finger in the coffee mixture until mostly soaked through. You don’t want the lady fingers to be breaking apart.
  7. Arrange the soaked ladyfingers in the bottom of a 9x13 inch dish. Spread the mascarpone mixture on top of the ladyfingers and some of the whipped cream on top of that. Repeat these layers once more.
  8. Sift cocoa powder on top of the tiramisu. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight. 

*To make this recipe gluten free, substitute regular lady fingers with two 5.3 oz. packages of Schar gluten free lady fingers. Remember that gluten free lady fingers take a bit longer to soak and also soak up more liquid.

Photo Credits: KiwiConfections


A Women’s Magazine Article that Actually Said Something + A Recipe

     I read an article in Glamour magazine’s September issue while at the gym last week, and it was pretty great. In a nutshell, it dispelled the myth of today’s ideal woman—Wonder Woman. So it got me thinking about the comic book starlet…She has super powers. She’s smart. She kicks ass at work and at home. And did I mention that she’s hot? It’s no surprise, then, that Wonder Woman is actually the product of a pretty famous male psychologist. His name was William Moulton Marston, and he was already a big deal in his profession because he invented a blood-pressure monitoring apparatus that was instrumental in the creation of the lie-detector test. In describing the underlying theme of his female superhero creation Marston said, “Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world."1

    While William Marston may have had the best of intensions in creating a new female heroin for little girls to look up to, Wonder Woman has become the caricature of something young women today constantly feel pressure to live up to. Young women including myself! Of course I am rational enough to know that there’s no such thing as a Gisele Bündchen, M.D. PhD that also has a perfect home life, tons of friends, a sweet spot for humanitarian work, and a knack for entertaining and bake sales. Actually, I think I kinda have believed that. Slowly, but surely I’m learning that Wonder Woman is not real and trying to be like her just leads to disaster. I am also learning the best tricks at surviving real life—not Wonder Woman style,not Gangam style, just me style. Me-style includes (but is not limited to): 1) frugal- I’m a med student surviving on student loans 2) quick- I have to study all the time, and when I’m not studying I want to see the people I haven’t seen in forever because I’ve been studying  All. The. Time. 3) taste conscious- I love eating, and it can sometimes be the highlight of my day, so it’s got to taste good 4) healthy- after I graduate my job will be to tell people to be healthier and help them become so. I want to walk the walk not just talk the talk. Plus I feel better.
     I’ll continue to share these tricks of surviving me-style on the blog, but let’s start with one of my favorites….

Crockpot meals! (No, not queso dip) They’re not glamorous, but we’re talking about real life here, remember? What’s awesome about these are that they work on my $50/week food budget, allow me to still get my 8 hours of studying in, and provide something yummy and healthy to eat. One of my favorites right now is Chicken Tortilla Soup. The recipe takes away any excuse you have to not make yourself a healthy home-cooked dinner tonight.

1. Hendrix, Grady (December 11, 2007). "Out for Justice". The New York Sun.

Chicken Tortilla Soup
Serves 5

2 lbs Chicken Breast*
1 (15 oz) can Whole Peeled Tomatoes Mashed
1 (10 oz) can Reduced Sodium Enchilada Sauce
1 Dried Ancho Chile
5 Cloves Garlic, chopped
1 Medium Onion, chopped
1 Serrano Pepper, halved and chopped
2 Cups water
2 Cups Reduced Sodium Chicken Broth*
1 ½ teaspoon Cumin
1 ½ teaspoon Chili Powder
1 ½ teaspoon Salt
½ teaspoon Black Pepper
1 Bay leaf
1 Cup frozen Corn Kernels
2 Tablespoons Fresh Cilantro, chopped
1 Lime
2 Avocados, sliced

*To make this recipe vegetarian: Substitute frozen edamame and/or black beans for the chicken. Don’t add the edamame or black beans until the end of the cooking time. Sub low sodium vegetable broth in for the chicken broth.


Before you go to sleep: place the raw chicken, tomatoes, enchilada sauce, garlic, onion, Serrano, water, chicken broth, and seasonings in a crock pot. Do not add the (edamame and/or black beans), corn, cilantro, lime or avocado in yet. Set it to medium or low heat. Allow it to cook over night: 6 to 8 hours.

After it is done cooking, use a fork to break apart/shred the chicken (while in the crockpot). Add in the (edamame), corn,and cilantro. Cover the pot with the lid and allow it to slowly cool down for 30 minutes. During this time, the (edamame and/or  beans), corn, and cilantro will also warm up.

Serve into bowls. Squeeze in a bit of lime into each bowl and add 5 or 6 slices of avocado to each bowl. You can also add some tortilla chips in, but I love it without chips too. Enjoy!

(Or, store the chicken tortilla soup in Tupperware until it’s meal time. Heat up individual servings in the microwave. Then add slices of avocado and some lime before eating).

Recipe Photo Credits: KiwiConfections


When in Singapore…

Eat Haianese Chicken rice. Actually, that goes for when you’re in Malaysia or Melbourne, Australia too. For me, Haianese Chicken Rice is the definition of comfort food. The elements seem simple enough, but the flavors are simply amazing. My aunt used to babysit my sister and I when we lived in Melbourne. She had lived in Singapore for a long time and had perfected the signature dishes of the region. To this day, the smell of this dish takes me right back to childhood. That’s why when Ry and I visited Singapore and Malaysia a few years ago, I ordered the chicken rice at pretty much every hawker centre we went to. It’s a universally loved flavor profile, and I love making it for friends and family—it’s pretty and hearty and in a small way it’s part of who I am. Selamat makan! <enjoy your meal>

Haianese Chicken Rice
Serves 10

Haianese Chicken
8 Chicken leg quarters (skin on), rinsed
Ginger, peeled cut into 4 one-inch pieces
8 cloves Garlic, peeled
1 Cup chopped spring onions
2 teaspoons salt

Haianese Chicken Rice
5 Cups long grain rice
Ginger, peeled cut into 3 one-inch pieces
4 Garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chicken fat, skimmed from the top of the cooled stock
5-6 Cups chicken stock (according to the rice cooking instructions)
2 Pandan leaves (also known as screw pine leaves)

Brown Sauce
3 tablespoons Garlic oil (sauté 4 crushed pieces of garlic in vegetable oil to make garlic oil)
3 teaspoons sesame oil
¾ Cup Soy Sauce (use gluten free soy sauce for those with gluten intolerance)
3 tablespoons sugar
½ Cup chicken stock (from the Haianese chicken you cooked)
1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch

Spring Onions
Sambal Oelek
Brown Sauce (from above)

  1. Fill a large pot up with water (enough to cover the chicken). Do not place the chicken in the pot yet.
  2. Place the pieces of ginger into the water, 8 garlic cloves, and spring onions in the water. Add in the salt.
  3. Bring the pot of water to a boil, then turn of the heat, add the chicken, and cover with a lid.
  4. Keeping the pot covered with a lid, bring the water to a boil again on low heat (level 3). Once the water has come to a boil, keep the lid on and turn off the heat. Leave the chicken in the pot to stand in the water for 30 minutes.
  5. After 30 minutes, bring the pot of water to a boil at low heat. After it comes to a boil, turn the heat off and allow the chicken to stand in the water with the lid on for another 30 minutes.
  6. Take the lid off and carefully remove the chicken from the pot. Remove the pot of chicken stock from the stove. Place the cooked chicken on a plate. Allow the chicken and the chicken stock to cool down. Once cooled, pat the chicken dry. Place in a sealed container and refrigerate. 
  7. Add all of the rice ingredients to a rice cooker and cook.
  8. While the rice is cooking, prepare the brown sauce for the chicken. Combine all the sauce ingredients except the corn starch in a small saucepan and cook on low heat, stirring until all of the sugar has dissolved. In a separate bowl, mix the cornstarch with a tablespoon of cold water. Stir the cornstarch and water into a thin paste. Add the corn starch paste to the brown sauce and whisk it until the cornstarch has completely incorporated (no lumps). Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow it to cool down.
  9. Turn on the broiler in your oven. Remove the chicken from the fridge.
  10. Pat the chicken dry, and place it on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil. Brush on some of the brown sauce onto the chicken. Place the baking sheet in the oven. Watch the chicken carefully. You only want to crisp and brown the chicken.
  11. Once the rice is done cooking, plate the meal. Garnish with cucumber, spring onions, the brown sauce, and sambal oelek.

Photo Credits: KiwiConfections


Cake Celebrity

I suppose I've faced my first true test of balancing blogging with medical school...and according to my stats for the last couple of weeks, I think I failed. I may be able to redeem myself though! After all, I think the recipe for Ellen Degeneres and Portia De Rossi's wedding cake or Jennifer Aniston's birthday cake deserves a little a lot of extra credit. I can't claim to have worked undercover at the Sweet Lady Jane Bakery, but I can say that I think I've perfected the recipe for the ketogenic celebrities' favorite carb splurge. Ever since I started making it, the triple berry cake has become the cake my friends and family request most it's sort of a celebrity itself. Yes, this cake is a little labor intensive...but consider it a labor of love because that's what this cake tastes like-- joyful, unadulterated love.

Fluffy Vanilla Bean Cake
Serves 15

5 Large Egg Whites, at room temperature
1 Whole Egg
1 Cup Milk, preferably 2% or whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 Cups cake flour, sifted
1 vanilla bean, split in half and scraped*
2 Cups sugar
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen and cut into 24 even pieces

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease, flour, and line two 8-inch baking pans.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir the egg whites, whole egg, and ¼ of the milk. Stir in the vanilla and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixture fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients (including the vanilla bean) together on low speed for 30 seconds.
  4. Add the butter one piece at a time, about every 10 seconds. Continue to mix on low until the mixture is a fine crumbly texture. Add the rest of the milk, and mix on low for 2 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl and begin to add the egg mixture in 3 separate batches, mixing until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. The batter should be homogenous. Fold once or twice to ensure everything at the bottom of the bowl is incorporated.
  5. Divide the batter in two, spreading it evenly in the cake pans.
  6. Bake until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs when inserted into the center, about 30 minutes. However, check the cake at 20 minutes to be sure you’re not over baking.
  7. Let cool on racks for 10 minutes before loosening the sides carefully. Gently turn the cakes out and allow it to cool further.

*place the leftover pods in your sugar container to make vanilla sugar, or steep them in your black tea.
 Vanilla Cake Recipe Adapted from: Sweetapolita

Nush’s Vanilla Buttercream Icing
Serves 20

2 sticks of Unsalted Butter, softened at room temperature
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 Cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/3 Cup milk, preferably 2% or whole milk, room temperature
1/3 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream

  1. In the bowl of a kitchen aid stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip the butter for 4 minutes at medium high speed. This will make your butter cream and incorporate quite a bit of air. Add salt and vanilla and continue to whip for another minute.
  2. Add in the confectioners’ sugar cup by cup. Be sure to start out at a slow speed to prevent your kitchen from looking like a winter wonderland. Slowly increase the speed to medium high and whip until all the powdered sugar is incorporated. Turn the mixer off before you add the next cup of sugar and repeat the process.
  3. When the mixture starts to become stiff (this will happen before all the sugar has been added), add in the 1/3 Cup of milk. Scrape the sides of the bowl, and whip the frosting for 1 minute or until the frosting is homogeneous.
  4. Continue to add in the rest of the sugar.
  5. Lastly, add the heavy whipping cream. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and whip at medium speed for 20 seconds. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl  and whip at medium-high speed for another 20 seconds. Be careful not to over whip your frosting after the heavy whipping cream has been added. Over whipping will cause the heavy whipping cream to turn into butter and cause the frosting to be heavier instead of lighter. What you want is to whip the cream into a whipped cream texture that ends up making the most fluffy, divine buttercream frosting that's worthy of naming after yourself...

*By replacing ½ Cup of the powdered sugar with Ghirardelli cocoa powder, you’ve got a delicious cocoa buttercream. You can also add some vanilla bean to take your vanilla buttercream to the next level of fancy.

Nush’s Buttercream Frosting Recipe ©KiwiConfections

Whipped Cream
Serves 15

1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream, kept refrigerated until ready to use
1 Tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Place a perfectly clean and completely dry metal mixing bowl and the whisk attachment in the freezer for 10 minutes.
  2. Attach the frozen metal mixing bowl and whisk attachment to your stand mixer.
  3. Take the whipping cream out of the fridge and add it to the metal mixing bowl. Start out whipping at low-medium speed for 30 seconds. Add in the sugar and vanilla.
  4. Gradually increase the speed, and whip at a higher speed for another 30 seconds or until soft peaks form. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and whip at high speed for 5-10 seconds—be careful not to over whip thus turning your heavy whipping cream into butter.

To Assemble the Triple Berry Cake
  1. Chop up 5 washed strawberries, 10 washed raspberries, and 10 washed blackberries. Lay the berries on a paper towel to absorb excess water.
  2. Use a large knife to make sure the top surface of both cake layers are even and flat. (Save those cake scraps for eating with the left over frosting)
  3. Place one cake layer on the cake stand.
  4. Place half the whipped cream on top of the bottom cake layer. Arrange the berries on top of the whipped cream. Place the last half of the whipped cream on top of the berries.
  5. Place the second cake layer on top of the berry/whipped cream layer.
  6. Spread the buttercream frosting around the cake. Even out the frosting with a large straight-edged spatula.
  7. Color ½ Cup of the buttercream with green food coloring and use a frosting tip to draw vines and leaves on the top and sides of the cake.
  8. Slice a few strawberries in half length wise. Wash and dry some additional blackberries and raspberries. Make sure all the berries are completely dry (especially the cut sides).
  9. Arrange the berries around the perimeter of the cake (cut side down). Use the green icing to create additional leaves or branches in respect to the berries.
  10. Keep the cake refrigerated until about 20 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
Photo Credits: KiwiConfections