Hi, I'm Rachel.

A few years ago I could barely boil water.

True story.

Determined to be a kick ass wife, I developed a love for football and learned to cook in my tiny Jersey City kitchen. I spend my days working in Manhattan, my nights and weekends chasing after a rambunctious toddler, and the hours in between cooking with my husband and feeding my TV habit...oh, and I blog about it all! 

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Entries in Birthday (10)


Birthday Dinner + Hotel Debates

Hi there!


Last night we celebrated Shaun's birthday. Now that we have a little nugget, Shaun decided that he wanted to just have a nice dinner at home with his ladies. Worked for me!


When Shaun mentioned that he wanted seafood for his birthday dinner, I was on board since it's simple and quick yet feels so special. Since Penelope's bedtime isn't until 8 or so, I put together a little pre-dinner appetizer platter for us to snack on until Pen hit the hay.



I picked up some hard salami, stuffed olives, and shrimp cocktail. To round things out, I added some sharp cheddar and our favorite Dubliner cheese.


After opening gifts and sending Penelope off to dreamland, I got to work on dinner. I don't often cook fish (I'm actually not a huge seafood eater), but when we came across Ina Garten's mustard roasted fish recipe, I knew it would be perfect.



And it was. The whole dish came together in less than 30 minutes and was so flavorful! I used cod fillets and the mustard/creme fraiche/capers combo was fantastic. On the side, I served skillet roasted potato wedges. Delish!


For dessert (my favorite part...Shaun could take it or leave it!), we snacked on Baked by Melissa mini cupcakes (note: their flavor of the month is berry silly cereal...it tastes like Trix in a cupcake!) and compost cookies from Momofuku Milk Bar.



Not too shabby for a birthday dinner at home at 9:30PM! As part of his birthday gift, I'm taking Shaun back to Atlantic City in a few weeks (sans Penelope!) so we can head out for a fancy schmancy dinner then!


Meanwhile, tonight we are heading out to Penn State for my sister Christine's graduation! I'm so excited for our family to be altogether for the weekend and to celebrate Christine and all of her hard work over the last 4 years. It's also Penelope's first road trip! When Shaun and I were talking about the weekend, he mentioned that he couldn't wait to stay over in a hotel because it's so relaxing and fun. I had to agree...it's nice to not have any beds to make or dishes to wash for a couple of nights! I do hate packing and unpacking to go places, but I would take a hotel weekend anytime!


What do you think? Do you like staying in hotels? Do you like packing or hate it?

Birthday Cake Part I: Fluffy Yellow Cake + Milk Chocolate Frosting

Thanks for all of your comments in the SlimKicker giveaway! In case you missed it, head over to yesterday's post to enter to win a slow cooker from SlimKicker! SlimKicker turns your diet/fitness goals into a level-up game.  When you join, you get points as you count calories, track your fitness, and participate in challenges. You have until tomorrow at noon to enter the giveaway!


As I mentioned, this weekend was a big birthday weekend in our families! Both my mom and Shaun's mom's birthdays fall within a week of each other. In fact, March is a big birthday month on both sides of our families all around.

But this past weekend, we celebrated Shaun's Mom's birthday on Friday evening. We had offered to bring dessert and so I got to work on finding a cake to bake in celebration. I wasn't 100% sure of what her favorite combination would be and so I decided to keep it very simple. I decided on a yellow cake with chocolate frosting.

If you're a long time reader, you may recall this post of yore in which I broke Kimberly's birthday cake in half while getting it out of the pan. I had to remake the cake. I had used a Betty Crocker recipe for that one and even despite the cake breaking...well, I just didn't love the cake itself.

It looked pretty though after I remade it though, no?

So for this one, I went in search of a new recipe. I dug out my America's Test Kitchen Cookbook and found a recipe for Fluffy Yellow Layer Cake and Milk Chocolate Frosting. I have really been loving this cookbook. Though many of the recipes I've tried require a lot of extra steps, unlike a simple Betty Crocker, I have found that this book just has not steered me wrong. Every recipe thus far has been a winner! This one included.

I frosted up the cake with loads of milk chocolate frosting and Shaun dusted the entire top with sprinkles. Sprinkles makes everthing better, don't they?

Following a delicious Italian dinner, we headed back to Shaun's parents' house and it was time for dessert!

And time for the moment of truth for me! I was so hoping that this cake turned out fabulously.

It did!

Luckily, this was one of the best cakes I've ever made. It was so good and I can't wait to make it again!

I didn't post the recipe because I literally took it straight from the book with very minor adaptations. If you are interested in making this, I can add the recipe! Let me know! I should also note that I worked very hard to frost this cake and did an average job at best. I'm just not a cake decorator! But if you have any cake frosting advice, lay it on me!

Questions of the Day:

Have you ever been in charge of dessert for a birthday?

What did you make? Or bring (even if you didn't make it yourself)?

We also picked up a couple of pints of Ben & Jerry's since we know Shaun's mom loves ice cream! It was an extra fun treat!


For some more America's Test Kitchen recipes, you may also see:

Loaded butterscotch blondies with salted chocolate glaze (I heavily adapted this one!)


Skillet roasted chicken + potato wedges

Pineapple coconut dream bars (also very heavily adapted, but a great base cake!)


How I Spent My Birthday, Part II: Eating Red Velvet Cake + Napping in a Pool Float

While Shaun and I spent Friday evening at BLT Steak & eating Magnolia Bakery cupcakes, we also had a joint birthday celebration on Sunday at my parent's house for my dad and me. My dad's birthday was last week as well so the whole fam thought that a day lounging by the pool and of course eating lots of delicious food would be in order. My sister Kimberly, who is getting down to the wire with studying for the bar, even made a special trip home to be there! (You may also check out her guest post about law school here).

To kick off the day, we snacked on cheese and crackers (the green one is infused with wasabi!)...

...and my healthified version of pizza dip & tortilla chips!

Of course a celebration wouldn't be complete without a Skinnygirl margarita! I'm recycling this photo from our anniversary celebration...

After snacks, I parked myself on a lounge chair in the sun for about 5 minutes before I was hot enough to jump right into the pool!

I spent most of the day laying - and drifting in and out of naps - on a float in the pool. It was exactly how I wanted to spend the day!

Before dinner, we also watched some of the women's World Cup game (actually the rest of my family watched the whole thing while I was pooling it up! I just caught the end)...

We also had some special guests. A nest of baby birds right outside my parents back door! Can you spot them waiting for food?

Little Chloe was already tuckered out by this point...

...that is, until dinner was served! My mom made a feast of braised short ribs, sauteed corn & zucchini, and spaghetti squash. It was deeelish!

For dessert, Mom baked a 3-layer, homemade red velvet cake which she topped with joint candles for Dad and me.

Look at that gorgeous red!

Filled and coated with cream cheese frosting, it was hands down one of the best cakes I've ever had! Thanks Mom!

I may have also enjoyed a slice at home later that night while watching True Blood.

We also divvied up some Crumbs cupcakes, which I had saved from my birthday celebration at work on Friday. Crumbs are my fave <3

Shaun and I rolled ourselves home and collapsed on the couch. It was such a nice day, filled with family, fun and food. It was exactly how I wanted to round out my birthday weekend!

So what do you think? What's your favorite way to spend your birthday? Or any summer weekend?