It’s that wonderful time of year, where gardens in the midwest are beginning to produce succulent vegetables and are bursting with berries! The last few weeks have been a blur. Between trying to move and managing our home addition/renovation things have been moving full speed ahead!

Last weekend we took a moment to rest by visiting the husband’s parents in Caledonia, North Dakota. The area of North Dakota that HAS gotten rain, unlike the drought ridden areas of western North Dakota. 

We took the opportunity to fill our cheeks with raspberries and juneberries from Grandma Raylene’s garden. Huntley repeatedly asked throughout the weekend for more “booberries” and hence we would venture out to pick more. 

We whipped up some of the berries into a decadent homemade ice cream. The ice cream, was sweet and had the perfect crunch with the addition of some of the berries that I left in chunks. It was the perfect treat for a hot, North Dakota, summer day. 

DISCLAIMER: I wrote this post about six months ago and we are now dwindling in the sub-zero temperatures here in North Dakota. Oh how I miss the warmth and that sweet, sweet ice cream. I think if I made this today I might be succumbed to minor frost bite in my kitchen. But none the less, the creaminess and fruitiness of this recipe might just take me back to the glorious days of summer. How many days until Spring?

Raspberry Juneberry Ice Cream

1 c. raspberries
1 c. juneberries (you can substitute 1 additional c. of raspberries if you can’t find juneberries)
2 T. sugar
3 c. heavy cream
1 1/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. whole milk
1 1/2 T. vanilla

In a medium size bowl, add raspberries, juneberries and the 2 tablespoons sugar. Stir and slightly smash a little and then set aside for about 15 minutes. In a large bowl, mix the cream, 1 1/4 cups sugar, milk and vanilla. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Take raspberries and juneberries and slightly mash with a fork. Add to milk mixture. Put in fridge for about 30 minutes to chill. Pour into canister of ice cream freezer and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.


A few weeks ago, I was honored to throw a baby shower for my sister Kelsey. Her and her hubby Jordan are expecting their first baby in August. We are patiently waiting for the first Smith cousin for Huntley! The shower was a wonderful success; great food, great company and an amazing location. 

I was lucky enough to host the shower at my aunt Christine’s house in Keystone, South Dakota. Her house backs up to the 1880’s train that runs from Hill City to Keystone. It was a real treat to enjoy lunch and games down by her wonderful waterfall and creek, all while waving to the passerby’s on the steam engine 1880’s train!

I enjoyed planning this baby shower, in part due to the fun theme; Woodlands Baby. The shower was everything woodlands – acorns, lanterns, trail mix, pine trees, babbling brooks, wildflowers, and baby animals galore!

Our menu consisted of a watermelon baby carriage (mom-to-be request), owl veggie tray, woodlands animal crackers, porcupine cheese dip, broccoli salad, and sandwiches. The baby shower showcase was the lemon-thyme vanilla cake with cream cheese buttercream.

These cakes were so delectable and the cream cheese frosting made for the perfect finish to the strong vanilla flavoring. I frosted these “naked” as I thought it looked appropriate in the forrest with the family of deer and added garnishes of fresh thyme to pull in our woodlands element and the thyme flavor. 

After the shower I got to snap a few photos of my sister, so that she will always remember her cute baby bump. It is so fun to watch my little sister in this special moment in her life. I can remember the months leading up to having Huntley where you prepare for every little moment, but nothing prepares you for the amount of love that is coming your way, until you hold that sweet baby in your arms. Baby Ellis will be here before we know it!

Lemon-Thyme Vanilla Cake

3 c. sifted cake flour
2 c. sugar
4 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
5 large egg whites
1 whole egg
1 c. whole milk
2 1/4 t. pure vanilla extract
2 t. lemon juice
2 T. thyme, minced
3/4 c. unsalted butter

1 c. salted butter, softened
1/2 c. shortening
16 ounces of cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 T. vanilla extract
4 pounds confectioners sugar
*1/2 t. salt (if you use unsalted butter)

Prepare Cake: Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and line 3 6-inch cake pans or 2 8-in cake pans with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together egg whites, egg, milk, and vanilla extract.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients together on low speed. Gradually add in cold butter and continue to mix until mixture is a fine, crumbly texture. Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients in separate batches, making sure to scrape down the sides each time. Mix in the lemon juice and minced thyme. Mix until light and fluffy. Divide batter evenly into pans and bake for 25-35 minutes. Check with a cake tester to ensure the cake is done baking. 

Prepare Frosting: In a mixing bowl with paddle attachment cream together shortening and butter. Mix until creamy. Add in cut up cream cheese and vanilla and blend again. Then a little a time add confectioners sugar. Turn on high for 15 minutes to make frosting smooth and fluffy. 

Links to other menu items:
Pink Lemonade Sparkling Fruit Punch
Blueberry-Mint Lemonade
Broccoli Salad {Forrest of Trees}
Watermelon Baby Carriage
Owl Veggie Tray
Porcupine Cheese Ball 










When I was little I looooooved unicorns, but I really just loved anything related to horses. My obsession really revolved around the movie Legend with Tom Cruise where there were these magical white unicorns and the movie the Neverending Story where Atreyu has a amazing white horse named Artax. And pegasus, so pretty much any white horse! Which is still my color of choice for a horse (grey technically). 

So naturally this year I was super excited to have a unicorn frappe when Starbucks came out with them, but I was never able to enjoy one! They were gone before the time I could drive to a faraway town to find a Starbucks. Thus unicorn popsicles were derived!

These popsicles are much different than their distant cousin the unicorn frappe. They are loaded with yummy fruit mixtures and creamy, luscious yogurt. No added sugar, so they are really good for you too! When developing these I asked myself, why would I make these colorful concoctions in a basic popsicle mold when I could probably find one that resembled an actual unicorn horn!

I found these popsicle molds and they worked seamlessly. If you are a little more traditional, I also really love these popsicles molds when I’m making basic popsicles. I made both so you could see the difference! I decorated the unicorn pops with magical white chocolate and sprinkles, but they are just plain perfect without any fancy fixings. 

So if you are feeling magical this #popsicleweek tryout a unicorn popsicle. For even more fun and exciting, summery popsicles head over to Wit & Vinegar here to join in on all the popsicle madness! Happy Summer!


Unicorn Popsicles
Makes 24 popsicles

Blue Layer
2 frozen bananas 
1/2 c. greek yogurt, vanilla or plain
1 c. frozen pineapple
2 drops blue food coloring
water for blending

Purple Layer
1 frozen banana
1/2 c. greek yogurt, vanilla or plain
1 c. frozen mixed berries
1/2 c. frozen blueberries

Pink Layer
1 frozen banana
1/2 c. greek yogurt, vanilla or plain
1 c. frozen strawberries
1 c. frozen blueberries

White Chocolate

For each layer blend all ingredients. Separate each color out into three different bowls. Spoon small amounts of each color into your popsicle mold for the prefect unicorn effect. Freeze for 1 hour, then insert wooden popsicle stick. Freeze 4-6 hours before enjoying! 

*Melt white chocolate and drizzle over popsicles. Sprinkle on sprinkles immediately. Let sit for 20 minutes to harden.









Overwhelmed seems to be my current word of choice lately. For some reason in the summer I get this feeling that I need to pack in as much fun, action, and tasks as humanly possible. Adding that to moving, remodeling a home and adding an addition has proven to be quite overwhelming.

To combat this feeling, I have been trying to be more mindful. Looking at my phone less and taking time to enjoy things that I enjoy. I know that everything will fall into place with our little house on the prairie, so I need to take a step back and stop worrying.

My worries were eased a few weeks ago because my parents came to visit and they helped us out tremendously on our house projects. When my parents came, they helped us rip out all of the old cabinets in the kitchen, sooooooo I’m happy to say I will be getting a semi-new kitchen! I’m so excited! Aren’t parents just the best! Did you all have a good Father’s Day?

So since this house has been a little overwhelming, what better to detract me than a little cooking time! When I’m cooking my mind is totally focused on the recipe, the flavors, and ensuring that the food looks yummy too.

For Fathers Day this year I wanted to make something a little different than the typical boring old hamburger. I came up with a tasty Chicken Caesar Burger to celebrate Dads! Even though I didn’t get to this post pre-Father’s Day, this recipe will be superb at your next back yard cookout or even just for a weeknight supper!

My whole idea for this stemmed from the thought that the bun should resemble those garlicky-herby crunch that you get from a superb crouton. Crouton Buns flavored with oregano, basil, thyme, and parsley made these hamburger buns delicious. 

A standout Caesar dressing also was a key component to creating this juicy burger. I have to admit I have never made homemade Caesar dressing and I was honestly a little nervous to use anchovies, but those salty fish really make the dressing! I used this recipe here for the dressing. I contemplated making these burgers with hamburger and then adding in some caesar salad flavoring, but making these with ground chicken was really the right way to go. The ground chicken really took on all the tasty flavors. I made the burgers quite large and they were extra juicy.

Slivers of parmesan, crisp romaine lettuce and a grilled chicken burger makes this the meal for your summer table. So in the midst of all this HGTV madness at my house, I hope you are enjoying the summer too! And if you are feeling overwhelmed take a moment and cook something, it just might help you relax!

Chicken Caesar Salad Burgers

Chicken Burger
1 pound ground chicken
1/4 c. chopped onion
2 T. parmesan cheese
1 T. lemon juice
2 t. parsley flakes
1 garlic clove, minced
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 c. romaine lettuce
slivers of parmesan cheese
1 recipe for caesar salad dressing, I used this one here

Crouton Hamburger Buns
hamburger buns
1/2 c. olive oil
1 t. dried oregano
1 t. dried parsley
1 t. dried basil
1 t. dried thyme
1 t. minced garlic

First prepare your chicken burgers. Mix chopped onion, parmesan cheese, lemon juice, parsley flakes, garlic, Worcestershire sauce and ground chicken in a bowl until well combined. Shape into 3 inch patties and season with salt and pepper. Grill chicken patties until the internal temperature reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Next prepare crouton hamburger buns. Mix olive oil, herbs, and garlic in a small dish. Use a brush to brush the open face portion of each bun. Broil for 3-5 minutes until golden brown. 

To assemble, smear caesar salad dressing on the top and bottom of the bun. Place chicken patty, crisp romaine lettuce and slivers of parmesan cheese on top of each other. Top with crouton hamburger bun and enjoy!



My blog is officially 1! I am so excited to celebrate this momentous occasion. When I began this blog it was always my intent to keep it current and I often worried that my desire would just fizzle out and I would have a stagnant webpage out there in cyberspace. Thankfully my passion has fueled my ability to keep cooking!

In the beginnings, working on my blog was my escape and really a distraction from a  difficult experience in my life. Thankfully, writing, photographing and most importantly cooking was the perfect therapy. Working on my blog entwined so many facets of my hobbies and allowed me to share these with others, which was so fulfilling. 

I am looking forward to another year of new recipes, beautiful photos, and inspiring messages. 

On another note. Oh it has been so hot in North Dakota and its sooooo dry. I feel so bad for my poor grass outside, farmers, and ranchers, we need some rain! So in order to quench the thirst I decided I needed a margarita and what better way to kick off summer?

This summer we are purchasing a home and commanding a garage/ family room addition. Pair that with moving all of our stuff, proves to be somewhat of a stressful summer. So these first few weeks before we close on our house I’m taking the opportunity to R-E-L-A-X before life gets crazy. So let’s put this all together:

  1. My blog is 1!
  2. We are buying a house {YAY!}
  3. It’s suuuuuuper hot out and dry 

SOLUTION: Rhubarb Margaritas!!!

My abundance of rhubarb lying around was the perfect syrup for this salty summery margarita and who doesn’t love a margarita while celebrating? First, I cooked the rhubarb with water to extract all of the rhubarb goodness and paired that with a little sugar. I let that mixture meld in the fridge for a few hours. Then mix with tequila and ice and POOF you have a succulent rhubarb margarita to sip on!

Cheers to Cooking is My Therapy and many more years of blogging bliss!


Rhubarb Margarita

4 c. rhubarb, diced into 1 inch pieces
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. sugar
4 c. ice
2/3 c. tequila
lime juice
course salt

Place the rhubarb into a saucepan, and pour in the water. Cover, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, and continue simmering until the rhubarb breaks down and releases its juices, about 15 minutes. Strain the juice, and press the pulp to squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Discard the pulp, and stir the sugar into the hot juice. Refrigerate the syrup until very cold, at least 4 hours.

To prepare the margaritas, place the ice into a blender, then pour in the tequila and rhubarb syrup. Blend until smooth, or until pureed to your desired consistency. Pour into chilled margarita glasses to serve.

Currently at the moment I am a little obsessed with The Lost Kitchen. I discovered The Lost Kitchen last year in an article in Martha Stewart Living magazine and was captivated by this photo. 

Photo courtesy of Clarkson Potter/Penguin Random House

Isn’t it just stunning? Thus ensued my admiration for the story behind The Lost Kitchen. On the surface is this beautiful historic mill, that alone captivated my interest over and over again. I have a distinct love for all things old. It is my secret dream to restore a historic home or building someday and make it into a bed & breakfast or restaurant of some sort.  But this story goes deeper. When you dive into the layers of grit and determination that owner Erin French persevered through to cultivate her dream of this quaint kitchen, you come to understand it’s magical nature. 

First and foremost, I love the fact that cook Erin French is self taught. My admiration tends to lean towards cooks and bakers of this nature probably due to the fact that I am self taught too. I think with the right amount of willpower, you can learn anything if you set your mind to it. 

I was so excited to get my copy of Erin French’s first cookbook titled The Lost Kitchen. The photos are spectacular and the recipes are even more inspiring. Summer is the perfect time to soak up this cookbook because of its focus on coastal, New England flavors. When I was little I grew up going to Cape Cod every summer, so part of me always craves the ocean air, salty smells and fresh seafood slathered in butter this time of year. This cookbook captures that feeling. 

 The Lost Kitchen spotlights many of the local produce and ingredients from the surrounding areas of Freedom, Maine, which adds a unique sense of culture to the restaurant. I can’t say that I have had the chance to eat at this picturesque restaurant yet (their reservations for the summer book up in hours) so getting the cookbook was the next best thing!

So when my mother-in-law brought me her stash of rhubarb, I knew The Lost Kitchen’s rhubarb spoon cake was the perfect conquest. 

I added strawberries to the spoon cake, because I love rhubarb with strawberries. AND I had these amazing aromatic strawberries glaring at me. They were literally calling my name, so in they went. The rhubarb compote is the star of this cake. Cooking the rhubarb with the sugar and lemon really pulls out the sweetness of the rhubarb. The cake is light and airy and the robust rhubarb flavors truly shine. We enjoyed this cake warm but stored it in the refrigerator to savor cold later. 

Cheers to Erin French and the slow, creeping start to the summer! I hope I can incorporate more New England flavors into my cooking this summer, thanks to my admiration of The Lost Kitchen! Feel free to watch this video to learn more about The Lost Kitchen here.

Rhubarb-Strawberry Spoon Cake

3 c. chopped rhubarb (1-inch pieces)
⅔ c. sugar
1 t. grated lemon zest
2 t. fresh lemon juice
2 t. cornstarch

In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the rhubarb, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly until the rhubarb becomes tender and sauce-like, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. This will keep in the fridge for up to a week.

8 T. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the pan
1 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
2 t. baking powder
½ c. sugar
½ t. salt
1 large egg
1 t. vanilla extract
½ c. whole milk
¼ c. sour cream
7 strawberries, sliced

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat a 10-inch ovenproof skillet, preferably cast iron, with butter and flour, shaking out any excess flour. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, vanilla, milk, sour cream, and melted butter. Gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry until just incorporated.

Pour about two-thirds of the compote into the greased skillet and spread evenly. Pour the cake batter over it, spread evenly, then dollop the remaining compote over the top. Add cut strawberries onto the top. Use a butter knife to swirl together the batter and compote.

Bake until a cake tester or knife inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean, about 25 minutes. I like to serve this warm, directly from the skillet, with a big spoon and a bowl of whipped cream to dollop on top.

Reprinted from The Lost Kitchen: Recipes and a Good Life Found in Freedom, Maine. Copyright © 2017 by Erin French. Photographs copyright © 2017 by Nicole Franzen. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.



Being a Mom is such as special job. At times your heart can be so full with love that you don’t think there is any room for any more love, but then you have a child. When I had Huntley, it was truly a whole new world. A life where my worrying has not stopped to cease and a life that is so fulfilling because she is in it with us.

Right now, Huntley is this awesome age, that even when I’m mad at her for being naughty, its so hard to stay mad because she is so darn cute. There are so many moments when your littles are little people that you want to hold on to forever. Moments that make you heart swell up with a cup full of joy. 

Lately my little Huntley has started replying to questions with the cutest “yesh” response to everything. I’m not sure if I love it so much because she sounds like such an assertive adult or the fact that she is so sure of herself now to reply yes? She also likes to reply with the sometimes demanding, “HUNTLEY DO IT” as she like to do everything on her own and isn’t afraid to tell you.

But in all honestly someone really needs to bottle up the wonderful world of toddler-isms, they would seriously make a killing. Since my baby is still little, we made my favorite breakfast this morning, bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches with fruit kebobs. They spell out the true reason for today, all of the wonderful mom’s out there that make our world such an amazing place.

Happy Mother’s Day {again} 


“MOM” Breakfast
Fruit Kebobs & Bacon, Egg & Cheese Sandwich

Fruit of your choosing (grapes, strawberries, banana, blueberries, raspberries) 
Wooden Skewers
American Cheese
English Muffin

Assemble fruit onto wooden skewers. I cut my skewers so that two were shorter than the other two, to assemble the “M” shape. Repeat. You can use any type of fruit your heart desires, just as long that it will stay on the skewer!

Fry up two pieces of bacon and 1 egg. Cook your egg to your liking. Place the english muffin in the toaster until it is golden brown. Assemble the egg, slice of cheese and pieces of bacon onto the toasted english muffin. Assemble the “MOM” shape and serve to your MOM, preferable with her favorite breakfast drink and fresh flowers! Enjoy!

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet the Pioneer Woman, I’m talking the REAL Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond. To me this momentous occasion was pretty spectacular, (I’m a huge fan) but what made it even better was the fact that I got to spend the day with two amazing Moms in my life, my Mom, Deanna and my Mother-In-Law, Raylene. 

Ree Drummond was everything I had hoped for, she was warm, funny and very down-to-earth. She had inviting stories to tell and offered great inspiration to many. I think her story of how she began her blog as a platform to share stories was very noteworthy because it truly opened my eyes to the importance of a colorful story. Stories can be captivating and I love pairing them with food because it makes food come alive. For me, starting a food blog was about creating a space that I could share my passion for cooking, but also why it balances my life in so many ways. 

Back to my wonderful Moms! This was such a fun day that I got to spend with them at the EchoChic Design Conference in Fargo, North Dakota. The day started with a little shopping in downtown Fargo. We went to this whimsical cooking goods store called Mint + Basil, where I got this wonderful bundt pan. You can see more of their perfect little baking store here. Next we did some shopping at the design conference and listened to various speakers on home design, which was truly the perfect place for me because we are in the process of buying a house! Hence my absence for the last few weeks. I am so excited to share this process with you over the coming months. Our new house is truly a “little house on the prairie”, so it is going to be an interesting summer conquering that feat.

I gifted tickets to my mom and mother-in-law for Christmas for this event and it was worth every penny. Bringing together two women that I admire very much was so perfect. My Mom is one of the most inspiring people I know. She has always pushed me to work hard and to achieve my dreams to the fullest. She has ALWAYS had my corner and she has always supported me through every crazy endeavor that I set my heart to. My mother-in-law is also just as award-winning. She is amazing in so many ways, but probably my favorite would be her devotion to raising an exceptional man, that I now call my husband!

This bundt cake is perfect for Mother’s Day. It’s colors are out of this world! I can’t think of a more picturesque cake to represent Spring! Which by the way, I have to say this is probably the first year I have really fallen in love with spring. My previous experiences with spring in North Dakota have typically been full of rain and mud, but this spring has been quite mild and dry (which is not always the best thing), but I’m going to soak in the warm weather before the mosquitos have arrived to the party. 

Back to the BUNDT, this recipe is adapted from the one and only Ree Drummond. I twisted the recipe to add flavors of orange with the lime, which created a wonderful match. The citrus flavor in the glaze is also just as refreshing.

So cherish your mothers on this mother’s day and shower them with love! Share this beautiful orange-lime bundt cake with your favorite moms out there! I am sure thankful for the many amazing mothers and grandmothers that surround me! Happy Mother’s Day all!


Orange Lime Bundt Cake
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Lemon-Lime Pound Cake

2 1/2 c. granulated sugar
3 sticks unsalted butter
5 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup lemon-lime soda
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 tablespoon lime zest
Shortening for greasing the pan

2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
1 T. orange zest, dried for at least 30 minutes, plus more for sprinkling
1 T. orange juice
1 T. lime zest, dried for at least 30 minutes, plus more for sprinkling
1 T. lime juice
1/4 t.salt
1 T. lemon-lime soda
Blackberries, for serving

For the cake: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the granulated sugar and butter. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Combine the flour and salt in a small bowl, then add it to the butter-sugar mixture 1 cup at a time, mixing after each addition. With the mixer on low, slowly add the lemon-lime soda and mix until combined. Add the orange and lime zests and mix. Scrape the bowl and mix again.

Use a pastry brush to brush shortening into the bundt pan, making sure to coat each crevice. Add large spoonfuls of batter to the pan until filled, then even out the surface. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes (a toothpick inserted in the center should not come out totally clean, but it shouldn’t be wet with batter either). Let the cake sit in the pan for 15 minutes, then carefully turn it out onto a cake plate and let it cool.

For the glaze: Combine the powdered sugar, orange zest and juice, lime zest and juice, salt and about 1 tablespoon water and 1 tablespoon of lemon-lime soda in a bowl and gently whisk until thick but pourable; add a little extra water if needed. Use a large spoon to drizzle the glaze all over the cake. Sprinkle over more zest to decorate. Let the glaze set before serving.

Slice the cake and serve with the berries if you please!

Anytime I can incorporate my lil’ monkey into helping with a recipe I jump at the chance. I loved that this bread incorporated dyed eggs, because it gave me an excuse to dye eggs with my daughter. We are running off to St. Louis for Easter to visit family, so no long post with this pretty loaf of bread. Just the point to remember to spend time with your loved ones and do something special. Dying Easter eggs was always a special memory of mine when I was little and I loved sharing it with my daughter now. Happy Easter!


Italian Easter Bread

2 1/2 c.all-purpose flour, divided
1/4 c. sugar
1 t. salt
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
2/3 c. milk
2 T. butter
2 eggs 5 whole eggs, dyed if desired
2 T. butter, melted
2 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. milk

Combine 1 cup flour, sugar, salt and yeast; stir well. Combine milk and butter in a small saucepan; heat until milk is warm and butter is softened but not melted.

Gradually add the milk and butter to the flour mixture; stirring constantly. Add two eggs and 1/2 cup flour; beat well. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.

Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into two equal size rounds; cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll each round into a long roll about 36 inches long and 1 1/2 inches thick. Using the two long pieces of dough, form a loosely braided ring, leaving spaces for the five colored eggs. Seal the ends of the ring together and use your fingers to slide the eggs between the braids of dough.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place loaf on a buttered baking sheet and cover loosely with a damp towel. Place loaf in a warm place and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. Brush risen loaf with melted butter.
Bake in preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until golden. Mix powdered sugar with milk and pour over warmed bread and ENJOY!

I have wanted to bake this cake for several months and the initial plan was to make it for myself for my birthday at the end of February. Fast forward to being sick most of February & March and it never happened. Thankfully I have completed the task and it did not disappoint. 

For some reason this year we have been plagued with every sickness possible. I often question if it is because I work in a school and continually share sicknesses with 450 other students. Or maybe the fact that my toddler spends time at daycare and does not understand the facets of how to stay germ free yet? Whatever the case, it was a rough two months as we battled sickness after sickness. 

I’m curious what do you all do to stay healthy? I have heard of many concoctions of vitamins, airborne drinks, natural oils, but doesn’t it really just boil down to washing your hands? I feel like I do this liberally! I also try to take care of myself because I think if your body is worn down, sickness tends to grasp on with a vicious bite. What has worked for you, because I’m all ears! 

All that I know is that I am so thankful for SPRING! It is such a wonderful time of year. The sun is out, the birds are back, and it seems that the haze of sickness has dissipated (for now). 

To celebrate this momentous occasion I FINALLY got to bake this beautiful cake that I found in The Vanilla Bean Baking book. Mint chocolate chip ice cream is my all time favorite ice cream, so naturally I was intrigued by this combination all whirled up into a delicious cake!

I added a little springtime spin on the cake with the addition of a chocolate nest and peep birds. The chocolate cake is a rich sponge cake paired with the minty buttercream, this cake screams spring from every angle. ENJOY!

Mint Chocolate Chip Cake with Peeps Nest
from the Vanilla Bean Baking Book

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 c. mocha frappuccino coffee, hot
1 c. buttermilk
½ c. olive oil
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 t. vanilla extract
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 cups (396 g) sugar
¾ c. cocoa powder
2 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1 t. salt

8 large egg whites
2 ¼ c. sugar
¼ t. salt
1 ½ pounds – 6 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 T. crème de menthe
½ t. mint extract plus more to taste
1 t.vanilla extract
½ c. chocolate chips, chopped small
Green food coloring (optional, if your crème de menthe is not colored and you want a nice minty green)

Bittersweet chocolate, cut into strips

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350⁰F. Butter and flour two 8 by 2-inch round cake pans (see note) and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
Put the bittersweet chocolate in a small bowl. Pour the coffee over it and cover with a piece of plastic wrap. In a medium bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk the buttermilk, olive oil, eggs, and vanilla.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt on low until combined. (If the cocoa powder is lumpy, you can sift it into the other ingredients.) With the mixer running on low, slowly add the buttermilk mixture. Increase the speed to medium and beat until combined, 20 to 30 seconds.

Whisk the chocolate and coffee together until completely smooth. With the mixer running on low, slowly pour the coffee mixture into the batter and mix until just combined. Using a spatula, give the batter a couple of turns to make sure it is fully mixed.

Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans. Bake 25 to 35 minutes, until a wooden skewer or toothpick comes out with the tiniest bit of crumb. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack, remove the parchment paper, and let cool completely. Once cool, the cakes can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated overnight or frosted.

Put about 1 inch of water in a medium saucepan and bring it to a gentle boil. In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir the egg whites, sugar, and salt until combined. Put the bowl over the saucepan, being careful not to let the water touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir with a rubber spatula until the sugar is completely melted, and the mixture reaches a temperature of 160⁰F, about 4 to 5 minutes. While you are stirring, be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl with the spatula—this will ensure no sugar grains are lurking on the sides and will help prevent the egg whites from cooking.

Remove the bowl from the heat and place it in the stand mixer fitted with a whisk. Whisk the mixture on medium-high until stiff, glossy peaks form, 8 to 10 minutes. With the mixer running on low, add the butter, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition until incorporated. Add the crème de menthe, mint extract, vanilla, and a couple drops of green food coloring (if using). Beat again and then taste test. If you want your buttercream to have a stronger mint flavor, add more mint extract ½ teaspoon at a time, until you are happy with the taste. Add the chocolate (if using) and stir with a spatula to combine.

Make sure your cakes are completely cool before you frost them. If your layers have a large dome, you can slice off the rounded bump for a straight top if desired. This will help make your cake look even and professional. 

Apply a crumb coat: Make sure your cake layers are even; you want them to line up together, and none of them should be sticking out farther than the others. Gently press to adjust them if you need to and you a ruler or straightedge to make sure they are lined up evenly. With an offset spatula, apply a thin, even layer of buttercream to the top and sides of the cake, covering every surface, and filling in the gaps between layers. Smooth out any bumps or lumps in the thin coat. Be careful if you need to apply more buttercream to not get crumbs from the spatula back into your mixing bowl. Move the cake into the freezer or refrigerator to chill the cake and harden the buttercream. This will keep the crumbs in place, locking them into the crumb coat. 

Apply a finishing coat: Take the cake from the freezer or refrigerator and put it back in the center of your turntable or cake stand. Place a large amount of buttercream on the top of the cake. With an offset spatula, smooth the buttercream on top of the cake so that it is a perfectly level layer. When the top is even, move onto the sides. Put a good amount of buttercream onto the spatula and then use the spatula to put the buttercream on the sides of the cake in a thick layer. Don’t worry about getting it perfectly smooth at this point, just make sure you have a nice thick coat, covering all the cake. Press the spatula very gently against the cake at a slight angle and move the turntable or cake stand in a constant fluid circle. As the table/stand moves, the spatula will begin to collect some of the excess buttercream and even out the sides. Stop to clean the spatula off a few times. You want to be careful not to take too much of the buttercream off, or you will start to see the cake layers underneath. Keep turning the table/stand until the buttercream is as smooth and even as possible. A slight edge will have built up on the top of the cake and with your spatula at an angle, run it across the top to even it out.

Finish decorating: The cake will be smooth at this point. You can leave it as is, or add some more decoration to it. When finished decorating, move the cake to a cake stand to serve or clean your cake stand if you have been assembling on the cake stand.

Assemble the chocolate strips into a nest shape and place your peeps on top!