Review & Giveaway: Book-Shaped Cake Pan

I was recently sent a book-shaped cake pan from Gone Reading for an honest review. As you know, I've been offline for a while because I was in the process of moving. I'm happy to say that our new location is out of the desert and actually right on the beach. So with the cooler temperatures I will be doing a lot more baking. So I was pretty excited to christen our new oven with a cake. A book-shaped cake to be precise.

One thing that I liked right away was that the cake pan comes with instructions on the back. It lets you know how much cake you will need to make and the best ways to decorate it. However, considering it's a Wilton cake pan, of course they want you to decorate it exclusively with Wilton products. Which, I suppose you can do if you want, or you could go against the grain and use your own homemade frosting/fondant to decorate with.

Once I mixed up three cake mixes (yes, this baby takes three mixes to make a full sized cake) I poured it into the baking pan. However, I held onto about a box worth of cake mix because the directions said to fill the pan half way, which left me with some extra. No worries though, I just poured it into a resealable bag and put in the freezer to thaw out and bake with later. I did read later on that people said they put all 3 cake mixes in with the outcome of the cake rising above the pan. That way they just sliced the cake along the top of the pan, leaving a flat level base when you take the cake out of the pan.

The cake came out of the pan with ease. I didn't hit any bumps when baking. Now decorating was a whole other issue. This sucker is HUGE! It didn't fully fit on my cooling racks, and it just barely fit on my 9x13 baking sheet shown above. So considering it's just the Mr. and myself, this pan is a bit much. However, I could see myself taking this to book club meetings where I can share this with others. Like I said it makes a HUGE cake.

My only complaint is that the pan is fragile. My pan arrived bent (shown in first picture). As you can see, it didn't really change the shape of the cake. I suppose I got lucky, had the dent happened anywhere else, who knows if it would have been easily hidden.

In the end, this is a great pan to have in your kitchen. It's different enough to add a little something extra to what would otherwise be a sheet cake. You can decorate it like a book, write a message on it for birthdays, graduation or even use it to announce the sex of your baby. The possibilities are endless. I of course went the easy route. After all, I'm still living out of boxes at the new house but I'm not going to lie, this book-shaped cake definitely cheered me up. It's pretty cool seeing a recipe come to life on a cake. I will definitely be getting my use out of the pan. Just need to make some friends at the new place so that I don't become obese eating all this cake by myself.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

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Review: Vegan Beans from Around the World by Kelsey Kinser

Vegan Beans from Around the World is a cookbook by Kelsey Kinser. This is a great recipe book for vegans and non-vegans alike. I recently found out that I'm allergic to dairy so I've been trying to watch what I eat. Plus, I'm always looking for new vegetarian dishes to mix up meals during the week. This book has a little bit of something for everyone.

First I tried the black bean & sweet potato queso-less-dilla with tofu sour cream and really enjoyed it. I will admit that I was missing the cheese in it, but the sweet potato does add a density and slight creaminess to it that imitates cheese pretty well. The tofu sour cream, although a little funky tasting by itself, was awesome when mixed with homemade salsa. I didn't really notice that it wasn't real sour cream.

The next recipe I tried was the Italian "meat" balls. The meatballs smelled and tasted really good in all their white bean glory. You mix a lot of ingredients into the white beans like you would a real meatball. Now, they definitely didn't taste like meatballs but they did have a lot of great flavor and in the end were delicious with the pasta. My one and only complaint was that my meatballs fell apart and were pretty mushy even though I left them in the oven another 15 minutes. They just didn't hold up like they should've.

The last recipe I tried, and by far my favorite, was the lentil loaf. I grew up on my grandpa's meatloaf. So this was the true test for me. I will admit I was pretty skeptical about the recipe. It seemed legit with all the ingredients put in. There's seasonings, onion, bell pepper, bread crumbs, ketchup, just about everything goes into this. No where in the recipe does it say to mash the lentils but I did. I found that I wanted more of "ground meat" appearance and consistency, and that was the best decision I made. Not only did the loaf, at quick glance, look like meatloaf but it was delicious. I paired it with mashed potatoes and corn, Just like my grandpa would, and I was taken back in time to my childhood. Sure, I could tell it wasn't ground beef, however, it was so darn close to it and so amazingly delicious that the slight taste difference didn't even register.  

If I had someone who was looking to take a step away from meat and dairy, I would definitely recommend this book to them. Even though I haven't tried the desert recipes yet, I do plan on continuing my journey through this book. I just couldn't wait anymore to share my review.

Grilled Tuna Steaks with Dill Sauce

So you may have noticed that I haven't been posting recipes lately. There's a reason for that. The Mr. was away doing the whole military thing for the last four months. Which, for me, meant that dinners were pretty much nothing to write home about. However, I'm happy to say that the Mr. is back and recipes are being made again. Today I'd like to share a recipe that the Mr. just made for dinner.

The sauce is definitely the star of this recipe. It said to "drizzle" onto the fish but after my first taste, the sauce got drizzled onto the peas, and rice. Oh yeah, it was that good. It's got this whole sweet and tangy thing going on that went really well with the tuna. I actually ended up saving the left over sauce to put on chicken or pork chops down the road.

Recipe from AllRecipes
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 (1 1/4-inch-thick) tuna steaks
  • 1/4 cup spicy brown mustard
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons dried dill

  1. Combine the lemon juice with 1/2 cup olive oil in a sealable plastic bag; seal and shake. Add the tuna steaks and store in refrigerator to marinate while the grill preheats. 
  2. Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat, and lightly oil the grate. 
  3. Whisk the brown mustard, mustard powder, sugar, vinegar, and 1/3 cup olive oil together in a bowl; stir in the dill. 
  4. Remove the tuna from the marinade and discard the marinade; cook the steaks on the preheated grill until the fish flakes easily with a fork, about 6 minutes per side. Drizzle the steaks with the mustard and dill sauce to serve.

Shrimp with Cheesy Bacon Polenta

I don't know about you guys but we've been having some whacky weather here. Our winter was an unusual warm 70* for the most part, then we went up to high 80's and now we are down in the 60's. I'll be honest, I was feeling a little cheated on my cooler weather. So I'm happy to start cooking some good ol' comfort food.

Ironically enough I'm not a fan of grits, but I am a fan of polenta.  They are sort of the same thing but I guess I just like the taste of polenta more.  I've made dishes with it before like the polenta lasagna and the pumpkin polenta with spinach and black beans. This recipe was great.  It had that comforting feel to it while still looking like a 5 star restaurant dish.  I was very pleased with it all the way around.  The only thing is, it doesn't heat up well as leftovers.  It turned into this congealed clump of polenta and just wouldn't go back to the smooth polenta that it originally was.  In the end I wound up throwing out the leftovers.

 Recipe from MyRecipes

·  1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
·  1 c. cornmeal (not to be confused with corn bread mix)
·  8 slices thick-cut bacon
·  2 bunches (about 16) green onions
·  3 medium tomatoes
·  1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
·  3 cloves garlic
·  1 1/4 pounds peeled and deveined shrimp
·  1/2 c. dry white wine
·  2 Tbsp. butter
·  1 c. grated cheddar cheese

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups water to a boil. Add 1/2 tsp. salt. Pour in cornmeal in a thin stream, whisking constantly, and whisk until mixture comes to a steady simmer. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer, cover, and stir every 5 minutes until done, about 30 minutes total.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large frying pan over medium-high heat, cook bacon until fat renders and edges start to brown and crisp. While bacon cooks, trim stems and ends of green onions, leaving onions as intact as possible. Drain bacon on paper towels, chop, and set aside.
  3. Remove all but 1 tbsp. bacon fat from the pan. Add whole green onions and cook until soft and starting to brown, about 3 minutes; turn and brown opposite sides, about 3 minutes more. While green onions cook, halve tomatoes along the equator and sprinkle cut sides with salt and pepper. Chop garlic. Set both aside.
  4. Transfer green onions to a baking sheet or platter and cover to keep warm. Put tomato halves cut side down in pan with bacon fat and cook until starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Turn and cook until heated through and a bit soft, about 3 minutes more. Transfer to baking sheet with green onions to keep warm.
  5. Add garlic to pan and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add shrimp and cook, stirring constantly, until starting to turn pink, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour in wine and continue cooking, stirring and scraping up any browned bits from the pan, until shrimp is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
  6. Stir butter, cheese, and bacon into polenta. Divide polenta among 4 to 6 plates and top with shrimp and remaining liquid in the pan, dividing evenly. Set a tomato half and several green onions beside polenta. Serve immediately.

Pizza Casserole

In the colder months it's always nice to have casseroles.  Not only are the easy to make but running the oven always helps take the chill out of the air.  This was a great spin on both a pasta casserole and a pizza.  I wound up only putting pepperoni on half since my friend is a vegetarian.  This is a really easy and versatile dish.

This is a recipe that you can assemble beforehand and put in your refrigerator until you need to bake it.  It's also a great casserole to give to someone to bake at their leisure (new babies, house warming, etc.)  You literally just toss everything together in the pan.  I think I've made this recipe three times now each with different toppings added in.

Adapted from Premeditated Leftovers

1 lb. rotini or penne pasta noodles,
31/2 cups of pizza sauce
2½ cups water
2 cups of your favorite grated cheese
24 – 32 pepperonis (optional)
¼ cup onions (optional)
2 tablespoons diced bell peppers (optional)
½ cup sliced mushrooms (optional)
other favorite pizza toppings.
  1. Place uncooked pasta noodles in a 13×9 baking dish.
  2. In a large bowl combine the pizza sauce, water, and your favorite pizza toppings: onions, peppers, mushrooms, etc
  3. Pour pizza sauce mixture over noodles, mix enough to ensure the noodles are coated.
  4. Sprinkle cheese over the top of the noodles.
  5. Spread pepperonis on top of the cheese.
  6. Bake at 425 for 30 – 40 minutes or until the noodles are al dente and the cheese is melted.
  7. Let rest for several minutes before serving.