03 January 2013

As 2013 comes to a start and I have sat and thought about what I'd like this year to bring, the main themes that come to mind are simplicity and creation. Simplicity in taking out the unnecessary from my life, be it too much TV, be it a blog I never come to and creation in using that time I will be able to carve out into making things, be it food, be it art, be it a new blog. I think January is a great time to officially close certain doors and open others.

This blog has sat here without post for quite some time. It seemed to never quite be the right project for me, though I dearly wanted it to be. I still love cooking and food, but I desired to have a space all my own to discuss other things as well, whatever I feel like, be it food or otherwise. I loved having a space for creation and sharing, but it was a bit too structured.

I've decided to move on to something new, somewhere I can feel freer to talk about any and all inspirations. If you care to move on with me, you can now find me at:

adventures great and small

The title is a line taken from my wedding vows, and I hope it will become a place that I can go to create, share, grow, and have fun.

It is still a work in progress, in terms of the design and layout, but I thought I should go ahead and share the link, so as to be accountable to someone and keep me working on it.

A very happy 2013 to all!!

03 April 2012

Life Lately, According to my iphone

As Pink Floyd asks, "Hello?, Is there anybody out there?" I mean, it has been nearly 3 months since I last posted, I probably wouldn't still be out there, but the thing is... the thing is, I like blogging, believe it or not. I've been struggling for a while now, about whether to continue this blog, to start a new one, to walk away period. You see, I started this mostly as a cooking blog, and I just don't know if that is what I always want it to be (hence wanting to start something new), but you know what, I've spent a lot of time on this and this is what I have. This is what I've started, so I'm going to continue.

No matter the title of the blog (perhaps a bad decision long ago), this space is mine to do with what I please, and what I please, right now, is to do a little round up of what's been going on in the past few months (according to my iphone, i.e. minus the totally boring wedding planning details). I hope, if you're there, you'll join me...

In February, we went to Vegas for my cousin's 40th birthday! What a wonderfully magical, and yet oddly fake and disturbing place. I find I have to force myself to just see the magic to enjoy Vegas. This is opposed to realizing everything is completely fake, from the cocktail waitresses "parts" to the "Eiffel Tower" at the Paris, but once you just accept it, you find there are some really cool things there: look at those balls of flowers in the Wynn... how lovely are they? I was obsessed with figuring out if they were live flowers, fake flowers, freeze-dried real flowers, or something else all together.
In March, I completely lost control of my wedding "diet" (OK, let me not kid you, I'm not on a diet in anyway, nor have I started some wedding boot camp work out plan, but you know, it would be nice to try and eat healthier and get outside/ exercise a little more). However, I lost control of this plan, in the best ways possible: enjoying some West Coast original fast food and THE BEST CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES, ever. These guys have been talked about, blogged, written about ad nauseam, so I won't bore you here, but yes, they are my favorite chocolate chip cookies, and I really don't see a reason to bake any others. Also, Kevin and I got working on our wedding invitations... DIY style. I'm super pumped about them. They're so personal, and I love them. I also love crafting, so the added time doesn't bother me in the least (plus I saved some money!)
Also, at the very end of March, Kevin and I took a romantic little one night stay in the Russian River Valley. I guess I liked my outfit for our wine tasting excursion, so I snapped a photo. Please ignore the weird eyes and claw-like hand... holding an iphone to take your own picture sure is awkward. Oh yeah, and if you happen to be looking for some hot pink lipstick (I'm sure you all are), Tom Ford's Pure Pink is killer, and my go to. Applied lightly, it isn't quite so dramatic. Also I won an Oscar...
... Right. That is an Oscar won for The Godfather, but I'd never seen one before, so I thought I'd snap a photo. Also on this adventure in northern Sonoma, we saw some actual magical sites: California just takes my breath away sometimes. It's a cool place to live; it really is.
Well that's all folks. Hopefully, it won't be so long next time. I'd like to share a little more about those invitations once they're all done and out the door (in a little over a month)!

18 January 2012

citrus cake - iron chef : battle citrus

My friend Heather has continued her tradition, which she started in Chicago, of coordinating a little "Iron Chef" battle between friends. It's a fun event, that has been made a little more intense recently by the addition of multiple professional chefs to this challenge. I'm generally not a competitive person, well not with others anyway, but this challenge brings out that spirit in me, which with chefs in the running, I'm not sure is  the best for my self-esteem...

This time around the event was hosted in a professional kitchen, thanks to the many "real chefs" who join in on the fun, and it was a lot of fun to finally cook in that environment. Though the equipment was a little foreign to me (how do you turn on that oven??), I hope we get to go back and perhaps I'll feel a little more comfortable using it all (hello professional deep fryer, large Wolf stove and grill!)
The battle this time, named by the previous winner, was citrus, and you know what, I copped out a little. just a little. I've had this cake on my mind for what seems like years, though it was months I'm sure. It's probably one of the most gorgeous cakes I've seen (and made). I just had to give it a try and this felt like the right opportunity, being a citrus battle and all.

Inspired by Stella McCartney's citrus prints, I first spotted this cake at Apollinas, or maybe it was all over pinterest, but when Estelle gave it a go, I was inspired even further... (and totally used her tip on chilling that cake after filling it, thanks Estelle, it worked beautifully)!

So, without further ado, here is my entry into Battle Citrus: the Stella McCartney inspired Citrus Cake. YUM! (which, by the way got 3rd place, under some pretty crazy good fried chicken & lemonade... I mean come on, how can you beat that??)

Citrus Cake
inspired by Apollinas, recipe adapted from here

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pans 
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled, plus more for the pans 
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 
1/4 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
1 1/2 cups sugar 
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 
3 large eggs, at room temperature 
1 cup whole milk
lemon curd (see below)
lemon frosting (see below)
slices of citrus fruit (oranges, lemons, limes, blood oranges, etc), for decorating
fresh mint, for decorating

 Heat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment, butter again, and dust with flour, tapping out the excess. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, then the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Reduce mixer speed to low. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions and the milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix just until combined (do not overmix).

Transfer the batter to the prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 22 to 25 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pans for 15 minutes, then turn out onto racks to cool completely.

Transfer one of the cooled cakes to a plate and spread with 1 cup of the lemon curd. Top with the remaining cake and refrigerate to set, 30 minutes. Some of the curd may have spilled out of the sides. If so, either gently scoop up and back into the filling or remove. Spread the top and sides with the frosting. Decorate with slices of citrus (lemons, limes, blood oranges, or grapefruit) and fresh mint leaves.
lemon curd 

large eggs 
1 cup sugar 
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest 
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces 

In a heatproof bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest and juice, and salt. Add the butter. Set the bowl over (not in) a saucepan of simmering water and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture has thickened to the consistency of mayonnaise, 12 to 15 minutes.

Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl. Place a piece of parchment or wax paper directly on the surface of the lemon curd and refrigerate until completely cool, at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.

lemon frosting 

2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature 
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest 
1 pound confectioners’ sugar (about 3 3/4 cups), sifted

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and lemon zest on high until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low. Gradually add the sugar, then the salt, and beat until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

04 January 2012

11 for 2011

It's that time again. Time to look back quickly over the past year and filter out for you my most favorite recipes of 2011. I've sorted, thought, wondered, and finally come up with the top 11, for 2011, of course. These are, to me, the most delicious, must make agains, and while it's always a hard choice, as I'm already fairly selective on what I post, I think I've done a good job, and with a good amount of diversity too!

Also, check out my favorites from 2010 and 2009.

2011 was pretty groundbreaking on the personal side too... ever so quickly, maybe too quickly...
We traveled a ton (skied in Tahoe, ate in Portland, reminisced in Chicago), got to know Northern California a little better (drank in Wine Country, ate oysters and cheese in Tomales Bay/ Point Reyes, relaxed in Carmel), got ENGAGED!, met best baby ever (Brayden), saw some best friends get MARRIED (Abbie + Mike), and generally ate a lot of great food, saw a lot of great sites, relaxed, laid low, read, sang, danced, and had a great 2011 in the bay area.

02 January 2012

holidays 2011

As always, the holidays passed by much to quickly this year. With almost 2 weeks off work, I was able to pack a lot in, but with minimal time to record it all. So here is a quick glimpse at holiday season 2011, according to my iphone.

A few days in NC pre-Christmas made everything feel just right, especially our colorful tree in the corner with my grandmother's hand-crocheted snowflakes, cat fur on my new pj's, presents under the tree, spending time with my family, lots of meals out, all that...
a hop up to unsnowy Minnesota for nearly a week was a great time with my soon-to-be family. With a houseful of colds keeping us in (for once, not the weather), we mostly stayed in playing bored games until we were bored, doing puzzles, drinking wine, cooking  up a storm, with a fire or two in the background. We did make it out for the annual trip to see the British Commercial Awards at the Walker, and while there I fell hard for this crazy beaded masterpiece... can you even imagine all the work?
back to California, I dressed in my beaded best for a quiet (and super delicious) New Year's Eve with Kevin at Frances... I'd been dying to go, and it definitely lived up to the hype on both food and service. I also fell hard for the decor there, and not one to usually pull out my phone at dinner, I had to snap a picture of the front nook. With the simple garland draped around the windows, I think I have inspiration for next Christmas already!
Finally, a New Year's Day feast of homemade cavatelli and sauce... and a quiet night at home. Can't complain. 2012 is looking good!

I  hope your holidays were as fantastic as mine. Here is to an amazing 2012! With loads of excitement in store (i.e. the wedding), I can barely contain myself... Cheers!

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