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EAT IT // Beet Cake

Friday, March 30, 2012

Beets are sexy these days. Lately, everywhere I eat, beets are on the menu. It sounds weird, but beets are kind of an amazing vegetable. They're a tangy mix of sweetness and bitterness, causing them to compliment lots of other foods.

Beets taste crazy good with goat cheese.
Beats love being paired with vinaigrette.
Beets with bacon? Yum.
And beets taste surprisingly delicious with chocolate and sugar. (Yea, you read that right.)

Some genius had the idea to add shredded beets into a chocolate cake recipe... which i got, and made, and loved (as did my friends.)

This was the first time I'd roasted beets myself - and it was surprisingly easy (normally I buy the pre-roasted, peeled version from TJ's.) I just covered them in oil, wrapped them in tin foil, and roasted them for a full hour. When they came out they were a beautiful, purply-red color (which promptly transferred to my hands.)

The cake (basic chocolate) and frosting (a cream cheese/butter cream hybrid) were easy, they just called for the unique addition of the beets. Oh, I forgot - yep, the frosting was beet-flavored too (which was nice because I didn't have to use any food coloring.)

I'm not much of a cake-maker; cupcakes are actually more of my forte. So, I know this next tip is cake-making 101: but make sure you wait until the cake layers are COMPLETELY cooled. I usually get too impatient and start frosting while they're warm which causes the frosting to... melt (see below.) 

The frosting wasn't the only thing to "melt" at this point. Luckily I have a husband who's quick on his feet. He threw the cake in the freezer and soothed my panic in a matter of seconds. (Wait, does that make me sound crazy? Oh. Well, I am.)

In the end, I was able to salvage my creation - which was a hit at that night's party. Beets, you've done me good.

Chocolate Beet Cake with Beet Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes one 8 or 9-inch layer cake
From Joy the Baker

For the Cake: 
2 medium beets, unpeeled but trimmed of their greens
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
6 ounces (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pans
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk

For the Frosting:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces (1 brick) cream cheese, softened
4 to 5 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons finely grated beets, mashed with a fork
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or scrapings of one vanilla bean pod
1-2 teaspoons milk, depending on desired consistency
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
pinch of salt

Place a rack in the center and upper third of the oven.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Thoroughly wash beets under running water, and trim their leaves, leaving about 1/2 inch of stem.  Place clean beets in a piece of foil.  Drizzle with just a bit of vegetable oil.  Seal up foil.  Place on a baking sheet in the oven.  Roast until beets are tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour.
Remove the beets from the oven.  Open the foil and allow beets to cool completely.  Beets will be easy to peel (just using a paring knife) once completely cooled.
Using a box grater, grate the peeled beets on the finest grating plane.  Measure 3/4 cup of grated beets for the cake and 2 tablespoons for the frosting.  Set aside.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.  Use butter to grease two 8 or 9-inch round baking pans.  Trace a piece of parchment paper so it is the same size as the bottom of the cake pan.  Cut it out and place inside the cake pan.  Butter the parchment paper.  Add a dusting of flour to coat the pan.  Set pans aside while you prepare the cake.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars.  Beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, for one minute after each addition.   Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Once eggs are incorporated, beat in beets and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter and egg mixture.  Beating on low speed , slowly add the buttermilk.  Once just incorporated, add the other half of the dry ingredients.  Beat on medium speed until milk and dry ingredients are just incorporated.  Try not to overmix the batter.  Bowl can be removed from the mixer and mixture folded with a spatula to finish incorporating ingredients.  Cake batter will be on the thick side… not pourable.
Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans.  Bake for 23 to 25 minutes (for a 9-inch pan) or 30-32 minutes (for an 8-inch pan).  Cake is done when a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove cakes from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes.  Invert cakes onto a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting and assembling the cake.

To make the Frosting:
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese for 30 seconds, until pliable and smooth.  Add the butter and beat for another 30 seconds, until well combined.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl as necessary.  Beat in the beets.  Add the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, milk, lemon juice, and salt.  Beat on medium speed until smooth and silky.  Refrigerate the frosting for 30 minutes before frosting the cooled cakes.
To assemble the cake, place one layer of cake on a cake stand or cake plate.  Top with a generous amount of pink frosting.  Spread evenly.  Place the other cake on top of the frosting.  Top with frosting.  Work frosting onto the sides of the cake.  You will have extra frosting left over.  Refrigerate for an hour before serving (it will make the cake easier to slice).  Cake will last, well wrapped in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days.

MAKE IT // Cake Hats

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Yes. I am already preparing for Zach's birthday party (remember the one we're celebrating on Cinco de Mayo?)

It's going to be an all-out Mexican fiesta - and I wanted his cake (the pineapple flavored one) to be dressed up for the occasion. So, I decided to make some multi-colored mini poof balls, stick 'em on skewers, and the plop them on that mound of sugary goodness. They'll be kind of like a hat... a cake hat. Muy fantastico, no?

I'm a fan of easy craft projects, and this is no different. I only used 4 supplies - things I already had in my house.

First, I cut small rectangles of tissue paper and layered about 10 of them together. Then, I folded them up like a fan and tied a twist tie around the middle.

Next, I had to figure out a way to attach the fans to the skewers.

I figured out that if I stuck the skewers between the remaining twist ties attached to the fan, I could wrap another twist tie around the first twist tie and hold everything in place. (You could probably just use *glue* too, but whatever.)

Example below. It looks a sort of ridiculous, but when they're finished, no one will see the sloppy underside. (Of course, anyone who reads this blog will now know these poof balls' dirty little secret.)

Finally, I separated the pieces of tissue paper and pulled them apart from each other. When you do so, it creates a little (poof) ball, if you will.

Be looking for pictures of these  guys on their new home (Zach's birthday cake) after the 5th of May!

EAT IT // Tangy Pepper Pecan Brie

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Everyone needs one.

The ONE recipe you bring to every "Hey, can you bring an appetizer to this?" party.

And, we all know it needs to be good (so everyone else at the party can compliment your extraordinary cooking skills) but it also needs to be e.a.s.y. (because, really, who has time to make an appetizer after work?)

Lucky for you, I have JUST the recipe... Tangy Pepper Pecan Brie. It tastes amazing (duh) - but it's super easy too.

To start, you'll need the following:

First, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Next, seed, stem and chop the jalapeno (watch your hands - the seeds can sting!) Then, chop the nuts. Mix the chopped jalapeno and nuts with the apricot jam.

Cut the Brie in half horizontally. Place one half of the Brie, cut side up, onto the center of an oven-safe dish or baking stone. Spread half of the apricot/nut mixture over the bottom half of the Brie. Then, place the remaining half of the Brie on top, cut side up. Spread the rest of the apricot/nut mixture over the Brie.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the Brie begins to soften.

I usually serve it with toasted Baguette slices (which I put into the oven for three minutes after I remove the Brie.)

And, there you go. So easy... and so good.

To all your thankful party friends: Yea, you're welcome.

MAKE IT // An Easy Spring Bouquet

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My mom reminded me of something this week - no matter how dark and cold the winter gets, spring always comes.

And, I finally feel like it's spring in my life, both literally and figuratively. To celebrate my current situation, I picked up some cheap flowers at Trader Joes and decided to put together a simple spring bouquet. (Because nothing says "Goodbye winter!" like a fresh flowers.)

I don't claim to be any sort of florist... but I have picked up a few tips over the years. And, since we could all use more flowers in our lives, I thought I'd share whatever knowledge I have.

To start, you'll need a few things:

I choose daffodils because they were cheap ($1.99 a bundle!) and they only bloom in the spring. Then, I picked out the irises - because blue and yellow look really pretty together.

In simple arrangements like this, the blooms in the middle should be higher than those on the sides. So, I started by randomly picking a few flowers for the middle. Then, when I added flowers to the sides, I placed them lower than the ones in the middle (sort of like building a pyramid from the top down.)

When I was satisfied with where everything was situated, I tied twine around the stems so they'd all stay in place. And, twine looks pretty through a glass vase (ribbon would be cute too!)

Then I cut the stems. I wanted the blooms to sit just above the lip of the glass. So I measured the stems to make sure I cut them in the right spot.

Finally, I added water to the bottom of the vase (but made sure it didn't touch the twine.)

As the buds open, they'll start to fan out over the glass in a really pretty way.

Now, how easy was that?

WEAR IT // My {Thrifted} Little Black Dress

Monday, March 19, 2012

I'm not much of a thrift/vintage store shopper. I don't like shopping. So, searching for a few gems among many not-so-amazing pieces is overwhelming and stressful for me.

But, my friend Brooke gets ALL her clothes from vintage stores - and she's always wearing the most unique pieces. It's inspiring! So, I decided to brave my fear and try to find a vintage dress for a friend's wedding.

I started (and ended) my search at Shareen Vintage, located in a converted warehouse in LA. It took me a while to find the entrance - which is only marked with a red petticoat and a sign that says "No Boys Allowed!"

Inside, the amazing salesgirl helped me search for classic pieces with a little 50's flair. There were a plethora of choices, but ultimately I settled on a little black dress. I didn't want a black dress (I have a love-hate relationship with black clothes) but it fit me so perfectly, I couldn't resist.

My favorite thing about vintage clothes is that they usually have a lot of fun details. This one, for instance, actually has a pencil skirt. But there's a chiffon overlay (hemmed with satin ribbon) that adds some extra movement (and it's great for twirling, obviously.)

Plus, no one else will have this dress - I'll never (again) show up to a party in the same outfit as someone else. Win-win!


Friday, March 16, 2012

My first week working from home has been good... but also kind of weird. This life-change doesn't feel real yet (I still feel like I'm just taking a few random vacation days or something.) And, now that I'm giving myself time to work on the Etsy shop and blog during the day, I'm not quite sure what to do in the evenings... relax? What does that mean? 

But like I mentioned yesterday, I seem to have fallen into a nice routine.

Here are a few things that made me happy this week:

The black tea (with cream) I've been making for myself every morning. I love getting up, drinking tea, and working in my pajamas. It's just romantic, don't you think?

PS - How pretty are the flowers that Zach got me for our anniversary?

My feet were pretty trashed from all the walking we did in New York. So this week, Band-Aids have been my lifesaver. They've covered blisters on my heals, toes, joints, and everything else in between.

My gym shoes have made a comeback this week. I've been a little lax in my workouts lately, but now I have time to go during the day (hello, lunch break.) Reunited and it feels so good.

What are your plans for the weekend? Zach and I are driving east for a wedding - my previous roommate is getting married! I just love weddings, don't you?

Be blessed this Friday..

NEW YORK // What We Did

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I like being married to Zach because we have the same idea about vacations - they're supposed to be relaxing. So when we travel, we try not to have too much of an agenda. If we want to sleep in, we do. If we want to stay out late, we do. There are zero rules on vacation days.

So, a week in New York was perfect - we got to see/do everything we wanted, but in our own leisurely way. (That being said, no matter how leisurely you explore the city, there's TONS of walking involved. We've been home for 4 days and my feet are still killing me.)

Besides walking our feet off, we did a lot of other fun things (that I know you're dying to hear about, right?) So, here they are (in no particular order):

We walked The Highline in Chelsea. (It's a park built on top of old railroad tracks that run above the city.)

We also got lost in the West Village (multiple times,) read and relaxed in various coffee shops throughout the city, and saw a comedy show at Amy Poehler's Upright Citizen's Brigade Theatre

We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge (and the Williamsburg Bridge... which made us never want to walk across a bridge again.)

We explored Brooklyn Bridge Park, wandered around Williamsburg, spotted Bri Emery (story here,) and bought some new records.

We ate at Chelsea Market (twice.) It's pretty much the best food court (?) I've ever been to. (Recommendation: never go during the weekend. Weekdays are much less crowded.)

We wandered the East Village, LOVED the Tenement Museum, explored Soho, and gorged ourselves on rice pudding.

We (and three school buses full of kids) learned about dinosaurs, African mammals, aquatic life, and farming at the American Museum of Natural History.

We brunched at Cafe Lalo (where they filmed the blind-date scene in You've Got Mail - my favorite movie,) ate dinner in Hell's Kitchen, and saw Wicked!

We toured the Statue of Libery and Ellis Island (and learned some insightful information about immigration.)

We walked down Wall Street, saw the World Trade Center Memorial, passed through Times Square, and people-watched at 30 Rock. 

We rented bikes and rode through Central Park (not worth it, next time I'd just walk.)

We saw the John Lennon memorial, listened to some incredible jazz at The Village Vanguard, and ate THE BEST butternut squash ravioli (in sour cream sauce) at Extra Virgin.

We re-lived my art history days by admiring my favorite Jackson Pollock (One: Number 31, 1950) at MOMA.

We also ate LOTS of cupcakes, wandered down 5th Avenue, candied up at Dylan's, and ran into Julianne Moore.

For a leisurely vacation, I guess we accomplished a lot! All in all, I'm so happy we went - it was the best 1st anniversary trip I could've imagined. :)

NEW YORK // What We Ate

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Zach and I don't normally eat out (we're paying triple payments on my school bills, yo.) So, vacations where we don't have to cook and clean dirty dishes are always a treat. After this trip, I'm convinced that we picked the best city to splurge with our lunch money. New York is a foodie's delight.

We threw our healthy diets out the window and ate whatever sounded good. (Cheese pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Perfect.) I don't think I ate a vegetable the entire week. Oops. (It was worth it.)

It was hard to catalog all the places we tried, since we seriously stopped somewhere new every 2 hours. But, I thought I'd give you a run-down on a few of our favorites:

1) Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup at Miller's Tavern in Brooklyn.

2) Little eggies and espresso at Abraco in the East Village.

3) Caramel vanilla cupcakes at Butter Lane in the East Village.

4) Four cheese mac-n-cheese at S'mac in the East Village.

5) Chocolate chip and coconut rice pudding at Rice to Riches in Soho.

6) Fresh lobster at The Lobster Place in the Chelsea Market.

7) Italian brunch at Cafe Lalo in the Upper West Side.

8) Wild mushroom dumplings at Breeze Thai-French Kitchen in Hell's Kitchen.

9) Frrrozen hot chocolate at Serendipity 3 in Midtown.

10) Pulled pork sandwiches at The New French in the West Village.

What are you favorite New York eateries? What should we check out the next time we go?

NEW YORK // What We Wore

Monday, March 12, 2012

I had high hopes for this post. I picked out my outfits for our New York trip with such care... I mean, New York! Fashion capital of the world, right? But alas. The weather was freezing... and I pretty much wore my coat and scarf the entire time.


We wore our coats and scarves to Chelsea, and the Village, and SoHo, and Midtown, and Ellis Island, and Brooklyn... and everywhere else we went.

On our last day, I did mix it up by wearing my heart. But, that's pretty much the extent of my NY fashion creativity.

Oh well. I tried. You cant win them all, I guess.

March 12, 2011

 One year ago today, I married my best friend and the absolute love of my life. And, I can honestly say that these past 12 months have been the happiest I've ever had.

I've never believed in "soul mates" - I think love is a choice and you can make a relationship with anyone work. But, Zach fits me like a perfect glove. And, I'm consistently amazed that our weirdness so beautifully compliments each other.

Zach and I met 5 years ago, and it was love at first sight (well, for me, at least.) I always knew we'd be a great pair... the timing was just never right. So, we were friends who watched The Office together every Thursday night instead. 

I kept my love for Zach (not so) hidden in the 3 years that we were friends before he officially asked me out. Little did I know, he always liked me too... he just wasn't ready for a commitment. 

At the time, it was super frustrating. I knew we had chemistry, so I got impatient waiting for the inevitable to happen. But, looking back, I realize those 3 years were crucial to the success of our relationship. We both had a lot of growing up to do before committing to each other.

Now more than anything, I'm glad we had 3 years of a friendship foundation to build our relationship upon. Today Zach remains, more than anything, my dearest friend: someone who I can laugh and cry with, who is patient with my flaws, and willing to admit his own. 

After a full year, I still love being around him! I really can't get enough. We just spent the last week together in New York, and I never once got sick of him - which I think is a feat in itself. 

So, I know that we're still in the honeymoon phase - blissfully in love with each other. And, I know life won't always be so easy. I hear that hard times will most definitely be in our future. 

But, today I enormously thankful: thankful for a husband whose heart it so kind and generous; thankful that his sense of humor can diffuse the most serious of situations; thankful for his consistency that allows me to trust him wholeheartedly; thankful that he believes I can accomplish my dreams - almost more than I do; thankful for his patience in dealing with my never-ending anxiety; and thankful for his generously administered supply of kisses.

Dear Mr. Piepmeyer, I'm so very happy we chose each other.
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