Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Nearly spring soup

If you take a look at the date on your calendar, you can see that we have clearly passed the vernal equinox and it is now officially spring. Perhaps that is true for you if you live in Texas, or California, or any other place where the seasons changing is like turning the page of a book—fast, and without much notice. But here in the Northeast, we are in the teasing, painful time of year when the calendar says spring but our hats, coats, and gloves say winter.

To add insult to injury, food magazines are full to the brim with the recipes of spring, but it is still cold outside. It is, I'm afraid, soup weather. Thankfully this one comes with an overdose of lemon zest and lemon juice, so even if we must still eat soup to stay warm, at least it can taste like spring.

Cauliflower Leek Soup with Lemon

- 1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 leeks, washed well and sliced into coins
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- dried chili powder and thyme
- 1 quart low sodium chicken stock
- 1 large lemon

Add 2 tbps of olive oil to a large pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they're beginning to get translucent. Add the garlic and cook for one to two minutes more. Then add the leeks and cook until they begin to wilt. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp of dried thyme and a pinch of chili powder.

Add the chopped cauliflower and cover the mixture with chicken stock. Simmer until the cauliflower is soft, about 20 minutes. Puree the soup with a hand blender, or in batches in a food processor.

Return the pureed soup to the heat and add the zest of one lemon, tasting as you go. I ended up using all of the lemon zest, but you might prefer less. Add extra lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Serve with toasted almonds, if desired.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Weekend in pictures

{leading to the room of requirement}

{a stranger's wedding flowers. pretty}

{magical wedding venue viewing}

{dancing in dumbo}

{martha's pop up pie shop in the w. village}

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mail a Penguin

How great are these Penguin Book postcards? I happened upon them today during some rainy day browsing at Anthropologie and I've been thinking about them ever since. I'd love to frame a few of them on my wall, or have them around to send a friend a note on a postcard of her favorite book.




Monday, March 21, 2011

Banana Coconut Cake


Baking for a fellow baker is always a treat. Most understand the desire to try out a new recipe or, at the very least, they're unlikely to request a combination of flavors one could get at the local bakery (yellow cake, I'm looking at you). So I was happy when my roommate Megan said I could make her anything I wanted for her birthday cake.


I had been want to try to turn this everyday cake into a layer cake, and having made a salt-less version of the cake the weekend before at a friend's apartment (seriously, who doesn't have salt?), I knew exactly what I wanted to make with my "make whatever you want" free pass.


The frosting in the original cake is on the thin side, so I knew I couldn't cover the cake with it. Instead, I brushed the cake layers with cream of coconut and made coconut cream cheese frosting for the middle to maintain the lovely coconut-y-ness of the original. The frosting on the rest of the cake is regular cream cheese frosting.



Topping it with shredded coconut, candied banana slices, and edible gold star glitter might be gilding the lily, but it definitely elevates it from "everyday cake" to "birthday cake." And, as is becoming tradition, the cake was served at a dimly lit bar and then schlepped home for a few
2 a.m. forkfuls, eaten standing at the kitchen counter while trying to figure out how to Dougie. Happy birthday, roomie!


Banana Coconut Cake
Adapted from this cake.

For the cake:
2 sticks (8 oz.) unsalted butter at room temperature
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 ½ cup brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
2 cups banana puree
½ cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the frosting:
2 blocks of cream cheese (8 oz. each) at room temperature
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
4-5 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 can cream of coconut (not coconut milk. I like Coco Lopez brand)
1-2 tbsp dark rum (optional)

Optional toppings:
shaved coconut
2 bananas
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp brown sugar

Make the cakes:
Place a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar on high speed until pale and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the eggs and beat until well combined. Add the banana purée, sour cream, and vanilla, and beat to combine well. Reduce the speed to low, and add the flour mixture, mixing until just combined. Finish mixing by hand to avoid over-mixing.

Evenly divide the batter between the cake pans. Bake until the top is pale golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20-27 minutes.

Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Then carefully remove the cake from the pan onto a wire cooling rack.

Glaze the cakes:
Mix ½ cup cream of coconut with 1-2 tbsp dark rum (or water) to thin it a bit. Brush or pour the mixture over the warm cakes (you can also poke the surface of the cakes with a fork to allow them to absorb more). Allow the cakes to cool completely. 

Make the frosting:
In a large bowl, cream together butter and cream cheese until well combined. Slowly add in the powdered sugar a little at a time and continue mixing until all the sugar is incorporated.

Into a smaller bowl, scoop about 1 cup of the cream cheese frosting. Add 1 tbsp of cream of coconut at a time, tasting as you go until you like the coconut-y-ness of the frosting (I used about 4 tbsps), being careful that it doesn't get too thin.

Assemble the cake:
If either of your cakes are uneven on top, even out the tops by slicing a thin layer off with a large serrated knife until the top of the cake is as flat as possible.

Place one cake layer on a cake board or platter. Tuck scraps of waxed paper under the edges of the cake for easy clean up. Spread the coconut-y cream cheese frosting over the layer, spreading it to the edge. Add the top layer and frost with the remaining plain cream cheese frosting. Remove the wax paper strips when finished. Top with shredded coconut and candied bananas.

Candied banana slices:
Slice two bananas. Melt butter and brown sugar in a sauce pan on medium-low heat. Add bananas and toss around carefully to coat. Cook 1-2 minutes per side. Allow to cool before topping the cake.

*Note: The middle layer of coconut cream cheese frosting makes this cake a little delicate, and prone to slipping around on that thin (but oh-so-tasty and coconut-y) middle layer of frosting. It slid a little on its subway ride to Brooklyn. So, I'd recommend eating this in the same location you bake it, or asking the subway driver to make the train less jerky.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Weekend in pictures

{birthday cake frosting, saturday}

{happy birthday megan, saturday}

{late night present wrapping, early sunday}

{birthday brunch blueberries, sunday}

{birthday brunch set up, sunday}

{crappy phone photo, signs of spring, sunday}

A lot of my friends had the good sense to be born in March, to provide a welcomed distraction from the last few weeks of cold, dreary weather with their sunny celebrations (see: last weekend). Plus, it gives me an excuse to make lots of cakes. This weekend's banana coconut cake (recipe post soon) was for my roommate Megan's birthday and like all good cakes it made its debut at a bar in Brooklyn. The celebrating continued on Sunday morning with brunch at home and chatter about friends who popped the question this weekend, and the friends who said, "yes!" Congrats to Tracey, Greg, Liz, and Steven!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Gasp-worthy vintage

When stephmodo wrote about Modern 50 last month, I bookmarked their site, knowing I'd want to spent some time browsing. Oh, how right I was—I've spent nearly all morning gasping at the amazing pieces from this impeccably curated vintage/antique store in Northern Virginia. The prices make this a "look, but don't touch" type of store, as my mom used to say (or really, "look, but don't buy") but it sure is fun to look. Here are a few of my favorites.







In the oft-quoted words of Liz Lemon, I want to go to there. If you're in Virginia and can browse this lovely shop in person, lucky you. If you're in Manhattan or Brooklyn and can afford one of these gasp-worthy pieces, they make monthly deliveries to our neck of the woods. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Delicate & Dainty

I keep running across these really simple, delicate rings lately. I love how feminine and dainty they are. Some of them would make such pretty wedding bands, or with a few worn on one finger for everyday wear.

{rope band, gabriela artigas}


{mixed metal stackable rings, SecretCharm}

Picture 1
{square peg, round hole collection by mociun}

Sidenote: I love everything in the mociun square peg, round hole collection. So simple and beautiful!

(Late) Weekend Pictures

It was a weekend of birthdays. Friday started with a friend's 25th "hoe down" birthday party (and semi-engagement party), then I flew off to Chicago to celebrate a friend's 30th birthday at a fun little bowling alley—they even had pinboys resetting the pins after each frame! After birthday-ing, I had a relaxing weekend with old friends, eating our way through Chicago.

{katelyn's cake, friday}

{sparklers, friday}

{blurry bowling rules, saturday}

{four lanes, saturday}

{amazing intelligentsia coffee, sunday}

{the wiener's circle, monday}

{chicago style, monday}

Friday, March 4, 2011

Fabric & Handle

I'm loving these simple tote bags from (aptly-named) Fabric & Handle. They're really customizable&#151you can choose the color for the leather strap, and they have a bunch of really great fabrics.

Screen shot 2011-02-17 at 12.42.54 PM

And the best part, you can adjust the handle depending on how you want to use the bag. That's pretty genius.

Screen shot 2011-02-17 at 12.42.54 PM

It'd be great for travel (which is on my mind, since I'm off to Chicago for the weekend), the beach, or just everyday errands.

Happy weekend, friends!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

An Heirloom From A Stranger

Are you reading Matchbook Magazine? It's one of the many of online magazines to launch recently and it's lovely so far. A bit like the best parts of your favorite blogs, with a little more time to ponder their subjects. I really enjoyed the profile in the current issue of Oklahoma design blogger Sarah Kate Huff.

Picture 2

She mentions that when she lived in Italy, she came to appreciate vintage items as "simply an heirloom from a stranger." Don't you love that? In the same way that a family heirloom makes you remember the person who gave it to you, a vintage cake stand makes me wonder about the woman who owned it before me. Did she make a chocolate cake once a week and decorate it while dressed like Donna Reed? Or was it a wedding gift that gathered dust in a cupboard? So fun to think about. An heirloom from a stranger.

Picture 3

Check out the rest of the article here.
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