Peter Pan Party Aftermath Post 7 (Or the Glazed Lime Cake Crisis)

It’s time to talk about cake. Why? Because I’m the birthday girl and I said so. Actually, it’s because I’ve been milking this birthday cow for far too long and I’m getting ready to wrap it up.

So… I’m going to do two posts about cake today, and pretty soon I’ll be moving on to things that make me legitimately happy. Like Shark Week. And the countdown to college football kick off.

But back to cake for now.

Since I share a birthday with my good friend, I always do a separate birthday cake for her. She loves my glazed lime cake and asks for it every year. So I make it every year.

And the cake makes me mad.

Every year.

Here’s the dilemma: The cake will sink in the middle if you don’t cook it long enough.

Please stop focusing on my armpit fat and concentrate on the cratered cake instead.

The problem with cooking it long enough to prevent it from sinking in the middle is that you end up drying out the cake a bit — particularly around the edges.

What to do?

See how fluffy and perfect-looking this is? I think the cake is dry, but I’m also a bit of a bitch about baked goods….

The problem with the cake could actually be that I have cheap baking pans, and I need something that conducts heat more evenly to get this cake to really turn out properly. I wrap my pans in aluminum foil every time I use them to prevent the edges of my cakes from burning or drying out, but I have more issues with this cake recipe than any other when it comes to uneven baking. I’m not even lying. I’ve made this cake at least 11 times and I swear I alternate between letting it dry out and letting it sink in the middle. Both options just send me right to the moon with rage. I could try the glass pan baking method (that the recipe actually calls for), but I don’t have a glass pan that is the right size. So maybe I’m just being one of those jerks who doesn’t follow the recipe and then says the recipe sucks. You know those people. They say, “I substituted margarine for butter, stevia for sugar, and grape Kool-Aid for grapes,” and then they can’t figure out why the cake now tastes like crap. (I kinda want to punch these people. Why write a review?!? It’s worthless to everyone who reads it.)

So anyway…

One potential fix for the dryness might be to double the amount of lime syrup you pour over the cake. Maybe you just make it moist by saturating it with syrup. Or you get over the fact that it looks ugly when it sinks in the middle because it tastes better that way. I don’t know.

Or maybe I just need to get married and register for some proper bakeware because I’m tired of buying my own bath towels and kitchen supplies. (Kidding.)

But before I run off and marry some Hollywood weirdo who wears fedoras with thrift store pants and Kicks just so I can register for swag at Sur la Table, I should mention I’m not the only one who has had sinking issues with this cake. If you read the reviews on Epicurious others mention the same problem. If you have any suggestions, or have a different experience making it. PLEASE LET ME KNOW.

The batter may actually be the most delicious batter on earth, and I should mention people psychotically love this cake. So, I might be crazy for being so superficial about its appearance.

Now that I’ve totally maligned this innocent cake, you can check out the recipe here. You’ll notice it’s made with powdered sugar and doesn’t have any leavening in it.

If you have questions about what baking pan to use when and why, this link is useful.

And now on to the chocolate cake, which you can check out here.

Advertisements

Of Owls and Strollers (Or I’m Planning a Baby Shower)

So, it’s 2:34 am and there is a band of drunken revelers on the sidewalk below my window. They’re too drunk to know they’re actually yelling at each other and not just having a regular conversation. Also there are about 15 of them. My dogs are yelling back. I sort of wish I were drunk on the street disturbing dogs and the peace, but I’m in my jammies blogging and listening to The Righteous Brothers.

Why am I writing when I should be sleeping? Well, I can’t come home and go straight to bed. Ever. No matter how tired I am. I need all of this time to unwind after being with people. Sometimes I feel so wound up at midnight or whatever that I’m temped to go running. And then I remember I don’t run.

See, I just returned home from a baby shower planning dinner, and I now have my marching orders. They involve finger sandwiches, cupcakes, and sachets. Mercifully, there are no cake pops involved.

During the planning session I learned all kinds of scary things about being constantly kicked in the ribcage and having a tiny person mashing about on your bladder day and night. And I learned about strollers.

My friend showed me hers. It looks like it’s on hydraulics. After witnessing a brief demo, I informed her that she will have to install speakers so she can play Dre while she pushes the kid around the 90210. (Yes, that’s really her zip code.)

She also showed me another stroller by the same company. And it has a video. The video involves the sort of techno music you’d hear at a rave where people wear glow sticks, Ed Hardy, and too much cologne. You HAVE to watch it. The thing has space-aged lights. And it charges your iPhone. You absolutely cannot make this shit up.

So I guess strollers have gotten sick since the ’70s. I mean, mine looked like this:

The fat baby in the rickety ride is me. The bear next to me answers to, “O.J.” even though there’s an apple on his bib.

I’m sure the thing was all dangerous by modern standards but it had room for friends… whether I wanted them around or not…

I am the big, bald bully on the right.

I’m not saying things were better in the ’70s or anything. Because people responsible for my wellbeing did let me out of the house looking like this:

There are many crimes against aesthetics happening all at once here.

So anyway, I have nothing helpful to say tonight except that I’m going to make owl cupcakes like these:

Photo courtesy of jennycookies.com

They’re based on the owls from Hello, Cupcake which is a totally fabulous book that I happen to own.

And my sachets will be inspired by these darling little owl pillows I found on Pinterest:

Photo courtesy of April Foss on Etsy.

Just to reiterate: there will be no cake pops at this party.

I’m saving that horror for my birthday party the next day. The guest list for that is at 135 and counting. More on that later. There will be crocodiles involved….

Only Children are Spoiled (Or How to Make Truffle Popcorn)

I am an only child. And I was the only grandchild for NINE YEARS. So, it should come as no surprise that I am an absolute nightmare on occasion. There was a time I thought the entire world existed to watch my performances, which included recitations of the Narnia Chronicles in a British accent, dramatic lip syncing performances to Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me,” or dancing on a picnic table in a diaper at 10 pm.

My dad is this well-behaved electrical engineer who has been pushed to the absolute brink of insanity by my antics. Were it not for his faith and his firm belief God made me this way, he might have died of embarrassment (or frustration) long ago.

Not only did I demand a fair amount of attention, but I was also given a lot of swag. Before you read this as a cautionary tale about only children, I should tell you that we’re not all bad. I can entertain myself for days on end without company, and I love to share from my lavish bounty of gifts.

My mother came for a visit recently, and I now have new Betsey jewelry, the dogs have piles of squeaky toys, and my kitchen is full of farmers’ market swag.

Before you condemn me for being some sort of spoiled parasite, I should tell you I played airport chauffeur for hours, made my mother wonderful food, and endured hours of interrogation about why I’m not dating anyone. So, it all evens out. I trade swag for my sanity. It’s cool.

You know what else is cool? Truffle salt. My mom bought me some at the farmers’ market, and I’m putting it on everything. The applications are absolutely endless, and because I’m so into sharing, I’m going to tell you about one!

Tonight I’m making truffle popcorn for my Gone with the Wind movie night, and I plan to wash it down with bourbon-spiked shakes.

See?

Truffle salt is so absolutely amazing that I might eat my own shoe if you sprinkled enough on it.

I’m looking forward to stuffing myself to the gills with goodness while watching Clark Gable strut around like sex on a stick. You might want to do the same.

The recipe is below. Enjoy!

Truffle Popcorn Recipe

¼ C popcorn kernels
2 T oil
2 T unsalted butter, melted
¼ tsp truffle salt

The popcorn bag will say you should heat the oil until two test kernels pop before adding the rest of the popcorn. This is a bald faced lie. This will burn your popcorn. I have found it’s best to add the oil and the popcorn at the same time. If you want to double the recipe, work in batches and add another 2 T of oil and ¼ C of popcorn after popping (and removing) the first batch from the pot. Working in small batches prevents burning. (Or maybe I just suck at making popcorn the old fashioned way and am making more work for myself than is necessary, but I’d rather not waste food. Or set my kitchen on fire.)

Pour the melted butter over the popcorn and toss the popcorn. Add the truffle salt and toss again.

I’m Feeling Nostalgic (Or How to Make Orso’s Seafood Saffron Risotto)

Seafood Saffron Risotto with Parsley Garnish Inspired by Orso’s Dish.

It was January 2004, and Brett Favre was still known as the Packers’ Super Bowl-winning QB instead of a grandfather accused of sexting with a Maxim model on the Jets sidelines. For some reason I was feeling cocky (pardon the pun) during the NFC playoffs, and I placed two bets on the Eagles/Packers matchup with two of my best guy friends.

Needless to say I lost both of those bets after the Eagles got a first down on fourth and 26 (devastating clip below). Not only did I lose a case of Heineken to Neil, but I also owed Josh $50. Never mind that my team also lost the game…. It was kind of a bad Sunday.

I’m not going to lie: handing over a dozen Heinekens to a diehard Eagles fan hurt a little, but I’m not one to bilk my buddies on a bet. I was also prepared to fork over 50 bucks to Josh (even if he only bet against my team to antagonize me), but he decided it would be more fun if I took him out to dinner instead. I never pass up an excuse to go out to eat, even if I am paying, so obviously I agreed.

How we ended up at Orso, an Italian restaurant in Beverly Hills, at 10 pm is a very long story that involves a Brett Ratner movie wrapping late, Dick Cheney’s fleet of black Suburbans backing up traffic all over LA, and Nozawa, the Sushi Nazi of the San Fernando Valley, refusing to let us in when we arrived five minutes late.

So, anyway, there we were on the Orso patio, absolutely famished. Everything that could have gone wrong with our dinner plan had gone wrong thus far. Our luck changed when I surveyed the offerings and saw that the rotating menu included seafood saffron risotto.

“Sweet salvation by carbs!” I cried. (It was my favorite dish at the restaurant, and it was not always available.)

Even if Dick Cheney’s cavalcade of cars had kept us from our fancy raw fish, I was still able to have some seafood, and the dish was divine.

After salads, entrees, pinot grigio, moscato, and biscotti, I think my $50 bet ended up costing me more like $150, but we had a blast, and it did make me forget about the end of the Packers’ playoff run, if only for the night.

Sadly, the restaurant (named after a Venetian dog) closed years ago.

So, here I am eight years later, unable to name a dog “Brett” as I had once planned (see earlier sexting scandal), and feeling a bit nostalgic about football and the seafood saffron risotto at an LA restaurant that is no more.

I created my own version of the dish as best I could from memory, and I intend to eat it tonight while watching Michigan’s overtime win in the 2012 Sugar Bowl that is still saved on my DVR. You might want to pair your meal with something more soothing like, say, Chet Baker, but I need more football in my life.

My version of the recipe is below:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Seafood Saffron Risotto

5 Cups chicken broth
¾ Cup dry white wine
6 Tablespoons butter
4 Garlic cloves
½ Teaspoon saffron threads
1 Pound of Trader Joe’s mixed seafood (shrimp, calamari and mini scallops)*
2 Shallots
1 1/2 C Arborio rice
Chopped Italian parsley for garnish

Bring broth, saffron threads, and ¼ C of wine to simmer in a saucepan. Reduce the heat; keep mixture warm.

Place the frozen seafood in a colander and run hot water over to slightly thaw it. Drain completely.

Melt two tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add 3 cloves of minced garlic and the seafood mixture. Sautee the seafood until the shrimp begin to turn pink. This should take about 2 minutes. Add the remaining ½ cup of wine and simmer until the seafood is cooked. This will take about 2-3 minutes. Set aside the seafood and cooking liquid.

Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped shallots and 1 remaining clove of minced garlic. Sautee until the shallot is cooked, about 4 minutes. Add the Arborio rice and stir to coat, about 2 minutes.

Add 2 cups of the broth mixture. Simmer until the liquid has been absorbed, stirring frequently. Continue adding the broth mixture, 1 cup at a time, stirring frequently, and simmering until the liquid is absorbed before adding more. This will take about 20 minutes. Stir in reserved seafood liquid and the seafood. Cook until the rice is slightly tender, and the mixture is creamy. This will take about 5 additional minutes.

Season the risotto to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley and serve.

*You can obviously use fresh seafood, which will improve the taste. I was looking to cut costs a little. The dish is still very tasty even with the frozen fare.

We’re Happy Puppies! (Or We Received the Illuminating Blogger Award)

 

Albus, Woodley, and I were very proud puppies when we were awarded the Illuminating Blogger Award by Kenley of Beyond the Green Door. If you don’t know about Kenley’s blog, you should check it out. She writes about great stuff! Also, she lives north of Austin, Texas where I long to live.

Seriously.

I have spent nearly 11 years in LA, slowly growing apart from the city I once loved. It’s still home, but I desperately want to escape. Daily.

I sometimes think I’m still here out of inertia – or the delusion that I will one day meet a single guy in this city who doesn’t drink white wine at bars and owns at least one hammer.

Don’t get me wrong: I love the sunshine and the sushi, but I miss humidity and affordable real estate. Before I quit my job in the entertainment industry, I was considering buying a home. Rat-infested crack houses on my side of the hill run around half a million, so I was looking at places deep in the San Fernando Valley where none of my remaining single friends would ever venture. Ever.

SO, anyway, I quit my job (long story), threw away my real estate dream, and started redecorating my apartment instead.

I have always suffered from the condition of don’t-bother-to-do-anything-unless-you-can-do-it-big syndrome, but I was determined to change that.

I started decorating my tiny apartment because I couldn’t rip down the walls in a new home. I took a three-day ski trip with my dogs because I couldn’t afford to go to Aspen for a week. I drove up the coast and hit dog beaches from Santa Barbara to San Francisco and stayed in the Motel 6 instead of the Four Seasons. I made my own small compost bin because I didn’t have room on my tiny balcony for a bigger one….

And that was sort of the birth of this blog.

By returning to writing and my childhood love of art and design, I feel inspired each morning. I am incredibly grateful to everyone who reads my posts, and I hope you all find inspiration to follow your heart the way I did.

Below are five blogs I enjoy. They are all worthy of the Illuminating Blogger Award, and I’m pleased to nominate each of them.

LindO Designs: Angela is an incredibly talented artist, architect, and designer. Her blog includes DIY projects and lots of informative links. You can also visit her Etsy stores to purchase the objects she refinishes and designs!

Southern Secrets Carolina Style: Not only does Jen have a great eye, but she also conveys a strong sense of Carolina pride. She makes her readers feel like they have just visited North Carolina without leaving their living rooms. Her blog features great recipes and party planning ideas.

346 Living: This blog is full of fabulous photos and fantastic step-by-step instructions for DIY projects that anyone can tackle. I adore the blog, and the photos of the precious pups are an added bonus!

Parlour Home Blog: Nichole is an interior designer with a great eye. Her blog includes inspiring design ideas and DIY projects!

You Are My Fave: Melanie’s blog is full of delicious recipes, fabulous DIY projects, and inspiring event-planning ideas.

Simple Salsa (Or Impress Your Friends with an Easy Recipe)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Tomorrow my friends and I are firemanning. If you don’t know what that is, it’s because we invented it. I’ll explain….

A new fire station recently opened in my neighborhood. In an attempt to get the community excited about the bright red trucks barreling down the street, sirens blaring, upsetting every dog within miles, they’re holding an open house.

“You know they’re not holding an open house to give toddlers a look at their ladders,” My text invitation to my friends read. Never have I received such prompt RSVPs from a pack of non-committal-let-me-see-if-I-get-a-better-offer 30 somethings in my life. Texts came streaming in along the lines of, “Firemen? Yes please!” and “OBVIOUSLY.”

Before we walk over to the station to look at their poles or whatever, we’re going to have some snacks. Spicy red salsa seems like the perfect pairing for the event, so I’m going to put on a little 911 by Wyclef and Mary J and get to work making my simple salsa.

If you wanna make some for yourself, the recipe is below.

Simple Salsa

28 ounce can of diced tomatoes
1/3 C of cilantro, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
One medium onion
1/4 C jalapeno slices with juice (or 1/8 C if you don’t like things too spicy)
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 tsp of chili flakes
Salt

Peel the onion and dice it into quarters. Add the onion to the food processor to dice it. Add 1/3 C of cilantro, jalapeños, a pinch of salt, and the tomatoes to the food processor. Puree until smooth. Add 2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro leaves and the chili flakes. Stir with a spoon.

It will taste like an unimpressive mess of onions and tomatoes at this point, so you’ll need to let the flavors marry in the refrigerator overnight. (At the very least, give them 8 hours for a civil ceremony or whatever.) Tomorrow you can dip some chips in your salsa, so just be patient. In fact, if you have the time to let the ingredients take a honeymoon, the salsa will taste even better in a week when the ingredients have broken down further.

If you don’t have a food processor, a blender will work. Just make sure you add the tomatoes first so that the juice is on the bottom of the blender. It will not yield the same consistency, but it will suffice.

Sausage White Beans and Sage (Or a Dish So Easy My Dad Can Make It)

 

“They can practically rip your lungs out arthroscopically,” my mother said. “It’s still a big deal.” I had just told her my father had two tears in his bicep and would require arthroscopic surgery. I was downplaying the procedure, but she was playing up the drama.

They have been divorced for 21 years, and she’s still insisting on bringing him soup after his surgery. No need to wonder why I write a food blog. Clearly, I inherited her need to feed people.

He’s looking for dishes he can prepare and freeze before his surgery, so I promised him I’d send him a recipe I (slightly) adapted from a 2009 issue of Bon Appétit. I live 3,000 miles away and I can’t have him relying solely on his ex-wife for a pot of martyr soup, after all. The least I can do is send him some simple recipes….

Though it’s not really a summer dish, it’s cheap, easy, and it freezes well.

The recipe is below.

Spicy Italian Sausage with Sage and White Beans

2 tablespoons olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound of spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
2 15 oz cans of cannellini beans, drained, water reserved
1 15-ounce can of chopped tomatoes
6-8 large fresh sage sprigs, chopped or torn

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat and add garlic. Sauté the garlic until golden, but do not allow it to burn. Add the sausages and sauté until they are no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes with juice, and chopped sage leaves. Simmer 20-30 minutes. (You want the tomato juice to reduce a bit.)

Add the beans. Simmer, stirring occasionally, about 15-20 minutes. Add the reserved water in ¼ C increments if the dish is dry.

Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

This actually tastes better if it’s made a day ahead, so it’s a perfect dish to make for a casual dinner with friends if you don’t want to spend the evening slaving in the kitchen.

It’s one of my favorites for football season.