four things:

1. grace has a blog! it's not actually a real blog, it's a tumblr. it's amazing, but i'm obviously biased.

2. this haiku just totally blew me away and made me feel totally lame about all the business school haiku's i've been tweeting.

even in kyoto –
hearing the cuckoo’s cry –
i long for kyoto.
basho, trans. hass

3. did you know this is my favorite poem? it has been doing some real heavy lifting sustaining me through these first three months of business school.

meditation at lagunitas, robert hass

all the new thinking is about loss.
in this it resembles all the old thinking.
the idea, for example, that each particular erases
the luminous clarity of a general idea. that the clown-
faced woodpecker probing the dead sculpted trunk
of that black birch is, by his presence,
some tragic falling off from a first world
of undivided light. or the other notion that,
because there is in this world no one thing
to which the bramble of blackberry corresponds,
a word is elegy to what it signifies.
we talked about it late last night and in the voice
of my friend, there was a thin wire of grief, a tone
almost querulous. after a while I understood that,
talking this way, everything dissolves: justice,
pine, hair, woman, you and I. there was a woman
I made love to and I remembered how, holding
her small shoulders in my hands sometimes,
I felt a violent wonder at her presence
like a thirst for salt, for my childhood river
with its island willows, silly music from the pleasure boat,
muddy places where we caught the little orange-silver fish
called pumpkinseed. it hardly had to do with her.
longing, we say, because desire is full
of endless distances. i must have been the same to her.
but I remember so much, the way her hands dismantled bread,
the thing her father said that hurt her, what
she dreamed. there are moments when the body is as numinous
as words, days that are the good flesh continuing.
such tenderness, those afternoons and evenings,
saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry.

4. it is gross how neglectful i've been of this blog in the past couple of months. i am planning to try and change that (can i be more non-committal?). please bear with me. it's not over yet.

dressing up a dresser

last spring i decided to upgrade my old dresser. it was from target, and chosen swiftly during the sea change that is post-college life. darkly paneled, with brushed steel handles, the dresser looked nice enough sitting on the sterile target shelves. i've used it for four solid years now and despite a couple of scratches and chips, it has held up remarkably well for something under $75. all this being said, i've never had any particular devotion to it, seeing it as less "mine" than something i use.

so, during last spring's room-renovation, while i was scouring craigslist for furniture, i came upon a very dear cream dresser. it is solid wood with some classy, yet whimsical woodwork at the bottom and top. when the owner mentioned to me that it was his childhood dresser, whilst growing up in park slope, i was sold. i imagined rubber handballs hidden in amongst the underwear and grubby nickels stuffed in a sock. this dresser, with its rich history, could feel like it was mine.

but not without some help. the cream paint (at least two decades old) was stripped with the help of a power sander. (fyi, take a lesson from me and wear a mask when power sanding. i cannot stress to you how gross it is if you don't!) i applied a coat of primer, then two coats of a dusty blue/green. new knobs had to be found and installed, requiring new holes to be drilled and old ones epoxied over. i even had a vinyl sticker custom made (thanks etsy!) depicting wildflowers in riotously bright colors. and to top it all off (literally) a piece of glass cut to fit and protect the dresser's top.

now, i feel like this is mine uniquely, and all the more satisfying because it was the product of my own two hands. but, ironically enough, it sits unused in the spare bedroom, as i can't yet bear to part with my target dresser. i guess change, no matter how much i want it, is always hard for me. even with a dresser.

boston creme pie

oh dear god! it's been so long since i wrote you must have forgotten about me. i'm so sorry.
i've been busy, as i'm sure you all are. this is no good excuse. the summer is already scurrying by, trying not to be bothersome in the midst of all this work. there have been some good moments, along with a new fast housefriend. there has also been quite a bit of thinking, hoping, crying, and wondering. my hair is long enough to braid, and i try to wear skirts everyday. this is the calm before the storm maybe?

in any case, one of my goals this summer is to single-handedly repopularize the boston creme pie. this classic dessert isn't a pie at all, but a cake filled with pudding, first made at boston's parker house hotel in 1855. and it's not called a classic for nothing, each one of its components is traditional home grown comfort food- fluffy yellow cake, rich vanilla pudding, and stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth chocolate frosting. there have been many a time in my life when just one of those was enough to turn my bad day around. all three together is an embarrassment of riches, really.

to be made sparingly. i think we should keep this trifecta of comfort for those most dire of times. which, it seems in your late twenties, is often!

boston creme pie, adapted from me!

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups hot milk
3 large egg yolks, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla

mix sugar, flour and salt in a large heavy saucepan. gradually stir in the hot milk with a whisk. cook the mixture over moderate heat while stirring constantly until slightly thickened. slowly stir in approximately 1/4 cup the hot mixture into the beaten egg yolks. next add the yolks to the balance of the hot mixture and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture is fully thickened to a custard-like consistency and coats a spoon. remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. let cool completely

two 9-inch cakes
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

take the butter out of the fridge to soften and preheat the oven to 350°F. prepare two 9-inch round pans by greasing them thoroughly with butter or non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening. you can also flour them, if you want, although this isn't strictly necessary. sprinkle a little flour over them, tilt and shake to distribute evenly, then tap out the excess over the sink.

mix the ingredients together in the order they're listed - creaming the softened butter and sugar first, then adding the eggs, flour, salt, baking powder, and finally the liquids. using an electric beater, beat everything together on low for 30 seconds, then high for 3 minutes.

immediately pour into the prepared pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the tops spring back slightly when pressed.
let cool on wire racks for at least 15 minutes, then flip each pan over onto the rack and tap gently all over. lift the pan slightly. if the cake doesn't feel like it's falling out smoothly, lay a slightly damp kitchen towel over the pan and tap again.

cool completely.

6 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
3/4 stick unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

melt the chocolate and butter in a good-sized bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water. go slowly- you don't want any burning or seizing.

while this is melting, put the powdered sugar into the food processor and pulse to remove lumps.

add the corn syrup to the cooled chocolate mixture, followed by the sour cream and vanilla and then when all this is pour this mixture down the funnel of the food processor onto the powdered sugar, with the motor running.

put it all together:
when everything has been fully cooled, frost just the top of one of the cakes, piling the frosting high. then, spoon the pudding on the top of the other cake. gently place the chocolate frosted cake on top of the pudding covered cake. if you want to be fancy, you can put some powdered sugar on top. be careful when cutting it- the pudding may sploosh out the sides!

starring the swedish chef

swedish chef take one from andrea davila on Vimeo.

grace and i made this one lazy saturday afternoon. the storyline is a little weak, i know, but it's our first try at stop motion, so be kind. i'm envisioning a whole cooking show with the swedish chef as the host, and puppets as special guest. and he'll teach real, useful, easy recipes! what do you think??

blackberry jam cake

one of the few really vivid memories i have of childhood is of getting all scratched up while picking blackberries at circle z ranch in grass valley, ca. my parents were the caretakers of my uncle's ranch in grass valley for most of my elementary school years, and we spent countless weekends staying in the log cabin there. there was a wide, shallow creek that cut through the property, lined with birch trees and flat pale stones perfect for skipping. the sun would predictably dapple through said trees, producing that golden, buttery light that flashback are made of. it was on the banks of this creek that the blackberry bushes grew and my brother, my cousin, and i would spend hours and hours sorting through the rough tangle to get a few handfuls of anemic berries. my whole childhood was a quest to get enough blackberries to bake a pie and despite many, many scrapes and many, many hours, this never happened.

so when i saw this blackberry jam cake on 101 cookbooks, i was hoping for a revelation. i've grown up enough to no longer crave the sticky sweetness of a traditional blackberry pie, but not really enough to resist a caramel-like glaze on a dense, blackberry jam-infused cake. grace was duly skeptical, but the picture on the website convinced her (imho, all recipes should have pictures) and there we were, 2am on a Saturday, making this cake. somehow that was the only time we had.

luckily, the cake was easy, and from what i could tell from the murmurs of contentment from friends who ate it, i think pretty good.

blackberry jam cake, adapted from 101 cookbooks

1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 taspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
6 tablespoons butter
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 eggs
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 cup blackberry jam
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
5 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

reheat oven to 350. butter a 7-inch Bundt pan. mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

cream butter and brown sugar until light. beat in eggs, one at a time. beat in sour cream. stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture until barely blended. stir in jam and nuts. pour into buttered pan. bake until done, about 30 minutes. when cool, invert the cake onto a platter and ice with quick brown-sugar icing.

combine brown sugar, cream, butter, and salt and cook slowly until it just bubbles. remove from heat. cool slightly, then add vanilla. beat the icing until it can be spread.

oh and (sorry for the burying-the-lede part!) ummm, columbia business school accepted me as part of the class of 2011. they must be a little crazy, or not realize that i'm terrible at math, but in any case- yay! i felt like i've been on the precipice of something lately, and it was either going to be school, a house, or a baby. i think my parents would have had a heart attack at the latter two, so for now, school will suffice. my brother thinks i should get an attaché case- hahaha! i'm sticking to my beat-up tote bag with bacon and eggs on the front thankyouverymuch. but don't worry, not much will change here on caketime and i promise to never use the word amortization.

sadie + money

one part of the exciting news at caketime is that i have a new online finance column! yes, that sounds super boring, but i'm targeting teenage girls, and i'll try to make it a little fun.

i've always felt that the teen girl demographic is one of the most important ones for financial literacy educators to reach, and yet the most elusive. they only care about money in order to spend it, and they really, really, don't have the patience to sit and listen to some ol' boring person blabber on about interest rates. but they are extremely heavily marketed to, and have mostly disposable income, and so very much internalize messages the media sends about shopping creating your self worth, and needing more, newer, stuff constantly. and obviously this also very much applies to the post-college woman as well, i think. if we approach learning about money just like we approach any other health/wellness topic, women would jump right on the finance bandwagon. what is needed is a way to reach them that's familar, and integrate finances into everyday life seamlessly, while still teaching them the basics.

so when sadie magazine invited me to start writing a regular column on money, i was thrilled! go check out the first column now!

may day donuts

before i inundate you with the many baked goods we've made in the past three weeks, let's mix it up and try these on for size:

maybe i should have posted these sometime ago, on april 20th perhaps? (mom, dad, if you're reading this, you should probably stop here...) those days are far behind me now, but there were quite a few april 20th's and may 1st's (may day is jay day, at least it was in san francisco when i was in high school) when eating this whole plate of donuts was totally, completely, possible (and pretty probable too).

now, my association with these donuts is much more respectable. two saturdays a month i teach a class on money management to adults who live in public housing. grace picks me up after the class, and after 5 hours straight of talking about money, the only thing i want to do is stuff my face with jelly donuts, washed down with chocolate milk. i usually get through about one and a half donuts- although not for lack of trying. the ones above are from peter pan bakery in greenpoint. they are some of the freshest, most authentically donut-y donuts in the city, the donut plant not withstanding. maybe the best aspect of peter pan is that there are two different creme filling options: bavarian creme, which is thicker and more custardy and white creme, which is fluffy and similar to frosting. get both. and a jelly too. i know i've blogged about these donuts before, but i think on this day, if you're 'celebrating', they're worth a second mention.

peter pan bakery

727 Manhattan Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11211

devil dogs + cats

have i any childhood nostalgia for devil dogs, i would have led with some adorable story about how much i loved them, and how my mom never let me have them, and how as a adult i've rebelled by making this cake in homage to them, but i have none. my mom basically let me eat anything i wanted (thanks mom?), so devil dogs are blurred in my memory along with dunkaroos, hohos, and those disgustingly good fruit pies.

nevertheless, i think we can all agree that chocolate + marshmallow is a universally delicious combination, and we need no childhood excuse to recreate this treat in a slightly more acceptable form. this marshmallow icing is divine, btw, and so so easy to make. this isn't a suggestion or anything, but it seems like it would potentially be good over some chocolate ice cream maybe? with a banana and some hot fudge too?

devil dog cake, adapted from gourmet magazine

2 cups flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups milk

2 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

make cake:
preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour an 8-inch square cake pan (2 inches deep), or a 9 inch round pan. whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

beat together butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. add eggs 1 at a time, beating well, then beat in vanilla. add flour mixture and milk alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing until just combined.

pour batter into cake pan and smooth top, then bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes. cool in pan on a rack 1 hour.

make frosting:
combine frosting ingredients with a pinch of salt in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water and beat with a handheld electric mixer at high speed until frosting is thick and fluffy, 6 to 7 minutes. Remove bowl from heat and continue to beat until slightly cooled. mound frosting on top of cake.

turn broiler on high. stick the whole cake into the broiler for about 1 min. watch it closely- it can burn. remove cake when slightly bronzed. you'll get that lovely toasted marshmallow flavor on top.

this is a little tricky, b/c for me this is basically a pantry cake. i'm guessing it would cost you around $25 to buy all the ingredients for this in full quantities. honestly, you should just buy all the ingredients anyway so you have this cake at your disposal any time.

and because, really, this is a blog about my cats. don't they look like they're smiling in this picture?!

starting seeds

this post is a little belated. these seeds were soon seedlings, and now are fully adolescent sprouts. i was terribly nervous about growing things from seeds this season, but thankfully i was talked through it by an experienced gardener (thanks lis!) and now have chard, broccoli, green beans and arugula happily soaking in the sun on my fire escape.

this weekend was already time for re-planting. did you know that 5 gallon buckets are just as good as fancy pots? and about 5 times cheaper? if you just drill holes in the bottom, you're good to go. i also made use of a rubbermaid storage bin, and soon, (maybe too soon according to grace) will make a worm house for my compost out of a similar bin. all of this is just to say that my rant last year about gardening being expensive is only partly true; the containers can be much cheaper than you think.

oh and while i was sifting through last years pots to reuse all the soil i found at least 15 whole peanuts! do you think those squirrels brought them all the way from the five guys on 7th and 5th!? where did they come from? i sprinkled cinnamon around all my plants so that the squirrels don't dig them up this year!

swedish chef

there is lots and lots going on at caketime this month- i have loads of cakes to catch you up on, and other exciting developments, but until i get a break from the crushing amount of work i have (i also have a REAL job that, despite what it seems, can be pretty demanding), this will have to suffice.

when grace and i lived in san fransisco, i came home one day to this mini-kitchen in our kitchen. grace had purchased it and then left to do some errands. naturally, i squealed a little and then started opening all the mini-cupboards, and pouring liquid in all the mini-pots. by the time grace got home i had started to make a mini-soup in the largest stockpot- the broth was a mixture of milk and water, with some dried herbs thrown in for color. it was adorable, and i was helping the swedish chef stir it with the provided wooden spoon (before you decide i'm crazy, remember that i did list "puppets" as one of my interests, so at least i'm up front about it) and scheming up something to chop with the plastic mini-cleaver.

grace, having purchased it as a rare collectible, was NOT HAPPY (i'm being kind here) that i was seriously compromising the set by making such a ruckus. however, when she asked "what are you doing?" in a plaintive, stressed, way, i chose to ignore her and answered, "making soup and salad" like it was the obvious thing in the world. since, we've really taken to menacing the swedish chef's kitchen in all sorts of ways; this friendly invasion of brits just being the last.

music, lyrics

a few semi-related things that have caught my attention lately:

1. thanks to my internet crush, nico muhly, i've discovered david lang. i don't really like most music, for no other reason than impatience, but this is really easy to start listening to and also very thoughtful and lovely. his 'little match girl passion' is a little like tinkling bells, but voices instead.

2. national poetry month usually gets swept under the rug, but this year there are a few websites worth checking out. PoemsOutLoud has poets reading their own poetry, and the selection is pretty spectacular. i'm espcially drawn to john kinsella's reading. maybe because, to be honestly trite, every thing sounds better with an accent.
the second website is a little cheesy, but super lovable. regular ol' folks reading their favorite poems, with a couple minutes of human interest story thrown in for good measure. there's the construction worker who's feelin' walt whitman, the over-eager fifth grader, and then...bill and hilary clinton! this website is actually kind of old, but a hilarious throwback to the clinton era and the silly/sweet things politicians do. come on barack, where's your favorite poem?

3. usually i'm not a fan of these "magic-in-everyday-places" events, but since all the rest of the items on this list are sort of exceptions to my rule, i thought i'd throw this in there as well:

not your mom's casserole

actually, my mom doesn't make casseroles- thank god! her laziness manifests itself as cornish game hens, which i had enough times during my childhood to consider them the standard go-to meal.

(aside: when i was about twelve, in the land before cell phones, i was home alone with my baby brother and my mom was stuck in traffic. i was terrified that since my mom wasn't home we wouldn't have dinner, and actually tried to prepare cornish hens myself, thinking that covering them in kellogs' frosted flakes cereal was a good idea. obviously i was a crazy cook even back then!)

however, theoretically, mom's do make casseroles. and when they do they are usually a riff on campbell's soup, in solid form. sometimes they are actually tasty, like the ubiquitous thanksgiving green bean version, but they are always loaded with things that aren't so fresh, and aren't so good for you. which is why this casserole is such a revelation: fresh, tasty, healthy AND easy.

while this version is a pretty wintery one (butternut squash, kale, olives, feta), the basic plan is adaptable to any season. i can see this in the summer with zucchinis, cherry tomatoes, ricotta salata and basil. you can even spice the yogurt with curry powder for an indian flavor. also, a great go-to meal if you're stressed, or have to do your taxes. stick it in the oven, relax, and come back to find a delicious healthy meal. which is more than i can say for those sugar coated hens!

pasta casserole , adapted from 101 cookbooks

zest of one large lemon
8 ounces whole wheat pasta (we used pipe rigate)
1 cup butternut squash, chopped fairly small
3 handfuls kale loosely chopped
2 cups plain Greek yogurt (we used 2%)
2 egg yolks
3 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup olives, pitted and torn into pieces (we used kalamatas)
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup fresh rosemary, chopped

preheat oven to 400F degrees, with a rack in the middle. butter a 8x12-inch baking dish and sprinkle with lemon zest and set aside.

bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it generously, and cook the pasta until al dente. right before you are done cooking the pasta, stir in the butternut squash and kale - for maybe 1 full minute. drain and run cold water over to stop cooking process.

whisk together the yogurt, eggs, garlic, salt and rosemary in a large mixing bowl. add the pasta-squash-kale mixture to the yogurt mixture and stir in half of the almonds. pour everything baking dish and sprinkle with olives and feta, and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. remove from oven and serve sprinkled with the rest of the almonds.

lemon: $.50
pasta: $2.50
kale: $2.00
squash: $3.00 (they're about $2/lb, you're going to want 1 1/2 lbs)
almonds: $2.00 (these are the most expensive ingredient here by volume: you can easily sub them out for a cheaper nut)
yogurt: $5.00 (this is for the fage brand- it's a little pricer, but it's really good)
olives: $2.00
feta: $2.00 (this is half of a 8 ounce package)
about $20 and change, including the stuff you had at home. considering this feeds 8 people easily, it is a really great deal, despite the expensive yogurt and almonds.


not a typical way to start out a post about a tropical island, but, hey, i never said i was typical anyway. here it is:

you wouldn't have wanted to miss this! as part of the fire-sale deal we got on our tickets to belize, we had a stopover in the dallas airport. while at first this seemed inconvenient, once grace mentioned to me those three sacred letters, BBQ, i knew this was all part of a larger plan. miraculously, unlike laguardia, newark and jfk, the dallas airport has edible food in a relaxing, non-toxic setting. cousin's is locally known bbq that has an outpost at the airport. not only does it have the requisite brisket and ribs, but they also had a uniquely texan concoction that deserves to be documented here: frito pie. a bag of fritos is dumped on a plate and steaming chopped brisket is ladled over, along with a generous squirt of bbq sauce. add some sour cream, cheese and scallions (just for color!), and you've got yourself the single most delicious thing in the state of texas. i'd go back just for this, no joke.

anyway, on to more expected things. yes, there was this:

and lots of this:

and even a manatee, which was pathetically anticlimatic.

it was the single most relaxing place i've ever been, and in good karmic fashion, i got horribly, terribly, skin-peelingly sunburnt. and am STILL!

but let's focus on to what we're really here to talk about: the food. while you can't get the options you could in hawaii, what belize lacks in variety it makes up in freshness. lemon meringue pie still warm from the oven, sold to you "curbside" at an outdoor reastaurant? yup, and so sweet and tart it made my teeth hurt.

fish so fresh you actually saw the fisherman scale it on the boat, and efficently gut and slice it into the filets slathered with garlic butter currently on the grill?

i didn't have high hopes for the complementary hotel breakfast, but with fresh baked homemade biscuts and cinnamon buns, greek yogurt and granola, a wide variety of ripe, just picked fruit, and freshly squeezed juices, it soon became an extended affair.

we did make a huge mistake by not eating enough pupusas. we put them off for the first two days, too focused on seafood, and by the time we realized how delicious they are, spicy and crunchy and sweet, the stand was closed for the weekend.

and oddly, miraculously, enough, my intense craving for fried chicken was satisfied fully by the most surprisingly good fried chicken i've ever had. i would never have suspected i would get great fried chicken in belize, but that's part of the magic of the place.

**btw, we went to caye caulker. we stayed at the iguana reef inn, ate at rose's, jolly roger's, syd's and the papusa stand across from the soccer field. we hung out with the folks at ezboy tours, who are lovely and have a cute dog named foxy brown.

bottle beach, brooklyn

before i lose all my respectable person cred by posting pictures of belize, i wanted to show you this:

there are beaches in brooklyn too. although instead of having white sand and swim up bars they have trash and horse bones. wait wait- it is not just regular trash; it's antique trash! old bottles, shoe leather, and newspapers from the 1930's and 40's. and actually, you can find huge conch shells too.

informally known as bottle beach, this stretch of bay near floyd bennett field is actually (romantically!) called dead horse bay. apparently, what is now floyd bennett field used to be a much smaller island called barren island which NYC used for landfills and horse rendering (read: hooves made into jello). over time, the municipal government expanded this area of land for use as an airfield, and closed up all the landfills. due to erosion in the last 25 years, parts of the landfills have been exposed and tidal currents carry the trash ashore at dead horse bay. because the trash is "washed" and bouyed by the seawater, it often washes ashore cleaned and intact. amazingly, you can find thick glass bottles from the 50's that held even the most mundane things: clorox, asprin, ink.

on a foggy morning in winter, beach combing almost alone, picking up all variety of treasure, i felt almost as happy and relaxed as i did in belize. almost.

to get to bottle beach: take flatbush ave. all the way to floyd bennett field. when you pass the abandoned hanger, you will take a left at the next stop light if you are in a bike. if you are in a car, you will take a right. there is a parking lot and a bus stop. you will know it is the right place if you can see the toll entrance to the bridge from here. if not, keep going. park your car at the parking lot and walk across the road to where a tiny path emerges from the woods. if you're in a bike, taking that left should have led you right to the path. follow the path until you come to a fork with three options- you're going to want to take the rightmost option. you'll walk about 5 mins. until you get to high dunes at which point you're steps away. i know it sounds totally sketchy and borderline ridiculous, but trust me it is the best way.

what you'll find: the trail dumps you out in what seems like the middle of the beach, but if you walk way far out to your left you'll find the beach hooks back around. at the back inlet, you'll find old shoes, lots of rusty iron, some avant-garde driftwood and huge bright orange shells dyed by leather. over the left side you'll find larger bottles and newer garbage- i think some people use this as a current dump too?

note: it feels so foreign to talk about this in brooklyn, but make sure to check the tidal predictions. going at low tide is ideal.

my bracket

as is pretty much everyone right now, i'm embroiled in this ncaa business. however, my heart is not really in it. i'm confused about the teams, not sure about the standings, and honestly, the only reason i picked gongaza is the funny name. this bracket though, i can get behind:

i will take issue with standing rib roast winning though. i've met many standing rib roasts over the years, but none have ever come close to the deliciousness of a regular 'ol slice of salty, crispy, porky bacon. and it's really no contest with those artisanal bacon slices that are like inches thick. but other than that, i'm all about this bracket.

grapefruit salad

a much prettier food picture, and more forward looking as well. i'm headed off to belize later this week (crazy, right?!) and can't wait for the tropical fruit salad breakfast to commence. in the meantime, i've been keeping myself busy with a visit from my baby brother, and in the middle of all this new-york style eating (pizza, wings, ramen, crack pie), this fresh, homemade salad looks like a beacon of the spring to come. i actually made it a couple of weeks ago, when the weather was even more dire. the bursts of grapefruit, coupled with the smoothness of the fresh goat cheese was like a burst of summer, and made my cold night seem very misplaced. oddly enough, the peak of grapefruit season is from january through april, so scoop them up while they're still good. this salad is a tasty way to reintroduce your taste buds to bright flavors after the long, dark winter, just like i'll be trying to reintroduce my skin to the concept of sun when i'm in belize. bring on the sunscreen!!

spinach salad with grapefruit

serves 4
4 1/2 cups spinach
1 whole ruby red grapefruit, peeled and cut into segments with a sharp paring knife
2 ounces fresh goat cheese (herbs optional)
sliced almonds

french vinaigrette
1 teaspoon dried herbes de Provence
5 tablespoons white wine vinegar
5 tablespoons olive oil
½ small clove garlic, grated
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon salt

put all ingredients in a jar (if you're going for consistency with the french theme, those bonne maman jelly jars are great for this) and shake it up. dancing while shaking is highly encouraged too.
assemble spinach, crumble goat cheese, dole out the grapefruit, sprinkle almonds, dress with vinaigrette, and eat.

spinach: $2.50
goat cheese: $4
grapefruit: $1
sliced almonds: $2.00
total: $9.50
per serving: $2.38
for a quick trip to springtime, i'd say close to $3 isn't bad.

chicken + sausage stew

this stew is probably not the prettiest thing ever posted on this blog, but with the weather much colder than necessary, its depth and warmth make up for the hodgepodge look. if you're only one, this recipe will easily feed you for a week. if you, like me, get tired of eating the same thing over and over, the leftovers freeze really well, which means you'll always have something to remedy these bleak, cold days.

yes, i'm still making these "seasonal" stews, but really i'm dreaming of ice cream dripping on the's time already!

chicken + sausage stew, adapted from gourmet

1 pound sausage (i used andouille), cut into rounds
8 large chicken thighs (about 2 1/2-3 pounds)
2 large onions, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
6 large garlic cloves, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon paprika
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes with juices
1 14 1/2-ounce can low-salt chicken broth
1 can cannellini beans
juice of half a lemon
3/4 cup pitted and sliced kalamata olives

aaute sausage in a large dutch oven over medium heat until brown, about 4 minutes. transfer to large bowl. sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. add chicken to pot and cook until browned, about 3 minutes per side. transfer chicken to bowl with sausage. pour off all but 1 tablespoon pan drippings.

add onions and bell peppers to pot; sauté until golden brown, about 15 minutes. add garlic, oregano, thyme and paprika; sauté 2 minutes. return sausage, chicken and any accumulated juices to pot. add tomatoes with juices, chicken broth, lemon juice and 1 cup water. bring to boil. reduce heat; cover and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 25 minutes.

uncover pot. add olives and simmer until chicken is very tender and liquid is reduced to thin sauce consistency, about 40 minutes. add beans and season to taste with salt and pepper. i actually prepared this a day ahead of time and refrigerated it overnight. we just reheated it over medium-low heat for 45 mins. serve over couscous with a big fresh green salad.

oilcloth lunch bag

years ago, i promised you i'd try to make an oilcloth lunch bag from a martha stewart tutorial. however, on closer inspection, i realized her tutorial was woefully lacking in detail for a novice seamstress like myself. despite this setback, in a great effort to please, i pressed on and came up with this:

my oilcloth, (from ikea- a surprisingly good source for fabric!) was a little looser than martha's. this meant that my lunch bag doesn't stand up as well, and serves as more of a lunch sack than a proper bag. no matter- it still holds my lunch, contains spills, is pretty, and easily reusable, and was the product of my own two hands. i didn't bother with the velcro, although it would be very easy to attach. even with martha's lacking direction, it didn't take me too terribly long. a good project for a rainy afternoon; you can make a whole slew of these for presents too!

(ah! i just found this site with the pattern! this would have made my life much easier!)

-i'm assuming you have a sewing machine. if you don't, you can still do this project by hand with a little more time.
-fabric was $7.50 per yard. you can make approx. 2 of these.
total cost: $4.25 cents, plus you'll have lots of extra scraps of fabric

hudson valley winter

a couple of weeks ago we trekked out to the lower catskills for a long weekend. here's grace's photo-collage of the trip. it includes such things as: an abandoned bus bound for san fransisco, an unexpected swan, fresh beet juice mixed with seltzer, being torn between frank gehry and trees, more doornobs than you could ever want, 8 year olds policing their buffalo fields, ladies and men, cooking grits, and yes, that's right, vienetta! god bless huge suburban groceries stores and the endless desires of their customers!

burgers i have known

we had a visitor for a couple of weeks this february/march and wanted to make something special to celebrate his arrival. since his last name is burgerman, we naturally wanted to make some special fancy burgers, but in a cruel twist of luck, we discovered he is a vegetarian. maybe his vegetarianism is borne out of a deep concern with the over-commercialized meat industry, or the growing negative effects raising cattle has on our environment, but it could also be fear of not being able to fully live up to the name "burgerman". being a vegetarian just seems easier, i guess.

with a lack of traditional options to choose from, we knew this was the right time to attempt the "BURGERCAKE". friends, i deeply, deeply, regret not showing this to you sooner. it is the pride and joy of this blog and was truly the best burger i have known. (jon, you're a close second!)

after doing loads of online research on burgercakes, we settled on the following items to represent the traditional burger ingredients:

bun: yellow cake, 2 large layers (one bigger than the other)
sesame seeds: puffed rice- rice krispies would have been fine, but since our co-op doesn't carry scary GM food, we had to settle for the hippie variety.
meat: chocolate cake, we only used one round for this, and cut it in half with dental floss. also, carefully cut along the edges of the cake to create the rough, meat-y, look.
mayo: white icing, from a can. i didn't see any other burgercakes with mayo, but grace is from the south, so that means mayo on everything. i'm happy to oblige, because mayo is damn good.
ketchup + mustard: dyed white icing. we used gel dye from wilton. the colors were very rich, but we did use quite a bit of red for the ketchup.
lettuce: dessicated coconut dyed with a bit of green food coloring- i think it's an amazing resemblance!
cheese: if you know me, you know i think a burger without cheese is worst than no burger at all, which is why this burgercake has large slices of mango sandwiched between the two faux meat patties.
there was also quite a bit of chocolate frosting hidden between the layers, because, well, why not?

here is my cheeseburger CD case beside the burgercake so you'll have an idea of scale, i would say it was about 1:4. also, i'd tell you how much it was, but since it was a gift of sorts, it would be a little uncouth. what i can tell you is that the amount of sheer pleasure i got at opening the fridge to this mega-burger was worth at least 10 times the cost.

wall collage

there was some serious debate about what to put on the wall in our spare room. in the end, we just decided that more was better. just to the right of this collage is a huge marimekko print, and to the left is some rapidly decreasing empty wall space. we used some cigar boxes i found as shadow boxes, and used plain ribbon and binder clips to hang up anything that wasn't in a frame. all in all, it fits perfectly with our general "more is more" aesthetic, and provides ample procrastination material by being directly adjacent to the computer. and obviously when hammy is sitting just so, i'm totally powerless to focus on anything else.

chocolate croissants + jojo's

if you live near a trader joe's and you like chocolate, you are going to be very glad you read this blog. way back in august, my tito (tito is the diminutive of tio, which means uncle in spanish. the only equivalent word in english is for the female version- auntie. i guess maybe unk?) javo (are you still reading this blog?!) randomly surprised me and my brother with some gift certificates to trader joe's. he also mentioned in passing some frozen chocolate croissants that he loved. i gratefully pocketed the gift certificates and then promptly forgot all about them until this past week. walking home from an impromptu dinner at momofuku ssam bar with grace, we noticed that the usually mobbed trader joe's near union square was suspiciously empty looking. so we stopped in to use the gift cards- and i thankfully remembered about the chocolate croissants! they had them in stock; packs for 4 for about $4 each. i would be ashamed to say to say we got five boxes, but after eating them i realize that it was actually a brilliant move.

coming out of the frozen wrapping they look like nothing special. but if you leave them out at room temperature overnight they transform into these huge clouds of dough. both grace and i were shocked to the point of laughter by how huge they got- like those plastic dinosaurs you get in chinatown that expand almost indefinitely when submurged in water. i was so tempted to poke the soft dough to see if it would deflate, but for the sake of my breakfast, i controlled myself. after about 25 mins. in the oven, we were rewarded with these flaky friends:

oh, and while you're at trader joe's picking these babies up, make sure to get a box of candy cane joe-joes. i'm super late to the delicious train on this, but i've just learned of the crazy goodness that is the joe-joe. a cross between a thin mint and an oreo, with none of the girl scout/nabisco guilt, these totally hit the spot just about any time. a cup of tea and an handful of these did wonders for my sore throat today. or maybe i'm just imagining that?

my funny valentine

better late than never right?
i'm never going to come close to the Obento! set on flickr, but this arrangement was well received. the tofu was a little tricky to work with, but i think i got the message across.

and another sweet + easy valentine/lovey craft:

i just replaced the tags on a couple of my favorite teas with cut out red hearts secured with a little glue. this project took all of 5 mins, and left a very pretty by-product of lacy red heart-shaped hole paper. i'm tempted to cut out all sorts of cute shapes and glue them to all my tea bags! via craftershock.

butternut squash soup/orange

gah, i'm sick with a terrible sore throat today! the worst thing for me about being sick is fact that everything tastes a little muted. fortunately, you don't have to worry about that with this soup- the flavor is turned up so high that even on a sick day it's bright and bold enough to still taste great.

i've made this soup at least half a dozen times and each time it's been slightly different, which is part of the beauty of this recipe. as long as you have a butternut squash and some stock (or bullion cubes), you have a delicious soup. and while it may taste different every time, it is always a buttery, golden orange. served with some salty capers and homemade garlic croutons, it's the perfect thing for chasing these winter colds away.

butternut squash soup
, recipe by me!

2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped small
2 garlic cloves, grated
3-4 1/4 inch rounds of fresh ginger
pinch nutmeg
fresh sage, chopped fine
2 3/4 lbs. butternut squash, peeled and seeded and cut into 3/4 inch cubes
4 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth
1/2 cup heavy cream

melt butter in large dutch oven. add onions and cook until softened and just starting to caramelize. add garlic, ginger, nutmeg and sage, cook for 1 min. add squash and toss to coat. cook for 8-10 mins, until squash begins to soften. add broth, and simmer for 20-25 mins, until squash is totally softened. remove ginger pieces. puree in blender until very smooth (it usually takes me 3 batches) and return to pot. stir in cream, salt and pepper to taste. you might need to add a little more water if it is too thick.

to make garlic croutons, cut a stale baguette into bite-sized pieces. toss with grated garlic and olive oil and toast at 350F for 10 mins.

garnish soup with drained capers and garlic croutons.
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