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.
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