Friday, March 30, 2012

EAT IT // Beet Cake


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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




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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

MAKE IT // Cake Hats


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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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



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

Monday, March 26, 2012

{I HATE ALL MY CLOTHES} Repurposing


A lot of fashion bloggers that I follow are constantly posting about new outfits, with (what seems like) a never-ending supply of new clothes. I'll admit, they always look great... but I can't seem to figure out how they afford all these new looks.

The rest of us, who are living on a budget, have to get creative with our outfits - which sometimes means re-wearing our clothes in a different way.

Since I'm a big believer in the "only-have-a-few-pieces-that-you-really-love" rule, I re-wear my clothes a lot. But, I try to mix it up by wearing them in unexpected ways.

Take for instance, the above dress, shoes and blouse. I've worn them all in other fashion posts, but never together.


Wearing the dress as a jumper gives the outfit a whole different look - with a retro/seventies vibe.

I wore it to a recent craft/networking event at Anthropologie, and got lots of compliments for the way I layered the blouse. It's not something I would normally do, but I took a risk and... success!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Evolving


This week, I took an online class for bloggers/Etsy shop owners (which was AWESOME, by the way.) But, the instructor made some really good points about the evolution of our craft.

She said small business owners like us should be constantly aspiring to make their work better: cleaner, more efficient, more engaging. She said that we shouldn't be afraid to continually re-evaluate our goals and the path we're taking to reach those goals. It's OK to make changes to your product, branding, photography, schedule, timelines, etc. to better your business along the way. 

Since I started working from home, I've felt overwhelmed. I've been challenged to make all my work excellent. But, an excellent blog post takes a long time (that "Tangy Pepper Pecan Brie" one from yesterday? Yea, 4 hours.} It's hard to focus on my other life pursuits (my Etsy shop for one) when I'm spending all my time blogging. 

So, I'm taking that instructor's advice and deciding to evolve. Initially, this means I'm going to cut back on my blog posts. From now on, you can expect THREE excellent posts a week. On Monday, you'll get some fashion insights. On Wednesday, I'll give you a craft. And on Friday, a recipe. Every once in a while, you may get a few extra tidbits... but for the most part, just count on three.

 Ahhhh. Evolution feels good!

{The above picture has nothing to do with anything... I'm just kind of obsessed with Max Wagner these days.}

Thursday, March 22, 2012

{Eat It} Tangy Pepper Pecan Brie


Everyone needs one.

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

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

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

To start, you'll need the following:


First, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

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


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


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

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


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

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

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

{Make It} An Easy Spring Bouquet

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

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

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

To start, you'll need a few things:


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


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

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


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



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

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

Now, how easy was that?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Finally




[photo from here]

Shoe Your Furniture


Like many young couples, Zach and I have a fair amount of furniture from Ikea. Although we try to avoid pieces that are obvious (seriously people, stop buying the LACK coffee table!), sometimes it's unavoidable. Couches are expensive - and when you need one on a budget, Ikea is the easiest option.

So, you can imagine my delight when I found Pretty Pegs, a new company that makes after-market legs for Ikea furniture. They're such a fun way to make your Ikea stuff different from your friends' Ikea stuff. (Now your couch can have great shoes too!)


PS. I'm kind of obsessed with the girl's outfit in the picture above. I'm totally going to wear my white converse with leggings now. (Those Scandinavians. So hot.)

Monday, March 19, 2012

It's Hat Time


Marilyn knows what's up.

Although it rained all weekend in LA, warm weather is just around the corner. And, as things start heating up - I'm getting excited about breaking out my stash of hats.

Protecting my skin and looking fashionable at the same time? Yes please.

{photo from here}

{Thrifted} The Little Black Dress


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

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


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

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

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

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

Friday, March 16, 2012

{One.Two.Three}

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

Be blessed this Friday..

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Spring + Emerson Fry = Loveliness


Emerson Fry released their new spring line today.

Yum.

New Routines

I've learned that I work better when I have routines and boundaries. So, when I decided to start working from home, I knew I needed a new schedule.

Four days in, it seems to be working...





Simple, but perfect.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

{New York} What We Did


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

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

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




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

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



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

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


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

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


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

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



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

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


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

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


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

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

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