Saturday, May 25, 2013

Thrifting Score

I scored big time thrifting today!  My mom and my sister Alli and I hit up 2 of our favorite local thrift stores-Goodwill and Teen Challenge.  Teen Challenge is a religious based rehab program for men who have nowhere left to go (they have the thrift store, a strawberry farm and a lawn mowing service that are all well known around town), and you know all about Goodwill.  The black eyelet tank is from J Crew, the blue gingham short sleeved button down is H&M, the hot pink lace skirt is brand new from Target and I didn't recognize the brands on the chambray shirt of the blue tank top.

They're in the wash right now....and I'm already planning how to wear it all!  Thrift stores are SO hit or miss, but then you have days like this where the time you spend makes it all worth while.  The percentage of thrifted clothes vs. new clothes in my closet has been shifting more and more towards's just so affordable, and it's much better for the earth.  I've gotten to be really selective-just because it's only $4 doesn't mean it's a good deal if you never end up wearing it! This does make it easier to give trends you're not sure about a try. I bought a maxi skirt from Goodwill last year; if I didn't wear it, not a big loss, but it was a trend I wanted to try.

Have you had any luck at the thrift stores lately?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Smitten...with this cookbook

I swung by our amazing library on Monday during my lunch break to pick up a book I had on hold that had come in (Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, which was very good) and did a quick peruse of the "what's new" shelves.  I've been a Smitten Kitchen follower for years, and being in quite the meal rut lately, I of course snagged the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.

Later that night I kicked back on the porch swing while Oscar and Ninja played in the backyard and started tabbing recipes....2 pads of post-its later....

I basically tabbed every other recipe.  It all just looked SO good, and her obsessive recipe testing guarantees it's not going to be a flop.  So far, I've made the zucchini ribbons with almond pesto (very tasty, though I sliced the zucchini too thick and need to try this one again; user error on my part as I can do like 1 setting on our mandolin grater) and the shaved asparagus pizza with her rushed pizza dough.  Oh. My. Goodness.

Never in a million years would it have occurred to me to thinly shave asparagus (which sounded really hard, but was a piece of cake with a potato peeler) and put it on top of a pizza.  I'm also a huge tomato sauce fan, so a sauceless pizza.....but I took one bite and fell in LOVE, this was out of this world.  Full disclosure:  Ryan got his own pizza with tomato sauce, cheese and mushrooms.  The asparagus was too "weird" for him.  

I will say, the next time I have this on the menu, I'll make the dough on a Sunday, freeze it then grab it out of the freezer the day I want to make it. Even with it being a "rushed" pizza dough recipe, it still took 45 minutes just for the dough, and that's too long for a weeknight dinner.

I haven't been this fired up about cooking in I don't know how long...maybe never?  There's a killer veggie ratoutille that WILL be made when our CSA ramps up at the beginning on June, popcorn cookies (with actual popcorn kernels in them, the anticipation is killing me on this one), lemon bars (for Ryan), a fruit breakfast crisp, shells with peas and a light alfredo....I could go on and on, and probably will as I start to cook my way through this!

I am a big library user, and really only buy books at garage sales or thrift stores.  But this book might be what I spend my $25 Barnes and Noble gift card on, that's how amazing it is.  I have stuff to make for dinner for weeks now!

Have you made anything particularly tasty lately? I know some of you are doing the Whole30 Cleanse, (Jessi I am super sorry about that Tiramisu recipe from earlier this week!),  I'd love to hear about some of the recipes you're using for that! 

Monday, May 13, 2013


I worked at Bella Italia, this cute Italian place downtown, all through high school and college.  A pastry chef named Pat worked there too and made all of our desserts in house; whenever she leveled off the layer cakes, she'd leave a huge platter of cake shards and whip up 3 or 4 flavors of frosting for us to dip it in.  She was amazing!  Before I left, Pat graciously wrote out her recipe for my mom's favorite dessert, a Tiramisu layer cake.  I make it every year for Mother's Day and again for my mom's birthday in July.  It's not at all a traditional Tiramisu, with the ladyfingers soaked in espresso; but I really like the traditional Tiramisu flavors in a layer cake format (I think the ladyfingers get soggy!).  

This cake is a process, a labor of love!  My favorite way to cook it is to assemble each component separately the week before I'm serving the cake, that way you're just left to whip the whipped cream and assemble the cake.
Components all ready to go!
  • 2 boxes Duncan Hines white cake mix
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • Powdered sugar
  • 2-4 tablespoons Kahlua (depending of course upon how "spiked" you like your cake)
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup leftover coffee
  • Vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (or 1 cup if you really dig ganache)
  • 8 oz. cream cheese

Step 1:  The cake layers.
You'll be making 4 round cake layers total.  I only have 2 9" round cake pans so these get made in 2 batches.  I grease the pans really well with Crisco and then flour them thoroughly; that combined with Calphalon coated pans makes my cake layers slide right out (for the most part).  

Once your 4 cake layers are baked and cooled, flip them over so they're right side up.  Even off the layer; shave it down so the top of the cake is a relatively even, flat surface.  At this point, I wrap them in plastic wrap and freeze them;  they're sturdier to handle when frozen.

Step 2:  Ganache
I make 1/2 the ganache Pat's original recipe called for, as the cake is so rich as is.  If you are a big chocolate fan, then make the ganache using the full cup of chocolate chips.  Melt 1/2 cup chocolate chips (I use 1/4 cup milk chocolate and 1/4 cup dark chocolate, Ghiradelli chocolate chips) with a splash of heavy cream; 45 seconds in my microwave does it.  I make this and then keep it in the fridge until Cake Day.

Step 3:  Cream Cheese
Mix 8 oz. cream cheese (this goes easier if it's softened) with a couple of teaspoons of powdered sugar (or to taste).  Package and keep in the fridge until Cake Day.

Step 4:  Coffee Mixture
Mix 1 tablespoon corn syrup with 1/2 cup coffee and 1-2 tablespoons of Kahlua.  If you do this with hot coffee it all blends together nicely.  Package and keep in fridge until Cake Day.  (You can make all of the different components on one day if you really wanted to; I've done it before, but you will end up with a crippling amount of dishes.)

Cake Day:  Assembly Time
First you're going to whip the whipped cream.  Dump your pint of whipped cream (minus that splash you used for the ganache) into a stand mixer; add a couple of tablespoons of powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons of vanilla and 1 tablespoon of Kahlua.  Mix on medium until you get whipped cream(4-6 minutes in my mixer). Also heat up your cream cheese mixture (until it's softened and easy to spread) and your ganache (until is liquidy). 

Get out whatever plate you want to serve the cake on; or you can get real fancy and use one of those stiff cardboard rounds, whatever floats your boat.  For Mother's Day yesterday I used a milk glass dish we used at our wedding.  

Get your cake layers out of the freezer and place one on the bottom of the plate.  Drizzle a few spoonfuls of the coffee mixture onto the cake layer, letting it soak into the cake.  Spread a thin, even layer of cream cheese onto the cake.  Add about 2 tablespoons of the whipped cream and spread it thinly and evenly onto the cake.  Now drizzle some ganache, like so:  

Now add your next 2 cake layers, drizzling on coffee, then cream cheese, then whipped cream, then ganache on each layer.  For your final cake layer, crizzle on the coffee and cream cheese.  Then add a big "plop" of whipped cream to the top and start icing that bad boy!  I ice the top, then do a thin layer on the sides, then I go back and add to the sides as whipped cream allows. 

Don't go for perfection with the icing, you've made a gorgeous, delicious homemade cake!  After you get the whipped cream situated, drizzle ganache on the top.  Here's yesterday's finished product:  

Whew!  Now eat a piece, you've earned it :)

What are some of your traditional family desserts that got associated with you or a certain holiday over the years?

Friday, May 3, 2013


Weight.  Lately it's been too all consuming for me, and I just don't know how to make that stop.
I exercise regularly.  I'm not killing myself at the gym 2 hours a day, but I am routinely active every day.  I eat well, better than I even thought (food tracking showed me that much at least).  But a few years ago, these new hips showed up, and I still don't know what to do with them.  I logically know that I am not overweight, but emotionally I am having an increasingly difficult time KNOWING that.

I tried MyFitnessPal, setting the calorie goal far too low for any comfortable and made myself miserable for a month or so, losing my ability to eat when I was hungry and stop when full.  I'd be starving all day, then have 800 calories left I then felt the need to's not like they're going to roll over.  This just wore me out and I finally stopped.

Then I focused on just being regulary active-running, elliptical, workout DVDs.  But still I hated the way I looked.

So I gave LoseIt a try, this time setting the calorie goal to something where I'd lose weight slowly and NOT miserably.  I got within a pound of where I wanted to be, and still felt huge.  I did that in part to show myself that hitting the number on the scale wouldn't make it better, and I was right.

Now I'm in limbo.  My poor husband just wants me to be happy, and is encouraging me to work on body composition and try watching carbs/protein/fat instead of calories.  I dread getting back on the treadmill of tracking and obsessing so I'm hesitant.

What I struggle with most is why eating well and exercising on a regular basis isn't enough for me.  I know by now that what I see in the mirror isn't reality, and without that to trust I don't know where to turn or what to do.  I hate expending so much of my energy and brain power on this stupid cycle of self-loathing.  I wish I could rejoice in how my body moves and the good, whole foods I put into it, but I just keep hitting a roadblock.  I'm just not willing to put myself on an insanely restrictive diet but I'm not happy either.

Sigh.  I guess I need to psych myself up to give the composition game a try...maybe 3rd time would be the charm?

Anyone else struggle with body image and want to share?  Safe space ya'll!  And sorry to be such a gray cloud today...the farmer's market starts back up again tomorrow, I'm sure that will get me back to rights :)