Monday, November 12, 2007

Anyday Recipe - get it while it's hot!

I pick up free recipe cards ALL OVER THE PLACE. If I'm standing in line at Starbucks (or Whole Foods or any store/restaurant that has decided to taunt me with free information) and they have a pastry con coffee recipe card (which they're doing more often, now), I grab it and shove it into my back pocket. If the recipe survives the washing machine, or avoids it all together, I've decided it is worth trying!

Sunday I had a DC Craft Mafia meeting and decided to bake a cake. The recipe I used was from a freebie card I picked up at Whole Foods, wherein they described the wonder and joy of cooking with apples. I love apples. I love cake. I even love Whole Foods. So this plan was fool-proof.

The cake was AM-AZ-ING...almost like an apple upside down cake! The apples were cooked before baking, which helped squeeze out the excess steam/water, so the cake didn't turn all mushy after baking. It also gives the caramelization a head-start, rendering an ooey-gooey delightful top to the sour cream cake base (which is moist and delectable!). The recipe suggested a 9-inch cake pan (which I'm assuming means you could bake it in a 9" Pyrex or something) but I decided to use one of those big tart pans/dishes. I made sure to line the bottom of the oven with foil to catch the syrupy drips.

Here's the recipe! Go forth and enjoy (with a warm cup of Irish Breakfast tea, if you're accepting suggestions)!

Blue Ribbon Apple Cake (Whole Foods/Cook’s Country apple guide)

Apples:
4 tbsp unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing cake pan
½ cup packed light brown sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into ½ inch slices (about 5 cups)

Cake:
½ cup sour cream
1 large egg plus 1 yolk
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into chunks and at room temperature

Heat oven to 350°.

For the apples: Place butter in large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Once butter has stopped foaming, add sugar and stir to combine. Continue to cook until sugar turns dark brown (it should look like dark brown sugar), about 2 minutes, swirling pan occasionally. Add salt and apples and fold with spatula to combine. Cook, stirring often, until apples have softened slightly and juices are thickened and syrupy, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove pan from heat and spoon apples into prepared cake pan.

For the cake: In small bowl, whisk together ¼ cup sour cream, egg, yokk and vanilla until well combined.

Place flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl. Use electric mixer on low speed for 15 seconds to blen. Add butter and remaining ¼ cup sour cream and mix on low speed until dry ingredients are moistened, 1 to 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium and mix for 2 minutes. Add sour cream/egg mixture and beat on medium-high, scraping down sides of bowl, until batter is homogenous and fluffy, about 1 minute.

Spoon batter over apples and gently spread out to thin layer that covers apples. Bake until cake is dark golden brown, feels set, and cake tester comes out clean when inserted in center, 35-40 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes.

Place serving plate over top of pan and invert. Let cake sit inverted for about a minute without tapping or shaking pan. Cake will slowly detach itself. Once cake is on platter, gently remove pan. Serve warm (not hot) or at room temperature.

Next on the list: The Starbucks Cocoa Cinnamon Cake (and this time I'll remember pictures!)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Bread & Puppet?


Discuss.

DC Craft Mutiny Hosts Holiday Booty Market

Hey folks, not only are the artists and crafters in the DC Craft Mutiny KICK ASS, but they are kind and generous too! And you can help! Check out their site for more details, especially the part that reads:

Make something! We are encouraging shoppers to participate in our ornament drive! Make a holiday ornament, bring it priced and ready to hang on our tree. Money raised from holiday ornament sales will be donated to both a food pantry, and also a DC schools arts project (More info coming soon). Show up early to give your ornament more time to sell. We are encouraging both traditional and slightly odd ornaments. Just make something! If you cannot come to the show, but still want to send ornaments, email Tina Seamonster for information.

My List, Check it Twice - Volume 1

Santa Meaghan's List of Christmas Possibilities

THE GIFTS:

1. I love stationery! So much. These cards are from Making It Lovely's indie-shop Pink Loves Brown. They're called "The Periodic Table of Sentiments" and they are absolutely quirky, beautiful, and expertly designed. Hb = Happy Birthday!? Genius. And frankly, while I don't heart Chemistry, I am kind of proud of myself for remembering that the periodic table is an important instrument in the study and practice of Chemistry. My high school Chemistry teacher, Mr. Frank, would be so proud.



2. I found this photographer yesterday, while strolling around Etsy. Her shop is filled with some of the most whimsical, thoughtful and beautiful photography I've seen in a while. I'm most fond of photography when it involves things I see. That is to say, I enjoy seeing artists make the ordinary extraordinary. In this photo, she's taken an every day place, The Library, and made it so warm and interesting by using vintage-esque tones and taking a reverse shot of the sign. I love it. And all of her other work. Find her at: AliciaBock on Etsy.



3. When I first saw this artist's name, I got excited at the idea of Martha Stewart having an Etsy shop! But alas, not so. Instead, I've found this lovely hand crafted Denim Glass Bird by Matthew Stewart. He hand sculpts these beauties using traditional Italian techniques, and has them available in several colors ("reds, creams, blues, yellows" and any other color you might want). My sweetie's parents have bird nicknames for one another, so I was thinking this might be a sweet addition to the kitchen they're in the process of remodeling. They'll catch the warm sun in the new sitting area and be lovely handcrafted additions to the space.



4. I love dishes, bakeware and anything else that's relevant to a kitchen. Naturally, I was delighted when I stumbled across these. While not necessarily "handmade", they aren't exactly mass produced from what I can tell. I can't really resist them. They're the ingenious creation of Lorena Barrezueta, who has managed to mimic perfectly the old fashioned cheap-o aluminum serving dishes of grocery store fame. The Curiousity Shoppe has a great variety of these quirky porcelain dishes to choose from, and all would be a fantastic addition to your favorite cook's kitchen. They might even inspire a reluctant cook to get out there and create!



THE WRAP:

My Aunt, who spent a long while living in San Francisco and is especially fond of Japanese culture, always says that the presentation is almost more important than the gift. Naturally, given my obsession with stationery and all things paper, I have a strong love for gift wrapping. Here are a few wraps that I've come across so far this season:

5. Hable Holiday Gift Wrap from Garnet Hill is full of whimsy and fun. I especially enjoy the bright reds and blues, as well as the kraft paper designs. The Elf Boots and Peppermints are my particular favorites.



6. IKEA's Isig gift wrap is covered in jolly Scandanavian gnomes! It's a thick role for only $2.99 and, speaking from personal experience, it's a great paper for the price!



7. These Joy letterpressed gift tags are a perfect way to let your friends and family know that you:
1) Love them
2) Have amazing taste in letterpressed gift tags.



8. And if you're feeling a little Scroogey about the Holidays, I suggested you stop by CarolLeeDesigns over at Etsy. She's managed to create some of the most hilarious and curmudgeonly greeting card designs I've ever seen. Misteltoe Schmisteltoe? Hahahaha!



ETA: I forgot to include this link to A Little Hut's first installment of her holiday gift-wrapping series. She's created innovative and lovely gift tags and shares the step-by-step on her blog. Go check it out!

It's the most wonderful time of the year?

I have to admit that, for all intents and purposes, my day job isn't the funnest (I say this with all seriousness, Spelling Police). Being blessed with an ever-bubbling pot of creativity inside helps pass the days that move along at a slow, boring drag. With Thanksgiving in two weeks and stores already filling up with Christmas goodies, it's really hard for me to ignore my undying love for the Holiday Season anymore. Having worked retail for close to 10 years, especially during Christmas rushes, Black Friday and the days after the Baby Jesus' birthday where OMG-I-love-a-great-deal-nasty-shoppers come out to play, you'd think I would hate this time of year with a passion that burns like the fire of a thousands suns.

But, I don't.

In fact, I've been listening to Christmas music for a few weeks now. I realized it makes my job more palatable (and I work faster). I've also been scoping out potential holiday gifts, trying my hardest to stick to the commitment I've made that I will only buy HANDMADE! And also preparing myself for what will surely be a fun and festive season.

All of this because I love Christmas. Ridiculously so.

Over the years I've come to see this season as an opportunity for renewal. I've had some really tumultuous ups and downs with family and friends, and this season dictates (for most folks) that you keep your happy face on whenever possible. There's the expectation that you'll be with friends and family, and therefore you'll be nice. It's given me the chance to mend old wounds, repair broken connections, and to say I'm sorry when I've failed to do it before. I look forward to this time of year because it makes me feel good about myself, and it makes me feel good about my life, and mostly it gives me the opportunity to make the people I love feel good too. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I think that there should be a time every year where you reflect on relationships and the energy that you're sharing with the world. And I believe that you should take the time to repair and mend as necessary, especially within yourself, and to tap into that childlike glee that we all have nestled inside.

So if November and December aren't your favorite, find some time SOMETIME to do right by yourself, by your family and friends. And please pardon me, because I will be twirling around in my fictional winter snow (well, it's been cold here lately, so it might not be so fictional), listening to Eartha Kitt meow her way through Santa Baby, and showering my loved ones with cheer and gifts. It's what I do, and you're welcome to join in.
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