Friday Faves

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{road trip + mcdonald’s cone}

Happy Friday, everyone! Look at me, two blog posts in two days.  I’m pretty proud of myself! (Taking two months off creates a bit of a FF backlog, but I’m going to do my best to catch up over the next few weeks).  I hope everyone has exciting plans for the weekend.  I’m helping out at my family’s annual charity golf tournament tomorrow – the forecast is 97, so wish us all luck not dying of heatstroke.  I hope your plans involve a beach or a pool instead!

Some fun links to get you through your Friday:

  • Orange lipsticks – what are your thoughts? I went to Nordstrom the other night in search of the second one (the most neutral, obviously) but tragically it’s been discontinued.  I was already at the MAC counter so I tried on the first one just for fun, but of course it made me look like a clown.  And by clown I don’t just mean like someone wearing an absurd shade of orange lipstick, I mean like someone you would pay to come to your child’s birthday party wearing a rainbow-striped wig and make balloon animals. Yikes.
  • I would like one of these right this minute.
  • I’m working my way through Emily’s monthly beauty buys – so far I’m still on April, but I’m loving this series (I bet she gets all her products as gratis too, no fair).
  • I don’t think I’m as obsessed with Ryan Gosling as much as the average female between the ages of 15-50 (I’m too busy planning my future with this man), but I find all of this freaking out pretty hilarious.
  • How to Write a Wedding Speech – I wish every best man would read this!

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{my dear friend alison’s gorgeous pacific palisades wedding}

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{new favorite pinot}

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{and favorite party punch from pinot release party}

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{new favorite skincare product – thanks emily!}

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{cuddle time with my (current) favorite newborn, sweet greta jane}

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{and her adorable big brother with his birthday cupcake and his trucks}

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Holiday Rum Cake

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Happy Rum Cake Blog Post Day, everyone! This cake is one of my all time favorite things to make, and thus I had every intention of posting the recipe as soon as possible (or rather, as soon as seasonally appropriate)…but of course somehow this blog fell off my radar after Thanksgiving and all of the sudden it’s December 20. Yikes. (Let’s not even talk about how my Christmas shopping is going – double yikes).

But anyways. Let’s talk about rum cake, shall we? This recipe is courtesy of my friends Courteney and Kyle, or perhaps more accurately courtesy of their mom Cyndie, since of course they got it from her. I listened to Courteney talk about her mom’s rum cake all throughout college, but never actually tried it until Kyle served one at a Christmas party a few years ago. Alcohol in desserts isn’t usually my thing (weird, I know), but one boozy, buttery bite of this cake and I was hooked – as is everyone who tries it. It’s quick and easy and makes a great holiday dessert or hostess gift, which is why I meant to post this earlier in the season for everyone’s benefit – better late than never, though, right?

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Two recipes featuring boxed cake mix within one month, how embarrassing. I’m going to have to get a little more gourmet in January to make up for it. The “butter golden” boxes can be hard to find, though, so when I see them I have to stock up.

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This cake really could not be easier to make – start with the cake mix, add eggs and oil, a box of pudding mix to make it extra moist and yummy, and of course rum in lieu of water.

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Just blend all five ingredients together and pour into a bundt cake pan.

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Cyndie’s tip is to grease the pan really well with the “PAM for baking” spray – this ensures that the cake won’t stick to the pan at all, which will make it easier for the cake to soak up the glaze.

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Making the glaze is the fun part – just dump a little more rum in a saucepan, along with water, sugar, and a stick of butter. Heat until the butter is melted and then bring the mixture to a boil – make sure to boil for the full two-three minutes so that at least some of the rum cooks out (a quick google search re: how much alcohol remains in rum cake after baking was inconclusive, but at least some of it evaporates, right?).

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Pour the glaze over the cake and let it all soak in. Flip the cake, sprinkle with powdered sugar, and voilá, the easiest and most festive “semi-homemade” cake you could ever want or need.

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Cyndie O’Brien’s Christmas Rum Cake

For cake:
One box Duncan Hines Butter Golden cake mix
One small box instant vanilla pudding
4 eggs
1/2 cup Crisco oil (vegetable or canola oil will work)
1/2 cup dark rum, such as Meyer’s

For glaze:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup rum
1/4 cup water
Powdered sugar (for dusting), optional

To make cake:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Spray bundt cake pan generously with “PAM for baking,” or grease and flour the pan well. Mix all cake ingredients well – I usually use an electric mixer and blend it for a couple minutes, but you can do it by hand if necessary. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes.

To make glaze:
When the cake is almost finished baking, melt the butter in a saucepan with the sugar, water, and rum. Bring mixture to a boil and let boil for two to three minutes – watch carefully as it boils over easily if you aren’t stirring constantly.

To finish:
Once cake is out of oven, pour the glaze over the cake while it’s still in the pan – let the glaze soak into the cake and drain down around the edges where the cake will have pulled away from the pan a bit – this will allow the glaze to coat the sides of the cake and give the whole thing a nice buttery, rummy crust. Let the glazed cake cool in the pan for a minimum of 20 minutes (longer if possible). Flip the cake onto a cake stand or serving platter and dust with powdered sugar.

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I love making this cake in my mini bundt cake pan as well – one recipe makes six mini cakes, and they make the perfect dinner party dessert as well as great gifts. I’m also going to make bite sized cakes once I get my hands on this pan – anything for portion control! I’ll hopefully update with photos soon – there are six days left between now and Christmas (yes, I’m counting today and Christmas Day), which means there are plenty of opportunities for rum cakes of any size.

Update: bundt, mini bundt, and bite-size bundt:

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Wishing everyone a wonderful and relaxing holiday. Thanks to the lovely O’Brien ladies for letting me share their recipe! And happy rum cake baking to everyone!

Friday Faves

Hello again, Friday. It’s gray and rainy here in Seattle, and I’m loving every minute of it (I can say that only after confirming the forecast predicts a sunny 75 for my friend Jody’s wedding tomorrow). I fell asleep to a thunder and lightning storm last night, and woke up feeling more rested than I have in weeks. I know fall isn’t here to stay quite yet, but I love these first few hints of it. Between two weddings, Husky football, my fantasy draft (ESPN gave my team an A, if you were wondering), and the birth of my good friends Wes and Kyle’s new baby girl, there was a lot going on this week. A few highlights:

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{brunch at the Agua Verde Paddle Club on Lake Union}

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{beet and veggie juice at Tom Douglas’s amazing new “urban marketplace” downtown Seattle}

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{nothing better than the Sunday sports page after a huge Husky win}

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{gluten-free baking experiment from Love and Lemons}

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{nothing sweeter than a brand new baby – and nothing more fun than putting together treats for her and her family}

Happy Friday, everyone! No Husky game tomorrow, so I guess all I can say is Go Hawks!!

Friday Faves

So I realized last night that we’re halfway through August, and thus two weeks away from Labor Day. Can someone please tell me how that happened? Where did the summer go? Fall is my favorite season, so I’m not too sad, but it’s always a little scary to realize how fast time is flying by. It was almost dark at 8:30 last night – as excited as I am for sweaters and boots and football season, that kind of made me want to cry. Next week I might have to focus on more “summery” highlights, but for now, some randoms:

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Coffee and breakfast treats at my favorite Madrona café on Sunday morning, after dropping off my Glassybaby rental (let’s pretend that peach scone is a tofu scramble, Carrie Underwood-diet-style).

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Thank you gift from my friends Ellie and Charlie after our play date last Saturday night. Babysitting used to pay five dollars an hour, and I would do homework once the kids went to bed – this time I received a lovely “sussie” instead, and I got to pour myself a glass of wine and watch Mindy Project reruns after the babies went down.

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Falafel salad – my new obsession from Harried & Hungry, my favorite grab-and-go workweek lunch place. Healthy(ish) falafel recipe coming soon – such a great vegetarian (and gluten free!) option that I often forget about.

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Happy hour at Bottlehouse, my new favorite summer/deck/happy hour hang out in Madrona (where I spent a lot of time last week).

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Some of my favorite pics from my brother’s wedding last weekend (at least, from those that were on my phone) – clockwise from top left: terrible angle for me, but somehow the only picture I have of me and Joe; my hair, which I was obsessed with – after countless weddings with “meh” bridesmaid hair, finally a “messy side bun” that turned out like I wanted it to (and on a related note, anyone planning a wedding in the Portland area should call Portland Makeup and Hair immediately); the beautiful bride and groom; killing time pre-ceremony  with the adorable flower girls.

Happy Friday, everyone! Enjoy these last few weeks of summer while they last!

Friday Faves

Happy Friday, friends! Can you believe it’s already August? It feels like this summer – this whole year, actually – is flying by. After weeks and weeks of perfect summer weather, Seattle had its first few overcast days this week, and I know I’m a true Northwesterner because the grayness, mist, and 65 degree temperatures felt heavenly. This girl is definitely ready for football season. A few highlights from the half sunny, half gray week: image Wine tasting at Two Vintners, my new favorite Washington winery. I joined their Wine Club this past weekend and can’t wait to go back – and to drink the Grenache Blanc that I purchased (featured on Canlis’ tasting menu this month, no less). image Peach shortcake for my friend Scott’s 30th birthday dinner – homemade Smitten Kitchen biscuits, fresh peaches tossed with lemon juice, cinnamon, and sugar (Scott: “are these like homemade canned peaches?”), and Ben & Jerry’s Peach Cobbler ice cream (Haagen Dazs vanilla bean on the side – no such thing as too much ice cream, right?). image Latest score from the (constant) Banana sale. The day I attempted to purchase these, they were 40% off of the first markdown – but they had to ship them from a different store, and by the time they processed the transaction the following day they were 50% off of a second, further reduced price. $130 shoes for $38, yes please! image Nordstrom Anniversary Sale “Beauty Exclusives” – $268 value for $128 – if you do the math (which I obviously did), that’s a 53% savings. Stock up before the sale ends on Sunday! image My half successful, half failed attempt at dinner last night – the all-over-Pinterest Martha Stewart one-pot pasta. I did one pot with gluten free angel hair (fail), and one with Smitten Kitchen’s farro version, which turned out delicious. I’m sure regular pasta would be fine – the rice pasta just got too gummy – but I think the fact that the farro takes 30 minutes really helps develop the flavors (the pasta only takes 7-10, so those onions still looked pretty raw to me). Wishing everyone a lovely, back-to-being-in-the-80s weekend. I’m having another peach dessert tonight (peach crisp with crème fraîche ice cream, how yummy does that sound?!) -trying to enjoy these last few summer weeks while we have them.  I suppose fall will be here soon enough.  xoxo

Friday Faves

I spent an amazing three days in Hood River, Oregon last weekend celebrating the wedding of one of my oldest and dearest friends.  After a late night on Friday and a very late night on Saturday, however, it’s pretty much taken me the entire week to recover.  At “29 again” (and again) I just don’t bounce back quite like I used to – gone are the days of back to back late nights on the weekend, followed by functioning like a normal/productive human being Monday through Friday.  Does this mean I’m officially old?   Totally worth every exhausted minute, though.  A few highlights from my loooooooooong week:

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“Spa water” – cucumber + lime + mint. I love keeping a pitcher in the fridge so that I’m more motivated to hydrate.

My aunt Molly and I share a love of granola (remember this?) – when I stopped by her house on my way out of Portland last weekend she sent me home with a yummy bottle of pinot gris and this bag of deliciousness – it’s made with coconut oil and coconut sugar and has been my after-dinner treat every night this week.  Healthy granola and pinot gris, best goody bag I could ever ask for.

Wine in a can, and with a bendy straw – what could be cuter?

Delicious Sunday night dinner at Cuoco – handmade parmigiano cappelletti with morel mushrooms, arugula, and peas; vanilla panna cotta with strawberries and Dahlia Bakery cookies + cappuccino.  It’s totally healthy as long as you’re sharing, right?

A few of my favorite details from Molly and Patrick’s wedding: hand-chalked welcome sign, gorgeous floral centerpieces, blueberry mojitos with striped straws being passed around during cocktail hour, and of course the spectacular Mt. Hood backdrop. It was such a fun weekend celebrating with old friends and new, and the perfect kick off to Wedding Season 2013. Congrats Molls and Pat!

 

How To: Cake Pops

Way back in my early/mid-20s, I used to get really excited about wedding and baby showers. I would spend hours picking out invitations, working on menus, trying to think up creative new themes, etc. These days, when I usually have at least one or two a month (more and more as wedding season amps up), I pretty much have them down to a science – I only get excited to try new things when they’re for people I really love. My friend Molly is one of those people, so when her sister asked me to bring cake pops to her bridal shower last month, I did what any normal person would do: signed up for a cake pop making class.

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I took the class with my friend (and cake/cookie/now cake pop decorating guru) Kristen, and we had SO MUCH FUN. The woman who taught it runs her own little catering company, which she founded after quitting Corporate America one day and enrolling in pastry school (i.e. what I dream about doing every day).  If you’re interested in taking her class in Seattle, or if you want to hire her to make your cake pops for you (turns out they’re actually pretty hard), her info can be found here.

If you want to make your own without the class, hopefully this “tutorial” will help you.  You will need:

1. Cake (any kind you like)
2. Frosting (any kind you like)
3. Ice cream/cookie scoop
4. Cake pop sticks (available at Michaels/Joanne Fabrics, Sur la Table, and often at specialty grocery stores)
5. Good quality, tempered melting chocolate (available at specialty baking shops) – tempered chocolate will dry harder and shinier than untempered chocolate
6. Sprinkles and other cake pop decorations, including colored candy melts if desired
7. Truffle papers or mini cupcake papers, for the “ball down, stick up” version (optional)
8. Styrofoam or floral foam cube, wrapping paper or fabric, and ribbon to make a display stand for the “ball up, stick down” version (optional)

1.  Our teacher had the cakes pre-baked for us, and I believe a 9 x 13 cake makes about 18-24 pops, depending upon a variety of factors such as size of cake balls, amount of frosting you mix in, how much of the crust you cut off, density of the cake, etc. So, make a cake (just a boxed mix to start with is fine, you can always fancy it up later), and get some frosting ready (homemade or Betty Crocker).

2.  “Crumb” the cake – cut off the sides and bottom if you want (not necessary, but then there are no “crispy bits” in your cake balls) and tear the cake into tiny pieces, and then crumbs.  You’ll need to really grind the cake with your fingertips until its all tiny, fine crumbs, so depending on who will be eating your cake pops you may want to wear gloves.

3.  Once the cake is finely crumbed, begin to add frosting slowly – you can always add more frosting, but its usually harder to add more cake. Mix/knead, using your hands, until the cake/frosting mixture is the texture of play dough.

4.  Scoop cake into balls using a golf-ball sized ice cream/cookie scoop. Chill for 20-30 minutes if time allows (not necessary but I think it helps).

5.  Roll the balls between your palms until as perfectly round as possible. Chill again.

6.  Melt chocolate either in the microwave, or in a double boiler over simmering water (be careful not to burn the chocolate). Dip cake pop sticks in melted chocolate, then insert the sticks into chilled balls. If you are making your cake pops “stick up, ball down” – like in the photo at the top – you can insert the stick entirely through the ball. If you are making your pops “ball up, stick down” – like the ones in the picture below, or the ones you see at Starbucks – only insert the stick about 3/4 of the way into the ball. You may need to use your hands to gently reshape the balls a bit at this point. Chill again – the colder the cake balls are, the better they’ll hold up once dipped.

7.  Dip cake ball end in chocolate. It’s important to do this pretty gently, or the cake ball could fall off the stick. Gently shake excess chocolate off the ball, and set down to dry. This is where it’s a lot easier to make the “stick up” version, as its easier to let them dry with the ball down. With the “ball up” version, you’ll need to hold the cake pop horizontally over the bowl of chocolate and spin it so that the chocolate dries evenly and without drips (see photo at the bottom left below for evidence of dried drips).

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You can decorate the pops any way you like – chocolate drizzle, sprinkles, sanding sugar, candy flowers, etc. If you want to do the chocolate drizzle, let the first layer of chocolate dry and then pipe a drizzled layer on using a frosting bag. It can be cute to first dip the balls in white chocolate, and then drizzle with dark, or vice versa.

If you go the “ball up, stick down” route, you can make a display stand out of a styrofoam or floral foam cube. Just cover it with a cute fabric or wrapping paper and measure out holes for the sticks evenly. Molly’s wedding colors are aqua and orange so I incorporated those colors (I’m sure hers are more subdued versions) into both the cake pop decorations and the display stands.  Note:  I made about three dozen pops, and only 16 ended up being “ball up.”   It’s harder than it looks!  (Also I would recommend not starting a project like this later than 10 pm).

Just a couple adorable pics from my coffee date yesterday.  I mean honestly, who doesn’t love a cake pop?