What do you do when you’re supposed to go to the gym and have risen at a reasonable hour, with every ambitious intention to do so but it is pouring rain outside and you are afraid the sheer gusto of the crazy wind will blow you away? You sit in bed, curled up with a nervous nellie puppy dog, eat Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies and do research for your August trip to Europe! (Naturally).
You heard it here first, my 3 year separation from Europe is about to end, come the end of July and early August and I am so thrilled. My mom and I will spend 10 days there, in Amsterdam, Belgium, Paris, Switzerland and Aix-en Provence and being the obsessive foodies we are (my eyes are full of sparkle at the mere thought of a visit to Laudree and basically any notable bistro and boulangerie I’ve read about), it is without question I will have to institute a food deprivation operation before we go. I’m afraid just 3 days in Paris will add on an unwanted 5 lbs. and I know every single one of them will be worth it, but between now and then, I am going to have to develop a closer relationship with kale, raw veggies, smoothies and the like and take a vacation from my beloved sweets. This of course creates a dilemma since I tend to get antsy and crazy if I haven’t baked in awhile and I have an aversion to baked goods containing ingredients like spelt, wheat germ, agave and flax. Don’t get me wrong, I just had a super protein bowl of oatmeal with almonds and two tablespoons of ground flax (that will counter out the Milanos, right?), but oatmeal is supposed to be healthy, not cakes and cookies. I am not diabetic, nor have I been cursed with a gluten allergy and I am not a vegan, so basically my mantra is keep that healthy away from my desserts, thank you.
I am having a ball perusing through David Lebovitz’s blog, attaining tips and advice for the French/Swiss part of our journey and have also consulted a wonderful Swiss born and regular patron of the bakery, named Reto. He has the accent straight out of one of the Pink Panther movies and orders rolls for his catered meals shop. Sherry and I love to make him say “almond horn” upon his every entrance to the bakery, which he pronounces as “almund urn” and it makes us giggle every time. He has given me some great advice and I am also going to contact a another Swiss native I met by happenstance at a trip to the grocery store a few months back – (she happens to be a travel agent too).
I am enjoying spring and all of the afternoon rainstorms that have come with it, save for all of the horrible damage and destruction that’s ensued from the tornadoes that have spun from them. Luckily, we have been spared, as has the majority of Greensboro. The only thing I haven’t enjoyed is contesting with the recent muggy high temperatures. For God’s sake, it’s not quite May yet, what gives?! Anything above 75 degrees is just uncomfortable for me, especially if I’m not by a pool or the ocean. Dear weather, this is my plea, quit spurring tornadoes and let’s get the temp back down to a pleasant 65-70 degrees, eh?
Here are some photos I took, capturing North Carolina’s beautiful spring…
Lately there’s been Indian take out with thunderstorms and heavenly homemade vanilla bean rice pudding, wild flower picking, fresh strawberries in salads and some seriously good chicken pot pie...see?
I had the pleasure of seeing Jane Eyre recently and all 115 minutes of it was like living in a painting. There were so many dismally beautiful, Andrew Wyeth like shots throughout the film and it was punctuated by a climactic score by Dario Marianelli. It was suspenseful, intense, disturbing, haunting and stunning in so many ways and Michael Fassbender made my heart flutter. Definitely recommended.
Also, it’s a little bit funny how obsessed I am with this Ellie Gould cover of Elton John’s “Your Song.” It’s stunning, the piano is my favorite and her voice is like a British doll’s.
Easter brought morning rhymes and sneaky finds and we had a Southern-Russian fusion. We started out at Jay’s mom’s house in Carrboro and ate some delicious homemade barbeque Jay made, on fresh hamburger rolls from the bakery and it was a lot of fun. We then made it back to Greensboro and visited some friends – Masha and Aaron were hosting a Russian Easter (Masha’s from Moscow) and everything was so unique and authentically delicious! There was lamb, some potatoes in pickled beet juice with dill and walnut, pierogis, kielbasa and borsch – (which was my favorite, soooo good)! I loved talking with Masha and learning about the process of making all of this food, especially the Russian cheesecake – crixa, which she and Aaron went great lengths through to make. There was also a special Russian Easter cake that was similar to a panettone – both were yummy. We started our meal off with a shot of special vodka that was basically our initiation into the meal and it was quite a party – one of the best Easters I’ve had. I also made an Easter cake – a very humble recipe that my mom has used for or around Easter for quite some time. It’s something I hadn’t had in awhile and I wanted to try and tweak it a little so that it would be slightly more “gourmet.”
Easter Cake (adapted)
- Yellow cake (the original recipe calls for a boxed yellow cake mix but I decided to try this recipe from Real Simple Magazine since I wanted to go homemade, and it worked just fine. You make the cake exactly as the recipe calls, except you add 2 small cans of mandarin oranges (drained) to the cake batter. (I forgot this step and just put them in between the cake layers, which ended up being just as good, so either method will do).
- 2 small cans of mandarin oranges (drained)
- 1 large can of crushed pineapple (drained but juice reserved)
- 8 ounces of heavy cream
- about 1 teaspoon of powdered sugar
- 1 large box of instant vanilla pudding mix
- 1/2 cup of sweetened shredded coconut
- Pour the heavy cream in a large mixing bowl, add the powdered sugar and beat in a mixer with a whisk attachment until stiff peaks form.
- Gently fold in the vanilla pudding mix and the can of crushed (drained) pineapple and fold until everything is combined evenly.
- Spread the coconut out evenly in a thin layer on a baking sheet and toast it at 300 degrees for about 20 minutes.
- After you’ve made the cake and both rounds have cooled, take a toothpick and poke little holes over the bottom layer, then brush some of the pineapple juice over. Put about 1 1/2 cans of the mandarin oranges on top and then spread some of the icing over that first layer.
- Place the second layer on top, poking holes in it just like before and then brushing it with pineapple juice. Ice the rest of the cake, evenly and use the remaining mandarin oranges to decorate the top however you like.
- Take the toasted coconut and sprinkle on the top and sides of the cake.
- Serve chilled.