Sunday, March 27, 2011

Pacific Half Marathon

I ran in the Pacific Half Marathon this past Saturday, and while I didn't meet my goal of 2:11, I can't feel all that bad about the 2:13 I finished in.  The corresponding trail run got rained out and there were twice as many people on the road as expected.  This resulted in a nice leisurely walk for the first quarter to half mile.  And there were some pretty good hills.  So the new goal is to find a nice, flat, fast, uncrowded course and try again.

 Not all was lost though, I got to run for a few miles with a woman from my running club, that definitely helped break up the monotony, and the landscape was gorgeous.  T and I also decided to get a hotel in Calabasas and took some nice drives throughout the area.  We went through Malibu Canyon and ended up on the PCH.  With all of the recent rain, everything is so much greener than usual and it's great.

In the end, we had a great time.  If you want a pretty run with some fresh air, then this was a great race.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Patty Cake

My sister and I had a little cross country bake-off for St. Patty's Day and this is what I came up with.  I used this recipe for a Guinness Chocolate Cake.  And the frosting is just a standard buttercream.  I decided to make a hat fit for a leprechaun.

The only thing I'll say about the batter is 'don't worry about the weirdo foam'.  You have to melt the butter with the Guinness and it looks super weird during the process.

But it ends up lovely and smooth, like so.

This cake is a pretty good size, I used 3 - 9" round pans and 1 - 10" springform pan, because it's what I had, and I wanted the bottom layer to be larger to act as a brim of the hat.

After the baking, I assembled the top 3 layers and popped them in the freezer for some later carving.  Then I iced the bottom layer.

I set that aside and started carving the top of the hat.  I wish I had a some 8" pans on hand, but I didn't, so I started out by making the whole thing a bit smaller, so that it would be noticeably different from the brim of the hat.

Once that was done, I started taking wedges off of the outside, trying to angle the sides down to a smaller circle.  I ended up with a huge pile of leftover cake.

Then I set the carved part on top of the brim and iced the whole thing in green.

Afterwards I piped on some black icing for the band, and then I added a white chocolate buckle for the finishing touch.

Don't forget about your freezer.

This sucker was tall and didn't fit in my cake tin, so I rigged a protector for it, but cutting up a cereal box and wrapping it around the sides.

Happy St. Patty's Day!

Saturday, March 12, 2011


With the recent passing of my 28th birthday, it's time for my Thirty Before Thirty list.  Yes, we've all got one, I'm pretty sure you're not allowed to blog and turn 30 without one, so here's mine.

  1. Run a half Iron Man
  2. Run a half marathon in 2:11 (10 minute miles)
  3. Run a full marathon in 4:45 (I never said I was a fast runner)
  4. Complete my ARE (architect's registration exam)
  5. Make croissants from scratch
  6. Make a new quilt for our bed
  7. Go to New York
  8. Develop remaining black/white film
  9. Make a legitimate wedding album
  10. Go to either Central or South America
  11. Make macarons from scratch
  12. Sell something on Etsy
  13. Design and purchase fabric from Spoonflower
  14. Get my IRA into a proper mutual fund
  15. Add something every month to my IRA for at least 6 months
  16. Paint something worth framing
  17. Ride a century
  18. Fill a sketchbook with drawings, not to do lists
  19. Learn some French
  20. Help and encourage T to make a short film
  21. Have a vegetable garden
  22. Get licensed (the architectural variety, I can already drive)
  23. Learn Revit
  24. Learn how to use manual settings on my camera
  25. Make 2 new dresses
  26. Make a pair of pants (or shorts)
  27. Read 20 books
  28. Blog every weekday for a month
  29. Write a short story
  30. Photograph something every day for a month
So, there you have it, my random and, I think, reasonable list of things to do in the next 2 years.  Wish me luck.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mozza for my Birthday!

I'll just apologize now for the crappy iPhone pics, but I couldn't bring myself to use a big camera at a 6-course family style dinner at Mario Batalli's and Joe Bastianich's restaurant.  But everything looked just as good as it tasted and way better than the pictures below.

We went to Mozza2Go's Mangiare in Familglia (family dining).  It happens on Friday's and Saturday's and the menu changes monthly.  This month was 'Seeds & Grains' and Friday night was the first serving of the dishes we ate.  It's a separate room with a long table and a view of the chefs at work on the fantastic meal.  Reservations are required and the menus have your name on them, kind of fun.

The first course was wheat flat bread with tabouleh, Greek yogurt cheese and a white bean hummus.  The bread was wood-fired and had a generous sprinkling of salt and olive oil.  The spreads were all great, but I have got to try straining some Greek yogurt into cheese, it was so good.

The next course was homemade couscous with mussels, clams and oysters in broth to spoon over.  I had never tried any bivalves and was determined to give them a go.  Not my favorite thing in the world, but they were good and the broth was great, but the couscous was awesome, so light and flavorful.

Up next was a faro risotto with robiola and thyme.  Robiola is an Italian cheese that seemed similar to brie, but I only tasted it cooked.  The risotto was creamy, but because of the faro it still had some tooth to it and I loved the thyme.

After that came a hard winter wheat garganelli (like a mini canolli shape) with a rabbit ragu.  It was my first time trying rabbit as well, and though I was pretty full by this point it was another great dish.

The final savory course was a grain and greens salad with chicken 'al mattone' served with it.  Chicken 'al mattone' is chicken under a brick and it was crispy, salty and fabulous.  Definitely my favorite chicken preparation that I've ever tasted.  And a bite of the salty chicken with the vinegary salad was a perfect combination.

For dessert there was a whole grain bread pudding with rye whiskey gelato (super boozy) and vanilla cream sauce.  Then there was an assortment of goodies on the side: a sesame and pumpkin seed brittle, sunflower nut butter cookies and anise seed chocolate truffles.

The final result; a very happy birthday girl in a very 'grainy' picture (hehe).

Thanks, T, I loved my birthday present.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My First Time: Piping

I've always been slightly wary of piping, it's always seemed daunting to me, but I decided it was time to give it a try.  My tip: try it with the same icing that's on the cake.  I messed up the first time or two and just wiped it off and started again.  I used one of the little icing kits you pick up at the supermarket.  I used the larger star tip for the border and the plain tip for the letters.  I think that icing consistency was pretty important.  Mine was pretty light because the whipped butter was holding it together more than just adding powdered sugar.

Our friend requested a chocolate cake for his birthday, and I delivered.  Devil's Food Cake with chocolate icing coming up.

Devi'ls Food Cake
(adapted from Baking: Illustrated)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, butter and flour 3 8-inch round cake pans, line with parchment.

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate broken into pieces
1/4 cup of cocoa
Prepare an espresso and add enough boiled water to make 1 1/4 cups

Put chocolate and cocoa in a bowl, pour water and espresso over and whisk until smooth.

1 1/2 cups of sifted all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Sift flour, soda and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper.

2 sticks of softened, unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat butter until creamy, add brown sugar and continue blending.  Add eggs one at a time, blend until smooth.  Add Greek yogurt and vanilla and blend until smooth.

Add 1/3 of flour mixture to butter mixture, blend, add 1/2 of chocolate mixture and blend, repeat until all ingredients are blended.

Divide batter evenly between 3 pans, bake for 20-23 minutes.

Chocolate Icing:

2 sticks butter (softened and whipped until lighter in color)
2 cups of sifted, powdered sugar
3 tablespoons of buttermilk
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 cups of semi sweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled

Not bad for my first time with icing letters.

And it tasted great, the cake was almost brownie-like and the frosting wasn't overly sweet.